Archive for the ‘Classic Rock’ Category

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The Velvet Underground – Loaded

September 27, 2007

By the time Loaded came out, The Velvet Underground were essentially out of commission. Upon it’s release, Lou Reed followed John Cale and split, leaving the band without it’s two most important members. The story behind Loaded is one that fans know all too well. Asked to make an album “loaded with hits,” they did just that and candy-coated their last real album for mass consumption. It worked, to some extent, but Loaded always felt kind of dull, and really didn’t come anywhere close to the other albums.

The Velvets follow through with their promise with the first three songs, arguably their three most popular and likeable songs ever. Who Loves The Sun is a personal favorite VU track, a really nice, longing love song. The little sparkly interlude at the beginning of Sweet Jane is just as memorable and momentous as the brilliant hook itself. Rock and Roll is also an easy winner. But then things crash, really fast.

The album gets more flak than it deserves, that much I will admit. It is still, in retrospect, a really solid album, but it’s pretty obvious that for VU fans, it is sort of a broken blessing. It has some of the bands most traditional, popular songs, but it also lacks any real contour or interesting twists or anything, which was essentially what the band had been known to do at that point. After making The Velvet Underground and Nico and White Light / White Heat, two of the most progressive and unique albums of their generation, it would be unreasonable to expect the trailblazing to continue. You can’t win them all. By the time Loaded was released, it is pretty obvious that everyone is just tired and wants to crank out a record. Bassist Doug Yule was given some significant songwriting and vocal duties here, and to be honest, he was pretty disposable. The album dips dangerously low around the middle with the trifecta of mediocrity that is Cool Down, New Age, and Head Held High, three of the Velvets most forgettable songs ever.

There is a bounceback. I’ll admit to liking Lonesome Cowboy Bill, even though I know it’s cheesy. The same goes for I Found A Reason. It falls into the much sought after It’s So Cheesy It’s Good category. At the very least, it’s fairly unique. I’ll also give it to them, they made one hell of a last song, Oh! Sweet Nuthin’. It has a really classic, tired, conclusive, slow groove to it that is really fitting. Both Sweet Nuthin’ and Who Loves The Sun were included on the High Fidelity soundtrack, and rightfully so, because they are both classic VU.

It’s alright. I’ll give it one thing. I have never seen an album more shockingly broken than this. It’s high points are sheer brilliance and it’s low points are almost embarassing. What is in between feels like it should be leaning towards one direction but can’t convince the listener either way. It’s definitely a good album. But there is not much here that is challenging or pushes any of the bands limits like the other albums did. My favorite thing about the Velvets, and what makes VU&N one of my absolute favorites, is how individual all of their songs are, but this album has a style that is easy to pin and rather forgettable. For a last album, it’s respectable, though.

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George Harrison – All Things Must Pass

February 25, 2007

As I write this, it is very late on the birthday of one of my musical idols, former Beatles member and eternal angel George Harrison. The post may not say as much though, the clock is pretty screwed up. In any case, George has always been a very special person to me. Without a doubt, he is my favorite Beatle, and he has always been a source of spiritual and emotional inspiration. George died over five years ago and I miss him every day. He is truly a wonderful human being and worthy of more praise than can ever be given. I would just like to wish him a very happy birthday and a peaceful rest forever. I am sure he has found peace. His music lives on forever as priceless art and will forever be treasured.

I would like to take this very special day to aknowledge George’s first solo album, All Things Must Pass. I gave this album a very special listen today to commemorate him and it struck me more today than ever… This is one of the greatest albums ever made. Period. I don’t want to be too longwinded here because this album really doesn’t need anyone elses words to accompany it. I would say that this is by far the best double album ever, but it is in fact a triple album, and only double-CD. Every song is a handpicked work of art, and a perfect vessel for this mans brilliant talent. The general style is that of folk-rock, but there is a very big production here, all rooting back to the great slide guitar and wonderful wall of sound effect that is employed here, with myriads of shining acoustic guitars and strings. Without a doubt, this album has fantastic production. But production is almost negligible when you have already constructed a perfect album. Every song on this album shines with love honest feeling.

