Posts Tagged ‘The Jimi Hendrix Experience’

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Woburnwas one of the first rock festivals including the inexpressibly wonderful Jimi Hendrix.. At the time the British blues bands such as John Mayall and Fleetwood Mac were riding high. Organised by the UK music magazine the Woburn bash advertised in the Melody Maker with Mayall, Fleetwood Mac , Hendrix , over two days.The Woburn Music Festival was one of Britain’s first large scale, open-air rock music events. Staged by brothers Richard “Rik” and John Gunnell, who were well respected individuals in the burgeoning London music scene where they were heavily involved in many aspects including band managed, show promoters and club owners. Rik in particular, who owned three fashionable 1960’s London nightspots—the Ram Jam Club, Flamingo, and Bag O’ Nails presented authentic, first generation American icons like John Lee Hooker and Otis Redding and some of the brightest examples of a swelling wave of emerging British talent such as The Rolling Stones, Jack Bruce and Georgie Fame.

People standing in their gardens two miles away from Woburn Abbey could hear strains of pop music floating on the air… As dusk fell along with the temperature, the Festival attendance reached a peak of over 14,000. Emperor Rosko compered the evening session and swung things along with records and tapes in between sets from Little Women, New Formula, Geno Washington, Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Family, and Jimi Hendrix Experience blasting his way into the midnight hour. Already fires were being built and lit all over the field. With [the] end of Jimi’s set everybody headed for homes, temporary or permanent. On the Sunday morning many of the fans had spread out into the sur*rounding district in search of food and drink. At the Swan Hold. Woburn Sands, landlord Chris Collier dished out pints like there was no tomorrow and the regular customers stood looking amused and bemused by the inrush of long-haired customers….

The line-up for the Saturday afternoon session was as follows. Alexis Korner, Shirley and Dolly Collins, Al Stewart, Roy Harper and Pentangle. It was a very pleasant sunny day, the area was not particularly full. Roy Harper – who in those days was relatively smooth looking , minus most of his hair and facial adornments, He ambled through most of the tunes from his album. Folkjokeopus – Sgt Sunshine, She’s the One ,Exercising Some Control , all great songs. Unfortunately he then decided to finish the set with the very lengthy McGoohans Blues, which although a good song, is 18 minutes long and was just not up-tempo enough for a festival setting. 

Pentangle were the last band of the afternoon session the crowd were knocked out by their on-stage act. They really were not the ideal sort of band for a large festival. For a start, folk bands were often not really amplified loudly enough in those days. All it needed was a reasonable breeze and the wind blew the sound away  and Pentangle’s rather soft sound suffered badly at an outdoor venue. The individual members, each in their own ways masters of their craft Bert Jansch and John Renbourn were just too quiet to capture the attention in this least intimate of settings.I’d love to hear their set again just to pick up on Danny Thompson bass. I wasn’t aware of how good this guy can be until I heard him on John Martyn’s Solid Air a few years later, pure  genius .

New Formula were a bleeding awful sweet soul group and NOBODY liked them. You have to feel sorry for this band , they were given an awful reception . Slow hand clap, whistles, shouts of piss off  I have a vivid memory of some tousle haired Marc Bolan clones down the front throwing toilet rolls at the lead singer, and after a while the band retired hurt. So much for the generation of love. 

The next band on were Family and they were phenomenal they were something out of this world.  Frontman Roger Chapman was so frigging MANIC on-stage, grabbing the mic stand so tightly that he might have been strangling it, cords on the neck strained so tight that it was a wonder he didn’t burst a blood vessel, the sounds issuing forth floored the crowd Chappo was unique.

And the rest of the band! Jim King blowing his brains out on sax, John Whitney on searing lead and steel guitar, Ric Grech on bass and occasional violin and the excellent Rob Townsend on drums , simultaneously elegant and threatening. This was the best line up of Family, and they had a great range of songs, most from their first highly under rated albumMusic from a Dolls House, songs like – Hey Mr Policeman, Me My Friend,  Old Songs New Songs – they were BRILLIANT and many in the audience thought so too.

