1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not: 1969 – 1971

1001_BSTIt’s a fact: What goes up doesn’t always come down.

All hell broke loose in the late 60s – early 70s, and in spite of (or maybe because of) the chaos, some remarkable music was made. Equally important, we’re now seeing a phalanx of splinter genres reaching maturity: psychedelic, folk rock, country rock, heavy metal, hard rock, acid rock, jazz fusion, jazz rock, progressive and art rock. And it’s starting to become clear that good old fashion dance rock, i.e. rock n’ roll, is temporarily out of fashion. People weren’t dancing very much in 1969. Rock bands played ballrooms and audiences were amply stoned to stand there and watch. At most, a mild boogie might break out.

Nevertheless, I reckon there’s something in this era for everybody.


Key:
Strikethrough indicates what you probably think it does
Green indicates highly recommended listening
Underlined indicates questionable but ultimately acceptable record
Red indicates generally hazardous material
Blue bold italic indicates ABSOLUTELY MUST HEAR BEFORE YOU DIE
Note: Suggested alternatives are from the same year as the contested entry unless otherwise indicated.

  1. Blood, Sweat & Tears – Blood, Sweat And Tears (1969)

Here’s an outfit that sounded really, truly great on their debut album, Child is the Father to the Man (1968); but then Al Kooper left and BS&T became the house band in my version of Hell featuring David Clayton-Thomas on lead vocals and perspiration.

1001_D_Clayton_ThomasBS&T won the 1969 Grammy for Album of the Year, and this is one of several proverbial lines in the sand: Accolades mean nothing. The same cat who produced this unacceptable bullshit (James William Guerico) was also working with Chicago (see #3) and Moondog, but he dropped the ball on BS&T. Even though Child is probably a Must Hear album, BS&T disqualifies the band from inclusion on any list yours truly might be involved with.

Thus, we shall henceforth call this the BS&T Clause, which renders a band non-essential no matter what they did before or after (in this case) David Clayton-Thomas joined the band. The clause will be invoked when we get to the Bee Gees, for sure.

Meanwhile, there are few songs in the pantheon of popular music that strike a murderous rage in my heart like “Spinning Wheel.” The only other song I can think of is “You Made Me So Very Happy”, which is also on this album.

  1. Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – Trout Mask Replica (1969)

1001_Beefheart_Trout-MaskA different kind of psychedelic music. The kind that takes you on a trip from which you may never return.

  1. Chicago Transit Authority – Chicago Transit Authority (1969)

You should probably hear this record, if only for reference. James William Guerico is all over 1969, man. He owns it. But should you decide to accept the Chicago challenge, there’s a lot of trombone in your future; however, this is mercifully off-set by some great songwriting and killer guitar wrangling from Terry Kath, who might have been the dumbest kick-ass guitar player to ever own a firearm, Ted Nugent notwithstanding.

On a positive note, now we’re done with this high school jazz band nonsense.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Doc_SeverinsenDoc Severinsen – Doc Severinsen’s Closet (1969)

Have a load of this record if for no other reason than to hear his versions of “In the Court of the Crimson King” and “Footprint of the Giant.”

  1. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bayou Country (1969)
  2. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River (1969)

Fact #1: I have never sat through an entire CCR album, but I have played in at least one band that played at least one CCR cover. One of my very first bands did a hack-sawed version of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain”; and I vaguely remember Golden Tones banging through “Fortunate Son” during a practice or two.

1001_Creedence_Clearwater_Revival_-_Green_RiverFact #2: Most CCR records have one or two hits, plus maybe a sleeper track. The rest is choogle. What, exactly, is choogle? Glad you asked. Believe it or not, there’s a 2007 article in the Austin Chronicle (“To Choogle or Not to Choogle: Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Choogle”; by Christopher Gray, April 18, 2007) that puts way more thought into it than I’m willing to expend at this point in time. Anyway, the TL;DR* definition is simple. Choogle is white-boy boogie. And we’ve already heard capital P-plenty of it.

*Too Long; Didn’t Read

Fact #3: CCR released a total of 7 studio albums, which means they have approximately 20 good-to-great jams, all of which fit quite nicely on a single compact disc, Chronicle, Vol. 1(1976), also known as Chronicle: The 20 Greatest Hits.

  1. Crosby, Stills & Nash – Crosby, Stills And Nash (1969)
  2. John, The Night Tripper – Gris Gris (1969)

When I was a kid, I didn’t like the Beach Boys, mainly because all their early hits like “Surfin’ U.S.A.” had barbershop quartet harmonies and one dude singing in falsetto. That Frankie Valli, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” bullshit used to drive me nuts.

