There were hundreds of albums made between 1964 and 1969 that contained quality folk-rock. What follows is a selected list of the best and most important of those, with some possible additional releases to explore mentioned in some of the capsule reviews. Bear in mind that this discography, in line with the rest of this book, covers the music made by the generation of performers that shaped 1960s folk-rock. With just a few exceptions of particularly important pre-1964 and early-1970s recordings by some of those performers, these records were made in the 1964-69 era that saw the birth and heyday of the form. To keep the list manageable, important pre-1960s folk recordings such as the Harry Smith and Alan Lomax-compiled anthologies are not listed, and nor are acoustic folk records from before and during the 1960s by major folk performers such as Woody Guthrie, Odetta, and Martin Carthy, though anyone interested in roots of and influences on folk-rock should investigate some of those.
The record labels listed for these entries are the most recent known labels on which the albums have been reissued or maintained in print. For reviews of many folk-rock albums not listed here, and additional, detailed reviews of many folk-rock albums that are listed here, readers are advised to check out the largest on-line database of album reviews and artist discographies, the All Music Guide , at www.allmusic.com.
Eric Andersen, Violets of Dawn (1999, Vanguard). A sampler of the best of Andersen's early recordings, including his best early songs: "Violets of Dawn," "Close the Door Lightly When You Go," "Thirsty Boots," and "The Hustler." The track selection is almost the same as on Vanguard's The Best of Eric Andersen, but the sound on this CD is better.
The Band, Music from Big Pink (1968, Capitol). Folk-rock is only one of the tributaries drawn upon for the album that, more than any other, put Americana into folk-rock. It never would have happened without folk-rock, and specifically the Band's old bandleader Bob Dylan, who at the Basement Tapes sessions cut earlier versions of several Big Pink songs ("Tears of Rage," "I Shall Be Released," "This Wheel's on Fire") with these musicians. The CD reissue has the outtakes/alternates that are almost de rigeur for such things these days.
The Band, The Band (1969, Capitol). A continuation of the music explored on its debut, this time with a total reliance upon original compositions. It includes the Band's most popular songs, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and "Up on Cripple Creek," and additional outtakes and alternates on the CD reissue.
Syd Barrett, Crazy Diamond (1993, EMI). A selection to make the purists howl, perhaps, but it's undeniable that much of the ex-Pink Floyd leader's zany solo output has an acid-folk charm. This three-CD set has almost everything he did as a solo artist, including all the songs from his two 1970 albums, and plenty of outtakes.
The Beatles, Meet the Beatles (1964, Capitol). Not a folk-rock album, but the one record that more than any other awakened young American folk musicians to the possibilities of electric rock music. The Meet the Beatles LP, as opposed to With the Beatles (their second British LP, which has much of the same material and is the one that was reissued on CD), is what's necessary to re-create the impact, as it's almost wholly devoted to original songs, including two great ones ("I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "I Saw Her Standing There") that don't appear on With the Beatles.
The Beatles, A Hard Day's Night (1964, Capitol). Songs from and recorded right after the making of the movie of the same name, which was about as influential on early folk-rock musicians as the Meet the Beatles album was. You can hear some folky influences creeping into their work, too, on songs like "Things We Said Today" and "I'll Be Back."
The Beatles, Beatles for Sale (1964, Capitol). More music that, if only unconsciously, continued to help bring folk and rock closer together, explicitly so on "I'm a Loser" and "I'll Follow the Sun."
The Beatles, Help! (1965, Capitol). A fine album on any terms, as all Beatles albums are. Within the context of folk-rock, it's notable for several songs that show a definite folk-rock influence, like "You've Got to Hide Your Away" and "I've Just Seen a Face," as well as the appearance (not influenced by the Byrds) of a prototypical ringing 12-string electric guitar riff in "Ticket to Ride."
The Beatles, Rubber Soul (1965, Capitol). The Beatles' most strongly folk-rock-influenced album, from Lennon-McCartney songs like "Norwegian Wood" and "I'm Looking Through You" to George Harrison's Byrds homage "If I Needed Someone."
The Beatles, Unsurpassed Demos (1991, Yellow Dog, bootleg). Twenty-four acoustic White Album demos, recorded in May 1968 at George Harrison's house, including songs they wrote in India while they and Donovan were studying with the Maharishi. This is the chance to hear the Beatles as an unplugged band, highly enjoyable as well as educational, and often bootlegged in part or whole under different titles as well.
The Beau Brummels, The Best of the Beau Brummels (1987, Rhino). A good 18-song survey of their 1960s tracks, though not perfect in its song selection, particularly with the omission of "I Want You." It does have their key hits "Just a Little" and "Laugh, Laugh," as well as standout lesser-known singles like "Sad Little Girl." There's much to enjoy on some other Beau Brummels releases if you like what you hear here, such as 1965's Vol. 2, Sundazed's three-CD mid-1960s rarities collection San Fran Sessions, and the more reflective 1967 album Triangle.
Big Brother & the Holding Company, Big Brother & the Holding Company (1967, Columbia/Legacy). While Big Brother were already getting into hard psychedelic rock by the time it recorded its debut album at the end of 1966, much of the material is derived from folk and pre-rock blues and gospel sources, such as "Down on Me," "All Is Loneliness," and "Blindman." The CD reissue adds the non-LP single "Coo Coo," as crazed a psychedelic rock update of an overdone folk music standard as you'll hear.
Blackburn & Snow, Something Good for Your Head (1999, Big Beat). All four of the songs the duo managed to release on singles while active are here, including the David Crosby-penned "Stranger in a Strange Land," along with 16 previously unreleased outtakes. Among the most justly undiscovered folk-rock of the 1960s, the male-female harmonies and solid early folk-rock songwriting should appeal to anyone who likes the early Jefferson Airplane, though at the same time it's not so similar to the Airplane or other big-name folk-rockers as to sound imitative or derivative.
The Blue Things, The Blue Things (2001, Rewind). A reissue of the great lost folk-rock group's 1966 RCA album, with six bonus tracks from 1966-67 singles (including some very cool psychedelic ones like "Orange Rooftop of Your Mind"). Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys the early Byrds and Beau Brummels, though it has an earnest longing appeal of its own. The getting-harder-to-find Cicadelic LPs Story Vol. 1-3 fill out the picture with numerous outtakes and early singles, as do the Collectables CDs Story Vol. 1-2.
David Bowie, The Beckenham Oddity (Leisure Records, bootleg). Probably recorded in early 1969, this unreleased acoustic tape, since bootlegged (usually under the title The Beckenham Oddity), documents the brief period when Bowie, with singer-guitarist accompanist John Hutchinson, sounded something like a British Simon & Garfunkel. Bowie takes most of the vocal leads, with frequent harmonies by Hutchinson, the set including unplugged versions of several of the better songs that would show up on his 1969-1970 recordings. Despite wobbly low fidelity, it's charming, tuneful, affecting, and, well, sincere—an adjective you wouldn't often use for Bowie's work.
Tim Buckley, Tim Buckley (1966, Elektra). Though it might sound a bit callow in relation to his subsequent music, Tim Buckley is a deft and delicate portrait of the teenage troubadour at his most folk-rock-soaked. The production was state-of-the-art early Elektra folk-rock, embellished by some sympathetic orchestral arrangements by Jack Nitzsche. The 2010 two-CD expanded edition on Rhino Handmade has both the stereo and mono versions. More crucially, it adds an entire CD of previously unreleased material predating the album, including a dozen rather crude November 1965 demos by Buckley's band the Bohemians, and ten largely solo acoustic demos from summer 1966.
Tim Buckley, Goodbye and Hello (1967, Elektra). Buckley's most consistent album found him expanding his reach into art song and psychedelia, but never at the loss of the song-oriented material that he and Larry Beckett penned at the outset of the singer's career. Unpredictable melodies, grandiose arrangements, and great vocalizing are to the fore throughout, whether on the outstanding anti-war statement "No Man Can Find the War," the eerie "Hallucinations," or the placid folkie ballad "Morning Glory."
Tim Buckley, Happy Sad (1969, Elektra). As much jazz as folk-rock, this is still a beguiling if low-key listen, as Buckley successfully inserts new yet accessible directions into his style. Though for the most part a languid set, it also builds up a powerhouse of energy on the jazz-folk-funk workout "Gypsy Woman."
Tim Buckley, Morning Glory: The Tim Buckley Anthology (2001, Elektra). Almost everything Buckley did in the first five years of his recording career needs to be heard to appreciate the impossibly eclectic scope of his vision. This two-CD compilation is a good place to start, though, mostly sticking to his 1966-70 releases, and throwing in a previously unreleased solo 1967 version of "Song to the Siren."
Buffalo Springfield, Buffalo Springfield (1966, Elektra/Asylum). The Springfield's first album is stellar California folk-rock, with great harmonies, songwriting (by Stephen Stills and Neil Young), and electric-acoustic guitar interplay. The hit single "For What It's Worth" is here, but there are plenty of other gems from Stills ("Everybody's Wrong," "Pay the Price," "Go and Say Goodbye") and Young ("Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing," "Out of My Mind," "Flying on the Ground Is Wrong"). Originally issued on Atco, this somehow ended up on Elektra for its 1997 CD reissue, which includes both stereo and mono versions of the album.
Buffalo Springfield, Buffalo Springfield Again (1967, Atco). The band's most diverse and impressive album, even if it spins into psychedelia, country-rock, and hard rock from its folk-rock base. Stills's "Rock and Roll Woman" and "Bluebird" are among his very best songs, while Young's "Expecting to Fly" is his best early composition, and "Broken Arrow" one of his most ambitious.
Buffalo Springfield, Last Time Around (1968, Atco). The least impressive of the group's albums, not just due to the increasing fragmentation of the band, but also to a slightly lower standard of material. There are some great songs here, though, like Young's "I Am a Child," Stills's "Pretty Girl Why," and Richie Furay's "Kind Woman."
Buffalo Springfield, Buffalo Springfield Box Set (2001, Rhino). This definitive four-CD box set isn't quite definitive, and could have been done better. It's missing some tracks from Last Time Around, and disc four, comprised of songs from the first two albums in their original sequence, is a waste as all the tracks appear on other discs in the package. Still ... it has almost everything the group issued, and dozens of cool demos, outtakes, and alternates, and as such must be considered a great collection of music.
The Byrds, The Preflyte Sessions (2001, Sundazed). There is no more important collection of pre-1965 folk-rock than this two-CD set of early Byrds demos and rehearsals. Not only is it historically important, it's usually immensely enjoyable as well, if less mature and more Beatles-influenced than their early Columbia Recordings. The addition of four pre-Byrds David Crosby solo rock recordings is a nice bonus. Note that the versions of the tracks on their first single (credited to the Beefeaters), "Please Let Me Love You" and "Don't Be Long," that appear here are almost identical to the takes used on the Elektra 45, but not the exact same ones; those are available on the Collectors' Choice Music various-artists compilation Buried Treasure.
The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man (1965, Columbia/Legacy). If there is one album that neophytes to 1960s folk-rock should start with after reading this book, this is it. Their 1965 debut features the hit single title track—the most important song covered in this book—and standout covers of more Bob Dylan songs ("All I Really Want to Do," "Chimes of Freedom") and Pete Seeger's "The Bells of Rhymney," as well as quality original material such as "Here Without You," "I Knew I'd Want You," and "It's No Use." Like all of the Columbia/Legacy Byrds CD reissues, it's bolstered with several bonus tracks of rarities and previously unissued outtakes and alternate versions.
The Byrds, Turn! Turn! Turn! (1965, Columbia/Legacy). Not as good as the preceding Mr. Tambourine Man, but still high-quality early folk-rock, particularly on the title smash. Gene Clark's songs, especially "Set You Free This Time," show their original material starting to mature, though this would be the last album that Clark recorded with the group before leaving in 1966.
The Byrds, Fifth Dimension (1966, Columbia/Legacy). Uneven, but essential for their pioneering outings into psychedelia on "Eight Miles High," "Fifth Dimension," "I See You," and "I Come and Stand at Every Door." Additionally, "John Riley" is one of the greatest rock updates of a traditional folk song. Among the bonus tracks are the earlier RCA Studios version of "Eight Miles High" and "Eight Miles High"'s non-LP B-side, "Why."
The Byrds, Younger Than Yesterday (1967, Columbia/Legacy). Their best album other than Mr. Tambourine Man, not just for the hit singles "So You Want to Be a Rock'n'Roll Star" and "My Back Pages," but also for some of their best LP-only cuts, like "Renaissance Fair," "Everybody's Been Burned," and "Thoughts and Words." Chris Hillman's "The Girl with No Name" and "Time Between" are overlooked table-setters for country-rock.
The Byrds, The Notorious Byrd Brothers (1968, Columbia/Legacy). Like Younger Than Yesterday, another high-flying fusion of folk-rock, country-rock, and psychedelia, from the cover of "Goin' Back" and the buoyant optimism of "Natural Harmony" and "Tribal Gathering" to the futuristic "Space Odyssey." The bonus tracks include David Crosby's controversial "Triad" and Roger McGuinn's ultimate electronic excursion, "Moog Raga."
