Archive for December, 2009

On My Record Player Part 21

Bob Dylan: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan !1963

Rolling Stone – 5 out of 5 stars. Dylan’s second lp was released on May 27th, 1963 — three days after his twenty-second birthday. It was a tender age for such a historic triumph. On Freewheelin’, the poetry and articulate fury of Dylan’s lyrics and his simple, compelling melodies transformed American popular songwriting. He later made light of the protest anthem “Blowing in the Wind” (“I wrote that in ten minutes,” he said in ’66). But Dylan’s wholly original grip on grit, truth and beauty in “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “Masters of War” still changes everyone who hears this album, four decades later.


On My Record Player Part 20

The Mars Volta – Frances the Mute (2005)

This is the jump off! How did it all begin? Well, in early 2005 I was talking to Mikey Everson online and he told me about this band The Mars Volta that was about to come out with a new record called “Francis the Mute.” I heard a few tracks off of Deloused in the Comatorium and I loved what I heard and I told him he had to listen to At the Drive in whose members went on to form the Mars Volta. So what does this have to do with vinyl records? The Mars Volta are all about vinyl. They made a point to release the self titled track “Frances the Mute” exclusively on vinyl format and that was sold at one of my favorite places in the world, Relative Theory Records in Norfolk, Virginia. They were the ones that sold me my first records which were mostly Mars Volta. March 1st, 2005 was a very exciting day for me. I have to say first and foremost that I caved in and downloaded a leaked copy of Francis online a week or 2 before the record release and heard it early on and told the world on myspace. However, being a a DJ on a college radio station, I made a point to do a show on March 1st, after picking up the CD, to play all 77 minutes of Francis the Mute on my DJ Coleslaw radio show, which was epic. This was the one of the most exciting moments I have ever had about a record release and I was so proud to have a source to express my excitement. Now I just wanna mention that this record is so dope. It has brilliant arrangements that honor salsa and great moments in classic rock while staying fresh and full of bad ass grooves. This was the first Mars Volta album to be produced by only Omar Rodriguez who plays guitar for the group and writes and leads the band. He really indulged and made an un-compromised album that shows what kind of music this band wanted to play at this stage in their career. I remember going to New York City a few weeks after this record came out and listening to it non-stop on the way and through our journeys in the city, mainly to see the art work of the brilliant painter Alex Gray. A true fan that listens to this music is rewarded with “Miranda That Ghost Just Isn’t Holy Anymore.” It has a disturbing intro that goes on for about 2 minutes. Cassandra Gemini is a trip that is practically an album in of itself. My 2nd favorite track if it was on the album is the self titled track that I obtained a vinyl copy of. This is Cedric favorite songs from these recordings. Great lyrics and a very theatrical collage of sounds. This was a great musical discovery in my life and seeing them live May 1st, 2005 was one of my most memorabile concert and life experiences. I love the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, PA. I have seen the mars volta there 3 times now. acblakneyThis picture is from my concert I went to on October 10th with Jenny Geier the day after her 24th birthday. She was great company and I am so glad she got to share this experience with me. Frances the Mute was a record that came out at a great moment in my life,graduating college, entering the real world, and returning to northern VA to be with my family and best friends. I want to thank Mike Everson so much for giving me encouragement during this time to share my artwork on deviant art. Anyways, this vinyl kicks ass, did I mention this is the only album I have come across that was released with 3 records, 5 sides to fit all 77 minutes, and not to mention the 6th side counting the self titled song that is 14  minutes in length. Thank you Mars Volta for your indulgent ambitiousness. 96%/100

After the amazing Deloused in the Comatorium, The Mars Volta gave themselves two years to mess around with their confusing guitar sounds, vague lyrics, jazz and Latin influences. It turns out that Frances The Mute is the masterpiece some people are looking for, featuring arguably better musicianship, lyrical themes, and tighter sound than on their excellent debut.

What’s inside is one hell of an adventure. This is a progressive concept album, mixing together jazz, odd time-signatures, unique guitar distortion, and the occasional trumpet. To top it all off, you’re presented with a mess of ideas, vague lyrics depicting the protagonist of the story on some sort of search for his missing parents… or something like that.

Starting with the first track, “Cygnus…. Vismund Cygnus,” Frances The Mute takes you on the first step of the journey. If this album’s “like factor” was based on first impressions, then The Mars Volta got it right, as “Cygnus…” is one of the strongest tracks on the CD (granted, there are only five songs). It starts off with some Spanish-sounding guitar, and heads straight into a romp of craziness. With drums going everywhere, guitar outstretching the drums, and vocal ability to match the metallic funk (or funky metal, you pick) energy, it blows you away, almost coaxing you into the ambiance that then leads you into a closed hi-hat and snare side-taps, a much softer form of noise, a spiffy bass line, and, of course, a guitar solo that plays to an intense 29/16 time signature (that’s right, no grace notes). It builds and builds and builds, and never feels rushed. When it’s finally getting to the climax, Cedric Bixler-Zavala starts with his sweet vocals again, helping the song to build up until the final chorus, his vocal chords showing an insane amount of high range. After all this, the song fades ever so slowly into ambiance, setting the stage for the single, “The Widow”.

Ironically, while “The Widow” was the poster-child single of Frances The Mute, I find it to be near the bottom of my favorite tracks on this CD. That’s not saying it’s a horrible song, because it’s definitely a great example of their musicianship. Contrasting greatly with the album, and Mars Volta habits in general, “The Widow”‘s actual music (meaning, minus ambiance) lasts about four minutes long, sticks to 6/4 time signature, relying on eerie vocals and brooding guitar to keep the groove going. It definitely sticks, and the solo is great, but, again, not the best track on the CD.

“L’Via L’Viaquez” starts off with ambiance that has more of a distinct beat to it, and then slaps your mind with a guitar solo by John Frusciante (of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame), backed by funky bass and some more classical instruments. The song heads into Spanish vocals, and definitely proves that Cedric’s vocal ability is phenomenal no matter what language he wants to speak at the moment. What stands out most in this song is the shift to Latin music, a welcome, if seemingly unfitting, twist (but really, it’s the Mars Volta we’re talking about here). “L’Via L’Viaquez” switches between these dynamics twice, each coming back to the more conventional rock sound. This song proves that backwards thinking can work.. “L’Via L’Viaquez” ends with more ambiance in the form of distorted, watery vocals, and subtle guitar noise.

“Miranda That Ghost Just Isn’t Holy Anymore” is a song as long as its name implies. Clocking in at just under 12 minutes, it’s the most psychedelic and ambient song on the CD, giving the listener a break from rushing music and mixtures of genres. It features trumpet (Flea, Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Spanish guitar, and background guitar from Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. Only near the end does it climax in blasting toms and bass drum, heavy bass, and guitars that make it sound like it could give you a heart-attack. The beginning and the ending of this song sound like they could belong in an epic soundtrack of some kind (which is something Frances The Mute could be considered, since it is a narrative concept album).

