Cream – Fresh Cream (1966)

Cream was the original rock supergroup. In retrospect, a rock supergroup is not always desirable. But the trio consisting of Jack Bruce (bass and vocals), Eric Clapton (guitar) and Ginger Baker (drums) would show the world what they were made of.

This album is their first, and in some ways, their best. It has a fusion of styles such as blues, jazz, rock and other genres in the recording as well.

The album begins with I Feel Free. Wow – this is good! It shows off Jack Bruce’s great voice and the other parts of the song are just as good. It’s a great song and still a great listen, even today. Cream sound wonderful in their approach musically, and the song sounds soulful.

The next piece, N.S.U. is a glorious 1960’s style comment on living life to the fullest. It’s a great song to hear. Eric Clapton via his Gibson Les Paul has some amazing playing on this one. Mind you, this album is very consistent so far.

Sleepy Time Time follows and sounds like modern poetry set to music. It’s a great piece about taking one’s time in life, not a bad sentiment at all. It’s a good cut here. Plenty of 1960s sentiments are here, making the song the great piece it is. Cool.

Dreaming follows, and it is a good and relaxed sounding piece. It is a nice thought about life in general, and about the concept of dreams. A great topic to address, and a great song as well.

Following up is Sweet Wine. This is merely a continuation of the concept of the songs before it. Eric Clapton’s guitar solo sings and will leave many rock fans in awe upon listening to this piece. It also seems to have quiet-loud dynamics, a great idea for a rock group to take up at the time.

The next song is Spoonful. It’s a great bluesy style piece about desire. One can only imagine the simple pleasures of the time that would have inspired the song. In many ways, the 1960s was a great era for music. Period. It is a rather extended piece, but still very very good. The ending is great too.

Cat’s Squirrel is another extended piece with some likely drug-based influences in the sound at this point. It’s mostly an instrumental, but very effective in its approach. A nice listen.

Four Until Late is an old blues cover originally from Robert Johnson, but it works so well here that it demands repeated listens. It’s a great interpretation of a good original. Mint.

Next up is a call and response sort of piece called Rollin’ and Tumblin’. It’s a concise piece which is almost like an instrumental. It’s very listenable and very enjoyable. The drums, in particular, are very paced here, a great song. It goes on for a while, so listen patiently.

The cover of Skip James’s I’m So Glad is a great cover of an original blues piece. The band sounds so relaxed throughout it all, until towards the end. The price of a supergroup may be distrust, but Cream does a great job here. Good stuff.

Toad is a great drum solo to finish off this recording. The years of Ginger Baker having a background in jazz music pays off here, he just rocks. Unlikely that one can hear any drummer do this sort of thing today.

Fresh Cream got the ball rolling for these three men, in particular, Eric Clapton. It’s a great album, without a doubt. It’s also likely Cream’s best album and one of the definitive albums of the 1960s. It is very listenable. More great music was to follow after this album by Cream as well, only making this album more reputable.

9/10

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Axis: Bold As Love (1967)

After the release of Are You Experienced, Jimi Hendrix and his Experience band went to work to deliver the follow-up. It was also released in 1967 and confirmed Jimi Hendrix’s place in history. It’s perhaps not as strong as the first offering by the group but is still a great album. Let’s dive in and have a listen.

We begin with EXP is a blast of science fiction in musical terms. Science fiction was not very popular in movie culture until much later. This proves the forward thinking on the subject of U.F.Os by the group. An interesting intro.

It leads into Up From The Skies, which features a good wah-wah guitar part and some calm vocals by Jimi Hendrix. It proves the ability of the group to create a nice sounding and variable piece musically. It’s just chilled, which is great.

Spanish Castle Magic is a loud, raw and driven piece by the group. It features Jimi Hendrix playing a Mosrite guitar, as opposed to his typical Fender Stratocaster, which is unusual. Still, it works well and sounds great.

Wait Until Tomorrow tells a tale of lost love in an instant. The song is a great story like tale in this respect, but Hendrix sounds so optimistic about it all, it’s forgivable to cover a difficult subject. It’s a good piece by the group.

