Buffalo Springfield debut album

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

 

Roger the Engineer by The Yardbirds

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

 

A Quick One by The Who

A Quick One by The Who

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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 debut album

Love

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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.

 

Fresh Cream by Cream

Fresh Cream by Cream

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Fresh Cream by CreamThe British blues-rock trio Cream was, perhaps, the first to be deemed a “super group”. Their 1966 debut, Fresh Cream was produced by Robert Stigwood and includes a true fusion of genres brought together by the already vast experience of three young musicians. These genres ranged from a hybrid of blues to hard rock with just a tad of psychedelic rock, and were often combined with lyrics drawn from a variety of contemporary and historic subjects and figures. Although the group would not have a long career together, the music they produced in the late 1960s would cast a net of influence which would reverberate for decades.

Drummer Ginger Baker employed a strong jazz style and improvisation he honed when he frequently performed lengthy drum solos in various groups during the early 1960s. He is also noted for using a variety of other percussion instruments and for his application of African rhythms. Bassist and lead vocalist Jack Bruce got his start in London with Blues Incorporated, in which he played the double bass. The band, (which later also included Baker) played an eclectic mix of bebop and blues. Bruce eventually switched from double bass to electric bass as the band morphed into The Graham Bond Organization, a more dedicated rhythm and blues group, which released two studio albums and a few singles in the early sixties. Guitarist Eric Clapton got his major start with the Yardbirds, where his reputation as a blues-influenced guitar legend grew quickly. In fact, after the band took a more commercial turn in 1964 and began to get a measure of international success, Clapton left the Yardbirds to join the far less commercial John Mayell and the Bluesbreakers.

In July 1966 Baker, Bruce, and Clapton founded Cream and began playing a live set which would provide the material for Fresh Cream later that year. While grounded heavily in blues, the album touches on all of the member’s collective experiences along with a dab of the newly formed genre of psychedelia. In the process, the album opened the door to all kinds of serious and experimental rock music that was to come.

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Fresh Cream by Cream
Released: December 9, 1966 (Reaction)
Produced by: Robert Stigwood
Recorded: London, July-October 1966
Side One Side Two
I Feel Free
N.S.U.
Sleepy Time Time
Dreaming
Sweet Wine
Spoonful
Cat’s Squirrel
Four Until Late
Rollin’ and Tumblin’
I’m So Glad
Toad
Band Musicians
Jack Bruce – Lead Vocals, Bass, Harmonica, Piano
Eric Clapton – Guitars, Vocals
Ginger Baker – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

“I Feel Free” was Cream’s breakthrough single as a band. It marked a multi-genre confluence, led by a capella vocals in the verse before breaking into a full-out rock tune with melodic lead vocals by Bruce. The song was only included on the American version of the LP, replacing “Spoonful” from the British version. This cover of Willie Dixon’s classic “Spoonful” is a gem of a blues jam on Fresh Cream with dueling guitar and harmonica leads on top of an ever-intensive rhythm in the song’s mid-section. Bruce’s vocals are at their height here as are Clapton’s guitar licks.

The odd and intense “N.S.U.” (which allegedly stands for the venereal disease “non-specific urethritis”) is complete with driving guitar and drums and a whining, wailing vocal line. “Dreaming” is a ballad with a psychedelic twist, featuring a vocal duet by Bruce and Clapton. The calm, strummed guitar chords are right out of the late fifties, giving the song a nice nostalgic mood.

“Sleepy Time Time” is the album’s first hint at the updated, traditional blues which they return to time and again. The song was co-written by Bruce and his wife Janet Godfrey who also co-wrote “Sweet Wine” with Ginger Baker. This latter song has a much more pop-rock feel, almost bubblegum pop with its nonsensical vocal signature line.