“Cassandra Gemini” might be the best track on the CD. It really does depend on your patience. While it doesn’t take a lot of build-up in the beginning, like the other four songs, “Cassandra Gemini” is just intense, brooding vocals of Cedric being backed by intense fret-work and back-and-forth switches between singing and short guitar solos, and, all the while, drums just going everywhere. This song is probably the pinnacle of lyrical ability and progressive rock as a whole for The Mars Volta, since the song manages to change time signature, guitar sounds, drumming dynamics, and lyric composition many, many times in the thirty-plus minute masterpiece. It would be a hard and lengthy attempt to explain how amazing this song is, but, with its multiple guitar solos, differences in vocal effects, and the fact that it never stops pumping musical euphoria into the listener’s ears, I could never do this song justice. Truly, this song could be released as an short album of its own.

The CD ends up being three minutes short of eighty. From beginning to end, the album is a prime example of how to mix every genre of rock together, plus some stuff from outside the box, without ruining things. This album is almost perfect, the small complaint that I have being that I just can’t absorb half of what Bixler-Zavala ever says because of his amazing ability as a lyricist. Frances The Mute is more than a musical adventure into the prodigal minds of The Mars Volta, and is more than the best album of 2005. It’s The Mars Volta, at their very best.

On My Record Player Part 19

The Beatles – Revolver (1966)

This sounds so good turned up loud on multiple speakers! Wow! “Love You To” by George Harrison is unbelievable when you hear it at a good volume. Taxman is such a great opener, I love to sing along to that. Eleanor Rigby is a brilliant work of art I could listen to over and over again. I was fortunate to have a copy of the Yellow Submarine animated VHS movie when I was a kid and I watched it many times and developed an early appreciation for the Beatles music. I love that movie! its crazy! I’m not crazy about Side 2, but “Tomorrow Never Knows” is a classic John Lennon composition that introduced that Indian/Psychedelic groove to pop music in the 60’s that became so iconic. Obviously, George Harrison took this genre a step futher in his songwriting, but this song on Revolver is just so well done at an early time.

Rolling Stone – 5 out of 5 stars

I don’t see too much difference between Revolver and Rubber Soul,” George Harrison once said. “To me, they could be Volume One and Volume Two.” Revolver extends the more adventurous aspects of its predecessor — its introspection, its nascent psychedelia, its fascination with the possibilities of the studio — into a dramatic statement of generational purpose. The album, which was released in August 1966, made it thrillingly clear that what we now think of as “the Sixties” was fully — and irreversibly — under way.

Part of that revolutionary impulse was visual. Klaus Voormann, one of the Beatles’ artist buddies from their days in Hamburg, Germany, designed a striking photo-collage cover for Revolver; it was a crucial step on the road to the even trippier, more colorful imagery of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which would come less than a year later.

And then there’s the music. The most innovative track on the album is John Lennon’s “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Attempting to distill an LSD trip into a three-minute song, Lennon borrowed lyrics from Timothy Leary’s version of The Tibetan Book of the Dead and recorded his vocal to sound like “the Dalai Lama singing from the highest mountaintop.” Tape loops, a backward guitar part (Paul McCartney’s blistering solo on “Taxman,” in fact) and a droning tamboura completed the experimental effect, and the song proved hugely influential. For his part, on “Eleanor Rigby” and “For No One,” McCartney mastered a strikingly mature form of art song, and Harrison, with “Taxman,” “I Want to Tell You” and “Love You To,” challenged Lennon-McCartney’s songwriting dominance.

Revolver, finally, signaled that in popular music, anything — any theme, any musical idea — could now be realized. And, in the case of the Beatles, would be.

Pitchfork – 10.0 out of 10

Like any band, the Beatles’ recording career was often altered, even pushed forward, as much by external factors as their own creative impulses. The group’s competitive drive had them, at times, working to match or best Bob Dylan or Brian Wilson; their drug use greatly colored the musical outlook of John Lennon and George Harrison in particular; and the death of former manager Brian Epstein ushered in a period of distracting and poor business choices and opened the door for individuals such as the celebrity guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Yoko Ono, and businessman Allen Klein to penetrate, alter, and, some would say, disintegrate their inner circle.

The most important of these external shifts in the Beatles narrative, however, was a series of changes that allowed them to morph into a studio band. The chain of events that ushered in the band’s changing approach to studio music began beforeRubber Soul, but the results didn’t come into full fruition until Revolver, a 35-minute LP that took 300 hours of studio time to create– roughly three times the amount allotted to Rubber Soul, and an astronomical amount for a record in 1966.

Longtime Beatles producer George Martin, justifiably upset that EMI refused to give him a raise on the back of his extraordinarily profitable work with the Beatles, quit his post with the label in August 1965. Martin used his clout to create his own company, and the group and producer used theirs to effectively camp out at Abbey Road Studios for whatever length of time suited them rather than being forced to comply to the rigid and economically sound schedules demanded by labels at the time. The Beatles could now work both in and out of the studio, taking full advantage of new advancements in sound recording that allowed them to reflect upon and tinker with their work, explore new instruments and studio trickery, and refine their music by solving problems when they arose.

This new approach not only greatly altered their work environment, but drove the Beatles to value the flexibility of emerging technology. They also cashed in some of their commercial capital to abandon the mentally and physically sapping practice of touring– and the glad-handing and public relations requirements that went with it. Exceptionalism became the watchword for the band, and it responded by using its freedom to push forward its art and, by extension, the whole of pop music. Musically, then, the Beatles began to craft dense, experimental works; lyrically, they matched that ambition, maturing pop from the stuff of teen dreams to a more serious pursuit that actively reflected and shaped the times in which its creators lived.

Revolver was also the first record in which the impression of the Beatles as a holistic gang was disrupted. The group had taken three months off prior toRevolver— easily its longest break since the start of its recording career– and each band member went his own separate way after years of moving around the world as a unit. Even without the break, it’s possible that the group would continue to explore individual concerns: After starting to do just that on Rubber Soul, it was only natural that the Beatles wished to continue to highlight their individual strengths on its follow-up, and they did by listing each song’s lead singer on the record sleeve.

The first, surprisingly, was George Harrison, who kicks off the record with another stab at politics on “Taxman”, and then later offers philosophical musings on “I Want to Tell You” and the Indian-flavored “Love You To”. Over the next year or two, Harrison’s guitar played a more background role in the group’s recordings– fortuitously, then, that time also corresponded with the years in which the Beatles were pleased to bunker down in the studio and most explore the dynamic tension between their individual interests and their final stretch of camaraderie and mutual respect.

