King Crimson- In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969): 30 December 2019

King Crimson – In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969)

Welcome back to YDCS! We’ve got a big one this week to close out 2019! Today we’re taking a listen to one of the most influential albums to the development of progressive rock, King Crimson’s In The Court Of The Crimson King. King Crimson was one of the first bands to take what rock was in the 1960s, mostly simple popular music that hadn’t quite begun to splinter off into sub-genres, and transformed it into art. King Crimson added instruments that weren’t typically associated with rock music, like flutes and horns, fantastical lyrics, and unusual musical structures to create the first true prog rock album. Their work would be followed up by some of their English contemporaries like Yes and Jethro Tull on albums like Close To The Edge, Aqualung, and Thick as a Brick before gaining mainstream popularity with bands like Rush and Pink Floyd.  

I’ll preface by saying that as big of a fan of prog rock as I am, I’ve never gotten around to listening to this album in particular, but when I did, I was blown away. This album has everything that I love about a good rock album. It’s consistently engaging and interesting to listen to and the musicianship and creativity are second to none. I particularly enjoy the creativity piece as this album pulls influences from jazz rock, the popular-at-the-time psychedelic rock, and more traditional blues rock to create a larger-than-life sound. The more that I listened to this album this week, the more that I wanted to listen back to it and discover something else about it. In The Court Of The Crimson King is one of those albums that you’ll find something new to like about it every time you listen, whether it’s a new horn section, symphonic piece, or shredding guitar solo. This is a quilted mélange of styles that was put together so perfectly that it inspired generations of musicians to think outside the box and push the boundaries of rock. I hope that you find as much to like about this record as I did. Enjoy the album, and welcome to the Court of The Crimson King.

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

21st Century Schizoid Man: Wow. That was my first thought listening to this song. Just wow. I have never heard such a cacophonous and messy but intricately perfect piece of music outside of a Frank Zappa or Captain Beefheart album. King Crimson was able to do something that Beefheart and Zappa either couldn’t do or didn’t want to do in the name of art; they brought order to chaos. Once you settle down from the introduction and get into the song you realize that every instrument fits together with the others perfectly behind a unified theme of a jazz-fusion-blues-rock song. Sure, you might have never heard something like those distorted lyrics, yelps from the guitar, or such furious drumming, but you can follow it. This is where prog started in earnest. Listening to this then going back and listening to other classics in the genre like Yes’ Close To The Edge or Genesis’ Nursery Cryme, you start to understand where all of this started; the manic panic of “21st Century Schizoid Man.”  Dad’s Rating 10/10

I Talk To The Wind: After the manic energy of “21st Century Schizoid Man,” “I Talk To The Wind” is a great change of pace. I’ve said before that downtempo songs often have trouble holding my attention if they’re not musically interesting, but the moments of jazz fusion and flute overlay break the song up nicely and kept me tuned in. The flute solos are actually really stellar and remind me of a more peaceful version of a Jethro Tull flute solo. I’d also highlight the drumming on this track. It’s really quite complex and you could easily miss it because it’s so well incorporated. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Epitaph: This is a ‘proggy’ kind of sound! “Epitaph” is just a weird song and I love it! It’s almost more of an art piece than it is rock, and it goes to show the lengths that King Crimson were willing to go to push the boundaries of rock. The low horn (maybe bassoon??) portion towards the end is really unique and not something that you’ll find anywhere. “Epitaph” is a beautiful song that makes the most of unique instrumentation, powerful vocals, and pushes what we can call rock music. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Moonchild: “Moonchild” was an underwhelming one for me. I expected a lot more out of a 10-minute long song and I felt the band could have used the song for more. Maybe that’s the point of it, filling 6 minutes of a side of a record with near-silence is certainly ‘progressive,’ but it forgets the music part. Where there is music on the front half of the song it’s good! It’s everything you would expect from a King Crimson record. It’s different and makes you think about the music. “Moonchild” loses major marks for me though because only half of it showed up to the court. Dad’s Rating 4/10

