According to Robyn Hitchcock's fancy new website, March 22nd is Propellor Time. What does that mean? Well, it would seem to indicate that he's releasing a new album of that title on that date. I'm guessing that the above picture is the album cover, meaning it's another album with his crack backing group, The Venus 3. (Okay, so they do more than just back Robyn. Peter Buck, for example, also plays with a little group called REM.) I'm excited, not just because I like Robyn, but I really feel that his last two albums, "Goodnight Oslo" and "Ole, Tarantula," are some of his best work. I'm excited to hear where Robyn will go with this album. Maybe his trip to Greenland as part of Cape Farewell inspired some of these new songs. Only 5 weeks and one day until Propellor Time!
Monday, February 15, 2010
Monday, February 1, 2010
AllMusic.com just published one of their periodic "Best Of a Random Year" lists, and they finally chose an awesome year, 1965. Their editors all picked their favorite albums and singles from that year, so I thought I should blog about some of my favorite music that came out that year. Okay, let's start off with the obvious albums...
The Beatles, "Help!"
"Help!" showed the Beatles moving forward in leaps and bounds in their songwriting. John Lennon was entering a particularly fertile time in his writing, penning the title track, "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away," and "Ticket to Ride." I quite enjoy John's "It's Only Love," which he said later was one of his least favorite songs ever. Oh well. And even though Paul McCartney's songs for the movie are rather slight, "The Night Before," and "Another Girl," he came up big on the second side of the album with "I've Just Seen a Face," and a little song called "Yesterday," which has since become the most performed song EVER. Wow. And George Harrison is starting to emerge as a great songwriter as well, with "I Need You," and "You Like Me Too Much."
The Beatles, "Rubber Soul"
"Help!" is great, but "Rubber Soul," recorded in a frantic rush to have product out for the Christmas season of 1965, is a quantum leap forward in production. John and Paul are pushing at the boundaries of rock and roll. I've always felt that "Rubber Soul" marks a huge high point for John Lennon's songwriting, the same kind of peak that Paul would reach in 1966 on "Revolver." John's songs on "Rubber Soul" are: "Norwegian Wood," "Nowhere Man," "Girl," "In My Life," and "Run for Your Life." (Along with co-writes on "The Word," "What Goes On," "Wait," and "Drive My Car.") Okay, so "Run for Your Life" is filler, but the other four songs are among the finest he ever wrote, and show the group progressing far beyond typical rock and roll subject matter. Given how great the production is on "Rubber Soul," it's amazing that this album was banged out in such a short time. Everything seems so perfectly thought out, unrushed. And Paul adds another song to his list of Lennon-McCartney standards, "Michelle." And he and John wrote his concert opener, "Drive My Car." My Mom has always been puzzled by Paul's great love for "Drive My Car." I came up with an explanation over Christmas when we were watching the mini-documentaries from the Beatles re-issues. Paul has said that he and John really struggled over "Drive My Car," they had some nonsense about "golden rings" to start off with, but that didn't work. And eventually, over the course of the day at John's house, they polished "Drive My Car" to a sheen, coming up with a fun song with a "beep beep yeah!" chorus. So it was really the two of them working together to create this song, and I wonder if that's why Paul likes it so much, maybe it reminds him of that partnership he had with John.
Bob Dylan, "Bringing It All Back Home"
And Dylan went electric...abandoning folk protest music for rock and roll, Dylan wrote some of his most brilliant songs, and influenced just about everybody making music at this time. This landmark album starts off with "Subterranean Homesick Blues," a fast-talking number that isn't about anything in particular. Practically every song on this album is terrific, from the bitter "Maggie's Farm" to the hilarious "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream." The second side is acoustic, and introduced the world to "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Gates of Eden," "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" and "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." Wow. A staggering achievement by a single artist.
Bob Dylan, "Highway 61 Revisited"
And just 5 months later, he did it again. Starting off with "Like a Rolling Stone," this album never lets up on the rock. There was no acoustic second side this time. Dylan is pushing his imagery farther and farther, churning out surrealistic pop masterpieces like "Ballad of a Thin Man," the title track, and "Desolation Row." He was clearly on a hot streak, and even if his folk audience was deserting him, he was gaining new fans from the rock world.
Okay, so those are the obvious ones. I haven't actually heard the Beach Boys' albums from 1965, so I can't say how good they are, but most of the AllMusic critics picked their two albums as well.
The Kinks, "Kinda Kinks"
Yes, this album has some less than essential tracks, like Ray's cover of "Dancing in the Streets," but it also has "Tired of Waiting For You," the first Kinks single to not just be a re-write of "You Really Got Me." And if you get the version with all the bonus tracks, you get great singles like "Set Me Free," "See My Friends," and "A Well Respected Man." Great stuff, and it shows Ray Davies beginning to flex his brain more.
The Kinks, "The Kink Kontroversy"
More great Kinks songs on their second album of 1965, including "Till the End of the Day," "I'm On an Island," and "Where Have All the Good Times Gone." Sets the stage for their first masterpiece, "Face to Face," from 1966.
John Coltrane, "A Love Supreme"
Perhaps Coltrane's most complete and beautiful musical statement, this album shows his classic quartet at the peak of their powers, working together to create a stunning album-long suite of music in praise of God. Amazing.
Frank Sinatra, "September of My Years"
Frank Sinatra turned 50 in 1965, an event which he commemorated with a new album, "September of My Years," and a 2-disc retrospective, "A Man and His Music," which was also a TV special. He was a busy guy, and "September of My Years" proved to be one of his classic albums, it introduced "It Was a Very Good Year" to his repertoire, and the album as a whole dealt with the theme of aging, and features terrific versions of songs like, "This Is All I Ask" and "September Song." This is one of Frank's last classic concept albums.
