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 http://www.allmusic.com

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.

On My Record Player Part 11

The Sugarcubes – life’s too good (1988)

I have already written in detail about my past experiences in discovering the music of Bjork and the profound effect it has had on my musical journey in life. I’m not sure if I have mentioned much or at all about my experience as a DJ at WODU, Old Dominion’s college radio station. So, my senior year in college was all about Bjork, The Mars Volta, collecting records, and DJing for WODU and it may have taken a while, but I came across Bjork’s history before she went solo. That being the band “The Sugarcubes” and some hipster kids that worked at WODU in the late 80’s early 90’s kept a few Sugarcubes records in Vinyl vault that I am sure were completely ignored during the beginning of the 21st century. However, I knew that I would be the one that would give this record some attention after 10-15 years, and I made the attempt, which was difficult at this point but I made an effort, to really listen and try to appreciate this very indie style of rock/pop from an Icelandic band that would nourish the extravagant solo career of pop star Bjork. This band has a great dynamic of being lively in a very refreshing way. Obviously, Bjork has a very distinctive and powerful vocal influence to the band which I am sure helped fuel the creativity of the supporting male band members. She comes across very harmonic and soulful without being too delicate and feminine and not overpowering like many might expect. She was 23 when this came out, and while she had been musically trained for most of her life, I think she was really in a focused state of mind in that she wanted to understand how to work her vocals in sync with other musicians and instruments in the best possible way. Too really learn and feel how other musicians can work to the best possible way with her vocal talents and passionate lyrics. There is something about the Icelandic spirit that is very unique and creates a very earthy, human musical vibe that I think a lot of indie fans can connect with. I have to mention the incredible Icelandic band Sigur Ros as a great example of genius music from this land. Check out: This is really great, but I hate to take the focus of “life’s too good.” I have not listened to this very much, regretfully, since I have possessed it, but I am happy to bring this music to life and hear Bjork work in the raw 6-piece rock formation and the innocence and energy of a group like this that was cherished in their home country but was eager for the rest of the world to discover. Some great work, but I will always be a bigger fan of Bjork’s amazing solo career. Some interesting trivia: On November 172006, the band had a one-off reunion concert at Laugardalshöll sport arena in Reykjavík,Iceland, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut single with all profits going to the non-profit Smekkleysa SM to promote Icelandic music.[2] They were supported by fellow Icelandic groups múm and Rass. Despite this reunion, the group has expressed that it has no intention to play future shows or record new material.

My review’s better but here is http://www.allmusic.com 4 and half out of 5 stars

With strong songs built around Bjork Gudmundsdottir‘s piercing, striking voice, this record lived up to all the advance hype. With songs like “Birthday” and “Motorcrash,” this is the perfect introduction to the ‘Cubes.

On My Record Player Part 10

Whitney Houston – Whitney Houston (1985)

I picked this little gem up at a thrift store in Norfolk around 2005  for $1 when I started collecting records. The main reason I was compelled to buy this and listen to it was the connection it had in the movie American Psycho where “The Greatest Love of All” is played in a scene with Christian Bales’s character listening to it and analyzing why the song is a masterpiece that is under-appreciated for its important message. Either way, I am a big fan of a lot of pop music from the 1980’s and Whitney Houston is definitely one of the most talented of the era. This was her debut album and it shows an artist who is hungry and wants to showcase her gift. Listening to “Saving All My Love For You” is a real treat for me. Her conviction in this song is so honest and heartfelt it almost brings tears to my eyes. What a classic, this is as romantic as it gets in my book. I don’t think anyone else could have pulled it off like she did at this early part of her career. This record is just filled with hits. “How Will I Know?” is one of my favorite songs of all time. It is such a joy to hear this again after many years. As I listen to it, I can say this is one of my most joyful moments since I began my record review blogs. I love the innocence and excitement of this song, this just sounds like the incredible feeling of that early stage of a very special romance being created. Oh to be in love… Brilliant! I forgot how amazing this album is. Great hooks, and that voice. Where did this girl come from? The feeling you can hear in her voice is what I wish every human being could feel in their lives. “All at Once” is sublimely genuine and hauntingly beautiful. There are a few duets with Jermaine Jackson that are alright, but don’t compare to her solo work. The album closes with the song that inspired so many and gave people the courage to accomplish their dreams. “The Greatest Love of All” speaks profoundly about believing in yourself and Whitney sings this with incredible passion and the declaration of inspiration.

