10 More of the Best Psychedelic Albums

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More of the best psychedelic albums

For the stoners’ holiday of 4/20, we at Treble assembled a list of our 50 favorite psychedelic albums. We mostly did it for fun, attempting to wrap our arms around a feeling more than a specific scene or genre being something that’s too elusive and up to interpretation for there to be one proper ranking. But we agreed all the albums were great, at the very least. That said, there were some classics (and some fairly big names at that) that slipped through the cracks. So this week we’re adding another 10 to the list. It’s a necessary appendix: Enjoy our list of 10 more of the best psychedelic albums.

more of the best psychedelic albums captain beefheart

Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band – Safe As Milk

(1967; Buddah)

Sure, Trout Mask Replica takes more risks and Lick Off My Decals, Baby is more radical, but Safe as Milk distills Don Van Vliet’s brilliance into an accessible collection of experiments. Few debuts in the history of rock ‘n roll arrived with such confidence. The album’s eternal highlight “Electricity” was famously deemed unsafe for A&M head Jerry Moss’ teen daughter. The gnarled vocal production and hypnagogic imagery would lay the roadmap for innumerable Beefheart classics. So even if the band would go on to surpass Safe as Milk they could never top its initial surprise as an announcement of a profound enigma that would crack the psychedelic music world wide open. – WW

10 more of the best psychedelic albums David AxelrodDavid Axelrod – Song of Innocence

(1968; Capitol)

In the early to mid ’60s, David Axelrod produced a long list of records, adding a string-laden sense of studio grandeur to R&B from Lou Rawls, jazz by Cannonball Adderley and, eventually, a Biblically inspired psych rock album by The Electric Prunes. Yet Axelrod’s crowning moments were those in which he made the switch from producer to the marquee artist, his debut album Song of Innocence—one of two William Blake-inspired albums (U2 didn’t do it first)—opening a door into a sound that didn’t really have a name before it was released. It still kind of doesn’t. It’s orchestral psychedelic jazz, essentially, employing symphonic sounds in the service of a textural experience that seems to contain every color in the spectrum. It’s something like a film score if it truly grooved, or a jam session that always came back around to a climax of lushly arranged majesty. It’s bold and sometimes kaleidoscopic, and unapologetically maximalist. It’s one of the coolest sounding albums of all time. – JT

10 more of the best psychedelic albums John ColtraneJohn Coltrane – Om

(1968; Impulse!)

If you can meditate to Pharaoh Sanders’ tenor sax on Om, you’ve obviously cracked the code. For the rest of us the irony of Coltrane’s final album has always been that despite its title there was hardly anything introspective about it. Coltrane would describe Om as primal. Reportedly high on LSD, Coltrane and his band would hole up in a house in Lynwood, Washington and create an assaultive psych statement on consciousness that was deeply misunderstood in its time.  In retrospect Om has grown in stature, and now rightly takes its place among Coltrane’s most beloved frequencies. – WW

10 more of the best psychedelic albums Millennium BeginThe Millennium – Begin

(1968; Columbia)

Los Angeles’ short-lived sunshine pop group The Millennium formed following the end of similarly brief yet excellent band The Music Machine. Yet where that band employed some gradually more psychedelic elements in the service of some raw, rowdy garage rock, The Millennium followed the path the Beach Boys laid out on Pet Sounds, expanding into a lushly arranged, stylistically eclectic set of gorgeous pop. Each track on their sole full-length Begin seems to introduce a whole new world of sound, from the jazzy acid pop of “I Just Want to Be Your Friend” to the Baroque strums of “5 A.M.” and the brassy proto-power-pop strut of “Sing to Me.” Lots of material from the band’s vault was issued on subsequent archival collections, but if The Millennium didn’t stick around long, at least they perfected psychedelic pop on the first attempt. – JT

10 more of the best psychedelic albums United States of AmericaThe United States of America – The United States of America

(1968; Columbia)

To say The United States of America were a pretty weird band—even in the context of everything that was happening post-Summer of Love—speaks volumes. The California-based band bridged a lot of different corners of psychedelia, threading Jefferson Airplane’s melodic psych-rock through the raw art rock of The Velvet Underground and the bizarre synth drones of Silver Apples. Their sole full-length covers a lot of ground and thrives in its sophisticated strangeness, leaping from the unsettling sounds of circus revelry into a hallucinatory dirge on “The American Metaphysical Circus,” adding a harder rocking pulse to “The Garden of Earthly Delights” and spacious beauty to “Love Song for the Dead Che.” It’s the kind of trip that goes in every possible direction, and it’s more fun to get lost in it than to find any sense of order. – JT