CreamThe second side begins with a signature rendition of the traditional instrumental “Cat’s Squirrel”, with Bruce again pulling double duty of bass and harmonica (along with some ad-libbed scat vocals in the middle). “Four Until Late” is lighter arrangement of a Robert Johnson song, with Clapton taking lead vocals, while the much more intense blues of McKinley Morganfield’s “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” is surely more satisfying to the connoisseurs of that great genre.

The remake Skip James’ early 1930s spiritual “I’m So Glad” is perhaps the band at their best on this debut album, combining complex rhythm guitar riffs along with a funky bass line, intense, jazzy drums and a fast-based bluesy guitar lead, all topped by an excellent hook and well delivered, melodic vocals and harmonies. The album completes with “Toad”, an instrumental featuring a long drum solo by Ginger Baker. This was well ahead of its time, replicated years later by John Bonham and countless other drum “Superstars” of the 1970s.

By the end of Fresh Cream, the critical listener is left wanting more, a true testament to the album’s quality. Further, although less than half the tracks on the album were totally original, the album as a whole was tremendously original. It set a strong template for the legendary “classic rock” genre which was to come in subsequent years.

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

Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators

The Psychedelic Sounds of
The 13th Floor Elevators

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Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor ElevatorsEmerging from Austin, Texas in the mid-sixties was the band which many consider to be the pioneers of psychedelic rock, The 13th Floor Elevators. The band was led by guitarist and vocalist Roky Erickson and lyricist Tommy Hall who added a very special and unique element to the band’s sound with the “electric jug”. This was a crock-jug with a microphone held up to it while it was being blown into. However, in contrast to traditional musical jug technique, Hall vocalized musical runs into the mouth of the jug, using the jug to create echo and distortion of his voice.

The band’s debut album, The Psychedelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators was recorded in Texas and released in late 1966. The band found some commercial and artistic success in 1966-67, before dissolving amid legal troubles due to heavy drug use and unabashed vocal advocacy for the practice. In fact, in the album’s liner notes Hall wrote a manifesto detailing the history of mind-altering substances and advocating for societal acceptance of LSD, mescaline, and marijuana as a gateway to a higher, ‘non-Aristotelian’ state of consciousness”. At Hall’s urging, the band played most of their live shows and recorded their albums while under the influence of LSD, which was not yet illegal in 1966. At the peak of their success, the band appeared on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, where the host innocently asked, “who’s the head of the band?” To which Hall replied, “we’re all heads”.

Despite their very short time in the limelight, The 13th Floor Elevators are credited with being major influences for many future artists including Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Allman Brothers, and fellow Texans ZZ Top, whose guitarist Billy Gibbons credits Elevators’ axe man Stacy Sutherland with shaping his band’s earliest sound. Further, Erickson’s wild, banshee-like screams and high-pitched notes have been credited by some as a major influence on Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. The band was also credited by many as being a major influence on the punk rock genre, which wouldn’t fully emerge until a decade later.

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The Psychedelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators
Released: November, 1966 (International Artists)
Produced by: Lelan Rogers & Gordon Bynum
Recorded: Sumet Sound, Dallas TX, January-October 1966
Side One Side Two
You’re Gonna Miss Me
Roller Coaster
Splash 1 (Now I’m Home)
Reverberation (Doubt)
Don’t Fall Down
Fire Engine
Thru the Rhythm
You Don’t Know (How Young You Are)
Kingdom of Heaven
Monkey Island
Tried to Hide
Band Musicians
Roky Erikson – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitars
Stacy Sutherland – Lead Guitars
Benny Turman – Bass, Violin
John Ike Walton – Drums, Percussion
Tommy Hall – Amplified Jug

