The Smiths- The Queen Is Dead (1986): 29 June 2020

The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead (1986)

Welcome back to YDCS! I had to take a few weeks off to move house, but now that I’m settled, we should be back at the reviews for the long haul! This week we’re listening to a quintessential album from the 1980s that helped define the sound of the era, The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths. Fronted by Morrissey, The Smiths were the original indie rock band, casting away the synthesizers that were so popular in the mid-80s and focusing on honing a tight sound with only guitars, drums, breathtaking vocals, and creative wit in their lyrics. The Queen Is Dead is a continuation of the same sound that The Smiths established on their earlier albums Meat is Murder and their self-titled debut but shows more refinement than before. This album drips with a slow, moody atmosphere that brings out every emotion from elation to despair.

I’ve wanted to review The Queen Is Dead for a long time, but had never gotten around to it because I wasn’t sure how to go about it. Not only is it often cited as one of the best albums ever released, it’s also not a traditional rock album and trends closer to a folk rock sound than a hard rock sound. It shows the wide range of sounds that you find across the genre, as we’ve seen with groups as diverse as the Sex Pistols, Steely Dan, Duran Duran, and now The Smiths. The Queen Is Dead is an outstanding album, and I’ve rated every song on it highly for a few reasons: First, Morrissey’s vocal performance is enough to carry the album even without the rest of the band. He runs through every track with such precision that it’s difficult to pay attention to anything else, lyrics and backing instrumentation included. That’s critically important because The Smiths were a lyric group, and you’ll need to listen to each song a few times to get the most out of the album. If you’ve never listened to The Smiths before, either because you don’t like their music or you’ve never had the chance, then this is the best place for you to start. I hope you enjoy the album!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

The Queen Is Dead: Wow. It’s not often that a song has so much hidden meaning that I need to look up the lyrics and read them to get a handle on the song (It could also have to do with the fact that I’m an American listening to a song protesting the British monarchy…). Politically, this was a major song calling out the British monarchy, Prince Charles’ role riding his mother’s (Queen Elizabeth II) coattails for his life, and calling out royal watchers for not prioritizing other things in society (ie. Increasing drug usage among young people) over the royals. I’m not going to say anything regarding the validity or invalidity of the argument as we aim to be apolitical here on YDCS, but in terms of significance, this rivals the Sex Pistol’s “God Save the Queen” for its lambasting of the monarchy. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Frankly, Mr. Shankly: “Frankly, Mr. Shankly” is the least impressive song on the album in my opinion. It discusses the decline of fame as one grows older, which ties nicely with the theme found in “The Queen Is Dead,” while not being overbearing and beating on the same point too much. Musically, this song is forgetful and one of the least remarkable on the album, mostly because this record has too many songs that stand leagues ahead. Dad’s Rating 5/10

I Know It’s Over: I know that The Smiths were ballad-heavy, and this is the first song on The Queen is Dead where we really see that clearly. We all know that I normally dislike ballads, but there’s something about The Smiths that actually makes me listen closer to ballads. I think it has to do with Morrissey’s beautiful vocals. Many acts lack the chops to do a proper ballad any justice, but if there’s one person who can do it, it’s Morrissey. Having said that, this one is just okay in my book, but only because I prefer the song that follows “I Know It’s Over” even more. There’s nothing to fault in the performance, but everything comes together so cleanly on the following track that it makes this one forgettable. Now, if you’re listening to this song in album format then you won’t be disappointed with the performance, but I wouldn’t elect to put the single on a playlist. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Never Had No One Ever: “Never Had No One Ever” might be my favorite song on the entire album. I love how moody it is and how the heavy bass and minor key play beautifully into the wailing vocals. “I’m alone and I never had no one ever.” How about that for lyrics?! This song is so sad and really made me feel the same, but at the same time it’s so beautiful that I couldn’t take it off repeat. The Smiths are often described as one of the original “emo bands,” and songs like this are the reason why. There’s so much raw emotion that you can feel the pain in the vocals. Musically, this is a fantastic execution and job well done. Dad’s Rating 10/10

