Sunday, June 05, 2005

10 CDs, 10 Minutes

Hey groovy guys and gals. You got the incense lit? Anything else? Got the lava lamp flowing or the strobe light going? Kick off your shoes, we're the barefootin' love generation here. We're bringing you ten trippy, groovy, transplendid music albums and we'll break them down for you in ten minutes, but don't time us, okay? That'd be a real drag to picture you with a stop watch being so anal and, frankly, so Republican.

Ava: Joan Baez's Joan came out in August, 1967. The summer of love. It's baroque rock. "Be Not Too Hard" opens the album on a gentle note and quickly things move to a cover of the Beatles "Elanor Rigby." Baez covers Simon & Garfunkel's "Dangling Conversation" (and asks if God, not the theatre, is dead) and Donovan's "Turquoise." When Dona and I started exploring the music of Joan Baez this was one of the first ones we bought. It's remained a favorite of mine.
If someone's looking for a starting point into her sixties work and wants to start on the non traditional folk albums, I'd suggest that they start here. The sound quality is superior because this CD is a reissue packed with a lengthy essay on Baez and the making of this album.

Jess: My pick was hard, really hard, because I grew up hearing music from this period all the time. My parents do listen to things released after 1969, but the majority of the music played in our home was either from this period or from artists who were established in this period or immediately after. The Mamas and the Papas was a group we not only listened to, but sung along with. I can remember the radio going out in my mom's car when I was around four or five and for the next two years, we sang songs in that car. Usually the Mamas and the Papas but there was also one where my mom would pat the dashboard and we'd all be singing "Come on, come on, you can make it up the hill." My mom swears now that the car really was slow in going up hills but looking back, I think she largely did that to give us something to do and focus on.
So of the Mamas and the Papas albums, I'm going with Deliver because it's often overlooked but I really think they nailed the singing on this one more than on any other. In terms of song writing, John & Michelle Phillips composed the classic "Creeque Alley" for this album with the refrain of "No one's getting fat except Mama Cass." The other big hit from this album which was also released in 1967, Ava, is "Dedicated to the One I Love." The Shirelles had already had a hit with that a few years back, but the Mamas and the Papas remade it and made it their own with starts and stops and trippy time signatures. The vocal interplay on that song is pretty amazing.
The gang knocks it out of the park with "Sing for Your Supper" which really gives Cass a chance to shine and show off those amazing pipes. They do two covers of well known songs. On the first, "My Girl," they make it a little more bouncy via the vocals. On the second, "Twist and Shout," they really slow it down and bear down on the "C'mon baby" parts. "Look Through My Window" was written by John Phillips and it was also a hit from this album and the vocal dynamics there are fun to sing along with as you go from soft to loud and back very quickly. Finally, there's John Phillips' "String Man" which is, honestly, a goofy song but I love the way the group bends the notes.

Dona: Well my pick comes from 1966, Judy Collins' In My Life. Like Joan Baez's Joan, this is baroque rock. There are so many incredible songs on this album. Ava and I go back and forth on who covers "La Colombe" better, Collins or Baez. We finally decided it depends on your mood at the time after many days of "I think it's Collins!" and "Me too!" followed by, "Wait, it's Baez!" and "I know!" Favorite songs on this album are every track. Her cover of the Beatles' "In My Life" is haunting and, though I love the Beatles, Judy owns the song. I don't care for Randy Newman at all but I love her version of "I Think It's Going to Rain Today." I'm also not that crazy about Lenoard Cohen but she brings "Suzanne" to life. That said, the two songs that get me the most excited are "Pirate Jenny" which is just wonderful and her "Marat/Sade" which is a "homage" and a cutting of several songs from the musical. We sing that at the top of our lungs and Jim realizes now that he needs to learn the song and join in on the fun. "We want our rights and we don't care how/ We want a revolution now."

Ty: Using Ruth's definition of "the sixties end with Nixon's resignation," I chose Stevie Wonder's Talking Book because that's one of my favorite albums of the old stuff. The sounds in "Maybe Your Baby" seem to be coming back in some rap stuff, that fuzzy sound. "Superstition" is the stand out track absolutely but "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" is probably my favorite up tempo, sweet song by Stevie other than "Isn't She Lovely." "Blame It On the Sun" is another favorite and Betty just told me that Diana Ross recorded that in the nineties, so I'll check that out. And I can't stop without praising "I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)" which is amazing and one of those songs that reminds you of how when Stevie wants to let loose, he's not just a good singer but an amazing one. Oh, it came out in 1972.

Jim: My pick came out in 1969 and it's the Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed. This is a remastered CD, a SACD in fact and the sound's incredible. It's an album where all the songs work well together and flow and my two favorite tracks are "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "Gimmie Shelter."

