Wilson and Alroy's Record Reviews - We listen to the lousy records so you won't have to.

Year In Review: 1966

A terrific, exciting year for pop music as new talent came bursting out from all directions while established acts made major advances. The year's best record was the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, the most carefully crafted and consistently interesting rock record released up to that point. The Beatles were no slouches, diving into experimentation with studio effects and controlled substances, producing startling results on Revolver. The Rolling Stones were right behind, experimenting with song structure and medieval instrumentation on Aftermath. Dylan's double album Blonde On Blonde incorporated country and western influences, though it was a step down from his 1965 work; recovering troubador Donovan reinvented himself as a flower power spokesman on his trippy Sunshine Superman. Even the Supremes included some studio trickery on their latest catchy collection, Supremes A Go Go.

Many other acts simply played to their existing strengths: sophisticated soulstress Dionne Warwick released her most affecting record to date; radical folkie Phil Ochs released a wonderful faux-live album; Laura Nyro added swirling arrangements to her off-kilter love songs; while Otis Redding kept going strong with his emotional brand of soul.

Important debuts were almost too numerous to count: the best was the Mothers Of Invention's Freak Out!, but three West Coast Byrds-influenced acid rock bands - Buffalo Springfield, Jefferson Airplane and Love - were all close behind.

There were only a few duds this year, mostly failed efforts by Motown to reach middle America like Moods Of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder's Down To Earth. The jazz record of the year was Thelonious Monk's Straight No Chaser. (DBW)

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