Posts Tagged ‘Frank Zappa’

“Hot Rats” by Frank Zappa (1969)

The weekend of Woodstock, Frank Zappa was a couple of hundred miles to the north, playing gigs with the Mothers of Invention that Saturday and Sunday in Montreal. The band then traveled to Toronto for a television appearance.

Those represented the final outings of the original Mothers – MGM Records insisted the “of Invention” be tacked onto the end – before Zappa decided to break up the group, which started as an R&B outfit called the Soul Giants and evolved into an amalgam of styles that, in the band’s latter stages, was “close enough for jazz,” as the saying goes.

“In 1969, George Wein, impresario of the Newport Jazz Festival, decided it would be a tremendous idea to put the Mothers of Invention on a jazz tour of the East Coast,” Zappa wrote in “The Real Frank Zappa Book” with Peter Occhiogrosso.

The touring package did not carry its own PA. We had to use whatever speakers existed in each of the venues we were booked to play. The hall in South Carolina was rigged with small jukebox speakers, set in a ring around the building. Useless, but there they were. We had to play the show.

Before we went on, I saw Duke Ellington begging – pleading – for a $10 advance. It was really depressing. After that show, I told the guys, ‘That’s it. We’re breaking the band up.’ We’d been together in one configuration or another for about five years at that point, and suddenly EVERYTHING looked utterly hopeless to me. If Duke Ellington had to beg some George Wein assistant backstage for ten bucks, what the fuck was I doing with a 10-piece band, trying to play rock and roll, or something that was almost rock and roll?

The Mothers of Invention had been a groundbreaking act, combining dadaist theatrical elements – a rubber chicken often was involved – with several musical influences: jazz, classical, doo-wop and and some of the hardest rock ever heard to that point. Observers tended to focus on the band’s antics, which in turn tended to obscure the brilliant playing of its members, particularly lead guitarist Zappa.

On the LPs released by the Mothers through 1969, his contributions were rather subdued, but his talent shone through whenever he allowed his guitar to take the spotlight, notably on the tracks “Invocation & Ritual Dance of the Young Pumpkin,” “Stuff Up the Cracks” and “Nine Types of Industrial Pollution.”

So it may have come as somewhat of a revelation to the public at large when Zappa’s first post-Mothers album, “Hot Rats,” hit the shelves in October 1969. Not only was his guitar at the forefront of the record’s rock-oriented songs, but the ones that leaned toward jazz were eminently listenable compared with some of the more challenging MOI work.

The album’s opener, “Peaches En Regalia,” is a prime example. The song builds on a simple six-note theme, one of Zappa’s most recognizable melodies, to explore a series of increasingly complex variations. Zappa took full advantage of 16-track recording technology, then the state of the art, to build layers of music, resulting in a full, rich aural texture.

Most of those tracks featured contributions by Ian Underwood, the sole member of the Mothers of Invention who worked on “Hot Rats.” By all accounts, Underwood should have received co-credit for the album, but he seems to have been content to supply Zappa with virtuoso performances on various keyboards and woodwind instruments.

Providing a driving bass guitar throughout “Peaches En Regalia” is Johnny Alexander Veliotes Jr., known professionally as Shuggie Otis. The son of early rock ‘n’ roll singer-impresario Johnny Otis was just 15 years old when he entered the studio to record with Zappa, Underwood and drummer Ron Selico. Shuggie went on to success as a songwriter – his “Strawberry Letter 23” was a massive hit for the Brothers Johnson in 1977 – and solo artist, although he stopped doing more than session work after his highly regarded 1974 album “Inspiration Information.”

By then, Frank Zappa’s voice had become one of the most widely recognized in rock, but he provides no vocals on “Hot Rats.” Indeed, the album mostly is instrumental, except for the short opening section of the second song, “Willie the Pimp.” The guitar riff-driven composition opens with Captain Beefheart (Don Vliet), with whom Zappa recently had worked on the absurdist classic “Trout Mask Replica,” belting out the short tale of a guy trying to make a few bucks:

I’m a little pimp with my hair gassed back, pair a khaki pants with my shoes shined black
Got a little lady, walk the street, tellin’ all the boys that she can’t be beat
Twenty-dollar bill, I can set you straight, meet me on the corner, boy, don’t be late
Man in a suit with bow-tie neck, wanna buy a grunt with a third-party check
Standin’ on the porch of the Lido Hotel, floozies in the lobby love the way I sell:

What follows is nearly eight minutes’ worth of jamming, with Zappa at the forefront, trading licks with violinist Don “Sugarcane” Harris, who had scored some R&B hits as half of the duo Don & Dewey in the late ’50s. The rhythm section for “Willie the Pimp” is Max Bennett on bass and John Guerin on drums, and Underwood plays his usual array of instruments.

The title of the next track led to the oft-repeated story about Zappa that he refutes at the very beginning of “The Real Frank Zappa Book”:

Because I recorded a song called “Son of Mr. Green Genes” on the “Hot Rats” album in 1969, people have believed for years that the character with that name on the “Captain Kangaroo” TV show (played by Lumpy Brannan) was my “real” dad. No, he was not.

Rather, the title was derived from a song on “Uncle Meat,” the Mothers of Invention’s final album before the breakup. For “Son of,” Zappa took the basic theme and stretched it into a nine-plus-minute workout that contains some of the most fluid, inventive guitar of his entire career.

“Little Umbrellas” is styled along the lines of “Peaches En Regalia,” a shorter, jazz-oriented composition relying heavily on Underwood’s various instruments.

“The Gumbo Variations” is the third of the extended jams on “Hot Rats,” with Harris’ violin and Underwood’s saxophones carrying lengthy sections. Zappa’s guitar again is the dominant instrument, providing a monstrous riff over which the other musicians solo.

The final track, “It Must Be a Camel,” features French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty on violin before he became a well-known solo artist in his own right. The most complex composition on the album, it contains several shifts in tempo, a structure Zappa had explored to a large degree on “Uncle Meat.”

