To my ears, the defining sound of the “late” British Invasion is a lead guitarist who seems like B.B. King. As I chronicled in King of the Blues, boatloads of B.B. King singles arrived in Britain beginning round 1964, inspiring a wave of newly minted guitar heroes, most of whom handed by means of the Yardbirds or John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers sooner or later.
Right here, then, are a dozen basic albums of the late British Invasion. We’ll begin in 1966, after the primary wave of hits by the Beatles and Stones, Kinks and Who. We’ll skip later albums by these bands, overlooking such gems as Revolver, Beggars Banquet, The Who Promote Out and The Kinks Are the Village Inexperienced Preservation Society.
As an alternative, we’ll deal with artists who arrived late to the invasion, second-wave bands descended from first-wave bands, and a era of British folkies who noticed A Arduous Day’s Evening, purchased electrical guitars, realized B.B. King riffs, fashioned bands and landed document contracts.
Sunshine Superman – Donovan, 1966
Donovan emerged in 1964 as a teenaged British folkie, incomes unfair Dylan comparisons and scoring a major hit with “Catch the Wind” in 1965. Occasions moved rapidly again then: By the beginning of 1966, Donovan was taking part in electrical and recording with a full band. The outcome was Sunshine Superman, a masterpiece of psychedelic folks rock. The title monitor and “Season of the Witch” are deathless classics. “Guinevere” and “Legend of a Lady Little one Linda” are little folks fairytales. “Ferris Wheel” and “The Fats Angel” are droning sitar exercises constructed round single chords, a method few different artists may carry off.
Are You Skilled – the Jimi Hendrix Expertise, 1967
Hendrix began out as a flashy R&B guitarist on the segregated chitlin’ circuit. I described his second act in my B.B. King bio: Hendrix “deconstructed the B.B. King guitar sound and reimagined it by means of a prism of lysergic acid and warfare.” To beat inflexible segregation within the States, he fashioned a band in Britain and joined the Invasion, returning to America with an built-in group as arguably the primary rock-guitar celebrity. He’s now typically thought to be rock’s biggest guitarist, and Are You Skilled ranks among the many style’s biggest debuts.
The Piper on the Gates of Daybreak – Pink Floyd, 1967
Right here’s an argument-starter: I believe Piper is the best Pink Floyd album. Loads in that judgment will depend on how a lot Pink Floyd issues to you. For probably the most ardent Floyd followers, The Darkish Aspect of the Moon and Want You Have been Listed here are canonical works, unsurpassed by any band. The primary, transient incarnation of Pink Floyd was one thing else altogether: An eccentric, psychedelic space-rock combo led by Syd Barrett, the good, doomed psych-pop songwriter. Darkish Aspect outlined a era of ‘70s stoners. Piper launched a thousand bands within the post-punk ‘80s, indie-rock ‘90s and past.
Procol Harum – Procol Harum, 1967
It’s useful to think about Procol Harum as The Band of Britain, given the group’s two-keyboard lineup and instrumental virtuosity. Gary Brooker wrote on piano at a time when most of his friends have been writing on guitar, a major departure. “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” cruelly omitted from the U.Okay. launch, appeared like Bach and performed like church music, with a songwriting depth few different invaders may match. All through the document, Brooker and firm flirt with dance-hall, ecclesiastical and classical themes, anticipating progressive rock. The band’s third album, A Salty Canine, is simply pretty much as good, however the debut is extra necessary.
Disraeli Gears – Cream, 1967
In hindsight, Disraeli Gears feels just like the excessive level not only for this celebrated energy trio however for the six-decade profession of Eric Clapton, save maybe for his Derek and the Dominos outing, a couple of years later. Cream was a powder keg of dueling egos, however this album captures Clapton and bassist Jack Bruce in good concord, singing a brace of good psych-blues songs leavened with killer riffs. “Unusual Brew,” “Sunshine of Your Love,” “World of Ache,” “Dance the Evening Away” and “Tales of Courageous Ulysses” are spellbinding acid tone poems. A joyous, lysergic pub crawl by means of Swinging London.
