The Last of the 1969 Albums on My 1000 Favorite Albums List

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Seriously, do things really have to get worse? I mean, it’s not enough that we are in the midst of the worst pandemic in one hundred years and the leadership of this country refuses to view its citizens as human beings, which as led to thousands more deaths than should have ever happened so quickly. But now, we have racial tensions blowing up everywhere? It’s simply too much! This country appears to be run by the lunatics.

Before my last teaching job, I had been pretty been a white teacher teaching white kids. Nothing wrong with that because I had more in common with the poor kids than the wealthy ones, even though my parents were college education. They were teachers who had been vastly underpaid early on in their careers, so, much like they did, I kind of embraced their working class values. Initially, when I began teaching at a very affluent high school, I was experiencing culture shock. When that school was split into two schools, I went to the new one.

It was at that high school where I actually got my education in multiculturalism, true sexual identities and tolerance. Today, many of the former students and athletes with whom I am closest are not from the same race, social standing or sexual identity as me. Back during these final years of my education career, I used to laugh that I was teaching the U.N. as I had students originally hailing from all areas of the U.S. and all over the world. But, the one thing I really noticed about all of them was, no matter their background, they were all silly teens. And, that’s what matter to me the most which made me determined to reach them.

So, what did I do? I focused on two things. First, I was going to learn as much from them as they did from me. And, second, I was going to try my best to treat them all the same. That simply meant that I expected the same effort from them but would show them compassion when needed. Also, I just kept to my self-deprecating humor in order to attempt to defuse any built in tension. I played up the irony that a guy who seems like a hick from a redneck town could possibly be teaching these highly intelligent kids from different cultures. I feel as though playing up my cultural stereotypes and making fun of it helped us all bridge the gaps between our cultures. Somehow, we connected.

So, when I see the tensions building between different segments of our society, it really pains me now. We cannot be pointing our fingers at each other and bitching about our differences. So, when what happens in Louisville or Minneapolis, as the most recent examples, I feel the pain much more acutely today than I did two decades ago. I know the African-American community is hurting, as I feel it too. I know the LGBTQ+, Muslim-American, rural white, Asian-American, Jewish, and all the other communities are troubled and scared as well. And, I feel it even more when my former students are posting things on social media that expresses their troubled souls.

But, empathy is not enough. Nor is a simple celebration of our differences. I strongly believe that are our similarities are what should be celebrated. I am sick of the finger pointing and the violence toward one another. As England Dan and John Ford Coley once sang (it’s a Todd Rundgren song!), “Love is the answer.”

Sorry! I just needed to get this off my chest. Plus, I really didn’t want the trolls on social media ruining this thought. Anyway, let’s finish off the Sixties portion of my huge list of albums.

5.29 The Band - The Band

The Band – The Band (1969). The former backing band of Bob Dylan reach their creative pinnacle on this album that examines the culture of rural American more deeply than on their debut the previous year. It’s also the last album on which The Band actually sounds unified. This album has classics like “Up on Cripple Creek,” which was their only Top 40 hits, believe it or not, and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” which became a surprise hit for Joan Baez. This album gave birth to the whole Americana movement of the late-Nineties up to today.

5.29 The Beatles - Abbey Road

The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969). This was the more fitting epithet for The Beatles than Let It Be was since Abbey Road was actually the band’s final creative work together. Everyone remembers the hits: “Something,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Come Together” and “Octopus’s Garden.” But, we all know the real highlight is Side Two’s medley. You just knew the Fab Four was not long for the world by the end of the album.

5.29 The Flying Burrito Brothers - The Gilded Palace of Sin

The Flying Burrito Brothers – Gilded Palace of Sin (1969). So, after inventing country rock with the International Submarine Band and The Byrds, then partying and writing with The Rolling Stones, Gram Parson goes to California to put together arguably the greatest country rock combo of all-time. At least, they were on this album. To me, this is the true sound of country rock and not the Eagles, who were countryish pop in my book. Or, maybe Parsons & his Burrito Brothers were truly making American Cosmic Rock? Time for a bit of honesty: I got into this band because of Elvis Costello’s Almost Blue album, his collection of country songs. My favorite song on that album was “I’m Your Toy” which is The Flying Burrito Brothers’ timeless song “Hot Burrito No. 1,” which Elvis re-titled.

5.29 The Kinks - Arthur

The Kinks – Arthur (Or the Decline of the British Empire) (1969). Man, could Ray Davies ever tell a story. And, since Face to Face, he has been tackling British culture so compassionately and thoroughly not only in a lyrical sense, but in a musical history narrative as well. This album only continued The Kinks’ hot streak of the last half of the decade. As I have said before, everyone from Paul Weller to Madness to The Stone Roses to the whole Britpop movement owe their whole careers to segment of The Kinks’ career.

5.29 The Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed

The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed (1969). So, what happens to a band whose original creative force unexpectedly passes away? That’s what happened to The Stones upon the death of guitarist Brian Jones. But, the band grabbed Mick Taylor and continued working on another classic album. The tracklist of this album nearly reads like a greatest hits package, as it contains such classic rock standards as “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Midnight Rambler” and arguably the greatest Stones song “Gimme Shelter.”

5.29 The Stooges - The Stooges

The Stooges – The Stooges (1969). The other proto-punk album released in 1969, The Stooges’ lineup contained one of rock’s more intriguing characters, Iggy Pop, who personified all things punk both in life and on the stage. I think it was required that all Seventies punks had to play “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “No Fun” live. There is a reason this band is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and this album just scratches at the surface of that reason.

5.29 The Temptations - Cloud Nine

The Temptations – Cloud Nine (1969). Motown is full of so many cool artists, but The Tempts have always stood head and shoulders above all of them, save for Stevie Wonder. The reason? They took chances in the late-Sixties, setting the stage for Marvin Gaye and Wonder’s fantastic political statements during the next decade. The Tempts took bits and pieces from James Brown, Sly Stone, psychedelia music, added their silky smooth harmonies and brought the Motown sound into the future once again. “Cloud Nine,” with that stunning Wah-Wah guitar sound, and “Runaway Child, Running Wild” bring Motown into the Civil Rights age.

5.29 The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground (1969). After two loud and abrasive albums for their time, The Velvets went a little softer, allowing the songs to breathe a bit, which sounds as jarring as their first two albums did. By allowing the songs some room, now your can fully appreciate just how beautiful their music was all along. “Pale Blue Eyes” remains one of my all-time favorite songs, and it seems like it has been covered by everyone.

5.29 The Who - Tommy

The Who – Tommy (1969). It’s not the first rock opera. That honor goes to The Pretty Things with the very strange S.F. Sorrow, which a record store clerk tried to get me to purchase back in the early Eighties (I should have listened to him). But, it was the first one to catch on with the public. So, much of it sounds dated (that deaf, dumb and blind kid) and Uncle Ernie (“Fiddle About”) is way too creepy now, but there is something magical and quaint about the album. Even though I much prefer the band’s later rock opera effort, Quadrophenia, I still love so of the songs, especially “Pinball Wizard.” And, the album did make for a pretty freakishly entertaining film.

And, that wraps up the Sixties portion of the list of My 1000 Favorite Albums. Of course, the closer we get to 1975, the more passionate I will become about these albums. Anyway, enjoy your weekend!

It’s Part 2 of 1969’s Portion of My 1000 Favorite Albums of All-Time

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I really don’t have any words of “wisdom” or interest. Let’s get another ten albums done today.

