Wednesday, March 30, 2011

For Mom.

Prayers of Invocation

Om asato ma sadgamaya,
tamaso ma jyotirgamaya,
mrityorma amritamgamaya
Om shantih shantih shantih
~brihdaranyaka upanisada 1:3:27

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

recap: 45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days

So there you have it! 45 of my most important albums EVER. I tried hard to resist tampering with the list once it was set, which meant the omission of some really good albums that I completely overlooked, such as The Who Sell Out, Donovan's Barabajagal, Crowded House's Woodface, Simon & Garfunkel's Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme, The Byrds' Younger than Yesterday, to name a few.

Here's a recap of the 45 albums:
  1. The Beatles 1967-1970 (1973)
  2. The Monkees Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, ltd (1967)
  3. The Zombies Odessey and Oracle (1968)
  4. The Beach Boys Pet Sounds (1966)
  5. Brian Wilson presents SMiLE (2004)
  6. Go-Go's Beauty and the Beat (1981)
  7. George Harrison All Things Must Pass (1970)
  8. Three O'Clock Arrive Without Traveling (1985)
  9. Tears for Fears The Seeds of Love (1989)
  10. Prefab Sprout Two Wheels Good (1985)
  11. Redd Kross Phaseshifter (1993)
  12. De La Soul 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)
  13. Prince & The Revolution Parade (1986)
  14. Partridge Family Sound Magazine (1972)
  15. The Rascals Once Upon a Dream (1967)
  16. Love Forever Changes (1968)
  17. The Beach Boys Friends (1968)
  18. Ramones Ramones Mania (1988)
  19. The Knack Round Trip (1981)
  20. The Jacksons Triumph (1980)
  21. Cheap Trick In Color (1977)
  22. Tie: Big Star #1 Record & Radio City (1974)
  23. The Bird and The Bee (2007)
  24. The Beatles Love (2006)
  25. Blondie Eat To The Beat (1979)
  26. Bay City Rollers It's a Game (1977)
  27. R.E.M. Out of Time (1991) 
  28. KISS Destroyer (1976) 
  29. Nirvana Nevermind (1991)
  30. 'Til Tuesday Everything's Different Now (1988)
  31. The Stone Roses (1989)
  32. The Lemonheads It's A Shame About Ray (1992)
  33. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts Notorious (1991)
  34. The Bangles Everything (1988)
  35. Jellyfish Bellybutton (1990)
  36. B-52's Cosmic Thing (1989)
  37. Bee Gees Main Course (1974)
  38. The Muffs Blonder and Blonder (1995)
  39. The Osmonds Crazy Horses (1972)
  40. O+> The Gold Experience (1995)
  41. Beck Odelay (1996)
  42. Beastie Boys Paul's Boutique (1988)
  43. Stone Temple Pilots Tiny Music from the Vatican Gift Shop (1996)
  44. Scissor Sisters (2004)
  45. Burt Bacharach At This Time (2005) 

    Tuesday, March 08, 2011

    1. The Beatles 1967-1970 (1973)

    45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
    1967-1970 (1973)
    As a general rule, I would never include a "greatest hits" album in a best-of list, unless it was a list of the best greatest hits albums.  I have my reasons for making an exception with this one tho.

    On my 11th birthday in 1977 I received my first three Beatles LPs: Meet the Beatles!, Let It Be, and a German compilation called Beatles Greatest.  I soon started buying any-and-everything Beatles. The Beatles 1967-1970, or "The Blue Album" as it's often called, was one of the first full-length albums I remember purchasing with my own saved-up money.  At the time I was only vaguely familiar with the various Beatles LPs that the album's songs were culled from, so I experienced this album as a unit unto its own rather than a compilation of individual tunes.  I always enjoy hearing these songs as they are sequenced on this album's four sides, since this is how I first heard them back when I was a wee lad.
    Listening to this album I'm reminded of what a good time the late 70's were to start collecting Beatles stuff. All of the band's American LPs and singles were still being pressed by Capitol, and it wasn't too difficult to find the occasional Apple pressing of a solo LP in the shops.

    I still have all of the Beatles records I bought back in the day. Most of the ones I bought between 77-79 are visually tattered and worn, with torn seams, scotch tape, and other various markings, but they still play very nicely.  When The Beatles catalog was first issued on CD I bought every disc except for 1967-1970. I anticipate that one day I will buy a new vinyl copy, but I see no need to own a CD version when I would likely revert back to my ratty old vinyl copy anyway.

    Monday, March 07, 2011

    2. The Monkees - Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones ltd. (1967)

    45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...

    August 20, 1986: My first Monkees concert
    (photo by Tina Curtis)
    I became a Beatles freak in 1977, but I've been a Monkees fanatic for as long as I can remember. Before I was even pre-school age I was watching stuff like The Monkees, H.R. Pufnstuf, and The Banana Splits on Saturday morning tv.  I can't help but think that these shows played a part in shaping  my penchant for psychedelia. The more I think about it, The Monkees were probably responsible for a lot of what I look for in music today.