On My Record Player Part 9

Nirvana – Unplugged in New York (1994)

Recorded on November 18, 1993 at Sony Studios in New York City for MTV Unplugged. I became a fan of Nirvana I think in 1997, the summer before 9th grade. There was me, Brian, Kenny, Scarface, and the lovable Old James, oh hold on. Wait a minute. Old James, Old James wasn’t there. I don’t even know nobody names Old James. Shoot Go on!  I used to watch a lot of MTV back then and they would show Unplugged episodes and I discovered the softer side of Nirvana when they played for the show. This performance and set-list was too simply put it, incredible. I am curious to know how much rehearsal and thought was put into this before they performed. Kurt Cobain had so much heart and feeling in these songs. There is a beautiful delicacy in every note played that you can only hear in something intimate as this. His choice of cover songs from David Bowie, the Vasolines, the Meat Puppets, and Lead Belly is so intriguing and beautifully executed. You really get a sense of his powerful emotional state in his final months alive and you can tell how satisfying it was for him to perform in this aesthetic compared to the common routine of loud rock in crowded clubs and arenas. He was a very sensitive, irritable spirit that needed specific outlets to nurture his poetic creativity. Thank God for the brains behind MTV Unplugged and Nirvana for agreeing to do this. Its funny to hear band members like Dave Grohl play this lite rock drumming when he was known for his bombastic loud fast drumming. These guys were (are) super talented in their craft. I love the harmonizing Dave and Kurt execute on some of these tracks. The sound on this record is truly timeless and sounds so fresh after 16 years, it also helps on 180 gram Vinyl going through multiple speakers. More bands known for their loud rock should try this acoustic thing. Its kind of like a great football player playing golf or something. Its just a matter of focus and adapting to a different setting. Nirvana really set the standard for showing how sweet they can sound in contrast to their otherwise loud angry rock n roll. The closing track “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” is gorgeously haunting and stays with you.

5 out of 5 stars – http://www.allmusic.com

If In Utero is a suicide note, MTV Unplugged in New York is a message from beyond the grave, a summation of Kurt Cobain’s talents and pain so fascinating, it’s hard to listen to repeatedly. Is it the choice of material or the spare surroundings that make it so effective? Well, it’s certainly a combination of both, how the version of the Vaselines’ “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me for a Sunbeam” or the three covers of Meat Puppets II songs mean as much as “All Apologies” or “Something in the Way.” This, in many senses, isn’t just an abnormal Nirvana record, capturing them in their sincerest desire to be R.E.M. circa Automatic for the People, it’s the Nirvana record that nobody, especially Kurt, wanted revealed. It’s a nakedly emotional record, unintentionally so, as the subtext means more than the main themes of how Nirvana wanted to prove its worth and diversity, showcasing the depth of their songwriting. As it turns out, it accomplishes its goals rather too well; this is a band, and songwriter, on the verge of discovering a new sound and style. Then, there’s the subtexts, as Kurt’s hurt and suicidal impulses bubble to the surface even as he’s trying to suppress them. Few records are as unblinkingly bare and naked as this, especially albums recorded by their peers. No other band could have offered covers of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” and the folk standard “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” on the same record, turning in chilling performances of both performances that reveal as much as their original songs.

On My Record Player Part 8

Bjork – Vespertine (2001)

In late August of 2004, I arrived at Old Dominion University for my Senior year of college with virtually no friends. The 2 friends I invested on my social life in previously at college had begun new chapters of their lives in other parts of the country. I don’t now what exactly first drew me to buy the CD when I did, but after listetning to it a few times, it soon become pretty music the most important thing in my life. This was a situation where music like this was everything I needed to be happy and satisfied in life, it was that significant. What she said how she made the music sound was exactly what I needed in my life when I was 21 and lonely in my final year of college. I don’t necessarily have regrets, or look back at that period with sadness, but rather a special joy that only a true introvert could appreciate. I needed this experience in life to understand and appreciate my soul and spirit and I couldn’t imagine a better soundtrack than Bjork’s Vespertine. Bjork herself said that this album is about a special kind of quietness, being indoors, hearing music in your head. Listening to this and thinking about my past, I really cant emphasize how important and satisfying this collection music was and always has been to my spirit. This gives me the impression of how people felt in the 15th and 16th century viewing Renaissance masters works of art when shown to the public for the first time and being profoundly affected by its beauty, meaning, and intensity that stays with you. I have to bring up the fact that Bjork, being from Iceland, knows something special about being alive, human, the earth and the power of those 3 forces and the history and culture that Iceland has been through. Sometimes I feel like when Bjork sings, it is the closest thing to the sound of the Earth itself crying or expressing its feelings.

Rolling Stone – 4 out of 5 stars.

