40 Albums Baby Boomers Loved That Millennials Don't Know - Rolling Stone
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40 Albums Baby Boomers Loved That Millennials Don’t Know

From Tina Turner to Eric Clapton, these LPs were beloved by millions, but are younger generations finding them?

40 Classic Baby Boomer Albums

Courtesy of Courtesy of A&M Records; Capitol Records; RSO Records; Warner Bros. Records

Some albums transcend their eras, finding their way into the cultural canon and continually being rediscovered by subsequent generations of listeners. And some don’t. For whatever reason, be it dated production, a social context that doesn’t translate, or any number of far more ineffable causes, the following albums were beloved by millions of baby boomers and yet, unlike, say, the inarguably canonical Dark Side of the Moons and London Callings of the world, seemed not to resonate particularly strongly beyond their initial audience. Check back again in a few years, and this list, hopefully, will look entirely different.

Steve Miller Band Fly Like an Eagle

Steve Miller Band, ‘Fly Like an Eagle’ (1976)

Steve Miller Band's greatest hits can be heard on every classic rock station and on a huge amount of  jukeboxes. (And the SMB's Greatest Hits 1974-1978 is a consistent catalog sales juggernaut.) But to stop with a compilation is to miss out on plenty of the singer and guitarist's deep space-blues cuts. Fly Like an Eagle is a perfect compromise, featuring five songs from the aforemention best-of and some should-be classics like "Serenade," "Mercury Blues," and "The Window." Then there are the tracks that show Miller's depth, like his harmony-drenched cover of Sam Cooke's "You Send Me," the interstellar soundscapes of "Space Intro" and "Blue Odyssey," and the straight blues "Sweet Maree," which gets a great harmonica cameo from James Cotton. Of course, there's are a few good reasons this album went platinum four times in the U.S.: Namely, "Fly Like an Eagle," "Take the Money and Run," and "Rock'n Me."

Blue Oyster Cult, "Agents of Fortune"

Blue Oyster Cult, ‘Agents of Fortune’ (1976)

Long before metal splintered into a myriad of genres, BÖC came to fame for its ability to appeal to both head-bangers and chin-strokers. Featuring the deathless hit single "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," as well as contributions from punk priestess Patti Smith, the hooky, sinister Agents of Fortune was the apex of the quintet's commercial success, hitting the top 30 on the Billboard Top 200 and solidifying the band as a major concert draw. These days, metal rarely nods to the gleaming pop accessibility, and the music's brainier strands tend toward arty obfuscation, leaving this band stranded in a no-man's land between potential new fanbases — too slick for aesthetes, too weird for everyone else. 

War Why Can't We Be Friends

War, ‘Why Can’t We Be Friends?’ (1975)

The genre-spanning multi-cultural funk pioneers War made their name with two albums that featured former Animals singer Eric Burdon, most notably on the single "Spill the Wine." The group continued to expand its sound after he departed, even topping the charts with their fifth album, 1972's The World Is a Ghetto. Their seventh LP, Why Can't We Be Friends, is best known for the giddy title track and the hot-rod anthem "Low Rider," but there's plenty more to love amongst its nine cuts. There's the disco-funk of "Smile Happy," the mellow psych-jazz of "In Mazatlan," and the sprawling "Leroy's Latin Lament Medley." Of course, that's not to say the title track isn't deserving of most of the praise. The soulful reggae sing-along that's mostly repeats the phrase "Why Can't We Be Friends?" in between inspiring couplets, surely helped propel the LP to the top of the R&B chart, the last time War would earn that honor.

The Isley Brothers, 'The Heat is On'

The Isley Brothers, ‘The Heat is On’ (1975)

Journeyman R&B outfit the Isley Brothers are one of those weird bands with a career so long and varied that they don't seem to belong to any one era. Casual music fans have likely heard the group's 1959 hit single, "Shout," or maybe 1966's "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)," released on the Motown label. Starting in the late nineties, lead singer Ronald Isley became a go-to hook man, lending his gritty vocals to tracks by the likes of Nas, Wu-Tang Clan and R. Kelly. That longevity means that some glorious music is bound to fall through the cultural cracks. Take, for example, 1975's No. 1 stunner The Heat is On, a simmering stunner divided into a funky A-side and slower, sensual B-side. 

