Face to Face by The Kinks

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Face To Face by The KinksAfter quickly rising to pop acclaim, Ray Davies and The Kinks morphed towards concept albums in the late 1960s. Face to Face, the group’s fourth studio album released in October 1966, featured a fine collections of short pop-oriented songs that were loosely affiliated thematically with observations of society. Musically, the 14 tracks explored many new and diverse styles ranging from traditional English music hall to the emerging psychedelic sound.

The group toured the world in early 1965 but, after their shows in the United States, the American Federation of Musicians would refuse permits for the group to appear in concerts for the next four years due to their rowdy behavior on stage. 1965 saw the group record and release two albums, Kinda Kinks and The Kink Kontroversy, which each saw the group branch out stylistically, with the latter album including session musician Nicky Hopkins on keyboards.

The lead single from Face to Face, “Sunny Afternoon”, became a blockbuster hit in the summer of 1966. The most indelible and popular song on the album, it is built on descending riffs over calmly strummed acoustic guitar and a nice changeup to seventh chords in the choruses which excellently portray the easiness illuminated in the lyrics. Although not included on the album, he single’s B-side “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” was a unique and intense song with an unambiguous message that builds in intensity on the delivery of that title message when guitarist Dave Davies takes over lead vocals. With great momentum from both sides of this single, the group headed to the studio with producer Shel Talmy to make the ret of the album.

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Face to Face by The Kinks
Released: October 23, 1966 (Pye)
Produced by: Shel Talmy
Recorded: Pye Studios, London, October 1965–June, 1966
Side One Side Two
Party Line
Rosy Won’t You Please Come Home
Dandy
Too Much on My Mind
Session Man
Rainy Day in June
A House in the Country
Holiday in Waikiki
Most Exclusive Residence for Sale
Fancy
Little Miss Queen of Darkness
You’re Lookin’ Fine
Sunny Afternoon
I’ll Remember
Primary Musicians
Ray Davies – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Dave Davies – Guitars, Vocals
Nicky Hopkins – Piano, Keyboards
Pete Quaife – Bass, Vocals
Mick Avory – Drums, Percussion

The opening track “Party Line”, co-written by both Davies brothers, is straight forward pop/folk/rocker with consistent drumming by Mick Avory throughout, while the following “Rosy Won’t You Please Come Home” leans more towards psychedelic rock, with Hopkins’ ever-present harpsichord and its overall melancholy feel. This second song was directed towards Rosy Davies, the sister of Ray and Dave Davies who had moved to Australia in 1964, an event which would later be the subject of the 1969 concept album, Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire).

The upbeat folk track “Dandy” became a hit throughout Europe and it would later be covered by several subsequent acts like Herman’s Hermits and The Rockin’ Vickers. On “Too Much on My Mind” there is good interplay between the bass guitar of Pete Quaife and the acoustic with harpsichord coming in and adding much color, ll making it the best song on the album thus far. Slightly lesser quality but still entertaining are the three songs that round off side one, “Session Man”, “Rainy Day in June” and “A House in the Country”.

The Kinks, 1966

The album’s second side begins with the Hawaiian-flavored “Holiday in Waikiki” followed by the folksy “Most Exclusive Residence for Sale”. Perhaps the most interesting stretch of the album begins with the acoustic “Fancy” followed by the jazzy “Little Miss Queen of Darkness”, which features John Dalton on bass as it was recorded during a short period in July 1966 when Quaife temporarily quit The Kinks. “You’re Lookin’ Fine” is a riff driven rocker, played in an understated manner which doesn’t quite realize its full potential, as demonstrated by Syndicate Of Sound’s 1969 cover of the song. The original album concluded with the fine pop/rocker “I’ll Remember”, featuring great guitar tones and an animated boogie piano beneath a deliberative, George Harrison-like melody. The song was the earliest track on the album, having originally been recorded during sessions for The Kink Kontroversy in 1965.

Less than a month after the release of Face to Face, the group released the non-album single “Dead End Street” / “Big Black Smoke”, which further enhanced the group’s sound. The Kinks’ music in 1966 commenced a five-year period that Ray Davies would later refer to as their “golden age”.

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1966 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1966 albums.

The Monkees

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The Monkees 1966 debutIn October 1966, The Monkees released their self-titled debut record, which would become the first of four consecutive number one albums in the US. The album debuted one month after The Monkees television series first aired. While the group was visually portrayed as a traditional four-piece rock band on TV, on this debut record the four members provided nothing but vocals on all but two of the twelve album tracks and no tracks featured all four members of the Monkees.

The initial concept for the Monkees dates back to 1962 and and an unsuccessful attempt to sell the series by filmmaker Bob Rafelson. Two years later Rafelson and Bert Schneider formed Raybert Productions and that year’s success of the Beatles’ debut film A Hard Day’s Night inspired the team to revive the idea for The Monkees. In April 1965, Raybert sold the show to Screen Gems Television with the original idea of casting the New York folk rock group, The Lovin’ Spoonful. After that initial plan fell through Davy Jones, a then-current actor at Screen Gems, was cast as the first member of a new fabricated group, with a call for the remainder of the band/cast members put out in September 1965. Out of more than 400 applicants, Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork were signed on to The Monkees. All three had previously worked as musicians at differing levels and, once The Monkees was picked up as a series, development of the musical side of the project accelerated.

Producers Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart were enlisted as chief songwriters for the project and Columbia and Screen Gems entered into a joint venture called Colgems Records as a label and distributor of Monkees records. While the newly formed group did practice playing as a group, Boyce and Hart decided to use top session players for the recording of two albums that were the soundtrack of the TV show’s first season. Music for the debut album was recorded over several sessions in Los Angeles during the summer of 1966.

