Highly recommended. Make sure you buy the STEREO LIMITED EDITION GOLD CD VERSION (Snapper SDPCD 109)released 2000, not the mono one released 1998 on Original Masters.It's only a pound more and well worth it. It's been a personal favourite since I bought the original vinyl in 1968 and played it constantly, alongside Sgt.Pepper, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Axis Bold as Love and Music in a Dolls House(Family). It's been excellently remastered from the original tapes, sounding as fresh and dynamic as it did way back then.
on 17 May 2007
The Pretty Things' 1968 album "S.F. Sorrow" did not cause much attention when it was originally released.
The band had already shown, with their previous album "Emotions", that they wanted to explore new grounds, and that they felt that the r&b concept was too limited for them.
"Emotions" showed that the band possesed excellent songwriters in Wally Allen, Phil May and Dick Taylor. Unfortunately the production of that album was not too successful; at least at the time it was considered as some kind of a "disaster".
This is not the case with the follow-up album "S.F. Sorrow". The sound is great and Norman Smith's production captured the new psychedelic sounds and trends of the late 1960's perfectly.
"S.F. Sorrow" is a concept album, which tells the sad story of the life of S.F. Sorrow. The idea of doing rock concept album was very new at this time. And Pretty Things were among the very first to come up with a rock album; but in my opinion this is not what makes "S.F. Sorrow" a classic album. The album's strength is clearly the music; though the story is quite interesting too.
The catchy "S.F. Sorrow", driven by great acoustic guitars, gives the album the perfect start. The song almost has hit-record potentials.
The musically more complex "Bracelets" follows. It's a song in the same vein as their great "progressive" 1967 single "Defecting Grey". The song did not make it to the charts, but I remember that it got some airplay here in Denmark in 1967-68. The song is featured here as a bonus-track.
"She Says Good Morning" indicates that the Pretty Things were also inspired by the Beatles' "Revolver" album.
"Private Sorrow" is another great track - the flute and the acoustic guitars almost sounding like Jethro Tull.
The dramatic "Ballon Burning" tells the dramatic story of the "Hindenburg" crash in which Sorrow's girlfriend dies
"The mysterious "Baron Saturday" enters the story in the song of the same title. Great Beatle-like vocals.
Musically some of the last tracks are obviously songs that serve to tie the story together and not meant to stand alone.
2 tracks stand out, though. "Trust" and the sad but very beautiful finale "The loneliest Person" featuring only an acoustic guitar and Phil May's vocals.
The 4 bonus tracks are 2 Columbia singles released in 1967-68. All good songs and musically fitting perfectly into the rest of the album.
This album is a milestone in the Pretty Things' career!
'SF Sorrow', as many have noted is one of the great lost-albums of the era - it deserves to be ranked alongside such albums as 'Piper at the Gates of Dawn' & 'Sgt Pepper'- & belongs to a wider range of psychedelic-classics such as 'Odessey & Oracle' (The Zombies),'Surrealistic Pillow' (Jefferson Airplane)& 'Younger Than Yesterday' (The Byrds). It's also one of the first concept-albums - without it, I'm not sure if any of the following would exist: 'Tommy', 'The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway', 'The Dark Side of the Moon', 'Diamond Dogs', 'The Wall' etc (this may or may not be a good thing for some...).
'SF Sorrow' seems to completely define that British-take on psychedelia - producer Norman Smith ('Arnold Layne', 'See Emily Play') perfectly captures these perfect songs as The Pretty Things psych'd-out!!! The original-thirteen tracks are remastered & blend together wonderfully; while the four-bonus tracks include the bizarre see-sawing-schizo-epic 'Defecting Grey' (drifting from raga to psych to full-on lo-fi punk & off into sinister drones that the Floyd would borrow heavily from) & 'Talkin' About the Good Times'- which sounds like a mellowier-Who...