Cemetry Gates: We go from the lowest low possible to a high high with “Cemetry Gates.” This is a fun track that reminisces about the lives about people that have died with a literary undertone (listen for the references to Keith, Yates, Wilde, and Shakespeare in this song!). This is a great tongue-in-cheek song that shows perfectly the sarcasm that The Smiths were known for and eve more-so, their creative songwriting ability. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Bigmouth Strikes Again: “Bigmouth Strikes Again” features my favorite instrumental section and production on the album. The guitar solos are really outstanding on this track, and it’s one of few considering that The Smiths eschewed big solos on their songs. Instrumentally, this is the strongest song on the album and shows a completely different side of the band than earlier tracks like “Never Had No One Ever.” I also really like how they added a second version of Morrissey’s vocals pitched up through the chorus too. That’s a great production tool that gives the song a new level of depth and a haunting quality, despite the fact that it’s an up-tempo song. Really good one here! Dad’s Rating 8/10

The Boy with the Thorn in His Side: I had to skip over “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side” a few times because I wasn’t sure what to say about it. It’s sandwiched between two really good songs, but it’s not a bad song in its own right. My biggest issue with this track is that it’s too darn repetitive. I feel like every time I heard it, the only thing I heard was ‘the boy with the thorn in his side’ over and over again. Morrissey claims that the song is about the music industry, and knowing the amount of metaphor across the rest of the album, I think it would be remiss to judge this song at face value.  Dad’s Rating 5/10

Vicar in a Tutu: “Vicar in a Tutu” doesn’t match the rest of the album in musical style, but explaining their anti-religious and pro-individuality sentiments through the instrument of a vicar wearing a tutu is a pretty strong image. I’ll give kudos for being bold enough to write a song as tongue-in-cheek as this, but also knock it down a peg for its plain musical arrangement. Dad’s Rating 6/10

There Is a Light That Never Goes Out: This is a CLASSIC! “To die by yoooour side, is such a heavenly way to diiiiie.” This is the first song that I think of when I think of The Smiths, and for good reason too. It’s not spectacular musically, and it’s not my favorite vocal performance on the album either, but it’s a painful story, told beautifully, with exceptionally clean arrangement. There is literally nothing to fault with this song. Every note is performed perfectly, it’s mixed perfectly, and I think it’s a great testament to the hardworking attitude and strong technical abilities of the band. Dad’s Rating 10/10

Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others: I thought my headphones were broken at first when I listened to this song! That is one of the coolest introductions to a song that I’ve ever heard. “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” is exactly the closer from The Smiths that you would expect. It subverts your expectations by actually talking about dreams, expectations, and legacies but referencing weight. Musically I enjoyed this song too. It has a strong new wave influence that was notably absent from the rest of the album and made for an interesting closing song. It’s not often that a song with a completely different style from the rest of the album can close, but by incorporating the witty lyricism that the band was known for turns out to be a strong running theme and helps this song out. Job well done! Dad’s Rating 8/10

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Yes- Close to the Edge (1972): 8 June 2020

Yes – Close to the Edge (1972)

Welcome back to YDCS! This week we’re listening to one of the most significant albums in the prog rock genre, Close to the Edge by Yes. Close to the Edge came hot on the heels of 1971’s Fragile, but went with a completely different style than the earlier album. This album would be the band’s first foray into prog rock before firmly cementing themselves in the genre with the follow-up album Tales from Topographic Oceans. Yes remained primarily a prog rock group until changing their sound again with 1982’s commercially successful 90125, but their mark on the genre would remain with this album. Close to the Edge would go on to be one of the most consequential albums in prog rock and mentioned in the same breath as albums like Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick, Rush’s 2112, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Brain Salad Surgery. Each of those albums were significant to defining what it meant to be “Prog.” For example, Thick as a Brick solidified the significance of long-form songs, and 2112 introduced the idea of science fiction and fantasy in rock. What Yes did with this album was find a way to combine elements of classical and religious music with classic literature and rock music, some of which would pop up in other prog rock albums throughout the 1970s.

Close to the Edge is one of my favorite albums. I love the fact that the lyrics and message of the title song were based on Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha.” I love how the band didn’t tie themselves to traditional musical structures, instead composing the album more as a single musical movement than as separate songs. I the displays of musicianship, beautiful vocal harmonies, and odd choices for instrumentation. How many times have you heard a church organ solo on a rock album? If you answered ‘Never,’ the this is your chance! Finally, I love the fact that Yes let their music and their art speak for itself and tell its own story. Oftentimes, the lyrics are difficult to discern, either due to the fact that they’re sung in a high voice or layered on top of each other in post-production to make them sound spacey, but you don’t need to know what’s being said all the time. The music tells as much of the story as the lyrics do. You’ll find something different to enjoy about this album each time you listen to it, and I hope you enjoy one of my favorite albums, Close to the Edge.