The 13th Floor Elevators were formed in late 1965, when Erickson left his band the Spades to complete the lineup. In January 1966, the band went to Houston to record two songs for producer Gordon Bynum to be released as a 45 single. The songs were Erickson’s “You’re Gonna Miss Me”, which he had previously recorded with the Spades, and Hall-Sutherland’s “Tried to Hide”. These songs would eventually bookmark the Psychedelic Sounds… album. “You’re Gonna Miss Me” eventually became popular outside Texas, and by October it peaked at #55 on the Billboard charts, the band’s one and only “hit” single. The song sounds like it was influenced by a mixture of Van Morrison and Them and California surf music. It is quite edgy for the time, with the electric jug going wild and powered by Erickson’s feral vocals and Sutherland’s concise but agile guitar work. “Tried to Hide” finishes the album ends on a “high” note (no pun intended) with some high-pitched percussion up front and all the intensity of Hall’s electric jug and Erickson’s voice.

The album’s body contains a mixture of adequate, sixties-style rock and ballads cut with this new “acid rock” sound the band was forging. “Roller Coaster” is a song with sharp, echoed, electric notes that was likely a heavy influence on Pink Floyd’s “Lucifer Sam” on their own psychedelic debut a year later. “Splash 1 (Now I’m Home)” is a pleasant little ballad with a dreamy, nicely picked guitar and the noted absence of the electric jug (which appears on just about every other song). “Reverberation (Doubt)” is a song which was clearly years ahead of its time, a true hippie creed in 1966, while “Fire Engine”, with its wild, freaky siren effects (which may be laughable using today’s technology), may be one of the earliest examples of punk. Although there are some throw-away, forgettable songs on the album, most of it is interesting, innovative, and unique, probably due to the very mind-altering substance that would lead to the band’s quick demise.

The 13th Floor Elevators

By 1968, four of the five members of the 13th Floor Elevators were facing pending drug possession charges and Erickson was eventually sentenced to 10 years for marijuana possession (but pleaded insanity and spent much of the coming decades in and out of mental institutions). To this day, there is much debate over whether the band members were the single originators of “psychedelic rock” or just part of a select movement spearheaded by lesser known artists. In either case, there is no doubt that the 13th Floor Elevators were rock pioneers.

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1966 Images

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

 

Freak Out! by The Mothers of Invention

Freak Out! by
The Mothers of Invention

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Freak Out! by The Mothers of InventionIn one of his last interviews, Frank Zappa said, “sounds are for people to listen to,” while summing up all the different types of instruments and objects he used to make sounds over the years. This is certainly a true motto for the musician who spent three decades creating the most avant garde art rock. His body of work was incredibly vast with 62 albums of original work released during his lifetime and about 30 more since his death in 1993. The first of these was an ambitious effort done by his band, The Mothers of Invention, in 1966. It was a debut double LP called Freak Out!.

Perhaps one of the most ambitious debut efforts ever, Freak Out!‘s two original LPs each contained a different approach. The first two sides consist of short, pop-oriented songs with edgy lyrics and musical flourishes while the final two sides are dedicated to longer art pieces, more in line with later psychedelia. This was all masterminded by Zappa who possessed incredible musical composition and arrangement talents and was able to replicate the pop music that he actually despised in order to make the highly satirical first half of the album. He then employed many innovative techniques such as shifting time signatures and disparate arrangement for the second part of the album.

The Mothers of Invention were formed in the early 1960s, when Zappa met vocalist Ray Collins. By 1965 the band was playing clubs along the Sunset Strip and were offered a recording contract basedupon the strength of one song, which happened to be the sole pop song to be recorded for the album. The entire album was recorded in four days in a Hollywood studio in March 1966 and produced by Tom Wilson, who had previously produced several albums by Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel. Wilson was unaware of the band’s unique musical approach, thinking the Mothers were a blues band when they entered the studio.

