Wednesday, March 25, 2009


OK Computer is the third album by the English alternative rock band Radiohead, released on 16 June 1997. Radiohead recorded the album in rural Oxfordshire and Bath, during 1996 and early 1997, with producer Nigel Godrich. Although most of the music is dominated by guitar, OK Computer's expansive sound and wide range of influences set it apart from many of the Britpop and alternative rock bands popular at the time, and it laid the groundwork for Radiohead's later, more experimental work. Radiohead do not consider OK Computer a concept album; however, its lyrics and visual artwork emphasise common themes such as consumerism, social disconnection, political stagnation and modern malaise.
OK Computer reached number one on the UK Albums Chart and marked Radiohead's highest entry into the American market at the time, debuting at number 21 on the Billboard 200. The album expanded the band's worldwide popularity, and has been certified triple platinum in the UK, double platinum in the US, and platinum in Australia. OK Computer received considerable attention and acclaim at the time of its release, and has since been considered by music critics and listener polls as one of the greatest albums ever recorded.


Monday, March 23, 2009


One of the most stunning debuts in rock history, and one of the definitive albums of the psychedelic era. On Are You Experienced?, Jimi Hendrix synthesized various elements of the cutting edge of 1967 rock into music that sounded both futuristic and rooted in the best traditions of rock, blues, pop, and soul. It was his mind-boggling guitar work, of course, that got most of the ink, building upon the experiments of British innovators like Jeff Beck and Pete Townshend to chart new sonic territories in feedback, distortion, and sheer volume. It wouldn't have meant much, however, without his excellent material, whether psychedelic frenzy ("Foxey Lady," "Manic Depression," "Purple Haze"), instrumental freak-out jams ("Third Stone From the Sun"), blues ("Red House," "Hey Joe"), or tender, poetic compositions ("The Wind Cries Mary") that demonstrated the breadth of his songwriting talents. Not to be underestimated were the contributions of drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding, who gave the music a rhythmic pulse that fused parts of rock and improvised jazz. Many of these songs are among Hendrix's very finest; it may be true that he would continue to develop at a rapid pace throughout the rest of his brief career, but he would never surpass his first LP in terms of consistently high quality. The British and American versions of the album differed substantially when they were initially released in 1967; MCA's 17-song CD reissue does everyone a favor by gathering all of the material from the two records in one place, adding a few B-sides from early singles as well. -ALLMUSIC.COM

BUY Are You Experienced AT BEST PRICE NOW!


Recorded over three nights in August 1972, Deep Purple's Made in Japan was the record that brought the band to headliner status in the U.S. and elsewhere, and it remains a landmark in the history of heavy metal music. Since reorganizing with singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover in 1969, Deep Purple had recorded three important albums — Deep Purple in Rock, Fireball, and Machine Head — and used the material to build a fierce live show. Made in Japan, its selections drawn from those albums, documented that show, in which songs were drawn out to ten and even nearly 20 minutes with no less intensity, as guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and organist Jon Lord soloed extensively and Gillan sang in a screech that became the envy of all metal bands to follow. The signature song, of course, was "Smoke on the Water," with its memorable riff, which went on to become an American hit single. But those extended workouts, particularly the moody "Child in Time," with Gillan's haunting falsetto wail and Blackmore's amazingly fast playing, and "Space Truckin'," with Lord's organ effects, maintained the onslaught, making this a definitive treatment of the band's catalog and its most impressive album. By stretching out and going to extremes, Deep Purple pushed its music into the kind of deliberate excess that made heavy metal what it became, and their audience recognized the breakthrough, propelling the original double LP into the U.S. Top Ten and sales over a million copies. -ALLMUSIC.COM



Kind of Blue is a studio album by American jazz musician Miles Davis, released August 17, 1959 on Columbia Records, in both mono and stereo.

Recording sessions for the album took place at Columbia's 30th Street Studio in New York City on March 2 and April 22, 1959. The sessions featured Davis's ensemble sextet, which included pianist Bill Evans, drummer Jimmy Cobb, and saxophonists John Coltrane and Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, while production was handled by producers Teo Macero and Irving Townsend. After the inclusion of Bill Evans into his sextet, Davis followed up on the modal experimentations of Milestones (1958) and the '58 Sessions. The album is based entirely on modality in contrast to his earlier work with the hard bop style of jazz and its complex chord progression and improvisation.

Though precise figures have been disputed, Kind of Blue has been cited by many music writers as Miles Davis's best-selling album, as well as the best-selling jazz record of all time. On October 7, 2008, the album was certified quadruple platinum in sales by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It has also been regarded by many critics as the greatest jazz album of all time and Davis's magnum opus, and it has been ranked at or near the top of several "best album" lists in disparate genres. The album's influence on music, including jazz, rock and classical music, has led music writers to acknowledge it as one of the most influential albums of all time.

In 2002, it was one of fifty recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. In 2003, the album was ranked number 12 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2008, a box set release of Kind of Blue was issued by Legacy Records in commemoration of its fiftieth anniversary.-wikipedia

Buy 50th Anniversary Kind of Blue at best price now

Sunday, March 8, 2009

038 Coldplay-Viva La Vida or Death and all His Friends

When Coldplay sampled Kraftwerk on their third album, X&Y, it was a signifier for the British band, telegraphing their classicist good taste while signaling how they prefer the eternally hip to the truly adventurous; it was stylish window dressing for soft arena rock. Hiring Brian Eno to produce the bulk of their fourth album, Viva la Vida, is another matter entirely. Eno pushes them, not necessarily to experiment but rather to focus and refine, to not leave their comfort zone but to find some tremulous discomfort within it. In his hands, this most staid of bands looks to shake things up, albeit politely, but such good manners are so inherent to Coldplay's DNA that they remain courteous even when they experiment. With his big-budget production, Eno has a knack for amplifying an artist's personality, as he allows bands to be just as risky as they want to be — which is quite a lot in the case of U2 and James and even Paul Simon, but not quite so much with Coldplay. And yet this gentle encouragement — he's almost a kindly uncle giving his nephews permission to rummage through his study — pays great dividends for Coldplay, as it winds up changing the specifics without altering the core. They wind up with the same self-styled grandiosity; they've just found a more interesting way to get to the same point.

Gone are Chris Martin's piano recitals and gone are the washes of meticulously majestic guitar, replaced by orchestrations of sound, sometimes literally consisting of strings but usually a tapestry of synthesizers, percussion, organs, electronics, and guitars that avoid playing riffs. Gone too are simpering schoolboy ballads like "Fix You," and along with them the soaring melodies designed to fill arenas. In fact, there are no insistent hooks to be found anywhere on Viva la Vida, and there are no clear singles in this collection of insinuatingly ingratiating songs.