    At a Tork solo gig in '97.
    Peter was
    very gracious & friendly.

    Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones ltd. has been a part of my collection longer than any other album on the "45 LPs" list.  When we were very young my brother and I had the first four Monkees albums inadvertently handed down to us by one of our neighbors. She had lent the albums to us but seeing as we knew nothing about the proper care of records we beat them up so badly that she just let us keep them. Of these four albums, Pisces... always stood out to me as the strongest.

    1991: I got Micky's autograph after
    this solo show in downtown Minneapolis
    In the late 70's/early 80's I began to learn about post-Pisces Monkees LPs. It was around this time that Japanese imports started trickling over to the U.S., and I could not have been more excited. When I was in high school I saw the band's feature film HEAD at a Monkees convention.  Then 1986 and the whole MTV MonkeeMania thing happened, along with the re-issue of the entire Monkees catalog on Rhino records. In the 90's The Monkees catalog got a handsome reissue on CD, and the fans even got an all-new CD from all four Monkees (Justus, 1996). And now we're in 2011 and the Monkees are preparing to hit the road again.

    With the legendary Davy Jones in 2005
    Next to Cheap Trick I have seen The Monkees in concert more than any other band.  Recently a fellow fan and friend posted pictures on Facebook from her very first Monkees show in 1986, which happened to be MY first Monkees show as well. Talk about a friggin small world. I have since seen Monkees (minus Nesmith) in multiple cities and venues of varying sizes. When I first put this list together I knew that there was a good chance of a 45th Anniversary tour, but I had no idea whether that tour would come to Minnesota.  As I type this I am happy to report that I have my ticket to see The Monkees perform once again when they play the Minnesota Zoo this summer.

    Sunday, March 06, 2011

    3. The Zombies - Odessey and Oracle (1968)

    45 years, 45 LPs,  45 days...
    Odessey and Oracle (1968)
    Sometimes I think I'll never find
    such purity and peace of mind again.
    ~ Zombies, "Hung Up On a Dream"

    Such was my frame of mind from 1988-1991.  I was beginning to feel unease about graduating because I feared that leaving the college campus would spell the end of my enthusiasm for learning. Being as young as I was, I was filled with an energy and determination to change the world, even though I had no idea what that meant or how I would actually execute such change. I did make what I saw as some positive changes; I became a lifelong vegetarian as well as a loudmouth for ecological issues. 
    Fall 1988
    All of what I was learning in the late 80's planted the seeds for what continues to motivate me as a citizen. I still believe in the power of the consumer -- the idea that how we choose to spend our money makes a difference. I am also far more politically savvy now than I was 20 years ago, although my idealism tends to make things complicated at times.

    I am not particularly good at living in the moment, but I do recall one particular day on campus in the late 80's walking between classes and listening to Odessey on my Walkman.  When "Hung Up On a Dream" came on it was like my brain took a Poloroid snapshot.  I felt self-aware, happy, and in the moment. At the same time I sensed that life would not always be so sweet and full of discovery.

    Saturday, March 05, 2011

    4. The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds (1966)

    45 years, 45 LPs, 4 days...
    Pet Sounds (1966)
    It's hard to believe that 27 years have passed since I bought my first copy of Pet Sounds. I have always had a spiritual connection with this album. I bought Pet Sounds the summer before my freshman year in college, when I was dating my high school sweetheart. Naturally many of the songs still remind me of her. We would often listen to Pet Sounds in the car while making out.

    70's Brother/Reprise 45 of "God Only Knows"
    According to the liner notes in the first CD reissue of Pet Sounds, the instrumental backing tracks for "God Only Knows" were recorded on 3.9.66, the day I was born. I have since read accounts stating that recording commenced in the early hours of 3.10.66. Regardless, it is pretty damn cool to envision Brian leading his studio musicians through this incredible song right around the time that my mom was giving birth to me. When Carl Wilson was still alive, "God Only Knows" was always a blissful highlight of Beach Boys concerts. You would think that singing the song several hundred times a year would get a bit tiresome, but Carl had a gift for connecting with the tune in such a fashion that it would make grown men weep.
    Since buying my first mono copy of Pet Sounds (which still sounds gorgeous), I've obtained multiple copies of the LP. One of the more curious copies is a Japanese "stereo" pressing that achieved fake stereo by creating a slight delay between the sound coming from the right and left speakers.  While I will always have a soft spot for my first copy of Pet Sounds, my favorite pressing is the limited numbered double LP version that includes a stunning mono copy (on green vinyl) alongside a stereo remix created from the original tapes (on yellow vinyl). 

    In the fall of 2000 I saw Brian perform Pet Sounds in its entirety from the front row of Northrop auditorium on the U of M's campus. It was an amazing night, one which was topped only by his SMiLE concert at the Orpheum in 2004.

    Friday, March 04, 2011

    5. Brian Wilson presents SMiLE (2004)

    45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
    Brian Wilson presents SMiLE (2004)
    9.30.2004: B.Wilson at the 
    Orpheum in Minneapolis
    On September 30, 2004 I was one of the fortunate Americans who saw the national stage premiere of Brian Wilson's SMiLE, just two days after the mythical long-lost masterpiece was released in record stores. The experience was without a doubt one of the most surreal of my life. I never thought I would hear a completed SMiLE, let alone see and hear it performed live by the master himself.
    My first exposure to the magic of SMILE
    One of the earliest records my brother and I owned as kids was the "Good Vibrations" 45.  I always loved the song. By the time I entered college I had become full-blown Beach Boys nut, listening to and reading everything Beach Boys that I could get my hands on. Like many hardcore Beach Boys fans I became a devotee of the abandoned Smile album in the 1980's when long-circulated collector tapes started making their way onto vinyl.

    80's SMiLE boot + repro of original SMiLE booklet
    I had read about the SMiLE project before hearing most of its individual segments. There were a handful of songs that I'd known through official Beach Boys releases: "Our Prayer" & "Cabinessence" (from 20/20), "Heroes & Villains",  "Vegetables", "Wind Chimes", & "Wonderful" (from Smiley Smile), and "Surf's Up" (from the album of the same name), but it wasn't until 1985 when I got my first Smile bootleg that I discovered the true brilliance of this unfinished masterpiece. Bits of songs such as "Do You Like Worms",  "Barnyard" and "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" were fascinating little tracks. The lo-fi sound of my bootleg LP only added to the mystery of the music; it was as if I was getting a peek into what might have been.

    2004 SMiLE tour programme
    In 1985 nobody would have believed that Brian Wilson would come back the way he did in the late 1990's. In 2000 he and his new band took Pet Sounds on the road, playing in many towns with local symphonies.  Bolstered with a renewed confidence, plus the unconditional love and support of his band and family, Brian stunned the music world by announcing that his next project was to finish and perform SMiLE in concert.

    I was early in line at the box office on the day Brian's SMiLE show went on sale. Even after getting my ticket I couldn't quite believe that I was holding admission to what I believed to be the most unimaginable musical event of all time. It wasn't until I was in my seat hearing the opening notes of "Our Prayer" that I felt the enormity of what I was a part of that night. It was actually happening, and I was actually there in the room with the man who had made the journey from 1966 to 2004 with this music. Thinking about it now still gives me the tinglies.

    Thursday, March 03, 2011

    6. Go-Go's - Beauty and the Beat (1981)

    45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
    Beauty and the Beat (1981)
    This album changed my life.

    Sounds melodramatic, I know. Still, I remember how much it completely rocked my world in the Fall of 1981. I had seen the group lipsynch "Our Lips Are Sealed" on Solid Gold, and from that moment on I was helplessly obsessed.

    My first Go-Go's concert, 1982
    The Go-Go's were the first all-female band to write their own material, play their own instruments, and hit #1. They became America's sweethearts, although in real life they were giving the guy bands a run for their money in terms of living the hard rock & roll lifestyle. Belinda was hooked on coke, Charlotte was a heroin addict, and all the gals had their fair share of serious partying on the road.  The lifestyle took its toll on the band, and it showed on their 2nd album Vacation (1982), which had its moments but lacked the cohesiveness and powerful punch of Beauty and the Beat.

    My original welcome packet from the official fan club.
    The Go-Go's came back in '84 with the fantastic Talk Show LP, but failed to maintain the momentum that propelled them to the top back in 1981. Jane was the first to leave the band in '85, and while the Go-Go's tried to continue without her it wasn't long before the rest of the band splintered from the strain. Belinda and Charlotte soon announced their departure, and the Go-Go's were done.  At least for the time being.

    My ticket stub from the Vacation tour
    The original band reunited in 1990 for a brief 'greatest hits' tour, and again in 1994 in support of their double disc Return to the Valley of the Go-Go's compilation, which featured three brand new tracks.  The band continued to tour and work on new material, and in 2001 released God Bless The Go-Go's, their first all-new full-length disc in 17 years.

    Wednesday, March 02, 2011

    7. George Harrison - All Things Must Pass (1970)

    45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...

    All Things Must Pass (1970)

    2000 reissue
    I've written about this album before, so I'll try not to re-write older posts. One story I've not shared is the day I bought All Things Must Pass...

