Monday, July 27, 2015

Retro Favorite Albums: 1969

1969 was quite the year for music. Of course you had Woodstock that Summer. But also it seemed a ton of debut albums that varied from nice impressions, to some of the most unusual, experimental music that had ever been made, to even some of those artists finest works.

Among the years in the 60's, I'm not sure if '69 isn't my favorite given it's depth. Zeppelin and The Beatles both released albums this year. Zeppelin 2 actually. And the Crimson debut which stands out of course.

A black-and-white photograph of a the Hindenburg exploding
Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin
rel January 12, 1969

Led Zeppelin were my 1st favorite band really (I don't exactly count Huey Lewis and the News), and this is their debut album, and album that I have more less loved since I 1st heard it. From the great driving riff on "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" to the groove and incredible crescendo on "How Many More Times." To classic rock staples like "Communication Breakdown" and "Good Times Bad Times." To possibly the overlooked great opener "Your Time is Gonna Come."

And "Dazed and Confused" which ultimately may have been the heaviest track Zeppelin ever recorded, and then they later recorded/filmed 1 the 32-minute live version on Song Remains the Same.

I waiver as to where this album ranks in the Zeppelin catalog, but I also consider most of their albums equal. But at 1 time i concluded it was my favorite. And within this year, it wouldn't have been my album of the year, but it definitely is in my top 5.

Genesis - From Genesis to Revelation
rel March 7, 1969

Genesis debut record, that I have put off listening to for nearly the whole time I've been a fan. I did give in and pick it up on Vinyl on Record Store Day earlier this year. But from the little I have heard of it, it is vastly different than even their 2nd record Trespass.

CTA album.jpg
Chicago - The Chicago Transit Authority
rel April 28, 1969

Chicago's debut record that I also have yet to listen to, but will confess to picking up on Vinyl like 2 years ago at a Half Price Books for like 50 cents. I know some folks swear by the early records and even say this is their best, per why I picked it up. Chicago are another band I may just want to try binge-ing on soon, maybe per cassette tapes in my car. Namely their early records when they were kind of a Horn-driven prog band of a sort (or "Big-band rock"?)

The Who - Tommy
rel May 23, 1969

Widely recognized as the 1st and in some ways, definitive Rock Opera. I prefer Quadrophenia, but will not deny I enjoy a lot of this record. Radio staples "I'm Free" and "Pinball Wizard" I have always liked. "Sparks" and "We're Not Gonna Take It" are 2 others that are among the highlights. And "1921" while I can't say a lot of specifics about as I haven't listened to this whole record in quite some time, I remember enjoying The same I suppose I recall about "The Acid Queen."

But I suppose the story/theatrical element to this has not lent it more interest.

Crosby, Stills and Nash - Crosby, Stills and Nash
rel May 29, 1969

The debut record from CSN (or CSN and Y). It includes many of my favorites from these guys. "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" I've always loved. "Guinevere" "Helplessly Hoping" and "Wooden Ships."
Love the layers and vocal harmonies especially.

Pink Floyd - More
rel June 13, 1969

Floyd's 1st soundtrack (and to a film of the same name I recall) that I have always liked but never grown attached to. But it does have a few notable songs like "The Nile Song" which I recall some have thought of as 1 of the 1st Metal songs ever, and "Cymabline" which I'll fully admit when Shadow Gallery did their amazing 25-minute "Floydian Memories" I gained a new appreciation for.

1 of the few Floyd records I still need on Vinyl.

Trout Mask Replica.png
Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band - Trout Mask Repica
rel June 16, 1969

I picked this up from seeing its praise in that 67-87 Rolling Stone issue. From that and I recall the member's relationship with Frank Zappa, I found some value from this album. It could be cited as having some of the earliest remnants of Rap on it.

It's mostly for novelty and an album I purchased over 20 years ago, but never found the interest on going back to since. Although I might be up for a revisiting soon just for curiosity sake.

Yes - Yes.jpg
Yes - Yes
rel July 25, 1969

Like Genesis, Yes release their debut album this year, that comprised of songs that were quite different from the albums that followed (although Time and a Word I suppose is similar in a lot of ways).

I have always liked this album, but still have not spent a ton of time with it. I really know best from other sources like live versions. "Sweetness" for example, I will always associate with the end credits of Buffalo '66.  "Survival" with the Yes Highlights compilation compact disc I was given by my Aunt when I was in High School, which from memory, was the 1st Yes release I ever got.

