Archive for the ‘General Music’ Category

50 Years Undead

Thursday, 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.

Country Rebel Makes Perfect Pop Shocker

Sunday, 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

Wednesday, 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

23 Songs For Today

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

1) BRIGHT EYES (Art Garfunkel)
2) NO FAIR AT ALL (Association)
4) RAIN (Beatles)
9) BROTHERS IN ARMS (Dire Straits)
10) BUILD (Housemartins)
12) DON’T CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA (Julie Covington)
15) NEVER’S END (Lloyd Cole And The Commotions)
16) HEART OF GOLD (Neil Young)
17) TECHNIQUE (Prefab Sprout)
20) A LOVE SO BEAUTIFUL (Roy Orbison)
22) I WON’T SHARE YOU (Smiths)
23) ONE (U2)

Happy 75, George

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

Happy 75th birthday to my favorite Beatle, George Harrison. He hasn’t been with us for some time, but he speaks to us clearly in 2018 in this, one of his greatest songs

“Watch out now, take care
Beware of greedy leaders
They take you where you should not go”


My favorite musicians: #1

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

This being a Brian Wilson blog, it shouldn’t come as the biggest surprise in the world that the Beach Boys are my #1 musical act. And while I rate Brian Wilson as the single greatest musician of recent times, this post also acknowledges the contribution of Dennis, Carl, Al and even Mike -not to mention Bruce, David, Blondie and Ricky -who all helped keep Brian’s music alive on the charts and on the stage, as well adding their own songs and musicanship to the mix.

In making both the most critically acclaimed album ever (Pet Sounds) as well as the most legendary unreleased album (SMiLE) , the Beach Boys moved well past the early surf and turf days to become leaders in making pop and rock meaningful. While the turmoil of 1967 pulled them away from the top of the charts, they continued to make meaningful music as a group, right up until the 2012 reunion album. In addition, there is the extensive solo canon of Brian, the underrated but powerful music of Dennis, and some wonderful solo songs from Carl. Add to this the productions of Brian for outside artists and one has a huge legacy of wonderful music linked to the Beach Boys.

My favorite musicians: #2

Sunday, February 18th, 2018

You’ve probably heard of the Beatles. You probably like them a lot, unless you are one of the very perverse people who say they are overrated. A group that split up almost fifty years ago, and effectively had seven years of record-making still manages to influence, make headlines (e.g. Quincy Jones) and get their music played over the world.

The strength of the Beatles was having three strong and often complementary songwriters, a great drummer and a lot of personality. The great music didn’t end in 1970 either -all four Beatles had their solo moments and All Things Must Pass,  in particular shows how creative George had become in the later Beatles years. So for fifty-plus years of history and great music, the Beatles are my #2.

My favorite musicians: #3

Sunday, February 11th, 2018

There may be some contrast from my #4 to my #3, but like Dylan, Burt Bacharach is an American icon who has transcended many eras and changes in musical taste. As someone who has written songs covered by both my #1 and #2 (who you may have guessed by now), Bacharach is best-known as a writer of soaring, emotional melodies. Walk On By, Don’t Make Me Over, The Look Of Love, I Say A Little Prayer For You…that’s not even scratching the surface of a massive oeuvre of perfect pop. The Bacharach legend has a huge supporting cast of co-writers and singers, with special mention of lyricist Hal David and singer Dionne Warwick. But as Bacharach prepares to celebrates his 90th birthday, he stands alone as one of the musical greats of any genre and time period.

My favorite musicians: #4

Sunday, February 4th, 2018

My number #4 is an early love of mine; someone who was a leading influence on music and culture before I was born, and is as famous in 2018 as ever. Bob Dylan may be more a man of words than a man of melody, but his singing and musicality of many of his songs is often overlooked, in the light of his world-changing lyrics. For me, Blood On The Tracks remains his best work, but there is quality from his early folk days to his recent works as an elder statesman of folk, rock and roll.

My favorite musicians: #5

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Onto my top 5 – and at number five is one of the very few people who can write both brilliant melodies and resonant lyrics- Jimmy Webb. Much of Jimmy Webb’s best music has been donated to others -including entire brilliant albums such as the 5th Dimensions Magic Garden and the two Richard Harris albums that he wrote and produced. Of course, there’s Wichita Lineman, All I Know, and the yard goes on forever.