Posts Tagged ‘The Kinks’

The looming dissolution of the Beatles, after a stirring run of creative genius, signaled that everything would be different in the ’70s. They released their final album in Abbey Road, though the earlier-recorded Let It Be would follow, after some post-session doctoring from Phil Spector. They weren’t the only ones who departed: The original Jimi Hendrix Experience, Eric Burdon and the Animals and the Jeff Beck Group fell apart, even as Rolling Stones co-founder Brian Jones died. The warm feelings of Woodstock were quickly forgotten in the bloody aftermath of Altamont.

The death of Brian Jones, July 3rd , Brian Jones had long since relinquished his role as a major contributor to the band he founded, the Rolling Stones, when he drowned in his swimming pool at his home in Cotchford Farm, the estate formerly owned by A.A. Milnes, author of the ever popular children’s book, Winnie the Pooh. He had been fired by the Stones the month before due to drug use and increasingly erratic behavior, leaving Jones more or less out in the cold as far as any further recording ventures were concerned. Initially ruled “death by misadventure,” the verdict was later questioned when rumors spread that a construction worker named Frank Thorogood actually murdered Jones and had made a deathbed confession to a confidante. In 2008, the Sussex police department declared it was no longer investigating the claim. Nevertheless, Jones became the first member of the so-called 27 club, whose membership now includes Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Whitehouse and a number of other artists whose lives ended at the fateful age of 27. His death also ended a prolific and profound era for the Stones, which many still argue, was the most creative period of their collective career.

At the same time, bands appeared that would dominate the decade to come. Led Zeppelin released their acclaimed first and second albums in ’69, laying a sturdy foundation for superstardom. Zeppelin seemed to arrive as a fully formed new blues-rock variant, harder and louder than anything that had come before. In fact, after touring together extensively, the band arrived in the studio with this material so well rehearsed that they only needed 36 hours spread out over two weeks to complete the album. Its influence, however, has endured – not just as a template for their own career, but also for untold legions of soon-to-be-famous heavy-metal purveyors.

In the summer of 1969, Zeppelin was a band on the rise. Its self-titled first album, released in January of that year, reached Number 10 on the Billboard charts in the U.S., and peaked at Number 6 in the U.K. The band’s pairing of blues, folk and psychedelia eventually would make it the biggest band of the 1970s, “as influential in that decade as The Beatles were in the previous one,”  Zeppelin would play more than 40 gigs on their Summer of 69 tour of U.S.A.

Chicago issued the first of what will eventually be four straight multi-album projects, A band with a bright horn section and a scalding guitarist, Chicago was really all about dichotomy back then. Four songs from their introductory double album would enter the charts, through to 1972’s Chicago V. 

Mick Taylor joined The Stones, sparking their most heralded period – though one that was marked by a turn toward darker subject matter. Rolling Stones, ‘Let It Bleed’ was aptly titled, the second in a quartet of genius albums by the Stones echoed all of the very real apprehensions surrounding this era – like a gritty yin to the Beatles’ utopian yang on ‘Abbey Road.’ Mick Taylor’s arrival also ushered in a harder-edged sound, which combined to create one of rock’s most visceral triumphs. It’s sexy, foreboding, topical and dangerous, sometimes all at once.

Altamont – December 6th was one of the darkest days in music history, Altamont sealed the lid on the promise of peace and love that was capped by Woodstock, and did so within mere months following that celebratory event itself. The Stones, who headlined the sprawling festival in the California desert, may have had good intentions to offer a free concert, but enlisting the Hell’s Angels as security was a terrible idea. Though the line-up was stellar—CSNY, Santana and Jefferson Airplane reprised their roles from Woodstock, along with the Flying Burrito Brothers providing an excellent add-on—an aura of violence and uncertainty pervaded the proceedings. Both Jagger and Airplane singer Marty Balin were accosted the former as he left his chopper, the latter onstage and the death of concert goer Meredith Hunter by a pack of Angels who claimed they saw him wielding a gun, ensured the fact that an idyllic utopian era of the ’60s was quickly come to an end.

‘Abbey Road’ was always a far more fitting send off for the Beatles than ‘Let It Be’ could have ever been. It’s among Paul McCartney’s brightest, most artistically satisfying, moments. But John Lennon’s punctuations (and, to a quickly emerging degree, George Harrison’s) undoubtably make it so. Moments away from imploding, they arrived for these sessions as distinct individuals, rather than stylized mop-topped group. Yet, for a moment in time and for this one last time, the Beatles’ separate personalities seemed to work again in service of the whole.

The Beatles Final Concert, January 30th, Although the Beatles’ impromptu performance on the rooftop of their Apple headquarters in London’s central environs was rumored to be a tryout for a return to live concerts, it was in fact part of the band’s final hurrah. The tumultuous sessions for their album Let It Be exposed a group in disarray, and indeed, a mere nine months after this live six song set—all culled from tracks they had been working on at the time The Beatles were officially broken. Filmed to provide a cap on the ill-fated Let It Be film, it’s still an exhilarating experience to watch the four former Fabs giving it a final go for the curious crowds below. “Hope we passed the audition,” John says before vacating the premises on orders from the police. Yes, Mr. Lennon, indeed you did.

Nick Drake, ‘Five Leaves Left’ was an autumnal yearning which surrounds these folk-rock recordings, and that’s likely the reason Drake was overlooked in his time. Even smart assists from Richard Thompson, then of Fairport Convention fame, couldn’t push this delicately conveyed album into the public consciousness back then. Sadly, Drake only had five years left. He died at age 26 in 1974 of an overdose.

This daring debut by prog rock band King Crimson, ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ still remains prog’s standard bearer, the best example of a then-emerging movement that sought to combine musical concepts with rock. ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ was also a template for how this seemingly ever-evolving band would operate, as their lineup almost immediately flew apart. The core pair of Robert Fripp and Greg Lake was all that remained by the time King Crimson set about recording a follow-up.

The Kinks ‘Arthur,’ a triumph of rock with a British sensibility subtitled “Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire,” never gets the short-hand praise of contemporary works like the Who’s ‘Tommy.’ That’s likely because it’s less ambitious. But it’s also far more listenable – like a rock musical, rather than a rock opera. Hailed as one of rock’s first great concept albums, ‘Tommy’ – like so many examples in that genre – sometimes suffers creatively at the expense of furthering the plot. But at its best, this represents the Who at their finest. And there’s no questioning how the album opened up new narrative possibilities for pop composers.

The Who Performed Tommy for the First Time, April 22nd Notably, the concert in Devon, England, preceded the album’s official release by a month. Although other offerings can claim to be the first real rock operas—The Pretty Things’ S.F, Sorrow and the Kinks’ Arthur, among them—The Who were the only band to take the unusual step of performing an album in its entirety. They’d later take Tommy to some of the world’s great opera houses, elevating rock in both intellect and intent.

The debut of supergroup Blind Faith, June 7th, Heralded as the first true “super group”—a term that would resurface continuously in the years that followed Blind Faith was based on an all-star union between guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker of Cream and vocalist/keyboard player Steve Winwood of Traffic, with bassist Ric Grech, formerly of Family, added later on. Although Clapton in particular was wary of the implications involved in such a high profile ensemble and equally concerned about inviting the tempestuous Baker into the fold—he agreed to pursue the possibilities, owing in small part to the fact that he and Winwood had worked together in a short-lived ad hoc outfit called Powerhouse a few years before. The group’s less than spectacular live debut at Hyde Park further exacerbated Clapton’s concerns, and after a single spotty album and tours of Scandinavia and the U.S., the group disbanded later that year.

Dylan Reemerges at the Isle of Wight, August 31st, Dylan had been largely absent from public view since a 1966 motorcycle accident drove him into self-imposed seclusion. Other than his work with the Band at Big Pink, he chose to spend time with his family and record an album, Nashville Skyline, a shocking departure from any album he had offered before. Consequently, the announcement of his appearance at England’s Isle of Wight Festival attracted an extraordinary amount of interest, including the curiosity of various Beatles, a Stone, Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett and a still gestating Elton John. Rumor had it that Lennon, Harrison and Starr might join Dylan onstage, and although that proved false, Dylan alone was enough to mesmerize the masses. Dressed in a beige suit, his hair cut short, he performed a 17-song set with backing from the Band, a concert that included several classics from his catalog as well as tracks from Nashville Skyline and its immediate predecessor, John Wesley Harding. It’s still considered a landmark performance today.

That was probably to be expected for a generation still reeling from shocking assassinations and an ever-escalating war. So, too, was a move toward nostalgia for the old ways. Bob Dylan Having hinted at his intentions on the more rustic ‘John Wesley Harding,’ Dylan definitively left behind protest music for a head-long dive into deep country for the charming, determinedly happy ‘Nashville Skyline.’ In its own way, this was revolutionary too as he went country, even as his old backing musicians in The Band released a determinedly homespun self-titled masterpiece. The Byrds also splintered, with two members Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman left to dive deeper into their passion for country and western music. The resulting album, unfortunately, did little on the charts – but it proved to be a well-spring of inspiration for descendent bands like the Eagles. breaking away to form the Americana-focused Flying Burrito Brothers.