    My first copy of All Things Must Pass still sounds great
    It was a brisk day in the fall of '78 or '79 (lets go with '78). My friend Roger Warner made the trek with me to the Great American Music store in Fridley where I was buying a lot of my records at the time. On the way home we stopped at the Kmart lunch counter where I popped a balloon and got a free hot fudge sundae. So Roger & I are sitting at a booth and I peel the shrink off my new LP to get a look inside. As I'm eating I drop a big glob of fudge right on the album's front cover. I tried to wipe it off, but couldn't because the cover was a non-glossy paper slick slapped onto a box.  To this day my original copy bears the scar from me trying to scrub off the fudge.

    Here's a portion of what I wrote about this great record last fall on 11/19, a week before it was re-issued in all its original glory:
    When I first purchased All Things Must Pass (some 28 years ago now!) I had just begun the terror experience known as junior high school. At home my family was struggling through its own tough times, leaving me with very few spaces where I could feel physically and emotionally safe. Looking back, there were two places where I felt most at ease: my bedroom and the record store.  Dramatic as it might sound, All Things Must Pass was one of those rare albums that practically changed my life upon first spin. I've never been much of a lyrics person, but the messages of hope etched into these grooves provided healing at a time when I was in great need. Listening to this record still feels like a warm blanket, and to see it get such a thoughtful reissue makes me very happy indeed.

    Tuesday, March 01, 2011

    Monkees 2011 US Tour dates!!

    Here they are: The most up-to-date list of stops on the Monkees' upcoming summer tour!

    An Evening with The Monkees - The 45th Anniversary Tour North American Itinerary
    Sat. June 4 - Clearwater FL - Ruth Eckerd Hall
    Sun. June 5 - Pompano Beach - Pompano Beach Amphitheater
    Mon. June 6 - Jacksonville FL - Florida Theatre
    Wed. June 8 - Innsbrook VA - Innsbrook Amphitheater
    Thu. June 9 - Morristown NJ - Mayo Center
    Fri. June 10 - Uncasville CT - Mohegan Sun Resort
    Wed. June 15 - Lowell MA - Lowell Auditorium
    Thu. June 16 - New York NY - Beacon Theatre
    Fri. June 17 - Westbury NY - Theatre @ Westbury
    Sat. June 18 - Atlantic City NJ - Borgata
    Mon. June 20 - Hershey PA - Hershey Theater
    Wed. June 22 - Pittsburgh PA - Stage AE
    Thu. June 23 - Detroit MI - Fox Theatre
    Fri. June 24 - Columbus OH - LC Lifestyle Pavilion
    Sat. June 25 - Cincinnati OH - Aronoff Center
    Sun. June 26 - Indianapolis IN - Murat Theatre
    Wed. June 29 - Waukegan IL - Genesee Theatre
    Thu. June 30 - Merrillville IN - Star Plaza Theatre
    Fri. July 1 - Minneapolis MN - Minneapolis Zoo
    Sat. July 2 - Minneapolis MN - Minneapolis Zoo
    Tue. July 5 - Denver CO - Paramount Theatre
    Fri. July 8 - Tacoma WA - Broadway PAC
    Sat. July 9 - Portland OR - Sleep Country Amphitheater
    Sun. July 10 - San Francisco CA - Winery
    Wed. July 13 - Bakersfield CA - Fox Theater
    Thu. July 14 - Santa Ynez CA - Chumash Casino
    Fri. July 15 - Cabazon CA - Morongo Resort
    Sat. July 16 - Los Angeles CA - Greek

    8. Three O'Clock - Arrive Without Travelling (1985)

    45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
    Arrive Without Traveling (1985)
    hype sticker

    I will be the first to admit that I have a history of obsessing over bands that I like. Despite this, the official fan clubs I've joined over the years can be counted on one hand: Go-Go's, Beach Boys, Annette Funicello (that's right, I said it), and Three O'clock.

    Yes I carried it in my wallet with pride.
    When I discovered the Three O'clock it felt like I'd hit the jackpot; It was truly love at first listen. The band was part of LA's "Paisley Underground", a group of bands that also included Rain Parade, The Bangles, and The Long Ryders.  The Three O'clock were blatantly psychedelic, but not so much that they ever lost their pop appeal.  This was a band that covered early Bee Gees ("In My Own Time"), played The Monkees' "For Pete's Sake" in their live set, and presumedly lifted their album title Arrive Without Travelling from the lyrics of an obscure Beatles b-side ("The Inner Light").  I had no choice but to obsess over this band.  I was powerless.

    Official Three O'clock newsletter
    Unfortunately, Arrive Without Travelling would be the Three O'clock's peak.  They released two more albums before disbanding: 1986's Ever After, and 1988's Vermillion, which was released on Prince's Paisley Park label (turns out I wasn't the only one from Minneapolis who loved this band!).  Both albums had their moments, but neither contained Arrive Without Travelling's unbridled flash of raw psychedelic enthusiasm.