Ruth: My pick is the Beatles' Revolver from 1966. Rubber Soul had already came out and was a strong album that I enjoyed but when Revolver came out, there was no indication of it being a put-on and I can remember how blown away all my friends and I were by this album. Other masterpieces would follow, but this was the first one. "Here, There and Everywhere" is probably one of my favorite Beatles' songs that I feel like most people today don't get a chance to hear because it wasn't a number one. "She Said, She Said" was supposed to be about Peter Fonda, according to what John Lennon told the press, who met the Beatles on a trip to California and kept telling them that he knew what it was like to be dead. The animated film The Yellow Submarine would follow but this is the album on which the title song appeared. And of course "All the lonely people," "Eleanor Rigby." appeared here. This was the song that your parents could get into. I don't mean that it was for your parents. But I am saying that, and I'm sure we've all done this, when you really love a group, you want the people around you to love it to. Now when you're living at home, that includes your parents. My father was into Frank Sinatra and similar artists. He looked down on the Beatles and really thought I should listen to Sinatra. There were a few songs, like "Michelle," that he thought were okay but "Eleanor Rigby" was the first song that hooked him. By the time they did "Blackbird" on the White Album, he was a dedicated fan.

Betty: I picked Diana Ross & the Supremes Reflections. It was the mid-nineties and I was trying to build a CD collection. I was and am a big fan of Diana Ross and it was hard to find anything on CD. I found this at a used CD store. Besides the hits that the group had, it's a real snap shot of the era because they also cover three big hits from other artists. "Ode to Billie Joe" is a strong song and they do a great job on it. I'm less impressed with "Up, Up and Away" but I was never crazy about the Fifth Dimension. The third one is a home run, "What the World Needs Now Is Love" because there are some songs that Diana Ross' voice is just made for and this is one. She's always been really good at the dramatic readings in songs during the spoken passage parts and this song is no exception. Of the hits they got off the album, obviously "Reflections" which was very popular when I got the CD because it was being used as the theme song to China Beach. The other two hits were "Forever Came Today" which, as Jess said about a Mamas and the Papas song, starts and stops. It's a really interesting song. Then there's "In and Out of Love" which is a gentle swaying song. And this album came out in 1968, the CD I have in 1991 and Motown should remaster this and re-release it. But even in this substandard format, Diana's voice gives me chills.

Rebecca: I think everyone knows how much I love Otis Blue but since I've talked about that a great deal, I went with another album by Otis Redding, Live in Europe. There are ten songs here that were recorded live and there's not a one that's not a classic to me. He does "Respect," which he wrote. He does the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" and the Beatles' "Day Tripper." He does the Temptations "My Girl." My favorite song, if I had to pick just one, would have to be "Try a Little Tenderness." I get goose bumps on that one because it's as though he's pouring everything he has into that song. The album came out in 1967.

Folding Star: Dusty in Memphis. 1969, is really just incredible. You put it on and suddenly Dusty Springfield's voice is reaching across time and space, past all the concerns of your daily life, and into a place inside you where she just connects to everything you're feeling. And it works no matter what you're feeling. If you're feeling really happy, in love with the world, you can put it on and know just from her voice and the very sound of the album that Dusty gets that better than anyone. And if you're feeling the lowest you've ever felt, you can hit play and let her voice wash over you and feel understood, that you're not alone in how you feel. On top of that incredible personal effect it has, it's also one of the most amazing albums I've ever heard in a musical sense.

Jim: And you wrote about Dusty in Memphis at your site as well. That's my parents favorite album of all time I think. I think "Breakfast in Bed" is my favorite song on the CD. And it's also a CD that made a list Kat did, I think.

Kat: Yeah, it did. Jim's referring to a thing I did at The Common Ills on essential albums of the last forty years. My friends and I went around at parties asking people to note their favorite albums and from that we made a list and then selected the choices. Love is a group I like but one I'd forgotten until the list. Forever Changes made our final cut and it's just an amazing album. We borrowed the vinyl version of it from a friend but after the list was done, the next day in fact, I went out and bought this album because I loved it that much. There is so much passion and power in this album. You hear it and you realize that in this moment, 1967, they really were amazing. They never found a way to equal this during their brief career, or to surpass it, but this is an amazing album. Just listen to the first track, "Alone Again Or," and see if it doesn't hook you. If it does, this is the album for you. I'll also note the album cover which is some amazing art work. I know these days, it's all about the product and they have to put glossy photos of various untalented lovelies on the cover, but I miss the art of album covers. These days, it's all snap shots.

C.I.: This was too hard. I narrowed my time frame down to 1967 to 1970. There was still too much. Laura Nyro, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, on and on.
I finally asked myself what I wanted to listen to right now and decided on The Doors. So I chose, from 1967, the Doors self-titled debut.

Rebecca: Big suprise. Christmas music.

C.I.: Rebecca's referring to the fact that when December rolls around, I play the Doors. It's always been Christmas music to me. Seriously, as a kid, we've decorate the tree to the Doors.
I got it as an early Christmas gift one year from someone, a best of, who went down my list of requested music and decided no, what I really needed was the Doors. There are other strong albums and I even like the experimental Soft Parade, but this one is my favorite and whether it's "Break On Through (To The Other Side)" or "Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)" or "The End,"
there's not a track on the album that I don't love. As a band, this is, my opinion, there strongest album.

Kat: I'd agree with that. They were coming off their performances and fame hadn't bit them in the ass yet.

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