Next up is Ain’t No Telling. Even though this one is not as strong a piece as the other songs on the album, it sounds just really great. It references Cleopatra too. It’s really short, but good listening.

The next piece is legendary. Little Wing features excellent guitar work by Jimi Hendrix himself with some imaginative lyrics. It has been covered by a lot of artists from all genres, cementing its relevance, even today.

The centrepiece of this album follows. If 6 Was 9 speaks about being independent and doing one’s thing lyrically. It does this in such a Hendrix style way and is such an impressive statement from him. Great stuff from Jimi Hendrix. The instrumentation is just as good as the lyrics, both intertwine in importance. Brilliant.

You Got Me Floatin’ is a great pop piece by Jimi Hendrix. It’s short enough and catchy enough to make it onto the album. Although this album may seem not as impressive to others out there, it’s a solid number, even on its own. It demands listening.

Castles Made Of Sand is another short and sweet piece. It refers to the fact that nothing lasts forever. Despite all this, Jimi Hendrix’s great music is still popular today. It’s such well-done music that one listens to it and feels impressed by what is offered. The outro is superb.

The following song is sung by bassist Noel Redding. She’s So Fine does sound very good indeed, and references the hippies of the time and the strangeness of the lady spoken about. It’s a good piece with some great drumming as well from Mitch Mitchell. Not at all bad.

Back to Hendrix on vocals now arrives One Rainy Wish. It talks about dreaming and the perceptions of such dreams, talking in particular about golden roses. It’s a little weaker, but still a great song by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. This whole album is so consistent, even though it’s not Hendrix’s best. Well done.

Little Miss Lover has some funky like wah-wah guitar parts and a groove to match. It’s a good piece, and very poptastic. Not bad a sonic journey.

Axis: Bold As Love is the final and title track. It refers to an emotion that is often ignored by others. It’s not the most original Hendrix piece, but speaks directly about colours and relating them to emotions. An epic way to finish the album, and what a great listen we have heard.

This recording further cemented Jimi Hendrix’s place in rock history. Although he only made three official records during his short lifetime, his influence has lasted ever since he recorded these superb albums. Do yourself a favour and give this one a good listen. It’s so surreal and imaginative sounding that it is a wake-up call to all music lovers out there.

9/10

The 13th Floor Elevators – Easter Everywhere (1967)

The 13th Floor Elevators were on a roll, despite some drug possession troubles with the local police. Their first album had attracted some attention over the quality of their music. There were some quality pieces on it.

This album is even better than the first album. It is a more definitive and branched out style of tunes. A wider variety of instrumentation is here. Let’s dive in and have a listen.

It begins with the extended Slip Inside This House. Yes, this is the song that Primal Scream reworked on their own Screamadelica album. It’s a very good song, however. It’s a hippy sort of song but has beautiful acoustic guitar propelling it along. The guitar solo is mint too.

The following song Slide Machine has some wicked slide guitar, more gobbling Ostrich style sounds and plenty of audio space. By this meaning, the simplicity of the music gives the song an easy listen. It’s a simple and wonderful piece.

She Lives (In A Time Of Her Own) is up next. It’s a simply listenable pop piece. The instruments combine for a wall-of-sound style listening experience. Consistent in comparison to other bands, even around this time.

Nobody To Love is a melancholy piece with fuzz guitar, gobbling galore and pacing drums. It shows the variety of the 13th Floor Elevators and the ability of the band to create such music way back in the 1960s.

A Bob Dylan cover follows. (It’s All Over Now) Baby Blue is a bittersweet ballad that demands listening. The undercurrent of melancholy that exists throughout this album likely reflected their real-life situation, which was becoming difficult for the group. It’s a really great cover nonetheless. You can really hear the emotion in this song, especially towards the end. Brilliant.

The following piece Earthquake is more uptempo, with some fascinating sounds included in the song. The lyrics are rather random but excellently written. There is some sweet electric guitar playing in it with a bit of feedback. It’s an awesome listen overall.

Dust exhibits such a sad feeling in the song that one hears the direct emotion from Roky Erickson’s singing and feels immediately sad. It’s such a good song, it deserves multiple listens. What a beautiful song indeed.

Levitation is about an out of body experience, judging by the lyrics of the song. It’s a trip alright, but feels optimistic and joyful. It’s a great piece about the said experience. These guys were obviously heavily into drugs, and it shows here. “I’ve got levitation,” indeed.

The next song, I Had To Tell You is a short and sweet ode to music, with female backing vocals included. It also has harmonica to boot. Is there anything that the 13th Floor Elevators could not express? Probably not. It’s a good piece by the group.

The closing song is Postures (Leave Your Body Behind). It’s a laid back piece, likely about tripping. It sounds solid, a nice way to finish this recording. It takes its time but doesn’t seem at all boring.

Although being essentially a cult band, the 13th Floor Elevators had some great songs in their arsenal. Sadly, Roky Erickson was arrested for drug possession and the group disbanded shortly afterward. It’s a sad ending to such wonderful music. But at least we have the recordings here to enjoy. Check out the remastered reissues of the 13th Floor Elevators, worth doing so as well.

A great listen.

9/10

The 13th Floor Elevators – The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators (1966)

Some say you can’t judge a book, or an album, by its cover. With this album, you can. A bunch of young men from southern U.S.A. delivered this album way back in 1966 and became cemented in history for this. And what a trip this album is. Let’s dive in and have a listen to it.

You’re Gonna Miss Me begins our musical trip, and it gives us our unique sound for a garage and psychedelic rock band. It features unique screaming from the singer Roky Erickson, which surely metal legends copied later on. It has clanging Fender style guitar sounds, harmonica and an Ostrich like sound gobbling away in the background. Nice.

Roller Coaster is up next and is much more down-tempo until the midsection hits you. But still, it is a pure head-rush of psychedelic music. The lyrics are just hippy nirvana. It has more gobbling too. It’s a great extended piece by the 13th Floor Elevators.

The next place, Splash 1, is a slow-moving ballad style piece. It’s reassuring in its melody, something which many bands can never do. Specific emotional delivery is often ignored by musicians in songs. The 13th Floor Elevators do not ignore this, it’s a great song.

The next cut Reverberation (Doubt) begins with a note being hit on the tremolo system of a Fender Stratocaster, before leaping into a danceable piece with surreal lyrics. It’s a hippy delight.

Don’t Fall Down sounds like a continuation of Splash 1 but still, it has its own personality. Beautiful acoustic guitar lurks away in the background of this song, but the chanted chorus is uplifting indeed.

Fire Engine follows after the previous song, with vocalised sirens done so well indeed. “Let me take you to the empty place on my fire engine.” It’s a real trip this one. And brilliant too, sonically light years away from other bands of the time. Brilliant.

The next cut Thru The Rhythm is a slightly weaker cut. But still, it’s good stuff to listen to. One cannot help but feel a better mix would have helped this song. But still, it’s a good song anyway.

Following up is the melancholy piece You Don’t Know. It’s a better piece than the last one, with absolutely tripped out lyrics. Roky Erickson sings very well here, he was a unique singer in many ways that was underappreciated over the years. Good effort.

Kingdom Of Heaven is the slowest song on this album, but it’s never dull for a moment. “The kingdom of heaven is within.” It’s a really beautiful piece and downtempo to boot.

Monkey Island is a trip galore, as the title suggests. The guitar riffs here are excellent, showing the musical prowess of the band. Roky Erickson’s vocals here are top, singing and screaming perfectly, with a great monkey impersonation at the end. Excellent.

The last cut, Tried To Hide, sounds like a great pop sort of song for the time, with harmonica. It finishes the album nicely, and we can say that we have heard quite possibly the first psychedelic album ever made.

This album has received cult status over the years and has given The 13th Floor Elevators their deserved place in history. So many musicians came out of the woodwork after the release of this album. The cover of the album does not lie about the music, it’s the trippiest thing that was recorded in its release in 1966. Give this a listen if you dig psychedelic music.

8/10

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced? (1967)

Jimi Hendrix may seemingly have come out of nowhere, but he quickly became arguably rock’s most loved electric guitarist. Born and raised in Seattle in the U.S.A., he shifted to the UK and became a superstar after he had bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell join with him to make some mindblowing music.