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The Monkees by The Monkees
Released: October 10, 1966 (Colgems)
Produced by: Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart, Jack Keller & Michael Nesmith
Recorded: Los Angeles, June-July 1966
Side One Side Two
(Theme From) The Monkees
Saturday’s Child
I Wanna Be Free
Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day
Papa Gene’s Blues
Take a Giant Step
Last Train to Clarksville
This Just Doesn’t Seem to Be My Day
Let’s Dance On
I’ll Be True to You
Sweet Young Thing
Gonna Buy Me a Dog
Group Members
Micky Dolenz
Davy Jones
Mike Nesmith
Peter Tork

Beginning with the signature television opening “(Theme From) The Monkees”, the debut record features Dolenz on lead vocals for most tracks, including the rather hard rock turn on the Davis Gates-penned “Saturday’s Child”. “I Wanna Be Free” is the first of a trio to features Jones on lead vocals with Nesmith taking lead on the pair of tracks he composed, “Papa Gene’s Blues” and “Sweet Young Thing”. While Tork does not sing lead on any tracks, he is the only Monkee to play an instrument anywhere on the album, providing guitar on the two aforementioned Nesmith tracks.

“Last Train to Clarksville” was the album’s biggest hit as it topped the US pop charts and was subsequently featured in seven episodes of the TV series. This jangly folk/rock tune was musically inspired by the Beatles’ recent hit “Paperback Writer”, with lyrics of a man phoning the woman he loves and urging her to meet him at a train station before he must leave, possibly on his way to war.

The Monkees

The Monkees was a worldwide success, topping the charts in several countries, including the US where it remained at number one for a quarter of a year. The album only lost it’s top spot when the group’s follow-up album More of the Monkees, recorded it late 1966 and released in January 1967, took over the number one spot, Combined, the Monkees held the number one album spot in the US for over 30 consecutive weeks.

As swiftly as this success was obtained, the group’s television and recording popularity did not last all that long. After just two successful seasons, the Monkees’ television series was canceled in 1968 as the group members wanted to take a more personal stake in their music and film output. Head, their one and only feature film, was a commercial disaster as it directly challenged the Monkees’ curious stardom but this only served to disconcert their strongest fan base.

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1966 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1966 albums.

Fifth Dimension by The Byrds

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Fifth Dimension by The ByrdsThe Byrd‘s third album, released in the summer of 1966, Fifth Dimension saw a change both in style and personnel for the folk-rock group. Earlier in the year Gene Clark, who had previously been a chief songwriter, departed. The remaining quartet picked up some of the compositional slack while also moving the overall sound in a more psychedelic direction. The result was a record which was both uneven yet highly influential in the overall progress of rock and roll.

Formed in Los Angeles in 1964, the group found immediate success in 1965 with the albums Mr. Tambourine Man and Turn Turn Turn, both of which featured corresponding title songs that reached #1 on the American pop charts. With this, The Byrds were being promoted as “America’s answer to the Beatles”. The stress of this sudden success, along with a fear of flying, led Clark to depart the group in February 1966, shortly as they had begun recording tracks for the Fifth Dimension album.

Guitarists and vocalists Jim McGuinn and David Crosby stepped in to increase their songwriting efforts for this third album, but the group still needed to record four cover songs to complete the project.

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Fifth Dimension by The Byrds
Released: July 18, 1966 (Columbia)
Produced by: Allen Stanton
Recorded: Columbia Studios, Hollywood, January-May 1966
Side One Side Two
5D (Fifth Dimension)
Wild Mountain Thyme
Mr. Spaceman
I See You
What’s Happening?!?!
I Come and Stand at Every Door
Eight Miles High
Hey Joe
Captain Soul
John Riley
2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song)
Group Musicians
Jim McGuinn – Guitars, Vocals
David Crosby – Guitars, Vocals
Chris Hillman – Bass, Vocals
Michael Clarke – Drums, Harmonica

The album begins with “5D (Fifth Dimension)”, a very Dylan-esque folk song by McGuinn which is short but builds in intensity towards it’s end. The lyrical theme explains Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and the recording features guest Van Dyke Parks on organ. “Wild Mountain Thyme” follows as one of a pair of traditional folk songs repurposed with the Byrds 12-string signature sound on this album. The other is “John Riley” on side two, with both being introduced to the band by McGuinn. “Mr. Spaceman” is an upbeat folk/rock with a more earthy sound than the previous tracks, whimsical but very melodic lyrics and an interesting lead guitar.

After the disjointed psyche-rocker “I See You” comes Crosby’s best composition on this album, “What’s Happening?!?!” This features a moderate folk/rock vibe but with slight psychedelic overtones as it consistently alternates between verse lines and instrumental passages. The first side ends with the dark “I Come and Stand at Every Door”, written about a child who perished at Hiroshima with graphic details. Starting the flip side is “Eight Miles High”, the most popular song on the album and the only one composed and recorded while Gene Clark was still a bandmember. It features a good rockin’ intro with fine, harmonized vocals delivering lyrics written about the group’s flight to London in 1965, which can be interpreted as a blatant allegory about an LSD trip. With this, the song was both influential in developing the emerging musical style of psychedelia while failing to reach it’s commercial potential (although it did still reach the Top 20 in both the US and UK) as many radio stations refused to play it.

The Byrds in 1966

Unfortunately, most of the rest of side two is simply album filler. There’s a forgettable version of the oft-covered “Hey Joe”, the uninspiring cover of “John Riley” and the weird closer “2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song)”, which features heavy sound effects above a simple repeating country/folk trope. The only somewhat interesting track here is the instrumental “Captain Soul”, composed by all four group members including bassist Chris Hillman and drummer Michael Clarke with Clarke overdubbing harmonica above an entertaining surf-rock like backing rhythm.

Fifth Dimension peaked in the Top 30 in both the US and UK albums charts, making it less commercially successful than its 1965 predecessors. Later in 1966, The Byrds recorded their fourth album, Younger Than Yesterday, with a similar approach integrating elements of psychedelia and jazz. It was  released in 1967.

