EIGHT 1968 ALBUMS

 …I WANTED TO TELL YOU ABOUT BUT RAN OUT OF TIME

Here then, in synopsis, are a batch of brilliant LPs any twenty-first century collection should be proud to include. This post should be read in the context of the entire year of 1968 features; here we have an addendum, not a summary. The ranking is purely personal, though considered.

8  The Pentangle — The Pentangle

The arcane five-pointed figure was a curiously appropriate name for the group that formed around virtuoso guitarists Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. Adding in the pure vocal tones of Jacqui McShee and the hugely versatile rhythm section of Danny Thompson and Terry Cox, the band created something unique. Their alchemy—creating a new and enticing alloy of folk, jazz, and electric rock—was refined in club performances around London and emerges into the world on this, their debut. A still-fresh entry point for this wonderful outfit.

7  The Four Seasons — Genuine Imitation Life Gazette

Frankie Valli’s vocal group were an important part of early rock and roll, their early 60s hits showcasing expertly arranged harmonies rivalled only by the Beach Boys. But by the end of the decade, that sweet sound was a little passé. Enter Genuine Imitation Life Gazette, an unexpected departure from the group’s teen pop in so many ways. Best described as a socially aware psychedelic concept album (with a lavish newspaper-themed cover to match), the Gazette is hugely entertaining, fresh, and consistently creative. An overlooked late sixties gem.

6  Dr John  Gris-Gris

The first appearance on vinyl of Mac Rebennack’s ju-ju Doctor, Gris-Gris is an almost scary stew of hypnotic rhythms, New Orleans sounds, psychedelic incursions and swampy funk. Narcotic, infectious, timeless.

5  The Soft Machine — The Soft Machine

The thoroughly eccentric and hugely entertaining debut from the trio of Mike Ratledge, Kevin Ayres and Robert Wyatt is all over the shop. Experimental noises give way to balmy chants, jazz collides with whimsy whilst under it all skitters Wyatt’s inventive drumming. What it lacks in cohesion it more than makes up for in exuberant creativity. ‘I did it again’ they intone. They did, too.

4  Caravan — Caravan

A seriously under-appreciated gem from the tangerine-tinted dawn where psychedelic pop was busy morphing into progressive music. Caravan hailed from Canterbury and this, their debut, is full of melody, wit and musical adventure. Like Soft Machine, they were seed sowers in the fertile late sixties London scene yet their first recording is arguably more focussed. An early progressive album that remains both enjoyable and significant.

3  Incredible String Band — The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter

Another eccentric UK offering, the third album by Robin Williamson, Mike Heron and friends was produced by Joe Boyd and features more instruments than you can shake a tambourine at. The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter is an explosion of ideas and influences that somehow creates a whole new world, invites you inside for a cup of tea, slips you a hash brownie and some Indian slippers and leaves you some fifty minutes later, smiling beatifically about something you cannot quite pin down. Unique.

2  Pentangle — Sweet Child

A double album with a stunning cover by Sgt Pepper co-creator Peter Blake, Sweet Child has a whole lot of music, all of it entrancing. (The CD re-issue has even more). One record was recorded live, the other studio, a device employed by Cream some three months earlier for Wheels of Fire. As well as traditional songs being given the delicately incisive Pentangle treatment, there are tunes by Charles Mingus (jazz), Furry Lewis (blues) and Anne Briggs (folk), plus, of course, contributions from in-house guitarist-composers Renbourn and Jansch. Pentangle’s second was their second of 1968. Superb.

1  Pretty Things — SF Sorrow

In recent years SF Sorrow has been gaining the acclaim it has long deserved. A psychedelic concept album that is much MUCH better than Tommy, the Pretty Things magnum opus somehow became invisible. Its reclamation as a classic of the decade is overdue yet welcome. But be warned, this is no chirpy Magical Mystery Tour, but a dense, often dark excursion into the depressed under-strata upon which the colourful sixties danced. (One CD re-issue adds bonus tracks including the brilliant ‘Defecting Grey’). Essential. 

*

Over the next few posts I’ll feature a few things that caught my attention over the past twelve months.

In the meantime, thanks to everyone who shared the Vinyl Connection journey this year.

37 comments

  1. A few of these are on the 1001 – I look forward to smiling beatifically about the #3 LP!
    I enjoyed the 1968 revisits Bruce. If my calculations are correct, in a day or two, it will be the beginning of the 50th anniversary of records released in 1969. I would be quite pleased, with a smile that might even be described as beatific, if you were inspired to keep the anniversary series going!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah Geoff. Sometimes you keep me going.
      See below.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. That spreadsheet sample looks right up my street! I gather trout mask replica is one where it takes years to fully process

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Absolutely. It’s a monster, and worthy of the time it takes to unlock.
          I’ve about 150 titles from ‘69. Maybe I should do some kind of poll on which to feature @ Vinyl Connection?

