50 Years Undead

April 19th, 2018

Today marks the 50th anniversary of a cult album released by a group that had already broken up. But the album has proved as “undead” as the group’s namesakes, and still growing in stature as a pioneering work. Here is my review of the album from 2007 with some corrections of text garbled by WordPress updates, and in the context of a series of reviews post the 40th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper.

 With Sgt. Pepper still on our minds, I thought it would be an appropriate time to look at some late 60s albums that were conceived with the same principles in mind such as classy pop songs,  harmonies, a sense more than substance of a unifying theme,  and some hints of psychedelia. The next three album reviews are what I will call the three “Os” -three album titles that begin with O that I believe meet the above criteria. Maybe you can start guessing what the next two will be…..

The first one is a true “cult” album, Odessey And Oracle (and yes, that Odessey is a typo by the record company that has never been corrected) by the Zombies. The story of the album seems almost like one of those scenarios that they could make a blockbuster movie…band on the verging of breaking up make one final classic album, album sinks without trace due to no publicity in 1968,  DJ starts playing a track a year later that becomes a big hit and pop standard, and the album gains cult status and critical acclaim over the years.

The big hit is Time Of The Season, which readers should know. It is a classic slice of 60s pop rock with a fantastic riff and harmonies, and it more than deserves its “standard” status.  But it is in illustrious company, as the album clearly shows a band that shows it has nothing to lose and is prepared to take chances and a lot of care over the songs.

The music is sophisticated, harmonic pop, with slightly jazzy arrangements tinged by the use of a Mellotron, which should definitely appeal to fans of both the Beatles and Beach Boys. Lyrically, there is some very interesting ground covered – most notably in the very personal war experience song, Butcher’s Tale (Western Front 1914). As with Pepper, there isn’t really a unifying theme, but the songs do feel like they belong together. And bits of it were recorded at Abbey Road studios.

My personal favorite song on the album is Hung Up On A Dream, an evocative journey through a “a dream…that gave me peace and blew my mind” that includes some stunning melodic and harmonic moments.

Some more good background can be seen on the Wikipedia article, and it is still very readily available on-line.  This is certainly an absolute must for 60s pop fans and anyone serious about having a complete collection of the great pop and rock albums.

Over 800 On The Road

April 14th, 2018

As Brian Wilson adds 2018 dates to his three different shows, it is a good time to reflect again on Brian’s touring history. A very good reference point is Andrew Doe’s site at http://esquarterly.com/bellagio/britour.html and a quick statistical analysis shows that Brian is now in his 20th year of serious touring, with at least 3 shows per year since 1999, and indeed doing at least 20 shows in all but four of these years. The total number of dates (past and planned) is 842, which also means that over the 20 year period, Brian has done a show in at least one in every ten nights. So much for a quiet retirement.

Historic Album, Historic Venue

April 9th, 2018

Pet Sounds is an historic old album, and it will now be played in a venue with it’s own very long history. Brian Wilson has announced a show at the Ancient Theater of Taormina  , in Sicily, Italy. It looks like it will be part of a wider European tour with a Birmingham, England date also announced.

An Early Holiday Present

April 4th, 2018

After three years of a 50th anniversary Pet Sounds tour, interspersed with a few greatest hits, it’s time for something completely different. At the end of the year , Brian, with Al and Blondie still in tow, will present the Beach Boys 1964 Christmas album in its entirety.

In addition, there will be songs from his solo Christmas album, What I Really Want For Christmas, plus more. It’s a slightly surprising turn, but good to see something different being done on the road by Brian.

Country Rebel Makes Perfect Pop Shocker

April 1st, 2018

Kacey Musgraves  is known as something of a country rebel, and she certainly isn’t in the conventional Nashville mould, but her latest album is very much a conventionally great pop record. Golden Hour may be closer genre-wise to country than anything else, but the great songwriting hearkens to classic American songbook. The occasional uptempo hoedowns of her earlier work are replaced more mid-tempo pop sensibilities -with occasional nods to the dancefloor, especially on High Horse but always ensuring great melodies and real musical instruments dominate. The overall mood is a lot more positive and romantic than earlier works, linked to singer’s recent marriage, but hints of the rebelliousness and previous disappointments still linger.

