classic album dissections 2016

What's Going On - EPWhat's Going On available on iTunes

Classic Album Dissection: Marvin Gaye What's Going On

In 1971, Marvin Gaye released his iconic album What's Going On, that is beloved by many critics and fans alike. The record is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, and there are countless reasons why What's Going On is worthy of a Classic Album Dissection. This album marked a huge departure for Gaye, as most of his catalogue at the time had mostly consisted of love ballads and upbeat tracks. On What's Going On, Gaye wrote and sang about polarizing and controversial topics at the time, like racism, the environment, drugs and the Vietnam War. He also wrote about his personal struggles, such as difficulties within his marriage and the heartbreaking death of his duet partner and close friend Tammi Terrell. Along with the powerful lyrical messages he delivered, the sonic elements of record are just as impactful. Marvin Gaye enlisted talented musicians such as The Funk Brothers and also the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to create a magnificent blend of sounds that could evoke emotion from a brick wall.

Greg and Jim explain what was going on in the country at the time of the album's creation and release, and talk about what Gaye was dealing with personally. They'll also chat with NFL Hall of Fame member and retired Detroit Lion Lem Barney about his experience working on the title track which led him to receive a gold record.

Go to episode 571
Pet Sounds (Mono Version)Pet Sounds available on iTunes

The Beach Boys Pet Sounds

On May 16, 1966, The Beach Boys released their 11th studio album, Pet Sounds. It was a relative commercial failure for what was the biggest American band of the '60s. However in the ensuing 50 years, the album's stature grew. Today, its influence pervades to the point that it is almost universally acknowledged as one of the greatest albums ever released in the rock era. With Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson taking the album on tour again this summer, Jim and Greg feel it's the perfect time to give Pet Sounds a Classic Album Dissection.

Due to a great deal of pressure, emotional turmoil, and mental health issues, Brian Wilson quit the Beach Boys as a touring entity at the end of 1964. While the rest of the band was on the road, Wilson spent ten months in the studio crafting one of the most intricate and expensive pop records ever made. Working with the famed session musicians of the Wrecking Crew, Wilson took a classical composer's approach, layering instrument upon instrument to create lush, unique timbres. He collaborated with Madison Avenue writer Tony Asher on heartbreakingly earnest lyrics about his struggles to find his place in the world. The audience, the label, and his own bandmates didn't quite know what to make of Pet Sounds when it came out. But artists from The Beatles to R.E.M. to Radiohead picked up on its brilliance and modeled their own music on Wilson's ingenious arrangements. God only knows what rock would be today without Pet Sounds.

Go to episode 546
Horses (Legacy Edition)Horses available on iTunes

Patti Smith Horses

"Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine." With that opening salvo on her debut album Horses, Patti Smith instantly established herself as a leading voice of the New York punk scene. Horses was released in December 1975, just over 40 years ago, so in honor of that milestone, Jim and Greg give it the Classic Album Dissection treatment. At that point, Smith had been kicking around New York City as a poet and a music writer, performing readings of her work while backed by Lenny Kaye on guitar and Richard Sohl on piano. These shows earned her enough buzz to get a contract with Arista Records and head into Electric Lady Studios to record Horses, with Velvet Underground co-founder John Cale behind the board as producer.

Right from her androgynous appearance in Robert Mapplethorpe's cover photo, Patti Smith defied all categorization on Horses. Jim and Greg cite the album as a great work of self-mythologizing, with Smith cultivating a magnetic public persona. The record veers from accessible yet lyrically disturbing songs like "Redondo Beach" and "Kimberly," to epic multi-part suites like "Birdland" and "Land." With Horses, Smith changed the rules for what a rock star could be and remains an influence generations later.

Go to episode 531