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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.

THE DOORS Album Cover

The Doors, ‘The Doors’

In a year of historic debut albums, no record by a new American band so immediately electrified the world as The Doors, the first and best documentation of singer Jim Morrison’s Byronic fury and the locomotive jazz-inflected drive of organist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore. The band was just a year old when it recorded these 11 songs in six days in August 1966. But in the crisp funk of “Soul Kitchen,” the extended pop art of “Light My Fire” and the Shakespearean violence of “The End,” the Doors perfected an airtight resolution of their live prowess (refined nightly that summer at the Whisky a Go Go) and Morrison’s improvised explosions of lyric transgression.

The Doors, 'Strange Days'

The Doors, ‘Strange Days’

The Doors’ second album lacks the shock value and cohesion of the first, mostly
because they made it in the manic wake of their Number One hit, “Light My
Fire,” and in the precious time between live gigs. “Moonlight
Drive” and “My Eyes Have Seen You” were already two years old,
first cut as demos in 1965. But the Doors channeled the daily chaos of their
new fortunes into fierce performances – “Strange Days,” the headlong
lust of “Love Me Two Times” – climaxing with “When the Music’s
Over,” an anthem for change driven home by Jim Morrison’s ferocious,
outraged demand: “We want the world and we want it – now!”

Bob Dylan, 'John Wesley Harding'

Bob Dylan, ‘John Wesley Harding’

Recorded in Nashville in three sessions, Bob Dylan’s
first album after the
electric warfare of his 1966 tour and subsequent retreat to Woodstock was
shockingly austere: an almost crooning Dylan with just a soft-shoe rhythm
section and a few sighs of steel guitar. But that calm was a perfect contrast
to the sermonizing fire be unleashed in “All Along the Watchtower”
and the crossroads parable “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas
Priest.” The moral fiber and martyr’s temper in these songs were fierce
and immediate. Dylan wrote “Frankie Lee,” “I Dreamed I Saw St.
Augustine” and “Drifter’s Escape” en route to the first session,
on the train from New York. But there was unembarrassed loving, too: “I’ll
Be Your Baby Tonight,” recorded on the last day, pointed the way to the
country comfort of his next album,
1969’s Nashville Skyline.

The Four Tops, 'Reach Out'

The Four Tops, ‘Reach Out’

This Motown vocal institution’s sixth album was a greatest-hits collection in all but title. Six of the 12 tracks were Top 20 pop singles. Three of those comprised what proved to be the climactic sweep of the Tops’ bond with writer-producers Holland-Dozier-Holland: the theatrical urgency of the late-’66 Number One “Reach Out I’ll Be There”; the galloping Top Ten followup “Standing in the Shadows of Love”; and early ’67’s “Bernadette,” with its hammering keyboard riff and a harrowing shout by lead singer Levi Stubbs in the plunge of silence before the final choruses. The collaborative momentum was so hot that “I’ll Turn to Stone,” originally a B side to the mid-’67 single “7-Rooms of Gloom,” made Billboard‘s R&B Top 50. But Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian and Eddie Holland soon turned their backs on Motown, over royalties, and stranded the Tops, who shuffled between producers and didn’t score another Top 10 record until 1972 – for another label.

Aretha Franklin - I NEVER LOVED A MAN THE WAY I LOVE YOU Album Cover

Aretha Franklin, ‘I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You’

Aretha Franklin didn’t emerge fully formed from the
head of Jerry Wexler – she had many minor hits on Columbia before Atlantic made
her a goddess. But with its mix of superb new soul songs (Franklin helped write
four) and perfect old R&B standards (from Ray Charles, King Curtis, Sam
Cooke, Otis Redding), this is a living monument to a singer and the style she
first epitomized and then transcended. Wexler wanted the Stax band to ground
his great hope but was refused, so he turned to the white guys down the road in
Muscle Shoals – who cut most of the album in New York.