Plus, I grew up in the Midwest, where surfing was not an option. Had there been a band to sing about the chilly joy of riding snowmobiles in Northern Wisconsin, or the bone-crushing heartbreaks of Little League baseball, they might have been allowed to get away with the shitty falsetto of Mike Love, perhaps the worst singer in the history of Rock this side of yours truly or David Clayton-Thomas – take your pick. Anyway, once I learned the basics of music theory, the BBs vocal harmonizing became intriguing and eventually appreciated. Of course, now I adore the BBs, but falsetto never quite got over the hump of prejudice. To this day, I silently grimace when I hear it in use.

Off the top of my head, there is only one artist who can get away with falsetto: Prince.

100_the-hollies-2The Hollies were certainly one of the more under-rated bands of the British Invasion, and in terms of success, mainly a U.K. phenomenon. Aside from a couple of hits in the 1970s (“Long Cool Woman” and “The Air That I Breathe”), the Hollies never found great success in the U.S., partially, I suspect, due to going overboard on the barbershop harmonies. And the falsetto.

Much to my dismay, the first CS&N album is essential listening for one terrible reason. It signifies the birth of soft rock. Up until now, we haven’t been faced with folk singers, acoustic guitars, and three-part harmonies in the same sitting. The Hollies came close, but they didn’t have any big hits until Graham Nash left the band to join…CS&N.

  1. Dusty Springfield – Dusty In Memphis (1969)
  2. Elvis Presley – From Elvis in Memphis (1969)

We’re getting near the end of “listenable” Elvis records, so dig in on this one. Or not.

  1. Fairport Convention – Liege And Lief (1969)
  2. Fairport Convention – Unhalfbricking (1969)

Ah, Christ. They say FC introduced a distinctively English identity to rock music and helped awaken much wider interest in traditional music in general. Either one of these albums could have been a Must Hear, but not both. Liege and Lief has more Bang! for my listening buck.

  1. Flying Burrito Brothers – The Gilded Palace Of Sin (1969)

1001_Flying_BurritoHere, I face a major dilemma. If I say go ahead and listen to this, I’m not being honest. If I say don’t bother listening to this, I’m not being fair. Whether I like it or not, country rock is a thing, and these guys were the Pangaea of the genre.

So it comes down to a very conscious decision on your behalf. Ask yourself these two questions: Do I like Wilco? Do I own a copy of The Eagles – Greatest Hits 1971-1975? If you answered yes to either, you should probably give this record a spin, not because you might like it, but because this is where all that middle of the road, cut along the grain, country rock sawdust comes from. Actually, the story of the band is far more interesting than any of their jams. The legend of Gram Parsons is a fascinatingly morbid tale.

  1. Frank Zappa – Hot Rats (1969)

1001_Zappa-RatsHot Rats consists of instrumental jazz-influenced compositions with exhaustive soloing; hence, the music doesn’t resemble earlier Zappa albums (with the original Mothers of Invention). Five of the six songs are instrumental (“Willie the Pimp” features a short vocal by Captain Beefheart). Zappa described the album as “a movie for your ears.”

Multi-instrumentalist Ian Underwood is the only member of the Mothers to appear on the album and was the primary musical collaborator. Other featured musicians were Max Bennett and Shuggie Otis on bass, drummers John Guerin, Paul Humphrey and Ron Selico, and electric violinists Don “Sugarcane” Harris and Jean-Luc Ponty. This was the first Frank Zappa album recorded on 16-track equipment and one of the first albums to use this technology (as professional 4- and 8-track reel-to-reel tape recorders were standard in 1969).

The record is also notable for the song “Peaches en Regalia”, which became a late-night staple of Album Oriented Rock (AOR) radio. Make of this what you will. And ahem, thank you, Wikipedia.

  1. Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul (1969)

1001_Isaac-SoulI bought my first copy of this album at a garage sale on the north side of Chicago in 1995-ish, and haven’t stopped loving it yet.

  1. Johnny Cash – Johnny Cash At San Quentin (1969)

Another prison album? Nuh-uh.

  1. King Crimson – In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969)
  2. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin (1969)
  3. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II (1969)
  1. Leonard Cohen – Songs From A Room (1969)

No dice. Already heard this cat. Nothing new here. Not impressed.

