Monday, July 11, 2016

McQ's Best Of 1967 Mix Collection

Ahhh, 1967.

The absolute peak of the original psychedelic era. A time of profound political turmoil and musical invention that introduced us to the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Captain Beefheart, Leonard Cohen, Moby Grape, Aretha Franklin, Sly And The Family Stone, and The Jefferson Airplane and unleashed upon the world some of the greatest rock albums ever conceived, albums like Forever Changes, Something Else By The Kinks, Buffalo Springfield Again, Are You Experienced?, The Velvet Underground & Nico, and the granddaddy of them all - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

This is something I've wanted to do for years - take my standard approach to year-end mixes, and apply it to a classic rock year of the past,...and I had no doubt that when I finally got around to doing it, I would start with 1967, the year that claims more all-time top 500 singles than any other in rock history.

Simply put, it is my favorite year in rock 'n' roll history, and I can't wait to step back in time with you to rediscover these timeless classics.

So kick back, relax, grab your favorite lysergic, and let's jump into this eight disc look back at one of rock's most momentous years.

As with our contemporary mix collections, we start with a collection of top tracks from the top albums of the year, along with a few of my very favorite singles from the period - minus, of course, whatever Nancy steals for her collection closing mix, which in this case was five songs - Respect, Let's Spend The Night Together, Brown-Eyed Girl, Happy Together, and All Along The Watchtower. But even with Nancy's pulls, this twenty-two song mix still contains 12 tracks in the all-time top 500 (as presently ranked at Includes tracks from Jimi Hendrix, The Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, The Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart, Cream, Love, Buffalo Springfield, Sly & The Family Stone, Procul Harum, The Kinks, The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Spencer Davis Group, Moby Grape, The Moody Blues, and of course, The Beatles.

Led by a bevy of Motown and Stax artists and newly ascendent Aretha Franklin, 1967 was just a staggeringly great year in soul, as the twenty-eight tracks here and the additional thirteen soul numbers Nancy pulled for her mix make abundantly clear. Featuring cuts from James Carr, Aretha Franklin, The Four Tops, Joe Tex, James Brown, Brenton Wood, Albert King, Soul Brothers Six, Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, Sam & Dave, Wilson Picket, Soul Survivors, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Dells, and the great Etta James, this mix is tons of fun.

Likewise, the music scene in England was bonkers in 1967, and this mix captures a lot of the best that came forth from that very fertile scene. Features cuts by The Kinks, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Cream, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Traffic, Procol Harum, The Moody Blues, The Who, and The Small Faces.

1967 was also a year rich in exceptional bubblegum pop and charming one-hit wonders, and a lot of the most memorable of those songs are collected here, courtesy of The Beatles, P.P. Arnold, Frankie Vali, Classics IV, The Bee Gees, The Chocolate Watch Band, The Association, The Hollies, The Electric Prunes, The Tremeloes, Dusty Springfield, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, The Tremeloes, The Beach Boys, The Paragons, The Chambers Brothers, 1910 Fruitgum Company, The 5th Dimension, The Human Beinz, and everyone's favorite manufactured pop band - The Monkees.

Volume 5 - Madness Lurks:

Meanwhile, out on the fringes, strikingly unusual and original things were happening. This mix, featuring work from The Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention, 13th Floor Elevators, The Doors, Captain Beefheart, and Pink Floyd profiles the most groundbreaking works of the year, along with the one good track from possibly the worst Rolling Stones album ever.  

Here's the thing about the mythic Summer Of Love, though historically tied to San Francisco, most of the legendary San Francisco acts really hadn't yet hit their stride. The two notable exceptions to that being The Jefferson Airplane, and even more so the mostly forgotten but in some ways still legendary Moby Grape, who quietly dominate this mix (at least the non-Spotify version).  In addition to those two artists, this mix shines a light on works from The Grass Roots, The Buffalo Springfield, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Byrds, Country Joe & The Fish, The Animals, Vanilla Fudge, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Scott McKenzie, The Youngbloods, Big Brother & The Holding Company, and last but not least, that most San Francisco of San Francisco Bands, The Grateful Dead.

When it came to mellower music, 1967 was something of a transitional year, with the initial folk-rolk  surge on the wane and about to give way to the Country-Rock and Singer/Songwriter movements lying in wait just beyond the musical horizon.  This mix aims to capture that state of flux, with songs from Donovan, Scott Walker, Love, Bobbie Gentry, The Lovin' Spoonful, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Tim Hardin, Nico, Tim Buckley, Arlo Guthrie, Bob Dylan and 1967's newest, great lyricist, Leonard Cohen.

Nancy surprised me with her selections for her 1967 mix. I knew she'd gravitate towards the Beatles and Dylan, but I could never have guessed how much she would respond to the bubblegum and soul music of that year. But I shouldn't have been that surprised.  Nancy has always had a great ear for what's "fun," and this final look at 1967 through Nancy's eyes really emphasizes the fun, featuring tracks from Van Morrison, The Box Tops, Sam & Dave, Etta James, The Stoney Poneys, Tommy James & The Shondells, Cat Stevens, The Association, Albert King, James Carr, Aretha Franklin, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Young Rascals, Jimi Hendrix, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Desmond Dekker, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, and yes, even Louis Armstrong...whose ageless classic What A Wonderful World closes everything out.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

McQ's Best Of 2015 Mix Collection

Hey Friends,

Here we go once again, with my annual mix collection celebrating the best I heard in across the full spectrum of popular music in 2015.