Everything here is very listenable, with some noteworthy tracks being the beautiful Butterlies, played at my own wedding, the pop perfection of Space Cowboy and the lovely title track which hearkens to both a past nostalgic utopia and a future where great songwriting would be appreciated as much as in the golden eras of pop. We live in a world on edge, but Kacey Musgraves has made the world a much better place to live in.

23 Songs For Today

March 28th, 2018

Inspired by their Cricket World Cup qualifying campaign – an all Scottish list

1. Trains – Al Stewart
2. Sand In Your Shoes -Al Stewart
3. Year of the Cat -Al Stewart
4. Sleep the Clock Around  -Belle & Sebastian
5. The Fox in the Snow -Belle & Sebastian
6. Everything is Now, Pt. Two -Belle and Sebastian
7. Wonderland -Big Country
8. East of Eden -Big Country
9. In A Big Country -Big Country
10. My America -Deacon Blue
11. Loaded -Deacon Blue
12. Rae -Deacon Blue
13. Woke From Dreaming -The Delgados
14. Margo’s Waltz -Lloyd Cole
15. Man Enough -Lloyd Cole
16. Forest Fire – Lloyd Cole & The Commotions
17. Why Does It Always Rain On Me? -Travis
18. Church Not Made With Hands -The Waterboys
19. A Man Is In Love -The Waterboys
20. It Should Have Been You -The Waterboys
21. Angel Eyes -Wet Wet Wet
22. Blue For You -Wet Wet Wet
23. Theme From Ten -Wet Wet Wet

Brian’s Hidden Beauties CLX: Half Moon Bay

March 22nd, 2018

The romantic instrumental has featured a few times in Brian’s works, but there hasn’t been an example in recent times, until the fifth track of No Pier Pressure in 2015. It’s a pleasant enough track, with the interesting percussion effects one of the highlights, as with earlier examples of this genre. (Summer Means New Love, After The Game). Mark Isham adds the romantic trumpet.

Brian’s Hidden Beauties CLIX: Ride The Wild Surf

March 17th, 2018

In our 158 “hidden beauties”, we have only covered one of the songs that Brian co-wrote with Jan Berry, and which only appear on Jan And Dean albums. That number moves up to two, with our 159th entry. Surf City is the best known of these collaborations, but possibly the one song that captures the exhilaration and excitement of riding the waves is Ride The Wild Surf, also featured in the movie of the same name.

Brian’s Hidden Beauties CLVIII: One Kind Of Love

March 11th, 2018

The “new” song for the Love And Mercy movie had already been released on the No Pier Pressure album – although as a late addition as it mentioned in the original publicity for the album. Nominated for a Golden Globe, and retained during Brian’s “Pet Sounds 50” tours, it has got some reasonable publicity – which is deserved for a gentle and meaningful love song focusing on the importance of unconditional love.

A Solo Artist

March 8th, 2018

52 years and one day ago, the first record with a Brian Wilson solo credit came out. With Caroline No as the feature signal, and Summer Means New Love as the flipside, it is surely one of the greatest single releases ever. Of course, the solo credit was an anomaly for a singer who was very much part of the Beach Boys at stage. It took another 30 years before Brian marked his debut as predominantly a solo artist with another single –Let’s Go To Heaven In My Car.

Another 10 years later was another milestone -Brian’s first solo show, filmed for the Imagination DVD. That show was a one-off, but from the following year, Brian was officially on tour, and this year, will mark his 20th successive year on the road. Brian Wilson will always be a Beach Boy, but has now spent more than half his musical career doing predominantly solo music, and a fair portion of that as a touring artist.