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
The Masked Marauders – a band featuring Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger and three Beatles – were the super-est of supergroups. Only one problem: They didn't exist. A tongue-in-cheek commentary about the rock supergroups that flooded the market in 1969 – Blind Faith, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Led Zeppelin, Moby Grape's Grape Jam, etc. – Greil Marcus manufactured his own. Inconspicuously sandwiched between reviews for Merryweather's Word of Mouth and Santana's debut, the Masked Marauders review (penned by "T.M. Christian," a nod to Terry Southern's The Magic Christian) generated so much interest that Rolling Stone editors sought out a random Berkeley-based band to record the songs mentioned in the review. The faux band even secured a major label deal before the hoax came apart, leaving some disappointed fans in its wake.
What We Said Then: "They began months ago, the rumours of an event that at first seemed hardly believable but which in the end was accepted as all but inevitable… The unmistakable vocals make it clear that this is indeed what it appears to be: John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, and Bob Dylan, backed by George Harrison and a drummer as yet unnamed – the 'Masked Marauders'… All the hassles of creating a special label, of re-arranging schedules, chartering plane, and minimizing the inevitable 'ego conflicts' were worth it. It can truly be said that this album is more than a way of life; it is life." By T.M. Christian, October 18, 1969
Judy Collins' well-respected catalog is so vast that, 40 years later, it's hard to isolate her standout albums. But we'd argue Wildflowers is among her best. After spending the early portion of her career covering the Beatles and Bob Dylan, Wildflowers finds Collins tackling the songs of Leonard Cohen, and the words and mood suit her well. It's a cover of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now," however, that's the highlight, as the track went on to win a 1968 Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance.
What We Said Then: Judy Collins has to have one of the most beautiful and moving voices of any female singer. She has also been smart enough to make magnificent orchestration an integral part of her albums. The arrangements on this album especially complement her voice. The songs she has chosen are also quite representative of the beauty of music of today… Altogether, it is a very beautiful album." By James Christman, February 10th, 1968
Fans of "Jet Airliner," "Take the Money and Run," and "Fly Like an Eagle" wouldn't recognize this incarnation of the Steve Miller Band. Five years before "The Joker" topped the Billboard Hot 100 and the group became one of the Seventies' biggest hits machines, the Steve Miller Band was just another psychedelic band in San Francisco during the Summer of Love. On their debut album, Miller featured guitarist Boz Scaggs and keyboardist Jim Peterman. By 1969, those two were out of the group and Steve Miller Band adopted a much more pop-rock sound. Still, Children of the Future showcased how infectious psychedelic rock could be in the hands of a real songwriter.
What We Said Then: "Steve Miller Band has, for a number of different reasons, done a superb job on their first album. It ranks with Moby Grape's first album in terms of economy and with Sgt. Pepper in terms of taste… One would not characterize the record as being "far out" or revolutionary, but rather as being excellent." By Jann Wenner, June 22nd, 1968
Probably the only time a review of traditional Japanese flute music has ever appeared in Rolling Stone, Gori Yamaguchi, considered the greatest shakuhachi player of his generation, was certainly worthy of the ink. A portion of A Bell Ringing was included alongside works by Bach, Stravinsky and Blind Willie Johnson that NASA etched onto Golden Records and launched into space aboard the Voyager in 1977. He was so adept at his craft, Japan designated Yamaguchi a "Living National Treasure" in 1992, seven years before he passed away at the age of 65.
What We Said Then: "There's a lot of powerful, eerie music in Japanese culture… and the melodic instrument of Zen is a throaty bamboo flute called shakuhachi, of which this is the first album to be made widely available. The mood of the music is a highly refined intellectual spirituality, an agonizing intense meditation on the Void. The sound is arrhythmic, as if constantly on the verge of halting, and it often calls to mind sirens… There's not much of this startling music available in this country." By Charles Perry, April 19th, 1969
The real hook here is that Jimi Hendrix produced The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away – one of only two non-Jimi albums he would produce in his lifetime. The Street Giveth produced the band's lone Top 40 hit "Good Old Rock and Roll," a medley of Fifties rock songs. Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys were also part of the famed Toronto Rock & Roll Revival concert in September 1969 that featured the Doors, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley and, in a surprise appearance, Plastic Ono Band. The Seventies didn't provide the same opportunities for Cat Mother, and by 1977, the band had split for good.
What We Said Then: "This is the kind of set that makes all the hours and money spent on useless, pretentious Art Rock so worthwhile… For all their talent and inspiration as musicians, it is impossible to speculate whether Cat Mother will ever make a permanent contribution to rock & roll. It doesn't matter. It is often these non-innovative, journeymen groups who put out the most comfortable and consistently listenable sounds… This is one of those rare albums which knocks you out the very first time you hear it, but sustains itself as well, by virtue of its honest exuberance, lucid musical sensibility and propulsive drive." By Lester Bangs, August 9th 1969
Founded by Vivian Stanshall and featuring Monty Python collaborator and future Rutles mastermind Neil Innes, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band perfectly blended British Invasion hooks and psychedelic riffs with satirical lyrics and avant-garde elements. Originally the Bonzo Dog Dada Band, the group tired of explaining the Dada movement to people (after Gorilla, they further simplified it to Bonzo Dog Band). Though a great document of Sixties free-spirited weirdness, Gorilla is probably most notable for the Stanshall/Innes composition "Death Cab for Cutie," which the Bonzo Dog Band performed in the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour film and inspired an indie rock band you've probably heard of.
