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Category Archives: 1968

The S/T is a rip of the first pressing MONO vinyl, WOW is from a reissue with bonus tracks on CD. I didn’t skip GRAPE JAM out of laziness, it’s just particularly not very good. Meandering jams, they couldn’t even give it away at the time. They even tried discounting it heavily if you bought a copy of WOW and nobody really cared. -Ian!

Moby Grape’s career was a long, sad series of minor disasters, in which nearly anything that could have gone wrong did (poor handling by their record company, a variety of legal problems, a truly regrettable deal with their manager, creative and personal differences among the bandmembers, and the tragic breakdown of guitarist and songwriter Skip Spence), but their self-titled debut album was their one moment of unqualified triumph. Moby Grape is one of the finest (perhaps the finest) album to come out of the San Francisco psychedelic scene, brimming with great songs and fresh ideas while blessedly avoiding the pitfalls that pockmarked the work of their contemporaries — no long, unfocused jams, no self-indulgent philosophy, and no attempts to sonically re-create the sound of an acid trip. Instead, Moby Grape built their sound around the brilliantly interwoven guitar work of Jerry Miller, Peter Lewis, and Skip Spence, and the clear, bright harmonies of all five members (drummer Don Stevenson and bassist Bob Mosely sang just as well as they held down the backbeat). As songwriters, Moby Grape blended straight-ahead rock & roll, smart pop, blues, country, and folk accents into a flavorful brew that was all their own, with a clever melodic sense that reflected the lysergic energy surrounding them without drowning in it. And producer David Rubinson got it all on tape in a manner that captured the band’s infectious energy and soaring melodies with uncluttered clarity, while subtly exploring the possibilities of the stereo mixing process. “Omaha,” “Fall on You,” “Hey Grandma,” and “8:05” sound like obvious hits (and might have been if Columbia hadn’t released them as singles all at once), but the truth is there isn’t a dud track to be found here, and time has been extremely kind to this record. Moby Grape is as refreshing today as it was upon first release, and if fate prevented the group from making a follow-up that was as consistently strong, for one brief shining moment Moby Grape proved to the world they were one of America’s great bands. While history remembers the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane as being more important, the truth is neither group ever made an album quite this good.

Between the time that Moby Grape released their brilliant self-titled debut and when their second album Wow appeared in 1968, a little thing called Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band happened, and for the next few years it was no longer enough for a band with some claim to importance to just play rock & roll, even if they approached it with the freshness and imagination Moby Grape displayed on their first LP. Bowing to the pervading influences of the day, Wow is a far more ambitious album than Moby Grape, trading in the latter’s energetic simplicity for an expansive production complete with strings, horns, and lots of willful eccentricity, best typified by the helium-treated vocals on the hillbilly pastiche “Funky Tunk” and “Just Like Gene Autry: A Foxtrot,” a woozy ’60s dance band number complete with introduction from Arthur Godfrey (the band went so far as to master the tune at 78 rpm on the original vinyl edition). While at first glance Wow pales in comparison to the instant classic Moby Grape, repeated listening reveals this album has plenty of strengths despite the excess gingerbread; the horn-driven boogie of “Can’t Be So Bad” swings hard, “Murder in My Heart for the Judge” is a tough and funky blues number, “He,” “Rose Colored Eyes,” and “Bitter Wind” are lovely folk-rock tunes with shimmering harmonies (even if the latter is marred by a pretentious noise collage at the close), and “Motorcycle Irene” is a witty tribute to a hard-livin’ biker mama. Wow lacks the rev-it-up spirit of Moby Grape’s masterpiece, but Peter Lewis, Jerry Miller, and Skip Spence’s guitar work is just as impressive and richly layered, and the group’s harmonies and songwriting chops are still in solid shape. While the unobtrusive production on Moby Grape showcased the group’s many virtues, those attributes are visible on Wow despite the layers of studio excess, which sapped the momentum and charm of this band without snuffing them out altogether.

-Mark Deming,

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WOW (1968)
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Re-up, found a better rip. With bonus tracks! This was released as a comp called FAIRYTALES & FANTASIES but in essence it’s NANCY & LEE with several bonus tracks, and is OOP I believe. Some Velvet Morning might be one of the greatest songs of all time. -Ian!

Dude lived hard.

Lee’s first duet album with Nancy Sinatra is a classic of ’60s pop. He plays the leering, deep-throated, trail-worn cowboy to her bright-eyed girl-child, and the match on songs like “Summer Wine,” “Sand,” “Jackson,” and “Some Velvet Morning” is a smart, sexy, lip-smacking bowl of mind candy.

-Kurt Wolff,

Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood-NANCY & LEE (1968)

One of the great lost ’60s albums. Side one includes all six of the tracks the Misunderstood recorded in England in 1966, with magnificent guitar work and nervy, ambitious (if a bit overtly cosmic) songwriting that combines some of the best aspects of the Jeff Beck-era Yardbirds and Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd. Remember that Pink Floyd and Hendrix had yet to record when these sides were waxed; they aren’t derivations, but genuinely innovative and groundbreaking performances. Side two contains seven pre-psychedelic demos from their U.S. garage days in the mid-’60s that, while not nearly as important as their 1966 work, are solid, crunching R&B-soaked rock in the tradition of their chief British influences.