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1966 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1966 albums.

The Young Rascals

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The Young RascalsThe 1966 self-titled debut by The Young Rascals is made mostly of cover songs. However, this in no way implies that the album is unoriginal as the quartet’s original blend of rock and soul brands each song with a distinctive quality. In total, The Young Rascals expertly captures the sound of this fun and energetic new band with an advanced talent for escalating the emerging sound of mid sixties music.

The Young Rascals were formed in Garfield, New Jersey in early 1965. Keyboardist/vocalist Felix Cavaliere and vocalist Eddie Brigati, who were previously members of Joey Dee and the Starliters and, with the addition of guitarist Gene Cornish and drummer Dino Danelli, the band originally chose the name “The Rascals” (a name they would eventually adopt in later years). However, upon signing with Atlantic Records, discovered that it clashed with another group called “Harmonica Rascals”.

Just months after their formation, the group recorded and released their first single “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore”, co-written by lyricist Pam Sawyer and singer Laurie Burton. This fun and unique folk track with much range musically from the rich, Phil Spector-like vocal arrangements to the quasi-psychedelic guitar lead. The single and the group’s subsequent national television appearance set the stage for the recording of the group’s debut album.

 

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The Young Rascals by The Young Rascals
Released: March 28, 1966 (Atlantic)
Produced by: The Young Rascals
Recorded: September 1965 – March 1966
Side One Side Two
Slow Down
Baby Let’s Wait
Just a Little
I Believe
Do You Feel It
Good Lovin’
Like a Rolling Stone
Mustang Sally
I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore
In the Midnight Hour
Group Musicians
Felix Cavaliere – Keyboards, Vocals
Eddie Brigati – Percussion, Vocals
Gene Cornish – Guitars, Bass, Vocals
Dino Danelli – Drums

 

The B-side of The Young Rascal’s lead single, “Slow Down” starts the album as an upbeat and fun jam with plenty of choppy rock elements in this Larry Williams composition from the late 1950s. “Baby Let’s Wait” is another song by Sawyer and Burton written for the group as a long drum roll by Danelli introduces this emotional, R&B-inspired ballad. On the cover “Just a Little”, the bass and acoustic guitar takes the musical forefront on a track which has a Latin overall feel which meshes well with the smooth lead vocals and rich harmonies.

“I Believe” features the most soulful feel yet, highlighted by the very dramatic performance vocally by Brigati and the Hammond organ by Cavaliere. The first and only track written by members of the band, “Do You Feel It” is a dance-oriented, call and response sixties rocker which acts as a good warm up for the album’s climatic centerpiece, “Good Lovin'”. Written by Arthur Resnick and Rudy Clark, this crisp, short and direct rock jam with just enough input by all group members to balance it at just the right level sonically. Highlighting it all is Cavaliere’s distinct, melodic organ solo which soars to a rare level that establishes the song as an all time classic.

The Young Rascals

Much of the rest of side two is comprised of covers of well-known contemporary songs. There is an apt cover of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”, which sticks pretty close to the original from Highway 61 Revisited and works fine save for the over-the-top harmonized chorus sections and other minor parts where the group tries to be fancy. Next, The Young Rascals play an almost ridiculously slow version of “Mustang Sally”, with a sloshy rock n’ soul groove and vocals which are legitimately soulful throughout. The closer “In the Midnight Hour” is an almost direct copy of Wilson Pickett’s original, which is a pretty impressive feat in itself.

The Young Rascals reached the Top 20 on the album charts and sold well in the U.S. The group had continued success in subsequent years as Brigati and Cavaliere began composing original songs which would establish them as one of the top acts of the late 1960s.

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1966 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1966 albums.

 

Sunshine Superman by Donovan

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Sunshine Superman by DonovanEnglish folk singer Donovan found a new voice with his eclectic and slightly psychedelic third album, Sunshine Superman. Originally released in the US in September 1966, the album would not be released in Donovan’s native country until much later due to a professional contractual dispute. This record is notable as one of the first pop albums to extensively use the sitar and other Eastern musical instrumentation while maintaining an overall radio-friendly sound.

Born Donovan Philips Leitch and of Scottish descent, Donovan’s initial breakthrough came in London in early 1965 with the folk-inspired single “Catch the Wind” and the subsequent acoustic folk albums What’s Bin Did and What’s Bin Hid and Fairytale. However, Bob Dylan’s famed trip to the UK that spring pigeonholed Donovan as a British “Dylan clone” in the press, a label he desperately wanted to shake and establish his own distinct musical identity.

In late 1965, Donovan was introduced to producer Mickie Most who, in turn, collaborated Donovan with top-notch London session players such as future Cream bassist Jack Bruce and future Led Zeppelin members John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page. Further, the early 1966 sessions for Sunshine Superman branched Donovan’s music out into the realms of jazz, blues, Eastern music, and psychedelic pop. These sessions proved to be very prolific and included early recordings of several tracks which were omitted from this album but appeared on later studio albums and collections.

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Sunshine Superman by Donovan
Released: August 26, 1966 (Epic)
Produced by: Mickie Most
Recorded: Columbia Studios, Hollywood & EMI Studios, London, January-May 1966
Side One Side Two
Sunshine Superman
Legend of a Girl Child Linda
Three King Fishers
Ferris Wheel
Bert’s Blues
Season of the Witch
The Trip
Guinevere
The Fat Angel
Celeste
Primary Musicians
Donovan – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Donovan – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Jimmy Page – Guitars
Eric Ford – Guitars
Spike Healy – Bass
Bobby Orr – Drums

Released a few months before the album of the same name, “Sunshine Superman” made an immediate impact which launched it to the top of the charts as Donovan’s sole number one hit in the USA. The song is rhythm built with stand-up bass by Spike Healy along with a slight sitar by Shawn Phillips in a simple but clever arrangement with subtle psychedelic elements and a cool rock guitar lead. This first product of the artist’s collaboration with Most is a vanguard of the fusion of psychedelia in pop music.

