Various Artists

I'd Love to Turn You On: Classical and Avant-Garde Music That Inspired the Sixties Counter-Culture

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The ambitious triple-CD box set I'd Love to Turn You On outlines some of the key inspirations of 1960s rock counter-culture beyond the genre's roots in blues and R&B, particularly in the realm of classical music and the avant-garde, as well as film scores, jazz, Indian ragas, and more. Pinpointing in detail how rock & roll moved beyond simple, repetitive two-minute pop songs into a form of greater sophistication, emotional complexity, and artistic expression, the set's track listing is subdivided into sections corresponding to the artists influenced by the composers and pieces in question. Given the title of the collection, it's no surprise that it starts out with more than a full disc's worth of music which inspired the Beatles and producer George Martin, from the Bach concertos evoked by the band's Baroque pop period to the musique concrète works of composers such as Stockhausen and Cage which informed Sgt. Pepper's and The White Album. For most of these selections, the liner notes namecheck exactly which Beatles song was influenced by which piece (or outright quoted in the case of songs like "All You Need Is Love"). Beyond the Beatles, the set delves into several of Pink Floyd's early influences, mainly concentrating on jazz, ranging from the joyous, uplifting bebop of Charlie Parker to an astral meditation from Sun Ra. Additionally, there's an extended raga by Ravi Shankar (also covered in the Beatles section), a short piece by influential British folk guitarist Davy Graham, and even the Hallelujah chorus of Handel's Messiah, apparently the soundtrack to an acid-laced revelation for the band. Several movements of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring appear, since David Bowie referred to its tuba ostinatos as being equally powerful as any rock riff. Frank Zappa's connection to the modern classical world has always been well documented, and the fantastically off-balance "Hyperprism" by primary influence Edgard Varèse concludes disc two. The third disc touches on Soft Machine (leading with a remarkably grim, wonderfully strange Scottish folk tune performed by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears), Scott Walker (naturally including Jacques Brel), and Nick Drake (the overwhelmingly beautiful melancholia of Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis"). Venturing beyond British or American rock artists, the remainder of the compilation explores the influences of Brazilian bossa nova pioneers Antônio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto. The Jobim selections encompass piano pieces by Debussy and Chopin as well as a lovely guitar etude by Heitor Villa-Lobos, while the picks representing Gilberto include the soothing Brazilian pop of Lúcio Alves and a brief but masterful guitar piece by underacknowledged innovator Garôto. It's obvious that there's far more ground that could be covered in a set like this, but what's included is undoubtedly important, and makes for an illuminating, informative listen. Any undergraduate who listens to this and studies the liner notes should be granted course credits.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 01:26 Amazon
2 04:52 Amazon
3 01:00 Amazon
Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV1068
4 03:47 Amazon
5 06:01 Amazon
6 08:27 Amazon
The Messiah, HWV56
7 03:37 Amazon
8 02:27 Amazon
9 10:55 Amazon
10 06:35 Amazon
Spartacus
11 04:14 Amazon
12 03:53 Amazon
13 02:57 Amazon
Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring)
14 03:29 Amazon
15 03:17 Amazon
16 01:16 Amazon
17 03:41 Amazon
18 01:51 Amazon
19 00:39 Amazon
20 00:22 Amazon
21 01:10 Amazon
22 03:51 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick