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20 Albums Rolling Stone Loved in the Sixties That You’ve Never Heard

We praised them 45 years ago — and you should listen to them today!

A current issue of Rolling Stone contains roughly a dozen album reviews. Multiply that by more than 1,200 issues and it's inevitable that a few records we enjoyed maybe slipped out of our listening rotation. We dug into our archives to find 20 once-loved records from our first three years – 1967, 1968 and 1969. Even though they've been largely unheralded these past four decades, they still sound remarkably fresh. From little-heard releases by artists you're familiar with (Steve Miller Band, Jerry Lee Lewis) to obscure rockers (the Insect Trust, Autosalvage) and even one group that never existed – here are just a few acclaimed, yet forgotten LPs. By Daniel Kreps

Smash

Asylum Choir, ‘Look Inside the Asylum Choir’

Although this album remains overlooked, the Los Angeles duo of keyboardist Leon Russell and guitarist Marc Benno did all right for themselves anyway. Russell eventually matured into a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, becoming one of music's best session musicians and songwriters thanks to cuts like "A Song for You" and "Superstar" (made famous by the Carpenters). In 2010, Russell's collaborative LP with Elton John, The Union, was voted Number Three on Rolling Stone's Best Albums of 2010. While not seeing the same level of fame, Benno's worked with the Doors, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

What We Said Then: "It is vital, freaky and exciting… The music is good-times rock; it has the same funky joy that Spoonful used to… The Asylum Choir's is a well-produced album, but it has not lost presence; you can feel the music as well as hear it… The Choir hasn't been receiving a lot of attention, but they are already well developed and together. If they survive the second-album temptation to go through changes, they may prove to be a major force in rock." By David Gancher, November 23rd, 1969.

Epic

Kaleidoscope, ‘Incredible! Kaleidoscope’

Kaleidoscope were renowned in the California folk scene for their integration of world music influences and their creative use of time signatures. Even Jimmy Page once claimed they were his "favorite band." Their first two albums, 1967's Side Trips and 1968's A Beacon to Mars, were well received, but 1969's Incredible Kaleidoscope is where they reached their peak. The band released one more album before splitting up, only to reconvene for 1977's When Scopes Collide, an album of mostly covers that Rolling Stone wrote "lacks the spiritual heart to pull it together." Kaleidoscope's David Lindley eventually became an in-demand session multi-instrumentalist, appearing on Leonard Cohen's Songs of Leonard Cohen and working with Bruce Springsteen and Crosby, Stills & Nash.

What We Said Then: "When I first heard the Kaleidoscope they were on the same bill as the Youngbloods and Steve Miller. By pure musicianship and imagination they made the other two groups look sick… This album catches the 'Where have you been all my life' spirit… The music is marvelously earthy, exciting and alive… This is a good record by a truly excellent group." By Langdon Winner, July 26th, 1969

Rev-Ola

Chrysalis, ‘Definition’

"SPIDER (from a group that hasn't destroyed your mind yet…) is the one who wants you to turn your radio around," is what Frank Zappa wrote in the We're Only In It for the Money liner notes about Chrysalis frontman J. Spider Barbour. However, Chrysalis never ended up destroying too many minds. After this album came and went, this Ithaca, NY-based band apparently called it quits. Barbour would later resurface in some capacity on Zappa's 1985 PMRC protest album Meets the Mothers of Prevention. He now works as an ecological consultant and writes columns for the Woodstock Times.

What We Said Then: "This is an intelligent group, with a good knowledge of where they're at and what they want to say. It's questionable whether they will ever be an 'influence,' their style does not have the romantic appeal of blues, but they are enjoyable and worth listening to." By Charles Perry, October 26th, 1968

Smash Records

Jerry Lee Lewis, ‘Another Place Another Time’

The late Sixties and early Seventies were stocked with first generation rockers attempting to reinvent themselves to stay fresh: the Four Seasons' The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette, Del Shannon's The Further Adventures of Charles Westover and Lou Christie's Paint America Love were all reclamation projects – but none recreated themselves as successfully as Jerry Lee Lewis. Another Place Another Time introduced Lewis as a country crooner; and a few months later his She Still Comes Around (To Love What's Left of Me) established him as a bona fide Nashville star. Another Place did produce the minor hit "What Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me)," which inspired the name of an indie rock band decades later.

What We Said Then: "This most aptly titled album brings back one of the greatest white R&B performers of the Fifties in his new and very successful role as a country and western artist… An album definitely worth buying if you can find it. For rock aficionados Another Place Another Time is an interesting representation of an early rock & roll star's transformation. For country music lovers, this album introduces another great and moving singer. Hopefully next time we'll get to hear the piano, too." By Andy Boehm, February 1st, 1969

Acadia Records

Autosalvage, ‘Autosalvage’

This psychedelic band released only one album before disbanding. Before that, they had opened for the likes of Richard Pryor and the Mothers of Invention – it was the Mothers' Frank Zappa who recommended the moniker "Autosalvage." Guitarist Rick Turner eventually became a manufacturer of instruments, first co-founding Alembic, then his own Turner Guitars.

