Monday, August 22, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 08/22/16 Update

Today, we return to Volume 6 of our 1967 collection, 1967's Super "Sensational" Summer Of Love, and take a listen to The Youngblood's iconic hippie anthem Get Together.

The surprising thing about the New York folk-rockers cover of Get Together is that while it was released on their self-titled debut in 1967 and got some airplay, it didn't become a major hit until 1969, after it was (in classic Pink Moon fashion) used in a public service ad.

The success of the song would go on to sustain the Youngblood's through a couple of critically well-received albums into the early 1970s, particularly 1969's Elephant Mountain, but further commercial success would, for the most part, elude the band.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 08/21/2016 Update

Today, as we continue to look at those 2015 and 1967 songs that made our year-end mixes but won't appear in our final best-of-the-year rankings, we return to our 2015 electro-pop mix Circuit Teasers, and highlight the wonderfully moody I Can Never Be Myself When You're Around, one of a few lead singles to drop from Portland post-punkers turned synth-rockers The Chromatics yet-to-be-released Dear Tommy.

Hopefully, 2016 will be the year this much-anticipated follow-up to the band's excellent 2012 album Kill For Love finally gets its proper release, but one never knows. This is a band that's been known to take whatever time it feels it needs to finish its material.

Based on how great this tune is, all I can say is "fingers crossed!"

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 08/20/2016 Update

Today, we return to our 1967 Singles Superstars mix, and take a look at two tracks from a Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame act that most now associate with the late 70s disco era, but that actually had its major commercial breakthrough in 1967, Australia's The Bee Gees.

After nearly a decade performing together in Australia, where they had become local recording and television stars, the brothers decided in 1966 that they needed to move back to London where it was all happening musically if they were going to make it big.

Based on the strength of their recent Aussie single Spicks & Specks, the band was quickly signed by British producer Robert Stigwood, and after adding lead guitarist Vince Melouney and friend Colin Petersen on drums, the group quickly penned and recorded their international debut, the Hollies-like psychedelic pop album Bee Gees' 1st.

The album was a success, producing three UK hits - To Love Somebody, Holiday, and their first to chart, New York Mining Disaster 1941, which we profile here.

Interestingly, again given the perception of the band today, it was Robin, not Barry, who handled the bulk of the act's lead vocals at the time.

Later in 1967, while in New York on tour, the band was inspired to write a counter to all the songs of the moment urging people to go to San Francisco.

That idea would morph into Massachusetts, the tale of a boy who does indeed make it out to San Francisco to join the flower power scene, only to find himself painfully longing for home.

Ironically, the band themselves had never been to Massachusetts at the time.  But the song struck a chord with listeners.  It became the band's first song to reach #1 in Australian and the UK, and would go on to become one of the top-selling singles in recording history, moving over five million physical units (an honor shared with two other songs on the Singles Superstars mix, Simon Says and the Monkees' Daydream Believer).

Friday, August 19, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 08/19/2016 Update

Here's the funny thing about putting together an annual mix collection comprised of close to two hundred songs - you still agonize over the last track you had to cut for time.

This year, the most painful cut was without question LA-based neo-soul collective's Go With It, from their solid third LP Ego Death.

Propelled by Syd(ney Bennett) The Kid's gorgeous voice and an excellent opening guest rap from Chicagoan Vic Mensa, this chill, funky tune was on my original pass of Black Music Circa 2015, but  removed at the last moment to make room for an additional Kamasi Washington track.

Still, leaving them out of this year's collection has stuck in my craw so badly, I just had to give them a shout out.

So here's Go With It.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 08/18/2016 Update

Today, let's turn to the most challenging mix in either collection, 2015's Nut Squeezers and start with singles from two of the three veteran acts represented on this volatile mix of post-punk, black metal, and hard-hitting thrashers.

And when it comes to hard-hitting thrashers, few acts have delivered the goods over the last twenty years like Providence, Rhode Island's drums and bass noise-rock duo extraordinaire Lightning Bolt.

