The Turtles – Happy Together

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Part I: The Background

The Turtles’ third LP, Happy Together, came not long after the release of the single of the same name, which was the group’s biggest hit since their 1965 cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe”. The album is a solid demonstration of the group’s pop rock leanings, with a hint of a psychedelic influence creeping in every now and then. Howard Kaylan wrote three of the album’s tracks, as did the Bonner and Gordon songwriting duo, who penned the title track.

 

Part II: The Music

Makin’ My Mind Up: A peppy horn arrangement kicks off the album on a vibrant note. It’s the upbeat drum patterns and the enthusiastic handclaps that give this song its joyous feel. The backing vocals definitely have a psychedelic resonance to them. Lyrically, this is a pretty straightforward pop song in which the singer pledges to elope with his beloved. The track’s youthful optimism, however, seems a little out of touch with some of the more substantial lyrical content of the time. Sure, the summer of love was all about preaching, well, love, but this sort of doe-eyed love song feels like it would have fit in better with the musical climate a year or two prior. RATING: 8/10

Guide for the Married Man: This almost comes across as a novelty song, and with good reason. This is the title track for a 1967 film of the same name. The horn-touting arrangement and echo-drenched backing vocals add texture to the upbeat tune, though the string arrangement does come across as a bit sappy. RATING: 4/10

Think I’ll Run Away: Here, on the other hand, the strings help to set the pensive mood. “Think I’ll Run Away” is a moody, introspective track with one of the album’s best melodies, though the chorus seems to hover lazily on the spot. The singer here is disillusioned with their mundane life, longing for something to break up the sense of monotony: “No wonder why I feel so bored / Each day’s like the one before.” In that sense, the fact that the chorus fails to go anywhere interesting has a thematic resonance, as the singer feels stifled and constrained just like the music itself. Finally, the song ends with a shift to a darker, more mysterious tone as the singer departs into the unknown. RATING: 9/10

The Walking Song: Another song about disillusionment. This time, the singer goes for a walk and encounters a woman who feels stifled by her meaningless office job and considers her life a waste of time. He then encounters a rich man who thinks life’s all about making money and who criticizes the youth for squandering their time. The singer is depressed by the perspectives of these two individuals, until he encounters a young girl who hands him a flower and tells him that the answer is love and friendship. The lyrics here are much more in tune with the zeitgeist of the time, even if the song is a bit silly overall. RATING: 5.5/10

Me About You: The droning bassline is the most interesting element of this track. It’s another love song and not a particularly interesting one at that. There’s a trumpet line that is very vaguely reminiscent of The Beatles’ Norwegian Wood. Nothing else about this track strikes me as memorable. RATING: 3/10

Happy Together: One of the best-known hits of the 60s and an anthem for the summer of love. The song famously beat out “Penny Lane” for the number one spot in the charts. And what’s not to love here? It’s got a lively arrangement, with glorious horns that blast during the chorus. It’s got an infectious, bouncy rhythm that persists throughout. It’s got that catchy dynamic contrast between the verses and the chorus—Kaylan effects a breathy vocal tone during the verses and then shifts to a louder, more chest-driven sound during the chorus. And there’s something very dark about the understated guitar lick and ghostly backing vocals that lurk beneath the verses. It’s that contrast between the content of the lyrics and the tone of the music that really makes this song a pop masterpiece. RATING: 9.5/10

She’d Rather Be With Me: Another upbeat track (there sure are a lot of those), this one with a bit of a Motown groove. If only the lyrics weren’t so cheesy. The singer goes on and on about how committed he and his girlfriend are to each other. “Me oh my, lucky guy is what I am / Tell you why, you’ll understand / She don’t fly although she can.” The only thing that really stands out here is the key change that occurs about halfway through the track. Oh, and the cowbell. Who doesn’t love some cowbell? RATING: 5/10

Too Young To Be One: This has to be one of the most bizarre bits of sequencing ever. Okay, remember how that last song was all about commitment? Well it looks like the singer has had a change of heart. Now he’s telling his girl that they were naïve and foolish to have rushed into things too quickly and that they are, in fact, not ready for that sort of commitment. The melody is wistful, but it also has a playfulness to it—again, it’s that contrast between the content and form of the track that makes it grab your attention. The undeniable highlight is the instrumental breakdown around the one-minute mark; it’s got a nice swing groove to it. RATING: 8/10

Person Without A Care: Add this to the list of playful tunes that don’t really take themselves to seriously. This one was penned by the band’s own guitarist, Al Nichol. The song’s almost British in its jolliness. Of note here are the reversed claps that kick in roughly halfway through the song. RATING: 3/10

Like The Seasons: And now for a change of pace. This acoustic ballad stands in stark contrast to the bulk of the album, what with the singer’s melancholy musings on heartbreak. Sprinkle in some tasteful strings and a baroque-sounding harpsichord, and you’ve got a nice hidden gem, though it does feel like something is missing to complete this rather bare-boned track. RATING: 6.5/10

Rugs of Woods and Flowers: Well. If this isn’t one of the most unexpected closing tracks I’ve ever encountered on an album. “Rugs of Woods and Flowers” is a bizarre, over-the-top theatrical piece. Kaylan effects an operatic vocal style in this comedic ode to manliness. It’s more silly than it is genuinely funny, but if you can look past the absurdity of it all, you can’t help but commend how adventurous this song is. It’s definitely… unique. RATING: 6/10

 

Part III: The Album

Aesthetic: The production definitely does have its moments—the reversed claps in “Person Without A Care” for instance. The fully orchestrated arrangements are a huge plus, particularly on the opening and closing songs. The album cover’s got a sense of humour: it depicts a group of uptight folks dressed in fancy black suits contrasted with the colourful Turtles lazing about in the foreground. SCORE: 3/5

Artistic Merit: Though this is a pretty straightforward pop album, it does have its sombre, introspective moments. There are a number of songs, however, that do feel like fluff. Overall, this album isn’t really meant to be anything other than fun. SCORE: 1/5

Flow: I’m not sure whether I want to praise or condemn whoever thought it was a good idea to put “She’d Rather Be With Me” and “Too Young To Be One” back to back. Setting that aside, this is one of those albums that really revolves around its singles—look past them and you’ll find a decent collection of songs that don’t really mesh together in any meaningful or engaging sort of way. SCORE: 2/10

CLOSING REMARKS: If you’re looking for an album that has all the magic and pop craftsmanship of the title track, you’ve come to the wrong place. What you’ll get instead is decent collection of tunes that highlight both the strengths and the weaknesses of the group.

FINAL SCORE: 55

 

 

 

 

 

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