Album Review: The Pretty Things — S.F. Sorrow
The 1968 album S.F. Sorrow by The Pretty Things is an exemplar of a band, pushed to the wall, rising to the occasion and producing a classic. Prior to this, the Pretties were thought of as more-Stones-than-the-Stones, with their raw, r&b-based rock. S.F. Sorrow would change all that. The loose narrative is based on a short story by guitarist Phil May; nobody would claim that the story was focused, but then the same could be said of The Who’s Tommy, a work admittedly influenced by S.F. Sorrow.
The music is by turns rocking, folky (in an English way) and psychedelic. Yet it’s fully grounded. The group drew upon latent abilities to create a work rich in harmonies, instrumentation and dynamics.
The 2008 release on Sundazed is extra-special. Pressed on virgin vinyl in a beautiful blue hue from the original analog masters, it’s a clone of the original US release. Every detail is perfect, right down to the gatefold sleeve. The word “STEREO” appears in big letters, just like in ’68. The only concessions to modernity are a tastefully-placed Sundazed logo and a UPC code (or “mark of the beast” if you’re Pat Robertson).
But none of that would matter if S.F. Sorrow weren’t an amazing album. It is. It’s a time capsule that takes the listener back to one of 1968’s best releases.
About the Author
With a background in marketing and advertising, Bill Kopp got his professional start writing for Trouser Press. After a stint as Editor-in-chief for a national music magazine, Bill launched Musoscribe in 2009, and has published new content every business day since then (and every single day since 2018). The 4000-plus interviews, essays, and reviews on Musoscribe reflect Bill's keen interest in American musical forms, most notably rock, jazz, and soul. His work features a special emphasis on reissues and vinyl. Bill's work also appears in many other outlets both online and in print. He regularly hosts lecture/discussions on artists and albums of historical importance (including monthly events Music to Your Ears and Music Movie Mondays), and is a frequent guest on music-focused radio programs and podcasts. In Spring 2023 he is co-teaching a history of Rock 'n' Roll at UNC Asheville's College for Seniors. He also researches and authors liner notes for album reissues -- more than 30 to date -- and co-produced a reissue of jazz legend Julian "Cannonball" Adderley's final album. His first book, Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to The Dark Side of the Moon was published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2018, and in paperback in 2019. His second book, Disturbing the Peace: 415 Records and the Rise of New Wave, was published in 2021 by HoZac Books. His third book, What's the Big Idea: 40 Great Concept Albums will be published in 2024. Read even more about him here.