Catherine's love of music covers all genres. She grew up in So. California with surf bands, the British Invasion, and the 60s Sunset Strip.
A New Generation Awakens the Past
Our daughter has turned out just like her mom and dad: a music lover with an eclectic taste for most everything from Frank Sinatra to Mozart to classic rock. Number one on her Christmas list the year she turned eighteen was a Jensen turntable from Urban Outfitters. Of course, we wanted to make her happy, but we also longed for that stroll down memory lane, hoping for the reincarnation of our hundreds of favorite LPs.
On one of our visits to Amoeba Music in Hollywood, the world's largest independent music store, she and I flipped through a vast treasure trove of vintage vinyl with a discipline that would have awed the saints.
So many memories of my college years came flooding back as I saw the Flock from 1969 which featured Jerry Goodman on electric violin, the Youngbloods' Elephant Mountain with Jesse Colin Young, Fred Neil, Blind Faith, and Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks, among others. It inspired me to compile a list of my top ten LPs.
It was really tough to narrow the choices, as favorite music often comes with an emotional attachment. I had to think what I would pick if I could only keep ten of my favorite albums. This is not a critic's list, and there is no order of preference.
1. Arthur Lee & Love
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and the local music scene of the late 60s featured bands like the Doors, the Byrds, the Seeds, the Turtles, the Grassroots, Buffalo Springfield, Music Machine, Strawberry Alarm Clock, and Love. I wasn't allowed in clubs on the Sunset Strip, but I did go regularly to one not far away called the Hullabaloo, formerly the Moulin Rouge and the Earl Carroll Theater. It was here that I saw all on the famous revolving stage that brought one act after another!
Arthur Lee and his band Love with guitarist Johnny Echols were at the top of the L.A. music hierarchy. In fact, it was Lee who helped get the Doors their contract w/ Elektra Records. Jim Morrison once said that he hoped the Doors could be as big as Arthur Lee and Love.
Love's style was R&B mixed with garage band. Influenced further by the local folk-rock scene and psychedelia, the playlist ran the gamut from hard rock and ballads to more melodic numbers with flute and other woodwinds.
Their third album, Forever Changes, released in 1967 just before the Moody Blues Days of Future Passed, was way ahead of its time with orchestral additions and innovative complexity. The visual lyrics and the use of strings and horns building in mind-blowing intensity make it a classic example of psychedelic art rock, yet it has never become outdated.
Some critics will cry foul about rips offs from contemporaries like the Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, and King Crimson among others, but this album came first. I see it as the musical equivalent to a beautifully multi-layered abstract painting with its array of elements and textures.
Arthur Lee performed the entire work live in London in 2003, and it was released posthumously in 2007. Although none of the other original band members took part, it is a fantastic show where the material is presented in the same order as the LP. The interviews included on the DVD are an added bonus. It is as fresh today as it was at the time of its original release, a testament to Lee's musical genius.
2. The Byrds
The folk-rock scene was really big in L.A. in the mid-to-late 60s when musicians played local clubs like The Troubadour. Many of them lived in Laurel Canyon where they often jammed and wrote songs together. The Byrds defined the style, and their perfect harmonies were emulated by the Mamas & Papas and Crosby, Stills, & Nash after David Crosby left the band to join Graham Nash and Stephen Stills. The recently released documentary film Echo in the Canyon covers the significance of this time period and its influence on contemporary artists.
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It was here that David Crosby got together with Roger Mc Guinn, Chris Hillman and Gene Clark. It was the acquisition of the 12- string Rickenbacker, influenced by the Beatles' Hard Day's Night, that really defined the Byrd's classic sound.
The release of Mr. Tambourine Man in 1965 featured Bob Dylan songs, folk standards, and original compositions from the prolific band member, Gene Clark. When Dylan first heard their rendition of his "Mr. Tambourine Man", he said, "Wow, man! You can dance to that!"
Ironically, the title track featured only one member of the band, Roger Mc Guinn. He was backed by the session musicians known as the Wrecking Crew. Producer Terry Melcher and the executives at Columbia Records had little faith in the band's new line-up, especially Mike Clark on drums, preferring a professional drummer like Hal Blaine.
In Los Angeles, the Byrds were the featured act at Ciro's on the Sunset Strip, but they also played other local venues including the Hullabaloo Club. I will always consider their sound to be the one that defines the latter half of the 60s decade in Southern California. This very listenable folk-rock LP is so good that it's always over too soon!