It is very rare that I ever talk about one of my absolute favorite records ever, but I guess today just felt like the right day to give this the attention it deserves. Get ready, because you’re about to see me in a vulnerable state. This album moves me on a wonderful emotional level. But the coherency of the album is one thing… The very tail end of the album consists of original jams, and while they aren’t really priceless songs, they are still nice. In any case, the album isn’t without it’s few weak tracks. It’s truly shocking how consistant All Things Must Pass is… When you listen to this, it’s not until you get to I Dig Love when you think, “oh man, finally, a track that might be weak. I was beginning to think this was the best damn thing I’ve ever heard!” Well shit, I Dig Love is fifteen tracks in, and when a great little pop gem is comparatively weak, you know you have something great on your hands.

To talk about standout tracks is absolutely ridiculous. Honestly. Almost every track here is freaking gorgeous, from the opening smooth folk love swirl of I’d Have You Anytime to the tough blues rock of Art of Dying and the wonderful pop stomp of Wah-Wah, a statement on the Beatles. Theres really no explaining it… On a twenty three track album, only five songs are really disposable, and they are those latter ones I mentioned. Chances are everyone has heard My Sweet Lord and If Not For You at some time in their lives, but just hasn’t known who it was. Listening to this album is like meeting an old friend for the first time in many years with just as much joy as when you really got to know them. A personal favorite song is Apple Scruffs, a guitar and harmonica duet with an absolutely heart melting hook.

George Harrison and also All Things Must Pass have always held very special places in my heart. This is without a doubt one of my absolute favorites and a true essential to absolutely everyone. The album is filled to brim with priceless melodies, every song as moving as the last. There is no doubt in my mind that All Things Must Pass is better than any other solo album of a Beatles member. In fact, when I think about it, it’s better than any Beatles album, and I say that with complete honesty. Happy Birthday George; we all love you and miss you very much.

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The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour

December 27, 2006


For how much material The Beatles put out and how much of it was fantastic, it is strangely easy for me to get bored with them. Maybe it’s because the only thing I would listen to for the first seven years of my life was The Beatles. So I got sick of Sgt. Pepper really quickly and I pretty much refuse to listen to that anymore. And I get wrapped up in the various imperfections in the white album and Rubber Soul as much as I like them. It is very hard to ask a Beatles fan what their favorite song is, because they are all so beyond comparisson and so all around great, but if you ask a fan what their favorite album is, well then you might get a straight answer. For me, the two Beatles albums that I can come back to after years and years are Hard Days Night and Magical Mystery Tour, the latter of which is probably the most comforting to me after repeated listens. Magical Mystery Tour is essentially the album of my childhood and it never gets old when I listen to it. In so many words, it is like an old friend who understands you. While Hard Days Night and Sgt. Pepper may speak of more vital and timeless issues like dumbfounded love and everyday life in this world, they hardly speak to issues that the listener can completely relate to. Abbey Road, Rubber Soul, and Magical Mystery Tour can truly do this job, and it just so happens that Magical Mystery Tour is the best of these albums.

Even my favorite Beatles albums have clunkers that end up haunting the overall picture. Abbey Road has Because and Golden Slumbers and Rubber Soul has The Word and Girl. For that reason, those albums, as great as they are, just don’t feel priceless. Magical Mystery Tour, however, has no weak songs. A few that some people may not like, yes, but listeners with open minds will have all eleven songs blow them away. The mood is actually very close to Rubber Soul, in how comforting the songs are and how they relate to peoples everyday lives. Which is odd, because the album cover would suggest exactly the opposite. The album was made as a soundtrack to the bands horrid TV special that no one seems able to remember, so the band obviously got a little silly with this. They dressed up as animals for the colorful cover art, and the drug influence shows here better than ever before, probably the most prominent in the bands entire discography. For that reason a good chunk of the album is surreal and druggy, but there are still wonderful melodies to be heard.

