Category Archives: Top 100 Albums of the 1970’s

TOP 100 ALBUMS OF THE 70’s: 91-100

100. THE BEATLES- LET IT BE (1970)

Buy Let It Be – The Beatles
*Album not available via Amazon

“Let It Be” was the last official studio album release by the most celebrated and in my opinion best band in the history of rock. Actually recorded in early 1969, before “Abbey Road”, the album was released after the official break-up of the band and feels slapped together, with some of the songs sounding unfinished. Producer Phil Spector, hired by John Lennon, after the initial recording, added often unnecessary strings and other embellishments in post-production. That said, the highs on the album deem it worthy of inclusion on this list. The hits are the great 1969 single “Get Back”, the syrupy and melodramatic “The Long and Winding Road” and the now-standard ballad “Let It Be”, one of the Beatles most popular songs. But John Lennon’s amazing “Across the Universe”, the soulful and wrenching “I’ve Got a Feeling” and “Two Of Us”, which shows Lennon and McCartney working and singing together like old times, are even better. Not the best Beatles album for sure but a necessary one.

Buy Across the Universe – Let It Be
*Track not available via Amazon

Buy I’ve Got a Feeling – Let It Be
*Track not available via Amazon


Buy Trans Europe Express (Remastered) – Kraftwerk
Buy Trans Europe Express (2009 Digital Remaster)Amazon

After three very obscure albums, a left-field worldwide smash hit song “Autobahn” and its accompanying album, and then the follow-up “Radioactivity”, the German pre-techno group’s sixth album “Trans-Europe Express” was their most fully realized offering yet. Every track is excellent and the best two, “Europe Endless” and the title track are both a meditation on modern travel as well as the modern European state. Every House, Synth-Pop, Techno, Electro and many a hip-hop artist owes these guys a heavy debt of gratitude. No music exists completely in a vacuum but playing spot-the-influence with Kraftwerk is no easy task. Their music was almost without precedent, and like so much “weird music”, it took the listening public many years to catch up.

Buy Trans-Europe Express – Trans Europe Express (Remastered)
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Buy Europe Endless – Trans Europe Express (Remastered)
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Buy Suicide – Suicide
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Suicide were another original and along with Kraftwerk, progenitors of the 80’s synth-pop. Their music was just as weird as Kraftwerk’s but far less accessible. Suicide brought a confrontational punk edge to their keyboard driven music and were very ahead of their time. This debut album stuck out like a sore thumb amidst the rest of the NYC Lower East Side punkers. The band was roundly booed during their live performances and this album sold next to nothing upon its release. The band’s music is harrowing, dissonant and at times downright mesmerizingly beautiful as with the track “Cheree”. Minimalist tracks like “Ghost Rider” and “Rocket U.S.A.” have become early alternative classics as time has shed increasing light on Suicide’s brilliance. The album’s centerpiece, the 10+ minute “Frankie Teardrop” about a Vietnam vet is one of the most tense, spooky and tough to listen to tracks I have ever heard. I still can’t decide if I even enjoy it but its impossible to ignore. Despite the albums lack of popularity it became a huge influence on artists as diverse as the Cars, Bruce Springsteen, Throbbing Gristle & Soft Cell. In time Suicide became recognized as one of punk’s pivotal players and their status seems to grow higher with each passing year.

Buy Cheree – Suicide
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Buy Rocket Usa – Suicide
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Buy Loaded – The Velvet Underground
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“Loaded” was the fourth and last studio album by the great Velvet Underground. New bassist Doug Yule (who took over for John Cale on their last album) sings on four of the cuts and drummer Mo Tucker was absent for all of these recordings. Each of VU’s four albums are wildly different from another and “Loaded” is their album errr loaded with hits- relatively speaking of course. Though the Velvets didn’t exactly burn up the charts with this album, it was their highest seller and garnered the most attention from radio. Tracks “Sweet Jane” and “Rock and Roll” deservedly became alternative rock/pre-punk standards and served as a launching pad for singer/guitarist Lou Reed’s solo career. The Yule sung “Who Loves the Sun” is another great one and features prominently in the movie “High Fidelity”- a love letter to music obsessives released early in the 00’s. The Velvets were always one of the more challenging and uncompromising bands and “Loaded” showed that the band was capable of a more mainstream, hit driven album as well.  Four studio albums and a live album released during frontman Lou Reed’s original time in the band and they didn’t miss once.

Buy Sweet Jane – Loaded
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Buy Rock and Roll – Loaded
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Buy Tonight’s the Night – Neil Young
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Neil Young’s string of albums between 1969’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”, and “Tonight’s the Night” is one of the best album runs in rock. It’s up there with the Beatles, the Stones, the Kinks, Dylan & Springsteen. Though Young would continue to make some classic songs, some very good albums and even a few great ones, he was never again able to achieve such consistent mastery of the form as he had during those years. Picking “Tonight’s the Night” over its equally great predecessor 1974’s “On the Beach” was a pure toss-up- there are much more than a 100 great albums that came out in the 70’s so not all of them could make it. “Tonight’s” was actually recorded two years earlier, in 1973, during a particularly tough time for Young. Two close friends, one his roadie and the other a member of his band Crazy Horse, died within six months of each other, both of heroin overdoses. Young’s grief along with his frustration and exhaustion from the road and stardom in general show in the songs, like the brilliant title track (about the death of his roadie friend Bruce Berry) and others like “Tired Eyes” and “Roll Another Number (for the Road)”. Today “Tonight’s the Night” sounds like a final nail in the coffin of the hippie dream, helping to lay groundwork for the punk rock clearinghouse to come. It’s often name- checked as a favorite of Young’s albums of his younger (non baby boomer) generation of fans and enjoyed increased prominence after the alternative rock explosion in the early 90’s.  The lack of hit songs means it’s for true fans and music geeks only.

Buy Tonight’s the Night – Tonight’s the Night
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Buy Tired Eyes – Tonight’s the Night
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Buy Court and Spark – Joni Mitchell
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Released at the tail end of the singer-songwriter era, Joni Mitchell’s 6th album “Court and Spark” was surprisingly her most commercially successful and actually boasted three charting singles. Her sound is both more jazzy and upbeat than her folky, more stripped down past offerings. Like much of her earlier material the focus on “Court and Spark” is on love and relationships but rather than writing from the first person, she concentrated on third person character studies which fleshed out her writing bringing it a new maturity. “Court and Spark” is one of Mitchell’s best and most popular albums, but ended Joni’s most commercially successful phase in her career. She followed “Court and Spark” by releasing increasingly difficult and esoteric music & delving deeper into jazz- far less accessible but not without their own pleasures.

Buy Help Me – Court and Spark
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Buy Free Man In Paris – Court and Spark
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Buy Look Sharp! (Bonus Tracks) – Joe Jackson
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Joe Jackson often gets lumped in with Elvis Costello and Graham Parker. All came out at a similar time, are British, talented & vitriolic singer-songwriters, indebted to punk but considered New Wave. “Look Sharp!” is Jackson’s debut album and may well be his best. Like his compadres Costello & Parker, Jackson and his great backing band were able to harness the ferocity and energy of punk, write with sardonic wit and craft great pop melodies. Jackson may have been even more accessible than his peers- “Look Sharp!” delivered the all time heartache classic “Is She Really Going Out with Him”, along with other biting but catchy numbers like “Fools in Love”, “Sunday Papers” and One More Time”. Jackson’s writing may be full of bile but it’s laugh out loud funny too. “Look Sharp!” is a blast from start to finish.

Buy Is She Really Going Out with Him? – Look Sharp! (Bonus Tracks)
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Buy Fools in Love – Look Sharp! (Bonus Tracks)
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Buy Armed Forces – Elvis Costello & The Attractions
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Costello’s third album in three years shows him moving away from the stripped down simplistic punk of his first two records and toward more detailed, though still hardly lavish, production. “Armed Forces” was more user-friendly and became a bit of a breakthrough at American college radio, building on the successes of his first two. The album title and nearly ever song on the album use politics and the military as metaphors for love relationships, exemplifying Costello’s brilliant and inventive lyrics. Three of Costello’s most enduring and well-known songs appear on “Armed Forces”- “Accidents Will Happen”, “Oliver’s Army” and “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding”. If the rest of the songs of the album don’t quite reach these heights they are always consistently good.  Though “Armed Forces” is my least favorite of Costello’s three 70’s album releases is still mighty damn good.

