50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)

22nd Mar 2013 | 15:50

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by The Beatles)
Stop jumping about and listen to some of these, lads...

50 years ago today, The Beatles released Please Please Me, the debut album that marked the beginning of Beatlemania proper as the Fab Four began their conquest of the charts for the rest of the decade.

Now, we're certified Beatlemaniacs here at MusicRadar, but in among all the Beatle-based excitement, we know that 1963 was one hell of a year for music, with landmark releases for fans of soul, jazz, folk and much more.

So here are 50 of the best albums released half a century ago, for you to explore once you've finished giving Please Please Me a celebratory spin.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Bo Diddley's Beach Party – Bo Diddley
Bo storms the beach

A barnstorming record, perhaps one of the greatest live rock and roll albums ever, Beach Party captures Bo Diddley on formidable form. Essential listening, and the Rolling Stones were clearly taking note.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Reminiscing – Buddy Holly
From beyond the grave

By 1963, Buddy Holly had been dead four years, but his shadow still loomed large over the rock and pop world. Compiled from various finished tracks and demos, with rockabilly-flavoured overdubs from Tex-Mex group The Fireballs, Reminiscing is a remarkably coherent tribute to one of the greats.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Chuck Berry On Stage
Rock and roll music

A strange one this: marketed as a live album, and purportedly recorded at Chicago’s Tivoli Theater, a close listen reveals that the screaming and applause appear to have been added in post-production. Still, all the hits are here, and they’re the hits that rock and roll were built on, so we forgive you Chuck.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Summer Holiday – Cliff Richard and the Shadows
Cliff!

Could Cliff possible have known, as he was cutting Bachelor Boy for this impossibly sunny film soundtrack, that he would remain one for the next half a century? Summer Holiday is undoubtedly cheesy, but a handful of numbers – including the title track – have seeped into the British national consciousness regardless.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
At Carnegie Hall - The Dave Brubeck Quartet
Live - and lively

Arguably one of the greatest live jazz albums of the ‘60s, At Carnegie Hall revealed The Dave Brubeck Quartet to be a band most at home in the live context, swinging with a fluidity and playfulness throughout the two-disc set.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Folksinger - Dave Van Ronk
Essential folk revivalist

A contemporary of Bob Dylan on the New York folk revival scene, Dave Van Ronk had a style and delivery all of his own, and it’s thrown into sharp relief on Folksinger. Full of powerful performances, unique guitar arrangements and a voice like treacle poured over thunder, this is essential listening for aspiring folkies.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
The Guitar Player – Davy Graham
Finger pickin' good

He influenced an entire generation of guitar players thanks to his dazzling technique and clear mastery of his instrument, and on The Guitar Player set standards of playing that really haven’t been topped yet. Do yourself a favour and have a listen.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
King Of The Surf Guitar - Dick Dale
Riff and roll

The unmistakable buzz-saw tone of Dick Dale’s super-charged guitar is what this album is all about. When he’s let of the leash, as on Mexico, he could strip paint with the sheer force of his playing.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Anyone Who Had A Heart – Dionne Warwick
All class

Pairing Warwick’s classy vocals with Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s timeless songwriting makes for an unsurprisingly tasty package.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Dr. No – John Barry Orchestra
Shaken, not stirred

This soundtrack not only introduced the James bond Theme to the world, but provided the backdrop to Sean Connery and Ursula Andress’ iconic performances as they launched 007 into pop culture. He’s yet to leave.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Ella And Basie – Ella Fitzgerald
The Lady and the Count

One of jazz’s greatest voices teams up with one of the genre’s best-known orchestras with Quincy Jones arranging. Nice.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Duke Ellington and John Coltrane - Duke Ellington and John Coltrane
Genii

What happens when two jazz greats decide to sit down and make a record? The answer is great things, as is demonstrated over these seven tracks of transcendental jazzy goodness.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
The Crazy Beat Of Gene Vincent – Gene Vincent
Crazy scenes

The last of Gene Vincent’s records for Capitol, The Crazy Beat… is far from his best work, but even then still manages the odd diamond in the rough.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Back At The Chicken Shack – Jummy Smith
Funky chicken

You don’t get many organists making funk-fuelled jazz odysseys these days, and if you ask us, that’s a crying shame. Jimmy Smith, alongside Kenny Burrell, Stanley Turrentine and Donald Bailey work up a top-notch set here that has very little to do with chickens (or shacks).