Lennon’s primary interest throughout much of this time was himself, something that continued throughout his career– he was always suspicious, even dismissive, of Paul McCartney’s character songs, but once he and Yoko Ono joined forces, her Fluxus-rooted belief in art-as-subjectivity became orthodoxy in his mind. Lennon’s early explorations of self and mind that began on Rubber Soul continued on Revolver, as the suburbanite spent much of his time at home indulging his zest for the exploratory powers of LSD. He contributes five songs to Revolver, and, indeed, each is concerned with drugs, the creative mind, a suspicion of the outside world, or all three.

Each is also uniformly wonderful, and together they provide a tapestry of Lennon’s burgeoning art-pop, which, along with Martin’s inventive arrangements and playful effects, would peak the next year with the triumphs of “I Am the Walrus”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, and “A Day in the Life”. The gauzy “I’m Only Sleeping” and rollicking 1-2 of “She Said She Said” and “And Your Bird Can Sing” aren’t nearly as demonstrative as the songs he’d write in their wake– as a result each remains oddly underrated– but they function as some of Lennon’s most purely satisfying pop songs.

“Tomorrow Never Knows” is another thing entirely. While “Doctor Robert” or “She Said She Said” touched on drug culture playfully or privately, “Tomorrow Never Knows” was a full-on attempt to recreate the immersive experience of LSD– complete with lyrics borrowed from Timothy Leary’s Tibetan Book of the Dead-inspired writings. Remarkably, though, much of it due to Martin’s experimental production, tape loops, and musique concrète-inspired backdrop, the song is lively and giddy instead of self-serious or preachy. Even Martin’s primitive psychedelia could have been thudding and ponderous, and yet more than four decades later the entire thing seems less a clear product of its time than not only most art or experimental rock, but most Beatles records as well.

Despite that triumph, however, Revolver was McCartney’s maturation record as much as Rubber Soul was for Lennon. While Harrison was learning at the feet of sitar master Ravi Shankar and Lennon was navigating heavy use of psychotropic drugs, McCartney was refining his compositional chops by exploring classical music, training an eye for detail and subtlety in his lyrics, and embracing the orchestral work of Brian Wilson.

McCartney’s optimism and populism resulted in the most demonstrative songs he created for Revolver— the brassy “Good Day Sunshine” (which delightfully toes the line between schmaltz and heartwarming) and “Got to Get You Into My Life”, and the children’s music staple “Yellow Submarine”, an inventive and charming track too often derided as camp. (It’s also an early indication that it would be McCartney who would hold tightest to the impression of the group as a unit– the image of the band all living together here was, for the first time in years, untrue.)

The understated qualities of McCartney’s lyrics began to be misconstrued as simplistic in his ballads, but he provides three of his best here: “For No One”, all the more affecting because it’s slight and difficult to grasp, “Here, There and Everywhere”, a model of sepia-toned sentimentality, and “Eleanor Rigby”, which in its own way was as groundbreaking and revolutionary as “Tomorrow Never Knows”. Virtually a short story set to music, “Rigby” and its interwoven descriptions of lonely people was and is a desolate and altogether mature setting for a pop song.

Revolver in the end is the sound of a band growing into supreme confidence. The Beatles had been transformed into a group not beholden to the expectations of their label or bosses, but fully calling the shots– recording at their own pace, releasing records at a less-demanding clip, abandoning the showmanship of live performance. Lesser talents or a less-motivated group of people may have shrunk from the challenge, but here the Beatles took upon the task of redefining what was expected from popular music. Lest we forget it, the original flashpoint of Beatlemania remains the most influential and revolutionary period in the Beatles career, but the creative high points of 1966-67 aren’t far behind. It’s worth remembering as well that what had been demanded or expected from them as entertainers and popular musicians was something they’d challenged from their first cheeky, flippant interview, but just a few years later they were no longer mere anomalies within the world of pop, no longer potential fads; they were avatars for a transformative cultural movement.

On My Record Player Part 18

The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

Nathan got a box of records from his godfather Marshall in 2005, maybe after I had been expressing so much enthusiasm for vinyl in early 2005, it spread amongst a few of my friends and Nathan acquired a few treasures including this masterpiece and although he is in Germany, we have this record of his to enjoy and every song on this is a classic. Dave wanted to listen to Hello Goodbye and I thought it was on Sgt Peppers so thats why I put that on previosuly and wrote about it, but I quickly found out that Hello Goodbye is on Magical Mystery and not Sgt. Peppers as I thought and I went to Nathan’s box and found this record which deserves to be played much more than it has been. I love playing records like this, rather than greatest hits. You get to feel for the intended arrangement that was put together at this point in history. Not as epic as Sgt. Peppers, but it sure does have some classics that everybody loves. All You Need is Love.

Pitchfork – 10.0 out of 10

After the death of manager Brian Epstein, the Beatles took a series of rather poor turns, the first of which was the Magical Mystery Tour film. Conceived as a low-key art project, the Beatles were oddly nonchalant about the challenges of putting together a movie. They’d assembled records, they’d worked on A Hard Day’s Nightand Help!— how hard could it be? Without Epstein to advise, however, things like budgeting and time management became a challenge, and this understated experimental film turned into a sapping distraction.

Musically, however, the accompanying EP was an overwhelming success. The EP format apparently freed the band to experiment a bit, not having to fill sides of a 45 with pop songs or make the grand statements of an album. The title track is a rousing set piece, meant to introduce the travelogue concept of the film. The remaining four songs released exclusive to the EP are low-key marvels– Paul McCartney’s graceful “The Fool on the Hill” and music-hall throwback “Your Mother Should Know”, George Harrison’s droning “Blue Jay Way”, and the percolating instrumental “Flying”. Few of them are anyone’s all-time favorite Beatles songs, only one had a prayer of being played on the radio, and yet this run seems to achieve a majesty in part because of that: It’s a rare stretch of amazing Beatles music that can seem like a private obsession rather than a permanent part of our shared culture.

As a more laid-back release, the EP suggested the direction the band might have taken on the White Album had it remained a full band, happy to shed the outsized conceptualism and big statements and craft atmospheric, evocative pieces. In the U.S., the EP was paired with three recent double-sided singles, ballooning Magical Mystery Tour into an album– the only instance in which a U.S. release, often mangled by Capitol, became Beatles canon. With only the EP’s title track married specifically to the film’s themes, the overall effect of a title track/album sleeve as shell game was in line with Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Of the three singles, the undisputed highlight is “Strawberry Fields Forever”/ “Penny Lane”, John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s tributes to their hometown, Liverpool. Slyly surreal, assisted by studio experimentation but not in debt to it, full of brass, harmonium, and strings, unmistakably English– when critics call eccentric or baroque UK pop bands “Beatlesesque,” this is the closest there is to a root for that adjective. There is no definitive Beatles sound, of course, but with a band that now functions as much as a common, multi-generational language as a group of musicians, it’s no surprise that songs rooted in childhood– the one experience most likely to seem shared and have common touchpoints– are among their most universally beloved.

