“20 albums Rolling Stone loved in the 1960’s that you’ve never heard.”
Who could resist this double-stuff’d headline challenging knowledge of 60’s music while promising that any unknown album on the list is an obscure gem endorsed by a genuine Rolling Stone critic? The premise is win-win, but the reality? Leading off with a Judy Collins album containing her rendition of “Both Sides Now” is questionable – a top 5, gold-selling album doesn’t beacon “unheard” status. Perhaps meant as a soft landing, the list then swerves through several variants of hippie rock, proto-art rock, anti-commercial parody rock, overly-twee and precious folk, or albums with musicians or producers whose other projects are more well-known. I jammed all these goodies into a playlist and dug in. The groovy pastoral vibes of Collins’ sparkle-folk were countered by the absolute stink-eye from my wife until I sank in shame and clicked the player into unknown territory….
Out of these 20 albums, I felt that some deserved obscurity, others not. The sonic patchouli is overwhelming at times, and even some more dialed down selections made me wonder if I was in an elevator. I thought there were a few rockers and worthy contenders here. But what do YOU think? Do these albums belong on this list for being unheard? Do these albums deserve the love that RS bestowed upon them? Has Rolling Stone presented you with the revelation of the best album you’d never heard? What say you: treasures, or trash?
I don’t understand Spotify, although I’ve recently considered investigating it. Rolling Stone also is a bit niche on this side of the pond, however unlikely that might seem, I guess most of the records trumpeted by New Musical Express here won’t have stood the test of time either.
I own a copy of Gorilla and play it from time to time, I’d probably turn to most other Bonzos albums first, but it has its moments and is to be cherished as a cornerstone of British surrealist humour.
Plus, they are/were lovely, lovely blokes. I met Neil Innes twice and he was just adorable, thoroughly charming and generous with his time. Rodney Slater also, had a great chat with him after a gig a few years ago. When they played at a festival we go to with our sci fi stuff, he popped in to look around. I was letting kids ride in our Dalek at the time and offered him a go. He declined, but was very charming about it. Roger Ruskin Spear and the late Sam Spoons were also lovely. Legs Larry Smith was also charming when I bumped into him in a car park of all places, though definitely unusual. I was too scared to try to meet Viv Stanshall after the gig we saw him at, but did manage to get a signed vinyl copy of Sir Henry at Rawlinson End.
So, lots of love there.
I used to see Cat Mother and Mother Earth albums everywhere. We used to say you could judge the quality of a second hand record shop by the number of copies of Frampton Comes Alive they had, those weren’t far behind. Don’t think I ever knowingly heard them. Mary Hopkin was always on the telly over here at the end of the sixties, she was a bit like a British Joan Baez, in that everybody thought they ought to like her until she started singing and then you wondered why.
OK. I’ve got a few of these and…they’re not generally essential.
I picked up the Cat Mother in a closeout bin when Third Street Jazz was in its death throes. I think of them as a group that mined a similar rock’n’roll revival vein to early NRBQ, but with less personality and success. It is a bizarre record for Hendrix to have helmed.
I have the Asylum Choir which I picked up a few years ago on CD. As a side note, it is on Spotify under the Leon Russell catalog. I bought Asylum Choir II in the 70’s when it was released a few years after recording to cash in on Russell’s Mad Dogs fame. I rate that second album very highly, right up there with Russell’s first few self-credited releases but the first one is an amusing late 60’s diversion by some great musicians, silly but amusing, but certainly not a revelation.
The Youngbloods Elephant Mountain is good, and a really nice mix of acoustic and electric production akin to the Donovan Psychedelic Period. “Darkness, Darkness is a great record in particular.
I had a tape of that Insect Trust album at some point. If I’m not mistaken Elvin Jones drummed on it! It was one of those weird, misshaped eclectic to-a-fault things that were a late psychedelic era staple. I certainly can’t recommend it but I’ll definitely check it out again now that I know it’s sitting on Spotify. File with “The Brotherhood of Man.”
I have a Bonzo Dog best of LP, but never went for anything else. That was amusing enough, but Didn’t inspire further exploration.
I will say that I think there are a lot of early 80’s post-punk records that virtually everyone missed that might be more exciting to explore than this here list.
Oh, and Wild Man Fischer. That’s essential in some way or another. I’ll let Al tell you about that, though.
I have that Asylum Choir album and agree with Geo’s assessment as well as his assessment of Asylum Choir II. Asylum Choir II is essential. It is every bit as great as Leon Russell’s early Shelter catalog.
I don’t have that Steve Miller album but it’s probably something I should check out since I like Sailor which was also from when Boz Scaggs was part of the band.
The Masked Marauders was a fraud perpetrated by Rolling Stone so it’s a little self-serving putting it on the list; or maybe it’s just continuing the joke. Having said that, I picked it up for $2 a long time ago (at that record store at 20th & Samson that we were discussing recently Geo). It may be a fraud but it is pretty funny.
Mary Hopkin is enjoyable in that way Macca could be but hardly essential.
And then there is Wild Man. Definitely essential but in a way such that your life isn’t diminished a bit if you never have heard it. But if you are the type of person who loves music, especially rock & roll music, and are cursed by having that love in conjunction with no apparent musical talent, and could suddenly find yourself in a studio and allowed to make a double LP with clearly no restrictions, well, An Evening With Wild Man Fischer is the result and if you are that type of person (meaning: if you are me) then it is essential.
I only have a passing knowledge of some of the others; maybe that playlist will be the thing to push me over the edge into Spotify.
Geo mentions the two that I found most interesting. The Cat Mother record seems like a 70’s record to me, the way it sounds very tucked-in, and maybe conservative on purpose. The Asylum Choir record was the other, maybe because it doesn’t have much jam-noodling or any precious chamber folk arrangements (and I do like that stuff, on a select basis). It sounds like a production and less like a live band. I realized I didn’t put the Steve Miller album on the playlist – that’s because I gave his earlier stuff a spin after reading Glyn Johns’ book, and how highly he spoke of those records. But they do nothing for me.
The flute record’s pretty groovy.
A few weeks ago, I went to Brewerytown Beats, so far my only foray into a record store since lockdown began. I picked up a copy of the first Area Code 615 album on a whim for $6. It’s enjoyable enough.
Gotta say, a website like Aquarium Drunkard does a much better job of excavating worthy rarities from the ’60s (and beyond) than what’s on this list.
Currently spinning the Auto Salvage album, and found this article: https://www.npr.org/2012/08/16/156487498/autosalvage-the-psychedelic-band-that-vanished
I’m trying to make sense of it. The production is better than the songs, I think? There’s a lot going on. It reminds me a little of Matthew Sweet.
The only album on this list that I would describe as a ‘hidden gem’ is Jerry Lee Lewis’ Another Place Another Time. There’s lot of cool Jerry Lee stuff after he left Sun.
I will catch up on this. Sorry I’ve been away. It’s been a good, but busy week!