The Court Of The Crimson King: “In The Court Of The Crimson King” is legendary in prog rock, specifically lyrically-focused prog. Prog is usually split into three factions: musically progressive (incorporating unusual instruments, time signatures, structures, etc.), lyrically progressive (incorporating fantastical or science fiction lyrics), or a combination of both. We definitely see elements of both on this track with a rocking flute solo and melloton section and a fantastical story about witches and kings. Musically this is a very complex song that you’ll find yourself listening to multiple times and finding something new each time; whether it’s a new drum flourish, instrument that you didn’t hear the first three times, or interesting combination of instruments. This is a great track that deserves it’s place among the prog rock greats. 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.

Creedence Clearwater Revival- Bayou Country (1969): 22 July 2019

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bayou Country (1969)

Happy Monday and welcome back to Your Dad’s Car Stereo! We’re taking it to the country today with the Southern Rock group from Central California, Creedence Clearwater Revival. Bayou Country was the band’s second studio album after seeing moderate commercial success on their self-titled debut with the single “Susie Q.” This was the first of three releases in 1969, and it was followed up by Green River and Willy And The Poor Boys. Willy and their fifth release, Cosmo’s Factory were arguably their most influential releases, but it was Bayou Country that cemented their place in Southern Rock. Despite the fact that the band was only active for five years, they had an enormous impact on the development of the Southern Rock movement. CCR forged a path ahead and was a precursor to bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Marshall Tucker Band, and later acts like Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot, and The Outlaws. The band’s time came up quickly though, and they broke up in 1972 after infighting and have rarely spoken since.

Bayou Country isn’t as full of the band’s classic hits as you would think, but does contain notable releases like “Born On The Bayou” and “Proud Mary.” What is more important about this album is the impact that it had on future releases, both by CCR and other groups. In 1969, there were few groups making the same kind of music as CCR, but Southern Rock exploded in the 1970s, in large part due to the trailblazing nature of CCR and The Allman Brothers Band. Bayou Country is an interesting album because it builds throughout the whole album. You start with a slowed down swamp rock song in “Born On The Bayou,” consistently building up to “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “Penthouse Pauper,” before cooling off on “Proud Mary” and “Keep On Chooglin’.” I’ve never seen that approach to organizing an album before and it pays dividends, keeping you interested enough to want to hear what the next song is going to be. Enjoy this Southern Rock staple!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Born On The Bayou: Bayou Country opens with the title track “Born On The Bayou.” This is a superb example of swamp rock done right and some of CCR’s best early work. “Born On The Bayou” is groovy, cohesive, and unique. Lyrically this isn’t a particularly powerful song, but musically it’s practically flawless. Extra attention goes to John Fogerty for his guitar work and vocals. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Bootleg: “Bootleg” is a really solid track. It’s not a stunner, but musically there’s enough there to set it apart from a lot of filler songs. The call and response on guitar is well-done, but my biggest gripe is with the percussion. The scratching (it almost sounds like they played a comb) is fairly abrasive and not my favorite part of the song. Give it a listen if you haven’t heard it before! At the very least, you have another song from CCR that you’re familiar with. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Graveyard Train: This is almost a straight blues track. If they used acoustic guitars instead of electric, I would be comfortable placing it firmly in the blues genre. This wasn’t what I expected to hear when I threw this record on, I expected more songs like “Fortunate Son,” but every band has their roots in something, and for CCR it’s a blues track like “Graveyard Train.” This is an awesome song. It’s laid back, bluesy, and pulls your mind to the Deep South. The harmonica solo puts me straight in the Mississippi Delta and I love it. Fogerty can really blow that mouth organ too. There aren’t many instances of the harmonica blending well into a rock track (John Popper and Blues Traveler come to mind immediately), but it’s integrated seamlessly between wailing vocals and a twangy guitar. This is a deep cut that you shouldn’t skip. Great track! Dad’s Rating 7/10

