Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Top 10 Albums Of The 60s

The Top 10 Albums Of The 60s

The Top 10 Albums Of The 60s: 11. The Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed

11. The Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed (1969)

Blues Rock

The Rolling Stones were always the poster boys for bad behaviour, marketed as some sort of anti-Beatles, even stalking and antithesising every Lennon/McCartney creative footprint they could stomach (this album title standing as one prime example). However, it was arguably round about Let It Bleed that the Stones came to embrace their own particular type of expression, the album in question considered a daringly tacky and erotic affair, wearing its sloppy grit and wicked smile with pride between licks of energetic country and the hardest of all blues, sandwiched between two of the most important songs of their career. They developed an oblivion to the compassion and liberation that the 1960s were renowned for, much rather concerned over how many narcotics and sexual partners one could withstand before blowing a fuse—which, as it turns out, wasn’t much more. Shortly after these sessions, founding member Brian Jones drowned to death, sadly leaving his final legacy on this very record. That said, it was still decent enough way to go, shaking hands farewell with the decade by kicking psychedelia out of the van, and setting up the 70s for a dirtier, rockier, and even more excessively debaucherous era. Which, as we already know, it most definitely turned out to be.

Selected Accolades:
Reaching #1 in the UK charts, (temporarily) knocking The Beatles - Abbey Road off the top spot.
#28 in Q’s list The 100 Greatest British Albums Ever.
#24 in VH1’s survey The 100 Greatest Albums of R 'n' R.
#32 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
#27 in Guardian’s list The Best Albums Ever.

The Top 10 Albums Of The 60s: 10. The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds

10. The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds (1966)

Baroque Pop

I’ve always found myself wobbling precariously on the fence when it came to Pet Sounds, many a time declaring the work to be inexcusably overrated, especially in context of how it is so often eulogised as the best record in history. However, I must humbly appreciate my opinion as a minute crumb in the greater musical loaf, and it would be far too naive of anyone to ignore the grand scale of influence these tracks had on just about everything that followed. Furthermore, it’s actually very easy to validate the reasons as to why said influence exists. The impenetrably colossal wall-of-sound production. The thick layering and pedantic detailing of every harmony and instrument imaginable to man (including such unorthodox choices as dog whistles, bicycle bells, and the first ever rock recording of a theremin, performed by the inventor himself). The optimistic almost hymnal compositions which were as pacifying and carefree as they were progressive and complex. And the freshly rewritten blueprint of how to manufacture sound from this point onward, the ultimate testament to Brian Wilson’s genius, acknowledged as the sole brain behind the operation. All of which congregates as one irrefutably 60s landmark classic, no matter what any of us like to think we know.

Selected Accolades:
Deemed The Greatest Album of All Time by Uncut.
Deemed The Greatest Album of All Time by Mojo.
Deemed The Greatest Album of All Time by NME.
Deemed The Greatest Album of All Time by The Times.
Deemed The Greatest Album of All Time by over 100 domestic and international publications and journalists.
Inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Included in the National Recording Registry (2004).

The Top 10 Albums Of The 60s: 09. The Kinks - The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society

09. The Kinks - The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968)

Pop Rock

I feel unbearable sympathy for The Kinks. Perhaps now they are rightfully recognised as one of the most influential groups from the 60s, but at the time they did not receive the full accolade they deserved. For example: they were forever compared to their larger counterparts, frequently insulted as yet another poor Beatles copy; they were on the frontline of the mid-60s British Invasion, until the American Federation of Musicians cut off their permits, severing their connection to the front page of the history papers; and worst of all, they never got their bonafide 'classic' album, this specific record coming frustratingly close due to the universally vibrant critical acclaim, yet failing to chart completely. What a tragedy. For the Village Green is one of the warmest, most unpretentious albums the decade had on offer, basking in the nostalgia of a childhood spent fondly in the English summer, running around nature, making friends with animals, and keeping the old-fashioned traditions alive. Bless! Thankfully, the cult following eventually did break through somewhat, with Pete Townshend of The Who even once stating that this was singer Ray Davies’ “masterwork. It's his Sgt. Pepper”, which I guess as far as Beatles comparisons go, is about as good as you gonna get.