5.25 Grateful Dead - Live Dead

Grateful Dead – Live/Dead (1969). According to legend, the best way to experience The Dead was in the live setting. So, it figures that their first live album was their best. Still, it did set up the public for the band’s two finest studio albums, which were both released in 1970. If you truly think about it, The Dead could have only happened in the States since their sound was a laidback amalgamation of American music.

5.25 Isaac Hayes - Hot Buttered Soul

Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul (1969). Here is the sound of Seventies soul a year early. Actually, this album not only birthed soul but also had a hand in disco. The music is string-laden which accentuates its sexiness. Where else kind you get a twelve-minute version of Dionne Warwick’s “Walk On By” AND an 18-minute suite of Glenn Campbell’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” dripping with the sweat of a sex machine on the dance floor.

5.25 King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King

King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King (1969). Of all the prog rock bands out there, King Crimson is the darkest and the best. And, this is their finest moment. Sure, I enjoy stuff by The Moody Blues, Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull and the rest, but this is the one album that remains enthralling to this day. From Robert Fripp’s guitars to John Wetton’s bass to Ian MacDonald’s sax, this is the most interesting album that excessively pushes the boundaries of rock music.

5.25 Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin (1969). Jimmy Page, former Yardbirds guitarist and Zep’s creative visionary, took the sound of the Jeff Beck Group and set the thunderous music behind the soaring banshee vocals of Robert Plant. This stuff set the music world on fire and influenced the sound of rock well into the Nineties. Still, the heavy blues band were to attain greater heights in the very near future.

5.25 Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II (1969). I often wonder what it would have been like to have discovered Led Zeppelin in chronological order. Instead, like most my age and younger, discovered the band through their later albums and went backwards. Regardless, this album was a huge leap forward from their debut from earlier in 1969. You know the album is great when it contains a monster like “Whole Lotta Love.”

5.25 Leonard Cohen - Songs from a Room

Leonard Cohen – Songs from a Room (1969). Cohen beats the sophomore jinx with another fantastic set of great songs that includes “Bird on the Wire,” “Lady Midnight” and “Story of Isaac.” It might be a slight step-down from his 1967 debut album, but Songs from a Room makes a solid argument for his greatness.

5.25 MC5 - Kick Out the Jams

MC5 – Kick Out the Jams (1969). Isn’t it funny that punk rock was invented in Detroit and not New York City nor London. Here is the first of two landmark punk albums from Motor City bands. MC5 were the militant originators of the punk scene, while their cohorts The Stooges were the emotional counterparts. Sure, it’s always uncomfortable when so-called socialists find themselves on a major label (the very same albatross around the necks of The Clash and Rage Against the Machine). We needed their voice, even if we didn’t know it at the time. Anyway, who releases a live album as their debut? A punk band, that’s who!

5.25 Neil Young - Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

Neil Young – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969). People forget that this album was NOT Neil Young’s solo debut. That one was released FOUR months earlier and was highly polished. Now, the former member of Buffalo Springfield, connects with a ragged rock trio called Crazy Horse, and together they change the course of rock. Now, Neil is cutting loose with loud, seemingly sloppy, very grungy and altogether glorious rock music that will be influencing future rockers well into the 21st century. Included on the album, you get three Neil Young classics in “Down by the River,” “Cowgirl in the Sand” and the immortal “Cinnamon Girl.”

5.25 Santana - Santana

Santana – Santana (1969). Before their performance at Woodstock, Santana was a little-known Latin-tinged blues band from San Francisco. Then, the band performed and blew away the crowd with soaring guitar solos, manic drumming and the playing of a couple of future Journey founders. “Evil Ways” may be the big hit, but this album also contains classics such as “Jingo,” “Soul Sacrifice” and “Waiting.” By the way, Prince said his guitar sound is based on Carlos Santana’s.

5.25 Sly & the Family Stone - Stand

Sly & the Family Stone – Stand! (1969). Released a couple of months before the band’s transcendent Woodstock performance, Stand! remains a landmark album in their evolution of a rocking funk band. Sly & the Family Stone were known for being an integrated band, both in sound and in the fact that the members were both black and white. This is the band whose vision Prince co-opted for the Revolution and all subsequent bands. Plus, they tackled the civil rights questions directly on “Everyday People” and “Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey.” Throw in the title song, “Sing a Simple Song” and the anthem “I Want to Take You Higher” (the Woodstock version was a show stopper!), and you have one terrific album for a year packed with them.

If all goes well, I’ll close out the Sixties tomorrow. Then, it’s on to the decade that started this obsession of mine, the Seventies. Peace!

The History of Rock Albums: My Favorite 1000 – 1969, Part 1

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After the stress of 1968, the last year of the Seventies (although I will maintain that year should be 1970, but I digress) began serene and even a bit historical. Sure, the Vietnam War was being escalated by the Nixon Administration even though Tricky Dick actually ran for president under the guise that he would bring the boys back home; yet, we had the moon landing in July, followed by a magical confluence of time during a large musical festival called Woodstock. Unfortunately, that euphoria was countered at the end of the year with the arrest of Charles Manson and his cult followers for the murders of five people, including a pregnant actress named Sharon Tate, as well as the tragic events of The Rolling Stones’ attempt at a large musical festival at the Altamont Speedway near San Francisco that resulted in the stabbing death of a young fan by the Hell’s Angels “security” detail.

Still, with the mixed bag of events, the music released during that calendar year was epic. So epic, I will take multiple days to get through the cornucopia of noteworthy albums on my list. So, let’s get this going!

5.25 Bee Gees - Odessa

Bee Gees – Odessa (1969). Is this double album the Brothers Gibb’s Sgt. Pepper? Quite possibly. What is important to note is that this is the Bee Gees’ finest moment of the Sixties. The songs are rich, complex and memorable. This will remain their landmark of their pop music era, a half decade ahead of the whole disco transformation.

5.25 Blind Faith - BF

Blind Faith – Blind Faith (1969). This album answers the unasked question of what happens when you take the guitarist (Eric Clapton) and drummer (Ginger Baker) and put them together with wunderkind Steve Winwood and Rick Grech of Traffic and form one of the most talented supergroups ever. Let’s simply say that this album remains the best album in any of the foursome’s individual catalogs. Unfortunately, this was the band’s first and final official release. The album is notorious for the unfortunate album cover, which takes away from a fantastic album.

5.25 Bob Dylan - Nashville Skyline

Bob Dylan – Nashville Skyline (1969). So, Bob Dylan suffers a serious motorcycle accident two years ago, and the public anticipation for this album was high. What we got was a country album recorded in Nashville with some of country music’s hottest hired guns. The transformation was stunning at the time, but it displayed the growth and mastery of many forms of music that Dylan had at his disposal. Unfortunately, Dylan would soon go into a creative funk until the mid-Seventies.

5.25 Captain Beefheart - Trout Mask Replica

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – Trout Mask Replica (1969). This album takes some patience to get through one time let alone enough times to fully understand what the hell is going on. While the music sounds unprofessional and abstract and unrehearsed, it was all highly choreographed and structured. The music is jarring and unsettling, which reflected the conditions under which the Captain taught his band members. I cannot begin to even list all of the future artists that list this album as an influence because that list would run from Sonic Youth to Camper Van Beethoven to Pixies to Nirvana, either directly or indirectly.