“Hot Rats” barely scraped the American charts on its release, but since has become recognized as one of Zappa’s most accessible and accomplished recordings. When it was released in the United Kingdom in early 1970, the album hit the Top 20, Zappa’s all-time best showing across the Atlantic.

Following the “Hot Rats” project, Zappa assembled another version of the Mothers, eventually dropping the “of Invention” and featuring former Turtles singers Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, who developed the persona of Flo and Eddie. For the next couple of years, the Mothers focused on comedy and satire, and it wasn’t until 1972 that Zappa returned to a musical format that somewhat resembled “Hot Rats.” The resulting album, “Waka/Jawaka,” even had the phrase from the previous album emblazoned on its cover.

Speaking of album covers, the woman featured on “Hot Rats,” seemingly crawling out of a crypt, is Christine Frka. She was a member of the GTOs, the band of groupies and nominal musicians that recorded a Zappa-produced album called “Permanent Damage” in the late ’60s. Frka also served as the inspiration for “Christine’s Tune,” the opening track on the Flying Burrito Brothers’ debut “The Gilded Palace of Sin.” Unfortunately, she later had to wear a body cast to try to correct a crooked spine, and she died of a drug overdose in 1972, a few weeks before what would have been her 30th birthday.

“Safe As Milk” by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band (1967)

Antelope Valley High School in Lancaster, Calif., must have been an interesting place in the late 1950s.

Two of the school’s students went on to become legendary in the music industry, one ending up posthumously in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the other ensuring his place among the truly distinctive artists in the medium. As Frank Zappa (1940-93) recalled in “The Real Frank Zappa Book”:

“I spent more time with Don (Captain Beefheart) Van Vliet when I was in high school than after he got into ‘show business.’ He dropped out during his senior year, because his Dad, who was a Helms Bread truck driver, had a heart attack and ‘Vliet’ (as he was known_ took over his route for a while – but mostly he just stayed home from school.

“His girlfriend, Laurie, lived in the house with him, along with his Mom (Sue), his Dad (Glen), Aunt Ione and Uncle Alan. … The way Don got his ‘stage name’ was, Uncle Alan had a habit of exposing himself to Laurie. He’d piss with the bathroom door open and, if she was walking by, mumble something about his appendage – something along the lines of: “Ahh, what a beauty. It look just like a big, fine beef heart.'”

OK, some of that might explain what the late Don Vliet eventually recorded, most notably the Zappa-produced “Trout Mask Replica” (1969). My college roommate, Mike, once played that for his 3-year-old cousin, who absolutely loved it; otherwise, we used to put it on the stereo to clear people out of the room.

I, of course, purchased “Trout Mask Replica” as soon as it was issued on compact disc, to replace the dubbed-cassette version off Mike’s LP. It’s a true work of art, just not one that’s going to appeal to anything resembling a mass audience.

But I prefer the debut by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, “Safe As Milk.” While it lacks the field-recording ambiance of “Trout Mask Replica,” it’s infinitely more accessible as a rock album.

The Captain actually broke in as a fairly straightforward act, recording a dynamic cover version of Bo Diddley’s “Diddy Wah Diddy” for Herb Alpert’s fledgeling A&M Records (produced by future Bread front man David Gates, believe it or not). The follow-up, Vliet’s original “Moonchild,” was decidedly more out of the ordinary, and the label dropped the band.

Enter Buddah Records, which had made a mint on the Lovin’ Spoonful and decided to sign some more rock acts. The Captain fleshed out his Magic Band with a 20-year-old guitarist named Ry Cooder, and everyone was ready to record.

The result was “Safe As Milk,” easily Don’s most accessible album during his 16-year recording career. A mix of straightforward blues-rock and the individuality for which the Captain became immortalized, the project presents a musical aggregation that could have fit right in with the late-’60s recording industry had different circumstances prevailed.

As it was, the album failed to make the charts, although John Lennon placed two of the album’s promotional bumper stickers on a cabinet in his home. (I’ve seen the photographic evidence.)

“Safe As Milk” opens with Cooder’s slide guitar ushering in “Sure ‘Nuff ‘N Yes I Do,” a tune that puts the Captain’s braggadocio on display with lines like “Hey, hey, hey all you young girls, whatever you do/Come on by and see me, I’ll make it worth it to you.”

The album alternates between blues-based songs, proto-metal, ballads and a few tunes that start to put Don’s unique performing style on display. One of those is “Electricity,” which features a theremin “played by Sam Hoffman, who is supposed to have been a friend of Dr. Theremin, the instrument’s inventor.” At least, that’s according to the liner notes for the 1999 re-release.

“Electricity” also is notable as the song during which “Beefheart’s vocal literally destroyed a $1200 Telefunken microphone,” Langdon Winner wrote in a 1970 article for Rolling Stone. “Beefheart’s voice simply wouldn’t track at certain points. Although a number of microphones were employed, none of them could stand the Captain’s wailing “EEEE-Lec-Triccc-ittt-EEEEEEEE” on the last chorus. This, incidentally, can be heard on the record.”

Much of the cohesiveness of “Safe As Milk” compared with later Beefheart material can be attributed to Cooder, whose “role in all of this was to translate the Captain’s wilder notions to the rest of the band and generally act as musical director,” the liner notes state. Cooder went on, while still in his early 20s, to work with such musical luminaries as Randy Newman, the Rolling Stones and Little Feat before launching his solo career with Warner Bros.

As for Don Vliet, he went on to work with high-school pal Zappa and make some of the most distinctive music in the history of sound. The Captain’s recording career ended in 1982 with an album called “Ice Cream for Crow,” as he opted instead to concentrate on his painting. Unfortunately, he suffered from multiple sclerosis and used a wheelchair the last two decades of his life.

Like his classmate Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart left a musical legacy that never will be even remotely duplicated.