Buy (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding – Armed Forces
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Buy Oliver’s Army – Armed Forces
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Buy Country Life – Roxy Music
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So tough to pick my favorite Roxy album! “For Your Pleasure”, their most experimental album and the highlight of the band’s time with Brian Eno, and 1975’s sleek and funky “Siren” narrowly missed this countdown and their self-titled debut and “Stranded” are both pretty great as well. It would be easier to lump the band’s five albums together and call it a day but rules are rules and I’ve got to pick one and “Country Life” is it. “Country Life” was Roxy Music’s fourth album and finds the band at the apex of its powers, combining glam, prog, experimental art rock and some early touches of the sensual adult-oriented pop of their future late 70’s/early 80’s albums like “Avalon”. The result was, in my opinion, their most consistently great album and the album that best encapsulates what this ever-changing band is all about. It may not contain a big single like “Virginia Plain”, “Do the Strand” or “Love Is the Drug”, but lengthier more intricate tracks like “Out Of the Blue” and “The Thrill Of It All” are just as good.

Buy The Thrill of It All – Country Life
Buy The Thrill Of It All (1999 Digital Remaster)Amazon

Buy Out of the Blue – Country Life
Buy Out Of The Blue (1999 Digital Remaster)Amazon

91. T. REX- THE SLIDER (1972)

Buy The Slider – T. Rex
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T. Rex was one of the biggest bands in the U.K. during the early part of the 1970’s and is almost completely unknown in America, apart from their one hit wonder track “Get It On (Bang A Gong)”. That is criminal and America is crazy! I came to T. Rex very late in the game myself- even all these years later Classic Rock stations don’t touch the band. It’s very difficult to understand. T. Rex has at least a dozen tracks that should be in rotation to this day. Singer/guitarist/leader Marc Bolan had changed the name of his band from Tyrannosaurus Rex to T. Rex for his 6th and breakthrough album (at least in the U.K.) “Electric Warrior”. Follow-up “The Slider” was nearly as good and appeared at the very pinnacle of the glam-rock movement. The album boasted two U.K. #1’s- “Telegram Sam” & “Metal Guru”, two of the best tracks in their discography. The amazing title cut is another standout and the album is filled with groovy, sexy, tripped out and ridiculous fun. It’s what rock n’ roll is all about!

Buy Telegram Sam – The Slider
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Buy The Slider – The Slider
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Top 100 Albums of the 70’s: 81-90

90. STEELY DAN- AJA (1977)

Buy Aja – Steely Dan

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Like Roxy Music above, targeting my favorite Steely Dan out of their impressive discography of very good to excellent (70’s) albums was a difficult task. Every one of their first six albums holds up as a fine collection and they all differ from one another enough that it’s almost apples and oranges. “Aja” their last album of the 70’s is my favorite by a hair- it represents both a commercial and a sonic breakthrough for the band as well as containing some of their best and most memorable songs like “Black Cow”, “Deacon Blues”, “Peg” and “Josie”. Coming at the end of a magnificent run beginning with their debut album, 1972’s “Can’t Buy a Thrill”, “Aja” can also be seen as a culmination of all that the band had achieved up to that time, while at the same time blazing a new trail for the band. Some people lament the Dan moving away from the earlier rock n’ roll edge- “Aja” is straight up jazz rock- it’s smooth, sophisticated & mellow, but like all of their albums, both the songwriting and the playing are magnificent. After “Aja” the Dan would only be good for one more noteworthy album, 1980’s “Gaucho” unless you count Donald Fagen’s solo album “The Nightfly” which was also quite good. “Aja” was also a huge commercial breakthrough for the band. Though they had hits and success previously, “Aja” was Steely Dan’s “Rumours” (coincidentally released the same year), where radio, sales and critical adulation all came together at once and it solidified the band’s status in rock’s great musical canon.

Buy Deacon Blues – Aja

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Buy Peg – Aja

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Buy Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John

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Like many extremely successful musicians with long careers, the majority of Elton John’s best work is concentrated within a clump of years- in Elton’s case, after a middling debut album, his next five years as a recording artist were his most prolific, artistically and commercially successful. Elton John was so ridiculously on fire from 1970-75 that he more than anyone else was considered the successor to the Beatles. And right smack dab in the middle of those years is the sprawling double album “Yellow Brick Road”, which is in my opinion the best album of his career. The album begins with 11 minute prog epic “Funeral for a Friend”, followed by Marilyn Monroe tribute “Candle in the Wind”, glam-funk classic “Bennie & the Jets” and the lovely title track- one of Elton John’s very best ballads. Album cuts like the chacter sketch “The Ballad of Danny Bailey” and the riff-tastic Grey Seal and classic rock radio staple “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” as well as beautiful album ender “Harmony” are all classics as well. Like most double albums “Road” is a lot to take in at once but there is so much great material that it rewards the listener greatly over time.

Buy Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

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Buy Bennie and the Jets – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

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Buy I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight (Remastered) – Richard & Linda Thompson

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While “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight” was certainly critically acclaimed in its day, it remains relatively unknown and uncelebrated today even as singer/guitarist Richard Thompson continues to record and perform year in and year out to a small cult of adoring fans. Though this was Thompson’s debut album with his wife Linda, he had already recorded one solo album and was one of the founding members of the legendary British folk-rock group Fairport Convention who had recorded throughout the late sixties and early seventies. Linda’s beautiful vocals were on par with legendary Fairport vocalist Sandy Denny (also the background vocalist in “The Battle of Evermore” for all you Zep fans) which made her a perfect compliment to Richard’s voice. Thompson’s songwriting on the album could be dark and heartbreaking but is filled with empathy, humanity and even hopefulness at times. His long blistering guitar solos bring to mind a much more technically proficient Crazy Horse- Thompson is simply one of the best guitarists in the business. The Thompsons would go on to make 5 more studio albums together including their “breakup” album- 1982’s great “Shoot Out the Lights” but none were better than the original. “Bright Lights” stands up as a lost classic- many more people should hear it.

Buy I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight – I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight (Remastered)

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Buy The End of the Rainbow – I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight (Remastered)

Buy The End Of The RainbowAmazon


Buy Imagine (Remastered) – John Lennon

Buy Imagine [+Digital Booklet]Amazon

“Imagine” is the most well known solo album by my favorite musician in my favorite band of all time. The album itself is overshadowed by the still majestic title cut, possibly Lennon’s signature song and one of the most universally known and loved songs in the last half century of music. But “Imagine” has much more to offer. Coming in the middle of the singer-songwriter phenomenon and just after Lennon’s bold but stark “Plastic Ono Band” album, “Imagine” is both mellower and much more radio friendly than its predecessor, though it still can be challenging and even venomous at time like with the F.U. to Paul McCartney “How Do You Sleep”. “I Don’t Wanna be A Soldier (Mama I Don’t Want to Die)” didn’t win Lennon many establishment friends either. “Jealous Guy” and “Oh My Love” are two of Lennon’s most beautiful ballads. “Gimme Some Truth” to me stands as Lennon’s mantra as he was interested in nothing more than truth and authenticity. Though John would release albums sporadically throughout the 70’s and another with Yoko Ono right around his untimely death in 1980 none of those albums would come close to matching the quality of “Imagine.