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Freak Out! by The Mothers of Invention
Released: June 27, 1966 (Verve)
Produced by: Tom Wilson
Recorded: Sunset Highland Studios, Hollywood, CA, March 1966
Side One Side Two
Hungry Freaks, Daddy
I Ain’t Got No Heart
Who Are the Brain Police?
Go Cry On Somebody Else’s Shoulder
Motherly Love
How Could I Be Such a Fool?
Wowie Zowie
You Didn’t Try to Call Me
Any Way the Wind Blows
I’m Not Satisfied
Probably Wondering Why I’m Here
Side Three Side Four
Trouble Every Day
Help, I’m a Rock
The Return of the Son
of Monster Magnet
Primary Musicians
Frank Zappa – Guitars, Vocals
Ray Collins – Vocals, Harmonica, Effects
Elliot Ingber – Guitars
Roy Estrada – Bass, Vocals
Jimmy Carl Black – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

The album begins with the fuzz-guitar driven “Hungry Freaks, Daddy”, a song with a 1966 beat and music along with 1977 lyrics and tone and contains the first hints of odd instrumentation including vibraphone and kazoo. The first side then proceeds through the bluesy rock of “I Ain’t Got No Heart”, the totally psychedelic “Who Are the Brain Police?”, and the doo-wop parody “Go Cry on Somebody Else’s Shoulder”, with a three-part harmony among Zappa, Collins, and bassist Roy Estrada.

“Motherly Love” is the best song on the first side, almost with pop sensibility although definitely dirty-minded. It became the sort of anthem for the band in the early years and probably one of the first to directly take on the world of groupies and sex on the road. “How Could I Be Such a Fool?” finishes off the first side as another good song with some nice Mexican horns in the mix.

The Mothers of InventionThe album’s second side is probably the most entertaining and interesting. Starting with the almost-bubble-gum kid’s tune “Wowie Zowie” with its frivolous play on words, the side then moves through two legitimate pop songs. The excellent “You Didn’t Try to Call Me” contains some additional horns, woodwinds, vibes, and extra layers of guitar by Elliot Ingber. “Any Way the Wind Blows” is a 50s-style love song, composed by Zappa in 1963, and was the song that ultimately got the Mothers their record deal. “I’m Not Satisfied” is an upbeat, sixties rock popper with more great background brass while “You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here” is a bit more freaky, striking a balance between a totally off-the-rail piece and quasi-pop song.

Side three begins with “Trouble Every Day”, a groovy, bluesy number with poetic lyrics. It is perhaps the most memorable song from the album and has a rocked-out, Dylan-esque quality. The eight and a half minute “Help, I’m a Rock” is in three pieces, all very experimental, repetitive, and a bit lazy. Much of the track sounds like someone chanting along to a skipping record. “The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet” takes up the entirty of the fourth and final side. It is a studio jam over a simple rock motif with many street percussionists and other “freaks” brought in from the Sunset Strip to improvise thid final track.

While Freak Out! was far from a commercial or critical success upon its release, the album did develop a cult following among fans and fellow musicians. It was a major influence on The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and would eventually make many “all time ” lists.

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1966 Images

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

Parsley Sage Rosemary Thyme by Simon and Garfunkel

Parsley Sage Rosemary Thyme
by Simon & Garfunkel

Buy Parsley Sage Rosemary Thyme

Parsley Sage Rosemary Thyme by Simon and GarfunkelAlthough Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme is officially the third album by Simon & Garfunkel, they certainly did not take the traditional path to get to this point. Nevertheless, this album would be their commercial and artistic breakthrough which would launch them into international stardom through the rest of the 1960s (and far beyond that for Paul Simon). This album, like many albums from 1966, fused different styles and genres while it experimented with non-traditional instrumentation which helped push out the outer walls of the rock n roll universe.