Although there had been several gingerly moves to find common ground between the disparate realms of country music and rock ’n’ roll early rock pioneers Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers and Rick Nelson all had claims on country—in the divided America of the late ’60s, followers of the two styles were decidedly distinct. Nevertheless, the Byrds and the Buffalo Springfield effectively made efforts to narrow that divide, making it only natural that the two groups they spawned, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Poco respectively, would, to paraphrase the title of the latter’s debut album, pick up the pieces. As a result of releases like The Flying Burrito Brothers’ debut, The Gilded Palace of Sin, in February 1969, country-rock blossomed, spearheaded by the influence of “cosmic cowboy” Gram Parsons (a member of both the Byrds and the Burritos) before later finding a permanent bond with the release of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken, featuring members of both the new guard and the old, two years later.

The Stooges, ‘The Stooges’ This album’s wiry, first-take feel was no put on: Three songs from the Stooges‘ titanic debut were written in a single day, after their label said the album needed more material, then banged them out live. The ferocious results gave the nascent heavy metal genre new fire, presupposed far-off punk, and scared the hell out of parents everywhere.

Creedence Clearwater Revival began to come into their own here, reaching heralded high points with “Born on the Bayou” and “Proud Mary.” The rest of ‘Bayou Country’ doesn’t always reach that level, but the album is nevertheless surrounded by a sense of expectancy. They’re discovering themselves with every revolution of this album, and it’s a fizzy joy to hear. The second of an incredible run of three CCR albums from 1969 codifies every great thing the earlier ‘Bayou Country’ pointed toward. Sharply drawn, ‘Green River’ is just as sharply played – with none of the period-piece noodling that had occasionally seeped into their first two albums. John Fogerty dilated his muse on ageless cuts like “Bad Moon Rising,” the title track and “Lodi,” and Creedence finally found its true voice.

The Allman Brothers Band an accomplished debut as they blended rock, blues, jazz and a distinctly Southern sensibility to came up with something uniquely and forever their own. Taken for granted in today’s multi-cultural melting pot, ‘Santana’ marked the big bang of Latin rock. Within a year, congas and timbales had found their way into the music of the Rolling Stones, Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis, among many others. But it all started here, as ‘Santana’ blended mind-blowing, genre-bending musical explorations with more compact songs like the rambunctious Top 10 hit ‘Evil Ways’.

Jimi Hendrix forms the Band of Gypsies, October and with the release of Electric Ladyland, Jimi Hendrix was at the height of his prowess, but the break-up of the Experience left him without a band and bereft of new recordings. His band at Woodstock, ostensively dubbed “Gypsy Sun and Rainbows,” found him expanding his original trio concept and reuniting with his former army buddy, Billy Cox. The aggregate, which Hendrix referred to as “a band of gypsies” when interviewed on The Dick Cavett Show, fell apart soon after, although Cox continued on bass and joined Hendrix for some informal recording dates with Buddy Miles. It was a natural combination; Miles had subbed for Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell on two tracks used for Electric Ladyland, and the trio went on to record a few demos and rehearse for an upcoming concert at the Fillmore East that would span New Year’s Eve. The self-titled album, released on Capitol Records to satisfy a contractual obligation, became the band’s only official recording, but clearly pointed the way to a more racially charged sound Hendrix was working on for the future.

Woodstock, August 15th-18th, If ever there was a single gathering that served to define the spirit of the ’60s, those three days spent in the muddy fields of Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York takes the prize. It wasn’t always pleasant—despite an amazing array of rock’s most influential artists (Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, CSNY, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Richie Havens, et. al.), the traffic, the mud and the scarcity of supplies (other than the acid of course) tended to test the resolve of all involved. Still, it was that spirit of love, peace and music that pervaded the proceedings over all, assuring a communal embrace while setting the precedent for festival gatherings, a basic blueprint that remains relevant to this day.

Jefferson Airplane, ‘Volunteers’ was the last album to feature both Marty Balin and Spencer Dryden, ‘Volunteers’ blended a few bucolic moments (featuring guest stars Jerry Garcia and members of CSNY) in with the now-expected psychedelic rock – but that’s not this album’s best-remembered legacy. Instead, it’s a series of molten, occasionally profanity-laced rebukes of the American status quo. They left the ’60s with a bang.

Joining together for the first of what would become a string of free-wheeling, muscular successes alongside his band Crazy Horse, Neil Young blows a hole in the comfy folk-rock conventions of ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere’ in fact, has a lot more in common with the wild eclecticism of his work with Buffalo Springfield, but with a new tone that’s both sharper and looser.

Records in  heavy rotation in my bedroom included the debut album from Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II, The Beatles Abbey Road , The Who’s Tommy, King Crimson’s In The Court Of The Crimson King a great record,one that for its time was truly unique, The Rolling Stones Beggar’s Banquet which never left my turntable and the follow-up release Let It Bleed, Neil Young’s masterpiece Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Zappa’s Hot Rats which help change my musical perspective, Fleetwood Mac’s Then Play On, CSN debut, Blind Faith’s one and only official release which is also a very strange record, Nashville Skyline by Bob Dylan, The MC5’s Kick Out The Jams, Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul which arrived unexpectedly when I did not respond in time to a record company selection deadline and glad I got this gem,Chicago Transit Authority double set before they shortened their name to Chicago,  Jethro Tull’s Stand Up, Live Dead, The Doors Soft Parade, Pink Floyd’s Live Ummagumma, Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers, and Procol Harum’s A Salty Dog.

Few events in American history caused as much upheaval as the war in Vietnam. Young people took to streets and college campuses, protesting a conflict that they viewed as little more than an excuse for a murder machine entangling thousands of young draftees. Not surprisingly, musicians supplied the soundtrack against which protest was pursued. With the sound and imagery flashing across television screens night after night, it was only natural that people would find respite in an array of anthems—“Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Street Fighting Man from the Rolling Stones,” “For What It’s Worth (written about the riots on Sunset Strip) by Buffalo Springfield, “Machine Gun” from Jimi Hendrix, Country Joe and the Fish’s “Vietnam Song” and “Volunteers” which came courtesy of Jefferson Airplane. All served to remind the youth of the country that they weren’t alone in their determination to sway some sentiment and avoid the bloodshed overseas.

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Ray Davies’ well-documented thrall with the U.S. continued to deepen, even as it found new complexity on the 2017 U.K. Top 20 album Americana. He keeps digging here, picking at old scabs (including his scary encounter with a mugger in 2004) but also exploring the promise that this country still offers. Like most sequels, it’s not quite the equal of what came before. In fact, the album’s best lyric – “All life we work, but work is bore / If life’s for livin’, what’s livin’ for? – comes from a redo of a Kinks song from 1971. Still, that doesn’t speak so much to the relative quality of Our Country: Americana Act II as to a towering legacy that he has to wrestle with every day.

This is a demo version. The simplicity of the recording and the piano captures the feeling of being alone and in love so well. I Go to Sleep is a song written by Ray Davies. It was never recorded by the Kinks, but Ray Davies‘ demo is included as a bonus track on the reissue of their second studio album Kinda Kinks. “I Go to Sleep” was covered by The Pretenders and released as the fifth single from their second studio album Pretenders II. The song was later included on the Pretenders‘ compilation album The Singles. The song was also featured in the films Romanzo Criminale and Sweet Sixteen.

Unreleased song by Ray Davies/The Kinks from 1965

 

The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society 50th anniversary super deluxe

BMG Records will issue a 50th anniversary edition of The Kinks‘ 1968 album The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society in October. The Enormous 11-disc super deluxe edition • 2018 remasters • 174 tracks

The band’s sixth studio album was originally issued in November ’68 and would be the last album by the original line-up (bass player Pete Quaife departed in early 1969). Describing the album today, Ray Davies says it’s about “the ending of a time personally for me in my life. In my imaginary village. It’s the end of our innocence, our youth. Some people are quite old but in the Village Green, you’re never allowed to grow up. I feel the project itself as part of a life cycle.”

The super deluxe edition is an eleven-disc set, no less. It contains a double vinyl LP with stereo and mono versions (both 2018 remasters) and a 12-track ‘Continental’ (Swedish) version on vinyl.

In addition there are five CDs of content as described below:

  • CD1:
    2018 Stereo Remaster, from the original HD tape transfers + bonus tracks of singles, B sides and original album related tracks
  • CD2:
    2018 Mono Remaster, from the original HD tape transfers + bonus tracks of singles, B sides and original album related tracks
  • CD3:
    Village Green Sessions – Including alternate versions, mixes and backing tracks, many previously unreleased
  • CD4:
    Village Green At The BBC – TV performance track audio and band interviews, many previously unreleased
  • CD5:
    Preservation, Sessions, Live & Demos – including mid 70s recordings, previously unreleased home demos, Ray Davies live in Denmark 2010 and unreleased track ‘Time Song’.