“Legend of a Girl Child Linda” is a finger picked, traditional folk track with elongated vocals and fairy-tale like images painted by the thick lyrics. “Three King Fishers” is pure, Eastern-flavored folk with heavy reverb on the vocals and a delivery which foreshadows Syd Barrett on Pink Floyd’s debut a year later, while “Ferris Wheel” makes a slowly progressive entrance before (as its name suggests) it gives a sense of childhood adventure. “Bert’s Blues” closes the first side as a smokey yet truly sixties flavored jazz track with a fine arrangement including harpsichord and string quartet.

Donovan in 1966

“Season of the Witch” features a funky electric arrangement with a unique and weird vibe that was entertaining enough to make the song a minor hit in November 1966. “The Trip” features a bluesy acoustic rhythm in the intro which is soon joined by the deeper rhythms of bass and drums and a slight stream-of-consciousness lyrical delivery by Donovan. This forthright, acid-themed song gradually builds into a nice groove through its four minute duration with the inquisitive hook “What goes on?” being repeated throughout. After the subtle, finger-picked English style ancient folk of “Guinevere” comes an overtly psychedelic and strongly Eastern-influenced gem called “The Fat Angel”. The album closes strongly with “Celeste”, featuring somber but melodic vocals which perfectly accent the gentle strumming and somewhat spastic overlays of tones, making it spacey and Earthy all at once.

After its release in September 1966, Sunshine Superman was a huge success in America. Due to contractual disputes between Pye Records and Epic Records, it wouldn’t be released in the UK until mid 1967, after Donovan had already released a successful follow-up album, Mellow Yellow in the US.

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1966 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1966 albums.

Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys

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Album of the Year, 1966

Pet Sounds by The Beach BoysTo this day, The Beach Boys remain the most commercially successful American rock band with 36 Top 40 hits. Most of these hits were scored between 1962 and 1965, when the bulk of the band members were still teenagers. In 1966, the band took a radical turn under the leadership of Brian Wilson with the release of the innovative and artistic Pet Sounds. Brian had ceased touring with the band, which left him plenty of time to concentrate on producing what he had declared would be “the greatest album ever made”. He enlisted the help of over 50 session musicians, performing instruments from all across the musical universe. Although a commercial failure as compared to the group’s phenomenal success in recent years, this album would go on through history being critically acclaimed and lauded as one of the greatest albums ever by several rock publications. Although we don’t take a position on “ever” here at Classic Rock Review, we have selected Pet Sounds as our top album for the year 1966.

The eleventh overall album by the Beach Boys, Pet Sounds was truly unique in its approach and production. Much of the album was produced while the band was on tour in Japan using the cream of Los Angeles session musicians known as “The Wrecking Crew” with Brian Wilson in charge of production and musical composition and Tony Asher providing much of the lyrics. When the band returned from the tour, they found a nearly complete album requiring little more than their vocals to finish it off. This caused some friction within the group, especially from lead singer Mike Love who was also the band’s chief lyricist during their early, hit-making years. Love called the project “Brian’s ego music” while other group members worried that they would lose their core audience if they changed their successful musical formula. Founding members Al Jardine and Dennis Wilson also reportedly had problems with the abandonment of “good times and fast cars” in the Beach Boys songs.

The Beach Boys

The true catalyst that set the tone for Pet Sounds was the December 1965 release of The Beatles’ album Rubber Soul. The album was filled with good, all original songs, unlike the standard practice of filling albums with a few commercial hits and much filler. As Brian Wilson recalled of his first impressions of that album;

“I really wasn’t quite ready for the unity. It felt like it all belonged together. Rubber Soul was a collection of songs that somehow went together like no album ever made before…”

Wilson started by contacting Asher, then a young lyricist and copywriter who had been working on advertising jingles, who Wilson had met in a recording studio months earlier. While Wilson articulated the general vibe of each song, Asher interpreted this into actual lyrics. Most of the songs for Pet Sounds were composed over the winter of 1965-1966. Love is co-credited on just a few tracks, notably the opening “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “I Know There’s an Answer”, which was originally composed as the LSD-ridden “Hang Onto Your Ego” but was rewritten and retitled at the insistence of Love.

Developing his production methods over several years, Brian Wilson refined and developed many of the techniques innovated by Phil Spector. With the new, state-of-the-art Ampex 8-track recorder, Wilson would first record all the backing tracks, mixing them down to stereo or even mono versions, leaving 6 or 7 tracks open for the Beach Boys complex vocal leads and harmonies. He has since stated that he named the album using Spector’s initials as a tribute. Unlike Spector however, Wilson was almost completely deaf in his right ear, making his accomplishments all the more remarkable.

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Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys
Released: May 16, 1966 (Capitol)
Produced by: Brian Wilson
Recorded: Los Angeles, July 1965 – April 1966
Side One Side Two
Wouldn’t It Be Nice
You Still Believe In Me
That’s Not Me
Don’t Talk (Put Head On My Shoulder)
I’m Waiting For the Day
Let’s Go Away for Awhile
Sloop John B
God Only Knows
I Know There’s An Answer
Here Today
I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times
Pet Sounds
Caroline, No
Band Musicians
Brian Wilson – Organ, Piano, Keyboards, Orchestration, Vocals
Carl Wilson – Guitars, Lead & Backing Vocals
Mike Love – Lead Vocals
Al Jardine – Lead & Backing Vocals
Dennis Wilson – Drums, Vocals

The group’s 1966 hit “Good Vibrations” was originally intended to be on the album (and, in fact, presented to Capitol Records as an example of the album’s sound), but to everyone’s surprise was cut from the running order by Brian Wilson. Released as a single, the song went on to top the charts worldwide as well as win a Grammy for song of the year.