3. Bob Dylan
For any Dylan fan, narrowing the choice to one album is very hard. I lean toward his earlier works when his songs were full of protest for social injustice while also showing his zany side. The Free-Wheelin' Bob Dylan is an example. Then again, the electric back-up that outraged his folk purist fans at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 added more depth to the music. Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde are both fantastic!
Vocally, Dylan is at his best on Nashville Skyline and the lesser known New Morning both of which came out in near back to back releases in 1969 and1970 after his complete recovery from his 1966 motorcycle accident. I think New Morning is one of Dylan's best, and I am surprised by the number of people who have never listened to it.
All things considered, his 1975 release, Blood on the Tracks, produced by Phil Ramone, makes the rank of my Top 10. It is a collection of introspective songs from a time when his marriage was falling apart. We see Dylan's raw, emotional side presented as an engaging narrative. It combines both rock with his early acoustic style. "Tangled Up In Blue", "Shelter from the Storm", and "Buckets of Rain", a personal favorite, are included here. There isn't a cut on it that I don't like.
4. Van Morrison
I could listen to Van Morrison's records for hours, and it would still be fresh. He is so versatile and engaging in whatever genre he records. He can belt out solid rockers like "Gloria" and "Here Comes the Night" from his days with Them then turn to his introspective and vulnerable side as he did with Astral Weeks, his most critically acclaimed recording. Whether he's delivering R&B, Celtic folk with the Chieftains, jazz- swing fusion with Georgie Fame, Irish ballads, or beautiful gospel as expressed in his soulful version of "Be Thou My Vision", there is an undeniable passion.
Tupelo Honey, Morrison's 1971 release, makes my list because it is a beautiful fusion of country and R&B with jazzy undertones. It comes from a period of domestic bliss and contentment with his wife and muse, Janet Planet. Each cut, except the opening one, reflects it.
This is his fifth studio album, coming right after Moondance. There are some similarities as the title track shares a similar melody and the same 8 bar progression as the cut Crazy Love from its predecessor, but this LP is so nicely layered with other instruments giving it great depth and production value. It starts out with the great guitar intro of Wild Night by Ronnie Montrose when he was a session musician before forming his own band. This energy driven intro is filled out by brassy horns and percussion, then punctuated w/ alto sax. It kick starts the LP which levels off but never loses its edge.
Tupelo Honey, the title track, is in my estimation the most beautiful song of his. The use of keyboards and flute provide a lilting background to his soulful vocals. In the instrumental break, the alto sax comes in with electric piano and provides such a pretty accompaniment to the guitar solo. The piano rises and falls with Morrison's impassioned vocal, and the flute returns with a soft refrain
My third favorite cut is You're My Woman. this song has a bluesy soulfulness that is pushed further by Morrison's passionate vocal delivery which starts and stops, rises and falls with the tempo set by jazz drummer Connie Kay. It is all complimented by great horns and piano and imbued with emotion.
5. Eric Clapton
Derek and the Dominoes gave this one a run for the money, but I place Clapton's 1989 release Journeyman in my Top 10 because it flows so beautifully from one great song to the next. Clapton collaborates with other long-time friends and musician peers on this R&B/rock solo album, the second release since overcoming his addiction to heroin and alcohol. His guitar work, alongside Robert Cray, is brilliant but understated. The vocals are soulful and feature the beautiful harmony of Chaka Khan and other female back-ups along with Phil Collins, Daryl Hall, and a gospel choir. Long time friend George Harrison plays slide guitar on his original composition "Run So Far". I actually prefer this version! The use of horns and piano, and the percussion artistry throughout gives it an irresistible groove. The entire album is laid back and satisfying. I never make a road trip without it!
Unlike the other albums on my list, I have no nostalgic attachment to The Joshua Tree. A roommate of mine, considerably younger, had this in her collection, and I was immediately taken by Bono's mesmerizing vocal and the band's powerful delivery. This 1987 release, U2's fifth recording, is said to reflect more of the Irish folk roots influence that Bono was encouraged to explore by Dylan, Van Morrison, and Keith Richards. To this day Bono ranks up there with Jim Morrison of the Doors, and Roger Daltry of the Who as my top 3 rock vocalists. This album, which features "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," "Where the Streets Have No Name," and the seductive "With or Without You," is simply brilliant!
7. The Beatles
Abbey Road, the Beatles' final studio album, although released in 1969 before Let It Be, makes the cut because it is so well produced and has an exceptionally creative flow, especially the medley on the B side which goes into a playful jam where they trade off guitar leads. I consider it an understated piece of art even though it is comprised of many unpublished bits much like the Who's Odds &Sods, It doesn't shout like the critically acclaimed Sergeant Pepper, but it stands out just the same. This is a feel good compilation that begs a singalong which is quite ironic when one considers that the band was barely holding it together. George Martin really had his work cut out for him!
