On January 14, 1967, 30,000 people assembled in San Francisco''s Golden Gate Park to share in an event billed as "A Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be In." The tribes were treated to a peaceful afternoon of music and presentations by key Beat writers, political pranksters and other counterculture personalities, including East Coast acid priest Timothy Leary, who famously urged the crowd to "turn on, tune in, and drop out." Extensive media coverage of the event brought LSD to the attention of mainstream America and the world, exponentially increasing what was already arguably the most significant influence on music at the time. Psychadelic music would no longer simply be the sonic stimulant of choice at dance venues such as San Francisco''s Fillmore and Avalon ballrooms, and London''s UFO (Underground Freak Out) club—it would dominate the charts. Most of that music was guitar music, which is why so many psychedelic records are included among our top 40 albums.
Another significant event that occurred in January was the implementation of an FCC regulation forcing broadcasters that owned both AM and FM stations to offer different programming on each, which led to freeform FM radio. San Francisco’s KMPX, Los Angeles’ KPPC, and hundreds of other stations were suddenly liberated from AM’s stylistic and song-length standards, and they broadcast in relatively noise-free stereo. “That’s what really made the difference,” explains Jefferson Airplane’s Jack Casady. “You’d have DJs that would play whatever they wanted, rather than dealing with playlists and payola. You and the DJ might be ‘enlightened,’ so to speak, and you had a friend who would take you on a musical journey.”
A corresponding shift also took place on stage, as bands no longer felt constrained to play their songs precisely as recorded. “The Airplane, the Dead, Cream, Hendrix—we all started to change things around and extend the solos, and the audience began responding more to the musicianship,” continues Casady. By mid-year, many bands were stretching out on their records as well, exchanging the promise of AM hits for the more musically compelling allure of FM and Album Oriented Rock.
It was also a pivotal year for recording. Although a handful of American studios had already made the leap from four to eight tracks, most of the major studios—and nearly all of their British counterparts—did so late in the year. “The development of the 8-track was the most significant event in recording at the time,” explains producer Norman Smith. “When we only had four tracks, we could submix tracks but you lost some fidelity with each bounce.” UFO founder and producer Joe Boyd agrees, placing the change in a larger context. “If you look at that whole period between 1964 and 1970, you’re going from 2-track to 4-track to 8-track to 16-track to 24-track in the space of six years. There was constant turmoil, accompanied by ever-expanding possibilities.”
Simultaneously, there was a shift from mono to stereo. “At that time there were still mono and stereo versions of records,” says Boyd. “It eventually dawned on people that a mono system could very well play a stereo record, and that’s when you started seeing the term ‘compatible stereo’ printed on record jackets.” Consequently, studio mixers also became more sophisticated, gaining pan pots on individual channels and stereo mix buses, along with expanded EQ and signal-routing capabilities—just the thing to take better advantage of effects devices, and increase the perceived spatiality of spacey music.
The event with the greatest impact on guitarists, however, was arguably the Monterey International Pop Festival, which took place June 16-18. Monterey Pop gave an amazing array of American and English guitarists an opportunity to check each other out live, and, of course, it’s where Jimi Hendrix made his mark in the States. Among the many American performers involved in this 6-string cross-pollination were Mike Bloomfield, Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Paul Simon, Jerry Garcia, Steve Cropper, Elvin Bishop, John Cipollina, Danny Kalb, and Jorma Kaukonen—most of whom saw Hendrix play for the first time.
Although 1967 was also a great year for jazz—with Miles, Coltrane, Sun Ra, and other giants releasing landmark albums—it was a comparatively uninspiring time for jazz guitar. Pat Martino’s debut and sophomore albums foreshadowed future greatness, as did Joe Pass’ Simplicity. But many heavy jazz cats were either recording lighter fare (such as covers of pop tunes) or were effectively on “hiatus.” Soon, a new generation of psyched-up jazz guitarists would emerge onto the scene—but no jazz guitar albums released in 1967 were deemed influential enough to make the list.
Finally, 1967 saw major changes in journalistic attitudes and print media. Select writers at stalwart British publications such as Melody Maker and New Music Express, began singing the praises of “rock” music, the first issues of Rolling Stone were published, and Guitar Player was launched to serve a burgeoning 6-string community that wished to sound and play better.
