Label: Ace Records
Format: Vinyl LP
The sound of a country trying to work its way out of a crisis. On 24-track CD and 25-track 180g blue vinyl gatefold 2LP.
By 1968 there was a growing consensus that something had gone horribly wrong with the American dream. With urban riots, Vietnam, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and ever-climbing divorce rates, the American way of life was under scrutiny from all sides. The nation’s youth had loudly made their feelings clear, but now the older, pre-Beatles generations began to look at the country and wonder what the hell was happening.
This album includes rare classics (the Beach Boys’ ‘4th Of July’), lost masterpieces (Roy Orbison’s seven-minute ‘Southbound Jericho Parkway’) and forgotten gems by some of the biggest names in the business (Elvis Presley’s ‘Clean Up Your Own Back Yard’). Reactions to America’s existential crisis ranged in subject matter from divorce (Frank Sinatra’s ‘The Train’) and the break-up of the nuclear family (the Four Seasons’ ‘Saturday’s Father’, Mel Tormé’s ‘Take A Letter Maria’), to eulogies for fallen heroes (Dion’s ‘Abraham Martin And John’), sympathy for Vietnam vets (Johnny Tillotson’s ‘Welfare Hero’), the church’s institutional racism (Eartha Kitt’s intense ‘Paint Me Black Angels’), the hypocrisy of establishment figures (Dean Martin’s ‘Do You Believe This Town’) and even questioning the ethics of the space programme (Bing Crosby’s terrific ‘What Do We Do With The World?’).
It is now shocking to read that, as recently as 1968, the Bureau of Land Management proposed to build dams in the Grand Canyon; Richard Nixon would sign an executive order setting up the Environmental Protection Agency in December 1970. His administration then commissioned the Documerica photography project, which launched in 1971 – the year Marvin Gaye sang about “fish full of mercury” in a Top 10 hit – and it showed, shockingly, how the American way of life was trashing the landscape and poisoning the population. It provides the artwork for this album, a condensation of what America’s older generation was thinking when they turned on the TV, or the radio, or simply walked down Main Street in 1968.