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Ten Great Psychedelic Rock Albums

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I Grew Up on Hippie Music

The music I loved so much growing up is now labeled "Classic Rock." There was something special about the music of that era. I attended some love-ins and music festivals back in those days. There was something in the air (what was that smell?) that made you feel like you were part of something bigger.

It was a shared dream. It was a dream that all people could "Come Together" and we didn't need the rules and uptight social, sexual and political mores of the "establishment." It all seemed so simple; people could just share what they had. There was no need for hostility or hassles, we could all just live in peace together.

Maybe it was a dream born of "mind expansion," but it seemed so reasonable. That was a hard dream to let go of, some people never did. For most of us, the harsh realities of real life intervened, but first there were some magical moments, and still, there is the music.

Some of my Favorite Psychedelic Music:

The Doors

The name "The Doors" is a reference to the title of Aldous Huxley's book, The Doors of Perception.

I think Jim Morrison had the most beautiful face. That is what I remember; that and the way he could hold an audience in the palm of his hand. His personal charisma was both his blessing and his curse. He was wildly attractive to fans, but his behavior was often bizarre and unpredictable.

To me the real backbone of the The Doors' sound was Ray Manzarek's organ. The organ gave the songs of The Doors a disturbing, almost sinister darkness, they often sounded more surreal than psychedelic.

The band's guitarist, Robby Krieger, wrote or co-wrote some of the band's best songs, including "Light My Fire." The Door’s drummer John Densmore, met Manzarek and Krieger at a Transcendental Meditation class.

Doors

This album to me is the epitome of The Doors. That includes everything from that photo on the cover, to the hypnotic power of Jim Morrison's voice. It ranges from wistful and mysterious to primitive and primal. What a perfect fusion of poetry, melody, rock and blues.

Moody Blues

The Moody Blues started out playing American blues, and repackaging it and selling it back to Americans. They've said as much themselves.

They really began to make their mark on the musical world when they started performing only their own songs, and using a Mellotron. That is what gave their music that mysterious and ethereal sound.

When I first heard this music, it really was like nothing I'd ever heard before. It is foremost in my mind when I think of psychedelic music.

Threshold of a Dream

This is my favorite Moody Blues Album. It is spacey, mellow and a bit melancholy. It's the album that best takes me back to that time.

Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead was born out of the folk movement. In fact, they started out as a jug band, but they were swept up into the wave of electric rock music.

The Grateful Dead's improvisational, street party blend of pop, blues, folk, rock, country and bluegrass morphed into a style all their own.

The Grateful Dead had some of the most dedicated fans in the world. Dubbed the Deadheads, many of them would follow the band from city to city, sometimes for years. Often people who didn't have the price of a ticket would just attend the party they were sure to find in the parking lot wherever "The Dead" were playing.

American Beauty

The Dead made so many albums, it's really hard to choose a best one. If you don't already love the Grateful Dead, this album is a great introduction. If you do, then you probably already have this album.

The Who

The first song I remember from English rock band, The Who, is "My Generation." Pete Townshend, guitarist and songwriter, was the genius behind the band, while Roger Daltrey was the main front man.

Keith Moon was the drummer for The Who early on. His skill with the drums was highly praised, and his antics, onstage and off, earned him the nickname Moon the Loon. Ironically, it was a overdose of pills he was taking to combat alcoholism that took his life.

The Who became well known for destroying their musical instruments onstage. Their fame grew as they played at the huge music festivals, Woodstock and Isle of Wight.

Later they made the concept albums Tommy and Quadraphinia. Tommy was made into a movie, with lead-singer Roger Daltrey in the title role. The song "Pinball Wizard" was on that album. It was a memorable song, and a commercial success for the band.

Live at Leeds

This is the essential Who album. It's the electric energy of The Who at their peak, and it encompasses most of their best material.

Cream

Cream was a British rock "super-group," active from 1966 to 1968. The band included Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. Their sound ranged from traditional, blues based rock, like "Crossroads" to very heavy, "acid rock" like "White Room."

Jack Bruce was the primary vocalist for the band; a young Eric Clapton was somewhat reluctant to sing anything more than backup in those days. Jack Bruce or Ginger Baker wrote many of the band’s original songs. Cream was considered very progressive and was one of the first to use a wah wah pedal.

Wheels of Fire

I think this album is the best example of Cream at their finest. Jack Bruce's vocals on "White Room" are amazing, and Clapton's second guitar solo on this version of "Crossroads" is legendary.

Santana

This is a true rock rags to riches story. When Carlos Santana's "Carlos Santana Blues Band" was asked to play at the Woodstock music festival, Carlos was still supporting himself by washing dishes at a restaurant in San Francisco.