We listened to lots of music while assembling this list, sometimes arguing passionately amongst ourselves as titles were proposed and ultimately added or rejected. You may not agree with all of our choices, and that’s okay—but we hope that you’ll have as much fun reading about these records as we did writing about them, and, hopefully, be inspired to do some listening of your own. —Barry Cleveland
More of the Monkees
The Monkees had exploded on the scene just a year prior when they released their aptly titled second album, which would go on to sell millions and hit number one in America and the UK. As with their debut, Monkees Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith didn’t play much guitar on More of the Monkees. Instead, a gaggle of killer session guitarists, including Glen Campbell, James Burton, Gerry McGee, Mike Deasy, and Louie Shelton turn in great performances. Shelton, whose phone had scarcely stopped ringing after he played the classic “Last Train to Clarksville” lick, recalls the More sessions. “My gear for all those recordings was an early ’60s Fender Tele and a Fender Super Reverb amp,” he says. “Dave Hassinger was the recording engineer and he loved to use a Neumann U67 on my amp, which was cranked pretty good.”
Burton and Campbell are both on the Mike Nesmith-produced “The Kind of Girl I Could Love,” although it’s unclear which of them played the cool chicken pickin’ solo—a slinky, funky break that would be at home on a Byrds or Eagles record. When you factor in the ringing, jangly tones of “I’m a Believer” and “She,” plus the garage-approved grunginess of “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” (not to mention the band’s hit TV show), More of the Monkees probably drew as many kids to the guitar as any album that year.—MB
Officially formed in April 1966 after assuming a name they’d spotted on a piece of road-paving machinery, Buffalo Springfield rose in short order to become one of America’s most influential bands. A huge amount of talent was compressed into the Springfield’s guitar-and-vocal lineup of Neil Young, Stephen Stills, and Richie Furay (who would later form the band Poco), and the band would break onto the airwaves big-time with the Stills-penned hit single, “For What It’s Worth.” Recorded in early December 1966, “For What It’s Worth” summed up the clash of cultures and ideals that the late ’60s was all about, and, by March 1967, Buffalo Springfield were the toast of the left coast with a certified protest album and a Top-10 hit. The blend of folk, rock, and fuzzed-out, feedback-laced psychedelia they banged out on their Gibsons and Gretsches put them in league with the Byrds as the premier exponents of the California rock sound. The band’s other ’67 release, Buffalo Springfield Again, included cuts such as “Bluebird” and “Mr. Soul” that remain high-water marks in the pantheon of ’60s rock. Buffalo Springfield broke up in 1968, but the musical impact they made in just two years of existence is felt to this day. —AT
The volcanic impact of the Doors’ debut album assaulted hippie culture and pop culture with a beautiful and mysterious singer, a truly original sound, and beguiling songs. But apart from Jim Morrison’s steamy crooning and Ray Manzarek’s organ, a huge component of the Doors psychedelic landscape was due to guitarist Robby Krieger’s broad and eclectic musical tastes. Krieger was a fingerpicker who had studied flamenco, and his parts were often steeped in Eastern motives, bluesy wails, and hypnotic drones. Although musical fusions were a big part of the sound of ’67, few bands brought them to pop radio with the intensity and success of the Doors. —MM
Surrealistic Pillow was Jefferson Airplane’s second album, but the first by the classic lineup of guitarist/vocalists Paul Kantner and Jorma Kaukonen, bassist Jack Casady, drummer Spencer Dryden, and vocalists Marty Balin and Grace Slick—all of whom were generally more experienced than most of their Bay Area contemporaries. Casady was a veteran of the diverse Washington, D.C. music scene and had studied jazz guitar before switching to bass, Dryden was an L.A. session drummer with jazz chops, Kaukonen was an accomplished blues and folk fingerpicker, and the others played multiple instruments and had been performing for several years.