5.25 Chicago - CTA

Chicago – Chicago Transit Authority (1969). Many of you think you know the band Chicago. Let’s just say that did NOT begin as a soft rock ballad band. As a matter of fact, guitarist Terry Kath remains one of the most underappreciated rock guitar gods of all-time. The man was a musical genius who, much like Brian Wilson before him, could only describe or sing the music in his head to the rest of the band without the ability to write the charts. Unfortunately, drugs, alcohol and an unfortunate penchant for guns led to his untimely death in 1978. Oh, yeah! This rest of this rocking jazz-influenced band was so hot that none other than Jimi Hendrix was a major fan.

5.25 Creedence Clearwater Revival - Bayou Country

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bayou Country (1969). Talk about a band whose star burnt bright and quick, CCR released not two but three great albums during 1969. And, they were all full of hit songs! This album has the title song and a number that has nearly been hijacked by Ike & Tina Turner called “Proud Mary.”

5.25 Creedence Clearwater Revival - Green River

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River (1969). Released a couple of weeks before their stellar Woodstock performance, John Fogerty’s songs reached a creative peak that would burn for another year. What can you say about an album that contains “Bad Moon Rising”?

5.25 CCR - Willy and the Poor Boys

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Willy & the Poorboys (1969). The third album of the great CCR 1969 trilogy just might be the band’s best. This San Francisco band who bucked the psychedelia trend of the city’s music seen by taking on a swampy traditional rock sound perfected the veiled face slap political comment with “Fortunate Son.” Then, CCR turned around and created the foundation for the early career of The Doobie Brothers with “Down on the Corner.” CCR had to be the band of the year in 1969.

5.25 CSN - CSN

Crosby, Stills & Nash – Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969). Crosby left The Byrds, Stills left Buffalo Springfield and Nash left The Hollies. And they came together to record an album best known for the trio’s impeccable vocal harmonies. Their influence continues on in the work of most notably Fleet Foxes and, maybe, Bon Iver.

5.25 Dusty Springfield - Dusty in Memphis

Dusty Springfield – Dusty in Memphis (1969). Someone had the audacity to bring the UK’s finest female soul singer to Memphis, the heart of Southern USA soul, to record an album whose stature only continues to grow over time. This album just might be my favorite from this stellar year. Classic songs are stuffed on this album, which almost makes it play like a greatest hits album. My favorites are “Son of a Preacher Man,” “Breakfast in Bed,” “Just One Smile” and, best of all, “Just a Little Lovin’.” Every budding female contestant on those stupid TV singing contest shows should be required to listen to this album in addition to Etta James’ At Last! Make a rule that we will take away all of your Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey albums unless you do some research! For Chrissakes!

Sorry people, but 1969 will take some time. Later!

My 1000 Favorite Albums – 1968

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If you know your history, 1968 was a very tumultuous year. From the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy to the USSR invasion of Czechoslovakia to the mass murder of protesting students in Mexico to the Civil Rights fight in the USA to the violent demonstrations in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention to the US black athletes protests before and during the Summer Olympics, there just seemed to have been civil unrest throughout the world. Dylan had put succinctly when he sang that the times were a-changing. And, the music of the time reflected what was happening.

Basically, not unlike today, we were witnessing a clash of ideas. Would the society continue down a road of progressive ideas or would it tighten things up and attempt to put everything back into an order that made people feel comfortable? As we now know, it was the latter. Today, it seems to be working in the opposite direction, especially here in the States: will society be every man (or woman) for himself (herself), or will we find a unity?

In 1968, the music reflected much of the same thought. On one hand, you have The Beatles looking backward a bit, giving each member a side to express his creative needs, all the while, The Velvet Underground were moving forward into a new frontier. And, in between those extremes were all kinds of mixed signals. For example, many conservatives were comforted by Johnny Cash’s reemergence although he was speaking to progressive ideas. Similarly, liberals were taken by the music of Bob Dylan proteges The Band’s music but missing the whole expression of the angst felt by people throughout the American South.

Now, with over 50 years of hindsight, we can truly put the finest music of that year into some proper prospective, with the romanticism that will infect my era of 1975 through 1995. At least I can admit that. Perhaps, that is what will always make rock music so great is that it will appeal to the young so viscerally. Once day, it will take my boys to put my era’s music in proper perspective since I am probably too close to it. And, that, my friends, is the way it should be done.

Anyway, let’s do this thing!

5.24 Aretha Franklin - Lady Soul

Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul (1968). Aretha took the title of the Queen of Soul with this album. Much as she had done with “Respect,” Franklin re-imagined Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” into a woman’s power moment. By taking a simple pop song and turning it into a sexually-charged statement of woman empowerment, Franklin put her foot down that she was not going to take it anymore. And the whole album, as well as her career trajectory, followed suit.

5.24 Big Brother & the Holding Company - Cheap Thrills

Big Brother & the Holding Company – Cheap Thrills (1968). After the band burst onto the scene during the previous year’s Monterrey Pop Festival, much was expected by this San Francisco psychedelic blues band. Fronting the band was a talented but hard-living leather-lunged blues belter named Janis Joplin. And, the musicians were no slouches either. With songs like “Piece of My Heart” and “Ball and Chain” anchoring the album, it seemed obvious that Janis’ star was going to eclipse her band, for better or for worse.

5.24 Blood, Sweat & Tears - Child Is Father to the Man

Blood, Sweat & Tears – Child Is Father to the Man (1968). In the post-Sgt. Pepper rock world, all ideas were on the table. The Moody Blues and Procol Harum ushered in a thing called progressive, or prog, rock. Now, musicians were seeking to incorporate elements of all kinds of music into their sound. So, when keyboardist Al Kooper put together BS&T, he was out to mix elements of the blues, rock, classical and jazz into his band’s sound. And, in doing so, BS&T set the stage for a commercial juggernaut called Chicago. Unfortunately, Kooper did not stick around for the huge commercial success that was in store for the band.

5.24 Jeff Beck Group - Truth

Jeff Beck Group – Truth (1968). After Clapton’s success with Cream, the reputation of The Yardbirds’ ghost got a further boost upon the release of this album. Beck build the foundation for the heavy rock sound that his fellow former Yardbird guitarist graduate Jimmy Page would ride in Led Zeppelin. Furthering Beck’s reputation was his discovery of future Faces and Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood and vocalist extraordinaire Rod Stewart. This group did everything that Zep became famous for a whole year earlier by using a thunderous rhythm section and a re-imagining of Willie Dixon blues numbers into a proto-heavy metal sound. Simply think of a pre-cheesy Rod Stewart fronting the Zep with a guitarist who can literally make a guitar sound any way he wants, and you have the Jeff Beck Group.

5.24 Johnny Cash - At Folsom Prison

Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison (1968). Next to Tina Turner’s 1984 comeback, this is rock’s second greatest return to form. Before this album, Cash was a down-and-out drug addict was creatively adrift. However, it was letters from prisoners and other so-called losers in life who revived Cash’s musical passion. He realized that he spoke for all the outcasts in the world. So, he started his comeback by recording this album in the very prison he once sang about. The great thing is that the prisoners’ reactions are real and sincere, not doctored. And, of course, Johnny was simply badass. This album is rock music stripped to its renegade essence, even though it appealed to the country crowd. I often wonder if the general population actually heard his lyrics.

