Monday, March 18, 2013

Favorite Albums, 1969

In alphabetical (well, iTunes' version of it, anyway) order:

  • Alexander Spence: Oar. Poor "Skip" Spence was in Jefferson Airplane, founded Moby Grape, went off the rails, and eventually went straight from prison to the studio to record this raw, heart-wrenching album, with himself gamely (if frequently unsuccessfully) playing all the instruments. That this was released by a major record label is astonishing. Entertainment Weekly accurately described it as "one of the most harrowing documents of pain and confusion ever made." Really breaks the ice at parties.
  • Amon Düül II: Phallus Dei. Incredible hard-psychedelic Krautrock masterpiece. Garage prog with lots of guitars and a sound which ranges from lunatic pounding to stately and beautiful. I think this is a concept album about God's penis.
  • Anton Bruhin: Von Goldabfischer. Swiss multi-instrumentalist produced one of the most radical and uncompromisingly experimental albums of the year. You think you've got him pegged as a free-form Beefheart/Zappa follower until you get to the parts where he plays solo jaw harp, and then you have just no idea what you're listening to.Very impressive, unique, one surprise after the next.
  • Can: Monster Movie. You made a believer out of me! Do right, you do right...

  • Cromagnon: Orgasm. A futuristic noise-rock concept album about... I think... cavemen having sex and dying? Trust me: it's a lot better than that sounds. Impossible to explain, ridiculously ahead of its time, apparently without precedent. It's American! Features lots of yelling and grunting.
  • Dick Hyman:The Eclectic Electrics of Dick Hyman. Hyman's first Moog album is at turns fun, silly, bizarre, and surprisingly gorgeous. This one is all original compositions, so none of the corny Beatles covers which mar so many Moog albums from this period; not to say it doesn't have a deliriously cheesy, dated sound! But the tricky arrangements, expert performances and top-notch production prove that this fun record is no joke.
  • Limbus 3: New Atlantis. Abstract, noisy Krautrock ambient music, at times gentle and lovely, at other times surprisingly chaotic. Sounds like a totally stoned improv jam session, but it sounds really good. Not rock 'n' roll, not jazz, what is it? Listen to a long piece here.
  • The Rolling Stones: Let It Bleed. Absolutely my favorite RS album. I have to take it off before it gets to "Country Honk", though, because is there anything worse than listening to a British person badly impersonating a Texas accent?

  • The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World. Probably the greatest album ever recorded. The ultimate denouement of the girl group craze. So naive and yet so, so painful. When I listen to the Shaggs, I fixate on Helen, the drummer, and keep marveling, "How does she do that?"
  • The Shocking Blue: At Home. So many of their best songs are on this superb Dutch pop/rock hit! And,  yes, "Venus" is on there, too, if you must.
  • Vampires' Sound Incorporation: Psychedelic Dance Party. This one is hard to describe. Mutant Sounds puts it best: "Blaring Stax horn sections, wild psychedelic fuzz box guitar, jazzy organ runs, strutting funkadelic drum and bass, and an occasional glockenspiel or sitar for freakout effect." Sounds like the soundtrack to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls took LSD and had a really great time.


choff said...

The Shaggs are a guilty pleasure. This is the first time I've ever admitted that in print.

samael7 said...

I have some vague recollection of being introduced to Amon Düül II, and I think it was indeed Phallus Dei. I say "vague" partly because it was a while ago, and partly because I'm certain I was tripping my balls off. Fun fact: that was the first time I ever heard This Mortal Coil as well.

"[I]s there anything worse than listening to a British person badly impersonating a Texas accent?" Yes, hearing one try to do a Georgian accent. Because it inevitably sounds Texan.

davedave said...

I'm also fascinated by Helen's drumming. She had a metronome all of her own. The beat was always off, but always in the same way. Yet her sisters payed right over it. Fascinating.

dianegsocialist said...

Of the four of these I've actually heard, Oar has just never captured my heart. Maybe I should give it another go, but I have to say my tastes have really run in another direction lately. Monster Movie is a cool record, but I have always been a fan of Future Days. To me, that's them at their peak. I like Damo's singing, so smooth, almost Nico-like. I think I must agree -- Let It Bleed is the Stones' best moment. I think I'd put Aftermath second. The Shaggs make me sad in a good way. They are naive and doing their very best, and they are so unique. I love everything from Helen's playing to the weird chord structures to the hardcore townie accents. Underneath it all for me is this sense that they were really trapped in their lives and wanted out! They could almost, but not quite, imagine a way. I love Betty, Dot, and Helen.