Friday, March 22, 2013

Those Were the Days - Music Review #1

Illustration by Kendra
  Unfortunately with today's vast musical library, many songs, especially songs from the past, have been overlooked. But fear not! For I have come today to give you an inside look at a few very overlooked songs that I personally love.

"Picture Book" by The Kinks
The Village Green Preservation Society, 1969
 The Kinks have forever been an overlooked and underrated band in the world of classic rock. In the early to mid-1960's, the British Invasion propelled many bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who over to America. However, since The Kinks were slightly more British sounding, their popularity in the United States never quite rose like other popular bands at the time. The Kinks' lead singer Ray Davies mainly focused on the British class system, (which I have based many of my posts about) which meant that many Kinks songs did, too. An album that particularly highlights this is 1968's The Village Green Preservation Society, a concept album telling tales of the British class system and its supposedly preserved and safe society. One of my favorite songs on this album has to be "Picture Book," telling about looking through an old book of photographs and remembering times of past. With the usual Kinks twist, this song gives off heartfelt memories with a sixties rock n' roll feel. If you're a Kinks fan, a nostalgia fan, a UK fan, or just a fan of the sixties at all, "Picture Book" is definitely a song worth listening to.

"Intuition" by John Lennon
Mind Games, 1973
  Of course, John Lennon is one of the most respectful and well-known musicians from the 20th century. Unfortunately many of us do not know his music outside of the Beatles or his famed solo song, "Imagine." On the well put together 1973 album Mind Games, Intuition kicks off side two with a calm, cool, somewhat tropical beat. For anyone wanting to take a break from Lennon's sometimes harsh and rough vocals and cynical lyrics, "Intuition" will definitely calm your musical taste buds. Every time I listen to this song I imagine floating down a river as a gentle breeze blows through the tropical air. This is the perfect song for both summer and just days where you'd like to relax and take a break from life.

"Pisces Apple Lady" by Leon Russell
Leon Russell, 1970
  I had first heard about Leon Russell while reading Chris O'Dell's wonderful autobiography Miss O'Dell. (which I highly recommend to everyone!) Chris had dated Leon in the late sixties, and he had written this raunchy, bluesy, soulful all-in-one tune, "Pisces Apple Lady" for her. Leon, known as an excellent piano player throughout the sixties and seventies, was known for his unique style. "Pisces Apple Lady" starts off with a somewhat-calm piano riff, booming into a wonderful piece that is, well, quite difficult to explain. I guess you could say its one of those songs you just have to listen to for yourself in order to fully understand. This is also one of those songs that by just listening to you can't define into a decade, because both Leon's soulful, raspy voice and intense piano playing just don't fit anywhere else. Even if you aren't a fan of blues or soul, I recommend this song for anyone looking for a new song that wants to have a good time.

"Go All the Way" by The Raspberries
Raspberries, 1972
  This song is probably the song that got me into the seventies. Before I heard this song, I had been mainly focused in the eighties (a fifth and sixth grade stage I quickly wanted to forget) and had been listening to one of those decades musical channels on TV with my dad. As soon as 1972's "Go All the Way" came on, my eyes instantly darted to the TV to find out where the hell such a wonderful song was coming from. Starting off with an intense and raunch-filled (I know I've used raunchy many times before during these reviews, but each song I describe it with really is raunchy!) guitar riff, this song is the definition of kick-ass. It starts off very intense, slowing down for the verses and chorus, then booming back up again. Although The Raspberries were slight one-hit-wonders, this song is definitely a gem and if I had to pick one song to be known for, I would definitely pick this one. (Note to all of you who saw the 2012 movie Dark Shadows, this song was covered by The Killers for the ending credits.)

"Listen to Me" by The Hollies
A 1968 single
  I hadn't used Pandora radio much until this year, and before I did, I knew who The Hollies were due to my obsessive interest in the British Invasion. I had put The Kinks in as my artist for this playlist, but when 1968's "Listen to Me" came on, I had forgotten to write it down and had this song stuck in my head for days. It's wonderful use of repetitive lyrics and smooth vocals (not to mention the chirpy backing vocals) made this song virtually impossible to get out of my head, and I searched long and hard trying to find this song again. When I finally found it again I realized I was in love with it, and it still remains a favorite of mine to this day. The Hollies themselves are like a one-of-a-kind crossbreed between The Beatles and The Kinks, taking on a very British yet poppy personality. If you haven't heard this song, as well as haven't heard of The Hollies, I think you should definitely take a listen.

"Eight Miles High" by The Byrds
Fifth Dimension, 1966
  When everyone thinks "The Byrds," they automatically think of 1967 acid-infused surf rock. Although with many later Byrds hits, 1966's "Eight Miles High" was just as rough and heavy as their latest hits. "Eight Miles High" is often overlooked for more popular and later hits such as "Turn! Turn! Turn! (There is a Season)" and "Mr. Tambourine Man." However, if you're ever in a groovy summer pre-summer of love mood, "Eight Miles High" is the song for you. This song combines psychedelia, heavy guitars, and haunting vocals. Although I don't have much to say about this song, I would definitely recommend you give this song a listen.

"Those Were the Days" by Mary Hopkin
A 1968 single
  Oh, how do I declare my love for Mary Hopkin? She started off her career on The Beatle's infamous Apple Corps, and I believe she was the label's first (and only) female artist to produce any success from them. Unfortunately Mary Hopkin isn't a household name today, which I find a shame. Her raw talent and stunning vocals make her an instantly likable musician, and what better way to showcase her talent than her first single, 1968's "Those Were the Days"? When I first heard this song, I went gaga over the Balalaika, a unique instrument that's so hard to explain, I'd rather you listen to the song itself in order to understand. The song gives off a klezmer feel, making it seem like you're in the clucky countryside rather than your own home listening to it. It is by far the prettiest and most calming song on this list, so I suggest you take a listen.

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