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1969

September 28, 2021

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[Albums 916 – 921 / 1001]

Of the ‘1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die,’ 39 are from the year 1969.

I’ve reviewed all but six of them so far.

The last batch of non-reviewed albums from the Summer (and spring / fall / winter) of ’69: The Beatles – Abbey Road, The Flying Burrito Brothers – The Gilded Palace of Sin, Grateful Dead – Live/Dead, MC5 – Kick Out the Jams, Sly and the Family Stone – Stand!, The Youngbloods – Elephant Mountain

Which 1969 albums are the most essential to hear again?

Ranked by their essential-ness, here’s how I’d prioritize revisiting these 39 albums, enjoy!

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39. Quicksilver Messenger Service – Happy Trails. These rankings likely say more about the strength of the 1969 crop, rather than the weaknesses of any individual album.

38. Johnny Cash – At San Quentin. For example, a Johnny Cash album at #38.

37. The Youngbloods – Elephant Mountain. I haven’t had the chance to play this Youngbloods album while watching the Rob Lowe / Patrick Swayze / Keanu Reeves hockey movie, Youngblood.

Yet.

I’m hoping they sync up in a significant way!

36. Grateful Dead – Live/Dead. I gather no two of their shows were/are ever the same.

35. MC5 – Kick Out the Jams. And speaking of unique live recordings, the opening line here definitely gets the listener’s attention.

34. The Stooges – The Stooges. The first of a few appearances for Iggy (and The Stooges).

33. CCR – Green River.

32. CCR – Bayou Country.

Like the Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP), Credence Clearwater Revival (CCR) is a group that I don’t seem to gravitate to when alone but I find I really like listening to them when I’m with other people.

31. Blood, Sweat & Tears – Blood Sweat & Tears. And with a group like Blood, Sweat & Tears, what’s even better than listening to their tunes with other people? Playing their tunes with other people!

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30. The Who – Tommy. Live at Leeds will be higher in the 1970 rankings.

29. Pentangle – Basket of Light. More emphasis on the Bert Jansch guitar might have bumped this album up a few more spots.

28. Elvis Presley – From Elvis in Memphis.

27. Dusty Springfield – Dusty in Memphis.

In Baseball, the tie goes to the runner.

With 1969 albums by solo artists describing themselves mononymously while performing in Tennessee’s second most populous city?

We’ll give the tie to Dusty for having the earlier release date (January vs. June).

26. Frank Zappa – Hot Rats. Willie The Pimp is the standout.

25. Sly and the Family Stone – Stand!. I tend to admire a good multi-instrumentalist…

24. Skip Spence – Oar. …and though I’m a fan of collaboration, sometimes it’s neat when artists just play everything by themselves.

23. Fairport Convention – Unhalfbricking. Fairport’s first of a pair of 1969 keepers in these rankings.

22. Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul. Worth getting for the big string crescendo in Walk on By alone.

21. The Flying Burrito Brothers – The Gilded Palace of Sin. Early country rock? Yes please.

20. Crosby, Stills & Nash – Crosby Stills & Nash. Based on their time spent here on lead vocal duties (as documented below), perhaps they should have inverted the band name order!

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19. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin. “I mean, Led Zeppelin didn’t write tunes that everyone liked…

18. The Bee Gees – Odessa. …they left that to The Bee Gees!” – Wayne’s World (@ 0:50)

17. Miles Davis – In a Silent Way. His third of four appearances on the 1001 list.

16. Chicago Transit Authority – Chicago Transit Authority. Does Anybody Really Know What Time it is remains one of music’s great unanswered questions.

15. The Temptations – Cloud Nine. Not to be confused with Bryan Adams’ Cloud Number 9.

14. Scott Walker – Scott 4. Based on my enjoyment of Scott 2 and Scott 4, I’m keen to hear his other (first name + album #) records

13. Tim Buckley – Happy Sad. Vibraphones for the victory.

12. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II. Thank you, Led Zeppelin for so many fine albums.

11. Neil Young with Crazy Horse – Everybody Knows This is Nowhere. I’ve had quite the Neil Young appreciation journey over the last decade!

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10. Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left. To borrow a Seinfeld-ism, Love the Drake!

9. Leonard Cohen – Songs From a Room. Like Neil Young, another Canadian artist whose voice used to be a deterrent but has now become a major selling point.

8. The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed. What a run they had from ’68 – ’72.

7. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground. And what a run they had from ’67 – ’69.

6. The Band – The Band. The top eponymous album of the year.

5. King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King. 21st Century Schizoid Man might have been the riff of the year.

4. The Kinks – Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). My favourite Kinks album.

3. Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band – Trout Mask Replica. As polarizing an album as there is!*

2. Fairport Convention – Liege & Lief. Come All Ye and hear the 2nd most essential-est album from 1969…

1. The Beatles – Abbey Road …and then stick around for this one too!

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Verbalize the Positive

*Cheers to John @ 2loud2oldmusic for his recent funny review of Trout Mask Replica.

Like I said, a polarizing album!

From → 1960s

16 Comments
  1. Fascinating, Geoff. Despite it’s legendary status, I was gobsmacked to see TMR up so high, and a little surprised to see Hot Rats so low! I wonder how many of these are relatively new to your ears?

    Sigh. As I well know, having constructed year-ladders a number of times (including the current 1971 project) these things can be subject to radical shifts, depending on the day. Maybe you could revisit in a year/month/decade!

    Thinks… I wonder how Geoff is going with Bitches Brew.

    • Absolutely, Bruce – I think of these like a financial balance sheet: It is accurate as of the date of publication. A day earlier or later, things could have looked / might look quite different!
      That being said, I don’t see Abbey Road shifting too far.
      And I think a revisit in a year would be fun (especially if I were to rank them again without looking at the previous rankings), I imagine very few would stay in exactly the same spot.
      And it may also still take me another 10 years to fully decode Bitches Brew, the memorandum about the name is an all-time favourite though!

  2. It’s a great year – one of my favourites. I’ve heard most of these and my favourites include In A Silent Way, Dusty in Memphis, Scott 4, Liege and Lief, and Hot Buttered Soul.

  3. When I caught McCartney live back in 89 his encore was pretty much the second side of Abbey Road. Amazing how many albums came out in 69. Wow..Great graph system Geoff.

    • My thanks, Deke – that would have been a stellar encore. McCartney’s still on my to-see list, I imagine he still puts on a good show!

  4. 69 is one of the best years. Absolutely incredible how many critical and influential albums there were. Thanks for the shout out!!!

  5. Stooges at #34 Error 404 LOL! Great list of albums, though. Quite a year.

  6. jprobichaud permalink

    Hahaha. Youngblood. I don’t know how many times I watched that flick as a teen. I bet it hasn’t aged well at all.

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