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2019 Wrap: Odes to Records Turning 50

In a time when mindfulness is preached more often than ever, particularly when it concerns discussing musical tastes, mentions of the artists of generations prior come off as a tad-bit alienating, but I’m a contrarian to abstaining from such discussion. With that said, and with the year coming to a close, let us reflect and further shed light on vinyl releases from the year 1969, and what marks their cultural significance. And these records are regaining popularity.

Listed will be three records (remember those) with brief odes to each respective records place in time.

Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin
Courtesy of Atlantic Records
Released: January 12, 1969

Okay, most would agree that two is the better record, but as Billy Preston said, “nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’”, and that is most certainly the case with this record.

While still a band rawer than the meat behind the meat counter, the first recordings of Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham playing together brought forth a sound unseen before its time, foreshadowing and arguably inventing what we now know as heavy metal.

The band’s debut previews their eclectic sound, with tracks such as “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” showcase folk-inspired psychedelia, “Communication Breakdown” takes you on a ride of the proto-punk buses with a brief stop in heavy metal town, while “You Shook Me”, “I Can’t Quit You Baby”, and “Good Times, Bad Times” brings you back home to the center of Zeppelin’s universe, the blues.

The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace of Sin
Courtesy of A&M Records
Releases February 1969

Gram Parsons personified the country and rock music lifestyles; simply put, he was a drifter, never staying in one place for an extended period of time.

His tours with the International Submarine Band, the Byrds, and even here, were all-but extended, but wherever he seemed to go, he left a lasting mark. With the Byrds and their second 1968 outing, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Parsons and co. essentially invented country rock, but with the Gilded Palace of Sin, he perfected a sound that has only seen a number of imitators since.

Palace perfectly balances Parsons’ adoration for country music with his and former Byrd Chris Hillman’s love for rock and roll to create what Parsons’ referred to as “Cosmic American Music”.

Opener “Christine’s Tune (Devil in Disguise)” hits you with guitars of all kinds, acoustic, electric, and pedal steel, at a jarringly quick pace, as if the song were recorded under the influence of nose-candy. Parsons’ vocals here are emotive and almost self-referential, with his covers of soul-standards “Do Right Woman” and “Dark End of the Street” register, vocally, as the best version of white-boy soul pre-Young Americans.

The Beatles, Abbey Road

Embed from Getty Images

Released: August 26, 1969

The final, and arguably, the greatest album from the greatest band in history, with maybe the iconic and copies album artwork ever, Abbey Road, though released prior to Let it Be, was the group’s true goodbye.

Principal member and songwriter John Lennon would leave less than one month following the records’ release, truly signaling what was to be the end of the Beatles.

However, when the four of them were together, the results here are truly angelic, beguiling, and a myriad of other adjectives of praise. George Harrison’s two compositions, “Something” and  “Here Comes the Sun” solidify his emergence as yet another high-level songwriter with a group that already featured maybe two of the best ever.

The use of synthesizers, though subtle, yet tasteful, foreshadowed a trend in music that took shape in the ensuing decade.

Lennon’s “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” could toe the rubber against Black Sabbath’s “Black Sabbath” for the first doom metal song, while McCartney’s “Carry the Weight” resolve in an emotional release those listening oceans away can’t help but succumb to. And hey, Ringo gave us the ultimate children’s song in “Octopuses Garden” too.