For 1965 and 1966, it was relatively easy to make my Top 5 lists, as there really weren’t that many albums (as opposed to individual songs) that I felt worthy of consideration. 1967 is where things get rough. With the Summer of Love and the torrent of incredible, groundbreaking music that was gushing forth from every quarter, creating a list of just five albums is incredibly subjective – you end up having to leave out as many viable contenders as you include. So bearing in mind that there an awful lot of “honorable mentions,” let’s see what 1967 has to offer…
5. ALICE’S RESTAURANT (Arlo Guthrie)
What? No Disraeli Gears? No Surrealistic Pillow? No The Doors? It was a tough decision, but no; instead, Arlo Guthrie. One of the earliest albums I ever listened to, it had a definitive impact on my musical consciousness, but I honestly think it’s just a great record. The oft-forgotten Side 2 contains some of the best folk-rock of its era as far as I’m concerned; Side 1 is, almost fifty years later, still side-splittingly hilarious, a perfect encapsulation and evocation of the Vietnam era.
4. I NEVER LOVED A MAN THE WAY I LOVE YOU (Aretha Franklin)
In a year packed with psychedelia and wild experimentation, I’ll take Aretha. Though she had recorded several records for Columbia prior to this, this, her Atlantic debut, was the breakthrough that introduced that unbelievable voice to the world. Chances are you’ve already heard half the record on the radio (e.g., “Respect,” the title cut). But know this: the less well-known stuff is every bit as great. Queen of Soul indeed.
3. MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR (The Beatles)
The movie was rather daft, but the album was an absolute knockout. The only thing that keeps MMT from topping this list is that it sounds like a collection of singles rather than a coherent unit like Sgt. Pepper’s. But those singles are among the best ever recorded: “All You Need Is Love,” “Hello Goodbye,” “I Am the Walrus,” and of course the immortal, incomparable “Strawberry Fields Forever”/”Penny Lane” double A-side. Tack on “Fool on the Hill” and the title track, and you’re good to go. Roll up!
2. DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED (The Moody Blues)
All these decades later, I’m still not sure any record has so successfully fused rock and classical as this one. That has as much to do with Peter Knight’s expert orchestrations as anything. But without strong songs as their basis, his arrangements would be so much obscene filigree. Instead, they brilliantly flesh out and complement the most consistently stellar set of tunes the Moodies ever wrote, resulting in one of the most complete listening experiences in rock music.
1. SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (The Beatles)
Oh, real creative, Tom, putting Sgt. Pepper at the top of your list. But come on: I’m a Beatles fan. Even if it weren’t obligatory, I’d still rank it at #1, because I love it. Now let’s be real for a second: this isn’t a concept album. Not really. But I’ve always grafted a kind of “head canon” concept onto it: a crazy, genre-hopping music festival, introduced and emceed by the eponymous Lonely Hearts Club Band but featuring everything from a raga ensemble to a chamber orchestra to a traveling carnival band. Except that it’s all the Beatles, shedding their teenie-bopper image once and for all and establishing themselves as artists, and rock music as art, of the highest order (in case there were any lingering doubt).
- Beatles Sgt. Pepper Album Sells for $175,000 (liveforvinyl.wordpress.com)
- Not everyone loved The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” when it was released (sonicmoremusic.wordpress.com)
- Alice’s Restaurant: An Illustrated Version of Arlo Guthrie’s Thanksgiving Countercultural Classic (www.openculture.com)
- Aretha Franklin’s 1967 Atlantic album ‘I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)’ reissued by 4 Men With Beards (www.soundcolourvibration.com)
- Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr set to perform at Grammy awards (concertticketblog.wordrpess.com)
- The 40 Essential Albums of 1967 (www.robertchristgau.com)