Starting out a decade earlier as the teen duet Tom & Jerry, these natives from Queens in New York City struggled for years to find an audience and an identity. While attending college in 1963, Simon & Garfunkel began to catch on in the burgeoning folk scene in New York’s Greenwich Village and this ultimately led to a record deal with Columbia Records. Their debut album, Wednesday Morning, 3am, was recorded and released in 1964 and contained a few originals penned by Simon among mostly cover songs. However, it did not fare very well in popularity leading to a breakup of Simon & Garfunkel shortly afterward, with Paul Simon moving to England to pursue a solo career. There in 1965 Simon recorded his solo album, The Paul Simon Songbook and began his own rise through the English folk scene. But back in the states a song from the Simon & Garfunkel debut album called “The Sound of Silence” was slowly climbing the charts, due mainly to its vast popularity on college radio stations. Seeing an opportunity, the duo’s producer, Tom Wilson dubbed in some electric guitars, bass and drums onto the original, pure acoustic track of “The Sound of Silence” and released it as a single nationwide. The song climbed the charts an ultimately hit #1 on January 1, 1966. With this development, Simon & Garfunkel reunited and quickly recorded a bunch of songs, including five from Simon’s recent solo album, which were released on the duo’s second album, Sounds of Silence in early 1966. This album fared much better than their debut effort and gave them some creative freedom to work on a new, all-original album of independent songs.

Released in October 1966, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme got its name from a traditional English ballad that originated in the 16th century, which Simon learned while in the United Kingdom. The album would go an to receive popular as well as critical acclaim and serve as a lynchpin to Simon & Garfunkel’s career.

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Parsley Sage Rosemary Thyme by Simon & Garfunkel
Released: October 10, 1966 (Decca, UK Version)
Produced by: Bob Johnston
Recorded: December 1965-August 1966
Side One Side Two
Scarborough Fair/Canticle
Patterns
Cloudy
Homeward Bound
The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine
The 59th Street Bridge Song
The Dangling Conversation
Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall
A Simple Desultory Philippic
For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her
A Poem on the Underground Wall
7 O’Clock News/Silent Night
Primary Musicians
Paul Simon – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Art Garfunkel – Lead Vocals, Piano
Joe South – Guitars
Carol Kaye – Bass

“Scarborough Fair / Canticle” is a song unique in the Simon & Garfunkel library, with an almost psychedelic, Pink Floyd-ish vibe (although that band did not appear on the scene until 1967). This song would also set a template for future bands drawing on traditional folk such as Traffic’s “John Barleycorn Must Die”. But beyond just recanting the traditional song, which contains lyrics where a young man asks his female lover to perform impossible tasks, the song fuses with a counterpoint, “Canticle”. Here, Art Garfunkel sings a reworked version of Simon’s 1963 “The Side of a Hill” with new, anti-war lyrics. In stark contrast, the next song “Patterns” bursts through with sparks of musical notes by acoustic guitar, organ, bass, and various percussion, combined with lyrics about how life is a labyrinthine maze, following patterns that are difficult to unravel. Here the listener is already made aware of the diversity of this album.

Although most of its songs were written during 1966, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme does include a few songs from the previous year, including a remake of “Cloudy” from Simon’s solo album and the single “Homeward Bound”, which Simon wrote while at a railway station near Liverpool during a long, overnight wait for the next train. The song itself is, perhaps mid-sixties folk at its best and became a huge, top-five hit for the duo.

Interspersed between a variety of simple folk songs are some radical departures, most of which work brilliantly. “The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine” is an upbeat, almost rock song. As is “A Simple Desultory Phillippic (or How I Was Robert McNamara’d into Submission)”, with its heavy fuzz guitar and high organ chops along with a Dylan-esque accent on Simon’s vocals. The later of these two is one of the more entertaining on the album, almost comical. “The Dangling Conversation” doesn’t quite work as well in its experimentation with strings and orchestral arrangements.

Simon and Garfunkel 59th Street Bridge Song singleAnother catchy pop song which greatly improved Simon & Garfunkel’s radio appeal is The “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”, although this ong was not officially released as a single until a few years later. Using the colloquial name of the Queensboro Bridge in New York City as a backdrop, the song’s message is immediate – in deep contrast to the rushed pace of city life, the protagonist is simply taking his time and enjoying the day, feelin’ groovy. It features Dave Brubeck Quartet members Joe Morello on drums and Eugene Wright on bass.