Produced by Rick Jarrard and engineered by David Hassinger, Pillow was recorded to 4-track at RCA Victor’s Music Center of the World in late 1966. The production style is vaguely Phil Spector-esque, with every sound immersed in billowing reverb courtesy of the studio’s live echo chamber. Jarrard transmuted the Airplane’s naturally expansive tendencies into manageable and radio-friendly golden nuggets, with most of the album’s 11 songs clocking in at roughly three minutes. “Pillow was a very traditionally recorded album, with some really nice, clean arrangements,” explains Kaukonen. “Since we only had four tracks, we did as much stuff live as possible, with minimal overdubbing.”
Largely due to the runaway success of the singles “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit,” Pillow reached #3 on the Billboard charts, bringing San Francisco-style psychedelia to potential hippies throughout the world, and spawning a run of major magazine articles and television appearances. Slick’s captivating voice was front and center on “Somebody” and “Rabbit,” but Kantner’s solid rhythmic foundation, juxtaposed with Kaukonen’s more exploratory excursions and Casady’s driving bass lines—including fuzz bass on the opening cut—imbued the music with uncommon power.
Kaukonen got nearly all of his tones on Pillow by plugging a Gibson ES-345 stereo guitar directly into a solid-state Standel Super Imperial combo. “It had two 15-inch speakers in a closed-back cab and a dandy spring reverb,” recalls Kaukonen. “Later I used an Ampeg Scrambler to get my signature distortion sound, but at that point I got distortion by turning my amp all the way up.” Kantner likely played his Rickenbacker 6- and 12-strings through either Fender Bandmaster (the 3x10 combo) or Vibrolux amps. Casady played a Fender Jazz Bass (customized with a third pickup) through a Fender Showman.
Pillow is chockablock with Kaukonen’s fiery rhythm work, serpentine ornamentation, and vibrato-inflected soloing. Highlights include his brief solo on the intro to “Rabbit,” the pedal steel-like lines on “My Best Friend,” the counterpoint figures and emotive solos on “Somebody” and “3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds,” and his acoustic solo composition, “Embryonic Journey,” played on a ’56 Gibson J-50. Jerry Garcia, who gave the record its title, and is credited as “musical and spiritual advisor,” also played some guitar, including the plaintive single-note hook on “Today,” and a nice rhythm part on “Comin’ Back to Me,” where he is joined by Kantner, Balin, and Casady on additional acoustics.
By June, with Pillow still high on the charts and the Summer of Love in full swing, the Airplane had already embarked on the protracted head trip that would culminate in late-December’s avant-psych gem, After Bathing at Baxter’s. But, due to its widespread commercial success, Surrealistic Pillow was the band’s most influential album of the year. —BC
Younger Than Yesterday
By the time Younger Than Yesterday hit record store shelves, the Byrds’ sound had become inseparable from the pointed jangle of the Rickenbacker 12-string. And the album’s opening riff, “So You Want to Be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star,” didn’t disappoint, as it’s one of the Byrds’—and the band’s principle sonic architect, Roger McGuinn’s—most identifiable moments. But look deeper into Yesterday’s grooves and you’ll find the first appearance of Clarence White on a Byrds album (most notably on “Time Between” and “The Girl with No Name,” two country-tinged numbers written by Byrds’ bassist and future Flying Burrito Brother, Chris Hillman), great solos by McGuinn (“Why” and “Have You Seen Her Face”), and one of David Crosby’s finest contributions to the Byrds’ canon (“Everybody’s Been Burned,” which sports another great McGuinn solo). For the sessions, Crosby used a Gretsch Country Gentleman (McGuinn used this guitar for the solo on “Have You Seen Her Face”), while McGuinn relied on a couple of Rickenbacker 370/12s. —DF
A Hard Road
