Posts Tagged ‘1960s’

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The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico

Sunday, November 25, 2012
The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)

The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)

I write this, actually, while listening to Loaded.

I’ll have to admit this took a while for this one to grow on me. It was hard for me to step beyond the dreamy xylophone (that’s what that instrument is, right?) that opens “Sunday Morning.” What a beautiful song. It evokes what Sunday morning is to me – kind of sad day (maybe because Monday is the next day), but strangely peaceful and slow.

Finally, I’ve given it more of a listen, this is quickly becoming one of my favorite albums ever. Not only is it a historic album (punk and noise can trace their beginnings here), but it is a very good album that’s still enjoyable today. Because even today, there is nothing else that quite sounds like it.

This album has some rockers: “Waiting for the Man,” and “Run Run Run,” but it’s the more experimental stuff that I really like. I absolutely adore “Venus in Furs” and its S&M themes (“strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart”). The lyrics are kind of trashy, but it’s the strings, the beat, and the vibe that absolutely makes this song. I’ve never heard anything like it. It gets even darker with “Heroin” but for some reason that song never struck me as much.

At points the album can get slow and sweet, with “I’ll Be Your Mirror” and “All Tomorrow’s Parties”. It gets downright wtf with the closer track “European Son” where it’s an all out noise fest. Sometimes I feel if Sonic Youth had been a band twenty years earlier they would have been a lot like the Velvet Underground.

Yeah…this is a group I’ll have to check out more. Definitely a treasure of the late sixties/early seventies.

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The Beatles – The Beatles [White Album]

Monday, March 9, 2009
The Beatles (1968)

The Beatles (1968)

This review should just read “It’s the Beatles, end of story,” but I’ll go a little in depth for those interested in my thoughts on this music classic.

The Beatles self-titled LP, or the “White Album,” is my favorite by them. It’s impossible to just pick any Beatles’ album and say it’s their most important or quintessential. So instead, I’m just focusing on this one because it is filled with many my favorite Beatles moments.

The White Album has always struck me as darker, more mature, and more experimental than anything else they have thus far attempted. It is absolutely jaw dropping to just think of how the Beatles changed as a band from Please Please Me in 1963 to The Beatles in 1968. Considering they released at least one album every year, each one a timeless classic that redefined music forever – when it comes to bands, none in music history was or is as great as the Beatles were. Usually, thoughts like these cross my mind every day, and what the Beatles have done still and likely always will capture my imagination.

Anyway, back to the music instead of my exposé on the Beatles. To me, the “White Album” encompasses everything good about the Beatles – it’s as if every single one of their albums is wrapped up in it (with the exception of their last two, recorded after this one). They decided to go in a different direction as they had for their previous few albums, and they recorded new material prolificly, enough for a double album.

The importance of the “White Album” for the Beatles and music at large cannot be overemphasized. It starts with “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” a hilarious spoof of the Beach Boys and their knock-offs, the former of whom the Beatles shared a good-natured rivalry. Track two, “Dear Prudence,” is the Beatles at their most simplistic beauty. The song is beautiful because it says the world is beautiful, “and so are you.”  There is always an underlying simplicity and familiarity with the Beatles, despite how complicated the song acutually is.

Then of course, we have the catchy “Ob-la-Di, Ob-la-Da,” a Carribean-esque song nearly anyone can sing to, followed by “Bungalow Bill,” another classic. Then comes what’s often considered George Harrison’s magnum opus “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” followed by Lennon’s classic “Happiness is a Warm Gun.” This so far has to be one of the strongest song lineups in album history, just so you know.

A few songs later we come to the animal trilogy, “Blackbird,” “Piggies,” and “Rocky Racoon.” Of the three, “Rocky Racoon” is my favorite. Though they’re English, the Beatles were pretty good at playing American folk with their own twist. Though “Blackbird” deserves mention, and also happens to be one of the few songs I can play on guitar.

Later on, the infamous “Birthday” song, which would be should also be sung on birthdays along with the traditional one (I’m picking and choosing songs now, since there are so many). Later, McCartney’s “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey.”

And then, the first metal song ever written, “Helter Skelter.” Right here, I just want to pause and reflect on the diversity of all the songs on this album up to this point. We have the first proto-metal song, folk, Caribbean influenced pop, surf rock, ballads, and later, downright exprimental things that simply cannot be classified, like “Revolution 9” (which, like all respectable Beatles fans, I loathe).

The last track I want to mention is “Goodnight.” Granted you made it this far, then you’ve just listened to one of the most famous and amazing albums in music history.

Though I’m not saying the Beatles were perfect and cannot be criticized in the least, like it or not, they are the most famous, most influential, most quintessential rock band in music history. And to me, The Beatles is their magnum opus.

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Miles Davis – In A Silent Way

Tuesday, February 17, 2009
In a Silent Way (1969)

In a Silent Way (1969)

It this album were more laid back, it’d be horizontal. As its namesake suggets, In a Silent Way is very peaceful. At first it’s best heard as back ground. As it gets more famliar, it warrants a closer listening.