The rest of the singles collected here are no less familiar: Lennon’s “All You Need Is Love” was initially completed up for an international TV special on BBC1– its basic message was meant to translate to any language. Harrison’s guitar solo, producer George Martin’s strings, and the parade of intertextual musical references that start and close the piece elevate it above hippie hymn. Its flipside, “Baby You’re a Rich Man”, is less successful, a second-rate take on John Lennon’s money-isn’t-everything theme from the considerably stronger “And Your Bird Can Sing”. It’s the one lesser moment on an otherwise massively rewarding compilation.

Much better from Lennon is “I Am the Walrus”, crafted for the Magical Mystery Tourfilm and EP but also released as a double-sided single with McCartney’s “Hello Goodbye”. One of Lennon’s signature songs, “Walrus” channels the singer’s longtime fascinations with Lewis Carroll, puns and turns of phrase, and non sequiturs. “Hello Goodbye” echoes the same contradictory logic found in the verses of “All You Need Is Love”, a vague sense of disorientation that still does little to balance its relentlessly upbeat tone. McCartney excelled at selling simplistic lyrics that risk seeming cloying, though, and he again does here– plus, the kaleidoscopic, carnival-ride melody and interplay between lead and backing vocals ensure it’s a much better record than it is a song.

In almost every instance on those singles, the Beatles are either whimsical or borderline simplistic, releasing songs that don’t seem sophisticated or heavy or monumental (even though most of them are). In that sense, they’re all like “All You Need Is Love” or childhood memories or Lewis Carroll– easy to love, fit for all ages, rich in multi-textual details, deceptively trippy (see Paul’s “Penny Lane” in particular, with images of it raining despite blue skies, or the songs here that revel in contradictions– “Hello Goodbye”‘s title, the verses in “All You Need Is Love”). More than any other place in the band’s catalogue, this is where the group seems to crack open a unique world, and for many young kids then and since this was their introduction to music as imagination, or adventure. The rest of the Magical Mystery Tour LP is the opposite of the middle four tracks on the EP– songs so universal that, like “Yellow Submarine”, they are practically implanted in your brain from birth. Seemingly innocent, completely soaked through with humor and fantasy, Magical Mystery Tour slots in my mind almost closer to the original Willy Wonka or The Wizard of Oz as it does other Beatles records or even other music– timeless entertainment crafted with a childlike curiosity and appeal but filled with wit and wonder.

On the whole, Magical Mystery Tour is quietly one of the most rewarding listens in the Beatles’ career. True, it doesn’t represent some sort of forward momentum or clear new idea– largely in part because it wasn’t conceived as an album. The accompanying pieces on the EP are anomalies in the Beatles oeuvre but they aren’t statements per se, or indications that the group is in any sort of transition. But if there was ever a moment in the Beatles’ lifetime that listeners would have been happy to have the group just settle in and release songs as soon as possible, it was just before and after the then-interminable 10-month gap between the Revolverand Sgt. Pepper’s. Without that context, the results could seem slight– a sort-of canonized version of Past Masters perhaps– but whether it’s an album, a collection of separate pieces, or whatnot matters little when the music itself is so incredible.

On My Record Player Part 17

The Beatles – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

I have to say it is very intimidating to even attempt to write a review of this album. After it has been declared the number 1 album of all time by Rolling Stone, it is basically the music of which all other music is measured to in a sense. The music created here is magic. 4 talented musicians that wrote brilliant pop music at a wonderful era for great art in the past 50 years. So, as I am writing this, Sgt. Peppers is 42 and a half years old and it is just fascinating that with its level of immense respect and adoration, it can be considered a very young masterpiece with hundreds of years of value to future generations. I love hearing this on vinyl. The sound is perfect and these songs are just so freakin good. Every song, you just wanna sing along too. The melodies are so catchy and brilliant. I especially enjoy “She’s Leaving Home.” I cant imagine how they decided on the concept and theme for the subject matter of each songs and how they all transition together, but it just works. Oh wow, side 2 opens with Within Without You and it sounds magnificent hooked up to good speakers. Great job George! The Indian influence of Ravi Shankar kicks so much ass. Things just work out perfectly at the right time for people and it really did for the Beatles in 1967. It is so fascinating as well that they were no longer performing for audiences and only doing work in the studio for records. This seemed to benefit their creativity, I believe. My favorite song is “A Day in the Life.” These guys were so nurtured in writing pop music compositions and John comes along with a little help from his friends and puts together this great song. They have a song here that truly stands out amongst all the bands and songwriters that were attempting to come close to what the Beatles have been doing. It transcends the concept of psychedelic music and lifestyle into a glimpse of what its like to journey through life as an angel or flirting with the entrance into heaven. The orchestra addition to the song gives so much spirit and you feel so relaxed listening to it. I love it! Close?

Rolling Stone – 5 out of 5 stars.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the most important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time. From the title song’s regal blasts of brass and fuzz guitar to the orchestral seizure and long, dying piano chord at the end of “A Day in the Life,” the thirteen tracks on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Bandare the pinnacle of the Beatles’ eight years as recording artists. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were never more fearless and unified in their pursuit of magic and transcendence.

Issued in Britain on June 1st, 1967, and a day later in America,Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is also rock’s ultimate declaration of change. For the Beatles, it was a decisive goodbye to matching suits, world tours and assembly-line record-making. “We were fed up with being Beatles,” McCartney said decades later, in Many Years From Now, Barry Miles’ McCartney biography. “We were not boys, we were men . . . artists rather than performers.”

At the same time, Sgt. Pepper formally ushered in an unforgettable season of hope, upheaval and achievement: the late 1960s and, in particular, 1967’s Summer of Love. In its iridescent instrumentation, lyric fantasias and eye-popping packaging, Sgt. Pepper defined the opulent revolutionary optimism of psychedelia and instantly spread the gospel of love, acid, Eastern spirituality and electric guitars around the globe. No other pop record of that era, or since, has had such an immediate, titanic impact. This music documents the world’s biggest rock band at the very height of its influence and ambition. “It was a peak,” Lennon confirmed in his 1970 Rolling Stone interview, describing both the album and his collaborative relationship with McCartney. “Paul and I definitely were working together,” Lennon said, and Sgt. Pepper is rich with proof: McCartney’s burst of hot piano and school-days memoir (“Woke up, fell out of bed . . . “) in Lennon’s “A Day in the Life,” a reverie on mortality and infinity; Lennon’s impish rejoinder to McCartney’s chorus in “Getting Better” (“It can’t get no worse”).