Buy Imagine – Imagine (Remastered)

Buy Imagine (2010 – Remaster)Amazon

Buy Gimme Some Truth – Imagine (Remastered)

Buy Gimme Some Truth (2010 – Remaster)Amazon

86. RANDY NEWMAN- 12 SONGS (1970)

*Album not available via iTunes or Amazon

Yes Randy Newman- the same guy that seems to win an Oscar every year for scoring every animated movie ever made. Newman is a bit of a musical genius, a brilliant composer, arranger and lyricist capable of creating very elaborate orchestrations. But back in the early 70’s Newman was relatively unknown outside of a circle of American songwriters associations. By 1970 he had one solo album under his belt and had sold a number of his songs to other groups and artists like Peggy Lee, Dusty Springfield, Three Dog Night & Judy Collins. Like with fellow writer Carole King, the more authentic singer-songwriter era, less concerned about looks & image, proved the perfect era for a gifted but rather normal looking person like Newman to make his mark. Newman a few years earlier would have been relegated to the Brill Building factory of writers and would have been content to keep churning out hits for others. Though his first solo album was heavily orchestrated and produced like his more current film scores, for “12 Songs”, Newman decided to strip things down and play with a small combo which enabled his native New Orleans style R&B & Blues to shine through. Newman’s writing is filled with biting satire where he often takes the first person voice of characters he pities at best and despises at worst. His writing is sad, thought provoking and hilarious all at the same time. “12 Songs” in my opinion is his single best album to date though his two follow ups “1972’s “Sail Away” and 1974’s “Good Ole Boys” come very close and are also well worth checking out.

Mama Told Me Not To Come *Not available via iTunes or Amazon

Have You Seen My Baby? *Not available via iTunes or Amazon


Buy Band On the Run (Remastered) – Paul McCartney & Wings

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Paul McCartney was almost undoubtedly THE musical genius of the Beatles, with the exception of producer George Martin. That said his solo career is rather spotty. Much of his earliest solo recordings are tossed off and unfinished and much of his later recordings are corny and cheeseball with the occasional great song thrown in for good measure. Though when McCartney is good he is GREAT and along with “Ram”, the “Band On the Run” album is to me his best album made outside of the Beatles. It’s a musically ambitious song cycle (ala side two of Abbey Road but without the song fragments) though the subject matter is light, nonsensical and fun. The title track and “Jet” have both become classic rock standards and “Helen Wheels” has received a fair share of airplay as well. “Bluebird” is one of McCartney’s prettiest acoustic songs and both “Mrs. Vanderbilt” and “Let Me Roll It” are also excellent. The album was a huge hit at the time and still sounds great over 30 years later.

Buy Band On the Run (Remastered) – Band On the Run (Remastered)

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Buy Bluebird (Remastered) – Band On the Run (Remastered)

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Buy The Man Machine (Remastered) – Kraftwerk

Buy The Man Machine (2009 Digital Remaster)Amazon

Kraftwerk’s follow-up to “Trans Europe Express” does their breakout record even better. It’s their most consistent album- every song a standout. “The Model” is probably their best pure pop song, covered amazingly by industrial noise purveyors Big Black almost a decade later. Tracks like “The Robots”, “Spacelab” and the title cut became huge influences on early synth-pop like the Human League & Gary Numan as well as the electro hip hop of Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force. I actually remember the keyboard riff of title cut from an old 2 Live Crew song called “Put Her in the Buck”. You never know where you’ll find a Kraftwerk lick- their whole catalog was mined by many of the pioneering rap music producers. Kraftwerk originally appeared to be nothing more than a one hit wonder (after the worldwide hit “Autobahn” or an interesting gimmick, but in the long run ended up being one of the most influential bands of the last twenty years. “The Man Machine” states their case perfectly.

Buy The Model – The Man Machine (Remastered)

Buy The Model (2009 Digital Remaster) Amazon

Buy The Robots – The Man Machine (Remastered)

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Buy Talking Book (Reissue) – Stevie Wonder

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The album “Music Of My Mind”, release earlier in 1972, marked a huge turning point in Stevie Wonder’s career. In the sixties he was “Little Stevie Wonder” a child and then teen prodigy but very much part of the Motown factory. When he released “Mind”, he was 21 with a brand new contract from Motown giving him much more artistic control and the result was his most unified and musically impressive statement to date. While “Mind” was pretty great, Wonder’s “Talking Book” released in late 1972 was even better and made him a superstar, beginning one of the most impressive 4 album runs of the last 50 years which ended with 1976’s “Songs in the Key of Life”. Taking a page from Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”, Wonder began to comment much more on society as in the track “Big Brother” and his love songs became deeper and more nuanced. “Talking Book” contains two of Wonder’s most well known songs- the beautiful standard ballad “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” and the deeply funky “Superstition”.

Buy Superstition – Talking Book (Reissue)

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Buy I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever) – Talking Book (Reissue)

Buy I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)Amazon


Buy Nilsson Schmilsson – Harry Nilsson

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Up until “Nilsson Schmilsson”, Harry Nilsson, like Randy Newman, was a quirky, little known singer songwriter with a golden voice despite him already having a Grammy (for “Everybody’s Talking” from the “Midnight Cowboy” soundtrack) and the respect of many of his musical peers including the Beatles. Nilsson always marched to the beat of his own drummer, flying all over the musical map and often drinking and drugging to excess. Though “Schmilsson” was still as musically eclectic as his earlier work, it was his most mainstream oriented effort to date- focusing his talents around crafting songs out of the many different forms of pop music. He plucked the ballad “Without You” from the power pop group Badfinger and it became an enormous hit and has been covered countless times since- including an extremely icky version by Mariah Carey which was an even bigger hit than Nilsson’s version. “Jump In the Fire” embraced hard rock and was stretched out to over seven minutes- a nod to the progressive rock de rigueur at the time. One of the best party/hangover songs ever “Coconut” was also a big pop hit and heard famously years later in the movie “Reservoir Dogs”. The gorgeous “The Moonbeam Song” was perfectly off kilter and “Gotta Get Up” about forcing yourself out of bed in the morning works as Nilsson’s theme song. I can imagine “Gotta Get Up” playing during the opening credits of his life story. I was for the most part unaware of “Nilsson Schmilsson” and Nilsson in general until about five years ago. I look forward to delving into his catalog further in the future.

Buy Gotta Get Up (Remastered 2004) – Nilsson Schmilsson

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Buy Coconut (Remastered 2004) – Nilsson Schmilsson

Buy Coconut (Remastered 2004) Amazon

81. AL GREEN- CALL ME (1973)

Buy Call Me – Al Green

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This is some of the best bedtime music ever made. Al Green’s voice is silky smooth & sexy as hell. He was a new kind of singer for a new decade in that he brought the raw soul music of the deep south and wedded it to the more urbane, sophisticated soul music heard in cities like New York, Chicago & Philadelphia in the seventies. Green’s albums in the from 1970-76 are all great and contain some of the best soul songs ever like “Tired of Being Alone”, his cover of Temptations classic “I Can’t Get Next to You”, “I’m Still in love with You” and his signature song “Let’s Stay Together”. “Call Me” doesn’t have any of those tracks but it is still his artistic peak & best album from start to finish. The irony is that this loverman music is filled with heartbreak rather than sexual come-ons. Tracks like “Call Me (Come Back Home)”, “You Ought to be with Me” & “Have You Been Making Out OK” will tear your heart to pieces as you turn the lights down low.

Buy Call Me (Come Back Home) – Call Me

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Buy Have You Been Making Out O.K. – Call Me

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Top 100 Albums of the 70’s: 71-80


Buy Off the Wall (Special Edition) – Michael Jackson

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Michael Jackson had released a handful of solo albums throughout the seventies along tons of material with his brothers in the Jackson 5- later called the Jacksons, but 1979’s “Off the Wall” was his first truly noteworthy solo album and it turned Jackson from a well-known entertainer into a full blown superstar. Though 1982’s “Thriller” is the better selling and more well known album, I actually think “Off the Wall” is better. It may just be the first post-disco album. Though nearly every song on the album could fit right into a disco playlist, the music on the album seems beyond the format, and did a good deal to help bring dance music into the new decade. Jackson and producer Quincy Jones combine disco’s dancebeats with lite-funk, soft rock and smooth soul ballads- all later predominant sounds in early 80’s R&B. “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”, “Off the Wall” and “Rock With You” are the classic cuts but “Working Day & Night”, “Get On the Floor” and “She’s Out Of My Life” are dark horses as well. Put this album on at a party and there will be no one left on the couch- it’s the best dance music Jackson ever made.

