05 July 2007

The End - 1969 - Introspection

Quality: 3.5 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5

The End's Introspection is basically known for two things. First off, it's often added as a footnote to the Rolling Stones' history as Bill Wyman is present here as the producer, giving everything here a sheen that renders much of the album as sounding like a less warbly version of his "In Another Land." Charlie Watts also shows up a bit to beat on a tabla. Musically, this album is known for "Shades Of Orange," which is a deserved staple of psych-beat compilations.

Introspection is a victim of showing up at the wrong time. It's a solid and consistant example of circa-1967 psychedelic pop. Unfortunately, it didn't see release until 1969, at which point the album promptly sank like a stone. Seeing as we're now in a completely different century and have hindsight to guide us, let's approach this as not being hopelessly out of step with it's contemporary release.

The key word to describe Introspection is consistancy, almost to a fault. Apart from a few short forgettable English-English gibberish tracks ("Bromley Common," "Liner Draper," "Jacob's Bladder") the entire album floats on a nice dreamy sheen, with a few more pronounced beats to break things up a bit. There's not a whole lot of diversity here, although the signature sound is rather pleasant. That means we're left with the songwriting, which is a cut above most psych-pop groups, at least in terms of music. Much of the lyrics are made up of standard Summer Of Love cliches like "Under the rainbow something is moving/Everything is hazy, lights making patterns" or "No one can catch me/The blind cannot see," so let's leave it at that and focus on the sound.

The songwriting standouts include "Shades Of Orange." It really is a classic track and is probably the best thing here. I also have an affinity for the harder-edged "Cardboard Watch."
Also great is the ominous yet gliding title track, although it is later pointlessly revisited in an almost instumental edition that sounds like it belongs on a generic "hippie" film soundtrack. The band seemed to think that it was a groovy album closer.

A few lesser tracks still benefit from nice aural perks. "Loving, Sweet Loving" has an awesome harpsichord part from session man extrodinaire Nicky Hopkins, while "She Said Yeah" has some vocal harmonies that wouldn't be out of place on a Brian Wilson production. Some of the production touches are similar to those on the Stone's Satanic Majesty's, but they're more mannered and less stoned sounding here. For once a 60's British album seems to have a nice stereo mix as the mono single bonus tracks of "Shades Of Orange" and "Loving, Sweet Loving" are missing the atmospherics of the stereo tracks.

Basically, if you're a sucker for 1967 psychedelic pop (as I am), you'll probably find a lot to love here. Just don't expect anything particularly groundbreaking or mindblowing.

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The End - 1969 - Introspection

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