The Kinks: Kinkdom (1965)

The Kinks
Kinkdom
Reprise 6184 
1965
Rating: ***** (Good Shit)
Fifth album, released December 1965 (US only), reached #47. 
This set was part of something we saw happening in England in 1965, bands leaving the copycat stuff to the blues purists (aka assholes) of the UK.  Meanwhile the Kinks and other groups pushed forward with pop music.  We see this with the Who’s classic debut album (also released in December ’65) and the changing sounds of the Yardbirds with their first three albums, all released in ’65 (especially the changes after they got rid of Clapton and started to focus on their original pop songs.)  Not only were the songs becoming more original, albums were beginning to be more than just homes for the hits with filler filling the rooms.  We can hear the changing times when we compare Beatles ’65 at the beginning of the year to Rubber Soul in December, or with the direction the Rolling Stones would take with Aftermath early the next year.  While some of the places these trends would take rock music should have been avoided, in 1965 change was creating more inventive music and better albums, especially in England.

While the Kinks were always more original than most British bands, this set really sees them focusing on their own songs and their own sound, what made them so interesting from the start.  The covers weren’t needed, but the entire set is enjoyable, and the strong cuts are great.  While there’s a sprinkling of social commentary in the collection, most of the songs focus on girls.  Most of the best pop songs are about girls.

A melancholy runs through several cuts, and this not only foreshadows some of their classic songs in the years to come, it’s easy to hear the influence this music had on other bands in the years and decades that followed.  This band also knew how to rock, instead of just offering watered-down versions of American R&B like too many other British Invasion bands.  The Kinks clearly came from the garage.  


 
The Kinks were one of the very best bands to ever come out of England, and this is one of their best albums.

Rating: ***** (Good Shit)

— winch

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Zappa: 1972

Frank Zappa

Waka / Jawaka
1972
Producer: Zappa
Rating: *** (Noteworthy)
Released August 1972, reached #152 in US

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Never one to settle into formula, Zappa offers two medium-sized vocal cuts sandwiched by two extended fusion jams, the 11+ minute title track and the side-long “Big Swifty,” the former clearly coming out of the early 70s but featuring plenty of guitar and a mix of planning and improvisation, the latter fortunately coming out of the 60s’ version of fusion, the guitar recalling Larry Coryell’s groundbreaking work of the late 60s, this cut sounding like mostly improvisation, Zappa and his guitar conversing with the horns. 

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It’s all a bit excessive, but a worthwhile listen for fans of jazz fusion jams.

The Mothers
The Grand Wazoo
1972
Producer: Zappa
Rating: *** (Noteworthy)
Released December 1972
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Continuing where Waka / Jawaka left off, this set from Zappa and the gang is mostly instrumental, featuring Frank’s own unique take on fusion.
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Certainly not essential Zappa but this includes some interesting cuts.

— winch

http://www.eight-track.com

Dino, Desi, & Billy: Our Time’s Coming

Dino, Desi, & Billy
Our Time’s Coming

Reprise 6194
1966
Rating:**** (Recommended)

 

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 Second set from these inbred Hollywood brats, definitely their best, produced by Hazlewood, arranged by Strange, engineered by Bones Howe.  Musicians include Don Randi, Al Casey…

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Side one is great, the brats stealing from the Stones, the Beatles and the Beach Boys.

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 The flipside is a bit disappointing but features some highlights.

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 Almost-classic bubblegum set.

— Winch

 

http://www.amazon.com/Winch/e/B00MGBTVLU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1424322302&sr=8-1

The Kinks: Kinda Kinks (LP)

The Kinks
Kinda Kinks
Reprise

1965
Rating: **** (Recommended)

Released March 1965, August in the US,
reached #60 in the US, #3 in the UK.

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While the Kinks arrived like blasts from a double-barrel shotgun in 1964 with “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night,” the first album was a varied set.  The same is true with this second album, except here Davies reveals an introspective side of his songwriting that suggested this group might become the most noteworthy British group of the ’60s.

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One could say this was the Kinks’ version of Rubber Soul, but of course the opposite would be more accurate as this came eight months before Rubber Soul.

— winch

http://www.eight-track.com/Eight_Track_Publishing.php

http://www.amazon.com/Winch/e/B00MGBTVLU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1424322302&sr=8-1

Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood: The Hits of Nancy & Lee (1968) LP

Nancy Sinatra &Lee Hazlewood
The Hits of Nancy & Lee
Reprise 6273

1968
Produced by Lee Hazlewood

Rating:**** (Recommended)

Nancy strutted on the scene in 1966, but after two sets from that year, the albums were quite lacking.  Hazlewood continued to provide the production, but it looked as if the best albums were behind them.  This offering starts out like it’s not going to remedy the situation.  Either the music is just not that convincing or I just don’t care about the things they have to say.  (Or maybe I’m bitter because she’s not singing about me.)
 
  

“Summer Wine” (the first Hazlewood original of the album) finally grabs your attention, and things improve considerably on side two.  “Jackson” jumpstarts the preceedings, the tempo getting things rolling and the theme setting Nancy free so she can hop right into my arms where she belongs.  From there, she can holler in my ear, tell me how she’s going to be “dancing on a pony keg.”  If that image doesn’t get your heart skipping along like a schoolgirl’s sneakers down the sidewalk, you better check your pulse and make sure you’re still living.  The version might not match Cash & Carter’s, but it’s certainly in the running.  This is followed by “Some Velvet Morning,” a Hazlewood original that fits like a pair of silk stockings.  It makes me happy that I could be alive during a time that created such a song.  The strength of that could have ruined the rest of the album, but it actually just pulls you into the experience and three more Hazlewood originals are more than enough to keep the listener engaged until the end of the set.  While I’d love to switch the placements of “Summer Wine” and “Sundown Sundown” to create an classic side, this is still an essential set for fans.

— winch

(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)

http://www.eight-track.com/kalamazoo.html

 

Frank Zappa: Chunga’s Revenge (LP 1970)

Frank Zappa
Chunga’s Revenge
Reprise (2030)
1970
Producer: Zappa
Rating: **** (Recommended)
Released November 1970 (US & UK)
While this still has plenty of his lunacy, Mr. Zappa started getting more focused in the 70s.  This album certainly has its share of annoying material, more griping about life on the road and such.  As if anybody could possible care about his problems as a rock star with loads of loose groupies, the portrait of the struggling artist and all that crap.  Fortunately, this also includes some of his strongest instrumentals to date, including the title track, “Transylvania Boogie,” and the brief “Twenty Small Cigars.”

 While half of this set is fairly forgettable, the other half makes this more than a worthwhile grab for fans.


  


The vocal cut “Sharleena” is an excellent addition to the Zappa catalog as well, with Frank returning to doo-wop for inspiration.  While half of this set is fairly forgettable, the other half makes this more than a worthwhile grab for fans.
Musicians include Aynsley Dunbar, Ian Underwood, Max Bennett, John Guerin, George Duke, Jeff Simmons, Sugar Cane Harris, and of course the Phlorescent Leech & Eddie (vocals).  Classic gatefold by Cal Schenkel.
— Winch
(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)
PS: I’m putting together a list of the best albums ever.  Any suggestions?