15 epic and influential American rock albums from 1969

These 15 rock masterpieces were the best albums from rock in the final year of the 1960s.
Creedence Clearwater Revival in concert
Creedence Clearwater Revival in concert / Michael Putland/GettyImages
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11. Ballad of Easy Rider – The Byrds

The Byrds of 1969 looked far different from the group that burst onto the scene in 1965 – only founding member Roger McGuinn remained from that lineup – with one of the best opening songs from a 1960s debut album, but that didn’t stop them from delivering a strong 1969 album (their second of the year) in the form of Ballad of Easy Rider.

Fully in the country rock mold by this point, despite Gram Parsons, the one who steered them in that direction no longer being part of the group, this album sees the Byrds with their best-ever musician in the form of guitar virtuoso Clarence White, who had originally played with the Byrds as a session musician during the Sweetheart of the Rodeo sessions.

White’s incredible chops are interwoven throughout this album, though this release is more of a low-key affair and decidedly acoustic-leaning, with tracks such as the title track, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” and the impressive “Someone I Can Turn To” typifying this lo-fi and eminently enjoyable approach.

10. It’s A Beautiful Day ­– It’s A Beautiful Day

An intriguing and little-known San Francisco rock album from 1969, It’s A Beautiful Day features the vocals of David Laflamme and his wife Linda blending beautifully throughout as well as one of the best album covers of all time.

The album is an unusual mélange of sounds and melodies brought forth through an intoxicating blend of instruments that include pizzicato strings, harpsichord, electric violin, electric piano, fuzzed-out electric guitar, and organ, though Laflamme’s ethereal and powerful electric violin is likely the most important, and it is perhaps most effective on "Hot Summer Day."

The album does feature some instrumental psychedelic freakouts (a la “Wasted Union Blues”), as one would expect for a rock album from the West Coast from this era, but there’s also top-flight songcraft, such as the disturbing “Girl With No Eyes,” which features a gorgeous melody with eerie, unsettling lyrics.

9. Bayou Country – Creedence Clearwater Revival

The first of three albums that Creedence Clearwater Revival released in 1969 – a truly impressive feat – doesn’t quite reach the consistency of the albums that followed it, but that doesn’t mean this album is lightweight.

It features two stone-cold classics in the CCR canon, “Born on the Bayou” and, more importantly, “Proud Mary,” which has become a modern standard in the intervening 55 years since it first debuted on this terrific CCR album. Beyond those highlights, this album is stuffed with tremendous bluesy guitar playing from bandleader and lead songwriter John Fogerty, as well as the band’s trademark workmanlike musicianship.

8. ­The Band – The Band

An extremely entertaining rootsy rock album building on the critical and commercial success of the group’s debut album (1968’s Music From Big Pink). This is deemed something of a concept album that explores older periods of Americana, typified by tracks such as the seminal “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."

The surprisingly groovy “Up On Cripple Creek” is an entertaining track with a strong drum part played by co-lead singer Levon Helm that’s underscored by a saucy clavinet part filtered through a wah-wah pedal – for an even funkier sound. This album must be heard to fully grasp its beauty and far-reaching influence.