1001 Albums 0071-0072

Published July 03, 2014


My continued journey through the albums featured in the book
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.


0071: Simon & Garfunkel: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme (1966)
An album I've already heard.

This is a lovely album, so Sixties. Just the opening track, 'Scarborough Fair/Canticle', is worth the price of admission: the beautiful harmonies and the delicate harpsichord playing conjure up images of the scene from The Graduate which I believe was soundtracked by this particular recording. It's a time-machine, that's what it is.

Other well-known tracks on the album include 'Homeward Bound', 'The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)' and the extremely beautiful 'For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her', but that's just scraping the surface of the delights here. Maybe the Dylan parody 'A Simple Desultory Philippic (or How I Was Robert McNamara'd into Submission)' is a little silly, and perhaps the lyrics for 'The Dangling Conversation' are a little pretentious (but who cares when the tune itself is so gorgeous), but the only track I really don't like is the album closer '7 O'Clock News/Silent Night', the solemnity of which seems a little student-y.

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0072: The 13th Floor Elevators: The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators (1966)

Prior to listening to this album, I can only recall ever hearing one song by The 13th Floor Elevators, namely the opening track 'You're Gonna Miss Me', through its inclusion on the classic Nuggets compilation album. Their name and that of their front figure Roky Erickson crop up with some regularity in magazines such as Mojo and Uncut. But I've never been tempted to investigate them further.

This was one of the first albums to use the word "psychedelic", so it was groundbreaking in that respect. According to the 1001 Albums book it was also the first acid rock album. "Frontman Roky Erickson yelps and howls like a man possessed while the alien sounds from Tommy Hall's electric jug add to the already gorgeously skewed mood," it says here. As for the sound of that electric jug, I'm more tempted to sympathise with the comment I found on an internet forum: "It's certainly a sound that hasn't aged well. I still LOVE some of their songs, even though the wibblewibblewibblewibble keeps me from ever listening to an album all the way through."

I listened to this album four times in a vain effort to find anything that actually appealed to me, but as you've probably gathered by now the rewards were slim. A track called 'Splash 1' was a nice ballad, not as aggressive and nasal as the other tracks - and none of the wibblewibblewibblewibble - but other than that I found this album a bit tiresome, to be quite honest.

Verdict: Wibblewibblewibblewibble.

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1001 Albums 0069-0070

Published July 01, 2014


My continued journey through the albums featured in the book
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.


0069: The Mothers Of Invention: Freak Out! (1966)

In 1979, Frank Zappa had a big hit in Sweden with a song called 'Bobby Brown', followed by 'Joe's Garage', and then, in 1980 'I Don't Wanna Get Drafted'. I guess at some point I've also listened to his jam session with John and Yoko on their Sometime In New York City album. That, my friends, was about the extent of my familiarity with Frank Zappa's music. I think I enjoyed those hit singles at the time, but other than that I've always had a hunch that his music wasn't for me.

Listening to this album (only rock's second double-album, after Dylan's Blonde On Blonde, according to the 1001 Albums book), recorded when Zappa and his band-mates traded under the name The Mothers Of Invention, I was prepared to be pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately, I wasn't. Quite simply, much of the music here sounds as if it has travelled through the brain before reaching the heart and soul of the people who made it - perhaps even bypassing them completely -  which is not something that appeals to me.

The album is obviously supposed to be satirical and I can sort of imagine some stoned late Sixties drop-outs listening to this and chuckling at how Zappa and friends are really sticking it to "the man" and challenging the expectations and conventions of suburbia. Why anyone in his right mind would voluntarily listen to 'It Can't Happen Here' or 'The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet' is beyond anything I could possibly comprehend. I guess you had to be there. And perhaps it helped if you were stoned as well.

It appears the appeal of this album is conceptual rather than musical, and I'm sure it was important at the time, but...

Verdict: Too much intellect, not enough heart.

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0070: The Rolling Stones: Aftermath (1966)
An album I've already heard.

Of The Rolling Stones albums I've heard, perhaps with the exception of Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed, I don't think I've enjoyed any of them from start to finish. I've never been one for blues-based workouts, and there's always a few too many of those for my liking.