The Byrds, Sweetheart of the Rodeo (1968, Columbia/Legacy). Overrated, perhaps, but this is an early country-rock milestone, and the only album that Gram Parsons recorded with the Byrds. The 2003 two-CD expanded edition has numerous outtakes, including some takes with Parsons on lead vocals that didn't make the final album, as well as six tracks by Parsons' previous group, the International Submarine Band.
The Charlatans, The Amazing Charlatans (1996, Big Beat). Twenty-three 1965-68 tracks, most of them previously unreleased, were assembled for this important archival collection. The Charlatans' good-time jug band-blues-saloon music take on folk-rock is more engaging than exciting, but once in a while it is exciting, as on Dan Hicks's giddy early psych-folk outing "We're Not on the Same Trip," and the ominous reading of the English madrigal "I Saw Her."
Gene Clark, Echoes (1991, Columbia/Legacy). Clark's 1967 debut solo album, Gene Clark & the Gosdin Brothers, was a letdown in comparison to his work in the Byrds. But it's okay, and not too dissimilar to vintage 1966 Byrds, though more subdued. The entire album, plus six early Byrds tracks to feature him as singer-songwriter and three previously unreleased early solo cuts, are compiled on this CD.
Leonard Cohen, Songs of Leonard Cohen (1968, Columbia). Cohen's debut boasted some of the best lyrics ever to grace a popular music album on songs like "Suzanne," "Master Song," and "So Long, Marianne." He made his extremely limited vocal range work for him rather than against him, his brooding songs counterpointed by attractive if muted acoustic-orchestral settings.
Judy Collins, #3 (1963, Elektra). Though a folk album and not a folk-rock album, this was vital in expanding folk's parameters to contemporary songwriters and full multi-instrumental arrangements. The presence of Roger McGuinn as guitarist-banjoist-arranger, as well as pre-Byrds versions of "Turn! Turn! Turn!" and "The Bells of Rhymney," further cements its role as an important folk-rock antecedent.
Judy Collins, In My Life (1966, Elektra). The album that brought Collins into folk-rock was also the flagship of the folk-rock sub-genre baroque folk, with fine covers of songs by Dylan, Richard Fariña, Leonard Cohen, Donovan, the Beatles, and others, often with classical-influenced arrangements.
Judy Collins, Forever: An Anthology (1997, Elektra). Certainly this suffers from a lack of chronological sequencing, and not all of it covers the 1960s. Still, the 35 songs include most of her key 1960s folk-rock recordings, among them "Both Sides Now," "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?," "Hard Lovin' Loser," "Suzanne," "First Boy I Loved," and "My Father," not to mention her 1963 recording of "Turn! Turn! Turn!"
Country Joe & the Fish, The First Three EP's (1993, Sequel). The third of Country Joe's EPs, done in the early 1970s, isn't worth noting, and nor are the two songs folkie Peter Krug did to fill out side two of Country Joe's first EP. But the other tracks, from 1965 and 1966 EPs, make this an important early San Francisco Bay Area folk-into-psychedelia document, including the 1965 jug band version of "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die" and the awesome 1966 psychedelic instrumental "Section 43."
Country Joe & the Fish, The Collected Country Joe & the Fish (1987, Vanguard). A good best-of, running more than 70 minutes, that properly leans heavily on the first album. It also includes "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag," which is essential not just to any Country Joe & the Fish anthology, but to any overview of 1960s folk-rock as a whole.
Crosby, Stills & Nash, Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969, Atlantic). The first album by folk-rock's major supergroup, and a hugely influential one, though its contents have aged variably. Stephen Stills, if only in retrospect, was the main motor, and wrote the album's best song, "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," while "Long Time Gone" and "Wooden Ships" showed their more aggressive, harder-rocking profile. The 2006 reissue adds four bonus tracks, including a cover of Nilsson's "Everybody's Talkin'."
Crosby, Stills Nash & Young, Déjà Vu (1970, Atlantic). Actually Neil Young's songwriting contributions to this album were fairly light, but they did including the outstanding multi-part suite "Country Girl." The core trio continued to write and play in a fashion similar to that essayed by debut, coming to a peak on the cover of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock." Unfortunately it doesn't include the 1970 non-LP singles "Ohio" and "Find the Cost of Freedom," both of which are among their finest moments. Incidentally, CSNY's live 4 Way Street, though often ragged, was an intermittently worthwhile (and long) double-CD snapshot of their varied 1970 acoustic and electric live sets, the CD reissue adding some additional previously unreleased material.
The Daily Flash, I Flash Daily (1984, Psycho). Side one of this posthumous album has four songs from 1966-67 45s by this good Seattle folk-rock group, as well as some quality unreleased material. These have solid West Coast 12-string-guitar-and-harmony folk-rock arrangements, highlighted by covers of Ian & Sylvia's "The French Girl" and Eric Andersen's "Violets of Dawn." But side two, whose two live recordings are dominated by a long cover of a Herbie Hancock song, is far less worthwhile.
Sandy Denny, Where the Time Goes: Sandy ‘67 (2005, Castle). All of the 16 acoustic folk tracks Denny recorded for Saga Records in 1967 (which showed up on four separate obscure LPs between 1967 and 1978), as well as two from the album she did with the Strawbs (recorded in 1967, but not released until 1973; see review below). Other than the Jackson C. Frank and Tom Paxton covers, the material in the Saga sessions was running behind the times, but Denny's singing was already magnificent. More such just-pre-rock early Denny recordings are on the gigantic, ridiculously expensive, and already rare 19-CD Sandy Denny box set. That box has 30 or so 1966-68 acoustic folk home demos and radio performances with wonderful vocals. They comprise a small percentage of that huge and costly box, however, and still do not manage to include everything from the bootlegs (Dark the Night and Borrowed Thyme) on which most of the material originally appeared.
Sandy Denny & the Strawbs, All Our Own Work (2010, Witchwood). Although these two dozen tracks were recorded in July 1967, the original LP titled All Our Own Work on which a dozen first appeared was not issued until 1973. While slighter and less powerful than what Denny would record with Fairport Convention, these recordings were charming if tentative early British folk-rock, highlighted by "And You Need Me" and the first studio version of "Who Knows Where the Time Goes." This 2010 compilation includes the entirety of the original 1973 All Our Own Work LP, adding a dozen outtakes and demos from the same sessions.
Jackie DeShannon, What the World Needs Now...The Definitive Collection (1994, EMI). DeShannon only periodically did folk-rock, or more properly proto-folk-rock, in 1963-65. This 28-track best-of compilation, though, has her important efforts in that style, like "Needles and Pins," "When You Walk in the Room," and "Don't Turn Your Back on Me."
Jackie DeShannon, 1965 Metric Music Demo (1965, Metric Music Co.). Probably the most fiendishly rare item referred to in this discography, this album of publisher demos was only circulated within the music industry. A solitary acoustic guitar serving as accompaniment, it features strong, movingly sung, and from the sounds of things Bob Dylan-influenced, personal songs that approximate the approach frequently tapped by early folk-rock composers. Among them is a version of "Don't Doubt Yourself, Babe," which the Byrds covered on their first album.
The Dillards, Wheatstraw Suite (1968, Elektra). One of the greatest country-rock albums, though country-rock might be too limiting a label to put on its fusion of bluegrass, country, folk, rock, and pop. Much of what the Eagles put to a pop polish can be heard in embryo here, though non-Eagles fans shouldn't let that scare them off, as this album is far earthier and quirkier.
The Dillards, Copperfields (1970, Elektra). Though not quite as groundbreaking as Wheatstraw Suite, Copperfields is a similarly eclectic, upbeat trawl through country-rock-bluegrass fusion, with surprising dabs of other influences thrown onto the canvas. "Touch Her If You Can" could have been a pop hit single, for instance, while "Brother John" uncovered an unsuspected knack for jazzy McGuinn-like guitar licks.
Dion, The Road I'm On: A Retrospective (1997, Columbia/Legacy). Though some of this double-CD of Dion's 1962-66 Columbia recordings contains the pop-rock and doo wop for which he's most famous, the majority of it's given over to his initial forays into blues and folk-rock. That includes rare mid-1960s Tom Wilson-produced tracks that are unsurprisingly close in arrangement to some of Dylan's 1965 cuts. Unfortunately, his best such track, a ripping 1965 cover of the rare Dylan composition "Baby, I'm in the Mood for You," is only available on a different, less wide-ranging CD, Bronx Blues: The Columbia Recordings (1962-1965).
Dion, Sit Down Old Friend (1970, Ace). This doesn't have "Abraham, Martin & John," but it's the best album from the singer's folk-rock comeback period, wholly comprised of introspective, soulful folk-rock-blues, with Dion's acoustic guitar the only instrumental backup. On its CD reissue, it's paired with his less impressive 1971 album You're Not Alone.
Donovan, Summer Day Reflection Songs (2000, Castle). Donovan's highly underrated 1965, pre-electric rock period is fully documented by this fine two-CD release, which contains everything he recorded prior to "Sunshine Superman," including some real rarities. The hit singles "Catch the Wind," "Universal Soldier," and "Colours" are here, as are some good little-known originals, like "Summer Day Reflection Song." Nine folkier demos from late 1964 appear on the 2002 archival release Sixty Four.
Donovan, Sunshine Superman
(1966, Epic). Donovan's best album, and his first full electric rock
gets off to a great start with the "Sunshine Superman" hit, and stays
exhilarating early folk-rock-psychedelia gear the whole way. "Season of
the Witch," "Bert's Blues," "Guinevere," "The Trip," and "The Fat
are all nearly up to the level of his best hit singles, and "Celeste"
the great overlooked Donovan LP track. The 2005 reissue on EMI UK is
recommended, as it adds seven bonus tracks and lengthy historical liner
Mellow Yellow (1967,
Epic). Although this tapered off from the highs of its extraordinary
predecessor, 1966's Sunshine
Superman, it was still a solid record. Not as eclectic as Sunshine Superman, it went deeper
into jazzy swings and playful lyrics, particularly of course on the
huge title hit. There were some wry, even dark musings on Swinging
London life, though, in "Young Girl Blues," "Hampstead Incident," and
"Sunny South Kensington." Like Sunshine
Superman, 1968's Hurdy Gurdy
Man, and 1969's Barabajagal,
this was reissued by EMI UK in 2005 with historical liner notes and a
wealth of bonus tracks.
Donovan, Troubadour: The Definitive Collection 1964-1976 (1992, Epic/Legacy). The absence of "Celeste" from this two-CD best-of is inexcusable. But for the most part it does a good job in compiling his strongest material, including all of his hit singles, numerous standout album tracks, and a handful of previously unreleased cuts. The 2005 three-CD box Try for the Sun: The Journey of Donovan has more material and a bonus DVD of a 1970 documentary—but still no "Celeste."
Nick Drake, Bryter Later (1970, Hannibal). The best of the three albums Drake put out during his lifetime contains his most captivating melancholic songs ("Hazey Jane II," "At the Chime of a City Clock," "Poor Boy"), as well as classical-influenced, orchestrated instrumentals that counterpoint the vocal numbers well.
Nick Drake, Fruit Tree (1985, Hannibal). Drake didn't record much during his short life, but virtually everything on his three albums was of high quality. All three of them—1969's Five Leaves Left, 1970's Bryter Later, and 1972's Pink Moon—are on this four-CD box set, which adds a disc of non-LP outtakes (available separately as Time of No Reply) that are well worth hearing too. A limited-edition 2007 reissue included a DVD of the fine 2002 documentary A Skin Too Few: The Days of Nick Drake.
Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1962, Columbia). Though there's no rock'n'roll here (except perhaps, to the slightest of degrees, on the cover of "Corinna, Corinna"), this merits inclusion as perhaps the most influential pre-1964 folk album on the first folk-rock generation. This was the album on which Dylan laid out much of the songwriting approach that would carry over to the birth of folk-rock, including such classics as "Blowin' in the Wind," "Girl of the North Country," "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," and "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall."
Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan Outtakes (Vigotone, bootleg). Twenty-five outtakes recorded around the time of Freewheelin', which would be interesting enough under its own steam. As it relates to folk-rock, though, it's particularly intriguing for the inclusion of multiple takes of "Mixed Up Confusion," "That's All Right," "Rocks and Gravel," and "Corrina, Corrina," all of them recorded in 1962 with rock arrangements. Yet more versions came out in 2012 on Sony Music's limited-edition European compilation of 1962 Dylan rarities, The 50th Anniversary Collection: The Copyright Extension Collection, Volume 1.
Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home (1965, Columbia). Half of this has the man's first full entry into rock music, in a basic bluesy mode on "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and "Maggie's Farm," but in a more romantic and melodic frame of mind on "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" and "She Belongs to Me." The acoustic-dominated songs are just as important, including his own version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue."
Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited (1965, Columbia). For "Like a Rolling Stone" alone, this would be considered a major folk-rock album. "Tombstone Blues," "Queen Jane Approximately," "Desolation Row," and "Ballad of a Thin Man" ensured that Dylan's first all-out rock album would be subject to more critical analysis than almost any other popular music recording.
Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde (1966, Columbia). His greatest album (though many would argue for others), with greater melodic and emotional depth than his previous folk-rock recordings. Includes the classic hits "Just Like a Woman," "I Want You," and "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35," but also other songs of a similar caliber, like "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands," "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again," and "Absolutely Sweet Marie."
Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Live 1966: The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert (1998, Columbia/Legacy). The title's about as unwieldy and confusing as they come for a major label superstar release. What you need to know: this is a double-CD live set of his May 17, 1966 Manchester concert, frequently bootlegged as having been recorded at the Royal Albert hall. The first disc contains fine solo acoustic versions songs from 1965-66 releases. But it's more renowned for the second disc, with his fiery electric rock performances with the Hawks aka the Band, including the famous shout of "Judas!" from the crowd.
Bob Dylan, The Basement
Tapes Complete: The Bootleg
Series Vol. 11 (2014, Legacy). This six-CD box rounds up
everything usable known to have survived from the quirky 1967
recordings Dylan made with the Band. This found the musicians working
counter to most trends in rock music that year, mixing folk, country,
blues, gospel, and rock'n'roll on idiosyncratic original Dylan material
(sometimes written with help from Band members). They also ran through
many covers, some quite obscure, though these have a rather loose,
informal warm-up feel. So do some of the originals, many of which seem
casual toss-offs or frustratingly incomplete. The most fully formed and
celebrated songs–generally, the ones that also appeared on the 1975
Basement Tapes double LP–are available on a two-CD distilled version of
this box, The Basement Tapes Raw.
Bob Dylan, The Basement Tapes Raw (2014, Legacy). The highlights of Dylan's recordings with the Band during 1967, including well-known and well-covered songs like "Too Much of Nothing," "This Wheel's on Fire," and "Tears of Rage." A good summary of that output for those who don't want to lay out the cash (and considerable legwork) for the six-CD The Basement Tapes Complete (see above review). Note that much of this material first found official release on the 1975 double-LP The Basement Tapes, but that compilation included some tracks with post-1967 overdubs, as well as recordings of the Band sans Dylan.
Bob Dylan, John Wesley Harding (1967, Columbia). The stately, subdued, philosophical back-to-basics record that marked Dylan's re-entry into the public eye after his mid-1966 motorcycle accident. Highlighted by "All Along the Watchtower," "As I Went One Morning," and "The Wicked Messenger," and very influential on the birth of country-rock, if skeletally arranged.
Bob Dylan, Biograph (1985, Columbia). This five-record box set covers Dylan's work through the early 1980s, but not unexpectedly features much material from the 1960s. It's valuable not only for the inclusion of all his major hits and several vital LP tracks, but also a number of important non-LP folk-rock singles, live versions, and outtakes from the 1960s, like "Mixed Up Confusion," "Positively 4th Street," "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?," and "Quinn the Eskimo" (aka "The Mighty Quinn"). Other important 1960s rarities appear on Columbia's three-CD The Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3; The Bootleg Series Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964, which has his piano demo of "Mr. Tambourine Man"; The Bootleg Series Vol. 7: No Direction Home: The Soundtrack, a double CD of live/home/demo/studio alternate take recordings from 1959-66; and too many Dylan bootlegs to count. The 1965 Newport Folk Festival discussed in detail in the prologue appears on numerous actual bootlegs.
Eclection, Eclection (1968, Collectors' Choice Music). Perhaps the finest way-obscure late-1960s British folk-rock album, though it actually sounds more Californian than British. Its harmonies, production, and song construction strongly recall the Jefferson Airplane, Mamas & Papas, and the Seekers, the band splitting before doing any additional albums that might have carved a more distinct identity.
Fairport Convention, Fairport Convention (1968, Polydor). Too often dismissed as derivative and inconsequential, this is in fact highly respectable Jefferson Airplane-Byrds-styled folk-rock. The only album the band did with Judy Dyble as its female singer, it includes both fine interpretations of songs like Joni Mitchell's "Chelsea Morning" and "I Don't Know Where I Stand," and fetching, tuneful originals in the classic mid-1960s folk-rock mold. The 2002 CD reissue has four bonus tracks: the non-LP debut single "If I Had a Ribbon Bow," a previously unreleased studio version of "Suzanne," and two covers (Tim Buckley's "Morning Glory" and Richard & Mimi Fariña's "Reno, Nevada") from a 1968 French TV broadcast.
Fairport Convention, What We Did on Our Holidays (1969, Hannibal). The first album the band did with Sandy Denny aboard was its best, whether on contemporary covers like Joni Mitchell's "Eastern Rain," traditional folk like "She Moves Through the Fair" and "Nottamun Town," or first-rate original material like Sandy Denny's "Fotheringay." Three bonus tracks are on the 2003 CD reissue: the non-LP B-side "Throwaway Street Puzzle," the BBC recording "You're Gonna Need My Help," and a studio version of the Everly Brothers' "Some Sweet Day" (of which a BBC performance has also been issued).
Fairport Convention, Unhalfbricking (1969, Hannibal). Not as strong as What We Did on Our Holidays, but still at a high level, especially on the French cover of Bob Dylan's "If You Gotta Go, Go Now" and Sandy Denny's mordant "Autopsy." The 2003 CD reissue adds covers of the Byrds' "Ballad of Easy Rider" and Bob Dylan's "Dear Landlord" as bonus tracks.
Fairport Convention, Liege and Lief (1969, Universal Island). The album that set the pattern for 1970s British folk-rock in its heavy emphasis on traditional material and the incorporation of fiddler Dave Swarbrick into the group, reaching its apex on the epic "Tam Lin." The 2002 CD reissue adds just two bonus tracks: previously unreleased versions of the traditional folk song "Sir Patrick Spens" and Richard Fariña's "Quiet Joys of Brotherhood."
Fairport Convention, Heyday (2002, Island). A great collection of late-1960s BBC sessions with the Sandy Denny lineups, most of them covers never released on its official albums, like Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne," Gene Clark's "Tried So Hard," Richard Fariña's "Reno, Nevada," and Eric Andersen's "Close the Door Lightly When You Go." It's not as representative of the band's scope as its studio releases are, but is as good as anything Fairport Convention put out Try to find the 2002 edition, which added eight extra tracks not on the original 1987 release. For the less selective Fairport fanatic, the four-CD Live at the BBC box has everything on Heyday and even more, extending its reach from 1967 to 1974, though one of the discs has off-air recordings of lower fidelity than the rest of the set.
Marianne Faithfull, North Country Maid (1966, Deram). A surprisingly credible rock-tinged folk album from a star whose 1960s work is usually dismissed as superfluous, approximating a Pentangle-like swing on cuts like "Sally Free and Easy," and using sitar on the traditional folk numbers "She Moves Through the Fair" and "Wild Mountain Thyme." The 1990 Deram CD reissue has three worthwhile bonus cuts, but is now about as hard to find as the original LP is.
Fapardokly, Fapardokly (1967, Sundazed). Though this is a hodgepodge of mid-1960s sessions rather than a proper album, about half of it's among the finest little-known early Byrds-influenced folk-rock, paced by Merrell Fankhauser's light, optimistic singing and songwriting. He offered some more good stuff, in a more pop-psychedelic vein, on the 1968 Things album by Merrell Fankhauser & H.M.S. Bounty, also reissued on Sundazed.
Richard & Mimi Fariña, Celebrations for a Grey Day (1965, Vanguard). A seminal nearly-folk-rock album from early 1965, though it's folkier than their second LP, including several guitar-dulcimer-dominated instrumentals. "Pack Up Your Sorrows," "One-Way Ticket," and "Reno Nevada," however, all cross the border into early folk-rock, with a poetic flair not far below the standards of Dylan's contemporaneous work.
Richard & Mimi Fariña, Reflections in a Crystal Wind (1965, Vanguard). The duo's second album definitely took their music in a more decisive folk-rock direction, even if still retained an Appalachian flavor (particularly in Richard Fariña's dulcimer) not heard in much other folk-rock music. "Sell-Out Agitation Waltz" is their best cut with full rock accompaniment, and "Bold Marauder," "Raven Girl," and "Children of Darkness" are all exceptional melancholic songs.
Richard & Mimi Fariña, The Complete Vanguard Recordings (2001, Vanguard). The title of this three-CD set is a bit inaccurate as a few stray items (none particularly essential) are missing. But it does include everything from their first two albums, as well as most of their posthumous LP Memories (also available separately). Memories actually contained some of their best songs, like "Joy 'Round My Brain," "Morgan the Pirate," and "The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood" (all on this compilation too), as well as material from their appearance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, and the Richard Fariña-produced Joan Baez track "All the World Has Gone By," perhaps the greatest thing she ever recorded. If it sounds like too much for the casual investor, there's also a good 75-minute anthology, Pack Up Your Sorrows: Best of the Vanguard Years.
The Flying Burrito Brothers, Hot Burritos! The Flying Burrito Brothers Anthology 1969-1973 (2000, A&M). You couldn't do much better for a survey of the early work by the Gram Parsons-Chris Hillman lineup of this leading country-rock band. This double CD includes everything from their first two albums, as well as some odds and ends from other compilations and a non-LP single. Note, though, that there's also a good amount of less impressive post-Parsons material on disc two.
Fotheringay, Fotheringay (1970, Hannibal). The sole album by Sandy Denny's first post-Fairport Convention project isn't as good as late-1960s Fairport, but isn't much worse either, hitting its high point on the lengthy reworking of the traditional folk number "Banks of the Nile." The 2005 CD reissue on Fledg'ling adds six bonus tracks, five from a live Rotterdam festival in June 1970, the other a version of the traditional folk song "Gypsy Davey." An approximation of their unfinished second album was issued under the title 2 in 2008, but note that this has guide vocals that would almost certainly have been replaced had the record been completed at the time. The 2015 four-disc box set Nothing More: The Collected Fotheringay combines the material from the two albums with numerous outtakes, demos, live recordings, and BBC sessions onto three CDs, adding a DVD of four songs filmed for German TV in November 1970.
The Fugs, The Fugs First Album (1965, Fantasy). The jug band-into-pre-punk rock phase of the Fugs is documented by their debut album, featuring such sex-drugs-subversion odes as "Slum Goddess," "I Couldn't Get High," and "Boobs a Lot." The CD reissue on Fantasy doubles the length of the album with outtakes and live recordings, and yet more outtakes from the LP sessions (in a yet more primitive style) are found on Virgin Fugs.
The Fugs, The Fugs Second Album (1966, Fantasy). Originally titled The Fugs when it first came out on ESP, this remains their finest hour, with both lust- and politically-charged rockers ("Frenzy," "Kill for Peace") and gentler melodic, poetic folk-rock ("Morning Morning" and "I Want to Know"). The CD reissue on Fantasy adds a couple of live 1967 performances and three songs from their rejected 1967 Atlantic album.
The Fugs, It Crawled into My Hand, Honest (1968, Edsel). One of the better folk-rock-into-psychedelia records, on both the 16-song suite that comprises side two, and the potpourri of folk-rock and psychedelic, gospel, and country pastiches on side one. It's not currently in print as a separate title, but is included in its entirety on the Rhino Handmade box set Electromagnetic Steamboat, a three-CD package including all of their late-1960s recordings from their erratic stint on the Reprise label.
Gale Garnett, We'll Sing in the Sunshine (1997, Collectables). The hit title track is all virtually anyone remembers of Garnett these days. It's on this album, which repackages her 1964 LP My Kind of Folk Songs with some additional bonus tracks from the mid-1960s. There are surprisingly strong cuts that oh-so-slightly mesh commercial folk with rock rhythm, like the nuclear danger warning "I Came to the City" and the cover of the well-traveled "I Know You Rider."
The Gentle Soul, The Gentle Soul (1968, Epic). Like a mellower, rootsier Stone Poneys, this band's sole album is one of the better exponents of laidback late-1960s Los Angeles folk-rock, with fine harmonies, wistful songs, and some dreamy orchestration. The CD reissue on Sundazed adds nine bonus tracks from non-LP singles and outtakes.
The Gosdin Brothers, Sounds
(1968, Capitol). Another damned obscure, hard-to-locate LP, but a very
good one, on the cusp between Byrds-like folk-rock and early
Anyone who likes Gene Clark's songs on Byrds and his first solo album
enjoy this as well, so similar is some of the reticent, vulnerable
to the material and its execution. The 2004 CD reissue doubles the
length of the original album by adding a dozen tracks drawn from rare
1966-68 singles and outtakes from the period that are also good blends
of country, rock, and folk, sometimes with a mild experimental streak
that can sound as if it was slipped in while the Gosdins weren't
looking. Note that the CD does not present the original LP in sequence,
following it with bonus tracks. Instead it spreads out the songs from
the LP in a different order, interspersing the bonus material.
Graham, Folk, Blues & Beyond
(1964, Topic). The cult British guitarist's groundbreaking album
combined blues, folk, Indian, middle-eastern, and jazz music, working
with a rhythm section. Though not quite folk-rock, it anticipates much
of what colored arrangements by British folk-rockers like the Pentangle.
Davy Graham, Folk Blues and All Points in Between (1985, See For Miles). This well-selected overview of his 1960s work emphasizes his 1965 album Folk, Blues & Beyond, on which he combined blues, folk, Indian, middle eastern, and jazz music, working with a rhythm section. Though not quite folk-rock, it anticipates much of what colored arrangements by British folk-rockers like Pentangle. The post-1965 material is good too, including blues, the Indian-heavy "Blue Raga," and a most idiosyncratic cover of Joni Mitchell's 'Both Sides Now."
