Jump to content
🏆 VOTE ORPHANS AT THE MTV VMAS 🏆
para-para-parrotdies

Top 10 Albums of Every Year Since 1960

Recommended Posts

So I'm moving apartments and as I'm packing, I'm coming across old albums and records I haven't listened to in ages. This put me in a nostalgic mood so I'm going to be rolling out the top 10 albums of every year since 1960. The hope is that this will generate debate and discussion about great music; maybe it will even have people discover (or rediscover) albums and records that still resonate today.

 

I'll be posting a year every day starting with 1960. Let's get this started!

 

 

V63Jy.jpg

 

 

 

Top Albums From 1960s:

1960

1961

1962

1963

1964

1965

1966

1967

1968

1969

 

 

 

Top Albums From 1970s:

1970

1971

1972

1973

1974

1975

1976

1977

1978

1979

 

 

 

Top Albums From 1980s:

1980

1981

1982

1983

1984

1985

1986

1987

1988

1989

 

 

 

Top Albums From 1990s:

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997

1998

1999

 

 

 

Top Albums From 2000s:

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

 

 

 

Top Albums From 2010s:

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Pack your bags, guys! Parrot's gonna take us on a nostalgia trip!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1960:

 

 

 

10. Eden Ahbez – Eden’s Island

 

Musically, Ahbez' 1960 outing was squarely in line with the exotica fad, utilizing then-unusual combinations of instruments (flutes, bongos, vibes) and sound effects like creaking boats to conjure up the aural equivalent of a tropical breeze. Unlike Martin Denny or Arthur Lyman, Ahbez often added his own spoken poetry, speaking of coves, paradise, and other idyllic subjects.

 

MI0002393036.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

9. Etta James – At Last!

 

What makes At Last a great album is not only the solid hits it contains, but also the strong variety of material throughout. James expertly handles jazz standards like "Stormy Weather" and "A Sunday Kind of Love," as well as Willie Dixon's blues classic "I Just Want to Make Love to You." James demonstrates her keen facility on the title track in particular, as she easily moves from powerful blues shouting to more subtle, airy phrasing; her Ruth Brown-inspired, bad-girl growl only adds to the intensity. James would go on to even greater success with later hits like "Tell Mama," but on At Last one hears the singer at her peak in a swinging and varied program of blues, R&B, and jazz standards.

 

MI0001600461.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

8. Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain

 

Along with Kind of Blue, In a Silent Way, and Round About Midnight, Sketches of Spain is one of Miles Davis' most enduring and innovative achievements. Recorded between November 1959 and March 1960 -- after Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley had left the band -- Davis teamed with Canadian arranger Gil Evans for the third time. Davis brought Evans the album's signature piece, "Concierto de Aranjuez," after hearing a classical version of it at bassist Joe Mondragon's house. Evans was as taken with it as Davis was, and set about to create an entire album of material around it. The result is a masterpiece of modern art. On the "Concierto," Evans' arrangement provided an orchestra and jazz band -- Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb, and Elvin Jones -- the opportunity to record a classical work as it was. The piece, with its stunning colors and intricate yet transcendent adagio, played by Davis on a flügelhorn with a Harmon mute, is one of the most memorable works to come from popular culture in the 20th century. Davis' control over his instrument is singular, and Evans' conducting is flawless. Also notable are "Saeta," with one of the most amazing technical solos of Davis' career, and the album's closer, "Solea," which is conceptually a narrative piece, based on an Andalusian folk song, about a woman who encounters the procession taking Christ to Calvary. She sings the narrative of his passion and the procession -- or parade -- with full brass accompaniment moving along. Cobb and Jones, with flamenco-flavored percussion, are particularly wonderful here, as they allow the orchestra to indulge in the lushly passionate arrangement Evans provided to accompany Davis, who was clearly at his most challenged here, though he delivers with grace and verve. Sketches of Spain is the most luxuriant and stridently romantic recording Davis ever made. To listen to it in the 21st century is still a spine-tingling experience, as one encounters a multitude of timbres, tonalities, and harmonic structures seldom found in the music called jazz.

 

MI0002403926.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

7. Ella Fitzgerald - Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife

 

This LP is a classic. Ella Fitzgerald is heard at the peak of her powers during a Berlin concert that is famous for her unique version of "Mack the Knife"; when she forgot the words in mid-performance, she substituted spontaneous and remarkable lyrics of her own.

 

MI0001922751.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

6. Karlheinz Stockhausen – Kontakte

 

Kontakte is the epitome of Stockhausen's pioneering "moment form," characterized by long periods of inactivity broken by sudden changes. The prepared tape used in the work consists of a variety of metallic effects, some sped up to create radically different sounds and timbres. Probably Stockhausen's most famous work, Kontakte has been performed in two versions, one with four-channel tape and another with four-channel tape with added piano and percussion.

 

MI0000245815.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

5. Charles Mingus - Blues and Roots

 

In response to critical carping that his ambitious, evocative music somehow didn't swing enough, Charles Mingus returned to the earthiest and earliest sources of black musical expression, namely the blues, gospel, and old-time New Orleans jazz. The resulting LP, Blues and Roots, isn't quite as wildly eclectic as usual, but it ranks as arguably Mingus' most joyously swinging outing. Working with simple forms, Mingus boosts the complexity of the music by assembling a nine-piece outfit and arranging multiple lines to be played simultaneously -- somewhat akin to the Dixieland ensembles of old, but with an acutely modern flavor. Anyone who had heard "Haitian Fight Song" shouldn't have been surprised that such an album was well within Mingus' range, but jazz's self-appointed guardians have long greeted innovation with reactionary distaste. After Blues and Roots, there could be no question of Mingus' firm grounding in the basics, nor of his deeply felt affinity with them. Whether the music is explicitly gospel-based -- like the groundbreaking classic "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting" -- or not, the whole album is performed with a churchy fervor that rips through both the exuberant swingers and the aching, mournful slow blues. Still, it's the blues that most prominently inform the feeling of the album, aside from the aforementioned "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting" and the Jelly Roll Morton tribute "My Jelly Roll Soul." The recording session was reportedly very disorganized, but perhaps that actually helped give the performances the proper feel, since they wound up so loose and free-swinging. With a lineup including John Handy and Jackie McLean on alto, Booker Ervin on tenor, frequent anchor Pepper Adams on baritone, and Jimmy Knepper and Willie Dennis on trombones, among others, Blues and Roots isn't hurting for fiery soloists, and they help make the album perhaps the most soulful in Mingus' discography.

 

MI0002084714.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

4. Wes Montgomery – The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery

 

On this landmark recording, Montgomery veered away from his home Indianapolis-based organ combo with Melvin Rhyne, the California-based Montgomery Brothers band, and other studio sidemen he had been placed with briefly. Off to New York City and a date with Tommy Flanagan's trio, Montgomery seems in his post- to hard bop element, swinging fluently with purpose, drive, and vigor not heard in an electric guitarist since bop progenitor Charlie Christian. Setting him apart from the rest, this recording established Montgomery as the most formidable modern guitarist of the era, and eventually its most influential. There's some classic material here, including the cat-quick but perhaps a trifle anxious version of the Sonny Rollins bop evergreen "Airegin," the famous repeated modal progressive and hard bop jam "Four on Six," and Montgomery's immortal soul waltz "West Coast Blues," effortlessly rendered with its memorable melody and flowing, elegant chiffon-like lines. Flanagan, at a time shortly after leaving his native Detroit, is the perfect pianist for this session. He plays forcefully but never overtly so on the bop tracks, offering up his trademark delicacy on the laid-back "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and easy-as-pie "Gone with the Wind." With the dynamic Philadelphia rhythm section of brothers Percy Heath on bass and drummer Albert Heath, they play a healthy Latin beat on the choppy and dramatic melody of Montgomery's original "Mr. Walker." Montgomery is clearly talented beyond convention, consistently brilliant, and indeed incredible in the company of his sidemen, and this recording -- an essential addition to every jazz guitarist fan's collection -- put him on the map.

 

MI0001827146.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

3. Eric Dolphy – Out There

 

The follow-up album to Outward Bound, Eric Dolphy's second effort for the Prestige/New Jazz label (and later remastered by Rudy Van Gelder) was equally praised and vilified for many reasons. At a time when the "anti-jazz" tag was being tossed around, Dolphy's nonlinear, harshly harmonic music gave some critics grist for the grinding mill. A second or third listen to Dolphy's music reveals an unrepentant shadowy side, but also depth and purpose that were unprecedented and remain singularly unique. The usage of bassist George Duvivier and cellist Ron Carter (an idea borrowed from Dolphy's days with Chico Hamilton) gives the music its overcast color base, in many ways equally stunning and uninviting. Dolphy's ideas must be fully embraced, taken to heart, and accepted before listening. The music reveals the depth of his thought processes while also expressing his bare-bones sensitive and kind nature. The bluesy "Serene," led by Carter alongside Dolphy's bass clarinet, and the wondrous ballad "Sketch of Melba" provide the sweetest moments, the latter tune identified by the fluttery introspective flute of the leader, clearly indicating where latter-period musicians like James Newton initially heard what would form their concept. Three pieces owe alms to Charles Mingus: his dark, moody, doleful, melodic, and reluctant composition "Eclipse"; the co-written (with Dolphy) craggy and scattered title track featuring Dolphy's emblematic alto held together by the unflappable swing of drummer Roy Haynes; and "The Baron," the leader's dark and dirty, wise and willful tribute to his former boss, accented by a choppy and chatty solo from Carter. "17 West," almost a post-bop standard, is briefly tonal with a patented flute solo and questioning cello inserts, while the unexpected closer written by Hale Smith, "Feathers," is a haunting, soulful ballad of regret where Dolphy's alto is more immediately heard in the foreground. A somber and unusual album by the standards of any style of music, Out There explores Dolphy's vision in approaching the concept of tonality in a way few others -- before, concurrent, or after -- have ever envisioned.

 

MI0001408022.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

2. John Coltrane – Giant Steps

 

Giant Steps bore the double-edged sword of furthering the cause of the music as well as delivering it to an increasingly mainstream audience. Although this was John Coltrane's debut for Atlantic, he was concurrently performing and recording with Miles Davis. Within the space of less than three weeks, Coltrane would complete his work with Davis and company on another genre-defining disc, Kind of Blue, before commencing his efforts on this one. Coltrane (tenor sax) is flanked by essentially two different trios. Recording commenced in early May of 1959 with a pair of sessions that featured Tommy Flanagan (piano) and Art Taylor (drums), as well as Paul Chambers -- who was the only band member other than Coltrane to have performed on every date. When recording resumed in December of that year, Wynton Kelly (piano) and Jimmy Cobb (drums) were instated -- replicating the lineup featured on Kind of Blue, sans Miles Davis of course. At the heart of these recordings, however, is the laser-beam focus of Coltrane's tenor solos. All seven pieces issued on the original Giant Steps are likewise Coltrane compositions. He was, in essence, beginning to rewrite the jazz canon with material that would be centered on solos -- the 180-degree antithesis of the art form up to that point. These arrangements would create a place for the solo to become infinitely more compelling. This would culminate in a frenetic performance style that noted jazz journalist Ira Gitler accurately dubbed "sheets of sound." Coltrane's polytonal torrents extricate the amicable and otherwise cordial solos that had begun decaying the very exigency of the genre -- turning it into the equivalent of easy listening. He wastes no time as the disc's title track immediately indicates a progression from which there would be no looking back. Line upon line of highly cerebral improvisation snake between the melody and solos, practically fusing the two. The resolute intensity of "Countdown" does more to modernize jazz in 141 seconds than many artists do in their entire careers. Tellingly, the contrasting and ultimately pastoral "Naima" was the last tune to be recorded, and is the only track on the original long-player to feature the Kind of Blue quartet. What is lost in tempo is more than recouped in intrinsic melodic beauty.

 

MI0002933405.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

1. Muddy Waters – At Newport 1960

 

Muddy, with a band featuring Otis Spann, James Cotton, and guitarist Pat Hare, lays it down tough and cool with a set that literally had 'em dancing in the aisles by the set closer, a rippling version of "Got My Mojo Working," reprised again in a short encore version. Kicking off the album with a version of "I've Got My Brand on You" that positively burns the relatively tame (in comparison) studio take, Waters heads full bore through impressive versions of "Hoochie Coochie Man," Big Bill Broonzy's "Feel So Good," and "Tiger in Your Tank." A great breakthrough moment in blues history, where the jazz audience opened its ears and embraced Chicago blues.

 

MI0001751172.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honorable Mentions:

 

 

 

Bill Evans Trio – Portrait in Jazz

 

The first of two studio albums by the Bill Evans-Scott LaFaro-Paul Motian trio (both of which preceded their famous engagement at the Village Vanguard), this Portrait in Jazz reissue contains some wondrous interplay, particularly between pianist Evans and bassist LaFaro, on the two versions of "Autumn Leaves." Other than introducing Evans' "Peri's Scope," the music is comprised of standards, but the influential interpretations were far from routine or predictable at the time. LaFaro and Motian were nearly equal partners with the pianist in the ensembles and their versions of such tunes as "Come Rain or Come Shine," "When I Fall in Love," and "Someday My Prince Will Come" (which preceded Miles Davis' famous recording by a couple years) are full of subtle and surprising creativity. A gem.