Though a "can't miss" live act, most of their recorded music is so extreme, the vocals so weird (drummer Brian Chippendale sings through a microphone stuffed into his mouth like an S&M plug), and the mixes so lo-fi that I've felt most of their music would be too much even for the open-to-anything ears of our mix collection fans, and thus I haven't included any efforts from the band since one track from 2005's Hypermagic Mountain.

But in 2015, Lightning Bolt entered a high-end studio proper for the first time, and the resulting album Fantasy Empire, while no less crazed or hard-hitting, really benefits from the improved production and is their most accessible album to date (relatively speaking). There were several tracks I considered including in this mix, especially opener The Metal East and the wild Dream Genie, but ultimately, I went with the steady heavy-metal chug of Horsepower.

Another band that delivered the hard-hitting goods in 2015 was beloved Boise-based indie-guitar act Built To Spill, whose Untethered Moon offered another batch of those knotty guitar lines and Neil Young-styled vocals fans have been eating up since the band's inception back in 1993.

The album lacks the "through the roof" peak efforts of some of their better second decade releases like 2006's You In Reverse, but is still solid front-to-back, and as with Fantasy Empire, produced several tracks I considered including on this mix - scorching closer When I'm Blind, the quaint Never Be The Same, chugging opener All Our Songs - before settling on the album's tightest, punchiest number, Living Zoo.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 08/17/2016 Update

Today, we turn to our 1967 mix highlighting all the great going-ons in England that year - Meanwhile, Across The Pond - and take a listen to the only two songs on the mix that won't end up represented in our Best Songs or Best Albums of the year rankings.

The first of those two songs needs little introduction, even today.

The Who's Pictures Of Lily, which guitarist Pete Townsend considers one of the first "power pop" recordings, is one of the all time great songs thematically dedicated to masturbation (and there have been many through the years, hundreds if not thousands, including another wanking masterpiece on this mix).  The song was released in April, 1967 in the UK (late June in the US), and reached #5 on the UK charts, but didn't crack the top 50 stateside on its initial release.

The next single comes to us from another famous mod act, The Small Faces, who would later change their names to just the Faces after some personnel changes that included the addition of Rod Stewart.

But the band at this time were driven by two fantastic singer/songwriters in guitarist Steve Marriott and the one-of-a-kind bassist Ronnie Lane, each of whom would pen a '67 classic. Lane's tune will make our best songs of the year list, so we'll touch on that later.

Marriott's classic, Tin Soldier, was released as a single in December of 1967. A song of sexual pursuit, it was written by Marriott to specifically impress one woman, model Jenny Rylance, who would become his first wife the following year.

Ironically, Marriott almost turned the song over to American soul singer P.P. Arnold, with whom it is rumored he had just ended a brief affair, but ultimately decided the song was too good to give away.

However, Arnold was still enlisted to perform backing vocals on the song, and appears in some initial televised performances. Though never a monster hit in the states, the song is still revered in the UK, often charting in all-time polls as one of the 10-20 best songs the island nation has ever produced.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 08/16/16 Update

Today, we dive into ambient/electronic music and take a look at one of the singles featured on our 2015 shoegaze/electronic/dream pop mix Dream Weavers,

Shy, seductively unassuming, and ending with a Beirut-flavored Balkan turn, Bleak and Beautiful All Things) comes to us from the well received 2015 full-length release Etch And Etch Deep by the English instrumental act Haiku Salut.

An all-female trio renown for never speaking a word onstage and lighting their shows exclusively with household lamps that turn on and off with the ebb and flow of their music., Haiku Salut specialize in a gentle, organic form of electronic music that incorporates a broad range of traditional instruments and mixes a number of cultural styles.