Sgt. Pepper was our grandest endeavor,” Starr said, looking back, in the 2000 autobiography The Beatles Anthology. “The greatest thing about the band was that whoever had the best idea – it didn’t matter who — that was the one we’d use. No one was standing on their ego, saying, ‘Well, it’s mine,’ and getting possessive.” It was Neil Aspinall, the Beatles’ longtime assistant, who suggested they reprise the title track, just before the grand finale of “A Day in the Life,” to complete Sgt. Pepper‘s theatrical conceit: an imaginary concert by a fictional band, played by the Beatles.

The first notes went to tape on December 6th, 1966: two takes of McCartney’s music-hall confection “When I’m Sixty-Four.” (Lennon’s lysergic reflection on his Liverpool childhood, “Strawberry Fields Forever,” was started two weeks earlier but issued in February 1967 as a stand-alone single.) But Sgt. Pepper‘s real birthday is August 29th, 1966, when the Beatles played their last live concert, in San Francisco. Until then, they had made history in the studio — Please Please Me (1963), Rubber Soul(1965), Revolver (1966) — between punishing tours. Off the road for good, the Beatles were free to be a band away from the hysteria of Beatlemania. McCartney went a step further. On a plane to London in November ’66, as he returned from a vacation in Kenya, he came up with the idea of an album by the Beatles in disguise, an alter-ego group that he subsequently dubbed Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. “We’d pretend to be someone else,” McCartney explained in Anthology. “It liberated you — you could do anything when you got to the mike or on your guitar, because it wasn’t you.”

Only two songs on the final LP, both McCartney’s, had anything to do with the Pepper character: the title track and Starr’s jaunty vocal showcase “With a Little Help From My Friends,” introduced as a number by Sgt. Pepper’s star crooner, Billy Shears. “Every other song could have been on any other album,” Lennon insisted later. Yet it is hard to imagine a more perfect setting for the Victorian jollity of Lennon’s “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” (inspired by an 1843 circus poster) or the sumptuous melancholy of McCartney’s “Fixing a Hole,” with its blend of antique shadows (a harpsichord played by the Beatles’ producer George Martin) and modern sunshine (double-tracked lead guitar executed with ringing precision by Harrison). The Pepper premise was a license to thrill.

It also underscored the real-life cohesion of the music and the group that made it. Of the 700 hours the Beatles spent making Sgt. Pepper (engineer Geoff Emerick actually tallied them) from the end of 1966 until April 1967, the group needed only three days’ worth to complete Lennon’s lavish daydream “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” “A Day in the Life,” the most complex song on the album, was done in just five days. (The oceanic piano chord was three pianos hit simultaneously by ten hands belonging to Lennon, McCartney, Starr, Martin and Beatles roadie Mal Evans.) No other Beatles appear with Harrison on his sitar-perfumed sermon on materialism and fidelity, “Within You Without You,” but the band wisely placed the track at the halfway point of the original vinyl LP, at the beginning of Side Two: a vital meditation break in the middle of the jubilant indulgence.

The Beatles’ exploitation of multitracking on Sgt. Pepper transformed the very act of studio recording (the orchestral overdubs on “A Day in the Life” marked the debut of eight-track recording in Britain: two four-track machines used in sync). And Sgt. Pepper’s visual extravagance officially elevated the rock album cover to a Work of Art. Michael Cooper’s photo of the Beatles in satin marching-band outfits, in front of a cardboard-cutout audience of historical figures, created by artist Peter Blake, is the most enduring image of the psychedelic era. Sgt. Pepper was also the first rock album to incorporate complete lyrics to the songs in its design.

Yet Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is the Number One album of the RS 500 not just because of its firsts — it is simply the best of everything the Beatles ever did as musicians, pioneers and pop stars, all in one place. A 1967 British print ad for the album declared, “Remember Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Is the Beatles.” As McCartney put it, the album was “just us doing a good show.”

The show goes on forever.

Pitchfork – 10.0 out of 10

Finally free of touring, the Beatles next sought to be free of themselves, hitting on the rather daft concept of recording as an alias band. The idea held for all of two songs, one coda, and one album sleeve, but was retained as the central organizing and marketing feature of the band’s 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Hailed on its release as proof that popular music could be as rich an artistic pursuit as more high-minded media such as jazz and classical, the record’s reputation and sense of ambition ushered in the album era. Its influence was so pervasive and so instructional regarding the way music is crafted and sold to the public that this is still the predominant means of organizing, distributing, and promoting new music four decades later, well after the decline of physical media.

The concept, of course, is that the record was to be recorded by the titular fictional band, a washed-up rock’n’roll group on the comeback trail. (This was actually the second concept earmarked for the Beatles’ next LP; the original, a record of songs about Liverpool, was abandoned when its first two tracks were needed for the group’s next single, “Strawberry Fields Forever”/ “Penny Lane”.) Probably for the best, little of the fictional-band vision for the record made it through; what did last from that conceit are a few tangential ideas– a satirical bent on popular entertainment and a curiosity with nostalgia and the past.

The record opens with a phony live performance by the Lonely Hearts Band, a sort of Vegas act– the sort of thing that, in 1963, people thought the almost certainly soon-to-be-passé Beatles would be doing themselves in 1967. Instead, the Beatles had completed their shattering of the rules of light entertainment, even halting their own live performances, which they’d never again do together for a paid audience.

Even as they mocked this old version of a performing band, ironically Sgt. Pepper’sand its ambitions helped to codify the rock band as artists rather than popular entertainers. In the hands of their followers, the notion of a pop group as a compact, independent entity, responsible for writing, arranging, and performing its own material would be manifested in the opposite way– rather than holing up in the studio and focusing on records, bands were meant to prove in the flesh they could “bring it” live. Notions of authenticity and transparency would become valued over studio output. (To be fair, upstart bands had to gig in order to get attention and a reputation, while the Beatles, of course, could write, break, and rewrite their own rules; they had the luxury and freedom to take advantage of a changing entertainment world and could experiment with different, emerging models of how to function as a rock band in much the same way that Trent Reznor or Radiohead can today.)