 

MI0002337863.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

Hank Mobley – Soul Station

 

Often overlooked, perhaps because he wasn't a great innovator in jazz but merely a stellar performer, tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley was at the peak of his powers on Soul Station. Recorded with a superstar quartet including Art Blakey on drums, Paul Chambers on bass, and Wynton Kelly on piano, it was the first album since Mobley's 1955 debut to feature him as a leader without any other accompanying horns. The clean, uncomplicated sound that resulted from that grouping helps make it the best among his albums and a peak moment during a particularly strong period in his career. Mobley has no problem running the show here, and he does it without being flashy or burying the strong work of his sidemen. The solidness of his technique means that he can handle material that is occasionally rhythmically intricate, while still maintaining the kind of easy roundness and warmth displayed by the best players of the swing era. Two carefully chosen standards, "Remember" and "If I Should Lose You," help to reinforce that impression by casting an eye back to the classic jazz era. They bookend four Mobley originals that, in contrast, reflect the best of small-group composition with their lightness and tight dynamics. Overall, this is a stellar set from one of the more underrated musicians of the bop era.

 

MI0001771994.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

John Lee Hooker – Travelin’

 

John Lee Hooker’s first release for the Gary, Indiana-based Vee-Jay label marked the guitarist’s transition from a singles artist to albums. Travelin’ was recorded entirely in one session at Bill Putnam’s hallowed Universal Studio, at 46 E. Walton St., in the Near North Side neighborhood of Chicago. Where Hooker’s early Chicago recordings were raw-boned solo performances, the songs here are strengthened by a rotund, rock-solid backing band comprised of guitarist William “Lefty” Bates, bassist Sylvester Hickman and drummer Jimmy Turner. The effect is the difference between hearing a man playing on an upturned crate on a street corner, and experiencing a band take a barroom stage after midnight on the South Side. Hooker is a great bandleader, forcing his musicians to milk the groove for everything it’s worth, and leave plenty of the dramatic space in which Hooker’s songs thrive. The band also brought out a new tone in Hooker. It’s impossible to overstate the sex appeal of songs like “No Shoes,” “I Can’t Believe” and “I Wanna Walk.” The rhythms are hypnotizing, although the ultimate thrill is hearing Hooker’s guitar cut nasty slashes through the lulling groove, as he does on “Solid Sender.”

 

MI0002107962.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

Link Wray & The Wraymen – Link Wray & The Wraymen

 

 

Wray's first album, as was often the custom in 1960, was a slapped-together affair, combining both sides of his first three Epic singles with half a dozen other numbers. One of those singles was his only hit of any size besides "Rumble," the Duane Eddy-ish "Raw-Hide"; another was a thinly disguised (and inferior) reworking of his classic "Rumble," here titled "Ramble." While this is a fine early instrumental rock & roll album, it's actually more inhibited and less creative than his classic work for Swan in the early and mid-'60s, and might slightly disappoint those who've come across some of those later ace tracks (like "Jack the Ripper") prior to hearing this stuff. Still, the Linkster's trademark fuzzy low tones and more strangled, higher-pitched faster runs make themselves known throughout. The songs do tend to play off pretty basic early rock & roll chord progressions, and exhibit a more pronounced Duane Eddy influence (not only on "Raw-Hide," but also on "Right Turn" and "Caroline") than his later work would.

 

wraycoverfront-500x500.jpg

 

 

 

 

The Ventures – Walk Don’t Run

 

 

This debut album by the Ventures is surprisingly good, considering that it was recorded in a huge rush, during an era when all concerned couldn't help but know that rock & roll albums (apart from those by Elvis Presley) generally didn't sell very well -- indeed, the fact that it is so good speaks volumes about the class and talent of the group at this early point in their history. With a sudden and totally unexpected number two national hit in "Walk, Don't Run" and a burgeoning demand for live performances, the quartet went in and recorded the best 11 tracks they knew to get a long-player together, all done in such a hurry that the members themselves couldn't stay around long enough to be photographed for the cover (those are stand-ins). The result is surprisingly sophisticated in its use of stereo (then still relatively unusual in rock & roll, stereo LPs having only debuted three years earlier, and largely confined to classical recordings), dividing the sound of the band quite neatly on two sides, thus giving LP purchasers a treat that owners of the single "Walk, Don't Run" would miss -- not only the sound separation that was so prized by audiophiles of the era, but crisp presentation of each instrument, dividing the two guitars very neatly. Thus, the casual listener could play with the speaker settings and balances, and the serious fans could get in close on the actual playing.

 

MI0003535205.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Whoo :D great choices but personally I'd've had to put Etta James - At Last a bit higher in the chart :P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Top 10 by which measure?

 

It's my personal picks. This thread is to highlight some great music throughout the years that people either never had the opportunity to listen to or maybe just haven't listened to in forever. It's also a fun way to discuss and debate about great music.

 

Feel free to disagree with my selections and post lists of your own favorites - that's entirely the point, to generate debate! I only ask that you try to post lists for the year we are currently discussing. For example, don't post your top 10 albums of 1998 right now since we're still in the 1960s.

 

I imagine things will start to pick up around the mid 60s when the LP became a more viable format.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1961:

 

 

 

10. Ray Charles – The Genius Sings the Blues

 

Down-home, anguished laments and moody ballads were turned into triumphs by Ray Charles. He sang these songs with the same conviction, passion, and energy that made his country and soul vocals so majestic.

 

Ray-Charles-The-Genius-Sings-464621.jpg

 

 

 

 

9. The Shadows – The Shadows

 

Having already scored three major U.K. smashes, the Shadows confirmed their independence from singer Cliff Richard with an eponymous album which rates among the most accomplished British LPs of the pre-Beatles era, and one of the most influential rock instrumental sets ever. An entire generation of would-be guitar heroes learned their licks from Hank Marvin and the Shadows, an accolade which a star-studded, mid-1990s tribute album certainly affirms. But the bespectacled guitarist was not the band's sole star. Drummer Tony Meehan's "See You in My Drums," like bassist Jet Harris' "Jet Black" single of two years previous, is a gripping showcase for his own remarkable talents, while "Baby My Heart" unveils vocal talents which, again, the group's earliest singles alone had illustrated. Modern listeners, schooled in the axeman excesses of more recent years, will doubtlessly find The Shadows impossibly well-mannered and implausibly sedentary. Low-key instrumentals like "Blue Star," "Sleepwalk," and "Nivram" (the inspiration behind Peter Frampton's "Theme From Nivram") scarcely begin to speak of the frenetic abuses which the likes of Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, and Eric Clapton would one day wring from their instruments. What they did do, however, was illustrate the untapped possibilities of the guitar, a lesson which Marvin might have taken his time in teaching, but which was vivid all the same.

 

500x500.jpg

 

 

 

 

8. Sun Ra – The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra

 

Sun Ra's only release for the Savoy label is a gem. Recorded in October of 1961, this is probably the first recording the Arkestra made after arriving in New York. As such, you're dealing with a smallish Arkestra (seven main instrumentalists, joined by vocalist Ricky Murray on "China Gate") that's still playing the boppish, highly arranged music characteristic of the Chicago years (1954-1961). Ra sticks to acoustic piano for the entire session, but various percussion instruments are dispersed throughout the band, giving a slightly exotic flavor to some of the tunes. John Gilmore plays bass clarinet on a couple tunes (as well as some great tenor solos), and Marshall Allen's flute playing is excellent, as always. This album was produced by Tom Wilson, who also produced the first Sun Ra LP, Jazz by Sun Ra (1956) for the Transition label, later reissued by Delmark as Sun Song (Wilson later went on to sign the Mothers of Invention to Verve and "electrified" Bob Dylan). With the exception of "The Beginning," all the tunes are very accessible. This is one to play for the mistaken folks who think the Arkestra did nothing but make noise. Excellent.

 

MI0001746519.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

7. Oliver Nelson – The Blues and the Abstract Truth

 

As Oliver Nelson is known primarily as a big band leader and arranger, he is lesser known as a saxophonist and organizer of small ensembles. Blues and the Abstract Truth is his triumph as a musician for the aspects of not only defining the sound of an era with his all-time classic "Stolen Moments," but on this recording, assembling one of the most potent modern jazz sextets ever. Lead trumpeter Freddie Hubbard is at his peak of performance, while alto saxophonists Nelson and Eric Dolphy (Nelson doubling on tenor) team to form an unlikely union that was simmered to perfection. Bill Evans (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Roy Haynes (drums) can do no wrong as a rhythm section. "Stolen Moments" really needs no comments, as its undisputable beauty shines through in a three-part horn harmony fronting Hubbard's lead melody. It's a thing of beauty that is more timeless as the years pass. The "Blues" aspect is best heard on "Yearnin'," a stylish, swinging, and swaying downhearted piece that is a bluesy as Evans would ever be. Both "Blues" and "Abstract Truth" combine for the darker "Teenie's Blues," a feature for Nelson and Dolphy's alto saxes, Dolphy assertive in stepping forth with his distinctive, angular, dramatic, fractured, brittle voice that marks him a maverick. Then there's "Hoedown," which has always been the black sheep of this collection with its country flavor and stereo separated upper and lower horn in snappy call-and-response barking. As surging and searing hard boppers respectively, "Cascades" and "Butch & Butch" again remind you of the era of the early '60s when this music was king, and why Hubbard was so revered as a young master of the idiom.

 

18304-the-blues-and-the-abstract-truth.jpg

 

 

 

 

6. Ornette Coleman – Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation

 

As jazz's first extended, continuous free improvisation LP, Free Jazz practically defies superlatives in its historical importance. Ornette Coleman's music had already been tagged "free," but this album took the term to a whole new level. Aside from a predetermined order of featured soloists and several brief transition signals cued by Coleman, the entire piece was created spontaneously, right on the spot. The lineup was expanded to a double-quartet format, split into one quartet for each stereo channel: Ornette, trumpeter Don Cherry, bassist Scott LaFaro, and drummer Billy Higgins on the left; trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, bass clarinetist Eric Dolphy, bassist Charlie Haden, and drummer Ed Blackwell on the right. The rhythm sections all play at once, anchoring the whole improvisation with a steady, driving pulse. The six spotlight sections feature each horn in turn, plus a bass duet and drum duet; the "soloists" are really leading dialogues, where the other instruments are free to support, push, or punctuate the featured player's lines. Since there was no road map for this kind of recording, each player simply brought his already established style to the table. That means there are still elements of convention and melody in the individual voices, which makes Free Jazz far more accessible than the efforts that followed once more of the jazz world caught up. Still, the album was enormously controversial in its bare-bones structure and lack of repeated themes. Despite resembling the abstract painting on the cover, it wasn't quite as radical as it seemed; the concept of collective improvisation actually had deep roots in jazz history, going all the way back to the freewheeling early Dixieland ensembles of New Orleans. Jazz had long prided itself on reflecting American freedom and democracy and, with Free Jazz, Coleman simply took those ideals to the next level. A staggering achievement.

 

tumblr_md3ysmD7Xn1r5i2bzo1_1352275989_cover.jpg

 

 

 

 

5. Robert Johnson – King of the Delta Blues Singers

 

If there is such a thing as a greatest-hits package available on Johnson, this landmark album, which jump-started the whole '60s blues revival, would certainly be the one. The majority of Johnson's best-known tunes, the ones that made the legend, are all aboard: "Crossroads," "Walkin' Blues," "Me & the Devil Blues," "Come On In My Kitchen," and the apocalyptic visions contained in "Hellhound On My Trail" are the blues at its finest, the lyrics sheer poetry.

 

MI0000022533.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

4. Bill Evans Trio – Waltz for Debby

 

Recorded at the Village Vanguard in 1961, shortly before Scott LaFaro's death, Waltz for Debby is the second album issued from that historic session, and the final one from that legendary trio that also contained drummer Paul Motian. While the Sunday at the Village Vanguard album focused on material where LaFaro soloed prominently, this is far more a portrait of the trio on those dates. Evans chose the material here, and, possibly, in some unconscious way, revealed on these sessions -- and the two following LaFaro's death (Moonbeams and How My Heart Sings!) -- a different side of his musical personality that had never been displayed on his earlier solo recordings or during his tenures with Miles Davis and George Russell: Evans was an intensely romantic player, flagrantly emotional, and that is revealed here in spades on tunes such as "My Foolish Heart" and "Detour Ahead." There is a kind of impressionistic construction to his harmonic architecture that plays off the middle registers and goes deeper into its sonances in order to set into motion numerous melodic fragments simultaneously. The rhythmic intensity that he displayed as a sideman is evident here in "Milestones," with its muscular shifting time signature and those large, flatted ninths with the right hand. The trio's most impressive interplay is in "My Romance," after Evans' opening moments introducing the changes. Here Motian's brushwork is delicate, flighty and elegant, and LaFaro controls the dynamic of the tune with his light as a feather pizzicato work and makes Evans' deeply emotional statements swing effortlessly. Of the many recordings Evans issued, the two Vanguard dates and Explorations are the ultimate expressions of his legendary trio.