Grateful Dead - GRATEFUL DEAD Album Cover

The Grateful Dead, ‘The Grateful Dead’

One of the year’s few supposedly psychedelic LPs that wasn’t actually a pop LP (cf. Sgt. Pepper, Forever Changes, Mellow Yellow), the already legendary San Francisco band-collective’s debut stood out and stands tall because its boogieing folk rock epitomizes the San Francisco ballroom ethos – blues-based tunes played by musicians who came to rhythm late, expanded so they were equally suitable for dancing and for tripping out. It’s also the only studio album that respects the impact of Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, who died in 1973 of cirrhosis of the liver. McKernan’s organ is almost as pervasive as Jerry Garcia’s guitar. And although Garcia and Bob Weir both take vocal leads, their singing styles are still in Pigpen’s white-blues thrall.

Arlo Guthrie, 'Alice's Restaurant'

Arlo Guthrie, ‘Alice’s Restaurant’

No one captured hippie politics better than Woody’s
20-year-old son on the title cut, an autobiographical tall tale that for
18 minutes reduced pacifist anti-authoritarianism to a diffident,
confident, skillfully timed cops-and-longhairs routine. The B side cuts four
forgettable song poems with two more jokes, one of them “The Motorcycle
Song,” not yet the comic turn it became. NB: Guthrie re-recorded the
entire album 30 years later. The new “Alice” is four minutes longer – and four
minutes funnier.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, 'Are You Experienced?'

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, ‘Are You Experienced’

Jimi Hendrix’s first album is one of the most exciting and important records ever made, a reconception of the electric guitar as a symphonic instrument that still sounds fresh and unprecedented. So does Hendrix’s fusion of galactic imagination, intense self-examination and deep-blues roots in the raging “Manic Depression,” the R&B sigh “The Wind Cries Mary” and the sexy whiplash “Foxey Lady.” Hendrix, bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell made Experienced on the run, on rare days off the road. Hendrix wrote “Purple Haze” backstage at a London club; “Red House,” a blues on the British version of the LP, was cut in 15 minutes. But Hendrix also spent several sessions building the orchestral howl of “Third Stone From the Sun,” with the passionate diligence he would soon apply to his magnum opus, 1968’s Electric Ladyland.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, 'Axis: Bold As Love'

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, ‘Axis: Bold As Love’

Jimi Hendrix left the original finished masters for
Side One in a taxi and had to mix all of the tracks again in one session.
Today, Axis is Hendrix’s most overlooked album. But it has some of his best writing in the mighty “If
6 Was 9” and “Spanish Castle Magic,” a reflection on his boyhood
in the Pacific Northwest. There was also the heavy soul of “Little
Wing,” which Hendrix later told a reporter he’d started writing when he
was playing clubs in New York’s Greenwich Village. “I don’t consider
myself a songwriter,” he said. “Not yet, anyway.” He was wrong.

The Hollies, 'Evolution'

The Hollies, ‘Evolution’

“Carrie Anne” is the only hit on this
forgotten gem, which with no apparent effort or self-consciousness – you barely
notice the French horn here and violin there – achieves the adolescent
effervescence and lovelorn sentiment that indie-pop adepts of the Elephant 6
ilk spend years laboring after. Signature tracks: “Ye Olde Toffee
Shoppe,” which concerns candy and features a harpsichord, and “Games
We Play,” which concerns teen sex and features a knowing grin.

Mississippi John Hurt, 'The Immortal'

Mississippi John Hurt, ‘The Immortal’

Of all the rediscovered bluesmen of the folk revival,
Mississippi John Hurt was the least diminished by age because he was so
unassuming to begin with. Having first recorded at 35 in 1928, he was
73 when he cut this posthumously released collection, which
showcases his intricately unflashy fingerpicking, begins and ends with hymns
and reprises both his moral take on “Stagolee” and his own
fashion-conscious “Richland Woman Blues”: “With rosy-red
garters/Pink hose on my feet/Turkey-red bloomers/With a rumble seat.”