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Close to the Edge (I. The Solid Time of Change, II. Total Mass Retain, III. I Get Up, I Get Down, IV. Seasons of Man): The title track for the album is as epic as a song can possibly be. I’d like to break this song down by section to make it more manageable. The song starts with an extended jam session and the most frenetic, energetic guitar performances I’ve ever heard, both the lead and the backing acoustic guitar. The song lulls you with a calm section before launching into the main theme of the song. The vocals are so ethereal that they’re used more as another instrument than a method to deliver lyrics. That’s not the first time you’ll hear Yes do that on this album either.

The song changes to the second mood at around the seven-minute mark. The main ‘Close to the Edge’ theme continues through the song to help tie the track together, much like an orchestral piece. “Total Mass Retain” is the shortest section, acting as an interlude for “I Get Up, I Get Down” and primarily features a short bass and keyboard solo.

Once you get to “I Get Up, I Get Down,” you feel like you’ve instantly been transported somewhere between a cave and space. The music makes you feel as though you’re in an unidentifiable natural setting. Lyrically, it continues to draw inspiration from “Siddhartha” through the whole section, making references to characters and scenes from the book and slowly building into two peace-breaking, iconic church organ solos; the first thing I think about when I think about this song.

We close the song out with a much faster paced section, “Seasons of Man” that closes out the song both lyrically and thematically, continuing to draw from “Siddhartha” with the often-repeated phrase, ‘Close to the edge, down by the river…now that it’s done, go to the sea,” serving to show that life goes on from one body of water to another body, and emphasizing one of the major tenets of Siddhartha, reincarnation. Musically and lyrically, you’ll hear something different each time you listen to this song, and it’s one of my favorites for its depth, metaphor, and grandiosity. Dad’s Rating 10/10

And You and I (I. Cord of Life, II. Eclipse, III. The Preacher, the Teacher, IV. The Apocalypse): Again, because this is a multi-part song, I’m going to break this one down section by section. “And You and I” is less esoteric than “Close to the Edge” and is overall a softer piece of music than the relative chaos of the former. Section I, “Chord of Life” has a strong classical European influence, and it reminds me of backing music that I might put in a movie set in Ireland or Scotland. Musically, it’s not particularly interesting but it does set the scene for “Eclipse.”

The second section continues the main “And You and I” theme that you’re introduced to right off the bat, but gets really abstract, really fast. If “Close to the Edge” was written to put you in a natural setting, “Eclipse” takes that makes you feel like you’re travelling through space; it’s ethereal and artistic, keeping up the idea that you don’t need lyrics to understand the point of the song.

“The Preacher, the Teacher” begins to pick the pace of the song up as we approach the end of the song, and I’d like to highlight the bass work and guitar work in particular. The bass line is really complex, but gets hidden behind the lead guitar and synthesizer. Take a minute to appreciate the supporting section during this section. They could have easily gone with a simpler bass line and the song would have worked perfectly, but the complex structure contrasts nicely with the simple, but well-played guitar line.

Finally, even though the song picks up tempo through “The Preacher, the Teacher,” Yes slow it back down for the last section with a beautiful vocal harmony that puts you right back in that space mindset and a brief acoustic section to tie it all together. The simple, folk style suits this song well as it contrasts with the harder styles of “Close to the Edge” and “Siberian Khatru.” Overall, I rate this lower than “Close to the Edge” because, while it’s still a great prog rock piece, it shows less musical diversity than the former. Everything was played perfectly and well-thought-out in terms of song construction, and the album did need a slower piece, but after listening to the other two songs, I know that there was a way to eek more musical diversity out of the band on this trac. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Siberian Khatru: “Siberian Khatru” is another fantastic example of what Yes was able to do with rock. Half the time you can’t understand what Jon Anderson is saying, and when you can understand what he’s saying, none of the words seem to fit together. Like the rest of the album though, the lyrics don’t matter in relation to the song, they only matter in relation to how they sound with respect to the rest of the instruments. That feeling is the most important thing; to me I feel like I’m flying underwater every time I listen to this song; the airiness of the music just puts me in that headspace.  Instrumentally, this is a superb song. Steve Howe’s solo at around the mid-mark and at the end of the song are some of my favorite moments in recorded music. The keyboard and bass-work during that end solo are also amazing. The way that Yes closes out “Siberian Khatru” is the benchmark by which I judge the endings of all albums. It crescendos into this huge sound with vocal harmonies before fading out, fittingly, without much being said. Dad’s Rating 10/10

The opinion above is protected under the Fair Use provision of United States Copyright Law, 17 U.S.C §107 which allows for the fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism without infringement on the copyright.