"Every Little Thing" (not to be confused with The Police song released many years later, "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" of course). "Beyond and Before" also the title of an BBC Sessions recording.

Miles Davis - In a Silent Way
rel July 30, 1969

A lot of people consider Bitches Brew the birth of Jazz-Rock, and in some ways, I would agree. But I actually prefer this album. I think a lot of that is the fact seeing Dean Magraw cover various parts of it live over the years. It includes that future of jazz-rock allstar lineup like on BB from John McLaughlin to Chick Corea. Joseph Zawinul and Tony Williams.

The epic title track alone makes this a favorite.

Blind Faith - Blind Faith
rel August 1969

Like Miles band, or more so Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young) (and ELP or UK many years later) this was kind of a supergroup with members from Cream, Traffic and Family.  The 1 track I recall that received some airplay was "Can't Find My Way Home."

The 15-minute closing piece "Do What You Like" has it's moments certainly. But for me, the genius behind this group finally came out in the Deluxe Edition I picked up in the early 2000's. The Bonus disc that includes 4 amazing jams, are some of the best blues rock I've ever heard (progressive really). There's a passage in 1 of them that basically used an interval pattern that were both later used by Yes ("Heart of the Sunrise") and Rush ("The Necromancer").

Not an album of the year, but considering the nearly 1 hour of brilliance on those bonus disc jams, this may have my favorite material recorded from this year.

The cover of Abbey Road has no printed words. It is a photo of the Beatles, in side view, crossing the street in single file.
The Beatles - Abbey Road
rel September 26, 1969

This is my favorite Beatles album, or at least if I had to pick 1 (Sgt Pepper's I also consider 5-stars). I would say largely due getting into it after hearing Transatlantic cover the Side 2 Suite live, and also seeing local Minnesota band Collective Unconscious faithfully reproduce it live (twice, once in 2001 and again in 2009).

The suite is amazing and I wouldn't change anything about it.From the uplifting "Here Comes the Sun" to "Polythene Pam," 'She Came In Through the Bathroom Window," "Golden Slumbers," and "Carry That Weight" (which also I owe initially to loving after seeing/hearing Dream Theater play that with Charlie Dominici on a live video).

"Come Together," "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," "Octopus's Garden," "I Want You (She's So Heavy)."

I guess given this is the final Beatles album (they made, not released), I kind of see it as them putting anything and everything into this as a last hurrah. If I recall, they made this album having knowing they were going to split after it, so i.e. they made the most of it. Their last or final stand, etc. And it seems to show it seems like the culmination or accumulation of what their previous albums had lead to.

Soft Machine-Volume Two-Cover.jpg
Soft Machine - Volume Two
rel September 1969

I have this per a reissue, on Vinyl and I forget, but I think I did give it a go per YouTube once and enjoyed much of it. Soft Machine are an untapped group for me as I love their 3rd album a ton, and know that their early records are all highly regarded.

In '69 tho, I can imagine their 1st album and this one might have been hard to find info about or even access. But I often think of them with Crimson, so perhaps this album would have been comparable to the Crimson debut back then even.

Wikipedia mentions both Hendrix and Zappa in terms of inspiration.

At some point, I may look at this album among the 5 best from this year.

Jethro Tull - Stand Up
rel September 1969

Another Tull record, more Blues rock. This is was notable for the fact it was the 1st album with guitarist Martin Barre, and also per Wikipedia, the 1st with Ian Anderson writing all of the music and lyrics. "Bouree" is probably the track I know this album best for as I recall they have played it live frequently throughout the years.

In the Court of the Crimson King - 40th Anniversary Box Set - Front cover.jpeg
King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King
rel October 10, 1969

Considered by many as the 1st progressive rock album ever, and I can't really argue against that. I just think it's reputation and quality is justified. Is it my favorite Crimson album? I guess I might lean towards Lark's Tongue, but I would go with this over that and their others for different reasons.

For one, it has Greg Lake. And also the fact the songs do see incredibly well thought-out. The flow and consistency really add to how much I appreciate this record.

The title track, "Epitaph," "Moonchild," "21st Century Schizoid Man," and "I Talk to the Wind" are all enjoyable for different reasons. I love the use of mellotron and sax among other things.