5.24 Laura Nyro - Eli and the Thirteenth Confession

Laura Nyro – Eli and the Thirteenth Confession (1968). I must confess that I was originally pissed when I read that Laura Nyro was being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a performer and not a songwriter. Honestly, I LOVE all of the 5th Dimension and Three Dog Night versions of her songs, like “Stoned Soul Picnic,” “Eli’s Comin'” and, most spectacularly, “Wedding Bell Blues.” Then, I heard this album, and all that vitriol was removed. This is the point where the confessional singer/songwriter genre was born. Nyro’s vocal and lyrical honesty are accompanied by minimal music landscapes that do two things. First, it enhances her sound, and, second, nods to the greatness of Leonard Cohen’s debut album the year before.

5.24 Simon and Garfunkel - Bookends

Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends (1968). Oh, Paul Simon, you sly little booger! When I was a teen, I wrote your stuff off as easy listening crap. Then, as I hit my twenties, I thought, “My God! This man is brilliant!” How could you do that to me? Oh, how insidious you are to draw my parents into your music, yet use your lyrics to influence us youngsters. You must be sitting with Lorne Michaels, just knowing how you two did not change YOUR generation, but MINE! Sure, my five-year-old self LOVED “Mrs. Robinson” yet was not ready for the very same cynicism I would one day feel about this country all ready expressed by you in “America.” Then, you let The Bangles redo “A Hazy Shade of Winter” to be used in a film indicting my generation’s initial run from taking reigns of society, Less Than Zero. You have always been twenty steps ahead of everyone when the ignorant actually believe you are a couple of decades behind. Better late than never!

5.24 The Band - Music from Big Pink

The Band – Music from Big Pink (1968). I will never be able to sing the praises of The Band loud enough. These five men were the most individually talented men, with three of them able to handle lead vocals. And, when they sang together, it was never in harmony, but as if each voice were straining to take the reigns of the song from the other members, much like their vocal heroes The Staple Singers. And how does four Canadians and an American from the South create the definitive sound of a genre we now call Americana? They will go on to perfect this sound on their next album, but the groundwork was completed here. This album includes their version of the Dylan standard “I Shall Be Released,” with some of the most heartbreaking vocals by Richard Manuel, and the legendary “The Weight,” during which Levon Helms and Rick Danko trade leads. What a debut album!

5.24 The Beatles - The Beatles

The Beatles – The Beatles (aka ‘The White Album’) (1968). Recently, Todd Rundgren stated that this album was the least Beatle album. And, he meant that this was the sound of the band at its most estranged, with each member playing as a backing band for the other. Camaraderie is dead on this album. And, it you throw out some of the stupid songs (“Rock Raccoon”) and the experimental montages (“Revolution #9”), you might have a decent album. But, to my ears, this is a case of “more is more,” not necessarily quality. But, when the boys are on, they are transcendent, such as George’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” or Paul’s Beach Boys ode “Back in the USSR.” Still, it’s The Beatles, so it is a major statement.

5.24 The Byrds - Sweetheart of the Rodeo

The Byrds – Sweetheart of the Rodeo (1968). The Byrds were ready to spread their wings, so to speak, and move on from the folk rock sound they helped birth. So, they turned to Gram Parsons, visionary leader of the country rock innovators The International Submarine Band, who helped the band move toward said sound. Parsons had joined the band to replace a departed David Crosby. While many maintain Parsons exerted his creative control over the band, that wasn’t the case as future McGuinn and Hillman projects all had that country rock sound. This album set the stage for the highs of other Parsons projects, The Flying Burrito Brothers and his solo career, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, as well as the more poppish sounds of the Eagles.

5.24 The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Electric Ladyland

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland (1968). This was Hendrix most visionary album, period. On it, you hear Hendrix taking the blues in all sorts of directions that would influence disparate artists like George Clinton’s Parliafunkadelicment Empire, Sly & the Family Stone, Prince, Rick James, Earth, Wind & Fire, Red Hot Chili Peppers, to mention but a few. For my money, this is the Hendrix album to own.

5.24 The Kinks - The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society

The Kinks – The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968). While this album lacks the big hit song that will be remembered for perpetuity, this just might be the band’s most cohesive album statement. This album has taught me more about a romanticized English life than any book every could evoke. That’s what makes this album such a delightful listening.

5.24 The Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet (1968). After a quick detour through some psychedelic crap, The Stones rediscovered their Chuck Berry/Blues-influenced sound, embraced a huge dose of darkness to plow a path into their most creatively satisfying period. And it all begins on this albums first track, the tongue-in-cheek “Sympathy for the Devil.” That track sets the tone that The Stones were ready to take rock into a new, more dangerous direction. If the opening track didn’t warn you, then everyone’s ears perked upon their first listen to their eternal paean to social unrest “Street Fighting Man.” The gauntlet had finally been thrown down that the youth were not settling for the status quo.

5.24 The Small Faces - Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake

The Small Faces – Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake (1968). Everyone was making a psychedelic album back then, so why shouldn’t The Small Faces? But this album is not just another concept album, it is a masterpiece of the moment. Maybe, it’s impact has been lost over time, as Sgt. Pepper and even Tommy have established themselves as the anchors of a Mount Rushmore of the concept album. But this forgotten gem should be unearthed and given new life. Like its brother of a different mother, The Village Green Preservation Society, it tells the story of British life that never really happened. The album is packed with terrific songs, though “Lazy Sunday” remains my personal favorite.

5.24 The Velvet Underground - White Light White Heat

The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat (1968). So, in 1967, The Velvets invented punk rock. Here, the band jettisons Nico and subsequently invents post-punk rock. There is nothing else that I can say about this album. Of course, it barely sold any copies until my generation of musicians heard it. It’s dark, scary, abrasive yet beautiful, all at the same time.

5.24 The Zombies - Odessey and Oracle

The Zombies – Odessey and Oracle (1968). Talk about a slow-burner, this album was delayed until the band had broken up and never really found an appreciative audience until LA’s Paisley Underground scene gave the album its due in the mid-Eighties. And, now, it is considered a classic of baroque pop and rock. Best remembered for the sexy hit song “Time of the Season,” this album is actually one of the best things of the Sixties. I cannot oversell it.

5.24 Van Morrison - Astral Weeks

Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (1968). No one bought this album back in the day. It had NO hit songs. No one played it on the radio. Yet, today, this is considered to be Van Morrison’s greatest musical statement. So, what gives? This mystical blend of jazz, rock, Celtic and soul music it a beautiful statement. This IS art. Listen to it out in the country, in the deep woods, on the beach, in your bedroom. I don’t care! Just like to it as a more vanilla version of this sound will become elevator Muzak and New Age music (is there really a difference?) but long after the essence of this music has been removed. Even though I feel asleep to this album EVERY damn time, it’s not because it’s horrible or boring. Nay! It’s beautiful, relaxing and pastoral. Everyone I have recommended this to has said the same thing.

See you later!

My 1000 Favorite Albums, 1967

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Okay! The headline is a bit of misnomer, since I did cover two important albums from the year known as the Summer of Love. 1967 has been romanticized into some mystical time, and maybe it really was. I don’t have any firsthand knowledge. Being a cynic, I tend to think not, but there was a plethora of great albums released that year. Some of those albums are artifacts of that year, while others were transcendent. Some are even probably more known for their cultural impact than the actual music.

1967 was a watershed moment for album-based music as FM radio stations began to pop up around the country to play this music that was never meant for AM pop radio. So, in many ways the year was revolutionary in many ways. Regardless of its true place in history, here are the rest of my favorite albums from that year.