Buy Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough (Single Version) – Off the Wall

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Buy Rock With You (Single Version) – Off the Wall

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Buy Here Come the Warm Jets – Brian Eno

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“Here Come the Warm Jets” is Brian Eno’s first solo album after his brief stint in the progressive glam-rock band Roxy Music. “Jets” still carries a fair bit of a glam hangover and it’s the most unabashed Pop album that Eno has ever made (as an artist, not counting as a producer). But Eno being Eno his ‘pop’ is more experimental that most other bands get in their lifetime If you are new to Eno’s music the vast variety of material in his catalog can be overwhelming, therefore “Here Come the Warm Jets” is a great entry point as it is still mostly steeped in pop & rock music. Album opener “Needles in the Camel’s Eye” is an adrenaline rush and was even used in promos for the 90’s film “The Velvet Goldmine”, a fictional look at the U.K. Glam Rock scene in the 70’s. Along with the amazing title cut and the poppy “Baby’s On Fire” you have three of the best tracks Eno ever recorded. Brian Eno would go on to produce albums by Devo, Talking Heads, David Bowie, U2, Coldplay & the “No New York” compilation just to name a few and it’s strange to think that in 1974 he was still relatively unknown. If you take his work in Roxy Music, his solo work, all of his productions & later collaborations with David Byrne of the Talking Heads you could argue that he is the most important and prolific contributor to popular music of the last 40 years.

Buy Needles In the Camel’s Eye – Here Come the Warm Jets

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Buy Here Come the Warm Jets – Here Come the Warm Jets

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78. DAVID BOWIE- LOW (1977)

Buy Low (Remastered) – David Bowie

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“Low” is the first and I’d say best of Bowie’s “Berlin” trilogy- a series of albums produced by Brian Eno that he recorded in Berlin, Germany while living with Iggy Pop. All three of those artists rubbed off on one another. Bowie experimented more than ever before, delving into the ambient sounds that Eno was currently exploring as well as German Krautrock groups like Can & Faust and the pre-techno music of fellow Germans Kraftwerk. In turn Bowie brought Brian Eno’s wildly experimental music more mainstream exposure and commercial acceptance. Bowie would end up producing Iggy’s best two solo albums “Lust for Life” & “The Idiot”- both albums just narrowly missed placing on this list. “Low” is divided into two parts. The first side is made up of short vocal tracks, angular in composition and heavily influenced by punk, but in attitude more than actual sound. The second half is even more Eno-inspired consisting of long instrumental tracks, less intense and more ambient than the first songs with only a limited connection to rock music whatsoever. It was a bold move even for Bowie who was never afraid to bend the rules. It is not too much an overstatement to call “Low” (released in January of ’77) the first post-punk record paving the way for other bands to move away from the hard driving, fast and loud punk to dynamic and atmospheric sounds. Though you’ll find neither on “ChangesOneBowie”, Bowie’s oft played greatest hits album, tracks like “Sound & Vision” and “Always Crashing in the Same Car” are two of the very best in his catalog.

Buy Sound and Vision – Low (Remastered)

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Buy Always Crashing In the Same Car – Low (Remastered)

Buy Always Crashing the Same CarAmazon


Buy Animals (Remastered) – Pink Floyd

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I remember playing this album for a friend in high school late at night and it scared the crap out of him. Out of all of Floyd’s seventies album, “Animals” is their least accessible and downright strangest album. All three songs over ten minutes with the exception of the brief intro and outro and none come close to resembling the structure of a pop song. Inspired by the novel “Animal Farm” by George Orwell, Pink Floyd bassist and writer Roger Waters broke human society down into three groups- pigs, dogs and sheep- the aristocracy who rule over the masses, the law enforcement who carry out the dirty work for the aristocracy, and the masses who blindly follow the aristocracy’s leadership and rules. The music is dark and foreboding and the lyrics are as eye opening as they are depressing- much like Orwell’s novels. In many ways “Animals” is a perfect record, just not an easy one to get into. If you already love “Dark Side of the Moon”, “The Wall” and “Wish You Were Here” and want to dig a bit deeper, by all means do. “Animals” is an album which surprises and rewards in spades and you will never be bored with it. That said it is anything but an ideal entry point for Floyd neophytes. Newbies should start with one of the aforementioned album and make their way through all of them first. “Animals” would likely be found too inscrutable without the proper context of the band’s more popular work.

Buy Pigs (Three Different Ones) – Animals (Remastered)

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Buy Dogs – Animals (Remastered)

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Buy All Things Must Pass (30th Anniversary Edition) [Remastered] – George Harrison

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George Harrison was insanely talented. He just happened to be in the same band as two of the most talented writers of the twentieth century who had already formed a writing partnership before Harrison had even joined the band. Despite Harrison’s 3rd guy status in the Beatles he managed to come up with enduring Beatles classics like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Here Comes the Sun”, “Something” and lesser known but still amazing cuts like “If I Needed Someone”, “Savoy Truffle”, “Love You Too” and “I Want to Tell You”. Bottom line is that if Harrison could write those songs, he must have had a stockpile of other great tracks in his cupboard just waiting to be heard. His first solo album after the breakup of the Beatles “All Things Must Pass”, released in late 1970 is proof positive that was indeed the case. “Pass” is a sprawling double album. The first three (album) sides are filled songs of intense beauty. The final side is kind of a dud- it consists of long jams with famous musician friends of Harrison’s like Eric Clapton and various members of Delaney & Bonnie. “My Sweet Lord” was the big radio hit, but other tracks like “What Is Life” (used to great effect in the movie “Goodfellas”), “I’d Have You Anytime” and “Isn’t It a Pity” are so good that they rank up there with the Beatles best work. Distancing Harrison from his former bandmates allows one to see his greatness. Besides the wonderful songwriting, Harrison has a signature guitar sound. Though he is often left out of the “World’s Greatest Guitarists of all time” discussions, when I hear his guitar I know it’s him before the words ever start. It’s almost unbelievable that a Beatle could be called underrated. But I think Harrison is. This album is exhibit A.

Buy What Is Life – All Things Must Pass (30th Anniversary Edition) [Remastered]

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Buy I’d Have You Anytime – All Things Must Pass (30th Anniversary Edition) [Remastered]

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75. CAN- EGE BAMYASI (1972)

*Album not available via iTunes or Amazon

A true shining light in experimental and avant garde music, Germany’s Can released a series of albums beginning with 1969’s “Monster Movie” and ending at least with 1974’s “Future Days” which would create and help define the German Krautrock movement ( Though they would release many more albums past ’74, their first albums are widely regarded as their best and most important and their 1972 album “Ege Bamyasi”- right in the middle of that run was the best of the lot. The tracks on “Ege” are both more spare and funkier than on their previous releases, even though their are still two tracks over ten minutes. That’s just how Can rolls. Can was so eclectic and far reaching that they would go on to influence groups as disparate as the early synth-punk of Suicide, the worldbeat, indie-prog of Public Image Limited, the space-age bachelor bad music of Stereolab and the thudding post-punk of the Fall among many more. Other Kraut bands like Neu and Faust are also very worthy of your listening but Can still towers above the scene and “Ege Bamyasi” is a great entry point for anyone who wants to hear what they are all about.