  1. MC5 – Kick Out The Jams (1969)

1001_MC5-1969-Kick-Out-The-JamsYou will listen to this album all the way through and you will understand why modern punk rock is nothing more than a fashion statement.

  1. Miles Davis – In A Silent Way (1969)

If you’re a jazz enthusiast, this list and my opinion are completely useless to you. Repeat: “This list and your opinion are worthless.”

Now replace list with “zippidee-bop” and opinion with “de-de-de-de-de-de-duh-de,” and we can stand on a patch of common ground. But I never understood guys who had something against melody, and I’m writing in the past tense for a reason.

Anyway, Miles Davis leads us into the splinter genre of jazz fusion, which is just below samba and bossa nova on the Pay-No-Mind list.

The problem with jazz fusion is that it’s not for listening; it’s for playing.

Jazz fusion developed from funk and R&B rhythms, the amplification and electronic effects of rock music. It features complex time signatures derived from non-Western music, extended instrumental improvisational compositions with a jazz approach, often using wind and brass, and always displaying a high level of instrumental technique.

1001_Miles_SilentOK, uh-huh. So?

Created around the late 1960s to describe records by Zappa and Davis, the term “jazz-rock” is often used as a synonym for “jazz fusion” as well as for music performed by late 1960s and 1970s-era rock bands that added jazz elements to their music. The genre is distinct from Canterbury Scene progressive rock and other forms of prog-jazz fusion, in which extended prog instrumentals use improvisation and take on a jazz influenced feel.

TL;DR: Due to years of formal training, jazz cats are armed with technical skills they don’t get to show off in a predictable setting.

Esotericism signifies the holding of ideas preserved or understood by a small group of those specially initiated, or of rare or unusual interest, which is a convoluted way of saying that jazz fusion is designed to appeal to the smallest fraction of music appreciationists. You’re not supposed to think it’s good; you’re supposed to think it’s cool, man.

  1. Neil Young With Crazy Horse – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)
  2. Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left (1969)

1001_Nick_Drake_Five_Leaves_LeftNeither of these two albums is the best of what these two cats have to offer, but it’s easy to see why some people say these are their favorites.

  1. Pentangle – Basket Of Light (1969)

I’m only saying yes to this record because Bert Jansch was in the band. That’s it. We’ve already had a belly full of the Canterbury Scene (prog-folk) with Fairport Convention.

  1. Quicksilver Messenger Service – Happy Trails (1969)
  2. Scott Walker – Scott 4 (1969)

Hell no, and for the love of God, no!

  1. Sly & The Family Stone – Stand! (1969)
  2. The Band – The Band (1969)
  3. The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)

The Beatles, Let It Be

The question of whether or not we need to hear every Beatle album was rattling around my head for a month, and the final answer is no, we don’t. Ditto: The Band. Anyway, Let It Be (1970) was recorded before Abbey Road, isn’t on the original list, and both are absolutely the first albums you should leave at the curb if you ever need to evacuate the premises in a hurry.

  1. The Bee Gees – Odessa (1969)

Fuck these disco jokers. I hereby invoke the BS&T Clause. I don’t care how mediocre they were before they made Saturday Night Fever, they still made Saturday Night Fever, and for that, they will never be forgiven. Ever. If that weren’t bad enough, Odessa is yet another domino in the conga line of soft rock (adult contemporary).

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Moondog-1Moondog – Moondog (1969)

Please refer to my ebullient piece on Louis Hardin aka Moondog.

  1. The Kinks – Arthur: Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire (1969)
  2. The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed (1969)
  3. The Stooges – The Stooges (1969)
  4. The Temptations – Cloud Nine (1969)

Now you got me. So far we haven’t heard squeak from Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops, etc. Cloud Nine is a fine album, but you could skip it and not miss anything you aren’t getting from the radio.

Suggested Alternative:

Where I'm Coming From (1971)

Stevie Wonder – Where I’m Coming From (1971)
  1. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground (1969)
  2. The Youngbloods – Elephant Mountain (1969)

How the Youngbloods figure to be essential listening is beyond me. You should be familiar with their lone hit, “Get Together” and its hyper-hippie bullshit:

Come on, people now/ Smile on your brother/ Everybody get together right now

I just threw up in the back of my mouth. Yeech. “Get Together” is not on Elephant Mountain, which is loaded with jazzy acoustic ballads (“Sunlight” and “Ride the Wind”), country/folk pop (“Smug” and “Beautiful”) and bluesy hard rock (“Sham”). Somebody has done a cover of “Darkness, Darkness” which is much better than the version found here.

