5 Great Albums Released 55 Years Ago This Month

There was a lot going on in the music world in the summer of 1969, not the least of which was an impressive list of albums released in that period. July 1969 was a particularly fertile stretch for artists to release groundbreaking LPs.

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We’ve compiled a list of five albums from July ’69 that have stood the test of time, and then some. Some might be pretty obvious choices, and some just might surprise you. Take a look.

Five Leaves Left by Nick Drake

Drake came out of the gate with his first album sounding like an artist who’d been doing this for years, so confident did he seem in his approach and demeanor. The music fell somewhat between folk and baroque pop, but in truth he was ahead of his time in anticipating the singer/songwriter movement that would bloom in the early part of the next decade. Instead of the strings being slathered all over everything, they’re integrated seamlessly into Drake’s evocative guitar/piano-and-vocal approach. Much of his legend is based on songs from this album like “Time Has Told Me,” “River Man,” and “Saturday Sun.”

Blind Faith by Blind Faith

As is often the case with so-called “supergroups,” Blind Faith wasn’t built to last. Their members were far too restless to stick in any one place for too long, and even their single album was a somewhat thrown-together affair. (For example, an endless jam called “Do What You Like” takes up most of the second side.) Still, that one record delivered enough evidence of brilliance and chemistry to make us wonder what might have been if they had given us more. Steve Winwood’s acrobatic vocals on “Can’t Find My Way Home” and “Had to Cry Today” leave the biggest imprint, although Eric Clapton’s “Presence of the Lord” is one of his finest originals as well.

Unhalfbricking by Fairport Convention

This collection of British folk enthusiasts, known for being the first musical stepping stone for Richard Thompson, had been building towards something special for a few years before peaking with this set. It’s the home of lead singer Sandy Denny’s heartbreaking anthem “Who Knows Where the Time Goes,” a song so wonderful the album would have been great even with just a bunch of filler around it. Instead, the band distinguishes themselves with their versatility, especially when interpreting Dylan, sometimes earnestly (“Percy’s Song”), sometimes raucously (“Million Dollar Bash”), and sometimes in French (“Si Tu Dois Partir.”)

Yes by Yes

It’s interesting listening to the debut album by Yes to hear how they immediately had their signature sound intact. Tony Kaye’s virtuoso organ work, Chris Squire’s Earth-burrowing bass, Bill Bruford’s mighty drum fills, and Jon Anderson’s helium-filled vocals: It’s all right there. Only guitarist Peter Banks wouldn’t stick around too long from this lineup (although he acquits himself quite well here). The songwriting hadn’t quite gelled as it soon would, but the instrumental interplay and prog-rock ambition is there, especially on a thrillingly inventive cover of The Beatles’ “Every Little Thing.”

The Soft Parade by The Doors

You’ll probably find a lot of diehard Doors’ fans who dismiss this record as being a bit too “poppy,” at least compared to the tougher musical stuff the band usually delivered. And it’s certainly uneven, both in quality from song to song and vibe. For example, “Wild Child” is brilliant, but the sexy blues it conjures certainly sounds like it belongs on another record. Still, if you meet it on its terms, you’ll find The Soft Parade offers plenty to love. “Touch Me” deserved its hit single status, while “Wishful Sinful” is a sinewy Robbie Krieger original that gets a delicate band performance and slyly provocative vocal from Jim Morrison.

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