Buy Spoon – Movern Callar (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

*Track not available via Amazon

Sing Swan Sung *track not available via iTunes or Amazon


Buy Let’s Get It On (Deluxe Edition) – Marvin Gaye

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Even more than anything by Barry White or Al Green, Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” is the ultimate sex album. After completely changing the soul music landscape and the way the entire Motown label marketed its music with 1971’s “What’s Going On”- one of the ultimate political albums of all time, for his follow-up Gaye turned his subjects toward matters of the heart and bedroom. Everyone knows the title cut, though overplayed for sure, it’s still one of the most enduring tracks in Gaye’s discography and in the canon of soul music at large. Other than “Let’s Get It On” the hits on the album are few and far between. It’s an album made up of slow jams filled with sexual innuendo, come-ons and pleading- a mixture of both love and lust which mirrors the best human relationships. Though several tracks can surely stand on their own the album is best listened to as a whole. At night. In bed. Not alone.

Buy Let’s Get It on (Single) – Every Great Motown Hit of Marvin Gaye

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Buy You Sure Love to Ball – Let’s Get It On (Remastered)

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Buy More Songs About Buildings and Food (Remastered) – Talking Heads

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“More Songs” was the follow-up album to the Talking Heads brilliant debut album “77”- a nod and a wink to all of those second albums made up of song scraps from the first. But unlike the first album, “More” was produced by wunderkind Brian Eno who streamlined the group’s sound, focusing more on the bands rhythm that the song writing. As a result the flows better and is much more cohesive than the debut even if fewer songs stand out. That said tracks like “Warning Sign”, “I’m Not In Love”, the Al Green cover “Take Me To The River” and especially the profound “The Big Country” are some of the best Talking Heads songs ever, which shows how great the debut was to have even more. The first five Talking Heads albums are all fantastic (not even counting their two great live albums) and “More Songs” brought the band one more step away from their minimalist punk-ish beginnings at CBGB and toward the afro-pop influenced, funkier and more danceable later albums.

Buy The Big Country – More Songs About Buildings and Food (Remastered)

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Buy Warning Sign – More Songs About Buildings and Food (Remastered)

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Buy Horses (Legacy Edition) – Patti Smith

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Though Patti Smith was very much a part of the CBGB’s early punk scene, she (and especially her first album “Horses”) also seems to exist in a vacuum. “Horses” was released in 1975, before nearly all of the other CB’s artists first albums. Even before the Ramones debut which was released a year later. The music on “Horses” was played in the amateurish Nuggets style of 60’s garage rock but it sounded absolutely nothing like the metallic crunch of most other early punk. Many of the songs were epic jams rather than short blasts of fury. Patti herself was pretty much unprecedented in the music industry. Though she had her own singular style she was nowhere close to the standard definition of pretty or feminine and her vocals were just as off the beaten path. She was a poet who fashioned her writing after 60’s rocker Jim Morrison as well as French symbolists like Rimbaud. She would go on to have a long, interesting career and would release other important and excellent albums and songs- most of them during the latter part of the seventies- but “Horses” still reigns supreme over the rest of her work. Patti and “Horses” itself would go on to influence countless feminist artists in the ensuing decades no one would ever sound like her. “Horses” is a true original.

Buy Gloria – Horses

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Buy Redondo Beach – Horses

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Buy Every Picture Tells a Story – Rod Stewart

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Rod the Mod had been kicking around since the mid to late sixties. He had sung lead vocals on the Jeff Beck album “Truth”, had two very good but under-heard solo albums under his belt and was currently the lead singer in the band the Faces, a Stonesy, bluesy, loose band made of pure rock n’ roll fun . Rod had already built a nice resume for himself, but in 1971 Stewart’s ship truly came in with the “Every Picture Tells a Story” album (*not to mention the Faces best album “A Nod Is As Good as a Wink to a Horse” was also released the same year). “Picture” was a phenomenon and would make Stewart one of the biggest stars in rock n’ roll. The now standard, and huge pop hit “Maggie May” was the biggest reason for the album’s success but every track on the album is a gem. The Tim Hardin cover “Reason to Believe” and Stewart’s own “Mandolin Wind” were two other lovely ballads and the Temptations cover “( I Know) I’m Losing You rocks the house down as much as any Faces cut. The un-politically correct title track is 6 minutes of loose, fun story-song and to me encapsulates the very essence of rock n’ roll music. It may just be my favorite Rod Stewart recording. Stewart would go on to even more commercial success throughout the seventies but his material became less and less rewarding with each passing year. He would get even cheesier in the eighties only to move into the seemingly inevitable big band covers albums in the last decade. A true fall from grace from a past legend. If you only know him from his later stuff you must check out the original.

Buy Every Picture Tells a Story – Every Picture Tells a Story

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Buy Maggie May – Every Picture Tells a Story

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Top 100 Albums of the 70’s: 61-70


Buy Histoire de Melody Nelson – Serge Gainsbourg
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One of the most unique, strangest & horniest records I’ve ever heard. “Nelson” is a 30 minute song cycle about a middle age man’s lust for a teenage girl and it’s sung entirely in French. For those who don’t know French (me among them) you’ll have little trouble detecting the depravity. By 1971 Gainsbourg was already a legend in his native France and in most of Europe. He had recorded several famous duets in the 60’s with sexy starlets Brigette Bardot and Jane Birkin. Though aside from “Nelson” and a compilation of his 60’s material, I don’t own anything else by Gainsbourg. Gainsbourg genre-hops between jazz, light pop, French vocal music and even (later) reggae- anything that strikes his fancy at the time. His early 70’s offering, like “Melody Nelson” are his most rock oriented. “Melody” also is funky as hell- besides the lascivious vocals the bass lines are the most prominent feature on the album. The mood of the album is dark, seductive & often sleazy and filled with mystery and intrigue.

It’s cinematic and is much a concept album as any other rock album I can fathom.

Buy En Melody – L’histoire de Melody Nelson
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Buy L’hôtel particulier – L’histoire de Melody Nelson
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Buy Head Hunters – Herbie Hancock
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Before “Headhunters” Herbie Hancock was already one of the most revered figures in the history of Jazz, a fixture in the legendary Miles Davis Quintet throughout the early and mid sixties and a successful songwriter and solo performer in his own right. “Headhunters”, in a sign of the times was a full on electro jazz fusion album- much more funk-oriented than anything even Miles Davis had attempted. It through the jazz world for a loop while at the same time becoming his best selling album and the best in the history of jazz for a time. “Headhunters” also paved the way for the hip hop influenced early 80’s music of “Rockit” which is how most Gen-Xers know him best. It’s pure groove music with all of the funkiness of James Brown or Parliament but it’s basic structure and sense of improvisation still bends it closer to jazz. The obvious influences on “Headhunters” were early fusion-jazz, funk music & soul but what it influenced later may be more surprising- hip-hop and electro-funk for sure but also trance music. I’ve never heard another album like this one.

Buy Chameleon – Head Hunters
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Buy Watermelon Man – Head Hunters
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Buy Deja Vu – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
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Crosby, Stills & Nash is probably the best known and one of the best ‘supergroups’ of all time. Davis Crosby was a standout vocalist with the Byrds, Stephen Stills a guitarist & singers in the Buffalo Springfield & Graham Nash the main vocalist in the Hollies. Each of those bands were huge in their own right. With their self-titled debut in 1969, CSN took the world by storm and became for a short time, the biggest band in rock music, particurly after the breakup of the Beatles. For their highly anticipated follow-up they added Stills’ former bandmate in the Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young, who was also busy establishing a brilliant solo career. Though both of the group’s first two albums are near perfect, I think Déjà vu” may even be a notch better than the debut, and mostly because of the addition of Young. Unlike the first album, which was filled with the group’s harmonies and had a real sense of collaboration, with “Déjà vu” CSNY was much more about the four individuals in the band, like the Beatles “White Album”. Each member contributed their own songs and collaborated with whatever of their musician friends happened to be in the studio at the time- an impressive list for sure. Classic songs like Stills “Carry On”, Crosby’s “Almost Cut My Hair”, Young’s “Helpless” and Nash’s “Our House” and “Teach Your Children” along with the group’s amazing cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” make the album nothing short of a tour de force. The four members would never again release another  relevant studio album (the two late 80’s/early 90’s albums certainly don’t count) and the original three would only record sporadically throughout the next few decades never even coming close to reaching the heights of the first two albums. This amazing group was done in by drugs and egos. Cocaine is a helluva drug unfortunately.

Buy Carry On – Deja Vu
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Buy Woodstock – Deja Vu
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Buy The Specials – The Specials
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The Specials, still very underappreciated in America, are a great and important band who started the U.K. Ska revival by combining the original Ska and Rock Steady Jamaican music of the 60’s with late 70’s British punk. Chief songwriter/keyboardist Jerry Dammers also started the Two-Tone record label which practically defined the new-Ska genre by itself. The label contained all of the genres best bands- the Specials, Madness, Selector and the (English) Beat. The self-titled debut is the Specials best record. Produced by Elvis Costello, the record mixes originals with ska covers like the classic “A Message to You Rudy” which the Specials both bettered and made more famous. The album is a blast from start to finish. Though every track qualifies as a deep cut to Americans save “Rudy”, tracks like “Nite Klub”, “Little Bitch”, “Too Much Too Young”, “Concrete Jungle” and “(Dawning Of A) New Era are all British classics as well. Few bands could combine heavy messages and political statements with pure unadulterated fun like the Specials. I think it’s about time to have a ska revival-revival so that more people can get hip to these guys.

Buy A Message To You Rudy – The Specials
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Buy Little Bitch – The Specials
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Buy Grievous Angel – Gram Parsons
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Perhaps more than any other figure in music, Gram Parsons is the godfather of what we now call alternative country music. Many also give him credit with starting country-rock in general with his original albums with the International Submarine Band, the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, but “Grievous Angel” along with his debut solo album “GP” released a year prior were significantly different than his past albums done with the Byrds, International Submarine Band and Flying Burrito Brothers, who are all considered godfathers of alt-country. His solo stuff was more stripped down and Gram was accompanied vocally by then unknown female vocalist Emmylou Harris who complemented him beautifully. Parsons was largely unknown to the general public during his lifetime, but was hugely appreciated within the music community. He even became best buds with Keith Richards of the Stones and any country influence heard in the Stones late 60’s/early 70’s stuff is mostly Gram’s doing. Gram gives extremely thoughful readings to every track on “Grievous Angel”, whether they are originals or cover songs. Parsons died of a drug overdose shortly after finishing recording “Grievous Angel”. The last song on the album “In My Hour of Darkness” was the perfect epitaph for his life and music and maybe the best track he ever wrote.

Buy In My Hour of Darkness (Remastered) – Grievous Angel
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Buy Return of the Grievous Angel – Grievous Angel
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Buy Rocket to Russia (Deluxe Version) – Ramones
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The Ramones first four albums are all gems and a necessary part of anyone’s punk, or for that matter rock n’ roll, collection. Aside from their perfect debut, their third album “Rocket to Russia” is my favorite Signature Ramones songs like “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker”, “Teenage Lobotomy”, “Rockaway Beach” & “Cretin Hop” are all here as well as two totally ace covers- “Do You Wanna Dance” and “Surfin’ Bird”. The production is cleaner and more pop oriented than either of their first two albums, which was perfect for a pop-punk band like the Ramones. But alas it wasn’t meant to be and the album never blew up- punk music wouldn’t go pop until decades later with Green Day and the Offspring, but “Rocket to Russia” furthered the band’s cause as punk legends and ensured that they wouldn’t be relegated to one or two hit wonder status- even if those hits would all happen in retrospect. The Ramones were meant to be before their time- it’s hard not to see this record as being huge if it was released even ten years later. Sometimes it takes the public awhile to catch up.

Buy Rockaway Beach – Rocket to Russia
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Buy Sheena Is a Punk Rocker – Rocket to Russia
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Buy New York Dolls – New York Dolls
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Speaking of ahead of their time New York City punk rockers, the New York Dolls were even far less commercially successful than the Ramones but arguably just as influential. The Stooges, MC5 and the Velvet Underground were the Dolls only precedents but the Dolls sounded unlike any of them They combined punks aggressiveness with the Rolling Stones swagger and some of the melodies and the theatrical camp of early sixties girl-group pop. Their drag queen look set the table for KISS, Twisted Sister and nearly every eighties hair band. The Dolls never came near a hit single, but tracks like “Trash”, “Looking for a Kiss”, “Personality Crisis” and “Subway Train” are all pre punk classics. Singer David Johansen (later known as Buster Pointdexter of “Hot Hot Hot” and “Zat You Santa Claus” fame) delivered the tracks with strut and bravado and guitarist Johnny Thunders was a tour de force- as close to a guitar god as the 70’s punk movement spit out. Unfortunately after 1974’s follow-up album the aptly titled “Too Much Too Soon” the band flamed out due to band disharmony, creative differences and lots of drugs- both Thunders and drummer Jerry Nolan would later die of overdoses. Though the band would get back together in the oughts the magic wasn’t the same but the Dolls remain a pre-punk and pre-metal touchstone.

Buy Trash – New York Dolls
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Buy Personality Crisis – New York Dolls
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63. WIRE- PINK FLAG (1977)

Buy Pink Flag (Remastered) – Wire
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“Pink Flag” is the smart-boy art school answer to “Never Mind the Bollocks…Here’s the Sex Pistols”. Wire’s sound on “Flag” is punk boiled down to it’s absolute essence- no wasted notes, no solos, sometimes no choruses. They say what they have to say and then get out. “Pink Flag” is 21 tracks in 36 minutes. It’s easy to see how much this album influenced the early 80’s hardcore scene but unlike hardcore the playing and musicianship on “Pink Flag” is professional rather than sloppy and off the rails. None of the songs followed the verse chorus verse structure skirting the traditional rules of rock n’ roll songwriting. Despite this, there are earworms all over the album- bands like Elastica even stole whole riffs from Wire and had hits in the 90’s. Wire declined to repeat themselves issuing two more nearly as great albums in the latter 70’s which had more of a post-punk and krautrock bent respectively. They are a band never content to sit still and got back together in the last decade, still making challenging music together.

Buy Three Girl Rhumba – Pink Flag (Remastered)
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Buy Ex Lion Tamer – Pink Flag (Remastered)
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Buy Pink Moon (Remastered) – Nick Drake
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Almost completely unknown during his brief lifetime, British singer songwriter recorded three perfect, yet disparate albums in the late 60’s and early 70’s, died of an overdose of antidepressants two years after releasing his final album & then became a cult figure whose fandom gradually increased with each passing year. Never having any commercial traction during his lifetime, his stardom was ironically at its peak after the title track to this album was used in a Volkswagon car commercial in the early 00’s. Though each of Drake’s albums was solidly in the British folk/singer songwriter tradition of Van Morrison- quiet, soulful with lots of acoustic strumming, the “Pink Moon” album was his most spare (and depressing!) to date. There was almost no musical accompaniment- just Drake and his guitar. But Drake was a hell of a guitarist and though the lack of additional instrumentation added to the pain and isolation conveyed in Drake’s lyrics the album was never dull- Drake’s strumming often sounded like two or three guitarists playing at once. “Pink Moon” and Drake are beloved by tender hearted, poetic people who find beauty in sadness. It’s a shame we lost this amazing musician while he was so young but at least he left us with a treasure trove of music.

Buy Pink Moon – Pink Moon (Remastered)
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Buy Which Will – Pink Moon (Remastered)
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Buy Another Green World – Brian Eno
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“Another Green World” is Brian Eno’s third album, and his masterpiece- the album that bridged the gap between the more song oriented fare of his first two albums and his early work in Roxy Music and the ambient music he would develop in the latter part of the seventies. The album was divided up between more traditional- yet totally unique and often bizarre songs and ethereal instrumental pieces. “Green World” was an obvious precedent to Bowie’s work on his “Low” and “Heroes” album which were produced by Eno as well. Eno & “Green World” would become enormous influences on not only future ambient music but on all downbeat techno and trance music Even the pop stuff on “Another Green World” is very ethereal and the surreal lyrics help give the album a dream like quality. The two songs listed below especially, “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “I’ll Come Running” are Eno masterpieces, but despite their more pop bent they fit seemlessly into the rest of the album.

Buy St. Elmo’s Fire – Another Green World
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Buy I’ll Come Running – Another Green World
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Top 100 Albums of the 70’s: 51-60


Buy Bitches Brew (Legacy Edition) – Miles Davis

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Miles Davis is the foremost jazzman of the latter half of the twentieth century. He was responsible for defining shifts in jazz with albums like “The Birth of Cool”, “Sketches of Spain” and especially “Kind of Blue”- the most famous album in the history of jazz. Along with 1969’s “In A Silent Way”, Davis did it again with “Bitches Brew”- these two albums created the template for the jazz fusion, a sub genre of jazz which incorporated rock, soul & funk rhythms. Heavily Influenced by the music of Jimi Hendrix and Sly & the Family Stone, “Brew” was assembled by producer Ted Macero from a series of long jams in which the electric guitar playing of John McLaughlin mirrored much of the best psychedelic music of the time but with a jazz player’s musicianship and mentality. Davis put an echo effect on his trumpet and experimented with electric keyboards and rock rhythms for the first time. The players on the album ended up becoming a who’s who of 70’s jazz fusion- including the aforementioned McLaughlin, the already established Wayne Shorter, bassist Dave Holland, Chick Corea, Bennie Maupin, Joe Zawinul and others. Taking all of those guys out of the equation would leave you with nothing more than the embers of a genre. “Bitches Brew” was a great leap forward for both jazz & rock and may have just started the last great revolution in jazz (unless you count techno music).

Buy Bitches Brew – Bitches Brew

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Buy Pharaoh’s Dance – Bitches Brew

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Buy Cosmo’s Factory (40th Anniversary Edition) [Remastered] – Creedence Clearwater Revival

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During the year’s 1969-71 CCR was one of the biggest bands in the country. The band’s first album was released in 1968 and received limited success and light airplay. In 1969 they released three more albums and in 1970 two additional albums. Though the album “Mardi Gras” followed in 1972 the band was already petering out by then. Though they were only together for this short time they amassed a large collection of great and instantly recognizable hits. Even a casual rock fan should at least own a greatest hits collection or two by Creedence. But as far as studio albums go 1970’s “Cosmo’s Factory” is their best. It contains singles “Travelin’ Band”, “Up Around the Bend”, “Lookin’ Out My Back Door”, “Run Through the Jungle” and the sublime ballads “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and my personal favorite “Long As I Can See the Light”. Every one of those tracks was a hit. Elsewhere there is the 11+ minute jam cover of the Motown classic “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, a great Bo Diddley cover “Before You Accuse Me” and excellent album tracks like “Ramble Tamble”. You can’t go wrong with any of Creedence’s 1969 albums either, particularly “Willy and the Poor Boys” but “Cosmo’s Factory” represents the band at its absolute peak.

Buy Long As I Can See the Light – Cosmo’s Factory (40th Anniversary Edition) [Remastered]

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Buy Who’ll Stop the Rain – Cosmo’s Factory (40th Anniversary Edition) [Remastered]

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Buy Exodus (Deluxe Edition) – Bob Marley

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It would take the ubiquitous posthumous compilation “Legend” (released in 1984- three years after Bob’s death from cancer) to break Bob Marley commercially in America. Ever since its release Bob Marley has been a household name. Outside of the fantastic title track and “The Heathen”, “Exodus” is a much less political album that the four U.S. releases that preceded it and not coincidentally it was “Exodus” that broke Marley in the U.K. and to in-the-know American hipsters. Half of “Exodus” actually appears on “Legend”- which itself is 14 tracks. One Love/People Get Ready” is more a statement of unity than a call to arms and “Jammin’” and “Waiting in Vain” are two of Marley’s best love/sex songs- hell they are two of his best songs period. After all of these listens I’m still not sick of either of them. “So Much Things to Say” and “Turn the Lights Down Low” are two other lesser known standouts and though I’ve probably heard it one too many times “Three Little Birds” remains one of the most recognizable tracks in Marley’s discography. Though he recorded a few more very good albums before his tragic death none would come close to the quality of “Exodus”.

Buy Waiting in Vain – Exodus (Remastered)

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Buy Jammin’ – Exodus (Deluxe Edition)

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57. THE TALKING HEADS- 77 (1977)

Buy Talking Heads 77 (Remastered) – Talking Heads

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The East Village CBGB 70’s punk scene was hardly homogenous but even-so the Talking Heads still stuck out like a sore thumb. They were more artsy, cerebral and less aggressive than their counterparts in the scene. Their music, singer David Byrne in particular, sounded nervous, paranoid & jumpy, with a minimalistbent and Caribbean inspired staggered rhythms. Byrne’s voice was twitchy, yelpy and completely devoid of sex appeal- it was also instantly recognizable and one of a king. He set the table for many indie rock vocalists who came after him who couldn’t really carry a tune but who had something important to say. Despite the band’s unique & offbeat sound their songs were undeniably catchy and many tracks on their debut album could have had a chance at becoming hits had the band already been established. “Psycho Killer” was the band’s signature song from their early days and is still a band staple. “Uh-Oh Love Comes to Town”, “New Feeling”, “Pulled Up” and “Don’t Worry About the Government” are other standouts. Though many of their later albums get more credit, “77” is a great debut and I think unfairly overlooked. They might not have had Brian Eno yet but they had the tunes and the template of the band was already set.

Buy Psycho Killer – Talking Heads 77 (Remastered)

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Buy Don’t Worry About the Government – Talking Heads 77 (Remastered)

Buy Don’t Worry About the GovernmentAmazon


Buy Harvest (Remastered) – Neil Young

Buy Harvest

“Harvest” is not Neil Young’s best album nor is it my favorite, but it is his most popular and most hit laden. He was already established as a musician from his stints in Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Still, Nash & Young and his first three solo albums garnered him critical love and a growing fanbase. But “Harvest”, a mellower, mostly acoustic offering than Young’s previous two albums, came smack dab in the middle of the singer-songwriter phenomenon, gave him a #1 pop hit with “Heart of Gold” and made Young a superstar. While “Harvest” is one of Young’s most accessible albums it is hardly a lightweight affair. “Alabama” attacks southern racism and “The Needle and the Damage Done” the horrors of drug abuse. Elsewhere enduring songs like the title track and “Old Man” examine Young’s own place in the world along with the hopes and dreams of his fellow baby boomers. Despite the cringe-worthy title, “A Man Needs a Maid” is also a poignant song that suggest the chaos & changes going on in Young’s life at the time. Though “Harvest” may not be Young’s most cutting edge record and it’s filled with great songs and definitely more than earns its way onto this list.

Buy The Needle and the Damage Done – Harvest (Remastered)

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Buy Harvest – Harvest (Remastered)

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55. VAN HALEN- I (1978)

Buy Van Halen – Van Halen

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Van Halen I- the ultimate party album by the ultimate party band. During their original lineup (Roth, Eddie, Alex, Michael Anthony) VH never made a bad album but to me their first will always be their best. Along with 70’s KISS they pretty much invented the template for 80’s pop metal. KISS had the songs and the costumes down, but Van Halen brought the musical virtuosity. Guitarist Eddie Van Halen is simply one of the best and the most influential guitarists and rock history. He was a game changer on the electric guitar along the lines of Jimi Hendrix He is fast as lightning & wildly inventive with absolutely flawless technique. His use of tapping and harmonics had never been done so successfully before. Instrumental “Eruption” upped the ante in hard rock guitar soloing. Vocalist David Lee Roth, while never possessing an amazing voice, was truly a one of a kind frontman. His energy and personality added flavor to the band’s songs making them much more than mere platforms for Eddie’s guitar histrionics. The bonus of Alex Van Halen’s muscular drumming and Michael Anthony’s steady bass and top notch backing vocals made the band rock solid. Some of VH’s best and most well-known songs are right here- “Runnin’ With the Devil”, their cover of the Kink’s “You Really Got Me” and oft-sampled “Jamie’s Crying” and “Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love” as well as fantastic deep cuts like “Atomic Punk” and “On Fire”. Van Halen would never be the same after Roth left in ’84- they were still technically great players but they softened their age and lost their pizazz with workman-like singer Sammy Hagar. If you like hard rock and heavy metal even a little bit this album is essential.

