“I was just a little kid in 1969 when Nina Simone‘s take on Suzanne arrived, but even ten years later, I wasn’t near cool enough to get it. Hell, I barely got Leonard Cohen. No, the awe inspiring talents of Ms. Simone would take another decade and a half to penetrate my white, suburban thickness. The mid-90s by now. Grunge had gone horribly wrong. We were slipping into pseudo-sophistication, sipping cocktails, realizing our parents had been right all along. Amy’s parents anyway, who had this album tucked way away in the dusty far reaches of their collection … just waiting for us, some enchanted evening.” (Philip Random)
“I had a copy of the Doors’ Absolutely Live kicking around for years before I finally listened to it, grabbed cheap for future reference, I guess, because at the time I was going through a prolonged phase of just not being into Jim Morrison and his bullshit, poetic and otherwise. Early 1990s finally, I put it on and what blew me away was the band. Hot shit indeed for a trio (guitar, drums, organ – the bass notes coming from the Ray Manzarek’s left hand). And yeah, I had to admit the singer had a certain something too, not remotely afraid to howl his angst and poetry and prophecy at the universe. We’re all doomed apparently.” (Philip Random)
Hate on Chicago (the band) all you want, but you’d be a fool to write off their first couple or few albums, particularly the first one, when the band was still known as Chicago Transit Authority. 1969 was the year, and the smoke from the crash and burn from the so-called hippie revolution was still lingering in the near distance (at least that’s what the experts say). But the evolutionary energy was still percolating, such that a big fat double album from a big fat seven piece band could erupt from it all with equal parts power and precision. Just try to keep still for their take on I’m A Man.
“Which gets us to the middle distance selection of the list. 555 down, 555 still to go. So I figure it has to be a record that arguably (and I love to argue) could also be Number One, on a different day, in different weather, different levels of love and chaos reigning over man and his world. So yeah, there’s great depth in Isaac Hayes‘s take on Jimmy Webb’s By The Time I Get To Phoenix, and distance, and soul, by which I mean not just the hot and buttered kind — soul that’s infinite, eternal. Once soul gets a hold of you, all the normal rules don’t apply anymore. Conventional notions of space and time become meaningless. A three minute pop mega-hit can become a twenty minute journey into the heart of truth of man, god, love, EVERYTHING. As long as you believe.” (Philip Random)
“From 1969, when Jethro Tull was still the hot new band of the moment, riding the hip edge of the cool underground, here with mandolins, bongos, other things made of wood. The song’s simple enough. A young man expressing his desire to not someday grow old and fat, and just good fun. Easier said than done, of course, but I’m comfortably into my forties now and so far so good. Yes, I’ve failed at pretty much every ambition I ever set for myself but at least I can still see my feet when I look down.” (Philip Random)
1969 ended badly for the Rolling Stones at a free concert in Northern California, a place called Altamont — a man murdered directly in front of the stage. But that was only after Brian Jones got booted from the band he’d founded, then drowned in his swimming pool, or was he murdered, too? And meanwhile, Keith Richard just kept slipping deeper and deeper into the fool’s kingdom known as heroin. And yet the Stones also found the time to record Let It Bleed that year, maybe their single greatest slab of vinyl, with Monkey Man a track that managed to not get played to death on commercial radio. Too bad, too ugly, too good.
Call Volunteers (the song) Jefferson Airplane‘s punk rock moment, a short, sharp revved up call for genuine revolution at a time when such actually seemed possible. That is, if your hair was long and your soul experienced, and you were one of maybe four hundred thousand standing out in a muddy field one August morning in 1969 between downpours. Volunteers (the album) isn’t half band either.
Taste, straight outa Cork, are one of those bands that genuinely should’ve conquered the world way back when. They had the songs, the presence, the power, even the likes of John Lennon and Eric Clapton singing their praises. But for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. We got two albums of taught, tough blues based r’n’r and then it was breakup time. Main man Rory Gallagher took off on a prolonged and committed solo career that only really stopped when his liver finally failed. And of the other two, not much more was ever heard.
“Second of two in a row from Gilded Palace of Sin, the Flying Burrito Brothers’ debut masterpiece of countrified rock. Because you can’t really hear one Burrito without the other, both apparently concerning the same girl, the same tormented relationship, which of course only makes the country stylings more relevant. Or as Motron puts it, ‘the country stuff set the drugged out hippie rock stars free to mix whiskey and heroin and broken hearts – a terrible way to live, but it sure made for some kickass and essential music.” (Philip Random)