Monday, August 21, 2017

McQ's Best Of 1966 Mix Collection

All right! 1966!

For some, this was rock 'n' roll's finest year, and there's no question that when judged purely on the  strength and impact of its top three albums, only a handful of years can compete with 1966's powerhouse trio of The Beatle's Revolver, The Beach Boy's Pet Sounds, and Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde (though I actually have one of these three albums rated fourth on our best of 1966 list).

But for me, that's where comparisons to other top contenders for the "greatest rock year ever" ends.

As great as it was, 1966 just didn't quite deliver the same amazing depth of classic full-length releases that other all-time great contenders like 1967-69, 1971, 1977, and 1994 did.

That said, 1966 was still a phenomenal year for rock, both in how it set up the explosive flowering of new styles and genres that would land in 1967 (for a sense of that, check out our 1967 retrospective here), and also in how so many of the decade's defining sub-genres -- early garage, blues rock, folk rock -- hit their absolute zenith during 1966's twelve month span.

This eight volume mix collection aims to capture all that and more!

So what are you waiting for? Jump in and enjoy!

My choices for the very best singles and top tracks from the most significant albums of 1966, minus whichever hits Nancy selected for her mix, which was fewer this year than normal.

The 60's guitar gods take center stage here, as filtered through their devoted love of the blues.  While Eric Clapton, (through his blistering 1966 work with both John Mayall and Cream), and The Yardbird's Jeff Beck dominate, there are all manner of '66 white-boy blues to be found in this mix, as well as a few tracks from established African-American artists of the day like Slim Harpo and Koko Taylor, and a blistering early live recording of The Jimi Hendrix Experience for BBC Radio. This is definitely a standout of the 1966 collection.

The impact of Revolver and Pet Sounds on pop music is almost immeasureable and still being felt today, but there were several other fantastic pop efforts in 1966.  The Who landed the silliest album of their career with A Quick One. The Kinks started their classic "quaint English life" triology with the often brilliant Face To Face, L.A.'s Love dabbled in all manner of orchestral pop and folk rock experimentation on a pair of memorable '66 releases (their self-titled debut and the more psychedelic Da Capo), and the world witnessed the arrival of its all-time favorite made-for-television band The Monkees. 1966 efforts from these artists and more are featured here.

For those familiar with the soul mix from our 1967 collection, this mix stands as another testament to the unbelievably rich landscape of mid-sixties soul.  Tina Turner, with an assist from the demonic duo of husband Ike and producer Phil Spector, plays a big role here, and Wilson Picket, Marvin Gaye, and Jr. Walker carry a bigger portion of the burden this time around for the Motown / Stax crews, but from start to finish, this is just another fantastic soul romp and a great mix for parties.

Yeah, folk rock was big in 1966.  Just saying.  All the year's heavy hitters are represented here.

1966 was, by all practical measures, the year of the decade as far as garage rock was concerned.  Yes, The Sonics debut and The Standell's Dirty Water hit in 1965, and '67 sported its share of classic garage hits as well, but take one scroll through this track list and it's staggereing how many of garage rock's all-time hits landed in 1966. Another one of my favorites mixes in this year's collection, but for maximum impact on this one, you've got to play it loud. Really loud!!!

1966 was in many ways the cutoff, the last year where the more saccarhine, old-fashioned acts of the previous five-ten years could still ply their trade and be taken seriously.  Your first instinct hearing many of these tracks will be to laugh, but stay with it,  of all this year's mixes, this one's got  a special Ronco-styled synergy going on. It's become my favorite mix of the entire collection.

Another upbeat Nancy classic - served this together with Volume 1, and you'll hear the majority of the 1966's top tracks.

Monday, August 14, 2017

McQ's #57 Song Of 2015 - ROCK & ROLL IS COLD - Matthew E. White

It was a quite a year for Matthew E. White.

For starters, the multi-faceted Virginian produced singer-songwriter Natalie  Prass's lovely self-titled debut, which we will hear more about later in this countdown.

But between those production duties and running his own record label, White also managed to release his own second LP, the short, to the point Fresh Blood, and on that LP was one of my favorite throwawy tracks of the year, the joyous Rock & Roll Is Cold.

