FEATURE: The Greatest Year in Music History? 1967: Twelve Essential Albums




The Greatest Year in Music History?


IN THIS PHOTO: Jimi Hendrix/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images 

1967: Twelve Essential Albums


THERE is a lot of debate as to which musical year…


 IN THIS PHOTO: The Who during their stop in San Francisco (during the Summer of Love) where they played two concerts at The Fillmore on 16th and 17th June, 1967/PHOTO CREDIT: Jim Marshall Photography LLC

is the absolute finest. I am drawn between 1994 and 1967. The former is one I loved through and can attest to the brilliance and incredible genius that came through. I will write another piece regarding 1994 and how we witnessed a rare and beautiful time for music. 1967 is a year that is no slouch regarding the music that came through! Look at the fantastic songs that emerged in that year. The Beatles brought us Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields Forever and All You Need Is Love. Procol Harem released A Whiter Shade of Pale and we saw The Who’s I Can See for Miles and The Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset.

That is just the tip of a giant iceberg and you can see how these artists inspired future generations. Of course; there was the Summer of Love (in 1967) and a time when people were using peace (and substances a bit stronger) to combat oppression, corruption and hatred. It must have been an exciting and colourful time and it is no surprise such eclectic and fantastic music came about. The effects and reverberation from 1967 and, in some ways, still being felt right now. I love the songs from that year - but it is the albums that hold the greatest weight. It is hard to narrow them down but I have selected twelve 1967-released records that demonstrate what an epic and wonderful year it was. Have a look through the selection and I am sure you will find many that are in your record collection. It is a genius-laden rundown that makes a great case regarding 1967 being…


 IN THIS PHOTO: Jorma Kaukonen, Spencer Dryden and Grace Slick during a photoshoot in Golden Gate Park, May 1967/PHOTO CREDIT: Jim Marshall Photography LLC

THE finest year for music ever.  



Nico Chelsea Girl


Release Date: October 1967

Label: Verve Records


Nico once admitted that she could not relate to the songs Reed wrote for her. “I can’t identify with that,” she said of “I’ll Be Your Mirror,” “to notice only the beautiful and not the ugliness.” Despite its melancholy, Chelsea Girl is still very much caught up in this world of the Screen Test, one focused on ineffable, alluring melancholy. To today’s casual Nico fans, she still exists in this bubble, a blonde monolith in a white pantsuit, a vessel for dreams and desires. But to consider Nico as frozen in her Chelsea Girl years is a disservice to the active efforts she made later in life to move beyond her image. But consider all of Nico, the strange circumstances of the Velvet Underground, the image of Chelsea Girl, and the horrific, inexcusable actions of her later life. It’s a wholeness she craved all along” – Pitchfork

Standout Track: Little Sister

Captain Beefheart Safe as Milk

Release Date: June 1967

Label: Buddah


Beefheart's first proper studio album is a much more accessible, pop-inflected brand of blues-rock than the efforts that followed in the late '60s -- which isn't to say that it's exactly normal and straightforward. Featuring Ry Cooder on guitar, this is blues-rock gone slightly askew, with jagged, fractured rhythms, soulful, twisting vocals from Van Vliet, and more doo wop, soul, straight blues, and folk-rock influences than he would employ on his more avant-garde outings. "Zig Zag Wanderer," "Call on Me," and "Yellow Brick Road" are some of his most enduring and riff-driven songs, although there's plenty of weirdness on tracks like "Electricity" and "Abba Zaba." [Buddha's 1999 reissue of Safe as Milk contained restored artwork and seven bonus tracks.]” – AllMusic

Standout Track: Electricity

The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band


Release Date: 26th May, 1967

Label: Parlophone (U.K.)/Capitol (U.S.)


Some songs, such as Lovely Rita, When I’m 64, Good Morning, Good Morning, Being For the Benefit of Mr Kite and Harrison’s dour, droning Within You Without You, seem undernourished excuses on which to hang florid ideas. But the title track is an improbable scorcher, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds a glittering gem, Fixing a Hole and She’s Leaving Home lovely chamber pieces, and the concluding A Day in the Life one of the strangest and most beautiful recordings ever, an inner-space odyssey juxtaposing Lennon’s ethereal surrealism with McCartney’s prosaic energy and wrapping it all up in an apocalyptic orchestral climax” – The Telegraph  

