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Tuesday, Jan 15, 2013
The Zombies had arrived at Abbey Road Studios in June of 1967. Fortunately, the Beatles had left some things behind.

When British pop act the Zombies arrived at Abbey Road Studios in June of 1967, the Beatles had just finished wrapping up the sessions for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. By April 21st, the Beatles had logged hundreds of hours for their ambitious eighth studio record, although the sessions for Sgt. Pepper’s included dates that yielded non-LP tracks like “Only a Northern Song” and more. When those reportedly agonizing sessions of tape splicing and manual scissor edits adjourned, the Beatles left a number of instruments behind. Among them was a Mellotron, an early 1960s era keyboard that offered sample playback via magnetic audio tape. That summer, the Zombies were eager to incorporate Mellotron sounds in the recording of their sophomore album Odessey & Oracle, a polished, classically-influenced cornerstone of English psychedelic pop. The band split before Odessey saw release, much less before its single “Time of the Season” garnered number-one chart status in 1969.


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Tuesday, Jan 8, 2013
Permanent Waves is, on multiple levels, an unblinking stride toward the future, while it effectively shuts the door on the ‘70s.

How unbelievably appropriate is it that Rush’s Permanent Waves was released on January 1, 1980? In virtually every regard, this album ended the ‘70s (literally) and foreshadowed the fertile grounds (reggae, pop elements, concise arrangements) the Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart would spend the next decade expanding upon.


Even though it will forever be overshadowed by the masterpiece that followed, Permanent Waves is, in many regards, the most important album Rush made. Looking back on its career, Rush was not unlike Pink Floyd: each album built upon the last one and, in hindsight, one can easily see where certain ideas and obsessions—executed with varying degrees of success—came to full fruition on the eventual, inexorable tour de force (Dark Side of the Moon and Moving Pictures, respectively). We can hear how “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” was a test run of sorts for the longer pieces from Caress of Steel, which of course set the stage for “2112”.


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Thursday, Sep 20, 2012
Celebrating the great lost (and never found) Love single from the Summer of 1967.

Today, with summer not quite over, I have some thoughts about the great lost single from 1967.


Lost in that it was never found. It was, in fact, left off Love’s masterpiece, Forever Changes, for a perfectly understandable reason: Arthur Lee felt it was too upbeat and would have marred the fragile balance between solemn and stirring that the eleven song cycle achieved.


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Wednesday, Feb 29, 2012
The late Johnny Cash (who would've turned 80 this month) was a combination of Keith Richards, Elvis Presley, and Public Enemy. Only he did it first, and no one before or since ever did it quite like him.

Two questions: 1. Is that the most bad-ass picture ever taken of a pop icon? 2. Is there a more bad-ass pop icon who’s ever walked the planet?


(Those questions are rhetorical in case you didn’t already know.)


Sex, drugs and rock and roll? The late Johnny Cash (who would’ve turned 80 on February 26th) was a combination of Keith Richards, Elvis Presley, and Public Enemy, only he did it first and no one before, or since, ever did it quite like him.


Quite literally too big (or complicated, or cool) to be contained by labels, he dabbled in rock and roll, rockabilly, blues, gospel, and folk. And while he can—and should—be considered an obvious lock for the Mt. Rushmore of Country Music, Cash was an American who wrote and sang about the country that made him. Even though at various times Kris Kristofferson attributed multiple sources of inspiration for his song “The Pilgrim, Chapter 33”, it is hardly a stretch to imagine who he had in mind for these lyrics (“He’s a poet, he’s a picker / He’s a prophet, he’s a pusher / He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned / He’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction / Taking every wrong direction on his lonely way back home”). Is there a better description out there for the icon who came to be known as The Man in Black?


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Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012
Back in February of 2002, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead was expected to make a good first impression with their major label debut, Source Tags and Codes. Nobody expected the indie rock group to craft a landmark piece of art. Let's take a look back.

Indie rock—raw, passionate, forceful indie rock—was at a bit of a crossroads around this time a decade ago. Its monuments had long been crumbling. Fugazi had just released The Argument, what would be (and as of now, still is) their final album together. Sonic Youth, long parted from the days of Daydream Nation, was still a few months away from releasing Murray Street, what many would hail as their “return to form”. At the Drive-In had given way to the Mars Volta. Drive Like Jehu and Sunny Day Real Estate had long been dead and buried. The most critically acclaimed rock band at the time (by most accounts at least), Radiohead, technically wasn’t even a “rock band” any more, venturing into the realm of the ambient and the electronic with Kid A and Amnesiac. The list went on and on.


In its stead came what we today term the garage rock revival. Led by the four “The” bands—the Vines, the Hives, the Strokes, and the White Stripes—the indie rock scene came to focus upon minimalism, skuzzy, simplistic hooks, and a messy-haired, energetic panache that was at once rocking and easily digestible for the masses. It was fun, breezy music, catchy and small-scale in scope and intention; it’d be as easy to picture a track like “Get Free” by the Vines selling Volkswagens as it would be tearing the roof off of some dingy local club. It was undoubtedly image-centric, with as many people interested in the created mythos of Jack and Meg White or endless cool of Julian Casablancas as there were genuinely interested in the art these guys were making. It was pleasant and entertaining, and major record labels were soon fiercely throwing this movement out on stage at every opportunity. It was cute.


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