This reliance on elliptical melodies isn't off-putting — alienation is alien to Coldplay — and this is where Eno's guidance pays off, as he helps sculpt Viva la Vida to work as a musical whole, where there are long stretches of instrumentals and where only "Strawberry Swing," with its light, gently infectious melody and insistent rhythmic pulse, breaks from the album's appealingly meditative murk. Whatever iciness there is to the sound of Viva la Vida is warmed by Martin's voice, but the music is by design an heir to the earnest British art rock of '80s Peter Gabriel and U2 — arty enough to convey sober intelligence without seeming snobby, the kind of album that deserves to take its title from Frida Kahlo and album art from Eugene Delacroix. That Delacroix painting depicts the French Revolution, so it does fit that Martin tones down his relentless self-obsession — the songs aren't heavy on lyrics and some are shockingly written in character — which is a development as welcome as the expanded sonic palette. Martin's refined writing topics may be outpaced by the band's guided adventure, but they're both indicative that Coldplay are desperate to not just strive for the title of great band — a title they seem to believe that they're to the manor born — but to actually burrow into the explorative work of creating music. And so the greatest thing Coldplay may have learned from Eno is his work ethic, as they demonstrate a focused concentration throughout this tight album — it's only 47 minutes yet covers more ground than X&Y and arguably A Rush of Blood to the Head — that turns Viva la Vida into something quietly satisfying.



Perhaps only the fantasy duo of King Kong and Bambi could be a more bizarre pairing than Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Yet on Raising Sand, their haunting and brilliant collaboration, the Led Zeppelin screamer and Nashville's most hypnotic song whisperer seem made for each other. This, however, is not the howling Plant of "Whole Lotta Love," but a far more precise and softer singer than even the one who emerged with Dreamland (2002). No matter that Plant seems so subdued as to be on downers, for that's one of the keys to this most improbable meeting of musical galaxies--almost all of it seems slowed down, out of time, otherworldly, and at times downright David Lynch-ian, the product of an altered consciousness. Yet probably the main reason it all works so well is the choice of producer T Bone Burnette, the third star of the album, who culled mostly lesser-known material from some of the great writers of blues, country, folk, gospel, and R&B, including Tom Waits, Townes Van Zandt, Milt Campbell, the Everly Brothers, Sam Phillips, and A.D. and Rosa Lee Watson. At times, Burnette's spare and deliberate soundscape--incisively crafted by guitarists Marc Ribot and Norman Blake, bassist Dennis Crouch, drummer Jay Bellerose, and multi-instrumentalist Mike Seeger, among others--is nearly as dreamy and subterranean as Daniel Lanois's work with Emmylou Harris (Wrecking Ball). Occasionally, Burnette opts for a fairly straightforward production while still reworking the original song (Plant's own "Please Read the Letter," Mel Tillis's "Stick with Me, Baby"). But much of the new flesh on these old bones is oddly unsettling, if not nightmarish. On the opening track of "Rich Woman," the soft-as-clouds vocals strike an optimistic mood, while the instrumental backing--loose snare, ominous bass line, and insinuating electric guitar lines--create a spooky, sinister undertow. Plant and Krauss trade out the solo and harmony vocals, and while they both venture into new waters here (Krauss as a mainstream blues mama, Plant as a gospel singer and honkytonker), she steals the show in Sam Phillips' new "Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us," where a dramatic violin and tremulous banjo strike a foreboding gypsy tone. When Krauss begins this strange, seductive song in a voice so ethereal that angels will take note, you may stop breathing. That, among other reasons, makes Raising Sand an album to die for. --Alanna Nash


Saturday, March 7, 2009


I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got is the second album by Sinéad O'Connor released
in 1990 on Chrysalis Records.

The critically-acclaimed album contains her most famous single, "Nothing Compares 2 U", and was one of the best selling records in the world in 1990, topping the charts in many countries, including the US, UK, and Canada. The single "Emperor's New Clothes" found more moderate success, although it did top the Modern Rock Tracks chart in the US.

The album includes O'Connor's rendition of "I Am Stretched on Your Grave," an anonymous 17th century poem (originally written in Irish) translated into English by Philip King. The first song, "Feels So Different", starts with The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr.

The inner sleeve notes acknowledge Kabbalah teacher, Warren Kenton: "Special thanks to Selina Marshall + Warren Kenton for showing me that all I'd need was inside me."

The album was nominated for four Grammy Awards in 1991, winning the award for Best Alternative Music Performance. O'Connor refused to accept the nominations and the award.

In 2003, the album was ranked number 406 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

The album sold 7 million copies worldwide.

Sinead announced on her web blog that a deluxe anniversary edition of the album will be released in April 2009. She says it will contain "an extra cd of some unreleased tracks and b sides and hard to find mixes on so on".-WIKIPEDIA


More 1990 albums!

Friday, March 6, 2009


This is an impressive record, but a lot of the time I hate it; my grade is an average, not a judgment. Clearly Jon Landau has gotten more out of Browne's voice than anyone knew was there, and the production jolts Ol' Brown Eyes out of his languor again and again. But languor is Browne's best mask, and what's underneath isn't always so impressive. The shallowness of his kitschy doomsaying and sentimental sexism is well-known, but I'm disappointed as well in his depth of craft. How can apparently literate people mistake a received metaphor like "sleep's dark and silent gate" for interesting poetry or gush over a versifier capable of such rhyming dictionary pairings as "pretender" and "ice cream vendor" (the colloquial term, JB, is "ice cream man")? Similar shortcomings flaw the production itself--the low-register horns on "Daddy's Tune" complement its somber undertone perfectly, but when the high blare kicks in at the end the song degenerates into a Honda commercial. Indeed, at times I've wondered whether some of this isn't intended as parody, but a sense of humor has never been one of Browne's virtues. B



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Thursday, March 5, 2009


Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (sometimes referred to by the acronym ABWH) was a permutation of the progressive rock band Yes. The group consisted of vocalist Jon Anderson, drummer Bill Bruford, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and guitarist Steve Howe (with Tony Levin on bass). These Yes alumni had played together in Yes on their most popular recordings in the early 1970s. Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe recorded one self-titled studio album in 1989. A live recording from their subsequent concert tour was released years later in 1993, but their 1991 album material was co-opted by Arista Records for a Yes album.-WIKIPEDIA


High 'n' Dry is the second studio album by British heavy metal band Def Leppard, released on July 11, 1981 (see 1981 in music) and the last studio album by the band to feature original co-lead guitarist Pete Willis, who was fired on July 11, 1982 for excessive alcohol consumption and was replaced by former Girl guitarist Phil Collen for their band's multi-platinum third album, Pyromania. Despite his departure from the band, his recorded parts were still used in High 'n' Dry as well as Pyromania. In addition, Phil Collen was credited in the liner notes for the High 'n' Dry album, despite his "official" hire date during the Pyromania recording sessions. Its title song "High 'n' Dry" made #33 on VH1's 40 Greatest Metal Songs. -WIKIPEDIA