Standout Track: A Day in the Life

The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground & Nico


Release Date: 12th March, 1967

Label: Verve


Lou Reed's lyrical exploration of drugs and kinky sex (then risky stuff in film and literature, let alone "teen music") always received the most press attention, but the music ReedJohn CaleSterling Morrison, and Maureen Tucker played was as radical as the words they accompanied. The bracing discord of "European Son," the troubling beauty of "All Tomorrow's Parties," and the expressive dynamics of "Heroin" all remain as compelling as the day they were recorded. While the significance of Nico's contributions have been debated over the years, she meshes with the band's outlook in that she hardly sounds like a typical rock vocalist, and if Andy Warhol's presence as producer was primarily a matter of signing the checks, his notoriety allowed The Velvet Underground to record their material without compromise, which would have been impossible under most other circumstances. Few rock albums are as important as The Velvet Underground & Nico, and fewer still have lost so little of their power to surprise and intrigue more 50 years after first hitting the racks” – AllMusic   

Standout Track: Venus in Furs

The Jimi Hendrix Experience Are You Experienced


Release Date: 12th May, 1967

Label: Track


Whilst some of the licks shot-blasted across the disc ape the twangy pop tones of the day, his solo on “Manic Depression” sounds like its being beamed in from another dimension altogether. “Red House” remains a dazzling blues exhibition that rightly made the jaws of London’s musical elite drop. It’s a sobering thought that when this originally came out in May 1967, the only other serious contender for the crown of guitar godhood, Cream’s Disraeli Gears, was still six months from being released.

The psychedelic flummeries added to an already rich recipe (the title track and “Third Stone From The Sun”) occasionally results in a kind of multi-coloured indigestion. Whilst such embroidery indelibly watermarks the album, it rarely detracts from the stand-out, casual brilliance that is so abundant. This is the sound of the future arriving; tacky, awkward, inspirational, exciting, perplexing and sometimes contradictory for sure, but the future nonetheless” – BBC

Standout Track: Purple Haze

Love Forever Changes


Release Date: 1st November, 1967

Label: Elektra


“…Reality resumes on the aptly titled “Bummer in the Summer,” the album’s most straightforward (and weakest) track. It finds Lee doing a Dylan-esque sing-talk that sounds a lot like rapping to me. And speaking of rap, an alternate mix of the album’s closing suite, “You Set the Scene,” which can be found on both this and the 2001 edition of Forever Changes, includes some previously unheard lyrical freestyling (who said Debbie Harry was the first rocker to do hip-hop?). The 40th anniversary edition also includes alternate mixes of the rest of the album, songs from the band’s follow-up single “Your Mind and We Belong Together”/“Laughing Stock” (which didn’t fare any better than the album), and various previously unreleased material that neither adds nor detracts from what has rightfully become one of the most highly regarded and influential rock records of all time” – Slant    

Standout Track: A House Is Not a Motel

Pink Floyd The Piper at the Gates of Dawn


Release Date: 4th August, 1967  

Label: EMI Columbia/Tower


Few would criticize the merits of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn itself (as reflected in the rating above)-- it's an essential album. While so many other products of the Summer of Love were positive and unifying, Piper was fractured and scary. Songs like "Astronomy Domine" and "Interstellar Overdrive" captured the sustained improvisational freakouts of the band's live shows, but did so in more concise form. Other songs, like "Lucifer Sam," "Bike", and "The Gnome", split the difference between quirky pop songs and explorations of the nightmarish found-sound fringe, setting a twisted template for countless acts to come. By 1980's The Wall, Pink Floyd had become sterile and solipsistic. At this auspicious start, Pink Floyd were thrilling. Anything was possible” – Pitchfork     

Standout Track: Interstellar Overdrive

The Doors The Doors


Release Date: 4th January, 1967  

Label: Elektra


"Light My Fire" was the cut that topped the charts and established the group as stars, but most of the rest of the album is just as impressive, including some of their best songs: the propulsive "Break on Through" (their first single), the beguiling mystery of "The Crystal Ship," the mysterious "End of the Night," "Take It as It Comes" (one of several tunes besides "Light My Fire" that also had hit potential), and the stomping rock of "Soul Kitchen" and "Twentieth Century Fox." The 11-minute Oedipal drama "The End" was the group at its most daring and, some would contend, overambitious. It was nonetheless a haunting cap to an album whose nonstop melodicism and dynamic tension would never be equaled by the group again, let alone bettered” – AllMusic      