 

641034_1_f.jpg

 

 

 

 

3. Max Roach – We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite

 

We Insist! Max Roach's Freedom Now Suite, co-authored by Max Roach and Oscar Brown, Jr., was a pivotal work in the early-'60s African-American protest movement, and continues to be relevant in its message and tenacity. It represents a lesson in living as to how the hundreds of years prior were an unnecessary example of how oppression kept slaves and immigrants in general in their place. Vocalist Abbey Lincoln expresses this oppression as effectively as anyone could with her thespian-based wordless vocals, and lyrics written by Brown that tell the grim story of the struggle of African-American for far too long. Musically, Roach assembled one of the greatest bands, from his own emerging ensemble with trombonist Julian Priester and trumpeter Booker Little, to the legendary Coleman Hawkins and lesser-known, underappreciated tenor saxophonist Walter Benton. Percussionists Ray Mantilla and Michael Olatunji gave the poetic pieces sung by Lincoln enough substance and spice to also refer to Afro-Cuban and South American prejudice and urgency for change. Hawkins is particularly impressive, as his emotional range during the deep and dour, 5/4 slave song "Driva' Man" clearly feeds off of Lincoln's blues singing about quittin' time. "Triptych; Prayer/Peace/Protest" is the magnum opus of the set, introduced by Roach's signature drum moves, an eerie operatic vocal or oppressed angst yelling from Lincoln, and a 5/4 beat from the percussionist against a calmer vocal component, all written for interpretive dance. Of the modern jazz that Roach is renowned for, the horns jump into furious hard bop with solos from Little, Benton, and Priester on "Freedom Day" after Lincoln quietly invites you to "whisper/listen," while the obscure bassist James Schenck leads in 6/8 and 5/4 ostinato over Lincoln's sustained tones on "Tears for Johannesburg," with the layered horns in and out of well-wrought harmonies, and another triad of instrumental solos. "All Africa" sports lyrics about being on the beach, or maybe the beach head in the battle for freedom, as chants of tribal names echo similar village beats. This is a pivotal work in the discography of Roach and African-American music in general, its importance growing in relevance and timely, postured, real emotional output. Every modern man, woman, and child could learn exponentially listening to this recording -- a hallmark for living life.

 

MI0001564261.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

2. John Coltrane – My Favorite Things

 

The unforced, practically casual soloing styles of the assembled quartet -- which includes Coltrane (soprano/tenor sax), McCoy Tyner (piano), Steve Davis (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums) -- allow for tastefully executed passages à la the Miles Davis Quintet, a trait Coltrane no doubt honed during his tenure in that band. Each track of this album is a joy to revisit. The ultimate listenability may reside in this quartet's capacity to not be overwhelmed by the soloist. Likewise, they are able to push the grooves along surreptitiously and unfettered. For instance, the support that the trio -- most notably Tyner -- gives to Coltrane on the title track winds the melody in and around itself. However, instead of becoming entangled and directionless, these musical sidebars simultaneously define the direction the song is taking. As a soloist, the definitive soprano sax runs during the Cole Porter standard "Everytime We Say Goodbye" and tenor solos on "But Not for Me" easily establish Coltrane as a pioneer of both instruments.

 

MI0001900920.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

1. Bobby Bland – Two Steps from the Blues

 

Without a doubt, Two Steps from the Blues is the definitive Bobby "Blue" Bland album and one of the great records in electric blues and soul-blues. In fact, it's one of the key albums in modern blues, marking a turning point when juke joint blues were seamlessly blended with gospel and Southern soul, creating a distinctly Southern sound where all of these styles blended so thoroughly it was impossible to tell where one began and one ended. Given his Memphis background, Bobby "Blue" Bland was perfectly suited for this kind of amalgam as envisioned by producer/arranger Joe Scott, who crafted these wailing horn arrangements that sounded as impassioned as Bland's full-throated, anguished vocals. It helped, of course, that the songs were uniformly brilliant. Primarily from the pen of Deadric Malone, along with Duke head Don Robey and Scott (among others), these are the tunes that form the core of Bobby "Blue" Bland's legend and the foundation of soul-blues: "Two Steps from the Blues," "I Don't Want No Woman," "Cry, Cry, Cry," "I'm Not Ashamed," "Lead Me On," "Little Boy Blue" -- songs so good they overshadow standards like "St. James Infirmary." These are songs that blur the division between Ray Charles soul and Chess blues, opening the doors for numerous soul and blues sounds, from Muscle Shoals and Stax through the modern-day soul-bluesman. Since this, like many blues albums from the late '50s/early '60s, was a collection of singles, it's possible to find the key tracks, even the entire album, on the numerous Bobby "Blue" Bland collections released over the years, but this remains an excellent, essential blues album on its own terms -- one of the greatest ever released.

 

MI0002779514.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honorable Mentions:

 

 

 

Bill Evans Trio – Sunday at the Village Vanguard

 

Here, one need listen no further than the elegant and haunting, graceful modal reading of "My Man's Gone Now" from Porgy & Bess to know that there is something completely balanced and indescribably beautiful in their approach. Motian's brushes whisper along the ride cymbals and both Evans and LaFaro enter into a dialogue that emerges from a darkly hued minor mode, into the melody and somehow beyond it, into a form of seamless dialogic improvisation to know that in the act of one musician slipping over and under another -- as happens with all three in an aural basket weave -- is something utterly new and different, often imitated but never replicated. But in a sense it happens before this, on LaFaro's "Gloria's Step," which opens the recording. His thematic statement includes the briefest intro, hesitant and spacious before he and pianist enter into a harmonic and contrapuntal conversation underscored by the hushed dynamics of Motian's snare, and the lightning-fast interlocutions of single string and chorded playing of LaFaro. The shapshifting reading of Miles Davis' "Solar," is a place where angularity, counterpoint, and early modalism all come together in a knotty and insistent, yet utterly seamless blend of post-bop aesthetics and expanded harmonic intercourse with Motian, whose work, while indispensable in the balance of the trio, comes more into play here, and is more assertive with his half-time accents to frame the counterpoint playing of Evans and LaFaro. This is a great place to begin with Evans.

 

MI0001908399.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

Nina Simone – Forbidden Fruit

 

On Forbidden Fruit, Nina Simone sings of people in love--and of the circumstances that sometimes keep them from it. While some of the songs are conventional--in the sense that their melodies are haunting and in the love song tradition--others are concerned more with the realities of troubled love. In the latter category, for example, are "Rags and Old Iron", "Gin House Blues", "Work Song" and "Forbidden Fruit". This album, more that ever, proves Nina's amazing versatility, and stamps her again as one of the great talents of our time.

 

MI0001757947.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

Serge Gainsbourg – L’Etonnant Serge Gainsbourg

 

As early as 1961, Serge Gainsbourg was one of the most extraordinary artists of the French pop scene, and during the first part of the '60s the crooner produced a series of outrageously brilliant albums with producer/arranger Alain Goraguer. One of his most intoxicating amalgams of jazz and pop styles, L'Etonnant Serge Gainsbourg comes highly recommended to fans of '60s French pop. An utterly essential early document of Serge Gainsbourg while he was still a mildly respectable man -- but that's not say there aren't hints of his notorious decadence in this early work.

 

MI0002512505.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

Thelonious Monk – Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane

 

 

Universally regarded as one of the greatest collaborations between the two most influential musicians in modern jazz (Miles Davis notwithstanding), the Jazzland sessions from Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane should be recognized on other levels. While the mastery of the principals is beyond reproach, credit should also be given to peerless bassist Wilbur Ware, as mighty an anchor as anyone could want. These 1957 dates also sport a variety in drummerless trio, quartet, septet, or solo piano settings, all emphasizing the compelling and quirky compositions of Monk. A shouted-out, pronounced "Off Minor" and robust, three-minute "Epistrophy" with legendary saxophonists Coleman Hawkins, Gigi Gryce, and the brilliant, underappreciated trumpeter Ray Copeland are hallmark tracks that every jazz fan should revere. Of the four quartet sessions, the fleet "Trinkle Tinkle" tests Coltrane's mettle, as he's perfectly matched alongside Monk, but conversely unforced during "Nutty" before taking off. Monk's solo piano effort, "Functional," is flavored with blues, stride, and boogie-woogie, while a bonus track, "Monk's Mood," has a Monk-Ware-Coltrane tandem (minus drummer Shadow Wilson) back for an eight-minute excursion primarily with Monk in a long intro, 'Trane in late, and Ware's bass accents booming through the studio. This will always be an essential item standing proudly among unearthed live sessions from Monk and Coltrane, demarcating a pivotal point during the most significant year in all types of music, from a technical and creative standpoint, but especially the jazz of the immediate future.

 

MI0002031755.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

Yusef Lateef – Eastern Sounds

 

 

One of multi-instrumentalist and composer Yusef Lateef's most enduring recordings, Eastern Sounds was one of the last recordings made by the band that Lateef shared with pianist Barry Harris after the band moved to New York from Detroit, where the jazz scene was already dying. Lateef had long been interested in Eastern music, long before John Coltrane had ever shown any public interest anyway, so this Moodsville session (which meant it was supposed to be a laid-back ballad-like record), recorded in 1961, was drenched in Lateef's current explorations of Eastern mode and interval, as well as tonal and polytonal improvisation. That he could do so within a context that was accessible, and even "pretty," is an accomplishment that stands today. The quartet was rounded out by the inimitable Lex Humphries on drums -- whose brushwork was among the most deft and inventive of any player in the music with the possible exception of Connie Kay from the Modern Jazz Quartet -- and bass and rabat player Ernie Farrow. The set kicks off with "The Plum Blossom," a sweet oboe and flute piece that comes from an Eastern scale and works in repetitive rhythms and a single D minor mode to move through a blues progression and into something a bit more exotic, which sets up the oboe-driven "Blues for the Orient." Never has Barry Harris' playing stood up with more restraint to such striking effect than it does here. He moves the piece along with striking ostinatos and arpeggios that hold the center of the tune rather than stretch it. Lateef moans softly on the oboe as the rhythm section doubles, then triples, then half times the beat until it all feels like a drone. There are two cinematic themes here -- he cut themes from the films Spartacus and The Robe, which are strikingly, hauntingly beautiful -- revealing just how important accessibility was to Lateef. And not in the sense of selling out, but more in terms of bringing people to this music he was not only playing, but discovering as well.

 

MI0002444284.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1962:

 

 

 

10. Dick Dale – Surfer’s Choice

 

Very few early rock & roll albums were true groundbreakers, but this is one: not only did it single-handedly establish the surf music genre (and Dick Dale's hegemony over it), but also sold the entire concept to mass America, where surfing in landlocked regions was only a state of mind. Largely recorded at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa Beach -- Dale's ruling home turf, where one can clearly hear the kids screaming in anticipation at the start of "Surf Beat" -- this lays out the vocal highlights from Dick's set list ("Peppermint Man," "Lovey Dovey," "Night Owl," "Fanny Mae," and "Sloop John B.," sounding very odd here with overdubbed strings) up against the instrumentals that truly forged the style. "Miserlou Twist" -- a different version than the original Del-Tone single -- and the original, pre-reverb single version of "Let's Go Trippin'" appear to be the only studio tracks aboard. But the live takes on "Surfing Drums" (later retitled "Tribal Thunder" on one of Dale's comeback albums), "Take It Off," "Shake 'n' Stomp," and the lowdown stomp of "Death of a Gremmie" just as clearly delineate the wild, reverbed excitement of the new style in its native habitat. Without a doubt, surf guitar's finest hour, the genre's equivalent to Charlie Parker's Dial recordings.

 

MI0001931115.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

9. Sonny Rollins – The Bridge

 

Tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins' first recording after ending a surprising three-year retirement found the great saxophonist sounding very similar to how he had played in 1959, although he would soon start investigating freer forms. In a pianoless quartet with guitarist Jim Hall, bassist Bob Cranshaw, and drummer Ben Riley, Rollins explores four standards (including "Without a Song" and "God Bless the Child") plus two fiery originals (highlighted by the title cut).

 

MI0002005983.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

8. Jackie McLean – Let Freedom Ring

 

Jackie McLean had always been a highly emotional soloist, so it makes sense that he was one of the first hard bop veterans to find a new voice in the burning intensity of jazz's emerging avant-garde. McLean had previously experimented with Coltrane's angular modes and scales and Ornette's concept of chordal freedom, but Let Freedom Ring was the landmark masterpiece where he put everything together and ushered in the era of the modernists at Blue Note. A number of saxophonists were beginning to explore the ability of the instrument to mimic human cries of passion, and here McLean perfected a long, piercing squeal capable of expressing joy, anguish, fury, and more. The music on Let Freedom Ring remained more rooted in hard bop structure than Coleman's, and McLean was still recognizably himself, but that was precisely what was revolutionary about the album: It validated the avant-garde aesthetic, demonstrating that it had enough value to convert members of the old guard, and wasn't just the province of radical outcasts. There are only four pieces, one of which is the surging Bud Powell ballad "I'll Keep Loving You"; the other three are McLean originals ("Melody for Melonae," "Rene," and "Omega," dedicated to his daughter, son, and mother respectively) that spotlight his tremendous inventiveness on extended material and amaze with a smoldering fire that never lets up. Pianist Walter Davis takes the occasional solo, but the record is McLean's statement of purpose, and he accordingly dominates the proceedings, with the busy, free-flowing dialogues of bassist Herbie Lewis and Ornette drummer Billy Higgins pushing him to even greater heights. The success of Let Freedom Ring paved the way for a bumper crop of other modernist innovators to join the Blue Note roster and, artistically, it still stands with One Step Beyond as McLean's greatest work.