Selected Accolades:
#255 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

The Top 10 Albums Of The 60s: 08. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced

08. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced (1967)

Psychedelic Blues Acid Rock

It’s almost an indication of tastelessness to regard Jimi as the ‘greatest guitarist who ever lived’ but where there's smoke, there's fire, more than likely exploding from the centre pickups and warping the strings above. Because while Hendrix’s vocals are competent enough and do the job, and while his songwriting ability erupts with a uniquely rich creativity, his soul opted to communicate primarily through his guitarwork, effortlessly flexing a sexual magic which transcended beyond us mere mortals, playing God with fingers so casual and a spirit so free that no one would dare put forward an example of a guitarist more iconic and influential. And while one cannot disregard all three of the immensely worshipped records this outfit produced in their short career, it will always be this oft celebrated ‘greatest debut album of all time’ which truly slayed the history books, preserving its cool whilst rocking so dangerously raw that it is a universally acclaimed definitive album of what made the 60s so groovy and significant. So what if it’s a safe choice? Next time the topic of conversation enters the room, do not feed the debate. Just let the riffs do the talking.

Selected Accolades:
Deemed The Greatest Guitar Album of All Time by Mojo.
#3 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the Greatest Debut Albums of All Time.
#15 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Included in the National Recording Registry (2005).

The Top 10 Albums Of The 60s: 07. The Doors - The Doors

07. The Doors - The Doors (1967)

Psychedelic Rock

During the 1960s, it appeared as though there were two distinct directions in which the excessive peace-and-love-and-LSD-consumption counterculture was headed. The one direction was the all-colourful all-mellow types, happy to roll in the flowers and smoke weed without any compulsion to do anything else but fuck. However, at the opposite side of the spectrum, we had those who utilised the sudden influx of chemicals to explore and expand deeper regions of their consciousness, disinterested in a tye-dye movement, rather more turned-on by an introspection which questioned absolutely everything. And just in case you hadn't worked it out by now, The Doors were proud members of the latter. By meshing playful keys with bluesy-infused guitar licks, figurehead Jim Morrison had found a home to report his dark poetic findings from, words which he delivered outward from his prophetic presence, stirred together with a sex appeal crawling out from his every pore and into little girls' panties. A charisma such as this did not take a long time to induce a stupor into stoners around the globe, as they followed this Lizard King’s messianic breakdowns wherever they would take them, in awe of these divine performances which ran through the band’s catalogue right to the very end. However, it is their debut which has stood the strongest, forcefully progressing psychedelica unintentionally by proxy, and often considered the defining psychedelic rock album in history for good reason.

Selected Accolades:
Sold 20 million copies.
Deemed The Essential Album of 1967 by Rolling Stone magazine.
#226 in NME's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
#75 in Q magazine's 100 Greatest Albums Ever.
#42 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time.
Inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Included in the National Recording Registry (2015).

06. Frank Zappa - We're Only in It for the Money (1968)

Experimental Rock, Satire

Unlike most artists embracing the sudden perception shift of our youth in the 60s, the cynical Frank Zappa felt disgusted by a movement he considered disingenuous. He criticised all the drugs and free love as dangerous tools for self-gratification, and felt the stupid hippies were obliviously following drum circles under the illusion that they were part of some sort of a bigger awakening—which was probably relatively accurate. Inspired by his own repulsion, Zappa fought the counterculture with this counter-counterculture record, which condescendingly stressed all the dark holes in these dropout theories, yet cleverly hid them beneath his signature humour and manic genre-hopping, presenting one ridiculously serious offering which was as hilarious as it was kinda depressing within its satirical honesty. Interestingly enough, this resistance somehow resulted in a surprisingly decent psychedelic record itself—perhaps not the highest praised in the Zappa catalogue, but definitely one of his smartest in the most self righteous of manners. It has continuously stood as an unforgiving mirror held up to those grubby flower children, exposing the sloppy side of the 60s which is so often candycoated by the nostalgia of colourful petals and pot smoking, and while it may be an overlooked classic, it is still an essential musical representation of the era, deserving as much praise as anything else on this list.