“Made In Japan” by Deep Purple (1973)

Somewhere in the pantheon of great rock groups, Deep Purple has become an afterthought.

Consider that it was one of the pioneers of heavy metal, successfully making the transition from psychedelic music to a much harder style.

Consider that the band still is an active unit, albeit one with that took a hiatus at a critical time and has a sole original member in the current lineup, for 44 years.

And consider that the riff for “Smoke On the Water” is perhaps the most recognizable in the history of rock.

“Smoke On the Water” first appeared on “Machine Head,” the third album by Deep Purple’s so-called Mark II lineup, documenting what happened during recording sessions in Montreux, Switzerland, in late 1971: Yes, “some stupid with a flare gun burned the place to the ground,” during a concert by Frank Zappa and the Mothers. (It happens during the band’s rendition of “King Kong”; when people start yelling, “Fire!”, singer Mark Volman makes a reference to Arthur Brown, whose hit single … oh, never mind.)

Anyway, the American single version of “Smoke On the Water” was taken from the live “Made In Japan,” a two-LP set capturing the best of Deep Purple’s three-night stand at the Kosei Nenkin Kaikan in Osaka and the Budokan in Tokyo.

My initial interest in “Made In Japan” came, of course, by way of the big hit, which you couldn’t escape hearing on the radio circa 1974. But a closer examination of the album, itself, showed a mere seven songs spanning those two LPs. For a kid with an inclination toward long jams, that was just what the doctor ordered.

Four of the seven songs on the live album originally appeared on “Machine Head.” Sort of. The LP’s fourth side simply is noted as “Space Truckin’,” clocking in at around 20 minutes, but the track contains elements of several Deep Purple standards, most notable “Mandrake Root” from the debut “Shades of Deep Purple.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The “Made In Japan” opener, as on “Machine Head,” is “Highway Star,” which almost is on par with “Smoke On the Water” as far as hard-rock standards go. The song showcases what Mark II was all about: Ian Gillan’s high-octane vocals propelled by strong instrumentation from keyboard player Jon Lord, drummer Ian Paice, bassist Roger Glover and guitarist Richie Blackmore, whose Stratocaster solo is the key component to carrying the song into legendary status.

“Child In Time,” from the Mark II debut “In Rock,” is many listeners’ favorite on the album, if not in the entire Deep Purple discography. The tune starts quietly, as Gillan sings of an innocent discovering the evils of the world, before he launches into vocal-cord-shredding screaming that changes the dynamics into as heavy as music got in 1972. The song’s interlude features some of Blackmore’s most lauded guitar playing, as his diatonic-scale licks culminate in a rapid-fire delivery that leaves the audience amazed before proceedings return to a quieter mood.

“Smoke On the Water” starts with Gillan’s brief narration about the song’s genesis, and Blackmore throws in a few extra chords before the song starts in earnest, with the guitarist managing to replicate his classic studio solo with impressive accuracy.

Paice takes the reins on “The Mule,” from Mark II’s second album, “Fireball.” As far as drum solos go, he’s not quite Bonham or Baker, but he doesn’t overdo it.

Perhaps anyone but Gillan would be accused of doing so during an extended workout of “Strange Kind of Woman,” a hit single for the band in its native U.K. He chirps along to Blackmore’s guitar licks, showing off his near-superhuman vocal range.

Lord kicks off “Lazy,” another “Machine Head” tune, with an extended organ solo that might have drawn inspiration from Keith Emerson (or vice versa). The band shows it has the chops to play a creditable blues, including Gillan’s harp playing.

The first five minutes of “Space Truckin'” remans faithful to the “Machine Head” version before the band tears into a series of musical themes. Along the way, Blackmore manipulates his volume knob to produce a cello-like effect, as first heard on “Fools” from “Fireball.” Then comes the finale: three minutes of intense jamming, with Blackmore getting maximum mileage from his tremolo bar, until Lord wraps things up with what sounds like a dive bomb.

The audiences in Osaka and Tokyo must’ve been blown away, as listeners still are nearly 40 years later by one of rock’s great live albums, by one of rock’s great bands. And one, incidentally, that still is outside looking in when it comes to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“Spectrum” by Billy Cobham (1973)

The first major jazz artist to incorporate rock elements into jazz playing was Miles Davis, whose “Filles de Kilimanjaro” in 1968 hinted at what would become one of his greatest achievements, the following year’s “In a Silent Way.”

Davis’ floating cast of musicians served as the proving ground for what would become the Who’s Who of jazz-rock fusion, including Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams, Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette, Airto Moreira and British guitarist John McLaughlin.

Columbia Records, Davis’ label, was quick to sign the band McLaughlin founded in 1971, the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The quintet he formed – with Jan Hammer on keyboards, Jerry Goodman on violin, Rick Laird on bass and Billy Cobham on drums – played astonishingly intricate instrumentals at a volume associated more closely with Blue Cheer or Black Sabbath than anything having to do with jazz.

The original Mahavishnu Orchestra, unfortunately, lasted only a couple of years, and toward the end of that run, the percussionist recorded his first solo album.

“Spectrum” is one of the crowning achievements in fusion, with Cobham choosing wisely for his fellow musicians: Hammer, Lee Sklar on bass and the late Joe Farrell on woodwinds.

On guitar was a kid who’d started in the rock ‘n’ roll milieu, the late Tommy Bolin. The Sioux City, Iowa, native had played in a Colorado band called Zephyr before forming his own fusion group, Energy. He later replaced Domenic Troiano (who’d replaced Joe Walsh) in the James Gang.

Bolin met Cobham through former Jimi Hendrix producer Eddie Kramer at Electric Lady Studios in New York City. And the guitarist, just 22 at the time, met the expectations Billy had come to expect by working with McLaughlin.