With the notoriety the band gained by playing in front of the huge crowd, they were able to record their first album Santana. They had an immediate hit with "Evil Ways."

Abraxas

I love the Latin rhythms. They really set Santana apart from other bands of that era. I love all of Santana's albums, but Abraxas holds a special place in my heart.

Jefferson Airplane

The Jefferson Airplane was one of the most famous bands to come out of the San Francisco psychedelic rock scene.

Formed in 1965, they achieved huge commercial success. They played at all of the big music festivals of the time and got plenty of airtime on mainstream radio.

The band was constantly evolving with their sound and their ever-changing roster of members. The addition of Grace Slick in late 1966 was a great boost to the band.

Worst of Jefferson Airplane

The tracks on this album are arranged chronologically, so you can hear the evolution of the band up to that point (1971).

Buffalo Springfield

Even though the Buffalo Springfield was only together for 18 months, they produced some memorable and iconic songs. It's hard to miss when you've got this kind of talent; the band was made up of Steven Stills, Neil Young, Richie Furay, and Jim Messina. Stills and Young did most of the songwriting for the group.

Retrospective: The Best of Buffalo Springfield

Buffalo Springfield was a groundbreaking band with its country-influenced approach to rock. This is that rare greatest hits album that really delivers. I think that some of Neil Young's best work is on this album.

The Youngbloods

The sweet and shimmery sounds of the song "Get Together" was a perfect expression of that emotion people were feeling in 1969. It became a kind of anthem for the hippies.

That song was The Youngblood's greatest commercial success, but they had some other wonderful songs.

Jessie Colin Young has the most amazing voice; the musical influences of this band range from blues and jazz to folk and bluegrass.

Elephant Mountain

I climbed that mountain on the album cover once. It is in Marin County, CA, where I grew up. I love this whole album, I think my favorite song on it is "Darkness Darkness," but Get Together is their biggest hit.

Canned Heat

Canned Heat is a blues-rock band started by Alan Wilson and Bob Hite. By the end of the 60s, after playing at Woodstock, the band had gained quite a bit of notoriety. They had two international hits, "Going up to the Country" and "On the Road Again.

Uncanned: Best of Canned Heat

This is an excellent compilation. All of their hits are on it. If you love blues-rock, this album may be for you!

For those who experienced psychedelic rock back in its day, this music will bring back a flood of memories. It was a time when a future of peace and brotherhood seemed possible. For those who didn't, you will never understand, but the music may give you a small taste of that era. It is what is left behind for future generations.

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7 comments

Jodah profile image

Jodah 7 days ago from Queensland Australia

I loved this. Certainly brought back some memories, though I only just became a teenager in 1970 so really just missed out on enjoying the hippy era to the full. I agree with you about Jim Morrison's looks.....what a great looking guy. It is a pity he was also so troubled. Great videos too.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 6 days ago from Olympia, WA

and I owned them all! :)


Mills P 6 days ago from East Chicago, Indiana

A lot of great selections on this list. though I'd put a Jimi Hendrix album on there, like Are You Experienced or Electric Ladyland. I also enjoy all of the Woodstock compilations that have been released over the years. I heard some of this music (and a lot of my parents complaining) at the time, but really embraced it once I got older.


Sherry Hewins profile image

Sherry Hewins 6 days ago from Sierra Foothills, CA Author

Mills P - Hendrix sounds as fresh today as he did back then. There were so many great ones, I'm sure I could easily come up with another ten.


Kenneth Avery 5 days ago

Hey, Sherry,

Fantastic hub. I mean from the first word to the last. All fantastic and right up my venue for this WAS my era in life and music.

You are spot-on with your choices. I mean it.

Of all of your albums/songs, here are my shared favorites:

"Crossroads"--Live from Albert Hall, Cream Farewell Performance

"Sunshine of Your Love"--Cream, Disraeli Gears

"Bluebird"--Buffalo Springfield

"My Generation"--The Who/Woodstock/studio

"One Kind Favor"--Canned Heat

"Time Was"--Canned Heat

"Jane"--Jefferson Starship (Grace Slick featured)

"Crown of Creation"--Jefferson Airplane/album title

And My All Time Favorite:

"Voodoo Chile"--13:05 length/studio live version by Jimi Hendrix Experience; Steve Winwood, Buddy Miles, Jack Cassidy . . .I have worn out my vinyl on this one.

I believe that you are one of my followers and I appreciate your superb taste in music.

Write me when you feel like it.

Your Friend, Kenneth


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 5 days ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Sherry,

So could I.


Sherry Hewins profile image

Sherry Hewins 5 days ago from Sierra Foothills, CA Author

Thanks Kenneth- I've gotta love your enthusiasm!

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