Happy 50th birthday, GILG!

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Released January 1969 (sorry, was unable to find the exact date), The Four Seasons’ Genuine Imitation Life Gazette is one of those albums which originally bombed but is now regarded as an absolute masterpiece.

Critics really liked it, but it only sold about 150,000 copies, and the singles did extremely poorly. Four Seasons’ fans were confused, shocked, and angry, since GILG was such a radical departure from their familiar sound.

This was also a time when a great many musical acts who’d been very popular for a long time began falling off the charts. Public tastes were radically changing, and bands like The Four Seasons, The Beach Boys, Herman’s Hermits, and The Dave Clark Five were suddenly considered uncool and irrelevant, even when they tried to evolve with the changing musical landscape.

The psychedelic pop sound, and pop in general, was also on its way out, being replaced by the heavier sounds of bands like Cream, Vanilla Fudge, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Iron Butterfly, and Steppenwolf. Add that to how The Four Seasons weren’t exactly in their early twenties.

GILG just came out at the worst time possible for commercial success. Even if The Four Seasons had looked towards copying the abovementioned bands instead of psychedelic pop, most deejays wouldn’t have played it anyway.

It’s comparable to one of the real reasons many popular silent actors lost popularity in the early sound era. Almost all of them survived the transition just fine, but after the dust began settling, the public came to regard them as embarrassing relics of a bygone age best forgotten.

After this bomb, the band retreated back into a more familiar sound for two last minor hits in 1969, but it was too late. The musical landscape was far too different, their second classic lineup broke up, and their hardcore fans had already moved on. Had GILG done well, The Four Seasons’ Seventies sound might have been so much different.

They had an amazing comeback in 1975, thanks to successfully copying popular sounds at the right time, but their incredible 1978 follow-up unfortunately didn’t do very well, and their 1985 and 1992 albums didn’t chart at all.

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks:

“American Crucifixion Resurrection”
“Mrs. Stately’s Garden”
“Look Up Look Over”
“Something’s on Her Mind” (#98 in the U.S.)
“Wall Street Village Day”
“Saturday’s Father” (#103 in the U.S.)
“Genuine Imitation Life”
“Idaho” (#95 in the U.S.)
“Wonder What You’ll Be”
“Soul of a Woman” (one of their most moving songs, celebrating a woman’s entire life from birth till death)
“Watch the Flowers Grow”* (#30 in the U.S.)
“Raven”*
“Will You Love Me Tomorrow”* (#24 in the U.S.)
“Electric Stories”* (#61 in the U.S.)

I obviously highly recommend this album. If you only associate The Four Seasons with songs like “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” and “Let’s Hang On!,” I encourage you to give this album a listen and see the kind of depth and maturity they were capable of, both musically and lyrically.

Happy 50th birthday, Instant Replay!

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Released 15 February 1969, Instant Replay was The Monkees’ first post-Peter album, and came six months after their show was cancelled. Though there was plenty of new material to mine from, some of the songs came from sessions up to two and a half years earlier. Their new music coordinator and former road manager Brendan Cahill thought releasing these songs from the vault would be a surefire way to regain popularity.

It didn’t exactly pay off, though the album was far from a critical bomb. It was #32 in the U.S., #26 in Japan, and #45 in Canada. The two singles fared slightly less well. “Tear Drop City” was #56 in the U.S., #34 in Australia, and #47 in the U.K., while future bonus track “Someday Man” was #81 in the U.S. and #44 in the U.K.

Peter, who’d left the band on 20 December 1968 after buying out the last four years of his contract at $150,000 each ($1,020,000 today), has a token appearance on “I Won’t Be the Same Without Her.” He played guitar.

“You and I” features Neil Young as a guest guitarist.

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks:

“Through the Looking Glass” (Micky) (written by Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart, and Red Baldwin)
“Don’t Listen to Linda” (Davy) (written by Boyce and Hart)
“I Won’t Be the Same Without Her” (Nez) (written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King)
“Just a Game” (written and sung by Micky)
“Me Without You” (Davy) (written by Boyce and Hart)
“Don’t Wait for Me” (written and sung by Nez)
“You and I” (Davy) (written by Bill Chadwick and Davy)
“While I Cry” (written and sung by Nez)
“Tear Drop City” (Micky) (written by Boyce and Hart)
“The Girl I Left Behind Me” (Davy) (written by Carole Bayer Sager and Neil Sedaka)
“A Man Without a Dream” (Davy) (written by Goffin and King)
“Shorty Blackwell” (written and sung by Micky, with the distinction of being The Monkees’ longest song)
“Someday Man” (Davy) (written by Roger Nichols and Paul Williams)*
“Carlisle Wheeling” (written and sung by Nez)*
“Rosemarie” (written and sung by Micky)*
“Smile” (written and sung by Davy)*
“St. Matthew” (written and sung by Nez)*
“Me Without You” (alternate mix)*
“Through the Looking Glass” (early mix)*

In 2011, Rhino issued a 3-disc deluxe edition with 89 tracks, with stereo and mono versions, remixes, alternate takes, backing tracks, and unreleased goodies. The vinyl version features two additional discs, containing one song each.