What We Said Then: "This is the kind of music that you have to sit down and listen to a couple times before you begin to see an inkling of all that is there… Autosalvage doesn't sound like anybody else (although "Me and My Monkey" on the new Beatles album sounds like they might have heard Autosalvage). But Autosalvage never sold. You may have a bit of a time finding it in the stores, but keep looking and you will be very amply rewarded." By Edmund O. Ward, June 14, 1969

Sundazed Music

The Youngbloods, ‘Elephant Mountain’

From the same group that brought the late Sixties the feel-good anthem "Get Together" (millennials: the opening of Nirvana's "Territorial Pissings"), Elephant Mountain bridges the gap between the last days of psychedelia and the outbreak of country-rock that had afflicted artists like the Byrds and Neil Young. The album was produced by Charlie Daniels (of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" fame) and attracted fans as diverse as the Cowboy Junkies and Robert Plant. After a handful of albums that delivered diminishing returns, the Youngbloods disbanded in 1972.

What We Said Then: "This is one of the most encouraging albums I have heard in months… This album exudes that supremely rare commodity in these dark, bored, destructive times – joy. These men obviously love what they're doing, and their music is knocking them out as much as it does us… Suffice to say that this is an album that you'll come back to again and again, and that the Youngbloods are three non-bullshit musical workmen with a genuine feeling for the textures of life and sound. May they have a long life together." By Lester Bangs, July 12th, 1969

Polydor

Area Code 615, ‘Area Code 615’

Comprised of an all-star team of Nashville session musicians, Area Code 615's self-titled debut presents meticulous, country-fried covers of tracks like the Beatles' "Hey Jude" and Bob Dylan's "Just Like a Woman." The supergroup lasted just two albums and one semi-hit single ("Stone Fox Chase") before every member went back to work: Harmonica player and guitarist Charlie McCoy contributed on everything from Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline to Ween's 12 Golden Country Greats; guitarist Mac Gayden co-wrote the hit song "Everlasting Love"; and drummer Kenny Buttrey appeared on a trio of Neil Young albums including Harvest and Tonight's the Night.

What We Said Then: "It's all there – near flawless drumming with licks straight out of west Memphis and Chicago; bass and piano from Muscle Shoals… the result is one of the most enjoyable and stimulating instrumental albums to appear in quite a while. More than a gimmicky self-conscious marriage of divergent root influences, 615 is a remarkable illustration of the scope and genius of the new Nashville cats. In short, a damn fine album." By John Grissim, December 13th, 1969

Warner Brothers Records

The Good Rats, ‘The Good Rats’

The Good Rats' story rolled out like the original draft of the Strokes: Five New Yorkers playing rock music you can dance to in smoky clubs. Unfortunately for the Good Rats, they never lived up to the hype. Although they spent years billing themselves as "the hottest group on Long Island," the Good Rats morphed into little more than a glorified cover band. By 1975, the band was reduced to booking gigs inside a club's kitchen; the band showed up in chef uniforms in protest. This embarrassing incident made more headlines about its ensuing courtroom battle – the Good Rats sued that promoter $2 million for breach of contract – then anything the band had done musically since their pretty good '69 debut. Still, the Good Rats continued to attract a decent following on Long Island until 2013, when longtime lead singer Peppi Marchello passed away.

What We Said Then: "The Good Rats [are] right behind the Rascals and the Velvet Underground as far as New York groups go… The Good Rats would be good to dance to, if people still danced. As it is, the best thing is to stand, very loaded, in front of a good stereo with the Rats at high volume until either of your eardrums or the woofer comes apart." By Alec Dubro, March 15th, 1969

Ascension Records

The Insect Trust, ‘The Insect Trust’

This freak-folk group took its name from William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch and featured John Fahey protégé Bill Barth, Greenwich Village folk mainstay Luke Faust and clarinetist Robert Palmer (best known as a future Rolling Stone contributor). The group only stuck together for two albums before dispersing, but the Insect Trust didn't just sound good in the late Sixties: The reissue of their sophomore LP Hoboken Saturday Night earned four stars in a David Fricke-penned 2005 review, adding that bands like the Insect Trust inspired rock critic Greil Marcus to create the phrase "old weird America." Faust was later praised in a passage in Bob Dylan's Chronicles. Palmer passed in 2007, but an anthology of his writing, Blues & Chaos: The Music Writing of Robert Palmer, was released in 2009.

What We Said Then: "The Insect Trust isn't even a group, at least not in any traditional sense of the word… The lineup of personnel seems to have changed month by month. Whatever all of these factors might mean is hard to say, but, at the least on this record, this bunch of people has captured something truly distinctive and vital. They could hardly avoid it, with a lineup of talent like they have." By Edmund O. Ward, March 1st, 1969

Bizarre

Larry Fischer, ‘An Evening With Wild Man Fischer’

Part Beefheart, part Wesley Willis, part-Steven J. Bernstein, this mad poet's Frank Zappa-produced debut double-LP has never been reissued – reportedly, the Zappa family, who own the album's rights, are still holding a grudge about the time the bipolar Fischer smashed a glass jar near an infant Moon Unit. Fans of Daniel Johnston may connect with Fischer thanks to the simplicity and naiveté of his lyrics, especially on tracks like "Merry Go Round" and "Monkeys Versus Donkeys." A favorite of Dr. Demento, Fischer passed away in 2011 at the age of 66.

What We Said Then: "By any current standards of musical taste, it is simply terrible. By most of our criteria of socially acceptable behavior, it is clearly demented. But give the record a chance… it is an extraordinary document containing some unprecedented testimony about the Sixties. This two-record set accomplishes something which I would have thought impossible. It captures the total being of one strange member of the human community." By Langdon Winner, August 9th, 1969

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