Up until 1967 I think they were at their best when they were a pure pop band, so on the Aftermath album, despite the disturbing misogyny of some of the lyrics, I like 'Mothers Little Helper', 'Stupid Girl', 'Lady Jane' (which is gorgeous), 'Under My Thumb', 'Out Of Time' (although the version here drags on a bit), 'It's Not Easy' and 'I Am Waiting'. So that's about half the album, which in my book makes it worth owning.

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1001 Albums 0067-0068

Published June 15, 2014


My continued journey through the albums featured in the book
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.


0067: The Mamas & The Papas: If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears (1966)
An album I've already heard.

The Mamas & The Papas is probably one of my favourite groups. They inhabit several of the ingredients that I really love: they're from the Sixties, they have strong pop tunes, they sing in beautiful harmony. This is their debut album, featuring two of their most famous songs: the lovely 'California Dreamin'' and 'Monday, Monday'. Other highlights include 'Go Where You Wanna Go', their cover of 'Do You Wanna Dance?' (that song again!) and one of my favourite Beatles covers, 'I Call Your Name'. But really, there's nothing on this album that's truly weak or superfluous.

Because of Cass Elliott's big voice, colourful personality and early demise, she has somehow become the most famous and mythologised member of the group. Wonderful as she is, I'd like to strike a blow for the less showy Denny Doherty, who did the leads on some of the band's biggest hits, such as 'Monday, Monday'. And just listen to his tender lead on 'Do You Wanna Dance?' Wow, is all I can say.

The only major problem with If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears is the stereo mix, with most of the vocals in one channel and the instrumentation in the other, which makes for painful headphone listening. I'm also a bit surprised they did the stereo mix like that as late as 1966, especially in America where recording technology was quite a bit ahead of most everywhere else. I haven't heard the the mono version of the album, but it could quite possibly be a better option, at least for some of the tracks. Either way: the music is fantastic.

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0068: Paul Revere & The Raiders: Midnight Ride (1966)

For some reason, prior to listening to this album I'd never heard much more than Paul Revere & The Raiders' hits, most of which are among my favourite Sixties recordings. The only album I actually own is their Christmas LP (followers of my annual Advent Calendar will remember this gem). On the evidence of Midnight Ride, ther fifth album, there is much to discover though. While one or two of the recordings are little too generic garage-y for my tastes, on the first listen I fell in love with 'Little Girl In The 4th Row', which, apart from being a great tune, has the kind of Spector-ish arrangement I really like. And their original version of '(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone' is easily the equal of The Monkees' more famous recording.

The highlight of the album is perhaps the opener, which is also the only hit single here, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil's magnificent 'Kicks'. The lyrics, a warning against over-indulgent drug use, were apparently a message to lyricist Gerry Goffin (of the Goffin/King team), whom they felt was in danger of getting hooked on illegal substances. A little background story for you.

Verdict: A convincing pop album with several highlights.

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1001 Albums 0065-0066

Published June 12, 2014


My continued journey through the albums featured in the book
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.


0065: The Monks: Black Monk Time (1966)

Oh dear. I've seen The Monks referenced a number of times as punk music pioneers - on the evidence of this well-recorded album, I have no reason to question that they were well before their time - and I believe I've heard one or two of their songs before. But I'm afraid this just isn't my thing - much too aggressive for my tastes: I feel my stress levels rising, and stress is something I don't need more of.

Verdict: 10 points for energy, liveliness and being forward-looking - 2 points for actual entertainment value.

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0066: The Kinks: Face To Face (1966)
An album I've already heard.

This is much, much more up my alley. Although 'Sunny Afternoon' is the only major hit here, the album offers a string of delights. I hadn't really heard The Kinks' albums until about a decade or so ago, making do with various compilations since I first bought The Golden Hour Of The Kinks on vinyl in the late Seventies. If I should pick one favourite track, apart from 'Sunny Afternoon', I'd go for 'Too Much On My Mind': Ray Davies' nonchalant lead vocals, lovely harmony singing, and lots and lots of harpsichord - what more could you possibly want from a mid-Sixties pop song?

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