Greg Lake is the self-titled debut solo album of singer Greg Lake, released in 1981. It features ex-Thin Lizzy member Gary Moore on guitar, and the song "Love You Too Much" co-written with Bob Dylan.-WIKIPEDIA

More Greg Lake and ELP


Cloud Nine is the successful 1987 comeback album by George Harrison, recorded and released after a five year hiatus from his recording career. As home to the smash hit "Got My Mind Set on You", Cloud Nine re-established Harrison as a critically-acclaimed and commercially-significant recording artist. It was to be George Harrison's final solo studio album released during his lifetime.-WIKIPEDIA


More George and Beatles


Despite initial misgivings, I've found this thoughtful and sexy. The decisive touch is how Mark Knopfler counterpoints his own vocals on guitar--only a musician with a real structural knack could sound like two people that way. But there's a streak of philistine ideology here that speaks for too many white r&b players these days--most of them can't be bothered articulating it, that's all. In "In the Gallery," an honest sculptor has his bareback rider, coal miner, and skating ballerina rejected by the "trendy boys," "phonies," and "fakes" who (literally) conspire together and "decide who gets the breaks." Those who find this rather simplistic should now ask themselves whether Knopfler's beloved Sultans of Swing--not to mention Dire Straits--have more in common with that sculptor than he suspects. B -Robert Christgau



David Bowie returned to relatively conventional rock & roll with Scary Monsters, an album that effectively acts as an encapsulation of all his '70s experiments. Reworking glam rock themes with avant-garde synth flourishes, and reversing the process as well, Bowie creates dense but accessible music throughout Scary Monsters. Though it doesn't have the vision of his other classic records, it wasn't designed to break new ground — it was created as the culmination of Bowie's experimental genre-shifting of the '70s. As a result, Scary Monsters is Bowie's last great album. While the music isn't far removed from the post-punk of the early '80s, it does sound fresh, hip, and contemporary, which is something Bowie lost over the course of the '80s. [Rykodisc's 1992 reissue includes re-recorded versions of "Space Oddity" and "Panic in Detroit," the Japanese single "Crystal Japan," and the British single "Alabama Song."] -ALLMUSIC.COM



On Monday, the Arctic Monkeys sold 118,501 copies of their debut album in the UK, more than the rest of the top 20 combined. It's a startingly high figure not just because they're set to be the Biggest New Band Since Oasis but because of the speed with which they've gatecrashed their nation's public consciousness, going from unknown indie band to No. 1 on the singles charts in roughly six months. Much of the credit for that quick rise is rightly given to the power of the internet: The then-unsigned band first caught the public ear when its demos circulated last year. The Sheffield quartet eventually signed with Domino and the label wisely hosted the buzzmaking tracks, a move that allowed anticipation for the group's studio recordings to spread rather than stall. Two No. 1 singles, a few breathless reviews, and a load of thinkpieces about how The Internet Will Change Music Forever later and in the UK the Arctic Monkeys are suddenly the biggest band of the decade.

It would be nice to think that a democratized music industry would mean the kids are tossing up alternatives to what they're already getting, but the Arctic Monkeys are, at their heart, the same sort of meat'n'potatoes guitar rock that has dominated the UK since the emergence of the Strokes, if not Oasis. They're a band that neatly sums up what's already selling, and in a relatively condensed media market the group was always going to be a hit; what's changed is that they were pegged quickly, mainlined to their target market and the UK mainstream press and radio for six months, then called an organic success story. (America, don't get smug: Your biggest download success to date is "My Humps".) And context still matters: When Oasis or the Strokes rolled into town, they were breaths of fresh air, antidotes to a lack of swagger or hooks or artists who wanted and deserved to be rock stars; Arctic Monkeys are yet another in a string of buzzsaw guitar bands with Northern accents.

What's meant to be different about them are sometimes keenly expressive lyrics and that irresistible backstory. The band's more starry-eyed backers compare their hardscrabble tales to those of predecessors such as the Specials, Smiths, Pulp, and the Streets. But wringing lyrics from the everyday or articulating the dissatisfaction of many is risky and difficult business and, unlike those listed above, the Monkeys aren't so much spinning deft tales of quotidian anxiety as just complaining about their first steps into nightlife, run-ins with bouncers, cops, and schoolmates. So they're the UK's emo, painting diaristic portraits of small-town and suburban life for teens in a country where fundamentalism is allegiance to a soccer club rather than religion.

Hey, fair play to them-- first steps into nightlife, run-ins with bouncers, cops, and schoolmates, these should be the worries in their lives, and of their peers they're among the best at addressing them. Almost everything that's appealing about Arctic Monkeys is down to singer Alex Turner, who possesses a gritty voice that gets increasingly appealing the more he allows it to stretch and wander. On sharp, observational, and detail-heavy Saturday Night and Sunday Morning tracks like the "Red Lights Indicate Doors Are Secure", "Mardy Bum", and "Riot Van" the band justifies taking their album name from the kitchen-sink drama. (Though it's still terrible-- alas, Don't Let the Bastards Get You Down was already taken). Outside of naming their record, when the band stumbles it's typically when they're fumbling around with women ("Dancing Shoes", "Still Take You Home") or complaining about the onset of fame (the dreadful "Perhaps Vampires Is a Bit Strong But...").

The singles are a mixed bag. The Five Minutes With... EP's "Fake Tales of San Francisco" is a witty call to arms, a plea for bands that say something about their lives, but "From the Ritz to the Rubble"'s whining almost makes you want to side with the bouncers. Of the Monkeys' starmaking tracks, neither sounds like a No. 1, let alone the first sounds from a burgeoning sensation: "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" grates every other time I listen to it; better is the offbeat "When the Sun Goes Down", the only track here that's three-dimensional structurally as well as lyrically. Should the band release album closer "A Certain Romance" as its next single, the hit/miss ratio will be greatly improved. A long sigh about living among chavs, "Romance" finds the Monkeys moving between bloody-knuckled and wistful as they paint a picture of boredom breeding violence, of being aware of the faults and faultlines in their environment but feeling too powerless or hemmed in by loyalty to raise a fuss. It's a neat summation of both the band's m.o. and a teenage life characterized by existential drift and geographic claustrophobia.

And in the end then this is about teenage life-- and a pretty specific type of teenage life at that. NME editor Conor McNicholas told The Guardian last year that "there's a big sofa supermarket by Doncaster train station. I always look at it and think someone's got a Saturday job there, they're 17, they're stuck in Doncaster and they fucking hate it-- that's the person we're publishing for." I'd guess that to a disaffected, chavbaiting 17-year-old from Doncaster (or Rotherham, or Hull...) this is the perfect soundtrack to moving loveseats around a stock room. Fittingly then the NME awarded this album a 10/10. To the rest of us, however, the album is at times charming, oddly affecting, and certainly promising but understandably something less than life changing.

