The Pretty Things – SF Sorrow

Today, for the first time in a long time, we get an album from a long time ago.  And even more historic we get a return to one of our tried and true themes: the concept album.  Today’s offering was released in 1968, and is thought to be among the 1st concept albums in rock history – predating even The Who’s Tommy by a year.

The Pretty Things – SF Sorrow

Listen to it here: http://grooveshark.com/#!/playlist/Pretty+Things+SF+Sorrow/69664176

Read about the album here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.F._Sorrow

One year ago:  The Mammas and The Pappas – If you can believe your eyes & ears

Fun Facts: They took their name from Bo Diddley’s 1955 song “Pretty Thing”. Their most commercially successful period was the mid 1960s, although they continue to perform to this day. David Bowie covered two of their songs on his album Pin Ups.

One of the first rock concept albums, S.F. Sorrow was based on a short story by singer-guitarist Phil May. The album is structured as a song cycle, telling the story of the main character, Sebastian F. Sorrow, from birth through love, war, tragedy, madness, and the disillusionment of old age.

Seth:

Seth’s Single Image Review

Rating: 1.5

Ali:

The Pretty Things – S.F. Sorrow
Preconceptions:
I have no idea what this is. Initially I thought this was a repeat, but Dirty Pretty Things is different.

Mood:
Meh

After Listening:
For an album that is less than an hour it felt like I was watching the hands of a clock and screaming that they were liars for not moving. It didn’t pick up until the end of the album and by that time I was just cranky and wanted out.

Favorite track/tracks:
S. F. Sorrow is Born – I completely dig the “origin story songs” that I am familiar with from the late sixties.
Talkin’ About The Good Times

Least favorite track/tracks:
Bracelet of Fingers – I seriously thought I was having a stroke when I was listening to it. I had to look at myself in a mirror to double check. (I wasn’t. We’re good.)
Balloon Burning – Is this song being played backwards?
Wall Of Destiny – I have no idea if the track was skipping or if it was intentional. If it was intentional I want to shove their heads into my wall of destiny. It’s brick and covered in the blood of others.

Overall (1-5 stars):  1

Josh:

The Pretty Things – SF Sorrow: 4 stars

Precon: My pick but I know nothing about these guys. It was a recommendation from my brother. I thought he said the album was written by one of the band members entirely in his head while staying in a mental hospital, but I see nothing on the wiki about it. Maybe that’s a different album.

Favorite Track: Baron Saturday, Trust
Least Favorite: The Journey

Beatlesy
Don’t care much for the “Balloon Burning” chorus, but I like the rest of the song.
I thought Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” might have sampled the piano from the chorus of “Baron Saturday” but the internet says no. That song’s pretty weird.
“Well of Destiny” was annoying at first, then I started getting into it and liked the feeling it evoked.
Pretty happy to find this, and it might even get better when I figure out the story.

Marissa:

The Pretty Things-S.F. Sorrow.

Preconceived Notions:  I have no idea, although the similarity in name between these guys and Dirty Pretty Things makes me think British garage rock, bordering on something emo, mostly due to the album name. I don’t even know whose suggestion this is, so I’m going in pretty blind. Let’s see how wrong or right I am

As Listening: WHAT is going on?!  Is there any better/more recognized (and yes, I know those are two very different things) band that these guys don’t sound like?  It’s kind of what I imagine listening to the Rutles would be like, except without the charisma and the humor.
Private Sorrow (get it, double meaning, clever, clever) makes me wish I knew how to play a fife.  It also makes me wish I was watching The Patriot
Death I mean who doesn’t love a good gonging
Baron Saturday-sounds like something Blur would have come up with if they were doing the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange, or if Blur had been the group to do Sgt. Pepper’s first.
I See You this isn’t fair, but all I think of when I hear this phrase is James Cameron’s most recent blockbuster.  Where the creepy oversized blue alien is holding Sam Worthington’s diminutive body basically in the palm of her hands when it looks like he’s about to bite it and the audience has to pretend that they’re not thoroughly creeped out by the outrageous size difference.  Guess what people? Size does matter when you’re like a whole 2 Shaquille O’Neills taller.
Well of Destiny- hahahahhahahhahahhahahah
Old Man Going- Sounds positively Who-esque
Loneliest Person- Ugh, this is the last person I want to run into on a Monday morning at work.  I’ve met several of these people in the hallways and you always want to just keep walking past them because they’ll Eeyore up your week in a hurry.