The Grateful Dead, Workingman's Dead (1970, Warner Brothers). The first Dead album with a folk-rock focus was one of its best, approximating the sound of Crosby, Stills & Nash on "Uncle John's Band," with the Jerry Garcia-Robert Hunter songwriting partnership hitting its Americana stride throughout the disc. The 2003 CD reissue adds seven bonus tracks, most of them recorded live in 1969 and 1970.
The Grateful Dead, American Beauty (1970, Warner Brothers). Though similar to its predecessor Workingman's Dead, American Beauty has more songs that became well-known staples of the group's repertoire: "Box of Rain," "Sugar Magnolia," "Ripple," "Truckin'," and "Friend of the Devil." All of the Dead's studio albums through the early 1970s, most of its live ones from the time, and a bunch of studio outtakes and live recordings from the era stretching as far back as 1965 are found on Rhino's mammoth 12-CD box set The Golden Road, which speckles folk-rock throughout to varying extents. The 2003 CD reissue adds six bonus tracks, most of them recorded live in 1970. For a more complete Grateful Dead experience, note that all of their studio albums and most of their live albums through the early '70s, plus a bunch of studio outtakes and live recordings stretching as far back as 1965, are found on Rhino's mammoth 12-CD box set The Golden Road, which speckles folk-rock throughout to varying extents.
Guilbeau & Parsons, Louisiana Rain (2002, Big Beat). A nifty 25-track scoop of odds and ends that Gib Guilbeau and Gene Parsons recorded, either as the duo Guilbeau & Parsons or on sessions credited to other artists, circa the mid-to-late 1960s. Much of this was recorded just prior to or around the same time the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers were embracing country-rock, though it's gotten far less attention. And much of it sounds rather similar to the country-rock of the late-'60s Byrds, Gene Clark, and Flying Burrito Brothers, mixing folk-rock, Bakersfield country music, and some Cajun & R&B.
Arlo Guthrie, Running Down the Road (1969, Koch). Guthrie's first full rock album is an uneven mix of originals and Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and Mississippi John Hurt songs, but includes his most effective 1960s rock recordings in the skittering title track and the famous "Coming in to Los Angeles." The yet more famous "Alice's Restaurant Massacree" is on his 1967 debut, Alice's Restaurant.
Tim Hardin, Hang on to a Dream: The Verve Recordings (1994, Polygram). Hardin, for all his influence, only recorded three studio albums during the 1960s. The first and best two of those, Tim Hardin 1 and Tim Hardin 2, are found on the first disc of this set; the second disc features mid-1960s demos, some from as early as May 1964, that are largely given over to blues, illustrating his first excursions into electric music. There is additional material of merit to be found on the various demo and live albums Hardin put out in the 1960s, as well as 1969's Suite for Susan Moore and Damion: We Are One, One, All in One. But the first disc of this set contains what is inarguably his most focused work, including "If I Were a Carpenter," "How Can We Hang on to a Dream," "Misty Roses," "Lady Came from Baltimore," and "Reason to Believe."
Roy Harper, Stormcock (1971, Science Friction). Although this is a little bit beyond the outer edge of this book's self-imposed chronological boundaries, it's worthy of note as it's similar to Harper's earlier work, but better and more focused. Consisting wholly of four lengthy tracks, the guitar playing on this moody set is extraordinary, especially on "The Same Old Rock," where the lead is taken by one S. Flavius Mercurius, who's actually Jimmy Page helping out under a pseudonym.
George Harrison, Beware of ABKCO! (1994, Strawberry, bootleg). Ever wonder what All Things Must Pass might have sounded like unplugged? This collection of 15 solo George Harrison demos, often on acoustic guitar, gives an indication. Many of these songs didn't end up on All Things Must Pass, actually, but they do often show the just-ex-Beatle at his folkiest and most Band-Bob Dylan-influenced. One track ("Beware of Darkness") found official release on the 2001 expanded version of All Things Must Pass, and another ("Run of the Mill") on Early Takes Vol. 1, which has a few additional undated demos of a similar nature that sound as if they originate from the same era.
Richie Havens, 20th Century Masters—The Millennium Collection: The Best of Richie Havens (2000, Polydor). A rather brief (12-track) but serviceable overview of his late-1960s work, including "Handsome Johnny," "High Flyin' Bird," and some Dylan and Beatles covers. There's no "Freedom," but that's better heard on the Woodstock soundtrack anyway. The far more extensive 2004 double CD High Flyin' Bird: The Verve/Forecast Years has all three of his 1967-69 LPs for that label, as well as the non-LP single "I've Gotta Go."
Hearts and Flowers, Now Is the Time for Hearts and Flowers/Of Horses, Kids and Forgotten Women (1995, Demon). Both of their late-1960s albums are combined onto this single CD, which is for the most part decent early country-folk-rock, highlighted by their cover of Jesse Kincaid's "She Sang Hymns Out of Tune" and their out-of-character psychedelic tour de force "Ode to a Tin Angel."
Judy Henske, High Flying
(1963, Collectors' Choice Music). For folk-rock purposes, the important
track here is the magnificent title song, as close to folk-rock as
recorded prior to 1964. The rest of the album has some good folk-blues
too, but never in as progressive a fashion. The hard-to-categorize
made about five albums of interesting music in the 1960s, sometimes
with folk-rock, and an intelligently compiled best-of is overdue.
Henske & Jerry Yester, Farewell
Aldebaran (1969, Straight). This is a marginal inclusion
in a folk-rock discography as its assortment of enigmatic songs with
oddball imagery encompass blues-rock, country-folk, satire, and early
synthesizer experiments, sometimes with only a tenuous relation to
folk-rock. There's no better obscure album by early-‘60s folk revival
veterans ending up as weird psychedelicists at the end of the decade,
however. This has still not received a satisfactory CD reissue.
Dan Hicks, Early Muses (1998, Big Beat). Previously unreleased demos from 1967 and 1968 that link the more psychedelic work of his first band, the Charlatans, with the droll faux western swing of his solo recordings. These songs are as witty as any low-key psych-folk, with unusual, appealing minor-key melodies that spin off in unexpected tangents.
The Holy Modal Rounders, The Moray Eels Eat the Holy Modal Rounders (1968, Elektra). Folk-rock-psychedelia at its most fractured, on a recording that even the participants admit was disorganized in the extreme. In most cases, that leads to messy, hard-to-hear indulgence. In rare cases, such as this one, it leads to inspired lunacy.
Janis Ian, Society's Child: The Verve Recordings (1995, Polydor). While hearing all of her first four albums at once might seem excessive if you're not a devoted fan, actually the price of this two-CD set—which has everything from those records—isn't that much more than a single-disc 1960s best-of would entail. These albums are better than some critics have made them out to be, too, with more shades of soul and blues than some have admitted.
Ian & Sylvia, Northern Journey (1964, Vanguard). It says here that there are simply no Ian & Sylvia compilations (although several best-ofs have been attempted) that represent the best of their material well, due to erratic song selection and poor sequencing that lumps in some pedestrian late-1960s recordings with prime gems. Most of their albums have at least several strong tracks to recommend them. 1964's Northern Journey might be a good one to start with because it captures how they sounded like just before the folk-rock they influenced got properly started. Plus, it has the original version of "You Were on My Mind," as well as one of Ian Tyson's best songs, "Someday Soon."
Ian & Sylvia, The Complete Vanguard Studio Recordings (2001, Vanguard). And if you do want to take the plunge and find all of their worthy 1960s cuts—and there were many, though some frustratingly mediocre ones were mixed in—this four-CD box set contains all seven of the albums they issued on Vanguard in the 1960s, with four rare tracks added. "You Were on My Mind," "Four Strong Winds," "Early Morning Rain," "Tomorrow Is a Long Time," "The French Girl," "Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa," "Circle Game"—all are here, as well as numerous other goodies, though it'll cost you. Unfortunately, though, it doesn't have the two albums they did for MGM in the late 1960s.
Ian & Sylvia, Lovin' Sound/Full Circle (2007, Collectors' Choice Music). The end of Ian & Sylvia's brief attempts to plug into folk-rock, and the beginnings of their move toward country-rock, are encapsulated in this CD compilation, which combines 1967's Lovin' Sound and 1968's Full Circle onto one disc. Lovin' Sound is a typically erratic Ian & Sylvia folk-rock album, but about half of it is very good. The brooding title track is one of the best overlooked 1960s folk-rock cuts in general, and the uncharacteristically happy-go-lucky "Sunday" sounds halfway between a Mamas & the Papas imitation and a Mamas & the Papas satire. The less impressive Full Circle has more pronounced moves toward country-rock, which the duo had actually begun on their earlier 1968 album Nashville. But the best songs are the more folk-rock-oriented ones (sometimes with a string choir), including "Mr. Spoons," "Please Think," and especially Sylvia Tyson's somber, piano-based "Women's World," an overlooked highlighted of the early female singer-songwriter genre.
The Incredible String Band, 5000 Spirits of the Layers of the Onion/The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter (2002, Collectors' Choice Music). This double CD combines the group's most popular albums into one package. 1968's The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, a Top Five LP in the UK, had its most psychedelic-informed world-folk whimsy, though a reasonable argument could be made for preferring 1967's The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion, which included the Incredibles' most acclaimed song, "First Girl I Loved."
The Incredible String Band, U (1970, Collectors' Choice Music). Perhaps a double LP (now a double CD) adding up to almost two hours is too much to take even for Incredible String Band fans. Yet even though this only sprung into being as the soundtrack of sorts to its ambitious multi-media stage production U, it was actually for the most part among the band's most listenable material, rewarding patient admirers. While "The Juggler's Song" had the sort of medieval minstrelsy that audiences had come to expect from the ISB, more unexpected instrumental excursions with sitar and electric guitar counted among their most far-reaching and experimental endeavors.
The Jefferson Airplane, Takes Off (1966, RCA). The band's first album is a bit thin-sounding, but certainly its most folk-rock-fueled, with good early originals like "It's No Secret" and "Blues from an Airplane," and a cover of Dino Valenti's "Let's Get Together." The 2003 CD reissue has eight bonus tracks, including a song, "Runnin' 'Round This World," that was chopped off most pressings of the LP; the original uncensored versions of two songs from the album, "Run Around" and "Let Me In"; and some worthwhile outtakes (especially their late-1965 cover of "High Flyin' Bird") and alternate versions. And if you need a yet more complete collection, the 1996 CD reissue includes both the stereo and mono versions, restoring "Runnin' Round This World" to its original place in the running order.
The Jefferson Airplane, Surrealistic Pillow (1967, RCA). The greatest San Francisco 1960s psychedelic rock record also has a lot more folk-rock than is usually acknowledged, like "D.C.B.A-25" and the superb ballad "Today," alongside the hits "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love." The CD reissue adds some bonus tracks, some of them also folk-rock in nature, like "Go to Her" and the Skip Spence composition "J.P.P. McStep B. Blues."
The Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Airplane Loves You (1992, RCA). Excellent three-CD box set includes most of its top tracks, as well as some rarities, and rounds out the band's early folk-rock phase with its more psychedelic and hard-rock-oriented work.
Jim & Jean, Changes (1966, Verve Forecast). Even if Jim & Jean sounded a lot like Ian & Sylvia and didn't have nearly as much of an artistic personality as most early folk-rockers did, the Changes album has much good music, particularly in the covers of Phil Ochs's "Crucifixion" and David Blue's "Strangers in a Strange Land," as well as the original "One Sure Thing." This was reissued in 2004 by Collectors' Choice on a CD that also includes their more pop-oriented 1968 album People World.
The Johnstons, Give a Damn/Bitter Green (1997, Castle). A two-for-one CD reissue of the late-1960s Johnstons albums to feature contemporary material, though 1969's Bitter Green does have some traditional folk as well. This Irish folk-rock group might not have had as much depth as Fairport Convention, but there are pleasing similarities in the way it interprets writers like Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, with its version of Cohen's "The Story of Isaac" rating as an overlooked gem.
Kaleidoscope, Blues from
The Very Best of Kaleidoscope
(1995, Edsel). A fine 78-minute compilation of the band whose folk-rock
eclecticism was unmatched, including the best of both its relatively
succinct tracks and its psychedelic-middle eastern jams. Unfortunately
the best of those lengthy excursions, "Taxim," is missing, though you
find it on Kaleidoscope's second album, A Beacon from Mars.
Everything from the four albums they issued between 1967-70, plus some
non-LP singles and outtakes, are on the three-CD collection Pulsating Dream: The Epic Recordings.
A Sign of Change (1970,
Fillmore). One of the most obscure records on this list is on the
fringe of both the 1960s and rock itself, as it's more an unusual
hybrid of jazz and folk, with plenty of bits of gospel, pop, blues, and
even classical. Though Lamb at this point were a duo of Barbara Mauritz
and Bob Swanson, Mauritz is the dominant presence as singer and writer
or co-writer of all the songs. With lyrics like hippie psalms and
impressive vocals that draw from blues and jazz to create something
rather experimental, this is comparable to few records of the time from
San Francisco and elsewhere, and recommended to adventurous listeners.