Jefferson Airplane, 'After Bathing at Baxter's'

Jefferson Airplane, ‘After Bathing at Baxter’s’

Singer Marty Balin was so alienated by the acid-fueled indulgence of the sessions for the Airplane’s third album – four months in Los Angeles, where the band stayed in a mansion that once housed the Beatles – that he co-wrote only one song, “Young Girl Sunday Blues.” Yet Baxter’s was the Airplane at their most defiantly psychedelic, exploring outer limits of despair and song form in the dark urgency of “The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil,” Grace Slick’s “Rejoyce” – a protest-cabaret adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses – and the nine-minute instrumental improvisation “Spare Chaynge.” The raw challenge of Baxter’s was also a requiem for the Day-Glo life promised a few months earlier by the Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow. In the closing medley, “Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon,” Paul Kantner looked back in longing at the Human Be-In of January ’67, a new dawn that already seemed a lifetime ago.

Jefferson Airplane - SURREALISTIC PILLOW Album Cover

Jefferson Airplane, ‘Surrealistic Pillow’

When vocalist Grace Slick joined Jefferson Airplane in the fall of 1966, she came with two songs from her old band, the Great Society – “Somebody to Love,” written by her brother-in-law Darby, and “White Rabbit,” her psychedelic translation of Alice in Wonderland – that became Top 10 hits in the Airplane’s grip, dosing America with San Francisco Utopia. The rest of this second album is a definitive catalog of the Airplane’s acid-rock dynamics and rare composing gifts: Jorma Kaukonen’s metallic-snarl guitar and Jack Casady’s grumbling-funk bass; the beautiful agony of singer Marty Balin’s ballads (he wrote “Today” with Tony Bennett in mind); the weave-and-soar interplay of Balin, Slick and singer-guitarist Paul Kantner. The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia attended the Los Angeles sessions as a “musical and spiritual advisor,” suggesting arrangements, playing the delicate acoustic leads in “Comin’ Back to Me” and coining the album’s title when he remarked, “This is as surrealistic as a pillow.”

Kaleidoscope, 'Side Trips'

Kaleidoscope, ‘Side Trips’

Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page called them “my ideal band” in a 1972 interview. “Far out and heading further,” ex-Zeppelin singer Robert Plant would later affirm on Twitter, citing the heady brew of country blues, Middle Eastern modes and ascending improvisation on Kaleidoscope’s creative peak, the 1968 LP A Beacon From Mars. This 1967 debut (featuring the multi-instrumental wizardry of future Jackson Browne sidekick David Lindley) was even weirder, in its way – that winding fusion chopped into too-short nuggets that suggested someone restlessly switching stations on a short-wave receiver. The brevity meant the Jazz Age corn and slavish Byrds imitations passed quickly. Far more promising and influential, particularly on Page and Plant’s acoustic tangents on Led Zeppelin III: the riffing oud, boogie cadence and prayer-call chorale in “Egyptian Garden”; the desert-march air of the Appalachian lament “Oh Death”; and the eerie Balkan-spiced blur of invitation and warning in “Keep Your Mind Open.”

B.B. King, 'Blues Is King' album cover

B.B. King, ‘Blues Is King’

B.B. King wasn’t yet a legend in the rock world in 1967. But props from Eric Clapton and others meant he was getting there. His canonical LP was 1965’s Live at the Regal, which showcased his songbook at Chicago’s version of the Apollo. But this live album, cut at the same town’s International Club, is so raw vocally and untrammeled instrumentally it cuts even that classic in retrospect. “Gambler’s Blues,” which King never recorded again, tears and saws rather than stings before it vows not to “crap out twice.” Willie Nelson’s not-yet-standard “Night Life” is all riled up. Bobby Forte’s tenor sax adds a sour-mash kick throughout.

B.B. King, 'The Jungle'

B.B. King, ‘The Jungle’

Although five of its dozen selections had attained the lower reaches of the R&B chart twixt ’65 and ’67, few noticed this slapdash piece of product when the Bihari brothers’ L.A.-based indie put it on the market. But as rereleased by Ace in 2009, it exemplifies how great artists’ lesser work comes to feel more precious when they’re gone. Otherwise unavailable highlights include the poverty-fighting title track, a short and sweet “Ain’t Nobody’s Business,” and a “Beautician’s Blues” that sics said blues on said beautician. A guy his ma called Riley plays guitar on every track.

