Wilson and Alroy's Record Reviews - We listen to the lousy records so you won't have to.

Year In Review: 1969

In 1969 things zipped by at a million miles an hour, and it wasn't all because of the acid. And while the music industry establishment struggled to turn psychedelia into a million dollar cash cow, avant garde musicians rushed off in a million different directions. Ornately produced concept albums were still being made by British acts like the Kinks, King Crimson, Procol Harum, and especially the Who, whose Tommy was a masterpiece of the genre. But the Beatles themselves had given up storytelling in favor of song fragments and synthesizers - and Abbey Road was very nearly the best record they ever made. The Stones, meanwhile, had reverted to kick-butt R & B form; Fairport Convention had perfected their fusion of rock and British folk; and Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood had teamed up as "Blind Faith" for a relatively stripped-down record.

Back in the States, the best musicians weren't making acid rock either. Instead, there were early experiments with funk (Sly Stone; the Isley Brothers), punk (the Velvet Underground), jazz-gospel-folk-rock fusion (Roberta Flack), and country-rock (Poco). The Band perfected its unique blend of down-home Americana, Dylan himself succeeded with a pure country-western record, and Leonard Cohen was one of many lyrically ambitious folk singers riding on Bob Dylan's coattails. The feel-good, smoothly-harmonized, semi-acoustic Laurel Canyon sound was invented by CSN, and Neil Young had easily made the transition to being a solo act. And Frank Zappa continued to dabble entertainingly with modernized classical music.

With all of this experimentation going on, a lot of artists ended up with mud on their faces. George Harrison indulged himself with a tossoff instrumental album. Genesis showed just how unlistenably bad a British concept album could be. Steve Marriott and Peter Frampton struck out with their new supergroup Humble Pie in more ways than one. The Byrds and Doors were pale shadows of their earlier selves. Bay Area hippies like Quicksilver Messenger Service had taken self-indulgent jamming to an extreme. Tim Hardin cut a forgettable blues album. And the biggest loser was Motown, which just didn't know how to adapt; most of the groups in their stable, including the Supremes and the Temptations, tried and failed to use Sly Stone as a role model. (JA)

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