Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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CG-70s Book Cover

A Basic Record Library:
The Fifties and Sixties

The lists that follow, dominated by standbys that have given me pleasure for years, are for context--where my judgments are coming from--as well as guidance. They've taken some relistening, but not the kind of scrutiny that went into the body of the book, and they're less than comprehensive, based largely on albums in my non-collector's collection. Nevertheless, similar criteria apply. I've named records, not artists--great, listenable records as opposed to important ones, records rarely marred by humdrum cuts. I've included urban blues because it differs from rock and roll only in stylistic rigor and target audience, and ignored country music because the styles only began to merge fully in the '70s (honky-tonkers like George Jones and Hank Williams--not to mention Country Jerry Lee--are/were more rock and roll than Willie Nelson, but singer-songwriter Nelson is definitively "rock"). Certain faves (More Chuck Berry, Aretha's I Never Loved a Man) have been passed over to avoid duplication with best-ofs. There are twenty-five LPs from the '50s and seventy-five from the '60s because those round numbers are about where the quality begins to tail off.

As suits what was basically a singles music, all but three of the '50s selections are greatest-hits albums, most of them put together in the '70s. I've omitted such classic multiple-artist compilations as 18 King Size Rhythm & Blues Hits (Columbia), You Must Remember These (Bell), History of Rhythm & Blues Vol. 3 (Atlantic), Echoes of a Rock Era and Golden Goodies (Roulette), and American Graffiti (MCA) in favor of twenty-five forty-fives by artists whose LPs--if they exist at all--didn't make the grade. A lot of best-ofs show up in the '60s as well because outside of the fab five--Beatles-Dylan-Stones-Who-Redding--great albums-as-albums were rare before 1967. The good old days? We'll ever know.

The '50s: Singles

  • The Big Bopper: "Chantilly Lace" (Mercury)
  • The Bobbettes: "Mr. Lee" (Atlantic)
  • The Cadillacs: "Speedo" (Josie)
  • The Channels: "The Closer You Are" (Whirling Disc)
  • The Chantels: "Maybe" (End)
  • Danny and the Juniors: "At the Hop" (ABC)
  • The Del Vikings: "Come Go with Me" (Dot)
  • Bill Doggett: "Honky Tonk" (King)
  • The Five Satins: "In the Still of the Night" (Ember)
  • Bobby Freeman: "Do You Wanna Dance" (Josie)
  • The Gladiolas: "Little Darlin'" (Excello)
  • Dale Hawkins: "Suzie Q" (Checker)
  • Screamin' Jay Hawkins: "I Put a Spell on You" (Okeh)
  • The Heartbeats: "A Thousand Miles Away" (Rama)
  • Ivory Joe Hunter: "Since I Met You Baby" (Atlantic)
  • Little Willie John: "Fever" (King)
  • Johnnie & Joe: "Over the Mountain, Across the Sea" (Chess)
  • Mickey & Sylvia: "Love Is Strange" (Groove)
  • The Monotones: "Book of Love" (Argo)
  • The Penguins: "Earth Angel" (Dootone)
  • The Rays: "Silhouettes" (Cameo)
  • Shirley & Lee: "Let the Good Times Roll" (Aladdin)
  • The Silhouettes: "Get a Job" (Ember)
  • The Teenagers: "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" (Gee)
  • Ritchie Valens: "La Bamba" (Del-Fi)

The '50s: Albums

  • Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry's Golden Decade (Chess)
  • Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry's Golden Decade Volume II (Chess)
  • Ray Charles: What'd I Say (Atlantic)
  • The Clovers: Their Greatest Recordings: The Early Years (Atco)
  • The Coasters: Their Greatest Recordings: The Early Years (Atco)
  • Bo Diddley: Got My Own Bag of Tricks (Chess)
  • Fats Domino: Fats Domino (United Artists)
  • The Drifters: Their Greatest Recordings: The Early Years (Atco)
  • The Everly Brothers: History of the Everly Brothers (Barnaby)
  • The Five Royales: The Five Royales (King)
  • Buddy Holly/Crickets: 20 Golden Greats (MCA)
  • Jerry Lee Lewis: Original Golden Hits--Volume One (Sun)
  • Little Richard: 17 Original Golden Hits (Specialty)
  • Ricky Nelson: Ricky Nelson (United Artists)
  • Carl Perkins: Original Golden Hits (Sun)
  • The Platters: Encore of Golden Hits (Mercury)
  • Elvis Presley: The Sun Sessions (RCA Victor)
  • Elvis Presley: Elvis' Gold Records (RCA Victor)
  • Jimmy Reed: The Ultimate Jimmy Reed (BluesWay)
  • Huey Smith et al.: Huey "Piano" Smith's Rock & Roll Revival (Ace)
  • Joe Turner: His Greatest Recordings (Atco)
  • Gene Vincent: The Bop That Just Won't Stop (1956) (Capitol)
  • Muddy Waters: Sail On (Chess)
  • Sonny Boy Williamson: This Is My Story (Chess)
  • Howlin' Wolf: Chester Burnett A.K.A. Howlin' Wolf (Chess)

