Records: Less Than Jake’s Greased (2000 repress) on pink marble, Joni Mitchell’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975) on black, and Simon and Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (1966) on black.
Place of Purchase: Joni Mitchell and Simon and Garfunkel were purchased at Disc World in Conshohocken, Pa. (R.I.P.), while Less Than Jake came from a recent excursion to Shore Things in Ocean City, N.J.
Thoughts: Less Than Jake has stayed with me since my pre-teens. I’m a fan through and through, which means I enjoy the band’s weird detours as much I do the obvious faves like Hello Rockview (Although not even I could defend In With the Out Crowd…). Greased takes the ’90s of ska bands covering pop songs to its breaking point by skanking up the Grease soundtrack. “Summer Nights” kicks the record off admirably, complete with a ska breakdown, and “You’re the One I Want” is super catchy, but over time the songs kind of blur together. Still, there’s something entertaining about two grown men screaming “You’re the one that I want, honey” at each other.
I love Joni Mitchell. I love her classic folk period, obviously, but I also love when she started to drift further into jazz abstraction. In a way, indie rock and even metal owes her a debt for all the weird tunings she came up with over the years. The Hissing of Summer Lawns doesn’t necessarily contain my favorite Mitchell songs of all time (“Case of You,” “Blue”), but it’s still one of my favorites. Whether dishing out a smooth L.A. jam on “In France They Kiss on Mainstreet” or on the futuristic funk of “The Jungle Line” (All I can say is it sounds like Bjork well before her time), Mitchell is something else on Lawns. I understand why some fans didn’t like it, but got-damn do I love this record.
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme is a fascinating record if for no other reason than it’s actually pretty uneven. Sure, it’s got some amazing folk tunes like “Scarborough Fair/Canticle” and “Homeward Bound.” But there are some astounding clunkers on the flipside, like the pretentious cultural allusions made throughout “The Dangling Conversation” and “A Simple Desultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara’d Into Submission).” Sometimes the lyrics are way off the mark, even though Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel still hit upon some stellar harmonies. Bridge Over Troubled Water is a better album by miles, but I have more to say about Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.