The three remaining discs are a trio of replica seven-inch singles, reproduced in picture sleeves. They are:

  • Days / She’s Got Everything (1968)
  • Starstruck / Picture Book (1968)
  • The Village Green Preservation Society / Do You Remember Walter? (1969)

There are 174 tracks in total (see full track listing at the bottom of this post) with “many previously unreleased tracks and versions”, including the previously unreleased track ‘Time Song’ which was performed by The Kinks at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in January 1973. This track was Davies’ commentary on the UK joining what was then called The Common Market. Ray says “This song was recorded a few weeks later but never made the final cut on the Preservation Act I album. Oddly enough, the song seems quite poignant and appropriate to release at this time in British history, and like Europe itself the track is a rough mix which still has to be finessed.” This track features in the box set and the 2CD edition.

Check out the previously Unreleased track ‘Time Song’ :

The box set comes with a 52-page hardcover book with extensive sleeve notes and new band interviews and includes essays by Pete Townshend and other writers. It boasts “special packaging” with debossed box cover, foil & metallic text, linen cloth finish and a ‘bespoke accessories holder’.

It also comes with what we like to call ‘stuff’… broadly categorised as ‘memorabilia’. This includes a poster of Village Green LP inner gatefold; Empire Liverpool 1968 tour poster; glossy 10” x 8” photos from Hampstead Heath 1968 photoshoot; colour press photo with reproduced band signatures; Bournemouth 1968 gig ticket; PYE Records promo card; ‘Days’ sheet music etc.

The other three physical editions are a 2CD deluxe ‘art of the album’ which features the stereo and mono remasters and bonus tracks (49 tracks in total), plus single disc vinyl and CD versions with just the stereo remaster.

The Kinks “Are The Village Green Preservation Society” 50th anniversary editions are out on 26th October 2018. The UK box set price of £94 seems pretty good for all that content .

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As a founding member of The Kinks, Dave Davies is a musician who needs little introduction. After decisively solving the riddle of the first “Great Lost Dave Davies Solo Album,” 2011’s magnificent Hidden Treasures, we now have what should have been its sequel: Decade. Years prior to the issue of Dave’s first “proper” solo album, 1980’s AFL1-3603, he was working on the fascinating tracks that make up this new compilation. The tapes were unearthed by his sons and properly mixed and mastered in a way that lets these songs shimmer and shine even brighter than they did at inception. Any album recorded over the span of 10 years runs the risk of ending up wildly erratic, yet Decade is surprisingly cohesive. A real treasure.

The album, which arrives October. 12th, is a collection of unreleased songs he recorded from 1971-79. You can listen to the lead single, “Cradle to the Grave,” below.

“I am so pleased that after all this time these tracks are being released to see the light of day,” he said in a press release. “These songs have been silently nagging at me to be recognised all these years. At last I can proudly present this album Decade to the world. I do hope you all enjoy the music.”

 Dave penned several great songs, such as “Death of a Clown” from Something Else and the Arthur-era outtakes “Mindless Child of Motherhood” and “This Man He Weeps Tonight.” But as the press release notes, Dave’s songs “had no apparent place” in the concept albums Ray was creating, so these tracks remained “under beds, in attics, in storage” until they were discovered by Dave’s sons. “We were busy, and we were touring, he continued, “The Kinks were very vibrant that whole period of time. It wasn’t really until the end of the ‘70s that I started to really take my writing seriously. I should have done it anyway—because what’s ‘serious’ and ‘not serious’? Just get stuff out, you know?”

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The big records releases from Kurt Vile, John Grant, St Vincent and at last The Lucid Dream plus loads of fantastic reissues from Mute and Dark Entries (that Eric Random is amazing) and the next David Bowie box set. Among new artists with records you should be listening too goes to Anna St. Louis, I have to say that I hadn’t heard her before but when I saw the press release compare her to Loretta Lynn, Townes Van Zandt and John Fahey I had to give it a spin. It is sooooooo good. Easily eyeing up a top spot in our albums of the year list. Its one of those records that everyone asks who it is when you hear a song, each track gets better as it goes along until when the album finishes you have just got to stick it straight back on.
I love records that are a surprise and I think you will love it too.

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St. Vincent – Masseducation

A year on (to the week) from the release of the critically acclaimed Masseduction album, St. Vincent releases re-imagined piano versions of the album. Performed with Thomas Bartlett over two days in a studio in Midtown Manhattan, August 2017.

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Kurt Vile – Bottle It In

Kurt Vile is back with his first record in three years, the eclectic and electrifying Bottle It In, which he recorded at various studios around America over two very busy years, during sessions that usually punctuated the ends of long tours or family road trips.

Every song, whether it’s a concise and catchy pop composition or a sprawling guitar epic, becomes a journey unto itself, taking unexpected detours, circuitous melodic avenues, or open-highway solos. If Vile has become something of a rock guitar god—a mantle he would dismiss out of humility but also out of a desire to keep getting better, to continue absorbing new music, new sounds, new ideas—it’s due to his precise, witty playing style, which turns every riff and rhythm into points on a map and takes the scenic route from one to the next.

Using past albums as points of departure, Bottle It In heads off in new directions, pushing at the edges of the map into unexplored territory: Here be monster jams. These songs show an artist who is still evolving and growing: a songwriter who, like his hero John Prine, can make you laugh and break your heart, often in the same line, as well as a vocalist who essentially rewrites those songs whenever he sings them in his wise, laconic jive-talkin’ drawl. He revels in the minutiae of the music— not simply incorporating new instruments but emphasizing how they interact with his guitar and voice, how the glockenspiel evokes cirrocumulus clouds on Hysteria, how Kim Gordon’s “acoustic guitar distortion” (her term) engulfs everything at the end of Mutinies, how the banjo curls around his guitar lines and backing vocals from Lucius to lend a high-lonesome aura to Come Again.

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John Grant  –  Love Is Magic

With his fourth solo album, Love Is Magic, Grant has continued evolving, creating his most electronic record yet.

In collaboration with Benge (Ben Edwards), analogue synth expert / collector and a member of electronic trio Wrangler, Grant’s collaborators earlier this year under the collective name of Creep Show on the album Mr Dynamite. Anyone familiar with Grant’s story will recognise his battles – with addiction and health, with trusting love and relationships. From this turbulence he’s forged another riveting collection of often brutal diatribes and confessionals, where humour, fear, anxiety and anger overlap as Grant, with trademark candour, figuratively exposes the machinations of his saturated brain. It’s epitomised by the album’s brilliant opener Metamorphosis, almost as if his warring psyches are facing up to one another, as impervious synth-pop and brain-on-fire imagery (“Tiki bar, rat soufflé, Buik regal, Marvin Gaye”) melts into dream-ballad introspection (“Questions left unanswered, spiritual extortion”) and back to synth-backed mania. The magic of love pervades in two gorgeous, magisterial ballads toward the end of the album,Is He Strange and The Common Snipe – referring to the wader bird that makes a unique ‘bleating’ sound by rubbing its tailfeathers together.

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David Bowie  –  Loving the Alien (1983 – 1988)

The box contains newly remastered versions of David’s most commercially successful period Let’s Dance, Tonight, Never Let Me Down (Original and 2018 Versions), the live album Glass Spider (Live Montreal ’87)’, the previously unreleasedSerious Moonlight live album, a collection of original remixes entitled Dance and the non-album / alternate version / b-sides and soundtrack music compilation Re:Call 4. The highlight of this latest box is the brand new production of the 1987 album Never Let Me Down by Bowie producer / engineer Mario McNulty with new instrumentation by Bowie collaborators Reeves Gabrels (guitar), David Torn (guitar), Sterling Campbell (drums), Tim Lefebvre (bass) as well as string quartet with arrangements by Nico Muhly and a guest cameo by Laurie Anderson on Shining Star (Makin’ My Love). The seeds of this new reimagining of the albums were first sown in 2008 when David asked Mario McNulty to remix the track Time Will Crawl and record new drums by longtime Bowie drummer, Sterling Campbell along with strings. The track was issued on the iSelect compilation to much acclaim, and in the notes, for that record, David remarked ‘Oh, to redo the rest of that album’. The new re-workings have revealed Never Let Me Down as a very strong collection of songs with a dark thematic thread running through them. Fans listening to Never Let Me Down (2018)would be forgiven for thinking that they were listening to a brand new ‘lost’ Bowie record. Also in each box is the never before released Serious Moonlight live album recorded in Montreal in 1983. Originally mixed at the time by Bob Clearmountain, the double album captures Bowie on what at that time was his most successful tour. The artwork features shots taken by photographer Denis O’Regan. Exclusive to each box is Re:Call 4 and Dance. The former a new compilation featuring remastered contemporary single versions, non-album singles, album edits, b-sides and songs featured on soundtracks such as Labyrinth, Absolute Beginners and When The Wind Blows. Dance features 12 contemporaneous remixes some of which are appearing on CD and vinyl for the first time and is named after an unreleased Bowie remix album that was originally slated for release in November 1985. The box set’s accompanying 128 page book features rarely seen and previously unpublished photos by photographers including Denis O’Regan, Greg Gorman, Herb Ritts and many others as well as historical press reviews and technical notes about the albums from producers / engineers Nile Rodgers, Hugh Padgham, Mario McNulty and Justin Shirley-Smith.