Selected Accolades:
#77 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the Top 100 Best Albums of the Last Twenty Years.
#297 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time.
Included in the National Recording Registry (2005).

05. Nico - Chelsea Girl (1967)

Chamber Folk

If there was ever any evidence towards the incestous essence of the 60s, Nico could very well be the personified centrepoint of the whole operation, having been romantically linked to such major players as Iggy Pop, Leonard Cohen, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Andy Warhol, Brian Jones, John Cale, and of course, Lou Reed. Even here on Chelsea Girl, our German Warhol superstar’s debut, we not only find members from The Velvet Underground scattered throughout the performances, but are even granted the superb I'll Keep It With Mine, an unreleased Bob Dylan arrangement which he gifted to Nico when he struggled to record a decent version himself. However, do not allow these external contributions to mislead you, for this album is Nico’s alone, her partial deafness delivering a uniquely damaged colourless presentation, whilst her threatening heroin addiction conjures up a stark mood so freezing and isolated that even her brief pursuits in optimism are suffocated by a fog of sadness. Reportedly, Nico despised the final product, shedding tears “all because of the flute”, but for many others, this album is one of the most criminally overlooked and underrated releases of the whole decade, no matter how depressingly dreary it may be.

Selected Accolades:
none, annoyingly.

The Top 10 Albums Of The 60s: 04. Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited

04. Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

Folk Rock

After returning home from his lengthy England tour, Bob was exhausted. His own material made him sick to his stomach, and he openly considered quitting the whole scene, stating "it's very tiring having other people tell you how much they dig you if you yourself don't dig you." However, rather than succumbing to this lethargy, he channeled his frustration into writing, quickly spitting out the classic Like a Rolling Stone in one sitting, which successfully kick-started the momentum of what would become Highway 61 Revisited. The album itself was heavily built around a band approach rather than the usual folky acoustic songwriting Dylan was known for, and while his monotone slurs still tunelessly tumbled out profoundly poetic lines, there was a stronger sense of surreal cynicism this round, a certain bluesy bitterness which was such a large departure from his tried-and-tested successes that his label were reluctantly nervous to approve of it. No worries there, Columbia Records, as Highway 61 Revisited has been perpetually worshipped as a revolutionary record from then until now, author Michael Gray even once describing it as the point where the 1960s "started"—which I’m not sure anyone can prove, but is still a great compliment for an undoubtedly vital landmark all the same.

Selected Accolades:
Peaked at number four on the UK album chart.
Peaked at number three on the US Billboard 200 chart of top albums.
Deemed The Best Album of All Time by The Best 100 Albums of All Time book.
#4 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time.

The Top 10 Albums Of The 60s: 03. The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

03. The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Psychedelic Pop Rock

When it comes to the 60's Summer of Love, I (like most) prefer to imagine the time as a wonderfully far-out scene, bursting with bright colours streaming from cheerful hippies' dance moves, unified under the sunshine, while light hearts overflowed from love and drugs and misguided amusement. And if there ever was one album overused as the representation for what made this era so explosive, it would be Sgt. Pepper, the quote unquote “greatest record ever”, from the world’s “greatest band ever”. But while many a Beatlemaniac’s tastebuds will vary (including mine), there is still no doubt that this record truly wiped all surrounding music clean, by working the studio like an instrument itself, pushing the experimentation to the limits of technology, stuffing all corners with assorted genres, and spending equal attention to the concepts and presentation as they did to the music, until they accidentally birthed art-rock, oops. And really, what else could you possibly want? One of the first concept albums ever made? The first to have the lyrics in the sleeve? The first hidden track? The first seamless song ordering? The most influential, iconic, revolutionary, and inventive album in history? So ingenious, in fact, that it sent Brian Wilson into madness? Because, yeah, it did all of that. You should know this by now.

Selected Accolades:
Spent 27 weeks in the UK charts and 15 weeks in the US charts at #1.
Stayed on the US Billboard 200 chart for 175 non-consecutive weeks until 1987.
Deemed The Greatest Album Of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine.
Deemed "the most important and influential rock and roll album ever recorded" by the Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature.
Sold more than 30 million copies worldwide, making it one of the highest-selling albums of all time.
At the 10th Annual Grammy Awards (1968), won Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts, Best Engineered Recording, and Best Contemporary Album, as well as the first ever rock LP to win Album of the Year.
Included in the National Recording Registry (2003).

