1966 was such a year that even here at Part Three, there is still great quality to be had. I haven't even attempted to break down the singles of the era, though I have tried to add a few more singles artists to the list. Don't ever discount the value of a great single or the junk that pads the albums of singles artists.
25) Simon & Garfunkel - Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, Sounds of Silence: To put it in terms Art Garfunkel himself might understand: Simon's dewy and melodious counterpoints refresh the landscape with the promises of poetry and enlightenment seared against the grey, institutional sky. S&G were warriors of the velvet night, prickling the ears of a generation.
Have you seen that documentary on the making of Bridge Over Troubled Water? No wonder Simon had to ditch him.
24) Nancy Sinatra - Boots, How Does That Grab You?, Nancy In London: "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" by Lee Hazlewood was the hit. Their collaborations created the music folder now shared by Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell and other dark duetters. I interviewed her once. She still sounded like she'd put a boot through my teeth.
23) The Lovin' Spoonful - Daydream, What's Up Tiger Lily?, Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful: There's a smarmy, earnest mellowness to John Sebastian that makes you want to hit him. His music, therefore, is likable in a strange, detached way, like you can't believe anyone really acts like this. Like far-out man, and groovy, all you peaceful people, far-out! But then again, it's probably preferable to singing about bitches and ho's.
22) The Yardbirds - Roger the Engineer / Over Under Sideways Down: The Yardbirds' record catalog was in such a shambles by the late 1970s that while other bands were being easily rediscovered with big fat sections of the record store, the Yardbirds were lucky to have six different off-label greatest hits albums with the same songs available for purchase. Getting the narrative of this great group was impossible, made worse by the fact that the actual albums had different names and track selections in different countries. Even at ten tracks, the U.S. version had "Jeff's Boogie" leading off side two. Which was no "Hot House of Omagararshid." What can you say? The band liked its filler.
21) The Count Five - Psychotic Reaction: Well known for inspiring Lester Bangs to write his essay about their "other" albums, The Count Five were considered a Yardbirds knockoff since their hit "Psychotic Reaction" was essentially a re-write of "I'm A Man." Had the band stayed together, it is certain they would've gotten around to rewriting... "Hot House of Omagararshid"?
20) The Critters - Younger Girl: Growing up in New Jersey, mere towns away from where these guys were from, I found their album at nearly every garage and yard sale. By the 1980s, their friends and family were ready to let go of the album. I ended up getting the expanded CD, which isn't really necessary. Stick with the singles. "Gone for Awhile" is what you need. It wasn't like there was a New Jersey sound!
19) The Ventures - Play The Batman Theme, Wild Things!, Where The Action Is!, Go With the Ventures!: You have to love any band whose Wikipedia entry begins with "The Ventures have released hundreds of albums." The Fall are still catching up.
18) The Incredible String Band - The Incredible String Band: Joe Boyd producing. Robin Williamson, Mike Heron and, in limited capacity, Clive Palmer playing. They would get plenty weird in the ensuing years and become like a mind cult. But for now, it's folk music. Gotta love the kazoo and the whistling. Homemade music is usually pretty cool.
17) The Temptations - Gettin' Ready: With Smokey Robinson and now Norman Whitfield producing, the Temptations, starring Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin, and featuring the Funk Brothers, were in their "Classic Five" era and turning everything they sang into gold. While "My Girl" is the tune known by every living, breathing person on earth, their genius went far deeper. To think people these days think of U2 as a classic band. The Tempts were more fun and, therefore, superior.
16) Judy Collins - In My Life: She can sing Brecht and Weill, Jacques Brel, Leonard Cohen and Lennon and McCartney, but she loses Bob Dylan. I dig her stilted delivery of "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" where she sounds like a grade school teacher turning her kids onto some heavy stuff, but it's a surrealism Dylan never intended. Were people more intelligent in the 1960s or were the dumb people not allowed to speak?
15) Bud Shank - California Dreamin', Flute, Oboe and Strings, Girl In Love, Michelle, Bud Shank and the Sax Section: I admit I've never followed the works of Bud Shank, but thanks to friend and list reader Bob Rixon, I've had the chance to discover Shank's West Coast coolness. In 1966, he was recording a lot of current pop tunes and his duet with Chet Baker on "Michelle" became a modest hit. So grab a drink and let the sea breezes cool you off. Believe me, it pays to have friends who know more than you do. Always.