Chris Jisi and Mark Bosch wrote about the resulting collaboration in a 1988 article for Guitar World magazine:

“‘Spectrum’ was, according to Hammer, an almost completely spontaneous jam. For Bolin, it turned out to be much more than that: It earned him long-desired recognition and is probably his most widely known recorded work. An integral stepping stone in intertwining the rock and jazz idioms, ‘Spectrum’ struts with smoky jazz/rock/funk grooves, setting the pace for Bolin’s white-hot guitar excursions. Although Cobham handed out charts, Bolin did not read music. Instead, he was told chord changes and fed melodies off of which he and Hammer played. As a result, his raw energy blends effectively with the technical parts played by the other musicians.”

OK, that’s the guitarist’s standpoint. The project belonged to the percussionist, though, and he responded with a songwriting and instrumental effort that solidified his reputation as fusion’s pre-eminent drummer.

The six tracks on “Spectrum,” three of which open with fluid percussion solos, are uniformly listenable, unlike some of the more esoteric elements of jazz-rock at the time. For example, the opener, “Quadrant 4,” remains one of the best-known exercises in fusion, with Bolin’s scorching guitar duetting with Cobham’s high-energy drumming to lead into a memorably stuttering melody augmented by Hammer’s keyboards.

The album reaches its summit, as does possibly fusion in general, with “Stratus,” the most nearly perfect marriage of jazz and rock. The song became a staple in Bolin’s repertoire for the three years he had remaining after the release of “Spectrum.”

Unfortunately for its fans, “Spectrum” turned out to be purely a one-off collaboration. Cobham later joined forces with keyboard player George Duke, fresh from his stint with Frank Zappa’s band, for some enjoyable mid-’70s recordings. Hammer teamed up with Jeff Beck for the height of the legendary guitarist’s fusion period, and in the ’80s, the Czech keyboardist became a full-fledged star with his theme song for the hit TV series “Miami Vice.” (For the record, I have yet to see an episode.)

Bolin eventually replaced Richie Blackmore in Deep Purple, then OD’d in Miami after opening for Beck.

The fusion of jazz and rock peaked shortly after the release of “Spectrum.” The genre still has many adherents to this day, but they’re going to have to search long and hard to find something as listenable and enjoyable as Billy Cobham’s debut.

“Billion Dollar Babies” by Alice Cooper (1973)

Taped to the wall of my parents’ basement in Paxtang, PA, is a small illustration, just a couple of square inches, of a sinister-looking infant.

That’s the last vestige of a once-mighty collection of posters and related materials that covered the basement walls in the mid- to late ’70s.

The drawing came with a collection of extras included with “Billion Dollar Babies,” the sixth album by the original Alice Cooper group and its finest moment.

Most folks today know Alice Cooper as an older guy who has a radio show and plays a great game of golf. That person actually is Vincent Damon Furnier, who celebrated his 64th birthday last week.

In the beginning, Alice Cooper was the name of a five-man band, reportedly coming from a Ouija-board message from a 17th-century witch. The quintet had been calling itself the Nazz, after a Yardbirds song, but decided to switch after learning Todd Rundgren’s Philadelphia-based band had the same name.

Vince, the lead singer, appropriated Alice Cooper as his nom de guerre, but the other four were equal partners: guitarists Michael Bruce and the late Glen Buxton; bass player Dennis Dunaway; and drummer Neal Smith, who can be seen here going ballistic at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival on Sept. 13, 1969.

At the time, the Cooper group was signed to Frank Zappa and Herb Cohen’s Straight Records, which also included the likes of the late Larry “Wildman” Fischer, who used to tell stories about his stays in mental hospitals, and the groupie-group the GTOs. Alice Cooper recorded its first two albums, “Pretties for You” and “Easy Action” for Straight, but no one paid much attention.

Straight was a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Records, and that’s where the Cooper group ended up for its third album, “Love It to Death.” Under the auspices of young producer Bob Ezrin, the album reined in the band’s inherent weirdness to produce a hard-rock classic, featuring the timeless hit “Eighteen” and the ode to the straitjacket “The Ballad of Dwight Fry.”

Meanwhile, the band’s stage act became the stuff of legend, and scared the hell out of anyone over 30, what with the singer wrapping boa constrictors around his neck and simulating his death by hanging. The antics probably were tame by today’ standards, but they put the commercial viability of “shock rock” on full display.

“Love It to Death” was the first in a series of the four classic Alice Cooper albums, followed by “Killer,” “School’s Out” and “Billion Dollar Babies.” The last-named reached No. 1 on the charts on the strength of three Top 40 singles: “Elected,” Rolf Kempf’s “Hello Hooray” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy.”

Those songs represent only a few of the album’s many high points: “Unfinished Sweet,” a fear-of-dentistry song with the sound of a drill thrown in for good measure; “Generation Landslide,” a nod to the band’s negative reception among older folks; and “I Love the Dead,” a precursor to Alice’s solo “Cold Ethyl.”

The true choice cut is the title track, with its instantly recognizable guitar riff and suitably creepy lyrics about a seeming love affair with a doll.

The band supported the album with a tour that broke all kinds of box-office records, but also broke up the original Alice Cooper. Following the lackluster “Muscle of Love,” the members went their separate ways; Bruce, Dunaway and Smith actually called their project Billion Dollar Babies, but it amounted to little.

Vincent Furnier went on to further fame as Alice Cooper, but to many listeners, he always has missed his former bandmates.

One of my favorite online resources is AllMusic.

The database, if it doesn’t literally contain all music, comes pretty darned close. It certainly is a great resource for learning about worthwhile listens.

The guide rates recordings, from 1 to 5 stars. Following is a list of the 5-star albums in my collection. Well, most of them. I didn’t delve into “various artists” collections, and there may be some single-artists compilations that I missed. But this might give you an idea of what to check out on Spotify, or if you want to actually spend money and support the various artists.