  1. Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (1969)

VM WeeksVan Morrison is one of the untouchable darlings of contemporary criticism. I never liked the guy, even though one of the first songs I learned to fingerpick on guitar was “Brown-Eyed Girl” and I remember it like it was 30-some-odd years ago, sitting in the living room of my parents’ house, reading the chord changes from a fakebook and figuring out the main picking pattern to a song I’d only ever heard on the radio. The living room was by far my favorite room of the house, with a vaulted ceiling, plush blue carpet, stylish white couch, and U-shaped coffee table. It was the summer break between my sophomore and junior year in high school, and by this time I was smoking pot every day, or at least as often as possible, since there tended to be long “dry” stretches in the supply chain. For the last several years I’d been teaching myself to play on a Brazilian nylon-string classical guitar; I didn’t own a proper electric guitar until I was 18. So there I was, plunking away on “Brown-Eyed Girl” and “The Spirit of Radio”. Anyway, Astral Weeks might be an enlightening record, I dunno.

  1. Ananda Shankar – Ananda Shankar (1970)

Ordinarily, we wouldn’t concern ourselves with Indian contemporary fusion, but this Shankar record is fucking hilarious. I will never again be able to hear “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” without sitar and tablas.

  1. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (1970)
  2. Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970)
  3. Cat Stevens – Tea For The Tillerman (1970)

1001_K-tel_01You don’t need Cat Stevens. Nobody does. I’m sorry. I can’t let you do it. I’ll give you a box full of K-Tel and Ronco Records from the 70s. Just stay off this cat, literally. He’s got two timeless jams (“Wild World” and “Peace Train”) and three warehouses full of venomous dreck like “Morning Has Broken” and “Father and Son.” If you’re old enough to be familiar with K-Tel Records, you know exactly why I’m telling you to skip this album and everything else from Cat Stevens’ catalog.

  1. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Déjà Vu (1970)

Nope. Not essential. Even with Neil Young.

Bowie 2Must Hear:

David Bowie – The Man Who Sold the World (1970)

I can’t imagine how this gets left off the original 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die list.

  1. Deep Purple – In Rock (1970)

They suck. End of story.

  1. Derek & The Dominos – Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs (1970)

1001_Derek-DominoYou’ve heard “Layla” more times than you can count. You’re familiar with the slide guitar stylings of Duane Allman. You’ve probably been erroneously told that Eric Clapton is a special guitar player.

Personally, this is one of the few rock records I find offensive, as in, what kind of a fool do you think I am sort of way.

  1. George Harrison – All Things Must Pass (1970)

Nearly every double album in the history of rock music could probably be pared down to a very long single LP. Even the Beatles’ White Album contains some questionable filler (“Why Don’t We Do It In the Road?”, “Honey Pie” and “Revolution 9”).

George AllAll Things Must Pass is essentially Harrison’s triple-disc collection of songs John and Paul didn’t find up to snuff and would quite literally make a good EP. That is, one side of an album, or roughly 15-20 minutes. Six sides is fucking terrorism, I mean it.

Note: Phil Spector co-produced some of this record. If you’re interested, you can read about his involvement (and lack thereof) here.

  1. James Taylor – Sweet Baby James (1970)

You don’t absolutely need to listen to this all the way through, but you should. Otherwise, you’ll miss the genius of “Suite for 20 G.” It’s too bad that JT never again made such an amazingly simple and elegant record.

  1. John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band (1970)

Surf Ono BandAs mentioned in earlier, Phil Spector sucks. I wanted to scratch every record he may have been involved with on principle alone. However, that’s not possible, since he is credited as producer on this album, though his participation was reportedly minimal. Who knows? Plastic Ono Band is not about Phil Spector anyhow; it’s about John Lennon.

Superlatives abound when discussing this album and it remains one of those records that ends too soon. But you have to respect the fact that Lennon didn’t have an endless fountain of killer ideas. He’s gonna run out of gas, too.

  1. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III (1970)

I dunno. This is a decisive record. You’ll either love it or hate it.

  1. Paul McCartney – McCartney (1970)

If you weren’t square with the idea that Paul was probably the most musically talented cat in the Beatles, this record will set you straight. On the other hand, it contains a couple of super-stinkbombs (“Valentine’s Day” “Oo You” and “Momma Miss America”).