Their subsequent Cross Between
(1971) also has many of the more offbeat jazz-folk elements that made
their previous LP memorable and hard to classify, but is not as
striking, in part because it uses more conventional electric rock
The Leaves, ...Are Happening! The Best of the Leaves (2000, Sundazed). Though often derivative of the Byrds, Rolling Stones, and the Beatles, this is a highly enjoyable compilation of material by one of the best just-post-Byrds Los Angeles folk-rock bands. No less than three versions of their hit "Hey Joe" are here, along with other good garage-ish folk-rock (or folk-rockish garage rock) like "Be with You," "Love Minus Zero," "Just a Memory," and "Too Many People."
Gordon Lightfoot, The United Artists Collection (1993, EMI). Lightfoot might not have been among the more exciting 1960s folk-rock singer-songwriters, but he was very consistent, as demonstrated by this two-CD set, which contains all four of his 1960s studio albums. The early standards "Early Mornin' Rain," "I'm Not Sayin'," "For Lovin' Me," and "The Way I Feel" are all here, as are first-rate lesser-known tunes like "Black Day in July," "Ribbon of Darkness," and "Pussywillows, Cat-Tails."
Bob Lind, The Best of Bob Lind: You Might Have Heard My Footsteps (1993, EMI). The 25-track compilation of the lushly produced, earnest singer-songwriter's 1965-67 recordings features his sole hit "Elusive Butterfly," but also several songs covered by other rock and folk-rock artists: "Cheryl's Goin' Home," "Mister Zero," "Counting," and "Drifter's Sunrise." The previously unreleased baroque-folk "English Afternoon" is actually a match for anything he recorded.
Love, Love (1966, Elektra). There's too much derivative recycling of Byrds riffs on this debut to qualify it as a great album. But it's good, including as it does such class folk-rockers as "Mushroom Clouds," "Signed D.C.," "A Message to Pretty," and "Softly to Me," as well as their garage rock classic "My Little Red Book."
Love, Forever Changes (1967, Rhino). One of the great 1960s rock albums, and the greatest folk-rock-psychedelic fusion, albeit with glimmering strings and horns rather than the usual masses of distorted guitars and effects. Arthur Lee's songs are magical and timeless, and Bryan MacLean's "Alone Again Or" is Love's best track. The Rhino CD reissue adds various peripheral bonus cuts, including a 1968 non-LP single and previously unissued alternate takes. The two-CD 2008 Rhino "Collector's Edition" might overdo it by adding an alternate mix of the entire album, plus a little more in the way of outtakes.
Love, Love Story 1966-1972 (1995, Rhino). A double-CD compilation that includes everything from Forever Changes, most (but not everything) from Love, and all of the good material from the band's second album, Da Capo, which is great music though it's less strongly folk-rock based than the other recordings by the group's first incarnation. The post-Bryan MacLean-era material is a bore, though. The two Sundazed CDs of MacLean acoustic demos, ifyoubelievein and Candy's Waltz, are recommended further listening, though much of the material was recorded after the 1960s.
The Lovin' Spoonful, Greatest Hits (2000, Buddha). Though a major folk-rock group, the Lovin' Spoonful's albums are patchy enough to make a best-of the preferred point of entry. And Greatest Hits is the best best-of, its 26 tracks including all their hit singles, as well as outstanding album tracks like "Younger Girl."
The Mamas & the Papas, Creeque
Alley (1991, MCA). Like the
Lovin' Spoonful, the Mamas & the Papas' best output can be
boiled down to a good best-of that serves them better than their
albums do. The two-CD Creeque Alley does this, including all of their
singles, outstanding B-sides and LP tracks like "Got a Feelin'," some
and the Papas cuts by the Big Three and the Mugwumps, and some
and the Papas solo efforts.
Parrish, It's a Cinch to Give Legs
to Old Hard-Boiled Eggs (1972, Taxim). Recorded in 1969
but not issued until 1972, Maxfield Parrish's sole album is sometimes
eerie in its resemblance to the late-‘60s Byrds, down to emulations of
Roger McGuinn's reedy voice and benign cosmic cowboy persona. The kind
of modernized sea shanties that McGuinn had a knack for are likewise
echoed in several songs, with "Cross Over the World" getting the Byrds'
brand of bluegrass-rock hybrid down pat. Maxfield Parrish were a little
more goofily whimsical (especially in the lyrics department) than their
inspirations were even when the Byrds were at their most lighthearted.
There were also ingenious creepy, mildly psychedelic arrangements on
"The Widow (Lennie Porrue)," with its bowed banjo and prepared piano,
and "The Untransmuted Child" (added to the CD as a bonus track). The
other bonus tracks are less essential 1972 acoustic demos.
(1969, Castle). Her best individual album, worth risking glares from
record clerks to purchase for the fairly strong combination of
singer-songwriting with earthy white soul, pop, and darkly comic,
inclinations. For a more rounded view of her output, there's the Rhino
compilation The Best of Melanie, with her Woodstock-inspired
"Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" and the highly underrated, anguished
epic ballad "Leftover Wine."
& David Meltzer, Poet Song
(1969, Vanguard). After the sole album by the Serpent Power,
whose self-titled 1967 LP was an uneven mixture of fair
folk-rock-psychedelia and bluesier, more improvised excursions, Tina
& David Meltzer made this record on their own. Considerably folkier
than the Serpent Power, it nevertheless retains the folk-rock base of
poetic/romantic lyrics, and alternation of major and minor
moods/melodies/chords, so characteristic of much of the
mid-to-late-'60s San Francisco sound. With the insertion of occasional
poems by still-active poet David Meltzer, this is a low-key but
extremely pleasing album. The duo recorded a subsequent, fairly similar
unissued album for Capitol, Green
Morning, that is more uneven but has its moments, particularly
on the tracks featuring Tina's vocals. It was issued on CD in 2001; Poet Song was combined with the
Serpent Power album onto one disc on a CD reissue on the Akarma label.
Joni Mitchell, Joni Mitchell (1968, Reprise). Delicate to the point where its very fragility creates a tension of its own, this is not usually as highly regarded among critics as her 1970s work is. Yet it's a beautiful, entrancing and haunting album, packed with good-to-great songs, including "Michael from Mountains," "Night in the City," "Marcie," and "Nathan La Freneer."
Joni Mitchell, Chelsea Morning (1969, Reprise). Mitchell's voice and production head more toward the singer-songwriting mainstream on her second album, though still without standard rock accompaniment. Some of her best songs are here, like the title track, "Both Sides Now," and "I Don't Know Where I Stand."
Joni Mitchell, Second Fret Sides: 1966-1968 (Wild Wolf, bootleg). There are plenty of late-1960s unreleased Joni Mitchell live tapes floating around, most of them quite good, if not always of the greatest fidelity. This two-CD bootleg has some of the best of them, including some songs she never put on her official albums (like "Eastern Rain"), and fine, more minimally and folkily arranged performances of familiar classics like "Both Sides Now," "Chelsea Morning," and "The Circle Game."
The Mugwumps, The Mugwumps: An Historic Recording (1967, Warner Brothers). More interesting as an historical document than as rock music, this nonetheless has 1964 pre-Mamas & the Papas/Lovin' Spoonful sides by the group to feature Cass Elliot, Denny Doherty, and Zal Yanovsky. Some of this is mediocre rock'n'roll, but on other cuts, particularly "Here It Is Another Day," you can hear precedents to the more famous groups they would soon found.
Fred Neil, Bleecker and MacDougal (1965, Collectors' Choice Music). Even if the folk-rock here is more hinted at than fully realized, this is Neil's first fully realized set of original material. And fine songs these are too, blending folk, rock, blues, country, and pop on "Little Bit of Rain," "Blues on the Ceiling," and the much-covered "Other Side of This Life."
Fred Neil, The Many Sides
Neil (1998, Collectors'
Music). This two-CD set contains all three of his Capitol albums, as
as half a dozen previously unreleased outtakes. Certainly the first of
those albums, Fred Neil, stands as his greatest record, including
Talkin'" and other wonderful songs like "The Dolphins." The rest of the
material is not up to the standard of that LP, but is still worth a
Nesmith and the First National Band, Magnetic
South (1970, Pacific Arts). Nesmith's first entirely
serious full-length album statement was quality, dignified
country-rock, with some of the finest steel guitar (by Red Rhodes)
heard in the genre. If it got a little sleepy at times, there was also
some sly breezy humor to cuts like "Calico Girlfriend," and of course
the irresistible yodeling hit "Joanne."
Nico, Chelsea Girl (1967, Verve). A high point in avant-folk-rock, even if there are few electric guitars, no drums, and the singer herself vehemently disowned it in subsequent interviews. Cool string arrangements, deep-voiced seductress vocals (though admittedly not for everyone), and good, often otherwise unavailable songs by Lou Reed, Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, John Cale, and Tim Hardin.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy (1970, Liberty). The group's versatile country-folk-rock breakthrough is highlighted by its mega-smash cover of Jerry Jeff Walker's "Mr. Bojangles," but also includes worthy interpretations of songs by Mike Nesmith, Randy Newman, and Buddy Holly, all done with a multi-instrumentalist aesthetic that would do the New Lost City Ramblers proud.
Phil Ochs, Farewells & Fantasies (1997, Elektra). A bit pricey for an anthology, perhaps, but this three-CD box set does a good job of covering highlights from both his acoustic and electric periods. Some rarities are here too, the most important of them being the 1966 electric rock version of "I Ain't Marching Anymore," released only on a UK 45 and Sing Out! flexi-disc at the time.
Phil Ochs, Pleasures of the Harbor (1967, Collectors' Choice Music). Ochs's first and best rock album, though like all of his rock records, its eclecticism was inconsistent. "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends" is his most famous song (and should have been a hit single), while "The Party" is one of his most outstanding long narratives, and "Flower Lady" among his best melodies.
Tom Paxton, The Best of Tom
(1999, Elektra). A smartly-chosen, good-value (26-song) single-disc
covering his 1964-71 recordings for Elektra. It's true that his
electric albums are lightly represented, but this does include the
for which he's most famous: "The Last Thing on My Mind," "Ramblin'
"I Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound," "Victoria Dines Alone,"
of Wine," and, yes, "Goin' to the Zoo."
Before Swine, The Complete ESP-Disk
Recordings (2005, ESP). The group's first two albums,
combined into one package. It's a pretty close call whether their debut
(1967's One Nation Underground)
or their second album, 1968's Balaklava,
was the most vital Pearls Before Swine record. But One Nation Underground might have
the edge for the inclusion of some of their best inscrutably fragile
acid folk tunes, like "Another Time," "I Shall Not Care," "Ballad to an
Amber Lady," and "(Oh Dear) Miss Morse," as well as the snarling
anti-war screed "Uncle John." Balaklava
was fairly similar in tone, with a little more production
sophistication, though the songs were of a slightly lower caliber.
Penny Arkade, Not the Freeze (2004,
Sundazed). The Penny Arkade didn't release any records while they were
active, though seven of the songs came out on the obscure self-pressed
album credited to Satya Sai Maitreya Kali (see review below). This
23-track CD has those seven 1967 tracks and a bunch of unreleased
recordings from 1967-68. Even if it's derivative, at its best it's like
a combination of Buffalo Springfield and the best of the
country-folk-rockish songs written for the Monkees by Mike Nesmith, who
produced most of this material.
Pentangle, The Pentangle (1968, Castle). On this fine debut, Pentangle presented a fully realized fusion of folk, blues, jazz, and miscellany so unprecedented that folk-rock was the only label that fit. "Bruton Town" and "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme" are outstanding traditional folk interpretations, and "Pentangling" a mighty instrumental showcase for the band's virtuosos.
Pentangle, Sweet Child (1968, Castle). This double album was divided between a concert set and a studio one, its range of repertoire probably unmatched by any other act of the time. It was the studio part, though, that was the better half, particularly on "In Time," one of the great guitar-based instrumentals by anyone, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn both flashing their best wares.
Pentangle, Basket of Light
Castle). The group's third album was its best overall, with the small
hit single "Light Flight" and some of its best covers ("Once I Had a
"Sally Go Round the Roses") and originals ("Springtime Promises"). Like
all of the Pentangle Castle CD reissues, it includes some non-LP bonus
tracks and alternates cut around the same time.
(1970, The Wild Places). One of the most obscure releases listed in
this discography, and certainly one of the hardest to describe with any
convenient reference points, other than to peg Perhacs as kind of an
acid folk Joni Mitchell. Although perhaps too lyrically fanciful in a
hippie sort of way for some hard-nosed listeners, it was an inventive
record, particularly in its harmonics, with a lovely if subdued
Peter & Gordon, The EP Collection (1995, See For Miles). Though this happens to have been compiled from European EPs (hence the title), it serves as a good best-of collection for this British Invasion duo, an underrated influence on the likes of the Byrds. All of their hits are here, along with some cuts that expose their little-appreciated folk leanings, like a cover of Phil Ochs's "The Flower Lady."
Peter, Paul & Mary, Ten
Together: The Best of Peter, Paul & Mary (1970,
Warner Brothers). Indeed this has the best of their records from both
early 1960s folk boom and the later 1960s folk-rock era. From the
we hear "Blowin' in the Wind," "If I Had a Hammer," and "Don't Think
It's All Right"; from the latter, there's "I Dig Rock and Roll Music"
Dylan's "Too Much of Nothing"; and there are also the Gordon Lightfoot
covers "For Lovin' Me" and "Early Mornin' Rain." The four-CD box set Carry It On has a lot more if
you're so inclined (including a bonus DVD with some career-spanning
performance clips), though it's missing the most desirable PP&M
rarity of all: "If You Love Your Country," a commercially unavailable
single for Democratic antiwar presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy's
1968 campaign issued by the trio themselves, and distributed free of
charge at Democratic campaign centers.