Pet Sounds starts with “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, which sets the pace for the album with the carnival-like intro, broken by the vocals of Brian Wilson which are upbeat yet melancholy all at once. The song was released as a single and peaked at #8 in the summer of 1966 and contains some signature, complex Beach Boys harmonies making it a sort of bridge from their good times surf music to this new frontier of art rock.

Each of the songs on the album’s first side introduces a new technique by Wilson. “You Still Believe In Me” was the first song for which Asher provided lyrics, derived from a working song by Wilson called “In My Childhood”. It has a Baroque style vibe and an almost teenage-like lover’s lament in the lyric and vocals. “That’s Not Me” is quite psychedelic and with very unique and minimalist instrumentation under a standard vocal line and chorus, with lead vocals by Mike Love and the rest of the Beach Boys playing most of the instruments, an oddity on this album. In contrast, “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)” is a beautiful but sad song performed entirely by Brian Wilson and session musicians. These session players included bassist Carol Kaye and drummer Hal Blaine who make a strong impact on the song “I’m Waiting For the Day”, which contains a constant rhythm against the near constant fluctuations in arrangement in this asymmetrical tangent of a song.

The Beach Boys Sloop John B singleThe track “Sloop John B” had been suggested to Wilson by Al Jardine and was recorded during the previous summer of 1965. It was a traditional Caribbean folk song that dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. It is a light and fun song to end the first side with an arrangement that constantly builds with instrumentation, intensity, and vocal layering. Brian Wilson, who was not a big fan of traditional folk music, changed many of the lyrics to the song and actually auditioned each group member for lead vocals, as he wanted it to have a distinctively “rock” sound in the end. Ultimately, he chose himself and Mike Love for this task.

Pet Sounds contains a couple of instrumental tracks, another quality that was not typical for albums in 1966. Both “Let’s Go Away for Awhile” and the title song “Pet Sounds” had originally been recorded as backing tracks for existing songs, but were ultimately chosen to be published without vocals. “Let’s Go Away..” is a calm and grown up piece of 1960’s soft jazz with marimba and acoustic guitar holding the piece together under various orchestral instruments, including violins, piano, saxophones, oboe, vibes, a guitar with a coke bottle on the strings. Originally titled “The Old Man And The Baby”, Brian Wilson once stated that the song was “the most satisfying piece of music I’ve ever made”. “Pet Sounds” is more percussion driven, carving out a strong slice of sixties identity for Wilson and the band. It was originally called “Run James Run” and intended to be used as the theme of a James Bond movie.

The second side of the album starts with the two masterpiece songs on Pet Sounds. With the ethereal vocals of the youngest brother Carl Wilson, “God Only Knows” may be the perfect love song with the edge of excellent instrumentation, arrangement and harmonies later in the song. The song was one of the first commercial songs to use the word ‘God’ in its title, a decision that Wilson and Asher agonized over, fearing it would not get airplay as a result. With French horns in the song’s famous introduction and a harpsichord throughout, the song is distinct and unique and a true classic. “I Know There’s An Answer” is another melodic, well-crafted, and entertaining song which is distinctly more upbeat than its predecessor. It contains distinct and entertaining sprinkles of bass harmonica by Tommy Morgan in the verses and later as a lead solo. Influenced by an LSD trip, the song also features a banjo section and intense vocals during the choruses.

Rounding out the album are three more excellent compositions of differing tone and tempo. “Here Today” sounds like it should have been single material. An upbeat love song with more conventional and conservative arrangements, it is song about love always having the potential for heartbreak never too far away. It contains an orchestral instrumental break influenced by composer J.S. Bach. “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” is perhaps the most profound statement made by Brian Wilson on this album. The lyrics are about the loss of innocence in growing up and to a lesser extent, his evolving role in the band and all those who thought he was crazy for doing Pet Sounds. The final track, “Caroline, No” extends this longing for innocence and the static, status quo. The song was apparently dedicated to a high school love interest named Carol and was originally titled “Carol, I Know” but morphed to the other title and was actually released as a Brian Wilson single in early 1966, his first and only “solo” work during the groups Capitol years. The song (and album) ends with the sound of an approaching and passing train and a dog furiously barking at it.

Pet Sounds would be at once the apex of the Beach Boy’s artistic and output and the termination of their hit-making years. Wilson attempted to follow it up in 1967 with a project called Smile but it fell apart due to his mental problems and drug use. In that sense, the other band members may been correct about “not messing with the formula”. But what would the world have missed if they had simply stuck to writing more songs about fast cars, good times, and women?

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1966 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1966 Albums.

 

Buffalo Springfield

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Buffalo Springfield debut albumBuffalo Springfield was a very unique rock band. On the one hand, they were loaded with young talent who played together for a very short time in the late sixties before ultimately splitting in several directions and forming some of the top folk-rock acts of the seventies, making Buffalo Springfield tremendously influential in this respect. On the other hand, their actual output was good but far from spectacular and yet they’ve been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where many superior artists have not, making Buffalo Springfield tremendously overrated in that respect. Similarly, their 1966 self-titled debut album contains many of the same macro traits of the band itself, a pleasant listen throughout but lacking anything really unique or breakthrough that would make it a top-level “classic”.

The story of how the group came together is quite entertaining and legendary. Steven Stills was a talented session musician who had tried out unsuccessfully for the Monkees in the summer of 1966. While that band was formed to cash in on the success of the Beatles, producer Barry Friedman wanted to assemble a further band in the folk-rock vein of the Byrds, and assured Stills a contract if he could assemble an adequate band. Stills recruited an ex-band mate, guitarist Richie Furay. One day Friedman, Stills, and Furay were stuck in traffic on Sunset Boulevard when Stills recognized Neil Young driving a black hearse in the opposite lanes. Stills had met Young a year earlier in northern Canada and was deeply impressed by his talent. After making an illegal u-turn and chasing Young down, they pleasantly discovered that he had come to L.A. with bassist Bruce Palmer to try and form a band. With the addition of drummer Dewey Martin, Buffalo Springfield was formed and through late 1966, the band wrote and recorded songs for their debut album.