Bjork Gudmundsdottir made her first album, Bjork, in Iceland in 1977. She was eleven years old, a child-thrush packaged in disco cheese, Arctic reggae and Icelandic-language, lounge-candy covers of Melanie and the Beatles. Twenty-four years later, Bjork has made the best solo record of her career, Vespertine. She still sings like an arrested schoolgirl, a vocal rainbow of fragile chirp, pleading falsetto and jubilant shriek. But Bjork has also passed into a spectacular new divahood. She now whoops and coos with the poise of an innocent primed by experience, a wise spirit with a juvenile glow. At the age of thirty-five, Bjork sounds like she is eleven – going on infinity.

She has taken the long road to the meticulous sparkle and deep feeling ofVespertine. The teen queen of Reykjavik’s early-1980s punk uprising, Bjork hit the world stage with the Sugarcubes, charging the band’s pop-art mischief with operatic force and lyric vulnerability, a combination that at its best – on the 1988 album Life’s Too Good – felt like a young girl’s diary thrown into a tornado. Bjork’s first records after leaving the Sugarcubes, Debut (1993) and Post (1995), were piquant stews of hip-hop gesture, gingerbread electronica and fairy-tale parable. But in spite of all that imagination and Bjork’s good taste in collaborators (Nellee Hooper, Talvin Singh, 1970s-fusion maestro Eumir Deodato), those albums now seem incomplete, shotgun displays of her remarkable vocal range and the unresolved differences between the worldly Bjork and her perpetual inner elf.

Vespertine is a particle beam in comparison, as weightless as light but concentrated with direction. There is nothing remotely close to drumming on any of the album’s twelve tracks. The flurry of rhythm at the start of “Cocoon” has the gravity of a spider scurrying across linoleum. The electronic beats running under the glassy ballad “It’s Not Up to You” are mostly drips and squishes, the soft gallop of baby boots in fresh mud. Vespertine is awash in strings and choirs, but Bjork exercises care in spreading the spangle. In “Pagan Poetry,” she deploys the implied heaven of Zeena Parkins’ harp and a flotilla of music boxes with an Asian-teahouse touch. The faint winds of synthesizer in “An Echo a Stain” magnify Bjork’s cries and purrs with such reverbed clarity that she even seems to breathe in melody.

The tidy drama of the programming and arrangements on Vespertinesuits the physical electricity of Bjork’s voice. Her self-consciousness on earlier albums is gone; Bjork moves through this music with focused, contagious pleasure. It is no accident that Bjork’s helpmates onVespertine include the San Francisco computer duo Matmos and that the long, gorgeous “Unison” features a sample from the German group Oval.Vespertine is the closest any pop-vocal album has come to the luxuriant Zen of the new minimalist techno, even beating Radiohead’s nervy Kid A. Where Kid A sounded like a record of risk, the work of a band on unfamiliar ground, Bjork sings here as if she owns and knows every inch of space and shadow in these songs.

That musical and emotional breakthrough might not have been possible without Bjork’s controversial triumph last year in Lars von Trier’s filmDancer in the Dark, in which she played a bedeviled single mother – slowly going blind, accused of murder – who finds refuge in dreams of old movie musicals. In her screen performance and on her soundtrack album,Selmasongs, Bjork captured with acute tenderness the wonder of interior music, the way a lonely soul can burst inside with healing song. OnVespertine, she goes even further. When she opens her mouth, words and notes don’t come out – you go in, swept up to a box seat inside her head.

It’s a busy room – as naked as the music is, Vespertine is dense with sensual obsession and fear of loss. “He invents a charm that makes him invisible/Hides in the hair/Can I hide there too?” Bjork wonders in the floating beauty “Hidden Place.” “Aurora” is a song about literally dissolving with pleasure; Bjork prays to become one with the pure color of the northern lights. And in “Pagan Poetry,” she likens her carnal urges to “swirling black lilies totally ripe” and the transforming imprint of one hand held in another (“Crooked five fingers/They form a pattern/Yet to be matched”). One of the album’s most addictive passages is the haunting exchange, at the end of the song, between Bjork and an overdubbed chorale of Bjorks, all hypnotized with need and shimmering with certainty: “I love him, I love him . . . She loves him, she loves him.”

Vespertine is also an album about the sheer joys of voice. In “Heirloom,” Bjork likens the art of singing to swallowing and exhaling “glowing lights”: “During the night/They do a trapeze work/Until they’re in the sky/Right above my bed.” She also borrows the verse of the poet e.e. cummings in the brief, gleaming “Sun in My Mouth”: “I will wade out till my thighs/Are steeped in burning flowers/I will take the sun in my mouth/And leap into the ripe air alive.” They are the sound and sentiment of a woman exulting in the power and possibility of her.

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