-Richie Unterberger,

The Misunderstood-BEFORE THE DREAM FADED (1966, 1982 compilation)

Spirit’s debut unveiled a band that seemed determine to out-eclecticize everybody else on the California psychedelic scene, with its melange of rock, jazz, blues, folk-rock, and even a bit of classical and Indian music. Teenaged Randy California immediately established a signature sound with his humming, sustain-heavy tone; middle-aged drummer Ed Cassidy gave the group unusual versatility; and the songs tackled unusual lyrical themes, like “Fresh Garbage” and “Mechanical World.” As is often the case in such hybrids, the sum fell somewhat short of the parts; they could play more styles than almost any other group, but couldn’t play (or, more crucially, write) as well as the top acts in any given one of those styles. There’s some interesting stuff here, nonetheless; “Uncle Jack” shows some solid psych-pop instincts, and it sounds like Led Zeppelin lifted the opening guitar lines of “Taurus” for their own much more famous “Stairway to Heaven.”

-Richie Unterberger,

Spirit-SPIRIT (1968)

Remember how I went (or am currently) on a country rock/psychedelic cowboy spree? Well, this is the album that started all that. It’s rare an album works so slowly and thoroughly on me, to the point I can listen to it a year later and still hear things that blow my mind and make me go “these guys were absolute geniuses, I get it now”. I never really sat down and listened to The Byrds until about two years ago, and it blew my fucking mind. The album also is produced by Gary Usher, and Curt Boettcher helped with the harmonies.

Not really going to bother with an extensive backstory on the album itself, I’ll leave that up to you to read about. Suffice it to say that the band was at the breaking point at a WHITE ALBUM-level as they were making this album. The recording reduced the band to a core duo of Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman. They then threw their lot in with Gram Parsons for their next move, a pretty unparalleled surrendering of creative control to a new band member in rock history. It was the right move though, as it brought us SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO.

I’ve never been able to decide my preference between stereo and mono mixes for this album. I love the punch of the mono, but it doesn’t have the drastic obvious superiority of, say, the Beatles mono mixes. That’s not to say there aren’t differences, ChrisGoesRock explains a few of them:

  • The horns on “Artificial Energy” are noticeably quieter on the mono mix.
  • The cello sections during the chorus of “Goin’ Back” are much quieter on the mono mix.
  • Where the stereo mix of “Natural Harmony” has a lot of double-tracking on the vocals, this is almost non-existent on the mono mix. To make up for the lack of double-tracking, the mono mix adds extra electronic phasing to the vocals.
  • The mono mix of “Change Is Now” has more echo on the vocals, which tends to give the song a “spacier” feel.
  • The Moog synthesizer sound effects on “Space Odyssey” are sometimes louder and sometimes quieter than the stereo mix.

For the most part, though, it seems like this was an early stereo rock album where stereo was used effectively and it does at least feel like there’s interaction between instruments in the soundfield. You’ll find that this isn’t really the case for most stereo mixes from 1967-68. I think that has to do with Usher and Boettcher, who really were the only guys who knew how to make a decent stereo mix at that time. At least in Los Angeles.

So I just decided to throw in both mixes and leave it up to you. The stereo mix is from an original Columbia vinyl, the mono is from the MFSL 20-bit remaster. I put the bonus tracks from the MFSL in a separate download so you can choose your preference and not miss out or have to download the bonus material twice. I recommend the bonus tracks, David Crosby’s “Triad” is worth it alone.

If you’ve never heard this album and want my suggestion: get the STEREO. You can go back and listen to the mono after you’ve fallen in love. That might be blasphemy in some circles, dunno.

But get this album. It is slowly working its way into my top five favorite all time albums like an unrelenting space monolith. It tops some of the best Beatles, some of the best Rolling Stones, some of the best Beach Boys.


Before Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Bookends released in 1968 was the most accomplished Simon & Garfunkel album out there. It moved away from traditional folk music but still retained the ideals of that generation, had an overarching theme of growing up if not older and a very upbeat, finger-clicking rhythm. The moving America, a meditation on country, was later covered by Yes as an epic progressive rock song stretching a few minutes into tens of minutes.

The songs that featured the best tunes were Save The Life Of My Child and A Hazy Shade Of Winter. Both were signposts that Simon was embracing the new. Bookends was his literary device to place all he wanted to say about his society on two sides of vinyl. Both the rapid changes of the urban new and the letting go of a slower pace of life.

When this boot first appeared it was the first time studio outtakes of Simon & Garfunkel tracks had arrived in such quality. The fan collective, Purple Chick, went to great lengths to offer not only the alternate album, but a compilation of live tracks of all the songs on Bookends and included as a bonus the original Bookends album in mono. The mono LP was not a typical fold-down from stereo but a unique mix that is out-of-print.

There’s plenty to marvel at, the unreleased Groundhogs and the alternate lyrics in the song At The Zoo. The sequence of tracks follows Purple Chick’s set. And we’d also like to ask why every time a fresh greatest hits S&G set is assembled the bonus live tracks are inevitably taken from the released Live In New York City 1967 disc?

-Professor Red,

Simon & Garfunkel-THE ALTERNATE BOOKENDS (1968, Purple Chick 2008)