John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers
For Peter Green, joining John Mayall’s Blues-breakers as Slowhand’s replacement during the “Clapton is God” era of the late ’60’s wasn’t easy. Not only did Mayall’s crowds dwindle at E.C.’s departure, the ones who did show up would taunt the new guitarist. Not cool. But Green turned the naysayers into believers right quick with A Hard Road. Throughout the album, Green sports an obvious Clapton influence, but you can hear that he’s quickly becoming his own man. The reverb-drenched “Supernatural” is the album’s 6-string tour de force, as it displays Green’s melodic inventiveness, as well as his unparalleled vocal-like approach to the guitar, while his version of Freddie King’s “The Stumble” proves that Green was indeed the guy that could make B.B. King sweat. Engineered by Gus Dudgeon, A Hard Road is also a great sounding record. Green’s tones smack you right across the face with quintessential British presence, and midrange squawk. Speculation has Green plugging his Gibson Les Paul into the Holy Grail of Brit blues tone—the KT66-powered Marshall JTM 2x12 combo famously known as the “Bluesbreaker” amp that Clapton used in his tenure with Mayall. Whatever Green used, it doesn’t matter in the end. A Hard Road stands as one of British blues’ crowning achievements. —DF
Between The Buttons
The Rolling Stones
Before attempting to out psychedelicize everyone with Their Satanic Majesties Request, the Stones released Between the Buttons, an album that finds Keith Richards and the boys reshaping their formative R&B influences into their own rapidly growing oeuvre. Tracked in Los Angeles at RCA Studios and at Pye Studios in London, Buttons contains some of Keef’s most pungent tones. “Miss Amanda Jones” finds Richards delivering his patented Chuck Berry-isms, but with a searing, punky fervor. On “Please Go Home,” Richards not only apes Bo Diddley’s funky jungle groove, but he manages to tap into Diddley’s tonal mojo as well, with a modulated, pulsating tremolo. However, “Cool, Calm, & Collected” and “Something Happened to Me Yesterday” are period pieces of ’67 tweeness, with kazoos and rampant silliness. But with its sneering mix of amphetamine-laced blues and pop songcraft (the U.S. version of the album contained “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and “Ruby Tuesday”), Between the Buttons is a crucial document. —DF
The Dead’s self-titled debut sought to corral the group’s jam-oriented live show onto a recorded format—a task that proved problematic at the time and would remain that way for the rest of the Dead’s history. Though the album featured only two original songs—“The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)” and “Cream Puff War”—the remaining seven cuts reflected the Dead’s wide range of influences and showcased how classic blues and folk tunes such as “Morning Dew,” “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” (which featured keyboardist/vocalist/harpist Rod McKernan—a.k.a. Pigpen), “Sitting on Top of the World,” and “Viola Lee Blues” (which stretched to an epic ten minutes of trademark jamming) could emerge with newfound power via the Dead’s acid-infused electric sound.
Recorded and mixed in about a week, the album was produced by veteran engineer Dave Hassinger, who had previously worked on records by the Rolling Stones, the Monkees, and Jefferson Airplane. As told in Blair Jackson’s new book Grateful Dead Gear, Hassinger said that he wanted to capture as much as possible of the Dead’s high-energy live show, so the songs were cut live in RCA’s Studio A in Los Angeles on an Ampex 4-track recorder, with the vocals and percussion overdubs added later. Jerry Garcia mainly played a Guild Starfire at the time (though a ’56 Gibson Les Paul Custom he’d acquired may have also seen some action), Bob Weir likely used a vibrato-equipped Rickenbacker 335F, and bassist Phil Lesh nailed down the speedy grooves on a Fender Jazz Bass. The backline would have consisted largely of Fender amplifiers—piggyback Showmans are often seen in photos of the era.
