The Pretty Things

The Pretty Things

Original Masters Records, 1965

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Two rhetorical questions to start out today's review:

If Dick Taylor hadn't left an early incarnation of The Rolling Stones, would The Pretty Things ever have come into existence?

Had The Rolling Stones not become the superstars they are today, would The Pretty Things now be the household name?

These are questions I've been pondering, both with the recent release of the latest album from Phil May and company ( Rage Before Beauty - we'll get to it soon!) and the release a few months ago of five albums from their back catalog. Today, we'll look at their self-titled debut album from 1965.

At first glance, The Pretty Things might have sounded like a Stones clone, albeit with a slightly harder edge at times. Both bands came up in the birth of the British blues scene in the early '60s, and with Taylor's departure from an early lineup of the Stones, The Pretty Things came into existence. Their antics were the stories of legend - it's said that drummer Vivian Prince was the mold from which Keith Moon came from, and compared to Prince, Moon was a pussycat. May's vocal sneer wasn't quite as strong as Mick Jagger's, but on tracks like "Rosalyn," May showed he was no slouch in the vocals-with-an-attitude department.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Musically, The Pretty Things has the rough-and-tumble feel of a band who wanted to grind out their album while they still had a chance. Recorded in just 48 hours, the feel is often sloppy, often energetic, and is a veritable mixed bag for the listener. By the time this album - expanded from the original 11-track British version - wraps up, you feel like you've been in the blues version of a slam dance.

The birth cries of this band can be very interesting, especially when tracks like "Rosalyn", "Roadrunner", "Judgment Day" and "The Moon Is Rising" kick in. Relying on several Bo Diddley compositions provides an anchor for the band, giving them something with structure to return to after trying their hand at some originals. (Whatever the "popping" noise is on "13, Chester Street," it's damned annoying. It almost sounds like someone had a movie clapboard, and was playing with it during the recording.)

Despite the historical importance of The Pretty Things, I do have two complaints. First, the liner notes are sorely lacking some key information, such as which of the 11 tracks were on the British version (information I got from All-Music Guide), and which tracks were substituted on the American version. Some basic information laid out in a simple format would have been a great help to the newcomers to The Pretty Things, like myself.

Second, while the inclusion of bonus material is intriguing, after a while, listening to this disc becomes a little exhausting. Whether it's because of the hopped-up energy that is poured into the performances on these tracks or because there's not enough variety in the music I'm not sure, but you feel like a prize fighter after the main event once this disc finally stops spinning in the player.

The multimedia section, by the way, is decent enough - though I couldn't see the video until after I re-installed QuickTime and rebooted my computer.

The Pretty Things was not an album released to compete with The Rolling Stones; rather, the two bands ended up complementing each other. If the mid-'60s British blues scene is your cup of tea, then this remastered album may well be the Rosetta Stone in your collection. For the rest of us, it's an interesting disc to put on in small doses.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Original Masters Records, and is used for informational purposes only.