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Buffalo Springfield by Buffalo Springfield
Released: December 5, 1966 (Atco Original)
Produced by: Charles Greene & Brian Stone
Recorded: Los Angeles, July-September, 1966
Side One Side Two
For What It’s Worth
Go And Say Goodbye
Sit Down I Think I Love You
Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing
Hot Dusty Roads
Everybody’s Wrong
Flying On the Ground Is Wrong
Burned
Do I Have to Come Right and Say It
Leave
Out of My Mind
Pay the Price
Band Musicians
Steven Stills – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Rich Furay – Guitars, Vocals
Neil Young – Guitars, Harmonica, Piano, Vocals
Bruce Palmer – Bass
Dewey Martin – Drums, Vocals

Buffalo Springfield was originally released in mono, but when the single “For What It’s Worth” became a hit, the album was re-released in stereo with that song replacing “Baby Don’t Scold Me”, which was never released in a stereo version. All songs were written either by Stills or Young, but record executives insisted that Furay sing the bulk of Young’s compositions because they found Young’s voice “too weird”. Young did sing a few songs on side two, one average song called “Burned” and a better, quasi-psychedelic song, with heavily processed guitars and thick harmonies Called “Out Of My Mind”.

Some of the highlights of the first side include Still’s “Sit Down I Think I Love You”, with a nicely mixed rhythm, moderate beat, and harmonized vocals, and Young’s “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing”, sung by Furay, a softer song which leans towards the sound of the Rascals. “Flying On the Ground Is Wrong”, also sung by Furay, has the approach of a traditional love song with beauty and style, while “Leave” has a rockabilly vibe, with a constant lead guitar and nice chords changes in the verses.

But without a doubt, “For What It’s Worth” is the true highlight of the album. It was written by Stills after he witnessed a protest by young people over a Sunset Strip nightclub being closed down, and the police reaction that the protest sparked. The song itself is excellent in its simplicity, with a two chord, rotating pattern understated by the minimal use of acoustic, rhythm guitar, bass, and kick drum and accented by the sharp, single note lead guitar, which is the signature of the song. Stills vocals are perfect for this song and Young breaks in with some fine echoed lead guitar during the later verses. The song went on to become a top ten hit by March 1967, and would be their most popular song as a group.

Buffalo Springfield would produce two more albums before disbanding in 1968. During that time Palmer was arrested and deported back to Canada and was replaced by Jim Messina who would later go on to be one half of the seventies hit-makers Loggins and Messina. Rich Furay would go on to form the pop band Poco, while Steven Stills formed the classic trio Crosby, Stills and Nash. Neil Young went on to have a tremendous solo career as well as occasionally joining up with that trio making it Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

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1966 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1966 albums.

 

“Roger the Engineer”
by The Yardbirds

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Roger the Engineer by The YardbirdsThe Yardbirds put out their strongest album ever in 1966 as well as their only album of all original material. It originally had an eponymous title but has come to be known as Roger the Engineer because of the sketch (drawn by guitarist Chris Dreja) on the album’s cover of Roger Cameron, the album’s engineer at Advision Studios in London. The album was co-produced by bassist Paul Samwell-Smith, who left the band shortly after and was replaced by Jimmy Page, who filled in on bass until Dreja mastered the instrument and Page returned to his primary instrument, the electric guitar. But the central influence that shaped the sound of this album was the innovation and experimentation of lead guitarist Jeff Beck. His heavy blues and guitar distortion is considered by many to be the earliest precursor to heavy metal.

Beck joined the Yardbirds in May 1965 after founding guitarist Eric Clapton decided to leave the band. With Beck, the group began to expand their heavy blues base into different sects of rock and roll including unexplored areas of psychedelia, middle-aged chants, and Indian-influenced music. Primarily a singles-oriented band, each 7-inch release by The Yardbirds added new dimensions to the band’s sound or expanded on the ideas of the previous single. With Beck’s first full album with the group and the band’s first attempt at an album of all-original material, the band brought this experimentation to a new level, while still holding on to the core of blues roots.

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The Yardbirds by The Yardbirs
Released: July 15, 1966 (Atco Original)
Produced by: Paul Samwell-Smith & Simon Napier-Bell
Recorded: Advision Studios, London, Spring-Summer, 1966
Side One Side Two
Lost Woman
Over, Under, Sideways, Down
The Nazz Are Blue
I Can’t Make Your Way
Rack My Mind
Farewell
Hot House of Omagarashid
Jeff’s Boogie
He’s Always There
Turn into Earth
What Do You Want
Ever Since the World Began
Band Musicians
Keith Relf – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Jeff Beck – Lead Guitars, Vocals
Chris Dreja – Guitars, Piano, Vocals
Paul Samwell-Smith – Bass, Vocals
Jim McCarty – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

The album starts strong with “Lost Woman”, with a driving bass line and some fantastic dynamics from the guitar-free verse to guitar-intense chorus. The bridge contains a drum run with harmonica, guitar and bass spread out nicely, leading to a simmering guitar jam by Beck that ever intensifies towards the end.

“Over Under Sideways Down” may be the most popular song on the album due to its catchy, mid-eastern-inspired guitar riff over an upbeat, bluesy bass line, almost like two songs put together. The song was co-written by drummer Jim McCarty, who plays a classic rock beat throughout, holding the song together nicely while the fine lyrics paint a picture of the “upside-down” nature of fame.