Standout Track: The End

Aretha Franklin - I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You


Release Date: 10th March, 1967  

Label: Atlantic


“…And do I even need to mention her voice" Well, here's an anecdote. Aretha famously burst into the Atlantic Records studios and told the Muscle Shoals session musicians, as a manner of introducing herself, 'Get your damn shoes on, you're getting someone who can REALLY sing.' The immediate reaction was one of jaded amusement - they'd heard it all before - and yawns. Then she sat at the piano and starting singing "Respect". They weren't jaded for long after that. The song was recorded with the crack rhythm section right there and then, and that take is the one you hear on this album. Tellingly, underneath the article I've quoted this anecdote from (Q's Top 100 Albums Ever, January 2003), there is a comment from one Sian North, via e-mail. "The greatest female singer ever - bar none!" Anyone care - nay, DARE - to disagree with that"

If nothing else I've said has hit you, then just wonder - how many soul albums are anywhere near as critically acclaimed as this is by both the rock critics and the soul community" This is vital listening if you want to understand the development of black vocal music. It's a landmark in every sense
” – Sputnik Music       

Standout Track: Respect

The Who – The Who Sell Out


Release Date: 15th December, 1967   

Label: Track


Still things didn’t run smoothly; that wasn’t The Who way. John Entwistle broke a finger punching a dressing-room wall; Keith Moon suffered a hernia; Roger Daltrey – required for the now-classic sleeve to sit for hours in a bath of baked beans – got pneumonia. And The Who’s recording sessions (unlike those of, say, The Beatles) were haphazard affairs, done here and there, all over the place. The mini-opera “Rael” (itself the blueprint for several parts of Tommy) had to be recorded twice, on two different continents, after the first lot of tapes were thrown into a dumpster by a studio cleaner. And the Track Records ad that finishes the second side was recorded over the phone, Moon and Entwistle crooning it from a nearby public bar. This definitive two-disc edition – crammed with try-outs, outtakes and discards, some of them brilliant (“Glittering Girl”, “Jaguar”) – perfectly and finally captures that creative chaos.

In the end, though, Townshend’s wonderful songs (“I Can See For Miles”, “Our Love Was”, “I Can’t Reach You”, “Relax” and the rest), and the band’s sheer exuberance, overcame all obstacles. The Who went on to make more important records (Live At Leeds, Tommy) and better records (Who’s Next, Quadrophenia). But, as this package joyously proves, they never made anything more entertaining or endearing
” – Uncut        

Standout Track: I Can See for Miles

Buffalo Springfield – Buffalo Springfield Again


Release Date: 18th November, 1967

Label: Atco


The album's lowest point however, follows the lonely and melancholic ballad Furay sings almost alone with his guitar ("Sad Memory"). "Good Time Boy" is sung by their drummer, Dewey Martin who is without a doubt a competent percussionist, but his imitation of soul on this track is both cruel to the lyrics and far from the creativity and high musical standard the rest of the album has. 

Neil's closing song on the album is an experimental song which includes changes from 4/4 measure to 3/4 and an illusion of changing melodies from verse to verse. His voice, Dewey's drums and Don Randi's piano steer the track from beginning to end accompanied by strange audio clips, and audiences cheering to several bizarre music acts including a Martin Sung "Mr. Soul" and an organ grinder. The song is called "Broken Arrow", with its lyrics deep in the Young universe, finding traces of the same story in other songs such as "The last Trip To Tulsa" and "Down By The River".

In short, the album's strengths are its classic rock and country songs, its catchy, blues and country inspired guitar interplay, and its great vocal arrangements both in backing ("Rock And Roll Woman") and harmony ("A Child's Claim to Fame"). Some of the most well-known Buffalo Springfield songs are included in this well-produced, well-made album and so it deserves the status of a classic: 5/5
” – Sputnik Music         

Standout Track: Expecting to Fly                 

Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow


Release Date: 1st February, 1967

Label: RCA Victor


Regardless, they did wonderful things with the music within that framework, and the only pity is that RCA didn't record for official release any of the group's shows from the same era, when this material made up the bulk of their repertory. That way the live versions, with the band's creativity unrestricted, could be compared and contrasted with the record. The songwriting was spread around between Marty BalinSlickPaul Kantner, and Jorma Kaukonen, and Slick and Balin (who never had a prettier song than "Today," which he'd actually written for Tony Bennett) shared the vocals; the whole album was resplendent in a happy balance of all of these creative elements, before excessive experimentation (musical and chemical) began affecting the band's ability to do a straightforward song. The group never made a better album, and few artists from the era ever did” – AllMusic          

Standout Track: White Rabbit