- Scott Plagenhoef, January 25, 2006 (PITCHFORKMEDIA)


Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Hopes and Fears is the debut album by English rock band Keane and was released on May 10, 2004 in the United Kingdom. It topped the UK album charts upon release, was the best selling British album of 2004, and has since gone eight times platinum. It returned to the top of the charts after winning a BRIT Award for Best Album in February 2005. With almost six million copies sold, it has been ranked the 16th biggest-selling album of the millennium so far in the UK.-WIKIPEDIA


Blow by Blow is a solo album by British electric guitarist Jeff Beck. The Epic Records release, recorded in October 1974, was released in 1975. Considered one of his best releases, former Yardbird sideman Chris Dreja had predicted in 1965 that Beck's current sound "...was 1975."

As an all-instrumental album it was a surprising commercial success, with a jazz fusion-like approach seldom seen on best-selling lists at the time. It was certified gold in 1976.

The album was produced by George Martin and recorded at his own AIR studios. Martin also composed string arrangements for two of the tracks, "Scatterbrain" and "Diamond Dust".



Rio is an album by Duran Duran, originally released worldwide on 10 May 1982, but re-released in November 1982 in the United States. It reached #2 in the UK and #1 in Australia.

The album went gold in the US on 1 March 1983, and platinum on 26 April 1983, eventually reaching double platinum status. It peaked at number six on the Billboard 200 album chart in the US on March 12, 1983, and remained on the chart for 129 weeks.

In 2000, Rio was ranked #98 in Q magazine's "100 Greatest British Albums". In 2003, it was listed at #65 in the NME "100 Greatest Albums of All Time". In 2004, CMJ ranked it as #1 in their "Top 20 Most-Played Albums of 1982".

Rio became part of the Classic Albums series when released on DVD on 4 November 2008.


The Lexicon of Love is the acclaimed chart topping debut album by the British pop band ABC, released in 1982. It is a concept album in which the singer experiences heartache as he tries and fails to have a meaningful relationship. It was produced by Trevor Horn and featured orchestration by future Art of Noise member Anne Dudley.

Most of the production team and sessions players listed below would form the basis for the ZTT label, and their work with Horn meant all concerned would be in constant demand throughout the industry in years to come. "Tears Are Not Enough" (in its initial release produced by Steve Brown), "All of My Heart", "Poison Arrow", and "The Look of Love (Part One)" were all Top 20 hits in the UK; the last two also charted in the US, peaking at #25 and #14 respectively. The album reached #1 on the British charts, and peaked at #24 in the U.S. charts.

In 2004, a deluxe 2-disc reissue including outtakes and early demos and a live performance of the album from 1982 was released on the Neutron label.

In 1998, Q magazine readers voted The Lexicon of Love the 92nd greatest album of all time. In 2000 the same magazine placed it at number 40 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever.

The woman who says "Goodbye" in "The Look of Love (Part One)" is the woman who dumped Martin Fry and this album is about his feelings of outrage about it. The idea of getting her to do that part of the song came from producer Trevor Horn-WIKIPEDIA

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


The best rock jolts folk-art virtues--directness, utility, natural audience--into the present with shots of modern technology and modernist dissociation; the typical "progressive" project attempts to raise the music to classical grandeur or avant-garde status. Since "raise" is usually code for "delegitimize," I'm impressed that on half of this Peter Gabriel makes the idea work: his mock-mythologized gangland epic and menacing ocean pastorale have a complexity of tone that's pretty rare in any kind of art. Even more amazing, given past performances, organist Tony Banks defines music to match, schlocky and graceful and dignified all at once--when he's got it going, which is nowhere near often enough. As for the rest, it sounds as snooty as usual. B -
Robert Christgau


Michael Jackson: The Ultimate Collection is a limited-edition box set of Michael Jackson's music, consisting of four audio CDs and one DVD.

Much of the music is drawn from the height of Jackson's career, particularly from the main five albums: Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad, Dangerous and HIStory. Notable tracks on the compilation include the first release of the demos of songs such as "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)" and "Shake Your Body Down to the Ground", and rarities such as "We Are Here to Change the World" (from the film Captain EO), "On the Line" (from the film "Get on the Bus"), "Cheater" and "Monkey Business" (from the Dangerous sessions), and the original demo of "We Are the World", featuring Jackson as a soloist. The set also included four new songs, "In the Back", "Beautiful Girl", "The Way You Love Me" and "We've Had Enough", all written by Jackson.

The fifth disc is a DVD of a Dangerous concert in Bucharest, broadcast by HBO in 1992 which was released again in 2005 as Live in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour.


To celebrate the bicentenary of the death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (December 5, 1791) Philips Classics assembled The Complete Mozart Edition comprised of 180 compact discs arranged into 45 themed volumes. Each volume in the series is accompanied by a deluxe booklet with detailed information about the works, with many illustrations. Indicating the significance of this particular series, the words of the accompanying Compactotheque state, "...after the complete Shakespeare, the complete Goethe, or the complete Molière in book form, here is the Complete Mozart on discs."

An altered version of The Complete Mozart Edition was released in 2006. It consists of 17 individual boxed sets. This version also contains stripped down versions of the booklets that accompanied the original series.

In addition, a boxed set entitled The Best of the Complete Mozart Edition was also produced. This set contains 25 compact discs and represents a condensed version of the 1990-91 set.


On December 21st, 1989, at the end of a busy year on the road and in the studio with the Pat Metheny Group, guitaristy-composer Metheny joined bassist Dave Holland (Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Theolonius Monk) and drummer Ray Haynes (Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughn, Chick Corea) at the Power Station in New York City for a single day's, let's-see-what-happens jam. The result is a thrilling, live-in-the-studio disc, documenting the creatively charged encounter among these stellar multi-generational players. This newly remastered version is the latest vintage title to be added to Metheny's growing Nonesuch catalogue.



In 1962 John Coltrane was under assault from conservative critics who had labeled his tumultuous extended performances "anti-jazz." In response he entered the studios to create this classic collection of both well known and obscure ballads. Coltrane was one of jazz's greatest ballad players, a fact sometimes overlooked in the controversy that swirled about his work, and his lyrical gifts are in sharp relief here. They're transmitted through one of the most beautiful tones that jazz has ever produced, suggesting a rare metal that has just been discovered. The material brings out the best in pianist McCoy Tyner, who is prominently featured and whose harmonic subtlety and limpid grace shine throughout. --Stuart Broomer



Imagine is John Lennon's second solo album and is considered the most popular of his solo works. Recorded and released in 1971, the album tended toward songs that were gentler, more commercial and less avant-garde than the ones he released on his more critically acclaimed previous album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.The difference, he said, was that Imagine was "chocolate-coated for public consumption", in reference to the strings so prevalent throughout.