Jeff Beck’s sole foray into lead vocals is on his pyschedelic blues song “The Nazz Are Blue”, a fine example of the better results of experimentation on this album. In the heart of the album are several more experimental and avant garde songs, such as “Hot House of Omagarashid” and “Turn Into Earth”, each driven by a steady, percussive beat an odd, sometimes haunting chants along with other sound effects. There are also a fair share of standard, upbeat blues songs like “Rack My Mind”, with a simple guitar riff and harmonica and the instrumentals “Farewell” and “Jeff’s Boogie”, where Beck shows off some fascinating speed technique for the day. “I Can’t Make Your Way” is almost folk, with multiple vocal harmonies and harmonica by Relf, and an edgy guitar interlude which sparks some life in the song. “He’s Always There” combines a Bossa-nova beat with a rock arrangement, something that would be expanded upon later by The Doors as well as directly sampled by The Pussycat Dolls.

The Yardbirds in 1966

Two songs which were not originally included on the album, but have been included on all modern day pressings of the album are “Psycho Daisies” and “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago”. Recorded after the departure of Samwell-Smith, both tracks include the dualing lead guitars of Beck and Page, one of the few Yardbirds recordings to do so. “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” also includes Page’s future Led Zeppelin bandmate John Paul Jones as the session bass player and has become a classic song in its own right with its frantic guitars and erratic, psychopathic rhythm.

A bold and innovative album, “Roger the Engineer” has been described as a heavy blues oriented version of a Beatles album. Unfortunately, The Yardbirds would never again make an album like this. By October 1966, Beck was out of the group and Jimmy Page took the forefront as the band’s lead guitarist and producer. The next two years saw the original Yardbirds unravel as each member, save Page left to pursue other interests. Undaunted, Page went on to find replacements for the departed members in singer Robert Plant, drummer John Bonham, and Jones on bass to form “The New Yardbirds”, which eventually became Led Zeppelin.

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1966 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1966 albums.

 

A Quick One by The Who

Buy A Quick One

A Quick One by The WhoThe Who‘s second album is widely regarded as the pivotal album for the group due to their rapid departure from the R&B/pop formula featured on the band’s debut, My Generation, as well as a migration towards more original songwriting. The album was released under the title A Quick One on Reaction Records in the U.K., but American record company executives at Decca Records released the album under the title Happy Jack, rather than the sexually suggestive title of the original release. Due to the song “Happy Jack” being a top 40 hit in the US this track replaced a cover of the hit “Heat Wave” which was included on the original UK version of the album.

The band began to grapple with more complex themes, both melodic and lyrical, especially on their first mini-opera “A Quick One While He’s Away”, the album’s title track. This nine-minute suite contains song snippets telling a story of infidelity and reconciliation. The album was recorded in London with the band’s co-manager Kit Lambert as producer. While a select few of the songs on A Quick One became staples of classic rock radio, it is the hidden gems that really bring out the charm of this album. Further this album is the most diverse as far as songwriting, with each band member penning some of the tracks. Although this fact makes the album interesting, it also makes the album uneven as it is definitely superior on the second side. It is clear that not all members are in the songwriting class of guitarist Pete Townshend, who would go on to write most of the band’s future material by himself.

This future was bright for The Who, as they rapidly evolved subsequent to A Quick One. Their sound became more focused and the songs themselves became at once more artistic and more melodic. In this sense, the band’s evolution in 1966 went on to serve them better than any other mid-sixties British pop group.

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A Quick One by The Who
Released: December 9, 1966 (Reaction)
Produced by: Kit Lambert
Recorded: London, September-November, 1966
Side One Side Two
Run Run Run
Boris the Spider
I Need You
Whiskey Man
Heat Wave
Cobwebs and Strange
Don’t Look Away
See My Why
So Sad About Us
A Quick One While He’s Away
Song Included On Alternate “Happy Jack” Version
Happy Jack
Band Musicians
Roger Daltry – Lead Vocals, Trombone, Percussion
Pete Townshend – Guitars, Keyboards, Penny Whistle, Vocals
John Entwistle – Bass, Keyboards, Horns, Vocals
Keith Moon – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

Being that each band member wrote and sang lead vocals on at least one song from this album, there are a variety of combinations throughout A Quick One. Singer Roger Daltry wrote “See My Way”, an average song which is assisted greatly by the addition of French horn and trumpet by bassist John Entwistle.

Each side of the album opens with songs written by Townshend but with Daltry on lead vocals, a combo which would become commonplace in future years. “Run Run Run” is a remnant from their mod pop days with an amplified, slightly distorted, driving guitar accented by bass with not too much fluctuation until the song breaks down after the lead and then picks back up in a higher key. “Don’t Look Away” opens the second side on a high note with an excellent composition which fluctuates from folk to rock to blue grass. “So Sad About Us” moves the sound closer towards the classic-era Who, especially with the bass and drums sound.

Entwistle added a couple of fine songs to the album’s first side. “Boris the Spider” is memorable and catchy, albeit almost “monster mash-ish” in its construction, especially when he uses his deep “evil” voice during the choruses. His other effort, “Whiskey Man” is closest to the Beatles circa Rubber Soul with a bit of “doominess” to it and a definite edge with French horn, also performed by Entwistle. This is perhaps the best song on the first side.

Drummer Keith Moon shows his strong surfer music influence with “I Need You” on which he also performs lead vocals. The drums are placed right up front in the mix with touches of bouncy organ above the guitar and bass. Moon’s other contribution is one of the more bizarre songs the band would ever record called “Cobwebs and Stange”. This instrumental alternates from jug-band to drum solo several times and contains some odd instrumentation including a trombone and bass drum performed by Daltry.