Janis Ian, 'Between the Lines'

Janis Ian, ‘Between the Lines’ (1975)

Janis Ian had been kicking around for almost a decade, writing psychologically perceptive folk songs, before releasing Between the Lines in 1975. Thanks largely to the hit single teenager's-lament "At Seventeen," the album was huge, going platinum and hitting number one. "At Seventeen" went on to win a Grammy for Best Pop Performance, beating out Linda Ronstadt and Olivia Newton John, among others, suggesting that the demure Ian's success was in some part due to counter-programming. Of course, Ian was 25-years-old when the aforementioned song came out, and these days, perceptive teenagers look to perceptive teenagers (e.g., Lorde) to write songs about, yes, perceptive teenagers.

Earth, Wind & Fire That's the Way of the World

Earth, Wind & Fire, ‘That’s the Way of the World’ (1975)

Hip-hop rules the world, a fact that retroactively makes music that didn't influence the genre seem positively ancient by comparison. Earth, Wind & Fire's joyous That's The Way of the World was a giant album its day – the third best-selling pop LP of 1975 — and "Shining Star" was a No. One hit. But the airy harmonies and buoyant rhythms feel further from hip-hop than, for example, the harder, more frenetic sounds of James Brown or P-Funk, which is perhaps why EW&F don't seem to be remembered quite as fondly, or often, by younger generations as are those aforementioned R&B greats.  

Rick Wakeman, 'Journey to the Center of the Earth'

Rick Wakeman, ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ (1974)

Bombastic, overwrought and, in the truest definition of the word, epic, sometime Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman's third solo album embodied everything prog-rock fans love: a fantastical storyline drawn from a Jules Verne novel, accents of jazz and classical flourishes and solos-upon-solos-upon-solos. It reached Number One on the U.K. chart and, in the U.S., it made it to Number Three and was certified gold. Wakeman performed Journey in full on tour – complete with narration, symphony and choir – and even dressed in mystical garb (i.e. capes!). But while all the pageantry and pretentiousness elated prog fans, Wakeman's unabashed myth-and-magic jones limited his popular shelf life. Where his somewhat harder-edged prog brethren in King Crimson have resonated with Tool and Opeth fans in recent years, today's noodlers aren't quite as keen on sporadic xylophone solos and fantasy storytelling.

Little Feat Feats Don't Fail Me Now

Little Feat, ‘Feats Don’t Fail Me Now’ (1974)

Long a band's band — Phish covered the Little Feat's Waiting for Columbus in its entirety at a 2010 show, and the trucker anthem "Willin'" is an oft-covered classic — Lowell George's casually virtuosic crew were true rock tweeners. On 1974's standout effort Feats Don't Fail Me Now they boogied playfully, wrote wittily and jammed economically. The album also featured a great Neon Parks-designed cover image – one of the era's most distinctive. George died in 1979 at 34, long before the now-thriving jam band scene achieved maturation. A version of Little Feat still tours occasionally, but it exists far below the headlining status of the likes of, say, Moe. and Widespread Panic.

Billy Cobham, 'Spectrum'

Billy Cobham, ‘Spectrum’ (1973)

What a weird cultural blip fusion was. Chalk it up to copious recreational drug use or free-form radio programming, but the early-to-mid Seventies were a heyday for electric jazz-based improv, all thundering polyrhythms and twisting solos. Released in 1973, drummer Billy Cobham's trippy, aggressive Spectrum is a favorite from that era. Listen to squiggly complexities like "Taurian Matador" and "Quadrant 4" and marvel at how unlikely it was that this music was legitimately popular (Spectrum hit the Billboard Top 30). 

