Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Top 20 Albums of 1969

Nineteen-sixty-nine was an important year, mainly because I was born then. And man first went to the moon - in April, when the moonpeople gave Hawkwind the secret of Space Rock. But also enough good music along all streams (main-, out- & otherwise) to bump the list up to a Top 20. [twenty...]

Lotsa ground to cover, so let's get rollin'! [rollin'...]

#1 The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground

"What Goes On" from The Velvet Underground (1969)
"Beginning to See the Light" from The Velvet Underground (1969)

Genre - Underground/Experimental
Unofficial - olivier.landemaine.free.fr/vu/
Myspace - myspace.com/velvetunderground1969
Location - New York City, NY

Review - Sputnik Music
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Easily one of my favorite albums of all time, as mentioned already in the VU discography post. Touching all the regular Velvet bases, but with extra-consistent tunefulness. You get your lovely/grimy voyeurism, like "Candy Says" and "Some Kinda Love." The origins of quasi-nonreligious gospel, the original counter-culture non-anti-Jesus song, "I'm Set Free" & others. Uh... "Pale Blue Eyes." And the sweet, short ones toward the end: Mo's "After Hours" and Lou's "That's the Story of My Life." Hey, that's the whole record! Start all over.

Gotta note here that 1969 was also the year of the recording of two major live releases. First, the super-great two-part 1969: Velvet Underground Live with Lou Reed (#3, 1974): here's Vol. 1, and there's Vol. 2! Also the much more recent official box-set Bootleg Series, Volume 1: The Quine Tapes (2001), taped by Robert Quine himself in St. Louis & San Francisco. It's out on vinyl now, but I've already got the CD's - and it's like 5 million USD (or something).

#2 Bayou Country, Green River, & Willie and the Poor Boys - Creedence Clearwater Revival

"Keep On Chooglin'" from Bayou Country (1969)
"Wrote A Song for Everyone" from Green River (1969)
"Fortunate Son" from Willie and the Poor Boys (1969)

Genre - American Rock & Roll
Unofficial - creedence-online.net/
Location - Bay Area, CA, USA

Review - Rolling Stone
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Holy shit! What a year for CCR... Three albums, with a mess of super-hits & eventual classics - including "Born on the Bayou," "Bootleg," "Good Golly Miss Molly", "Proud Mary" (from Bayou Country), "Green River," "Commotion," "Bad Moon Rising," "Lodi" (Green River), "Down on the Corner" and "The Midnight Special" (Willie and the Poor Boys).

I don't think about Creedence too much anymore these days, but there's no denying that they owned 1969.

#3 Oar - Alexander 'Skip' Spence

"Little Hands" from Oar (1969)
"Cripple Creek" from Oar (1969)

Genre - Dark Folk Magick
Wikipedia - wikipedia.org/wiki/Skip_Spence
Location - S.F., CA

Review - Mark's Record Reviews
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

I just did a Skip Spence post a couple months ago. This record is the one to have! Didn't necessarily expect it to rise so high. But there's just so much real feeling put into it - it is honest and good. And it's not all jaunty fun times. Song titles like "Weighted Down (The Prison Song)" and "Broken Heart" set the tone, but there are a few smiles here & there. And then finally the outlandish, weird and amazing "Grey/Afro."

Here's a full-album playlist, from the top. It's all good.

#4 The Stooges - The Stooges

"1969" from The Stooges (1969)
"No Fun" from The Stooges (1969)

Genre - Proto-Punk Garage-Rock
Official - iggyandthestoogesmusic.com/
Myspace - myspace.com/iggyandthestooges
Location - Ann Arbor, MI

Review - Treble Zine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Long before the #2 Album of 1973, the Dum Dum Boys hooked up with the ex-VU John Cale to produce their unprecedential debut. What was it? Something almost too new? The riff, the vibe, the sound of not-happenin' youth!! Far from a "Real Cool Time," they were simply "Not Right." Suburban ne'er-do-well misfit rock.

1969 was a year for epic workouts, but The Stooges put theirs (the droner-downer "We Will Fall") right in the middle, rather than the beginning or end. Some folks never learn...