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Death Chants, Breakdowns And Military Waltzes – John Fahey
Fahey lets his fingers do the talking

A snappy album title this may not be, but who cares when the guitar playing is this singular? At turns mystical, mesmerising and occasionally just plain weird, John Fahey made quite the mark with this one.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Samba Esquema Novo – Jorge Ben
It's all in the hips and the fingertips

Jorge Ben’s debut album is a lesson in the sort of guitar work that will steal your girlfriend quicker than you can say “I can’t dance”.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
The Kingsmen In Person – The Kingsmen
Louie, Louie etc

Primal rock and roll doesn’t get much simpler – or rawer – than this, the album that The Kingsmen put out in the wake of their raucous Richard Berry cover Louie, Louie. The sound of scared American parents long in the time before The Beatles.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Trouble Is A Lonesome Town – Lee Hazlewood
Storyteller's paradise

Populated with wild and wicked characters and Hazlewood’s distinctive lower register, Trouble Is A Lonesome Town is, in essence, a concept album of the dusty west littered with narration and gutsy country ballads.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Heat Wave – Martha And The Vandellas
Hot stuff

Released in the wake of Martha And The Vandellas’ unstoppable single (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave, this is an album of Motown magic from one of the label’s best girl group. Peerless backing from the Funk Brothers helps, naturally.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Never Grow Old – The Maytals
Early encounters

Before they acquired the prefix “Toots and”, the Maytals released this ska-tastic collection of their earliest ska-oriented singles on the Studio One label.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady – Charles Mingus
Psychotherapist approved

Ambitious, complicated and remarkable: all words that can be used to describe Charles Mingus’ The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady, an album regularly described as a masterpiece. We’re not going to argue with that.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Folk Songs And Blues – Mississippi John Hurt
Genius re-discovered

Having spent most of his life working as a farmer, Mississippi John Hurt’s arrival into the world of popular music at the age of 70 (ish, he wasn’t too sure of his actual birthday) was one of the most remarkable events of the folk revival. This set of live recordings helped establish the legend.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Nina Simone At Carnegie Hall
She practiced

Recorded live, this is the document of Simone’s first appearance at the prestigious venue, and captures her stunning voice at the beginning of her career.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
At Town Hall – Odetta
Spiritual singing

A rich and varied live recording that captures one of the folk revival’s best voices as she works through a set of traditional material, it’s easy to understand how Odetta made such an impact in the flesh from this record.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
We Shall Overcome – Pete Seeger
Folkin' great

Recorded live at the Carnegie Hall, a 44 year old Pete Seeger rolled out a lifetime’s worth of songs (including Dylan covers) that reaffirmed his position as one folk's most respected spokesmen.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Live At The Harlem Square Club, 1963 – Sam Cooke
Sam shakes it out

Raunchier and rockier than his studio recordings, Live At The Harlem Square Club is a fascinating – and utterly thrilling – experience from beginning to end, the atmosphere of the club perfectly captured. Cooke has the audience in the palm of his hand throughout, a masterful performance. And yes, we're aware that it wasn't actually released in 1963, but s it was recorded then (and it's so damn good), we're letting it slide...

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Sugar And Spice – The Searchers
Credible covers

One of the most popular of the Mersey beat groups, The Searchers had a pretty decent run in the early ‘60s, and Sugar And Spice shows why. A set of flawlessly performed covers with a hit original single thrown in for good measure, it helped make 1963 a vintage year for Scouse songsmiths.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Sinatra's Sinatra – Frank Sinatra
Ol' blue eyes looks in the mirror

An attempt by big Frank to make a quick buck with a set of re-records of his classic hits, Sinatra’s Sinatra may feel like little more than an attempt to fit the word ‘Sinatra’ into the titles as many times as possible, but it’s still better than anything Michael Buble has done, so we’ll leave it alone.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
A Christmas Gift For You – Phil Spector
Jingle this

Phil Spector might well be madder than a murderous moose these days, but back in the early ‘60s he knew how to record ‘em. Quite simply the Christmas album to top all others.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
When Sun Comes Out – Sun Ra
Space jazz

He sounds like a character from StarGate, but Sun Ra was a jazz innovator, albeit one who combined a love for theatricality, ancient Egyptian clothes and science fiction in one jazzy stew, as witnessed on When Sun Comes Out.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Easier Said Than Done – The Essex
Not the only way

Why a vocal group made up of US Marines decided to name themselves after the British country that gave us the vajazzle, we’ll never know. Fitting in their music career around military life, The Essex managed to produce Easier Said Than Done to minor success.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
The Miracles Recorded Live On Stage
Smokin'

Motown’s Live On Stage series, designed to showcase the legendary label’s artists in all their live glory, helped further cement the reputations of many an early Motown act. Smokey Robinson’s silky smooth vocals dominate here, and it is glorious.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Greatest Hits – The Shadows
Specs appeal

It’s crazy to think that Hank Marvin’s troupe of co-ordinated instrumentalists issued a greatest hits as early as 1963, but they did – and it reached number 2 in the UK charts. Further proof of the indisputable power of a red Strat.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Blood, Sweat And Tears – Johnny Cash
The man in black goes to work

Johnny Cash knew a thing or two about hard work – this was his 15th album since 1957, a statistic which puts literally every modern musician to shame – and he talks all about it on Blood, Sweat And Tears, nine songs about American working life that included stone cold classics Busted and The Legend Of John Henry’s Hammer.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Surfin' U.S.A. – The Beach Boys
The Boys go to the beach

