Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (1966) by Simon and Garfunkel

Categories: 1966 and Music.

I don’t know if I can put into words the difference in quality between Sounds of Silence and this record. Sounds of Silence was so tossed together. Though this record features some re-used songs as well, it’s clear that the duo had a lot more time to work out what they were doing, and the arrangements feel purposeful and well thought out and there are fewer weird missteps. Read More

Face to Face (1966) by The Kinks

Categories: 1966 and Music.

I have come to the early Kinks records backwards, listening to their late 60s classics before these earlier records and so my experience of them is coloured by being far more familiar with Davies’ mature songs than his early songs, leading to me listening to his early songs and thinking they are not as good (shock of all shocks). Read More

Complete and Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul (1966)

Categories: 1966 and Music.

Otis is my favourite soul singer but I find him more restrained in the studio than live and generally prefer his live music. (Or maybe it’s just the mixes…) His final album is a strong set of covers and originals with an excellent backing band. I prefer Otis Blue in terms of content, but this is still a pretty good idea of what he did, and how well he did it. “Complete” it is not (the original record isn’t quite 25 minutes long). Nor is it some kind of encyclopedic overview of the genre. But it’s good stuff. 8/10 Read More

Sunshine Superman (1966) by Donovan

Categories: 1966 and Music.

I grew up listening to oldies radio so I have long been familiar with Donovan’s hit singles. I guess they made no impression on me because I really never thought much about it. But this record is a real standout. At the dawn of psychedelia (there had been very little psychedelic music), Donovan releases a record with a sitar player on a bunch of tracks, with a very distinct Indian influence on a few songs, with a chamber music influence on other songs, and even a little bit of a jazz influence at times (sometimes present all in the same Read More

Yardbirds aka Roger The Engineer (1966)

Categories: 1966 and Music.

The Yardbirds’ third album is definitely away from straight-ahead British blues towards psychedelia and even heavy metal (the intro to “Ever Since the World Began” almost sounds like a psychedelic Sabbath). And for that, it should be celebrated. And Beck does some (relatively) interesting things with his guitar, some of which likely don’t have much precedent in rock music (like that sustained note on that one song). But the songs are pretty weak. There’s a reason you don’t hear these on the radio. There’s quite a lot of filler – well played filler but filler nonetheless. For example “Hot House Read More

The Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton (1966)

Categories: 1966 and Music.

This is probably the definitive British blues album: it sounds like it could have been made by Americans in the US, it features great playing (particularly by Clapton) and I don’t know of any other pre-psychedelic blues album from the UK that is remotely this good. There is just one minor problem: by the time of its release, it was almost out of date, as both Clapton himself and Hendrix would absolutely transform blues-based guitar playing beginning only a few short months after its release. Had Hendrix not come along, maybe this album would be the gold standard for blues-based Read More

Instrumental Asylum (1966) by Manfred Mann

Categories: 1966 and Music.

Jazz fusion and jazz rock barely existed, if they existed at all, when this bizarre EP was recorded. Manfred Mann drops their pop music and their lead singer for a horn section and keyboard and vibraphone (!!!) solos on fairly radical covers of rock and pop songs. What did Jack Bruce do to this band? Despite its brevity, this is a bit of a landmark recording for what it suggested and for beating nearly everyone else to this genre (to the best of my knowledge). The jazz influence is more soul jazz than anything else, but it’s still rather remarkable. Read More

Animalisms (1966) by The Animals

Categories: 1966 and Music.

I’m pretty sure this music seemed quite rough, ragged and hard to British audiences in 1966. And I guess I should try to keep that in mind, but it’s hard. Because, of course, it wasn’t particularly grittier than its inspirations. I mean, this is mostly a covers record and there are better versions of these songs, and there were better versions of these songs in existence in 1966 (though they may not have been available in the UK or in many places in the US). So I am having more than my usual trouble imagining what it would have been Read More

The Seeds (1966)

Categories: 1966 and Music.