Jackson Browne For Everyman

Jackson Browne, ‘For Everyman’ (1973)

Jackson Browne's second album somehow wasn't commercially or critically as successful as his first, despite featuring an all-star backing cast and two of his most enduring songs. Guests on For Everyman include David Crosby, Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell, Eagles bandmates Don Henley and Glenn Frey, and Elton John, who played piano on "Red Neck Friend" under the pseudonym Rockaday Johnnie. Despite all that talent, the focus remains on Browne's plaintive vocals and the introspective Laurel Canyon vibe. Browne's precocious "These Days," which he wrote as a teenager, was originally recorded by Warhol and Velvet Underground cohort Nico for her 1967 debut Chelsea Girl, while For Everyman's lead track "Take It Easy," co-written with Frey, became a hit single for the Eagles in 1972. 

Humble Pie Smokin'

Humble Pie, ‘Smokin” (1972)

Hard boogieing and bluesily bombastic, Humble Pie are the kind of band that could've been a model for Almost Famous's Stillwater. Building on the success of the live Performance: Rockin' the Fillmore, Smokin' (1972) was clearly a key influence on the likes of latter-day Paul Weller and any-day the Black Crowes, but even those guys are legacy acts now. The sound of a rock band just straight-up wailing, as Steve Marriott — perhaps the great underappreciated lead singer — and the boys do all over "30 Days in the Hole" and "Hot 'n' Nasty," is increasingly rare, and when younger people go looking for that sound, they're far likelier to seek out the Rolling Stones and the Faces before finding a great second-tier band like Humble Pie. 

Various Artists, 'The Concert For Bangladesh'

Various Artists, ‘The Concert For Bangladesh’ (1971)

A pioneering pair of 1971 benefit shows organized by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, the Concert for Bangladesh was designed to raise money for refugees from the now-independent country, which was then known as East Pakistan. Harrison and Shankar enlisted Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Leon Russell, Badfinger, and more playing a variety of their hits, covers, and traditional Indian music. Despite high expectations, minimal rehearsals, Dylan's reticence to perform and difficulty in setting up the film and recording equipment, among other issues, the concerts were a huge success, leading to a triple-LP album and a documentary that featured notable renditions of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Something," "My Sweet Lord," "Here Comes the Sun," "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," and "Blowin' in the Wind." Despite some tax and legal issues, the event raised up to $12 million for UNICEF's refugee relief, influencing (and being overshadowed by) later all-star benefits such as Live Aid, Farm Aid, the Concert for New York City, and the 12-12-12 Concert for Sandy Relief.    

Johnny Winter Live Johnny Winter And

Johnny Winter, ‘Live Johnny Winter And’ (1971)

Following the 1970 release of the Texas singer-guitarist's fourth album Johnny Winter And – which featured an earlier version of Rick Derringer's "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo" – six-string god Winter returned with this concert record. Strangely, it featured only one Winter original, the And cut "Mean Town Blues," in favor of covers like "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Great Balls of Fire," "Long Tall Sally," and "Johnny B. Goode." Still, the 40-minute Live delivers on rapid-fire blues and rock jams, many featuring dueling guitar solos from Winter, a big concert draw around this time, and Derringer, all recorded during a handful of shows in New York and Florida. Any fans of the Allman Brothers' At Fillmore East who haven't heard Live are sorely missing out.

The Moody Blues A Question of Balance

The Moody Blues, ‘A Question of Balance’ (1970)

It's almost hard to imagine these days who, exactly, the Moody Blues were for: People who thought Procol Harum was too weird? Or that Donovan wasn't weird enough? Either way, the band had a string of extremely popular, vaguely mystical, richly orchestrated albums from the late sixties through the early seventies and are still going today. 1967's Days of Future Passed album and the same year's "Nights in White Satin" are acknowledged classics, but the rest of the band's catalog, including 1970's A Question of Balance, which made it all the to No. 3 on the Billboard Top 200, have never really come close to entering that magical place where albums go to find new audiences forever. It's a bit hard to understand why, as the English fivesome were consistent purveyors of Pink Floyd-lite, and singer-guitarist Justin Hayward's regal voice is undeniably impressive.  