Monday, March 2, 2009


Including both his band work (with the Yardbirds, John Mayall's Blues Breakers, Cream, Blind Faith, Delaney and Bonnie, and Derek and the Dominos) and his long, varied solo career, this four-CD set does a spectacular job in gathering several decades' worth of Clapton's best. There are the requisite classics--"Layla," "Blues Power," "After Midnight," "Further On Up the Road," "Crossroads," and "I Shot the Sheriff," among many others--some of them in previously unreleased live or alternate studio recordings. Released in 1988, when only superstars were granted the box set, Crossroads became the blueprint for what such a retrospective should be. For its scope, this box skims the cream of Clapton's large output. --Daniel Durchholz



"The record the world's been waiting for," reads an ad for Spirits Having Flown, and that's not just hype, since the Bee Gees' new album represents a deliberate attempt to fashion a "global" pop. Instead of extending the airy pop-disco of Saturday Night Fever, the Brothers Gibb have consolidated several styles, only one of which is disco, to make slower, more elaborate music. Miami Blue-Eyed Soul Meets Europop in Ecumenical Heaven might be an apt subtitle. Though impressively produced, Spirits Having Flown isn't nearly as powerful as the crux of Saturday Night Fever, and its failures suggest that the group's brilliant fusion of adolescent love songs and disco for the 1977 soundtrack LP was at least partly accidental.

From the beginning, the Bee Gees' mating of pop and R&B was shaky. True, the key cuts on the transitional Main Course, for which producer Arif Mardin taught the trio the rhythmic basics, were landmarks. But the following disc, Children of the World, on which the Gibbs and coproducers Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson toughened up the style, was less satisfying. There, the effort seemed forced, and the combination of harder rhythms and a much grainier sound created an abrasively shrill and somewhat cheesy blue-eyed soul that redeemed itself only once, in the poppers-in-the-fun-house smash, "You Should Be Dancing." Coming after this letdown album, the gorgeous and surprising Saturday Night Fever songs (from the same production team) elegantly underlined both the strength and delicacy of the special chemistry. These made-to-order movie tunes had such a magical flow and simplicity that, in one stroke, a universal dance music was born. Not since the heyday of Glenn Miller, forty years earlier, had the dreamy and aggressive impulses of pop meshed so seamlessly to stamp an era.

On Spirits Having Flown, not a single composition has the ethereal propulsion of "Stayin' Alive," "Night Fever" or "More than a Woman." "Tragedy," the new record's fastest dance number, is a mini melodrama that gallops along on a bed of synthesized lava, with a chorus of bleating seraphs cleaved midway by a thunderbolt. While the gimmickry is clever and the tune irresistible, the whole thing's a bit too self-conscious to take off. The other two danceable cuts—"Search, Find" (a milder but stirring echo of "You Should Be Dancing") and "Love You inside Out"—lack hard-core disco momentum. "Too Much Heaven," Spirits Having Flown's "How Deep Is Your Love," sets one of the group's most glamorous melodies against a cumulus of strings and a ticking Latin beat. Though as delicious as strawberry ice cream, the song misses the aching intimacy of its forerunner, and the message ("Nobody gets too much love anymore") rings like an official proclamation. To strengthen this impression of celestial omnipotence, when the Bee Gees lip-synced "Too Much Heaven" on the recent TV benefit for UNICEF, they were haloed in soft focus like blissed-out angels just back from a meeting with God.

This album's weaknesses are synonymous with the Gibbs' pseudodeific, megastar self-conception. Most of the songs are sung with perfect pitch, but the trio's piercing collective falsetto (built around Barry's lead vocals) is so relentless that the few moments in which the voices drop to their natural register come as a relief. The Four Seasons, alas, and not Smokey Robinson are the prototype for such an unearthly style: shrill, stiff, mechanical yowls that generate tension yet aren't expressive enough to carry an entire LP. This metallic shriek was made appealing on Main Course and Saturday Night Fever because it was softened and distanced into a floating, plaintive cry that found a workable counterbalance in a springy, clearly articulated electric bass. John Travolta's moving portrayal of young Tony Manero and his struggle for recognition in the film also lent poignant meaning to the falsetto, which became an aural metaphor for the anxious human spirit: an attestation of innocence, a cry for help, a sob of nostalgia.

Spirits Having Flown's lack of a cinematic subtext also causes problems with the lyrics. The Bee Gees have always taken a rather functional approach to words, basing their choices as much on phonetics as on the literal sense of what's being said, so that many of their lyrics scan like computer distillations of love comics. But with Saturday Night Fever, the real-life movie setting coaxed a more down-to-earth point of view, and the culmination, "Stayin' Alive," deservedly became a worldwide anthem. On the new record, the return to lyrical abstractions, when combined with such insistent falsettos, makes the Gibbs sound (not altogether unintentionally) like three android planetary overseers instead of fellow human beings.

Aside from the album's melodic consistency (nine out of ten tunes have substantial hooks), its major success is in the area of production: the Bee Gees, Galuten and Richardson offer a sugary, futuristic melange of Abba-styled Europop, post-Motown R&B and Miami disco, with greater emphasis on horns and synthesizer. A duet between falsetto voices and a sputtering saxophone over a brass choir in "Stop (Think Again)" demonstrates a particularly haunting use of horns. Throughout Spirits Having Flown, the synthesizer is integrated with far more assurance than before, so that the strongest songs outstrip Abba in sophistication while maintaining the requisite Europop tone of brittle, ultraaccessible cordiality. The title track is the producers' pièce de résistance. A mystical ballad that swells like the sea over a synthesized roar as a quasi-western movie theme is reiterated by a steel band, "Spirits (Having Flown)" carries international sci-fi/religioso pop to a decorative peak of opulence.

Along with Donna Summer and Abba, the Brothers Gibb are defining the emergent mainstream of space-age pop. The musical equivalent of such Hollywood screen extravaganzas as Star Wars and Superman, this international style giddily exalts a blind faith in technology, flaunting the artificiality while exhorting our wildest childhood fantasies of escape into toyland. The Bee Gees' mythos—they always wanted to be bigger than the Beatles, whom they originally cloned, and now they are, commercially speaking—lends their music a messianic right, albeit a somewhat muted one. We're not only encouraged to play with (or to try to become) futuristic toys, but to accept the Gibbs as heavenly castrati—Johnny Mathis robot voices come to soothe our hypereroticized climate with musical candy. Yet the falsettos cut two ways: even as they keen like rockets in the chill of space, their squall brings out the crybaby in all of us.

As millennial fever looms, the Bee Gees shrewdly answer our contradictory urges to rush forward and to retreat. Their soundtrack for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band represented one last pitiful attempt to get back and become the Beatles. On the UNICEF TV special, they finally got away with posing as the Fab Four's spiritual heirs. But the global consciousness that the Gibbs conjure is far different from that of the Beatles, who embodied a non-bureaucratic world community of hippie individualists. The Bee Gees' global village would be a junior high of androgynous, conformist goody-goodies: a world with no violence or sex, only puppy love, and every toy in creation. That's why Spirits Having Flown is a Sunday-school heaven of eternal childhood, stringently regulated by "angels."

