The Fabulous Knickerbockers – Lies

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For my next album, I’ve decided to go with Lies by The Fabulous Knickerbockers. The Fabulous Knickerbockers (often referred to as just The Knickerbockers) are a mid-60s garage rock band from New Jersey. This album, their last studio album recorded together, was released in 1966 on Challenge Records. The band became briefly famous for a single released from this album, “Lies.” As the first song on the album, “Lies” thrusts the listener right into the heart of middle 60s rock ‘n’ roll. The song has become infamous for its similarity to songs of The Beatles from this same period. In fact, many listeners have often mistaken the song for a “lost” Beatles track upon first hearing it. Buddy Randell, the lead vocalist, has a voice uncannily similar to John Lennon’s. It’s a great song for an imitation. If you’re going to imitate another artist though, it might as well be the best there is. The second song, “I Can Do It Better” is a solid garage rock love song. It has nice simple, fast beats that capture mood perfectly. It also boasts a brief but challenging guitar solo. “Can’t You See I’m Tryin'” is a slower love song. It sounds quite typical of the era, but it’s ordinariness doesn’t make it a bad song. The fourth song on the album is by far my favorite. “Please Don’t Fight It” is broken down into simple chords for most of the song but then explodes into a harmony of noise which harkens to protopunk. The final song on side one is “Just One Girl.” It’s faster and heavier than most songs on the album. This is the kind of song that must have influenced other early punk bands. Side two is actually quite different from side one. “I Believe in Her” is heavy on the vocals, almost like a hymn. It’s almost as if side two is a different band than side one. “Wishful Thinking” enters the blue-eyed soul genre. It sounds like a song that would be played as a slow dance at a high school prom in the 1960s. By the time you reach “You’ll Never Walk Alone” you may be thinking that The Fabulous Knickerbockers forgot that they’re a garage rock band. This song is another slow song with deep heavy vocals. With “Your Kind of Lovin'” The Fabulous Knickerbockers remember that they can play faster, but still more of a soul harmony than garage rock or protopunk. As if side two wasn’t already weird, the final song, “Harlem Nocturne” is a sax-heavy jazz song. It’s an instrumental, and Buddy Randell is a pretty decent saxophone player, but I have no idea what in the hell the song is doing on this album. Overall, this album is strange. Side one is solid garage rock. It’s nothing spectacular but the songs are worth listening to. By side two the band was out of material or just wanted to experiment or something, because it doesn’t fit. I’m not saying that side two is bad, just that it’s completely out of context. The songs might be great on a different album. I have to give this album a lower rating even though I really liked side one. It’s just not cohesive.  C

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The Box Tops – Dimensions

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The main reason I picked up this album is because of the cover. It’s one of those covers that just screams 60s psychedelic music, so I bought it. Dimensions is the last album The Box Tops would release. (They later released a reunion album, Tear Off!, in 1998 after a 30-year hiatus.) The album was released in 1969 by Bell Records. While all of the members of the band stayed in the music industry after The Box Tops’ breakup, none of them would ever find such success again. The band reunited in the late 90s and toured together throughout the early 2000s. The first song on Dimensions is perhaps their most popular. “Soul Deep” is a classic on oldies stations of today. It’s a classic example of the blue-eyed soul that The Box Tops became famous for. It’s a very radio-friendly song: nothing too risky, something for everyone. The next song is a cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.” It’s a great song to cover for a soul band. They generally stick true to Dylan’s rendition. “Midnight Angel” follows with the first dose of psychedelic injected into the album. While it’s not as well known as the first two songs, it’s the most experimental and interesting of the three. “Together” is a love song that is another solid blue-eyed soul song. It’s not particularly unique or complex, but it’s makes for a good oldies jam. The next song, “I’ll Hold Out My Hand” is similar to the previous in both its sound and context. It’s a classic oldies love song, a little too cookie-cutter perhaps. The final song on the first side of the album is “I Must Be the Devil.” This song was so Chicago-style bluesy that I was shocked to find out it’s not a cover of a blues master. It’s an original jam written by Alex Chilton, the lead guitar player. It’s a slow, sweet love-makin’ sound: a perfect way to close the first side. Speaking of love makin’––”Sweet Cream Ladies,” a song supporting prostitutes, opens up side two of the album. Although it promotes an idea perhaps ahead of its time, the song is truly beautiful in its simple, repetitive approach to a psychedelic beat. This song gets the second side started off in the right direction. “(The) Happy Song” comes exactly as advertised. It’s an upbeat melody that will make you sway your hips and put a smile on your face. The next song, “Ain’t No Way” is a cover of Neil Diamond. It has more horns and more blues than Neil’s rendition. Actually, that’s an understatement: it blows Neil’s version out of the water. The final song of the album, “Rock Me Baby” is the reason this album is on this blog. It’s a psychedelic bluesy jam. This song shows off the depth of the musicians’ ability. They display their ability to improvise and groove with each other. It’s by far the best song on the album. Although the album is very good without this song, “Rock Me Baby” just takes it up another level. Overall the album gets better the deeper you get into it. A couple of the songs on side one might be a little too radio friendly for fans of this blog, but the album gets bluesier and better as it progresses. The album has a thin but audible psychedelic sprinkling throughout: just enough to make psychedelic rock/pop fans happy to own it. If you like this blog, buy this album.  A-