11CD – The CD box set includes faithfully reproduced mini-vinyl versions of the original albums, and the CDs are gold coloured rather than the usual silver. Includes 128 Page hardback book. Let’s Dance (remastered) (1CD) Serious Moonlight (Live ’83) (previously unreleased) (2CD) Tonight (remastered) (1CD) Never Let Me Down (remastered) (1CD) Never Let Me Down 2018(previously unreleased) (1CD)* Glass Spider (Live Montreal ’87) (2CD) Dance (1CD)* Re:Call 4(non-album singles, edits, single versions, b-sides and soundtrack music) (remastered) (2CD)*

* Exclusive to Loving The Alien (1983-1988)

15LP – LP Box Set includes a 88 Page hardback book. Let’s Dance (remastered) (1LP) Serious Moonlight (Live ’83) (previously unreleased) (2LP)* Tonight(remastered) (1LP) Never Let Me Down (remastered) (1LP) Never Let Me Down (2018) (previously unreleased) (2LP – side 4 is etched)* Glass Spider (Live Montreal ’87) (previously unreleased on vinyl) (3LP)* Dance(2LP)* Re:Call 4 (non-album singles, edits, single versions, b-sides and soundtrack music) (remastered) (3LP)*

* Exclusive to Loving The Alien (1983-1988) LP box.

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Primal Scream  –  Give Out But Don’t Give Up – The Original Memphis Recordings

In 1993 Primal Scream went to Memphis to make an album with Tom Dowd and the Muscle Shoals rhythm section, that album never saw the light of day, until now. Following the recent discovery of these tracks in a box lurking in Andrew Innes’ basement, Primal Scream release the original studio recordings from Memphis of the tracks that eventually became their 1994 album Give Out But Don’t Give Up. Teaming up with legendary producer Tom Dowd and the Muscle Shoals rhythm section of David Hood (bass) and Roger Hawkins (drums) at Ardent Studios in Memphis, the resulting recordings from those classic sessions showcase the more country soul, rock’n’roll side to a band who continue to surprise. It’s Primal Scream as you’ve never heard them before. Dowd’s deft production, coupled with the merging of this sublime rhythm section and one of the UK’s best ever bands, led to the creation of nine glorious tracks that run the gamut between blues, gospel and brilliant songwriting, available for the first time.

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Elvis Costello and The Imposters  –  Look Now

Costello returns with his first new collection of songs since his Wise Up Ghost collaboration with The Roots in 2013. It features The Imposters (bassist Davey Faragher along with original Attractions members, drummer Pete Thomas and keyboardist Steve Nieve). The album was co produced by Costello with Latin Grammys winner Sebastian Krys. Two standout tracks are Under Lime and Unwanted Number. The former is a spry, heavily textured pop rocker with Beatles-esque harmonies and horn arrangements on which Costello sings, “It’s a long way down from that high horse you’re on.” The latter is more low-key and boasts a soul groove and lush backup vocals, which allows Costello to belt lyrics about enduring a sour relationship. “I knew if we could make an album with the scope of Imperial Bedroom and some of the beauty and emotion of Painted From Memory, we would really have something,” Costello said in a statement, referring to the 1982 album he recently revisited on the road and his collaboration with songwriter Burt Bacharach. Bacharach co-wrote a few songs on Look Now, and sat in on piano with the Imposters on two of them, Don’t Look Now and Photographs Can Lie. Costello wrote another Look Now song, Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter, with Carole King.

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Arc Iris – Icon of Ego

Arc Iris releases Icon Of Ego, its third groundbreaking album, as a trio that packs the heft of a far bigger band with fully realized sonic and visual intensity. On this latest album, vocalist / guitarist Jocie Adams, keyboardist / sample artist Zach Tenorio-Miller and drummer Ray Belli have crafted a vividly expressionistic new album that reflects both the group’s protean talents as well as its journey of survival. After its self-named 2014 debut on the nti- label, Arc Iris achieved critical acclaim, along with tours with St. Vincent and Jeff Tweedy and festivals like Bonnaroo followed. Within two years, the band self-released Moon Saloon in the US while Bella Union released the album in Europe. Tours supporting Kimbra, Gene Ween, and a complete re-imagination of Joni
Mitchell’s Blue performed at Washington’s Kennedy Center followed, which added to a growing, international fan base that has remained dedicated throughout.Icon of Ego finds a stronger, more experienced band. Recording at Providence’s Columbus Theater, home to silent movies and vaudeville during the ’20s, the band has evolved into a concentrated pop-prog explosion, mixing styles with disparate elements that captivate and surprise. With heavy synthesizer work by Tenorio and Adams, and seemingly impossible transitions executed effortlessly by Belli, the songs here carry a thick, analog electronic sound that harks back to the ’70s. Presiding over these are Adams’ powerful vocals that house the energy under pop forms.

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The Lucid Dream – Actualisation

The Lucid Dream return with the release of their 4th album, Actualisation. Driven by fans raising £10,000 to help replace all equipment robbed after a Paris show in early 2017, a new album became the instant focus in the summer of 2017 for a rejuvenated The Lucid Dream. Actualisation is soaked in the influence of acid house, amalgamated with dub and kosmische. The album was penned over the summer of 2017 by Mark Emmerson (vocals/guitar/synths), using only the classic Roland 303/808 synths, bass and vocals as tools for writing. Inspiration for the writing was formed via continuous listening to the Chicago to UK acid house works of 1986-1992, the focus predominantly on the groove. Several months on from those writing sessions and The Lucid Dream have completed their 4th album in 5 years. A record made for the dancefloor. Recorded at Whitewood Studios, Liverpool, with Rob Whiteley, the album is produced alongside long-time collaborator Ross Halden (Ghost Town Studios, Leeds), with mastering via Dean Honer (All Seeing I/I Monster/The Moonlandingz). The confrontational techno-punk of Alone In Fear opens the album, a 9-minute attack fuelled by the frustration and anger spawned by Brexit, government and a realisation of what 2018 Britain currently is. Recent single SX1000 (the first work from the album, unveiled via 12′ vinyl in April this year) is the band’s first move into pure acid house. The acid house fusion runs throughout the record, represented furthermore by Ardency, a track already praised by live critics when aired live for the first time earlier this year as ‘even on first hearing, would’ve raised the roof of The Hacienda’. The 2-part opus of Zenith follows, commencing with a space-dub / house instrumental groove before building into a track that will go for your head as much as your hips. Only Breakdown harks back to sounds of old for the band, a little reminder of the skull-crushing impact they can make when stripped to the bare bones. No Sunlight Dub closes the album, a dark-dub that invites the classic acid-house tool (Roland 808) into the dub. The track makes a stop-off into drum ‘n’ bass / jungle along the way before rounding up in a manner suited to Lee Perry, King Tubby, Augustus Pablo and other Jamaican greats.

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Anna St Louis  –  If Only There Was a River

If Only There Was A River is the first full-length studio album from Anna St. Louis. The songwriter, who originally hails from Kansas City, began writing songs after moving to Los Angeles five years ago and has previously released a cassette of recordings on Woodsist / Mare Records, appropriately titled First Songs. On her proper debut, St. Louis spreads her wings and expands on the promise hinted at on First Songs. To achieve that end, she enlisted Kyle Thomas (King Tuff) and Kevin Morby to produce the album, which was engineered by Thomas in his home in Mount Washington, LA. The collection of eleven songs also features Justin Sullivan (Night Shop) on drums and multi-instrumentalist Oliver Hill (Pavo Pavo). While hints of influences like Loretta Lynn, John Fahey and Townes Van Zandt peek out of the corners of the songs, this album is not a nostalgic affair. Rather it marks the emergence of an artist fully coming into their own.

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The KVB  –  Only Now Forever

The KVB release their sixth album, entitled Only Now Forever via Invada Records. Whilst holding evident inspiration from previous times, the sound this London-founded duo present is progressive and distinctly new in every sense. Idyllic at times; gritty in others, each bar is as enchanting as the last, leaving you in a melancholic trance. Offering poignant lyricism that explores modern anxieties that plague many, the duo manage to imbue feelings of empowerment, fighting such struggles with a deceivingly sanguine sound. This seamless juxtaposition is perhaps their best trait. Will appeal to fans of Depeche Mode, The Soft Moon, New Order, Nine Inch Nails and My Bloody Valentine.