  • AC/DC: “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”
  • Allman Brothers Band: “Idlewild South,” “At Fillmore East,” “Eat a Peach”
  • Gene Ammons: “The Happy Blues”
  • Louis Armstong: “Louis Armstrong Plays W.C. Handy”
  • Albert Ayler: “Live in Greenwich Village: The Complete Impulse Sessions”
  • The Band: “Music from Big Pink,” “The Band”
  • The Beatles: “Please Please Me,” “With the Beatles,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Beatles for Sale,” “Help!,” “Rubber Soul,” “Revolver,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Magical Mystery Tour,” “The Beatles,” “Abbey Road”
  • Jeff Beck: “Truth”
  • Chuck Berry: “St. Louis to Liverpool”
  • Big Brother & the Holding Company: “Cheap Thrills”
  • Big Star: “#1 Record,” “Third/Sister Lovers”
  • Black Sabbath: “Paranoid,” “Master of Reality,” “Volume 4”
  • Blur: “Parklife”
  • David Bowie: “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” “Low,” “Heroes”
  • Brinsley Schwarz: “Nervous On the Road”
  • Dave Brubeck Quartet: “Time Out”
  • Jeff Buckley: “Grace”
  • Butterfield Blues Band: “Paul Butterfield Blues Band,” “East-West”
  • The Byrds: “Sweetheart of the Rodeo”
  • Can: “Tago Mago”
  • Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band: “Safe As Milk,” “Trout Mask Replica”
  • Johnny Cash: “Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison”
  • Ray Charles: “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music”
  • Charlie Christian: “The Genius of the Electric Guitar”
  • Eric Clapton: “Crossroads”
  • Sonny Clark: “Cool Struttin'”
  • The Clash: “The Clash,” “London Calling”
  • John Coltrane: “Blue Train,” “Bags & Trane,” “My Favorite Things,” “Duke Ellington and John Coltrane,” “John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman,” “A Love Supreme”
  • Chick Corea: “Return to Forever”
  • Elvis Costello: “My Aim Is True,” “This Year’s Model,” “Get Happy!!”
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival: “Green River,” “Willy & the Poor Boys,” “Cosmos Factory”
  • Crosby, Stills & Nash: “Crosby, Stills & Nash”
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: “Deja Vu”
  • Miles Davis: “Birth of the Cool,” “‘Round About Midnight,” “Relaxin’,” “Porgy and Bess,” “Kind of Blue,” “Sketches of Spain,” “Workin’,” “Steamin’,” “Miles Smiles,” “In a Silent Way,” “Bitches Brew,” “A Tribute to Jack Johnson,” “On the Corner”
  • Deep Purple: “Machine Head”
  • Derek & the Dominos: “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs”
  • Dillard & Clark: “The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark”
  • Willie Dixon: “The Chess Box”
  • Eric Dolphy: “Out There,” “Out to Lunch”
  • The Doors: “The Doors”
  • Bob Dylan: “Highway 61 Revisited,” “Blonde On Blonde,” “Blood On the Tracks”
  • Bob Dylan & the Band: “The Basement Tapes”
  • Duke Ellington: “Ellington at Newport,” “… and His Mother Called Him Bill”
  • Brian Eno: “Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy),” “Another Green World”
  • Faces: “Five Guys Walk into a Bar …”
  • The Firesign Theatre: “How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere at All,” “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers”
  • The Flaming Lips: “The Soft Bulletin”
  • The Flying Burrito Brothers: “The Gilded Palace of Sin”
  • Funkdadelic: “Maggot Brain”
  • Gang of Four: “Entertainment!”
  • Erroll Garner: “Concert By the Sea”
  • Marvin Gaye: “What’s Going On”
  • Genesis: “Foxtrot”
  • Grateful Dead: “Workingman’s Dead,” “American Beauty,” “Dick’s Picks, Vol. 4”
  • Green Day: “American Idiot”
  • Herbie Hancock: “Maiden Voyage,” “Head Hunters”
  • George Harrison: “All Things Must Pass”
  • Jimi Hendrix Experience: “Are You Experienced?,” “Axis: Bold As Love,” “Electric Ladyland”
  • Howlin’ Wolf: “Howlin’ Wolf/Moanin’ in the Moonlight,” “The Chess Box”
  • Husker Du: “Zen Arcade”
  • Incredible String Band: “The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter”
  • Etta James: “At Last!”
  • Keith Jarrett: “The Koln Concert”
  • Jefferson Airplane: “Surrealistic Pillow”
  • Lonnie Johnson: “Steppin’ on the Blues”
  • Robert Johnson: “The Complete Recordings”
  • Janis Joplin: “Pearl”
  • King Crimson: “In the Court of the Crimson King”
  • Albert King: “Born Under a Bad Sign”
  • The Kinks: “Face to Face,” “Something Else by the Kinks,” “The Village Green Preservation Society”
  • Kraftwerk: “Autobahn,” “Trans-Europe Express”
  • Led Zeppelin: “Led Zeppelin,” “Led Zeppelin II,” “Led Zeppelin III,” “Physical Graffiti”
  • John Lennon: “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band,” “Imagine”
  • Little Feat: “Little Feat”
  • Love: “Da Capo,” “Forever Changes”
  • Nick Lowe: “Jesus of Cool”
  • Magic Sam: “West Side Soul”
  • Mahavishnu Orchestra: “The Inner Mounting Flame,” “Birds of Fire”
  • Bob Marley & the Wailers: “Catch a Fire”
  • John Mayall: “Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton”
  • The MC5: “Kick Out the Jams”
  • Metallica: “Master of Puppets”
  • Pat Metheny Group: “Pat Methenhy Group”
  • Charles Mingues: “Mingus Ah Um,” “Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus”
  • The Minutemen: “Double Nickels on the Dime”
  • Moby Grape: “Moby Grape”
  • Modern Jazz Quartet: “The Complete Last Concert”
  • Wes Montgomery: “Full House”
  • Van Morrison: “Astral Weeks,” “Moondance”
  • Mothers of Invention: “Freak Out!,” “We’re Only In It for the Money”
  • Mott the Hoople: “All the Young Dudes,” “Mott”
  • The Move: “Shazam”
  • My Bloody Valentine: “Loveless”
  • Randy Newman: “12 Songs,” “Sail Away”
  • Parliament: “Mothership Connection”
  • Gram Parsons: “G.P.”
  • Joe Pass: “Virtuoso”
  • Jaco Pastorius: “Jaco Pastorius”
  • Pavement: “Slanted & Enchanted,” “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain”
  • Pearl Jam: “Ten”
  • Pere Ubu: “Terminal Tower”
  • Pink Floyd: “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” “The Dark Side of the Moon,” “Wish You Were Here”
  • Iggy Pop: “The Idiot,” “Lust for Life”
  • The Quintet: “Jazz at Massey Hall”
  • The Replacements: “Let It Be”
  • The Rolling Stones: “Between the Buttons,” “Beggars Banquet,” “Let It Bleed, “Sticky Fingers,” “Exile on Main St.,” “Some Girls,” “Singles Collection: The London Years,” “Forty Licks”
  • Sonny Rollins: “Sonny Rollins Plus 4,” “Saxophone Colossus,” “Way Out West”
  • Todd Rundgren: “Something/Anything?”
  • Pharoah Sanders: “Karma”
  • Santana: “Abraxas”
  • Klaus Schulze: “Moondawn”
  • Gil Scott-Heron: “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox”
  • The Sex Pistols: “Never Mind the Bollocks”
  • Sonny Sharrock: “Ask the Ages”
  • Wayne Shorter: “Speak No Evil”
  • Horace Silver: “Song for My Father”
  • Paul Simon: “Paul Simon,” “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon”
  • Skin Alley: “To Pagham & Beyond”
  • Sly & the Family Stone: “Stand!,” “There’s a Riot Goin’ On”
  • Small Faces: “The Darlings of Wapping Wharf Launderette”
  • Patti Smith: “Horses”
  • The Soft Boys: “Underwater Moonlight”
  • Sonic Youth: “Sister,” “Daydream Nation”
  • The Stooges: “Fun House,” “Raw Power”
  • Sun Ra: “Atlantis,” “Space Is the Place”
  • Talking Heads: “Talking Heads 77,” “More Songs About Buildings and Food,” “Remain In Light”
  • Hound Dog Taylor: “Hound Dog Taylor & the Houserockers”
  • Television: “Marquee Moon”
  • Thin Lizzy: “Jailbreak”
  • Richard & Linda Thompson: “Shoot Out the Lights”
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble: “Texas Flood”
  • Velvet Underground: “The Velvet Underground & Nico,” “White Light/White Heat,” “The Velvet Underground,” “Loaded”
  • The Wailers: “Burnin'”
  • T-Bone Walker: “The Complete Imperial Recordings: 1950-1954”
  • Muddy Waters: “At Newport,” “The Chess Box”
  • Weather Report: “Heavy Weather”
  • The White Stripes: “Elephant”
  • The Who: “The Who Sings My Generation,” “The Who Sell Out,” “Live at Leeds,” “Who’s Next”
  • Tony Williams’ Lifetime: “Emergency!”
  • Wire: “Pink Flag,” “Chairs Missing”
  • Stevie Wonder: “Talking Book,” “Innervisions,” “Songs in the Key of Life”
  • Link Wray: “Rumble!”
  • X: “Los Angeles,” “Under the Big Black Sun”
  • Yes: “Fragile,” “Close to the Edge”
  • Neil Young: “On the Beach,” “Rust Never Sleeps”