-Rolling Stone,1979



Sinatra already had one youthful career behind him by the time he made Songs for Swingin' Lovers! His were no longer the lustrous pipes of the kid crooner from Hoboken--the voice that made bobbysoxers swoon--but from the first notes of the opening track ("You Make Me Feel So Young") he seems to have discovered a musical fountain of youth that fully justifies the exclamation point in the album title. There's a buoyant new spring in his step, accented by Nelson Riddle's lighter-than-air arrangements, that makes the Columbia records of Sinatra's younger days sound stiff and stodgy in comparison. Even chestnuts like "Old Devil Moon," "Pennies from Heaven," "Makin' Whoopee," and "Anything Goes" are rejuvenated by his vibrant touch. Put this alongside his previous Capitol album, In the Wee Small Hours, and you have the definitive statements by both sides of Sinatra's mature musical personality: the lonely "saloon singer" and the swaggering, sophisticated swinger. Sinatra's carefree confidence achieves its supreme expression in "I've Got You Under My Skin," a performance that builds steadily to an ecstatic climax. Cole Porter may have hated his lyrical embellishments, but by the time the singer jauntily breaks the "fourth wall" on "Anything Goes" ("...may I say before this records spins to a close..."), you can't deny he's taken the title to heart. --Jim Emerson



If there is a recording that is required listening for every blues fan, it's this one. Robert Johnson wasn't just King of the Delta blues; he was one of its founding fathers, and these re-mastered tunes are as timeless and important today as they were all those years ago. The songs that passed into the blues canon, to be covered by countless guitarists over the years, are here: "Crossroad Blues," "Preaching Blues," "Come On In My Kitchen," "Walking Blues," and more. And on this particular version of this often-reissued recording, there's an additional treat: a previously unreleased version of "Traveling Riverside Blues." Absolutely essential. --Genevieve Williams


Steve Howe's second solo effort is his most essential recording. The Steve Howe Album contains many of Howe's strongest and most original compositions. Whereas some of his albums can be associated with the sound of the bands in which he's played, this release is unique. Howe places himself in a country/bluegrass setting on most of the compositions, and that is what makes this project so appealing — he's a rock veteran venturing outside of his field. And with Graham Preskett playing violin on "The Continental," Howe turns in what sounds like a real hoedown. The first track, "Pennants," is a gem for the more rock-oriented fan. The cut opens with the sweet, resonant, rocking sounds of Howe's Fender Telecaster; he then adds mandolin and a pervasive twin-neck steel, while drummer Alan White keeps it all rhythmic. Half of the tracks are played by Howe alone, most notably "Surface Tension," his composition for solo Spanish guitar. Other cuts feature former Yes-mates White, Bill Bruford, and Patrick Moraz (all of whom participated on Howe's first solo album), and Claire Hamill, who sings beautifully on "Look Over Your Shoulder." Only one other cut includes vocals: "All's a Chord," on which Howe's singing is awkward but appealing. The song, comprised of several movements and musical styles (including classical), features Howe on eight different stringed instruments, including bass, pedal steel, sitar, banjo, mandolin, and his trademark deep-bodied electric-acoustic Gibson ES 175 D. The final two pieces are set apart from the rest of the recordings. On both compositions, equipped only with his Gibson Les Paul, Howe is accompanied by a string ensemble on his interpretation of Vivaldi's Concerto in D, Second Movement, and by a 59-piece orchestra on "Double Rondo." Andrew Jackman (who served as orchestrator and conductor on Chris Squire's Fish Out of Water several years earlier) conducts. The Steve Howe Album is a culmination of everything Howe represents, every genre of music he loves so dearly, exquisitely played and arranged. The inside cover colorfully depicts all the stringed instruments Howe used on the recordings, and Roger Dean's cover painting makes the package complete. The sound quality of the Japanese import compact disc is unsurpassed, incredibly sharp and vibrant.


With the pop sense of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks now leading the band, Fleetwood Mac moved completely away from blues and created this homage to love, Southern California-style. Each songwriter makes his or her presence known: Nicks for her dreamy, mystical reveries ("Dreams," "Gold Dust Woman:); Christine McVie for her ultra-catchy slogans ("Don't Stop"); and Buckingham for his deceptively simple pop songs ("Second Hand News," "Go Your Own Way"). "The Chain," written collectively, is the Mac at their most dramatic. But it's the ensemble playing, the elastic rhythms, and lush harmonies that transform the material into classic FM fare. --Rob O'Connor


If you've been keeping up with your reading, you've by now ingested a glowing review or two of Beck's latest release, Mutations. No doubt, you've read that he recorded the album's twelve songs in fourteen days after completing the Odelay tour. And surely you know that the album was co-produced by Nigel Godrich, who was at least partially responsible for Radiohead's OK Computer. All this background information was most certainly followed by heaps of praise for the songs on the album and the treatments they get at the hands of Godrich and Beck.

So I'm in a bit of a spot here. How can I tell you something about the album you don't already know? How about this one: it's better than Odelay. Now let me qualify that statement. There are some who will tell you that Beck's last album is a masterwork of late 20th century American culture; I'm not one of them. On that landmark 1996 release, Beck fully realized his oft-heralded command of an unfathomable range of musical genres. It was a fantastically successful album, both financially and musically. But slightly lost in that jumbled collage of sounds and influences was the synergy of the album as a whole. In his efforts to plaster his genius credentials as subtly as a billboard, he failed to create the sense of unity that is a trademark of every true masterpiece. Ultimately, Odelay was a somewhat disjointed collection of great songs.

On Mutations, Beck's traded in his two turntables and microphone for a Moog synth and a copy of the Kinks' Muswell Hillbillies. Here, he fully explores his obsession with the 60s. He's always shared Ray Davies' ear for a tune and flair for the theatrical, but on "Bottle of Blues", he manages to co-opt the old Brit's voice, too. Yet, what makes Beck special is his ability to infuse his own musical identity into the lifted lines. Like Davies' Hillbillies and even Neil Young's Tonight's the Night, Mutations initially flows so easily that it sounds rudimentary. It's that very flow that's missing on Odelay, and subsequent listens reveal the complex details creating it. It's like pressing your nose against an impressionist painting to examine the thousands of meticulously placed brush dabs that make up the seascape.

If the backbone of the album is a string of rootsy melodies-- some of the best Beck has ever penned-- its mood is definitely driven by Godrich's patented pre-millennial assortment of buzzes, bleeps and quirks, giving it the spacy urgency of OK Computer, and leaving us with a beautifully futuristic roots album. A perfect example of this is the addendum to the album's last track, on which dueling lasers fire over a riff swiped off of the Beatles' Revolver.