5.22 Cream - Disraeli Gears

Cream – Disraeli Guns (1967). Every subsequent power trio, from The Jimi Hendrix Experience to Rush to Triumph, must give a nod to this band. Disraeli Guns is the album in which these three musical visionaries, put aside their volatile chemistry and created some fine rock music, especially on “Strange Brew” and “White Room.”

5.22 Leonard Cohen - Songs Of Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen – The Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967). Is it just me, or as the years go by, does the stature of Leonard Cohen only increase? With some many songwriters being touted as poets over the years, especially Bob Dylan, Patti Smith and Smokey Robinson, for my money, Leonard Cohen is the only one who can truly be called a poet. Several of his most classic songs can be found here, like “Suzanne” and “Sisters of Mercy.” Cohen’s influence will continue to grow.

5.22 Love - Forever Changes

Love – Forever Changes (1967). By 1967, the LA rock scene was dominated by three artists: The Byrds, The Doors and Love. Unfortunately, Love could never really get it together long enough to cash in on their sound. Additionally, Love’s sound is now a bit dated. Yet, when you strip back the Sixties production touches, this album has some terrific music on it. Not that it matters today, but, in a historical sense, Love was one of the first interracial rock bands in the States (Remember that Jimi Hendrix got his start in England and his Experience were British as well.).

5.22 Pink Floyd - The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Pink Floyd – The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967). This is NOT the sound of the Seventies Floyd we are all familiar with. This is the original version of the band when Syd Barrett was the creative visionary and guitarist. Many critics have called this version the English version of The Velvet Underground. That’s a bit drastic, but you can discern a little of the future Floyd in the mix. This set is a group of oddball psychedelic pop/rock songs of a band that would one day rule the world.

5.22 The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). Here’s the granddaddy of all albums. Historically, this album is said to be The Beatles’ response to The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, and there may be some truth to it all. What it is, though, is an extension of all the studio lessons the boys and producer George Martin had learned over the past two years more than anything. And, as a cultural milestone, it’s impact is unprecedented and unequaled. Musicians have said they immediately pulled off the road just to listen to a radio station play the album. Jimi Hendrix even learned the first two songs on the album to play during his London concert that weekend in front of Lennon and McCartney. For all the praise I give Pet Sounds, I will hold this album just a notched below it regardless of what my older son says. When the world’s biggest band makes a musical leap like they did here, the world stops in its place to listen.

The Byrds - Younger Than Yesterday

The Byrds – Younger Than Yesterday (1967). Here we have the best musical statement by the original version of The Byrds. And, quite honestly, this is the album that had to be the biggest influence on the early songwriting of Tom Petty and the sound of R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck’s early guitar sound. If it only contained “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” this album would have been a must-listen. But, throw in their classic cover of Dylan’s “My Back Pages” and “Renaissance Fair,” and you have a classic.

5.22 The Doors - The Doors

The Doors – The Doors (1967). People have kind of forgotten that 1967 would not all Day-Glo colors and fun psychedelically-tinged music. No, shortly after Sgt. Pepper was dropped, an alluring yet dark band from the Sunset Boulevard rock scene was unleashing their take on the dark underbelly of hippie-dom. The seductive sounds of “Light My Fire” and “Break on Through” brought The Doors to the masses and changed the course of rock music forever. Now, it may be as easy to dismiss Jim Morrison as it is older Elvis Presley as drunk drugged out caricatures, but Morrison’s impact was sincere at the time. Oh! And did he really drop a F-bomb on “The End”? Yep.

5.22 The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced? (1967). What a sly little title! Are we talking about sex, drugs or rock & roll? Who cares! And, now we can all forget that “Clapton Is God,” the graffiti written in London back in the Sixties because Hendrix proved to be a guitar deity of a higher level than Clapton. As much as Sgt. Pepper is a cultural milestone, so is this album. And, the rock world has been desperately trying to match Jimi’s virtuosity ever since.

5.22 The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Axis Bold as Love

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Axis: Bold as Love (1967). Do you understand that all three of Hendrix landscape-changing albums were released in a two-year time span? It’s hard to imagine. Unfortunately, Axis tends to be the forgotten album in the trio, yet it is still a terrific LP. This one might be his most ambitious sounding album of all.

5.22 The Kinks - Something Else by the Kinks

The Kinks – Something Else by The Kinks (1967). Ray Davies is quickly becoming the best British songwriter by the time of this release. His keen insight into British working and middle class life is setting a new standard of songwriting for all of rock music. I swear that Pulp’s fantastic 1995 Different Class album is an updated version of this album. “Sunset Waterloo” just might be the most beautiful song Davies has ever written. On the other hand, the original version of “David Watts” is an English standard in rock music, covered most famously by The Jam.

5.22 The Moody Blues - Days of Future Passed

The Moody Blues – Days of Future Passed (1967). Yes, Procol Harum was the first band to integrate classical music tinges to rock, but The Moodys perfected it on this album. This album really made an impact on the American chart about five years later, but it is still a 1967 release and should be honored in that year. Additionally, this album may have been the first album created that HAD to be listened to on headphones. “Nights in White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon” were the songs on FM radio. While I’m thinking about it, when was the last time you heard these songs on classic rock radio. My goodness, rock radio played these all the time in the Seventies and into the Eighties.

5.22 The Mothers of Invention - We're Only in It for the Money

The Mothers of Invention – We’re Only in It for the Money (1967). Leave to Frank Zappa to cynically “take the piss out” of Sgt. Pepper. What a great parody of that album, from the album cover to the music to the lyrical content. I love satire and parody, and this album fills that void in spades. See?!?! Anything is now possible in rock music.

5.22 The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground and Nico

The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967). While the hippies were spouting about peace and love on the West Coast and London was simply swinging, a New York led by Lou Reed, under the artistic guidance of Andy Warhol, was creating a totally new noise with lyrics steeped in realism about drug use, prostitutes, transvestism and other realities in the blight of the Big Apple. This music was so out of step with the moment that Rolling Stone never reviewed it. Others panned it. Yet, as Brian Eno once said, everyone that did buy the album started a band. Now, the album is held in high esteem as it predicted the whole punk movement and the “Do It Yourself” ethos of the late-Seventies and beyond. This album had a delayed cultural impact, and I actually think it is the best album of 1967. Heresy!

5.22 The Who - The Who Sell Out

The Who – The Who Sell Out (1967). Now, initially, this album may have been too English for Americans to understand. A little background is needed. Back in the Sixties, Britain only had one radio station, the BBC (or “The Beeb”). And, they did not play rock music. So, “pirate” radio stations were set up on ships just beyond the English waters, and they broadcast like their American counterparts. This album is a homage to those stations that changed broadcasting history in the UK. That’s why there are those silly commercial parodies located between songs. When you know the context, you can appreciate the sheer brilliance of this album since it is unlike anything before or after. I enjoy this album so much more than Tommy, which gets all the accolades. The Who’s biggest hit until “Who Are You” in 1978, the terrific “I Can See for Miles” is on this one.

When you throw in the Franklin and Dylan albums I listed yesterday, you can understand why 1967 seems to be such a mythical year in the rock pantheon. Things start to get serious with the next entry. Stay tuned!

My 1000 Favorite Albums, Part 3

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Today is Day 3 of the continuing series of my 1000 favorite albums of all-time. Today, we will cover the year 1966 and dip our toes briefly into 1967. Once again, according to my tastes in music, we are building up toward 1967 being a truly transcendent year in music. I continue to assert that the pre-1967 represent a time when great albums were released but, primarily, those years were the domain of the seven-inch single, also known as the “45” because those small records were played at 45 rpm. Albums, or the long-playing 12-inch 33-and-1/3 rpm records, started to become the dominant artform for music around 1967, though the sales lagged just a bit.