The Guess Who, 'American Woman'

The Guess Who, ‘American Woman’ (1970)

Nixon was in the White House, the Vietnam War was years from its end and Canadian rockers the Guess Who were none too impressed with their neighbors south of the border. The title track of their seventh album flaunted their discontent with a heavy riff and frontman Burton Cummings' rasped screed, and it was a Number One single. The remarkably catchy record contained two other angry hits – "No Time" (as in "no time left for you") and "No Sugar Tonight" (as in "no sugar tonight") – but they were palatable enough to warrant AM radio play and a Top 10 chart record for American Woman in 1970. Nearly five decades and one ubiquitous (and bland) Lenny Kravitz cover later, the record sounds like a curious relic from an era when Uncle Sam's behavior was enough to push even Canadians over the edge. 

Laura Nyro 'Eli and the Thirteenth Confession

Laura Nyro, ‘Eli and the Thirteenth Confession’ (1968)

An optimist might suggest that 1968's Eli and the Thirteenth Confession lives on in martyrdom, its influence apparent on everyone from Kate Bush and Tori Amos to St. Vincent and Joanna Newsom. But Laura Nyro's effervescent second album deserves more explicit canonization, even if she's no longer with us to advocate for it (she died of ovarian cancer in 1997). The jazzy, balladeering, doo-wopping Eli (whose standout single, "Eli's Comin'," was later turned into a top-10 hit by Three Dog Night) showcased Nyro as composer, performer, lyricist and co-producer and also marked her debut on the Billboard album chart. Forty-six years after Thirteenth Confession, and thanks in large measure to it, we've come to accept and nurture strident, talented, slightly idiosyncratic female artists. Still, Eli itself doesn't quite fit with our folk- and rock-centric remembrance of the late 1960s. 

Jefferson Airplane, 'Crown of Creation'

Jefferson Airplane, ‘Crown of Creation’ (1968)

Crown of Creation doesn't feature hits as popular as "Somebody to Love," "White Rabbit," or "Volunteers," but Jefferson Airplane's fourth album proves the combustible group truly evolved, even as the band was gradually dissolving. The 11-song LP begins with Grace Slick singing about drummer Spencer Dryden's nudity-related arrest on "Lather," followed by Marty Balin's psych-romance "In Time" and "Triad," a David Crosby-penned song about three-way love that was rejected by the Byrds. She later shows off her trademark howls on the title track, while guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady add even heavier interplay than the group's prior efforts. Despite hitting No. 6 on the pop album chart, the title single peaked at 64, a disappointment from their earlier successes. Still, Crown of Creation shouldn't be overlooked by any psychedelic lovers – Bay Area peers like the Grateful Dead and Santana seem more widely remembered – as it offers some of the Airplane's most intriguing music.

Roberta Flack, 'First Take'

Roberta Flack, ‘First Take’ (1968)

The story of Take One's rise to the Billboard album chart's top slot starts with Clint Eastwood. Roberta Flack's stunning, extended interpretation of Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger's 1957 folk song "The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face" (first popularized in 1962 by the Kingston Trio), didn't gain traction until it played behind a sex scene in Eastwood's 1971 directorial debut, Play Misty for Me. But then Flack has always been more of the soul singer's singer (Lauryn Hill and the Fugees' "Killing Me Softly" notwithstanding, Flack's vulnerability is the DNA encoded in Mary J. Blige's tender side) than she is a pop commodity. Take One, released in 1968,remains her only Billboard-crowning studio LP, and similar to the legendary Nina Simone, Flack's prolific abilities as a cover artist have unfairly diminished her broader recognition as a pure talent and standards-bearer. 

Micheal Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Stephen Stills, 'Super Session'

Michael Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Stephen Stills, ‘Super Session’ (1968)

Three years after collaborating with Bob Dylan, Al Kooper and Michael Bloomfield decided to unite for a somewhat free-form recording session in which they would record a full album in two days. Kooper was looking for a new project after his departure from Blood, Sweat & Tears, and had hoped to record Bloomfield in a way that captured the guitarist's superior live improvisations. Backed by two of Bloomfield's Electric Flag bandmates, keyboardist Barry Goldberg and bassist Harvey Brooks, as well as drummer Eddie Hoh and session horn players, they recorded six songs, including the Coltrane-inspired keyboard workout "His Holy Modal Majesty." The next day, however, Bloomfield didn't show up to the studio and Kooper called in Stephen Stills, who had recently departed Buffalo Springfield, to play guitar on a handful of covers including Bob Dylan's "It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes A Train to Cry" and a funky extended version of Donovan's "Season of the Witch." The resulting masterpiece featured Bloomfield on the LP's first side and Stills' work on the other, and peaked at No. 12 on the LP charts. It's a precursor to today's jam band efforts. 

