The question was asked and I had to think somewhat about it. I asked my friends and got varying replies of unknown. So I decided to find an answer to this befuddling question.
Since college started in 1967 and ended in 1971 I made a list of the top albums of those years. Then I scanned what I have left of my record collection looking for that one album that stands out from all the rest.
Being that college is the time to grow up or at least experience freedom for the first time and that the music of that period was pretty powerful this was going to take some real research.
By the beginning of college, the summer of ’67, the Beatles has already released “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” which ended the British invasion pop.
The Stones answered with “Their Satanic Majesties Request” while waiting their drug charges and The Who stopped playing James Brown covers and produced the mini-opera in “The Who Sell Out”.
New psychedelic sounds were making waves. The Small Faces released the trippy “Itchycoo Park” and Pink Floyd in “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” presented strange echo sounds in long drawn out songs. Album production was becoming much more intense and the sounds produced were not like anything heard before. An American guitarist who went to England and came back as the Jimi Hendrix Experience producing “Are You Experienced?” with sounds that could only be felt live the next year.
From the west coast came the sweet harmonies of the Jefferson Airplane “Surrealistic Pillow” and rhythmic changes that Love introduced in their jazz-fusion “Forever Changes”. I was introduced to Jim Morrison’s poetry in “The Doors” as a birthday present.
New York brought the raw city sounds of the Velvet Underground and their leather feedback under junkie lyrics.
As hair grew longer and new people brought new elements and experiences the music was the background soundtrack.
By 1968, the music was getting more powerful and maybe a little darker due to the politics of the time. Elvis was still king. Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash were leaning from the country sound to the pop sound. Fleetwood Mac and Them were still covering the blues sound, but the horn sound of Blood Sweat and Tears was enlarging the sound. Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington were singing together.
While Blue Cheer broke the sound barrier and had to be recorded on a pier for “Vincebus Eruptum”, Vanilla Fudge did long covers of “The Beat Goes On” and The Mothers were “Only In It For The Money”. The United States of America came out with an interesting sound in an album “The United States of America”. I don’t think I still have that album. The Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield’s bluesy guitar and sleepless nights presented “A Long Time Comin’” and The Move were still a strong bass and drum mover when they released “The Move” while Joni Mitchell had a “Song to a Seagull”. Moby Grape, an unappreciated band turned out their second LP “Wow/Grape Jam”. Sly & the Family Stone started a new groove with “Dance to the Music” and the Amboy Dukes continued the drug groove with “Journey to the Center of the Mind”.
Frank and the boy’s gravy became lumpy so I’m glad they didn’t pour it over “Ogden’s Nut Gone Flakes” by the Small Faces. Great album and great packaging but never hit the billboard chart. Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass was presenting light jazz with covers of girls in whip cream and two men and two women from California presented “The Mamas and The Papas” and Monterey Pop.
Iron Butterfly did a sloppy drunk song for “In-A-gadda-Da-Vida” as Pink Floyd continued their mystery music journey with “A Saucerful of Secrets”. Pentangle was bringing back the English folk feel and a Californian songwriter was becoming present with “Randy Newman”. The Grateful Dead was doing some trippy experimentation on their second album “Anthem of the Sun” as were The Moody Blues with “In Search of the Lost Chord”. Some live albums were taking form like the “Super Session” of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper and Stephen Stills. Then a strange broadway soundtrack hit that tried to capture the feeling of the times called “Hair”.
The Byrds had become cowboys, Donovan wasn’t sure where he was, James Brown was burning up the Apollo, George Harrison was experimenting with “Wonderwall” soundtrack and electronics that were being produced by the synthesizer.
The Beatles put out a conglomeration of the “White Album” , The Kinks were at the “Village Green Preservation Society”, The Nice covered classical with a punch in “Ars Longa Vita Brevis” , John Mayall wandered into “Blues from Laurel Canyon”, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band had “The Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse” and the Mothers of Invention went “Cruising with Ruben and the Jets”.
James Taylor brought his sweet baby face and Stevie Wonder brought a funk “For Once in My Life” and the Stones were having a “Beggars Banquet”. The Monkees were trying to be hip(py) with “Head” but they were too cute and it was too late.
The Soft Machine, an early jazz-fusion band that front Jimi Hendrix, made an album of the show I saw and took about 40 years to find another copy.