The album itself is perfect, every track a killer- I wonder why it hasn't been sampled to death by some pioneering electronicartist? It sounds even better than the post-modern sixties stylings of The Dukes of Stratosphear & The Wondermints- possibly as it was the real thing (...just sadly overlooked at the time). 'Baron Saturday' is probably my favourite- having loops that remind me of M83 & DJ Shadow, a percussive-middle that reminds me of Can's 'Halleluwah' & a Lennonesque-vocal that cuts across the Sydesque one! 'I See You' predicts Ride of 'Going Blank Again', while 'She Says Good Morning' offers up a groovy-alternative to The Small Faces (sounding like a blissed-out 'Song of the Baker').
'SF Sorrow' is a complete cult-classic, one that is perfect in this budget-price, remastered edition (replete with great pics, lyrics & sleevenotes). A highlight of my retro-take on the sixties and of its time and timeless; a lost psychedelic classic from 1968-
on 21 February 2004
I have never understood why this album had so little impact. Its been quoted as Pete Townshend's influence for Tommy etc etc but still gets ignored. Its not a typical Pretty Things album. It was sandwiched between their mid-sixties R&B and the much harder feel of 1968's "Parachute", yet its strongest element is the melodies that light up every song. There's not a weak track on it, its superbly played and sung, and it manages to tell a story without feeling awkward. Many groups have made a fortune out of crud. The Prettys produced a diamond and still haven't made it.
on 6 April 2014
I bought the lp to impress a dwarf and a pair of Siamese trapeze artistes and a strongman and a sword swallower I was tiring to hook up with a couple of seasons ago out by the bluff but it all backfired on me when the sheriff got wind of my moonshine operation after hearing me play the tittle track a little loudly in back of my place. When I get out of this place I swear I'm a gonna get that sonofagun.
The Pretty Things' "S.F. Sorrow" didn't exactly set the world on fire when it was released and, like a few albums from that era, was only recognised by the world as an important record of its time some decades later. Released the same week as The Beatles' "White" Album and another truly great album which virtually got ignored at the time, The Kinks' "Village Green Preservation Society", "S. F. Sorrow" is reputedly the first rock opera, ever. It tells the story of Sebastian F. Sorrow from birth ("S.F. Sorrow Is Born") to his demise, via work, love ("She Says Good Morning"), war ("Private Sorrow"), the death of his fiancée ("Balloon Burning" and "Death"), psychedelic trips ("Baron Saturday"), self-discovery ("The Journey" and "I See You") and depression ("Loneliest Person").
It's certainly a very innovative piece of work and was a ground-breaking album at the time in terms of structure and ambition. Do I actually think it's any good, though? Well, I certainly don't think it's one of the greatest albums of all time, as many people seem to. Musically, it's a little uninspiring and repetitive in places and its real appeal lies in the rich, interesting lyrics, although some songs stand out such as "Private Sorrow" which has a Jethro Tull feel to it, the bouncy "Baron Saturday" has a great hook and "Loneliest Person" has a vulnerable pathos which makes it the easiest song on the whole album to connect with on an emotional level. Oddly enough, the bonus tracks on my CD edition, such as the early Pink Floyd-sounding "Defecting Grey" and the more straight-forward poppy psychedelia of "Walking Through My Dreams" are amongst the most enjoyable tracks on this re-issue.
I suppose, when it comes down to it, there are other albums and groups from the same era I much prefer. The Small Faces' "Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake", for example, has the same eccentric creativity but manages to be more enjoyable, The Zombies' "Odyssey and Oracle" has a greater melodic appeal to it, The Kinks' "Village Green Preservation Society" captures the human condition more effectively, The Move's debut, "Move" managed to be heavy, psychedelic but also more musically rich than this album and, let's face it, The Beatles' "White Album" is just plain better. So, no, I don't think this album is a masterpiece, certainly when you compare it to what else was around at the time but I definitely like it and there is plenty I appreciate on a creative level. I just wish that appreciation translated into an actual tangible love for "S.F. Sorrow", but, quite honestly, I don't truly love it and I doubt I ever will.
on 23 May 2000
One of the biggest missing Link in the 60's Rock'n Roll history is uncovered before us. This late 60's "WORLD FIRST" Rock Opera sure gives you a psychedelic smash by its variety of tone, changing rhythm, Phil May's heartful vocal- sometimes ardent, dreaming, desperate etc etc - and its unity as total Rock Opera,
But, why Pretty couldn't be on majour stream? It must be because they are not so easy. Because It's difficult to make catchy copy for them. They started as British R&B band, but have gone through Psychedelic, Colledge Rock, Minimal Rock, Gram style, and all the more as one of pioneers.
