Richard Nisley

All You Need Is Love
Pop Culture Released - Mar 13, 2016


1 — BEACH BOYS: THE WARMTH OF THE SUN — Hindsight is always 20-20. Listening to the Beach Boys today one can hear an underlying sadness in their famed vocal harmonies, especially poignant in their ballads. It was always there. We didn’t hear it then because we didn’t know the Beach Boys’ resident genius, Brian Wilson, was in deep pain. His father was by most accounts a monster, and Brian, the oldest of the three Wilson boys, bore the brunt of it. The fact he had an artist’s sensitivity meant he felt it more deeply as well. In his most personal songs (ballads such as “In My Room”) the sadness is palpable. In the mid-sixties, when the Beach Boys were topping the record charts, they wrote songs about surfing and fast cars, summer days and new love. But on the flip side were the ballads where Brian poured out his heart. The songs on “The Warmth of Sun” are classic Beach Boys, from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies. However, by no means is this a greatest hits collection but rather a sampling of their diversity, from surf tunes (“All Summer Long,” “Catch A Wave”) to fast machines (“409,” “Little Honda”) to covers (“Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” “Californian Dreamin’”) to some of the sublimest music they would ever make (“Feel Flows,” “Surf’s Up,” and “’Til I Die”), to the infinitely sad ballad and title track, “The Warmth of the Sun.” Two of the songs I could do without (“All This is That” and “It’s Okay”), and two are indispensable (“Sail On, Sailor” and “California Saga”). There are 28 songs in all, sounding fresh as ever thanks to the magic of digital remastering.

2 — THE VERY BEST OF THE LOVIN’ SPOONFUL — A wonderful testament to the Lovin' Spoonful's playful and decidedly romantic tunes, from "Do You Believe in Magic" to "She's a Lady." These are mostly love songs, melodic and memorable, composed by frontman John Sebastian. Sebastian's focus is an idealized notion of the girl next door. Sebastian is wistful and dreamy, a heart not yet broken but lovesick. Three of my favorite cuts are "Six O'Clock" (about meeting a girl at a coffee house, falling instantly in love, and returning home over-caffeinated and heart aching), "She is still a Mystery” (captivated yet unsure of whom it is who's bewitched you), and "She's a Lady" (ode to the uptown girl that got away). "Do You Believe in Magic" is among the pop anthems that dominated the airways in the sensational summer of ‘65 (the others were “Help!” by the Beatles, “Mr. Tambourine Man" by the Byrds, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones, “California Girls" by the Beach Boys, "Like a Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan, and “My Girl” by the Temptations). There’s an hour’s worth of memorable songs, nearly all of them top-40, including “Summer in the City,” ”Daydream," "Younger Girl," "Full Measure," and the lovely instrumental "Lonely (Amy's Tune).”

3 — BEST OF THE MONKEES — The Monkees had it all: a hit TV show, adoring fans, and a highly talented array of songwriters (Neil Diamond, Carole King, Nilsson, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart). Their secret weapon, however, was Mickey Dolenz’s unique singing voice that identified their sound and distinguished a number of their best songs. Heartthrob Davy Jones had a fine voice too, but softer and (for 13-year-old girls) sexier, that was used to define their ballads. The Monkees were dubbed the prefab four—a Hollywood creation, more glitz than talent—when in fact they were capable musicians and songwriters. While the Monkees were lavished with media attention, backbiting from the underground press and by other musicians eventually got to them. Coupled with slumping record sales and burn-out, they called it quits at the end of the decade. Their lasting legacy is a string of irresistible pop hits that sound as fresh today as then, from “Last Train to Clarksville” (1966) to “Listen to the Band" (1969). At a time of rising social consciousness, they were said to lack substance, yet produced several socially relevant songs: “Last Train to Clarksville” (going off to war not knowing if you’ll be home again), “Shades of Gray” (loss of idealism), “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (middle-class hypocrisy), and “Zor and Zam” (anti-war). That said, the CD’s greatest strength is its many love songs, not to mention superb vocalizing, polished and imaginative arrangements, and clean sonics. I’m a believer.

4 — MAGICAL MYSTER TOUR — The Beatles’ best album? John Lennon thought so. It didn’t start out as an album, but as a six-song soundtrack for the Beatles’ TV special that aired on British TV in December 1967. The soundtrack was released in England as a double EP. But in the U.S., five songs from three recent singles were added to the soundtrack to make an 11-song LP. This was the album Lennon was speaking about. When the digital era arrived, that’s how it was re-released world-wide, as an eleven-song CD. In a sense, Magical Mystery Tour was the Beatles’ first “greatest hits” collection, as the original six-song soundtrack and the three singles were all chart toppers. In another sense, Magical Mystery Tour is a summation of the Beatle’s psychedelic phase, which began with Revolver, achieved full-flowering with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and arrived at the coda, or final statement, with Magical Mystery Tour.

Some of the best songs the Beatles ever created are here: “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Hello Goodbye,” “All You Need is Love,” “I Am the Walrus,” “Penny Lane,” “Blue Jay Way” and “Baby You’re a Rich Man.” This isn’t Rock ’n’ Roll in the strictest sense—it’s a synthesis of popular music, employing orchestra and a beguiling array of exotic musical sounds. The Beatles’ career, beginning with their days as knock-about rockers performing in the waterfront bars of Hamburg, to their public breakup in 1970, was in itself a magical mystery tour. Who’d have thought four working class lads from Northwest England would rise to the top of popular music, perform for the Queen of England, play to sell-out crowds at huge venues like Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and Shea Stadium in New York, and develop into songwriters on the level of George Gershwin and Franz Schubert? Certainly, they didn’t. Best of all, fame didn’t change them. They saw it as a con game, and they wouldn’t be taken in. John Lennon never wrote songs to please the public but rather to please himself. He loved Magical Mystery Tour because he said the songs were weird, and the weirdest were his: “I Am the Walrus” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.” And, as a defense against the cynicism he saw all around him, he penned these lines for the album’s closing track:

“There’s nothing you can do that can't be done / Nothing you can sing that can't be sung / Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game / It's easy.

“There's nothing you can make that can't be made / No one you can save that can't be saved / Nothing you can do but you can learn to be you in time / It’s easy / All you need is love / Love is all you need.

“There's nothing you can know that isn't known / Nothing you can see that isn't shown / There’s nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be / It’s easy / All you need is love / Love is all you need.”

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