King Crimson’s seminal debut heralded the progressive-rock movement. What set King Crimson apart from many of their contemporaries were the psychedelic overtones, the medieval visions, the Gothic atmosphere and the romantic pathos in their music, particularly in both the title-track and Epitaph. One of the best tracks, if slightly out of place, is 21st Century Schizoid Man’– a brilliant, neurosis-charged distorted jam.
Underwater Moonlight (1980)
The Soft Boys
The sound of Underwater Moonlight is similar to the work of U.S New Wave band, Television and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. The band manage to merge the influences of the former and the psychedelic whimsy of the latter with the discordant fragmented blues of Captain Beefheart and the catchy power-pop of the Kinks and the Who. The end result is a distinctive and accomplished post-modern psychedelia that set in motion the psychedelic revival of the 1980s. Robyn Hitchcock is one of the most important British artists in rock history.
Exile On Main Street (1972)
The Rolling Stones
Exile On Main Street is the Stones masterpiece – representing their coming of age, musically and artistically. The playing is absolutely top notch throughout – at times restrained and understated, whilst at others forceful and aggressive. This album represents the sound of the era’s greatest rock and roll band at the top of its game. Beggar’s Banquet is a close second, but Exile is the Stones at their brilliant all-round decadent best.
If Only I Could Remember My Name (1971)
This beautifully crafted classic is a spiritual meditation that evokes a memory of a place lost in the mists of time. The atmosphere conveyed is one of sadness – a kind of dreamy lament which is overlayed by a philosophical resignation and existentialism. This is a work that is a tonal and harmonic baroque masterpiece that defines the post-hippie era of disenchantment in which it emerged.
The Band (1969)
The Band is the groups masterpiece. It is a superbly arranged and exquisitely played piece of music – a mature and beautifully varied, dense and understated work that chugs to a syncopated rhythm. In many ways, Whispering Pines, the albums centrepiece, is a work of immense beauty.
Faust is vaguely reminiscent of aspects of Zappa-style collage allied to the psychedelia of Red Crayola and prog-rock. Nevertheless, the album has a unique musical language and atmosphere. It is an audacious attempt at fusing expressionism, surrealism, theatre of the absurd, Brecht/Weill’s cabaret, Wagner melodrama and musique concrete to rock music. On the surface, the sound appears incoherent and ‘ugly’. It’s only upon repeated listens that the recording starts to make sense in its totality, akin to the solving of a cryptic puzzle. It’s not an easily accessible listen for the untrained ear. However, its appeal is one that tends to grow over time. Faust is a beautifully demented, fun and ultimately moving creation.
The United States of America (1968)
The United States of America
United States Of America is one of the most audacious and inventive albums in the history of rock. It manages to successfully straddle the fine line between parody, cabaret, electronic and psychedelic experimentation. The musical montages are brilliant. The album sounds like it’s from the future while paradoxically remaining an atypical expression of both time and place.
Spirit To Eden (1988)
Spirit Of Eden is a stunning piece of advanced electronic and celestial free-jazz and rock in the tradition of Canterbury. This astounding achievement is the reference point for the far inferior and overrated ‘slo-core’ band, Radiohead.
Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
For a contemporary audience approaching Dylan for the first time, it is perhaps easy to underestimate the dramatic impact this album made on the cultural landscape of the period. Although Dylan’s phrasing and vocal inflections are very much an acquired taste, the solemness he expresses and his bohemian cynical humour was the template that was adopted by a succession of future generations of musicians. In this regard, Dylan was arguably the first to bring a ‘punk’ persona and attitude to the fore. Moreover, with the epic Desolation Row, he was the first to use rich poetic imagery within the song format. And, with Like A Rolling Stone, he set the template for folk-rock.
Shooting At The Moon (1970)
Kevin Ayers produced two quirky and eccentric masterpieces – Joy Of A Toy’ his debut, and the follow-up Shooting At The Moon. Although both albums were in the innocent and playful tradition of Syd Barrett, it was the latter that stamped his claim as one of the greatest and most original British artists of all-time. Themes of existential melancholy, humour and nostalgia that emphasize Parisian decadence and eastern exotica, overlay an enchanting and often unsettling psychedelic underbelly emphasized by Ayer’s use of accordian, clarinet, strings and percussion.