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The KVB  –  Of Desire

The fifth album from UK darkwave duo The KVB is released on Invada Records. Of Desire is Kat Day and Nicholas Wood’s second release on Portishead member Geoff Barrow’s Bristol-based label. It follows a string of releases for operations like Downwards, Minimal Wave sublabel Cititrax and Ukraine’s ~taqueOT, most of which explored a moody shoegaze aesthetic. The recording of In Deep saw the The KVB raid Portishead and BEAK> man Geoff Barrow’s synth collection, as well as roping in Sonic Boom to master it. Their most fully formed record and considered in terms of dynamics, arrangements and instrumentation, taking in influences such as Death In Vegas, Scott Walker and Roxy Music, The KVB have managed to create something that is at once familiar and yet inventive and original.

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Cocteau Twins – Treasure Hiding: The Fontana Years

There was perhaps a sense, after a while, that the world was taking The Cocteau Twins for granted. Late Eighties reviews had routinely described them as The Voice of God, yet 4AD, concerned that we’d get tired of appreciating the rarefied genius which shimmered in front of our noses, would keep reminding us that they were truly special. The irony was that The Cocteaus were themselves evolving, morphing, reconstituting and taking on new shapes. This wasn’t widely registered at the time. It can be now, as The Fontana Years demonstrates a musical marvel which still makes your ears feel like they’re sucking citrus fruits after years of licking ashtrays, while the rings of Saturn crash-land in your front room. This 4-CD set brings together the two albums the band recorded for Fontana along with B-Sides, EP’s, Radio One sessions and the odd rarity. The set was mastered at Abbey Road from the original tapes and approved by Robin Guthrie. Housed in a study box designed by James Issacs – the booklet contains photos a discography from the era as well as a sleeve note by noted author Chris Roberts.

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Beta Band  –  The Three Eps (20th Anniversary Remaster)

Arguably one of the most acclaimed and loved bands of the past 20 years, by both fans and their musical peers alike, The Beta Band formed in St. Andrews, Scotland, in 1996. Innovative and singular, their unique musical and aesthetic approach to everything they did set them far apart from their musical contemporaries. Together for a relatively short period of time, the three albums and three EPs they released between 1996 and 2004 would nonetheless help define them as one of the most exciting and cherished bands of their generation. After acquiring the Beta Band’s catalogue last year, Because Music reissue their releases, with a double vinyl edition featuring the EPs Champion Versions, The Patty Patty Soundand Los Amigos Del Beta Bandidos with remastered tracks and coloured vinyls, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1998 compilation.

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Tokyo Police Club  – TPC

If the universe had tilted the tiniest bit, there would be no TPC – the not-quite self-titled fourth (and best) Tokyo Police Club album. By 2016, singer-bassist and chief songwriter Dave Monks had settled into life in New York City; he made a solo record and did some co-writing. Drummer Greg Alsop was living and working in L.A. Keyboard player Graham Wright and guitarist Josh Hook remained in the band’s native Canada. Tokyo Police Club created songs via e-mail, thinking they had enough natural chemistry and experience to make that setup work. But eventually, the lack of friction meant there was less musical spark, and it dawned on everybody that the end was near. There was resignation, not anger, when Wright, Alsop, and Hook told Monks they were done with the band. After putting aside the idea of splitting up and back-burnering their commercial expectations, there was just one thing left to do: go to church. Specifically a church in rural Ontario, where the foursome could recapture the energy of their early years by playing in a room together. Songs that Monks had written were abandoned when they didn’t feel right for this new energy, and TPC started to take shape, built on camaraderie and esprit de corps.

Monks’ friends could once again help shape his songs into TPC songs, and the batch that ended up on the record aren’t quite like anything they’d done before. Album opener New Blues signals that Tokyo Police Club doesn’t need a racing tempo to introduce themselves; Pigs takes a sneering look at record-business politics; Simple Dude is unabashedly horny. Not giving a fuck—or, more accurately, only giving a fuck about those things closest to your heart—paid off. It’s the channeling of energy, which flows into every song on TPC, that makes the record their best. They’re through being cool, through doubting themselves, and through wasting time on ancillary things. TPC is self-titled, almost, because it’s Tokyo Police Club circa 2018—scarred but smarter, fully re-energized.

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Peter Holsapple vs Alex Chilton – The Death Of Rock

Newly discovered recordings of early solo Peter Holsapple and Like Flies On Sherbert–era Alex Chilton. Liner notes by Peter Holsapple and author / filmmaker, Robert Gordon. Previously unseen photos from the collections of Peter Holsapple and Pat Rainer. It’s 1978 at Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis, TN. Peter Holsapple had rolled into town chasing the essence of Big Star. He hooked up with musician / engineer / friend-of-Big-Star, Richard Rosebrough after approaching, and being turned down by, Chris Bell who Holsapple had hoped might be interested in producing him. Together Richard and Peter started laying down tracks during the off hours at the studio. Chilton meanwhile, was knee deep in the making ofLike Flies On Sherbert, also being tracked at Phillips. He told Peter, “I heard some of that stuff you’re working on with Richard . . . and it really sucks.” Alex promised to come by and show Peter “how it’s done.” The results? Alex’s tracks definitely line up with the chaos found on Flies, while several of Peter’s songs found homes on The dB’s albums (Bad Reputationand We Were Happy There) and on an album by The Troggs (The Death Of Rock retooled as I’m In Control), so not a loss at all. What we have in these newly discovered tapes, is a fascinating pivot point with both artists moving past each other headed in distinctly different directions. Chilton moved toward punk/psychobilly as he began playing with Tav Falco’s Panther Burns and produced The Cramps debut, Songs The Lord Taught Us, within a few months of these recordings. Holsapple was off to New York to audition for The dB’s and enter the world of “sweet pop.” Liner notes by Peter Holsapple tell the story of these recordings firsthand and author / filmmaker / Memphian, Robert Gordon, helps pull the time and place into focus. Previously unseen photos included in the package are drawn from the collections of Peter Holsapple and Pat Rainer. Produced by Cheryl Pawelski with mastering by Mike Graves at Osiris Studio and Jeff Powell at Take Out Vinyl / Sam Phillips Recording Service in Memphis, who brings it all right back to where it started.

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John Hiatt  –  The Eclipse Sessions

The Eclipse Sessions, John Hiatt’s newest album, offers up his strongest set of songs in years. Long celebrated as a skilled storyteller and keen observer of life’s twists and turns, Hiatt can get at the heart of a knotty emotion or a moment in time with just a sharp, incisive lyric or witty turn of phrase. The 11 tracks presented in The Eclipse Sessions, from the breezy opener Cry To Meto the stark Nothing In My Heart, the lost-love lamentation Aces Up Your Sleeve to the rollicking Poor Imitation Of God, demonstrate that the singer-songwriter, now 66, is only getting better with age, his guitar playing more rugged and rootsy, his words wiser and more wry. Hiatt goes all in with The Eclipse Sessions. There’s a grit to these songs – a craggy, perfectly-imperfect quality that colours every aspect of the performances, right down to Hiatt’s vocals, which are quite possibly his most raw and expressive to date. “They ain’t pretty, that’s for sure,” he says about the creaks and cracks that punctuate his phrases in songs like Poor Imitation Of God and One Stiff Breeze. “But I don’t mind a bit. All the catches and the glitches and the gruffness, that sounds right to me. That sounds like who I am.” The Eclipse Sessions is the sound of an artist not only living in but also capturing the moment.

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Spacemen 3 – Forged Prescriptions

Forged Prescriptions is a double album by Spacemen 3, containing alternative takes and demo versions of songs from their album The Perfect Prescription, plus some previously unreleased tracks. In his liner notes

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Jeff Buckley –  Live In Pilton UK, June 24, 1995

Recorded in Pilton, Somerset, England at the legendary Glastonbury Festival – running nearly 50 years now, since 1970 – on June 24, 1995, this is one of Jeff Buckley’s most famous live recordings. Raw, heavy, heartfelt, and deeply emotional, the set is comprised almost entirely of Buckley originals, mostly off of 1994’s Grace as well as one unreleased track and an unexpected cover of the MC5. Required live listening for any fan of this great 90s artist gone way too soon, who left only a small but nearly perfect legacy of recorded music.

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The Rolling Stones – The BBC Sessions 1963-1965

Amazing early live BBC recordings from The Rolling Stones, even including recordings made before the release of their first record. Essential stuff for any fan of the greatest rock and roll group of all-time, including a ton of their great early R&B and blues cover versions! Including early Stones classic covers like Memphis, TN, It’s All Over Now, and Hi-Heel Sneakers, this is a party on wax. Nothing beats early Stones with Mick and Keith wailing and the band as amped up as they ever were! Classic.

