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The Super 70's Reconsidered


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The Super Seventies Reconsidered - An Assortment of Essential Albums of the Decade

 

As with the 80's thread and other decade threads to follow, All things 70's - a seventies thread for all those disco, rock and soulful sounds from the era with Wolfman Jack, the BeeGees, big hair and bellbottoms.

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These aren't the only essential albums of the Seventies. Instead, the point of

this list is to give some sense of depth and breadth of the decade's music,

so, for starters, it's limited it to one album per artist. The 70's offered some great music in a genre of disco, r&b and rock.

 

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BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: Born to Run (1975)

He said he wanted to make an album with the lyrics of Bob Dylan, the sound of

Phil Spector and the voice of Roy Orbison. "Born To Run's" words weren't much

like Dylan's, its sound didn't really ape Spector's and Springsteen's voice

was nothing like Orbison's -- but all the same, its impact was as if he had

accomplished just what he had set out to do.

 

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DEREK AND THE DOMINOS: Layla (1970)

A tale of two guitarists: Eric Clapton, anguished over an unrequited love and

determined to capture his pain in music, and Duane Allman, who dropped by to

say hello and was drafted into service. Among white blues-rock albums,

"Layla" is probably closest to the real blues: It's the sound of a desperate

man making majestic, beautiful and horribly sad music.

 

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BILLY JOEL: The Stranger (1977)

Movin' Out (Anthony's Song), The Stranger, Just The Way You Are, Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, Only The Good Die Young, She's Always A Woman

Everybody Has A Dream... Platnium Joel and one of the best recorded albums of the decade.

 

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BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS: Live! (1975)

Reggae was lauded as the Next Big Thing into America in the early Seventies,

but that never happened -- though records as remarkable as Toots and the

Maytals' "Funky Kingston," Burning Spear's "Marcus Garvey," the Mighty

Diamonds' "Right Time" and Culture's monumental "Two Sevens Clash" deserved

far more than a cult audience. The two great reggae collections of the decade

are the soundtrack from "The Harder They Come" and virtually the entire

recorded catalog of Bob Marley, reggae's only real star in America and a

prophet virtually everywhere else. On "The Harder They Come," Jimmy Cliff's

best songs sit alongside classics from Toots, the Slickers, the Melodians and

others. As for the Marley catalog, "Live!" is a good place to start because

of its well-chosen repertoire and its picture of an evangelical frontman and

a furious band at the peak of their powers.

 

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BOB DYLAN: Blood on the Tracks (1975)

Essential Dylan, deep and melodic.

 

THE ROLLING STONES: Exile on Main Street (1972)

One of the Stone's classic albums, it featured some great riffs and incredible lyrics.

 

JOHN LENNON: Plastic Ono Band (1970)

These are the only Seventies albums from the Sixties' kingpins that deserve

to stand alongside "Blonde on Blonde," "Beggars Banquet" and "Revolver."

Dylan's album, reportedly prompted by a split with his wife, was lovelier,

more mature and more openly emotional than anything he'd done, leavened with

just enough righteous anger and convoluted narratives.

 

Weariness rather than maturing characterized "Exile on Main Street," two

records of relentless, brutal, and crude rock hits -- "Tumbling Dice,"

"Happy," "Rip This Joint" -- to lure listeners into the murk.

 

For the former Beatles, things were trickier. George Harrison had the first

big hit (with the overblown but admirable "All Things Must Pass") and Paul

McCartney had the most success (though only "Band on the Run" was a complete

triumph), but John Lennon hit the hardest and cut the deepest. Mostly, he did

so on his first solo album, recorded in his post-Beatles flush of freedom and

written under the influence of primal-scream therapy. A diatribe against

everyone who wronged him and every false dream he ever believed in, "Plastic

Ono Band" is monumentally self-absorbed, completely honest and wholly

convincing.

 

DAVID BOWIE: Station to Station (1976)

He could have been the decade's dominant artist, but Bowie switched direction

too often and alienated his fans too eagerly. He left behind a string of

Seventies bench marks -- "Ziggy Stardust," "Aladdin Sane," "Low," ""Heroes","

"Lodger," -- but the chilly, hard-rock/funk/synth-pop blend of "Station to

Station" deserves special mention as Bowie's initial daring step in the

direction that would produce his most lasting work.

 

STEVIE WONDER: Innervisions (1973)

Motown's most stubborn individualist listened to everything from reggae to

funk to Dylan and sappy ballads and incorporated it all into his

synthesizer-driven, multilayered music. Light on sentiment and long on urban

horror stories, "Innervisions" brought out the tougher side of this virtuoso

idealist.

 

ROD STEWART: Every Picture Tells a Story (1971)

Does anybody remember when Rod Stewart had this much compassion, warmth and soul? Does anybody remember when his rock & roll sounded so unforced and

natural? And finally, does anybody know what happened?

 

MILES DAVIS: Bitches Brew (1970)

This isn't exactly the album that *invented* jazz rock; it's more like

Elvis's first records, which were the place where rock first flowered

unmistakably. Fusion players have yet to improve upon this turbulent

blueprint -- though a few years later, Jeff Beck came up with a more

rock-derived alternative on "Blow by Blow" and "Wired."

 

VARIOUS ARTISTS: The Sound of Philadelphia (1988)

What Motown was to the Sixties -- an apparently inexhaustible font of

stylish, memorable hit singles -- Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff's Philadelphia

International label was to the early Seventies. Sleek and sinuous, the hits

just kept on coming: "Back Stabbers," "When Will I See You Again," "Me and

Mrs. Jones," "Wake Up Everybody.".. This two-record British compilation

collects more of them than any other single source.