The album features only two tracks: “Shhh / Peaceful” and “In a Silent Way / It’s about that time.” Each runs about twenty minutes.

This record is important because it marks the birth of jazz fusion, a step almost as revolutionary as Miles 1959 release of “Kind of Blue.”

It is also a lot more unaccessible than Kind of Blue. But most works of genius take patience to unlock.

My favorite is probably the intro/outro of track two, or, the “in a silent way” segment. This is most beautiful and peaceful and dreamy music I’ve ever heard. John McLaughlin is breathtaking on guitar. He and Davis (the other muscicians names on the record are lost onme) really conjure something special here.

In a Silent Way  changed the world of jazz forever, and is probably my favorite Davis album.

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Charles Mingus – Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus

Friday, February 13, 2009
Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (1964)

Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (1964)

My first jazz album. I bought it in Norway, of all places, after my senior year. Music stores there have a much wider jazz selection. In a way, it’s a shame America’s classical music is more treasured across the pond.

But I digress. Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus.

This music really draws me in. I don’t know  the history of the album, or even Charles Mingus, well enough. I mean, I’m only 21. This album was released in 1964, twenty four years before I plopped into the world.

Though I’ve heard tale Mingus popularized the smashing of the guitar onstage, as he was prone to fits of anger (only he did it with his bass). This inspired Pete Townshend, who is usually credited with the act.

Since I’ve had this album a while, I’ve listened to it a lot. It starts out strong with “II B.S.,” a rendition of the “Hatian Fight Song,” an earlier recording by Mingus. Mingus has to be strumming one of the greatest basslines in music history. But I might as well say that for every one of his songs.

Things cool off with track two, “I X Love,” a ballad to Mingus’ ex-wife. This might be my album favorite. The notes carry you someplace else. Somplace not Earth. It’s a ride.

“Celia,” too, is great, featuring several time signature changes that keep things interesting.

“Mood Indigo” is an original by Duke Ellington. Charles Mingus idolized the legnedary man, and his cover is good tribute.

“Better Get Hit in Yo’ Soul.” Well, if you don’t get hit in yo’ soul after listening to this song then blow my dress up and call me Charlie. This 12/8  swing is one of the most fun songs I’ve heard. This tune gets my blood a-flowing and my heart a-pounding. It bleeds pure, raw energy.

“Theme for Lester Young” is a take on Mingus’ very popular “Goodbye Porkpie Hat,” a very popular tune in the late fifties. I like this one better than the original off Mingus Ah Um.

“Hora Decubitus” is just a groovy tune. But that’s just how Mingus is – fun, groovy, makes you want to yell.

The last track is  “Freedom.” Oh, how I love this track! Released in 1964, this song was right on time for the Civil Rights movement. Not being an expert on African American culture, I can’t say whether “Freedom” is an old African American spiritual  or whether Mingus penned it himself. Regardless, it’s a powerful way to close the album.

This album wins at everything. In fact, I want to apologize for this review, as my words cannot convey how great it is.

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John Coltrane – A Love Supreme

Saturday, February 7, 2009
A Love Supreme (1965)

A Love Supreme (1965)

Interestingly, if you don’t know a thing about jazz and you ask a jazz afficionado where to start, chances are they’ll either point you to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue or John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. If you fall in love with either, you’re bound to exlore further the discography of either artist- if you like those albums, then it’s onto branching out into different jazz artists. Then, you’ll come to discover jazz is a lot bigger genre than you first thought it was.

At least, that’s what happened to me. I started of with Kind of Blue, and soon after, A Love Supreme. I then asked my roommate for him to give me some fusion, which introduced me John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola, and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Which is when I decided that exploring jazz throughly would be a project for a future date.

In the meantime, I’ll be content with my Coltrane and Miles Davis. A Love Supreme is my favorite jazz album I own (I really don’t own too many – maybe ten).  Like most complex music, it does take a while to get into a wrap your head around unless you happen to be born with that kind of temperement (which I wasn’t).

But when I do sit down to listen to A Love Supreme, it really is heavy stuff. It’s satisfies me in a way that less complicated music, say, the Killers, can’t really do.  A Love Supreme isn’t just good – it’s an absoulte masterpiece. Listening is a spiritual experience – it will bear you away to the highest of heights and the deepest of depths.

Some music you just want to veg out and enjoy. Some, you want to engage and think, and be carried away to entirely different level. Expand your horizons, so to speak. Better yet, rise above your horizons. A Love Supreme is that kind of album.

I could attempt to go in depth explaining each song, but I don’t want to kill what the music could be for you by contaminating it with what I think. Suffice it to say, it’s pretty complicated. I’m horrid at music theory, though I’ve tried, so any attempt to explain it would never do this album justice. All I know is that listening to it makes me feel amazing, body and mind.