  1. Miles Davis – Bitches Brew (1970)

juke-1-Bitches_brewBitches Brew would be essential listening if… Never mind. It’s your call.

  1. Neil Young – After The Gold Rush (1970)
  2. Nick Drake – Bryter Layter (1970)
  3. Rod Stewart – Gasoline Alley (1970)

Ten years ago I would have told you that Nick Drake is only important because he managed to influence a surprising number of songwriters, without selling many records. Today, I think he has a lovely voice and Bryter Layter is my favorite of his unfortunately small catalog.

  1. Santana – Abraxas (1970)

Santana is the Frank Sinatra of guitar players. You have to hear one of his albums in its entirety. You don’t have to like it, and you may hate every minute of it.

1001_Santana_AbraxasLet’s get something straight. I can play guitar. Obviously, I never made a living at it, but after nearly 30+ years of wrangling, I know what I’m doing on the instrument. Therefore, when you have an internal monologue that starts with: “Yeah, fuck this guy. What does he know?” I want you to remind yourself that I do know. Period.

So you could ring me up on Skype right now, this very instant, and ask me to play a Carlos Santana riff, and I would reach over, grab the guitar, strike a note on the G string at the 12th fret, bend it up a whole step, add a slow vibrato, and hold that note for the next 30 seconds while an imaginary Latin percussion section juggled a sloppy groove on congas, maracas and timbales, maybe make a few orgasm faces, and that would be the best Santana impression you would ever hear in your life. Until I busted out a three-note arpeggio on the E and B strings (again, above the twelfth fret). Mind = blown.

Having seen and heard so many talented guitar players over the years, guys like Santana and Jerry Garcia make me angry, not because they lack talent—both can play pretty well—but that they became Guitar Gods while a million other dudes wallowed in the bleak shadows of obscurity. Clapton? I get it. He could play a bunch of blues licks that most other white kids couldn’t fathom. Garcia? Well, they didn’t call him Captain Trips for nothing, but it wasn’t his guitar prowess, I assure you.

1001_Santana_-_SupernaturalAfter repeated listens to the bulk of Santana’s catalog, I can’t recall a single moment where he “wowed” me. I’m getting way ahead of myself but have you heard his “comeback” album Supernatural (1999)? Yes, of course you have. “Smooth” is one of those dive bar jukebox songs that comes on and I’m like, “Jesus God holy fucking shit balls mothercock of a bitch! Make it stop!!!”

Mostly, Santana bores me with such focus and dedication that I’m certain he’s doing it on purpose.

You should listen to this particular record all the way through only if you’re looking for a literal definition of “overblown nonsense that goes on far too long.”

  1. Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
  2. Soft Machine – Third (1970)
  3. Spirit 2Spirit – Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus (1970)
  4. Stephen Stills – Stephen Stills (1970)

Soft Machine…sigh. If you were going to make an effort to sit through one of their albums, Third is probably the easiest listen, though that’s not saying much; it’s a double LP. Their previous record, Volume Two, launched a transition towards a purely instrumental sound vaguely resembling jazz fusion. In May 1969, this lineup acted as the uncredited backup band on two tracks of Syd Barrett’s solo debut album, The Madcap Laughs.

1001_Soft-Machine_ThirdTheir inclination for crafting extended suites from sensibly-sized compositions, both live and in the studio, reached its apogee on Third, unusual for its time in each of the four sides featured one suite. It’s the best-selling Soft Machine recording and marks the most major of several shifts in musical genre over their career, completing their transition from psychedelic music to jazz, and is a significant milestone of the Canterbury Scene.

There are two kinds of experimental rock. The first, legitimate type involves an artist actually trying something new and unusual. The second and fraudulent type involves an artist who has run out of songs and/or ideas. I suppose there’s always a fine line between integrity and fraud in all aspects of life. Jazz fusion takes that line and chops it up into 5.3 cm segments, just because it can.

Meanwhile, Stephen Stills is a fine musician, but an entire album is too much.

Suggested Alternative:
AliceAlice Cooper – Easy Action (1970)
  1. Syd Barrett – The Madcap Laughs (1970)

The tragedy of losing Syd Barrett is slightly more traumatic than losing Jimi Hendrix, John Bonham, and Keith Moon, if only because we had the privileged horror of watching and hearing Barrett slowly disappear from this world. It’s disheartening because he was so talented and just think what he might have done had he not gone mad.

