Archive | March, 2012

Elite Eight Part 2 – Beatles vs. Wilson Pickett and Bob Dylan vs. The Rolling Stones

27 Mar

Something about the favorites. The initial voting on the #1 vs. #8 match and #4 vs. #5 match has proven that the favorites get most of the love. Will this extend into our second round of Elite Eight voting? I guess we will find out soon.

Just a few housekeeping notes prior to the match-ups. Yes, this was supposed to be up yesterday, but an unfortunate bout of food poisoning left me curled up in bed for most of the day. I will be traveling on business from tomorrow until Saturday so I will most likely not have a chance to post in that time span. On to the matches!

#2 Seed: Revolver by The Beatles vs. #7 Seed: The Exciting Wilson Pickett by Wilson Pickett

 

 

 

 

Wilson Pickett was so excited that he crushed The 13th Floor Elevators debut in a shutout. Revolver almost did the same to The Rascals. The battle of two first-round powerhouses. Do the Beatles have too much for Pickett to handle?

#3 Seed: Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan vs. #6 seed: Aftermath by the Rolling Stones

While Blonde on Blonde had an easy time taking down The Who in its first round match-up, the 6-seeded Rolling Stones album Aftermath was almost upset by Donovan’s Sunshine Superman, only beating the trippy Dylan-like album by a vote. While I offer a hearty congratulations to the Stones’ album, I would have been interested to see a battle between Bob Dylan and the British Bob Dylan. Alas, we have this great match between a classic Dylan album and a solid Stones composition. I see Dylan taking this one easily, though.

The Elite Eight: Beatles vs. Simon and Garfunkel and The Mothers of Invention vs. The Mamas and the Papas

23 Mar

Well I guess I should have expected this. A tie. The 5 vs. 12 matchup featuring the Mamas and the Papas debut album vs. The Byrds’ Fifth Dimension was shaping up to be a close Mamas and the Papas victory, but, with a few minutes to spare, the match became tied and stayed tied at 2:30 p.m., when I officially closed the poll (at least in my mind because you can technically still vote). Overtime. I never established how overtime works but I made a call earlier this month that if a match-up was tied I’d bring it down to where the album charted in their respective category using U.S. Billboard rankings (pretty neutral). If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears by The Mamas and the Papas reached the #1 spot on the U.S. Billboard Pop charts. The Byrds reached #24 on the Top LP charts. Yes, not a very accurate way of making this decision, but for the sake of this competition, the five-seed moves on to face another mother in the second Elite Eight match-up.

Before we go on to that, the #1-seed Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys, coming off of its commanding victory against Buffalo Springfield, will take on Simon and Garfunkel’s Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme, which pulled off a narrow victory against John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Eric Clapton infused album. These two albums go neck-and-neck in the first match.

#1 Seed: Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys vs. #8 seed: Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme

Can Simon and Garfunkel pull off an upset? If this was Bookends, maybe. While Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme is an excellent album that features some classic Simon and Garfunkel folk, Pet Sounds is true tour de force, an inspirational album that saw a band transform into quasi-psychedelic and master it. I predict another easy victory for the 1-seed and a spot in the final four to face the winner of our next match.

#4 seed: Freak Out by the Mothers of Invention vs. #5 seed: If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears by The Mamas and the Papas

This one is tougher to predict. It would seem correct to say that Freak Out should take this one easily since it beat it’s 13-seeded opponent The Soul Album by Otis Redding quite handily. But some might argue that The Mamas and the Papas had a more difficult path with the experienced Byrds and 5D. Interestingly, both albums are debuts. The winner gets this poll’s Kentucky (Pet Sounds) in the next round which will most definitely be a difficult match-up. You have the choice to send one of them there.

The Moondog Coronation Ball – Rock n’ Roll – and Why We Should All Choo Choo Ch’Boogie

21 Mar

The first big rock n’ roll concert happened 60 years ago today…and it lasted less than one song. While it may not seem like much of a concert, Alan Freed’s ode to togetherness and the new “teen music” he played for his loyal Moondoggers culminated in this one event that ultimately was shut down by police. The concert at the Cleveland Arena was truly about music. While the United States was still very much segregated, Freed encouraged a racially diverse list of performers and audience. Tickets were sold and sold and sold and then possibly counterfeited and sold again, until around 20,000 people longed to push into the arena of around 10,000 seats to dance and enjoy music. The police feared a riot and shut down the show but it was the simple intention and initial gathering that pushed the Moondog Coronation Ball into legendary status and Freed into rock lore.

This anniversary got me thinking expansively. Rock n’ roll was in its incipient phases back then, but when did rock n’ roll officially begin? What was the first rock n’ roll song ever released? I am unfortunately plagued by a nearly impossible longing to learn about the roots of everything. I like to know what came first. This particular question has several answers. There is not one song that has the title of first rock n’ roll song ever. There are many. I came across an interesting article written in Discovery that labels “That’s All Right Mama” by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup as the world’s oldest rock n’ roll song. Southeastern Louisiana University rock historian Joseph Burns thinks so. The song was released in September of 1946.

“It’s music that draws heavily from blues and country in a hit form that’s often danceable. There should be hints of jazz, gospel or folk influence. There should also be some technology influence,” writes the author of the article quoting Burns that can be accessed here.

Is he right? Is he wrong? Who knows. 1946 seems to be the year for emerging rock n’ roll. There was a turn over from big band, jazz, country, and straight blues, to a genre that mixed all of the elements together. As stated above, the music needs hints of blues and jazz and must be danceable. Well, in the 1940’s a genre developed that did just this. It was called Jump Blues and in my opinion it featured the first rock n’ roll song some months prior to Big Boy’s version of “That’s Alright Mama”

Jump blues combined blues and big band. It featured a small group of horn musicians who sang swingy, melodious pieces tinged with blues sentiments. And no one did this better than Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five. In January of 1946, Jordan released “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie” which played to both black and white audiences by fusing together elements of country, blues, and jazz music. It is a stroke of mastery and it sounds a whole lot like rock n’ roll. And it’s catchy as hell and makes you move!