Garcia quipped at the time that the album sounded like one of the band’s “good” live sets, and the throngs of hippies who regularly flocked to see the Dead loved it for what it represented and probably cared less that radio stations largely ignored it. In fact, Grateful Dead proved to be a harbinger of the band’s long, strange trip where performing live would prove to be endlessly more important than album sales or airplay. —AT
The Velvet Underground and Nico
The Velvet Underground
Instead of spending the mid ’60s penning odes to incense and peppermints, the Velvet Underground—featuring lead guitarist/songwriter Lou Reed and rhythm guitarist Sterling Morrison—was busy documenting New York’s East Village scene, crafting songs about such too-radical-for-radio themes as sadomasochism, hard drug use, and overall excess. These were all kryptonite issues for record companies at the time, but thanks in large part to the moral, financial, and artistic support of Andy Warhol and his Exploding Plastic Inevitable, The Velvet Underground and Nico actually made its way to vinyl. Sociological significance aside, this record’s lasting musical weight lies in the fact that Reed and company were also pushing sonic boundaries, melding a garage-rock simplicity with a mastery of dynamics, and fearlessly experimenting with dissonant tones, off-center rhythms, and unusual tunings (check out the all-D “Ostrich Guitar” tuning on “All Tomorrow’s Parties”). Songs range from the dreamily melodic “Sunday Morning” and “I’ll Be Your Mirror” to the frenetic, sometimes brutal guitar-led aural assaults of “Heroin” and “European Son.” Morrison alternated between an early-’60s Gibson SG and Gretsch Tennessean for the majority of the 11 tracks, but switched to a Vox Phantom VI for “Femme Fatale” and “Run Run Run.” Reed did his dirty work with a Gretsch Country Gentleman with built-in preamp, delay, and tremolo effects. Both used Vox Super Beatle amps. Try to name one indie/art-rock/punk/postpunk/ glam/noise/you-name-it band that wasn’t influenced by this record. —KO
West Side Soul
If Muddy Waters was the heart of Chicago blues, then Sam “Magic Sam” Maghett was the soul, and he founded the West side sound along with Otis Rush and Buddy Guy in the late 1950s. Forsaking the old-fashioned country slide work of Waters and Howlin’ Wolf from the South side, they fashioned a “modern” urban style that was inspired by B.B. King and featured heavily reverbed Strats, often in a trio format. West Side Soul is the epitome of that sound and heralded a new era, both with its music and an attitude that was reflective of the black pride movement. In addition, it is hailed as one of the first blues concept albums, as opposed to merely a collection of singles.
West Side Soul features the heart-pounding boogie instrumentals “I Feel So Good” and “Lookin’ Good.” Sam’s 1965 transitional Strat is fat and ringing on the contemporary R&B of “That’s All I Need” and “I Found a New Love,” as well as the searing minor key slow blues of “My Love Will Never Die.” His strutting cover of Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago” has become a template for subsequent electric boogie shuffles. —Dave Rubin
I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)
The Electric Prunes
With a stunning leadoff title track, Electric Prunes’ guitarist Ken Williams kicked off what would become the quintessential psych-punk masterpiece. “For that tune, and most of the record, I used a 1960 Bigsby-equipped Gibson Les Paul that I had just purchased at Ernie Ball’s guitar shop in Canoga Park,” says Williams of the haunting buzzed-out helicopter intro. Williams, together with co-guitarist James “Weasel” Spagnola, make Too Much to Dream a cornucopia of fly-buzzing fuzz and trembling tremolo. “James and I would time the tremolo pulse to each track, being very careful to let things ride on that pulsing pillow of sound,” explains Williams, who would manually adjust the Speed control on his Fender Concert 4x10, while Spagnola plugged his Fender Telecaster and Jaguar into a Magnatone combo. “We would also crank up various small tube amps and lay the headstock of the guitar on the amp to get sustained feedback,” continues Williams, who also plugged into a Fender tape echo, a Maestro Fuzz-Tone, an Arbiter Fuzz Face, and a homemade buzz box. Too Much to Dream reveals more subtle facets of Williams’ playing as well, such as the jazzy octaves on “Train for Tomorrow,” (“I had been learning some Wes Montgomery riffs a few days before we recorded that tune.”), and “Sold to the Highest Bidder,” with its faux-Greek balalaika sounds. “We played that track back at half-speed and I recorded a slow double-picking thing,” says Williams. “When it was played back at normal speed it sounded Greek. We didn’t have a balalaika, so it was a quick fix that worked!” —DF