All and all, it's a very appealing and unpredictable sound, and I encourage anyone interested in the possibilities to be found at the intersection of electronic and acoustic music to check this act out further.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 08/15/2016 Update

Today we return to our 1967's Super Soulster's Deep Cuts Review mix, and take a quick look at 1967 mega-hit Sweet Soul Music by Georgia-born, Otis Redding protege Arthur Conley.

Conley's second single released under Redding's tutelage (a lyrical reworking of Sam Cooke's Yeah Man), the shout-out to the biggest names in the genre at that moment went on to finish 17th on Billboard's 1967 Hot 100, and today is widely considered one of the greatest "celebration of music" songs ever recorded.

Though Conley was devasted, and his career in some way stalled, by Redding's death in 1968, he would continue to produce modest hits over the next few years. But Conley had a secret that would soon bring his American career to an end.

A closeted homosexual, the pressures of maintaining his facade on the soul circuit eventually became too much, and by the mid-70s Conley left America for what was, at the time, perceived to be a more open-minded Europe. There he changed his name to Lee Roberts and went on to find greater peace and a certain level of success as a performer, producer, and talent manager.

He died in the Netherlands in 2003 at the age of 57.

Here's a video of a 1967 performance of the song on the Sam & Dave show.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 08/14/2016 Update

Andrew McMahon's Synesthesia is a blatant straggler (my code for songs I miss in the year of their release but upon actual discovery try to sneak into later collections), originally released in 2013 on his debut solo EP The Pop Underground.

Unlike much of McMahon's piano-anchored work with the two acts he's fronted, Jack's Mannequin and Something Corporate, The Pop Underground found McMahon diving into the world of bright, cheery synth-pop, and the bittersweet, twee Synesthesia, a direct taking stock of his life and career up to that point in time done in an almost Postal Service vein, was the definite standout.

It made a perfect addition to our 2015 Crowd Pleasers mix, no matter how long it took us to discover it.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 08/13/2016 Update

Today, we take our first look at some of the singles Nancy chose for her 1967 Favorites mix, and before diving into the wealth of amazing Motown and bubblegum singles she selected, let's first turn our ears towards Jamaica, and Desmond Dekker's 007 (Shanty Town).

There is no overstating Dekker's importance with regards to Jamaica's recent music history.

Bob Marley may have become the island's biggest international star, but Dekker was its first, and this wonderfully melodic rude boy single was the first Jamaican track to ever chart overseas, becoming a dancehall favorite of the mods in England and hitting number 15 on the U.K. charts.

Dekker would go on to even bigger international success in the years that followed, eventually expatriating to England, where he was revered. 007 would go on to reach an even bigger international population five years later when it was included on one of the two or three most important reggae albums of all time, the soundtrack to Jimmy Cliff's The Harder They Come.

Here's a video of Dekker performing the song for Jools Holland in 2004, just a couple of years before his death in 2006 at the age of sixty-four.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 08/12/2016 Update

Today, we turn our attention to our Bigger In Britain mix, which is focused on 2015 acts, both foreign and domestic, that were better received in the UK than they were here in the states, and touch on the most recent solo effort from UK legend and former Jam / Style Council frontman Paul Weller.

Weller's third act as a solo artist has now gone on for almost twenty-five years, and despite that longevity, Weller's last decade, starting with 2008's expansive 22 Dreams, has been very fertile.

His 2015 release Saturn's Pattern keeps his recent winning streak alive, but whereas his previous few full-length outings have all been marked by a sweeping eclecticism, here Weller hones in on a loose, jammy,  psychedelic soul vibe and sustains the feel throughout the bulk of the record.

It's not an album marked by grand lyrical statements or home run tracks, but it's a very easy album to like, and Pick It Up, the track we choose to include in the 2015 collection, is a perfect representation of the album's overall feel.

Here's the Martin Freeman starring official video.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 08/11/2016 Update

Today, we turn to our 1967 singer-songwriter mix The Calm Before The Calm, and one of 1967's biggest and most surprising hits, country artist Bobbie Gentry's Ode To Billie Joe.