This album was his first, and arguably, his most essential album to own. It features a huge array of songs from start to finish, and is so interesting and beautiful sounding for the part.

Different versions of this album exist, but for this entry, we will observe the version with extra cuts on top of the rest of the album, which were unreleased on most versions of this album.

We start off with Foxey Lady, a great song about said lady who Jimi is trying to impress. It’s a decent pop song, and begins a very interesting listen.

Manic Depression is a much better listen than you’d expect. It’s not depressing, just heavy sounding. It’s a great topic to cover, and has a great song structure to it.

The bluesy Red House follows, with the lyrics “There’s a red house over yonder, that’s where my baby stays”. It’s a great blues piece, and one of Hendrix’s best songs. Listen to the fantastic guitar playing here, it’s majestic.

Can You See Me asks a person in Jimi’s life if indeed, they do care about him. Hence the song title. It’s a good song, and a confrontational one at that.

Continuing from the theme before, Love Or Confusion shows Hendrix’s philosophy towards women. Indeed, Jimi Hendrix was never really into long term relationships, and explains in to music.

I Don’t Live Today is a surreal tale of existence. It refers to being torn apart, but features Jimi Hendrix’s great guitar playing all the way through.

Following up are the trippy lyrics and banging drum loops of May This Be Love. It mentions a waterfall, too. How tranquil. Jimi Hendrix obviously knew music, and this is proof of the variety of his music.

Fire is a great pop tune about standing next to somebody’s fire, if you understand the meaning of the song. But it’s simply good and catchy enough for the listener at hand.

The extended psychedelic jam Third Stone From The Sun follows and it’s a great listening experience. It sounds very futuristic for the 1960’s, with some awesome slowed down vocals and interesting sound effects. Sweet.

Remember follows and it is a tale of broken love. It refers to specific events within a day of a breakup, and refers to to a mockingbird and personal emotions. You’d honestly have to wonder how much drug use was prevalent in this era, there was a lot of it.

The follow piece, Are You Experienced? poses the hippy question to all, and for those who don’t know what this means, “Not necessarily stoned, but beautiful.” There are some awesome backwards guitars and drum loops to boot. Remember, this was only 1967.

Hey Joe is not written by Jimi Hendrix, but it sounds just as though he wrote it. The guitar playing on this one is fantastic, and breathes new life into this blues cover. Excellent and unforgettable.

The next song Stone Free features a metallic percussive sound and awesome guitar work from Jimi, once again. It’s a tale of independence and doing whatever gets one by in life. The outro is fantastic.

Purple Haze may or may not have been about a type of LSD available on the west coast of the U.S.A. Despite this, it’s a heavy and psychedelic listen for all to enjoy. “Excuse me while I kiss the sky,” is an often quoted phrase from this one.

The next number is a goodie. 51st Anniversary rails against marriage as a problem solver, and points to how Jimi Hendrix specifically feels about this issue. It’s a good tale with a dark side to it, as well as a good side.

The Wind Cries Mary is a laidback and lush tale which is psychedelic, leading up to the chorus. Perhaps a little weaker, but nonetheless, awesome.

The last track on this album, Highway Chile, refers to a wanderer of sorts. It’s a good listen with unusual sounding guitar from Jimi, and we end here.

What to make of this album? It changed the way rock musicians, namely guitarists, played forever. It also gave the world James Marshall Hendrix, a new superstar who would influence and excite many prior to his tragic death in 1970. Jimi himself was a better and more inventive guitar player at the time than anybody else. This album is a great beginning to his back catalogue of music.

8/10

The Who – Tommy (1969)

The Who needed something special to make as a record. Their first few offerings were great, particularly the My Generation and The Who Sell Out albums. Although both were interesting listens, their commercial success was waning during the late 1960s. Frustrated at this, guitarist and music maker extraordinaire Pete Townshend wanted something that would achieve success on multiple levels as a group, and not just financially either.

