10 best albums from 1964 might surprise you

1964 in music featured the British Invasion fully taking over the U.S. and was also when albums began to become more important to listeners, though singles still dominated.
The Beatles arrive in the U.S. 1964
The Beatles arrive in the U.S. 1964 / Evening Standard/GettyImages
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9. All Summer Long – The Beach Boys

This album features a beautifully designed (and oft-parodied/copied) cover, and it kicks off with one of the Beach Boys’ best early-album tracks, “I Get Around,” which is a tremendous showcase for the burgeoning songwriting and arranging brilliance of group leader and main songwriter Brian Wilson. A gorgeous slice of sun-kissed pop genius, that track serves as an astounding opener for the album.

There are deep cuts on the album well worth your time, though, such as the title track “All Summer Long,” which is beautiful and has a slight tone that laments the fact that it “won’t be long until summertime is through,” as well as the gorgeous, nearly a capella “Hushabye,” which features Mike Love and Brian Wilson trading equally tender and sweet lead vocal lines. As with many early Beach Boys albums, it’s let down by piffle such as the joke song “Our Favorite Recording Sessions” and the heavy-handed pastiche “Do You Remember.”

8. Live at Birdland – John Coltrane

Saxophonist John Coltrane delivered some of the finest jazz of the 1960s. This 1964 album serves as a terrific precursor to his crowning artistic achievement, A Love Supreme, which was released the following year in 1965. Coltrane’s band – McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on double bass, and Elvin Jones on drums – is in fine form throughout this hybrid live/studio album, as each has plenty of moments of brilliance, though Coltrane's transcendent lead sax lines dominate proceedings, and with good reason.

His eminently expressive playing on this album serves as a frenetic precursor to his work on A Love Supreme a year later, though his incendiary solo with no backing from the band on “I Want to Talk About You” is among his best-ever solos on any album.

7. Mary Wells Sings My Guy – Mary Wells

An amazing early Motown album with all of the songcraft and tight backing instrumentation the label was known for during this era. Mary Wells delivers these in-house Motown creations with panache and verve with a supple, sultry voice that is well-suited to the material.

This is especially true on strong tracks such as “Whisper You Love Me Boy” and “He Holds His Own” - which were written by dynamic Motown songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland - or opening track “He’s The One I Love” or the track that gives the album its name: “My Guy,” both of which were written by songwriting legend Smokey Robinson. “My Guy” in particular sounds as fresh and fun as it likely was 60 years ago when it debuted, and it certainly deserves its place as the Motown label’s third-ever No. 1 single.

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