Lynyrd Skynyrd – (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nerd ‘Skin-‘nérd) (1973): 18 March 2019

Lynyrd Skynyrd – (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nerd ‘Skin-‘nérd) (1973)

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut album cover

This week on YDCS we’re going to take a look at the debut album by a southern rock band that has come to be strongly associated with arena rock anthems and has nearly single-handedly defined a genre, Lynyrd Skynyrd. The band, led by frontman Ronnie Van Zant, would go on to be a mega-act that spawned some of the most recognizable songs on classic rock radio with this self-titled debut that included tracks like Tuesday’s Gone, Gimme Three Steps, Simple Man, and Free Bird. Lynyrd Skynyrd would go on to craft four more legendary rock albums before taking a fourteen-year recording hiatus after a tragic plane crash that killed multiple band members, including Van Zant, guitarist and singer Steve Gaines, and backup singer Cassie Gaines.

Pronounced is one of the titans of the classic rock genre that few albums, past or present, can stand up to. This album re-defined southern rock for the decade, moving from a Creedence Clearwater Revival-esque sound to music that sounds like this and putting the band in line with other popular acts like the Allman Brothers Band and the Marshall Tucker Band. The “Lynyrd Skynyrd Sound” was on full display starting with this, their debut album. They knew exactly how they wanted to sound, executed it flawlessly here, and left it virtually untouched on their next few major releases. This is quality work from a class act. Enjoy the album!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

I Ain’t The One: This is a strong opening track on an album full of strong songs. This wasn’t one of the songs that the band was well-known for but it rocks as much as, for example, Gimme Three Steps later on the record. The musicianship on the instrumentation is really strong on this track and the drums to start the song off are unique and memorable. What I particularly like about this song is that you know exactly what kind of album you’re going to be listening to within the first minute of this song; you’re going to get big, free-wheelin’ guitar solos and southern rock. If you were looking for a song to skip, this “ain’t the one!” Dad’s Rating 8/10

Tuesday’s Gone: Tuesday’s Gone is the slowest track on the record. If there was an album that ever desperately needed a slower-paced track to break it up, then this album was it. There’s no big guitar solos here that you’ll peppered throughout other tracks, and this song doesn’t need it. I’m aware that this is one of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s more popular songs, but I can’t rate it higher in good conscience because it doesn’t show me anything amazing. This song doesn’t wow me or make me feel any particular way. I will say that the piano solo is fantastic and you shouldn’t skip over this song if only to listen to that. Tuesday’s Gone fulfills a purpose on this record and does it well. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Gimme Three Steps: Welcome back to classic Lynyrd Skynyrd after taking a break at Tuesday’s Gone. Your regularly scheduled loud guitar solos will now re-commence. Gimme Three Steps is a classic rock staple for a few good reasons: it’s easily recognizable, fun to listen to, and it rocks out! This isn’t a complex song, the instrumentation, vocals, and messaging are all clear. Try shredding out during the guitar solo on your way home from work, it’ll make the commute a little sweeter. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Simple Man: I really enjoy the easiness of Simple Man, and I think it’s one of the highlights of the album. Opening the song with the soft acoustic guitar that lets Van Zant’s vocals through does the song great justice. The vocals throughout the song are strong, even during the softer instrumental portions, and the swells throughout the song, particularly during the chorus, help keep it from going stale. Rossington’s guitar solo is so hot that the term “face-melting guitar solo” might have even originated here! Simple Man is a wholly deserving winner of the “They Don’t Make Music Like This Anymore Award.”  Dad’s Rating 10/10