Bobby Darin, "Venice Blue"
Okay, I'm a huge Bobby Darin fan, so I'm not expecting anyone else to know this one. But it features some great Darin performances, like his swinging version of Tony Bennett's "The Good Life," and "I Wanna Be Around," and a gorgeous rendition of "Somewhere," from "West Side Story." And check out Bobby's bluesy "Ain't No Sweet Gal Worth the Salt of My Tears," it's great. Bobby's 1966 album, "Bobby Darin sings The Shadow of Your Smile" is fantastic, he sings all the songs from 1965 movies that were nominated for the Best Song Oscar. His version of "The Shadow of Your Smile" is simply lovely. And the second side featured some of my favorite songs of his, "Rainin'," "Lover, Come Back to Me," and "Cute."
Hank Mobley, "Dippin'"
Hank Mobley was the great underrated jazz tenor saxophonist of the 1950's and 60's. He cut tons of great sessions for Blue Note, and he was always a "musician's musician," but he never broke through to wider acclaim. "Dippin'" is just one of his classic sessions featuring Lee Morgan on trumpet, and it also features Mobley's skill at writing great songs.
Hank Mobley, "The Turnaround"
Only some of this album was recorded in 1965, some songs are from a 1963 session. The title track, a groovy number in the style of Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder," is a killer.
Hank Mobley, "A Caddy for Daddy"
Yes, people often recorded 3 albums in one year! This is another solid hard-bop set from Hank, with support from Lee Morgan and McCoy Tyner.
Rolling Stones, "The Rolling Stones, Now!"
A solid early Stones albums, before Mick and Keith turned into great songwriters. My highlight is "Little Red Rooster," dig Brian Jones's slide guitar!
Rolling Stones, "Out of Our Heads"
Features some sub-par cover versions, but also early brilliance on "The Last Time," "Satisfaction," "Play with Fire," and the very funny "Spider and the Fly" and "The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man."
Rolling Stones, "December's Children"
This was one of the first Stones albums I got, for some reason. I like it, kicks off with a fiery version of "She Said Yeah," and has a live version of "Route 66." It also included perhaps the only song that both Dean Martin and the Rolling Stones recorded, "You Better Move On." No, I'm not kidding. Also features "Get Off Of My Cloud" and "As Tears Go By."
Dave Brubeck, "Time In"
Yes, another one of Dave's "Time" albums, this one is an overlooked gem. If you like Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond, pick this one up. But, you can only get it in the box set, "For All Time," which collects all of Brubeck's "Time" albums for Columbia.
Phil Ochs, "I Ain't Marching Anymore"
Phil Ochs picked up where Dylan left off, and recorded one of the great folk protest albums, "I Ain't Marching Anymore." The title tune takes us through all the wars that America has fought over the years, with the narrator vowing that after every war he ain't marching anymore. This album also features Ochs's hilarious "Draft Dodger Rag," a young man's litany of reasons why he can't fight. ("Someone's gotta go over there, but that someone isn't me.") Ochs has a touching tribute to JFK, "That Was the President," and ends with the bitter, angry, "Here's to the State of Mississippi," which none-too-subtly suggests that the rest of the US should kick Mississippi out of the union. "Here's to the land you've torn out the heart of, Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of." I wish that Phil Ochs were still alive.
The Chad Mitchell Trio, "Typical American Boys"
Okay, as long as I'm on the folk protest train, I should add the Chad Mitchell Trio's album. The title comes from a line in Phil Ochs's "Draft Dodger Rag," which they covered on their 1964 album, "The Slightly Irreverent Mitchell Trio" to great effect. (What a great album title!) For those of you who don't know, the Chad Mitchell Trio were a folk group, similar to the Kingston Trio, except they had better harmonies than the Kingston Trio, were more overtly political, and of course, were nowhere near as popular. "Typical" features their great harmonies on songs like "Jesse James" and "My Name is Morgan." Their other 1965 album, "That's the Way It's Gonna Be," was cut after Chad Mitchell left the group. His replacement was a young man named John Denver. The title song is one of my favorite Mitchell Trio songs, written by Phil Ochs, who unfortunately never put it on one of his own albums. The album also features some of their humorous topical material, like the "I Was Not a Nazi Polka."
So, there you have it, some of my favorite music from 1965. Quite a year. What are your favorites from 1965, dear readers?
I didn't watch the Grammys last night, but I read in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune today that Ringo was wearing a t-shirt from the Electric Fetus, my favorite Minneapolis record shop! See the photo above for proof. So this means that a Beatle actually knows about the greatest record shop in the Twin Cities, that I have spent many hours at! Awesome! I would love to know if Ringo actually chose that shirt himself, or if some assistant was like, "Here's a cool shirt, boss." I'm secretly hoping that it's really Ringo's favorite record shop as well, as it reminds him of when he thumbed through the stacks at Brian Epstein's NEMS shop in Liverpool. Come to think of it, the last time I was at the Electric Fetus two weeks ago, there was a limousine parked outside. I was thinking it might be Prince. (Seriously. He still hangs out in the Twin Cities.) Maybe the next time I go there, I'll run into Ringo flipping through the used CD's, and we'll strike up a conversation and he'll say, "Oh, yeah, I brought me mate Paul along too." And then Paul McCartney will look up and say, "Ringo and I are going to play a couple of tunes, you know, unannounced, in-store show, get back-like, do you want to sing harmony?" Hey, I can dream, can't I?