Sunday, May 20, 2007

Donovan "Greatest Hits" & "Hurdy Gurdy Man"

As a general rule of thumb, I try to stay away from greatest hits collections as an introduction to a band or musician. Donovan's "Greatest Hits" really cemented that opinion for me.

Although these are all great songs (except the treacherous "Mellow Yellow,") this album barely scratches the surface of what Donovan was capable of. These are just his pop songs. Regardless, this is still a record worth having, with new versions of two songs (one of which is the phenomenal reworking of "Catch the Wind,") a few non-LP singles, and an extended version of "Sunshine Superman." But as I said, not an accurate view of Donovan in his prime.

Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man" record, however, is exactly that. This record covers so much ground through it's 13 tracks, but never to areas out-of-bounds for Donovan. From hit singles like the title track to droney, eastern influenced songs like "Peregrine" and "Tangier," back to acoustic folk reminiscent of very early Donovan on "The Entertaining of a Shy Girl" and "The Sun is a Very Magic Fellow," everything comes across as perfectly natural for Donovan and still manages to form a surprisingly cohesive album. "Get Thy Bearings" is a heavily jazz influenced track, also note-worthy as one of the very few songs ever recorded featuring a saxophone that doesn't make me obscenely angry. "Hi it's Been a Long Time" and "Teas" are two stand-out tracks, not just for this album, but his entire career (which died the second him and Mickie Most split.)

And let's talk about Mickie Most for a second. His production for this record is absolutely flawless. Mickie was known for producing hit singles, and it's apparent throughout the whole record. Every songs is crisp and clean without ever skimping on the reverb or delay, and the choices for session musicians were always on-point.

So there you have it. If you don't own copies of these two records (records. not CD's,) it's past due time to pick them up. You could most likely find Donovan's "Greatest Hits" in any used record store, but it might be worth-while to hold off for a copy of "Hurdy Gurdy Man."

--Billy McDungeon

Friday, May 11, 2007

Frank Sinatra - "Cycles"

It took me awhile to get into Frank Sinatra. Between my grandma and my most conscious Italian soccer teammates, I pretty much wrote off old "blue eyes". The past year though really set the stage for latching onto Frank: utter boredom with 99.9% of indie music, a taste for Lucky Strikes, a love affair with whiskey, and finding Cycles for a buck at a thrift store.

The cover has Frank looking sharp as usual sitting at the bottom of the stairs with his head in his hand. When I saw it, I knew this is the kind of Frank Sinatra I could get into--sad Frank, hungover Frank; not lounge-singer, big-band, not my grandma's Frank, not soccer team Frank.

Sure enough, Cycles did not let me down (footnote #1). Most of Cycles is Frank singing about feeling like shit. The whole album has instrumentation like a pop album from the 60's which makes Cycles a perfect gateway album for those of you that grew up around punk and indie music. There are a couple cover songs the album could do without. But songs like "Rain in My Heart" kick my dick in every time.

"Rain in My Heart" will win you to Frank Sinatra. You will notice Frank has the best rhythm and feeling in his phrasings. You will begin to crave the confidence in Frank's voice. And other songs will just seem kind of blah--a donut with no cream filling (footnote #2).

So basically...start smoking, start with Cycles, pick up every Frank Sinatra record you can get your hands on, wait till you come with a bottle of whiskey, and let him wail.

--Lee Deers

#1 I highly recommend judging records by their cover when in a thrift store and they are only a buck or two.

#2 This phrase is credited to Tyler Farren who used it to describe a song I had just written and played for him a couple months back.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Let's Go Classics ! ! !

Welcome to the Psychedelic Elvis Blog, dedicated to reviewing LP's and 45's, or whatever else I feel compelled to write about. Most likely lots of garage / psychedelic / punk / Donovan talk. Just what the internet needs, another vinyl junkie rambling on a blogspot blog. YIKES!!!