Tyrannosaurus Rex were fun, if slight. Bolan strummed and churned out his fey little songs with predictable charm and Steve Took provided nice little edges with his bongos. Tyrannosaurus Rex were the staple of many festivals at the time , archetypal hippies, they enjoyed a certain sort of vogue . Bolan and Took went down very well with the audience, so I am probably  in the minority here – but after the concentrated madness of Family it seemed anticlimactic. 

The bill was a pretty eclectic one, veering wildly into the realms of pseudo soul , far out psychedelic rock, psychedelic folksy rock and back to genuine, get down and dance-to-the -music SOUL – in the form of Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band.

  • Geno Washington – vocals
  • Pete Gage – guitar
  • Lionel Kingham – saxophone
  • Buddy Beadle – saxophone
  • Jeff Wright – organ
  • John Roberts- bass guitar
  • Herb Prestidge – drums

These guys laid it down in the alley and, in contrast to the ill fated Little Women, the crowd loved every note of their act  . This was the real thing , but above all , it was dance music and it meant that the crowd could get loose and enjoy themselves.  The use of a good gutsy horn section to punctuate vocal chorus’s  also really pushed the music out there and the fact that Geno was a damn good front man also helped more than somewhat. The band were all gussied up in over the top stage clothes – this was an ACT in every sense of the word and it set the stage more than nicely for the top of the bill,Mr James Marshall Hendrix. Now almost everything that can be said about Jimi’s performance has been said on the excellent Univibes pages on the Woburn festival, Whether the inclusion of Geno Washington on the bill was a deliberate act by the promoters to give the crowd an idea of the sort of bands that Jimi used to play with , I don’t know, but whether it was or not, it certainly put  the audience into a great mood and they were more than enthusiastic about the Hendrix set , which was the only Hendrix concert in the UK in 1968. 

Although the Univibes site rates the show as average ,they are not able to see what went down on-stage , which was pretty outrageous, with Jimi playing the guitar with his teeth , grinding his axe between his legs and generally doing all the things that got the girls horny for him . Given all of that it was a fantastic visual experience and the music certainly seemed great too ,there was rapturous applause as he left the stage and as the crowd streamed off into the night. 

At Woburn, Jimi skipped songs from Axis: Bold As Love altogether, electing instead to ‘jam’ as he called it—kicking off his set with a spirited “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The trio followed with “Fire,” and despite beset with buzzing, crackles and otherwise unwanted noises throughout their set, The Experience continued to persevere doing their best to surmount the technical problems that hampered an otherwise animated set.

Although opting to bypass music from Axis: Bold As Love, Hendrix did foreshadow his next album at Woburn, stretching out a marvelous 10+ minute version of “Tax Free;” an early contender for Electric Ladyland and a favorite Experience vehicle for improvisation. Hendrix followed up with another extended improvisational rendition of “Red House” before closing the show with a trio of live concert stalwarts “Foxy Lady,” “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and “Purple Haze.”

In launching into “Purple Haze,” Jimi kicked off a boisterous feedback opening, buttressed by Mitchell and Redding and complete with tremolo bar swoops, wah-wah pedal shadings and soaring dive bomb styled bursts that transitioned seamlessly into the song’s unmistakable opening notes. At its conclusion, the audience roared with approval. While no microphones were positioned to fully capture the intensity of their reaction, their enthusiasm and calls for more can be easily heard through Jimi and Noel’s stage microphones.

The Experience’s performance at Woburn Music Festival would mark the trio’s last performance in England until the two celebrated concerts in February 1969 at the Royal Albert Hall.

Jimi Hendrix July 6th & 7th 1968, Woburn Music Festival, Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire.

Apparently Fleetwood Mac did not turn up, due to other commitments, and the whole Sunday show was wet and badly attended,Apparently there is a sound board recording of the HendrixFamily and Geno Washingtonsets from the Saturday which may be released as a CD sometime.It is even rumoured that theHendrix show was filmed using three cameras. Who knows ,perhaps both of these precious artefacts will be released one day. 