1001_Syd_Barrett-madcaplaughsTo the best of my knowledge, The Madcap Laughs is the most comprehensive documentary of schizophrenia in music to date (1970). I personally can’t sit through the whole album; it only takes two or three songs before the creeping madness is under my skin, like I’ve been dosed with a tainted batch. If you have experience with hallucinogens, you know how a bad trip starts, and this album takes me directly to that spot.

  1. The Carpenters – Close To You (1970)

I would imagine that almost everybody at some point in life has pondered the Great Mystery of Existence: Is there a God, and if so, where the fuck is He or She?

It’s a tremendous waste of time, ultimately leading to the worst rabbit hole of all: Why are we here?

Now, I suggest that instead of wondering why; simply accept the fact that we are here and try to maximize our time. Since life doesn’t come with a user’s manual, we can assume that we are inherently free to make our own rules and set our own parameters. I’m pretty certain that one of the reasons for existence—if there are any at all—isn’t to be eaten by a pack of wild animals; thus, we should be fairly preoccupied with mere survival. In the meantime, try to enjoy yourself as much as possible.

Religion is a man-made construct, which I believe was simply designed to keep people in line. A lot of bad shit happens when people don’t acknowledge boundaries and whatnot. However, worship of an unknown and unknowable “higher power” doesn’t seem a terribly productive endeavor, the worshiping part, that is. Belief and/or suspicion fall into a different category of thought. To be frank, not one creature, living or dead, has ever definitively solved the Great Mystery. We’ll never know. Therefore, we must concentrate on what we do know.

1001_Milky_Way_Arms_ssc2008-10.svgLet’s think about space for a moment. We know that the Earth orbits the Sun, which orbits the Milky Way galaxy, which is moving at light-speed through the Virgo Supercluster, which is part of an even larger galactic system known as Laniakea Supercluster, at the center of which is the Great Attractor; a gravity anomaly in intergalactic space within the vicinity of the Hydra-Centaurus Supercluster, a region hundreds of millions of light-years across.

And yet we haven’t even come close to describing the observable universe.

Now consider the physical forces at work here, particularly the motion of the Earth relative to the Sun, the Sun to the Milky Way, and the Milky Way to whatever. The Earth currently rotating on its axis at approximately 500 meters per second, while hurtling across the elliptical (orbital) plane at approximately 30 km per second.

1001_Universe-clusters-of-galaxies-3Our solar system itself is moving through the Milky Way at 220 kilometers per second, with a complete rotational period of 240 million years. The Milky Way as a whole is moving at a velocity of approximately 600 km per second with respect to extragalactic frames of reference, yet since the evolution of mankind, has only managed to make 1/1,250th of a rotation around the Virgo Supercluster.

Furthermore, the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy are a binary system of giant spiral galaxies belonging to a group of 50 closely bound galaxies known as the Local Group [in the Virgo Supercluster]. Two smaller galaxies and a number of dwarf galaxies in the Local Group orbit the Milky Way.

Current measurements suggest the Andromeda Galaxy is approaching us at 100 to 140 kilometers per second. In 3 to 4 billion years, there may be an Andromeda–Milky Way collision, depending on the importance of unknown lateral components to the galaxies’ relative motion.

1001_Universe-heliosphereNow here’s my question: What is actually between here and the next galaxy? The answer is simple. The interstellar medium is a vacuum, which is, nothingness. There is absolutely nothing but light years of nothing between us and nothingness.

What is the one force keeping all this together and simultaneously pulling it in every direction? Gravity.

Let’s now set an imaginary clock back to a blazing hot summer day in your eighth year of existence. You are riding in the back seat of an olive green Pontiac station wagon with matching interior, except for the dashboard, which is mostly black. Your father is driving, your mother riding shotgun, and a sibling is sharing the backseat. The car is headed in the direction of a grandmother’s house 500 miles away.

1001_PontiacThe windows are rolled up to reduce drag and noise, since running the air conditioning is disastrous for gas mileage, so you’ve been sweltering since the station wagon pulled out of your driveway, about two hours ago. There’s too much stuff to be contained in the cargo bed, and there’s a picnic-sized Coleman cooler contending for most of the space in your footwell. Your thighs are plastered to the vinyl upholstery and you’re too overheated to be thirsty. Your only pastime possession is a book you’ve already read three times. You do not have any type of digital device, but your sibling has a deck of cards that’s missing both Jokers and the Four of Clubs. Plus, the sibling is a notorious cheater and/or bad loser, and you know better than to suggest a game of Hearts or Go Fish.

