The Millennium - Begin
Apr 21, 2021 (updated Apr 22, 2021)
One of my favourite hidden gems from the 60's

Begin is possibly the best example of Sunshine-Pop in its purest form, as opposed to the array of artists that only used it as part of their sound, like the Baroque Pop of Pet Sounds, the Pop Rock of Village Green Preservation Society, or the Psychedelic Pop of Sgt. Pepper. Having said that, The Beach Boys would make some great Sunshine Pop in the late 60's/early 70's with Friends and with Sunflower, but I'll remain adamant that this is the record that should be most sought out.

Built around the writing, vocals and even production of Curt Boettcher, The Millennium was a 7-piece band, that included 5 people playing guitar and singing. This particular record is notable as being the second album to use 16-track recording and the group made the most out of that here. Wonderfully lush music that sweeps you in with its fantastic harmonies, both in the instruments and in the vocals, and with the individual melodies that grab your attention instantly and have you singing along by the end of the song.

While Boettcher might be the group's leader, all seven have at least one writing credit on the project. Drummer Ron Edgar and bassist/key player wrote Prelude; Sandy Salisbury wrote 5 A.M.; Michael Fennelly and Joey Stec seem to be a duo, writing 3 tracks together. Lee Mallory is the one person who matches up to Boettcher's productivity, writing 3 songs with him and like Boettcher, wrote 3 solo.

Opener, Prelude immediately lets you know you're in for an interesting, but wonderful time. Harpsichord and drums make up the core parts of this track, with a handful of playful shifts through the layering of other keys. This interesting mix sounds ripe for sampling and actually has already been sampled by Future Pilot A.K.A, Nobody and even Madlib.

To Claudia on Thursday is the first song with vocals. It has a simple chord progression in the verses but in between verses and in the choruses it swells into the lovely summery harmonies that we'll get to experience across the entire record. The bass playing is especially fun, as it almost feels like it's moving to its own groove, but is still giving the song a lovely bounce. The lyrics are romantic and basic, but have enough of a poetic flair that they can still be appreciated:

"Let the heavens kiss you with the breeze
Let the sunshine see you through the trees
Don't give a thought to anything in the world
But you and me"

Much of the album can be described in a relatively similar manner to the above. The verses are simple but allow the choruses to flourish, the instrumentation likes to build across each track to lovely finishes and pop-friendly crescendos, the melodies are catchy as hell and the lyrics warm, inviting and easily understood. Though, through these boundaries each track finds its own identity, leaning in different directions, some more experimental or more pop, happier or sadder, acoustic or electric. So I don't bog down the review or spoil too much of the album I'll mention a few quick favourites:

I Just Want to be Your Friend has a more melancholic mood. At the helm of this are the vocals and an electric guitar that direct the song in a darker direction. There are a few moments that lighten up a little bit, but for the most part the track drifts through in a soft bittersweet way.

The Island is bit of a cheesy track, but it's also immaculately produced. A tad more psychedelic than others, it has a gentle, warm haze that gets almost spiritually lifted through the wonderful vocal harmonies. The dreamy vocals come together on the chorus magically. The bridge takes the song to psychedelic places with unusual lyrics before a light key change to the chorus to close out.

I Know It All, comes across as a much more Rock leaning song, similar to the Kinks early 70's stuff. There's a trumpet that pops in and out as it pleases while the drums and guitars turn up the action like they're trying to fill dancefloor. The shifts into and out of the chorus are brilliant. A more political track, it tackles the way some groups of people don't like others questioning their beliefs:

"Hanging from the stony wall
One they called the Know It All
They'll take away your crystal ball
'Cause you said you saw"

Karmic Dream Sequence #1, at 6 minutes long is at least 2 minutes longer than any other track here. It uses this time to push a few musical boundaries and not just stick around within one area like the other tracks. It starts out quite dreamy, with light psychedelic elements thrown in here and there, but by the 2 minute mark the song moves further and further away from the Pop-friendly nature of the rest of the album. For the last 2 minutes the song fully shifts, letting a South East Asian instruments take full control of the track, fully embracing the psychedelia for the outro.

There Is Nothing More To Say is a little unique, in that it's the only track here penned by 3 members. It's also my favourite track on the album. A simple ballad, but the vocal performance is easily the most emotive and powerful on the the record and the music backing them pushes those emotions to their max.

Sadly I'm not the biggest fan of the closing track which feels a little bit like it's just being weird for the sake of weirdness. This also leads me to my tiny complaint with the record, which is that there are a few tracks that feel a bit dated. Though that would be a little hard to avoid since the record is over 50 years old.

Beside those small issues, Begin is a fantastic album! It manages to capture a wonderful part of the the era that is was created in, but also remains timeless through its use of gorgeous melodies, harmonies and instrumentation.

Favourites: Prelude, I Just Want to be Your Friend, The Island, Sing to Me, I Know It All, Karmic Dream Sequence #1, There's Nothing More to Say
Least Favs: Anthem (Begin)

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