As I said before, I feel that I can truly relate to this album, or maybe it truly relates to me, or something. In many ways, this is the Beatles album for the run-of-the-mill working man, with some problems and some issues. The environment is never obtrusive but on more than one occasion a feeling of angst or depression is let out, and it actually feels great. Mostly because the majority of Beatles songs before this album were so damn poppy. You got the feeling that although songs like Yesterday and I’m A Loser were great and easy to relate to, they were also unrealistic in their poppiness and even a bit annoying in that respect when you are actually going through I hard time. Everyone goes through hard times. I went through hard times. My parents got divorced and I was having a hard time in school. Everyone can relate to this record in some way, I think.

But that doesn’t make the band any less prone to using hilarious irony. For how bleak or mellow some parts of this record are, the starting track is almost a joke or sorts, a call out to customers to “roll up” to a circus that is the bizaare and unexplainable everyday life. This is a sign that the album contains a lot of everything that happens in life. This song is not the only oddity though; there are others, and they are all just as delicious. The peculiar instrumental Flying is the most relaxing thing the band ever did, and you can hear the drugs just spewing from this one. But the song most obviously influenced by psychedelia and maybe even a bit of the far east is Blue Jay Way, the albums Harrison original. My dad always told me that George Harrison wrote the bands absolute best and absolute worst. Best being maybe Here Comes The Sun and worst being something like this. However, I find that this song is, although extremely weird and unaccessible, somewhat fun if you don’t take it too serioulsy. God knows George was my favorite Beatle and I SO wish that he could have produced more work in the context of the band. This is not one of his best, but it is interesting and druggy.

Speaking of druggy, this review can’t ever comfortably come to a close unless I Am The Walrus is given a proper explanation. Although really, the explanation for this is quite simple. DRUGS DRUGS DRUGS. Listening to this one at full blast makes Flying or Blue Jay Way sound tame and almost playful. In no other place does the drug culture and the full realization of the flaws of both liberal and conservative America come into full swing in the Beatles repetoire. And yet, it still makes no fucking sense at all. The hook is fun if not a bit bleak. The lyrics are…uninteligible. Well, you can hear them, but they might as well not even be lyrics because there is close to no obvious construction to them. Everyone has heard it, Paul McCartney screaming that he is not only “The Eggman,” but also “The Walrus.” These whimsical words combined with a meticulously planned instrumentation and a lions share of well placed samples make for the most interesting and interpretable Beatles song ever. Perhaps this was the bands way of saying “fuck off,” because there is no way in hell that the radio took well to this. And yet it’s a great song, but so sorely misunderstood for being a druggy hippie daze when in fact that was clearly the intention and maybe the subject of the songs mockery and shenanigans. Also interesting, people seemed to think that Paul McCartney was dead judging by some of the extremely quiet samples later in the song. Paul is dead? I’m not sure that I have heard weirder.

Although the album, like life, sometimes meanders on the strange stuff, there is a fair share of great accessible pop that marks every Beatles album. The second song The Fool On The Hill is quite a contemplative tune, giving a philisophical edge to the album. People like this exist, and that will come as very obvious after giving the song a good listen. Hello Goodbye is one of the bands best songs ever, and the explosion of an outro is breathtaking, one of the best moments the band has ever had. Two very underrated songs are Baby You’re A Rich Man and You’re Mother Should Know, and they are both very simple tunes for how effective they are. Two other killer tunes are both glances into the past of the members of The Beatles, Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane. They both teeter on the same issues, fond memories of their childhood homes or neighborhoods, but Strawberry Fields is a little more psychedelic while Penny Lane is more reminiscent of the Rubber Soul era.

And the album ends with the Beatles most open and important message yet with “All You Need Is Love.” The title speaks for itself, and the melody is enough to melt your heart. For whatever reason, I find that this Beatles album may damn well be my favorite. This is both a snap into reality and the unreal, with it’s frank commentary on how tough and stressful life can be and also with it’s clear drug influence. This may be the only Beatles album that manages to be dreary while also being abrasive as always. Like all Beatles albums, this is best complemented by more happy albums like Revolver or Rubber Soul, but if you ever feel the need to listen to a Beatles album that gives a bit more of a realistic view on life and isn’t afraid to say some things that can’t be said in the radio friendly pop world, this classic is well worth checking out. It is an album that I love from my childhood and it stands tall alongside other great Beatles classics.