 

MI0002778165.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

7. Booker T. & the MG’s - Green Onions

 

There's not a note or a nuance out of place anywhere on this record, which featured 35 of the most exciting minutes of instrumental music in any category that one could purchase in 1962 (and it's no slouch multiple decades out, either). "I Got a Woman" is the single best indicator of how superb this record is and this band was -- listening to this track, it's easy to forget that the song ever had lyrics or ever needed them, Booker T. Jones' organ and Steve Cropper's guitar serving as more-than-adequate substitutes for any singer. Their version of "Twist and Shout" is every bit as satisfying. Even "Mo' Onions," an effort to repeat the success of "Green Onions," doesn't repeat anything from the earlier track except the tempo, and Jones and Cropper both come up with fresh sounds within the same framework. "Behave Yourself" is a beautifully wrought piece of organ-based blues that gives Jones a chance to show off some surprisingly nimble-fingered playing, while "Stranger on the Shore" is transformed into a piece of prime soul music in the group's hands. Just when it seems like the album has turned in all of the surprises in repertory that it could reasonably deliver, it ends with "Comin' Home Baby," a killer jazz piece on which Steve Cropper gets to shine, his guitar suddenly animated around Jones' playing, his quietly trilled notes at the crescendo some of the most elegant guitar heard on an R&B record up to that time.

 

MI0003375867.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

6. Sonny Clark – Leapin’ and Lopin’

 

Sonny Clark's fifth Blue Note recording as a leader is generally regarded as his best, especially considering he composed four of the seven tracks, and they all bear his stamp of originality. What is also evident is that he is shaping the sounds of his quintet rather than dominating the proceedings as he did on other previous dates. Tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse and trumpeter Tommy Turrentine play very little harmony on the date, but their in-tune unison lines are singularly distinctive, while bassist Butch Warren and a young drummer Billy Higgins keep the rhythmic coals burning with a steady glowing red heat. Among the classic tunes is the definitive hard bop opener "Somethin' Special" which lives up to its title in a most bright and happy manner, with Clark merrily comping chords. "Melody for C" is similarly cheerful, measured, and vivid in melodic coloration, the CD containing a slightly longer alternate take. "Zellmar's Delight," not included on the original LP, finally has the tenor and trumpet playing harmony during a tricky, progressive melody, not at all conventional, which is perhaps why it was initially omitted. The showstopper is "Voodoo," the ultimate yin/yang, dark, late night, sly and slinky jazz tune contrasted by Clark's tinkling piano riffs. Warren wrote the exciting hard bopper "Eric Walks" reminiscent of a Dizzy Gillespie tune, while Turrentine's "Midnight Mambo" mixes metaphors of Afro-Cuban music with unusual off-minor phrases and the stoic playing of Rouse. Tenor saxophonist Ike Quebec plays a cameo sans the other horns on the soulful ballad "Deep in a Dream," exhibiting a vocal quality on his instrument, making one wonder if any other sessions with this group were done on the side. Top to bottom Leapin' and Lopin' is a definitive recording for Clark, and really for all time in the mainstream jazz idiom.

 

514ym8PTAPL.jpg

 

 

 

 

5. Maurice Jarre – Lawrence of Arabia [Original Soundtrack]

 

Composer Maurice Jarre's majestic score for David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia is as epic and grand as the 1962 Oscar-winning movie itself. Bombastic and hypnotic, balancing sweeping strings and brass with violent percussion, Jarre (who also conducts) holds back nothing, relying on the film's desert vistas to guide his soaring, Middle Eastern-inspired cues into the listener's head like a cannonball.

 

tumblr_ll45vjqbLv1qzhl7g_1305255927_cover.jpg

 

 

 

 

4. Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan

 

Bob Dylan's first album is a lot like the debut albums by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones -- a sterling effort, outclassing most, if not all, of what came before it in the genre, but similarly eclipsed by the artist's own subsequent efforts. The difference was that not very many people heard Bob Dylan on its original release (originals on the early-'60s Columbia label are choice collectibles) because it was recorded with a much smaller audience and musical arena in mind. At the time of Bob Dylan's release, the folk revival was rolling, and interpretation was considered more important than original composition by most of that audience. A significant portion of the record is possessed by the style and spirit of Woody Guthrie, whose influence as a singer and guitarist hovers over "Man of Constant Sorrow" and "Pretty Peggy-O," as well as the two originals here, the savagely witty "Talkin' New York" and the poignant "Song to Woody"; and it's also hard to believe that he wasn't aware of Jimmie Rodgers and Roy Acuff when he cut "Freight Train Blues." But on other songs, one can also hear the influences of Bukka White, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson, and Furry Lewis, in the playing and singing, and this is where Dylan departed significantly from most of his contemporaries. Other white folksingers of the era, including his older contemporaries Eric Von Schmidt and Dave Van Ronk, had incorporated blues in their work, but Dylan's presentation was more in your face, resembling in some respects (albeit in a more self-conscious way) the work of John Hammond, Jr., the son of the man who signed Dylan to Columbia Records and produced this album, who was just starting out in his own career at the time this record was made. There's a punk-like aggressiveness to the singing and playing here. His raspy-voiced delivery and guitar style were modeled largely on Guthrie's classic '40s and early-'50s recordings, but the assertiveness of the bluesmen he admires also comes out, making this one of the most powerful records to come out of the folk revival of which it was a part. Within a year of its release, Dylan, initially in tandem with young folk/protest singers like Peter, Paul & Mary and Phil Ochs, would alter the boundaries of that revival beyond recognition, but this album marked the pinnacle of that earlier phase, before it was overshadowed by this artist's more ambitious subsequent work. In that regard, the two original songs here serve as the bridge between Dylan's stylistic roots, as delineated on this album, and the more powerful and daringly original work that followed.

 

MI0000486644.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

3. Charles Mingus – Oh Yeah

 

After several sessions with Columbia and Candid, Charles Mingus briefly returned to Atlantic and cut the freewheeling Oh Yeah, which has to rank as the wildest of all his classic albums. Mingus plays no bass whatsoever, hiring Doug Watkins to fill in while he accompanies the group on piano and contributes bluesy vocals to several tracks (while shouting encouragement on nearly all of them). Mingus had always had a bizarre sense of humor, as expressed in some of his song titles and arranging devices, but Oh Yeah often gets downright warped. That's partly because Mingus is freed up to vocalize more often, but it's also due to the presence of mad genius Roland Kirk. His chemistry with Mingus is fantastically explosive, which makes sense -- both were encyclopedias of jazz tradition, but given over to oddball modernist experimentation. It's a shame Kirk only spent three months with the band, because his solo interpretations are such symbiotic reflections of Mingus' intent as a composer. Look no further than "Hog Callin' Blues," a stomping "Haitian Fight Song" descendant where Kirk honks and roars the blues like a man possessed. Mingus' vocal selections radiate the same dementia, whether it's the stream-of-consciousness blues couplets on "Devil Woman," the dark-humored modern-day spiritual "Oh Lord Don't Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb on Me," or the dadaist stride piano bounce of "Eat That Chicken," a nod to Fats Waller's comic novelties. Elsewhere, "Passions of a Man" sounds almost like musique concrète, while "Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am" nicks some Monk angularity and "Ecclusiastics" adds some testifying shouts and a chorale-like theme to Mingus' gospel-jazz hybrid. Oh Yeah is probably the most offbeat Mingus album ever, and that's what makes it so vital.

 

MI0003592238.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

2. Ray Charles – Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music

 

Less modern for its country-R&B blend (Elvis Presley and company did it in 1955) and lushly produced C&W tone (the Nashville sound cropped up in the late '50s) than for its place as a high-profile crossover hit, Modern Sounds in Country and Western fit right in with Ray Charles' expansive musical ways while on the Atlantic label in the '50s. In need of even more room to explore, Charles signed with ABC Paramount and eventually took full advantage of his contract's "full artistic freedom clause" with this collection of revamped country classics. Covering a period from 1939 to the early '60s, the 12 tracks here touch on old-timey fare (Floyd Tillman's "It Makes No Difference to Me Now"), honky tonk (three Hank Williams songs), and early countrypolitan (Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You"). Along with a Top Ten go at Eddy Arnold's "You Don't Know Me," the Gibson cover helped the album remain at the top of the pop charts for nearly three months and brought Charles international fame. Above a mix of swinging big band charts by Gerald Wilson and strings and choir backdrops from Marty Paich, Charles' intones the sleepy-blue nuances of country crooners while still giving the songs a needed kick with his gospel outbursts. No pedal steel or fiddles here, just a fine store of inimitable interpretations.

 

MI0000629203.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

1. Dexter Gordon – Go!

 

From the first moments when Dexter Gordon sails into the opening song full of brightness and confidence, it is obvious that Go! is going to be one of those albums where everything just seems to come together magically. A stellar quartet including the stylish pianist Sonny Clark, the agile drummer Billy Higgins, and the solid yet flexible bassist Butch Warren are absolutely crucial in making this album work, but it is still Gordon who shines. Whether he is dropping quotes into "Three O'Clock in the Morning" or running around with spritely bop phrases in "Cheese Cake," the album pops and crackles with energy and exuberance. Beautiful ballads like "I Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry" metamorphosize that energy into emotion and passion, but you can still see it there nonetheless. Gordon had many high points in his five decade-long career, but this is certainly the peak of it all.

 

MI0001912649.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honorable Mentions:

 

 

 

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Mosaic

 

The band's front line was trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, trombonist Curtis Fuller, and tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter; Cedar Walton played piano and Jymie Merritt (a criminally underappreciated talent) was the bassist. Everything on this set was written by the musicians in the band. Walton wrote the burning title track; its blazing tempo and Eastern modes were uncharacteristic of the Jazz Messengers sound, but it swings like mad. Hubbard contributed two pieces to the album, the first of which is the groover "Down Under," with its blues gospel feel. The bandmembers dig their teeth into this one, carrying the blues theme to the breaking point as Hubbard fills in between. But the horn charts are so sharp, so utterly devoid of excess, that they won't let the listener go. Shorter's "Children of the Night" is a fine example of the tunes he would compose for the Miles Davis Quintet a bit later. While it's a hard bop swinger to be sure, his use of modality and counterpoint between the soloist and the front line is exemplary and his solo bites hard and fast as he tears up and down the registers of the horn. Fuller's "Arabia" is a basic blues groover, and the playing is inspired throughout. The disc closes with Hubbard's "Crisis," which opens with Merritt and Blakey ushering in the rest of the band. Walton first plays a repetitive minor-key riff. When the horns enter, Walton keeps the theme, Merritt moves over a bit to dig in between the lines, and Blakey keeps it all anchored because in this tune rhythm is everything. Hubbard was in many ways a soul-jazz composer before there was such a thing, and the motifs in this tune prove it -- as does his beautiful blowing in his solo. This is a fine recording and should be owned by any Blakey fan.

 

51uLOHiTjDL.jpg

 

 

 

 

Eric Dolphy – Far Cry

 

Far Cry finds multi-reedist Eric Dolphy in a transitional phase, relinquishing Parker's governing universal impact and diving into the next controversial phase that critics began calling "anti-jazz." On this date Booker Little's lyrical trumpet and Jackie Byard's confident grasp of multiple piano styles (though both steeped in hard bop) were sympathetic to the burgeoning "avant-garde" approach that Dolphy displays, albeit sparingly, on this session. Far Cry contains the initial performance of Dolphy's future jazz classic "Miss Ann," along with his first recorded solo alto sax performance on "Tenderly," in which Dolphy bridges the gap between the solo saxophone performances of Coleman Hawkins and Anthony Braxton.

 

Eric_Dolphy_-_Far_Cry.jpg

 

 

 

 

Howlin’ Wolf – Howlin’ Wolf Sings the Blues

 

The electric guitar had rarely been recorded with as much fuzzy power as it was here, for one thing, and Howlin' Wolf's vocals were already possessed of magnificent, sometimes scary intensity. The same could be said of his lyrical imagery on songs like "Riding in the Moonlight," "Morning at Midnight" (aka "Moanin' at Midnight"), "Dog Me Around" (aka "How Many More Years"), and "Crying at Daybreak," which is actually an early version of his classic "Smokestack Lightning." "House Rockin' Boogie" and "Keep What You Got," meanwhile, are more good-time, fast-paced numbers that point toward not only the future of electric blues, but some of the future traits of rock & roll.

 

MI0002951863.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

John Coltrane – Live at the Village Vanguard

 

 

Coltrane is accompanied by an all-star ensemble of Eric Dolphy (alto sax/bass clarinet), Garvin Bushell(oboe/contrabassoon), Ahmed Abdul-Malik (oud), McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass),Reggie Workman (bass), Elvin Jones (drums), and Roy Haynes (drums). Their presence is as equally vital as Coltrane's -- inspiring as well as informing the dimensions of improvisation. With the knowledge that the entire run was being documented to create some sort of retail document, Coltrane chose nine specific compositions to concentrate on. The choice of material likewise had a tremendous impact on the personnel of the band -- evidenced by Bushnell's contributions during "Spiritual" and Abdul-Malik's within the context of the extended "India."

 

live+at+the+village+vanguard.jpg

 

 

 

 

Ornette Coleman – Ornette!

 

 

Recorded a little over a month after his groundbreaking work Free Jazz, this album found Coleman perhaps retrenching from that idea conceptually, but nonetheless plumbing his quartet music to ever greater heights of richness and creativity. Ornette! was the first time bassist Scott LaFaro recorded with Coleman, and the difference in approach between LaFaro and Charlie Haden is apparent from the opening notes of "W.R.U." There is a more direct propulsion and limberness to his playing, and he can be heard driving Coleman and Don Cherry actively and more aggressively than Haden's warm, languid phrasing. The cuts, with titles derived from the works of Sigmund Freud, are all gems and serve as wonderful launching pads for the musicians' improvisations. Coleman, by this time, was very comfortable in extended pieces, and he and his partners have no trouble filling in the time, never coming close to running out of ideas. Special mention should be made of Ed Blackwell, with one of his finest performances. Ornette! is a superb release and a must for all fans of Coleman and creative improvised music in general.

 

MI0001388041.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1963:

 

 

 

10. The Beatles – Please Please Me

 

Once "Please Please Me" rocketed to number one, the Beatles rushed to deliver a debut album, bashing out Please Please Me in a day. Decades after its release, the album still sounds fresh, precisely because of its intense origins. As the songs rush past, it's easy to get wrapped up in the sound of the record itself without realizing how the album effectively summarizes the band's eclectic influences. Naturally, the influences shine through their covers, all of which are unconventional and illustrate the group's superior taste. There's a love of girl groups, vocal harmonies, sophisticated popcraft, schmaltz, R&B, and hard-driving rock & roll, which is enough to make Please Please Me impressive, but what makes it astonishing is how these elements converge in the originals. "I Saw Her Standing There" is one of their best rockers, yet it has surprising harmonies and melodic progressions. "Misery" and "There's a Place" grow out of the girl group tradition without being tied to it. A few of their originals, such as "Do You Want to Know a Secret" and the pleasantly light "P.S. I Love You," have dated slightly, but endearingly so, since they're infused with cheerful innocence and enthusiasm. And there is an innocence to Please Please Me. The Beatles may have played notoriously rough dives in Hamburg, but the only way you could tell that on their first album was how the constant gigging turned the group into a tight, professional band that could run through their set list at the drop of a hat with boundless energy. It's no surprise that Lennon had shouted himself hoarse by the end of the session, barely getting through "Twist and Shout," the most famous single take in rock history. He simply got caught up in the music, just like generations of listeners did.

 

The_Beatles_Please_Please_Me.jpg

 

 

 

 

9. Roy Orbison – In Dreams

 

Roy Orbison's 1963 album of the same name, recorded for the Monument label, is devastating for a number of reasons, namely that his "Blue Bayou" and his readings of Johnny Mercer's "Dreams" and Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer" are here, as is his gorgeous reading of Cindy Walker's "Shahdaroba." Half of these cuts were recorded during the sessions for Sings Lonely and Blue, the other half in Nash Vegas in 1963 with Fred Foster producing both. The big difference on this set is the less intrusive presence of the Anita Kerr Singers. There are even more strings here, but they are relegated to a lesser place as well. Orbison's voice was never better than on this recording. The heights he reaches on the title cut, "Lonely Wine," the swaggering country and R&B of "Blue Avenue," and "My Prayer" are simply mind-blowing. The emotion and deep atmospherics of the tunes here reflect Foster's sophistication, but also Orbison's willingness to develop himself as a singer and as a persona.

 

MI0000639635.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

8. Jorge Ben – Samba Esquema Novo

 

Ben's first full-length record, this 1963 release contains the hit singles "Mas Que Nada" and "Chove Chuva" and typifies the light yet propulsive rhythms that afforded Ben a decades-long career in Brazilian pop. Not yet pared down to the more rock- and Afro percussive-driven sound he eventually developed Samba Esquema Novo (which translates to "New Style Samba") is replete with swirling bossa nova rhythms and soaring choruses. Its big-band-style accompaniment, nicely off-set by Ben's signature minor-tone guitar workings, propels the set into an upbeat and enjoyable listen.

 

MI0001738198.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

7. John Fahey – Death Chants, Breakdowns and Military Waltzes

 

Preceded only by the super-rare original version of Blind Joe Death, the 1963 LP of Death Chants was the first Fahey album to gain reasonably wide distribution. It's a work that beautifully displays both Fahey's virtuosity on folk and blues guitar and a distinct composing voice that draws much from folk and blues traditions, but is not quite part of either school. Fahey's gift for making music that's tranquil and evocative, but also with enough odd angularity and minor melody to give it depth and ambiguity, is evident right from the start, and heard to best advantage on "When the Springtime Comes Again," "Some Summer Day," and the epic "America." Even on the pieces with more straight blues connections, Fahey achieves a full and reverberant quality that sets it off not just from the average country blues revivalists of the period, but from vintage country blues itself.

 

MI0000008830.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

6. Thelonious Monk – Monk’s Dream

 

Monk's Dream is the Columbia Records debut release featuring the Thelonious Monk Quartet: Monk(piano), Charlie Rouse (tenor sax), John Ore (bass), and Frankie Dunlop (drums). Jazz scholars and enthusiasts alike also heralded this combo as the best Monk had been involved with for several years. Although he would perform and record supported by various other musicians, the tight -- almost telepathic -- dimensions that these four shared has rarely been equaled in any genre. By the early '60s, bop had become considered passé by artists as well as fans looking for the next musical trend. This is coupled with the fact that discerning Monk fans would have undoubtedly recognized many of these titles from several live recordings issued at the end of his tenure on Riverside. Not to belabor the point, however, but precious few musicians understood the layer upon layer of complexities and challenges that Monk's music created. On tracks such as "Five Spot Blues" and "Bolivar Blues," Rouse and Dunlop demonstrate their uncanny abilities by squeezing in well-placed instrumental fills, while never getting hit by the unpredictable rhythmic frisbees being tossed about by Monk. Augmenting the six quartet recordings are two solo sides: "Just a Gigolo" and "Body and Soul." Most notable about Monk's solo work is how much he retained the same extreme level of intuition throughout the nearly two decades that separate these recordings from his initial renderings in the late '40s. Monk's Dream is recommended, with something for every degree of Monk enthusiast.

 

monk-dreams.jpg

 

 

 

 

5. Phil Spector – A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records

 

Featuring Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" in its prime and his early stable of artists, the Ronettes,Crystals, Darlene Love, and Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector stands as inarguably the greatest Christmas record of all time. Spector believed he could produce a record for the holidays that would capture not only the essence of the Christmas spirit, but also be a pop masterpiece that would stand against any work these artists had already done. He succeeded on every level, with all four groups/singers recording some of their most memorable performances. This is the Christmas album by which all later holiday releases had to be judged, and it has inspired a host of imitators.

 

51eEs4DG8GL.jpg

 

 

 

 

4. Sam Cooke – Night Beat

 

Saddled with soaring strings and vocal choruses for maximum crossover potential, Sam Cooke's solo material often masked the most important part of his genius -- his glorious voice -- so the odd small-group date earns a special recommendation in his discography. Thankfully, Cooke's voice took center stage on this admirably low-key session from February 1963, recorded in Los Angeles with a quartet of studio veterans. Unlike so many session crews and producers of the time, these musicians gave him plenty of space and often simply framed Cooke's breathtaking vocals. (On one of the best tracks here, "Lost and Lookin'," he's barely accompanied at all; only bass and cymbals can be heard far in the background.) The results are wonderful -- except for his early Soul Stirrers sides, Night Beat is the best place to marvel at one of the two or three best voices of the century. The songs are intimate blues, most taken at the pace of a late-night stroll, but despite the dark shading and heart-rending tempos, Cooke's voice is so transcendent it's difficult to become depressed while listening. Cooke also wrote three of the songs, including the excellent "Mean Old World," and rendered the traditional "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" practically unfamiliar with his own re-arrangement. Cooke also stretches out on a pair of jump blues classics, "Little Red Rooster" and "Shake, Rattle and Roll," summoning some honest grit for the former and putting the uptown swing into the latter. He also allows some solo space, from Barney Kessel's simple, unadorned solo on "Get Yourself Another Fool" to Billy Preston's playful organ vocalizing on "Little Red Rooster."

 

MI0001648043.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

3. Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

 

It's hard to overestimate the importance of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, the record that firmly established Dylan as an unparalleled songwriter, one of considerable skill, imagination, and vision. At the time, folk had been quite popular on college campuses and bohemian circles, making headway onto the pop charts in diluted form, and while there certainly were a number of gifted songwriters, nobody had transcended the scene as Dylan did with this record. There are a couple (very good) covers, with "Corrina Corrina" and "Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance," but they pale with the originals here. At the time, the social protests received the most attention, and deservedly so, since "Blowin' in the Wind," "Masters of War," and "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" weren't just specific in their targets; they were gracefully executed and even melodic. Although they've proven resilient throughout the years, if that's all Freewheelin' had to offer, it wouldn't have had its seismic impact, but this also revealed a songwriter who could turn out whimsy ("Don't Think Twice, It's All Right"), gorgeous love songs ("Girl From the North Country"), and cheerfully absurdist humor ("Bob Dylan's Blues," "Bob Dylan's Dream") with equal skill. This is rich, imaginative music, capturing the sound and spirit of America as much as that of Louis Armstrong, Hank Williams, or Elvis Presley.

 

MI0001959588.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

2. James Brown – Live at the Apollo

 

An astonishing record of James and the Flames tearing the roof off the sucker at the mecca of R&B theatres, New York's Apollo. When King Records owner Syd Nathan refused to fund the recording, thinking it commercial folly, Brown single-mindedly proceeded anyway, paying for it out of his own pocket. He had been out on the road night after night for a while, and he knew that the magic that was part and parcel of a James Brown show was something no record had ever caught. Hit follows hit without a pause -- "I'll Go Crazy," "Try Me," "Think," "Please Please Please," "I Don't Mind," "Night Train," and more. The affirmative screams and cries of the audience are something you've never experienced unless you've seen the Brown Revue in a Black theater. If you have, I need not say more; if you haven't, suffice to say that this should be one of the very first records you ever own.

 

Live+At+The+Apollo+liveattheapollo.jpg

 

 

 

 

1. Charles Mingus – The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady

 

The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady is one of the greatest achievements in orchestration by any composer in jazz history. Charles Mingus consciously designed the six-part ballet as his magnum opus, and -- implied in his famous inclusion of liner notes by his psychologist -- it's as much an examination of his own tortured psyche as it is a conceptual piece about love and struggle. It veers between so many emotions that it defies easy encapsulation; for that matter, it can be difficult just to assimilate in the first place. Yet the work soon reveals itself as a masterpiece of rich, multi-layered texture and swirling tonal colors, manipulated with a painter's attention to detail. There are a few stylistic reference points --Ellington, the contemporary avant-garde, several flamenco guitar breaks -- but the totality is quite unlike what came before it. Mingus relies heavily on the timbral contrasts between expressively vocal-like muted brass, a rumbling mass of low voices (including tuba and baritone sax), and achingly lyrical upper woodwinds, highlighted by altoist Charlie Mariano. Within that framework, Mingus plays shifting rhythms, moaning dissonances, and multiple lines off one another in the most complex, interlaced fashion he'd ever attempted. Mingus was sometimes pigeonholed as a firebrand, but the personal exorcism of Black Saint deserves the reputation -- one needn't be able to follow the story line to hear the suffering, mourning, frustration, and caged fury pouring out of the music. The 11-piece group rehearsed the original score during a Village Vanguard engagement, where Mingus allowed the players to mold the music further; in the studio, however, his exacting perfectionism made The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady the first jazz album to rely on overdubbing technology. The result is one of the high-water marks for avant-garde jazz in the '60s and arguably Mingus' most brilliant moment.

 

MI0001507469.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honorable Mentions:

 

 

 

Duke Ellington – Money Jungle

 

Not in a mood to simply rework older compositions, the bulk of the LP focused on music he wrote specifically for the session. "Money Jungle" is a thunderous opener, a blues that might be classified somewhere between post-bop and avant-garde. The gem of the date is the fragile, somewhat haunting ballad "Fleurette Africaine," where Mingus' floating bassline and Roach's understated drumming add to the mystique of an Ellington work that has slowly been gathering steam among jazz musicians as a piece worth exploring more often. "Very Special" is a jaunty upbeat blues, while the angular, descending line of "Wig Wise" also proves to be quite catchy. Ellington also revisits "Warm Valley" (a lovely ballad indelibly associated with Johnny Hodges) and an almost meditative "Solitude." Thunderous percussion and wild basslines complement a wilder-than-usual approach to "Caravan." Every jazz fan should own a copy of this sensational recording session.

 

MI0002491315.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

Jackie McLean – One Step Beyond

 

In 1963, alto saxophonist Jackie McLean was well aware of John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman. He assembled a band with vibist Bobby Hutcherson, who had already played with Eric Dolphy, drummer Tony Williams, bassist Eddie Khan, and trombonist/composer Grachan Moncur III. While still adhering to the hard bop principle, One Step Beyond's title is literal. The introduction of space as an element in the twin-horn front line is consistent with what would come later that year on Destination Out! McLean is clearly hearing the Eastern modalism and intervallic invention in Coltrane's sound at this point, but still moves in his own direction, sticking very close to the blues and the hard, even relentless, swing provided by Williams on the kit.

 

MI0001837316.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

John Coltrane – Impressions

 

Impressions is a hodgepodge of memorable John Coltrane performances from the 1961-1963 period. "India" and "Impressions" are taken from Trane's famous November 1961 engagement at the Village Vanguard; bass clarinetist Eric Dolphy is heard on the former while the latter features a marathon solo from Coltrane on tenor. Also included on this set are 1962's "Up 'Gainst the Wall" and the classic of the album, 1963's "After the Rain.

 

51KA7OW8mEL.jpg

 

 

 

 

Kenny Burrell – Midnight Blue

 

 

This album is one of guitarist Kenny Burrell's best-known sessions for the Blue Note label. Burrell is matched with tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, bassist Major Holley, drummer Bill English, and Ray Barretto on conga for a blues-oriented date highlighted by "Chitlins Con Carne," "Midnight Blue," "Saturday Night Blues," and the lone standard "Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You."

 

MI0001863094.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

Oscar Peterson – Night Train

 

 

Oscar Peterson recorded Night Train in 1962 at the height of his pianistic powers. Backed by Ray Brown on bass and Ed Thigpen on drums, the Montreal native tackles a number of tunes that were already venerable at the time. There’s plenty of Ellingtonia here: “Happy-Go-Lucky Local” (aka “Night Train”), “C-Jam Blues,” “I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good),” and “Band Call.” The trio really digs into “C-Jam Blues,” making it swing mightily, and they imbue a slow-tempo “I Got It Bad” with deep blues feeling. Peterson straddled the worlds of swing and bop, and one of the bonus cuts is a hard-driving, if incomplete, cover of Charlie Parker’s “Now’s the Time.” It’s truly exciting to hear the band cut loose and operate in high-energy mode on the short cut. Gospel gets a nod on a fine version of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia on My Mind” and the Peterson original, “Hymn to Freedom.”

 

51aeZhGE-mL.jpg

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know a lot of these albums, so I'm going to check them out too :wacky: Thanks for making this!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1964:

 

 

 

10. The Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go

 

Even though this long-player was the second collection to have featured the original Supremes lineup with Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard and Diana Ross, Where Did Our Love Go (1964) was the first to significantly impact the radio-listening and record-buying public. It effectively turned the trio -- who were called the 'No-Hit Supremes' by Motown insiders -- into one of the label's most substantial acts of the 1960s. Undoubtedly, their success was at least in part due to an influx of fresh material from the formidable composing/production team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland (HDH). They had already proven themselves by presenting "(Your Love Is Like A) Heatwave" to Martha & the Vandellas and providing Marvin Gaye with "Can I Get a Witness." Motown-head Berry Gordy hoped HDH could once again strike gold -- and boy, did they ever. Equally as impressive is that the Supremes were among the handful of domestic acts countering the initial onslaught of the mid-'60s British Invasion with a rapid succession of four Top 40 sides. Better still, "Where Did Our Love Go," "Baby Love" and "Come See About Me" made it all the way to the top, while "When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes" (number 23), "Run, Run, Run" (number 93) and "A Breath Taking Guy" (number 75) were able to garner enough airplay and sales to make it into the Top 100 Pop Singles survey. HDH weren't the only contributors to the effort, as William "Smokey" Robinson supplied the catchy doo wop influenced "Long Gone Lover," as well as the aforementioned "Breath Taking Guy." Norman Whitfield penned the mid-tempo ballad "He Means The World to Me," and former Moonglow Harvey Fuqua co-wrote "Your Kiss of Fire."

 

MI0002070125.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

9. Sam Cooke – Ain’t That Good News

 

The last of his studio albums released in his lifetime, Sam Cooke's Ain't That Good News offers a lot of superb material, pointing in several directions that, alas, were to go largely unexplored. The central number is, of course, the earth-shattering "A Change Is Gonna Come," with its soaring gospel sound and the most elaborate production of any song in Cooke's output. The rousing though less substantial title track also came out of a gospel tradition, as does Cooke's treatment of "Tennessee Waltz," which is one of his finest adaptations of contemporary pop material. "Falling in Love" was the work of Harold Battiste, an old friend of Cooke's who had recently re-entered his orbit and was partly responsible for encouraging the singer in exploring the New Orleans sound that was evident on "Rome Wasn't Built in a Day" and "Meet Me at Mary's Place." And then there's "Good Times," a bittersweet, introspective party number, and the pensive successor to "Twistin' the Night Away." There are a few moments where the spell is almost broken by the intrusion of what seems like pop material, but even Cooke's version of "The Riddle Song" is worth owning, as a glimpse of how he could turn a folk song into a something so quietly soulful that its origins disappeared. With the exception of "Another Saturday Night," which had been released as a single early in the previous year, Ain't That Good News comprised the first material that Cooke had recorded in the six months following the drowning death of his 18-month-old son Vincent; it was also the first album that Cooke recorded and released under his new contract, which gave him greater freedom in choosing repertory and sidemen than he'd ever had, and so it offered a lot of pent-up emotional and musical expression, and, as it turned out, was tragically unique in the singer's output.

 

sam-cooke-aint-that-good-news.jpg

 

 

 

 

8. Bob Dylan – The Times They Are a-Changin’

 

If The Times They Are a-Changin' isn't a marked step forward from The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, even if it is his first collection of all originals, it's nevertheless a fine collection all the same. It isn't as rich as Freewheelin', and Dylan has tempered his sense of humor considerably, choosing to concentrate on social protests in the style of "Blowin' in the Wind." With the title track, he wrote an anthem that nearly equaled that song, and "With God on Our Side" and "Only a Pawn in Their Game" are nearly as good, while "Ballad of Hollis Brown" and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" are remarkably skilled re-castings of contemporary tales of injustice. His absurdity is missed, but he makes up for it with the wonderful "One Too Many Mornings" and "Boots of Spanish Leather," two lovely classics. If there are a couple of songs that don't achieve the level of the aforementioned songs, that speaks more to the quality of those songs than the weakness of the remainder of the record. And that's also true of the album itself -- yes, it pales next to its predecessor, but it's terrific by any other standard.

 

MI0002208215.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

7. The Impressions – Keep on Pushing

 

Already a celebrated songwriter by the time of the third Impressions album, Curtis Mayfield introduced a political element to his material with the Top Ten hit "Keep on Pushing." An anthem of the burgeoning civil-rights movement (the 1964 Civil Rights Act was signed several weeks after its release), "Keep on Pushing" cemented his blend of gospel optimism with a relentless spirit of self-improvement. Though it was the only message song present, the album featured all the hallmarks of an Impressions set: impeccably smooth harmonies, the dynamic horn charts of Johnny Pate, and many more of Mayfield's irresistible songs (each with a clever spin on the usual love lyric as well as a strong sense of melody). "Talking About My Baby," the album's other big hit, was an adoring love song driven by a simple chorus and delivered by soul music's greatest harmonists. The simple ballad "I've Been Trying" was one of the most delicate and powerful the group had ever delivered, and the gospel march "Amen" became a Top Ten pop hit in early 1965 after its use in the Sidney Poitier film Lilies of the Field (for which Poitier became the first African-American to receive an Academy award). Keep on Pushing was the Impressions' first Top Ten album hit, and an excellent introduction for pop audiences just waking up to the inspirational power of soul music's finest group.

 

tumblr_m3shxsVnwL1qmrbubo1_cover.png

 

 

 

 

6. Stan Getz & João Gilberto – Getz/Gilberto

 

One of the biggest-selling jazz albums of all time, not to mention bossa nova's finest moment, Getz/Gilberto trumped Jazz Samba by bringing two of bossa nova's greatest innovators -- guitarist/singer João Gilberto and composer/pianist Antonio Carlos Jobim -- to New York to record with Stan Getz. The results were magic. Ever since Jazz Samba, the jazz marketplace had been flooded with bossa nova albums, and the overexposure was beginning to make the music seem like a fad. Getz/Gilberto made bossa nova a permanent part of the jazz landscape not just with its unassailable beauty, but with one of the biggest smash hit singles in jazz history -- "The Girl From Ipanema," a Jobim classic sung by João's wife, Astrud Gilberto, who had never performed outside of her own home prior to the recording session. Beyond that, most of the Jobim songs recorded here also became standards of the genre -- "Corcovado" (which featured another vocal by Astrud), "So Danço Samba," "O Grande Amor," a new version of "Desafinado." With such uniformly brilliant material, it's no wonder the album was such a success but, even apart from that, the musicians all play with an effortless grace that's arguably the fullest expression of bossa nova's dreamy romanticism ever brought to American listeners. Getz himself has never been more lyrical, and Gilberto and Jobim pull off the harmonic and rhythmic sophistication of the songs with a warm, relaxed charm. This music has nearly universal appeal; it's one of those rare jazz records about which the purist elite and the buying public are in total agreement. Beyond essential.

 

MI0002016275.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

5. Albert Ayler – Spiritual Unity

 

Spiritual Unity was the album that pushed Albert Ayler to the forefront of jazz's avant-garde, and the first jazz album ever released by Bernard Stollman's seminal ESP label. It was really the first available document of Ayler's music that matched him with a group of truly sympathetic musicians, and the results are a magnificently pure distillation of his aesthetic. Bassist Gary Peacock's full-toned, free-flowing ideas and drummer Sunny Murray's shifting, stream-of-consciousness rhythms (which rely heavily on shimmering cymbal work) are crucial in throwing the constraints off of Ayler's playing. Yet as liberated and ferociously primitive as Ayler sounds, the group isn't an unhinged mess -- all the members listen to the subtler nuances in one another's playing, pushing and responding where appropriate. Their collective improvisation is remarkably unified -- and as for the other half of the album's title, Ayler conjures otherworldly visions of the spiritual realm with a gospel-derived fervor. Titles like "The Wizard," "Spirits," and "Ghosts" (his signature tune, introduced here in two versions) make it clear that Ayler's arsenal of vocal-like effects -- screams, squeals, wails, honks, and the widest vibrato ever heard on a jazz record -- were sonic expressions of a wildly intense longing for transcendence. With singable melodies based on traditional folk songs and standard scales, Ayler took the simplest musical forms and imbued them with a shockingly visceral power -- in a way, not unlike the best rock & roll, which probably accounted for the controversy his approach generated. To paraphrase one of Ayler's most famous quotes, this music was about feelings, not notes, and on Spiritual Unity that philosophy finds its most concise, concentrated expression. A landmark recording that's essential to any basic understanding of free jazz.

 

MI0000490607.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

4. Muddy Waters – Folk Singer

 

There are a handful of landmark albums in any genre. In the blues, one of them is Muddy Waters' Folk Singer. Originally released in 1964, Folk Singer was the only acoustic album Waters ever recorded, thus becoming the first and perhaps best blues concept album ever. Muddy of course started out playing acoustic blues in the Delta, and he's clearly very comfortable in this return to his roots, which was designed to appeal to the mid-1960s surge of interest in folk music.

 

MI0001738729.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

3. The Ronettes – Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica

 

Originally released in time for 1964's Christmas season, the Ronettes' one and only Philles LP is considered by many to be the crown jewel of the label's catalogue, representing the ultimate expression of Phil Spector's girl-group ideal. Fronted by the impossibly charismatic Veronica Bennett, aka Ronnie Spector, the Ronettes combined girlish innocence and playful sexiness in a manner that struck a responsive chord with listeners in the '60s, and continues to do so five decades later. With Phil's surging Wall of Sound arrangements meeting their match in the kittenish vocals of Ronnie and her sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley, it's not hard to understand why the Ronettes effortlessly held their own with the British Invasion acts that otherwise dominated the pop scene in 1964. Although the Ronettes are principally known as a singles act, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes featuring Veronica is a remarkably consistent and cohesive set that collects all of the trio's early hits, including such enduring pop masterpieces as "Be My Baby," "Baby (I Love You)," "Walking In The Rain," "Do I Love You?," "(The Best Part Of) Breaking Up," "You Baby" and the Ronettes' original version of "Chapel of Love" (which predates the Dixie Cups' hit version). It's hard to imagine a more consistent collection of perfect pop bliss, or a more excellent expression of girl group greatness.

 

61dmBnlOICL.jpg

 

 

 

 

2. The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night

 

Considering the quality of the original material on With the Beatles, it shouldn't have been a surprise that Lennon & McCartney decided to devote their third album to all-original material. Nevertheless, that decision still impresses, not only because the album is so strong, but because it was written and recorded at a time when the Beatles were constantly touring, giving regular BBC concerts, appearing on television and releasing non-LP singles and EPs, as well as filming their first motion picture. In that context, the achievement of A Hard Day's Night is all the more astounding. Not only was the record the de facto soundtrack for their movie, not only was it filled with nothing but Lennon-McCartney originals, but it found the Beatles truly coming into their own as a band by performing a uniformly excellent set of songs. All of the disparate influences on their first two albums had coalesced into a bright, joyous, original sound filled with ringing guitars and irresistible melodies. They had certainly found their musical voice before, but A Hard Day's Night is where it became mythical. In just a few years, they made more adventurous and accomplished albums, but this is the sound of Beatlemania in all of its giddy glory -- for better and for worse, this is the definitive Beatles album, the one every group throughout the ages has used as a blueprint. Listening to the album, it's easy to see why. Decades after its original release, A Hard Day's Night's punchy blend of propulsive rhythms, jangly guitars, and infectious, singalong melodies is remarkably fresh. There's something intrinsically exciting in the sound of the album itself, something to keep the record vital years after it was recorded. Even more impressive are the songs themselves. Not only are the melodies forceful and memorable, but Lennon and McCartney have found a number of variations to their basic Merseybeat style, from the brash "Can't Buy Me Love" and "Any Time at All," through the gentle "If I Fell," to the tough folk-rock of "I'll Cry Instead." It's possible to hear both songwriters develop their own distinctive voices on the album, but overall, A Hard Day's Night stands as a testament to their collaborative powers -- never again did they write together so well or so easily, choosing to pursue their own routes.

 

the-beatles-a-hard-days-night_big.jpg

 

 

 

 

1. Eric Dolphy – Out to Lunch!

 

Out to Lunch stands as Eric Dolphy's magnum opus, an absolute pinnacle of avant-garde jazz in any form or era. Its rhythmic complexity was perhaps unrivaled since Dave Brubeck's Time Out, and its five Dolphy originals -- the jarring Monk tribute "Hat and Beard," the aptly titled "Something Sweet, Something Tender," the weirdly jaunty flute showcase "Gazzelloni," the militaristic title track, the drunken lurch of "Straight Up and Down" -- were a perfect balance of structured frameworks, carefully calibrated timbres, and generous individual freedom. Much has been written about Dolphy's odd time signatures, wide-interval leaps, and flirtations with atonality. And those preoccupations reach their peak on Out to Lunch, which is less rooted in bop tradition than anything Dolphy had ever done. But that sort of analytical description simply doesn't do justice to the utterly alien effect of the album's jagged soundscapes. Dolphy uses those pet devices for their evocative power and unnerving hints of dementia, not some abstract intellectual exercise. His solos and themes aren't just angular and dissonant -- they're hugely so, with a definite playfulness that becomes more apparent with every listen. The whole ensemble -- trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, vibist Bobby Hutcherson, bassist Richard Davis, and drummer Tony Williams -- takes full advantage of the freedom Dolphy offers, but special mention has to be made of Hutcherson, who has fully perfected his pianoless accompaniment technique. His creepy, floating chords and quick stabs of dissonance anchor the album's texture, and he punctuates the soloists' lines at the least expected times, suggesting completely different pulses. Meanwhile, Dolphy's stuttering vocal-like effects and oddly placed pauses often make his bass clarinet lines sound like they're tripping over themselves. Just as the title Out to Lunch suggests, this is music that sounds like nothing so much as a mad gleam in its creator's eyes.

 

MI0001975609.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honorable Mentions:

 

 

 

Chuck Berry – St. Louis to Liverpool

 

This album puts the lie to the popular myth that Chuck Berry's music started to fade away around the same time that the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, et al. emerged covering his stuff. His songwriting is as strong here as ever -- side one is packed with now-familiar fare like "Little Marie" (a sequel to "Memphis, Tennessee"), "No Particular Place to Go," "Promised Land," and "You Never Can Tell," but even filler tracks like "Our Little Rendezvous" and "You Two" are among Berry's better album numbers, the latter showing off the slightly softer pop/R&B side to his music that many listeners forget about. Side two includes a bunch of tracks, including the hard-rocking "Go Bobby Soxer" and the even better "Brenda Lee," the slow blues "Things I Used to Do" (with a killer guitar break), and the instrumentals "Liverpool Drive" and "Night Beat," one fast and the other slow, that never get reissued or compiled anywhere.

 

MI0001782939.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

Grant Green – Idle Moments

 

This languid, seductive gem may well be Grant Green's greatest moment on record. Right from the opening bars of the classic title cut, Idle Moments is immediately ingratiating and accessible, featuring some of Green's most stylish straight jazz playing. Whether he's running warm (pianist Duke Pearson's "Idle Moments"), cool (the Modern Jazz Quartet's "Django"), or a bit more up-tempo (Pearson's "Nomad," his own "Jean de Fleur"), Green treats the material with the graceful elegance that was the hallmark of his best hard bop sessions, and that quality achieves its fullest expression here. He's helped by an ensemble that, as a sextet, is slightly larger and fuller-sounding than usual, and there's plenty of room for solo explorations on the four extended pieces. Pearson's touch on the piano is typically warm, while two players best known on Blue Note for their modernist dates mellow out a bit -- the cool shimmer of Bobby Hutcherson's vibes is a marvelously effective addition to the atmosphere, while Joe Henderson plays with a husky, almost Ike Quebec-like breathiness. That cushion of support helps spur Green to some of the loveliest, most intimate performances of his career -- no matter what the tempo, it's as if his guitar is whispering secrets in your ear. It's especially true on the dreamy title track, though: a gorgeous, caressing, near-15-minute excursion that drifts softly along like a warm, starry summer night.

 

MI0002199870.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

Jackie McLean – Destination Out!

 

As begun on One Step Beyond, the notion of interval is key in this band, and an elemental part of Moncur's composition. The horn lines are spare, haunting, warm, and treated as textural elements by Hutcherson's vibes. On the tune "Esoteric," Hutcherson and Haynes throw complex rhythmic figures into the mix. Moncur's writing is angular, resembling Ornette's early-'60s melodic notions more than Coltrane's modal considerations. Hutcherson's solo amid the complex, knotty melodic frame is just sublime. "Khalil the Prophet" is McLean's only contribution compositionally to the album, but it's a fine one. Using a hard bop lyric and a shape-shifting sense of harmonic interplay between the three front-line players, McLean moves deeply into a blues groove without giving into mere 4/4 time structures. The architecture of his solo is wonderfully obtuse, playing an alternating series of eighths, 12ths, and even 16ths against Hutcherson's wide-open comping and arpeggio runs. The set ends with Moncur's "Riff Raff," a strolling blues that makes full use of counterpoint on the vibes. Moncur sets his solo against McLean's melodic engagement of Hutcherson, forcing both men into opposition positions that get resolved in a sultry, funky, shimmering blues groove. Of all of McLean's Blue Note dates, so many of which are classic jazz recordings, Destination Out! stands as the one that reveals the true soulfulness and complexity of his writing, arranging, and "singing" voice.

 

MI0000072408.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder

 

 

Carried by its almost impossibly infectious eponymous opening track, The Sidewinder helped foreshadow the sounds of boogaloo and soul-jazz with its healthy R&B influence and Latin tinge. While the rest of the album retreats to a more conventional hard bop sound, Morgan's compositions are forward-thinking and universally solid. Only 25 at the time of its release, Morgan was accomplished (and perhaps cocky) enough to speak of mentoring the great Joe Henderson, who at 26 was just beginning to play dates with Blue Note after getting out of the military. Henderson makes a major contribution to the album, especially on "Totem Pole," where his solos showed off his singular style, threatening to upstage Morgan, who is also fairly impressive here. Barry Harris, Bob Cranshaw, and Billy Higgins are all in good form throughout the album as well, and the group works together seamlessly to create an album that crackles with energy while maintaining a stylish flow.

 

MI0002767428.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

Wayne Shorter – Juju

 

 

What really shines on JuJu is the songwriting. From the African-influenced title track (with its short, hypnotic, repetitive phrases) to the mesmerizing interplay between Tyner and Shorter on "Mahjong," the album (which is all originals) blooms with ideas, pulling in a world of influences and releasing them again as a series of stunning, complete visions.

 

61AWfib-p0L.jpg

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting lists, I'll definitely be following this. I like your inclusion of the Lawrence of Arabia soundtrack. Timeless film, timeless score.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Please Please Me only came 10th?!

 

At least it beats With the Beatles. :P I prefer PPM over WtB, honestly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1965:

 

 

 

10. The Shangri-Las – Shangri-Las-65!

 

By the time that their sole long-player Shangri-Las-'65 hit the streets, the Queens, NY-based girl group had already made a sizable dent in the pop charts with the death rock anthem "Leader of the Pack," the equally angst-riddled teenage musical soap opera "Remember (Walkin' in the Sand)," and the no-nonsense "Give Him a Great Big Kiss." The latter being forever branded with the sassy spoken "When I say I'm in love, you best believe I'm in love L-U-V!" introduction. The Shangri-Las consisted of two sets of siblings: twins Marge Ganser and Mary Anne Ganser as well as Mary Weiss and Elizabeth Weiss. It was under the guidance and influence of producer Shadow Morton that the young ladies gained access to the legendary Brill Building hitmakers Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich. They supply nearly half of the dozen sides on this album. Primary among them are the catchy minor-chord "Out in the Streets" and -- perhaps trying to evoke the impact of "Leader of the Pack" -- the partially narrated "Give Us Your Blessing." Morton's unmistakable production values can be heard here at their most constructive. They capture the richness of a Phil Spector recording with a "theater of the mind" sonic realism, courtesy of Morton's affinity for sound effects. From the Kirshner/Nevins stable of talent came the soon-to-be Monkees composers Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. Before their connection with the pre-fabs, they offered the upbeat standout "Dum Dum Ditty" to the Shangri-Las. Other deep cut classics include the Motown-influenced rocker "Right Now and Not Later" and the funky James Brown groove that permeates the Morton-penned "Sophisticated Boom Boom."

 

51n4CkRCQTL.jpg

 

 

 

 

9. Bert Jansch – Bert Jansch

 

Recorded with a portable tape player on a borrowed guitar in the kitchen of his London flat, the impact of Bert Jansch's debut has been somewhat blunted by time, but it was a vastly influential work. His masterful acoustic picking, which blended elements of traditional British folk, blues, and jazz, inspired not just other folk players, but rockers who frequently used acoustic guitars. Specifically, Jimmy Page and Neil Young have gone on record as noting their heavy debts to Jansch's early material. He was also a talented songwriter, and all but one of the 15 tracks on his debut was an original composition (the set closes with his version of the instrumental "Angi," originally performed by fellow British folk guitarist Davy Graham, and popularized by Paul Simon). The artist sounds quite close to early Donovan with his Scottish inflections, though he is darker and less pop-oriented; indeed, Donovan recorded a couple of early Jansch tunes, and wrote a couple of songs directly inspired by the artist ("Bert's Blues" and "House of Jansch"). Jansch reflects a rambling, beatnik sort of lifestyle with his compositions on this album, which includes one of his most famous tunes, the somber "Needle of Death" (about the heroin-induced death of one of his friends).

 

MI0002417934.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

8. Horace Silver – Song for My Father

 

One of Blue Note's greatest mainstream hard bop dates, Song for My Father is Horace Silver's signature LP and the peak of a discography already studded with classics. Silver was always a master at balancing jumping rhythms with complex harmonies for a unique blend of earthiness and sophistication, and Song for My Father has perhaps the most sophisticated air of all his albums. Part of the reason is the faintly exotic tint that comes from Silver's flowering fascination with rhythms and modes from overseas -- the bossa nova beat of the classic "Song for My Father," for example, or the Eastern-flavored theme of "Calcutta Cutie," or the tropical-sounding rhythms of "Que Pasa?" Subtle touches like these alter Silver's core sound just enough to bring out its hidden class, which is why the album has become such a favorite source of upscale ambience. Song for My Father was actually far less focused in its origins than the typical Silver project; it dates from the period when Silver was disbanding his classic quintet and assembling a new group, and it features performances from both bands (and, on the CD reissue with bonus tracks, three different sessions). Still, it hangs together remarkably well, and Silver's writing is at its tightest and catchiest. The title cut became Silver's best-known composition, partly because it provided the musical basis for jazz-rock group Steely Dan's biggest pop hit "Rikki Don't Lose That Number." Another hard bop standard is introduced here in the lone non-Silver tune, tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson's "The Kicker," covered often for the challenge of its stuttering phrases and intricate rhythms. Yet somehow it comes off as warm and inviting as the rest of the album, which is necessary for all jazz collections -- mainstream hard bop rarely comes as good as Song for My Father.