By the way, I’ve been working on this list for a couple of weeks during some “down time.” And it’s been a lot of fun! Gotta listen to some of these albums again in the near future.

The first year I really remember listening to the radio was the one that opened my second decade of my life. Some of my memories include John Lennon’s “Instant Karma!”, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Down on the Corner” and the Guess Who’s “No Sugar Tonight.”

It turned out to be another good year for my music collection, as well:

  • “Idlewild South” by the Allman Brothers Band
  • “Yeti” by Amon Duul II
  • “Atomic Roooster” [sic] by Atomic Rooster
  • “Death Walks Behind You” by Atomic Rooster
  • “Stage Fright” by The Band
  • “The Madcap Laughs” by Syd Barrett
  • “Barrett” by Syd Barrett
  • “Let It Be” by the Beatles
  • “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath
  • “McLemore Avenue” by Booker T. & the MG’s
  • “Brinsley Schwarz” by Brinsley Schwarz
  • “Despite It All” by Brinsley Schwarz
  • “Sing Brother Sing” by the Edgar Broughton Band
  • “Untitled” by the Byrds
  • “Lick My Decals Off, Baby” by Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band
  • “Chicago” by Chicago
  • “Easy Action” by Alice Cooper
  • “Cosmo’s Factory” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • “Pendulum” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • “Deja Vu” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
  • “Bitches Brew” by Miles Davis
  • “Miles Davis at Fillmore: Live at the Fillmore East” by Miles Davis
  • “Black Beauty: Miles Davis at Fillmore West
  • “Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs” by Derek & the Dominos
  • “Morrison Hotel – Hard Rock Cafe” by the Doors
  • “New Morning” by Bob Dylan
  • “Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2” by Bob Dylan
  • “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers” by the Firesign Theatre
  • “Kiln House” by Fleetwood Mac
  • “In and Out of Focus” by Focus
  • “Free Your Mind … and Your Ass Will Follow” by Funkadelic
  • “Gentle Giant” by Gentle Giant
  • “Eight Miles High” by Golden Earring
  • “Workingman’s Dead” by the Grateful Dead
  • “American Beauty” by the Grateful Dead
  • “Thank Christ for the Bomb” by the Groundhogs
  • “UFO” by Guru Guru
  • “All Things Must Pass” by George Harrison
  • “The Battle of North West Six” by the Keef Hartley Band
  • “Hawkwind” by Hawkwind
  • “Band of Gypsys” by Jimi Hendrix
  • “High Tide” by High Tide
  • “Hot Tuna” by Hot Tuna
  • “The James Gang Rides Again” by the James Gang
  • “Blows Against the Empire” by Paul Kantner/Jefferson Starship
  • “In the Wake of Poseidon” by King Crimson
  • “Lizard” by King Crimson
  • “Indianola Mississippi Seeds” by B.B. King
  • “Lola vs. the Powerman & the Money-Go-Round, Pt. 1” by the Kinks
  • “Led Zeppelin III” by Led Zeppelin
  • “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band” by John Lennon
  • “USA Union” by John Mayall
  • “Back in the USA” by the MC5
  • “Moondance” by Van Morrison
  • “Burnt Weeny Sandwich” by the Mothers of Invention
  • “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” by the Mothers of Invention
  • “Climbing!” by Mountain
  • “Shazam” by the Move
  • “Looking On” by the Move
  • “Nazz III” by the Nazz
  • “12 Songs” by Randy Newman
  • “Here Comes Shuggie Otis” by Shuggie Otis
  • “Osmium” by Parliament
  • “Atom Heart Mother” by Pink Floyd
  • “King Kong: Jean-Luc Ponty Plays the Music of Frank Zappa” by Jean-Luc Ponty
  • “Parachute” by the Pretty Things
  • “Home” by Procol Harum
  • “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out” by the Rolling Stones
  • “Abraxas” by Santana
  • “Raw Sienna” by Savoy Brown
  • “Looking In” by Savoy Brown
  • “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox” by Gil-Scott Heron
  • “Seatrain” by Seatrain
  • “Kingdom Come” by Sir Lord Baltimore
  • “Skin Alley” by Skin Alley
  • “To Pagham and Beyond” by Skin Alley
  • “Third” by Soft Machine
  • “Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus” by Spirit
  • “Fun House” by the Stooges
  • “Just for You” by Sweetwater
  • “Electronic Meditation” by Tangerine Dream
  • “John Barleycorn Must Die” by Traffic
  • “Think Pink” by Twink
  • “The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other” by Van der Graaf Generator
  • “H to He, Who Am the Only One” by Van der Graaf Generator
  • “Loaded” by the Velvet Underground
  • “Album I” by Loudon Wainwright III
  • “Live at Leeds” by The Who
  • “Johnny Winter And” by Johnny Winter
  • “Wishbone Ash” by Wishbone Ash
  • “Time and a Word” by Yes
  • “Chunga’s Revenge” by Frank Zappa

Associated listening: “Fun House” by the Stooges

I can’t admit to listening to a lot of what eventually became known as classic rock when I actually was alive during the ’60s. I wasn’t that old when the decade ended, and I certainly didn’t hear any of that type of music through my parents. My dad still is pretty much convinced that anything recorded after World War II is “noise.”