The freedom from live performance didn’t necessitate that Beatles songs now sounded practiced or rehearsed, and indeed they weren’t. Instead, they were studio creations assembled in sections and pieces. As the band splintered, this practice would spill over into releasing song sketches on the White Album and inspire, in part through necessity, the lengthy song cycle at the close of Abbey Road. On Sgt. Pepper’s, the most rewarding manifestation of this shift was the record’s most forward-looking piece, “A Day in the Life”. Complex in construction and epic in feel, “A Day in the Life” nevertheless seems enveloping and breezy to listeners. Indeed, the sustained, closing ringing chord of the song comes a mere 4:20 into the track.

“A Day”‘s only best-in-show competitor was McCartney’s “She’s Leaving Home”. (As on Revolver, the peaks here were a mold-breaking closer and classically inspired story-song). “A Day in the Life” has only grown in estimation, rightfully becoming one of the most acclaimed Beatles tracks. “She’s Leaving Home”, by contrast, has slid from view– perhaps too maudlin to work on classic rock radio and too MOR for hipster embrace, it was nevertheless the other headline track on Sgt. Peppers when it was released. The story of a runaway teen, it misses as a defiant generational statement in part because it’s actually sympathetic to the parents in the song. In the second verse, McCartney defies expectations by not following the young girl on her adventure but keeping the track set in the home as her parents wake to find her goodbye letter.

In the end, we learn “She” left home for “fun”– a rather churlish reason, and when paired with McCartney’s simplistic sentiments in “When I’m 64” (the aging couple there will be happy to “scrimp and save”), the young girl seems more selfish than trapped. In fact, for a group whose every move was a generational wedge, and for such a modern record, the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s is oddly conservative in places: “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite” takes inspiration from a Victorian-era carnival; “When I’m 64” is a music-hall parody that fantasizes about what it would be like to be the Beatles’ grandparents’ age; “Fixing a Hole” has a rather mundane domestic setting; the fantasy girl in “Lovely Rita” is a cop.

Lyrically, it’s an atypical way to usher in the Summer of Love, but musically, the record is wildly inventive, built on double-tracking, tape effects, and studio technology. The dream-like haze of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”, the fairground, sawdust feel of “Mr. Kite”, and the cavalcade of sound effects at the end of “Good Morning Good Morning” were the most demonstrative sounds on the record, but otherwise benign passages were also steeped in innovation, whether recording from the inside of a brass instrument or plugging instruments directly into the sound board instead of capturing them through mics.

Almost everything done on Sgt. Pepper’s turned out to be new and forward-thinking, from the iconic record sleeve to the totemic ending to “A Day in the Life”. There are very few moments in pop music history in which you can mark a clear before and after, in which almost everything changed. In the UK, it’s arguably happened only five times, and on just four instances in the U.S. (Thriller here; acid house and punk there, and Elvis everywhere, of course); in both nations, the Beatles launched two of those moments.

In retrospect, it almost seems like this time the band itself was taken aback by its own accomplishments, not only shying from directly living up to Revolver via the smoke and mirrors of the Lonely Hearts Club Band but then never again throwing themselves into their work as a collective unit. Sgt. Pepper’s, possibly as a corrective to the hushed tones with which it’s been received for decades, has slipped in estimation behind a few of the band’s other records, but it’s easy to hear how it achieved that reputation in the first place. Even if John, Paul, George, and Ringo would arguably go on to best a handful of its moments, the amazing stretch of music created in 1966-67 was the peak of the Beatles as a working band.

On My Record Player Part 16

Rage Against The Machine – People of the Sun EP (1998)

Bruce Springsteen said that listening to Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” with the snare shot that sounded like somebody had kicked open the door to your mind. This was how I felt in late 1997, early 1998 when I first heard Bulls on Parade. I had never in my life heard music before that was both attractive and serious. Full of color and attention. It was my late friend Barry Lawrence who introduced me to Evil Empire and cultivated my obsession with Rage. This music is why I began learning to play guitar and made it so much fun. I didn’t care that much about the politics, but I liked the performance aspect of the subject matter and the propaganda that goes with it. The image of Che Guevara just has a very gravitating force to it that captures your interest to the meaning of the music. My eyes and ears are very easy to focus attention on pretty things, but it takes intelligence to really focus on the message and communication of artists that get noticed in the first place. I just think it is funny that Rage has so many pretty things to hear and look at while they have very serious subject matter to their work and influences. Cheers to overtime Washington Redskins vs New Orleans Saints. Go Redskins!!!!

On My Record Player Part 15

Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (1998)

I came across this music during early 2006 when I was working at the Olive Garden and I spent a lot of time on pitchforks website reading record reviews and I had to check out everything they gave perfect 10 out of 10 scores which is very rare. They are quite conservative. They are extremely rough on the mars volta which irritates me, but I can live with that. I got my first i-pod over ebay which was used, but it worked out for a year or so and I would download torrents like crazy, don’t tell the feds. Anyways after reading about NMH’s Aeroplane on pitchfork, I downloaded this album and it didn’t take much for me to really fall in love with this music. It is quite original in the sense that it has no concept of time or much influence from other music. It really is in its own universe. I just read however, that it falls into a category that was popular in the 80’s and 90’s amongst indie bands known as “lo-fi.” This gives a feeling of authenticity and intimacy that the artist wants to project to help you feel closer to the music, like you are the room with them playing for you. The subject for Aeroplane is really great. The primary songwriter, Jeff  Mangum chose to write and sing about Anne Frank who he felt deserved an artistic tribute to her legendary journey of communicating in a diary during the holocaust. Something amazing happens when certain people , such as Anne or Jeff, begin to write their thoughts and feelings down and it takes off and a life force is created within the writing that becomes a source of inspiration and lesson on humanity and nature that people need to learn about. I can imagine how Jeff was thinking one day, if I could go back in time and save one person’s life that deserved to go on, it would for sure be Anne Frank. She sure became a martyr of sorts, but the circumstances are just so depressing. It makes me really pray and wish there is a heaven or life after death for those who were such good, creative people that brought joy and hope to so many others while alive. The music is incredible, but I just get so caught up in the epic storytelling. Jeff’s vocals are so passionate and honest. I think the people that understand this album can hear how he was not trying impress anyone with these songs, it was just something he had to express in this way for himself and maybe to the spirit of Anne. He really is trying to reach out to her on this I think. There really isn’t much music like this I’ve ever heard before that is as honorable and full of raw feelings. There is really great use of horns on this album by Scott Spillane to creative a powerful spirit of liveliness. A true masterpiece to honor a beautiful spirit that left this world too soon.

I also have to add that this was the 6th best selling vinyl album of 2008.

Pitchfork – 10.0 out of 10

o, then, seven years later Domino reissues In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and the arguments can begin anew. I’ve talked about this album with a lot of people, including Pitchfork readers and music writers, and while it is loved in the indie world like few others, a small but still significant number despise it. Aeroplane doesn’t have the near-consensus of top-shelf 90s rock artifacts like, say, LovelessOK Computer, or Slanted and Enchanted. These records are varied, of course, different in many ways. But in one key respect Aeroplane stands apart: This album is not cool.