What We Said Then: "…But now this album comes along to forcefully remind us that there are still things, good things, that the British are into and we aren't. The American listener must have a very open mind to perceive Gorilla for the very good album it is… The whole album is lightweight, but very together, very hip, and excellent technically. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but for the broadminded listener it can be really incredible escape music." By Barret Hansen, May 11th, 1968
Mary Hopkin, along with James Taylor and Badfinger, was part of the inaugural class of signees to the Beatles' Apple Records. Her voice is airy and soaring, but in hindsight, it's easy to see Post Card as Paul McCartney practicing his craft before employing himself as producer of his own solo albums. Countless artists have covered "Those Were The Days," but you can hear McCartney's Beatlesque flourishes all over the production of Hopkin's version, which no doubt helped catapult the single to Number Two on the Billboard Hot 200 when it was released. The many videos with Hopkin's cover of "Those Were The Days" have racked up over five million views on YouTube, which would be an impressive feat for a song released last year, let alone a single from 1968. Hopkin would later marry all-star producer Tony Visconti and lending backing vocals to some of the LPs her then-husband contributed on, including David Bowie's Low and Bert Jansch's Moonshine.
What We Said Then: "Post Card is as much Paul McCartney's as it is Mary Hopkin's, which is to say that it is one of those albums on which the producer is as big a star as the performer… An absolute must for Paul McCartney people. Mary Hopkin fans will also like it." By John Mendelsohn, May 17th, 1969
Named after a Memphis Slim song and born of the San Francisco scene that spawned the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, Mother Earth opted to move from the Bay Area to Nashville following the release of their debut Living With Animals, which featured guitar great Mike Bloomfield (using the name Makal Blumfeld for contractual reasons). Frontwoman Tracy Nelson successfully assembled a versatile new crew for the band's sophomore LP. Make a Joyful Noise cleverly split the album to showcase Mother Earth's talents: Side A was the R&B-tinged "City Side," the flipside was the honky tonk-leaning "Country Side." Singer Boz Scaggs contributes some vocals to this album, making his lone appearance with the band. Eventually, Mother Earth pretty much turned into a vehicle for Tracy Nelson, who eventually just pursued a solo career, which included "After the Fire Is Gone," a Grammy-nominated duet with Willie Nelson (no relation).
What We Said Then: "Their sound is down home in a way that lets fiddles come across like fiddles, rather than like what some engineers always thought fiddles should sound like. It's easy enough to accuse Mother Earth of being eclectic, to call them the greatest variety show on vinyl. But that's only an accusation when you can't pull it off. They can." By Patrick Thomas, November 15th, 1969
Before bringing in Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity were known as the band Jimi Hendrix first performed with upon arriving in England. Rolling Stone gave high praise to both the jazz-prog album Streetnoise and Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity's self-titled 1967 debut. Despite the potential, Driscoll, Auger and the Trinity would break up within months of Lester Bangs' glowing review in Rolling Stone. Driscoll would later marry jazz Keith Tippett and perform under the name Julie Tippetts, collaborating with Robert Wyatt and Robert Fripp along the way. Auger formed another band called the Oblivion Express. Auger and Tippetts eventually reunited for a one-off album in 1978.
What We Said Then: "This new set will prove a breathtaking surprise. To those who have not heard the group, it will serve as an exciting introduction. The thing about this album is that the people writing and playing these songs are very intelligent folks, as intelligent as, say, the Jefferson Airplane; yet somehow they also have that down-home quality when and where it counts. And that chick is just too much… We can look forward to worthwhile and potentially-important things from this group," By Lester Bangs, September 6th, 1969
While Inside Llewyn Davis is loosely based on "the King of Greenwich Village" Dave Van Ronk, you could draw just as many parallels between the Coen brothers' creation and David Blue. Also a regular of the Greenwich Village folk scene, Blue frequently performed in the company of Van Ronk, Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan. After his own solo career stalled, Blue briefly joined Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue before trying his hand at acting, including roles in Wim Wenders' The American Friend and Neil Young's still-out-of-print oddball comedy Human Highway. Blue died suddenly of a heart attack in 1982 at the age of 41. Kris Kristofferson and Joni Mitchell were among the musicians who attended his memorial.
What We Said Then: "David Blue's first LP strikes something like a warning with the cover, a vintage Highway 61 shot with a sullen Blue in a leather jacket. His delivery is quite like Dylan's on Blonde on Blonde. But behold, the lyrics are among the best I've recently heard. Though the stance is like Dylan's, the words themselves indicate he really knows some things Dylan knows, and some things the master doesn't," By Arthur Schmidt, September 28th, 1968
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.
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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