Rubber Soul, their 1965 release, was a close runner-up and contains Lennon's "In My Life" which I consider to be the best of all Beatle compositions and one of my top 10 songs overall.
8. The Rolling Stones
Let It Bleed, the Rolling Stones 1969 release, signaled the end of one phase and the beginning of another for the band. I always preferred the early Stones whose sound was heavily influenced by the R&B greats.
Brian Jones, an incredibly versatile musician, infused many creative elements into their sound such as the auto harp on "You've Got the Silver", a cut from this album, dulcimer on "Lady Jane" from Aftermath, and sitar on "Paint It Black" from the same. Both his drug addiction and untimely death during the recording of this material limited his involvement to only two cuts.
Mick Taylor, recruited from John Mayall's Bluesbreakers as Brian's replacement, took over on the remaining tracks. After Brian's death, I feel that Keith really emerged into the limelight and perfected his signature style which was especially evident here and on into Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street. From then on, the Stones continued to grow in popularity with mainstream hits, but I always felt the sound, post Brian Jones, became homogeneous and lost its soul.
This album echoes the tragedy of Altamont and represents the numbing reality that peace and love comes with naivete. At this time too, Mick was using cocaine, and his stage presence took on the personification of the darker lyrics of "Midnight Rambler." Still, it is a superb and transitional album in which the band has found a real cohesiveness that was lacking in its days with Brian Jones.
9. The Who
This 1971 album from the Who was the easiest selection to make. Who's Next, with its classic "Baba O'Reilly" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" is critically acclaimed as one of the best rock albums of all time. The Who delivers its signature thunderous sound a la drummer Keith Moon with the superb guitar work of Pete Townshend and bass undertones of John Entwistle, but this album also gives us Daltry's beautiful vocal on "Behind Blue Eyes" and the exquisite harmony on "The Song is Over." The whole work is brilliantly produced by Glyn Johns.
After the success of the rock opera Tommy, plans were in the works for another concept album called Lifehouse which was heavily influenced by Townshend's connection to the teachings of Meher Baba. The concept being that music is the fundamental basis for all life, and all people together make one pure note. The idea was scrapped, and most of the songs ended up on this album. Some remaining compositions ended up on Odds & Sods. The cut "The Song Is Over" expresses this in its lyrics, "the song is over, excepting one note, pure and easy, playing so free like a breath rippling by. . . " The remainder becomes "Pure and Easy," a cut from Odds & Sods.
In 1973, The Who then went on to record another acclaimed concept album, Quadrophenia. It centered around the youth culture of of the English Mods and the split personality of its protagonist, Jimmy. Each band member had a distinct "personality," and the album cover cleverly reflects this in each of the four mirrors on the Vespa motor scooter, hence the title. A film of the same title was released shortly thereafter. It is an outstanding concept album in every way and has incredible passion and power! It's no wonder that these musicians are at the top of their respective categories.
Quadrophenia could have made my list but for the studio overproduction and sound effects. Although it has some of my favorite work including "Love Reign O'er Me," which features Daltry's most powerful vocals, I prefer the purity of Who's Next.
10. Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin's second album from 1969 is nothing short of awesome, especially when listened to through headphones where every nuance is heard. It's heavy metal on a blues foundation with powerful drums, incredible guitar riffs and Robert Plant's raw vocals. It was produced by Jimmy Page. The band took liberties with a couple of standards by Howlin Wolf and Willie Dixon, and it is primal and full of sexual innuendo in both lyrics and performance. Zeppelin's third album was more experimental and acoustic which disappointed many fans who expected the hard rock sound of its predecessor, but it actually set the groundwork for what I consider to be their finest LP.
Their fourth release from 1971, Led Zeppelin IV or ZoSo is a creative masterpiece. After a lukewarm reception of their heavily acoustic third LP, this album was purposefully untitled with no hint of content. This was a gutsy move. The LP in its entirety blends hard driving rock with melodic acoustic guitar and is infused with Celtic influences as in "The Battle of Evermore." The track "Going to California" is a beautiful melody with mandolin and guitar and haunting vocals with an echo effect. It is said to be written about Joni Mitchell, " They say she plays guitar and cries and sings. . ."