I think this is one of those albums that'll be highly thought-of in 100 years, it has stood the test of time since '69. A bit like Sgt Pepper's and some others.  In '69, I dunno if it would have been my Aoty given it was so different, but looking at this year, it would have been a good battle between this and Abbey Road especially.

Also the fact Hot Rats was released the very same day is a cool factoid.
Hot Rats (Frank Zappa album - cover art).jpg
Frank Zappa - Hot Rats
rel October 10,1969

"Peaches in Regalia" I know quite well from this album per my friend Angie's show "In Your Ear" on KFAI, using it as her intro/theme.

Very fusiony or Jazz-rock like. And this album I have meant to listen to since I first knew her show, and come to think of it, I recall listening to once or twice, likely per a download many years ago.

What I recall is it was jazz-fusion of the Zappa-ilk, but compared to many other Zappa records, it may emphasize the fusion element the most, at least up until this point.

But I'd be lying if I claimed to be totally familiar enough with it to know well. "Willie the Pimp" I recall seeing Zappa Plays Zappa do and the 12+-minute "The Gumbo Variations" I think made it onto one of the KFAI shows I filled-in or did back in the day as I recall some others on the air with me, namely my friend Creighton or on another show like Georgia's "Sonic Pleasure" may have played, as I know she has done Zappa tribute shows on air in the past.

A composite sepia photograph of the band kneeling down with members of the Jasta 11 Division of the Luftstreitkräfte, in front of a expanding hydrogen cloud from an outline of LZ 129 Hindenburg exploding.
Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II
rel October 22, 1969

As I wrote above, the Zeppelin catalog I see as more or less all equally good, sans for Coda I suppose. So while I love a ton about the debut LP that came out in January of '69, I also love a ton about this record. From maybe their most memorable and accessible tune "Ramble On" to a track classic rock has played, but far less than others in "What Is and What Should Never Be."

And "Bring it on Home" a song I slept on for many months back in '91 and '92 when I 1st got into them. I used to stop the album after hearing the slow intro, not being aware of the amazingly heavy and groovin' bridge..

"Thank You" has always been a favorite ballad of mine.

"Living Lovin' Maid" is a nice blues rocker that they always play back-2-back with "Heartbreaker" on the radio. And Heartbreaker I at one point adored, but I think wore out on a bit. I also at 1 point assumed it was a cover tune ("Heartbreak Hotel" from Elvis?), but I guess not. Maybe given their rep with so many songs that were covers (renamed or not), it seemed like it was. Because it has a familiar blues riff, but also includes the heavy Jimmy Page spin to it.

Pink Floyd - Ummagumma
rel October 25, 1969

Half Live and half incredibly experimental. I guess I usually think of the this record 1st for "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict" which is an outrageous song title, and the song itself almost tops that. Animal noises and what not, that also may include some field recordings.

"The Sysphus" and "Narrow Way" parts/suites I recall had their moments but also never held a ton with me when I initially checked this out back in the 90's. And a few years back when Syd and then Richard Wright passed, I recall going back to this and many of the other lesser known Floyd records, and from memory, this one just didn't add as much as some of those others. Although I might go with it overall over Saucer from the year before, it's amazing how much more I have got from the records that followed.

Fairport Convention-Liege & Lief (album cover).jpg
Fairport Convention - Liege and Lief
rel December 1969

A classic Folk-Rock record and considered by many Fairport's finest work. I recall checking this out from the library, probably 10 or more years ago and liking it. Somewhat agreeing with its praise/acclaim. But sadly, since, I don't have a ton of specific memories about it. Sandy Denny of course is/was an amazing singer with a gorgeous voice that suits Fairport's sound perfectly.

Renaissance - Renaissance
rel 1969

The Renaissance debut album, which 2 of the members, Keith Relf and Jim McCarty came from the end of The Yardbirds. I'm not sure if they worked with Jimmy Page, but it seems likely. I suppose interesting enough that it came out around the same time as Fairport's most popular record (although I can't find anything that tells what day or even what month).

I love Renaissance, and do own a copy on Vinyl, but can't claim to have spent a ton of time with this yet. I know it's of the folk-rock variety though. But my love for this band at this point, is largely with the Annie Haslam-led work which came a couple of albums later.