If you have not tried Pretty, I fully recommend you this album "SF SORROW" and/or "PARACHUTE"(Rolling Stone's best album of 1970). You sure will find great work of careful composition and Rock & Pop musical experimentalism and 'real emotion', which all good music sure have to have.
on 22 March 2002
Arguably the first concept album ever, released in 1967, featuring love traumatised and socially alienated Sebastian F Sorrow wandering around New York in a bizarre nightmare, this predates Tommy & Lamb Lies down and The Wall by years. Up there with The Stone, The Beatles and The Floyd, The Pretty Things are probably the biggest missing link in rock history, and certainly the most under-rated.
Tightly plotted, extraordinarily powerful, perfectly arranged and beautifully concise, this might be the band's "psychedelic" phase, but we're talking SONGS here, great tunes, played brilliantly with real emotion. And it really rocks with guitars all over the place. A quick plug for their follow up album too: "Parachute" (1970), the only Rolling Stone album of the year that didn't go Platinum!
Stand out tracks:
Bracelets of fingers
Well of destiny
on 27 July 2000
I'm amazed that it didn't sell hugely when it was released in 1967 (I suppose there was a lot of great music about then). There are very few albums I have encountered which use such a range of styles and can generate such a broad sweep of atmospheres and emotions. If you like late 60s British psycedelic rock there is nothing, as far as I'm concerned, with as much combined talent, whimsy, and where necessary, punch. I think it surpasses Tommy (its nearest rock opera rival in age and quallity)and should be regarded as one of the greatest albums of that decade. If you like Sgt. Pepper's, Pipers at the Gates of Dawn, or any of the other epoch making records of the time this is an essential buy.
on 11 October 2013
The Pretty Things were one of many R&B bands operating in the mid-60s. Their reputation was that of a band even scruffier than the Stones! By 1967 though, they had lost three of their original members; guitarist Brian Pendleton, bass player John Stax, and their flamboyant drummer Viv Prince. Prince was replaced by Skip Allen as early as 1965, and singer Phil May and guitarist Dick Taylor had brought in Wally Allen and John Povey to complete the line-up. They then embarked on a radical change of direction, more in keeping with the psychedelic times. Out of this came `Defecting Grey', a classic piece of psychedelia that was cruelly edited and so lost out on chart success. By then, however, Phil May had come up with the idea of `S.F.Sorrow', a concept album showing the life of an imaginary character. Its influence on Tommy is well catalogued, but it did not enjoy much success at the time.
It's worth pondering on why exactly S.F.Sorrow fared so badly, as it's now placed in the category of 60s classic - at least on the insert of this CD, where it's (rather extravagantly) placed in the company of `Sgt. Pepper' and Pink Floyd's `Piper at the gates of Dawn. To start with, it's a very dark album, and though filled with imaginative arrangements and great riffs it tells a story that's quite at odds with the optimism of the times. One track, `Death', even has the sound of soil falling, while the closing `Loneliest Person' is unremittingly bleak. Lyrically, lines like `Excuse me please as I wipe a tear away from an eye that sees there's nothing left to trust' and `Hopscotch of life will lead you to the grave' simply don't sit easily in the happy, trippy, positive 60s. No, it doesn't surprise me that the public just didn't take to S.F.Sorrow at all. Unfortunately, that's the price you pay for being ahead of your time.
For now Phil May and Co. are hopefully getting the reward they deserve. Yes, it's a dark album, but one that is uniformly excellent; great guitars, vocals, great tunes, experimentation, a storyline that works, it's all here. Plus there are bonus tracks that are excellent, including the full sitar-drenched version of Defecting Grey, their fabulous Talkin' about the good times, a booklet with the story and lyrics, not to mention the tale of how it all came about. My only gripe is that it's all in mono. Glorious mono, it says in the insert. Well, pardon me, but mono is only glorious when it comes from an old 7" single being played on my Dansette! I'll be hanging on to my stereo vinyl reissue for a while, but this CD is still an essential purchase for any 60s fan.