14) Lou Christie - Lightnin' Strikes: Lou Christie was one of many singers who ended up on labels that weren't exactly looking to help his career as much as sell as many records as possible as quickly as possible. Like today. But then again, why does everyone expect to live forever?
13) The Bobby Fuller Four - I Fought the Law: The curse of having one huge hit single is that it helps people ignore your other great work. This album isn't just a couple of hits and filler. Nope. It's as consistent as the work of his hero, Buddy Holly. Then Fuller died young just like his hero, too. Pick your heroes wisely, kids! You may become them.
12) Question Mark and the Mysterians - 96 Tears: "96 Tears" is the hit known to the world, though it only peaked at #66, making it one of those tunes far more famous in retrospect. The band were helped along by their lead singer who claims to be a Martian. People love Martians.
11) Jefferson Airplane - Jefferson Airplane Takes Off: Who doesn't prefer the Signe Anderson year?
10) Marvin Gaye - Moods of Marvin Gaye: Whenever artists release an album of "moods," it's usually shorthand for one mood: depression. But not Marvin. He even made that album about his divorce sound like fun.
9) Tim Buckley - Tim Buckley: Buckley likely couldn't grow a beard when he made this album. But he was already working with Lee Underwood and Van Dyke Parks. This is the last time anyone considered him just one of the guys.
8) Tommy James & the Shondells - Hanky Panky: Tommy James was always on the wrong end of rock revisionism. His hits were catchy and he had 19 of them. But James recorded for Morris Levy's aesthetically challenged Roulette record label where the album was an afterthought. So James, a few hits aside, became an afterthought.
7) Jr. Walker & the All Stars - Road Runner: Another man and his band who have been left to historians to remember and exhume, JW&TAS (catchy, eh?) even had trouble the first time out. The fantastic Shotgun album didn't crack the charts, and this one, too, only became successful in spite of Motown. It was issued with the Home Cooking album and includes stuff like "Pucker Up Buttercup," that genius of phonetic rock "San-Ho-Zay" and yet another cover of "Money (That's What I Want" that every band of the early 1960s was contractually obligated to cover.
6) Percy Sledge - Warm & Tender Soul, When A Man Loves a Woman: Percy Sledge recorded quite a few remarkable sides in the 1960s, but all was tossed off balance by the success and eventual omnipresence of "When A Man Loves A Woman." Of course, the song was eventually oversung by the horrifyingly bad Michael Bolton because that's what happens to songs that are everywhere. Side note: Sandy Posey sang back up.
5) Sandy Posey - Born A Woman: The title track isn't likely to receive any accolades from the feminist movement. Sure, women are treated poorly, but the correct solution likely isn't to accept that to be a man's woman no price is too high to pay. (Though I don't mind that math, since it favors, well, me.) It sounds like pure Eisenhower-era hooey. But her album is really great 1960s pop and who listens to words anyway?
4) The Byrds - Fifth Dimension: Listening to the great moments on this third Byrds album and you can understand why so many fans were initially annoyed when Gram Parsons eventually joined and hijacked the group and turned them country. This was a band that was going places.
3) Wilson Pickett - The Exciting Wilson Pickett: With tracks like "Land of 1,000 Dances," "634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.)", "In the Midnight Hour" and "Ninety-Nine and a Half (Wont Do)," you can be forgiven for thinking this is a greatest hits album. You can forgive him for driving over the mayor's lawn.
2) Tim Hardin - 1: Hardin said more in under three minutes than Don Henley has ever said in half an hour. Want to know why so much music is dull? Because it goes on too long with nothing to say. Craziest thing about this perfect album? Tim Hardin 2 was even more perfect. Note to future songwriters: hurry up!
1) The 13th Floor Elevators - The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators: Roky Erickson would never maintain the potential suggested by this intense debut album. But then his fractured life with its peaks and valleys might be the reason his music is so naked and true. It was never about competence or consistency. It was about howling at the moon.