This has the reputation as the Greatest Garage Rock Album* (*of American Garage Rock in the ’60s). And I guess that’s either excluding Black Monk Time because that record was made in Germany or because the people believe this debut to be the best haven’t heard Black Monk Time. Not being a Garage Rock connoisseur, I don’t know how this compares to other American Garage Rock records of its era, but I know it’s not Black Monk Time. And I guess that’s the thing that makes me find this so underwhelming – I have heard far more interesting American Garage Read More

Love (1966)

Categories: 1966 and Music.

Love’s debut is distinct from a number of the other folk rock debuts of the era because of Lee’s incredibly dark lyrics – not quite Lou Reed dark but way darker than just about anyone else – which gives the music a grittiness that doesn’t quite fit its mixture of folk and garage rock. (Though I will say this band is significantly garagier than, say, Buffalo Springfield) For me, its Lee’s songwriting that elevates this above much of the other folk rock that was just dominating the music landscape a the time. It’s a pretty good record. The covers are Read More

The Fugs [Second Album] (1966)

Categories: 1966 and Music.

This insane record is somehow their second – it’s kind of crazy that they had already put one out – and supposedly it’s more competent than the first (which makes you wonder about the first). For the most part, the record is basically what you might imagine the Mothers would sound like had Frank Zappa brought his humour (and a little more sincerity) with little to none of his musical genius. It’s mostly primitive garage rock with hippy/beat politics and what you might call Zappa-esque humour had Zappa released his debut by this point. But the last track is this Read More

Black Monk Time (1966) by Monks

Categories: 1966 and Music.

I have a hard time believing that this record could have been released in the United States at this point. (Of course it could have, the Fugs were putting out records, as were the Godz…) But it sure sounds as though these guys were let out of the asylum or something. This is garage rock, but it is purposely bonkers garage rock that mocks the genre’s conventions (lyrically and musically). The band reminds me of a cruder, looser, funnier and softer MC5. Though this music has had a reputed influence on the early punk bands (there’s a fairly obviously connection Read More

Ives: Symphonies Nos 2 and 3; The Unanswered Question (1966) by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Berstein

Categories: 1901, 1902, 1910, 1911, 1935, 1958, 1960, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1987, and Music.

This is a compilation of the New York Philharmonic and Leonard Berstein’s performances of the middle symphonies and The Unanswered Question, originally a piece paired with another but one that has found a lot of attention as a standalone. Bernstein was one of the great champions of Ives once he was “discovered,” but these performances are actually significantly later than the premieres, which were handled by other conductors in the ’40s. Apparently Bernstein made some somewhat radical changes to some of the tempi and these changes have entered the repertoire. That’s not something that necessarily bothers me, though I understand Read More

Sounds of Silence (1966) by Simon and Garfunkel

Categories: 1966 and Music.

This album absolutely reeks of an attempt by S&G to capitalize on the hit the bastardized title track had become. Whether they themselves did it, or they were coerced, the result is a mixed bag. I am not a Paul Simon fan, but both the title track and “I Am a Rock” are great songs. The title track in particular is a classic, with or without the overdubs. I’m tempted to say “Richard Cory” is up there too. And maybe “April She Will Come.” (Though Simon is really, really morbid here.) But there are some huge missteps, none bigger than Read More

The Jimi Hendrix Experience (2000)

Categories: 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 2000, and Music.

This is an exhaustive collection of Experience alternate takes, outtakes, alternate mixes and live performances. For the Hendrix completist, it’s probably more essential than any of the other studio rarities collections that have come out, just because it shows off more facets of his playing and his experimentation – unlike those studio rarities collections, which are mostly demos, or those live sets which show him in an altogether different light – than any other set. This is as complete a picture you’ll get of the Experience (and Hendrix himself) outside of the original studio albums plus Band of Gypsies. But Read More

Torn Curtain: The Unused Score (1998) by Bernard Herrmann, performed by the National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Joel McNeely

Categories: 1966 and 2015.

This is the final version of the score that Herrmann wrote for Hitchcock’s 4th last film, the score that ended their relationship because Hitchcock was looking for something more contemporary, more commercial. (Honestly, the more one learns about Hitch…) The score is fine. It’s not among Herrmann’s best but it’s hardly mediocre either. It’s been probably twenty years since I saw Torn Curtain so I don’t remember the movie or the official score, but I have a hard time seeing how this was unacceptable for a thriller, unless Hitchcock was trying to make some kind of major departure, musically. Given Read More

Andrei Rublev (1966, Andrei Tarkovsky)

Categories: 1996 and Movies.

