“The highest Frank Zappa and/or Mothers of Invention track on the list comes from their second album, the appropriately titled Absolutely Free, for absolutely free and mad and hilarious it is in its twists and turns and … punchlines. Because it’s late spring 1967, and all the pop world is getting its mind blown by The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – the album that would change everything forever. Except Frank Zappa and The Mothers had already been there done that with 1966’s Freak Out, and Absolutely Free (released the same day as Pepper’s) was even tighter, wilder, more passionately, incisively on the mark.
Forty plus non-stop minutes of full-on everything, by which I mean jazz, doo-wop, rock and roll, pop, avant-noise, fun. Which, if you’ve only got seven and half minutes to spare, can pretty much all be found in Brown Shoes Don’t Make It – rude and crude and musically sharp as a diamond. Uncle Frank (both with and without his Mothers) would, of course, go on to release more music than some entire nations over the next twenty plus years, but for my money, he’d never top the fierce and funny fabulousness of what happened here.” (Philip Random)
If you’re Peter Fonda and you want to impress John Lennon while tripping on LSD in a hot tub, tell him how you died once when you were a little kid. Guaranteed, you’re going to going to send the coolest Beatle someplace dark and scary, the only way out of which will be to write a stunner of a song in which A. he tells you, you’re making him feel like he’s never been born, and B. he and his band will go a long way toward perfecting the psyche-infused power pop record almost before it’s even been invented. Oh, those lovable mop-tops.
“More proof that when it came to a certain sunlit psychedelic sweetness (which it seems was only ever achieved by anybody in and around 1966-67) the singer songwriter (some called him a poet) known as Donovan had no peer. Yes, Bob Dylan’s poetry went deeper and destroyed more fascists, and Donovan did on occasion get lost in hippy dippy wormholes, but its darned hard to argue with the mystical magical stuff of Sunshine Superman (the album) and a song like Legend of a Girl Child Linda in particular … whatever it’s about. Because I never really seem to be able to track it all the way through, the trance takes me, like I’m stuck in someone else’s dream, and sumptuous it is, all cascading crystals, hillsides of velvet, valleys of flowers.” (Philip Random)
In which the Rolling Stones make it clear. They’ve been messing with the ole lysergic and listening to their Bob Dylan, and most important, figuring a way to make it all their own, dirty, noisy and true. It’s 1966 and the summer of love may be pending, but beware those shadows, long and deep. And your mother. Not just a little Freudian.
“I hear a Them track and I honestly can’t hear much difference from what the Rolling Stones were up to at the same time. Mid-60s, putting serious electricity to the blues, kicking great and necessary holes in the reality barrier. The weird part is that it’s Van Morrison doing the howling, offering nothing short of everything, which is clearly not enough. Some things never change.” (Philip Random)
“It’s the noise that hooked me on this Small Faces nugget. Only 1966 and it’s already in evidence, tearing up the dimensions. The whole song‘s a blast really, sub-two-minutes of sheer fun and spite. Definitely not a love song.” (Philip Random)
“Back in 1999, I recall somebody somewhere putting forth the argument that Bob Dylan’s Visions of Johanna was the single greatest record of the twentieth century. Something to do with the line about the ghost of ‘lectricity howling in the bones of her face, or maybe it was the part about infinity going up on trial. Either way, he was talking about the studio version that showed up on Blonde on Blonde, which is weird, because that’s not even the best version, which is the 1966 live take that did the rounds on bootlegs for years, then finally showed up on the Biograph box set. Something about it being pared down to just Bob, guitar, harmonica, voice – nothing else getting in the way of his accelerated brain and the amphetamine precision of the impossible images it was putting forth. Which is entirely the point, I think. Young genius stepping up to his confusion, surfing its twists and convolutions, letting it take him places he could never have imagined existed … and then finding a way to channel it all to into breath and voice and words. Call it a song. A damned fine one. Yet not beyond parody.” (Philip Random)
“We’ve all gotta start somewhere. Before I got seriously hooked by the superlative noise of rock-roll-psyche-whatever-you-want-to-call-it (sometime safely before my tenth birthday in the form of The Beatles Revolution the shorter, sharper, nastier version), I only really cared for one so-called pop album: What Now My Love, a 1966 chart topper from Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass (who weren’t from Tijuana, they weren’t even Mexican). Because it was the only halfway modern slab of vinyl in my parents’ collection. And now it’s in mine, the same original copy (proudly slotted between the Allman Bros and Amon Duul), because it’s actually pretty darned fine in a sangria-soaked suburban backyard barbecue sort of way. Smooth Latin rhythms and sunny day melodies and occasional gushes of rapture like the part at the end of It Was A Very Good Year when the strings come swooping inward and upward, announcing to this six or seven year old that this music stuff was way more than just fun, it was genuine magic, the stuff of the gods.” (Philip Random)
“Donovan never really gets the credit he deserves for kicking the future into motion. I’ve said that already, I know. But seriously, here he is detailing an acid trip in all its cool-and-gone poetic glory at least half a year in advance of the Beatles Sgt Pepper. And better yet, he keeps the groove bluesy, the whole thing strutting comfortably along, the sunshine superman in full cosmic bloom. Nothing could stop him but a drug bust, which is precisely what happened.” (Philip Random)