Things Goin’ On: Things Goin On, and the following track, Mississippi Kid are the two overlooked songs on this album, sandwiched between Simple Man and Free Bird. I like this song quite a bit actually and regret having previously passed it over. This track has more dynamic musicianship than some of the other deep cuts on Pronounced. Between the piano in the chorus and “oom-pah” feel of the song, I could almost imagine listening to this in a saloon. This is a prime example of the southern rock genre that Lynyrd Skynyrd worked in so well. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Mississippi Kid: The flow between Things Goin’ On and Mississippi Kid is fantastic. The former song rolls right into the latter. This is a great show of the band’s country roots coming through and is a nice break from loudness of the electric guitars found throughout almost every other song on the album. There are still electrics on this track but they are reduced to a supporting role for the acoustics. The harmonica solo is quite excellent and really ties feel of the song together nicely. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Poison Whiskey Poison Whiskey suffers for being buried in this album with mega-tracks like Free Bird and Simple Man rising above this one. This isn’t a bad song by any means, it’s just not particularly special. It doesn’t make you feel like the Big 3 do, and that’s actually okay because not every song has to. If every song made you think about grand ideas and messages, then you would be mentally exhausted after listening to an album. The instrumentation is solid here and the piano solo is funky and rocks out! All said, this is a fun song. It’s not musically or lyrically complex, but worth a listen if only for the fact that it’s not hard to listen to. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Free Bird: FREEEEEEEE BIRRRRRRRD!! (That’s the only time I’ll shout Free Bird in this review and I’ve been restraining myself up til now…) There’s really not much more you can say about Free Bird that hasn’t been said in the past 46 years since this record released. Free Bird is a classic because it displays some of the best musicianship, lyricism, and instrumentalism of 1970s classic rock. It incorporates orchestras, dynamic instrumentation, runs for over eleven minutes on the uncut version, and has what might be the most epic guitar solo ever laid down on a vinyl record. Words will never begin to give this song enough justice for how important it was in shaping classic rock for decades to come. This song alone could define the Southern Rock genre, and for that it earns the second “They Don’t Make Music Like This Anymore Award” on this album, making Pronounced the first album I have awarded multiple tracks 10/10 ratings. Well-deserved and literally well-played, this one’s for the band. Dad’s Rating 10/10

The opinion above is protected under the Fair Use provision of United States Copyright Law, 17 U.S.C §107 which allows for the fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism without infringement on the copyright.

Pink Floyd- Animals (1977): 11 March 2019

Pink Floyd – Animals (1977)

Welcome back to Your Dad’s Car Stereo! This week we’re taking a look at one of Pink Floyd’s concept albums, Animals. The five-track album is a critical commentary on the socio-economic and political environment of late-1970s Britain. In particular, the album criticizes Margaret Thatcher’s government and the concept of capitalism through its use of allegory, comparing the different levels of the society to animals in a manner inspired by George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm. The album broadly splits society into three groups; the blind common people led by the pigs (the sheep), the businessmen (the dogs), and the greedy political leaders of the sheep (the pigs). Throughout the album, we hear descriptions of each group of society and what each group stands for. Starting with the dogs, our villains, they are the capitalistic businessmen that “[have} to be trusted by the people [they] lie to…” The pigs are the “big man, pig man.” The band describes them as charades, cheats, and liars multiple times throughout Pigs (Three Different Ones). The sheep are the most dynamic characters who, despite starting out as followers that are keen to “hopelessly pass [their] time in the grasslands away,” ultimately rise up against the capitalist dogs.

Animals is a complex album that could inspire essays on the dissolution of capitalistic societies in favor of socialist ones through the elimination of private business. Musically, this album is some of the band’s best work in my opinion. Pink Floyd began experimenting with new sounds and techniques that enhance the storytelling ability of the record and better frame their ideas. Amongst music lovers, this album is oft-forgotten and overshadowed when placed next to The Wall (Pink Floyd’s next studio album), Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, and Meddle. I believe this album should be included in those works, not overshadowed by them. Taken in context, Pink Floyd released fantastic concept albums and this is one of them. This review is also not enough to fully explain the intricacies of the record, but nevertheless, I hope you enjoy it and maybe find a meaning to it that I didn’t have time to discuss here.