This record achieved these goals and is now recognised as a rock classic. It’s the next step on from The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in terms of listening experience. In fact, it’s great to hear 50 years on as a masterpiece of concept album listening. It’s a mixture of great music and so-called “rock opera” concept themes that it’s never boring. It’s a take on of Pete Townshend’s early life and making it through the rock scene. Hence the concept itself. Tommy is a deaf, dumb and blind boy who changes the world by extraordinary means.

We begin with the mainly instrumental Overture which sets the scene musically. It’s got a variety of instrumentation including horns, electric guitar, and acoustic guitar. It’s such an interesting way to start the album. It goes on for over five minutes, but there is never a dull moment here. Roger Daltrey sings so well here and was a great vocalist of his time. It segues into the next piece.

The next piece, It’s A Boy continues the story about Tommy being born into the world. It’s really short after the long instrumental but sets in motion the album and concept. Brilliant.

1921 has the refrain “Gonna feel that 21 is going to be a good year.” It sounds so mint even though it’s not a major piece. Good effort.

Amazing Journey has some sweet backward tapes with guitar and some reflective lyrics from Roger Daltrey. It’s an amazing sonic journey this one.

The next track Sparks develops on the theme on Rael from The Who Sell Out. It’s an interesting instrumental which is captivating. Indeed, the instrumentals on this album are just as good quality as the songs themselves, so track skipping is not recommended whatsoever for this album.

The follow up is an additionally nteresting piece. Eyesight To The Blind (The Hawker) is a brilliant continuation of the overall concept of Tommy and has some mega catchy guitar parts within it. There is a good part where Roger Daltrey does a call-and-response with the rest of the band, him versus the music. It’s great.

Christmas talks directly about Tommy being unable to understand the experience of Christmas itself, due to his ailments. It has a repeated refrain throughout, “Tommy, can you hear me?” which of course Tommy himself cannot respond to. It is moments like these that are reprised throughout the album.

Cousin Kevin is about the school bully who gets a kick out of literally torturing Tommy. Some people may laugh at this one, others will be disturbed by the imagery involved. It has some interesting twists in this one, so pay attention to the lyrics, not just the music.

After the disturbing previous track, we enter the realm of unrequested lust with The Acid Queen. A gypsy comes and gives Tommy a you-know-what session. It’s an interesting listen anyway and adds to the overall story.

Underture is a ten minute instrumental that is awesome listening, and never dull for a moment. It uses reoccurring sounds from the previous tracks and is almost prog-rock like in its operation. Excellent.

To follow, we have Do You Think It’s Alright? which is a very short excerpt, which leads into the next song. It’s part of the overall concept here.

Fiddle About is a rather necessary but disgusting piece about the drunk of Tommy Uncle Ernie who does some unmentionable things. It’s part of the concept once again, but disturbingly so.

Pinball Wizard was the main hit song from this album. It starts off with a furious acoustic guitar part, which leads into the skill that Tommy excels at: playing pinball. It’s a great pop piece by The Who and one of their most loved songs.

The next piece is the brief There’s A Doctor I’ve Found which points to a possible cure for Tommy’s unusual condition. It leads into the next song.

The concept of the album continues with Go To The Mirror! in which the Doctor tells Tommy to do as what he says in order to heal himself. It’s a very unusual piece about power over another individual, but it’s good listening.

Tommy Can You Hear Me is another linking piece which has some good harmony based singing on it. It leads on into the next song after a very short time with a long fade out.

Smash The Mirror points out the hopelessness of the situation between Tommy and his own mother. He is still unreceptive to all the movements of the world, so smash goes the mirror. It’s an interesting piece with a very funky guitar part at the start of the song.

We then learn about Tommy becoming a Sensation. It is where Tommy surprises everybody in a unique feat of purpose. It’s a good song too.

The very brief Miracle Cure goes on to explain Tommy’s newfound status, and how it hit the news. It’s a relative comparison to Pete Townshend’s life.

Sally Simpson tells the story of the said lady who falls in love with the now well know rockstar Tommy. It’s a humourous and very British tale of such things. A fun listen.

I’m Free is a reflection on Tommy’s newfound status and the joy that it brings to him. Indeed, it’s a cathartic release for our character who is now a living legend, according to the album.

