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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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”?
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.
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.
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!