Friday, December 15, 2017

The End : 1967

The Beatles release Sgt. Pepper for the Summer of Love and finish the year with Magical Mystery Tour and the double A-side single "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Field," and people ask, why all the hoopla? Silly, don't you think? Indeed, the Summer of Love left everything in its wake anticlimactic; still, November and December '67 alone, rock all over many other years. A handful of the best (and there are plenty more):

Buffalo Springfield: Buffalo Springfield Again (Atco): 

Buffalo Springfield made their superb second album in fits and starts alternately dominated by combative singer-guitarist-song-writers Stephen Stills and Neil Young. The latter predicted the wild eclecticism of his solo career with the California-Stones-style fury of "Mr. Soul" and the symphonic restlessness of "Expecting to Fly," written after Young briefly quit the group in the summer of 1967. The diverse levels of musicianship on "Again" are technically astonishing, from the scorching proto-punk of Young's "Mr. Soul" to the folky psychedelia and dazzling guitar-work of Stills' "Bluebird." The production on this album, as on the albums of the Beatles during this era, is very full and lush, manifesting itself most beautifully on "Broken Arrow." 

Cream: Disraeli Gears (Atco):

Cream's best album Includes Arthur Reynolds, "Outside Woman Blues" nearly identical to the original, plus an electric dynamo. And the riff to "Sunshine of Your Love," written by bassist Jack Bruce, is Delta blues at its core. But Disraeli Gears decisively broke with British blues purism in the ecstatic jangle of "Dance the Night Away," the climbing dismay of "We're Going Wrong" (driven by Ginger Baker's circular drumming) and the wah-wah grandeur of "Tales of Brave Ulysses." You can't get much more lysergic than 'Tales of Brave Ulysses' or the monstrously brooding 'Sunshine of Your Love'.  And if you're a youngster and want to feel what it was to exist in the heady days of 1967, here you go.  The guitar solo in SWLABR is 100% LSD-25 which inhabits the same territory as the smile on the Mona Lisa's lips or the stars of van Gogh. As for Martin Sharp's Artwork, it WAS the pulse of 1967, every line an artery. It should be in every Artbook on important art of the 20th century, and it is a travesty that it is generally excluded due to cultural elitism. 

Jefferson Airplane: After Bathing at Baxter's (RCA):

Singer Marty Balin was so alienated by the acid-fueled indulgence of the sessions for the Airplane's third album -- four months in Los Angeles, where the band stayed in a mansion that once housed the Beatles -- that he co-wrote only one song, "Young Girl Sunday Blues." Yet Baxter's was the Airplane at their most defiantly psychedelic, exploring outer limits of despair and song form in the dark urgency of "The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil," Grace Slick's "Rejoyce" -- a protest-cabaret adaptation of James Joyce's Ulysses -- and the nine-minute instrumental improvisation, "Spare Chaynge." This is very different from Surrealistic Pillow, and because of that, they bewildered quite a few listeners, and I'm certain RCA Records too. Those expecting a continuation from that previous album was in for a rude awakening. No hits like "White Rabbit" or "Somebody to Love". No soft ballads like "Today", "Coming Back to You" or "My Best Friend" here, what you have is a much more harder-edge Airplane.

Love: Forever Changes (Elektra):

Once unjustly ignored although it charted for ten weeks, now lionized beyond all reason although it's certainly a minor masterpiece, the third album by Arthur Lee's interracial L.A. pop band voiced Lee's crazy personal paranoia and paradigmatic political paranoia. Its pretty, well-worked, somewhat fussy surface masks lyrics of unfathomable if not unhinged darkness. Rooted in existential despair and occult folderol, its aura of mystery is earned and indelible, its songcraft undeniable and obscure.

Pices Aquarius Capricorn and Jones (Colgems):

Despite never again reaching the highs of "Pleasant Valley Sunday," the LP's stellar single by Goffin and King, songs like "Words" come close and those that don't are still top notch psychedelic pop and highly underrated. The Harry Nilsson-penned "Cuddly Toy," the rocking "Daily Nightly" and "Love Is Only Sleeping" are testaments to the era, and closer, “Star Collector,” is as good a psychedelic track as "Incense and Peppermints."

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Axis: Bold As Love (Track):

Jimi Hendrix left the original finished masters for Side One in a taxi and had to mix all of the tracks again in one session. Today, Axis is Hendrix's most overlooked album. But it has some of his best writing in the mighty "If 6 Was 9" and "Spanish Castle Magic," a reflection on his boyhood in the Pacific Northwest. There was also the heavy soul of "Little Wing," which Hendrix later told a reporter he'd started writing when he was playing clubs in New York's Greenwich Village. "I don't consider myself a songwriter," he said. "Not yet, anyway." He was wrong.

The Who: The Who Sell Out (Decca):

While making a full meal of their most delectable concept, a pirate-radio broadcast, the Who's finest album of the 60s exemplifies how pop this famously psychedelic year was. The mock jingles - for pimple cream, deodorant, baked beans - are pop at its grubbiest. The fictional singles, typified but not necessarily topped by the actual hit, "I Can See for Miles," are soaring pop like the dream of youth it is: exalted, visionary, even, in their crafty way, psychedelic. All the rest is English eccentricity.