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Pigs on the Wing 1 and 2: I’m going to lump the first and last songs on this record into one for two reasons: Firstly, both songs are used to frame the rest of the album, and secondly, musically and lyrically these are one song split into two. Starkly different from the meat of the album, Pigs on the Wing 1 and 2 are the short prelude and epilogue to this story. They are simple songs with complex messages that attempt to convey Roger Waters’ love for his wife and stand against the bleak portrait painted by the middle three songs. Listening to both of these, the overt message that I get from them is that love can overcome anything and that anyone is capable of loving, even Waters, a self-described “dog” in the second part. The song also notes that love can bridge societal gaps and insulate people from stereotypical societal pressures. Having said that, I believe that there may be more than meets the eye to this song as Pink Floyd was never known for making it easy to decipher the meaning of their songs. If you start with the title Pigs on the Wing, it describes a flying pig, in reference to the saying “when pigs fly,” noting an impossibility or something so farcical as to believe it could never occur. Listening to the song, the message is almost spelled out and it’s a simple instrumental accompaniment, almost as if Waters wanted the listener to hear that message, like “sheep.” I believe that the point the band is actually trying to get across with this song is the opposite of the overt message, that even if you love someone, societal norms will often put a stop to it, and getting the chance to be with someone you love outside of your social class, well, you have a better chance of seeing a flying pig.  Dad’s Rating 7/10

Dogs: Dogs is the first introduction we have to the main characters of the album, the predatory businessmen that will do anything to get ahead. There’s a lot to love about this song and it’s not as deep as Pigs on the Wing 1. Musically, this song will give you a little bit of everything to listen to. Some of the highlights for me are the first guitar solo at around two minutes in (I particularly like how Nick Mason used the drums to give a stronger presence to the solo), the funky downtempo portion of the song about halfway through, and the final build towards the end. The opening acoustic guitar carries throughout the song and is used as a transition between different musical themes to tie the whole piece together. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Pigs (Three Different Ones): This isn’t just my favorite song on the album, this is one of my favorite songs period. Starting with the characters, we’re introduced to the political elite in this song, the pigs. In particular, Waters and Gilmour wrote this song as a critique of pro-nationalist, pro-capitalist policies. Musically, Pigs displays some of Pink Floyd’s most experimental work, most notably the use of a squawk box on the guitar during the solo to mimic the sound of a pig snort and a voice modulator during the bridges. Not only did the band re-create pig sounds, they sampled actual pigs before coming in with the squawk box in what I think is an effort to show how close they were to art mimicking life. I can’t say enough good things about how masterfully this song is played, how well everything works together, how it swells or how different licks carry throughout the song giving it continuity. Every bit of this track deserves the “They Don’t Make Music Like This Anymore Award,” listen to it for yourself! Dad’s Rating 10/10

Sheep: Sheep gets is often overlooked because of its proximity to Pigs on the album and it really shouldn’t be! This is another dynamic song that will hold your attention both lyrically and musically. Starting with the former, the song introduces the third main character, the sheep. The sheep here fill the same role here as they do in the source material, George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The sheep are supposed to embody the common folk who are fed lies by the pigs and preyed upon by the dogs. In this version of events, the sheep rise up to overpower the capitalist dogs, much unlike Orwell’s novel. Musically, the song opens with a great keyboard introduction overlaid over the sounds of birds to emphasize the peacefulness and naivety of the sheep. The guitar steadily builds to a climax throughout the song as the sheep begin to rise up and there are two major solos throughout the piece that allow David Gilmour artistic freedom. I rate this higher than Dogs because I think it’s more musically interesting to listen to and tells a better story than the former. Dad’s Rating 9/10

The opinion above is protected under the Fair Use provision of United States Copyright Law, 17 U.S.C §107 which allows for the fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism without infringement on the copyright.

The Doors – Morrison Hotel (1970): 4 March 2019

The Doors – Morrison Hotel (1970)

Another week on YDCS and I think it is time we slow down and take a rest for a minute, maybe at the Morrison Hotel? That’s right, this week we’re covering Morrison Hotel by The Doors. Morrison Hotel was a comeback album of sorts for The Doors. Their previous album was commercially a flop, lead singer Jim Morrison had been involved in a string of civil involvements stemming from his abuse of alcohol, and the band needed something to lift them back up. While this album didn’t produce the band’s best-known works (those come, on the whole, from LA Woman and The Doors), Morrison Hotel was a return to form for the band and would be the penultimate studio album released during the life of Jim Morrison.