The album concludes with a couple of unique and interesting numbers. “A Poem On the Underground Wall” is almost psychedelic in its approach, containing an upbeat acoustic guitar up front and a contrasting deep, doomy organ in background. “7 O’clock News / Silent Night” is a haunting, artistic statement on the state of affairs in late 1966. On one side it contains a simulated news broadcast by Charlie O’Donnell, which amazingly forecasts subjects that will be front and center in years to come – Nixon, mass murderers, Martin Luther King, and war protests. On the other side is a simply arranged version of the Christmas carol “Silent Night”, backed by Garfunkel’s piano. The closing track with its dual themes and titles, mimics the opening tracks and bring the album full circle.

After Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme, Simon & Garfunkel’s popularity continued to rise with the soundtrack to the film The Graduate and two more highly successful albums. They split up again for good in 1970, although they would reunite for several special shows and tours over the years.

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1966 Images

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

 

1966_RollingStones Aftermath

Aftermath by The Rolling Stones

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Aftermath by Rolling StonesAlthough it was their fourth album released in Britain and their sixth album released in America, Aftermath was really the second “true” album by The Rolling Stones, following 1965’s Out Of Our Heads. This one, like that previous one, was released in two distinct versions in the UK and in the USA, a common practice for the day (this review will look at the “greater” album, considering all the tracks included on either version of Aftermath). The UK hit single “Paint It Black” was added to the American version, replacing four songs that were included on the UK version.

With Out Of Our Heads, the band reached the peak of their mid-sixties (then cutting-edge) mixture of Chicago-style blues and pop-rock. Aftermath builds on this while it progresses the band more towards their distinct sound and image as “rock and roll’s bad boys”. It is also the first Stones album to include all original material, written by the tandem of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Although not himself a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones was the driving force behind some of the unique and distinct sonic quality of the album. Jones incorporated wider musical influences, such as psychedelia and folk, and widely expanded the use of instrumentation, with songs on Aftermath including touches of dulcimer, sitar, marimba, and various keyboards.

Aftermath was also the first Rolling Stones album to be recorded entirely in the United States at the legendary RCA Studios in Hollywood and it was the first album the band released in true stereo.
 

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Aftermath by Rolling Stones
Released: April 15, 1966 (Decca)
Produced by: Andrew Loog Oldham
Recorded: RCA Studios, Hollywood, December 1965-March 1966
Side One Side Two
Mother’s Little Helper
Stupid Girl
Lady Jane
Under My Thumb
Doncha Bother Me
Goin’ Home
Flight 505
High And Dry
Out Of Time
It’s Not Easy
I Am Waiting
Take It or Leave It
Think
What To Do
Song Included On U.S. Version
Paint It, Black
Band Musicians
Mick Jagger – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Keith Richards – Guitars, Vocals
Brian Jones – Guitars, Dulcimer, Sitar, Keyboards, Percussion, Vocals
Bill Wyman – Bass, Organ
Charlie Watts – Drums. Percussion, Marimba

Much of the music’s backbone is still rooted in Chicago electric blues, with Jones’ instrumental tangents adding strategic flavoring to several songs. The opener “Mother’s Little Helper” contains a signature riff of heavily compressed 12-string electric guitar played with a slide. The song itself is a Beatle-esque, upbeat ode with a much darker message about drug dependency that made it one of the more thought provoking songs of the era.