The Kinks, 'Something Else by the Kinks'

The Kinks, ‘Something Else by the Kinks’

Conceptually bound only by the compact genius of Ray Davies’ writing, Something Else was the Kinks’ last great album of songs before Davies became consumed by operatic studies of a disappearing Britain (1968’s The Village Green Preservation Society, 1969’s Arthur). The schoolyard romp “David Watts,” the delicate envy of “Two Sisters,” the plaintive rapture in guitarist Dave Davies’ vocal on “Death of a Clown,” the young lovers bathed in London twilight in “Waterloo Sunset”: They are all complete dramas, concise in their emotional detail and depiction of fading majesty and morals, with harpsichord and brass adding shades of loss and yearning to the Kinks’ basic spunk. A shocking commercial stiff (it peaked at Number 153 in Billboard on its U.S. release in early 1968), Something Else may still be the best Kinks album you’ve never heard.

Love, 'Forever Changes'

Love, ‘Forever Changes’

Once unjustly ignored although it charted for 10 weeks, now lionized beyond all reason although it’s certainly a minor masterpiece, the third album by Arthur Lee’s interracial L.A. pop band voiced Lee’s crazy personal paranoia and paradigmatic political paranoia. Its pretty, well-worked, somewhat fussy surface masks lyrics of unfathomable if not unhinged darkness. Rooted in existential despair and occult folderol, its aura of mystery is earned and indelible, its songcraft undeniable and obscure.

Moby Grape, 'Moby Grape'

Moby Grape, ‘Moby Grape’

Armed with three virtuoso guitarists and five members who could all sing and write, Moby Grape had the greatest commercial potential of any San Francisco band in 1967. They quickly blew it all thanks to internal tensions, the acid-intensified psychological collapse of guitarist Skip Spence and Columbia’s hysterical hype, which included releasing five simultaneous singles from this debut album. The irony: All five deserved to be hits. Moby Grape was that good – a pop-smart whirl of blazing white R&B, country twang and psychedelic balladry, mostly cut live in the studio in three weeks for $11,000. The cruel truth: Of those five singles, only one, Spence’s “Omaha,” charted. It peaked at Number 88.

The Moody Blues, 'Days of Future Passed'

The Moody Blues, ‘Days of Future Passed’

In September 1967, the Moody Blues were asked by their label to record an adaptation of Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony – as a stereo-demonstration LP. The struggling Moodies, a former white R&B band that had gone without a hit since 1965, instead created their own orchestral song cycle about a typical working day, highlighted by singer-guitarist Justin Hayward’s ballads, “Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)” and “Nights in White Satin.” Days of Future Passed (released in the U.S. the following year) is closer to high-art pomp than psychedelia. But there is a sharp pop discretion to the writing and a trippy romanticism in the mirroring effect of the strings and Mike Finder’s Mellotron.

Van Morrison, 'Blowin' Your Mind!'

Van Morrison, ‘Blowin’ Your Mind!’

Van Morrison’s well-known distaste for the record business starts here. Fresh from leaving the Belfast band Them, he spent three days in a New York studio with producer Bert Berns in search of a hit single. When the cantina-heat lust of “Brown Eyed Girl” went Top 10 that summer (after he and Berns put it through 22 takes), Berns rushed out this eight-song quickie from the sessions, infuriating Morrison. But it catches him in heated, searching form, halfway between his demon bark on Them’s “Gloria” and the Celtic-dream soul of 1968’s Astral Weeks. (Later issues of the Bang tracks revealed early stabs at that album’s “Beside You” and “Madame George.”) The real mind-blower here is “T.B. Sheets,” which crystallizes Morrison’s roots and future in nine minutes of slow-burn blues and brutal honesty.

