But the really amazing thing about the year was the depth of talent that suddenly abounded: Aretha Franklin shot to fame with her Atlantic debut; Traffic came out of nowhere; the Doors released their first two albums, both solid: The Doors and Strange Days; the Buffalo Springfield, Byrds, Tim Buckley, Jefferson Airplane, Cream and Love all released the best albums of their careers. The Mothers of Invention took a strong step forward with their tongue-in-cheek concept album Absolutely Free. Brit rockers the Who and Small Faces finally came up with consistently satisfying efforts, while the Stones kept pace. And the Velvet Underground explored the dark side of the decade on their first release.
But that's still not all. Rock groups were now old enough to start splitting up, and Gene Clark released a worthy solo album after leaving the Byrds. Folk-rockers Simon & Garfunkel made their first solidly impressive album. And Motown, while not yet adapting to changes on the musical scene, showed a new maturity on three terrific releases: the Temptations' With A Lot O' Soul, the Four Tops' Reach Out and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' Make It Happen. And Dionne Warwick had the most hit-packed release of her career.
No important act released a truly bad record all year long, but both Frank Zappa and Paul McCartney embarrassed themselves with premature solo efforts, and the psychedelic poseurs Vanilla Fudge didn't deserve their sudden chart success. The year's best jazz album was Miles Davis' Nefertiti. (DBW)