The twenty greatest albums of 1967

The fanfare greeting the 50th anniversary of ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ has opened up the debate once more over just where it stands in the pantheon of greatest albums. Many fans still consider ‘Sgt Pepper’ as the greatest album of all time, but was it even the best long player of that storied year? Let’s see where it ranks in this list of 1967’s greatest albums

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

20 The Kinks Something Else

20-the-kinks-something-else.jpg

Something of a transitional album from The Kinks, with Ray Davies steering the greatest singles band of them all towards a series of albums that documented his love for an almost mythical, sepia-toned England, as all around them jumped on the psychedelic bandwagon. The album is full of memorable vignettes in a variety of styles ranging from the full-on rocker “David Watts” to the languid music hall shuffle of “Afternoon Tea” and “End of the Season”. Ray even put sibling rivalry aside, allowing brother Dave a rare chance in the spotlight with the outstanding “Death of a Clown” and “Love Me Till the Sun Shines” and it all culminates in the deathless glories of the much loved “Waterloo Sunset”.

19 Albert King Born Under a Bad Sign

19-albert-king-born-under-a-bad-sign.jpg

The revered Mr King formed a dream pairing on the famed Stax label with Booker T and the MGs for this seminal blues album which crossed over to a rock audience thanks to tasteful, authentic material and some blistering guitar solos from the hugely influential bluesman. Over on these shores Eric Clapton was listening intently. Cream covered King’s signature title track and Clapton pretty much copied the solo from “Oh, Pretty Woman” note for note for Disraeli Gears’ “Strange Brew”. Other highlights include “The Hunter” which was covered by Free, and Hendrix’s favourite, “Crosscut Saw”, plus a beautifully sung, stately version of the standard “The Very Thought of You”.

18 The Four Tops Reach Out

18-the-four-tops-reach-out.jpg

At first glance this album could be mistaken as a greatest hits compilation (it’s not) as it includes an incredible six hit singles – “Bernadette”, “Walk Away Renee”, “Seven Rooms of Gloom”, “If I Were a Carpenter”, “Standing in the Shadows of Love”, and “Reach Out, I’ll Be There”, all of which exemplified the Tops in their pomp with the great Levi Stubbs in majestic form. There is the occasional filler, but taken as  a whole, this is the Motown machine and one of the great vocal groups of all time at their absolute peak.

17 Tim Hardin Tim Hardin 2

17-tim-hardin-tim-hardin-2.jpg

Troubled troubadour Hardin’s work deserves to be more widely known, this is the man after all, who wrote “If I Were a Carpenter (included here) and “Reason to Believe, the man who Dylan once described as the greatest living songwriter. His second album contained a suite of beautiful songs – “Red Balloon”, “Speak Like a Child”, “Black Sheep Boy”, “Baby Close Its Eyes” among them, all delivered in Hardin’s emotionally fractured, jazz-influenced vocal. Drugs claimed him in the end – a long-term addict, Hardin died in 1980 of a heroin overdose.

16 The Who Sell Out

16-the-who-sell-out.jpg

Conceived as a homage to pirate radio whilst lampooning an increasingly rampant consumer culture with fake commercials and jingles, Sell Out was an artistic triumph, confidently laying the foundations for the rock opera concept that Pete Townsend would perfect with Tommy. The classic psychedelic single “I Can See for Miles” was the standout track but the album as a whole demonstrated that The Who were now ready to take their place in the great English triumvirate along with The Beatles and The Stones.

15 Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers

15-gene-clark-with-the-gosdin-brothers.jpg

The Byrds’ main songwriter and vocalist had left The Byrds in 1966 and teamed up with country duo the Gosdin Brothers for his solo debut. Clark’s timing was cruelly misjudged as the album was released on the same day as former bandmates The Byrds released their Younger Than Yesterday album. Consequently, the record that eventually proved epochal in the development of country-rock, with classic Clark songs “Tried So Hard”, “So You Say You Lost Your Baby” and “Think I’m Gonna Feel Better”, disappeared off the radar, consigning Clark to the role of cult artist for ever after.