Hey! Let’s Go to San Francisco!

20 Mar

In celebration of the Spring equinox, I wanted to do an obscure classic rock post about a band that fit the Spring spirit. This clearly was not too difficult because this was the era of the flower child. After a few seconds of thinking I came up with the perfect melodious blend of music for this absurdly beautiful day in NYC. And, of course, I pick a song about going to San Francisco written by some chaps from Britain. Hey, didn’t you hear, we are going to San Francisco – but in this song you don’t have to wear a flower in your hair.

The Flower Pot Men

The Flower Pot Men may have created one of the most easy-going, light-hearted, songs of 1967, yet, because they were a band constructed of talented session musicians and didn’t stay together long, their name and this song have fallen into obscurity. But not to worry, there is still a strong coterie of individuals who remember and like the song enough to mention it, listen to it, and write about.

“Let’s Go to San Francisco” is the song I am obviously talking about. It was written and recorded by John Carter and Ken Lewis, who previously played in the Ivy League with Perry Ford – remember that song “That’s Why I’m Crying?” They were known as a pop-vocal band and that is what The Flower Pot Men was as well. Carter and Lewis, though, had no interest in promoting the song, so they hired a bunch of session musicians and vocalists to record the song. Tony Burrows led the group. The song kicked butt, as expected. This song was actually made fun of in Spinal Tap where the same-named band in the rockumentary had their first hit with the fictional song “(Listen to the) Flower People”

Harmony pop at its finest here folks. The hybrid call and response is magnificent – if you are into that type of thing of course. The song is upbeat but drawn out enough that you feel the musical saturation. You are doused with this Beach Boys’ like California (almost surf-like) beat that fits the title of the song perfectly. It is a relatively simple song and that is what makes it so excellent. We even get a Beach Boys breakdown (including some late 60’s instrumentation).

The band did not only release this hit. They attempted to strike it big again with “A Walk in the Sky” which for all intents and purposes is the same exact song. At around 54 seconds though something changes and it is remarkable. They actually progress years in their musical styling – from the inherently poppy early 60s pop to a late 60’s Pet Sounds like breakdown which is definitely the best part of the song. Check it out.

The Flower Pot Men would go on to change members (Jon Lord and Nick Simper of Deep Purple was actually in this band for a little while) and actually become the band White Plains that you may not have heard of but if you were around in 1970 probably heard this song.

It’s pretty much the same song as the other two with some strings and horns.

The Last of the First Round: #5 vs. #12, #6 vs. #11, #7 vs. #10, #8 vs. #9

19 Mar

The first round voting has been strong and I thank you. As of now, the first three seeds are flying towards easy victories. Freak Out is only winning by a few votes and Otis Redding may pull off a 13 vs. 4 upset and become the Ohio of this year’s bracket! But as of now it is trailing and there is only until the end of the week to vote. The rest of the match-ups are below. Make sure to vote for your favorites and tune into the Elite Eight which begins next week. Haven’t voted in the initial match-ups? No problem. Click this and vote!

#5: If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears by The Mamas and the Papas vs. #12: Fifth Dimension by the Byrds

Let me tell you, I love this match-up. It is a great 12 vs. 5 because the five seed is not so much stronger than the twelve. Let’s look a little more in depth. The Mamas and the Papas absolutely killed with their debut album. You are looking at “California Dreamin'” and “Monday, Monday,” two of the best melodious folk songs released in the 60s (if not ever). But, on the other end of our folk spectrum – even though it’s not really the other end because they were both playing psychedelic folk – The Byrds featured “Mr. Spaceman” and “Eight Miles High” on 5D. Wow. This is tough.

#6: Aftermath by The Rolling Stones vs. #11: Sunshine Superman by Donovan

Aftermath may be best known for “Paint it Black” (the American version) but it featured other Stones gems like “Under My Thumb” and “High and Dry.” It did exceptionally well everywhere it was released (it is a Stones album). Brian Jones was instrumental on this album – literally – using creative instrumentation to play to the burgeoning artsy psychedelic movement. But if you want sitar, how about Shawn Phillips’ sitar on Sunshine Superman? Donovan mastered psych folk. The Bob Dylan of Britain released Sunshine Superman, his third album, to much fanfare. The album has “Sunshine Superman” on it (featuring Jimmy Page on guitar). It also has “Season of the Witch.” Another difficult choice.

#7: The Exciting Wilson Pickett by Wilson Pickett vs. #10: The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators by The 13th Floor Elevators (DEBUT)

Now we are on to the ones that are supposed to be close 🙂 – and we get a battle of completely different albums. One, true soul, the other garage psychedelic innovation. Pickett’s second album put him on a wider map. He had four big hits including “In the Midnight Hour,” “Land of 1000 Dances,” “Ninety-nine and a Half (Won’t Do),” and “634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.).” Enough said. 13th Floor Elevators had Tommy Hall and the electric jug (that has to win something). “You’re Gonna Miss Me” is one of the most inspirational psychedelic songs of the era. This band oozed raw psychedelic talent. 

 

#8: Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme by Simon and Garfunkel vs. #9: Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton by John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers

A true toss up and matter of preference. Do you prefer folk or blues? Vote!

I hope you enjoyed the list. I know there are many albums left out but, like I said, this is a subjective top 16. Happy voting!

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