The '60s

  • The Band: The Band (Capitol)
  • The Beach Boys: Endless Summer (Capitol)
  • The Beach Boys: Wild Honey (Capitol)
  • The Beatles: Meet the Beatles! (Capitol)
  • The Beatles: The Beatles' Second Album (Capitol)
  • The Beatles: The Early Beatles (Capitol)
  • The Beatles: Something New (Capitol)
  • The Beatles: Rubber Soul (Capitol)
  • The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Capitol)
  • Bobby Bland: The Best of Bobby Bland (Duke)
  • James Brown: "Live" at the Apollo (King)
  • James Brown: "Live" at the Apollo Volume II (King)
  • Buffalo Springfield: Buffalo Springfield Again (Atco)
  • The Byrds: The Byrds' Greatest Hits (Columbia)
  • The Byrds: The Notorious Byrd Brothers (Columbia)
  • The Byrds: Sweetheart of the Rodeo (Columbia)
  • Ray Charles: Ray Charles' Greatest Hits (ABC)
  • Ray Charles: Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music (ABC)
  • Sam Cooke: The Legendary Sam Cooke (RCA Special Products)
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival: Willy and the Poor Boys (Fantasy)
  • Donovan: Donovan's Greatest Hits (Epic)
  • The Drifters: The Drifters' Golden Hits (Atlantic)
  • Bob Dylan: The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (Columbia)
  • Bob Dylan: Bringing It All Back Home (Columbia)
  • Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia)
  • Bob Dylan: Blonde on Blonde (Columbia)
  • Bob Dylan: John Wesley Harding (Columbia)
  • Bob Dylan: Nashville Skyline (Columbia)
  • The Flying Burrito Bros.: The Gilded Palace of Sin (A&M)
  • Aretha Franklin: Aretha's Gold (Atlantic)
  • Marvin Gaye: Super Hits (Tamla)
  • Jimi Hendrix: Are You Experienced? (Reprise)
  • Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Ladyland (Reprise)
  • Jimi Hendrix Experience: Smash Hits (Reprise)
  • The Impressions: Vintage Years: The Impressions Featuring Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield (Sire)
  • B.B. King: Live at the Regal (ABC)
  • The Kinks: The Kinks' Greatest Hits (Reprise)
  • The Kinks: Face to Face (Reprise)
  • Love: Forever Changes (Elektra)
  • The Lovin' Spoonful: The Best . . . (Kama Sutra)
  • The Mamas and the Papas: Farewell to the First Golden Era (Dunhill)
  • Martha and the Vandellas: Greatest Hits (Gordy)
  • The Marvellettes: Greatest Hits (Tamla)
  • The Miracles: The Miracles' Greatest Hits from the Beginning (Tamla)
  • Moby Grape: Moby Grape (Columbia)
  • Wilson Pickett: The Best of Wilson Pickett (Atlantic)
  • The Rascals: Time Peace: The Rascals' Greatest Hits (Atlantic)
  • Otis Redding: Dictionary of Soul (Stax)
  • Otis Redding: The Best of Otis Redding (Atco)
  • Otis Redding: The Immortal Otis Redding (Atco)
  • Smokey Robinson & the Miracles: Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (Tamla)
  • The Rolling Stones: 12 x 5 (London)
  • The Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones Now! (London)
  • The Rolling Stones: Out of Our Heads (London)
  • The Rolling Stones: Aftermath (London)
  • The Rolling Stones: Between the Buttons (London)
  • The Rolling Stones: Beggars Banquet (London)
  • The Rolling Stones: Let It Bleed (London)
  • Diana Ross & the Supremes: Anthology (Motown)
  • Sam and Dave: The Best of Sam and Dave (Atlantic)
  • The Shirelles: The Shirelles' Greatest Hits (Scepter)
  • Otis Spann: Walking the Blues (Barnaby)
  • Phil Spector's Greatest Hits (Warner/Spector)
  • Dusty Springfield: Dusty in Memphis (Atlantic)
  • Howard Tate: Howard Tate (Verve)
  • The Temptations: The Temptations' Greatest Hits (Gordy)
  • Joe Tex: The Best of Joe Tex (Atlantic)
  • The Velvet Underground: The Velvet Underground & Nico (Verve)
  • The Velvet Underground: The Velvet Underground (Verve)
  • Dionne Warwick: Golden Hits/Part I (Scepter)
  • The Who: The Who Sing My Generation (Decca)
  • The Who: Happy Jack (Decca)
  • The Who: The Who Sell Out (Decca)
  • Jackie Wilson: Jackie Wilson's Greatest Hits (Brunswick)
  • Stevie Wonder: Looking Back (Motown)

Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the '70s, 1980


Meltdown '70s and 1980