Fortunately, the Pontiac has a functioning stereo system – 8-track cartridge – which is generally controlled by your parents, who have alarming and tortuous tastes in music, respectively. Aside from quarterly bathroom breaks at rest stops along the highway, you have another 6-10 hours of constant driving ahead of you, depending upon traffic and your old man’s approach to cruise control. At any rate, the stereo system is your one source of entertainment that doesn’t end and begin with staring out the window at passing corn fields.

At eight years old, you don’t have any concept of physics beyond what you’ve been taught in school, which probably included a cursory mention of the Milky Way. But you don’t have any idea how precious, precarious, and downright improbable your life is. You don’t have the mental capacity to appreciate the subtlety of nothingness. All you know is that you’re going to be really fucking bored until you arrive at Grandma’s joint. You are incapable of realizing that there is something much worse than boredom.

1001_CarpentersYou’re not inclined to get involved in family politics, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s say your father is the figurehead and your mother is genuinely Running the Show. So that means that everybody in the car is going to listen to what she wants to listen to, which at this precise moment is The Carpenters – Close to You, which you will be hearing three more times in its entirety today, and it’s actually kind of a breath of slightly fresher air after sitting through Barbra Streisand’s soundtrack for A Star Is Born. You’re always thinking it can’t get any worse, until it does.

Anyway, there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. You’ve already been through this with your folks. You’ve had the knock-down, drag-out arguments. They don’t want to hear any of your teeny-bopper music and that’s the end of it. Suck an Air Supply dick.

At this point in the reading, you may have formulated an idea of where I’m going with this. Perhaps you’re thinking that I’m using the relative yet unfathomable size and scope of the universe to throw light or shade on the utter inconsequential nature of existence, and if there were a God, He or She would not tolerate insignificance, as a metaphor for the Carpenters’ music. Or maybe you suspect that I’m drawing a parallel between the nothingness of the interstellar medium and the Carpenters absence of artistic substance. Both of these trains of thought are fairly obvious; the latter even less sophisticated than the description allows. And both are wrong.

It all goes back to what we “know.” As articulated many times by many a great man, we are all at the center of our own universe. Existence itself is the sum of our personal experience and consciousness. Ultimately, we are a time-lapse collage of our spent emotions; our knowledge is a first-hand accumulation of feelings that eventually age to memories.

I don’t know that you know what I’m talking about, but I want you to know what I’m talking about. That’s why I want you to listen to this album from start to finish (if you already haven’t) and I want you to know, deeply, what I know about the state of nothingness, and from the impressions I’m about to leave you with, I want you to know why there can never be an answer to the Great Mystery. It’s right here on this record, in every vinyl groove or digital bit.

  1. The Doors – Morrison Hotel (1970)
  2. The Grateful Dead – American Beauty (1970)
  3. The Grateful Dead – Live/Dead (1970)

The Doors’ first album is essential listening. Everything else is not.

Over the years, I’ve wasted far too much time talking about how and why the Grateful Dead suck.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Small_FacesSmall Faces – First Step (1970)
  1. The Stooges – Fun House (1970)
  2. The Who – Live At Leeds (1970)
  3. Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die (1970)
  4. Van Morrison – Moondance (1970)

Once again, Moondance is an album I’m not going to listen to ever again, but you’re free to make your own decisions.

  1. Can – Tago Mago (1971)

1001_Can_-_Tago_MagoWelcome to Art Rock 101.

  1. Carole King – Tapestry (1971)
  2. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory (1971)
  3. David Crosby – If Only I Could Remember My Name (1971)

Carole King is a major domino in adult contemporary rock, and there’s nothing Rock about adult contemporary music. If you’re going to listen to Tapestry, you might as well listen to the Carpenters and Barry Manilow.

Cosmo’s Factory is yet another CCR record following the CCR Format. If you absolutely must sit through an entire CCR record, make it that greatest hits collection I mentioned earlier.

David Crosby was neither a particularly good songwriter nor an outstanding musician. For whatever reason, people seemed to like him and his uncomfortably bushy mustache. He was probably a fun guy to have in the band. I dunno and I don’t care. Whatever it was he was doing in the Byrds doesn’t fly out here in the open skies of solo albums.

Suggested Alternative:
Moondog – 2 (1971)
  1. Dolly Parton – Coat Of Many Colors (1971)
  2. Don McLean – American Pie (1971)

1001_Dolly-CoatofManyColorsI’d like for you to hear as much early Dolly Parton as possible, but it’s not necessary. The woman sings like a bird, for sure. But all anybody ever wanted to talk about was her tits.