Good Golly Miss Molly: “Good Golly Miss Molly” threw me for a loop at first because it’s a stark contrast from “Graveyard Train.” This is much more of a straight rock track than the former, and a great example of the other side of their music, that rock side. CCR wasn’t just a blues group or a rock group; they blended the two genres really smoothly, so it’s neat to see where exactly their influences laid. As a song, this is a great one too. CCR could rock with the best of them. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Penthouse Pauper: “Penthouse Pauper” is the best of the last two songs. You get a little bluesy twang and big riffs from the guitar in the same verse. Blues-inspired lyrics contrast a rock inspired drumline and a guitar solo to rival the biggest in the game in the late 1960s. “Penthouse Pauper” is one of the dep cuts that never got a lot of airplay, but is worth putting in your rotation. Give it a listen! Dad’s Rating 7/10

Proud Mary: Who doesn’t love “Proud Mary?” So many artists have had their crack at “Proud Mary,” but CCR did it first. This is such a clean song that you can’t help but sing along to. Like “Penthouse Pauper” it combines the best of rock and blues. The guitar is beautifully melodic, and this most restrained version of Fogerty’s signature vocals fits the song perfectly. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Keep On Chooglin’: I’m not sure what it means “to choogle” but CCR clearly does and they made a song about it. Lyrically, this song is absurd and I love it. Just listening to it, all I hear is the word “chooglin’.” Musically it’s not a bad track! There’s plenty of instrumentation to keep you entertained between the outbursts of chooglin’. Would I recommend this song to a friend looking for an introduction to CCR? No. Would I listen to it as a good laugh track? Probably. Keep on chooglin’ y’all, whatever that means! Dad’s Rating 5/10

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.

Led Zeppelin- Led Zeppelin II (1969): 10 June 2019

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II (1969)

Here we go! Week 2 of Led Zeppelin Month with the second album in the I-IV series. Led Zeppelin II is often cited as one of the band’s best works, was a board-topping album around the world, and sold over 12 million copies. The production cycle on this album was unusually short at nine months, even by the standards of the late 1960s where bands would often release an album every year or twice per year. The material for the album was written and recorded while the band was still touring to support their first album. Led Zeppelin II was actually recorded at a few different studios, and that contributed to the audible differences in quality on some of the tracks. Listen to “Heartbreaker,” and you can hear how fuzzy it sounds, but then “Living Loving Maid” follows it up and the sound instantly sharpens up. This is just one example, but the audio differences can be heard across the album.

Despite the fact that there were only nine months between Led Zeppelin’s first and second releases, there is a distinct evolution in the band’s sound over that period. I noted in my earlier review of Led Zeppelin that the band had two volumes; loud and less loud, and that while the band was clearly influenced by the blues rockers that came before them, it was oftentimes very forward. Led Zeppelin II is a course corrects on all of my criticisms from the first album. The band shows a more dynamic playing ability, particularly on songs like “The Lemon Song” and “Whole Lotta Love,” and tones back the blues sound to use it as a base for their songs without relying on a blues structured song. There is one exception on “Bring It on Home,” but I’ll give it a pass since it’s the only song on the album that is that bluesy, and it doesn’t feature for the whole song. This album starts to show some of the experimentation with expanded diversity of sounds and musicality that the band would become known for in the hard rock genre. Led Zeppelin II is an absolute classic, and I had never listened to it from side-to-side before this review, only the highlights. There’s a whole lotta more to love about this album though than the big tracks, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Whole Lotta Love: What a way to open an album! Led Zeppelin open with one of their most well-known tracks, and if you listen to the song out of context on the radio, I don’t think it does the song enough justice. When you put it in the context of an album opener, it says, “Hello, I’m here to rock!” “Whole Lotta Love” is immediately different from the work on their last album. The sound effects included in the overdubbing during the interlude are haunting, but then you’re brought back to earth by a shattering guitar. Where the band showed very little dynamic playing on their first album, they blew this song out of the water, taking you through highs and lows that are a joy to listen to. Dad’s Rating 9/10