Through a convergence of circumstances, by roughy 1976 I was exploring the music of the previous decade, while my classmates were listening to disco and the like. I remember the stares I got when I brought “The Worst of Jefferson Airplane” to listen to in typing class. Even the teacher, Mr. Wolf, felt compelled to comment.

No matter. They call it classic rock, not classic disco.

At any rate, my music collection from the past 35 years or so is widely varied, but a lot of it does lean toward a certain genre from a certain era. And I think the final year of the ’60s leads the way.

Here’s a sampling of what fans were lucky enough to hear when it came out new in 1969:

  • “The Allman Brothers Band” by the Allman Brothers Band
  • “Phallus Dei” by Amon Duul II
  • “Andromeda” by Andromeda
  • “Argent” by Argent
  • “Arzachel” by Arzachel
  • “The Band” by The Band
  • “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles
  • “Abbey Road” by the Beatles
  • “Beck-Ola” by the Jeff Beck Group
  • “Blind Faith” by Blind Faith
  • “It’s Not Killing Me” by Michael Bloomfield
  • “Live at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West: 1969” by Michael Bloomfield
  • “New! Improved!” by Blue Cheer
  • “Wasa Wasa” by the Edgar Broughton Band
  • “Ballad of Easy Rider” by the Byrds
  • “Monster Movie” by Can
  • “Trout Mask Replica” by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
  • “The Charlatans” by the Charlatans
  • “Chicago Transit Authority” by Chicago Transit Authority
  • “Penitentiary Blues” by David Allan Coe
  • “Valentyne Suite” by Colosseum
  • “Bayou Country” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • “Green River” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • “Willy & the Poor Boys” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • “Crosby, Stills & Nash” by Crosby, Stills & Nash
  • “In a Silent Way” by Miles Davis
  • “The Book of Taliesyn” by Deep Purple
  • “Deep Purple” by Deep Purple
  • “Concerto for Group and Orchestra” by Deep Purple
  • “On Tour With Eric Clapton” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
  • “Through the Morning, Through the Night” by Dillard & Clark
  • “The Great American Eagle Tragedy” by Earth Opera
  • “How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere at All” by the Firesign Theatre
  • “Then Play On” by Fleetwood Mac
  • “The Gilded Palace of Sin” by the Flying Burrito Bros.
  • “Free” by Free
  • “Aoxomoxoa” by the Grateful Dead
  • “Live/Dead” by the Grateful Dead
  • “My Labors” by Nick Gravenites
  • “Blues Obituary” by the Groundhogs
  • “Canned Wheat” by the Guess Who
  • “Halfbreed” by the Keef Hartley Band
  • “Sea Shanties” by High Tide
  • “Two Bugs and a Roach” by Earl Hooker
  • “Yer Album” by the James Gang
  • “Bless Its Pointed Little Head” by Jefferson Airplane
  • “Volunteers” by Jefferson Airplane
  • “Stand Up” by Jethro Tull
  • “I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!” by Janis Joplin
  • “In the Court of the Crimson King” by King Crimson
  • “Led Zeppelin” by Led Zeppelin
  • “Led Zeppelin II” by Led Zeppelin
  • “Four Sail” by Love
  • “Forms and Feelings” by Love Sculpture
  • “Paradise Bar & Grill” by Mad River
  • “Revelation” by Man
  • “2 Ozs. Of Plastic with a Hole in the Middle” by Man
  • “The Turning Point” by John Mayall
  • “Kick Out the Jams” by the MC5
  • “Brave New World” by the Steve Miller Band
  • “Your Saving Grace” by the Steve Miller Band
  • “On the Threshold of a Dream” by the Moody Blues
  • “Astral Weeks” by Van Morrison
  • “Uncle Meat” by the Mothers of Invention
  • “Mott the Hoople” by Mott the Hoople
  • “Sunshine” by Sunny Murray
  • “An Even Break (Never Give a Sucker)” by Sunny Murray
  • “Nazz Nazz” by the Nazz
  • “Accent on the Blues” by John Patton
  • “Soundtrack from the Film ‘More'” by Pink Floyd
  • “Ummagumma” by Pink Floyd
  • “A Salty Dog” by Procol Harum
  • “Happy Trails” by Quicksilver Messenger Service
  • “Shady Grove” by Quicksilver Messenger Service
  • “Get Ready” by Rare Earth
  • “Renaissance” by Renaissance
  • “Let It Bleed” by the Rolling Stones
  • “Karma” by Pharaoh Sanders
  • “Santana” by Santana
  • “Mendocino” by the Sir Douglas Quintet
  • “Loosen Up Naturally” by Sons of Champlin
  • “Oar” by Alexander Spence
  • “The Family That Plays Together” by Spirit
  • “Spooky Two” by Spooky Tooth
  • “Red Weather” by Leigh Stephens
  • “Monster” by Steppenwolf
  • “The Stooges” by the Stooges
  • “Atlantis” by Sun Ra
  • “Hollywood Dream” by Thunderclap Newman
  • “The Aerosol Grey Machine” by Van der Graaf Generator
  • “The Velvet Underground” by the Velvet Underground
  • “Tommy” by The Who
  • “Emergency!” by Tony Williams’ Lifetime
  • “The Progressive Blues Experiment” by Johnny Winter
  • “Johnny Winter” by Johnny Winter
  • “Second Winter” by Johnny Winter
  • “Yes” by Yes
  • “Hot Rats” by Frank Zappa

