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9 Folk-Rock Albums That Will Rock You

Guitars and passion star in these albums by Dylan, Springsteen and other troubadours

Great Folk Rock Albums: Roy Harper

Roy Harper —  Stormcock (1971). Track that will improve your life: "Hors d'œuvres" 

British man-about-town Roy Harper sang lead vocals on the Pink Floyd staple "Have a Cigar" and inspired the Led Zeppelin cut "Hats Off to (Roy) Harper," yet he never became more than a cult figure in the United States. And that's a shame, for Stormcock showcases why so many legendary musicians thought so highly of his output. Consisting of just four long songs  — most of them feature Harper on vocals and acoustic guitar, with minimal accompaniment  — the tunes are progressive and circuitous; even at the uncommercial average of 10 minutes apiece, they make this collection feel like it ends too early.

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Great Folk Rock Albums: Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen — Nebraska (1982). Track that will improve your life: "Highway Patrolman"

When the most critically acclaimed American rocker of his generation has the biggest hit of his career — the pop smash "Hungry Heart," off 1980's The River — what's the next logical step? I'm pretty sure it's not to release a quiet, somber acoustic album filled with songs about characters down on their luck, pushed to the very edge or, in the case of the harrowing title track, pushed well over it. With this album — recorded in his kitchen with the idea that its 10 songs would never be more than demos — Springsteen laid uncontested claim to the impossibly lofty title of "the next Bob Dylan."

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Great Folk Rock Albums: REM

R.E.M. — Fables of the Reconstruction (1985). Track that will improve your life: "Wendell Gee"

This Southern gothic quartet delighted in smashing "rock-'n'-rules": Their vocal tracks were largely indecipherable, the musicians refused to appear on album covers, and they scorned solos and synthesizers alike. All that seemed only to amplify their commercial momentum. So, true to form, the band decamped for England at the height of its success. The weather was miserable and so was R.E.M., but their discomfit is our gain: Under Joe Boyd, the legendary producer of Pink Floyd and Maria Muldaur, R.E.M. crafted a moody, mysterious album suffused with the atmosphere of both cold, rainy England and hot, humid Georgia. Give a listen to the breezy yet disarming "Green Grow the Rushes," or the dreamlike "Wendell Gee." With the album's emphasis on railroad imagery, notably in "Driver 8," your ears may lead your eyes to see the ghost of Woody Guthrie taking shape across the room.

You may also like: 16 songs everyone over 50 must own.

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