Jimmy Page, in my mind, is an exceptionally gifted musician and one of the greatest guitarists in history. He is certainly one of the most influential. As the producer of this album, he took elements from the earlier LPs and artistically played around with arrangements. In "When the Levee Breaks," he slowed the music tempo while Plant actually followed real time. This accentuates the driving rhythm. "Black Dog," which is randomly named after a stray black lab near the recording studio, has an interesting start and stop cadence that was influenced by Fleetwood Mac's early hit, "Oh, Well."
"Stairway to Heaven" has a mesmerizing acoustic intro with mystical undertones before exploding into a powerful ending. The lyrics were written by Robert Plant, and the tune was slowly reworked by Page in an 8 track studio. A plagiarism suit was brought against Jimmy Page by the band Spirit saying the opening riff was a rip-off of their song Taurus, but the court ruled against the suit. It is thought to be the most often played song in the history of rock radio.
Best Rock Albums of All Time
Now that I've chosen my Top 10, I'm already thinking of my Top 20! The simple truth is that there is just too much really great music out there from which to choose.
I think of passing by my daughter's room and hearing that Jensen with its built in radio and turntable. I then remember the tinny transistor radios, portable record players, and monoaural recordings before really good stereo sound systems became the norm. The output from hers would have made an audiophile cringe, but her enjoyment was complete.
In her mind, nothing could be better than a live concert. For me it was an SAE amp, a Denon turntable, Infinity speakers, and Koss headphones that delivered a mind-blowing experience. In the end, it is all about the music, its content, and the memories. Rock on!
© 2013 Catherine Tally
Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on June 19, 2020:
I agree. The Beatles have had an enormous influence on so many. George Martin was an ingenious producer too who encouraged their creativity. I love their harmony and can't help but sing when I hear a song !
Theblogchick from United States on June 19, 2020:
I personally like the beatles. They change the sound of rock n roll. True legends indeed.
Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on May 17, 2016:
Thank you, Quicksand! Glad you like my selections:) Isn't music great in the ways that it brings people together? In this hub I mention finding an LP from the 70s on my trip to Amoeba Records with my daughter. It was called Elephant Mountain by the Youngbloods. Ironically, one of my favorite cuts from that was entitled "Quicksand." Hope you are having a good week! All the best, Cat:)
quicksand on May 16, 2016:
I am happy to see the Rolling Stones here! Led Zep and the Beatles too. You have great taste indeed.
I am pleased to meet you, won't you guess my name? - :)
Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on March 26, 2015:
Hi Frank. Definitely powerful and influential bands! It was a tough call on choosing just 10. Chicago would make my top 20. I played those 1st two LPs to death! Thanks for stopping by-I appreciate the thoughtful comments:)
Frank Atanacio from Shelton on March 26, 2015:
Cat just returning the favor.. My list would have included Queen, Chicago.. but you got the other 8 right LOL again great share two years forward
Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on November 30, 2014:
Thanks, Bill! I'm always curious what is on someone else's list. I suppose favorites center around the experiences from our teen years and are often regional. Do you include the Fabulous Wailers in your list since they hail from Tacoma? I always love the passion that comes with music discussions, esp. R&R:)
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 30, 2014:
I would have a hard time arguing with any of your choices. There are so many that choosing ten is a tough one. It makes for great water-cooler debates. Anyway, great list!
Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on September 20, 2014:
Great! And you are very welcome. I meant it. You have a fantastic gift of writing and I love seeing you use it.
Kenneth, Your Friend for Life
Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on September 20, 2014:
Thank you so much, Kenneth! I promise that I will do just that:) I don't get the chance to write as often as I'd like but am working on another rock related subject that I think you'll enjoy. I appreciate the praise and encouragement.
Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on September 20, 2014:
Hello, cat on a soapbox,
You are very welcome for it is all the TRUTH. Getting to read a hub like this, makes MY day. I love to read about classic albums and music. And you certainly did the greatest work on a hub of this nature that I have ever read on HP.
Keep up the great work.
Your Friend for Life,
Kenneth and I urge you to . . .Rock on and Write no matter what.
Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on September 18, 2014:
That's the nicest complement EVER!! You made my day. Thank you!
Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on September 17, 2014:
I literally ADORE this hub and your writing. Finally, someone who knows about the bands that I grew to love. Wow. The Stones, Byrds and Buffalo Springfield. I love "Bluebird."
Now to what I feel about your hub.
I love this hub. And here are the reasons why:
1. This is an excellent piece of writing. Honestly, it is amazing.
2, I loved every word.
3. Graphics, superb.
4. This hub was helpful, informative and very interesting.
5. Voted Up and all of the choices.
6. I loved your topic of this hub.
You are certainly a gifted writer. Keep the great hubs coming.
