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The Mamas and the Papas – If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears (1966)

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When I look at this album cover, I think of a friend of mine that teaches English and plays in the Kingston Symphony.  The reasons are two-fold:

1) According to the album cover, the band is The Mama’s and the Papa’s – the wincing caused by this misuse of apostrophes is audible!

2) I picked up this CD at the Kingston Symphony’s annual Vinyl Records Sale.

On Day 1 of the sale, ALL records/CDs were $3 each.  I thought, sounds good, I’ll check it out.

I felt like a bit of a hayseed at this year’s sale, my list of rookie mistakes was lengthy.  A sample:

a) I arrived AT the 4 p.m. start time
b) Much like Alicia Silverstone’s character in Clueless, I did a lap of the warehouse before committing to a location.   By the time I got my bearings, thousands of albums had been pulled from the shelves.  While I was pleased that a $9 investment yielded this, Blues Breakers, and Vivid, better planning could have resulted in a more bountiful crop.

Next year, I’ll line up with the 100+ other collectors in advance.  Providing the layout doesn’t change, I’ve got a visual map of where to find the different genres/mediums.

I’ll also bring a milk crate (the business card of a grizzled veteran collector), commit the remaining 1001 list to memory, and the second the doors open, frantically pull records/tapes/CDs from the shelves, only pausing to inspect them after the first 15 minute flurry.  It’s almost too easy!

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Two quotes summarize my feelings here:

1) “Yeah I’d fight for you.”
– Bryan Adams, Everything I Do

Let’s not get carried away and say “yeah I’d lie/walk the wire/die for” this record.  But would I battle my fellow record show patrons again for a shot at this on vinyl?  As BA would hoarsely sing, Yeah.

2) “(this album and Rubber Soul) both had an unusual feeling of being on the creative cusp white being instantly familiar.”
– The liner notes of If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears (IYCBYEAE)

Now if you can believe your auditory/visual senses when I say this, I think this album is actually stronger than Rubber Soul.

On IYCBYEAE, lots of highlights could be, well, highlighted but I don’t want to obfuscate the main takeaway message (any more so than by using such lengthy acronyms and $5 words like obfuscate).

Which is to say, IYCBYEAE sounded great in ’66 & will continue to sound great, long after it celebrates anniversary #50 next year.

Blues Breakers – John Mayall with Eric Clapton (1966)

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“I’m the taxman.”
– The Beatles, Taxman

A fine George Harrison tune that almost described John McVie’s career.

Athough I’m sure he would have made a fine tax inspector, I’m glad McVie decided to play the bass guitar here instead.  Oh, and with another group, Fleetwood something or other, for the next several decades.

Blues Breakers is of those albums where the marquee/caps lock names may shift the units but it’s the supporting cast/fine print that makes it work.

Note that on the CD cover, vocalist John Mayall is in Capitalized Red letters.  Much like a big star in a supporting actor film role, Eric Clapton is billed as “with.”

And the two other guys.  Well at least they remembered to include the two other guys in the picture.

I think the company that produced my version of the CD could have used an employee with an auditing background like John McVie.  Check out the band listed on my copy:

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I understand that with quartets, two members are often highlighted above the others (you know, like the aforementioned George Harrison & Richard Starkey with the Beatles).

In this case, I see the marketability of putting the spotlight on the lead singer & lead guitarist.

But was the rhythm section on Blues Breakers really just, “John McVie, drums on Tracks 1,2,3,6,12?!”

Perhaps I’m an odd duck but with the blues, I really enjoy listening to rhythm sections.

No exception in this case.

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By all accounts, this is an influential record.

Many reviews can be found, detailing the significance of Clapton’s performance & his guitar+amp combo, with my personal favourite review of this record being courtesy of the often-immitated/never-duplicated 1537.  Incidentally, if you ever see footnotes in my reviews, I have the ‘learned sage/scholar’ 1537 to thank for the idea!

When 1537 does footnotes, they’re witty.

When the rhythm section here feels like it’s relegated to a (questionably-edited) album cover footnote, it’s not so clever.

So if the legend of early Clapton is what brings you to the album, so be it, his performance will likely meet expectations.

But stay for the under-billed rhythm section, consisting of that other guy John McVie & the other-other guy, Hughie Flint.

Top 5 Albums from ’66

When I see the number 66, I:
a) begin advising people (through song) to get their kicks on a major US interstate
b) think of Le Magnifique, Mario Lemieux, whose name fittingly translates to “the best”
c) realize we’ve reached the top year from my Top 5 duplicate digit years series.

Which means we’ve also arrived at my most controversial list in a while: attempting to highlight a mere 5 records from a, to borrow the Tori Amos song name, Pretty Good Year.

Hold all complaints/list of unforgivable omissions to the end.

For your convenience, I’ve prepared a form letter below to streamline the grievance process!

Form letter

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5. Simon & Garfunkel, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
Delicious herbs, an equally appealing album.

4. The Kinks, Face to Face
The first of a quartet of Kinks records to grace the 1001 list.

3. Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde
Not his finest but that’s more of a relative criticism when compared to its 1965 predecessors.