#5 Live/Dead & Aoxomoxoa - Grateful Dead

"Dark Star" from Live/Dead (1969)
"St. Stephen" from Aoxomoxoa (1969)

Genre - Haight-Ashbury Psych-Jams
Official - dead.net/
Myspace - myspace.com/gratefuldead
Location - San Francisco, CA

Review - Rolling Stone (Lenny Kaye, 1970)
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Groovy good times from your #1 of 1972 party band! Live/Dead's kinda more live-in-the-studio, but crackling with talent & youth. (Needless to say, a much different youth than The Stooges.) There's an 8-minute track called "Feedback." Pigpen raves up the scene with "Turn On Your Lovelight." I'm loving this full-album gig on YouTube.

Aoxomoxoa was the first Grateful Dead that I owned. Unlike Live/Dead, I can't say it's top-shelf official Dead - but interesting for '60s afficionados. Of course there's the original versions of "St. Stephen" [linked above] and "China Cat Sunflower." Jammy jammin' on "Doin' That Rag" and "Cosmic Charlie." Y'know, like et cetera, man.

Psychedelic cover by Rick Griffin. Album in full.

#6 Abbey Road, Yellow Submarine OST, "Get Back/Don't Let Me Down," "The Ballad of John and Yoko/Old Brown Shoe," and "Something/Come Together" - The Beatles
Electronic Sound - George Harrison
Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions - John Lennon

"I Want You (She's So Heavy)" from Abbey Road (1969)
"It's All Too Much" from Yellow Submarine OST (1969)
"Don't Let Me Down," B-side from single (1969)
"Old Brown Shoe," B-side from single (1969)
Electronic Sound (1969) by George Harrison
Life with the Lions (1969) by John Lennon

Genre - Last Days of an Empire
Official - thebeatles.com/
Myspace - myspace.com/thebeatles
Location - Liverpool, England

Review - Pitchfork
Download - The Beatles on iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

You might know this group from my #9 Free Internet Album of 2010... or maybe the #2 Album of 1966. Sure Abbey Road is good, we've all heard it - I'm not complaining. But I wanna talk about soundtracks!

Yellow Submarine is no Magical Mystery Tour OST (1967), mainly because they supplemented with George Martin's orchestration rather than proven hit singles. But still - ask your average Beatles fan to name what's here, and I'm betting only on the title song. George gets two organ-drone jams: "It's All Too Much" [linked above] and "Only A Northern Song!" Plus sing-a-ding-alongs "All Together Now," "Hey Bulldog," and "All You Need Is Love" (which seemed to end up on like 1 album per year down the stretch). Now that's a collection!

I could talk about the Beatles a long time, but will wrap it up. The 1969 singles are great on both sides, and George & John's Zapple records are worth checking out. The full audio is at the links under the Abbey Road cover.

#7 Led Zeppelin I & II - Led Zeppelin

"Communication Breakdown" from Led Zeppelin I (1969)
"Heartbreaker / Livin' Lovin' Wreck (She's A Woman)" from Led Zeppelin II (1969)

Genre - Proto-Hard-Rock-Blues-Folk
Official - ledzeppelin.com/
Myspace - myspace.com/ledzeppelin
Location - Birmingham, England

Review - Mark Prindle
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

I've managed to continue liking Led Zeppelin well beyond my 'Zep phase.' This was just the beginning, but that's a pretty mighty opening one-two punch.

Check out the opening Led Zep entry in recent Grantland series on the 'winners' history of Rock & Roll.

#8 The Yellow Princess - John Fahey

"The Yellow Princess/View (East from the Top of the Riggs Road/B&O Trestle)" from The Yellow Princess (1969)
"Dances of the Inhabitants of the Invisible City of Bladensburg" from The Yellow Princess (1969)

Genre - American Primitivism
Official - johnfahey.com/
Myspace - myspace.com/johnfahey
Location - Itinerant Bard

Review - Dusted Magazine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

John Fahey was pretty clearly an excellent guitarist well before this record, but around this time (the late-'60s), it sounds like Fahey's finding all-new wings, stretching out, and flying into a different horizon. A couple tunes in the middle go a bit more experimental: "March! For Martin Luther King" (with drums!) and "The Singing Bridge Of Memphis, Tennessee" (with noise). Definitely check out the main links up above, because they are masterful. A high level of quality all the way through the uplifting close, "Commemorative Transfiguration and Communion at Magruder Park."

