the pretty things 3rd album, originally released in may of 1967, is one that they themselves hate, even to this day.
from the start, it was to be a departure from the raucous r&b sounds of the first two albums, what with the pretties developing their songwriting skills and beginning to write more and more lyrics about the swinging London scene in which they lived.
however, in a fateful decision made halfway through the recording sessions, their record company, Fontana, in a woefully misguided attempt to create a more "progressive" sound, overdubbed the arrangements of most of the songs with horns and strings. now, if you are a pretty things fan, you know that horns and strings are NOT what the pretty things are about. unfortunately, though, Fontana wanted hit records, and to them, mainstream pop arrangements by outside producers and horn and string sections on the new pretty things album was the way to go about getting them.
it really is so unfortunate that they were so out of touch with the "real" progressive sounds that were beginning to sprout ----- the sounds of psychedelia---- sounds that the pretty things already had been developing on their own, without any "help" from any record labels or outside producers. in fact, the pretty things' minds were already on a project called s.f. sorrow, which is what they really wanted to be working on. so, even though they were disgusted with the florid arrangements that were forced onto the songs, the pretty things, for probably the only time in their carrer, let someone else call the shots and finished the album so they could leave Fontana. due to the proverbial "contractual obligations", they owed Fontana one more album before they could leave, and since their heads were already on s.f. sorrow, they relented so they could sign with EMI and do the album they really wanted to do.
reading up to this point, you probably have the impression that emotions is a disaster of an album. happily, that is not the case. though by far the weakest of their 60's albums, it is by no means a total loss and contains more than a few wonderful songs. listening to it, you come to realize that this was never meant to have the raw punk sound of the first two albums nor the full-blown psychedelia of s.f. sorrow, which was to follow a year later. no, with or without the elaborate arrangements imposed upon them by their record label, this was to be a softer, more introspective album, an album in which the lyrics were written before the music was.
many of the songs have a certain wistful quality, especially evident if you listen to the album all the way through. you will also notice flashes of early psychedelia on a few songs, most notably the lyrics of growing in my mind and the rolling drums and snippets of conversation heard on children.
emotions also happens to contain one of my favorite pretty things songs, the hauntingly beautiful the sun. and with the magic of bonus tracks on this cd re-issue, you even have the opportunity to listen to a few of the songs in their pre-horn and strings phase. mind you, they still have the elaborate arrangements that were imposed upon the pretties songs by outside producers, but at least you can hear them without the intrusive horns and useless strings. so, even if you already have the vinyl lp of this record, it really might be worth your while to pick up this cd re-issue if only for the bonus tracks of songs sans horns and strings.
i will go out on a limb here and confess that i actually slightly prefer the version of the sun that originally appeared on the album complete with the overdubbed string arrangements to the stringless version. maybe it's just that i'm so used to hearing the version that was actually released, but i really believe that on this track, and only this track, the strings actually add to the melancholy beauty of the song.
some interesting tidbits: the opening track, death of a socialite, is about the same subject that the beatles song a day in the life is. the car crash, in fact, happened on the road that guitarist Dick Taylor lived on. the pretty things somehow managed to sneak the word "shit" onto the song photographer. this might not sound like a big deal these days, but 40 years ago it was just not done. the song tripping is about their friend Donovan. house in the country is a Kinks song they were forced to cover in Fontana's desperate attempts at a hit single since the record company felt that the pretty things own material wasn't "commercial" enough.