Friday, September 23, 2011

New 60s Favorites, Part One

I wish I could write more often... For some reason I can't seem to find time to do it. The important part, however, is that I have three new 60s favorites! I often like to think about the 60s as the best time of music: a decade with charm that hasn't been topped by any other decade and probably never will be. The 60s is therefore kind of a project to me: I hope to familiarize myself with as much good 60s stuff as I can during my lifetime. Even though the huge fragmentation of music hadn't progressed all that much in the 60s, by the end of the decade there were already many different types of pop(ular) music and rock.

The Association, one of the three new favourites of mine, is a band that represens sunshine pop, baroque pop, folk rock, and soft rock. Even though surf music is not on the list the Association is a perfect path to take after the Beach Boys. The vocal arrangements are huge!

The band debuted with And Then... Along Comes the Association in 1966, produced by Curt Boettcher. Windy was the band's first number one hit, selling a million copies. Other million-selling hits followed (Cherish, Never My Love) but the biggest commercial success ended after a couple of years. The Association was the lead-off performer at Monterey Pop Festival and remained a popular live act during the rest of the decade. The group never disbanded for long even though there weren't many new albums or singles produced after the first half of the 1970s. The Association is still around, and the group toured the United States with several original members in the summer of 2011.

One of the Association's secrets of success has definitely been the vocal arrangements that turn soft pop songs into something a lot bigger... There are also recognizable lead vocalists. When it come to the biggest differences between the Association and the Beach Boys, the Association sounds somewhat more adult all the way. Even though the Association applies hooks like any other pop band (such as the Beach Boys) there is a somewhat clear difference in style. Doo wop and r&b influence is not very obvious but instead there are elements of folk rock tradition. However, the Association is certainly not too different from other psych-baroque sunshine pop bands, such as Curt Boettcher's projects. Musically speaking the Association is still probably a bit more down-to-earth than its more psychedelic sunshine pop counterparts. I bet no one would blame the Association for being too psychedelic.

So, the Association likes to focus on the songwriting and effective vocals and not paying too much attention to the fanciest, weirdest new psychedelic sounds and innovations. The Association's music is rewarding to especially those who appreciate traditional soft rock songwriting and the nuances of elegant multipart vocal harmonies.

As far as I know, the Association are quite unknown in Finland. Many people of the younger generation would surely recognize Windy due to a Finnish group Ultra Bra plagiarizing the melody for their song Jäätelöauto back in 1999.

It actually took really long for me to find the essence of this band. It was probably because the Association is not really famous for the cathciest possible songs – you are not going to hear anything like I Get Around here... Instead the music of the Association is about getting into the band's own style and the music as a whole. The band becomes familiar and recognizable and soon you will enjoy everything from the catchier songs (Forty Times, Enter the Young, Time for Livin', Six Man Band, Yes I Will) to the mellowest of mellow ballads (Under Branches, Birthday Morning, Barefoot Gentleman, Along the Way). How could I resist the cheerful sunshine pop of Come on in, the incredible wall of vocals in Just about the Same or the stunningly emotional folk ballads Look at Me, Look at You and What Were the Words?

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