Writing a brief review of Tarkovsky’s immense, uncompromising, willfully difficult Andrei Rublev seems inherently unfair. This is one of the most ambitious and difficult films I have ever seen, also among the longest. When I say it’s immense, I mean it: 9 chapters over nearly 3 ½ hours, ostensibly about the Russian medieval iconographic painter of the same name. The film is really about freedom of thought and ideas in the face of oppression, as far as I can tell. But you would forgive me if I’m not 100% sure, as there is so much going on, and so much Read More

Fahrenheit 451 [et al.] (1995) by Bernard Hermann, performed by Seattle Symphony Orchestra conducted by Joel McNeely

Categories: 1946, 1947, 1956, 1962, 1966, 1995, and Movies.

This is another Hermann compilation, a kind of scattershot one. The main feature of this compilation is ten pieces from Hermann’s score to Fahrenheit 451. I cannot say enough about the prelude. I am not sure where it stands in the history of film music, but it has become so unbelievably cliche as a custom to have a somber, eerie opening like that, it’s kind of incredible. And, to my knowledge, this is the first time ever. The rest of the score included is pretty good, too. Very Hermannesque, for lack of a better word. I haven’t seen the film Read More

Projections (1966) by the Blues Project

Categories: 1966 and Music.

To some extent, I can see how the Blues Project could be dismissed as second rate Paul Butterfield, especially in their jammiest moments. But that criticism misses the vast stylistic variety the band displays (for the time), touching on garage rock and folk rock (and other genres) in addition to the blues jams. (Certainly the PBBB never wrote anything like Katz’s contributions, though that’s both a bad thing and a good thing.) The band inhabit a really weird place – not quite rock enough to fit in with bands such as Cream, not quite blues enough to fit in with Read More

Complete String Quartets (2008) by Philip Glass, performed by the Smith Quartet

Categories: 2008 and Music.

First off, this is no longer ‘complete’ if it ever really was – Glass has apparently written a 6th quartet. (Also, there are other pieces he has written for string quartet that do not appear here, but they are not numbered among his string quartets, apparently.) Glass’ first quartet is a really great piece of music, in part because it doesn’t sound so Glassian as almost all of the rest of his music does. My guess is this was written so early in his development that he had failed to fully establish his style. And normally one might assume that Read More

Monterey ’66 (1966, 1994) by Randy Weston

Categories: 1966 and Music.

This is an entertaining set that fails to distinguish itself among the more radical jazz of the era. That being said, the set contains great showcases for Booker Ervin – which shouldn’t come as a surprise – Big Black and Lenny McBrowne – who really surprises on “Afro Black” – as well as the leader. These moments are spread throughout what is otherwise pretty run of the mill post bop with “African” influences. The closer is the best thing here and the one time the band really sounds out there.  Solid, but it won’t change your life. 7/10 Read More

My Favourite Music Scene

Categories: Music.

Throughout the years, New York has been a hot bed of the avant garde, the new, and the different. And London has also been a real centre of forward thinking music. (Though with London – even more so than NY – many of the bands that were doing the forward thinking originated in other communities before moving to London.) But for me, the one scene that consistently excites me – when I go back to it, when I encounter new bands from it, and when I think about the overall creativity of a given time and place – actually was Read More

The 50th Anniversary Collection by James Brown (Polydor 2003)

Categories: 1956, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1979, 1988, 2003, and Music.

James Brown’s importance can not be understated. He is on The List of the most important musical figures of the twentieth century (along with Louis Armstrong, the Beatles, Miles Davis, Dylan, Duke Ellington, Schoenberg, Stockhausen, Frank Zappa and maybe a few others). This compilation of his hit singles gives a very good idea of his progression and how he turned gritty soul and R and B into funk and thus got sampled more than any other band leader ever. The one downside is that this compilation of his hit singles is missing one of his biggest hits. Hard to understand that Read More