If 1967 was a year of introduction and innovation in rock ‘n’ roll—from Monterey Pop to to the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band and the launch of Rolling Stone Magazine—1968 was a proving ground, when a handful of the stars who had sprouted in the Summer of Love came to full flower in the psychedelia age. Artists from both sides of the pond, including The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Aretha Franklin, Cream, Traffic and Jefferson Airplane felt free to chip further away at old molds and pursue a daring musical muse. It was an epochal year for established artists as well. The Beatles splintered in the studio, but their individual contributions to a self-titled double LP, the so-called White Album, amounted to some of the band’s greatest work and, in retrospect, unlocked a few imminent solo careers. The Rolling Stones grew out their roots with Beggar’s Banquet, while The Kinks and The Zombies took giant leaps forward with new and imaginative masterpieces that forever altered their trajectories.
Rock ‘n’ roll was at its most free in the pre-Woodstock glow of 1968. The Beatles went to India, Johnny Cash went to Folsom, the Stones put a mobile studio in a truck, The Monkees went off the air. But it couldn’t ignore what was happening at home—drugs, riots, assassinations, war, a doomed election, space travel, poverty, Civil Rights, women’s liberation. All of it seeped into the art of the free-love counterculture with that strange combination of militant idealism and comical self-regard, as though it were clear that humanity would one day look at 1968 for a generation’s heroes and villains. Fifty years later—in the midst of a modern drug epidemic, a tarnished presidency, a growing underclass and a renewed vigor for social progress —that’s exactly what we’re doing, starting with the soundtrack. Here are the 15 best albums of that momentous yea
Simon & Garfunkel, Bookends
Release: April 3
The most fully realized album of Simon and Garfunkel’s middle-period career, Bookends showed that the duo were capable of more than merely poignant, introspective balladry. Only their fourth studio effort, Bookends was fashioned as a concept album that imagined life’s progression from youth to old age. “Old Friends,” a song that more or less became synonymous with the duo’s often stormy relationship, encapsulated that trajectory, but several others stood apart as future standards, including “America,” “A Hazy Shade of Winter,” “At the Zoo,” and an encore performance of “Mrs. Robinson,” culled from the soundtrack to The Graduate, released the year before. At the same time, Bookends would prove an ideal lead-in to Bridge Over Troubled Water, which would follow two years later and elevate the duo to their grand crescendo.
2. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Electric Ladyland
Release: Oct. 16
Jimi Hendrix radiated genius from the get-go with Are You Experienced? and Axis Bold As Love, his first two albums with the Experience in 1967. On Electric Ladyland, he took that extraordinary innovation into entirely new realms that were difficult to define then and remain so now. The trio, with its British rhythm section and American frontman, was perfectly suited to their era, and with a supporting cast that included Traffic’s Steve Winwood, Dave Mason and Chris Wood, as well as drummer Buddy Miles and Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady, Ladyland redefined the concept of modern rock within a progressive posture. The album boasts everything that Hendrix (who produced it) did well: slinky psych-soul (“Burning of the Midnight Lamp,” the title track), explosive electric blues (“Voodoo Chile”), melodic pop (“Crosstown Traffic,” “Long Hot Summer Night”) and tripped-out sonic explorations that take the listener under the sea (“1983… A Merman I Should Turn to Be”) and into the heavens (“And the Gods Made Love”). His version of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” showcased his ability to put an indelible mark on any popular music of the day, making it little wonder that even now, half a century later, the final studio effort recorded in Hendrix’s lifetime continues to set an almost unattainably high bar
15. Otis Redding, The Dock of the Bay
Release: Feb. 23
In some ways, 1968 began with a great sadness. On Dec. 10, 1967, the blossoming soul star Otis Redding was killed in a plane crash in Wisconsin that also claimed the lives of four of his band members. The tragedy had taken not just one of the era’s most distinctive singers, but an artist standing at a new horizon for R&B music. Days before his death, Redding had recorded a new composition ”(Sitting On) The Dock of the Bay,” a lilting ray of sunshine that found a winsome Redding unwinding his tight groove sound and opening up new worlds for his soul. Released posthumously in February 1968, The Dock of the Bay showcased Redding for the mainstream audience he had courted at Monterey Pop the previous summer. “Let Me Come on Home” was the hard-driving, horn-happy rocker; “The Glory of Love” the arpeggiated slow burn; “Tramp” the naughty call-and-response with Carla Thomas. It wasn’t the album Redding was supposed to make in 1968, but it nevertheless served as the crossover breakthrough he always had in him.
9. Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison
When Johnny Cash arrived at Folsom Prison in California on Jan. 13, 1968, he was fortunate that he was there to perform for inmates and not join them behind bars. Cash had spent much of the previous few years in a drug spiral, watching his career and his life circle the drain. He was looking to revitalize his waning career, and a prison concert seemed the ideal vehicle—if Cash had always empathized with jail-bound convicts and the lonely despair that comes with the life, now he felt he could speak directly to them on terms everyone could understand. He had recorded the “Folsom Prison Blues” single back in 1955, and here was an opportunity to put faces to names. Proving that the concert was directed at a very specific audience, Cash performed a set of songs (two sets actually, which were combined into one 15-song album) that resisted self-help bromides and spiritual guff. “Dark as a Dungeon,” “The Long Black Veil” and “25 Minutes to Go” evoked the cynicism and gloom of living in captivity. Little did Cash expect, it also resonated loud and clear with a global audience who for one reason or another felt the sting of living in bondage even as they walked free.
Jeff Beck Truth
Truth é o álbum de estréia do The Jeff Beck Group, lançado em 1968 no Reino Unido pela Columbia Records e nos Estados Unidos pela Epic Records. Ele introduziu o talento de Rod Stewart e Ronnie Wood para um público maior, e chegou ao número 15 na Billboard 200.
The Beatles é originalmente o décimo álbum gravado em estúdio dos Beatles, lançado como disco duplo em 22 de novembro de 1968. Este álbum está na lista dos 200 álbuns definitivos no Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
É popularmente conhecido como The White Album (O Álbum Branco), por não haver nome, e ser apenas um fundo branco com o nome da banda em relevo. A capa foi criada pelo artista pop Richard Hamilton e o título original era para ser A Doll’s House, mas uma banda britânica chamada Family já tinha lançado um álbum com nome similar. Foi o primeiro disco lançado após a morte do manager Brian Epstein.
Em 1997, O Álbum Branco foi nomeado o décimo melhor disco de todos os tempos pela “Music of the Millennium” da Classic FM. Em 1998 a Q Magazine colocou como 17° lugar e em 2000 em 7° lugar. A Rolling Stonecolocou como o décimo entre 500 álbuns e o canal VH1 como 11° lugar. De acordo com a Associação da Indústria de Discos da América, o disco é 19 vezes disco de platina e o décimo disco mais vendido nos Estados Unidos.
Em 2010, um colecionador argentino possuía o álbum com assinaturas originais dos quatro Beatles. A peça foi vendida na ocasião por 33 mil dólares.
Os Mutantes (álbum)
Blood, Sweat & Tears (Blood, Sweat & Tears album)
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Blood, Sweat & Tears is the second album by the band Blood, Sweat & Tears, released in 1968. It was a huge commercial success, rising to the top of the U.S. charts for a collective seven weeks and yielding three successive Top 5 singles. It received a Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1970 and has been certified quadruple platinum by the RIAA with sales of more than four million units in the U.S. In Canada, it enjoyed four runs and altogether eight weeks at No. 1 on the RPM national album chart.
The song selection was much more pop-oriented than the first album, with more compositions from outside the band. It was recorded at the then state of the art CBS Studios in New York City. The studio had just taken delivery of one of the first of the model MM-1000 16-track tape recorders, built by Ampex. The new technology allowed for far more flexibility in overdubbing and mixing than the 4- and 8-track tape recorders which were standard in 1968. The album was among the very first 16-track recordings released to the public.
The album was selected for the 2006 book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.