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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1001 Albums 0063-0064

Published June 03, 2014


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


0063: The Byrds: Fifth Dimension (1966)
An album I've already heard.

Most of this album was recorded after founder member Gene Clark had left the band. Clark being a supremely talented song writer, this was of course a great loss. That said, the band coped admirably without him, although not every song is a gem: the unstructured instrumental Captain Soul is a particular pain on the ear - at least on the ear(s) attached to my head. Still, with great classics such as 'Eight Miles High' on there, perhaps one shouldn't complain too much.

If I have any general critisism towards The Byrds it is that their vocals can sometimes sound a bit anonymous. Although it's not exactly belting I'm after, on some songs I wish there would be just a teensie-weensie bit more energy in the singing.

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0064: Bob Dylan: Blonde On Blonde (1966)
An album I've already heard.

This double-album is one of those albums that has been regarded as one-of-the-best-ever since the '70s or something; perhaps even since it was released. Its opening track, 'Rainy Day Women #12 & 35', was probably the first Dylan song I ever heard: I had the single as a child and played it a lot. At the time I guess I simply responded to it as a happy tune, not really having any clue what "everybody must get stoned" may have referred to.

As for the album as a whole, my objections are the same as for most other Bob Dylan long-players: much as I admire the song writing, a whole album's worth of a singer struggling to hit the right notes - and the piercing sound of that damned harmonica - just isn't my cup of tea.

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