“Stupid Girl” features a Fafsa organ by band manager and studio keyboardist Ian Stewart. It has the musical vibe of mid-sixties surf music and contains some juvenile lyrics that degrade the band’s groupies, one of several songs on the album that portray the fairer sex in a less-than-stellar light. Feminists have long lamented the message in “Under My Thumb”, which speaks of gaining the “upper hand” in a sexual relationship. No matter the message, the music to this song is absolutely brilliant, led by Jones’ marimba riff throughout with Richards’ acoustic and electric guitars and Bill Wyman‘s driving “fuzz” bass. Jones later brings back the marimba for the Phil Spector-esque “Out of Time”. This song was soon covered by English solo artist Chris Farlowe, whose recording was actually produced by Mick Jagger and reached number one on the UK singles in July, 1966.

Rolling Stones Paint It Black single“Paint It, Black” is, in reality, constructed very similar to the band’s 1965 smash hit “Satisfaction”, in the sense that a catchy and heavy rock song is wrapped around a signature riff. However, the riff on “Paint It, Black” uses the much more exotic sitar which Jones recently learned from Beatles guitarist and Indian music enthusiast George Harrison. During the verse, drummer Charlie Watts adds to the atmosphere by playing a Middle Eastern-flavored drum pattern while Jagger contributed the dark lyrics, about depression, mourning, and cynicism. Keith Richard plays both electric and acoustic guitars as well as contributes background vocals to this hit song.

“Lady Jane” showcases Brian Jones on dulcimer and has a middle-age feel throughout due to its distinct instrumentation and precise vocals. Fans have long considered this song a hidden gem from Aftermath and critics have long argued that Jones deserved a song writing credit. The dulcimer is brought back by Jones on “I Am Waiting”, another good, meditative song.

Unfortunately, Aftermath does include a lot of filler as not all the songs hit the mark. “Goin’ Home” is an 11-minute blues jam, remarkable for its length in the era, but really Mundane in its delivery. “It’s Not Easy” is uninspired, basic filler while “Think” is a feeble attempt to rip-off “Satisfaction” with its buzz and precisely picked strings falling short of anything really interesting. Other songs are more interesting but don’t seem quite done, such as the bluesy “Doncha Bother Me”, the piano rocking “Flight 505”, and the upbeat, acoustic folk/bluegrass “High and Dry”, which has a nice edge due to Jagger’s vocals and Jones’ blues harp, but also contains an annoying, up-front and distracting hi-hat beat.

Rolling Stones in 1966

Aftermath would ultimately be the high-water mark for Brian Jones’ influence on the band. Over the next few years and albums, his contributions were eventually diminished in lieu of the Jagger/Richards influence until he was ultimately nudged out of the band in 1969. He died shortly thereafter under mysterious circumstances.

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1966 Images

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

Album of the Year 1991

Ten by Pearl Jam

Album of the Year 1991

Buy Ten

Ten by Pearl JamPearl Jam‘s excellent debut is one of the most potent and indelible of debut albums ever released. The album called Ten was released in August 1991, at the vanguard of a new musical movement spearheaded by the Seattle grunge invasion. This album has sold just over ten million copies to date. More importantly, the fusion of syles and songcraft worked to forge a sound which would have immediate ripples through the hard rock world and beyond.

The album and the band itself came together after situations that developed rapidly in the 18 months prior to Ten‘s release. Pearl Jam’s founding members, bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Steve Gossard, played together in the band Mother Love Bone during the late 1980s. That band’s career was cut short when, shortly before the release of the group’s debut album, vocalist Andrew Wood died of a drug overdose in 1990. Devastated, Gossard and Ament did not play together for months until they began jamming with fellow Seattle guitarist Mike McCready. Soon they recorded a few instrumental demos, which came to be known as the “Stone Gossard Demos”. These tapes were circulated in the hopes of finding a singer and drummer to complete a rock band. San Diego vocalist Eddie Vedder acquired a copy of the demo and began to write lyrics for the instrumentals. Songs originally titled “Dollar Short”, “Agytian Crave”, and “E Ballad” were soon reworked as “Alive”, “Once”, and “Black”. Gossard and Ament heard the updated demo with Vedder’s vocals and lyrics, and sent him a ticket to fly to Seattle for an audition on October 13, 1990. There Vedder rehearsed with the band, which now included drummer Dave Krusen.