To me, vinyl albums have always held something of a magical sway over me that cassettes or CDs never could. Everything about an album fed into the larger-than-life image of the rock star, whereas the other two formats, regardless of the portability, never could replace, no matter how many extra songs they could hold. With a larger canvass, album artists could create their art with eye-popping clarity and daring. By reducing the size of the artful impact, the cassette and CD reduced that impact to nil, which set the stage for a total lack of that artfulness with mp3s, which ushered in a total disregard for the marriage of music and art much like with the 45.

That marriage of the visual and the auditory is what separated rock music from all other forms, in my humble opinion. If you have seen the Cameron Crowe film Almost Famous, you get that sense of wonder as the young lead character William discovers that very said sense of wonder. I actually remember staring for hours on end at album covers, reading the lyrics and memorizing the credits. That, my friends, is why you will continue to see books being sold that show the greatest album cover art of all-time.

Enough of the poetic waxing! Let’s get to the albums!

5.20 Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde

Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde (1966). Not the first double-album to be released during the rock era, but it is the first one on my list. If the truth were to be told, this might be my favorite Dylan album of all, especially since you can find “Rainy Day Women #12 & #35,” “Visions of Johanna,” “I Want You,” “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” and “Just like a Woman.”

5.20 Cream - Fresh cream

Cream – Fresh Cream (1966). The debut album of rock’s very first “supergroup” has a little bit dated sound, but there is no denying the power of this trio of super-talented musicians. Throughout the album you can hear the foundation of hard rock being laid by the blues guitar antics of Eric Clapton and the jazz-blues noodlings of drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce.

5.20 Otis Redding - Complete & Unbelievable

Otis Redding – Complete & Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul (1966). What an absolutely perfect album title! This album IS the dictionary of soul of the Sixties. This album arguably contains Otis’ most enduring soul song, “Try a Little Tenderness.” But that’s not all, as you can hear “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song),” “I’m Sick Y’all” and “She Put the Hurt on Me” as well.

5.20 The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds

The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966). Pet Sounds is the first perfect album of the rock era. Honestly, no other album has truly stood the test of time as this one has. This is rock as art. Musical historians and musicians alike will hold this album up with the best of Beethoven and Mozart as it was perfectly constructed from the instrumentation to the lyrics to the vocals. Paul McCartney was not speaking in hyperbole when he stated that “God Only Knows” is a perfect song. And, although the album includes “Sloop John B” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” this LP is so good in whole that I hate to only point out these three songs. Brian Wilson was so far ahead of the curve that few have caught up with him in the nearly six decades since the release of Pet Sounds.

5.20 The Beatles - Revolver

The Beatles – Revolver (1966). While many people will say that The Beatles’ actual musical response to The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper, is still a year away from release, I actually believe this album just might be The Fab Four’s greatest musical statement. Revolver actually conveys the very same themes that Pet Sounds tackles lyrically. Both are tackling the stress of becoming an adult, which is why both are so universal in their reach. And, Revolver contains all the types of songs that made The Beatles so compelling in the first place: power pop with “Taxman,” whimsical English points-of-view on “Good Day Sunshine” and baroque Beatles territory on “Here, There and Everywhere.” But, it also has the experimental tracks that display unprecedented growth by the band. First, the use a string quartet as a rhythm section on “Eleanor Rigby” and the loops-and-samples-and-backward-recorded-instruments montage of “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

5.20 The Kinks - Face to Face

The Kinks – Face to Face (1966). This album is the forgotten album of the great rock albums of 1966. You see, The Kinks were evolving from the balls-to-the-wall proto-hard rock/metal/punk rock sound to something more English in nature. No longer were they worried about the American market but were committed more to making music that reflected their upbringing in the UK. This is where the beginnings of Paul Weller’s complete career as well as the whole Britpop movement can be heard. Plus, when a song as fantastic as “Sunny Afternoon” can be found on an album, you just gotta hear it all!

5.20 The Monkees - The Monkees

The Monkees – The Monkees (1966). I would bet that at least 8 out of every 10 people around my age, if being honest, will say that The Monkees were their entry drug into rock music. We were too young to care that they had been put together by TV people to cynically cash in on us. They had outstanding songs, regardless of who actually played the instruments, and sold a whole generation of kids on rock music. I cannot emphasize how truly important The Prefab Four were on us. If “(Theme From) The Monkees” didn’t hook us, definitely “Last Train to Clarksville” did. The Monkees are immortal, regardless what the Boomers think.

5.20 The Mothers of Invention - Freak Out

The Mothers of Invention – Freak Out! (1966). Welcome to the strange world of Frank Zappa’s musical mind! The rock world never knew what had hit it when Frank’s debut was dropped in 1966. I honestly did not discover Zappa until high school, but when I did, I was completely in. Is this the audio version of what acid is like?

5.20 Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You

Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (1967). Few remember that Aretha had been recording gospel and whatever slop Columbia Records was making her release for years. But, when she finally got the sympathetic ears of the producers at Atlantic Records, Aretha was finally unleashed as the Queen of Soul. And, this album was just the beginning for her stellar career. When Otis Redding heard her version of his “Respect,” he reportedly stated that the song was now hers. Throw in the title song, you have the groundwork for a classic album.

5.20 Bob Dylan - John Wesley Harding

Bob Dylan – John Wesley Harding (1967). I am certain that Bob Dylan fans were shocked by what this album sounded like at the time. After changing rock music over the course of the past three albums, Dylan detours into a countrified version of rock that would influence disparate acts like The Band, The Grateful Dead, Gram Parsons and the whole Americana music movement today. By the way, you will find the soft, unassuming original version of “All Along the Watchtower” that Jimi Hendrix will immortalize in a searing form later on.

Hopefully, we will continue this trip tomorrow. Peace out!

My 1000 Favorite Albums, Part Deux

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Welcome to Day 2 of this epic listing of my 1000 favorite albums. To me, even if I had take away the first day’s listing of amazing albums from the early days of the LP and rock music and simply focus on the music released during my lifetime, you would still have an amazing list of 990 albums. As I let that statement sink in for a moment, I have truly live through a period of time in which art and popularity actually intersecting with an exploding amount of disposable income. So, to all the artists on my list, thank you for sharing your talents and visions in a setting that moved me and helped me deal with all of the insecurities I have had as an evolving human.

I pick up my list in 1963, the year in which I was born. That year corresponds to when the album concept began to follow the standards set with the previously by viewing the long player as a total musical experience, not a collection of singles and some songs. This year also marks the year in which Rock & Roll began to morph into Rock music. It’s hard to explain, because I do not truly have a grasp on the metamorphosis, but let’s simply say that music began to include the full human experience in lyrical and musical form during this time. Suddenly, relationships, society, political stances, racial barriers, etc., were all being evaluated in this budding art-form,  moving away from the teenage laments of the early days. Additionally, the music was getting more sophisticated and becoming more of a melting pot of sounds.

And, I feel, this evolution is being displayed with today’s list. Once again, I hope this pushes you to discover or rediscover this terrific music.

5.19 Bob Dylan - The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963). At the time, Bob Dylan was a newly anointed folk god. But, my goodness! Just look at the number of rock and folk standards are on this album: “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Girl from the North Country,” “Masters of War,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” AND “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” On one album?!?! Are you kidding me?!?! That list says everything that needs to be said.