Odessey and Oracle – The Zombies, 1968
The Zombies would be the most underrated British Invasion band. The success of “She’s Not There” in 1964 technically put them on the vanguard of the Invasion. However the Zombies just about disappeared from the U.S. charts after a few huge singles. They resurfaced in 1968 with one of many best albums of the last decade. The songcraft on “Care of Cell 44” and “A Rose for Emily” and “Beechwood Park” locations the oddly spelled Odessey on a par with Procol Harum and Endlessly Modifications and even, dare we are saying, Pet Sounds. The Zombies reaped an enormous postmortem hit with “Time of the Season,” a 12 months after their demise.
Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake – Small Faces, 1968
If the Small Faces hadn’t morphed into the less-small Faces with Rod Stewart as entrance man and conquered (or at the very least colonized) America, this act would be a part of the Zombies on the Criminally Ignored checklist. In its unique incarnation, Small Faces was a gritty, soulful psychedelic pub-rock band fronted by one of the gifted singers in Britain, the elfin-voiced Steve Marriott. The Small Faces had launched a number of albums and scored a transatlantic hit with “Itchycoo Park” earlier than they accomplished Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake, an acid-soaked idea album with a cool tobacco-tin sleeve.
Reality – Jeff Beck, 1968
Reality would be the biggest British blues-rock album, with apologies to Peter Inexperienced’s Fleetwood Mac. Jeff Beck stands at present because the third-most-famous guitarist to emerge from the Yardbirds, after Clapton and Web page. But, he recorded a strong debut, a set of amped-up B.B. King and Muddy Waters covers that launched America to Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wooden. Their bombastic deconstruction of the Yardbirds single “Shapes of Issues” anticipated exhausting rock and metallic, whereas “Beck’s Bolero” rolled out a lot of the group that may turn into Led Zeppelin. (See under.)
Site visitors – Site visitors, 1968
Steve Winwood turned twenty across the time the eponymous Site visitors LP dropped, a exceptional truth, contemplating he had recorded a number of huge hits with the Spencer Davis Group and launched a previous Site visitors album earlier than Site visitors, the album, hit the racks. It’s his best achievement, and a career-capper for Dave Mason, a singer-songwriter who ducked out and in of Site visitors and contributed a number of marvelous songs. Very like the White Album and Abbey Street, Site visitors resonates a seasoned maturity, a top quality that has served it nicely throughout the a long time. Each tune ranks as a basic.
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin, 1969
The Rolling Stone assessment of the Led Zep debut termed Jimmy Web page “a really restricted producer and a author of weak, unimaginative songs,” directing customers to spend their cash as a substitute on Jeff Beck’s Reality. Led Zeppelin overcame their critics and altered the face of rock and roll with a run of masterful albums, their constant artistry all of the extra spectacular contemplating the band’s self-destructive bent. If in case you have by some means failed to listen to them, begin right here.
Within the Court docket of the Crimson King – King Crimson, 1969
It’s exhausting to elucidate, half a century later, the influence of an album launched by a rock and roll group with sufficient instrumental prowess, improvisational wit and chordal complexity to impress the jazz group. That’s what Robert Fripp achieved with Crimson King, arguably the primary masterpiece of progressive rock. Fripp is a real genius of the guitar: For irrefutable proof, hearken to his work with Brian Eno and the primary aspect of Purple, a latter-day Crimson masterpiece. Excessive hats off, too, to Michael Giles, one of many nice rock drummers. Backbone-chilling stuff.
Liege & Lief – Fairport Conference, 1969
I’m taking part in historic revisionist by deciding on this, the fourth Fairport LP, over the opposite two (!) long-players they launched in 1969, What We Did on Our Holidays and Unhalfbricking. Years in the past, critics fairly pretty hailed these earlier works because the best folk-rock albums for the reason that Byrds’ debut. As we speak, music writers focus extra on Liege because the document that established folks rock. The sooner albums showcase Richard Thompson’s rising chops as songwriter and guitarist and betray the affect of Jefferson Airplane and Joni Mitchell. Take your decide, however Liege & Lief most likely marks Fairport’s peak.
Daniel de Visé is a journalist, an occasional AllMusic contributor,4 and creator of King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King.