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Small Faces – The BBC Sessions 1965-1966

Collecting some of their earliest BBC sessions onto one disc this is Steve Marriott and his Small Faces at their absolute rocking R&B rave up best. Featuring classic originals like Watcha Gonna Do About It, E Too D, and Understanding, as well as killer covers of Motown and Otis Redding, this set is guaranteed to get you go-go’ing on the dancefloor. The greatest UK blue eyed R&B group of all-time at their live best.

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The Kinks – The BBC Sessions 1964-1967

Spanning tracks from the classic 1964 self-titled debut to their 1967 masterpiece Something Else by the Kinks, this collection features nearly two dozen Kinks klassics, recorded live on the BBC. With stunning sound quality and a near perfect group of songs, hear the Davies Bros and Co. at their live, raw best. From the psych-pop brilliance of David Watts to the foot-pounding R&B of All Day And All Of The Night this collection runs the full spectrum of The Kinks’ sound. Essential live cuts from one of the top British Invasion and psychedelic era groups!

This Weeks Releases —-
Anna St. Louis – If Only There Was A River – Woodist
Daniel Brandt – Channels – Erased Tapes (Indie Exclusive)
John Grant – Love Is Magic – Bella Union (Deluxe)
Kurt Vile – Bottle It In – Matador (Indie Exclusive)
Yves Tumor – Safe In The Hands Of Love – Warp
Factory Floor – A Soundtrack For A Film – Heart Of Data (Indie Exclusive)
A Certain Ratio – The Graveyard & The Ballroom – Muts (Indie Exclusive)
Silicon Teens – Music For Parties – Mute
William Basinski & Lawrence English – Selva Oscura – Temporary Residence (Indie Exclusive)
Goatman – Rhythms – Rocket Recordings (Indie Exclusive)
Groundhogs – Blues Obituary – Fire Records (Indie Exclusive)
The Fall – I Am Kurious Orange – Beggars Banquet
Eric Random – A Boy Alone – Dark Entries
Talking Drums – Courage – Dark Entries
Cyrnai – To Subtle Drive – Dark Entries
Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe – Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe – A Recordings
Holger Czukay – Rome Remains Rome – Gronland
Holger Czukay – Der Osten Ist Rot – Gronland
Haley – Pleasureland – Memphis Industries (Indie Exclusive)
Exek – A Casual Assembly – Superior Viaduct

 

If 1967 was a year of introduction and innovation in rock ‘n’ roll—from Monterey Pop to to the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band and the launch of Rolling Stone Magazine  1968 was a proving ground, when a handful of the stars who had sprouted in the “Summer of Love” came to full flower in the psychedelia age. Artists from both sides of the pond, including The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Aretha Franklin, Cream, Traffic and Jefferson Airplane felt free to chip further away at old molds and pursue a daring new musical muse. It was an epochal year for established artists as well. The Beatles splintered in the studio, but their individual contributions to a self-titled double LP, the so-called “White Album”, amounted to some of the band’s greatest work and, in retrospect, unlocked a few imminent solo careers. It was a double album released by the Beatles  containing strong flavours of blues and rock’n’roll, Does this now mean the Beatles are taking a step backwards? As Ringo Starr philosophically remarks: ‘It’s not forwards or backwards. It’s just a step.’

John Wesley Harding

The year started out with what may well have been the finest album of the year, Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding. Midway through the year some tapes of Dylan’s were uncovered which were equally brilliant. Several of the songs on them came out on an album by The Band, Music From Big Pink. The best things on their album were not the Dylan songs, most of which sounded forced and strained, and by no means as good as Dylan’s own version of them on the tape. Rather, the highlights were the songs written by lead guitarist Robbie Robertson. “The Weight” was typical of the group’s low-down, country-soul, rock and roll performing and was one of the finest recordings of the year.

Bob Dylan also sets an anomalous tempo, established early in the year with the bucolic minimalism of ‘John Wesley Harding’. Dylan’s continued absence from the promotional scene allows him to move with a freedom not permitted his British contemporaries, and his absence creates a vacuum that myth, and under-the-counter recordings, step in to fill. British groups like The Who, meanwhile, grasp the opportunities of America. So effectively in fact, that their live shows were stupendous as they were chaotic.

The Notorious Byrd Brothers

The Byrds continued to go through personnel changes at least four times a year but in between times came up with two of the year’s great albums: The Notorious Byrd Brothers and Sweetheart of the Rodeo. The latter was a fine, straight country album with gorgeous, free harmonizing and excellent material. The former was perhaps their best album to date, and surely one of the five or so best of the year. David Crosby made some brilliant song-writing contributions, but the album was mainly Roger McGuinn’s and neither he nor anyone else in rock has often equalled such cuts as “Get To You” and “Artificial Energy.”

The Grateful Dead bored a lot of people with their much awaited second release, Anthem of the Sun and Moby Grape disappointed those who know that they are (or at least were) one of the finest live bands in the country with a very mediocre second album, Wow. On the other hand, the Rascals, long thought of as a teeny bopper group, continue to mature and develop and had at least one fine single this year: “People Got To Be Free.” 

Among individual artists, Laura Nyro began to receive the recognition she deserves, and many idolize her Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. Johnny Winter, a recently discovered white Texas blues singer has already created a large following on the basis of a few guest appearances in New York. San Francisco concert promoter Bill Graham rents a vacant New York theater and opens the Fillmore East concert venue.

Canadian rock band Steppenwolf release their debut album including the single “Born to Be Wild” and San Diego Rock band Iron Butterfly releases the album In A Gadda Da Vida considered to one of the first incarnations of the genre heavy metal albums.

The Rolling Stones grew out their roots with “Beggar’s Banquet”, while The Kinks and The Zombies took giant leaps forward with new and imaginative masterpieces that forever altered their trajectories. Plus we were introduced to a bunch of new faces to the pantheon:  The Doors, Sly Stone, Fleetwood Mac, Tim Buckley and, oh yes, Led Zeppelin. British rock and roll this year was dominated by blues bands. Ten Years After managed to kick up a lot of dust, Procol Harum continued to grow into its style and came up with a fine album, Shine on Brightly.

Pink Floyd lead singer and song writer Syd Barrett is checked into a psychiatric hospital and the band replaces him with David Gilmour.

Rock ‘n’ roll was at its most free in the pre-Woodstock glow of 1968. The Beatles went to India, Johnny Cash went to Prison at Folsom with one of the great live albums ever released, the Rolling Stones put a mobile studio in a truck, The Monkees went off the air. But it couldn’t ignore what was happening in the world riots, assassinations, war, a doomed election, space travel, poverty, drugs, Civil Rights, women’s liberation. All of it seeped into the art of the free-love counterculture with that strange combination of militant idealism and comical self-regard, as though it were clear that humanity would one day look at 1968 for a generation’s heroes and villains. Fifty years later in 2018 we are in the midst of a modern drug epidemic, a tarnished presidency, a growing underclass and a renewed vigor for social progress.

Here are some of the best albums of that momentous year in no particular order.

Sweetheart Of The Rodeo

The Byrds,  – Sweetheart of the Rodeo’

Even though David Crosby was booted from the Byrds in late 1967, the band had a pretty great 1968. In addition to the excellent ‘Notorious Byrd Brothers’ album, the restructured group released ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo,’ the granddaddy of all country-rock records. Credit goes to newcomer Gram Parsons, who helped steer the Byrds in this new direction. By the time the album came out in August, Parsons was gone and most of his vocals had been replaced (you can hear his recordings on the various reissues). But it didn’t matter in the long run — his, and the album’s, influence still resonates today.

Dock Of The Bay

Otis Redding, The Dock of the Bay   Released: February. 23rd

In some ways, 1968 began with a great sadness. On December. 10th, 1967, the blossoming soul star Otis Redding was killed in a plane crash in Wisconsin that also claimed the lives of four of his band members. The tragedy had taken not just one of the era’s most distinctive singers, but an artist standing at a new horizon for R&B music. Days before his death, Redding had recorded a new composition ”(Sitting On) The Dock of the Bay,” a lilting ray of sunshine that found a winsome Otis Redding unwinding his tight groove sound and opening up new worlds for his soul.

Released posthumously in February 1968, The Dock of the Bay showcased Redding for the mainstream audience he had courted at Monterey Pop the previous summer. “Let Me Come on Home” was the hard-driving, horn-happy rocker; “The Glory of Love” the arpeggiated slow burn; “Tramp” the naughty call-and-response with Carla Thomas. It wasn’t the album Redding was supposed to make in 1968, but it nevertheless served as the crossover breakthrough he always had in him.

