Brian Wilson : Smile
Smile is unarguably the most long-awaited album in modern pop history. It’s been more than 37 years since the title first appeared on a label release schedule, intended as the January 1967 follow-up to the groundbreaking art-rock of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. But Smile never made its initial release date. Today, this album is not a mere reconstruction of past performances, but something entirely new, a serious summation of a project that has been gestating for nearly four decades.
– 5 stars out of 5
– “[With] brief bridge melodies, youthful harmonies more precise and uplifting now…and an enthralling profusion of instrumental colors. Trombone, timpani, theremin and tenor sax brush by and disappear; a banjo shows its head; strings vibe around…”
– “With a new melodic idea occurring every 45 seconds on average, it’s a gorgeous trip back to a time when anything seemed possible…”
– Grade: A
– 5 stars out of 5
– “Much of it harks back, both lyrically and musically, to the past….SMILE is likely to remain a unique and unlikely moment of retrieval, restoration and renaissance.
The first Doors album was an important development in the evolution of rock, representing the dark underbelly of the ’60s counterculture, the Jekyll to the Beatles/Beach Boys’ Hyde. The Doors were the antithesis of windblown Californian pop. Dark, brooding and alienated, every element of the quartet’s metier was unveiled on their debut album. In Jim Morrison they posessed one of rock’s authoritative voices, while the group’s dense instrumental prowess reflected his lyrical mystery. Highly literate, they wedded Oedipian tragedy with counter-culture nihlism and, in “Light My Fire”, expressed exotic images previously unheard in pop. Howlin’ Wolf, Brecht and Weill are acknowledged as musical reference points, a conflict between the physical and cerebral that give THE DOORS its undiluted tension. Or you can just enjoy it as a brilliant album that sucks you in as it breathes out the ’60’s.
The Doors’ second album redefined their uncompromising art. The disturbing timbre of Ray Manzarek’s organ work provided the musical cloak through which guitarist Robbie Kreiger and vocalist Jim Morrison projected. Few singers in rock possessed his authority, where every nuance and inflection bore an emotional intensity. STRANGE DAYS contains some of the quartet’s finest work, from the apocolyptic vision of the epic “When The Music’s Over” to the memorable quirkiness of “People Are Strange” and “Moonlight Drive.” The graphic “Horse Latitudes,” meanwhile, confirmed Morrison’s wish to be viewed as a poet, a stance ensuring that the Doors would always be more than just another rock band.
The Doors’ third album showed the band in transition, even as “Hello, I Love You” became the Doors’ second number-1 hit.
The band’s songs set Morrison’s poetic and often bizarre lyrical imagery against Krieger’s bluesy guitar and the spiraling keyboards of Manzarek. Their chart success, however, alienated them from their original audience, who no longer considered them “underground” enough, while their concert audiences increasingly consisted of teenage girls, drawn by Morrison’s sexy performing style. “Hello, I Love You” pushed them firmly into the rock mainstream.
Feted first as underground heroes, then reviled as teeny-bop stars, the Doors threw off such conundrums with this magnificent release. MORRISON HOTEL reaffirmed their blues roots, opening with the powerful ‘Roadhouse Blues’ before unfolding through a succession of songs showcasing all the group members’ considerable strengths. Distinctively tight instrumental playing underscores memorable material, while Jim Morrison’s authoritative vocal ranges from the demonstrative (‘Maggie McGill’) to the melancholic (‘The Spy’). Despite contemporary problems, the Doors emerged with an album the equal of their first two stunning releases.
The final Doors album to feature vocalist Jim Morrison reaffirmed the quartet’s grasp of blues/rock. Beset by personal and professional problems, they retreated to a rehearsal room, cast such pressures aside and recorded several of their most memorable compositions. The musicianship is uniformly excellent, the interplay between guitarist Robbie Krieger and keyboard player Ray Manzarek exudes confidence and empathy, while the strength and nuances of Morrison’s voice add an unmistakable resonance. His death within weeks of the album’s completion inevitably casts a pall over its content, especially the eerie rain and the funereal electric piano of ‘Riders On The Storm’.
Recorded on September 4, 5 & 25, 1970. Producer: Paul A. Rothchild.
PEARL is a bluesy, organ-drenched answer to the flower-child sound of the free-and-easy 60’s. As a backing band, Full Tilt Boogie replaces some of Big Brother’s looseness with polish and control, yet they groove hard with the fire that Janis demands. Guitarist John Till’s riffs, chords and solos are exciting and tightly executed. “A Woman Left Lonely” and Bobby Womack’s “Trust Me” are rain-on-the-windows ballads that glow with Janis’ gritty vocal brilliance, while “Move Over” and “Half Moon” are surely some of her funkiest cuts ever. This is an excellent, if somewhat overlooked part of Joplin’s discography.
In this rich assortment of gospel and blues Mick is by no means out of his element, but EXILE is under Keith’s revivalist tent. Armed with an assortment of backing musicians and vocalists, EXILE is the closest the band ever came to religion.
The luxurious “Tumbling Dice” and “Loving Cup” betray their Southern gospel leanings, while their cover of Robert Johnson’s “Stop Breaking Down” shows their undeniable respect for American blues. EXILE ON MAIN STREET’s double-album configuration allowed the band to relax a bit, and allowed less obvious singles to dominate the final mix.
This album is just damn good fun–a great collection of easy-going rock songs, crafted not to change the world, but certainly to make it just a little brighter. Petty’s first solo project (without the Heartbreakers), FULL MOON FEVER shares the goodtime feel of the Traveling Wilburys’ contemporary “Handle With Care.” This is not altogether surprising; Jeff Lynne co-produced and George Harrison and Roy Orbison guest. The only non-Petty composition is a version of Gene Clark’s “Feel A Whole Lot Better,” while “Zombie Zoo,” a bewildered parent’s diatribe on the kids of today, comes perilously close to social commentary.
“Do Something” was nominated for the 2000 Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
“I Try” won the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. The song was nominated for Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year.
The voice of Macy Gray is a wondrous thing. It can be as intimate as the wee small hours or as exciting as a packed nightclub; disarmingly sweet on one song, harsh and raspy on another. It was no mean feat for an R&B singer debuting in 1999 to embody the aesthetics of vintage soul without resorting to retro ’70s stylings. On her first album, Macy Gray manages to bring old-school values to a very contemporary sound. One is immediately struck by Gray’s unique, sandpapery voice-something of a cross between Erykah Badu and Eartha Kitt. A powerhouse rhythm section ensures that the all-important groove remains the focal point of the arrangements, while production techniques borrowed from ’90s DJ culture pop up throughout. Lyrically, Gray moves from the lustiness of the unambiguously titled “Sex-O-Matic Venus Freak” to the film noir scenario of “I’ve Committed Murder,” all the while singing with enough verve and soul to ensure that her unique voice insinuates itself into the listener’s heart.