After Listening: I get that this is a “concept album” but I can’t for the life of me tell you what the concept of this album is just from the first listen, besides that it’s about a guy who’s born to lament and just gets really great at that and ends up miserable.  Was there more to it than that?  If there was I missed it.  I did, however, laugh out loud several times, mostly to alleviate the sheer depression of it all.  I’m not sure if these guys were before The Beatles or The Who, or after both, but either way, it sounds like they’ve taken a good sampling of lessons from each and made what they thought was a serious album.  I’m not even sure if they were the “originals” if they deserve that much credit.  I guess I wasn’t missing that much by not knowing who they were.  I’ll go read the Wikipedia now and see if that changes any of these initial sentiments.  Like that time I watched the movie BUG in the theater and at the end, I laughed loudly and inappropriately and wondered what I had just witnessed and how it could have gotten financed and a decent cast and then Chris told me it was based on a play and the whole thing suddenly made sense.  I guess sometimes there’s just a wrong format for a story.

Overall: 2.8 (yes, even more painful than Queensryche, but again, I finally see what you guys are getting at)
Favorites/Least Favorites: N/A

Mike:

Preconceived Notions: I had no idea who these guys were before today, but I am a little excited at the prospect of doing an album from back in the “album” days.  RC (myself included) has sort of veered away from this time period in recent months-and as the original idea was based off the English idea to listen to albums of the “golden age of albums” this is a good trip back.  Further intriguing is the idea of the roots of a concept album…why did this album lack the success of other concept albums that may have followed?  Let’s find out…

After Listening: Well, I’d like to have some music with my psychedelia please. Two things surprised me about the album chiefly – one was the instrumentation which is chiefly acoustic, along with mandatory accompanying sitar for true 60’s feel, and the 2nd is the story which is actually sort of a dense poetic affair that could have any number of meanings and certainly appears to leave chunks of a narrative as missing in action as the list of names at the end of Private Sorrow.  To me the only thing really interesting here is the loose, but nearly absurd story.  If I follow it correctly Sorrow comes from a town with an actual Misery factory, and the main crux of his descent into isolation and madness occurs not from his service in war, but from the death of his would be wife…by balloon crash.  Yes balloon crash.
They also throw in a good deal of Voodoo – as some part of a subconscious journey, and discovery of nothingness or some such concept.  The music is certainly nothing to latch onto with this record, and so depending on much you enjoy or want to grasp the narrative will determine how your experience goes….it helps you differentiate the tracks which are mostly mood pieces- that too often are rife with generic 60’s embellishment.

Favorite Tracks: Death – A simple ebb and flow of the main theme, with an actual effect sitar section as it riffs and flushes out the tones.  Just an eerie little piece perfect for its role in the narrative.
I See You – I see this as the companion piece to Death.  Musically there’s nothing to really attract you (albeit having brief electric guitar appearances) – but I have to admit – though I read an online interpretation because I was lost right about here – I do like the ultimate narrative of this track:  After the hall of mirrors comes a long winding staircase which brings him to two opaque mirrors that show him the horrible truths and revelations from his life. (“I See You”)  One could make the argument that a more direct reveal of this is preferable, but it is sort of a cool-if vague idea.

Least Favorite: Bracelets of Fingers – Just part of the easily interchangeable and uninspiring intro tracks.  The psychedelic jam in the middle is a time waster and little more.

Overall 3.08  The redeeming part of this album for me, is its general tone.  The middle of the album – say from Death to (and including) Well of Destiny may indeed be vague in a narrative context, but it has unique moments of angst, tension and release….it even has sections of musicianship (the tabala playing in particular) which are rarer on the rest of the album.  The story’s not quite all there, but I do respect that they didn’t go very literal with it (save perhaps the 1st and last tracks)- and so it doesn’t beat you over the head with its characters.  All in all, I can see where this would be less accessible than albums like The Who’s Tommmy  – musically it just doesn’t stack up, and you can listen to this for historical perspective maybe, but you aren’t going to come back to it often.

admin (196 Posts)

Record Club began in the cold, dank, snowmageddon scene that was New England of January 2011. We’re probably no different than you. We all work in cubicles, some in smaller, less private cubicles than others; that just means we have to be even sneakier about how we listen to our music. But we have to listen to our music, mostly as a way of saving our own personal sanity. Sometimes our opinions lead us to debates that may or may not be published in their entirety on this site, but I can promise you’ll at least get a glimpse of the way our minds work. The main goal is to find new music we like or find old music that we didn’t know we liked. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes it’s a total and complete disaster. After our ears have rejoiced or stopped bleeding we try something else. This is our pattern, every Tuesday and Thursday. Sometimes, when the club isn’t officially in session, just to keep everyone on their toes, we throw in a theme day. We’re beginning to run low on our original list, so please, if you have albums that you’d like us to review or themes that you’d like to see our playlist of, feel free to contribute. After all, we’re all in this together once we punch the time clock. So if you’re busy (or just plain bored) lurking in your cubicle as you read this join in. After all, life wasn’t meant to be lived staring at a computer screen. I guarantee you, it’s at least more fun when you plug the headphones in.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *