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"The 70s Era: One Nation Under a Groove"

By Mark Coleman


These Australian road warriors took the sound and stance of heavy metal to a
new, crude extreme on their American breakthrough. The raw bark of singer Bon
Scott and the Godzilla-stomping power chords of guitarist Angus Young are as
undeniable as a hormone surge. Like being a teenager, listening to AC/DC is
an experience that's fondly remembered after you've outgrown it. -- 1979,


Most heavy metal bands just stomp you into submission; on Rocks, Aerosmith's
blues-based hard rock swings and sways with seductive flair. Guitarist Joe
Perry brings the noise, but Steven Tyler steals the show. He whoops and
yodels, and tosses off triple-entendres, riddles and rhymes like a talk-show
host gone bonkers. Tyler's euphonious wordplay ricochets off the churning
stop-start riff of "Last Child" -- his "sweet sassafrassie" is
unforgettable, whatever the hell it means. -- 1976, Columbia

The Allman Brothers

The Allman Brothers Band didn't jam aimlessly. On a good night it would
leave the Grateful Dead in the dust -- and At Fillmore East documents
several great jams. Guitarist Duane Allman and Dickey Betts push and prod
each other toward new peaks; no cosmic noodlers, they pull clean, searching
lines out of their Gibsons. There's not a wasted note anywhere. -- 1971,
Capricorn, reissued and expanded on Polydor as The Fillmore Concerts

Big Star

The second Big Star LP explains Alex Chilton's cult-hero status. This
Memphis-bred guitarist and singer uses the pre-psychedelic Beatles as a
departure point; his skewed take on the three-minute pop song is
unprecedented and delectable. There's a rough, spontaneous charm to these
quirky rave-ups and sweetly depressed slow tunes. But the gruff, confident
teenage soulman of "The Letter" (by Chilton's earlier combo, the Box Tops)
is gone. In Big Star, Chilton's yearning tenor voice reflects his grown-up
confusion. -- 1974, Ardent, reissued on Ardent as a double CD with Big
Star's first album, #1 Record

Black Sabbath

The force of evil incarnate or a campy farce? Ozzy Osbourne and Co. were a
bit of both, actually. The second Black Sabbath album is lumbering,
obnoxious and a total gas -- the Heavy Grail for metallic Satanheads and a
guilty pleasure for the rest of us. The title track ties guitarist Tommy
Iommi's teasing power-chord riff to Osbourne's ruptured wails and lunatic
humor: "Finished with my woman 'cause she couldn't help me with my
mind....Duh-duhhhhhhhh!" On "Iron Man," Osbourne trots out his Vincent Price
imitation while the fuzzy guitar staggers like a cartoon monster come to
life. -- 1971, Warner Bros.


Blondie's breakthrough is brilliant in both senses of the word: the shiny
hooks on the band's third album are also worldly-wise and witty. Flashy but
never facile, Blondie knowingly quote girl groups, surf music, Mersey beat,
Motown and bubble-gum in a New Wave context. For all its disco shimmer,
"Heart of Glass" is a devastating breakup song. "Hanging on the Telephone"
refits punk rock in colorful studio-pop duds -- without sacrificing any
thrust or urgency. Balancing glamour and street smarts, Harry paved the way
for Madonna's revolutionary mix of image and music in the 80s. -- 1978,

David Bowie

Consider these albums the bookends to David Bowie's restless '70s. Hunky
Dory is the chamelon's statement of purpose. His confused, flamboyant mix of
folk rock and cabaret mirrors his fascination with sexual ambiguity and
alienation. The sweeping choruses of "Life on Mars?" and "Oh! You Pretty
Things!" serve as launching pads for his Ziggy Stardust persona -- along
with the entire glitter 'n' glam brigade. It would be years before Bowie
would sound so approachable and, yes, so human.

Low is where Bowie steps back from trend hopping and finds his own voice;
Brian Eno serves as collaborator and provocateur. "Sound and Vision" mixes
shimmering synth with searing vocals. Bowie treads the shifting rhythms
gingerly like he's dancing on broken glass. On "Be My Wife," the old fakir
breathes some actual passion into the insistent, buzzing chorus. The stately
electronic instrumentals that make up half of Low now sound prescient -- they
provide mood music for people with short attention spans, a sort of ambient
techno minus the beat. -- Hunky Dory, 1971, RCA, reissued on Rykodisc; Low,
1977, RCA, reissued on Rykodisc

Jackson Browne

Of all the singer/songwriters who prospered in the '70s, Jackson Browne is
the most contemplative -- and the most complex. Late for the Sky is his most
challenging work, but it's never convoluted or condescending. His careful,
soft-spoken deliver communicates a subdued passion. "Fountain of Sorrow"
reflects the tragic turns of life with an intricate metaphor and reassuring
chorus; "For a Dancer" sets a poignant eulogy to a clear-eyed piano tune.
Even when Browne contemplates the apocalypse on "Before the Deluge," his
melodic underpinnings keep him from going over the top. -- 1974, Asylum


Not just a groove factory, Chic were a great all-around band. Though it
contains the dance-floor anthem, "Good Times," Risque is no hit-plus-filler.
"Will You Cry (When You Hear This Song)" lingers in the ear like a long
goodbye, while "My Forbidden Lover" and "What About Me" address obsessive
love head-on with propulsive beats and haunted choruses. -- 1979, Atlantic

The Clash

The Sex Pistols created a theatrical splash; the Clash were more musical.
There debut roars with pent-up fury and alienated insight; hummable tunes
and taut riffs propel the jackhammer choruses. The Clash is pure punk at its
fiercest, and nailing that target, the group broadened its range without

The double album London Calling leaves the stylistic limitations of punk in
the dust, along with phony Beatlemania. The epic title track is a sweeping,
evocative anthem -- the martial drumming and strummed guitars stir the
spirit while Strummer breathes a foreboding sense of melancholy into the
chorus. Jones steals the show with "Train in Vain" -- his yearning voice and
a great melody make this crossover hit a perfect, inevitable conclusion. --
The Clash, 1977, Epic; London Callling, 1979, Epic

Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello emerges fully formed on his debut -- a singular voice. The
peculiar twists and punning turns of Costello's singing highlight the
perverse wit and wicked insight of his writing. Attached to a sharp melody
and clever hook, each pointed barb hits its mark. "Watching the Detectives"
satirizes media overkill to a hypnotic, skanky beat. "Less Than Zero"
measures the emotional toll of right-wing fanaticism, summing it up with a
finger-pointing "hey, hey, hey" chorus. "Allison" owns up to unrequited love
with a disarmingly straightforward tune. Angry and articulate, Costello never
resorts to cheap shots. -- 1977, Columbia

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Their glinting harmonies and shared vision raised Crosby, Stills and Nash to
a union greater than its individual parts. Neil Young's presence unsettled
the trio's dynamite, and Deja Vu captures the combustible chemistry that he
introduced. While declarations of universal oneness frame the album ("Carry
On," "Everybody I Love You"), Young articulates a countervision in "Helpless
and "Country Girl." Both songs hint that the moment of trandescendence that
the counterculture was seeking had already been missed -- a notion that
profoundly deepens the album's theme of "deja vu." This foursome could never
sustain its edgy bond, but sparks flew from its friction, and Deja Vu is the
brightest of those. -- 1970, Atlantic

Derek and the Dominoes

"Clapton Is God" goes the '60s slogan; this sprawling, cathartic masterwork
proves that he's just as human as the rest of us. Dueling with Duane Allman,
Eric Clapton summons up a world of pain and passion on the epic title track.
The turbulent interplay between their guitars builds to a claustrophobic
peak -- and then Jim Gordon's quiet piano coda admits a ray of hope.
Elsewhere, Clapton lives up to his legendary promise: "Have You Ever Loved a
Woman" is a soul-shattering blues, and "Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?"
recasts Cream-style boogie as eloquent rock. Rarely have guitar heroics been
this subtle. -- 1970, RSO/Polydor

Bob Dylan

After 1968, Bob Dylan released a string of so-so efforts until 1975, when
Blood on the Tracks his latest indisputable masterwork, appeared. Its title
a metaphor for Dylan's failing marriage, the album looks back on romances
past as well as on the lost community of 60s counterculture. Dylan seemed
intent on reconnection with his own history -- he recorded in the same
studio in which he had made his debut album and in his home state of
Minnesota. The album's acoustic feel also recalls the singer's early days.
Reeling from bitterness ("Idiot Wind") to a desire for reconciliation ("If
You See Her, Say Hello"), Blood on the Tracks mapped the conflicting
emotions that to this day continue to haunt the greatest songwriter of our
time. -- 1975, Columbia

The Eagles

The Eagles are best known for smooth harmonies and peaceful, easy feelings
-- examining Hollywood's dark side was a stretch. But the addition of
guitarist Joe Walsh on this concept album clearly inspired singers Don
Henley and Glenn Frey. Walsh supplies some necessary muscle, not to mention
a sense of humor. His hot licks and liberating influence drive the elegant
dread of "Life in the Fast Lane," and Henley wrings every last bit of irony
out of the title track and the elegiac "New Kid in Town." "Wasted Time" and
"The Last Resort" absorb the sunny vibe of earlier hits like "Take It Easy"
and twist it into a dire prediction. The end of the innocence, indeed. --
1976, Elektra/Asylum/Nonesuch

Brian Eno

Brian Eno redefined the role of technology in rock -- his synthesizers,
keyboards and tape machines produced gorgeous, unearthly music. On his third
solo album, this former member of Roxy Music uses the entire recording studio
as an instrument. The foreboding opener, "Sky Saw," hovers like a squadron of
approaching bombers, while aptly titled instrumentals like "Sombre Reptiles"
and "Becalmed" pull subliminal tunes out of thin air. The creeping melody
and rich textures of "St. Elmo's Fire" are as stunning as the celestial
phenomenon cited. -- 1975, EG

Fleetwood Mac

Originally a British blues band, Fleetwood Mac wound up as the mellow
epitome of California folk rock. Rumours is their multiplatinum moment:
lushly produced, catchy as hell, charged with emotional undercurrents.
Buoyed by drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, the singers
maintain a tense balance of power. Stevie Nicks casts her gauzy-voiced
spells on the lingering "Dreams," Lindsey Buckingham stands firm on the
pointedly up-tempo "Go Your Own Way," and Christine McVie wraps her gruff
voice around the seductive "You Make Loving Fun." Rumored to be
autobiographical, Rumours flows like a conversation between ex-lovers. The
shifting alliances and conflicting feelings are resolved on "The Chain." --
1977, Warner Bros.

Marvin Gaye

"What's Going On" opened a lot of minds to the full possibilities of soul
music. Motown head Barry Gordy Jr. thought Marvin Gaye's topical concept
album would be commercial suicide; the Top 10 successes of the title track,
"Mercy Mercy Me (the Ecology)" and "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)"
proved otherwise. His tone is conversational, intimate, observant -- he's not
a preacher, just one man speaking for himself. Gaye's multitracked vocals
create some complex, fleating harmonies, such as the call-and-response
chorus of his beseeching us to "Save the Children."

Before What's Going On, Gaye was Motown's secret weapon on the singles
chart; afterward, he was a musically adventurous R&B loveman. Anthology has
both sides covered. The '60s duets with Tammi Terrell are majestic heart
stoppers; the second disc sneaks in some surprisingly vital obscurities from
the '70s. -- What's Going On, 1971, Tamla; Anthology, 1995, Motown

The Grateful Dead

Released back to back in the same year, these albums represent opposing peaks
in the Grateful Dead canon. Live is the first of their many in-concert albums,
and it defines a spectacle that would enrapture succeeding generations of fans
until Jerry Garcia's death, in 1995. The improvisational jams and tripped-out
lyrics of "Dark Star" and "Saint Stephen" culminate a period in which the
Dead's albums grew increasingly elaborate; the term "song" barely applies to
the multipart sonic experiences the band concocted.

After Live, however, the Dead abruptly changed direction. Workingman's Dead
(like the Band's Music From Big Pink and Bob Dylan's John Wesley Harding)
seems to be an act of contrition -- an admission that the absolute freedom
advocated in the '60s may have represented a failure of resposibility, an
unwillingness to shoulder the burdens of community. In its acoustic
explorations of folk, country and blues -- its deep simplicity -- Workingman's
seeks connections with what has lasted, and what can sustain a life.
-- Live Dead, 1970, Warner Bros.;
Workingman's Dead, 1970, Warner Bros.

Al Green

Equally adept at funky seduction and ethereal romance, Al Green's peerless
vocals make his songs radiate with passion. He glides from a gravelly growl
to a keening high note without breaking a sweat; co-producer Willie Mitchell
and the superb Hi Records band anticipate his every move. Green uses the
band's fat rhythms and floating horns as a springboard to a higher plane. On
"Tired of Being Alone" and "Let's Stay Together," he pleads with soul-
searching honesty. Then he declares the Temptations' "I Can't Get Next
You" until the sexual tension is almost unbearable. No wonder he became a

gospel singer. -- 1972, Hi, reissued on Right Stuff

Billy Joel

Think of Billy Joel as the American Elton John -- a piano-playing pop
songwriter with the knack. There's a progression across the course of the
double album Greatest Hits. "Piano Man" and "New York State of Min" hit you
over the head with strident, unforgettable hooks. "Just the Way You Are" is
pure Tin Pan Alley. "My Life," however, sarcastically winks at the Me
Decade; "You May Be Right" and "It's Still Rock & Roll to Me" strive for New
Wave credibility. On "Allentown," Joel even addresses unemployment with a
big, bossy chorus. And when he echoes the wailing harmonies of the Four
Seasons on "Tell Her About It" and "Uptown Girl," Joel delivers his most
winning performances. -- 1985, Columbia

Elton John

Elton John's early albums laid on the strings and sensitivity; at his peak,
the rhinestone sunglasses and campy stage act began to outshine his
melodies. Honky Chateau is John at his earthiest and most satisfying. The
crafty hooks and touches of pop schmaltz are cut with humor. "Honky Cat"
deflates hippiedom's back-to-nature vibe, with John chopping out a
deliciously cheesy piano boogie. "I Think I'm Gonna Kill Myself" sends up
the "state of teenage blues" with a nagging chorus. And on the sweet, sad
ballad "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters," John's unique vocal phrasing and
soulful inflections bring meaning to Bernie Taupin's typically obscure

John's irrepressible run of hit singles doesn't give the listener any chance
to rest -- the ingenious hooks and bravura melodies just keep on coming. Even
the dated hits -- the lonely spaceman theme of "Rocket Man," from Honky
; the glittery whine of "Bennie and the Jets," from Goodbye Yellow
Brick Road -- bowl you over with sheer joie de vivre. There are a few
surprises on Greatest Hits, especially if you haven't listened to Elton John
since his Top 40 heyday. "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" rocks out
with attitude and authority; the luxurious ballad "Don't Let the Sun Go Down
on Me" display's John's singular vocals at their most soulful. -- Honky
Chateau, 1972, MCA, reissued on Rocket/Island; Greatest Hits, 1974, MCA

Carole King

Carole King was already a successful Brill Building songwriter -- strictly
behind the scenes -- when she recorded Tapestry. Finding her own singing
voice, she went on to set sales records and kick start an entire musical
movement. Surprisingly few artists of the singer/songwriter era have aged as
well as Tapestry. King addresses adult issues with melodies just as catchy as
her teenage anthems. She evaluates a dying relationship with calm, shattering
grace ("It's Too Late"), reinvigorates a lusty cliche ("I Feel the Earth
Move") and reinvents her earlier compositions ("Will You Love Me Tomorrow?").
She even salvages "You've Got a Friend" from the deep end of
-- 1971, Ode, CBS


Kraftwerk were a quartet of robotic-looking Germans who played synthesizers
and drum machines exclusively. Trans-Europe Express, Kraftwerk's third U.S.
album, was a serious influence on early hip-hop and then techno; it merges
brutally efficient beats with eerie, high-pitched emissions. Once your ears
adjust to the mechanized sound, the effect is hypnotic. -- 1977, Capitol

Led Zeppelin

Reducing the blues to a thundering wail, Led Zeppelin II is the definitive
heavy-metal album. Vocalist Robert Plant squeezes every last ounce from the
Robert Johnson-derived "Lemon Song." Guitar hero Jimmy Page wreaks havoc
the Howlin' Wolf-inspired "Heartbreaker." Drummer John Bonham imitates an
approaching battalion of tanks on "Moby Dick," inaugurating a hallowed
rock-concert tradition -- the masturbatory drum solo. With that much power,
ego and sheer sonic heft, no wonder bassist and utility keyboardman John
Paul Jones plays it low profile.

Led Zeppelin were a band. Tight and intuitive, the stimulated one another
and kept on developing until Bonham's death, in 1980. They could have
coasted through the '70s on the impact of "Whole Lotta Love" alone, but Led
Zep II only hints at their future direction. The dynamic off-on switch
between Page's acoustic and electric guitars on "Ramble On" becomes an
organic, sensual blend of sweet folkie melodies and gut-crunching rock by
the time of Led Zeppelin (IV). Though the celestial progression of "Stairway
to Heaven" thrills no matter how many times you've heard it, the lesser-known
"When the Levee Breaks" is arguably the jewel in Zep's crown. Page's
mud-thick slide guitar and Plant's otherworldly moans rise out of the mist
as one haunted, multitextured voice. Hear it just once, and it keeps coming
back. -- Led Zeppelin II, 1969, Atlantic; Led Zeppelin (IV), 1971, Atlantic

John Lennon

Declaring the Beatles a dead issue, John Lennon released all his pent-up
fears and frustrations on Plastic Ono Band. Though he was a troubled soul at
this point in his life, Lennon was always a rock & roller at heart. So his
emotional extremism is couched in strong melodies, smart arrangements and
indelible choruses. Phil Spector's co-production adds just the right echoey
voice of doom to the proceedings. "Mother" is a stark, riveting visit to the
confessional; "Working Class Hero" is a stinging but never bitter indictment;
the raving rockers "I Found Out" and "Well Well Well" foreshadow Kurt
Cobain's soul-barring hooks on In Utero. Severing himself from his '60s
legacy, Lennon intones a litany of doubts on "God" as though there really is
no future.

Imagine is where he starts over. Turns out he hasn't lost touch with the
Beatles' musical virtues -- the songcraft, wily optimism and infectious
spirit are all on display. The title track has become part of the atmosphere,
and the rest of the album sustains that rejuvenating buzz. "Oh
Yoko!" is a
gush of tuneful, husbandly devotion; "Give Me Some Truth"
Lennon's punky, committed edge; "Jealous Guy" is a sweetly wispy

ballad that seeps into your consciousness over time. Imagine is a well-worn
record that somehow keeps surprising. -- Plastic Ono Band, 1970, Apple/EMI;
Imagine, 1971, Apple/EMI

Bob Marley and the Wailers

Funky and dense, slow and steady, Burnin' ignited worldwide interest in the
sounds of Jamaica. Leader Bob Marley's topical songs crackle with
street-wise immediacy, and the Wailers deliver them with spiritual
intensity. "I Shot the Sheriff" describes a vicious circle with a sense of
tragedy and a scary melody that Eric Clapton's version only hints at. "Get
Up, Stand Up," written by Marley with Peter Tosh, powers a political call to
arms with an itchy party-time groove. "One Foundation" builds on a throbbing,
optimistic vibe -- there is hope in Babylon, after all.

Live! is a commanding concert document -- no extended jams or jive talk
here. "Trenchtown Rock" shanks with even more urgency than its studio
version, whereas the calm, comforting melody of "No Woman, No Cry" shows
Marley at his most soulful. Though Peter Tosh and Neville Livingstone had
left the group by this time, Marely has no trouble holding the spotlight. --
Burnin', 1973, Tuff Gong/Island; Live!, 1975, Tuff Gong/Island

Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions

With the Impressions, Curtis Mayfield invented the sound of Chicago Soul in
the '60s -- urbane yet uplifting. The sweeping orchestrations flow from his
bluesy guitar lines, and the divinely inspired harmonies breathe R&B fire
into a gospel-based framework. Hits like "I'm So Proud," "Keep On Pushing"
and "People Get Ready" served as the soundtrack to the civil-rights
movement. When Mayfield went solo, in the '70s, he expanded his sound
without sacrificing any spiritual impact. "Move On Up" stretches to a jazzy
climax, while the immortal Superfly soundtrack (sampled on this collection)
pulses with funky rhythms and social relevance. Black music as we hear it
today simply wouldn't exist without him. -- 1992, MCA

Van Morrison

Moondance connects Van Morrison's cosmic bent with traditional-pop
instincts. The warm glow of a sax echoes the mellow spark in Morrison's
voice. The finger-snapping title track sets a seductive autumnal mood;
"Crazy Love" is soft as a whisper and wildly romantic. "And It Stoned Me"
and "Into the Mystic" crank up the horn charts and reach for spiritual
transcendence in three minutes. -- 1970, Warner Bros.

Willie Nelson

On this ambitious song cycle, Willie Nelson escorts listeners on a quirky,
riveting journey. Accompanied by his weather-beaten guitar, Nelson details a
crime of passion and its aftermath. A preacher finds his wife in a tryst;
then "wild in his sorrow," he shoots her and her lover, and heads west.
Nelson narrates without passing judgement; his cadenced drawl and bluesy
guitar lines pull you along every step of the way. The sparse accompaniment
reflects the wide-open spaces and allows each song room to breathe. Sad yet
unsentimental, the lovely "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" became the first of
Nelson's many crossover hits. Red Headed Stranger is the sound of a Nashville
veteran searching for -- and finding -- his own voice. -- 1975, Columbia

Randy Newman

Randy Newman is the odd man out among '70s singer/songwriters. He draws his
melodies from Tin Pan Alley and movie soundtracks, moving from piano and
voice to full orchestration. He sounds nothing like Bob Dylan. He doesn't
write about himself -- he profiles bizarre characters without patronizing or
pandering ("Rosemary," "Suzanne," "Lucinda"). He brings a dry, mocking wit to
sing-along choruses, targeting both hippies ("Mama Told Me Not to Come") and
rednecks ("Old Kentucky Home") with sly accuracy. And on "Let's Burn Down
the Cornfield," he reveals a passionate intensity that cuts deeper than
satire. -- 1970, Reprise

The New York Dolls

The New York Dolls exude seedy charisma and bad-boy magnetism on their
debut. Substituting passion for precision and enthusiasms for virtuosity,
they produce a glorious, noisy mess. Raspy-voiced David Johansen belts out
slangy, sleazy lyrics like Staten Island's answer to Otis Redding. Guitarist
Johnny Thunders has only one lurching, fuzzed-out riff in his entire
repertoire, but it's a stone-cold killer. The Dolls detail a "Personality
Crisis," celebrate "Trash" and mimic the sonic boom of a "Subway Train."
Beneath the glam glad rags, they are die-hard romantics and death-defying
hedonists who unearth beauty in the urban wasteland. -- 1973, Mercury

The O'Jays

With his grand baritone voice, lead singer Eddie Levert delivers the Top 10
hit "Back Stabbers" like Moses handing down the tablets. "They smile in your
face," he warns, "while all the time they want to take your place." Back
Stabbers introduced America to producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, and to
that duo's visionary sound, Philly Soul -- string sections and sophisticated
arrangements put to use behind the grit and fire of gospel-trained singers.
The stern realism and imposing orchestration of "Back Stabbers" are balanced
by the glowing optimism and jazzy syncopation of "Love Train." When Walter
Williams cries out, "Everybody, get on board," you don't have to think
twice. -- 1972, Philadelphia International, reissued on Legacy


George Clinton showed his split personality with two overlapping bands:
Parliament and Funkadelic. His cosmic extension of funk -- James Brown and
Sly Stone in orbit -- is Clinton's great gift to mankind. Parliament's
Mothership Connection contains this one-time doo-wop group's essential space
jams. Combining the adventurous reach of psychedelia with the aggressive
thump of gutbucket soul, One Nation Under a Groove, the group's magnum opus,
speaks to both the mind and the body. The title song is a smoothly
synchopated, all-inclusive anthem; the no-bullshit message of unity is as
inspiring as the irresistible rhythms. -- Mothership Connection, 1975,
Casablanca/Polygram; One Nation Under a Groove, 1978, Warner Bros.,
on Priority

Pere Ubu

Pere Ubu set out to commemorate Cleveland on their debut album, riding a
tide of curtly strummed rhythm guitar, probing bass lines, quirky rhythms
and crude, industrial-strength synthesizers. Hulking singer David Thomas is
a surreal frontman with a voice that ranges from passionate squeak to
ominous croak. He treads gingerly through the dub landscape of "Real World"
and imagines a "Sentimental Journey" over the sound of breaking bottles and
white noise. But on "Chinese Radiation" and "Over My Head," Pere Ubu also
unearth a glowing, alien sort of beauty. Even a humble scrap yard contains
its own secret treasures. -- 1977, Blank/Rough Trade, available on DGC's box
set Datapink in the Year Zero.

Pink Floyd

Bassist Roger Waters fully discovered his voice with Dark Side of the Moon,
just in time for the rise of album-oriented radio, which, on the strength of
tracks like "Money" and "Us and Them," helped to make Pink Floyd one of the
biggest bands in the world. For Waters, both inner and outer space are most
interesting as escapes from the crushing boredom of everyday life -- hence
with every succeeding generation of adolescents. -- 1973, Capitol

The Pretenders

On The Pretenders' confident debut, Chrissie Hynde emerges fully formed,
helming a hard-hitting, traditional (i.e., male) band without pretending
she's a bimbo or "one of the boys." To start with, she defines her feminine
nature as "Precious" while straddling a roller coaster of four-square
riffing. Guitarist James Honeyman Scott, bassist Pete Farndon and drummer
Martin Chambers anticipate her every move on ambitious rave-ups ("Mystery
Achievement") and tender asides ("Kid"). "Brass in Pocket" pairs a
classic-pop melody with Hynde's twist on feministic rhetoric: She's special,
all she wants is your attention, and she'll use her physical attributes and
her imagination to obtain it. For one flawless album, anyway, it works like
a charm. -- 1979, Real/Sire


Four ersatz brothers (Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy), three guitar chords
(tops), two-minute songs (give or take 30 seconds), one tempo (fast) -- what
else do you need? On their debut album, the original punks restored rock's
humor and high energy by feeding the Beach Boys, bubblegum and Black Sabbath
into a garbage compactor. Ramones crams 14 sound-alike songs into a
half-hour, and each one has a distinct, irresistible hook: "Hey! Ho! Let's
go!" "Beat on that with a baseball bat!" and "All the kids wanna sniff some
glue/All the kids want something to do!" As one disciple put it: "They mean
it, man." -- 1976, Sire

The Rolling Stones

Soaked in sex, drugs and rock & roll, Sticky Fingers, the Stones' first
studio LP of the '70s, is a powerhouse. The band excels in its preferred
styles: "Brown Sugar" and "Bitch" are among the Stones' best rockers; "Dead
Flowers" is possibly the best country-style song that Jagger and Richards
have ever written; "Wild Horses" and "Moonlight Mile" are among their most
beautiful ballads.

Moving from strength to strength, the Stones released their finest album,
Exile on Main Street. One of rock's towering masterpieces, Exile, which was
a double album in its vinyl incarnation, is a rhythm juggernaut. The album's
triumph is its passion -- Watts and Wyman make even the ballads move, Taylor
and Richards lock in with the force of a drill press, and Jagger, buried in
the mix, sings like a man desperate to claw his way out of a grave.
Suitably, the album's subject is release -- "Rip This Joint," "Rocks Off,"
"Let It Loose." Satisfaction, after all, is the Stone's great theme, and
Exile on Main Street delivers it.

The Stones resumed greatness with Some Girls. Part of the band's inspiration
was the challenge of punk -- it's not hard to hear New Wave insurgency and
glam posturing in the though rhythms of "When the Whip Comes Down," "Lies"
and "Respectable." Also, Jagger and Richards had moved to New York, and the
city is everywhere on the album, from the smooth disco grooves of "Miss You"
to the urban chaos of "Shattered." Ron Wood had replaced Taylor on guitar,
and Wood and Richards attain a kind of telepathic coordination. The Stones
would rarely seem to be having so much fun again. -- Sticky Fingers, 1971,
Rolling Stones, reissued on Virgin; Exile on Main Street, 1972, Rolling
Stones, reissued on Virgin; Some Girls, 1978, Rolling Stones, reissued on

Roxy Music

As the lead singer of Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry cultivated a sleek,
lounge-lizard image while crooning emotionally complex love songs. Pairing
intricate guitar work with obsessive lyrics, Roxy's fifth album injects art
rock with a human pulse. "Love Is the Drug" captures the charm and quiet
desperation of the swinging-singles scene. Up-tempo rockers like "Both Ends
Burning" and "Whirlwing" soar on the strength of Phil Manzanera's
otherworldly guitar solos; the dramatic arrangements of melancholy set
pieces like "Just Another High" and "Sentimental Fool" reveal the depth of
feeling behind Ferry's somewhat jaded facade. "I've seen what love can do,"
he says on the latter with a sigh, "and I don't regret it." -- 1975, Reprise

The Sex Pistols

The Sex Pistols haven't lost their teeth -- Never Mind the Bollocks still
delivers the old barracuda bite. Tuneless guitars and stumbling beats are
the perfect vehicle for Johnny Rotten's poison-tipped stream of invective.
"Anarchy in the U.K." and "God Save the Queen" now ring out like statements
of fact, not grim predictions. Rotten's passionate self-contempt fuels "No
Feelings" -- he only wishes he had no regard for anybody else. He never lets
himself off the hook, and that's why Never Mind the Bollocks is still such a
necessary purgative. -- 1977, Warner Bros.

Simon And Garfunkel

Rendered in Simon and Garfunkel's elegant harmonies, Paul Simon's songs
served as signposts along the American cultural highway. "The Sound of
Silence," "Mrs. Robinson" and "America" all probed the cracks along the
generational fault line in the '60s. The cinematic "The Boxer" showed how
far Simon's songwriting had come by 1970 and where it would eventually go.
Simon composed one of his most moving songs in tribute to his disintegrating
partnership with Art Garfunkel; Garfunkel's vocal, ethereal and intensely
felt, carries the hymnlike "Bridge Over Troubled Water" into the annals of
classic performances. -- 1972, Columbia

Sly And The Family Stone

Sly Stone (A K A Sylvester Stewart) bridges the gap between soul and rock,
extending a truly unified sound and vision. The Family Stone are a racially
integrated, intuitively tight unit. It juggles soaring harmonies and
earthshaking rhythms, balances elevating message songs and get-down party
chants. "Dance to the Music" and "I Want to Take You Higher" celebrate
hedonistic release over a highly disciplined beat. "Everybody Is a Star,"
"Stand/Fun" and "You Can Make It If You Try" attach uplifting lyrics to
irresistible hooks.

There's a Riot Goin' On is a turbulent, troubling document of the '60s'
demise. "Family Affair" and "Runnin' Away" match bleak lyrics with
approachable melodies; "Thank You for Talkin' to Me Africa" throbs with
paranoid energy. It's the polar opposite of "Dance to the Music," but it's
every bit as entrancing and influential. -- Greatest Hits, 1970, Epic;
There's a Riot Goin' On, 1971, Epic.

Patti Smith

On paper it sounds like a horrible mismatch: the literary flights of '50s
Beat poetry married to the earthy three-chord stomp of '60s garage rock. On
Patti Smith's debut, however, it sounds as natural as breathing.
Transistor-radio classics like "Gloria" and "Land of a Thousand Dances" are
recast as transcendent workouts; Smith's insightful metaphors and lofty
verbal riffs are entrenched in solid rock by her band's enthusiastic
assault. "Horses" revels in the Freudian notion of psychosexual beasts and
in the dance craze known as "doing the pony." On the reggae-tinged "Redondo
Beach" and the stirring "Elegie," Smith reveals a softer, compassionate side
and renders her wildly idiosynchratic ambition all the more approachable. --
1975, Arista

Bruce Springsteen

On "Born To Run," Bruce Springsteen takes his glory shot. Producer Jon
Landau lays on the multitracked grandeur and dramatic arrangements like a
Phil Spector for the '70s. This echoey wall of sound matches the larger-than-
life ambition of Springsteen's songwriting. "Thunder Road" and
pump up adolescent dilemmas to mythic proportions; they're
observant and
slightly overripe at the same time. But the theatricality is
heartfelt --
Springsteen never sounds condescending or arch. His sincerity
and conviction
make a simple declaration of lust like "She's the One" strike
like a thunderbolt.
-- 1975, Columbia

Steely Dan

Steely Dan made some of the most perverse -- and catchiest -- singles ever
to hit the Top 40. "Rikki Don't Lose That Number," from Pretzel Logic, turns
a jazzy piano figure into a killer pop hook. Donald Fagan and Walter Becker,
the group's studio masterminds, specialize in clever arrangements, swirling
rhythms, impeccable musicianship and shrewd melodies. Fagen delivers the
cryptic lyrics -- brimming with black humor -- in a nasal yet affecting
voice. "Night by Night" is a yearning, bittersweet rock song, and "Monkey in
Your Soul" hits a funky stride dead on. Cocky enough to cover Duke Ellington
("East St. Louis Toodle-OO") and name-check Charlie Parker ("Parker's Band")
on Pretzel Logic, Steely Dan are also confident enough to pull it off. --
1974, MCA

Rod Stewart

Believe it or not, Rod Stewart was once young and hungry. Every Picture
Tells a Story, his third solo album, is a perfect showcase for his raspy-voice
interpretive skill. The commitment and conviction of his
performances will stun
anybody who knows only his recent "efforts." He
tackles the Temptations'
"(I Know) I'm Losing You" head-on and strokes the
gorgeous folk-rock melody
of Tim Hardin's "(Find a) Reason to Believe." And
Stewart projects a winning,
romantic vulnerability on his originals -- the
title track and "Maggie May" create
acoustic grooves that are both mellow
and rollicking. "Mandolin Wind" is an apt
description -- and also a
disarmingly sweet song. -- 1971, Mercury

The Stooges

A perfectly paced record, the Stooges' second album begins with Iggy Pop
emitting a blood-curdling scream, and it ends with "L.A. Blues," a nuclear
meltdown of free improvisation. In between, you get some of the most
menacing, intense performaces ever laid down in a recording studio. Pop
spills his guts, goading and taunting, courting self-immolation but never
quite succumbing. Guitarist Ron Asheton responds with thick, warm blankets
of fuzz-tone and wah-wah-pedal effects; his brother Scott drums the
off-center beats with frightening efficiency; guest saxophonist Steven
MacKay gradually unleashes the band's raw power with his searing squawks
honks. This is heavy music that moves. -- 1970, Elektra

James Taylor

Spare and compelling, filled with beautiful melodies, James Taylor's second
album introduced the pop world to the concept of "mellow," in the early
'70s. It's hard to believe that this unassuming yet very personal record
changed the world. But an entire genre of singer/songwriters used it (and
Carole King's Tapestry) as a blueprint for its own sensitive explorations.
Truth be told, even Taylor himself never surpassed the autobiographical
charm and acoustic grace of Sweet Baby James. "Fire and Rain" and "Country
Road" frame his warm, lazy voice in firmly picked melodies; "Steamroller"
(later covered by Elvis Presley!) lampoons the macho pomposity of hippie
blues belters. Who said a sensitive folk singer can't have a sense of humor?
-- 1970, Warner Bros.

Various Artists

An intoxicating sampler of early reggae hits, this low-budget-film
soundtrack is still a winning introduction. Jimmy Cliff sets the tone --
aspiration against all odds -- with the title track and with "You Can Get It
If You Really Want." The Slickers ("Johnny Too Bad") and Desmond Dekker
("Shanty Town") are as funky and "real" as any gangsta rappers. Toots and
the Maytals provide a strutting, soulful R&B connection with "Pressure
Drop," and Scotty's dub-wise "Draw Your Brakes" echoes and stutters like a
trip-hop mix. Quieter numbers like Melodians' reflective "Rivers of Babylon"
and Cliff's earnest "Sitting in Limbo" offer some hope of redemption in their
simple, stirring melodies. -- 1972, Mango/Island

Various Artists

The Bee Gees took their falsetto harmonies to the bank with this soundtrack;
those voices project an arresting, almost painful innocence on "More Than a
Woman" and "Night Fever." "Stayin' Alive" is shot through with a desperation
that deepens the suavely syncopated groove. If the nagging hook of "Jive
Talkin" seems a bit glib in its appropriation of funky rhythms, credit the
Gibbs with honoring their sources. The inclusion of bona fide dance-floor
thumpers like K.C. and the Sunshine Band ("Boogie Shoes"), Kool and the Gang
("Open Sesame") and the Trammps ("Disco Inferno") more than makes up for the
novelty tunes like "Night on Disco Mountain." All in all, this "fad" has
endured quite well. -- 1977, RSO/Polygram

The Who

The Who ascended on a gust of explosive singles, all of which are on Meaty
Beaty Big and Bouncy. These songs chronicle life among the lads -- a result
of the Who's roots in the mod subculture. "I Can't Explain" and "My
Generation" are powered by the adolescent rage of Pete Townshends's savage
power chords and storms of feedback, and Keith Moon's thunderous drumming.
But there was also a sweetness about the Who -- embodied in Townshend's
endearing songs about sexual confusion ("I'm a Boy," "Pictures of Lily").

Who's Next is in many ways a look back at the failed dreams of the '60s.
Townshend had found inspiration in the upheavals of youth, and he seems
stunned to find himself playing to an audience from which he was now
separated. "Don't cry/Don't raise your eyes/It's only teenage wasteland," he
sings on "Baba O'Riley," and he would return to that subject obsessively.
("Baba O'Riley" also pioneered the use of synthesizers in rock.) Who's Next,
of course, ends with "Won't Get Fooled Again," a staple of classic-rock radio
through eternity. -- Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy, 1971, Decca, reissued on
MCA; Who's Next, 1971, Decca, reissued on MCA

Stevie Wonder

Motown's first child prodigy aged ever so gracefully. On these Top 5 albums,
Stevie Wonder steps out from the hit factory with a highly personalized
sound. His inner journey results in a groove with global appeal: innovative,
idiosyncratic and instantly accessible. Talking Book demonstrates his
staggering range and steady grasp on his precocious talent. Wonder ties a
deathless melody to an utterly simple sentiment on "You Are the Sunshine of
My Life," shoots his ebullient voice through the gospel-y "I Believe (When I
Fall in Love It Will Be Forever) and preaches like a sly prophet on the
Uber-funky "Superstition."

Innervisions takes it all a step further. The urban realism of "Living for
the City" pulsates like the evening news in faded Technicolor, "Higher
Ground" matches spiritual aspiration with a shivery, ascending synth, and
the bittersweet "All in Love Is Fair" sways to a haunting, melancholy tune.
Wonder was a pioneer in his use of synthesizers, and his now-dated machines
still sound fresh because he never treated them as novelties or special
effects. The unique electronic sheen may be what joins the disparate parts
of Innervisions; it's a subtly unified and consistent album. -- Talking
Book, 1972, Tamla/Motown; Innervisions, 1973, Tamla/Motown

Neil Young

Neil Young never stands still. These three albums -- sonically diverse yet
strangely consistent -- catch him at three distinct peaks. After the Gold
Rush shows his startling range. "Southern Man" harnesses the stun power of
his grungy guitar, wedging his abstract riffing into a catchy song
structure. While its anti-redneck message may seem facile, Young's ragged
vocal delivery is complex, questioning, ambiguous. He overcomes the
"limitations" of his high-pitched whine by wrapping it around simple
melodies that are shattering in their immediacy. The bulk of Gold Rush is
acoustic-based but hardly laid-back. "Don't Let It Bring You Down" and "Till
the Morning Comes" are quietly bracing and guardedly optimistic. The title
track draws a sharp parallel between the '60s frontier and the Wild West --
without mythologizing either era.

Never one for hippie sentimentality, on Tonight's the Night, Young chases
his demons. Though the title track rings out like a demented sing-along,
it's also a eulogy for the drug victims in Young's band and an affecting
commentary on the decaying counterculture. For all the desperation of "Roll
Another Number (for the Road)," "Albuquerque" and "Tired Eyes," his offhand
tunes and unflinching lyrics are unforgettable. Young delivers rock's basic
pleasures even as he measures the pain it inflicts.

On Rust Never Sleeps, Young answers the challenge of punk. The anthem "My
My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)" transforms the disillusionment of Tonight's
the Night, turning self-disgust into motivating energy. The music helps.
With Crazy Horse in tow, Young achieves an unlikely fusion of garage urgency
and arena impact on taut workouts like "Sedan Delivery." But "Powderfinger"
and the acoustic "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)" are just as gripping; his
knack for melodic understatement matches his love of raw power. -- After the
Gold Rush, 1970, Reprise; Tonight's the Night, 1975, Reprise; Rust Never
Sleeps, 1979, Reprise

- Rolling Stone, 5/15/97.


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