Phactor Jug Band, Merryjuana
(1980, Piccadilly). Although it was recorded in Seattle in 1967 (and
not released at the time save for two songs that appeared on a rare
single), this has something of the sound of San Francisco (where the
group had been based for part of 1966) in its heavy strains of the
jug-band-cum-psychedelia of the Charlatans. It was wildly uneven and
sometimes pedestrian, but it also has some fine off-kilter early
psychedelia that could blend forceful blues-rock with glistening
ethereal sections, gnarly electric white-boy blues, and raga rock.
Little known even when it finally escaped onto vinyl in 1980, this is
the only non-various-artists compilation album listed in this
discography never to have been issued on CD.
Poco, Pick Up the Pieces (1969, Epic/Legacy). Country-rock at its most folk-rock influenced and wholesome, which is not a knock, but actually a hearty endorsement. This is also the best showcase for Richie Furay's talents as a singer and songwriter, with lots of help from his cohorts.
Quicksilver Messenger Service, Quicksilver Messenger Service (1968, Capitol). Though this album is more remembered for the lengthy psychedelic guitar showcases "The Fool" and "Gold and Silver," actually the majority of it was devoted to concise, melodic folk-rock with that peculiarly bittersweet San Francisco flavor. "Pride of Man" remains one of the greatest folk-rock rearrangements of a song originally written and performed (by Hamilton Camp) as a straightforward acoustic folk tune.
The Rising Sons, Rising Sons Featuring Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder (1992, Columbia/Legacy). The Rising Sons only put out one official single while they were existence, their legacy thankfully retrieved by this 22-track CD. It includes that single and much or all of what would have been on their unreleased album, and is good if slightly schizophrenic folk-blues-pop-rock, somewhat ahead of its time in its anticipation of aspects of groups such as Moby Grape and Buffalo Springfield.
Tim Rose, Morning Dew (1988, Demon). Actually a retitled reissue of his 1967 solo debut Tim Rose, this is a little stylistically inconsistent, including some shots at pop-soul as well as folk-rock. Rose came across strongest in his gravelly folk-rock updates of tunes that started as folk songs, particularly "Morning Dew," "Come Away, Melinda," and his slow arrangement of "Hey Joe."
Tom Rush, Take a Little Walk with Me (1966, Collectors' Choice Music). Rush's second Elektra album isn't nearly as strong or original a collection as his next LP for the label, The Circle Game, which was instrumental in starting the singer-songwriter genre. It's still an interesting early leap of an acoustic folkie into flat-out R&B-heavy rock'n'roll, albeit only on half the record, and primarily on rock oldies covers.
Tom Rush, The Circle Game (1968, Elektra). Rush's best moment on record was also an important forum for early singer-songwriters Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, and James Taylor, none of whom were well known when he placed covers of some of their compositions onto his final Elektra album. The 40th anniversary edition adds a few bonus tracks, including take one of "The Circle Game" and the single versions of "Urge for Going" and "Something in the Way She Moves."
Buffy Sainte-Marie, The Best of Buffy Sainte-Marie (1970, Vanguard). This 24-song survey of her early work includes most of the songs she's most famous for (and that are frequently covered, by folk-rockers and others): "Codine," "Universal Soldier," "Until It's Time for You to Go," "My Country 'Tis Of Thy People You're Dying," and "Now That the Buffalo's Gone." Plus there's her most concentrated effort to crack the folk-rock singles market, a cover of Joni Mitchell's "The Circle Game."
Satya Sai Maitreya Kali, Apache/Inca (2000, Normal/Shadoks). Although Satya Sai Maitreya Kali, as Craig Smith billed himself, put out these two albums in the early 1970s, they were almost certainly done in the mid-to-late 1960s. He's the most obscure performer listed in this discography, but his music is quality acid-folk-rock, approaching a midpoint between Buffalo Springfield and the Monkees on his most accessible tunes, reminiscent of acid folkies Skip Spence and Dino Valenti on the weird ones. Both albums are combined into one package on this two-CD reissue.
The Searchers, Greatest Hits (1985, Rhino). A fine summary of the American and British hits by the band that did much to influence folk-rock's guitar arrangements, including "Needles and Pins," "What Have They Done to the Rain," "When You Walk in the Room," and "Take Me for What I'm Worth." Their albums are dotted with folk covers like "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and "Four Strong Winds," should you want to dig further.
Simon & Garfunkel, Sounds of Silence (1966, Columbia). A very good record considering it needed to be thrown together in haste when "The Sound of Silence" became an unexpected chart-topper. Besides that classic, the early hit "I Am a Rock" is here, as well as good early Simon originals like "Richard Cory" and "April Come She Will."
Simon & Garfunkel, Parsley,
Rosemary and Thyme (1966,
The two continued to improve on their third album, highlighted by the
single "Homeward Bound," and also including numerous songs that were
as good and popular as their 45s: "Scarborough Fair/Canticle,"
"The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)," and "For Emily,
I May Find Her."
& Garfunkel, Live from New York
City 1967 (2002, Columbia/Legacy). A very fine selection
indeed of 19 songs from their January 22, 1967 concert at New York's
Lincoln Center that serves as a good document of how the duo sounded
live, as an acoustic act. It includes hits ("The Sound of Silence," "I
Am a Rock," "Homeward Bound," "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin'
Groovy)," "A Hazy Shade of Winter") and interesting, less iconic
non-hits ("Leaves That Are Green," "Richard Cory"). Unfortunately it
omits their version of "Red Rubber Ball" from this show, which surfaced
on the box set Old Friends.
Simon & Garfunkel, Bookends (1968, Columbia). Their best, most incisive album, whether on the hit singles "Mrs. Robinson," "A Hazy Shade of Winter," and "Fakin' It," or the more deliberately constructed first half, with Simon's anthemic "America."
Simon & Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970, Columbia). A little too slick for its own good in some of the arrangements, and certainly further removed from folk-rock than their earlier albums, Bridge Over Troubled Water still contained several outstanding songs. The gospel-powered title track was the most famous, but "The Boxer" was better, and "El Condor Pasa (If I Could)" and "Cecilia" hinted at the world music directions Simon would explore in his solo career. The 2011 expanded edition adds a DVD featuring their hour-long November 1969 CBS TV special Songs of America, along with a documentary about the making of the Bridge Over Troubled Water album done specifically for this release.
Simon & Garfunkel, The
Studio Recordings 1964-1970
(2001, Columbia/Legacy). A well-packaged five-CD box set of all of
& Garfunkel's studio albums. Even if you have the old LPs, you
find this worth consideration due to the addition of a few bonus
from non-LP cuts and previously unreleased outtakes, tagged onto the
of each album.
Sloan, Here's Where I Belong: The
Best of the Dunhill Years 1965-1967 (2008, Big Beat).
This 27-track compilation has not just the best of his mid-1960s
Dunhill recordings, but almost all of his mid-1960s Dunhill recordings.
Besides most of his two LPs for the label, it also has some good non-LP
singles, especially "I Can't Help But Wonder, Elizabeth." For more, if
less vital, material from the same era by the songwriter most adept at
combining youthful folk-rock yearning with L.A. pop-rock, the demo
collection Child of Our Times: The
Trousdale Demo Sessions, 1965-1967 is also recommended.
Skip Spence, Oar (1969, Sundazed). Not just a great cult rock album, but a great album, period, standing as the best fusion of pre-rock folk, blues, and country with psychedelia. Spence's life might have been tragic, but given the circumstances it's a surprisingly light and humorous record, though with dark undercurrents. The 1999 CD reissue on Sundazed adds numerous outtakes and alternate versions, though none of those are on the same level as the proper album. By the way, Spence billed himself by his given name (Alexander Spence) on this release, but virtually everyone refers to this recording as a Skip Spence album.
The Springfields, Over the Hills & Far Away (1997, Philips). Unquestionably some will find this too poppy and wimpy for consideration as core folk-rock. However, the sides by this British group (featuring Dusty Springfield) were among the few records made in the early 1960s to anticipate the fusion of folk and rock. There's considerable piffle on this two-CD set, but there's also their American hit "Silver Threads & Golden Needles," as well as others that are vague folk-rock forerunners, like "Allentown Jail."
Al Stewart, To Whom It May
1966-1970 (1993, EMI). All
of his first three albums, as well as an early non-LP single, are
on this two-disc set. While overly precious at times (and for much of
1967 debut Bedsitter Images, actually), the best songs are among the
late-1960s British singer-songwriter recordings, particularly "Ballad
Stewart & Buffy Ford, Signals
Through the Glass (1968, Capitol). Stewart fans would
argue strenuously for his proper 1969 solo debut California Bloodlines as a point of
entry. But this far less celebrated effort, with wife Buffy Ford
contributing some vocals, was simply more melodic and intriguingly odd,
if more uneven. Stewart, the just-ex-Kingston Trio folkie, caught up
fast to the changing musical and social currents on mixtures of roots
Americana folk, orchestrated sunshine pop, and even mild psychedelic
touches with standout tunes like "Nebraska Widow," "Mucky Truckee
River," and "Holly on My Mind." The devastatingly understated "Draft
Age" captured the dread of Vietnam hanging over America's youth in an
especially unnerving fashion.
The Stone Poneys, The Stone Poneys Featuring Linda Ronstadt/Evergreen Vol. 2 (2008, Raven). This Australian CD combines the Stone Poneys' first two albums (both from 1967) onto one disc, adding four songs from their third and last LP, 1968's Vol. III. The first of the three Stone Poneys albums was really the only one to feature the band as it originally sounded: a Peter, Paul & Mary with more guts, embroidered by tasteful Nik Venet production and sympathetic session musicians. The other two Stone Poneys albums were solid too, though, particularly Evergreen Vol. 2, which had their hit "Different Drum."
The Strawbs, Strawbs (1969, A&M). The Strawbs' official debut got a little ponderously somber in songwriting and quasi-medieval arrangements at time, but was still an affecting, intelligent highlight of early British folk-rock, particularly on "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus" and the Gregorian-toned "Where Is This Dream of Your Youth." There's also much good, if folkier, early Strawbs to be found on the double CD of 1966-68 outtakes Preserves Uncanned, and the rare odds'n'ends on Strawberry Music Sampler No. 1 give us a chance to hear some late-1960s music that didn't make it onto Strawbs. Their poppier initial attempt at a debut LP, recorded in 1968 but rejected by A&M, finally came out on the 2012 CD Of a Time, which also has their first single, an unreleased second single, and various remixes and outtakes. (Some tracks from the rejected LP also appear on Strawberry Music Sampler No. 1.)
James Taylor, Sweet Baby James (1970, Warner Brothers). His 1968 Apple debut James Taylor may be a little less slick. But this is the record that made him the superstar and defined the 1970s singer-songwriter movement, particularly on the hit "Fire and Rain."
Dino Valenti, Dino Valente (1968, Koch). Sun-baked hippie folk-rock mysticism shines at its brightest on Valenti's sole solo effort, misspelled Dino Valente. The judicious use of echo complements the somewhat spaced-out lyrics well, and Valenti makes the most of his limited vocal talents with his tender, inquisitive songs, the work of a troubadour trying to guide the hippie flock to both spiritual and sensual fulfillment.
Townes Van Zandt, For the Sake of the Song (1968, Rhino). Some would rather file this under country or folk than folk-rock. But for those unfettered by such boundaries, it's fine storytelling, laconically witty country-folk with some rock trimmings in the production. Some find the occasional backup vocals ostentatious, but actually they add a good amount of oddball color, particularly on "The Velvet Voices" and the gloomy, dramatic "Sixteen Summers, Fifteen Falls."
Jesse Colin Young, Young Blood (1965, Edsel). Obscure but notable early-1965 album that started to tilt toward folk-rock in some of the arrangements, before folk-rock had become established. Young's fine singing, shaded with soul, folk, blues, pop, and country, was already well established.
Neil Young, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969, Reprise). The album that saw Young come into his own as a solo artist was far more confident than his rather laidback debut, Neil Young. "Cinammon Girl," "Down by the River," and "Cowgirl in the Sand" remain among his best rockers, yet he proved equally capable of wistful near-folk, especially on "Round & Round."
Neil Young, After the Gold Rush (1970, Reprise). The album that made Young a solo singer-songwriter superstar was in much the same spirit as Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, but mellower. "Tell Me Why," "Only Love Can Break Your Heart," and "Don't Let It Bring You Down" all rate among his best songs, and again he proved he could rock hard, if with a bluntness that verged on political incorrectness, with "Southern Man." Other recordings of interest by Young from the period have come out on various archival releases, particularly Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House 1968, taken from solo acoustic shows in Ann Arbor, Michigan in November of that year; Live at the Fillmore East, recorded in concert with Crazy Horse in March 1970; Live at Massey Hall 1971, a solo acoustic show from January 1971; and the huge box set The Archives Vol. 1 1963-1972.
