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Steve Gunn on 10 Records He Thinks Everyone Should Own

On May 10, 2016


Moby Grape - '69

Moby Grape were a band way ahead of their time during the West Coast 60’s psychedelic era, and amidst the drugs and general craziness they couldn’t quite hold on to any kind of longevity. Over a span of a few years, there seemed to be a number of personality differences and struggles combusting from all angles. Members came and went, the bass player got drafted, musical styles changed too quickly — they never got their footing. This album is a document of an amazing group at the height of its power.  This is the best album to come out of that west coast 60’s era, in my opinion.


Dadawah - Peace & Love

Four extended dub tracks by Ras Michael’s group. This music moves and shifts very organically, and the band seems hypnotized.

The tracks are dark but hopeful. The guitars on the album are also really zoned and amazing. The playing is not in the rhythmic style that most reggae guitarists are known for, it goes into some uncharted territory. This searching makes the music inconceivably psychedelic. The guitar’s drippy delay and stoned blues licks make it unlike any other reggae album I’ve come across.


Pretty Things - SF Sorrow 

A concept album from the most underrated 60’s english rock band of all time.  Apparently the Who did not claim that this influenced them, but many think otherwise. This should have been the one that got more attention. For me, this band sits right there in the musicality between the Beatles and Stones. "She Says Good Morning" is one of the greatest rock n’ roll songs of all time. Every song on this album is great.


Sun Ra - Angels and Demons at Play

This album was recorded during the late 50’s and 1960 in New York City, and still sounds ahead of it’s time.  This collection of songs has that big band swing that Sun Ra had worked out while playing in Fletcher Henderson’s band decades earlier. Combine that knowledge with these beautifully foreboding melodies and important cosmic messages, and you’ve got an amazing document of American Music. Sun Ra’s long time sax player John Gilmore was one of the most desired players in the business. He turned down a lot of other large opportunities that came his way, and chose to stay in Sun Ra’s band for decades to come. He’s the guy that John Coltrane cites as a main influence and inspiration. His playing on this album in particular is amazing.


Everly Brothers - Roots 

Phil and Don joined the club and went ahead and made a 70’s rock and roll record. The vocals are of course right on, and what makes this album really special are the arrangements and guitar playing done by Beau Brummell’s guitar player Ron Elliot. "I Wonder If I Care As Much" is one the saddest, most alluring songs ever. Elliot’s sustained single note lead on this is in my 'Top 5 all time guitar lead on an album' nerd list.


Bola Sete - Ocean 

A well known Bossa Nova guitar player in Brazil, Bola Sete showed up in California in the late 60’s and played a number of shows in and around the area. The guitarist John Fahey was a big fan of Bola’s work, and took fast notice of this transformation from straight-ahead Bossa Nova to a more singular free flowing improvised style. They became fast friends and Fahey later convinced Bola to record a live album for his label in this more atmospheric style that he had embraced later in his career.  There is an effortlessness to the playing on this album that only a master can achieve.


Pharoah Sanders - Tauhid 

Recorded in New Jersey in 1966 for Impulse!, this album was the first solo outing for this sideman from John Coltrane’s band. The songs possess a certain patience and calm that a lot of free jazz albums don’t have that were made around this time. The moods of the songs develop slowly, with meditative chants, polyrhythmic percussion, and edgy guitar playing from the great Sonny Sharrock. A beautiful, mystical, meditative, and calming album.


Skip Spence - Oar

I always find myself coming back to this album every once and a while, and I’m always reminded of how effortlessly amazing it is. A former member of Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape, Skip lost his marbles and was committed by his bandmates to Bellevue Hospital, spending six months there. He got himself together and completed a collection of songs while he was in there.  When he got out he drove a motorcycle down to Nashville and recorded the songs, playing all the instruments himself. This album was recorded in a few days and has been described as ‘The most harrowing documents of pain and confusion ever made.’


Hamza El Din - Al Oud 

The Vanguard label released some incredible albums in the 60’s, and this stands as one of my favorite. The Egyptian Oud master, Hamza El Din, sings with such beautiful power and calmness on these songs. It’s a perfect album for a road trip, or for anything for that matter.


Dion - Born to Be with You

Recorded in 1975 when Dion and Phil Spector had a friendly reconnection (briefly) after years and years of hating each other.  Not being much different than other Spector productions in the past, the making of this record quickly became drawn out and chaotic. Amidst all the fighting and craziness, the record was basically shelved and pressed once on Spector’s own label.  Over the years the album became a real collectors item, and has been mentioned as an influenced to many insiders. This lead to the album getting reissued a while back, making it less impossible to find and giving it the attention it deserves.  Dion seems to be coming full circle on the album - having overcome almost destroying his life with fame and drugs, and finding God. His voice is just the right bit ragged, and it works really well with that classic Spector wall of sound production.


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