14 The Jimi Hendrix Experience Axis: Bold as Love

14-the-jimi-hendrix-experience-axis-bold-as-love.jpg

Hendrix followed up his ground-breaking debut album with another classic, which was even more eclectic and experimental than Are You Experienced. The genius axeman uncovered the boundless possibilities of the studio, resulting in a multitude of sonic wonders including “Castles Made of Sand”, “Spanish Castle Magic”, “One Rainy Wish” (on which he betrayed his Curtis Mayfield influences), and the transcendent “Little Wing”.

13 Pink Floyd The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

13-pink-floyd-the-piper-at-the-gates-of-dawn.jpg

Despite their subsequent achievements, many fans would still opt for the Syd Barrett era as their favourite Floyd period thanks to the cherished singles “Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play” and this, their debut album, the absolute pinnacle of British psychedelia. Syd dominates the album with a suite of superlative songs that are alternately whimsical, menacing, trippy, melancholic and downright weird, with the acid-fuelled space rock of “Interstellar Overdrive” and “Astronomy Domine” summing up the cosmic experimentation at large in the summer of ’67. 

12 Jefferson Airplane Surrealistic Pillow

12-jefferson-airplane-surrealistic-pillow.jpg

Two singles from Surrealistic Pillow sung by Grace Slick, “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit” embodied the San Franciscan sound of 1967. While the former was a straightforward rock song, “White Rabbit” was something else altogether – an Alice in Wonderland-inspired LSD trip set to a bolero tempo. This was a band that had it all – superb musicianship, four distinctive vocalists and pointedly contemporary material. The album just flows effortlessly with the Dylan-influenced “Plastic Fantastic Lover”, the gorgeous instrumental “Embryonic Journey” and the sublime “Today” just some of the many highlights.

11 The Doors The Doors

11-the-doors-the-doors.jpg

The Doors continue to divide the critics, but there’s no denying the power and long-lasting impact of many of the songs on their remarkable debut album. The Doors’ signature motifs – sex, death and brooding menace – were indelibly established with the stone classic “Light My Fire”, the atmospheric “Break on Through” and the 11-minute Oedipal opus, “The End”.

10 Cream Disraeli Gears

10-cream-disraeli-gears.jpeg

The classic psychedelic blues rock album from the classic powerhouse trio. Disraeli Gears contains many of the key songs in the Cream pantheon  – “Strange Brew”, “Sunshine of Your Love”, “SWABLR”, “Tales of Brave Ulysses” to name a few. An album on which Clapton’s iconic riffs and soloing helped give birth to the concept of the air guitar, but never, ever underestimate Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce’s contributions.

9 Buffalo Springfield Buffalo Springfield Again

9-buffalo-springfield-buffalo-springfield-again.jpg

Featuring soon-to-be superstars Neil Young and Stephen Stills as well as the talented Ritchie Furay, Buffalo Springfield only lasted a couple of years as a recording unit, but made some wonderful music in that time, particularly this cornucopia of delights on which they ably demonstrated why they were often touted as America’s answer to The Beatles. Young’s unforgettable contributions included a brace of surreal mini symphonies “Expecting to Fly” and “Broken Arrow”, plus the blistering rocker “Mr Soul”. Furay’s “A Child’s Claim to Fame” and “Sad Memory” presaged his role with Poco in pioneering country-rock, and Stills contributed “Bluebird”, a tribute to his lover Judy Collins, and “Rock and Roll Woman”, the very essence of the multi-faceted Springfield sound. The intense competition between Stills and Young and the latter’s reluctance to linger too long within a collective format was the group’s undoing; the band imploded, leaving the various members to fulfil their musical destinies.

8 Bob Dylan John Wesley Harding

8-bob-dylan-john-wesley-harding.jpg

Released in the last days of 1967, John Wesley Harding presented a new post-motorcycle-accident Dylan as he went back to basics after his pioneering “electric” phase. Turning his back on the prevailing trends of the time and fresh from the rootsy Basement Tapes sessions with The Band, Dylan produced a gentle, understated album that anticipated the Americana genre of later decades. Greeted with middling reviews on its release, John Wesley Harding is now viewed as one of his most significant, influential works with “All Along the Watchtower”, “Dear Landlord” and the mellow, countrified “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” particular standouts.