My favourite tracks are “Through the Looking Glass,” “I Won’t Be the Same Without Her,” “You and I,” “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” “Shorty Blackwell,” and “Someday Man.” While I personally prefer The Monkees Present of their 1969 albums, Instant Replay is also very high-quality, and shows they were so much more than teenypop.

Happy 35th birthday to Colour by Numbers!

Copyright Virgin Records; image used solely to illustrate subject for the purpose of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine

This was one of those albums I got because I saw it in the $2 vinyl stack, and I wanted to indulge my Eighties nostalgia (the same reason I bought Rio in 2007, little dreaming I’d become a Duranie three and a half years later). I ended up really liking this album on its own merits. Unfortunately, the first Culture Club album, Kissing to Be Clever, which I also got in the $2 stacks, didn’t impress me so much.

Their début album may be spotty (with a lot of songs sounding too much alike, too close together), but this their sophomore album absolutely hits it out of the park. It’s a quintessential Eighties album I highly recommend to everyone who loves that decade.

Released October 1983, the album hit #1 in the U.K., Australia, Canada, Japan, and New Zealand; #2 in the U.S., Spain, and Norway; #3 in Sweden and The Netherlands; #4 in France and Switzerland; #6 in West Germany; #9 in Italy; and #17 in Austria.

Track listing, with stars by bonus tracks:

“Karma Chameleon” (one of the most overplayed Eighties songs, right up there with “Hungry Like the Wolf”) (#1 in the U.K., the U.S., Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Ireland, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland; #2 in both Germanies; #3 in Austria; #4 in Italy; #5 in France)
“It’s a Miracle” (#4 in the U.K.; #13 in the U.S.; Top 5 in Canada)
“Black Money”
“Changing Every Day”
“That’s the Way (I’m Only Trying to Help You)”
“Church of the Poison Mind” (#2 in the U.K. and Ireland; #4 in Australia; #5 in Canada; #9 in Belgium and New Zealand; #10 in the U.S.; #11 in Norway and The Netherlands; #12 in Italy and Austria; #13 in Sweden; #23 in both Germanies; #43 in France)
“Miss Me Blind” (#5 in the U.S. and Canada)
“Mister Man”
“Stormkeeper”
“Victims” (#2 in Ireland and Italy; #3 in the U.K.; #4 in Australia; #7 in New Zealand; #11 in Belgium; #18 in Switzerland; #39 in both Germanies)
“Man-Shake”*
“Mystery Boy”*
“Melting Pot”*
“Colour by Numbers”*
“Romance Revisited”*

Critics by and large loved the album, giving it extremely high ratings. Colour by Numbers has been certified quadruple platinum in the U.S., triple platinum in the U.K., and platinum in Hong Kong; diamond in Canada; and gold in France.

The album is still well-regarded today, both as one of the best albums of the Eighties, and an overall fantastic pop album. It’s hard to pick a favourite song, since they’re all so good!

Happy 50th birthday to The White Album!

The Beatles released their one and only double album on 22 November 1968. Though it’s eponymous, just about everyone has always called it The White Album, due to its plain white cover. Its working title, A Doll’s House, had to be changed when prog-rock band Family released Music in a Doll’s House in July.

This album is known for its solo showcase of each Beatle. Many of the songs weren’t recorded with all four in the studio at the same time, and the distinctive voice and style of each bandmember emerges loud and clear on his respective songs.

Many people know a lot of the songs were written and/or inspired by The Beatles’ sojourn in India. None were released as singles.

The album was recorded from 30 May–14 October 1968, and the sessions were fraught with acrimony. Ringo briefly quit the band in August, feeling like he no longer belonged; producer George Martin took an unexpected leave of absence; engineer Geoff Emerick quit; and John’s new love Yoko famously moved her bed into the studio.

