Moby GrapeWhile 1967 brought the world the legendary albums listed in the first part of this series, it also brought us even more! If you consider there was no such thing as illegally downloading music, no streaming services offering thousands of albums at your immediate disposal for just a few bucks and that home taping was being done by the seriously unportable reel-to-reel system that was not found in every home, well, then you see that a music fan could go broke just keeping up with the important stuff, never mind the vaguely interesting and the appealingly weird.
It stands to reason that music-obsessed teenagers either got jobs in record stores (we did have those, once upon a time) or cried themselves to sleep at night knowing that there was a world of sound out there that they could not afford to buy into. Imagine the nightmares of the young youth tortured mercilessly by an uncaring universe that had no compassion for tears shed over not being able to hear The Electric Prunes' albums because they were not born rich enough to afford such pleasures -- while their friends were sufficiently happy kicking cans down the street, or whatever they did for entertainment before video games.
This list is for those young youths who are now older olds, who hopefully have made enough money selling insurance or trading stocks to enjoy these sounds on their ridiculously expensive home and car stereos, who can now rest peacefully at night, thinking no longer of the Blues Project's Live at Town Hall collection, but of what to do with those parents who are determined to spend all their money in sunny, sunny Florida before they go.
Hey! With that thought in mind, let's rock!
25) The Incredible String Band -- The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion: For the second album, ISB was already down to the duo of Mike Heron and Robin Williamson, with the ridiculously talented Danny Thompson coming in on bass and Williamson's girlfriend Licorice McKechnie throwing in some vocals, percussion and that uneasy feeling that every time one of the band members got a girlfriend their input would be given senior status. (Somewhere, Yoko Ono and her hospital bed await their turn in the studio and the writers of Spinal Tap are licking their chops.) In fairness, both McKechnie and later Rose Simpson were invaluable members of the group. You'll note that fairness isn't all that funny.
24) The Freak Scene -- Psychedelic Psoul: If I had my druthers, I would provide a paying project for my elder rock writers to resist the temptation of writing redundant essays on the works of Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and other obvious, well-covered names and to spend that time instead giving us first-person accounts of the lesser-known history that is far more interesting. They would pen essays that explain to dear readers what it was really like being a young music fan in 1967, with your ear down to the ground. But then, maybe some of them really just like Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton and nothing more. Fact is, I'd never even heard of this record until I started sniffing around for this blog. If other websites are to be believed, The Freak Scene was the creation of Rusty Evans, who employed studio musicians to cash in on the youth culture with songs like "Watered Down Soul" and "The Subway Ride Through Inner Space." I even listened to it and enjoyed it very much. Now that may not be Bob Dylan, but it's alright!
23) Bob Dylan -- John Wesley Harding: Speaking of the newly medaled Bob Dylan, John Wesley Harding was his first attempt to get people to stop reading his garbage and to let him live in peace. The album's quiet, zen-like nature was designed to ignore the acid rock and the grand psychedelia of the era for a back-to-the-land folkie mysticism that would gather the serious and restrained while losing the lunatic fringe. He would try harder with Nashville Skyline and Self-Portrait.
22) Cream -- Disraeli Gears: Convincing Eric Clapton to explore beyond his blues roots and to trust Jack Bruce gave him the best album of his career. Cream were a power trio who defined the term, but they needed songs. Drum solos, bass solos and guitar solos are cool to young men who think it's about the notes, but even the casual fan knows it's about the tunes.
21) Traffic -- Mr. Fantasy: Punk rock gave rise to the hopes and dreams of the untrained masses, but surely there's a place for musicians who have honed their craft. Ears don't give a hoot about good intentions. Ears want results. Traffic had chops to spare. On a good day, you can hear forever.
20) The Moody Blues -- Days of Future Passed: The Moody Blues went on to record a number of less-than-great albums that made fans I've met very angry. They wanted more from their band of choice. However, this mix of classical influences -- hello, London Festival Orchestra -- showed ambition and even managed a few hits. You want them to go country?
19) Nirvana -- The Story of Simon Simopath: Long before the Kurt Cobain Trio made the name Nirvana synonymous with "Grunge," there was band from England whose debut album was a well-received release that is now selling on LP for $499 used on Amazon. The good news being a used CD can be had for just $24.39. No wonder kids don't like music anymore!
18) Kaleidoscope -- Side Trips: Then again, there were two bands performing as Kaleidoscope in the 1960s, one in the U.K and this one in the U.S. that featured future Jackson Browne side-kick the great David Lindley on a variety of instruments. Shouldn't one of these bands have been called Kaleidoscope, Jr.?
17) The Small Faces -- There Are But Four Small Faces: Known just as Small Faces in the U.K, where it first appeared, the U.S. version isn't afraid to add hit singles. So "Itchycoo Park" begins the album and "Tin Soldier" kicks off side two. The digital age has made all this irrelevant, since most reissues contain all the tracks. If you haven't spent time listening to the Small Faces, your world must be awfully small. (Get it? Would you believe some writers do this and think it's cool? I'm just doing it, dear reader, to be annoying!)
16) The Monkees -- More of the Monkees, Headquarters, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.: For a band who were considered at the time to be a manufactured group, and who still haven't been allowed admittance to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because Jann Wenner has to put his foot down somewhere, The Monkees created more than their share of music in 1967. Three albums were released and each featured the group taking steps towards autonomy. In the end, who cares who plays on a record if said record is worth listening to, over and over? You don't listen to credits!