 

LED ZEPPELIN: Physical Graffiti (1975)

Seldom known for restraint and taste, Led Zeppelin raised a blues-derived

racket with such artful excess that this band defined the hard-rock genre.

Which is why "Physical Graffiti" - an immoderate, overweening, explosive

two-record set -- may be the group's quintessential record: It's nowhere near

as focused as "Led Zep IV," but it makes a bigger, grander noise for a longer

time.

 

TALKING HEADS: More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978)

New York City, 1974-1978. It started with the Dolls: willfully crude punk

precursors, louder and harder and glitzier than anybody else and equally

unstoppable on their own odes to alienation and their trashy covers of soul

classics. Then the Ramones: more single-minded than the Dolls and able to do

one thing (play *loud, hard and fast*) very well and do it again and again.

And once those two groups of brats from the boroughs had helped create New

York punk, artier types got involved: Television, with Tom Verlaine's grating

voice and minimalist lyrics set against his and Richard Lloyd's alteratively

lyrical and raging guitars; and Talking Heads, who on "Buildings and Food"

diluted David Byrne's nervous twitches and rampaging irony with Eno's

electronic washes and a love for the likes of Al Green.

 

PAUL SIMON: Paul Simon (1972)

With its spare, simple and finely drawn sketches about life in Manhattan --

plus a side trip to Jamaica for "Mother and Child Reunion" -- Simon's solo

debut was a quietly assertive statement of identity that bore little

resemblance to the grandeur of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and showed no

need at all for the other voice that sang on that record.

 

ELVIS COSTELLO: This Year's Model (1978)

In 1978, England's Capitol Radio named Elton John Male Singer of the Year. He

said the station had goofed: "I honestly felt that of the people who had

emerged, Elvis Costello was the most important -- by far the best songwriter

and the best record maker." John was right.

 

THE ALLMAN BROTHERS: Eat a Peach (1972)

The early Allman Brothers practically created Southern rock, leaving a legacy

that only Lynyrd Skynyrd (on "Second Helping" and "Street Survivors")

deserved to inherit. With Duane Allman on part of the album, the band summed

up the genre; on the rest of the album, recorded after his death, they

expanded the genre to make room for their tragedy.

 

PATTI SMITH: Horses (1975)

An overwrought, silly and exhilarating fusion of rock and poetry. Smith was a

born rock & roller and also a mystic whose muses included, in no particular

order, Jimi Hendrix, Arthur Rimbaud, Cannibal and the Headhunters, Van

Morrison and Jesus.

 

STEELY DAN: Katy Lied (1975)

A typical Donald Fagen-Walter Becker production: immaculately well played,

deeply cynical and wickedly twisted. Mainstream pop rock as inexplicable as

it is irresistible. Equally noteworthy: "Countdown to Ecstasy," "Pretzel

Logic."

 

MARVIN GAYE: "Let's Get It On" (1973)

His other great concept album of the Seventies, "What's Going On," was about

the inner city; this one was about sex. Social awareness was an integral part

of the most mercurial and seductive R&B singer in pop music, but sex always

*did* bring out the best in him.

 

ELTON JOHN: Honky Chateau (1972)

This album was the epitome of the insanely catchy, wondrously disposable pop

music that John made in his mid-Seventies heyday. His first "Greatest Hits"

album was an even safer bet, but 1975's hard-rocking "Rock of the Westies"

was his bravest triumph.

 

JACKSON BROWNE: The Pretender (1976)

Tales of loss, disillusionment and uneasy redemption set to the beat of the

toughest music Browne had made. The Eagles' "Hotel California" was more

ambitious, Linda Ronstadt's "Heart Like a Wheel" more flawless, Warren

Zevon's first two albums funnier -- but "The Pretender" is the essential

touchstone for the Southern California rock of the decade.

 

AEROSMITH: Rocks (1976)

At the time, cynics pegged this band as a blatant Rolling Stones retread and

not much more. Turns out Aerosmith was rocking harder and more convincingly

than the Stones by this point.

 

FLEETWOOD MAC: Rumours (1977)

These are two near-perfect pop albums -- both full of songs about girls and

boys, both undercut their gorgeous melodies with a dollop of twisted grit.

But Big Star (mastermind: Alex Chilton) had considerably more grit and twist,

which may be why Fleetwood Mac (mastermind: Lindsey Buckingham) sold about 20

Edited by MusicManiac
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Night at the Opera (1976) by Queen

 

Dark Side of the Moon (1973) by Pink Floyd

 

The Clash (1977) by The Clash

 

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973) by Elton John

 

Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack (1977)

 

Ziggy Stardust (1972) by David Bowie

 

Pronounced Lehnerd Skinerd (1973) by Lynyrd Skynyrd

 

What's Going On (1971) by Marvin Gaye

 

Rumours (1977) by Fleetwood Mac

 

The Stranger (1977) Billy Joel... actuallym scratch that... any billy joel album will do. :pinch:

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Mothership Connection by Parliament

 

Motherlode by James Brown

 

Highway To Hell by AC/DC

 

Janis Joplin - Pearl

 

Black Sabbath - Paranoid

 

Cat Stevens - Tea For The Tillerman OR The Teaser And The Firecat

 

Boston by Boston

 

Sheik Yerbouti by Frank Zappa

 

Aqualung by Jethro Tull

 

Reggatta De Blanc by The Police

 

There's a Riot Goin' On by Sly & The Family Stone

 

Moondance by Van Morrison

 

Who's Next by The Who

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