Antonio Carlos Jobim
Released in the U.S. during the height of Brazil’s bossa nova invasion, Wave is Jobim’s best-known and perhaps finest album. Jobim is one of the founding fathers of bossa nova (which loosely translated means “new wave.”), a style derived from the samba but with more melodic and harmonic complexity and less emphasis on percussion. Jobim’s songs contributed a mellow, strikingly original alternative to traditional Tin Pan Alley jazz and offered a new sound over which jazz musicians could improvise. Bossa nova in its purest form is typically played fingerstyle on a classical guitar accompanied by vocals. On Wave, Jobim contributes not only guitar, but also a simple melodic piano style, some harpsichord, and even a vocal on “Lamento.” The album introduces a couple of now-classic standards, the title track and “Triste.” Frank Sinatra devoted two full LPs to Jobim compositions and many notable guitarists including Laurindo Almeida, Baden Powell, Charlie Byrd, Joe Pass, and classical giant John Williams have covered “Wave.” —Mark C. Davis
The Mothers of Invention
In a huge discography that contains such 6-string-centric albums as Guitar and Shut Up ’N Play Yer Guitar, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention’s second record, Absolutely Free, may not peg the guitar meter quite so much. But closer inspection finds some sweet guitar nuggets. The track “Invocation & Ritual Dance of a Young Pumpkin” sports an extended solo in which FZ’s clean-yet-squawky guitar sound (his trusted Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster, no doubt) points the way to the more “tweezed” tones for which he would ultimately be known. “Status Back Baby” shows Zappa’s spiffy ensemble guitar work, with carefully crafted, interweaving lines, and “Brown Shoes Don’t Make It” sports a deceivingly heavy riff. The CD reissue of the album adds “Why Don’tcha Do Me Right?,” which the Mothers released a month before Absolutely Free hit the shelves. This bluesy stomper shows Zappa had his singular style pretty-much sussed out by this time, with its gnarly tone, f**k you attitude, and bizarre-yet-beautiful phrasing. —DF
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
“It was going to be a record created in the studio, and there were going to be songs that couldn’t be performed.” So said George Martin about the Beatles’ masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Fed up with the gilded cage that their fame had built around them, the members of the biggest band in the world were determined to move away from the two guitars/bass/drums format that had worked so brilliantly for them in order to explore more elaborate orchestrations, new keyboard sounds, and exotic Eastern instruments. The Beatles were also eager to use the recording studio as an instrument in itself. Ironically, one of the biggest guitar stories to come out of the Summer of Love was the relative lack of guitar on Sgt. Pepper.
That’s not to say that there aren’t classic guitar moments on Sgt. Pepper. The clanging 6-string intro to “Getting Better” is as Beatle-y as anything they’ve done. John Lennon’s “A Day in the Life” has him strumming his Gibson J-160E. He would play that guitar—with George Harrison on his J-160E—on “Lovely Rita” as well. Paul McCartney cut a pair of guitar solos—on “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!” and “Good Morning, Good Morning”—with a Fender Esquire (a right-handed model strung lefty) plugged into a Selmer Zodiac Twin 50 Mark II. They also had their Epiphone Casinos, Harrison’s Gibson SG, and a variety of Vox amps (such as the 100-watt Defiant and 70-watt Conqueror models) at their disposal, but it’s impossible to say exactly when they were used. Andy Babiuk, author of Beatles Gear, sums it up: “They don’t even know what they played on a lot of these tunes. They were so intent on not doing what they had done before that the instrument choices were pretty random.”
By 1967, it wasn’t exactly newsworthy that the Beatles could craft cool guitar parts. What did raise eyebrows was the increased presence of Indian instruments such as the sitar, tambura, and dilruba on the Harrison contributions. Beatles fans were treated to these sounds on previous recordings, including “Norwegian Wood” and “Love You To,” but the Quiet Beatle really went off on the Sgt. Pepper track “Within You Without You.” The dreamy tune features several guest musicians but Harrison himself lays down droning tambura lines and beautiful sitar in addition to his acoustic guitar.
The Beatles grabbed yet another piece of the psychedelic pie with Lennon’s amazing “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” The guitar parts in this keyboard-driven tune only add to the depth and vibe, with Harrison hypnotically echoing the vocal with fuzzed-out single-note lines.