What Is and What Should Never Be: This another great example of a dynamic track. One of my primary criticisms on Led Zeppelin was that the band didn’t know how to play a proper ballad, but this song shows more comfort with playing softly and letting their talent shine through. John Paul Jones gets a shoutout for being the driving force on this song. His bass playing is melodic and enrapturing on this song. I was actually more lost in that than in rest of the action.  Dad’s Rating 7/10

The Lemon Song: I wasn’t sure what to think of “The Lemon Song” at first. It presents itself as a stereotypical rock track with a shredding solo, but then it calms back down into almost a round robin jam session! Plant gets time to freeform some vocals, Jones gets a funky bass line, Bonham gets a groovy drum part, and Page gets to do a call and response on the guitar with Plant. During this it’s actually easy to forget that you’re listening to a Led Zeppelin album, until you’re yanked out by the guitar. This is an interesting track that has a lot to offer, and after listening to it a few times, it started to grow on me. I enjoyed the funkiness of the breakdown, but it doesn’t compromise anything that the band had worked to build. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Thank You: This is a beautiful track that shows how you do a ballad. It’s not often that I get caught up in the lyrics of a song, but Plant does a great job of making sure that they tenderly shine through. The acoustic backing is a great break from the rest of the album and doesn’t make the rest of the record feel overloaded with heavy rock songs. “Thank You” is the perfect bridge between two hard rocking songs. Dad’s Rating 7/10

Heartbreaker: Who doesn’t love “Heatbreaker?!” This is one of my favorite Zep songs, and I believe it features THE stereotypical guitar solo. Think about a what a guitar solo sounds like, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? What does it sound like? I’d be willing to bet that “Heartbreaker’s” solo is pretty close to what you imagined. If that’s not enough for you, the riff on this song is HEAVY! The opening chords let you know this is going to be a rocking song, and it doesn’t fail to deliver. “Heartbreaker” is best-described as “An Exercise in Showing What Jimmy Page Can Really Do.” Enjoy the practical lesson rockers. Dad’s Rating 10/10

Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman): “Living Loving Maid” is one of those tracks that doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the album. It’s not quite a hard rocker, it’s not a showcase of musical talent, and it doesn’t show any musical experimentation. I feel like it’s a filler song; there’s not much special about it. It’s forgettable and a shame that it was sandwiched between “Heartbreaker” and “Ramble On.” It honestly sounds more like a song by The Doors than Led Zeppelin. Do yourself a favor and press skip. Dad’s Rating 3/10

Ramble On: “Ramble On” shows the best of Led Zeppelin. Everything the band wanted to be at this point and everything they were going to become; this is like the teaser for that. I see this as the precursor to some of the band’s more musically complex works like “Black Dog” and “Stairway to Heaven.” Both of those show a depth that is rarely displayed and “Ramble On” shows some of the first flashes of that experimentation and complexity. The soft verses with the acoustic guitar for accompaniment juxtapose beautifully with the hard rocking verses. The acoustic opening is a highlight of the album because, to me, it shows how much the band learned between their first and second releases and is musically, very pleasant to listen to. I’m not going to ramble on, so just enjoy the song! Dad’s Rating 10/10

Moby Dick: “Moby Dick” is one of the deep cuts on this album that doesn’t get a lot of attention, and that’s not even remotely fair to this track. This instrumental immediately caught my ear. Bonham’s drumming skills are the main feature, and I can’t say that I’ve listened to many albums that place a drum solo front and center. While he was known for being an energetic drummer, “Moby Dick” really shows that Bonham can play a more melodic, emotional piece as well. It’s really neat that both Bonham and Page got time to shine on this album, Page’s being the solo on “Heartbreaker.” To another point, the guitar riff on this song is fantastic and I almost wish they had picked a different one so that it could have featured more on another song.  Dad’s Rating 9/10

Bring It on Home: I’m not a fan of how blues-forward the band is at the start of this song, but once you get past that, “Bring It on Home” brings the album home! They continue into a classic Led Zeppelin heavy rock sound, for which they would one day be synonymous. I feel like this track really does bring the band home in a way. It shows us where they started with their influences and shows us where they’re going in the future. Make sure to come back for Led Zeppelin III! Dad’s Rating 7/10

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.

