Here is the second part of an archeological post featuring 1969 albums that have appeared at Vinyl Connection over the past six years. The month (in brackets after the title) shows the release date (if known) and there is a link to the original post. Despite the passage of half a century, there is some great music here, and more to come in subsequent features.
Creedence Clearwater Revival — Bayou Country (January)
From “Buzz Of The Week”
…Let me tell you folks, you may have heard this song as part of a greatest hits package or on ‘Gold FM’ radio but don’t be fooled. This record is the real deal: rampantly raw, swamp-driven and snaky, angry and exultant.
Saint-Preux — Bande Originale Du Concerto Pour Une Voix
From “Spirit of Peace”
Christian Saint-Preux Langlade gained a degree of fame with his album Concerto pour une voix (1969), known simply as Concerto. It is a lush, romantic work, where a theme stated with delightful 60s lava-lamp curvature by a female voice is explored through different variations and timbres across the album. The trumpet version could be from a Peter Greenaway romp (if you can imagine that) while the piano led variation could be a quiet interlude from Ken Russell’s Lisztomania. When the drum kit joins the orchestra there is a lift in energy, when Saint-Preux pulls it back for some reflective piano, it soothes. Everything flows delightfully, cinematically; genteel baroque psychedelia that pleases.
David Bowie — David Bowie (November)
From “Twelve Bowie Reflections”
…It was the re-release of the 1969 album, now with a Ziggy-era cover photo and an actual name: Space Oddity. Bought second-hand, probably from Bentleigh Sewing and Records. Full of strange folky songs delivered with theatrical flourish. A poet’s voice surely, writhing with angst and intensity, a fantasy connection for an isolated young man writing tortured poetry in the bed-sit attached to his parent’s house. The characters were exotic and seductively ‘other’. Major Tom, lost in space, Hermione and Janine, the wild-eyed boy from Freecloud, the elderly shop-lifter crying “God knows I’m good”. I sang to myself, to no-one.
You could spend the morning walking with me quite amazed
As I’m Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed
Someone to walk with, to appreciate a poet’s soul. Someone to claim us, someone to follow.
Those eyes. Mismatched, riveting. And the bad teeth.
Fairport Convention — Unhalfbricking (July)
There’s no dispute that Fairport Convention’s Liege And Leif (December 1969) is one of the most loved albums in the folk-rock canon. It regularly appears on ‘Best’ lists and was, I believe, voted most ‘influential’ British folk album of all time. John Paul Jones was doubtless one of many who fell under its spell when it was released in December 1969. The connection with Fairport was furthered when peerless singer Sandy Denny joined Zeppelin for mandolin-driven myth-buster “The Battle of Evermore” on IV. But before Liege And Leif came Unhalfbricking. Although there is not the clear folk focus that makes Liege so satisfying, its predecessor demonstrates a variety and vitality that offers much. Opening song “Genesis Hall” shows Richard Thompson stretching his song-writing wings while it’s hard to listen to the French version of Dylan’s “If you gotta go, go now” without smiling. “Autopsy” is a brooding Sandy Denny original featuring her penetrating, emotion-laden voice and an understated Thompson solo. Denny’s song-writing also provides album highlight “Who knows where the time goes?”, a song that catches the breath with its soaring melancholic beauty no matter how many times you have heard it. “A Sailor’s Life” is an extended work-out on a traditional song, and points towards the next album. The mood of loss and longing is palpable, subtly underscored by Dave Swarbrick’s violin (he joined Fairport soon after). If your Fairport experience is thus far limited to Liege and Leif, you could do much worse that acquiring the albums on either side of it.
Herbie Hancock — Fat Albert Rotunda (December)
From “Oh! Oh! Here He Comes”
…If you love the sound of the Fender Rhodes – and I most certainly do – you will light up with the next piece, ‘Fat Mama’. It’s another funky shuffle with horn punctuation though this time the brass guys are a half-pace back. Look out! Here comes the title track! HH is comping with Rhodes chords, Buster Williams bouncing on a fatback bass line. Guest Eric Gale smacks some pure funk rhythm guitar and HH solos over the top then leaves space for Joe Henderson to have a wail on tenor. Things are cookin’ in this rotunda, baby. In fact, this is an engaging album: energetic, funky and playful but with moments of beautiful reflection. The major criticism is that it’s all over far too soon, in a shade under 34 minutes.
Norman Greenbaum — Spirit In The Sky
From “Hot Cross Songs”
There are certain sounds and rhythms that grab you tight and shake. Think The Kinks ‘You really got me’ with that distorted, snarling guitar or the irresistible loping boogie of ‘On the road again’ by Canned Heat. The first pop song I ever clocked as having a reference to religion combined – or perhaps appropriated – both of those. It began with insistent, distorted guitar. Hand claps are joined by a fabulous echo guitar note then the vocal enters, much sweeter and more melodic than you’d expect.
So you know that when you die
He’s gonna recommend you to the spirit in the sky
Listening now, the lyric does not connect yet the music pulses. Though the guitar solo is simple, the beat and that fucked-up guitar sound are hot and eternally memorable. Sadly the rest of the Norman Greenbaum’s 1969 album is very little like the single. It is pleasant unremarkable folk-tinged pop. Still, “Spirit in the sky” is a groovy song.
Earl Hooker — Hooker ‘n’ Steve
From “Cousin Hooker”
Earl Hooker was an unsung hero of electric blues guitar. Born near Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1930, Earl (middle name Zebedee) moved to Chicago with his family but left home at an early age to go play music. And play he certainly did, adding his Robert Nighthawk influenced slide playing to recordings by Sonny Boy Williamson, Junior Wells and Muddy Waters, among others.
Miles Davis — In A Silent Way (July)
From “Transcendental (New) Music”
Josef Zawinul wrote the melody “In a silent way” after visiting his Austrian family for Christmas. It is a wistful, almost folky melody that you can hear on the composer’s self-titled 1971 album. But more famously and influentially the tune became the title for a 1969 album that indicated a far-reaching change of direction for that most restless of musicians, Miles Davis.
[Three short sentences cannot possibly do justice to this fabulous and hugely influential album. Highly recommended!]