Album one:

“Back in the USSR” (Paul)
“Dear Prudence” (John)
“Glass Onion” (John)
“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” (Paul) (an immediate skip button, and a song the other three Beatles HATED)
“Wild Honey Pie” (Paul)
“The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” (John)
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (George)
“Happiness Is a Warm Gun” (John)
“Martha My Dear” (Paul) (written about his Old English Sheepdog)
“I’m So Tired” (John)
“Blackbird” (Paul)
“Piggies” (George)
“Rocky Raccoon” (Paul)
“Don’t Pass Me By” (Ringo)
“Why Don’t We Do It on the Road?” (Paul)
“I Will” (Paul)
“Julia” (John)

Album two:

“Birthday” (Paul and John)
“Yer Blues” (John)
“Mother Nature’s Son” (Paul)
“Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” (John)
“Sexy Sadie” (John)
“Helter Skelter” (Paul) (an obvious outlier he likes to point to as “proof” he was really the hip, hard-edge, avant-garde Beatle)
“Long, Long, Long” (George)
“Revolution No. 1” (John) (never liked the slow tempo)
“Honey Pie” (Paul)
“Savoy Truffle” (George)
“Cry Baby Cry” (John)
“Revolution No. 9” (John) (a sound collage which is famously among fans’ most-hated songs, but which I’ve always adored and often listened to on repeat)
“Good Night” (Ringo) (almost the last song I heard in this lifetime)

There’s also an unlisted song snippet between “Cry Baby Cry” and “Revolution No. 9,” “Can You Take Me Back,” by Paul.

The majority of critics loved it, though a few were less than enthusiastic. It débuted at #1 in the U.K., and spent a total of eight weeks there (seven consecutively). In the U.S., it débuted at #11, shot to #2 the next week, and climbed to #1 in the third week, where it stayed for nine weeks.

The album was also #1 in Australia, Canada, France, Norway, Sweden, Spain, and West Germany.

I’ve always adored this album. My favourite tracks include “Revolution No. 9,” “Glass Onion,” “Dear Prudence,” “Julia,” “Long, Long, Long,” “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey,” and “Savoy Truffle.”

Happy 25th birthday to The Wedding Album! (Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day!)

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This year, I wanted to spotlight 1993’s The Wedding Album for Duran Duran Appreciation Day. Though it’s actually the band’s second of two eponymous albums, fans widely refer to it as The Wedding Album. Its nickname comes from Nick Egan’s cover art, wedding photographs of the then-four bandmembers’ parents.

Released 11 February 1993 (when I was in seventh grade), this was the band’s seventh studio album and a giant comeback after flagging success. Unfortunately, they didn’t choose the best followup to sustain this great momentum.

The album was recorded and edited from 1991–92, though the band’s new management company, Left Bank, pulled from its release schedule due to less than positive perceived public response. The music industry derided Left Bank for trying to revive the careers of several musical acts seen as outdated. As always, they cared more about the next hot act instead of performers who’d been around past an arbitrary expiration date.

But when this album was released, the music industry had to eat its words. It was #4 in the U.K., #7 in the U.S., #6 in Italy, #8 in Canada, #18 in Finland, #20 in Australia, #21 in Sweden, #22 in Germany, #23 in The Netherlands, and #32 in New Zealand. It was certified Gold in the U.K., and Platinum in the U.S.

Additionally, the album yielded two big hit singles, and a third lesser hit.

This is the track listing:

“Too Much Information” (#35 in the U.K.; #45 in the U.S.; #43 in Canada; #48 in New Zealand)
“Ordinary World” (#1 in Canada; #2 in Italy; #3 in Ireland, the U.S., and New Zealand; #16 in Germany and The Netherlands; #18 in Australia and Finland; #20 in Belgium)
“Love Voodoo”
“Drowning Man”
“Shotgun”
“Come Undone” (the song and music video that flipped the switch and made me into a Duranie on Valentine’s Day 2011!) (#2 in Canada; #6 in Italy; #7 in the U.S.; #9 in Ireland; #13 in the U.K.; #16 in New Zealand; #19 in Finland and Australia; #42 in Belgium and Germany)
“Breath After Breath”
“U.M.F.” (stands for “Ultimate Mind-Fuck”)
“Femme Fatale” (originally done by The Velvet Underground and written by Lou Reed)
“None of the Above”
“Shelter”
“To Whom It May Concern”
“Sin of the City” (about the Happy Land nightclub fire of 25 March 1990 in the Bronx; mistakenly gives the death toll as 89 instead of 87)

It took a couple of listens for me to get fully into this album, but I slowly but surely came to really love it. However, some fans aren’t wild about the experimental tracks “Shotgun” and “Drowning Man,” and others feel the last few songs aren’t as strong as the earlier ones. I kind of agree with that criticism, but the album has such strong material, it helps to cancel out the weaker links.

My favourites are “Too Much Information,” “Breath After Breath,” “Sin of the City” (which I’ve heard as the soundtrack to at least one dream), and, of course, “Come Undone,” the song that made me come undone.