Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Great Albums: The Millennium's Begin

A series I started on the previous blog, regurgitated here for your reading pleasure:

Artist: The Millennium

Album: Begin

Release date: 1968

Original label: Columbia

As selected by: The Mojo Collection

Summary: Sunshine pop and psychedelia long obscured by clouds

Merits: Accomplished songwriter/producer Curt Boettcher, who'd had a couple of hits on the Association and worked with Gary Usher on the fist Sagittarius LP assembles a seven-man band convinced he can create the world's best group. Yet, the world took little notice of Begin when it first came out, and the band came apart quickly after its release. An expensive flop, it has found new life among fans of 60s California pop and for good reason. The harmonies are plangent, the melodies breathaking and the production - which involved linking two eight-track recorders to create sixteen tracks - very intricate and immaginative. It's a shimmering soft pop masterpiece.

Highlights: Pretty much the entire first side. Some tracks sound amazingly contemporary, such as the break beat-style drumming of Ron Edgar on Prelude, and the way It's You, a buoyant rally against the establishment, seems to be a template for The Posies' first album. To Claudia on Thursday is a creamy, carefree confection and I Just Want to Be Your Friend, The Island (the rhythm reminds me of the rhythm track on the Velvet Underground's All Tomorrow's Parties) and Sing to Me have sharp, sugary hooks that sink in deep and permanently, capable of causing tooth decay.

Demerits: The eclectic experimentalism and woozy psychedelia of the second side hasn't aged so well, coming off a bit indulgent, particularly on Anthem, which has nothing to do with Ayn Rand that I know of. And yet, there are those hooks, those harmonies...

Alternate selection: I can't make a case for them, but there are some 'demo' collections that give insight into what the second album might have sounded like. Or you can trace Boettcher's path toward The Millennium on Magic Time... The Millennium/Ballroom Recordings. Otherwise, that anthology is pretty much the final word on the group.

FYI: At the time, it was the most expensive album recorded for Columbia, costing $100,000, and one of the songs, There is Nothing More to Say, was covered by Chris Knight and Maureen McCormick... y'know from the Brady Bunch...

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