As good an introduction to Fahey as any I know, which is also to say as good an intro into the world of solo acoustic guitar explorers of all times.

#9 In A Silent Way - Miles Davis

"Shhh / Peaceful" (Side 1) from In A Silent Way (1969)
"In A Silent Way / It's About That Time" (Side 2) from In A Silent Way (1969)

Genre - Jazz Fusion
Official - milesdavis.com/
Location - recorded in NYC, NY

Review - Stylus Magazine
Download - Amazon (Complete Sessions), iTunes (Complete)
Purchase - Amazon

So far, my favorite jazzbo has really only appeared here from the #7 Album of 1974 - but there's more to him than that! Best not to think of this album in terms of its immediate descendent Bitches Brew (1970). The gravity of that fusion monolith is far too strong. This is where the roof comes off - Miles Davis, Teo Macero, John McLaughlin, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul. I'm a complete outsider looking in on Jazz (much like with Black Metal), but that's a murderer's row of jazzmen - and it's all because of records like this.

#10 Ummagumma & More OST - Pink Floyd

"Careful with That Axe, Eugene" [live] from Ummagumma (1969)
"The Narrow Way" [Dave] from Ummagumma (1969)
"Ibiza Bar" from More OST (1969)
"Moonhead" from BBC mooncast (1969)

Genre - Progressive Hippie
Official - pinkfloyd.com/
Myspace - myspace.com/pinkfloyd
Location - London, U.K.

Review - Paste Magazine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

I've literally avoided adding the obvious Pink Floyd records to the Top 10's, but this set is suitably weirdo. (Could've probably wedged in the 1972 Live at Pompeii film, but maybe I'll do an All-Time Rock Films list someday.) And really the first/live disc is what's best about Ummagumma. Rog's "Grandchester Meadows" into "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In a Cave and Grooving with a Pict" is between passable & funny. (For some reason I always imagine a pick-axe, but no.) And I'm glad they did something (else) as weird as doing four solo sets - but the first four live-band tunes are sufficient.

The More soundtrack was one of the first more 'obscure' Pink Floyd albums that I branched out into. Kinda like with Yellow Submarine, even people who have Piper & Saucerful don't necessarily tend to venture out this far. It's got some hilariously outrageously rocking tunes, and some mellow folky stuff, and y'know... it's a Pink Floyd soundtrack. I like it myself.

Hey, look! The full Ummagumma! ... and full More!

#11 Five Leaves Left - Nick Drake

"Time Has Told Me" from Five Leaves Left (1969)
"River Man" from Five Leaves Left (1969)

Genre - Folk sophistiqué
Unofficial - nickdrake.com/
Myspace - myspace.com/nickdrake
Location - Tanworth-in-Arden, England

Review - BBC Music
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

If liking Nick Drake's pretty, sad, doomed, romantic folksongs makes me any less of a man, then so be it! So many questions... How does the utter lack of balance between acoustic delicacy and assertive accompaniment work so well? You can clearly hear the underlying solo versions, but then Drake and the other parts tug back & forth for control. Although the music's sometimes jazzy, it's most jazz-like at the dynamic arrangement level. O yeah, and this was his debut album.

As always, the whole album's worth a full listen.

#12 Nashville Skyline - Bob Dylan
The Band - The Band

"Tonight I'll Be Staying Here with You" from Nashville Skyline (1969)
"King Harvest (Has Surely Come)" from The Band (1969)

Genre - Proto-Americana
Official - bobdylan.com/
Myspace - myspace.com/bobdylan
Location - Upstate New York

Review - Sputnik Music
Download Bob Dylan - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase Bob Dylan - Amazon
Download The Band - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase The Band - Amazon

Bob Dylan was in the Top 10's for 1966 albums, for 1988 albums, and (with The Band) 1974 records... plus my 2009 live shows. Much respect.