The soundboard recordings have been SOLD ! A rare 1⁄4 inch reel-to-reel master soundboard tape recording of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and others performing at the Woburn Music Festival, Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire, England, 6-7 July, 1968, was offered for sale at Christies. The price realise was £48,050, which probably means that either the music will disappear into a collection or be eventually offered for sale commercially . However since apparently the Hendrix estate were not previously keen to release the Hendrix set (and this may be why the owners have decided to sell the recordings) there would have to be a policy change before this happened.

Recordings and Setlists Woburn Music Festival, 6th July, 1968

Family (29:13 minutes)

  • Me My Friend
  • Old Songs New Songs > How Many More Years (You Gonna Wreck My Life)
  • Good Morning Little Schoolgirl
  • Hey Mr. Policeman
  • Observations (incomplete)

Geno Washington (18:05 minutes)

  • Mony Mony
  • Funk Broadway
  • Rock Me, Baby
  • I Get So Excited
  • Holding On Baby (With Both Hands)
  • Baby Come Back
  • Jumping Jack Flash


The Jimi Hendrix Experience (48:22 minutes)

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (0:42)
  • Fire (3:18)
  • Tax Free (10:10)
  • Red House (10:17)
  • .Foxy Lady (4:12)
  • Voodoo Child (6:05)
  • .Purple Haze (8:00)

 Woburn Music Festival, 7th July, 1968 

Taste (23:21 minutes)

  • Summertime
  • Blister On The Moon
  • I Got My Brand On You
  • Rock Me,>Baby Bye Bye Bird >Baby Please Don’t Go >You Shook Me Baby

This is the earliest professional live recording of this Taste line-up known to exist. After finishing the first song of his set, Rory Gallagher says Thank You 16 times!


Tim Rose (8:57 minutes)

  • I Got A Loneliness
  • Long Time Man (incomplete)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience show at Woburn was professionally recorded on a 7.5 ips, 2-track, mono, reel-to-reel tape. It is not known who actually recorded this tape but the master tape was stored in a small studio in London, where it sat on the shelves among a wall of tapes. In the early 1970s, the studio went bust and an employee rescued some of the tapes before they were destroyed. Additionally, a film crew was present to record the event. Nothing is known of the whereabouts of this footage, but if such footage were to surface it would be an incredible find and a wonderful companion to the recording.

So. the festival come [sic] to an end. unfortunately rather a damp one. How ever a bright note was struck by a message from the Abbey saying that the Duke thought the Festival had been very well organised and he would be happy to see it happen again. A sigh of relief was given all round…. [ attendance of] nearly 8,000 people [on the Sunday for Donovan’s set and more rolled in for the final blues session played in pouring rain.”

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If 1967 was a year of introduction and innovation in rock ‘n’ roll—from Monterey Pop to to the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band and the launch of Rolling Stone Magazine  1968 was a proving ground, when a handful of the stars who had sprouted in the “Summer of Love” came to full flower in the psychedelia age. Artists from both sides of the pond, including The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Aretha Franklin, Cream, Traffic and Jefferson Airplane felt free to chip further away at old molds and pursue a daring new musical muse. It was an epochal year for established artists as well. The Beatles splintered in the studio, but their individual contributions to a self-titled double LP, the so-called “White Album”, amounted to some of the band’s greatest work and, in retrospect, unlocked a few imminent solo careers. It was a double album released by the Beatles  containing strong flavours of blues and rock’n’roll, Does this now mean the Beatles are taking a step backwards? As Ringo Starr philosophically remarks: ‘It’s not forwards or backwards. It’s just a step.’

John Wesley Harding

The year started out with what may well have been the finest album of the year, Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding. Midway through the year some tapes of Dylan’s were uncovered which were equally brilliant. Several of the songs on them came out on an album by The Band, Music From Big Pink. The best things on their album were not the Dylan songs, most of which sounded forced and strained, and by no means as good as Dylan’s own version of them on the tape. Rather, the highlights were the songs written by lead guitarist Robbie Robertson. “The Weight” was typical of the group’s low-down, country-soul, rock and roll performing and was one of the finest recordings of the year.