2. The Beatles, Revolver
Tomorrow Never Knows was 30 years ahead of its time.

1. The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds
Will probably be review #996 or so/1001.

Yer Favourites POLL – Next stops for the DeLorean

In honour of Back To The Future Part II’s vision of the year 2015, I’ve been devoting this year to time travel as well.

1966 is coming up this week and then…I don’t know where to go next.

To borrow a Beatle album name/movie name (the same one recently reviewed over at GuitarTrain), Help!

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The original edition of the 1001 Albums book (the one I’m going through) goes from 1955-2005.

Here’s where you come in: I’d like you folks to choose the next stops on my journey.

Please vote for your favourite year from each of the following decades.

I’ll make stops in the winning year from each decade.

I’ll leave the polls open for a week and then reveal ‘yer favourites’/my next years to visit.

Thanks for voting, enjoy!

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Cowboy Junkies – The Trinity Session (1988)

[Album 391/1001]

Long time, no blog!

Must be report card season.

At midterms/finals, I’m grateful for albums like The Trinity Session: albums that provide an ideal soundtrack for marking.

I’m also appreciative when I can find a copy for $2.99*, just a slight markdown from its once-upon-a-time price shown below!

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Word association time.

Canadian Female Singer. Timmins. ___________

I’d wager most (myself included) would immediately jump to the pride of Timmins, Ontario, Shania Twain.

In this case, I was looking for Margo Timmins, lead singer of Cowboy Junkies.

Much like the current iteration of Van Halen, 3/4 of the band shares the same surname (with bassist Alan Alton representing the non-Timmins 1/4).Cowboy_Junkies-The_Trinity_Session_(album_cover)

Make no mistake, Alan & the Timmins brothers perform admirably here.

There’s little doubt however that the album belongs to its setting and its singer.

Recorded around a single microphone, primarily in a single day at The Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto**, the songs are divinely under-produced.  Though the church is reasonably close to the Skydome, the songs couldn’t be further from a Shania Twain &/or Van Halen built-for-stadiums sound.

And that was pretty clear from the outset: Margo’s haunting, a capella vocal on the album-opening Mining for Gold set the ethereal tone and the rest flowed gently from there.

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*Like my friend Aaron at the KMA noted recently, Value Village can be a Goldmine for used CDs in Ontario.  Or to borrow a gold Blue Rodeo tune, a Diamond mine.
**Alternatively, as Aaron & my fellow Canadian blogging colleagues call it, Taranna!

The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues (1988)

[Album 390/1001]

First 12 seconds of Fisherman’s Blues

…and that’s all it took to become hooked on The Waterboys.

If the hook, line, and sinker are the three parts of equipment required to catch a fish, the mandolin/fiddle/full banFisherman's_Blues_Waterboys_Album_Coverd provided the trio of staggered entries needed to reel me in.

And I bought into the rest of the album effortlessly.

Or as Jeremy Irons said in the third Die Hard, “they bought it…hook, line, and sinker.

I actually did buy this on audio cassette recently, for the princely sum of $3 (a $3 tape in 2015!).

Here is the tale of that fateful day, slightly embellished to incorporate more fishin’ vocabulary:

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I had been lured into the store, thinking I could exchange some cds for store credit.  While the shopkeeper appraised the cds, I waded further into the store in search of deals.

Just then, the employee swiveled around & told me he had no use for my gear.

However, Fisherman’s Blues had already caught my eye.  Even if paying more than intended felt a bit like a bait & switch, I didn’t want this to be the one that got away.

So I splurged & sunk $3 into the tape.  As I was a big fan of the original album, I think I might now be ready to tackle the box set (all 7 discs – I don’t think the 7-tape version has been released yet).

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Apologies for the puns, I’ll stop.

Though I practically insist the discussion of this record does not stop here.

Two fellow bloggers summarized the title track (and I feel by extension, the album proper) wonderfully so I’ll leave you with their quotes (and suggest you leave here to read more of their quotes!):

Wayne @ The Cave: “Fisherman’s Blues is like a hot cup of tea on a rainy day…It does wonders.

JP @ Musicinsanity: “It’s a song that we should all be singing everyday.

Living Colour – Vivid (1988)

[Album 389/1001]220px-Living_Colour-Vivid

Living Colour – wasn’t that the show where Jim Carrey did Fire Marshall Bill?

Upon a wikipedia search, that was IN Living Color.  No u.

In addition to the slightly varied spelling, other differences between the two include the lack of Wayans brothers/Jennifer Lopez/the other Fly Girls on this record.

That being said, the two similarly named Living Colo(u)rs have a lot in common.

From what I remember, I liked the sketch comedy show.  I also liked Vivid.

The Vivid solos are energetic, but can feel excessive; not unlike how some people feel about Jim Carrey.  In fact, during some of the high-pitched fretwork, it almost feels like the lead guitar is screaming “let me show you somethin” à la Fire Marshall Bill!

Amid the big sounds, there’s a surprise sincerity in tunes like Open Letter (To a Landlord).  Sort of like Carrey impressing with dramatic turns in movies like The Truman Show.

Overall, Vivid is like a season of In Living Color: award-winning, fun, of its time.

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