As always, each mix is designed to be burnable to a standard 70 mb CD.  Click on the mix titles for additional information about the artists and albums profiled, printable track listings and year-end summaries, links to Amazon, iTunes, and Youtube, and all other sorts of good stuff.


As is now tradition, we start things off with top tracks from my favorite 2015 albums. 

Let's be clear about one thing.  Women weren't just major players in classic/alt-flavored rock this year...they owned it.  Featuring cuts by Courtney Barnett, Sleater-Kinney, Hop Along, Torres, Waxahatchee, Evans The Death, Chelsea Wolf, Screaming Females, Wolf Alice, Speedy Ortiz, Kate Temptest, Dilly Dally, Bully, and Colleen Green...there's nothing groundbreaking in this collection of hard-rocking songs from all-female or female-fronted acts, but the quality level is fantastic throughout.  An easy call for my favorite of this year's themed mixes.

2015 was also very rich in works evoking the singer/songwriter vibe of the late 60s/early-to-mid-70s. Tracks from Sufjan Stevens, Destroyer, Father John Misty, Natalie Prass, Matthew E. White, Ryley Walker, James McMurtry, Tobias Jesso, Jr., Darlingside, Joanna Newsom, and Laura Marling are featured here. 

I hope no one takes offense to this mix's title. I actually stole it in part from the linear notes of D'Angelo's 2014 comeback album Black Messiah, where he stated he couldn't abide by limiting genre labels like blues, gospel, R&B, Funk, and Hip Hop when describing his music...for him, if it's expressing the African-American experience, regardless of the details of sound or song structure, it's Black Music, and it's in this all encompassing, cross-genre, political-minded spirit that this compilation was formed.  Includes tracks from Kendrick Lamar, Kamasi Washington, Ibeyi, Young Fathers, Pusha T, A$AP Rocky, Future, Leon Bridges, Jazmine Sullivan, Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, Algiers, and Dr. Dre.

Volume 5 - Bigger In Britain:

A collection of songs from acts not necessarily from Britain, but whose 2015 efforts were, for the most part, better received overseas than in the states. Those with a taste for Indie-Rock and Brit-Pop will most likely find they like this mix best of the 2015 set.  Includes songs from Bop English, Twerps, The Charlatans, Belle And Sebastian, Blur, Ezra Furman, Algiers, The Mountain Goats, Paul Weller, EL VY, Mini Mansions, Low, Sleaford Mods, Foals, Django Django, and Zun Zun Egui.

Without question, the most shamelessly mainstream, teeny-bopper and soccer mom pleasing mix I have ever put together, structured in three short suites profiling fan favorites in mainstream R&B, Alt-Country, and Tween-Pop/Indie-Pop. Includes tracks From Mark Ronson, The Weeknd, Shamir, Miguel, Rihanna/Kanye West/Paul McCartney, Alessia Cara, Chris Stapleton, Patty Griffin, Kurt Vile, Jason Isbell, Wilco, Adele, Florence + The Machine, Andrew McMahon, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Lana Del Rey.

Representative tracks from the year's best and most interesting chill electronica, shoegaze, art rock, and dream pop efforts are blended here into an often odd but mostly relaxing tonic. Includes contributions from Julia Holter, Ghost Culture, Deerhunter, Panda Bear, Jenny Hval, Floating Points, Bob Moses, Swervedriver, Gwenno, Holly Herndon, Oneohtrix Point Never, Haiku Salut, Beach House, and Bjork.

Easily this year's most challenging and abrasive mix, this assortment of post-punk, garage, hard rock, noise rock, industrial rap, and death metal numbers is nonetheless one of the three or four strongest mixes in this entire collection - at least for those who have the stomach for it.  Includes efforts from Titus Andronicus, Royal High, Beach Slang, METZ, Dungen, Death Grips, Deafheaven, Lightning Bolt, Built To Spill, Viet Cong, Ought, and Protomartyr.

The year's best electro-pop goes here. A decent, easy-to-digest mix, definitely worth a listen, but in truth, it wasn't a stellar year in electro-pop, so overall, I consider this the weakest mix in this year's batch.  Includes tracks from New Order, Grimes, Chvrches, John Grant, Chromatics, Hot Chip, Jamie Xx, Lower Dens, Tame Impala, Hudson Mohawke, and LoneLady.

A celebration of the small font acts that made the 2015 Coachella festival memorable - not as eclectic as these mixes are, given how rock-heavy the line-up was in 2015, but still a nice assortment of youthful and veteran efforts. Include work from Sylvan Esso, St. Lucia, Kasabian, Sturgil Simpson, Alabama Shakes, George Ezra, Hozier, Tame Impala, Royal Blood, Brant Bjork, The Cribs, Joyce Manor, Desaparecidos, Jon Hopkins, The Reverend Horton Heat, Action Bronson, PHOX, The Orwells, The Allah-Las, Joyce Manor, Hozier, Jungle, Eagulls, and Saint Motel.

Everyone's favorite - year in and year out. Curated by my lovely wife Nancy, who gets first pick of all the year's material, I will willingly admit, this is one of the best she's ever put together. Includes tracks from Saint Motel, Bop English, Courtney Barnett, Sleater-Kinney, Waxahatchee, Florence + The Machine, Alabama Shakes, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Leon Bridges, Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, Kamasi Washington, Sufjan Stevens, The Decemberists, Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Patty Griffin, Tobias Jesso, Jr., Adele and Miguel.