Shortly after the release of In the Aeroplane Over the SeaPuncture magazine had a cover story on Neutral Milk Hotel. In it Mangum told of the influence on the record of Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. He explained that shortly after releasingOn Avery Island he read the book for the first time, and found himself completely overwhelmed with sadness and grief. Back in 1998 this admission made my jaw drop. What the hell? A guy in a rock band saying he was emotionally devastated by a book everyone else in America read for a middle-school assignment? I felt embarrassed for him at first, but then, the more I thought about it and the more I heard the record, I was awed. Mangum’s honesty on this point, translated directly to his music, turned out to be a source of great power.

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is a personal album but not in the way you expect. It’s not biography. It’s a record of images, associations, and threads; no single word describes it so well as the beautiful and overused “kaleidoscope.” It has the cracked logic of a dream, beginning with “King of Carrot Flowers Part 1”. The easiest song on the record to like on first listen, it quietly introduces the listener to the to the album’s world, Mangum singing in a muted voice closer to where he left off with the more restrained On Avery Island (through most of Aeroplane he sounds like he’s running out of time and struggling to get everything said). The first four words are so important: “When you were young…” Like every perceptive artist trafficking in memory, Mangum knows dark surrealism to be the language of childhood. At a certain age the leap from kitchen utensils jammed into dad’s shoulder to feet encircled by holy rattlesnakes is nothing. A cock of the head; a squint, maybe.

Inside this dream it all begins in the body. Moments of trauma, joy, shame– here they’re all experienced first as physical sensation. A flash of awkward intimacy is recalled as “now how I remember you/ how I would push my fingers through your mouth/ to make those muscles move.” Sometimes I hear this line and chuckle. I think of Steve Martin in The Jerk, licking Bernadette Peters’ entire face as a sign of affection. Mangum here reflects the age when biological drives outpace the knowledge of what to do with them, a time you’re seeing sex in everything (“semen stains the mountaintops”) or that sex can be awkward and unintentionally painful (“fingers in the notches of your spine” is not what one usually hopes for in the dark). Obsessed as it is with the textures of the flesh and the physical self as an emotional antenna, listening to Aeroplane sometimes seems to involve more than just your ears.

Then there’s the record’s disorienting relationship to time. The instrumentation seems plucked randomly from different years in the 20th century: singing saws, Salvation Army horn arrangements, banjo, accordion, pipes. Lyrical references to technology are hard to fix. Anne Frank’s lifespan from 1929 to 1945 is perhaps the record’s historical center, but the perspective jumps back and forth over centuries, with images and figures sucked from their own age and squirted out somewhere else. When “The King of Carrot Flowers Part 3” mentions “a synthetic flying machine” our minds leap to something like Leonardo da Vinci’s 15th Century drawings of his helicopter prototype. The image in “Two-Headed Boy” of a mutant child trapped in a jar of formaldehyde is pulled from Dr. Moreau’s industrial age island. The radio play powered by pre-electric pulleys and weights, the nuclear holocaust in the title track. What’s it all about? Mangum offers an explanation for these jarring leaps in a line about Anne Frank in “Oh Comely,” where he sings, “I know they buried her body with others/ her sister and mother and 500 families/ and will she remember me 50 years later/ I wished I could save her in some sort of time machine.” If you can move through time, see, nothing ever really dies.

Seven years it’s been, and whether Mangum has had personal trouble or somehow lost his way with music, it’s not unreasonable to think that we’ve heard the last from Neutral Milk Hotel. I hope he does, but he may never pick up the guitar he set down after “Two-Headed Boy Part Two.” Even so, we have this album and another very good one, and that to me is serious riches. Amazing to think how it started, how at the core of it all was guts. I keep thinking of “It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding,” and one of Dylan’s truest lines: “If my thought-dreams could be seen/ They’d probably put my head in a guillotine.” Aeroplane is what happens when you have that knowledge and still take the risk.

— Mark Richardson, September 26, 2005

On My Record Player Part 14

Linkin Park – Meteora (2003)

So, from the beginning of 2001 until late 2002, I was really into Linkin Park’s debut “Hybrid Theory.” It was a classic record with an album full of good songs, many of which were the a lot of fun to learn and play on the guitar. During my sophomore year of college, Meteora came out and it was very refreshing as it was the iconic rock music to listen to in early 2003. The younger kids were all about Good Charlotte who were very lame in comparison. I had not yet been exposed to non-radio rock. I had to turn 20 before I discovered any of the cool indie and classic rock. This is a well produced record that ‘rocks’ at several moments, but does not retain its freshness all that well after 6 and a half years+. Mainly because I have been exposed to so much more interesting music in the mean time. However, when I was 19/20 this music was a great soundtrack to the end of my teens and beginning of my 20’s. The future had much great music in store for me.

Rolling Stone – 3 out of 5 stars.

Presenting the hardest-working men in showbiz: Linkin Park? It ain’t easy making green, and the band wants us to know that following up the best-selling debut of the new millennium is no simple feat. Especially if you’re as self-conscious as this sextet. As someone blurts during a seventeen-minute documentary on the making of Meteora‘s artwork — not to be confused with the thirty-three-minute documentary on the making ofMeteora‘s music that comes in the album’s special-edition bonus DVD — “The art is the making of the art.”

That approach is symbolized by the album’s cover photo of graffiti artist Delta clad in a gas mask to protect him from the toxic fumes of his craft: He’s spray-painting in front of a canvas that he’s only begun to fill. It’s a scene that brings to life the essential line from their last album,Reanimation: “The journey is more important than the end or the start.”

Beneath the metal guitar and the rap rhymes, Linkin Park are an old-fashioned art-rock band (MC Mike Shinoda and DJ Joseph Hahn met in art school and still consider themselves visual artists). But rather than drawing inspiration from classical music or Hobbits as their art-rock forefathers did, Linkin Park are rooted in contemporary Asia, postmodernism, sample-based music and anime superheroes. The common denominator between the band and its antecedents is psychology: Whereas, say, Pink Floyd grappled with insanity, LP dramatize the conflicts of father and son, man and woman, or friend and friend — all from the vantage point of a young guy struggling for harmony with or separation from an unnamed “you.”

Meteora celebrates the hard-won clarity that comes when getting within screaming distance of one’s demons. “The very worst part of you is me,” Chester Bennington admits in “Lying From You.” “Giving up a part of me/I’ve let myself become you,” he laments during “Figure.09.” “All I want to do is become more like me and less like you,” the singer concludes on “Numb.”