Associated listening: “The Stooges” by the Stooges

The last list of this sort got a decent response, so I’m going to do it again. These aren’t necessarily the best albums of the year, nor my favorites. I’m just kind of putting ’em out there at random … in most cases. Whatever, if you come across any of them, give ’em a listen!

  • 2011: “Demolished Thoughts” by Thurston Moore
  • 2010: “Midnight Souvenirs” by Peter Wolf
  • 2009: “Rough & Tough” by John Hammond
  • 2008: “Amen Corner” by Railroad Earth
  • 2007: “The Weirdness” by the Stooges
  • 2006: “Risin’ With the Blues” by Ike Turner
  • 2005: “In Space” by Big Star
  • 2004: “Deja Voodoo” by Gov’t Mule
  • 2003: “The Power to Believe” by King Crimson
  • 2002: “Live at the Wetlands” by Robert Randolph
  • 2001: “Artifact” by the Electric Prunes
  • 2000: “Chasin’ the Gypsy” by James Carter
  • 1999: “Bad Love” by Randy Newman
  • 1998: “Acme” by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
  • 1997: “Toscco” by Happy Family
  • 1996: “Gone Again” by Patti Smith
  • 1995: “Infinity” by McCoy Tyner
  • 1994: “Grace” by Jeff Buckley
  • 1993: “Mirrors of Embarrassment” by Col. Bruce Hampton & Aquarium Rescue Unit
  • 1992: “Dirty” by Sonic Youth
  • 1991: “Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues” by Buddy Guy
  • 1990: “The Harem” by Milt Jackson
  • 1989: “Freedom” by Neil Young
  • 1988: “Broadway the Hard Way” by Frank Zappa
  • 1987: “Blues for Salvador” by Carlos Santana
  • 1986: “Daring Adventures” by Richard Thompson
  • 1985: “Song X” by Pat Metheny
  • 1984: “Double Nickels on the Dime” by the Minutemen
  • 1983: “Texas Flood” by Stevie Ray Vaughan
  • 1982: “Love Over Gold” by Dire Straits
  • 1981: “The Electric Spanking of War Babies” by Funkadelic
  • 1980: “Underwater Moonlight” by the Soft Boys
  • 1979: “Fear of Music” by Talking Heads
  • 1978: “Chairs Missing” by Wire
  • 1977: “Seconds Out” by Genesis
  • 1976: “Hoppkorv” by Hot Tuna
  • 1975: “Rhinos, Winos and Lunatics” by Man
  • 1974: “Inspiration Information” by Shuggie Otis
  • 1973: “Still Alive and Well” by Johnny Winter
  • 1972: “Argus” by Wishbone Ash
  • 1971: “Tago Mago” by Can
  • 1970: “Workingman’s Dead” by the Grateful Dead
  • 1969: “Happy Trails” by Quicksilver Messenger Service
  • 1968: “Electric Ladyland” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience
  • 1967: “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” by Pink Floyd
  • 1966: “Roger the Engineer” by the Yardbirds
  • 1965: “Highway 61 Revisited” by Bob Dylan
  • 1964: “Out to Lunch” by Eric Dolphy
  • 1963: “Please Please Me” by the Beatles
  • 1962: “Money Jungle” by Duke Ellington
  • 1961: “Africa/Brass” by John Coltrane
  • 1960: “Pyramid” by Modern Jazz Quartet
  • 1959: “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis

I’ve been collecting music for nearly 40 years. I’ll admit to having more music on various media than I’d ever be able to listen to the rest of my life. But I’m trying …

Following are some titles from the past half century, presented reverse chronologically and kind of at random, that I’d recommend as decent listens. That’s assuming, of course, that I’ve actually listened to them!