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Aoxomoxoa, A Salty Dog, Then Play On, Ahead Rings Out and Chicago Transit Authority.
          Poll sorted.

          Liked by 3 people

        3. 1 is good; 2 ditto; 3 done; 4 ?; 5 slated for early attention.
          Your Humble Servant,
          VC.

          Liked by 2 people

        4. Trout Mask Replica all the way for me.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Not a bad last 8! It’s just about inspired me to do something similar next year for 1979, which was a very formative year for me musically (being a stripling of 17 then)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great! Do it! ’79 is/was a great year for music. In the past I have tried to move between the years with a series called ‘Decade Diving’, featuring, say, one from ’69, one from ’79 etc. But the riches and prolific development of popular music in the late sixties decided me on the ’50 year’ template. Having said that, I’m sure it would be inspiring to read your stories from 1979.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My ignorance apparently *does* know *some* bounds: I *have* heard of Frankie Valli and Dr. John, but none of the others…Curious about the signifiers in the last two columns of your spreadsheet. V, I assume, means Vinyl. Is C CD or, perhaps, cassette? And CB…?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you scored a couple of ticks in the ‘recognise’ column, JDB! Yes, V for vinyl, C for CD. CB means a CD-R burn. E stands for Edison cylinder, F for flexidisc… Now I’m just being silly.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m laughing at the Four Season cover (with which I’m completely unfamiliar), “Genuine Imitation Life Gazette.” Now we know how Jethro Tull was, ‘er, inspired with their cover for “Thick as a Brick.” Certainly not an imitation by any means! Grateful for the Pentangle salutes here — a very underrated band. Happy New Years, Bruce! – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a brilliant cover, Marty. And though not the earliest ‘newspaper’ cover (remember the endless VC series?!) it is the most lavish I have found from the sixties.
      Yes, totally in love with Pentangle (and therefore believe others should be too!).
      Best for ’19 for you too Marty. Thanks, as always, for your visits and comments.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah… I missed that one.So many I’ve never seen before (Cliff Richard, Tony Bennett/Lady Gaga). Context! Thanks, Bruce.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve had a lot of fun this year, sampling the gramophone & wax cylinders you’ve reviewed, so thank you, and best wishes for 2019.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much Robert. Enjoy your NY eve and have a terrific 2019. Jan 1 has dawned bright and warm here!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You and another fellow traveler on this journey turned me onto to Pentangle. I have some Soft Machine but not that one but I do have the Doctors album. Know Caravan but not enough but if it’s good enough for my friend Bruce it’s good enough for me. Later fella. CB

    Liked by 1 person

    1. On ya, CB. Enjoy the coming evening.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great tune that Baron Saturday

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Tis indeed. So is ‘Defecting Grey’. HNY, Tref.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Happy Pre-New Year to you too, Mr. Connection

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I am keen to explore Pentangle. Will no doubt dust off Soft Machine and who knows maybe chase that Gazette.

    Thanks.

    All the best for 2019.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Reckon you’d love Pentangle, DD.
      And good wishes to you, sir, for the coming year.

      Like

      1. Just started The Pentangle and will listen as I go between jobs today – so 10 minutes at a time. First reaction was to compare with Maddy Prior (whose voice really appeals to me). Nice instrumentation and production.
        Cheers

        Liked by 1 person

        1. …and impressive drumming.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. […] only just caught up with the concept, which I’ve frankly stolen from fellow blogger Vinyl Connection, who did something similar for 1968 last […]

    Like

  10. #6 is a genuine Top 20 contender for me, I played it yesterday. Plus I do like me some ISB – the cover of ‘Hangman’s ..’ is basically what my parents and all their friends looked like when I was growing up; it’s a very nostalgic listen for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As a result, I imagine you wear a well-tailored three piece suit even whilst hanging out at the beach?

      Like

      1. Particularly on the beach. It’s also why I shave my head and work in an office. Ha! Take that parents!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. As an aside I heard Kinks Village Green for the first time in my life on Friday – I got given it for Christmas. What an album! Why has nobody ever told me this before?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Other than the singles, The Kinks are unfamiliar territory for me too. See the albums around and think “I should do something about this” but don’t. Bit like life really.

      Like

      1. Well on a single play, I rather like it. Maybe I should just post that as a review.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. You could get through your collection sharp-ish with reviews like that. Then you’d have to buy more records.

          Like

  12. I know one of these (Dr. John), which is a bit of a shocker. I’ll set about rectifying that… starting with The Four Seasons.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Try and get hold of SF Sorrow, J. The combo of story, melancholy, social comment and psychedelic rock is irresistible. Like a larrikin 60s British REM. (So the wee laddie might like it too).

      Liked by 1 person

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