Cheap Thrills

Big Brother & Holding Company, Cheap Thrills  – Released: August. 12th

Cheap Thrills, the second album featuring Janis Joplin, marked the emphatic emergence of the Texas-born singer in the San Francisco band that had already found some local success without her. Propelled by a star-making appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 that netted the band a deal with Columbia Records, Janis Joplin’s wavering, powderkeg voice quickly dominated the band’s psych-blues repertoire and raised the bar for practically every fiery vocalist to follow. Album entries “Summertime” and “Piece of My Heart” became signature songs, the vehicles with which she stunned the pop world with her grit and femininity, fusing her inner torment and strife with her public persona. Cheap Thrills topped the charts, one of the few products of San Francisco’s emerging underground to earn a mainstream embrace. The album’s cover, by illustrator R. Crumb, remains one of the most iconic of the era.

Truth

Jeff Beck,  –  Truth  

Jeff Beck’s first solo album following his departure from the Yardbirds in 1966 picks up where he left off with the influential British blues rockers: covering blues classics, standards from the Great American Songbook and even one of his old band’s songs. The guitar hero’s group on ‘Truth’ — including singer Rod Stewart and guitarist Ronnie Wood  would get co-billing on the follow-up album, 1969’s ‘Beck-Ola.’ They deserve it here too.

Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake

Small Faces, Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake  –  Released: May 24th

Marking a definitive break from Small Faces’ early mod and R&B underpinnings, the two-act Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake was a bold move into the realms of stylish psychedelia and the eccentric affectation of late ‘60s English invention. Although more than a hint of Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane’s Cockney humor was inescapable—the whimsical “Rene” and “Lazy Sunday” being obvious examples—two bold anthems, “Song of a Baker” and “Long Agos and Worlds Away,” predated Led Zeppelin’s arch bombast by several months.

At the time, the round album cover, made to resemble a tobacco tin, and the sidelong gibberish of “Happiness Stan,” a pseudo fairytale narrated by English actor Stanley Unwin, also garnered plenty of attention. One of the first concept albums ever envisioned (and basically unplayable live), Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake remains a little appreciated musical masterpiece. Small Faces would disband the following year.

Wheels Of Fire (Remastered)

Cream, Wheels of Fire  –  Released: August

Wheels of Fire had a hard precedent to follow, coming as it did on the heels of Cream’s 1967 sophomore breakthrough, Disraeli Gears and the blues-embossed psychedelia that preceded it. Nevertheless, laden with such classics as “White Room,” “Politician” and a sterling remake of the Robert Johnson classic “Crossroads” that became a microcosm of Eric Clapton’s entire career as a blues-nicking guitar deity, it managed to express the full potency of this startling supergroup (with Jack Bruce on bass and Ginger Baker on drums) and ensure their immortality. By taking the idea of a double disc to a new level of productivity—half live, half studio—Wheels of Fire also made full use of the trio’s songwriting chops and their ability to improvise onstage. Rarely has there been such a sprawling effort capable of bringing out that ability with such flourish and finesse. This was Cream’s last real album-length musical document, with only 1969’s abridged Goodbye to follow.

We're Only In It For The Money

Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention  –  We’re Only It for the Money

More so than any other record on our list of the Top Albums of 1968, the Mothers‘ third record is the one with the most direct link to ‘Sgt. Pepper’s.’ And not just because its original parody cover photo — which ended up inside the LP after the Beatles’ management objected — is a fierce slap to the earlier record. Frank Zappa and crew’s concept album satirizes tons of Summer of Love standbys, including hippie idealism, left-wing thought processes and over-the-top concept albums.

Traffic (Remasters)

Traffic, Traffic  Released: October

A follow-up to their excellent and eclectic debut, Traffic’s eponymous sophomore set found a fully congealed ensemble. The on-again, off-again participation of Dave Mason was now fully present, if only temporarily for this effort. Indeed, this was the album that represented Traffic’s transition from woodshed romanticism to forerunners of new iconic invention, a sound simultaneously purveyed by The Band in their early Americana guise. Several of the standout songs—”40,000 Headmen,” “Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring,” “Pearly Queen”—offered druggy swirls of hippie-rock and tight soul embodied by Steve Winwood’s preternatural tenor and organ playing. Mason’s highlight, “Feelin‘ Alright,” would become a rock-radio smash for Gospel-tinged covermeister Joe Cocker the following year, and remains a mainstay in Mason’s live repertoire to this day. The definitive Traffic album, Traffic is another underrated monument of 1968.

Odyssey & Oracle by ZOMBIES (2011-01-21)

The Zombies, Odyssey and Oracle  –  Released: April 19th

One of the ‘60s great unsung masterpieces of that hallowed decade, the Zombies’ Odyssey and Oracle followed on the heels of the group’s early hits “Tell Her No” and “She’s Not There,” while marking a giant leap forward. It was a set of songs flush with bold experimentation and baroque innovation, a concept not unlike that of Sgt. Pepper and other ornate musical ventures of the day. Ironically, The Zombies had broken up by the time Odyssey came out, and with its eventual smash hit, “Time of the Season,” it became a sad swan song that failed to reap the appreciation it deserved. Al Kooper championed its release in the U.S., but tepid label support doomed it to the cut-out bins practically from the get go. The original band recently reconvened (sans the late guitarist Jim Atkinson) to play the album live in its entirety, helping regain the critical kudos that evaded it originally.

At Folsom Prison (Legacy Edition)

Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison  –  Release: May

When Johnny Cash arrived at Folsom Prison in California on January. 13th, 1968, he was fortunate that he was there to perform for inmates and not join them behind bars. Cash had spent much of the previous few years in a drug spiral, watching his career and his life circle the drain. He was looking to revitalize his waning career, and a prison concert seemed the ideal vehicle—if Cash had always empathized with jail-bound convicts and the lonely despair that comes with the life, now he felt he could speak directly to them on terms everyone could understand. He had recorded the “Folsom Prison Blues” single back in 1955, and here was an opportunity to put faces to names. Proving that the concert was directed at a very specific audience, Cash performed a set of songs (two sets actually, which were combined into one 15-song album) that resisted self-help bromides and spiritual guff. “Dark as a Dungeon,” “The Long Black Veil” and “25 Minutes to Go” evoked the cynicism and gloom of living in captivity. Little did Cash expect, it also resonated loud and clear with a global audience who for one reason or another felt the sting of living in bondage even as they walked free.

Astral Weeks

Van Morrison, Astral Weeks   –  Released: November

After attaining his initial success back in Belfast with the band Them and a couple of hits (“Gloria,” “Here Comes the Night”), Van Morrison launched his solo career with a bang in the form of the ubiquitous soul-blaring 1967 hit “Brown Eyed Girl,” off his debut LP Blowin’ Your Mind! But it was the followup that proved to be his magnum opus. Charting new experimental terrain, he initiated a sound that was open-ended and had more to do with jazz, folk, elegiac imagery and pure stream of consciousness. “Cyprus Avenue,” “Sweet Thing,” “Ballerina” and “Astral Weeks” are unbound folk songs lit up with bells, strings, flutes and Morrison’s assured vocal wail. All but ignored in Northern Ireland, the album struck a chord with critics who admired Morrison’s meditative musings and the songs’ cerebral settings. Today, it’s widely recognized as one of the most influential albums of the era and an adventurous chapter in what would be a long and varied career.

The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society

The Kinks, Are the Village Green Preservation Society  –  Released: November. 22nd

The Kinks were never rabble-rousers in the truest sense of the word. For every proto-punk attempt at slash and burn with songs like “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night,” Ray Davies and Co. were able to offer softer laments like “Waterloo Sunset” and “Set Me Free.” With an astute eye for detail, Davies could probe the absurdities of life and turn them into woeful tales of middle-class misery. He found full flourish with the lovely and graceful Village Green Preservation Society, a wonderfully wistful song cycle about idyllic England in more innocent times, flush with nostalgia, nuance and a gentle chiding of civility and sentiment in a storybook world. If Ray Davies chose to look at life through rose-colored lenses, no one could blame him for attempting to engineer this imaginative escape. It was The Kinks‘ sixth album, and final record by the original quartet, bombed when it came out in November 1968 . But it’s now considered the band’s best LP, a straight-faced concept album about Victorian-era mores. It’s lush, pastoral and brimming with gently strummed songs about small-town England that rank among the best songs that Ray Davies has ever written.

Bookends

Simon & Garfunkel, –  Bookends  –  Release: April 3rd

The most fully realized album of Simon and Garfunkel’s middle-period career, Bookends showed that the duo were capable of more than merely poignant, introspective balladry. Only their fourth studio effort, Bookends was fashioned as a concept album that imagined life’s progression from youth to old age. “Old Friends,” a song that more or less became synonymous with the duo’s often stormy relationship, encapsulated that trajectory, but several others stood apart as future standards, including “America,” “A Hazy Shade of Winter,” “At the Zoo,” and an encore performance of “Mrs. Robinson,” culled from the soundtrack to The Graduate, released the year before. At the same time, Bookends would prove an ideal lead-in to Bridge Over Troubled Water, which would follow two years later and elevate the duo to their grand crescendo.