One of the first female country artists to write and produce her own material, Gentry's Ode To Bille Joe was actually the B-side to her first self-recorded single, but its skelatally spare, grounded sound, and its mysterious Southern gothic narrative centered on a secret romance / lover's suicide and the relative indifference of a community quickly captured the public's attention in a music year dominated by crazed psychedelic experimentation. 

The song would go on to be the number 3 charting track of 1967, win multiple Grammys, and launch Gentry into a very lucrative fourteen-year career as recording artist, British television host, and Vegas entertainer before her retirement from the industry in 1981.

Here's a televised performance of the song from the Smothers Brothers show.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 08/10/2016 Update

Today, we turn to hip-hop and two tracks included on our Black Music, Circa 2015 mix -  Holy Ghost and L$D, both of which come to us courtesy of young New York rapper and key A$AP mob member A$AP Rocky, from his critically well-received, chart-topping sophomore studio release At.Long.Last.A$AP.

Album opener Holy Ghost isn't one of the mega-selling album's biggest hits, but it's definitely one of its best tracks, an urgent, gospel-stoked condemnation of profiteering preachers that can also be interpreted as a nod to the premature passing of Rocky's close friend and one of the album's primary producers, A$AP mob founder Steven Rodriguez (aka A$AP Yams), who died before the album's completion of an accidental drug overdose.

And as awesome and impactful as that song is, L$D from the album might be even better.

A trippy, low-key, melodic number that seems stylistically in tune with much of rapper Future's 2015 work (though coming from a much more positive place), it suggests that of all the hallucinogenics out there, nothing delivers a better mind-altering high than sex.

Take a listen.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 08/09/2015 Update

Today, as we continue to work through the singles celebrated in the 1967/2015 mix collections but that will just miss out on making our best of the year countdowns, we turn to early efforts from a couple of monster acts from San Francisco's 1967 Haight-Ashbury scene featured on our 1967's Super "Sensational" Summer Of Love mix, Big Brother & The Holding Company and The Grateful Dead.

But as forever linked to San Francisco and the Summer of Love as these two bands are, or however huge they already were in the region's live scene (answer: very huge), both acts (and really every San Fransisco act other than Moby Grape, Jefferson Airplane, and Country Joe McDonald & The Fish) were still a year or two away from reaching their full potential as recording acts.

Both acts released their eponymous debuts in 1967. Both releases were highly flawed works.

Big Brother & The Holding Company, even for the era, was a shoddily recorded work, and provides clear evidence that the band hadn't yet fully accepted or figured out how to integrate Janis Joplin into the band (she had been brought to them by San Francisco promoter Chet Helms less than a year earlier). Worse, similar to British practices at the time, their label left the band's two biggest early 45s, Coo Coo and Down On Me, off the record (a flaw corrected years later when Columbia bought the rights to and reissued the album).

The Grateful Dead was a better-recorded effort - and a better listen - but includes just two originals in its entire track listing.

Still, as unremarkable as these early releases were, it just felt wrong not to include either band in our Summer of Love mix, so for Big Brother, we went with one of those two original 45s, Coo Coo (which also highlights the band's initial reluctance to put Joplin front and center, as she's pretty much kept in the background until a latter verse), and for the Dead, we selected the album's opening track, my favorite of the two originals, The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion).

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 08/07/2016 Update

Today, we look to our 2015 singer-songwriter compilation Laurel Canyon Revelry and focus on South Dakota, my favorite track from James McMurtry's fine 2015 album Complicated Game.

The son of famed Lonesome Dove novelist Larry McMurtry, the now Austin-based James shares his famous father's gift for plain-spoken but poetic prose, and throughout his career has proven quite skilled at crafting sharply detailed portrait miniatures that nonetheless illuminate much larger cultural themes.

