1969 Revisited

Dylan, Beatles and the Stones, though none quite at their best. Three CCR studio albums, which I think is a record on the lists so far. The best single-disc, single-artist collection in pop history … coming in at #2. That’s all the preamble I can muster this time around. To the lists …


  1. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground: If the second side matched the first, it would be my favorite album ever. As it is, the second side opens with maybe my favorite Velvets song (“Beginning to See the Light”) and ends with maybe their best album-closer (Moe Tucker on “Afterhours”), so it’s pretty close anyway. “I met myself in a dream, and I just want to tell you everything was alright.”
  2. Aretha’s Gold – Aretha Franklin: Single-artist compilations are a judgement call on these lists. I tend to avoid them — and never a boxed set — unless it collects music mostly experienced as singles and from a narrow and relatively contemporaneous period, and if it feels like it functions as a de facto “album.” Aretha recorded for nearly 60 years and navigated the evolution of black pop over those decades better than a lot of casual listeners probably know. The 14 songs on Aretha’s Gold were all released as singles between February, 1967 and July, 1968, a small moment in the context of her career and an enormous one in the history of recorded music. Most of it was cut in New York and Aretha grew up mostly in Detroit, but these are the peaks of her “Southern soul” period. It doesn’t have quite the comp-as-album rep as The Immaculate Collection or Singles Going Steady or Sly & the Family Stone’s Greatest Hits, and you can find all the same songs collected in other configurations, but I don’t know if there’s a better single album collection of music anywhere. Docked a notch — but only one — for being a comp.
  3. The Band – The Band: The closer you get to most of the lyrics, the less they mean, though without quite the gravity or mystery of Music From Big Pink. This follow-up is lighter on the surface and the surfaces are plenty deep. It’s about that union of voices, a deep shared musicality, and interest in tradition that’s never stodgy.
  4. Let it Bleed — The Rolling Stones: Their most mammoth opener (“Gimme Shelter”) and closer (“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”) bracket a seven-song transitional hodge-podge (some Brian Jones, who died while it was being made, some Mick Taylor) that leans into country and blues. But that’s a hodge-podge from the world’s best rock and roll band at peak of powers.
  5. Willy & the Poor Boys – Creedence Clearwater Revival: This great CCR singles-and-filler album of 1969 gets the edge over the other great CCR singles-and-filler album of 1969 (and a pretty big advantage over the merely really good CCR singles-and-filler album of 1969) because I like the filler a little better, especially “Don’t Look Now,” which expands the class-consciousness of the preceding “Fortunate Son,” and their version of “Cotton Fields,” which is probably my favorite CCR album track.
  6. Everybody Knows This is Nowhere – Neil Young with Crazy Horse: Young is atop the short list of people I want to hear epic guitar jams from, and that side of him starts here with “Down By the River.” I don’t know that they got any better. But the best guitar sound here is on the comparatively quick title cut, also one of my favorite Young songs.
  7. II – Led Zeppelin: I’ve gone back and forth with Zeppelin over the years and this re-listen put me firmly in the “back” category. A key was no longer paying any attention to lyrics or attempts at meaning. Play loud.
  8. Trout Mask Replica – Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band: I listened to this so much in high school, and I think I can credit it with opening up my ears. Relistening start to back (though in segments) for the first time in a long time, I was surprised at how well and warmly I remembered every single song or fragment. If I put all the albums I like on a continuum from “most likely to be agreeable to the most listeners” to “most likely to be actively hated by the most listeners,” this might be at the farthest end.  
  9. UnhalfbrickingFairport Convention
  10. Green River — Creedence Clearwater Revival
  11. Abbey Road — The Beatles: Most will probably think this is way too low but I wonder if it’s still too high. (Would I really rather listen to Abbey Road than From Dusty in Memphis?) It’s an album I greatly admire but every time I revisit it I confirm all over again how much I just don’t care about it. The less perfect Sgt. Pepper’s and White Album feel (alternately) more alive in the culture and more alive to itself.
  12. Dusty in Memphis – Dusty Springfield
  13. From Elvis in Memphis – Elvis Presley
  14. The Original Delaney & Bonnie — Delaney & Bonnie
  15. Stand! — Sly & the Family Stone
  16. The Gilded Palace of Sin – Flying Burrito Brothers
  17. Nashville Skyline – Bob Dylan
  18. Soul 69 – Aretha Franklin
  19. In a Silent Way – Miles Davis
  20. Hot Buttered Soul – Isaac Hayes
  21. Together — Jerry Lee Lewis and Linda Gail Lewis
  22. Bayou Country — Creedence Clearwater Revival
  23. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin
  24. The Rod Stewart Album – Rod Stewart
  25. Make a Joyful Noise – Mother Earth
  26. The Stooges – The Stooges


  1. “I Want You Back” – The Jackson Five
  2. “Fortunate Son” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  3. “Making Love (At the Dark End of the Street)” – Clarence Carter
  4. “Life’s Little Ups and Downs” – Charlie Rich
  5. “Bad Moon Rising’ – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  6. “Suspicious Minds” – Elvis Presley
  7. “I Wanna Be Your Dog” — The Stooges
  8. “Up on Cripple Creek” — The Band
  9. “Green River’ – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  10. “Honky Tonk Woman” – The Rolling Stones
  11. “Proud Mary’ – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  12. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – The Rolling Stones
  13. “Born on the Bayou” — Creedence Clearwater Revival
  14. “Only the Strong Survive” – Jerry Butler
  15. “Get Back” – The Beatles
  16. “Lodi” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  17. “I Want to Take You Higher”  – Sly & the Family Stone
  18. “Hot Fun in the Summertime” – Sly & the Family Stone
  19. “Down on the Corner” — Creedence Clearwater Revival
  20. “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere” – Neil Young
  21. “Hungry Eyes” – Merle Haggard
  22. “Love Man” – Otis Redding
  23. “Homecoming” – Tom T. Hall
  24. “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby” – Marvin Gaye
  25. “Whole Lotta Love” – Led Zeppelin
  26. “The Chokin’ Kind” – Joe Simon
  27. “Down By the River” – Neil Young
  28. “Soul Deep” – The Box Tops
  29. “War” – Edwin Starr
  30. “I Can’t Get Next to You” — The Temptations
  31. “A Week in a Country Jail” – – Tom T. Hall
  32. “It’s Your Thing” – The Isley Brothers
  33. “Okie from Muskogee” — Merle Haggard
  34. “Kick Out the Jams” – MC5
  35. “Polk Salad Annie” – Tony Joe White
  36. “Israelites” – Desmond Dekker
  37. “Oh What a Night’ – The Dells
  38. “I Forgot to Be Your Lover” – William Bell
  39. “Workin’ Man Blues” – Merle Haggard
  40. “Something in the Air” – Thunderclap Newman

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