Kenneth Avery, Hamilton, Alabama
Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on November 21, 2013:
For some interesting '69 material and comparisons take a look at the 'Stones in the Park' and 'Gimmie Shelter' dvd's. Then look in on the 'Sweet Summer Sun' dvd. On the first two you have 'baby-face' Mick Taylor subbing for the dead Brian Jones (who had planned to leave the band anyway, and had a new line-up before he fell drunk into his pool); then on 'Summer Sun' Mick Taylor showed again and played on 'Midnight Rambler', doing a solo and 'duetting' with Keef.
Before he accidentally died (ambulanceman left him on his back and he choked on his vomit) Jimi Hendrix complained about trying to change direction - to a freer jazz style - but his audience wouldn't have it. They kept demanding his stage tricks, picking the strings with his teeth and burning his guitar on stage. That was a 'leftover' from when he shared the bill with The Who. They couldn't decide who went on first, so they tossed a coin, Jimi went on first with his drummer and bass player, did his 'tricks' and then when he came off-stage past Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey he said to them, 'Follow that!'
The Who were originally 'The High Numbers' and were in their agent's office (down off the Charing Cross Road, in 'Tin Pan Alley') when he spoke to a record exec about doing a demo. They could hear him explode with mirth when the agent told him the band's name, 'The Who?' The name stuck.
Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on November 21, 2013:
Hello Alan. I agree w/ you about the early Stones. The Rolling Stones- Now featured so much classic R&B w/ takes on Willie Dixon and Solomon Burke. Their version of "Little Red Rooster" is the best! I had the privilege of seeing them in 1965 at a small municipal auditorium in Long Beach, CA. where they performed all of that material. it was amazing, and I remember it so well even though I was only 14 at the time. Instead of prancing all over as he does now, Mick clapped his hands by his head and danced in more of a circle. He also played more harmonica. I loved the rawness of it all. With a few exceptions like Flowers, At Her Satanic Majesty's Request, and live recordings, all of their LPs through Exile on Main Street were consistently great. Keith and Mick Taylor really blew me away on Exile. After that, it's Some Girls and Tattoo You that I think excel. Glad my teen daughter has snagged my old LPs for her listening pleasure- great music lives on!
Thanks for reading and commenting- appreciate it.
Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on November 14, 2013:
There's a thumbs up for you here, not necessarily on all your choices, but on the compilation. My taste has changed since I started chasing down the aisles of music shops. My first buy was the Stones' No.1 album with 'Little Red Rooster', 'Carol' and 'Walking the Dog' (or dawg). Further down the line was 'Aftermath' with the long one 'Going Home' (great range of vocal effects)...
I let a lot of cash roll down the road when I took the original 'Sticky Fingers' (with its Andy Warhol ''Y'-front liner), 'Satanic Majesty's' (with its 3D picture) and 'High Tide' (with the corners cut off) to sell at a dingy shop in Soho and started buying cassettes. I'm on cd's now. The originals would have been worth a king's ransom in mint condition! Ah well, we live... do we learn?
I had a fairly eclectic collection of rock, blues etc that numbered over 150 albums including Clapton, Floyd, Dylan, Stones and Beatles' later offerings ('she came in through the bathroom window...'). When I worked at Lord's Cricket Ground, round the corner from Abbey Road I used to see the aficionados taking pictures of each other on THAT zebra crossing.
These days I'm a bit more choosy, but I've got about two dozen Stones' cd albums from No.1 to 'Bigger Bang'. I took delivery of the dvd 'Sweet Summer Sun' the other day. The disc marked 'O' was the first I played was great. After two numbers Mick J called out 'Who was here in '69?' About a third of the audience answered in chorus, most of them being less than 30 years old. I was 22 at the time (tickets to see them at Hyde Park in '13 cost more than a king's ransom, considering I'm on a pension now. Got my kicks watching the show. I've still got two more discs to look through, though. One of them's Glasto (Glastonbury), when Mick Taylor jammed with them. At Hyde Park he played on 'Midnight Rambler'. Magic! Paul Macca eat yer heart out!
epigramman on April 10, 2013:
Good evening my dear Catherine - I just shared your lovely hub of musical passion on Facebook again to the Music and Writing group in order to preach to the converted or inverted or subverted, lol.
Listening currently to Blue Cheer who were heavy metal before they coined the phrase but I also had my dose of the Mannish Boy - Muddy Waters - I am sending you warm wishes from rain soaked Ontario Canada (all week it's been here) from Colin and his dry cats at lake erie time 12:51am