15) Country Joe and The Fish -- Electric Music For The Mind and Body, I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die: "Grace" from the debut is a tribute to Grace Slick and "Janis" from the second album is for Janis Joplin, so if nothing else these guys were trying to cozy up to the ladies of the San Francisco scene. "Colors for Susan" is further evidence, while "Pat's Song" is anybody's guess.
14) The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band -- Gorilla: Weirdly enough, they are best-known in some circles for providing Death Cab For Cutie with their name. But these emo-less rockers, led by Vivian Stanshall and Neil Innes, allowed a revolving door policy in regards to band members, so it wouldn't be a surprise to learn that you might have been a member for a week or so. What did you do on your Lost Weekend?
13) Bobbie Gentry -- Ode To Billie Joe: The title track is a landmark recording so evocative of the steamy South that you can feel the heat and the humidity coming off the acoustic guitar. Whether or not anyone can sing along to the rest of the album feels secondary (it's actually pretty good, but sounds like less successful versions of the same song). Surely, some bought the album for the cover. Me? I'm into hair!
12) The Litter -- Distortions: "Action Woman" made the rounds of garage rock collections, but the group made complete studio albums, too. Filled oddly with covers of other bands' material, but albums nonetheless. This combo even managed to reform to bask in the adulation that was in shorter supply when they weren't "legendary" but just another bunch of dudes with a Farfisa.
11) The Smoke -- It's Smoke Time: "High In A Room" and "My Friend Jack" were solid singles that featured the head-turning vocals of Mick Rowley. Not head-turning because he could hit notes others couldn't (he couldn't), but because there was just something relatable about his voice. It's the kind of voice you wouldn't mind having a beer with.
10) Roy Harper -- Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith: The greatest things to ever happen to Roy Harper's career in terms of profile-raising have to do with Led Zeppelin writing the song, "Hats Off to (Roy) Harper," and Pink Floyd using him to sing "Have A Cigar," since Harper's own solo career needed all the help it could get. His acclaimed solo albums sold to other musicians. Without their support, his sales might have come up zero. These days, it's Joanna Newsom, Fleet Foxes and Johnny Marr singing his praises. The man deserves your attention for he is a genius.
9) John Mayall -- A Hard Road, Crusade, The Blues Alone: John Mayall is perhaps best known for running the Bluesbreakers, the group that has at some point featured Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Peter Green, Mick Taylor and Harvey Mandel among the ranks. It reads like a minor league affiliate to future greatness, but Mayall remained true to the blues and to a purity of approach that guaranteed cult status. People like it when you write hits!
8) The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band -- Part One, Volume 2 (Breaking Through): With the coolest name in the business this side of the Velvet Underground, TWCPAEB (ok, terrible acronym) released a number of albums that feature the kind of eclectic weirdness and serious guitar tones that make them an essential part of the underground music world that still sounds plenty exciting 45 years later. Personally, I blame it on the equipment. You can't get sounds like this from your laptop. Everything in life can't be reduced to zeroes and ones, but I can't blame you for trying.
7) Nico -- Chelsea Girl: Nico herself did not like this album. Unfortunate, since Chelsea Girl is a stunner. The CD age made this obscurity easily available again. Now, you can download it in seconds! The inclusion of John Cale and Lou Reed was to be expected, since she was in their band. But it was the then-unknown Jackson Browne, who as Nico's once-upon-a-time-boyfriend, wrote three of the album's best songs. Larry Fallon arranged the strings and flutes that Nico disliked. He also played harpsichord on Van Morrison's "Cyprus Avenue." I'm going to side with Larry on this one.
6) The Byrds -- Younger Than Yesterday: Just as the Velvet Underground, the Beatles, Tim Buckley and other obvious examples showed, a musician didn't have to be the same musician, album after album. In fact, if you intended upon surviving the 1960s, you'd better be prepared to evolve. This incredibly short LP features "Everybody's Been Burned," a tune so good it almost allows you to forgive David Crosby's many sins. But there aren't enough "Hail Mary"s in the world to do that.
5) Jackie Wilson -- Higher and Higher: "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" features a timeless vocal that defies gravity. It should not be confused with the Howard Huntsberry version that appears on the Ghostbusters 2 soundtrack.
4) Buffalo Springfield -- Again: The fractures were already quite real and the band was already functioning without all its members being accounted for. Neil Young turned in solo work. Bassist Bruce Palmer was unavailable on several tracks, while Stephen Stills, Palmer and Dewey Martin left Richie Furay alone with Young to record "Sad Memory." Some people were born to be prima donnas even before the years of success.
3) James Brown -- Cold Sweat: Just how little did those who were packaging R&B/ soul albums care about what went on them? Just check out Cold Sweat, which features tracks from 1967 alongside those from 1964, which in 1960s terms might as well have been from an entirely different decade. Here's a case where you want the single, since it sounds nothing like most of the album.
2) Moby Grape -- Moby Grape: You want singles? This album has got singles. Ten of the thirteen songs were released on five singles, making it so confusing that "Omaha" was the only one to chart and the group's reputation took a lethal hit that was further enhanced by a second album that was considered a letdown in critical circles. Skip Spence pleaded insanity, while drummer Don Stevenson had his middle finger airbrushed off. People who skipped the hype heard extremely good music.
1) Procol Harum -- Procol Harum: "A Whiter Shade of Pale" wasn't even on the U.K. edition of the album. The Brits preferred to lead with "Conquistador," which U.S. albums buried as track 7. Such were the times. Guitarist Robin Trower was not there for "Pale" and was hid on the album by the piano of Gary Brooker and the organ of Matthew Fisher. These musicians gave kids with piano lessons reason to believe they could one day use their classical studies to good use in a rock 'n' roll band. Kids, take up computer programming. Music is finished.