Led Zeppelin- Led Zeppelin (1969): 3 June 2019

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin (1969)

Welcome to Led Zeppelin month! As promised, this month we’re going to be taking a listen to the first four Led Zeppelin albums, released from 1969-1971. Led Zeppelin is arguably the best act to come out of the early days of heavy rock and was influential in the crafting the sound of rock and roll in the 1970s. Featuring a constant lineup of Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham, the band was formed in the wake of the breakup of the Yardbirds, of which Jimmy Page was a member. When he had tour dates that still needed to be filled, the other three gents stepped up to perform some shows with him and realized they had good musical chemistry. When they got back from touring, they changed their name to Led Zeppelin, went into the studio, and self-funded their first album to take to label executives. The rest was history.

Led Zeppelin received mixed reviews when it debuted. Critics believed that the band was going to be lost in the throng of rock bands that formed in the late 1960s, including the Jeff Beck Group and Cream. Some reviewers were more favorable, saying that while they were inspired by blues rock, that blues was rarely in your face and when it was, it was done tastefully. The album would go on to be certified multi-platinum and become the gold standard for how a debut album can set a band up for success. Sometimes after such a strong debut like this, bands can fizzle out and never reach the same heights again, but Zep did it. Again. And again. And again. And arguably a few more times after that on Houses of the Holy and Physical Graffiti.

Musically, Led Zeppelin is a band-defining album. It sets the stage for what you should expect over the next few weeks of reviews; big guitar riffs, big guitar solos, wailing vocals, and masterful musicianship. The experimentation that the band later became known for, with incorporating odd time signatures, playing out of phase, or some of their more epochal pieces, wasn’t quite there yet on this record, but they certainly established their sound! Led Zeppelin is the roughest cut of the quartet. I often found myself wondering if the band knew that they could play at a volume other than “loud,” even on the songs that could loosely be called “ballads.” That wasn’t part of how the band wanted to set themselves up though, and they were unapologetically loud on this album. Credit goes where credit is due, and they knew what they wanted to do. Enjoy this particularly big and loud album from some of the Gods of Rock.

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Good Times Bad Times: This is as strong of a start to an album that you’re going to have. Bonham’s drumming is a particular highlight on this track, and the little rolls that he does during the verse add a new flavor to the song. Jones’ interludes on the bass between verses are a fun element and reflects well on how much the band enjoyed recording this album. I’m not even sure if mentioning guitar solos is worth it for the next three weeks since these records are full of them, but this is a wailer!  Dad’s Rating 8/10

Babe I’m Gonna Leave You: This is the first “ballad” of Zep’s career and it starts out starkly different from “Good Times Bad Times.” I put quotation marks around ballad because, at this point, I’m not sure the band had figured out how to do a proper one. On this album, songs just slow down and feature the same high-energy guitar and stratospheric vocals, they never reach a fully calmed down level. This carries on throughout the band’s career though and goes to show how much they were innovating and sticking to their guns. Where most bands would have caved, Led Zeppelin knew that being dynamic in their slower songs was important to them and they stuck to that. There’s almost a Spanish guitar element that pops up during the choruses and some parts in verses that I haven’t heard on any other tracks on the album. The highlight on this song for me is the energy behind Plant’s vocals. I think this might be his best performance on the album as he wails through the chorus and takes us back down in the chorus. Dad’s Rating 8/10