South Dakota, the quietly devastating, country-tinged tale of an honorably discharged enlisted man's inability to start a new life for himself on his family's ranch, all due to circumstances beyond his control, is one of his all-time best songs, painting a sad portrait of our nation at this time in our history, a nation where for many young men and women born into less fortunate circumstances, there's more opportunity to be found throwing their lives into harms way overseas than through honest hard work applied back here in the states.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 08/06/2016 Update

Today we return to 1967, and take a look at star-crossed, potent garage act The Chocolate Watchband's biggest hit, Let's Talk About Girls.

Few acts from the 60s had as turbulent and mishandled a career as the Watchband, and this song, their biggest hit, illuminates the craziness perfectly.

Though the lead single on the act's debut album No Way Out, their label or management or who knows who somehow thought that the best way to introduce the act to the broader record buying public was to replace their fantastic, Mick Jaggeresque lead singer David Aguilar with session man Don Bennett on this track.  Not that Bennett does a bad job here, but still...the mind boggles.

And just to show what a questionable choice it was to replace Aguilar on Let's Talk About Girls, here's another kick ass number from the band's debut, the free love mocking Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love-In). Take a listen.  I think we can all agree Aguilar would have done just fine.

For a bit more on these songs and The Chocolate Watchband - check out the updated comments for McQ's Best Of 1967 Volume 4 - 1967's Super Spectacular Singles Superstars.

Friday, August 5, 2016

The 2015/1967 Countdown - 08/05/16 Update

Today the Best Of 2015 Volume 2 - Women Who Rock mix page has been update with a few brief thoughts on Chelsea Wolfe's Carrion Flowers from her potent 2015 full-length release The Abyss.

Setting her dark, gothic vocal stylings against the hardest hitting music of her career, a sometimes intoxicating, sometimes horrifying swirl of industrial and black metal influences, Wolfe really  captured some essence of the contemporary horror zeitgeist with the album, and Carrion Flowers itself ended up being one of the most licensed tracks by any musical artist in 2015 - landing in a number of commercials, movie/television trailers (including an add for the Walking Dead spin-off Fear The Walking Dead), and video games.

Here's the official video for the track that caught so many gloom masters fantasy.

The 2015/1967 Countdown Continues - 08/04/2016 Update

Without question, one of the greatest pleasures in putting together the 1967 mix collection was going back and rediscovering (or in several cases discovering for the first time), the endless trove of soul classic that year produced.

So today, the write-up page for our 1967's Super Soulster's Deep Cuts Review mix has been updated with a brief discussion of 60s Southern soulman and bitter James Brown archrival Joe Tex and his two '67 hits - Show Me and Skinny Legs And All.

Both these tracks are a lot of fun...check out these archival videos - one live, the other one of those unbelievabley bad corporate-sponsered lip syncs typical of the era.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Let The 2015/1967 Countdowns Begin

Okay, let's get these promised countdowns started.

Over the next several months we'll be taking a look back at the music years 2015 and 1967, re-ranking many of the best albums and songs from those two years as they sound to Nancy and me today.

In addition, we'll try to comment on all the other 2015 and 1967 songs that will not be included on those lists, but that did make the 2015 and 1967 mix collections.

And that's where we start today, with Scottish producer Hudson Mohawke's Indian Steps, a poignant collaboration with Antony Hegarty from Mohawke's 2015 release Lantern, which we featured on our Best of 2015 Volume 9 - Circuit Teasers mix, profiling the our favorite electro-pop tracks of the year.

In truth, Indian Steps was quite literally the last song I choose to include in the entire 2015 collection,
and there's a good reason for that. It's not a track I'm in love with instrumentally (though I do think Mohawke does a beautiful job layering Antony's swirling overdubs), but lyrically, whoa...this song packs a world of meaning and a hell of an emotional wallop into just a few brief verses.

A look back at a lifelong, committed love from the perspective of the surviving partner just after the other partner has passed, it poetically hits upon the primal desire in all of us to protect those we love most, and also, devastatingly, the ultimate futility of such desires - something the official video for the song also makes clear.