Maybe it's the country style, maybe it's Dylan's voice, but I don't come back to this one all too often. Opens nicely with "Girl from the North Country" ("she once was a true love of mine"). Giddy-up with "Nashville Skyline Rag" - settle down with "Lay Lady Lay." Yeah?

The 2nd song on The Band's self-titled is also a rag, so you know they're in sync. Big hits, with "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and "Up On Cripple Creek." I'll always go back to The Last Waltz movie (1978) when I can.

#13 Phallus Dei - Amon Düül II
Psychedelic Underground - Amon Düül I

"Kanaan" from Phallus Dei (1969)
"Luzifers Ghilom" from Phallus Dei (1969)

Genre - Krautrock
Official - amonduul.de/
Myspace - myspace.com/amonduulll
Location - München, Deutschland

Review - Prog Archives
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

I have a feeling things are getting real weird now. There were at least two Amon Düül bands, which each grew out of some kind of musical/cultural collective/commune. Amon Düül (I) stuck with the original, more improvisational project. Their 1969 debut record was called Psychedelic Underground (in full).

Being kinda generic commune drum-circle jamming, it's nowhere near the bugged-out classic that is Phallus Dei, Amon Düül II's own debut. Probably the main founding document of Krautrock, given that CAN's project was somewhat more sui generis. This one's got all the guitar heroics, rumbling rhythm sections, abrupt stop-start breakdowns, and bizarre vocalizations that comprised (and also haunted) Krautrock for another decade. Definitely check out Side 2, the epic title track!

#14 The Gilded Palace of Sin - The Flying Burrito Brothers

"Christine's Tune" from The Gilded Palace of Sin (1969)
"Hot Burrito #1" from The Gilded Palace of Sin (1969)

Genre - Proto-Country-Rock
Unofficial - ebni.com/byrds/spfbb1
Location - Los Angeles, CA

Review - Scott's Rock and Soul Album Reviews
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Some Byrds, plus Gram Parsons, and one giant outsider stab at creating a new hybrid genre of American music. Pretty good job, guys!

I like to think about hypothetical counterfactuals. What if The Beatles and The Stooges swapped fame & influence levels? What if John Fahey had gotten as popular as CCR for a couple of years? What if the Flying Burrito Brothers had taken off like (instead of) The Eagles? Personally, me? I like "Sin City" better than anything by The Eagles. But that's just me... "On the thirty-first floor, a gold plated door won't keep out the Lord's burning rain."

#15 Mutantes - Os Mutantes

"Fuga No. II" from Mutantes (1969)
"Não Vá Se Perder Por Aí" from Mutantes (1969)

Genre - Mutant Tropicália
Official - osmutantes.com/
Myspace - myspace.com/osmutantes
Location - São Paulo, Brasil

Review - Rising Storm
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Os Mutantes are super-fun! ("Os" is like the Portuguese "los.") Until they get all weird & creepy, which they manage also to do very well. Talent! Spirit!


#16 What We Did on our Holidays, Unhalfbricking, Liege & Lief - Fairport Convention

"Fotheringay" from What We Did on our Holidays (1969)
"Autopsy" from Unhalfbricking (1969)
"Tam Lin" from Liege & Lief (1969)

Genre - British Folk Lore
Official - fairportconvention.com/
Location - London, England

Review - Robert Christgau
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

I used to listen to a couple of these for a fairly short time before I actually gained a greater appreciation for various folk musics. I don't think I went into this list thinking "Fairport Convention," although 1969 was also their Creedencesque year. Still don't have too much to say... Sandy Denny had a very nice voice?

Complete What We Did on our Holidays (playlist).
Complete Unhalfbricking (playlist).
Complete Liege & Lief (playlist).

#17 Monster Movie - Can

"Father Cannot Yell" from Monster Movie (1969)
"Yoo Do Right" from Monster Movie (1969)

Genre - Krautrock
Official - spoonrecords.com/
Myspace - myspace.com/holgerczukay
Location - Cologne, Germany

Review - Stylus Magazine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Later Can is better Can... like #4 of 1972, #1 of 1973, #2 of 1974, and #2 Repertoire of 2012, better.