The follow up Welcome is an open invitation to Tommy’s house to see the man himself. It’s a nice and reassuring piece by the sound of it, although the lyrical meaning is quite different from that itself.

The Keith Moon inspired Tommy’s Holiday Camp is a humourous and mocking piece about the idea of a holiday camp with the weird Uncle Ernie hosting it. It’s hilarious and has a banjo to boot.

The final track We’re Not Gonna Take It sums up the superstar Tommy, and is fantastic sectioned and well done. Roger Daltrey gives this his all, and we have a repeated refrain to finish. It’s an epic listen.

This is how a concept album should be, with variety, some repeated sounds and singing and just an awesome trip through the listen. It was critically acclaimed and saw The Who bring themselves one step closer to being accepted by a more mainstream audience. Tommy is such a fantastic and special listen that it no doubt influenced music for years to come, including albums such as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon. It’s a great classic album of the 1960s and all people interested in what The Who were about must listen to this album.

Fans should check out the re-release of Tommy with extra tracks and also give a listen to the London Symphony Orchestra collaboration of Tommy, which is brilliant too.

A conceptual piece of masterwork.

9/10

Pink Floyd – A Saucerful Of Secrets (1968)

Syd Barrett was melting down quickly. No doubt that his mental health was erratic and unstable. He was undergoing a lot of issues within the band, quite possibly triggered by excessive psychedelic drug use.

This was the last recording to have Syd feature predominantly. But not the last to feature him altogether. David Gilmour, a friend of the band, replaced Syd as a guitar and vocalist after the group decided not to pick up Syd on the way to a Pink Floyd gig early in 1968. That changed everything for Pink Floyd.

It’s really Syd’s swan song before he did firstly a solo career and then isolated exclusion from society until his death in 2006. It is so sad to hear about the brilliant genius turn into a total mess. But then again, the group were always inspired by Syd.

This album, therefore, is a rather big mish-mash of ideas, sounds, and innovation. It’s brilliant still, but not as strong as The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. It does have that Pink Floyd magic about it, however. It’s primarily a mixture of art based electronic noodling and the childlike pop that Syd Barrett was capable of.

We lead off with Let There Be More Light which has a funky introductory riff and a soul exploring via a psychedelic theme. It’s good, but we can hear the band sounds a little worn out in terms of musical direction as they had lost Syd. It’s still brilliant all the same.

The next piece Remember A Day has a beautiful slide guitar sound and piano as well. It’s a nice piece, although it lacks energy pace-wise. Nice vocal sound effects at the end too.

Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun will dazzle you with its space travel theme and brilliant psychedelic structure. It looks ahead to later, more progressive Pink Floyd works. Awesome.

Corporal Clegg follows and seems the only weak track on the album. It’s still fun and tells a contradictory psychedelic story about a war hero. It has a kazoo-like piece on it, rather than a guitar solo, which is amusing.

The epic title track A Saucerful Of Secrets is a trippy journey in an instrumental. It has four sections in it (i. Something Else; ii. Syncopated Pandemonium; iii. Storm Signal; iv. Celestial Voices) and sounds ultra freaky for the most part, until it bursts into relief at the end. It’s almost proto-progressive rock and is just awesome. Strap in the seatbelts for this trip. It’s just so well done that you’ll be dazzled by the darkest trip to the lightest relief. Brilliant.

The follow-up See-Saw is a childhood story which compares children to adults later in life. It’s a retrospective melancholy piece which sounds mostly pleasant. It’s a good way to show off Pink Floyd’s songwriting side after the trippy instrumental before it.

Jugband Blues finishes the album with Syd playing acoustic and singing, before having various horns, harmonies and reversed guitar parts attack you. It ends with Syd questioning various things in life. It’s definitely awesome to hear.

This album is no doubt a transition album for Pink Floyd. After they lost Syd, the band struggled for half a decade with doing electronic noodling and song structures, with mixed results before going interstellar with The Dark Side Of The Moon. It’s still an essential listen as much as The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn though, and takes you back over 50 years to 1968.

R.I.P. Syd Barrett

8/10