Saturday, September 19, 2009

1968 was a year of enormous upheaval and tragedy, a year that defined the “60s” as an idea, not simply as an historical moment. 1968 was also perhaps the most important year for 20th century popular music. Many of the great albums of this iconic year have “stood the test of time,” while resisting the corrupting influence of turning to muzak: a bland soundtrack for the sales pitch of soaps and automobiles. Unfortunately, most of the musicians fail miserably when tested by a taste of cash, and it is hard to fault them for wanting to continue to be compensated for their art, even at the risk of turning said art into the artifice of commerce. Those few musicians that have maintained integrity are that much more worthy of our honor. There was a series of car commercials a few years back that began with the words: “break through,” followed by a Zepplin tune. The obvious first choice was Jim Morrison singing: “break on through to the other side.” We were spared that disgrace through the dignity and integrity of Ray Manzarek and the surviving members of the Doors. Sadly the former Doors are a small minority. Yet much of the music of the 60s remains powerful, regardless of repetition and indignity.

Best LPs of 1968

1. The Velvet Underground: White Light/ White Heat (Verve)
2. The Band: Music From Big Pink (Capitol)
3. Nico: Marble Index (Elektra)
4. The Rolling Stones: Beggars Banquet (London)
5. The Kinks: Village Green Preservation Society (Reprise)
6. Miles Davis: Filles de Kilimanjaro (CBS)
7. Captain Beefheart: Strickly Personal (Blue Thumb)
8. Albert Ayler: In Greenwich Village (Impulse)
9. Van Morrison: Astral Weeks (Warner Brothers)
10. Bob Dylan: John Wesley Harding (CBS)
11. Anthony Braxton: For Alto (Delmark)
12. Big Brother & Holding Company: Cheap Thrills (CBS)
13. Byrds: Notorious Byrd Brothers (CBS)
14. Phil Ochs: Tape From California (A&M)
15. Skip James: Devil Got My Woman (Vanguard)
16. Van Dyke Parks: Song Cycle (Warner Brothers)
17. Cream: Wheels On Fire (Atco)
18. Leonard Cohen: Songs of Leonard Cohen (CBS)
19. Albert King: Live Wire Blues Power (Stax)
20. Miles Davis: In the Sky (CBS)
21. The Beatles: The Beatles (Apple)
22. Led Zepplin: Led Zepplin (Atlantic)
23. Jeff Beck: Truth (Epic)
24. Johnny Cash: At Folsom Prison (CBS)
25. Ornette Coleman: Love Call (Blue Note)
26. Otis Redding: The Dock of the Bay (Atco)
27. Pearls Before Swine: Balaklava (ESP)
28. Duke Ellington: And His Mother Called Him Bill (RCA)
29. The Move: The Move (Regal Zonophone, UK)
30. Harry Nilsson: Aerial Ballet (RCA)
31. Traffic: Traffic (United Artists)
32. Silver Apples: Silver Apples (Kapp)
33. The Who: Magic Bus (Decca)
34. The Doors: Waiting for the Sun (Elektra)
35. Sly & the Family Stone: Life (Epic)
36. Elmore James / John Brim: Tough (Blue Horizon)
37. Don Cherry: Eternal Rhythm (MPS)
38. Anthony Braxton: 3 Compositions of New Jazz (Delmark)
39. Ornette Coleman: New York Is Now (Blue Note)
40. The Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour (Capitol)
41. Albert Ayler: New Grass (Impulse)
42. Pink Floyd: Saucerful of Secrets (Tower)
43. Byrds: Sweetheart of the Rodeo (CBS)
44. Aretha Franklin: Lady Soul (Atlantic)
45. Oscar Peterson: My Favorite Instrument (Verve)
46. Van der Graaf Generator: Aerosol Grey Machine
47. Terry Reid: Bang Bang Your’re Terry Reid (Epic)
48. John Fahey: Death Chants & Breakdowns (Takoma Records)
49. George Jones & Melba Montgomery: George Jones & Melba Montgomery
50. Albert Ayler: Love Cry (Impulse)
51. Nina Simone: ‘Nuff Said
52. The Seeds: Raw & Alive: In Concert At Merlin’s Music Box (GNP)
53. Sly & the Family Stone: Dance to the Music (Epic)
54. Laura Nyro: Eli and the Thirteenth Confession (CBS)
55. Bonzo Dog Do Dah Band: Doughnuts In Granny’s Greenhouse (Liberty UK)


Blogger Mallory Weiss said...

That's a very neat list, actually... how's about Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake?
Interesting that you listed Jeff Beck, Terry Reid and Led Zeppelin - the 1st two would have been part of LZ if history unfolded differently. Just an amusing theoretical connection :)

9:22 PM  
Blogger Glen said...

I like the Small Faces very much, but somehow managed to forget about their weird '68 classic, despite the fact I have a copy somewhere amongst my disorganized stacks. I also forgot about Procol Harum, and their first two LPs (from '67 & '68) deserve to be remembered. I will address that issue in another post. Regarding the other 150 excellent mid-sixties records I have doubtless ignored, there is no good excuse.

2:57 AM  
Blogger Glen said...

Before someone else points it out, I thought I would mention I completely forgot "Electric Ladyland," which should have landed at #5 just after "Beggars Banquet." I suppose if anyone is looking at these things they must have assumed I had something against Hendrix's masterpiece. It just shows I am not a machine, and there are perhaps other important records I forgot about. And there will be more to follow. Perhaps I should turn it into a game called "Find Jimi," in honor of this major misfire.

8:29 AM  
Blogger Glen said...

I just noticed 2 months after the fact that I did include "Ogdens'Nut Gone Flake", in my 1967 list. As usual, my 2 favorite sources disagree on the date. Hounsome's "Rock Record" has the Small Faces oddball on Immediate, U.K. in 1967. Allmusic puts the kooky record in 1968. As oft the case the remarkable on-line source only lists reissue labels. But regardless which reference one wants to believe, there is no historical certainty looking back 40 years. I believe the original U.K. issue was 67. Some months later the Small Faces 2nd record hit the stores in the U.S. By then it was 1968. I did not I discover Steve Marriott's most memorable record until the late 70s when I found a cheap copy in a cut-out bin. It was not love at first listen. Even today I have a love/confusion relationship with the Small Faces. But it is a healthy relationship that I cherish.

12:35 AM  

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