This was with Malcolm Mooney, their original American vocalist. The two epics linked up there are the major classics from this, CAN's debut. The other two are "Mary, Mary So Contrary" and the groovier Morricone-Kraut of "Outside My Door."

#18 An Electric Storm - White Noise

"Love Without Sound" from An Electric Storm (1969)
"The Black Mass: An Electric Storm in Hell" from An Electric Storm (1969)

Genre - Radiophonic Proto-Hauntology
Wikipedia - wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Noise
Location - London, UK

Review - Head Heritage
Download - iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Delia Derbyshire!!

"Although... not initially commercially successful for Island, it has over the years proved to be a cult classic, going on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies worldwide, namechecked by contemporary artists like The Orb and Julian Cope, influencing contemporary acts such as Broadcast, Add N to (X), and Secret Chiefs 3."

That's some wildness!

#19 Let It Bleed - The Rolling Stones

"Gimme Shelter" from Let It Bleed (1969)
"Monkey Man" from Let It Bleed (1969)

Genre - Meat & Potatoes R&R
Official - rollingstones.com/ (Greil Marcus, 1969)
Myspace - myspace.com/therollingstones
Location - London, England, U.K.

Review - Rolling Stone
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Not a huge fan, but I can't deny that this album is better than The Shaggs.

#20 Philosophy of the World - The Shaggs

"My Pal Foot Foot" from Philosophy of the World (1969)
"Why Do I Feel?" from Philosophy of the World (1969)

Genre - Proto-proto-proto-proto-prototype
Wikipedia - wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shaggs
Location - Fremont, NH

Review - Alt-Music(.about.com)
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

If for no other reason than inspiring the Austin band called Foot Foot, which then inspired the great Pong tune "Foot Foot"... But for other influences as well. The whole shebang!

O, the insanity!! The Shaggs' origin story, per Wikipedia:
The conceptual beginning of The Shaggs came from Austin Wiggin, Jr.'s mother. During Austin's youth she had predicted during a palmreading that he would marry a strawberry blonde woman, that he would have two sons after she had died, and that his daughters would form a popular music group. The first two predictions came true, so Austin set about making the third come true. Austin withdrew his daughters from school, bought them instruments, and arranged for them to receive music and vocal lessons.

Some notes about omissions...

Three major artists of the '60s already had hit collections out by 1969, which I deemed ineligible for inclusion: Jimi Hendrix Smash Hits, Buffalo Springfield Retrospective, and Donovan's Greatest Hits. Smash Hits might have made it - that was my first Hendrix album, and the only place I've owned the still-one-of-my-faves "Stone Free."

Trout Mask Replica, Hot Rats, Uncle Meat... Probably some legitimate contenders in here, but I've just never locked in with either Captain Beefheart or Frank Zappa. But I can still link to "Peaches en Regalia " and "Moonlight on Vermont."

The Soft Parade was probably the only real chance for The Doors to get listified (in an expansion year). Unlike with Led Zep, my 'Doors phase' was fairly short and ended abruptly and completely. This one's a pretty weird album though, with the crazy arrangements & horn charts & all. Even during my 'Who phase,' I never really took to Tommy at all... meh.

I've literally never owned a Soft Machine album, which is something I've always intended to rectify. So Volume Two is out. And I've never even heard Isaac Hayes' Hot Buttered Soul, which is supposed to be one of the greatest albums of all time. Maybe one day... (Until then, have a 1995 video... and how am I not going to link to "Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic?")

Here are some 'classic' albums that I just wasn't feeling - some now, some never: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Young), Songs from a Room (Cohen), At San Quentin (Cash), Space Oddity (Bowie), and Kick Out The Jams (MC5).

Finally, here are some 'other' albums that I've still never got ahold of, but could imagine they might've fit in: Moondog (Moondog), Scott 3 & Scott 4 (Walker), Clouds (Mitchell), and Happy Sad (Tim Buckley). I dunno... Are they any good? Did I forget anything at all??

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