Much of Meteora adheres to the overly familiar rap-rock template Linkin Park fit themselves into for Hybrid Theory. Yet the band manages to squeeze the last remaining life out of this nearly extinct formula with volatile performances and meticulous editing. There’s hardly a moment in the album’s tightly compacted thirty-six-and-a-half minutes that doesn’t sound assiduously rehearsed, sampled and Pro Tools tweaked. Drummer Rob Bourdon takes the greatest instrumental leap; the combination of his intricate thrashing and the band’s improved songwriting makes Meteoramore than yet another remix of its predecessor.

Linkin Park sound most alive when escaping the constraints of their genre. On “Breaking the Habit,” guitarist Brad Delson sticks the metal riffs in temporary storage. As Bennington croons, the band swirls twice as fast around him while strings swell and drums bolt. Although the song’s anguished grandeur is rooted in the band’s New Wave influences, the result bears little resemblance to the past or present. This suits Linkin Park’s futurist vibe and lives up to the promise of Meteora‘s lavish packaging. Much of the album is just excellent craft; on “Breaking the Habit,” Linkin Park make some risky, beautiful art.

On My Record Player Part 13

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland (1969)

In the first few years I was learning to play guitar, I would ignorantly praise Hendrix as superior to Marley, for no other reason than I was more familar and focused on Rock music than I was with Reggae. That being said, anytime is a good time in someone’s life to become familiar with Jimi Hendrix music from his unfortunately short but brilliant musical career. Electric Ladyland was released as a double album, one of the first after Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde and The Mothers of Invention’s Freak Out! Having this much space to record a major record must have been an incredible experience to be adventurous in the studio with the beautiful moments in Jimi’s performance in each of the songs. His rendition of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” is a well recognized masterpiece that showcases the energy of that historical era of the late 60’s. Oh, I just noticed the presence of the talented drummer Mitch Mitchell who just passed away a year ago. He is great. Hey Louie Yabes is here! I’m just gonna enjoy the music and catch up with an old friend.

Blender Magazine – 5 out of 5 stars.

“It wasn’t just slopped together; every little thing you hear there means something,” said Hendrix of his two-LP masterwork, his final completed studio album. And though it isn’t perfect, perfection wasn’t the idea. No previous rock album had flowed like this, and while jazz albums often support as many contrasting sonic moods, Louis Armstrong himself didn’t match Hendrix’s appetite for sound effects and general silliness. His spaced-out spirituality is the fullest musicalization of “psychedelic” ever accomplished.

On My Record Player Part 12

Bob Marley & The Wailers – Babylon by Bus (1978)

This record is awesome and fun to listen to!!! Who doesn’t love Reggae Music!? I can barely think about writing when I get caught by the beat and groove of these songs. They bounce and just make you happy. Bob Marley’s words connect with you and feel the truth of righteousness. Punky Reggae Party sounded like 2 country’s soccer fans cheering for their home and teams during a big World Cup match that is the most important thing in the world when it happens. It is a great joy in my life to listen to Bob Marley’s music. There is a very strong force and….Most of the time, I write while I listen to the music, but I cant multi-task when I hear this music. I have to listen…If you can hear it, Bob Marley is presenting the feeling and attitude of being close or at one with his description of “Jah” and that kind of living or nature. I cant think of any other artist that really is as powerful as that. Bob Dylan was similar in communicating a feeling like this in the reality of living in New York City in the early 60’s. He gives people high doses of happiness and love. I have to show much much love to the Wailers. Wow Mon! This band is so tight and connected with a passionate living groove that you feel closely. I was just thinking about how there is a significant amount of people in my generation (born in 1979-1989) that are big fans of Bob Marley that consider him a great historical spiritual leader and having lived with his music for much of our youth until now has shaped our outlook on life based on these expressions of roots reggae. Back to the music. Side 3 opens with one of mfavorite jams, “Lively up Yourself” This song is so fun and full of joy to experience. They do it best live in front of people because the song really comes alive when there are thousands of people together to be witnessing it. Another brilliant live song that is full of power is “War/No More Trouble.” This is just perfectly written and more importantly, expressed. Side 4 begins with “I want to Love You” which as many know is simply one of the sweetest songs of all time and is a lovely expression of enjoying life in love with a very special person. I love the structure reggae gives to all of the important subjects of our lives. The best type of live music is that which allows you to feel the significant spiritual energy of the music being played in front of you, or being in the same currant or groove as the band that peforms so lively. Alive! “Heathen” is a song I don’t think I have heard before. This song is one that I know I would really enjoy dancing to. It is incredible smooth. To be with Reggae! To be with Jah! Of Course, a great track to end this bus is “Jamming” a song many can easily identify as Marley music. The awesome idea about this song is the Much Love and Praise to the Joy of Muisc and performing Music. Also a state of mind, you have to always continue “Jamming.” It is a movement. We have to always bring progress. Zion rules all creation. Thank you Bob Marley & The Wailers!

A much more extensive review from

Arguably the most influential live reggae album ever, Babylon by Bus captures Bob Marley and the Wailers during the European leg of their Kaya tour in the spring of 1978. The success of this set was not entirely unexpected, however. If the universal and widespread acclaim of LIVE! — their first concert recording — was an indicator, all involved knew that aBob Marley & the Wailers performance contained unique energies and a vibe all of its own. Sharply contrasting the somewhat pastoral grooves of the Kaya album, Babylon by Buspossesses a more aggressive sound — which was a trademark of this particular band. Tyrone Downie‘s progressive rock keyboard flavors on “Exodus,” as well his judiciously located percussive clavinet accentuations during “Punky Reggae Party,” lock in with Aston “Familyman” Barrett‘s viscous basslines to create something akin to psychedelic reggae or even along the lines of Parliament/Funkadelic. Likewise, “Heathen” highlights Anderson‘s explosive guitar leads, which are distinctly reminiscent of Eddie Hazel from his early days with Funkadelic. The lead guitar solos on “Rebel Music (3 O’ Clock Roadblock)” and “Is This Love” also define Al Anderson‘s innovative and decidedly Western guitar style, as it is seamlessly and thoroughly integrated with Marley and the Wailers. As with their first concert album, Babylon by Bus highlights material from the band’s history up to that point. “No More Trouble” is placed in an entirely new context when linked with “War,” which features lyrics taken from a United Nations speech given by Haille Selassie I, the Ethiopian emperor considered the father of modern Rastafarianism. Other early tracks, such as “Kinky Reggae” and “Stir It Up,” prove to be not the only favorites of concert attendees. More recent offerings of “Is This Love,” “Jammin’,” and “Exodus” actually garner the most audible support. Without question, Babylon by Bus is an integral component of any popular music collection.

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