Unfortunately, with the music biz buzz awaiting the release of Odelay's proper follow-up (due next year), Mutations will most likely be praised and then forgotten. Its low budget, soft-spoken demeanor, and lack of a standout single will surely count against it. For that to happen would be tragic. Beck is clearly working on a level most others can only dream of, and Mutations is proof of that. It seems impossible that his next album could be any better, but I can't wait to find out.

- Neil Lieberman, November 1, 1998 (PITCHFORK)


This five-disc set was the first release in BMG's effort to present Elvis's recorded legacy in a manner befitting the most important musical artist of his time. The strategy was simple--showcase, in chronological order, remastered versions of the King's 1950s output, from his sessions with Sam Phillips at Sun Studios (where they arguably invented the very notion of rock & roll) through his 1958 Army induction. Not everything Elvis recorded in the '50s was great (just as not everything he recorded in Hollywood was rotten), but there are dozens of tracks here that, quite simply, can make a bad day seem all that much better. Which surely still makes him the king of something. Suffice it to say this is one box set that lives up to its title. --Bill Holdship



Fragile is the fourth album by the British progressive rock band Yes, released on Atlantic Records, catalogue 7211. It was the band's first album with keyboardist Rick Wakeman after the departure of Tony Kaye, and the first to feature cover art by Roger Dean, his work emblematic of both the band and progressive rock as a whole. Fragile was issued in the UK in November 1971, but was held back in North America for two months because of the chart momentum of The Yes Album. It peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200 during a stay of 46 weeks, and as Atlantic 2401 019 reached #7 in the UK album chart.

Work on the material began while Kaye was still in the band. In a 2006 interview, he said, "I did rehearse Fragile before I left. I left in the middle."[1] Four of the nine tracks feature full performances by the new line-up with Wakeman, three of which were of eight minutes length or longer. Its best known track, "Roundabout," was released in the United States in an edited version as a single. Rick Wakeman contributed to the writing of "South Side of the Sky" and "Heart of the Sunrise" by adding piano interludes to both songs, but wasn't credited due to contractual conflicts. He was instead promised more money by Atlantic studio executives, which he claims he never saw.

The remaining five tracks showcase the band members' individual talents. "Cans and Brahms" is an arrangement by Wakeman of the third movement from the Fourth Symphony in E minor by Johannes Brahms, his utilization of synthesizers adapted to classical works in vogue at the time, evidenced in efforts by Wendy Carlos and Isao Tomita. "We Have Heaven" is by Jon Anderson in which he sings all the vocal parts, a technique later used on his solo album Olias of Sunhillow. Bill Bruford's "Five Per Cent for Nothing" derives its instrumental passages from the rhythm line, while "The Fish" and "Mood for a Day" serve almost entirely as bass and guitar solo pieces for Chris Squire and Steve Howe, respectively.

Side one"Roundabout" (Anderson/Howe) – 8:30 "Cans and Brahms (Extracts from
Brahms' 4th Symphony in E Minor, Third Movement)" (Brahms, arranged Wakeman) –
1:38 "We Have Heaven" (Anderson) – 1:40 "South Side of the Sky"
(Anderson/Squire) – 8:02

Side two"Five Per Cent for Nothing" (Bruford) – 0:35 "Long Distance
Runaround" (Anderson) – 3:30 "The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)" (Squire) –
2:39 "Mood for a Day" (Howe) – 3:00 "Heart of the Sunrise"
(Anderson/Squire/Bruford) – 11:27






Another Green World is the third studio album by British musician Brian Eno. Produced by Eno, it was originally released by Island Records in September of 1975. As he had done with previous solo albums, Eno worked with several guest musicians including Phil Collins, John Cale and Robert Fripp. The album marked a great musical change from Eno's previous albums. Using his instruction cards the Oblique Strategies for guidance, the album contained less lyric-based rock songs and had stronger emphasis on instrumental productions; many without the aid of guest musicians. The dark humor of the lyrics also changed to more dreamlike and addled songs.
The album failed to chart in the United States or the United Kingdom. Initial critical reception met with both high praise from several critics, but also with negative reviews feeling the album was a to great of a departure from Eno's previous more rock music based material. Modern reception of Another Green World has been more unanimously positive with critics placing the album on several top albums lists as well as giving the album some of their highest ratings.


Ozzy Osbourne's guitarist Randy Rhoads was a technical genius on his instrument, but that's only half the story. Rhoads shaped the direction of Osbourne's first two post-Sabbath recordings, Diary of a Madman and Blizzard of Ozz, which still stand as his best solo studio albums. Rhoads also was capable of pulling the best out of Osbourne onstage, a notable accomplishment in itself. This live set was released five years after Rhoads's death in a bizarre plane accident, and it's still a striking reminder of what was lost. Osbourne and company run through the Blizzard album in its entirety, adding a few tunes from Diary, and the Sabbath classics "Iron Man," "Children of the Grave," and "Paranoid." The highlights are Rhoads's guitar freakout on "Suicide Solution" and studio outtakes of his solo acoustic showcase, "Dee." --Daniel Durchholz


Sunday at the Village Vanguard is a 1961 (see 1961 in music) album by jazz pianist and composer Bill Evans. It was recorded live on June 25, 1961 at the Village Vanguard in New York City over five recorded sessions (2 matinee and 3 soiree). It is well remembered as the final performance by the Evans trio of the time, which included bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian. LaFaro was killed in a car accident ten days after the recording.

Evans and producer Orrin Keepnews reportedly selected the tracks for Sunday at the Village Vanguard to best feature LaFaro's masterful performance on bass, beginning and ending with two tracks (Gloria's Step and Jade Visions) written by LaFaro himself, and with all the others featuring solos by him. This album is routinely ranked as one of the best live jazz recordings of all time.

Additional material from the same day's performance was released in a second album Waltz for Debby (also 1961), as was other material in another LP Bill Evans - More From the Vanguard.



Frequently bootlegged and now digitally remastered by Jimmy Page, these tapes capture a 25-month (1969 to 1971) arc in which Zep's sound grew to encompass the speed rush and jazz/blues festival stuff of their 1969 debut, the fully developed folkie musings of "Going to California" (in which Plant vowed to make a hejira right up to Joni Mitchell's front door), and the band's modestly popular multilayered epic "Stairway to Heaven." The Sessions also give a glimpse of nearly off-the-cuff invention in an intense take on Robert Johnson's "Traveling Riverside Blues." Most other white blues musicians would've rushed to get this on vinyl; Page and Plant instead used it for parts, most notably taking its profound acoustic freneticism for Led Zeppelin III. --Rickey Wright