5.19 James Brown - Live at the Apollo

James Brown – Live at the Apollo (1963). Everything you need to know about the beginnings of funk and soul is right here. This is the Godfather of Soul’s natural habit, in the live setting, dancing and leading one of the finest musical ensembles through its paces. To this day, this remains one of the greatest live performances ever captured on vinyl.

5.19 The Beatles - A Hard Day's Night

The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night (1964). I understand that people believe everything The Fab Four released was magical. And, quite possibly, it was. But, this soundtrack to the band’s first film is a true musical statement. Lennon & McCartney’s songwriting was on the cusp of breaking onto a whole new level. Highlights include early-Beatles standards like the title song, “I Should Have Known Better,” “And I Love Her,” “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Things We Said Today.”

5.19 Bob Dylan - Bringing It All Back Home

Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home (1965). This is the album on which Dylan was making the transition from folkie to rocker, actually going electric on one side of the vinyl album. Here we find such Dylan classics as “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Maggie’s Farm,” “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.”

5.19 Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited

Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited (1965). I would have loved to been a college student when this album was dropped, because I have read and heard many times that with the first crack of the drum which begins the first song, the immortal “Like a Rolling Stone,” was the sound of a whole new world opening. From the moment in which I consciously thinking this song is fantastic as a tweener, “Like a Rolling Stone” actually opened me up to new listening possibilities. Then, the former Robert Zimmerman throws in such classics as “Ballad of a Thin Man,” “Just like Tom Thumb’s Blues” and “Desolation Row.”

5.19 John Coltrane - A Love Supreme

John Coltrane – A Love Supreme (1965). Coltrane beat his addictions before the recording of this album, so it is stuffed fully of spiritual hope all the while incorporating all of his previous innovations into a beautifully moving album. Definitely not only a jazz milestone, but a musical one.

5.19 Otis Redding - Otis Blue

Otis Redding – Otis Blues (1965). It’s such a shame that Otis was only a couple of years away from his premature death, because when you listen to Otis Blue, you hear an artist actually finding his total vision. We all knew what kind of singer Redding was, but now his songwriting and band leadership was just beginning to peak. Plus, the man knew how to interpret others in a way that made the songs into his own. This contains his original version of “Respect,” which we all know that Aretha Franklin eventually turned into HER song. This album is a wonderful milestone of Sixties R&B.

5.19 Roger Miller - The Return of Roger Miller

Roger Miller – The Return of Roger Miller (1965). This might be more of a sentimental choice as I remember constantly begging my babysitter to play this album because I loved “King of the Road.” But, who didn’t? And, for that matter, who doesn’t? To me, this album was the epitome of country cool. And, I loved how I could get lost in his lyrics. While all the “little” kids were napping, I was learning about American music from this album.

5.19 The Beach Boys - The Beach Boys Today!

The Beach Boys – The Beach Boys Today! (1965). This album represents the end of the surf/girls/hot rods version of the Boys, but it is the pinnacle of that period. Classic songs are sprinkled throughout the album, with “Dance, Dance, Dance” and “Help Me Ronda” leading the way. This album was the extension of the change Brian Wilson was making in his songwriting and production work that began with “California Girls” and will blossom in the next couple of years.

5.19 The Beatles - Rubber Soul

The Beatles – Rubber Soul (1965). Over the years, I’ve battled through which phase of The Beatles I have loved the most. My power pop side says it’s all about the early stuff. My sophisticated side says I’m all about Abbey Road. But, for the better part of two decades, I say 1965 and 1966 are MY years, beginning with this album. Even when I bought my first Beatles album (The Red Album, their greatest hits 1963-1966), I loved the songs from these years more than anything else. And, Rubber Soul contains “Drive My Car,” “Norwegian Wood,” “You Won’t See Me” (Badfinger’s whole career seems to be based upon this song), “Nowhere Man” (!!!), “Michelle” and one of my all-time faves “In My Life.” This is just a magical album.

5.19 The Byrds - Mr Tambourine Man

The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man (1965). One day, folk and rock were seemingly two separate entities. Then Los Angeles’ The Byrds combined them into something of the Reese’s Cup of rock music. And, nothing’s been the same ever since. If these guys had just taken Bob Dylan’s songs and made them into rock songs, The Byrds’ career would be noteworthy. But, as America’s “answer” to The Beatles, they expanded upon The Beatles’ vocal harmonies, introduced the world to the Rickenbacker twelve-string guitar and laid the groundwork for future rockers such as Tom Petty, R.E.M., Matthew Sweet and a whole generation of others.

5.19 The Who - The Who Sings My Generation

The Who – The Who Sings My Generation (1965). THIS is rock music! What The Who brought to the table is immeasurable! Without this album, the world would not know The Jam, Oasis, Blur and so many others. The Who’s music simply explodes from your speakers and pummels your soul. The Who had something of a soccer hooligan’s persona in musical form, and the whole punk movement of the Seventies thanks you.

5.19 The Yardbirds - Having a Rave Up with The Yardbirds

The Yardbirds – Having a Rave Up with The Yardbirds (1965). The Yardbirds have become legendary for being the training grounds for three of rock’s most legendary guitarists: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. And this album lays the groundwork for all of classic rock, even though much of it has been forgotten over time. Allow me to point out just one song” “The Train Kept A-Rollin’.” That song has been covered by many artists, most famously Aerosmith, who made an influential career out of that sound. Plus, both Jimmy Page AND Jeff Beck arguably started bands that invented hard rock, if not heavy metal, with Led Zeppelin and The Jeff Beck Group respectively.

As classic as all of these albums are, we will begin to wade through some the immortals soon. And, although the work into this series has been arduous, it has been nonetheless fun.

Going Down That Rabbit Hole: My 1000 Favorite Albums, Day 1

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Well, here we go, just as promised. As I briefly stated last week, I have been working on perhaps my largest undertaking for this blog. That’s right, I have identified 1000 albums that I love and/or feel are important enough to mention. Some are obvious. Others are not. Many are critically acclaimed, while a few are critically ridiculed. Many are generally considered to be groundbreaking, while a few are obscure and near to my heart.

Previously, I stated that none are compilations. Well, that is not entirely true. Actually, the first two albums that I will cover are considered to be greatest hits packages. However, those artists, Robert Johnson and Chuck Berry, never really released important albums, yet both had many important singles that became the foundation of this thing we love called rock music.

First of all, I tend to focus on singles and songs in this blog that it may surprise you that although I LOVE the single, I find the album to be the ultimate statement of an artist’s talent and musical vision. Whether that album is a concept album, such as Tommy or American Idiot, or a simply a flex of musical muscle, like Pet Sounds or London Calling, those long-playing records are the statement of that artist’s musical mindset. Many of these albums were never intended to be a collection of songs with a cynical eye toward selling loads of singles and surrounding those couple of hits with filler. No, all of these albums are considered to be huge musical statements by the artist.

So, let’s get this thing going, chronologically.

5.17 Robert Johnson - The Complete Recordings

Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings (1990). Robert Johnson’s life and talent is full of rumor and debate. Regardless, of whether the man was actually Robert Johnson, received his talent from the Devil, or some other story, his music was highly influential to many of the Sixties blues-based artists especially Eric Clapton. The English youngsters of the Sixties took this as the foundation of their careers. This box set collects all of his important recordings in one place.