10 more of the best psychedelic albums Dr. JohnDr. John – Gris Gris

(1968; Atco)

Plagued by his own self-induced obscurity, Dr. John’s most refined and mysterious collection of music, 1968’s Gris-Gris, hardly made a splash on both U.K. and U.S. charts. Gris-Gris is a wild and exploratory fusion of genres, heavily emulating dark, New Orleans R&B with just the right dose of experimental, psychedelic “rock.” Eerie chants lead the ambiance of Gris-Gris, as Dr. John is surrounded and swallowed by funky, polyarythmic congas, menacing bottle neck guitars and amalgamated wind arrangements. Influenced by Dr. John Montaine, a self-proclaimed African potentate, the voodoo-like spirit found throughout Gris-Gris is both as chilling and perplexing now as it was then. – TM

10 more of the best psychedelic albums Grateful DeadGrateful Dead – Blues For Allah

(1975; Grateful Dead/United Artists)

Unless someone here is older than we think or is a closeted taper/tape trader, nobody on Treble’s staff is a Deadhead. Heck, I’d even be hard-pressed to single out anyone here who likes their descendents in Phish. Heck again, anything I’ve typed about The Grateful Dead hasn’t come from the fingers of a true fan, but at least I can appreciate the band’s place in history. They embodied hippiedom, gave it a West Coast epicenter, and helped commodify black-market enlightenment to truly industrialized levels. Knowing all of this, I’m genuinely surprised that they didn’t find their way into our countdown. This album came closest, with its calmly flowing music turning Southern-fried rock into something near to spiritual jazz. More importantly, the lyrics form a manifesto for leading a large, not-so-secret society into blissful community and elevated consciousness, the band transformed into tie-died Pied Pipers. – AB

10 of the best psychedelic albums Augustus PabloAugustus Pablo – King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown

(1976; Clocktower)

Rastafarianism’s holistic use of cannabis moves it from the merely euphoric and sedative to a legitimate religious experience. Reggae—the belief system’s de facto theme music—celebrates, observes, even politicizes the consumption of weed, but only the dub subgenre truly revels in that which is the most high. This is why Pablo’s deep cult classic, and not the populist work of Bob Marley or Peter Tosh, made waves with us. The production choices of Pablo, King Tubby, Carlton Barrett, and Robbie Shakespeare fracture, rearrange, and float the component parts of reggae such that listeners have to grab at them like specters, on footing better suited for rock climbing or Twister. It’s a portrait of Jamaica as if painted by Dalí. – AB

best stoner rock albums Monster MagnetMonster Magnet – Dopes to Infinity

(1995; A&M)

The first line on Dopes to Infinity is “I can see by the hole your head / that you want to friends/ you’re the right one baby.” Monster Magnet frontman Dave Wyndorf might as well sing “Buy the ticket, take the ride,” as that is the kind of depraved trip listeners will be taking on this spacey stoner rock epic. A cautionary tale: While istening to it on 16 hits of acid and playing with a Ouija board, the song “Ego the Living Planet“ caused things to take a turn during the manic scream of “I talk to planets baby!” Convinced I would turn into a 14th Century French Prince, I ran down the street in my underwear until chugging a gallon of milk in a convenience store. Dopes to Infinity should only be listened to under the supervision of a healthcare professional.  – WL

Mercury Rev Deserters Songs tourMercury Rev – Deserters’ Songs

(1998; V2)

While caught in a deep cycle of depression, Mercury Rev frontman Jonathan Donahue retreated to a collection of records from his childhood. While in the midst of a nostalgia binge, Donahue began composing simple piano arrangements and melodies. Taking somewhat of an anti-rock approach to the studio, the end result was Deserter’s Songs, perhaps Mercury Rev’s most refined and acclaimed album. Deserter’s Songs‘ grand, teetering build ups mixed with an excellent use of clavinets, flugelhorns and harpsichords make for a delightful exploration of a somewhat intellectual approach to psychedelia. Mercury Rev was never the same. – TM

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