The new band was initially named Mookie Blaylock after the New Jersey Nets basketball star, but because Blaylock had recently landed a deal with Nike, the band had to reconsider the name and settle on Pearl Jam, while Ten‘s title was taken from Blaylock’s jersey number. They soon landed a deal with Epic Records and entered Seattle’s London Bridge Studios in March 1991 with producer Rick Parashar. In little more than a month, the sessions were completed and soon after, in May 1991, Krusen left the band to enter rehab and was replaced by drummer Matt Chamberlain.

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Ten by Pearl Jam
Released: August 27, 1991 (Epic)
Produced by: Rick Parashar & Pearl Jam
Recorded: London Bridge Studios, Seattle, March 27-April 26, 1991
Track Listing Band Musicians
Once
Even Flow
Alive
Why Go
Black
Jeremy
Oceans
Porch
Garden
Deep
Release / Master-Slave
Eddie Vedder – Vocals
Mike McCready – Lead Guitar
Steve Gossard – Guitar
Jeff Ament – Bass
Dave Krusan – Drums
 
Buy Ten by Pearl Jam

Vedder’s lyrics for the album are mainly negative and deal with subjects like depression, loneliness, and suicide. The song “Jeremy” was inspired, in part, by a true story in which a high school student shot himself in front of his classmates. This haunting but catchy tune includes an unconventional storytelling vocal melody during the verse and a soaring hook during the chorus. The music for the song was written on acoustic guitar by bassist Jeff Ament in February 1991, just before the band went into the studio.

Both the opener “Once” and the brilliant “Alive” were formed as part of a three song cycle by Vedder called “Mamasan” (with the third song, “Footsteps”, a B-side on the “Jeremy” single). “Alive” starts with a slow, methodical, majestic intro by Gossard, but is then dominated by Vedder with his distinct and odd vocals and melody. A simple but entertaining guitar riff in the calm bridge gives way to a contrasting coda/crescendo jam by McCready. While the song’s lyric deals with the shock of a son discovering that his real father is dead, many fans have come to interpret interpreted “Alive” as an uplifting and inspirational anthem.

Pearl Jam Evenflow singleAccording to the band members, “Evenflow” was an extremely difficult song to record, taking up to 75 to 100 attempts to capture effectively. The result, however, is another classic, vocally driven song with a great hook during chorus and a heavy funk riff by Gossard. The song nearly fades away during the lead bridge, before coming back with a vengeance in another outtro crescendo. Vedder’s lyrics describe his experience of being a homeless man and panhandler. The song was released as the second single from Ten and peaked at #3 on the Mainstream Rock charts.

The album also includes a couple of calm, surreal, melancholy efforts that act as an excellent counter-weight to the heavier songs on the album. “Black” is a melancholy song with obscure lyrics that appear to deal with a loss of some kind. It contains a signature, harmonic vocal motif which, combined with an accompanying lead guitar, forms a memorable sonic hook in the background of the song. The acoustic and melodic “Oceans” is nearly a love song with a few odd passages and percussive effects which make it a unique ballad. “Release” is a more droning and atmospheric piece.

Pearl Jam in 1991

Ten was not an immediate success, as it initially sold slowly upon its release. It took until the later part 1992 until it finally caught on in the mainstream, peaking at #2 on the Billboard album chart. Ironically, Pearl Jam was then accused by some of “jumping on the grunge bandwagon” in the wake of the immediate success by their crosstown contemporaries Nirvana, even though that band released their breakthrough album, Nevermind in September 1991, a month later than Pearl Jam’s debut. There has been much debate over the years over which of these two albums from 1991 was the superior effort. For us at Classic Rock Review there is no contest as Ten is deeper, better sounding, with better songs and much less filler material. That is why it is our Album of the Year for 1991.

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1991 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1991 albums.