I need to limit the category pretty strictly to decide. But its not simply a pragmatic limitation. Earlier Songbook posts have laid the groundwork for my main assumption, that the basic folk-rock recipe was to inject the purity and longing of the gentler, Baez-esque , side of the folk sound into the (already somewhat folk-inflected) sound of The Beatles .
Still, in some cases, the category is going to have to be a bit arbitrary. Basically, it applies to songs using the recipe circa 1965-1968, following the breakthrough example of the Byrds, often prominently featuring the jangle-y use (or imitation!) of the electric twelve-string. There are a couple of categories excluded then, the first of which will be the many folk-rock inflected pop songs , such as the wonderful Summer Song by Chad and Jeremy, I Got You Babe, by Sonny and Cher, Happy Together by the Turtles, Both Sides Now by Judy Collins, and so many others-many of these overlap with the pop-art sound I described in It Was the Dawning of the Age of the Harpsichord . These typically are not as guitar-based—the sound is often filled out by strings and such. The second category Im going exclude are the late-60s sensitivity songs , which grew out of folk-rock and folk but which blend into the early 70s ascendance of James Taylor and suchsome real beauties here, sometimes coming directly out of the folkie tradition, indeed often just recording acoustic guitar in novel ways. Examples: For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her, by Simon and Garfunkle, Candy Says, by The Velvet Underground, Andmoreagain by Love, and Today by Jefferson Airplane.
So, having set apart the folk-rock category that way, here are my choices. No links for really well-known numbers.
1) The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man
2) Jefferson Airplane, Come up the Years
3) The Squires, Going All the Way
4) The Gants, I Wonder
5) Jefferson Airplane, Blues from an Airplane
6) The Squires, Go Ahead
7) Vejtables, I Still Love You
8) The Byrds, She Has a Way
9) Love, No Matter What
10) The Byrds, If Youre Gone
11) Simon and Garfunkle, Sounds of Silence
12) We Five, You Were on My Mind
13) Jefferson Airplane, Its No Secret
14) The Who, The Kids Are Alright
15) Scott Mackenzie, If Youre Going to San Francisco
16) The Velvet Underground, Sunday Morning
17) The Byrds, My Back Pages
With Mr. Tambourine Man, its hard to decide between the original and the coverthats how great both are. The Byrds version is known to be the beginning-point of folk-rock, but the impression I got from the authoritative book on the subject, Turn! Turn! Turn! by Richie Unterberger, is that there were plenty of other groups right behind the Byrds in terms of the basic soundone of those simultaneous discoveries made by many folks in many places, in this case due to The Beatles.
The folk-rock album is not however, the Byrds’ debut, but Jefferson Airplane’s. They achieved, before becoming known for being a psychedelic band, the best folk-rock sound: fuller and rockier than that of the Byrds, which at times, especially vocal-wise, gets kind of tiring. Their second album Surrealistic Pillow , is deservedly regarded as a rock classic (alas, their third, After Bathing at Baxters is one of the best pieces of evidence for the acid ruined the music hypothesis), but for me its still Jefferson Airplane Takes Off that rules. Come Up the Years, is its in all-ways-glorious standoutsure, theres always something creepy about Youre so young, but I love you anyhow songs, but youll make an exception for this one.