Wilson Pickett, 'The Best of Wilson Pickett'

Wilson Pickett, ‘The Best of Wilson Pickett’

Not just for the
half-rhyme’s sake was this repurposed gospel up-and-comer called the wicked
Pickett. If there were a genre dubbed hard soul, he’d exemplify it, and the
reason there isn’t is that none of his rivals commanded a voice so tough or an
attack so unyielding. By his standards a love song is something suitable for a
phone booth wall at the midnight hour – “634-5789,” perfect. That’s
one reason dance records that don’t quit such as “Funky Broadway” and
“Mustang Sally” were his wheelhouse. “Man and a Half” would
come later. So on this nonstop collection, make the theme statement a mere
“Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won’t Do).”

Pink Floyd, 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn'

Pink Floyd, ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’

The twin peaks of British psychedelia – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
and this historic debut album
were both recorded in the spring of 1967, in adjacent studios at Abbey Road in London. But where the
Beatles’ album was a
hermetic studio triumph, Piper (produced by ex-Beatles engineer Norman Smith)
re-created the nuclear improvisation and double-edged whimsy of the Floyd’s
onstage freakouts. Singer-guitarist Syd Barrett was already fading into the
acid-fueled mental illness that forced him out of the band in early 1968. But
Piper was his triumph, dominated by his incisive songs of paradise gained and
endangered, and charged with his slashing outer-blues guitar.

Procol Harum, 'Procol Harum'

Procol Harum, ‘Procol Harum’

The success of Procol Harum’s debut single, “A Whiter Shade of Pale” – Top Five in the U.S. in the summer of ’67 – has long eclipsed the hard-rock might of the group’s first album. That is partly because of its muddy sound ­– the band was recorded live in the studio, in mono. Nevertheless, lyricist Keith Reid’s surrealist studies in melancholy and mortality rumble with a heavy-R&B noir powered by Matthew Fisher’s ruined church organ, the haunted-Hendrix scream of Robin Trower’s guitar and singer-pianist Gary Brooker’s white-soul growl. British progressive rock rarely sounded this bold and bruising again.

Otis and Carla - KING & QUEEN Album Cover

Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, ‘King and Queen’

The epitome of raw soul, Otis Redding made
better albums than any
other R&B artist of the Sixties. Carla Thomas was daughter to Rufus Thomas
of “Funky Chicken” fame, with the teen novelty “Gee Whiz”
and graduate school in English behind her. Together whenever conflicting
schedules didn’t compel Carla to overdub, the sparrow and the bear chuckled and
moaned through the greatest duet album this
side of Ella and Louis. In addition to reconceiving Clovers and Sam Cooke oldies
and a bunch of current soul hits, they turned “Tramp” into their own
classic and “Knock on Wood” into everybody’s.

The Rolling Stones, 'Between the Buttons'

The Rolling Stones, ‘Between the Buttons’

Accused of psychedelia, Beatlephobia and murky-mix
syndrome, this underrated keeper is distinguished by complex rhymes, complex
sexual stereotyping and the non-blues, oh-so-rock-&-roll pianos of Ian
Stewart, Jack Nitzsche, Nicky Hopkins and Brian Jones. Like all Beatles and
Stones albums till
that time, it was released in different American and British versions. The
surefire U.S.-only “Let’s Spend the Night Together”/”Ruby
Tuesday” single parlay is almost too much because its greatness is
understood – “Backstreet Girl,” bumped to the Flowers compilation released later that year, more closely
resembles such gemlike songs of experience as “Connection,” “My
Obsession” and “She Smiled Sweetly.” Capper: Mick and Keith’s
zonked music-hall “Something Happened to Me Yesterday,” the Stones’
drollest odd-track-out ever.

The Rolling Stones, 'Flowers'

The Rolling Stones, ‘Flowers’

The Stones were cresting so high around 1967 that even this pieced-together hodgepodge of singles and tracks left off the U.S. releases of Aftermath and Between the Buttons has a distinctness of style and invention about it. It re-recycles “Let’s Spend the Night Together”/”Ruby Tuesday,” which shouldn’t have been on Between the Buttons to begin with. It disrespects the rightful owners of ‘My Girl” (the Temptations) and the target of “Mother’s Little Helper” (yo mama). As for “Lady Jane,” what’s that about? Nevertheless, every track connects. That’s more than can be said of Their Satanic Majesties Request, which is better than its rep even so.