Bob Dylan also sets an anomalous tempo, established early in the year with the bucolic minimalism of ‘John Wesley Harding’. Dylan’s continued absence from the promotional scene allows him to move with a freedom not permitted his British contemporaries, and his absence creates a vacuum that myth, and under-the-counter recordings, step in to fill. British groups like The Who, meanwhile, grasp the opportunities of America. So effectively in fact, that their live shows were stupendous as they were chaotic.

The Notorious Byrd Brothers

The Byrds continued to go through personnel changes at least four times a year but in between times came up with two of the year’s great albums: The Notorious Byrd Brothers and Sweetheart of the Rodeo. The latter was a fine, straight country album with gorgeous, free harmonizing and excellent material. The former was perhaps their best album to date, and surely one of the five or so best of the year. David Crosby made some brilliant song-writing contributions, but the album was mainly Roger McGuinn’s and neither he nor anyone else in rock has often equalled such cuts as “Get To You” and “Artificial Energy.”

The Grateful Dead bored a lot of people with their much awaited second release, Anthem of the Sun and Moby Grape disappointed those who know that they are (or at least were) one of the finest live bands in the country with a very mediocre second album, Wow. On the other hand, the Rascals, long thought of as a teeny bopper group, continue to mature and develop and had at least one fine single this year: “People Got To Be Free.” 

Among individual artists, Laura Nyro began to receive the recognition she deserves, and many idolize her Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. Johnny Winter, a recently discovered white Texas blues singer has already created a large following on the basis of a few guest appearances in New York. San Francisco concert promoter Bill Graham rents a vacant New York theater and opens the Fillmore East concert venue.

Canadian rock band Steppenwolf release their debut album including the single “Born to Be Wild” and San Diego Rock band Iron Butterfly releases the album In A Gadda Da Vida considered to one of the first incarnations of the genre heavy metal albums.

The Rolling Stones grew out their roots with “Beggar’s Banquet”, while The Kinks and The Zombies took giant leaps forward with new and imaginative masterpieces that forever altered their trajectories. Plus we were introduced to a bunch of new faces to the pantheon:  The Doors, Sly Stone, Fleetwood Mac, Tim Buckley and, oh yes, Led Zeppelin. British rock and roll this year was dominated by blues bands. Ten Years After managed to kick up a lot of dust, Procol Harum continued to grow into its style and came up with a fine album, Shine on Brightly.

Pink Floyd lead singer and song writer Syd Barrett is checked into a psychiatric hospital and the band replaces him with David Gilmour.

Rock ‘n’ roll was at its most free in the pre-Woodstock glow of 1968. The Beatles went to India, Johnny Cash went to Prison at Folsom with one of the great live albums ever released, the Rolling Stones put a mobile studio in a truck, The Monkees went off the air. But it couldn’t ignore what was happening in the world riots, assassinations, war, a doomed election, space travel, poverty, drugs, Civil Rights, women’s liberation. All of it seeped into the art of the free-love counterculture with that strange combination of militant idealism and comical self-regard, as though it were clear that humanity would one day look at 1968 for a generation’s heroes and villains. Fifty years later in 2018 we are in the midst of a modern drug epidemic, a tarnished presidency, a growing underclass and a renewed vigor for social progress.

Here are some of the best albums of that momentous year in no particular order.

Sweetheart Of The Rodeo

The Byrds,  – Sweetheart of the Rodeo’

Even though David Crosby was booted from the Byrds in late 1967, the band had a pretty great 1968. In addition to the excellent ‘Notorious Byrd Brothers’ album, the restructured group released ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo,’ the granddaddy of all country-rock records. Credit goes to newcomer Gram Parsons, who helped steer the Byrds in this new direction. By the time the album came out in August, Parsons was gone and most of his vocals had been replaced (you can hear his recordings on the various reissues). But it didn’t matter in the long run — his, and the album’s, influence still resonates today.

Dock Of The Bay

Otis Redding, The Dock of the Bay   Released: February. 23rd

In some ways, 1968 began with a great sadness. On December. 10th, 1967, the blossoming soul star Otis Redding was killed in a plane crash in Wisconsin that also claimed the lives of four of his band members. The tragedy had taken not just one of the era’s most distinctive singers, but an artist standing at a new horizon for R&B music. Days before his death, Redding had recorded a new composition ”(Sitting On) The Dock of the Bay,” a lilting ray of sunshine that found a winsome Otis Redding unwinding his tight groove sound and opening up new worlds for his soul.