To put it simply, Sgt. Pepper is one of the most important albums of all time. This record forever changed the way the world played, listened to, and recorded music. Sgt. Pepper proves that, whether or not the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, they were certainly bigger than any one instrument. They hardly needed to touch a guitar to reinvent it. —MB
Beset by personal problems, an ugly management contract, and record-company gaffes (such as releasing four singles simultaneously), Moby Grape seemed doomed from the start. But the band managed to produce a debut album that is considered one of the best musical moments to emerge from the San Francisco scene. With three guitarists (Jerry Miller, Peter Lewis, and legendary crazy person Skip Spence) intermingling wildly creative and propulsive parts with five-part vocal harmonies, songs such as “Omaha” explode with energy and passion, as well as evoke the hippie mish-mash of rock, country, folk, and blues without degenerating into jammy excess. —MM
We Are Paintermen
Given the collision of experimental frenzy and pop smarts throughout 1967, it’s a real head-scratcher why the Creation didn’t become a worldwide smash. The band’s songwriting was fabulously catchy, the ensemble’s sound was as powerful as anything the Who unleashed at the time, and the group possessed one of the most creative guitarists of the era in Eddie Phillips. On “Making Time,” for example, Phillips performs the main riff by attacking the strings on his Gibson ES 335 (played through a 100-watt Marshall, using a custom treble booster built by Les Coulson) with a violin bow (long before Jimmy Page adopted the trick), and his use of controlled feedback on other songs was absolutely mesmerizing. Expand your mind further by watching live performance videos of the Creation on YouTube. —MM
Although it’s easily their least commercially successful record, Little Games is a fascinating album that signals the end of the Yardbirds and the beginnings of what was to become Led Zeppelin. Tracked at London’s De Lane Lea studio over three months, Little Games is the only Yardbirds’ studio album featuring Jimmy Page as the sole guitarist. And although some of the material disappoints, Page never does. “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor” finds Pagey harnessing the violin bow/Vox wah shtick that would serve him well for the next ten years in Zep, while the honking slide of “Drinking Muddy Water” simply kills with a combination of flutey fuzz and Tele steeli-ness. In fact, Page’s tones throughout are some of the best he ever recorded—and that’s saying a lot. Equipped with a ’59 Fender Telecaster (a gift from former Yardbird Jeff Beck), a Vox Phantom XII electric 12-string, and Vox AC30s, Page’s secret weapons were a Sola Sound Tone Bender MKII fuzz and the aforementioned Vox wah. Produced by Mickey Most, Little Games also features the acoustic number “White Summer,” a tune that showed Page’s fascination with Middle Eastern modality, as well as his formidable Bert Jansch-inspired acoustic chops. —DF
Are You Experienced
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Let’s face it, many quintessential albums from 1967 sound dated. But not Are You Experienced. There is not a single Summer of Love stereotype—no sitar, no bubble-gum melody, no vaudeville tune—anywhere. All killer, no filler. Tracked in England at various studios, (Pye, Regent, Kingway, and Olympic, among others), it’s amazing to note the speed with which Are You Experienced actually came together. Hendrix arrived in London on September 24, 1966. He plays with Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding for the first time on October 5. After a few gigs (mostly in France), the band entered Kingway Studios and tracked “Hey Joe” on October 23. So in less than a month, Hendrix and the Experience had begun the creative process for what was to be the electric guitar’s most powerful statement. And the guy hadn’t even written “Purple Haze” yet.
Recorded on 4-track, with tape delay, compression, EQ, and panning for “effects,” Are You Experienced features the classic Hendrix setup—Fender Stratocaster (with a rosewood fretboard) into a Marshall stack. Yet at a gig outside of London at a venue called Chiselhurst Caves in December of 1966, a young electronics tweaker by the name of Roger Mayer gave Hendrix a trippy frequency doubler device that produced a tone an octave higher than the played note. This box later became the Octavia. You can hear it all over the album, most notably on “Fire” and “Purple Haze” (also, listen closely under the solo—it’s all slacked string sickness!). “Jimi also used a modified Arbiter Fuzz Face,” says Mayer, “as well as other distortions and drivers that I made for the sessions.”
