Small Faces-Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake

SMALL FACES-OGDENS’ NUT GONE FLAKE(1968)

 

Small Faces was a British psychedelic band that formed in East London, United Kingdom in 1965. They are considered an influential mod group in the sixties, and was extremely popular in the UK.

Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake was Small Faces third record, and first concept album released on the 24th of May, 1968. The album was wildly popular in the UK, and reached the number 1 position on the music charts, where it stayed for six weeks.

When first listening to the record, I wasn’t overly impressed. This is unfortunate, but I feel the reason is that the record has a lot of cultural meaning in the United Kingdom, and I couldn’t really get the focus of what the record was about.

Being a concept album, I began my journey listening to it without any point of reference, and it fell short for me because of it. Also, musically, it didn’t seem very psychedelic to me, as I was comparing it to what I was listening to in the States.

By the third or fourth listen, and with a little background research, I was hooked.

The reason it probably never resonated that well in the States as it did in Britain, is because of the purely British imagery and personalities involved. However, after a couple of listens it was apparent that it was a great album musically.

The first song on the record, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake, is an instrumental piece that starts out with a cool jazzy feel and a funky bass line that I love. It sets the musical tone of the record, which at first, does not seem very psychedelic.

The next song, Afterglow (Of Your Love), is a great, and very recognisable among fans who know the work of Small Faces. It was actually the last single by the group to make the British charts, reaching number 36.

Another song on the record, Lazy Sunday, was a hit for the band in 1968 that reached number two on the charts. It was a song that the band did not want released, and it features frontman Steve Marriott singing in a strong Cockney accent about the feuds that he had with his neighbors. It took awhile for me to appreciate the song, but after a few listens, it became one of my favorites on the record.

The remaining six songs on the record comprise the concept part of the album, and is another part of the record that I found unappealing before I did a bit of research.

The main character of the second part of the record is a fairy tale about Happiness Stan, and the way in which it was narrated gave me a bit of a pause to do some more reading.

The narration was by a British comedian named Stanley Unwin, and he concocted a mangles form of English that was known as Unwinese. It takes some serious intense listening to pick up what he is saying on the album.

The fairy tale follows Stan as he is searching for the missing half of the half moon. It has to be heard a few times to fully appreciate the tale, but in the end Stan’s psychedelic journey ends on a positive note.

Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake was never performed live to to its many intricacies and complexities. It has its moments of filler, but otherwise is a record I came to really appreciate. Small Faces career was short lived, with members splitting up and joining other bands, and I encourage anyone interested in their interesting history, and the history of this particular record to do some reading about them further.

This particular release that I own also comes with many great bonus tracks that are also worth a listen, featuring one of their hits Itchycoo Park.

Rating: B+


 

 

 

 

Pink Floyd-The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn

PINK FLOYD-THE PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN(1967)

 

The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn is the debut album for Pink Floyd. It is the only record that Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd’s troubled bandmate would take the lead on. The record was released on August 5, 1967. Since it’s release, it is widely considered to be one of the greatest psychedelic albums of all time.

The title of the album is taken from the book The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame, and is a depiction of the god Pan.

The record is considered experimental, as well as psychedelic. It sounds like what Pink Floyd would sound like after their psychedelic days were over, with it’s long playing, hard driving jams. Syd Barrett’s contributions to the record were more poppier. The Barrett influence would be short lived as David Gilmour would be brought in to take his place.

The first song on The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn is Astronomy Domine, as song written by Syd Barrett, and was seen as Pink Floyd’s foray into space rock. It is also a song that was played in concerts regularly along with another song on the record, Interstellar Overdrive. Both songs were usually played as a long jam in concerts which made them very popular.

Astronomy Domine has a dark, haunting feel to it, with the lyrics being chanted, and the guitarwork spacey sounding. A song that feels as if Floyd was going for the space rock sound.

The second song on the album is Lucifer Sam, and is about Syd Barrett’s Siamese cat. The guitar riff sounds a lot like the beginning of a James Bond theme. Very catchy and a great song.

Matilda Mother was another Syd Barrett song that shows his recollection of a childhood that he couldn’t ever return to. It has a nostalgic feel to it.

Flaming is another Barrett song wandering through childhood, with it’s frolicky lyrics. Even after Barrett was out of the band, the Floyd still performed Flaming in concert for a while.

Pow R. Toc H.  is an instrumental piece, the the beginning sounding as if the guys were on some serious LSD, which it is pretty commonly known that throughout the making of the album, they were. The influence was definitely there on this particular song. It is weird but catchy, with some good piano work.

Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk was the first song that Roger Waters got songwriting credits for, with much of the morbid lyrics penned by Barrett. It is not a very highly regarded song due to it’s lyrical content, but it is among themes that Waters would write about at later times.

Interstellar Overdrive is an instrumental piece on The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn that lasts almost ten minutes, and is considered to be one of the first psychedelic instrumental improvisational songs to be recorded by a rock band, and is a song that was regularly improvised in concert. It is a classic piece of psychedelic rock, very hard at times, that worked great in concerts against a psychedelic backdrop.

The Gnome was another Barrett song, it was inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and shows Barrett’s creative side, and some of the childlike themes that he used to write. The song is sung as if he was singing to a little child.

The last two songs on the record, The Scarecrow and Bike, were both Barrett pieces and ends the record on a whimsical note.

In my opinion, there are two very different Pink Floyd’s on this record. The is the childlike lyrical content and music of Syd Barrett, and then there are the rest of the album, harder, more improvisational and psychedelic.

It is too bad that Barrett could not coincide with the rest of the band due to his drug abuse and mental instability. This would be his only real work with Floyd, and the music, though similar sounding in some respects, took on more of the Waters/Gilmour sound on most of the other records. The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn will go down as one of the best psychedelic records of them all.

Rating: A-


The Best Of Eric Burdon And The Animals 1966-1968

THE BEST OF ERIC BURDON AND THE ANIMALS 1966-1968

 

Eric Burdon, along with The Animals, was a British rock band who got their start in Newcastle upon Tyne, Great Britain in 1962. They actually had two distinct periods, along with different band members, first having their home base in Newcastle upon Tyne, and then after some success they moved to London. Their most recognisable song was released in 1964 and was a number one hit in both the United Kingdom and the United States, House of the Rising Sun. Eric Burdon was a deep voiced very recognisable vocalist through the 1960’s, and under the name Eric Burdon and the Animals, the grouped traveled from the United Kingdom to the United States, settling in San Francisco around the time that the psychedelic era got its start.

The Best of Eric Burdon and the Animals 1966-1969 is a compilation record of their most popular songs after they came to the United States in the mid sixties. It is a record filled with songs about the psychedelic era and some of its most defining moments, and tries to explain some of the situations in Burdon’s youth, that he is conveying to his listeners through his lyrics. It is a very entertaining record, and on of my favorites of the era.

The first song on the compilation is Don’t Bring Me Down, a soulful song that stresses that a man does not always live up to a woman’s expectations, and Burdon extolls a women to “please don’t bring me down.” It was a top ten record in the U.K. and just barely missed the top ten in the States in 1966.

Hey Gyp is a popular Donovan song, that The Animals covered on the compilation. There is a great rendition of the song being sung by Eric Burdon on the documentary, Rock City 1964-1973, that really brings the song to life. Just watching the brief video is a ride through how a sixties outdoor concert was performed, both featuring the band performing, as well as the reaction of the crowd that was attending. A great documentary well worth getting ahold of.

When I Was Young was a song written by Eric Burdon and his bandmates and was released in 1967. It is considered a song about the psychedelic era, but was also a song about Burdon’s life as a youngster, revealing certain milestones in his life, such as smoking his first cigarette, his first shot at love with a girl, and also mentions his father, who was a soldier. It also features the use of a sitar and a violin. The sitar was a much used instrument in the psychedelic era, and The Animals used it on a few of their songs.

The next song was called A Girl Named Sandoz, and interestingly, it is actually a song about the company who first invented LSD, a large part of the psychedelic movement, and the main drug of choice at the time.

San Franciscan Nights was a song that was written, in part, to honor the people of San Francisco, especially in the Dragnet snippet at the beginning of the tune, but it was also an anti Vietnam War song. It contrived images of being in San Francisco high on LSD, and questions the validity of the war. At one point, Eric Burdon hints that the song was about a night with Janis Joplin in San Francisco. Funny how many artists and musicians were somehow interrelated in the psychedelic sixties scene!

The next song, Good Times is about a man who looks back on his life and regrets the time he has wasted, and has chosen the path that ultimately leads him to not being what he could have been. The song, as a whole, has a relatively depressed feel to it.

Anything is a slow, psychedelic piece that is a celebration of life, friends and all good things, and it was one of Eric Burdon’s favorite songs that he wrote. It is a purely positive song, among other more negative and pessimistic one’s, and brings to the compilation a lighthearted and whimsical feel as we progress through it’s many messages.