Released posthumously in February 1968, The Dock of the Bay showcased Redding for the mainstream audience he had courted at Monterey Pop the previous summer. “Let Me Come on Home” was the hard-driving, horn-happy rocker; “The Glory of Love” the arpeggiated slow burn; “Tramp” the naughty call-and-response with Carla Thomas. It wasn’t the album Redding was supposed to make in 1968, but it nevertheless served as the crossover breakthrough he always had in him.

Cheap Thrills

Big Brother & Holding Company, Cheap Thrills  – Released: August. 12th

Cheap Thrills, the second album featuring Janis Joplin, marked the emphatic emergence of the Texas-born singer in the San Francisco band that had already found some local success without her. Propelled by a star-making appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 that netted the band a deal with Columbia Records, Janis Joplin’s wavering, powderkeg voice quickly dominated the band’s psych-blues repertoire and raised the bar for practically every fiery vocalist to follow. Album entries “Summertime” and “Piece of My Heart” became signature songs, the vehicles with which she stunned the pop world with her grit and femininity, fusing her inner torment and strife with her public persona. Cheap Thrills topped the charts, one of the few products of San Francisco’s emerging underground to earn a mainstream embrace. The album’s cover, by illustrator R. Crumb, remains one of the most iconic of the era.

Truth

Jeff Beck,  –  Truth  

Jeff Beck’s first solo album following his departure from the Yardbirds in 1966 picks up where he left off with the influential British blues rockers: covering blues classics, standards from the Great American Songbook and even one of his old band’s songs. The guitar hero’s group on ‘Truth’ — including singer Rod Stewart and guitarist Ronnie Wood  would get co-billing on the follow-up album, 1969’s ‘Beck-Ola.’ They deserve it here too.

Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake

Small Faces, Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake  –  Released: May 24th

Marking a definitive break from Small Faces’ early mod and R&B underpinnings, the two-act Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake was a bold move into the realms of stylish psychedelia and the eccentric affectation of late ‘60s English invention. Although more than a hint of Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane’s Cockney humor was inescapable—the whimsical “Rene” and “Lazy Sunday” being obvious examples—two bold anthems, “Song of a Baker” and “Long Agos and Worlds Away,” predated Led Zeppelin’s arch bombast by several months.

At the time, the round album cover, made to resemble a tobacco tin, and the sidelong gibberish of “Happiness Stan,” a pseudo fairytale narrated by English actor Stanley Unwin, also garnered plenty of attention. One of the first concept albums ever envisioned (and basically unplayable live), Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake remains a little appreciated musical masterpiece. Small Faces would disband the following year.

Wheels Of Fire (Remastered)

Cream, Wheels of Fire  –  Released: August

Wheels of Fire had a hard precedent to follow, coming as it did on the heels of Cream’s 1967 sophomore breakthrough, Disraeli Gears and the blues-embossed psychedelia that preceded it. Nevertheless, laden with such classics as “White Room,” “Politician” and a sterling remake of the Robert Johnson classic “Crossroads” that became a microcosm of Eric Clapton’s entire career as a blues-nicking guitar deity, it managed to express the full potency of this startling supergroup (with Jack Bruce on bass and Ginger Baker on drums) and ensure their immortality. By taking the idea of a double disc to a new level of productivity—half live, half studio—Wheels of Fire also made full use of the trio’s songwriting chops and their ability to improvise onstage. Rarely has there been such a sprawling effort capable of bringing out that ability with such flourish and finesse. This was Cream’s last real album-length musical document, with only 1969’s abridged Goodbye to follow.

We're Only In It For The Money

Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention  –  We’re Only It for the Money

More so than any other record on our list of the Top Albums of 1968, the Mothers‘ third record is the one with the most direct link to ‘Sgt. Pepper’s.’ And not just because its original parody cover photo — which ended up inside the LP after the Beatles’ management objected — is a fierce slap to the earlier record. Frank Zappa and crew’s concept album satirizes tons of Summer of Love standbys, including hippie idealism, left-wing thought processes and over-the-top concept albums.

