Monday, March 30, 2020

The Albums of 1970: The Beach Boys: Sunflower

Release Date: August 31, 1970

Personnel: Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, Mike Love, Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson

Produced by The Beach Boys

Side 1: Slip on Through; This Whole World; Add Some Music To Your Day; Got to Know the Woman; Deirdre; It's About Time

Side 2: Tears in the Morning; All I Wanna Do; Forever; Our Sweet Love; At My Window; Cool, Cool Water

Recorded during a tumultuous time for The Beach Boys, Sunflower proved a critical success but a commercial failure. In addition to some business and financial issues, the dynamics of the band were changing with Brian Wilson stepping away as the central songwriter, resulting in a record with all members making strong contributions. 

"Slip on Through" with Dennis Wilson on lead vocal opens the record on a cool 70s groove, expressing a new maturity from their earlier music. "This Whole World" continues riding the good vibes with its dreamy visions of world harmony, California pop taken to perfection. The good tidings keep rolling with "Add Some Music To Your Day" with the lyric "The World Come Together As One/If everybody under the sun/add some music to your day." 

Dennis Wilson's "Got To Know the Woman" features a Dixieland piano and a soulful vocal. "Deirdre" is a quirky track about a California girl, melancholy in its portrait of an on and off relationship but still dreamlike. Side one ends with "It's About Time", song about an artist having an epiphany borders on cliche rock and roll, but it's still well produced.

Side two opens with Bruce Johnston's "Tears in the Morning," a musing on the aftermath of a relationship. "All I Wanna Do" moves with lots of reverb (adds a calming effect) with Mike Love on vocals is the type of song suitable to be put on a repeating loop. Dennis contributed "Forever," in Brian's words a rock and roll prayer. It's got the directness of a James Taylor song with Paul McCartney's sense for structure, a standout track on Sunflower. "Our Sweet Love" from Brian continues theme of salvation through love. "At My WIndow" by Al Jardine and Brian muses on bird watching and transcendence with the sly lyric, "From Their Eyes/The People Must look like miniature toys."

Sunflower concludes with Brian's "Cool Cool Water," a song intended for the Smiley Smile album. The longest track on the album at five minutes,it moves along like a spaced out reflection at the end of a long peaceful day in the sunshine. That sentiment sums up Sunflower well enough, it's a spirited mature album from The Beach Boys deserving of a wider audience. 

Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Albums of 1970: Creedence Clearwater Revival: Cosmo's Factory

Release Date: July 16, 1970

Personnel: John Fogerty, Tom Fogerty, Stu Cook, Doug Clifford

Produced by John Fogerty

Side 1: Ramble Tamble; Before You Accuse Me; Travelin' Band; Ooby Doby; Lookin' Out My Backdoor; Run Through the Jungle

Side 2: Up Around the Bend; My Baby Left Me; Who'll Stop the Rain; I Heard it Through the Grapevine; Long As I Can See the Light

From 1968-70, Creedence Clearwater Revivial were on a serious roll! Releasing five albums within a two year period with a slew of hit singles, they oddly never achieved a number one hit, but they reached #2 five times, a standing record to this day. In an era with a multitude of tremendous artists doing their best work, CCR was right in the thick of it. Cosmo's Factory captured CCR at the height of their powers with five hit singles and one of the top selling records of 1970. 

CCR had a range and it's on full display in Cosmo's Factory. "Ramble Tamble" opens the record with a seven minute epic of swamp rock and psychedelia. "Before You Accuse Me" is a Bo Didley cover, showcased the band's R&B influence, present on all their records. "Travelin" Band" was a number two single, a direct homage to Little Richard about chaotic life on the road during the era. "Ooby Dooby" goes into rockabilly territory, providing a nod to the pre rock era. "Lookin" Out My Back Door" is straight up country with surreal lyrics by Fogerty. It's hard to to hear "Run Through the Jungle" and not think of Vietnam movies (required they use this song?). I view it as a haunting barometer of how white working class kids felt about the war.

Side two beings with the familiar riff of "Up Around the Bend", a heavier version of "Proud Mary." "My Baby Left Me," an Arthur Crudup R&B cover is short and sweet. The anthemic "Who'll Stop the Rain" was inspired by the band's appearance at Woodstock, instantly conjuring images from the era. "I Heard it through the Grapevine" offered an extended jam of a Motown hit, running for eleven minutes I wonder if it impressed The Grateful Band, their fellow jam band in the Bay area! Ending with the soulful number "Long As I Can See the Light" - Cosmo's Factory ends on an uplifting note.

 Unfortunately CCR would record only two more albums. Tom Fogerty left the band in 1971, and the magic was mostly absent on their final LP Mardi Gras. John would get involved in a legal battle with Fantasy Records, losing the rights to the music he had written, performed, and produced. During the 80s he began a successful solo career. 

Trends have come and gone, but CCR and their music endures. They sounded unlike anyone else, four guys from the Bay Area who sounded like they were from the bayou of Louisiana, never hip (as the album cover suggests) but Right On in the best sense of the term. 

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers #1

Release Date: November 9, 1976 Members: Tom Petty (vocals, guitar); Mike Campbell (guitars); Benmont Tench (piano, organ); Ron Blair (bass);...