It was hot enough in Portland today to melt Donald Trump’s orange face paint

Posted: June 4, 2016 in music, Record reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Astounding songs on atrocious albums, part 1
The Zombies, Odessey and Oracle (1967)

Britpop Invaders The Zombies have reunited! They’ve recorded a new album. They went on tour. They came to Portland! I considered going until I read that they had hired extra musicians so they could play their final album of the ’60s, Odessey and Oracle, from start to finish.

Rock critics routinely refer to Odessey and Oracle as a neglected masterwork. It is not. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not that. Odessey and Oracle is like psychedelia and bubblegum trapped in an abusive relationship. The first 11 tracks lack depth, bite, and interest. Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men,” Strawberry Alarm Clock’s cover of “You Keep Me Hanging On,” and even The Lemonpipers’ “Green Tambourine” are better. I’d rather listen to the drum solo in Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” (baby).

However! Odessey and Oracle has 12 tracks. That’s one louder than 11. The 12th track is “Time of the Season.” In any library of the best songs of the ’60s, “Time of the Season” is part of the core collection.

If The Zombies had promised to play “Time of the Season” 12 times, I might’ve gone to their stupid show.

Astounding songs on atrocious albums, part 2
Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, Nancy & Lee (1968)

Nancy Sinatra will always be revered for recording “These Boots Are Made for Walking” and for posing in Playboy at the age of 55.

(Taking her clothes off was the only way she could get people to pay attention to her first album in 25 years. That says much more about the music business than it does about her.)

Lee Hazlewood produced “These Boots” and other hits for Nancy. He produced many artists, wrote hit records, recorded obscure records mostly to satisfy himself, and was by all accounts a man who went his own way.

In 1968, Sinatra and Hazlewood capitalized on their success together and recorded Nancy & Lee…one of the worst records I have ever heard. It sold a million copies in its day, which only demonstrates that people in 1968 were nuts.

The album begins with a cover of The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.” Based on the evidence presented here, I don’t believe Nancy and Lee ever had a loving feeling to lose. I don’t believe they’ve even met before.

The album proceeds from this point in a countrified direction, which Lee is suited for but Nancy is not. When she sings “Alabam” for “Alabama,” she doesn’t sound like a country girl, she sounds like a carpetbagger.

“Greenwich Village Folk Song Salesman” doesn’t notice the Vietnam War and riots in the streets, “Lady Bird” is not about the First Lady, it’s about a bird, and Jesus Christ in a chicken basket, they trample Johnny and June Cash’s signature duet, “Jackson.” You got married in a fever? You did not!

The sole reason to listen to Nancy & Lee is “Some Velvet Morning,” a psychedelic journey starring Phaedra, an ancient Greek god who is really into nature. It was written by Hazlewood (in 2007, he recorded a duet of this song with his granddaughter…Phaedra) and sung memorably by both of them.

What’s it about? I hope it about made them a lot of money. Is it good? Applying words such as “good” or “bad” to “Some Velvet Morning” is as futile as resisting the Borg or waiting for the Cubs to win the World Series. “Some Velvet Morning” stands alone. There’s nothing like it in the popular music of the 1960s. Should we celebrate or mourn that fact? No one can say.

Every year in this country, this hemisphere, this planet, there is a 20-year-old DJ at a college radio station who slaps this record onto a turntable and says, “You gotta hear this!” That’s how I heard “Some Velvet Morning” the other day, and for three minutes and 39 seconds I was right there with her. Yeah. You gotta hear this.

Astounding songs on atrocious albums, part 3
The American Breed, Bend Me, Shape Me (1967)

This series could go on forever, like the line for the bathroom at a rave. I’ll stop with “Bend Me, Shape Me.” Aside from this song, the only reason to pay any attention to this band is that two of the Breeders went on to play in Rufus. Which means they knew Chaka Khan. I’m not worthy!

 

Comments
  1. Accused of Lurking says:

    Sir, respectfully disagree, Sir!

    When I read last fall that The Zombies were touring with the complete Odessey and Oracle, I was intrigued enough to give this unknown (to me) album a listen. I found it an interesting and pleasing artifact of the 60s. Many of the songs reminded me of a playful Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, with a pinch of The Kinks and a half teaspoon of The Hollies. While there are certainly a couple of clunkers (#4 Beechwood Park, #7 Changes, ), there are more winners (#1 Care of Cell 44, #2 A Rose for Emily, #8 I Want Her She Wants Me, #11 Friends of Mine). While not for everyone, I would definitely shuffle these songs into a playlist with Revolver, My Generation, Led Zeppelin II, Pet Sounds, and perhaps, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.

    For yucks, I checked out some of the reviews of The Zombies’ tour. The critics seemed to be quite pleased, including those in Portland.

    But what I really want to know, Run DMSteve, is how it is possible that you actually own the three albums you review above?

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      My dear Lurk: I gave your words due consideration. I even went so far as to listen to Odessey and Oracle all over again, which I hope says something about our friendship because I promised myself not to do that again. While my estimation of you remains high, my estimation of Odessey didn’t go anywhere (though I didn’t make the Kinks/Hollies connection, so I thank you for that). The trouble may lie in my dislike of Brian Wilson and Pet Sounds (but I do enjoy “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and especially “Sloop John B”), or my memory of my disappointment as a teenager after spending my lawnmower money on this disc.

      Art is subjective, and like the editors who steadfastly refuse to buy my fiction, I may have a blind spot about Odessey. God knows I’m wrong about plenty of things. As for my fellow critics…they’re wrong about plenty of things, too! I wonder if they’re reviewing the Zombies’ tour as an event, a chance to see history, not as music. Maybe it’s simply trending. Everyone has to jump on the bandwagon. Stop doing things for yucks.

      I owned all three albums on vinyl. Then I sold all my vinyl. Then I had all three on cassette. Then I thought, “WTF?” I’m semi-embarrassed to admit the only one I had on CD was Bend Me, Shape Me. I believe I traded that one for a frog. I listened to all three on Rhapsody to refresh my memory.

      • Accused of Lurking says:

        Thanks, Run, for giving the album another try. You are 129% correct that art is subjective. How else does one explain the fact that You Light Up My Life is the top song of the 70s as measured by Billboard Magazine. And what’s all this fuss about the Mona Lisa? Of course, the problem probably lies in my musical taste buds. I am, after all, a huge fan of Precious and Few.

      • Run-DMSteve says:

        My Grandma Bella loved “You Light Up My Life”! (My Grandma Rose loved “Those Were the Days.” My mom loved “Never on Sunday.” Dad loved Hank Williams Sr. and the purple people eater. Oh the musical heritage I was born into.)

        I was going to make fun of you for “Precious and Few,” but today at work a colleague in her 30s who normally listens to surf and death metal confessed her love of Rupert Holmes’ “Deco Girl.” Rupert, of course, was the composer of the pina colada song. I’m hyperventilating….I looked up the lyrics to “Deco Girl.” It’s not about art deco. What?!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s