The Who Happy Jack singleThe only song written and sung by Townsend is “Happy Jack”, the only true “hit” on the album, peaking at #3 on the U.K. charts and the band’s first top 40 hit in the U.S. This odd song was apparently about an old man that Townshend and his friends would tease when they were children, but who would never get angry, only smiling in response. It is a pleasant-sounding number that focuses on the rhythm section of Townshend and Entwistle, as well as some nice vocal harmonies. The song did not appear on the original U.K. release of A Quick One, which instead included the cover of Martha & the Vandells hit “Heat Wave”. This was one of many covers recorded around the same time, including “Batman”, “Bucket T”, and “Barbara Ann”, all of which were kept off the original albums but later added as bonus tracks on CD versions.

No matter which version of the album, all songs were short and direct, clocking in under 3:05 until we reach the final, 9-minute-plus “A Quick One While He’s Away”. There are six distinct parts to the song, starting with an a cappella section, harmonized by all four members. Daltry then uses his best “Dylan” voice for the “Crying Town” section, with Entwistle playing the part of “Ivor the Engine Driver” and Townshend taking lead in the concluding “You Are Forgiven”. This song tells the story of an unnamed girl whose lover has been gone for over a year and she commits infidelity, to which she ultimately confesses and is “forgiven”. Despite the fact that certain music sections closely mimic some country and western standards and there is some harsh editing when fusing parts together, the song as a whole is a true original and future live performances were cohesive and excellent as is evident in this 1968 performance below.

They would go on to create the pop-art influenced The Who Sell Out in 1967, the world’s first rock opera Tommy in 1969, their most popular album (and our 1971 Album of the Year) Who’s Next in 1971 and their masterpiece double album Quadrophenia in 1973. All would be more popular and more highly regarded than A Quick One, but this 1966 effort was the catalyst which made those possible.

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1966 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1966 albums.

 

Love

Buy Love

Love debut albumThe Los Angeles based band Love had a rather short but important ride on the sixties rock scene. Although they never quite reached national or international fame, the band was extremely influential in California on artists such as Jimi Hendrix and the Doors. Starting with their eponymous debut album in 1966, Love released three distinct and original albums through 1967 with their first being the most rock-oriented. The strongly stereo-ized sound of this album features strummed, Byrds-like guitar chords in one channel with crisp, riff-fueled bass and drums rhythm in the other. It is all topped off with the muddy, emotional vocals of lead singer and chief songwriter Arthur Lee.

Although there is little doubt that much of what makes up the Love album is heavily borrowed from contemporary acts, there is definitely something distinct and original about how it is performed and produced. These excellent folk-pop anthems would certainly not be out of place on any sixties fan’s stereo, yet there is an unmistakable edge here. Beyond the heavily Byrds influenced style, there are some songs that veer off in the “garage rock” direction, providing a solid template for future bands such as Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, and Rush.

Following the album’s release in April 1966, Love went back into the studio to work on a follow-up, starting with the recording and release of the song “7 and 7 Is”, which became a Top 40 hit and their highest charting single. These late ’66 recordings would form their second album De Capo, which delved deeply into psychedelia in early 1967. A third album, Forever Changes in late in ’67, would be the band’s highest regarded album, when they were right on the brink of disintegrating due to heavy drug use and creative differences.

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Love by Love
Released: April, 1966 (Elecktra)
Produced by: Jac Holzman & Arthur Lee
Recorded: Sunset Sound, Hollywood, December 1965 – January 1966
Side One Side Two
My Little Red Book
Can’t Explain
A Message to Pretty
My Flash on You
Softly to Me
No Matter What You Do
Emotions
You I’ll Be Following
Gazing
Hey Joe
Signed D.C.
Colored Balls Falling
Mushroom Clouds
And More
Band Musicians
Arthur Lee – Lead Vocals, Harmonica, Percussion
Bryan Maclean – Guitars, Vocals
Johnny Echols – Lead Guitars
Ken Forssi – Bass
Alban Pfisterer – Drums

The album begins with a driving, thumping rock rendition of a song written by Burt Bacharach, called “Little Red Book”, a title which seems to merge the “little black book” of past dates concept with Mao’s mandatory communist “little red book” in China. The song sets the pace for an interesting and exciting first side of the album, which commences with the short instrumental “Emotions”, which has flavorings of surf music with its echoed guitars along with a marching drum tempo.

“Can’t Explain” is another rocker fueled by the bass of Ken Forssi, which stands out as a very advanced sound for the day. This standout bass is revisited several times throughout the album, including on the frenzied song “My Flash On You” and the cover of Billy Roberts’ “Hey Joe”, which seemed to be mandatory in those days. Aside from Love, this latter song was covered by The Surfaris, The Leaves, The Byrds, Tim Rose, Wilson Pickett, Cher, Deep Purple, The Mothers of Invention, Band of Joy, and of course, The Jimi Hendrix Experience – and these were just the covers in the late sixties. Scores more cover versions came in the subsequent decades.

The two guitarists of the band, Bryan Maclain and Johnny Echols are hard to distinguish, except in the hard rocking “Gazing” where Lee calls them out by name during their individual solos.

The album does add some diversity with softer songs. Although it gets a bit melodramatic with the vocal inflections, “A Message to Pretty” is otherwise a nice calm, strumming love song, topped with harmonica, and a testament to the great production of this album by Jac Holzman. “Softly To Me” takes a very different musical approach and a change of pace with Maclean taking on songwriting and lead vocals duties. “Signed D.C.” has a very western feel, with much darker lyrics referring to the sufferings of a junkie, apparently verbatim from a letter by Love’s ex-drummer Don Conka (D.C.), who was ousted from the band due to drug problems. The calm “Mushroom Clouds” seems to be a perfect road map for the slow and deliberate songs of post-Barret era Pink Floyd.

Although the album does seem to lose momentum towards the end, there is little doubt that Love is an important album from 1966, when the evolution of rock music was on hyper speed.

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1966 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1966 albums.