A silly, gimmicky play on words and our love of various music genres, it's the farthest thing from a deep, heavy song, but its bouyancy and sense of celebration is near irrestible.

Here's the official video.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

McQ's #57 Song Of 1967 - LAZY ME - Moby Grape

Coming in at #57 in our top songs of 1967 countdown, one of only three of the thirteen tracks from Moby Grape's legendary self-titled debut that was not released as a single, Lazy Me.

In hindsight, it's easy to see why Lazy Me was one of the few songs on the debut Columbia did not rally behind.

 Released just as the Summer Of Love and pyschedelic music was hitting peak popularity in June of 1967, the album was specifically marketed to the hippie/pro-drug-experimentation crowd, but Lazy Me, though itself an exploration of the acid-fueled headspace, not to mention a searing two-minute soul jam featuring some knock-out acoustic and electric guitar work, presented a much darker view of the LSD experience, closing each short verse with a couplet that suggested there were no real answers to be found in such substance-driven explorations, only apathy and decay.

Given how quickly the "Summer Of Love" in San Francisco devolved from a genuine utopian cultural moment at summer's start to a crime-riddled, near humanitarian crisis by summer's end, the song feels cleared-eyed and prescient when compared to the more hopeful, optimistic tone found in the majority of the year's other psychedelic songs, the very anti-thesis say, of Scott McKenzie's San Francisco.

Friday, August 4, 2017

McQ's #58 Album Of 2015 - BIRDS SAY - Darlingside

Stepping away from high profile, internationally recognized releases for a moment, Birds Say, our number 58 album of 2015, comes from a young Massachussetts indie-folk/bluegrass quartet still in the early stages of breaking their way into the listening public and music industry's consciousness.

In fact, I still probably wouldn't know who they are today if it weren't for fellow New Englander Patty Griffin, who asked Darlingside to join her on her 2015 Servent Of Love tour (more on that album in a few weeks). My wife and I were lucky enough to catch both acts in their November 2015 performance on the outdoor stage at Pioneertown's legendary Pappy & Harriets, and as soon as I saw Darlingside, I knew I would want to include a piece of their music in our 2015 collection.

So I bought their merch. And boy, am I glad I did.

The music in Birds Say is far from earth-shattering - basically straighforward contemporary indie-folk that falls very much in the broad male-harmony-driven camp that includes the likes of Fleet Foxes, Trampled By Turtles, Local Natives, and Mumford & Sons -  but at the end of the day, the band just harmonizes beautifully.  We're talking jaw-droppingly well, both live and on record, and that one talent basically overpowers whatever flaws of inexperience (of which, at times, their are many) exists in their music.

What emerges, then, is a light, positive, very well-produced collection of acoustic songs. Songs that are more pleasant than impactful, but that do portend of better things to come for the band as it continues to push forward, sharpen their vision, and grow.

For me, the crowd-pleasing White Horses and sad, Celtic-tinged, immigrant tale The God Of Loss are the definite standouts, though if you can ignore the clunky lyrics, Do You Ever Live is a definite musical/melodic highlight. My Gal, My Guy, the most Fleet Fox-y of the songs here, probably has the album's best melody line, but is diminished slightly by a weak extended ending.

If you're cherry picking, skip the sticky safe title track and Volcano Sky, a failed attempt at an epic pentultimate closer, but otherwise, the rest of the tracks on the record, are, like the band as a whole, quite agreeable and well worth hearing.

Status: Mild Recommend

Cherry Picker's Best Bets: White Horses, My Gal, My Guy, The God Of Loss, Do You Ever Live.

Track Listing:
1. The Ancestor - 7
2. White Horses - 8
3. Harrison Ford - 7
4. Clay & Cast Iron - 7
5. Go Back - 7
6. My Gal, My Guy - 8
7. Birds Say - 6
8. The God Of Loss - 8
9. Water Rose - 7
10. Do You Ever Live - 7
11. She's All Around - 7
12. Volcano Sky - 5
13. Good For You - 7
Intagibles - Average

Here's the official videos for my favorite two tracks on the album, White Horses and The God Of Loss.