By 1969 politics had taken over the music and the media. The Beatles were riding their “Yellow Submarine” and working through their last studio album “Abbey Road”, Three Dog Night brought an early disco sound, Led Zeppelin brought the heaviness, while many bands couldn’t figure where to go so they came out with “Greatest Hits” albums. The Byrds and Bob Dylan went country with The Band, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and the Hollies offered up Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The Who extended their rock opera theme with “Tommy” and the theatrics of rock started cross-dressing with Alice Cooper, David Bowie and Elton John? The Nice continued the classical organ sound with “The Nice”, Zappa did a solo jazz album called “Hot Rats”, Elvis moved from Memphis to Vegas, Pink Floyd produced a double LP “Ummagumma” which is probably the best trip album, and King Crimson came onto the scene “In the Court of the Crimson King”. Southern rock started changing the forms with The Allman Brothers Band and the Grateful Dead started recording live concerts with “Live/Dead”. John Lennon showed the split with his former group on the “Wedding Album” with Yoko Ono. Steppenwolf called out to the “Monster” and Jefferson Airplane shouted out for “Volunteers” but finally the Rolling Stones wrapped up the years with “Let It Bleed”.
Then Diana Ross presented the Jackson 5 and Merle Haggard called for the “Okie from Muskogee”.
By 1970 the music industry was in a fog of what to do next. They presented crazy people like Syd Barrett’s “The Madcap Laughs” while hanging on to old favorites like Loretta Lynn. The Mothers were back singing about hot dogs with “Burnt Weeny Sandwich”, while the music started to mellow with James Taylor “Sweet Baby James” , Joni Mitchell’s “Ladies of the Canyon” and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy”. Paul answered John with “McCartney”. Jefferson Airplane broke into acoustic blues with “Hot Tuna” and the Grateful Dead went country with “Workingman’s Dead”. Steeleye Span, an English folk/rock group, started bringing back the old mountain songs with “Hark! The Village Wait” and Pentangle joined in. Former front man for the Faces, Rod Stewart, brought his rough voice to “Gasoline Alley”. The jazz-fusion “Supertramp” came out and Traffic made the memorable “John Barleycorn Must Die”.
The Rolling Stones were getting their “Ya-Yas Out” (which is what they learned to do, one studio album then a greatest hit album then another studio album then a live concert album) and Mick was making another movie “Performance” while Frank was getting his “Chunga’s Revenge”. George Harrison thought “All Things Must Pass” and the Kinks thought that “Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround” was the best way to fight the industry.
Slade, the first English punk band if you bypass the Who, said, “Play it Loud”. Kraftwerk took the electronic keyboard to new heights and a forward thought into the 80’s sound while Miles Davis was playing at the hippy places like “Live at the Fillmore East”. Even a slide guitar player like Ry Cooder started to make an impression on Mex/Tex sound.
In 1971 I was trying to get my footing. I wasn’t going to be drafted before women and children, I was about to graduate college, I was getting my first real job and I was getting married. I was trying to find some stability in my soundtrack.
Some artist like Janis, Jimi, James, and Brian were leaving but Elvis lived on. Other originals like Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis kept pumping out the sounds that were familiar but there was this new funky dance beat coming from Kool & the Gang “Live at the Sex Machine”. Stevie Wonder grew up, The Jackson 5 danced, and even the Temptations joined in.
Carol King came out with “Tapestry” and all the ladies felt the beginnings of the women’s movement. Yes brought out a huge sound that wasn’t a guitar band or a keyboard band in “The Yes Album”. The Soft Machine turned from jazz-fusion to a jazz band. Even Mary Travers of the old Peter, Paul and Mary folk days tried a single album called “Mary”.
The Rolling Stones did another compilation “Stone Age” until they got “Sticky Fingers” then another compilation “Hot Rocks 1964-1971”, Jethro Tull breathed through their “Aqualung” and Harry Nilsson found “The Point!”. John Sebastian put out a wonder single live show called “Cheapo-Cheapo Productions Presents Real Live John Sebastian” and The Nice ended their career with “Elegy” until Emerson, Lake and Palmer presented “Tarkus”. What was left of the Move turned into The Electric Light Orchestra?
The Pink Floyd did a compilation “Relics”, former Beatle Paul McCartney and his wife Linda started what would be Wings in “Ram” and television was full of the Carpenters, Partridge Family, the Osmonds, Cowsills and Jackson 5 all presenting a commercial none-threatening sound. Music was getting soft.
Everyone from Aretha Franklin to the Mothers of Invention were recording at one of the Fillmore halls while the Who wondered, “Who’s Next”? The Mahavishnu Orchestra brought a faster jazz-fusion sound while Gentle Giant calmed us down again. Dolly Parton had a “Coat of Many Colors” and Frank Zappa had “200 Motels”.
Then Elvis started singing Christmas music with “Elvis Sings The Wonderful World of Christmas” and Bob Dylan came out with “Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II”.
So what was my favorite album from those years in college? You’ll never guess.