What exactly led to the almost unspeakable success of this album? There is probably no definite answer, but rather an indeterminate zeitgeist at the time of its release. The Apollo moon missions had just ended in 1972, Nixon had just been re-elected, the anti-war movement was at its peak, the "acid" culture was still thriving, and America was in the throes of a post-60s re-self-assessment and as "polarized" as it had been in quite some time. Most importantly, as was true immediately after the assassination of JFK - when the youth of America was looking for something "upbeat" to "fill the hole," and The Beatles materialized almost magically to fill that void - the youth of America in 1972 was looking for something to latch onto. Dark Side became that "thing," for reasons which may never be understood. Yet even bearing the burden of so powerful a "symbol," Dark Side stands on its own as a musical and production achievement with few equals, either then or since. For prog-rock to become not only cross-musical but cross-cultural was something none of us who were around at the time could ever have conceived of. Yet happen it did. Was it just the "commercial" quality of some of the "songs?" Personally, I doubt it. There was an "experience" in listening to Dark Side in toto that could not be gleaned, even minimally, from hearing "Money" or "Us and Them" on AOR radio. What made it so "special" was that it was a "shared" experience - like the first time we listened to Sgt. Pepper, Electric Ladyland or other "shared" musical experiences in the 60s and early 70s. Ultimately, Dark Side has both a "metaphysical" quality to it - vis-a-vis its place in time - and a broad-based compositional-musical quality that all but defined much of the music of its time. And although one can quibble over its internal flaws (assuming it has any, which I do not believe), or its place in Floyd's oeuvre - especially its alleged "commercial" qualities - it is the very impossibility of pinning down its brilliance that makes it a "masterpiece," and, along with Pepper and Court, one of the three absolutely quintessential albums of the genre.



Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the most important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time. From the title song's regal blasts of brass and fuzz guitar to the orchestral seizure and long, dying piano chord at the end of "A Day in the Life," the thirteen tracks on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band are the pinnacle of the Beatles' eight years as recording artists. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were never more fearless and unified in their pursuit of magic and transcendence.

Issued in Britain on June 1st, 1967, and a day later in America,Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is also rock's ultimate declaration of change. For the Beatles, it was a decisive goodbye to matching suits, world tours and assembly-line record-making. "We were fed up with being Beatles," McCartney said decades later, in Many Years From Now, Barry Miles' McCartney biography. "We were not boys, we were men . . . artists rather than performers."

At the same time, Sgt. Pepper formally ushered in an unforgettable season of hope, upheaval and achievement: the late 1960s and, in particular, 1967's Summer of Love. In its iridescent instrumentation, lyric fantasias and eye-popping packaging, Sgt. Pepper defined the opulent revolutionary optimism of psychedelia and instantly spread the gospel of love, acid, Eastern spirituality and electric guitars around the globe. No other pop record of that era, or since, has had such an immediate, titanic impact. This music documents the world's biggest rock band at the very height of its influence and ambition. "It was a peak," Lennon confirmed in his 1970 Rolling Stone interview, describing both the album and his collaborative relationship with McCartney. "Paul and I definitely were working together," Lennon said, and Sgt. Pepper is rich with proof: McCartney's burst of hot piano and school-days memoir ("Woke up, fell out of bed . . . ") in Lennon's "A Day in the Life," a reverie on mortality and infinity; Lennon's impish rejoinder to McCartney's chorus in "Getting Better" ("It can't get no worse").

"Sgt. Pepper was our grandest endeavor," Starr said, looking back, in the 2000 autobiography The Beatles Anthology. "The greatest thing about the band was that whoever had the best idea - it didn't matter who -- that was the one we'd use. No one was standing on their ego, saying, 'Well, it's mine,' and getting possessive." It was Neil Aspinall, the Beatles' longtime assistant, who suggested they reprise the title track, just before the grand finale of "A Day in the Life," to complete Sgt. Pepper's theatrical conceit: an imaginary concert by a fictional band, played by the Beatles.

The first notes went to tape on December 6th, 1966: two takes of McCartney's music-hall confection "When I'm Sixty-Four." (Lennon's lysergic reflection on his Liverpool childhood, "Strawberry Fields Forever," was started two weeks earlier but issued in February 1967 as a stand-alone single.) But Sgt. Pepper's real birthday is August 29th, 1966, when the Beatles played their last live concert, in San Francisco. Until then, they had made history in the studio -- Please Please Me (1963), Rubber Soul (1965), Revolver (1966) -- between punishing tours. Off the road for good, the Beatles were free to be a band away from the hysteria of Beatlemania. McCartney went a step further. On a plane to London in November '66, as he returned from a vacation in Kenya, he came up with the idea of an album by the Beatles in disguise, an alter-ego group that he subsequently dubbed Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. "We'd pretend to be someone else," McCartney explained in Anthology. "It liberated you -- you could do anything when you got to the mike or on your guitar, because it wasn't you."

Only two songs on the final LP, both McCartney's, had anything to do with the Pepper character: the title track and Starr's jaunty vocal showcase "With a Little Help From My Friends," introduced as a number by Sgt. Pepper's star crooner, Billy Shears. "Every other song could have been on any other album," Lennon insisted later. Yet it is hard to imagine a more perfect setting for the Victorian jollity of Lennon's "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" (inspired by an 1843 circus poster) or the sumptuous melancholy of McCartney's "Fixing a Hole," with its blend of antique shadows (a harpsichord played by the Beatles' producer George Martin) and modern sunshine (double-tracked lead guitar executed with ringing precision by Harrison). The Pepper premise was a license to thrill.

It also underscored the real-life cohesion of the music and the group that made it. Of the 700 hours the Beatles spent making Sgt. Pepper (engineer Geoff Emerick actually tallied them) from the end of 1966 until April 1967, the group needed only three days' worth to complete Lennon's lavish daydream "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds." "A Day in the Life," the most complex song on the album, was done in just five days. (The oceanic piano chord was three pianos hit simultaneously by ten hands belonging to Lennon, McCartney, Starr, Martin and Beatles roadie Mal Evans.) No other Beatles appear with Harrison on his sitar-perfumed sermon on materialism and fidelity, "Within You Without You," but the band wisely placed the track at the halfway point of the original vinyl LP, at the beginning of Side Two: a vital meditation break in the middle of the jubilant indulgence.

The Beatles' exploitation of multitracking on Sgt. Pepper transformed the very act of studio recording (the orchestral overdubs on "A Day in the Life" marked the debut of eight-track recording in Britain: two four-track machines used in sync). And Sgt. Pepper's visual extravagance officially elevated the rock album cover to a Work of Art. Michael Cooper's photo of the Beatles in satin marching-band outfits, in front of a cardboard-cutout audience of historical figures, created by artist Peter Blake, is the most enduring image of the psychedelic era. Sgt. Pepper was also the first rock album to incorporate complete lyrics to the songs in its design.
Yet Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the Number One album of the RS 500 not just because of its firsts -- it is simply the best of everything the Beatles ever did as musicians, pioneers and pop stars, all in one place. A 1967 British print ad for the album declared, "Remember Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Is the Beatles." As McCartney put it, the album was "just us doing a good show."

The show goes on forever.

-Rolling Stone,2003


About Me

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A Beatles fan since December 1980.Now an oral surgeon and music journalist.He lives in Bangkok.