The Serpent Power, 'The Serpent Power'

The Serpent Power, ‘The Serpent Power’

Think of the Serpent Power as the Bay Area’s version of the Velvet Underground. Led by poet David Meltzer, with Meltzer on untutored post-folk guitar, Meltzer and his wife, Tina, singing his songs, poet Clark Coolidge clattering behind on drums and the soon-vanished John Payne fixing a hole on organ, their music was minimalist folk rock with noise – the climactic, electric banjo augmented “Endless Tunnel” goes on for 13 minutes. Some songs began as poems, others didn’t, but all feature notable lyrics – some romantic, some gruff, some both. And all but a few are graced by excellent tunes, none more winsome than that of the lost classic “Up and Down.”

DIANA ROSS and the SUPREMES GREATEST HITS album cover

The Supremes, ‘Diana Ross and the Supremes Greatest Hits’

In August 1964, “Where Did Our Love Go” began the Supremes’ run of chart-topping singles. By the end of 1967, they’d scored 10 of them. In the same timespan, so had the Beatles. Nobody else came close. All 10 are arrayed on this chart-topping 20-track double-LP along with well-remembered also-rans like “Nothing but Heartaches” and “Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart” and filler sure to grow on you as you down yet another round of upbeat erotic longing. Forlorn more often than fulfilled, Ross’ sexy love is an up either way thanks to the irresistible Motown rhythm section and a soprano so sweet and lucid that half a century on it still gives the gift of optimism against all odds.

Howard Tate, 'Get It While You Can' Album Cover

Howard Tate, ‘Get It While You Can’

Macon-born and Philadelphia-raised, Howard Tate never
went Top 10 even on the soul charts but is remembered along with James Carr as
the great lost soul man. “Ain’t Nobody Home” became a B.B. King
perennial, “Look at Granny Run Run” was the best thing to happen to
senior sex till Levitra, and “Get It While You Can” was taken up as a
showstopper by none other than Janis Joplin. The album didn’t chart at all. But Tate had a supernal falsetto shriek
to complement his rough howl, and writer-producer Jerry Ragovoy knew how to
milk them both – among other things, by adding two blues standards to his own
sharp songs, which even for a guy who retired on “Piece of My Heart”
got pretty peaky here.

The 13th Floor Elevators, 'Easter Everywhere'

The 13th Floor Elevators, ‘Easter Everywhere’

Pioneers have it tough everywhere. But these Texas acid eaters paid especially hard for their zealotry, harassed by local lawmen to the point that in 1969 singer Roky Erickson went to a mental facility on a marijuana-possession bust. In 1967, the Elevators were still true believers and just back from a spell in San Francisco, reflected in this title’s promise of heaven on earth and the sinewy raga guitar all over the record. The Elevators were punks, too, and the spiritualism was salted with the rare intensity of Erickson’s wolf-man bleating and the bubbling-lava menace of Tommy Hall’s electric-jug blowing. Forty years later, when Erickson crows, “I’ve got levitation,” you still get liftoff.

The Velvet Underground, 'The Velvet Underground & Nico' Album Cover

The Velvet Underground, ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’

The hippies and the marketplace both passed on this
NYC classic, which proved as prophetic stylistically as Sgt. Pepper was
conceptually. Its flat beats, atonal noise, bluesless singing, “urban
decadent” subject matter and bummer vibe proved the wellspring of punk
which, culturally if not stylistically, leads directly to the entire alt-rock
subculture. Great songs here include the disillusioned “Sunday
Morning” and “There She Goes Again” and the jonesing
“Heroin” and “I’m Waiting for the Man.” “Venus in
Furs” and “The Black Angel’s Death Song” remain subcultural in a
rather specialized way.

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
1962–1964
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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