Traffic (Remasters)

Traffic, Traffic  Released: October

A follow-up to their excellent and eclectic debut, Traffic’s eponymous sophomore set found a fully congealed ensemble. The on-again, off-again participation of Dave Mason was now fully present, if only temporarily for this effort. Indeed, this was the album that represented Traffic’s transition from woodshed romanticism to forerunners of new iconic invention, a sound simultaneously purveyed by The Band in their early Americana guise. Several of the standout songs—”40,000 Headmen,” “Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring,” “Pearly Queen”—offered druggy swirls of hippie-rock and tight soul embodied by Steve Winwood’s preternatural tenor and organ playing. Mason’s highlight, “Feelin‘ Alright,” would become a rock-radio smash for Gospel-tinged covermeister Joe Cocker the following year, and remains a mainstay in Mason’s live repertoire to this day. The definitive Traffic album, Traffic is another underrated monument of 1968.

Odyssey & Oracle by ZOMBIES (2011-01-21)

The Zombies, Odyssey and Oracle  –  Released: April 19th

One of the ‘60s great unsung masterpieces of that hallowed decade, the Zombies’ Odyssey and Oracle followed on the heels of the group’s early hits “Tell Her No” and “She’s Not There,” while marking a giant leap forward. It was a set of songs flush with bold experimentation and baroque innovation, a concept not unlike that of Sgt. Pepper and other ornate musical ventures of the day. Ironically, The Zombies had broken up by the time Odyssey came out, and with its eventual smash hit, “Time of the Season,” it became a sad swan song that failed to reap the appreciation it deserved. Al Kooper championed its release in the U.S., but tepid label support doomed it to the cut-out bins practically from the get go. The original band recently reconvened (sans the late guitarist Jim Atkinson) to play the album live in its entirety, helping regain the critical kudos that evaded it originally.

At Folsom Prison (Legacy Edition)

Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison  –  Release: May

When Johnny Cash arrived at Folsom Prison in California on January. 13th, 1968, he was fortunate that he was there to perform for inmates and not join them behind bars. Cash had spent much of the previous few years in a drug spiral, watching his career and his life circle the drain. He was looking to revitalize his waning career, and a prison concert seemed the ideal vehicle—if Cash had always empathized with jail-bound convicts and the lonely despair that comes with the life, now he felt he could speak directly to them on terms everyone could understand. He had recorded the “Folsom Prison Blues” single back in 1955, and here was an opportunity to put faces to names. Proving that the concert was directed at a very specific audience, Cash performed a set of songs (two sets actually, which were combined into one 15-song album) that resisted self-help bromides and spiritual guff. “Dark as a Dungeon,” “The Long Black Veil” and “25 Minutes to Go” evoked the cynicism and gloom of living in captivity. Little did Cash expect, it also resonated loud and clear with a global audience who for one reason or another felt the sting of living in bondage even as they walked free.

Astral Weeks

Van Morrison, Astral Weeks   –  Released: November

After attaining his initial success back in Belfast with the band Them and a couple of hits (“Gloria,” “Here Comes the Night”), Van Morrison launched his solo career with a bang in the form of the ubiquitous soul-blaring 1967 hit “Brown Eyed Girl,” off his debut LP Blowin’ Your Mind! But it was the followup that proved to be his magnum opus. Charting new experimental terrain, he initiated a sound that was open-ended and had more to do with jazz, folk, elegiac imagery and pure stream of consciousness. “Cyprus Avenue,” “Sweet Thing,” “Ballerina” and “Astral Weeks” are unbound folk songs lit up with bells, strings, flutes and Morrison’s assured vocal wail. All but ignored in Northern Ireland, the album struck a chord with critics who admired Morrison’s meditative musings and the songs’ cerebral settings. Today, it’s widely recognized as one of the most influential albums of the era and an adventurous chapter in what would be a long and varied career.

The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society

The Kinks, Are the Village Green Preservation Society  –  Released: November. 22nd

The Kinks were never rabble-rousers in the truest sense of the word. For every proto-punk attempt at slash and burn with songs like “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night,” Ray Davies and Co. were able to offer softer laments like “Waterloo Sunset” and “Set Me Free.” With an astute eye for detail, Davies could probe the absurdities of life and turn them into woeful tales of middle-class misery. He found full flourish with the lovely and graceful Village Green Preservation Society, a wonderfully wistful song cycle about idyllic England in more innocent times, flush with nostalgia, nuance and a gentle chiding of civility and sentiment in a storybook world. If Ray Davies chose to look at life through rose-colored lenses, no one could blame him for attempting to engineer this imaginative escape. It was The Kinks‘ sixth album, and final record by the original quartet, bombed when it came out in November 1968 . But it’s now considered the band’s best LP, a straight-faced concept album about Victorian-era mores. It’s lush, pastoral and brimming with gently strummed songs about small-town England that rank among the best songs that Ray Davies has ever written.

Bookends

Simon & Garfunkel, –  Bookends  –  Release: April 3rd

The most fully realized album of Simon and Garfunkel’s middle-period career, Bookends showed that the duo were capable of more than merely poignant, introspective balladry. Only their fourth studio effort, Bookends was fashioned as a concept album that imagined life’s progression from youth to old age. “Old Friends,” a song that more or less became synonymous with the duo’s often stormy relationship, encapsulated that trajectory, but several others stood apart as future standards, including “America,” “A Hazy Shade of Winter,” “At the Zoo,” and an encore performance of “Mrs. Robinson,” culled from the soundtrack to The Graduate, released the year before. At the same time, Bookends would prove an ideal lead-in to Bridge Over Troubled Water, which would follow two years later and elevate the duo to their grand crescendo.

Music From Big Pink

The Band, Music From Big Pink  –  Release: July 1st

The Band’s debut record took an entirely different path from 1967’s candy-colored psych-rock explosion. Bob Dylan’s former backing group stripped down and excavated a form of American roots music that was somewhere between country and folk. Dylan had a hand in some of the songs, but the quintet proved to be one of the most significant groups of their time.

By the time The Band released their debut full-length, they were already a well-known, road-tested outfit who’d played behind Dylan during his infamous electric breakout. But their emergence as architects of archival Americana arrived with Music From Big Pink, an album borne from jams, rehearsals and songwriting sessions at the album’s namesake house in upstate New York. Though elevated in stature at the time thanks to the presence of a few Dylan compositions, the finished album found Robertson, Helm, Hudson, Danko and Manuel tossing off their musical shackles, mixing up instrumental and vocal duties, and creating a vintage variety of folk and country that seemed as effortless as it did brilliant. It was that emphasis on rural roots—the band boasted four Canadians and and Arkansan—that inspired the souped-up backwoods persona they purveyed in both sight and sound. The songs stand the test of time, and indeed, “The Weight,” “This Wheel’s On Fire,” “Tears of Rage” and “I Shall Be Released” stand among the most indelible expressions of heartland music ever recorded.

Lady Soul [w/bonus selections]

Aretha Franklin, Lady Soul   –  Released: January. 22nd

It says something about how rare and electrifying Aretha Franklin was in 1968, as a 26-year-old singer making her third album for Atlantic Records, that she could claim the title Lady Soul and not only pull it off, but then wear the crown undisputed for the next 50 years. Aretha Franklin had scored a defining hit—for both herself and women everywhere—the previous year with her cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect,” then mourned Redding’s death in December. Her mix of exuberance and despair, crying and shouting with every twist of a wounded relationship that haunts the album, courses through Lady Soul.

There’s gospel bliss on ”(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and down-hearted blues on “Good to Me As I Am to You.” She also fearlessly reimagines songs by her most famed male contemporaries, including a simmering cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” which had been a hit for The Impressions. Franklin’s once-in-a-century siren of a voice always powerful, always under complete control—is backed all the way by a crack New York headlined led by organist Spooner Oldham, saxophonist King Curtis and guitarist Joe South.Beggars Banquet

The Rolling Stones, Beggar’s Banquet  –  Released: December. 6th

Following 1967’s critically panned Their Satanic Majesties Request, attempt to cash in on psychedelia, the Rolling Stones revealed their essence on Beggar’s Banquet—a dirty, raw, set of originals that injected some country twang into the band’s R&B obsessions and set the mold for the iconic Stones sound that would stretch on for another 50 years.

Like a few other artists on our list of Albums of 1968, unplugged and settled into a more gutsy rock ‘n’ roll groove for their seventh LP. Acknowledging, but without directly borrowing from, the usual R&B and blues influences, the Rolling Stones crafted an album that’s simultaneously raw, scary and sinister. More than that, it launched a staggeringly fruitful creative period (which continued through 1972’s career milestone ‘Exile on Main St.’) when the Stones more than earned their title as the World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Band.

Containing at least three certified Stones classics—“Street Fighting Man,” “Salt of the Earth (featuring a rare lead vocal from Keith Richards) and the signature song “Sympathy for the Devil”Beggar’s Banquet marked the first entry in a four-album run—followed by Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street—that would go down as maybe the greatest winning album streak in rock history.

Sadly, it also marks the final album with Brian Jones’s full participation, and his reliability at the time was clearly in question. The original cover image, featuring a graffiti-strewn lavatory, was rejected by the record label and replaced with an unadorned invitation image that drew instant comparisons to the Beatles’ White Album, which had come out three weeks before. Nevertheless, the inner gatefold, depicting an enthusiastic food fight, ensured the Stones’ depravity wasn’t diminished.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Electric Ladyland  –  Released: October. 16th

Jimi Hendrix  radiated genius from the get-go with Are You Experienced? and Axis Bold As Love, his first two albums with the his band Experience in 1967. On Electric Ladyland, he took that extraordinary innovation into entirely new realms that were difficult to define then and remain so now. The trio, with its British rhythm section and American front man, was perfectly suited to their era, and with a supporting cast that included Traffic’s Steve Winwood, Dave Mason and Chris Wood, as well as drummer Buddy Miles and Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady, Electric Ladyland redefined the concept of modern rock within a progressive posture. The album boasts everything that Hendrix (who produced it) did well: slinky psych-soul (“Burning of the Midnight Lamp,” the title track), explosive electric blues (“Voodoo Chile”), melodic pop (“Crosstown Traffic,” “Long Hot Summer Night”) and tripped-out sonic explorations that take the listener under the sea (“1983… A Merman I Should Turn to Be”) and into the heavens (“And the Gods Made Love”). His version of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” showcased his ability to put an indelible mark on any popular music of the day, making it little wonder that even now, half a century later, the final studio effort recorded in Hendrix’s lifetime continues to set an almost unattainably high bar. Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland was the only two record set of the year that made it in my book. He is the authoritative lead guitarist, the coolest showman, an excellent songwriter, and a constantly improving vocalist. He has one of the finest drummers in pop music working with him and an imagination of touring performers on the scene that day, Hendrix is tops and 1968 was his year.

The Beatles (The White Album)

The Beatles, The Beatles  –  Release: November. 22nd

After the critical success of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the rapid follow-up of the equally colorful and hallucinogenic Magical Mystery Tour, this expansive double-disc allowed the four Beatles both to stretch out artistically and reconnect with their roots in a way that would be further explored with the bare bones concept for their 1970 swan song, Let It Be.

A series of solo excursions made by an increasingly fractured band, the so-called White Album collected songs composed while the Fabs were meditating in India with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It mostly resisted the pressure to address the social upheaval swirling outside the doors of EMI Studios (later called Abbey Road) and focused instead on wide-ranging song craft, with each member managing to create some of his most lasting work despite—or maybe because of—the infighting and tension that plagued the recording sessions. Lennon emerged with “Dear Prudence,” Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” “Sexy Sadie” and “Revolution 1”; McCartney composed “Martha My Dear,” “Blackbird,” “I Will” and “Helter Skelter”; and Harrison contributed “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Long Long Long” and “Savoy Truffle.” Taken together, they form what many consider to be among The Beatles’ greatest collection of songs.