12 tracks of all-American surf-rock classics, the title track alone would have been enough to make Surfin’ U.S.A. something special. This is The Beach Boys as a band, proving they could bring the (surf) rock like no other.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
Bob makes a break for the big time

After a debut album that did next to nothing in the States, Dylan needed to do something special with his second effort, and man, did he manage it. With The Freewheelin’, Dylan emerges as one of the most innovative and original song writing forces of the ‘60s. One of the greatest albums ever recorded, hands down.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Little Town Flirt – Del Shannon
Del does dirty

Del Shannon is undoubtedly best known for his 1961 smash hit Runaway, which is included here on his second album, alongside some cracking Shannon originals and a crop of covers. Well done Del.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Live At The Apollo – James Brown
The Godfather of soul shows how it's done

The Godfather of Soul was still a relative pup when he recorded this seminal live album at Harlem’s now world-famous Apollo Theater. Regularly cited as one of the greatest records of all time, it almost didn’t get released: Brown’s label King Records felt that it wouldn’t be a big seller. Turns out they were wrong: fans went just as wild for the record as the shrieking crowd that can be heard throughout it.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Impressions – John Coltrane
Get on the 'Trane

A lively mix of live and studio recordings that encompass Coltrane’s interest in Indian music (India) and exceptionally long tenor solos (Impressions). Influential and essential.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
In Dreams – Roy Orbison
The Big O does his thing

Kicking off with the staggering title track and going on to showcase Orbison’s voice as the phenomenally versatile tool it was, In Dreams is a collection of some of the Big O’s finest performances. Which makes it pretty much golden, if you ask us.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
In The Wind – Peter, Paul And Mary
Breezy does it

Peter, Paul And Mary may not have been cool (they still aren’t in case you’re wondering), but on In The Wind, they helped bring Bob Dylan’s songwriting to the fore with covers of Don’t Thing Twice, It’s All Right and Blowin’ In The wing, something for which we are eternally grateful. Well done, you biblically names folkies...

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Night Beat – Sam Cooke
Play it again, Sam

On Night Beat, one of the greatest voices ever recorded is framed by a backing band content to let it shine on a set of low-key blues that is essentially the ultimate late-night soul session.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
How Do You Like It – Gerry And The Pacemakers
Scouse sounds

The suits, the songs choices and the style of Gerry And The Pacemakers’ debut album is all highly reminiscent of The Beatles, and yet so far away. The spirit of the Mersey beat boom lies within, if not the brightest stars.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Monk's Dream – Thelonious Monk
Slam dunk the Monk

Thanks to his distinctive playing style and love of dissonant harmonies, jazz pianist Monk’s music wasn’t always universally appreciated. This 1963 release, however - his first for Columbia Records - is now regarded as something of a classic, and became one of his best-selling recordings.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
If You Need Me – Soloman Burke
Soul for big boys

Not for nothing was Solomon Burke known as The King of Rock N’Soul, and his earthy R&B also contained elements of gospel, country and jazz. Despite his immense physical presence, Burke never had the commercial clout of some of his contemporaries, but this 1963 Atlantic release demonstrates that he was a match for any of them.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
The Barbra Streisand Album – Barbra Streisand
Babs makes a start

The first of her 50 studio albums, Barbra Streisand kicked off her recording career with this triple Grammy award winning album. Rubbish title, though.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Surfer Girl – The Beach Boys
Busy boys

The Beach Boys were going hell for leather in 1963, releasing three albums in total, of which Surfer Girl was the second. An iconic cover and some classic Brian Wilson originals – including the title track – marks Surfer Girl as one of the Beach Boys best early albums.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Marvin Gaye Recorded Live On Stage
Gettin' it on

Live performances were never straightforward for Marvin Gaye. He suffered from stage fright in his early years, and in 1983, paranoia relating to an alleged murder attempt led him to wear a bulletproof vest while he was on stage. There’s no hint of such problems in this exuberant recording, which has him reeling off hits such as Stubborn Kind Of Fellow and Pride And Joy with the help of Martha And The Vandellas.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Top Ten - Etta James
Ten of the best

James’s 1963 album is stuffed with classic recordings, not least her take on Mack Gordon and Harry Warren’s At Last. Recently adopted by Beyonce (who played Etta in 2008 Chess Records biopic Cadillac records), this version remains the definitive one. Despite the album’s title, which was derived from the fact that it contained a selection of James’s top ten hits from the previous three years, it peaked at 117 on the Billboard 200 chart.

50 albums released in 1963 (that weren't by the Beatles)
Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius – Little Stevie Wonder
What were you doing at 12 years old?

When we were 12 our major concerns were remembering to feed our pet guinea pigs and breaking into the school football team. Little Stevie Wonder had other things on his mind - recording his first live album, for instance. It was pretty successful, too, topping the Billboard 200 chart.

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