Although Are You Experienced dropped jaws because of the never-before-heard sonic debauchery of tunes like “I Don’t Live Today,” “Love or Confusion,” and “Manic Depression” (you can hear the 25-watt Celestion speakers crumbling under the sheer weight of volume on these cuts), it’s the album’s more tender tracks that reveal the real breadth of Hendrix’s talent. “The Wind Cries Mary” (which producer Chas Chandler claimed was tracked in 20 minutes) is a textbook example of how Hendrix took the hip comping of 6-string soul brothers such as Curtis Mayfield and twisted the style to fit his own tunes. One track that stands apart from the rest is “May This Be Love,” a tune that Hendrix fills out with brilliant, chiming Strat tones and a solo that may be one of his most lyrical and most concise melodic statements. What makes this timeless debut even more amazing, however, is the fact that Hendrix was such a product of his time—honing his craft on the chitlin’ circuit, backing up vocalists, and playing blues and R&B tunes. And then bam—from seemingly out of nowhere, a first album drops with classic tunes, otherworldly tones, and a fully formed guitar style that still sounds fresh, 40 years on. —DF
Born Under a Bad Sign
The left-handed Albert King was an excellent if unknown jump and slow blues guitarist from St. Louis before he signed with Stax Records in 1966. In a brilliant executive decision, King was hooked up with the Stax house band of Booker T. & the MG’s. The selection of singles they cut in 1966 and 1967 were collected for the landmark Born Under a Bad Sign, an album which sanctioned the marriage between Memphis soul and the funky blues that seemed to pour out of King like steaming hot molasses. The big man totally dominated “Lucy,” his ’58/’59 Gibson Flying V, while punishing his beefy Acoustic 260 bass head (through a 261 cabinet) with torturous bends of a minor third or more. His unique “womanly” tone and vocal style of phrasing caught the ear of Eric Clapton, who quickly covered “Born Under a Bad Sign” with Cream in 1968, and later Stevie Ray Vaughan, who mimicked King in virtually every slow blues he ever played. From the stinging, epochal full-step bend that kicks off the title track through “Crosscut Saw,” “As the Years Go Passing By,” and “Oh Pretty Woman” (all of which have entered the lexicon as must-know classics), this album is arguably the most influential postwar electric blues recording of all time. —Dave Rubin
Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield
Whether Mike Bloomfield saw it as an opportunity to explore the psychedelic territory of his buddy Jimi Hendrix, or as a test run for his new eclectic horn band, the Electric Flag, The Trip lives up to its name. As the soundtrack for the Peter Fonda/Dennis Hopper acid exploitation film, it allowed “Bloomers” to indulge a dizzying array of styles on his P-90 powered Les Paul goldtop, a ’burst with PAFs, or a rosewood-fretboard Tele through a Fender Twin Reverb. “Peter’s Trip” is orchestral and cinematic, with long, sustained guitar lines. “Green and Gold” is Mariachi-flavored, “Hobbit” utilizes disorienting sound effects and feedback, while “Fewghh” contains gothic organ and dissonant, jazzy guitar lines. Bloomfield gets funky on “Fine Jung Thing,” shows his R&B chops on the ’60s soul/rock of “Practice Room,” and blasts like a jackhammer on the frenetic “Flash, Bam, Pow.” “Gettin’ Hard,” a “Hoochie Coochie Man” sound-alike, finds him ripping the blues with abandon and is worth the price of admission alone. Bloomfield would go on to score other features (including porn films in the ’70s), but The Trip remains his most audacious guitar project, one that he called some of his best recorded work. —Dave Rubin
In 1966, the Seeds—featuring Jan Savage on guitar—released the abrasive single “Pushin’ Too Hard,” which remains a proto-punk landmark. Muddy Waters even called the Seeds, “America’s own Rolling Stones.” Like the Stones, the Seeds embraced the Beatles’ psychedelic ideas in 1967, but the Seeds didn’t abandon their raunchy, bluesy roots. After the hippie poetry of “March of the Flower Children—Introduction” gives way to the sitar drone of “Travel with Your Mind,” the Seeds return to raunch and roll on songs such as “Out of the Question” and the single “A Thousand Shadows,” the latter being essentially a trippier version of “Pushin’ Too Hard.” After the intro, the fuzz guitar yields to a clean, reverb-soaked blues lick that repeats every other bar. The versatile Savage even cuts some quick country-style licks on “Pretty Girl.” His fuzzy pentatonic runs and slinky slide lines on the slow blues “Cry Wolf” respond to the vocal in similar fashion to contemporary Robbie Krieger of the Doors. A concept album with a garage rock sound. —Jimmy Leslie
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
Opening with radio-like voices reading from Stars and Planets, a pulsing single-note guitar figure, and mock Morse code blips, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn whi