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