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15 Essential Psychedelic Rock Albums You Need To Hear

Psychedelic rock may have been a phenomenon of the 1960s, but this music style is still popular today. The original artists have endured, while new bands have entered this genre.

A popular online forum recently debated their favorite psychedelic rock albums of all time, and here are some suggestions for your listening pleasure.

1. Smiley Smile: The Beach Boys (1967)

Smiley Smile by The Beach Boys
Image Credit: Brother Records, Inc.

Released in 1967, Smiley Smile was perfectly timed for the summer of love. Its predecessor Smile also received some votes, but the later release is preferred by one forum member who described it as Smile’s younger brother coming down.

2. The Velvet Underground and Nico: By Velvet Underground and Nico! (1964)

The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967) by The Velvet Underground
Image Credit: Verve Records.

A self-titled album by this iconic set of 1960s artists is a hit with many forum readers. The Velvet Underground and Nico is also cited as a record that inspired many other artists. One commenter suggests that producer Andy Warhol’s influence on music was still very evident, even into the 1980s.

3. Space Ritual: Hawkwind (1973)

Space Ritual by Hawkwind
Image Credit: United Artists.

I fully endorse any album by Hawkwind. They’ve covered many musical genres in a long career, but they began as psychedelic rock Gods, and this discussion would only be complete with them. Like the poster here, I would struggle with many choices from their catalog. This person confirms that the band has a lot of material, and it’s hard to know where to start, but Space Ritual is highly recommended.

4. Spirals in Hyperspace: Ozric Tentacles (2004) 

Spirals in Hyperspace: Ozric Tentacles
Image Credit: Magna Carta Records.

If you like Hawkwind, I’d urge you to try Ozric Tentacles. The music is similar, with one key difference: Ozric Tentacles are purely instrumental. They were formed in 1983, so there is an extensive back catalog, but 2004’s Spirals in Hyperspace offers a great insight into their work.

5. The Electric Prunes: The Electric Prunes (1966)

The Electric Prunes: The Electric Prunes
Image Credit: Reprise Records.

If there’s one song that sums up the 1960s, it has to be “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)” by the Electric Prunes. It can be found on this 1966 release, and the entire album is a classic. One commenter states that the band is often written off as a novelty act, and that’s unfair.

6. Amnesiac: Radiohead (2001)

Amnesiac: Radiohead
Image Credit: Parlophone Records.

They are one of the most innovative British bands of the last twenty years, and Radiohead deserve their place here. They are experimental, verging on the genres of progressive and psychedelic rock. There’s a good choice of albums, with Hail to the Thief an excellent alternative to Amnesiac.

7. The Beat Goes On: Vanilla Fudge (1968)

The Beat Goes On: Vanilla Fudge
Image Credit: ATCO Records.

They were formed in 1967 at the height of psychedelic rock, and Vanilla Fudge were fine exponents of this style of music. They’ve released 11 studio albums, including The Beat Goes On, their second record. 

8. Remission: Mastodon (2003) 

Remission: Mastodon
Image Credit: Relapse Records.

This is a debatable inclusion because many fans would categorize Mastodon as heavy rock. However, the band has a unique sound that crosses different styles. One respondent to this discussion described their sound as Pink Floyd meets heavy metal.

9. Are You Experienced: The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967)

Are You Experienced (1967) by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Image Credit: Ember Records.

They say that if you remember the 60s, you didn’t enjoy them. Perhaps that’s why this classic example of psychedelic rock has slipped the memory of our forum. It gets an isolated mention, but you can’t go wrong with Are You Experienced.

10. 25 O’Clock: Dukes of Stratosphear (1985) 

25 O'Clock: Dukes of Stratosphear
Image Credit: Virgin Records Ltd.

The Dukes of Stratosphear was a side project by the English indie band XTC. It was such a success that the two albums they released sold more than some previous XTC recordings. They might also be described unfairly as a novelty act, but 25 O’Clock is pure, classic psychedelia.

11. Eyes Like the Sky: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (2013) 

Eyes Like the Sky: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Image Credit: Flightless Records.

Even if they aren’t your favorite psychedelic rock band, you’d have to agree that King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have the best name in music history. They are Australian and, as one poster suggests, Australia seems to be where it’s at for music right now.

12. Fear Inoculum: Tool (2019) 

Fear Inoculum: Tool
Image Credit: Volcano Entertainment.

Another new psychedelic rock band to attract attention is Tool. They are mentioned several times on this thread, with different album possibilities. 

13. Sunshine Superman: Donovan (1966) 

Sunshine Superman: Donovan
Image Credit: Epic Records.

One of the most trippy albums of the 1960s has to be Sunshine Superman. It emerged in 1966 and featured many of the artist’s best tracks. The record is mentioned on the thread without supporting comments so that the album may speak for itself.

14. Passover: The Black Angels (2006) 

Passover: The Black Angels
Image Credit: Light in the Attic Records.

Formed in 2004, there is no ambiguity regarding the Black Angels’ music. This is genius psychedelic rock, and one poster informs us that they recommend starting with Passover, but you can just pick an album at random and not go wrong.

15. The Madcap Laughs: Syd Barrett (1968) 

The Madcap Laughs: Syd Barrett
Image Credit: Harvest Records.

A personal favorite closes this roundup. This isn’t classic Pink Floyd by any means, but Syd Barrett’s solo work hints at his vulnerability and struggles at the time. It’s excellent psychedelia, and the opening song, “Terrapin,” is especially memorable.

Source: (Reddit).

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