The title track of American Pie is almost as bad as “Classical Gas” and the rest of the album is much, much worse. This is a laughable selection.

Suggested Alternative:
1001_Move_MeesageThe Move – Message From the Country (1971)
  1. Elton John – Madman Across The Water (1971)
  2. Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Pictures At An Exhibition (1971)
  3. Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Tarkus (1971)

You’re eventually going to get albums from Elton John and EL&P, so these entries are negligible at best.

  1. Faces – A Nod Is As Good As A Wink … To A Blind Horse (1971)
  2. Fela Kuti & The Afrika 70 – With Ginger Baker Live! (1971)

FacesThese records have caution flags for different reasons. The Faces’ record has some triumphant moments, and a few slow spots. You could skip this one and hit Ooh La La (1972). It’s just an idea. Meanwhile, With Ginger Baker Live! is the least appealing of the three, count ‘em three albums Fela Kuti released in 1971.

Suggested Alternative(s):
Fela Kuti – Fela’s London Scene and Why Black Man Dey Suffer (1971)
  1. Flamin’ Groovies – Teenage Head (1971)
  2. Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (1971)

Containing one of the all-time best spoken-word album intros, and once you get through the 10-minute title track, Maggot Brain is one of the most delightful records you’ll ever hear.

  1. Harry Nilsson – Nilsson Schmilsson (1971)

1001_Nilsson-schmilssonNilsson is one of my conversational barometers. If I’m not sure whether somebody knows what they’re talking about, I’ll drop Harry’s name and watch for a response.

  1. Isaac Hayes – Shaft (1971)
  2. Janis Joplin – Pearl (1971)
Suggested Alternative:
The Electric Light Orchestra – No Answer (1971)
  1. Jethro Tull – Aqualung (1971)

Jethro Tull albums generally follow the CCR Format. The title song is a timeless classic and there might be one other really catchy jam on here. The rest of it is a drag. With flutes. Never mind the image of Ian Anderson prancing around in a pair of Spanx like he’s the wooly minstrel of King Arthur’s Faire. Pul-leeze. Enough with the Cosplay.

Suggested Alternative:
juke8-Jimi_Hendrix_-The_Cry_Of_LoveJimi Hendrix – The Cry of Love (1971)
  1. John Lennon – Imagine (1971)

I have personally listened to this record at least 100 times in its entirety. It’s also the next-to-last Must Hear solo album by any former Beatle.

  1. Joni Mitchell – Blue (1971)

Way back at the beginning, I resolved that an album couldn’t be scratched from the list merely out of spite, i.e. because I don’t like it. Joni Mitchell and T. Rex are two artists that I never cared for, but have to acknowledge.

  1. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
  2. Leonard Cohen – Songs Of Love And Hate (1971)
  1. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1971)
  2. Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story (1971)
  3. Serge Gainsbourg – Histoire De Melody Nelson (1971)

1001_SergeI honestly have no idea if you should listen to Serge Gainsbourg or not. All I can tell you is that I made it through the first minute of “Melody” before bailing out. Historie is purportedly a pseudo-autobiographical concept album involving the middle-aged Gainsbourg unintentionally crashing his Rolls Royce into teenage girl Melody Nelson’s bicycle, and the subsequent seduction and romance that ensues. It is considered by many critics and pedophiles to be Gainsbourg’s most influential and accomplished album.

  1. Sly & The Family Stone – There’s A Riot Goin’ On (1971)
  2. TrexT. Rex – Electric Warrior (1971)
  3. The Allman Brothers Band – At Fillmore East (1971)
  4. The Beach Boys – Surf’s Up (1971)
  5. The Bee Gees – Trafalgar (1971)

The Allman Brothers brand of bluesy-swamp rock was essentially unrivaled in 1971. I’m a little too exhausted to argue in favor or against this album.

  1. 1001_Yes_albumThe Doors – L A Woman (1971)
  2. The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers (1971)
  3. The Who – Who’s Next (1971)
  4. Yes – Fragile (1971)
  5. Yes – The Yes Album (1971)

Ordinarily, I would have axed one of the Yes records, but both of these albums are phenomenal.


Net Reduction of Albums from the Period: 32
Suggested Alternatives: 12
Running AMYMHBYD Total: 958
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2 thoughts on “1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die…Or Not: 1969 – 1971

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