The Doors grew to popularity during the mid-1960s when psychedelic rock was the flavor of the day. Their early work has strong influences of the times, but the band was dynamic, shifting away from their psychedelic roots in the early 1970s towards a bluesy-er sound and incorporating more spoken word in their music, often written by Morrison himself. However, Jim Morrison is not the whole story of the band. It would be remiss to not mention the organ and keyboard present in all of their songs played by the masterful Ray Manzarek. Manzarek’s skill behind the keyboard is legendary and is on par with the best in the rock music industry. He, along with John Densmore and Robby Krieger all went on to have successful careers in music after the dissolution of the band. Enjoy the album!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Roadhouse Blues: The bluesy sound that The Doors transitioned to is immediately evident on the opening track to the album. This song sounds so different from any of the band’s earlier work and is entirely reminiscent of a traditional Mississippi Delta Blues track. Let it roll baby! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Waiting For The Sun: Keep in mind that this is still very much a transition album for The Doors. Waiting For The Sun is a return to their old form and the psychedelic influence is strong. Listen to the album Strange Days and I think you’ll find more like this. Musically this song isn’t particularly impressive. There are other psychedelic songs from the same two years on either side of this release that are more musically complex than this (White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane comes to mind), and frankly this song is slightly boring and repetitive. Dad’s Rating 6/10

You Make Me Real: You Make Me Real is one of the hidden gems of the album in my opinion. The piano throughout the song, but particularly in the opening seconds of the song, evokes thoughts of wild west saloons solely by its tonality. The just works really well together. Take into account the lyrics “I really want you, really do,” and combine that with the driving pace of the song and the music puts more urgency behind those words. This is definitely not one to skip over! Dad’s Rating 8/10

Peace Frog: This isn’t just one of my favorite songs by The Doors, this is one of my favorite songs period! The lyrics are a poem written by Morrison that he adapted into the lyrics for the song. Musically, this song hits all the notes…the drums give the song a little bit of a groove, the guitar is masterful, and the keys have a classic Doors sound. The guitar solo in this song is one of Robby Krieger’s best. It’s not a long solo so keep your ear out for it, but it rocks! Dad’s Rating 9/10

Blue Sunday: Peace Frog runs directly into Blue Sunday and the juxtaposition of the snappy pace of Peace Frog and the slowed down pace of this song is pleasant. Morrison’s vocals really shine through on this song, and up to this point, there aren’t any examples of his crooning ability. The prior four songs are all very rough vocally, so having a change of pace is a relief. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Ship Of Fools: Dynamically, Ship Of Fools might be one of the best songs on the album. Listen to how the songs builds from the beginning into the boisterous verses before retreating during the interlude and solo and rebuilding in the last third of the song. I always appreciate a song that manages to do that well because it keeps the song from going stale. You would be a fool to skip this song! Dad’s Rating 7/10

Land Ho!: This is an unusual song for me because I’m not particularly hot or cold on it either way. It flows well from Ship Of Fools but the message doesn’t resonate and the instrumentals are lackluster. If you’ve listened to the rest of the album up to this point then this one is worth skipping. Dad’s Rating 5/10

The Spy: The Spy is a combination of the blues-form that we’ve heard on earlier tracks on the album and the slowed down ballad where Morrison’s vocals shine through. The way the song swells and fades is stereotypical of down tempo blues tracks and they did a very good job with that here. This is the perfect song to sit back and enjoy listening to Manzarek’s fingers dance up and down the keys in the background. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Queen Of The Highway: This another one of those songs where the lyrics don’t resonate with me, but I’ll give it more credit than Land Ho! because the instrumentals pulled me in on this track. I almost completely ignored Morrison’s singing on this track and focused on how the three guitars interwove their parts together. Listening exclusively to the instruments, the song sounds like a garage jam session where all the personnel are in sync and enjoying what they do. If you approach the song from that angle as opposed o head on with the vocals taking front and center then I think you’ll find more enjoyment in it. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Indian Summer: I liked this song a lot. This is such a peaceful song to listen to with a timeless message about love. Nothing is overdone on this track which lets the listener focus on the lyrics and Morrison’s voice. Combining those two things together, the song seems much more personal and endearing. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Maggie McGill: There’s no more fitting way to close out The Doors’ blues inspired album than with a blues track. This song retains the iconic keyboard solo and growling Morrison voice, but lacks anything inspiring. Compared to the earlier part of the album, this song just doesn’t have any punch to it. I’m rating this song jointly as the lowest on the album but I wouldn’t skip this one like I would Land Ho!. This song redeems itself by showcasing the blues sound that hadn’t been heard on the band’s albums prior to this release. Dad’s Rating 5/10

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