Robert Christgau, David Fricke on 50 Essential 1967 Albums - Rolling Stone
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50 Essential Albums of 1967

From the Doors’ debut to Aretha Franklin’s first smash

This survey of the most important and influential albums released in 1967 was first published in 2007 to mark Rolling Stone‘s 40th anniversary and the records that inspired and fueled its birth. The list, now presented alphabetically, has 10 new entries in honor of the half-century mark. Everything else is intact and enduring, as continually exciting and inspirational as the year they celebrate: 12 months in which rock & roll and the long-playing album, together, challenged and changed the world around them, detonating revolutions in cultural expression, studio technology, social conversation and emotional candor.

This is how fast the world turned at 33 1/3 RPM – in soul, noise, songwriting, jamming and dancing – in 1967. Three of the turning-point debut albums in this list were issued within a week of each other, between March 10th and 17th: Aretha Franklin’s I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, the young R&B singer’s explosive arrival on Atlantic Records; an avant-rock cataclysm from New York City, The Velvet Underground and Nico; and The Grateful Dead, the self-titled first album by a notorious improvising-blues band from the new psychedelic scene in San Francisco.

It should be noted that some of the albums here – records that define the power, joy and legacy of 1967 – were made in 1966: The Doors, in August of that year, after the Los Angeles band’s transformative summer as the house band at the Whisky a Go Go; Jefferson Airplane’s Summer of Love soundtrack, Surrealistic Pillow. And Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding arrived in the very last days of ’67, a quiet alert to the roots and introspection of country rock in 1968 and the singer-songwriter movement.

This list does not cover jazz (an American revolution in itself) or mainstream country, a genre then still moving at 45 RPM. And some albums here were lost or ignored at the time, awaiting decades (in some cases) for reappraisal. And like every list of this nature, it is a product of the editors’ and writers’ subjective passions: Everyone who was there has a ’67 of their own. Anyone who wasn’t has a soundtrack for what they missed. These 50 albums are not the complete 1967. They are simply the best – in rock, folk, blues, soul, psychedelia and dreaming.

The year was like this almost every day – on records and radio. It still sounds like history in the making.

Dionne Warwick, 'Golden Hits/Part One'

Dionne Warwick, ‘Golden Hits/Part One’

By 1967,
“Alfie” and the like had Warwick on the road to divahood, but that
didn’t mean this best-of, marked CIRCA
in gold on the cover, was perceived as an oldies record. Girl
groups weren’t considered quaint yet, and Warwick has never been more tuneful
or charming than when she and Bacharach-David had them to contend with. The
selling points here are Warwick standards like “Walk On By” and
“Don’t Make Me Over.” But obscurities long vanished from her canon
are only a shade less compelling: the delicate “Any Old Time of Day” or her
proud, quiet cover of the Shirelles’ “It’s Love That Really Counts.”

The Who, 'The Who Sell Out'

The Who, ‘The Who Sell Out’

While making a full meal of their most delectable
concept, a pirate-radio broadcast, the Who’s finest album exemplifies how pop this
famously psychedelic year was. The mock jingles – for pimple cream, deodorant,
baked beans – are pop at its grubbiest. The fictional singles, typified but not
necessarily topped by the actual hit “I Can See for Miles,” are pop
soaring like the dream of youth it is – exalted, visionary, even, in their
crafty way, psychedelic. All the rest is English eccentricity.

The Youngbloods, 'The Youngbloods'

The Youngbloods, ‘The Youngbloods’

Founded in Boston and named after an early solo album by singer-bassist Jesse Colin Young, the Youngbloods were a good-time schizophrenia in New York clubs – a Lovin’ Spoonful–style coffee-house menu of courtly-ballad jangle and garage-band blues racket – when the original quartet recorded this modestly delightful debut, heavy on the covers (Jimmy Reed, Fred Neil). But the Youngbloods, who soon emigrated to the West Coast 1969 (losing guitarist Jerry Corbitt along the way), already had leaving on their minds. “I guess she’s gone to Frisco-oh-oh/To dance it there,” Young sang, dragging out the namecheck in “Grizzly Bear,” a prescient allusion to his band’s high rotation on Fillmore-concert posters. And while the Youngbloods were late to Dino Valenti’s Aquarian standard “Get Together” (Jefferson Airplane’s version came out in August 1966), the hint of last-chance dread in Young’s fluid croon and the spare raga-flavored tangle of the guitars definitively caught the fragility of the song’s – and 1967’s – utopian certainty.

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