You Shook Me: “You Shook Me” is one of the most obvious uses of a traditional blues structure on the album. While too much of a god thing can be boring, because it wasn’t overused, this plays out like any other influence, shaping the sound of the band. It’s really interesting to hear a typical Mississippi Delta Blues structure overlaid with electric guitars and the only keyboard and harmonica solos on the album. This one is worth listening to if only because it’s a clear indication of the band’s influences.  Dad’s Rating 6/10

Dazed and Confused: “Dazed and Confused” is one of the big ones on the album. The song is immediately impactful, opening on that solo bass line before launching into Plant’s powerful vocals accompanied by a guitar that feels like it came out of nowhere. “Dazed and Confused” hits on some psychedelic elements in the interlude before Page rips one of the best solos on the album. He’s frenetic in his playing, and the technicality can’t be overlooked. The solo actually sounds like it came off of a Black Sabbath record from around the same time. Tommy Iommi and Jimmy Page had a very similar style around this time when they were let loose, exemplified here. Bonham’s drumming deserves a close listen on this track too. He really drives this song, shifting easily from a soft accompaniment to a heavy, driving roll during the chorus. This is a stellar track that has a little bit of everything and shows how skillful these musicians were at shifting between moods, tempos, and even genres. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Your Time Is Gonna Come: Opening with organs is a bold move on a rock album, but it works really well on this track. It sets the song up for a slower pace and gives the song an ethereal, almost religious atmosphere. I really like this song a lot, and there’s a lot of elements to keep you interested as you listen. There are slides on the guitar that hark back to the band’s blues influences, a great chorus with a beautiful harmony (particularly for a rock band!) that adds to that church atmosphere created by the synthesized organ. There’s really nothing to fault here, this is a great track. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Black Mountain Side: “Black Mountain Side” clearly starts with a much different influence than the rest of the album. There’s a very strong Indian influence on this album and the acoustic guitar is played almost like a sitar would be played. What’s most interesting to me is that Jimmy Page was taught this as an Irish folk song and decided to change the feeling of it completely! That’s a bold artistic decision but I think it payed off for a unique instrumental track. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Communication Breakdown: “Communication Breakdown” is my favorite song on the album. I really like that it’s a simple rock track with not a lot of frills, but when you take a closer look there’s more than meets the eye. The song builds towards the last verse and chorus after the solo, consistently adding new elements until the whole band is playing together. The song starts with only the recognizable guitar riff, adding drums, bass, and a rhythm guitar. On the topic of the solo, I really like how the song quiets before going into that heated solo a lot! There are some rock songs that don’t have a lot of frills, and that’s because they don’t need it. Superior musicianship and ability to write music well goes a long way. Dad’s Rating 9/10

I Can’t Quit You Baby: I wasn’t sure what to expect when the song opened only on Plant’s vocals, but then the big guitar chords hit and I knew exactly what we were dealing with; another strong blues inspired track. This one is better than “You Shook Me” in my opinion for two reasons. First, I think the musicianship is cleaner and nicer to listen to on this track. By comparison, the former sounds very busy. “I Can’t Quit You Baby” is more stripped back, and the band lets their instruments speak for them. Second, I like how it’s not quite as overtly a blues rock track. I like blues rock a lot, but it can be overwhelming when presented in a typical I-IV-V chord progression with little deviation like the earlier track is. Musically, John Paul Jones is fantastic on the bass on this track and really leads the way with Bonham taking a back seat on the driving duties. There’s even a bass solo to let him show what he’s got and he delivers! Dad’s Rating 7/10

How Many More Times: The last track is a return to what the band knows how to do best; play big chords and riffs really loudly! I’ll actually say that this is one of my least favorite songs on the album. I wasn’t able to get that droning riff out of my head until the interlude, but by the time that was over, the song moved on to a different movement that I enjoyed much more…before ending on that droning riff. The sound from around the 5:30-7:00 markers should have been more prevalent. I think that would have made for a more interesting song. Either that or adding some kind of dynamics to the track to keep the listener engaged. Dad’s Rating 5/10

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.