Sunday, June 26, 2011

Playing Favorites - The 1960's - Albums #15 to #1

I'm back for the second part of this countdown Playing Favorites - The 1960's.  This is the entry where you'll probably get mad.  Again, like I said before...this isn't like other lists per se.  Make your own if you disagree with me.  Let's get this thing rolling...

15. The Velvet Underground & Nico - VU

Super experimental, thanks to John Cale.  Nico was a model, not a singer.  She was in the band at the insistence of Andy Warhol.  Classic songs are all over this album.  "Heroin," "I'm Waiting for the Man" and basically the entire album.  The beginning of the DIY, minimalist and punk ethos.  Their influence was huge in alternative music and is still being felt today.

14. The Doors - The Doors

Three superior musicians and a poet is how I tend to look at this band.  Jim Morrison, wasn't a singer and never really claimed to be.  He did a decent job, but had a way with the written language.  He was the front man and got all of the press due to his drunken/drugged up antics.  The thing I've always loved is, their biggest hit, "Light My Fire" wasn't written by Morrison, but by Robby Krieger.  I've always loved that fact.  The three musicians are outstanding players and the music is what made this band.  Get beyond Morrison.

13. The Band - The Band

If you really like musicians, this is "the band" for you, no pun intended.  All supreme players of multiple instruments.  Three out of the five members can sing well and have their own style that really individualize a song.  Robbie Robertson is a forgotten guitar hero, possibly due to the fact he's kind of a jerk.  They are the soundtrack of Americana, but are mainly Canadian (only Levon Helms is American).  If you do nothing else, watch The Last Waltz, their farewell concert.  The guests that came out alone make it a must see.

12. Live at the Apollo - James Brown

As great as James Brown is, he's that much better live and here is the proof.  This is early James Brown, but it's dynamic.  The Famous Flames were his back up band and they are hot.  This is how he earned the nickname, "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business."  It was all about sweat and giving it to the crowd.

11. Abbey Road - The Beatles

Just missing the top 10, don't worry, I think the Beatles will be just fine.  All of the Beatles albums are classics and even though I left out my least favorite ones, they still dominate this list.  There are no bad songs, a couple silly ones and yes, they let Ringo sing, but it all works.  Through the watchful eyes and ears of George Martin, producer extraordinaire.  George Harrison is more prominent as a songwriter on this album.

10. Tommy - The Who 

Pete Townshend is an amazing talent, on par with Brian Wilson.  He would often demo all the songs on a Who album, playing all the instruments and present it to the band.  Unlike Wilson, he would let the boys play their own parts, like only they could.  So, when he wrote a story, it took on a life of its own.  A rock opera.  He tested the waters on their second album, A Quick One.  Writing "A Quick One While He's Away" as a mini-rock opera.  Then Quadrophenia, would come a little later.

9. Let It Bleed - The Rolling Stones

To this point, probably the best album they put out.  Brian Jones was an after thought.  He only appears on two songs and briefly.  Mick Taylor had been added as his replacement and would make a huge impact on the band during his tenure.  Another album with no bad songs.  Jagger/Richards were approaching their golden period as songwriters.  Maturing and developing their craft, equaling, IMO, Lennon/McCartney.

8. Are You Experienced? - Jimi Hendrix Experience

One word can describe this album: WOW.  No one had heard anything like it and really everyone has been playing catch up since.  Power trio, fuzz, feedback, guitar pyrotechnics and Hendrix singing, leading the band and setting the music world on fire, literally.  The more I learn about Hendrix the person, the more I like and understand him.  He was not a favorite for years.  I respected, but didn't like him, but a lot of that has changed after really looking into him.  I've always been a  huge fan of Mitch Mitchell, his drummer.

7. The Beatles (White Album) - The Beatles

I told you they would be fine.  This album is great, but it can be a hard album to listen to.  It's a moody album.  There are happy songs, silly songs, epic songs and sad songs.  I guess you can expect that from a double album with four people jockeying for position and purpose in the band.  Have the Beatles ever really made a bad album?  They may have some questionable songs, but a bad album...I'd say no.

6. Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan

Rolling Stone has this album as the 4th best ever, but it's "only" (oh no) the 6th best of the 60's for me (remember, I'm nobody).  I just feel there are stronger albums ahead of it.  Great songs, unbelievable guest musicians (Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield) and Dylan's unforgettable voice.  Check it out, it's definitely worth the purchase.

 5. Led Zeppelin II - Led Zeppelin

Maybe it's because I love harder rock, but this album is extremely important.  The bombast, the wailing guitars and soaring vocals.  The hard blues and what could be and has been classified as metal.  They just have this power in their music that takes you away with them.  All of them are quite amazing at their craft, but John Paul Jones is the secret weapon of this band.  He would become infinitely more importantly in the following albums.  He would only play bass and organ on this album, while also singing backing vocals.

4. Blonde On Blonde - Bob Dylan

This is probably my favorite Dylan album, but I'm not the biggest fan of him.  I like and respect him, but don't love him.  It's a double album and I'd say the first important one.  Rick Danko and Robbie Robertson (of the Band) make appearances amongst other great musicians.  I think the songs are stronger on this album.  He also went to Nashville for some sessions, which does have an influence on his sound.

3. Rubber Soul - The Beatles

Just an amazing record.  So many classic songs, but most Beatles songs are classics.  They had begun coming into their own and were more than just a pop group.  This is the second most important Beatles album, IMO.  Only beaten out by the record that is at number 2.  They were becoming more concerned with their sound and production.  Which will lead us into...

2. Revolver - The Beatles

In my opinion, it's their best album.  What started with Rubber Soul, was continued with this album.  Stronger, more diverse songs, with different instrumentation and recording techniques.  There are your classic pop songs, but there are songs on this album that changed the view of what a pop song is.  A truly important piece of acetate.  That was inspired by the album at number 1.  So without further ado...

1. Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys

The production on this album is superb.  You can really hear the depth of Brian Wilson's ideas, the sounds and painstaking effort he put into this record.  It's blood, sweat and tears folks.  He led the recordings from the beginning, using session musicians instead of the band on a lot of songs.  The Beach Boys are really a vocal group, more than they are a band.  Think about it.  They could sing better than any group, including the Beatles.  Their harmonies are second to none.  The music Brian heard in his head, they couldn't play, so he got people that could.  This album is a masterpiece.  Please check it out.

Yes, I know Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band isn't included in the top 30.  I don't hate that album, I like that album, but there are other albums I like more and it misses my Top 30.  I just don't think it's nearly as good as most people do.

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