02. Love - Forever Changes (1967)

Psychedelic Folk Rock Pop

And this is it: the most authentic and self aware representation of what the 60s were genuinely like from the inside. For on the surface, Forever Changes is a classic happy-go-lucky psychedelic record, bringing the stereotypical visions of peace signs and weed leaves, hovering above the youth who passively resisted the drag of our system by doing absolutely nothing at all, maaan, duuude, woooaaah. But in the midst of all this drowsy idealism, the setting stank of body odour, caused by the unwashed armpits, knotty hair, and copious amounts of drugs which had turned inwards and left so many lost within the movement, paranoid and isolated, plagued by the feeling that at any moment something was about to go horrifically wrong. It was the ugly side of the blissful freedom, where the disorientation of an aimless intoxication had begun to alienate its users, their meaningless smiles disturbed by a faint glimmer of fear in their eyes, rambling just to keep themselves company. Such a refreshingly honest (and scary) reflection is one of the most timeless musical experiences I’ve ever greeted, preserved by its layers of clever instrumentation, self-serving harmonies, and a shiny wad of phlegm crystallising on your favourite pair of corduroys. Jesus, Bummer in the Summer is right.

Selected Accolades:
#2 in Mojo’s list of the Greatest Psychedelic Albums Of All Time.
#82 in Q magazine's reader selected list of the Greatest Albums Of All Time.
#40 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time.
#11 in Mojo’s reader selected list of the 100 Greatest Albums Ever Made.
#6 in NME magazine's list of the Greatest Albums Of All Time.
Included in the National Recording Registry (2012).

The Top 10 Albums Of The 60s: 01. The Velvet Underground and Nico

01. The Velvet Underground & Nico - The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)

Experimental Art Rock

By arming themselves with Andy Warhol as the producer/artwork designer and Nico as the driest of all guest vocalists, The Velvet Underground’s debut was destined for success. They recorded it in less than a week, and pushed the boundaries of lo-fi dissonance by exploring such taboo topics as drug abuse, prostitution, and sadomasochism—which is a flawless recipe which simply could not fail. Except to say, it did. Radio refused to play the album, magazines refused to advertise it, and it was considered a financial flop for reasons that seem so obvious now. In the thick of the multicoloured kaleidoscopic 60s generation, simply nobody was ready for the world’s first dope-sick album, one determined to self-destruct by gouging itself onto the dirtiest of needles and lying in a pool of its own waste, waiting to die. However, while it may have only sold 30,000 copies initially, Brian Eno once famously pointed out that "everyone who bought [a copy] started a band,” and so who cares if it took over a decade for anyone to notice? Because they eventually fucking noticed, the record now considered one of the most influential releases ever, as well as inarguably the most darkest in history. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the hideous side of the 1960s. It’s my favourite.

Selected Accolades:
Included in Spin magazine's list of the Top Fifteen Most Influential Albums of All Time.
#42 in Q magazine's reader selected list of the Greatest Albums Of All Time.
#22 in HMV Group, Channel 4, The Guardian and Classic FM’s collaborative poll of the Greatest Albums Of All Time.
#13 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time.
Deemed The Album That Changed Music The Most by The Observer.
Included in the National Recording Registry (2006).

But wait, there's more!

The Top 10 Albums Of The 60s

1 comment :

  1. Loving Your List brother, mine is very close to it:

    1.Forever Changes - Love
    2.The Velvet Underground & Nico - The Velvet Underground
    3.Songs of Leonard Cohen - Leonard Cohen
    4.Blonde on Blonde - Bob Dylan
    5.We're only in it for the Money - Frank Zappa
    6.In the Court of the Crimson King - King Crimson
    7.Astral Weeks - Van Morrison
    8.The Village Green Preservation Society - The Kinks
    9.Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles up
    10.Roger the Engineer - The Yardbirds

    Keep up the good work