 

MI0001499096.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

7. The Beach Boys – The Beach Boys Today!

 

Brian Wilson's retirement from performing to concentrate on studio recording and production reaped immediate dividends with Today!, the first Beach Boys album that is strong almost from start to finish. "Dance, Dance, Dance" and "Do You Wanna Dance" were upbeat hits with Spector-influenced arrangements, but Wilson began to deal with more sophisticated themes on another smash 45, "When I Grow Up," on which these eternal teenagers looked forward to the advancing years with fear and uncertainty. Surf/hot rod/beach themes were permanently retired in favor of late-adolescent, early-adult romance on this album, which included such decent outings in this vein as "She Knows Me Too Well," "Kiss Me Baby," and "In the Back of My Mind." The true gem is "Please Let Me Wonder," one of the group's most delicate mid-'60s works, with heartbreaking melodies and harmonies.

 

TodaySummer+Days+And+Summer+Nights+Today+Summer+Days+And+Summer+N.jpg

 

 

 

 

6. Nina Simone – Pastel Blues

 

If this is blues, it's blues in the Billie Holiday sense, not the Muddy Waters one. This is one of Nina Simone's more subdued mid-'60s LPs, putting the emphasis on her piano rather than band arrangements. It's rather slanted toward torch-blues ballads like "Strange Fruit," "Trouble In Mind," Billie Holiday's own composition "Tell Me More and More and Then Some," and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out." Simone's then-husband, Andy Stroud, wrote "Be My Husband," an effective adaptation of a traditional blues chant. By far the most impressive track is her frantic ten-minute rendition of the traditional "Sinnerman," an explosive tour de force that dwarfs everything else on the album.

 

MI0002516651.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

5. The Sonics – Here Are The Sonics!!!

 

Seldom has a group ever been better named. The youthful aggression in their music, coupled with singer Gerry Roslie’s ‘80 razorblades-a-day’ vocal attack and a selection of overwhelmingly brilliant riffs that underpinned some of the most wildly recorded music ever to be committed to tape, should have made the Sonics one of the biggest groups the world has ever known or heard. Instead they went on to become celebrated by generation after generation of collectors, and other young people with an urge to rock ‘n’ roll. The overwhelming importance of tracks like “The Witch”, “Psycho” and “Boss Hoss” has provided a template for countless groups who’ve come up in their wake, and who have achieved a level of commercial success that they could never have achieved without the inspiration (direct or spiritual) of the Sonics – fellow Pacific North-Westerners Kurt Cobain’s Nirvana and their successor the Foo Fighters being, perhaps, the most obvious examples.

 

MI0000219718.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

4. The Beatles – Rubber Soul

 

While the Beatles still largely stuck to love songs on Rubber Soul, the lyrics represented a quantum leap in terms of thoughtfulness, maturity, and complex ambiguities. Musically, too, it was a substantial leap forward, with intricate folk-rock arrangements that reflected the increasing influence of Dylan and the Byrds. The group and George Martin were also beginning to expand the conventional instrumental parameters of the rock group, using a sitar on "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)," Greek-like guitar lines on "Michelle" and "Girl," fuzz bass on "Think for Yourself," and a piano made to sound like a harpsichord on the instrumental break of "In My Life." While John and Paul were beginning to carve separate songwriting identities at this point, the album is full of great tunes, from "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" and "Michelle" to "Girl," "I'm Looking Through You," "You Won't See Me," "Drive My Car," and "Nowhere Man" (the last of which was the first Beatle song to move beyond romantic themes entirely). George Harrison was also developing into a fine songwriter with his two contributions, "Think for Yourself" and the Byrds-ish "If I Needed Someone."

 

beatles-rubbersoul.jpg

 

 

 

 

3. Otis Redding – Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul

 

Otis Redding's third album, and his first fully realized album, presents his talent unfettered, his direction clear, and his confidence emboldened, with fully half the songs representing a reach that extended his musical grasp. More than a quarter of this album is given over to Redding's versions of songs by Sam Cooke, his idol, who had died the previous December, and all three are worth owning and hearing. Two of them, "A Change Is Gonna Come" and "Shake," are every bit as essential as any soul recordings ever made, and while they (and much of this album) have reappeared on several anthologies, it's useful to hear the songs from those sessions juxtaposed with each other, and with "Wonderful World," which is seldom compiled elsewhere. Also featured are Redding's spellbinding renditions of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (a song epitomizing the fully formed Stax/Volt sound and which Mick Jagger and Keith Richards originally wrote in tribute to and imitation of Redding's style), "My Girl," and "You Don't Miss Your Water." "Respect" and "I've Been Loving You Too Long," two originals that were to loom large in his career, are here as well; the former became vastly popular in the hands of Aretha Franklin and the latter was an instant soul classic. Among the seldom-cited jewels here is a rendition of B.B. King's "Rock Me Baby" that has the singer sharing the spotlight with Steve Cropper, his playing alternately elegant and fiery, with Wayne Jackson and Gene "Bowlegs" Miller's trumpets and Andrew Love's and Floyd Newman's saxes providing the backing. Redding's powerful, remarkable singing throughout makes Otis Blue gritty, rich, and achingly alive, and an essential listening experience.

 

MI0002269398.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

2. Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited

 

Taking the first, electric side of Bringing It All Back Home to its logical conclusion, Bob Dylan hired a full rock & roll band, featuring guitarist Michael Bloomfield, for Highway 61 Revisited. Opening with the epic "Like a Rolling Stone," Highway 61 Revisited careens through nine songs that range from reflective folk-rock ("Desolation Row") and blues ("It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry") to flat-out garage rock ("Tombstone Blues," "From a Buick 6," "Highway 61 Revisited"). Dylan had not only changed his sound, but his persona, trading the folk troubadour for a streetwise, cynical hipster. Throughout the album, he embraces druggy, surreal imagery, which can either have a sense of menace or beauty, and the music reflects that, jumping between soothing melodies to hard, bluesy rock. And that is the most revolutionary thing about Highway 61 Revisited -- it proved that rock & roll needn't be collegiate and tame in order to be literate, poetic, and complex.

 

MI0001898017.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

1. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme

 

Easily one of the most important records ever made, John Coltrane's A Love Supreme was his pinnacle studio outing that at once compiled all of his innovations from his past, spoke of his current deep spirituality, and also gave a glimpse into the next two and a half years (sadly, those would be his last). Recorded at the end of 1964, Trane's classic quartet of Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, and Jimmy Garrison stepped into the studio and created one of the most thought-provoking, concise, and technically pleasing albums of their bountiful relationship (not to mention his best-selling to date). From the undulatory (and classic) bassline at the intro to the last breathy notes, Trane is at the peak of his logical yet emotionally varied soloing while the rest of the group is remarkably in tune with Coltrane's spiritual vibe. Composed of four parts, each has a thematic progression leading to an understanding of spirituality through meditation. From the beginning, "Acknowledgement" is the awakening of sorts that trails off to the famous chanting of the theme at the end, which yields to the second act, "Resolution," an amazingly beautiful piece about the fury of dedication to a new path of understanding. "Persuance" is a search for that understanding, and "Psalm" is the enlightenment. Although he is at times aggressive and atonal, this isn't Trane at his most adventurous (pretty much everything recorded from here on out progressively becomes much more free, and live recordings from this period are extremely spirited), but it certainly is his best attempt at the realization of concept -- as the spiritual journey is made amazingly clear. A Love Supreme clocks in at just over 30 minutes, but if it had been any longer it could have turned into a laborious listen. As it stands, just enough is conveyed. It is almost impossible to imagine a world without A Love Supreme having been made, and it is equally impossible to imagine any jazz collection without it.

 

MI0001639830.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honorable Mentions:

 

 

 

The Animals – Animal Tracks

 

 

The Animals' second British album, recorded just before Alan Price exited the lineup, displays far more energy and confidence than its predecessor, and it's fascinating to speculate where they might've gone had the original lineup held together. There are a few lightweight tunes here, such as "Let the Good Times Roll" and the rollicking opener, "Mess Around," that capture The Animals loosening up and having fun, but much of Animal Tracks is pretty intense R&B-based rock. "How You've Changed" is a reflective, downbeat Chuck Berry number that Eric Burdon turns into a dark romantic confessional/inquisition, matched by Hilton Valentine's chopped out, crunchy lead work over the break, while Alan Price does his best to impersonate Johnnie Johnson. The group doesn't do as well with their cover of Billy Boy Arnold's "I Ain't Got You" as the Yardbirds did with the same number, treating it in a little too upbeat a fashion, and Hilton Valentine and Alan Price failing to add very much that's interesting to the break (especially in comparison to Eric Clapton's solo on the Yardbirds' version). "Roberta," by contrast, is a great rock & roll number, and their version of "Bright Lights, Big City," sparked by Burdon's surging, angry performance and Price's hard-driving organ solo. Price's playing opens what is easily the best blues cut on the album, "Worried Life Blues," where Hilton Valentine steps out in front for his most prominent guitar solo in the early history of the band, backed by Price's surging organ. Burdon and company also excel on a pair of Ray Charles covers, turning in a jauntily cheerful, euphoric performance of "Hallelujah I Love Her So," his jubilation matched by Price's ebullient organ work; and a slow, pain-racked performance by Burdon and company on the slow blues "I Believe to My Soul," arguably -- along with "Worried Life Blues" -- the singer's best performance on either of the group's EMI long-players, and matched by Price's quick-fingered yet equally ominous piano playing.

 

MI0002463815.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man

 

 

One of the greatest debuts in the history of rock, Mr. Tambourine Man was nothing less than a significant step in the evolution of rock & roll itself, demonstrating that intelligent lyrical content could be wedded to compelling electric guitar riffs and a solid backbeat. It was also the album that was most responsible for establishing folk-rock as a popular phenomenon, its most alluring traits being Roger McGuinn's immediately distinctive 12-string Rickenbacker jangle and the band's beautiful harmonies. The material was uniformly strong, whether they were interpreting Bob Dylan (on the title cut and three other songs, including the hit single "All I Really Want to Do"), Pete Seeger ("The Bells of Rhymney"), orJackie DeShannon ("Don't Doubt Yourself, Babe"). The originals were lyrically less challenging, but equally powerful musically, especially Gene Clark's "I Knew I'd Want You," "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better," and "Here Without You"; "It's No Use" showed a tougher, harder-rocking side and a guitar solo with hints of psychedelia.

 

MI0001579990.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

The Kinks – The Kink Kontroversy

 

 

The Kinks came into their own as album artists -- and Ray Davies fully matured as a songwriter – with The Kink Kontroversy, which bridged their raw early British Invasion sound with more sophisticated lyrics and thoughtful production. There are still powerful ravers like the hit "Till the End of the Day" (utilizing yet another "You Really Got Me"-type riff) and the abrasive, Dave Davies-sung cover of "Milk Cow Blues," but tracks like the calypso pastiche "I'm on an Island," where Ray sings of isolation with a forlorn yet merry bite, were far more indicative of their future direction. Other great songs on this underrated album include the uneasy nostalgia of "Where Have All the Good Times Gone?," the plaintive, almost fatalistic ballads "Ring the Bells" and "The World Keeps Going Round," and the Dave Davies-sung declaration of independence "I Am Free."

 

600full-the-kink-kontroversy-cover.jpg

 

 

 

 

Smokey Robinson & the Miracles – Going to a Go-Go

 

 

Though its title track ignited a nationwide fad for go-go music, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles'Going to a Go-Go LP certainly wasn't just a cash-in effort. It's one of the best records the group put out, and the first six songs make for the best side of any original Motown LP of the '60s (granted, all but one are also available on dozens of Miracles compilations). The four biggest hits were among the best in a set of Miracles archetypes: the throwback to the aching '50s doo wop ballad ("Ooo Baby, Baby"), the flashy up-tempo dance song ("Going to a Go-Go"), the dancing-with-tears-in-my-eyes jerker ("The Tracks of My Tears"), and the mid-tempo orchestral epic ("My Girl Has Gone"). "Choosey Beggar" is one of the sweetest of all Robinson's lead vocals, with stunning background work by the rest of the Miracles. Even the album tracks shine, with "All That's Good" and "Let Me Have Some" working as excellent additions to the program.

 

MI0001906147.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

 

The Who – The Who Sings My Generation

 

 

An explosive debut, and the hardest mod pop recorded by anyone. At the time of its release, it also had the most ferociously powerful guitars and drums yet captured on a rock record. Pete Townshend's exhilarating chord crunches and guitar distortions threaten to leap off the grooves on "My Generation" and "Out in the Street"; Keith Moon attacks the drums with a lightning, ruthless finesse throughout. Some "Maximum R&B" influence lingered in the two James Brown covers, but much of Townshend's original material fused Beatlesque hooks and power chords with anthemic mod lyrics, with "The Good's Gone," "Much Too Much," "La La La Lies," and especially "The Kids Are Alright" being highlights. "A Legal Matter" hinted at more ambitious lyrical concerns, and "The Ox" was instrumental mayhem that pushed the envelope of 1965 amplification with its guitar feedback and nonstop crashing drum rolls. While the execution was sometimes crude, and the songwriting not as sophisticated as it would shortly become, the Who never surpassed the pure energy level of this record.

 

MI0001672443.jpg?partner=allrovi.com

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Never realised 1965 was such a great year.

To be honest, I never tried to make lists of CDs from anything earlier than the 90's.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now



×
×
  • Create New...