5. Ken Burns – Country Music (Documentary): Several years ago, I loved the Prohibition documentary that Ken Burns produced for PBS so was excited when the country music one was announced some time ago. It did not disappoint. Covering the inception of country music through 1996, Burns hits the major highlights of the genre and successfully ties it into the larger music scene and American society in general. All eras are fascinating. A review of the two-disc soundtrack will be posted soon.
4. The 1975 – TooTimeTooTimeTooTime (Song): The 1975 album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships had several bangers but this lighthearted romp was the one that really caught our ear and who’s video was played almost nightly for a few months. Sounding like an updated version of a Sugar Ray track, it’s hard not to sing along to the chorus of this infectious single from 2018.
3. Otha – I’m On Top (Song): Otha’s “One Of The Girls” was our 2018 track of the year and in early 2019, we heard this one that was released towards the end of last year. If we had heard it last year, Otha may have had our top two favourite tracks of 2018. Never changing her bored, deadpan vocals to sing the lyric, “right now, it is time to have fun” adds a layer of detached cool to this terrific dance pop song. Otha’s 2019 single, “Tired and Sick” narrowly missed our top 10 this year.
2. The Rolling Stones – Hot Rocks 1964-1971 (Album): We finally put our money down for a compilation from The Rolling Stones and picked this tried and true classic. We discovered some new favourites such as “Mother’s Little Helper” and were reacquainted with the greatness of tracks such as “Paint It, Black”. The run of tracks from “Get Off My Cloud” to “Street Fighting Man” is breathtaking. This isn’t just some of the best rock n roll ever made, this IS the best rock n roll ever made.
1. The Kinks – Are The Village Green Preservation Society (50th Anniversary) (Album) – We picked up the two disc anniversary version of The Kinks classic even though we already had a version from a few years ago that covers mostly the same tracks. For some reason, the first time around I liked it but didn’t really love the album. Upon, hearing it again I was completely knocked out by it and listened steadily for several weeks.
The title track, “Village Green”, “Starstruck”, and “People Take Pictures of Each Other” are all standouts on an album that covers rock, psychedelia, whimsey, nostalgia, and British music hall. Looking back, I followed a micro version of what happened to the album upon release. Mostly unloved when new, The Village Green grew in stature over the years and is now considered a classic and an album to truly cherish.
When looking for a Rolling Stones greatest hits compilation, there are no shortage of choices as the band seems to release one every few years. When the GRRR! compilation came out in 2012, it was easy to scoff at the name, the gorilla picture on the cover and that it was yet another compilation release from the legendary band. However, looking back at the track listing, picking up one of the many deluxe versions was probably the one to get. With those being harder to come by these days, we had to go back and look at what else is available. We picked up the recently released, and terribly named, Honk compilation for hits after 1971. For the years preceding that, we also purchased the music collection staple and the band’s bestselling album, Hot Rocks 1964-71.
The first disc starts off with a few older tracks including “Time Is On My Side”. With a stop at the first major Mick Jagger/Keith Richards classic, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, the disc really gets going with 1965’s “Get Off Of My Cloud”. When we reviewed the boxset for Suede’s self-titled debut, we noted the track “Sleeping Pills” about housewives killing time and disappearing into their own minds. Possible inspiration may have come from “Mother’s Little Helper” with Jagger pleading – “doctor please, some more of these” as Mom’s just try to make it through the day.
With the technicolour 60s in full bloom, the nihilist anthem “Paint It Black” is a staggering look into the abyss. “I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes/I have to turn my head until my darkness grows”. A track like “Under My Thumb” would not get made today due to the overtly sexist lyrics of keeping a girl in her place. Having said that, it’s hard to resist Bill Wyman’s fuzz bass line and Brian Jones’ marimba that I’m sure was a standout in dance clubs throughout the 60s. The anthemic singalong ballad, “Ruby Tuesday” follows before the effervescent “Let’s Spend the Night Together” closes out the first disc.
With respect to “…Satisfaction”, the guitar riff of 1968’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” is right up there. The violence strewn “Street Fighting Man” still packs a punch. Nicky Hopkins’ piano and Jones’ sitar in the chorus adds a frenzy before both drop away in the verse to let Richards and drummer Charlie Watts hold a steady groove. “Sympathy for The Devil” keeps all its menace intact before the disc focuses on the Let It Bleed tracks including opener “Gimme Shelter” that sounds like a bomb going off while ushering out the sixties.
Where the album slips slightly is by including the nearly nine-minute live version of “Midnight Rambler” from the Get Yer Ya Ya’s album that came out a year earlier. It might make more sense on the album as the first track on side four but on CD it takes away from some of the momentum that has been in full force for nearly an hour. The choir that opens “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is heavenly before the album closes with rock radio staples “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses”.
Of all the Stones compilations, Hot Rocks remains a firm favourite that has never gone out of fashion. The run of songs from middle of disc 1 to middle of disc 2 is extraordinary. The only nitpicking would be to swap out a couple of tracks and include “She’s A Rainbow” which seems to grow in stature every passing year. Even with a few minor quibbles, it’s hard to go wrong with the best rock music ever created.
As most collectors know, the mid 60s catalogue of The Rolling Stones is a bit of a mish mash of UK vs US versions featuring different track listings and album covers. It’s one of the reasons that Let It Bleed has been the only the Stones disc I’ve owned for many years. Wanting to start at the beginning of their career, I knew where to start but not where to go from there. Having recently finished reading Keith Richards’ entertaining Life autobiography, I went back and did research on how to build an album collection of The Rolling Stones. Taking cues from more knowledgeable fans online, I went out and bought the first five US versions of their albums starting with England’s Newest Hit Makers and man does it not disappoint.
“Not Fade Away” swings the door wide open of what to expect for the next 31 minutes. A stuttering guitar gives way to a Bo Diddley strut with handclaps and a swaggering Mick Jagger vocal. Sparks fly off of Chuck Berry`s “Carol” as well as Holland Dozier Holland’s “Can I Get A Witness”. Three original Stones tracks announce the new songwriters with the slower “Tell Me” being the definite highlight. “Walking The Dog” is all foot tapping, heading nodding, whistling greatness.
While The Rolling Stones would move onto great things, this has the sound of the best covers band in the country hitting on all cylinders. Its timeless music played impeccably well with an energy that fizzles throughout. And while there is surely no comparison between hearing this in 2016 and actually being there to see it live in 1964, England’s Newest Hit Makers does an excellent job of capturing the youthful energy of the band. You can practically feel the sweat dripping off the walls.