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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4. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere – Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Packed to the gills with garage-rock trappings as well as the inimitable voice of Canadian legend Neil Young, this ragged rock album is littered with notable guitar parts as well as plenty of top-tier songcraft courtesy of one of the most prolific artists of the 1970s in Young.

The album kicks off with back-to-back classics in the form of the evergreen “Cinnamon Girl,” one of Young’s best-known compositions, and the title track, which features a lovely melody and stirring chorus backed by Crazy Horse and Young crooning “la la la” backing vocals.

The album also contains two of Young’s most famous songs (and popular live choices) in the form of “Down By The River” and “Cowgirl In The Sand,” both of which are quite long and introduce Young’s heavy, jamming style, which would come to define his live performances. This is not Young’s debut album, but it is certainly his first all-time classic release, and it holds up beautifully 55 years after release.

3. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground

Velvet Underground’s third album represented a new phase for the group after John Cale left to pursue more experimental directions and was replaced by multi-instrumentalist Doug Yule. Yule immediately makes his presence felt with the sweet, heart-rending vocals on “Candy Says,” which marries Lou Reed’s keenly observed lyrics to a sweetly sumptuous melody and a fairly sparse instrumental backing.

That track typifies the more relaxed sound of The Velvet Underground – especially when compared to this album's immediate predecessor, the experimental and cacophonous White Light/White Heat. Featuring a near totality of classic tracks, including “What Goes On,” the powerhouse love song “Pale Blue Eyes,” the profound “Jesus,” and “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” as well as the delightful palate-cleansing closing track “After Hours,” which is sung winningly by drummer Maureen Tucker. An album that has aged incredibly well thanks to its subdued production and the brilliant songcraft of Reed.

2. Green River – Creedence Clearwater Revival

CCR’s second of three albums in 1969 featured three all-time classic numbers: the title track, “Bad Moon Rising,” and the astounding “Lodi.” Beyond those, Green River showcased highlight album tracks galore, such as thrilling blues workout "The Night Time Is The Right Time," touching lament "Wrote A Song For Everyone" and the menacing rocker "Sinister Purpose."

This is a wall-to-wall masterpiece that showed bandleader and primary songwriter John Fogerty flexing his considerable talents in the U.S. rock scene, as his incendiary voice and tremendously well-structured guitar parts dominate proceedings. Somehow, he and CCR still had one more classic album to release after this in 1969!