Steve Young, Rock, Salt & Nails (1969, A&M). One of the finest little-known late-'60s country-rock albums, in large part due to boasting far more serious hues than most records in the style. Young's original songs were convincing fusions of country-rock-folk with blues, soul, gospel, and swamp pop, though some of the covers were less interesting. "Seven Bridges Road," later done by the Eagles, is by far the most famous tune, yet "Holler in the Swamp" and "Kenny's Song" are on the same level, the subtle background strings adding drama without overdoing it. It's been only intermittently available on CD, though you may have better luck finding the 1994 reissue on Edsel than the original A&M LP.
The Youngbloods, Euphoria 1965-1969 (1998, Raven). This 25-track Australian import might be a bit out of the way, but it's a good compilation of their better songs, among them "Get Together" of course. Numerous other cuts, though, like "Sunlight," "Darkness, Darkness," "Ride the Wind," and "All Over the World (La-La)," are almost as good.
Various Artists, Before They Were the Mamas & the Papas...The Magic Circle (1999, Varese Sarabande). This grab bag of pre-Mamas & the Papas recordings, quite a few of them previously unreleased, on which some members participated might be more interesting than great. But it's very interesting, particularly for the inclusion of several 1964 Erik Jacobsen electric tracks in which Cass Elliot, Zal Yanovsky, and Jerry Yester participated. There are also items by the Big Three (with Elliot and Denny Doherty), several pre-Mamas & the Papas groups featuring John Phillips, and previously unreleased 1965 songs by the New Journeymen (with Doherty and John & Michelle Phillips), including a cover of "Mr. Tambourine Man."
Various Artists, The Best of Broadside 1962-1988 (2000, Smithsonian Folkways). Mostly from the 1960s, this five-CD box set includes numerous, sometimes rare, early sides by artists who recorded for or had songs published in Broadside: Bob Dylan, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Tom Paxton, Janis Ian, Richard Fariña, Phil Ochs, Eric Andersen, Happy Traum, the Fugs. Most of these are acoustic, but they give a good insight into the singer-songwriters' folk roots, surrounded by cuts from some older folk figures like Pete Seeger. Very early versions of the folk-rock standards "Morning Dew" (by Bonnie Dobson) and "Society's Child" (by Janis Ian) are included.
Various Artists, Casey Kasem Presents America's Top Ten: The 60s— The Folk Years (2002, Top Sail). This sticks to Top Ten singles exclusively, but contains some of the folk-rock hits most important to spreading the folk-rock gospel to the mainstream: the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man," Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction," the Mamas & the Papas' "California Dreamin'," the Lovin' Spoonful's "Daydream," the We Five's "You Were on My Mind," Donovan's "Mellow Yellow," Judy Collins's "Both Sides Now," Scott McKenzie's "San Francisco," and the Youngbloods' "Get Together." It also has various pre-Beatles folk hits (Peter, Paul & Mary's "Blowin' in the Wind," the Rooftop Singers' "Walk Right In") and folk-pop and pop-rock hits bearing folk-rock influences, like the Seekers' "I'll Never Find Another You" and Nilsson's cover of Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'."
Various Artists, Heroes of Country Music, Vol. 5: Legends of Country Rock (1996, Rhino). This 18-song collection isn't an ideal introduction to early country-rock, as licensing restrictions prevented the inclusion of tracks by Buffalo Springfield, the Grateful Dead, Rick Nelson, and some other notables. Still, it has useful cuts by the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, the International Submarine Band, Hearts and Flowers, Poco, Bob Dylan, Michael Nesmith, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. There are also some country-flavored tracks by acts not normally associated with country-rock (the Lovin' Spoonful, the Everly Brothers, the Youngbloods), though the songs by Pure Prairie League and the Marshall Tucker Band extend and dilute the concept too far into the 1970s.
Various Artists, The
Underground Folk Rock Vol. 1 & 2
(Kissing Spell). Issued in the 1990s without release dates, these
hard-to-find discs compile mighty little-heard British folk-rock from
often from recordings privately pressed in minute quantities,
on the earlier years of that time span. None of these names are
Trees and Mellow Candle are probably the best known, and hardly anyone
knows who they are. But for anyone who likes the Fairport
String Band side of things, there are some very cool nuggets to be
here, sometimes in an acid-folk state of mind.
Artists, Love Is the Song We Sing:
San Francisco Nuggets 1965-1970 (2007, Rhino).
Extraordinary four-CD box set of San Francisco psychedelia and
folk-rock, with everyone from the superstars (Jefferson Airplane, the
Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin) to no-names with one outstanding single.
Note that this has all shades of ‘60s San Francisco rock, not just
folk-rock or psychedelic rock with roots in folk-rock, also including
garage rock, blues-rock, hard rock, and more. Oriented toward rarities,
but includes its share of hits and famous album tracks too, like "White
Rabbit," We Five's "You Were on My Mind," the Youngbloods' "Get
Together," and It's a Beautiful Day's "White Bird." The accompanying
120-page booklet has in-depth detail about the groups, the songs, and
their context, with many photos and reproductions of vintage posters.
The only small flaw is that there are no tracks by Creedence Clearwater
Revival, due to licensing reasons.
Various Artists, Monterey International Pop Festival Box Set (1992, Rhino). A four-CD box set of recordings from the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, including cuts by the Byrds, the Mamas & the Papas, Big Brother & the Holding Company, and the Jefferson Airplane. Much of the rest of the set isn't folk-rock (which is not to say the other artists who are featured aren't on the same level), the sound and performances vary from good to mediocre, and there's nothing by Buffalo Springfield, Simon & Garfunkel, and Country Joe & the Fish, though some of their Monterey tracks circulate on bootlegs.
Various Artists, Nuggets Vol. 7: Early San Francisco (1985, Rhino). From Rhino's long out-of-print vinyl Nuggets series (not to be confused with its recent Nuggets 1960s garage box sets), this is a good overview of very early San Francisco folk-rock, with cuts by the Beau Brummels, the Vejtables, the We Five, and the Charlatans, as well as very early psychedelia by Country Joe & the Fish and the Great Society.
Various Artists, Nuggets Vol. 10: Folk-Rock (Rhino). An odd mix (from the mid-1980s, though it doesn't bear a release date) of huge folk-rock hits (the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man," the Turtles' "It Ain't Me Babe," Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction," Scott McKenzie's "San Francisco"), pop-leaning minor hits (the Sunshine Company's "Back on the Street Again", the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Buy for Me the Rain"), and rarities by Jake Holmes (the original version of "Dazed and Confused"), the Modern Folk Quartet, and the Deep Six.
Various Artists, Songs of Protest (1991, Rhino). Though it's only about half folk-rock, this is a good place to pick up on some major hits in the protest folk-rock bag. Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction," Sonny Bono's "Laugh at Me," Janis Ian's "Society's Child," Dion's "Abraham, Martin and John," the Turtles' "Let Me Be," Donovan's "Universal Soldier," Phil Ochs's electric version of "I Ain't Marchin' Anymore," and Country Joe & the Fish's "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die-Rag" are all here, as well as the notable early Dylan cover by Manfred Mann, "With God on Our Side."
Various Artists, Troubadours
Folk Vol. 1 & 2 (1995,
Rhino). While it's true these two volumes span the mid-1950s to the
and are only partially comprised of folk-rock, they do include
tracks by important British folk-rock figures Donovan, Pentangle, the
String Band, Fairport Convention, Fotheringay, Steeleye Span, Ralph
Nick Drake, Roy Harper, Davy Graham, and Ralph McTell, as well as
"John Barleycorn." There are also important sides by folk performers
were major influences on British folk-rock: Ewan MacColl, Lonnie
Martin Carthy, Anne Briggs, the Young Tradition, Shirley Collins, and
Artists, The Vanguard Folk Rock Album
(2005, Ace). Vanguard by no means had the best folk-rock catalog of any
label, and nor does (or could) this 22-track compilation of 1964-68
recordings cover all of the folk-rock of note it issued. But while it's
an uneven listen that falls short of brilliance, it's an interesting
way to both sample some of the company's best folk-rockers (Richard
& Mimi Fariña, Ian & Sylvia) and get a taste of numerous
more obscure Vanguard artists with some affiliation with the style.
These range from Circus Maximus (with Jerry Jeff Walker) and the
Serpent Power to Buffy Sainte-Marie, Jonathan & Leigh, Steve
Gillette, and Eric Andersen, with rare singles by Patrick Sky, the
Hi-Five, and Project X, as well as a previously unissued solo version
of Richard Fariña's "Morgan the Pirate" that his wife Mimi
recorded after her husband's death.
Various Artists, Washington Square Memoirs: The Great Urban Folk Boom 1950-1970 (2001, Rhino). Less than a third of this is genuine folk-rock, but this three-CD box set is a great way to follow the transition of urban folk from its just-post-World World II manifestation through the early 1960s folk boom to the onset of folk-rock. Many major North American folk performers of the period, or folk-rock performers of the era with heavy roots in the folk boom, are represented here, including Bob Dylan, Ian & Sylvia, Judy Collins, Judy Henske, Richie Havens, Tim Hardin, Gordon Lightfoot, Richard & Mimi Fariña, Phil Ochs, Fred Neil, Tim Buckley, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Arlo Guthrie, Barry McGuire (as part of Barry & Barry), and Jesse Colin Young.
Various Artists, Woodstock:
Days of Peace & Music
Atlantic). After the appearance of the chart-topping three-LP Woodstock
set in 1970, there have been enough subsequent packages containing
music to confuse even the dedicated record-buyer. This four-CD box set
has most or all of what you need, for performances both within and
the folk-rock style. Folk-rockers are amply represented, naturally, by
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Richie Havens, John Sebastian,
Joe McDonald, Melanie, Arlo Guthrie, Tim Hardin, and the Jefferson
Airplane. There have also been entire CDs dedicated to Woodstock
recordings by some of the more high-profile artists, of which the one
of greatest interest to folk-rock fans is Jefferson Airplane's The Woodstock Experience.
Joan Baez, How Sweet the Sound (2009, Razor & Tie). Though Baez did not write much of her own material for much of her early career, she was prominent as an interpreter of other singer-songwriters, particularly Bob Dylan. First aired on PBS as part of the American Masters series, this is a well done documentary, though it could have been longer.
The Band, The Band (1997, Image Entertainment). Part of the ongoing long-running "classic album" series of documentaries mixing vintage footage with interviews with the band members and close associates, this one focusing on the Band's second album.
Syd Barrett, The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story (2007, Zeit Media). Good documentary about the legendary original Pink Floyd leader, with interviews conducted for the project with everyone from Pink Floyd except Barrett himself.
The Beatles, The Four Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Starring the Beatles (2010, Universal). The February 1964 episodes of The Ed Sullivan Show featuring the Beatles were some of the most widely seen TV programs of all time, launching not just their incredible success in the US, but the entire British Invasion on these shores. This has all three of those February 1964 episodes, as well as their one subsequent appearance on the program in August 1965. The February 1964 clips encapsulate the seismic impact the Beatles had on the US population as a whole and folkies in particular, such as the ones (John Sebastian, Zal Yanovsky, and Cass Elliot) who gathered in Elliot's apartment to watch the group's Ed Sullivan debut.
The Beatles, A Hard Day's Night (1964, Miramax Lionsgate). Justly the most famous rock movie of all time, showing a lightly fictionalized typical day in the life of the Beatles shortly after the onset of Beatlemania. This not only helped cement the Beatles' collective and individual public images, but also influenced numerous young American musicians to form rock bands, especially folk-rock ones such as the Byrds.
Big Brother & the Holding Company, Janis Joplin with Big Brother: Ball and Chain (2009, Charly). Half-hour live set of Big Brother just a couple of months before they exploded into fame at the Monterey Pop Festival, filmed and broadcast at KQED in San Francisco.
Big Brother & the Holding Company, Nine Hundred Nights (2001, Pioneer). Hour-long documentary mixing vintage performance footage and interviews done about 30 years later with everyone in Big Brother except Joplin.
Tim Buckley, My Fleeting House (2007, MVD). Though never quite a star, fortunately Buckley was filmed reasonably often. This has more than a dozen clips from the 1960s and 1970s, including his performance on The Monkees.
Tim Buckley, A Review and Critique of the Man and His Music (2006, Leftfield Media). Just like the title says, this documentary is based around critical description of his music, from both actual critics and actual associates of the late Buckley.
The Byrds, Under Review (2007, Sexy Intellectual). Three-hour documentary suffers from lack of first-hand interviews with the most important members, but tells the story of the band well through comments by some associates and numerous critics. A bonus DVD with the 2006 Byrds box set There Is a Season has ten television clips from 1965-67, though it's disappointing for both its brief length and stiff mimed performances.
Gene Clark, The Byrd Who Flew Alone: The Triumphs and Tragedy of Gene Clark (Four Suns, 2013). Fine, nearly two-hour documentary on the singer-songwriter who co-founded the Byrds with Roger McGuinn and was the group's principal composer on their first two albums before leaving in 1966. The film also goes into his solo career, which found (mostly retrospective) critical success but little sales, and the struggles of a life filled with problems with substances, relationships, and other hindrances.
Leonard Cohen, Bird on a Wire (1972, MVD). Documentary of early-‘70s European tour, with some amusing footage of behind-the-scenes conflicts and screw-ups.