Music From Big Pink

The Band, Music From Big Pink  –  Release: July 1st

The Band’s debut record took an entirely different path from 1967’s candy-colored psych-rock explosion. Bob Dylan’s former backing group stripped down and excavated a form of American roots music that was somewhere between country and folk. Dylan had a hand in some of the songs, but the quintet proved to be one of the most significant groups of their time.

By the time The Band released their debut full-length, they were already a well-known, road-tested outfit who’d played behind Dylan during his infamous electric breakout. But their emergence as architects of archival Americana arrived with Music From Big Pink, an album borne from jams, rehearsals and songwriting sessions at the album’s namesake house in upstate New York. Though elevated in stature at the time thanks to the presence of a few Dylan compositions, the finished album found Robertson, Helm, Hudson, Danko and Manuel tossing off their musical shackles, mixing up instrumental and vocal duties, and creating a vintage variety of folk and country that seemed as effortless as it did brilliant. It was that emphasis on rural roots—the band boasted four Canadians and and Arkansan—that inspired the souped-up backwoods persona they purveyed in both sight and sound. The songs stand the test of time, and indeed, “The Weight,” “This Wheel’s On Fire,” “Tears of Rage” and “I Shall Be Released” stand among the most indelible expressions of heartland music ever recorded.

Lady Soul [w/bonus selections]

Aretha Franklin, Lady Soul   –  Released: January. 22nd

It says something about how rare and electrifying Aretha Franklin was in 1968, as a 26-year-old singer making her third album for Atlantic Records, that she could claim the title Lady Soul and not only pull it off, but then wear the crown undisputed for the next 50 years. Aretha Franklin had scored a defining hit—for both herself and women everywhere—the previous year with her cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect,” then mourned Redding’s death in December. Her mix of exuberance and despair, crying and shouting with every twist of a wounded relationship that haunts the album, courses through Lady Soul.

There’s gospel bliss on ”(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and down-hearted blues on “Good to Me As I Am to You.” She also fearlessly reimagines songs by her most famed male contemporaries, including a simmering cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” which had been a hit for The Impressions. Franklin’s once-in-a-century siren of a voice always powerful, always under complete control—is backed all the way by a crack New York headlined led by organist Spooner Oldham, saxophonist King Curtis and guitarist Joe South.Beggars Banquet

The Rolling Stones, Beggar’s Banquet  –  Released: December. 6th

Following 1967’s critically panned Their Satanic Majesties Request, attempt to cash in on psychedelia, the Rolling Stones revealed their essence on Beggar’s Banquet—a dirty, raw, set of originals that injected some country twang into the band’s R&B obsessions and set the mold for the iconic Stones sound that would stretch on for another 50 years.

Like a few other artists on our list of Albums of 1968, unplugged and settled into a more gutsy rock ‘n’ roll groove for their seventh LP. Acknowledging, but without directly borrowing from, the usual R&B and blues influences, the Rolling Stones crafted an album that’s simultaneously raw, scary and sinister. More than that, it launched a staggeringly fruitful creative period (which continued through 1972’s career milestone ‘Exile on Main St.’) when the Stones more than earned their title as the World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Band.

Containing at least three certified Stones classics—“Street Fighting Man,” “Salt of the Earth (featuring a rare lead vocal from Keith Richards) and the signature song “Sympathy for the Devil”Beggar’s Banquet marked the first entry in a four-album run—followed by Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street—that would go down as maybe the greatest winning album streak in rock history.

Sadly, it also marks the final album with Brian Jones’s full participation, and his reliability at the time was clearly in question. The original cover image, featuring a graffiti-strewn lavatory, was rejected by the record label and replaced with an unadorned invitation image that drew instant comparisons to the Beatles’ White Album, which had come out three weeks before. Nevertheless, the inner gatefold, depicting an enthusiastic food fight, ensured the Stones’ depravity wasn’t diminished.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Electric Ladyland  –  Released: October. 16th

Jimi Hendrix  radiated genius from the get-go with Are You Experienced? and Axis Bold As Love, his first two albums with the his band Experience in 1967. On Electric Ladyland, he took that extraordinary innovation into entirely new realms that were difficult to define then and remain so now. The trio, with its British rhythm section and American front man, was perfectly suited to their era, and with a supporting cast that included Traffic’s Steve Winwood, Dave Mason and Chris Wood, as well as drummer Buddy Miles and Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady, Electric Ladyland redefined the concept of modern rock within a progressive posture. The album boasts everything that Hendrix (who produced it) did well: slinky psych-soul (“Burning of the Midnight Lamp,” the title track), explosive electric blues (“Voodoo Chile”), melodic pop (“Crosstown Traffic,” “Long Hot Summer Night”) and tripped-out sonic explorations that take the listener under the sea (“1983… A Merman I Should Turn to Be”) and into the heavens (“And the Gods Made Love”). His version of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” showcased his ability to put an indelible mark on any popular music of the day, making it little wonder that even now, half a century later, the final studio effort recorded in Hendrix’s lifetime continues to set an almost unattainably high bar. Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland was the only two record set of the year that made it in my book. He is the authoritative lead guitarist, the coolest showman, an excellent songwriter, and a constantly improving vocalist. He has one of the finest drummers in pop music working with him and an imagination of touring performers on the scene that day, Hendrix is tops and 1968 was his year.

The Beatles (The White Album)

The Beatles, The Beatles  –  Release: November. 22nd

After the critical success of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the rapid follow-up of the equally colorful and hallucinogenic Magical Mystery Tour, this expansive double-disc allowed the four Beatles both to stretch out artistically and reconnect with their roots in a way that would be further explored with the bare bones concept for their 1970 swan song, Let It Be.

A series of solo excursions made by an increasingly fractured band, the so-called White Album collected songs composed while the Fabs were meditating in India with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It mostly resisted the pressure to address the social upheaval swirling outside the doors of EMI Studios (later called Abbey Road) and focused instead on wide-ranging song craft, with each member managing to create some of his most lasting work despite—or maybe because of—the infighting and tension that plagued the recording sessions. Lennon emerged with “Dear Prudence,” Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” “Sexy Sadie” and “Revolution 1”; McCartney composed “Martha My Dear,” “Blackbird,” “I Will” and “Helter Skelter”; and Harrison contributed “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Long Long Long” and “Savoy Truffle.” Taken together, they form what many consider to be among The Beatles’ greatest collection of songs.

Fifty years ago on the 5th May 1967) The Kinks, led by singer/songwriter Ray Davies who as a great observer of daily life and an eloquent storyteller – released one of their most famous songs with Waterloo Sunset.  It was released as a single in 1967, and featured on their album “Something Else By The Kinks” . The record reached number 2 on the British charts in mid 1967 (it failed to dislodge the Tremeloes  “Silence Is Golden” from the number 1 position).

Image result for the kinks waterloo sunset cover

Years later, in 2010, Ray Davies revealed this secret: “Liverpool is my favourite city, and the song was originally called ‘Liverpool Sunset’. I was inspired by Merseybeat. I’d fallen in love with Liverpool by that point. On every tour, that was the best reception. We played The Cavern, all those old places, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I had
a load of mates in bands up there, and that sound – not The Beatles but Merseybeat – that was unbelievable. It used to inspire me every time. So I wrote ‘Liverpool Sunset’. Later it got changed to ‘Waterloo Sunset’, but there’s still that play on words with Waterloo. London was home, I’d grown up there, but I like to think I could be an adopted Scouser. My heart is definitely there…”Now it’s time to dream away…

something-else-a-tribute-to-the-kinks

There is a rather tasty Kinks Tribute album being given away as the free cover disk with this month’s latest issue of Mojo.

It contains 14 tracks and includes the likes of Gaz Coombes, Nada Surf, Chuck Prophet, Jacco Gardner, Wreckless Eric, Mick Harvey and American Wrestlers amongst others.

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Have a listen to French duo Les Liminanas’ take on Two Sisters also featuring Anton Newcombe and Ty Segall’s version of perhaps the band’s greatest composition, Waterloo Sunset, and retains faithful to the original whilst imbuing it with a whole new gnarly charm.

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The Kinks, 'The Mono Collection'

The Kinks, ‘The Mono Collection’
In the Sixties, the Kinks developed from the raw singles band of “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and of the Night” into the brilliant album artists that crafted classics like Something Else and The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. This amazing vinyl set collects all eight of the albums they released during the decade, plus the previously out of print in the U.S. mono mix of Live at Kelvin Hall. It also includes the bonus double LP compilation The Kinks’(a.k.a. The Black Album) and a hardcover 48-page book that has interviews with Ray Davies, Dave Davies and Mick Avory. There’s also a 10-CD version.