Eric Burdon and the Animals played at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, which was the first outdoor concert of the psychedelic movement, during the time known as the Summer of Love. The song, Monterey, is a celebration of the concert, and an explanation of some of the events that they encountered there. There were many famous, and would be famous musicians and bands there, and the Animals listed some of the acts that they were most impressed with in the lyrics of the song. Mentioned were, Jefferson Airplane, The  Who, The Byrds, The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix and others, and it is nice recognition for some great bands that performed at Monterey Pop. This song also features Indian musical influences.

Sky Pilot is one of the Animals most popular songs, and is broken into two distinct parts due to it’s length. To me, it seems to be an anti war tune, with the beginning of the song alluding to a Sky Pilot, who is a military chaplain, lamenting his soldiers as they go off to war, and waiting around for their return. Some of the soldiers, upon returning, question the reasons that they were fighting for. The song features bagpipes, and has a long interlude in the middle. It is one of the Animals great songs.

The last song on the compilation, River Deep, Mountain High, is a song that the Animals covered originally performed by Tina Turner. It was one of Turner’s biggest hits, and was considered the best song produced by the legendary Phil Spector.

Eric Burdon and the Animals remain a very important piece of the psychedelic music scene. Their early career did not produce the same type of music, but they were popular in their own right then, while still in the United Kingdom. But it would be their move to San Francisco, when their careers really took off to produce some great psychedelic music. It is interesting to note, that perhaps their best identified song was House of the Rising Sun, which was more at the beginning of their career. Great band!

Rating: A


 

Cream-Disraeli Gears

CREAM-DISRAELI GEARS(1967)

 

 

Cream was a British rock band that was active between 1966-1969. They were considered by many to be the first super group, and referred to as a power trio. The band consisted of Eric Clapton(guitars, singer), Jack Bruce(bassist, singer) and Ginger Baker(drums). Cream played a mix of psychedelic rock, blues rock and hard rock. They were extremely popular in the psychedelic era in the middle to late sixties, and were considered very influential to other musicians, and made the use of the wah-wah pedal when playing guitars. Jimi Hendrix, as well as other musicians made the use of the wah-wah pedal popular around this time as well.

The album starts of with Strange Brew, one of the two radio hits off of Disraeli Gears, the other being Sunshine of Your Love. While the meaning behind the song lyrics is debated, to me this is a song about drugs, specifically, LSD, which was basically the drug of choice in the psychedelic era. Basically, the whole period is about the effects of LSD and how people came to terms with how it made them feel. This song is about that, but also comes with a warning, “Strange brew, kill what’s inside of you.” This, of course could be a warning about taking drugs in general, but in this time period, I think LSD was the drug in question.

The next song on Disraeli Gears, is one of the most recognisable songs in all of Creams repertoire, Sunshine of Your Love. This song has a guitar riff that has become one of the most beloved in rock music. The riff is unmistakable Cream, and even if people don’t know it’s Cream, many people recognise this distinct riff. Non other than Jimi Hendrix covered Sunshine of Your Love on his record Live at Winterland.  This Cream tune has made it on some music lists as being one of the top songs of all time.

Without reading too much into the meaning of Sunshine of Your Love, I think it is a straight up love song, with sexual undertones. It is beautifully written lyrically, but, of course, it means different things to different people. One of my favorites.

Blue Condition is a song written by drummer Ginger Baker, and it is a song about deep reflection. He seems to be saying to take your own path, and do what you want to do, but if where you find yourself makes you blue, reevaluate, and take a good look at where you are in life. In any case, it is up to you to make yourself happy. Kind of deep, but this is how I interpret the song.

Another great song starts off side two of the record, Tales of Brave Ulysses. It is a poem written by Martin Sharp and Eric Clapton. Sharp was the person who also designed the album cover for Cream’s next record Wheels of Fire. The poem is beautiful, and matches well with the music. The song runs very smooth, and is one of the best songs on the album in my opinion.

SWLABR is another song on the record, it stands for “She Was Like A Bearded Rainbow.” The weirdest and most obscure song on the album, it was a written by a poet named Pete Brown, and much like it’s title, isn’t really meant to mean much, just a silly psychedelic gem, with a great guitar riff.

Outside Woman Blues is another great song with some excellent drumming by Ginger Baker, and some advice from Eric Clapton, that “You can’t watch your wife and your outside women, too.”

The last song, Mother’s Lament, is the last song on the record, and it finishes it out on a wonderful note. It is old English drinking song, sung in a heavy British accent and a great piano piece at the end. An awesome ending to a great record.

Rating: A