By 1960, the key characteristics of rock n’ roll in its rawest form were carried over from the better half of the ‘50s, ready for the decade ahead and its pop music revolution. The likes of Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis were all carrying the torch of rock n’ roll. The genre in its early form was an offshoot of jazz and blues that still found its expression within popular music charts.
Muddy Waters, Etta James, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and Ornette Coleman — just to name a few — were all charting at this point. The original bluesmen such as the aforementioned Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters would soon lose their major platforms as rock n’ roll became even more Westernised and further appropriated by white musicians.
More so than any other British rock n’ roll band, the Rolling Stones were religiously devoted to the works of these bluesmen; they covered a lot of them in their earlier days and would eventually put them back into the minds of countless Americans.
1960, as is every start of a new decade, is really just an extension of the decade before it. Needless to say, there are a lot of great records that, to a larger extent, has fallen into forgotten realms but still have left a timeless stamp on the musical DNA’s of modern R&B, hip-hop, rock, pop and Americana. Below you’ll find our definitive list of the best albums released in 1960.
List of the best albums of 1960:
Sketches of Spain – Miles Davis
Released in July of 1960, this record is considered an exemplary outlier of the Third Stream music movement. Third Stream is a style of music that combines elements of jazz, European classical, and other world music styles. Miles Davis got inspired to make a Spanish record after his wife insisted on accompanying her to a flamenco performance by Roberto Inglesias. On this one, Davis teams up with composer and arranger Gil Evans.
“We hadn’t intended to make a Spanish album. We were just going to do the Concierto de Aranjuez. A friend of Miles gave him the only album in existence with that piece. He brought it back to New York and I copied the music off the record because there was no score,” Evans began.
Since the start of this project turned out to be successful, and drove Davis’ imagination, they decided to do a full album based on Third Stream and Spanish music.
Evans added, “By the time we did that, we began to listen to other folk music, music played in clubs in Spain. So we learned a lot from that and it ended up being a Spanish album. The Rodrigo, the melody is so beautiful. It’s such a strong song. I was so thrilled with that.”
Elvis is Back – Elvis Presley
One of three Elvis records to be released in 1960, this one is a return to his ‘50s form and the first one he released after returning to Tennessee from Germany, where he served in the United States military.
While he served overseas, Elvis still dabbled in music in his own time and began exploring some new sounds. This is his first album recorded in stereophonic.
Following his third and final appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, Presley received a draft notice in 1957. Many believed that his absence would fatally affect his career. However, his management had carefully prepared for his absence and held onto a bunch of unreleased material, which they released during his two-year absence, creating a steady stream of continued releases, effectively keeping Elvis relevant and vibrant.
At Last! – Etta James
At Last! Is Etta James’ debut record and is considered influential and one of the best of 1960. James is one of the best singers to have ever existed, combining a fiery brand of jazz, blues and soul. Her voice is raw and one of the most recognisable ones of her generation. Phil and Leonard Chess produced the record.
The title track was written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren in 1941, originally intended for a musical called Sun Valley Serenade. The following year, it was rearranged and instead used in the film, Orchestra Wives. The song has been widely covered by a long list of masterful artists, including Cyndi Lauper, Celine Dion, Gladys Knight, Joan Osborne and many more.
James was considered the ‘queen of soul’ before her title was stolen by Aretha Franklin.
It’s Everly Time – The Everly Brothers
This was the first record they released after having signed with a major label, Warner Bros. They had left the independent label, Cadence, for which they released all their greatest records. Because of this, critics had anticipated a subpar record from the majestic rock n’ roll duo and that they had already passed their prime.
It’s one album that showcases the bombastic style of The Everly Brothers without producing a single bad song on the record. A lot of the songs on this record are based in formats of country, pop, and rockabilly.
The Buddy Holly Story, Volume 2 – Buddy Holly
The second album to be released posthumously after the first one’s unchartered success, The Buddy Holly Story, the album is a compilation of unfinished and unreleased material Buddy Holly had done in the studio.
A lot of these tracks were acoustic demos Buddy Holly had started, and overdubbed and finished by Jack Hansen.
What has been historically described as “The day the music died”, on February 3rd in 1959, the trifecta of rock n’ roll’s original pioneers all died on a plane crash; Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and ‘The Big Bopper’ J.P Richardson all had their lives taken away prematurely in Iowa during a bad snowstorm. The tragedy’s name was penned by Don McLean in his epic song, ‘American Pie.’
Bo Diddley Is A Gunslinger – Bo Diddley
Bo Diddley is one of the most influential musicians in the realm of blues and rock n’ roll. During his career, he made a fatefully important transition from blues to rock n’ roll; this bridge elucidated how the two genres are inextricably linked, paving the way for bands like The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Beatles.
Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger incorporates elements of Western music; the album cover artwork displays Bo Diddley clad in as a Western cowboy.
The origins of his pseudonym, Bo Diddley, is slightly mysterious and unclear. A diddley bow is a homemade single-stringed instrument used by farmworkers in the south, predominately slaves. Some suspect that the homemade instrument has roots in the Western African Coast.