Leonard Cohen, Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 (2009, Sony/Legacy). Cool DVD of Cohen's entire set at this rock festival, played with a full band (including women backup singers) and including strong early songs like "Suzanne," "Bird on the Wire," and "So Long, Marianne."
Leonard Cohen, Under Review 1934-1977 (2007, Sexy Intellectual). Part of the long-running Under Review series of documentaries for the home video market, based around interviews with music critics and the artist's associates. As the date range in the title indicates, this focuses on the earlier part of Cohen's career.
Sandy Denny, Under Review (2006, Sexy Intellectual). Mixing vintage footage with interviews with close associates and critics, this documents the finest British folk-rock singer, whether with Fairport Convention, solo, or other groups.
Donovan, Sunshine Superman: The Journey of Donovan (2008, SPV). While a little overblown, this is a good lengthy Donovan documentary with plenty of interviews with the Sunshine Superman man himself done specifically for this project. The bonus disc features some vintage clips from the early part of his career.
Nick Drake, Under Review (2007, Sexy Intellectual). A 90-minute documentary on Drake in the Under Review series that gets more mileage out of its obscure subject than you might think, with comments from a good number of British folk-rock musicians who knew and/or worked with him. Unfortunately Jeroen Berkvens's fine (if rather brief, at 48 minutes) 2002 documentary A Skin Too Few: The Days of Nick Drake—including interviews with Drake's sister, producer Joe Boyd, engineer John Wood, and arranger Robert Kirby— has yet to see general release, although it was included as a DVD in a limited-edition reissue of Drake's Fruit Tree box set in 2007.
Bob Dylan, Don't Look Back (1967, Docurama). Although Dylan was still playing as a solo acoustic act live during the spring 1965 UK tour this documents, he'd already started to release electric folk-rock records and stir controversy with his unexpected musical changes. This cinema verité documentary by D.A Pennebaker captures that transition into pop stardom, with cameos from other notable musicians like Joan Baez, Alan Price of the Animals, and Donovan. Also available as a two-DVD deluxe edition with more material and commentaries.
Bob Dylan, Dylan Speaks: The Legendary 1965 Press Conference in San Francisco (2006, Eagle Media). The nearly hour-long press conference Dylan gave in San Francisco on December 3, 1965 was broadcast on local public television. This DVD presents the event in full, and is the best document of his enigmatic interviewing style, seldom revealing as much as his questioners wish. This has his praise of Manfred Mann as his best interpreters, and an enthusiastic endorsement of the Sir Douglas Quintet, though he admits he doesn't think of Donovan as a good poet. There are also interesting bits about his then-new entry into rock music, including nonchalant acknowledgment that his early electric concerts are getting both cheers and boos, depending on the location. Noted figures asking questions from the audience include Allen Ginsberg, local critic (and later Rolling Stone co-founder) Ralph J. Gleason, and concert promoter Bill Graham.
Bob Dylan, Eat the Document (1966, bootleg). Commissioned but rejected by ABC television, this documentary of Dylan's 1966 European tour has never been officially released, though it's been frequently bootlegged (and very infrequently screened in public). Disappointingly, it focuses on incomprehensible, chaotic footage of the hubbub surrounding the tour (including an uncomfortably long scene in which an ill and rambling Dylan shares a cab with John Lennon), and has relatively little live music. The complete version of "Ballad of a Thin Man" (with the Hawks, later to comprise most of the Band, in support), however, is the best live Dylan performance ever captured on film. The hardcore might want to check out World Tour 1966: The Home Movies Through the Camera of Bob Dylan's Drummer, in which Hawks drummer Mickey Jones talks about his time with Dylan over silent clips he filmed during the jaunt.
Bob Dylan, No Direction Home (2005, Paramount). Acclaimed, lengthy Martin Scorsese documentary focuses on the 1961-66 years, with plenty of vintage clips, interviews with associates, and interviews with Dylan himself.
Bob Dylan, The Other Side of the Mirror: Live at the Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965 (2007, Legacy). This would be notable just for the two electric performances (of "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Maggie's Farm") from Dylan's notorious set at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, the first he played with an electric rock band after starting his recording career. It includes plenty of other acoustic performances, and numerous ones by other folk acts can be seen in Murray Lerner's Festival! documentary, also available on DVD.
Fairport Convention & Matthews Southern Comfort, Maidstone 1970 (2007, Voiceprint). Half-hour outdoor concert film of Fairport's Full House lineup (with Richard Thompson still aboard) in June 1970 shows them going through five songs in the rocked-up-traditional British folk vibe to which they'd just turned their focus. Also includes a couple songs by Matthews Southern Comfort, whose lengthy near-opus "Southern Comfort" is the film's highlight. The DVD adds an interview with director Tony Palmer done especially for this release.
The Grateful Dead, Anthem to Beauty (2005, Eagle Rock). Although part of the "classic albums" series, this documentary actually investigates an entire era in which the Dead are usually seen to have done their finest work, from 1968's Anthem of the Sun through 1970's American Beauty. Includes interviews with the Dead's Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, as well as David Crosby.
The Grateful Dead, Dawn of the Dead: The Grateful Dead & the Rise of the San Francisco Underground (2012, Sexy Intellectual). Two-hour documentary focuses on the Grateful Dead's early career, particularly their 1960s albums. Heavy on talking head music critics, but also includes some vintage footage of and interviews with members of the Dead and their associates.
Jefferson Airplane, Fly Jefferson Airplane (2004, Eagle Vision). More than a dozen vintage clips of the Airplane doing many of their most popular songs from throughout their career, with some interview footage.
Love, Love Story (2008, Start). Surprisingly in-depth biography about an important band around whom much myth and speculation has circulated. Includes interviews with leader Arthur Lee and other members, as well as Elektra Records president Jac Holzman, focusing on their mid-'60s prime.
The Lovin' Spoonful, Do You Believe in Magic: The Music of John Sebastian & the Lovin' Spoonful (2007, SRO). About an hour of film clips of the Spoonful in the mid-'60s, tied together by commentary from Spoonful leader John Sebastian himself.
The Mamas & the Papas, Straight Shooter (2008, SRO). Two-hour documentary of the short-lived and surprisingly volatile folk-rock group, who were so proficient at projecting a sunny image on their records.
Joni Mitchell, Woman of Heart and Mind (2003, Eagle Vision). Originally broadcast on the PBS American Masters series, this documentary has interviews with Mitchell herself, and close collaborators/intimates like David Crosby, Graham Nash, James Taylor, and David Geffen.
Nico, Nico Icon (1995, Fox Lorber). Terrific documentary of the one-of-a-kind singer/model/actress, including interviews with members of the Velvet Underground, one-time teenaged boyfriend Jackson Browne, and Andy Warhol associates.
Phil Ochs, There But for Fortune (2011, First Run Features). Excellent documentary of the protest singer who never quite achieved pop stardom and spiraled downward with alarming speed before his mid-1970s suicide. In addition to numerous vintage clips and interviews with figures close to him, there's also insight into and reflection of the changing political times in which he participated.
Gram Parsons, Fallen Angel (2006, Rhino). Documentary of the ultimate cult country-rock figure follows Parsons's career through the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and his solo work with Emmylou Harris. Including interviews with close family members and professional associates like Byrd/Burrito Brother Chris Hillman and buddy Keith Richards, it also doesn't ignore his problems with substance abuse that led to his death in 1973.
Simon & Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water (CD/DVD Expanded Edition) (2011, Columbia). The DVD disc of this expanded edition of Simon & Garfunkel's 1970 Bridge Over Troubled Water album has a good documentary about the making of the record with interviews with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, along with the duo's interesting if flawed 1969 television special Songs of America.
Neil Young, Under Review 1966-1975 (2006, Sexy Intellectual). The usual cast of suspects found in the Under Review series, especially prominent music critics, dominate this documentary of Young's first decade as a recording artist.
The Best of Hootenanny (2007, Shout Factory). Three-CD set of clips from the network TV show Hootenanny, which spotlighted folk music during its brief run on ABC from April 1963 to September 1964. This gives a good sense of the range of performers (if usually on the more wholesome whitebread end) lumped into the folk revival as it reached the end of its peak and died, including Judy Collins, the Dillards, the Journeymen (with future head Mama & Papa John Phillips and Scott McKenzie), the Rooftop Singers, Ian & Sylvia, Trini Lopez, the Simon Sisters (with Carly Simon), Bob Gibson, and many others.
The Big T.N.T. Show (bootleg, 1966). Filmed in Los Angeles in late 1965, this was a follow-up of sorts to the first great rock concert movie, The T.A.M.I. Show, which had been filmed in L.A. a year earlier. It wasn't as successful or as well known as The T.A.M.I. Show, in part because it wasn't filmed or performed as well. But it had a great lineup, including a few top folk-rockers: the Byrds, the Lovin' Spoonful, and Donovan (the last still in his acoustic phase). There was also a gotta-hear-it-to-believe-it version of "You've Lost That Loving Feelin'" by Joan Baez, with Phil Spector (who produced the movie) on piano. (Baez also does a couple folk songs, including "There But for Fortune," the Phil Ochs song with which she had a small hit.) Also on the bill were Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, the Ronettes, Petula Clark, Roger Miller, and Ike & Tina Turner. This has still not been officially reissued on DVD, though unauthorized versions have been widely distributed, sometimes showing up in very big above-ground retail stores.
Festival! (1967, Eagle Rock Entertainment). Murray Lerner's Festival! would have been notable to folk-rock history for its inclusion of "Maggie's Farm" from Bob Dylan's 1965 Newport concert alone (though that clip's now also available on the Dylan DVD The Other Side of the Mirror: Live at the Newport Folk Festival 1963-1965). There's much more of note, however, in this documentary, built around footage from the 1963-66 Newport Folk Festivals. Though slightly rough in sound and image, the performances by Donovan, Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul & Mary, and Howlin' Wolf are a good cross-section of the kind of acts you'd see at Newport and other folk festivals as folk was on the verge of merging with rock. There's nearly as much screen time for the more traditional face of the ‘60s folk revival, from rediscovered rural bluesmen like Son House and Mississippi John Hurt to raw and little-known traditional Southern folk singers. Interviews and crowd scenes also capture a sense of a generation poised for change.
Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festival (1997, Sony). Though not as well known as Woodstock, the 1970 Isle of Wight festival had a lineup almost as impressive, including Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, the Who, the Moody Blues, John Sebastian, and Free. All of them are in this documentary, but some folk-rockers who also participated—such as the Pentangle, Donovan, Melanie, and Richie Havens—are not. It nonetheless reflects how all sorts of music, folk-rock included, were sitting side-by-side with each other at festivals as the 1970s dawned. This documentary took about 25 years to find release, and full sets from some of the acts (including Leonard Cohen) are now available as separate DVD releases.
Monterey Pop (1968, Criterion). The first major rock festival is still arguably the best, and the film of the event is still arguably the best rockumentary, featuring the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin with Big Brother & the Holding Company, Otis Redding, and several others, including folk-rock-aligned acts like Simon & Garfunkel, Jefferson Airplane, the Mamas & the Papas, and Country Joe & the Fish. The three-DVD The Complete Monterey Festival has a lot of extra material, including the entire sets by Hendrix and Redding, and footage of acts that didn't make the original film, such as the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and Quicksilver Messenger Service.
Troubadours: The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter (2011, Hear Music). Although this is ostensibly a documentary on the early-‘70s singer-songwriter movement focusing on the Los Angeles club the Troubadour (which frequently showcased singer-songwriters), it especially concentrates on the interwoven rise to stardom of Carole King and James Taylor, who performed on each other's records during the period.
Woodstock (1970, Warner). Still the most famous rock festival and the most famous movie of a rock festival, with legendary performances by the Who, Sly & the Family Stone, Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Joe Cocker, Richie Havens, Jefferson Airplane, and numerous others. It's hard to keep track of all the expanded versions, which add footage by performers who didn't make the original cut, like Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. And if you want to see some of that, additional material was added to various DVD and Blu-Ray releases.
On VHS only:
Donovan, Rainbow Quest #23 (Norman Ross Publishing). Agonizingly, most of the episodes of Pete Seeger's mid-1960s public television series Rainbow Quest have not been made available on DVD (and were never even easy to find on VHS). While Seeger usually featured traditional folk musicians, on occasion he had folk musicians who played a part in the birth of folk-rock, although they played acoustically on his show. This episode, from April 1966, has Donovan performing some songs from Sunshine Superman with sitar accompaniment from Shawn Phillips. (Blues musician Reverend Gary Davis also performs on the episode.)
Richard & Mimi Fariña, Rainbow Quest #16 (Norman Ross Publishing). The Fariñas in February 1966 shortly before Richard's death, performing a half-dozen songs including "Bold Marauder" and "Pack Up Your Sorrows." Rainbow Quest episodes with a couple of other performers with ties to the folk-rock movement (Judy Collins on episode #32, Buffy Sainte-Marie on episode #38) were also available on VHS at one time, though these are more oriented toward pre-rock acoustic folk than the ones with Donovan and the Fariñas. Frustratingly, of the four episodes mentioned in this section, only the Collins one is on DVD (on a disc also including an episode featuring folk guitarist Elizabeth Cotten).
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