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The Pretty Things - S.F. Sorrow CD (album) cover


The Pretty Things



4.03 | 73 ratings

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2 stars S.F. Sorrow? More like S.F. Borrow!

The Pretty Things' cult hit, originally released in December 1968, has drawn increased attention in the last 10 years with the belated availability of the group's discography. With that attention has come a bit of revisionist history, perhaps overstating the band's impact and influence on rock culture. Various accounts have S.F. Sorrow recording sessions beginning as early as Spring 1967, which would have pre-dated both Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Piper At The Gates of Dawn, which were also recorded at Abbey Road. S.F. Sorrow mimics both of those in my opinion, and is not nearly as groundbreaking as many would have you believe. I will concede that S.F. Sorrow is the first "Rock Opera," despite what Pete Townshend says. The Who's Tommy, released in 1969, popularized the template Pretty Things created and they were ahead of their time in that regard. If you compare Procol Harum's Shine On Brightly (released the same month), there was clearly something in the water - but where that album is truly progressive, S.F. Sorrow is glorified psych rock or even psychedelic pop. Proto-Prog may be a bit of a stretch for this peculiar release.

In a nutshell, S.F. Sorrow tells the tale of its titular protagonist, whose life begins innocently enough before a series of unfortunate events lead to a nightmarish, psychedelic journey which ultimately renders him hopelessly secluded and painfully alone. Though the lyrics are bleak and depressing, the music is mostly chipper and uptempo; this imbalance doesn't do any favors, and seems to contradict the point. There are some heavy moments, like the fuzzed-out "Balloon Burning," and the rowdiness of "Old Man Going." These highlights are just too far and few between for me, and I can't muster three stars for the site at large; as a psych album it is okay but I prefer mine with jams and don't understand the appeal here. Maybe there is something I'm missing, but plenty of Psych Pop gems like Gandalf (US, not Austria) wipe the floor with this. I should note however that the bonus track "Perfecting Grey (Acetate Recording)" on the Repertoire CD is incredible proto-punk for those interested, but that hardly makes it essential. Those interested in Prog's roots may want to investigate S.F. Sorrow after all other bases are covered.

coasterzombie | 2/5 |


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