One of the things that the vinyl resurgence has reminded us of is just how important LPs (or long-playing records) were to the evolution of music-making. Though the format was introduced twenty years earlier, it wasn’t until the late ’60s that contemporary musicians took full advantage of it, conceiving and recording music that benefitted greatly from the freedom that twenty uninterrupted minutes of listening time per side could bring.
As artists developed increasingly ambitious musical concepts, the challenges for instrument designers, engineers, composers, and instrumentalists increased as well. All these elements were pushing each other ever faster into the future, and by 1969, as societal changes raged in the background, full-length recordings were reflecting the remarkably broad and exciting range of ideas being generated by a fiercely exploratory generation of musicians.
A quick survey of albums released at the time gives us an immediate feel for the scope of creativity. Nineteen sixty-nine brought Led Zeppelin II, the legendary British band’s still-fresh-sounding sophomore album. There was the Who’s groundbreaking rock opera, Tommy. The Beatles’ stunning Abbey Road. The Temptations’ psychedelic soul template, Cloud Nine. The Flying Burrito Brothers’ country-rock Rosetta Stone, The Gilded Palace of Sin. Supergroup Blind Faith’s sole, self-titled album. The MC5’s unsurpassed musical detonation, Kick Out the Jams. The Meters’ self-titled NoLa-funk masterstroke. The Rascals’ double album Freedom Suite, which featured a fourteen-minute Dino Danelli drum solo. Frank Zappa’s jazz-rock salvo, Hot Rats. Two albums each from Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead (their most famously freaky releases, it must be said). Three albums each from British folk-rock pioneers Fairport Convention and San Francisco’s swamp-rock kings Creedence Clearwater Revival. Debut albums by Santana, Chicago, the Allman Brothers, Johnny Winter, Can, Alice Cooper, Yes, Humble Pie, the Stooges, Neil Young, King Crimson, the Tony Williams Lifetime, and Crosby, Stills & Nash. And a slew of wildly experimental albums by Charlie Haden, Archie Shepp, Jan Garbarek, Chick Corea, Dewey Redman, John McLaughlin, and other jazz greats.
In the following articles, we’ll look closely at some of the music and drumming from the period that has undeniably stood the test of time, and that continues to tweak the imaginations of players today.