Blood, Sweat & Tears

Blood, Sweat & Tears, ‘Blood, Sweat & Tears’ (1968)

Best known for playing the organ on Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," Al Kooper formed the jazz-tinged, horn-heavy Blood, Sweat & Tears in 1967 but left following the band's first album, the psychedelic Child Is the Father to the Man. In came booming singer David Clayton-Thomas, and the group followed up their debut with this eclectic self-titled LP that features covers of Traffic's "Smiling Phases," Laura Nyro's "And When I Die," and Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child," as well as the hit "Spinning Wheel." The chart-topping Blood, Sweat and Tears remains a pioneering classic in the fusion genre, marrying jazzy horns, pop melody, and classical counterpoint into a cohesive album.

Phil Ochs Pleasures of the Harbor

Phil Ochs, ‘Pleasures of the Harbor’ (1967)

In the early-to-mid-Sixties, Ochs was just a notch below Bob Dylan in the protest-singer pantheon. But Dylan's historical presence is so overwhelming that he's become a stand-in for the entire folk movement, marginalizing the likes of Ochs in the popular imagination. Don't sleep on him. When folk faded away, Ochs himself turned from simple acoustic-guitar arrangements to the more ambitious and heavily orchestrated Pleasures of the Harbor (1967). After seven musically and lyrically detailed song epics, the "The Crucifixion" closed the LP melancholy fashion with an eight-minute allegory comparing JFK to Jesus.  

Arlo Guthrie Alice's Restaurant

Arlo Guthrie, ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ (1967)

Can you imagine a playfully meandering 18-minute, 34-second song that sounds like a joke but is really a war protest becoming a radio hit in 2014? Well, Arlo Guthrie (Woody's son) pulled that off with 1967's "Alice's Restaurant Massacree," a ragtime-influenced ditty with a meandering story based on a real-life incident involving Guthrie. In brief, the protagonist is working at the titular restaurant on Thanksgiving Day when he has to take the trash to the town dump, only the dump is closed, so he leaves the garbage there. He gets arrested by local cops, gets fined in court, and later is deemed unfit to be drafted for the Vietnam War because of his crimes. The folk star originally played the song live on the radio, with the performance becoming an unlikely hit. As it was too long to be released as a single, it became the entire first side of the Alice's Restaurant LP, along with six more tracks that range from protest songs ("Ring-Around-a-Rosy Rag") to lovelorn ballads ("Chilling of the Evening") to purely silly ("The Motorcycle Song"). The album peaked at No. 17 on the charts and led to a movie of the same name, starring Guthrie, in 1969, a great reminder of just how effective a bit of absurdity can be when it comes to combating serious issues.

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, ‘The Paul Butterfield Blues Band’ (1965)

While acts like the Rolling Stones and Yardbirds were reworking traditional blues into rock across the pond, the multi-racial Paul Butterfield Blues Band came along as one of the States' best young acts in the genre. Based out of Chicago, the lineup included Butterfield on vocals and harmonica, as well as the legendary twin-guitar attack of Elvin Bishop and Mike Bloomfield, who built upon the sounds of Elmore James and Muddy Waters, whose songs they covered on their exciting 1965 self-titled debut. The album and their impressive live performances led Bob Dylan to draft Bloomfield for "Like a Rolling Stone," as well as his bandmates bassist Jerome Arnold and drummer Sam Lay, for his controversial electric performance at the '65 Newport Folk Festival. The band later expanded its repertoire into jazz and fusion, a nascent genre in the late Sixties, while somehow getting less credit than their English counterparts. Regardless, the blues has long since been relegated to its own stylistic niche. 

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