5.17 Chuck Berry - The Great Twenty-Eight

Chuck Berry – The Great Twenty-Eight (1982). Say what you will about who is the King of Rock, whether you think it is Elvis Presley, Little Richard or even, according to their album and song, Run-DMC, a case can be made for Chuck Berry. These 28 songs represent the actual foundation, along with Johnson’s songs, of rock music. You can hear Berry’s influence in the early hits of The Beach Boys and throughout the career of The Rolling Stones.

5.17 Frank Sinatra - In the Wee Small Hours

Frank Sinatra – In the Wee Small Hours (1955). To hear my wife tell it, Frank Sinatra set the stage for the reaction of teenybopper females to a singer. But by the time 1955 rolled around, Sinatra’s star was fading a bit when he was teamed with arranger Nelson Riddle. Together, this duo created what many consider to be the first artistic musical statement across a 33-and-1/3 rpm long playing record. And although Sinatra’s music is not really rock music, his attitude and vulnerability is, and this album may just be the one that has influenced rockers from Bob Dylan to Bono. It’s full of melancholia and evokes the whole feeling of leaving a bar by yourself.

5.17 Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley (1957). Here’s the beginning of rock & roll in album form. Simply put, everything about this album is just flat-out rock. From the timeless songs, many of which were left over from Elvis’ Sun Records sessions, to the album cover artwork, this album set the standard. The album cover photograph alone influenced a whole rock photography industry, but the artwork signaled the times were really a-changing. And, I have yet to really mention the music. Certainly, possibly the actual Sun Sessions compilation might show the immediacy of Elvis’ music, but this album displayed the commercial clout that rock & roll would have from this moment onward.

5.17 Little Richard - Here's Little Richard

Little Richard – Here’s Little Richard (1957). Little Richard liked to remind everyone that HE was the King of Rock. And, when you here his unparalleled flamboyance and energy on this set of songs, you believe his assertions. If this album only contained “Tutti Frutti,” “Long Tall Sally” and “Rip It Up,” it would be a classic album, but throw in the rest of the kitchen sink and it becomes timeless. Without Little Richard, there’s no Jimi Hendrix, George Clinton nor Prince. The man was the whole package: songwriter, arranger, singer, pianist and visual artist.

5.17 Howlin' Wolf - Moanin' in the Moonlight

Howlin’ Wolf – Moanin’ in the Moonlight (1959). What can you say about this blues/R&B classic that broke down the door for the Chicago blues sound? This was Wolf’s debut, and it is stacked with classics that set the standard for the icon himself. The title track, “Smokestack Lightnin'” and “Evil (Is Going On)’ are the standards of the album.

5.17 Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue (1959). Not too many artists have released an album that defined a whole genre, but Miles Davis, quite possibly THE coolest musician ever, did it twice. Kind of Blue was Davis’ first, and perhaps, most visionary album. This album defined jazz for many decades to come. This album continues to be a source of discovery sixty years later.

5.17 Ray Charles - The Genius of Ray Charles

Ray Charles – The Genius of Ray Charles (1959). When Rock & Roll hit, there were many talented musicians out there, but none had the ability to synthesize a new sound from disparate forms of music like Ray Charles could. And, when you factor in the knowledge that he had the foresight to allow his friend Quincy Jones to arrange many of these songs, you realize Charles is a man of unparalleled vision. Unbelievably, this is NOT Charles’ biggest musical statement, even though the album does contain is great hit song “Let the Good Times Roll.”

5.17 At Last - Etta James

Etta James – At Last! (1961). Okay, I understand in this era of all those televised vocal competitions that people think the Whitney Houston/Mariah Carey/Christina Aguilera-type of vocal dynamics are the standard. But, please people, go back and listen to this album to hear a voice that emotes and growls and displays a female toughness that is missing in today’s pop. James takes the R&B/Blues mantle with this album. If she had only recorded the title track for this album, it would be a classic. But, throw in “Anything to Say You Are Mine,” “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” and “Stormy Weather (Keep Rainin’ All the Time,” and you have an album for the ages.

5.17 Ray Charles - Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music

Ray Charles – Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (1962). Brother Ray’s management thought he was crazy when Ray proposed making an album of country music standards. What does a black man know about this stuff? Are you kidding me? Ray had a grasp of every form of music including country, which was ingrained in him as a child. But he made these songs HIS own. There is not a dull moment on the album, becoming quite possibly the first out-and-out classic album of the rock era as Charles celebrates American music.

And, there are the first ten albums on my list, and only 990 more to go. Honestly, this has been a wonderful time just listening to these albums all over again as a refresher. I hope this inspires all of you to go through these albums because they represent my time capsule and the soundtrack to my life.

Am I Insane? Probably, But I Plan Go Through My 1000 Favorite Albums This Summer.

I think the quarantine has finally broken me. When I first told my older son what I was going to do, he told me that I was going down a rabbit hole. My younger one told me to go big or go home. My wife simply shrugged her shoulders and went on doing whatever she was doing before I interrupted her.

After doing my one-hit wonders countdown, I knew I wanted to take a week to gather myself. Then, I started going through my rock reference books for ideas. Then, my older son sent me a list that he and his wife were working on concerning a re-ranking of Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 Albums of All-Time. They had been spending their time listening to every non-compilation album in the countdown, then let his wife rank them. Periodically, they would send me videos of their daughter dancing to various songs, her favorite being “London Calling” by The Clash.

Being one to never get out done by my friends and relatives, I picked up my copy of 1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die and starting to thumb through it. Additionally, I pulled out my copy of that particular Rolling Stone issue and began taking notes. Slowly, I started to compile a list of 600+ albums that I love to hear. After that, I referenced lists of Top Albums of every year from 1955 to 2019. I scoured NME‘s Top 500 Albums of All-Time list, as well as most any other list I could find. Methodically, my list grew to over 1100 albums.

Originally, my goal was to narrow the list to 500, but I have NEVER been a great editor, as you may have noticed with all my grammatical, spelling and research errors, as well as my overblown lists. So, I asked my boys what they thought about a list of 1000 albums? Well, you read their responses. In addition to those responses, the consensus was that I was nuts. But, that’s what I have done!

And, since I am basically a math and science nerd, I have some statistics concerning this list. First, Bob Dylan and David Bowie both lead the way with 11 titles on my list, followed by Bruce Springsteen and Paul Weller (because I included The Jam and The Style Council in his count) with 10, R.E.M. with 9, Neil Young has 8, Van Morrison 7, 13 artists with six, 8 with five, 20 with four, 53 with three and 97 more artists with two albums. And, can you believe that this ultimate Prince fan only placed five of his albums on this list? It’s true!

And since I am now officially in my late-50s, my list obviously emphasizes the years 1975-1984, but the majority honestly rests is a 27-year period from 1968 to 1995 during which most of my list were originally released. That means I began listening to albums a bit from age 5 to 32, when my album interest slowly waning over the past quarter century. My top five years, in order, were 1980, 1981, 1979, 1970, 1977 and 1978.

So, am I beginning this list today? Nope. I simply wanted to let you what kind of epic I have been working on. Now, this list is NOT a ranking. Actually, I will be going through this list chronologically, by album release date. This list is what I think have been some of the most enjoyable and interesting albums over the years.

From what I read, there is a fine line between genius and insanity. Obviously, we know what my family thinks, though I tend to have delusions of grandeur. Regardless, this my very well end up being my nadir. Here’s to the quarantine!