Monday, July 18, 2011

A New Column, and a New Goal

Criterion has always been one of my favorite Film companies, and I've always wanted to watch all of the amazing films they've released.  I've collected quite a few of their titles, many of which I've never gotten around to watching ... until now.

I'm starting a new column on this site as a way to push myself into watching more films.  The column will be posted once a week, and I will be watching, critiquing (both the films and the extras), and writing about my experiences crawling through the criterion collection.

It's crawling through the Criterion Collection, because there are almost 600 titles!  I hope to learn a lot along the way, and expand my horizons at the same time.  I hope you join me for the journey.

You can find the Criterion Collection here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Would You Believe - Billy Nicholls (1968)

There are a few albums worthy of being considered lost masterpieces, and this is definitely one of them.  Would You Believe was Recorded and released in 1968 as a British response to the Beach Boys Pet Sounds, but was shelved due to financial difficulties after an initial run of 100 copies.  What a shame.  If this record had been given the publicity it deserved, who knows what would've become of Billy Nicholls musical output.

From what I can find out about Billy Nicholls, when he was 16 George Harrison helped him record some demos and got them in the hands of people involved with and around The Beatles.  The Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham liked what he heard, started a new record label, and hired Nicholls as a staff song writer.  In 1968 Nicholls recorded Would You Believe with help from session players and members of The Small Faces.  After the album was neglected and forgotten, Billy remastered it in 1998 and released it on his own label Southwest Records.

The album is a gorgeous mix of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, Pet Sounds, and 60's baroque pop.  Many of the songs have strings, harpsichord, multipart harmonies, and brass.  There are no stinkers on the album, and it's a solid listen from beginning to end.

I was first drawn to the album a few years ago after listening to the title song on someones blog.  Its gorgeous harmonies resonate throughout the song. There's so much packed into the sound, new things stand out all of the time, including a playful banjo and tuba sequence.  Life is Short features sumptuous harpsichord and brass, while Feeling Easy has some beautiful plucked strings and orchestration behind it.  Daytime Girl sounds like something that would have fit perfectly on The Zombies Odyssey and Oracle, in fact, many of the songs seem like companions to that wonderful album.  London Social Degree is definitely influenced by Phil Spector and Brian Wilson; Girl From New York has a nice fuzzy, dirty guitar part that reminds me of The Byrds.  The album closes with the Chamber pop piece It Brings Me Down.

I've listened to this album so many times, and have still found something new in it every time.  If you are a fan of The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Zombies, or just 60's pop in general, do yourself a favor and give this album a chance.  I promise you won't regret it.  Find it here or at Amazon.