7 The Byrds Younger Than Yesterday

7-the-byrds-younger-than-yesterday.jpg

The American Beatles in terms of experimentation, innovation and influence, The Byrds had already helped invent folk rock and raga rock and would soon move on to pioneer country rock. On Younger Than Yesterday they effortlessly displayed their mastery of a diverse array of styles. Fast emerging as a song writer of note, bassist Chris Hillman contributed four gems including the country-tinged “The Girl With No Name”, and “Time Between”, a pointer to his eventual mastery of bluegrass. Other key tracks such as the obligatory Dylan cover, “My Back Pages”, the acerbic swipe at manufactured bands “So You Want to Be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star”, the brief but glorious “Renaissance Fair” and David Crosby’s haunting “Everybody’s Been Burned” rank high among The Byrds’ greatest  achievements, but there isn’t a duff track on this, their greatest album.

6 Leonard Cohen Songs of Leonard Cohen

6-leonard-cohen-the-songs-of-leonard-cohen.jpg

Once lampooned as “music to slash your wrists to”, Cohen’s debut album now wears its classic status imperiously. Cohen’s spare ruminations on love, loss and relationships delivered in his flat monotone struck a chord in bedsit land and launched the poet’s fifty-year recording career that only ended with his death last year. “Suzanne”, “So Long, Marianne” and “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” came from Cohen’s own personal experience and others such as “Winter Lady” and “Sisters of Mercy” found their metier on the soundtrack to Robert Altman’s downbeat western, McCabe & Mrs Miller.

5 Aretha Franklin I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You

5-aretha-franklin-i-never-loved-a-man-the-way-i-loved-you.jpg

Aretha’s breakout album as she at last fulfilled her enormous potential. The powerhouse feminist anthem “Respect”, the slow-burn sensuality of “Dr Feelgood”, a definitive gospel-imbued “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man”, a version of “A Change is Gonna Come” that rivals Sam Cooke’s original and the unimpeachable title track are just some of the highlights on arguably the greatest soul album ever made.

4 The Jimi Hendrix Experience Are You Experienced

4-the-jimi-hendrix-experience-are-you-experienced.jpg

Hendrix’s debut album was a mind-blowing instant classic as he exploded into the public consciousness like some kind of  psychedelic supernova from outer space. “Manic Depression”, “Red House” and “Third Stone from the Sun” are just some of the embarrassment of riches in a heady mix of blues, soul, funk and acid experimentation that served as a template for everything that had suddenly become possible in the new world of rock music.

3 The Velvet Underground & Nico The Velvet Underground & Nico

3-the-velvet-underground-nico-the-velvet-underground-nico.jpg

The Velvet’s uncompromising material focused on the decadence of drug-fuelled New York street life, with stark and controversial tracks like “I’m Waiting for the Man” and “Heroin” unlike anything that had been committed to vinyl up to that point. Contrastingly, within the nihilism lay such ethereal beauties as “Sunday Morning, “Femme Fatale” and “I’ll Be Your Mirror”. The polar opposite of the West Coast sound of the era passed almost unnoticed in the heady Summer of Love, but its staggering quality and influence has long since been recognised.

2 The Beatles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

2-the-beatles-sgt-peppers-lonely-hearts-band.jpg

Not The Beatles’ greatest album; in fact, taken song by song, Pepper would struggle to make the top four or five best Beatles albums. It has some of their most loved songs and their greatest, “A Day in the Life”, but it is the old cliché of the sum being greater than the parts. The genius move was to base the whole album on a fictitious band which allowed the group to produce a piece of art that in terms of experimentation, innovation and influence has rarely been bettered.

1 Love Forever Changes

1-love-forever-changes.jpg

The hippie ideal was already a busted flush by the time that Arthur Lee released his magnum opus, a timeless masterpiece that is in turns beguiling, disturbing and prescient. Gossamer strings, mariachi horns, savage guitar solos and mellow acoustic guitars abound in Lee’s dark flipside to the Summer of Love which still retains its magnetic appeal 50 years on. Lee’s sparring partner in Love, Bryan MacLean, composed “Alone Again Or”, the album’s best known song, but all eleven tracks are virtually flawless, from the Dylanesque “Bummer in the Summer” to the gorgeous otherworldly “Andmoreagain”, to the stunning closer “You Set the Scene”.

Comments