Taking The Midland Line

May 25th, 2018

I’ve recently covered some great country pop albums by the ladies, so now it’s the turn of the gentlemen. On the recommendation of Jason Brewer of the Explorer’s Club, I explored Midland’s debut album On The Rocks, and I’m impressed. Ostensibly neo-traditionalist country, it is full of catchy and melodic songs that transcend the country genre and move into great pop music.  There are a lot of really strong songs here, but Drinkin’ Problem, Burn Out and Electric Rodeo are some of the standouts.

Pet Sounds 50 ..And 2

May 20th, 2018

Since I last posted, we’ve had Pet Sounds 52nd birthday, taking place while Brian Wilson is still touring the album’s 50th birthday. Here is what I wrote about the greatest album in the universe on it’s golden anniversary. There’s been a wedding that some of you have heard about, and in much more obscure but highly welcome news….after 14 years, a new album from A Girl Called Eddy.

23 Songs For Today

May 14th, 2018

1.  Hard On A Heart-  Ashley Monroe
2.  The Power of Three -Belle and Sebastian
3.  Best Friend -Belle and Sebastian
4.  Bare Feet -Caroline Jones
5. Love Of The Loved -Cilla Black
6, Anniversary Song -Cowboy Junkies
7. Twice As Worth It -Deana Carter
8. So I Could Find My Way -Enya
9. Another Bridge -Everything But The Girl
10. The Lakes of Canada -The Innocence Mission
11. Dirty Computer- Janelle Monáe (feat. Brian Wilson)
12. Space Cowboy -Kacey Musgraves
13. Golden Hour -Kacey Musgraves
14. Out of Reach -Karnataka
15. A Million Tears -Kasey Chambers
16. The Closest Thing To Crazy -Katie Melua
17. I Envy The Wind -Lucinda Williams
18. If I Could -October Project
19. Terribly Sorry -Saint Etienne
20. Fascination -Saint Etienne
21. Montmartre -Sarah Darling
22. Since You’ve Gone -Spanky & Our Gang
23. Walk Your Feet In The Sunshine -The 5th Dimension

Brian’s Back (And The Beach Boys Go Classic)

May 10th, 2018

With the news that Brian Wilson’s back surgery has gone well, we also now have a “new” Beach Boys album on the way. The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra isn’t really a new album -it is the classic Beach Boys songs with new orchestral overdubs, but has been endorsed by all the living members and it is coming very soon.

Darling Music

May 7th, 2018

They say good things come in threes, so here is a third great pop album from a country lady. This one is a bit older than the Kacey Musgraves and Ashley Monroe records, but it has recently come to my attention. While the title says Dream Country, there is actually quite a wide range of pop styles, with some classic songwriting on tracks like the gorgeous romantic Montmarte, the classic Where Cowboys Ride and a cover of the Smiths Please Please Let Me Get What I Want.  You can order this great record here on her webpage.

Bad Back To Touring

May 2nd, 2018

We’ve been celebrating Brian’s touring record but there has now been a bad break, or rather a bad back. In a message sent out to fans yesterday,Brian indicated he needed surgery for a bad back that has been bugging him for some time (it was quite noticeable for much of the 2012 reunion tour) and the May dates would be postponed. At this stage, his July and later dates are still on. We all wish Brian a quick and painless surgery, and hope that the recovery goes very well.

Brian Cleaning Up Your Computer

April 28th, 2018

And now for something completely different. Brian Wilson is featured artist and backing vocalist on the title track of Janelle Monae’s new album Dirty Computer.  It’s  quite interesting to read how this artist in the world of Rap and R&B is fascinated by Brian and the Beach Boys. The track itself is quite melodic, with Brian’s sunny harmonies a spectral presence in the background, and it certainly honors Brian (who wasn’t involved in writing it). You can hear it here.

Monroe Suede

April 25th, 2018

Like London buses, one good country pop album follows another. Three weeks after the release of Golden Hour comes Ashley Monroe’s new record, Sparrow. Monroe has always been on the neo-traditional side of country music, but here the tradition extends to the countrypolitan sound of Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb. The album is clearly personal, much of it written while she was pregnant with her first son, with titles like She Wakes Me Up and Daddy I Told You. As with Golden Hour, there are even forays into a more disco sound on Hard On A Heart, and the album still has a sultry core with songs like Wild Love and Hands On You. Good pop music may not be topping the world charts, but it is still around, courtesy of these country ladies.

50 Years Undead

April 19th, 2018

Today marks the 50th anniversary of a cult album released by a group that had already broken up. But the album has proved as “undead” as the group’s namesakes, and still growing in stature as a pioneering work. Here is my review of the album from 2007 with some corrections of text garbled by WordPress updates, and in the context of a series of reviews post the 40th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper.

 With Sgt. Pepper still on our minds, I thought it would be an appropriate time to look at some late 60s albums that were conceived with the same principles in mind such as classy pop songs,  harmonies, a sense more than substance of a unifying theme,  and some hints of psychedelia. The next three album reviews are what I will call the three “Os” -three album titles that begin with O that I believe meet the above criteria. Maybe you can start guessing what the next two will be…..

The first one is a true “cult” album, Odessey And Oracle (and yes, that Odessey is a typo by the record company that has never been corrected) by the Zombies. The story of the album seems almost like one of those scenarios that they could make a blockbuster movie…band on the verging of breaking up make one final classic album, album sinks without trace due to no publicity in 1968,  DJ starts playing a track a year later that becomes a big hit and pop standard, and the album gains cult status and critical acclaim over the years.

The big hit is Time Of The Season, which readers should know. It is a classic slice of 60s pop rock with a fantastic riff and harmonies, and it more than deserves its “standard” status.  But it is in illustrious company, as the album clearly shows a band that shows it has nothing to lose and is prepared to take chances and a lot of care over the songs.

The music is sophisticated, harmonic pop, with slightly jazzy arrangements tinged by the use of a Mellotron, which should definitely appeal to fans of both the Beatles and Beach Boys. Lyrically, there is some very interesting ground covered – most notably in the very personal war experience song, Butcher’s Tale (Western Front 1914). As with Pepper, there isn’t really a unifying theme, but the songs do feel like they belong together. And bits of it were recorded at Abbey Road studios.

My personal favorite song on the album is Hung Up On A Dream, an evocative journey through a “a dream…that gave me peace and blew my mind” that includes some stunning melodic and harmonic moments.

Some more good background can be seen on the Wikipedia article, and it is still very readily available on-line.  This is certainly an absolute must for 60s pop fans and anyone serious about having a complete collection of the great pop and rock albums.

Over 800 On The Road

April 14th, 2018

As Brian Wilson adds 2018 dates to his three different shows, it is a good time to reflect again on Brian’s touring history. A very good reference point is Andrew Doe’s site at http://esquarterly.com/bellagio/britour.html and a quick statistical analysis shows that Brian is now in his 20th year of serious touring, with at least 3 shows per year since 1999, and indeed doing at least 20 shows in all but four of these years. The total number of dates (past and planned) is 842, which also means that over the 20 year period, Brian has done a show in at least one in every ten nights. So much for a quiet retirement.