Buy Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love – Van Halen

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Buy Atomic Punk – Van Halen

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Buy Superfly (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture) [Deluxe 25th Anniversary Edition] – Curtis Mayfield

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After Isaac Hayes started the whole 70’s blaxploitation genre with “Theme From Shaft” a year earlier, Curtis Mayfield perfected it with 1972’s “Superfly”. Mayfield was already a soul legend after his years leading the great soul vocal group the Impressions in the sixties. They were probably the best group band out of Chicago and their music was used as a veritable soundtrack for the civil rights movement with great cuts like “Keep On Pushing”, “This Is My Country”, “We’re A Winner” and Choice of Colors”. Beautiful stuff. Mayfield already had two excellent solo albums under his belt before “Superfly”, both of which were funk-based, a music that Mayfield had helped pioneer. Through now classic songs like “Little Child, Running Wild”, “Freddie’s Dead”, “Pusherman” and the title cut, Mayfield tells the story of pimps, pushers & hustlers living in urban blight, mirroring an increasingly pessimistic urban black society. Many of the strides that the black community made throughout the sixties as well as the optimistic spirit for better times ahead gave forth to a pervasive sense of doom & gloom with the election of Richard Nixon in ’68, as well as the death of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy and other black leaders and champions. So much had changed but now it felt like the black community was moving backward. Albums like “There’s A Riot Goin’ On” by Sly & the Family Stone and “Superfly” capture the spirit of these times perfectly.

Buy Superfly – Superfly (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)

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Buy Freddie’s Dead (Theme from ‘Superfly’) – Superfly (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)

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53. BIG STAR- #1 RECORD (1972)

Buy #1 Record Radio City (Bonus Track Version) – Big Star

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Big Star was perhaps the first as well as the ultimate cult band. Even the Velvet Underground before them was somewhat critically hyped and at least reached the lower rungs of the billboard album charts. Ditto with the Stooges and MC5. Big Star sold nothing and their critical adulation took several years to take hold. And this is a travesty. Their music was no longer cache in the mid 70’s. They were heavily influenced by the early British Invasion sound of the sixties and played in a power-pop style. But bands like Badfinger and the Raspberries played in a similar style at the same time and still had hits and Big Star was better than either of them. It was the case of bad timing, lack of record promotion and their label going bankrupt right around the release of their albums. Big Star was led by Alex Chilton, of former 60’s blue-eyed soul group the Box Tops, as well as fellow vocalist/genius Chris Bell who flew the coop after this album. Picking my favorite Big Star album is a challenge. There are only three proper albums and all three are essential and a case could be made for any of them being their best. “#1 Record” is the only to feature both the talents of Chilton and Bell. It’s their most sweetest and most optimistic album and the one most tied to the sixties jangle-pop beat music. Big Star’s many great songs are spread over all three of their albums and the batch on “#1 Record” are as great as any. Album opener “Feel”, “The Ballad of El Goodo”, “In the Street” (later the theme song to “That 70’s Show”), the heartbreaking “Thirteen” (later covered by Elliott Smith), the first four tracks on side 1 is probably the best Big Star album side. Side 2 cut “Watch the Sunrise” is another absolute standout but the rest of side 2 does dip slightly in quality compared to side 1. But that’s relatively speaking- it’s still very good music. Most band would be happy if that was their best music. It’s a crime that they didn’t have at least 10 pop radio hits.

Buy The Ballad of el Goodo – #1 Record Radio City (Bonus Track Version)

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Buy Thirteen – #1 Record Radio City (Bonus Track Version)

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Buy Plastic Ono Band (Remastered) – John Lennon

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After a series of poorly received collaborations with Yoko Ono, and a better received live album featuring the hits “Cold Turkey” and “Give Peace of Chance”, John Lennon released his first true studio album after the dissolution of the Beatles in 1970, with “Plastic Ono Band”. Though it’s credited as a band effort, the full album feels like a pure solo release. Lennon completely rips his own guts out and puts them on wax. It makes for an often uncomfortable but fascinating listen. Unlike with the Yoko collabs, the songs on “Plastic” are all normally structured songs, but it’s tough to find a starker, more bare-bones and downright harrowing set of songs than these. Lennon wrote these songs as a result of primal scream therapy and listening to them feels that way. The melodies are memorable, and the album contains a handful of absolute classics like “Mother”, “Working Class Hero” and “God”, but there is nothing pleasant about any of them. Lennon absolutely lays his soul bare, letting forth pure anger, sadness and desperation at people in both his past and present and at society in general. Nothing like this had ever been done like this before in popular music- nothing so lacking in subtlety at least. Though this was hardly his biggest seller it proved massively influential on several generations of musicians and has not lost a bit of its edge to this day.

Buy God – Plastic Ono Band (Remastered)

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Buy Working Class Hero – Plastic Ono Band (Remastered)

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51. THE B-52’S- THE B-52’S (1979)

Buy The B-52’s – The B-52’s

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Athens, Georgia’s own B-52’s borrowed from many but were one of a kind. They could be linked with both punk and New Wave but were really neither. Weird and campy but hella fun, hilarious and ass kicking. They took sixties surf guitar and sixties girl group harmonies from outer space and added the energy of punk, new wave keyboards and Peg Bundy’s wardrobe (though she wouldn’t be around for a few years later). Their look was so kitschy and tacky that it was cool. That a band from the conservative deep south with two flamboyantly gay males could gain traction was quite a trick. Though most B-52’s albums are hit and miss affairs the debut is near perfect with only a couple of lesser cuts at the end of side 2. Side 1 is B-52’s at their apex- “Planet Claire” and “Dance This Mess Around” are vintage, “Lava” is one of their most underrated songs and both “52 Girls” and especially the immortal “Rock Lobster” are flatout two of the best party songs ever made. The band still has their detractors but those people are missing out. Let our your inner wild child, put a big smile on your face, wear some crazy pants and dance your ass off!

Buy Rock Lobster – The B-52’s

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Buy 52 Girls – The B-52’s

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Top 100 Albums of the 70’s: 41-50


Buy Maggot Brain – Funkadelic
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“Mother Earth is pregnant for the third time, for y’all have knocked her up”. And that’s the way this magnificently bizarre concoction of Jimi Hendrix style guitar jams, Sly Stone inspired funk, environmental politics and gobs and gobs of LSD begins. Track #1 on the album is a 10+ minute guitar solo by Eddie Hazel which I swear is the best non Jimi Hendrix electric guitar solo I’ve ever heard. Another slightly less ballistic near 10 minute jam closes the album and in between are 5 relatively short (meaning under 4 minutes) funk jams, 4 of which are either classics or near classics. “Can You Get to That” is one of Funkadelic’s best cuts and was recently sampled by the indie-rock band Sleigh Bells on their great “Rill Rill”. “You And Your Folks, Me and My Folks” is a post Kent St. and Richard Nixon update of Sly Stone’s “Everyday People”.. “Hit It and Quit It” and “Super Stupid” are vintage early Funkadelic- raw & grimy. “Maggot Brain” is Funkadelic’s most essential album of their early years, pre 1974 years. They updated their sound fairly drastically after ’74 to keep it more in line with disco and the more commercial Parliament. It may even be their best album overall but if you’re interested in Parliament or Funkadelic you’ll need more than just one album. For further listening though check out the awesome 2 CD Anthology “Motor City Madness”- the more Funkadelic in your life the better!

Buy Maggot Brain – Maggot Brain
*Single track not available via Amazon

Buy Can You Get to That – Maggot Brain
*Track not available via Amazon


Buy Bryter Layter (Remastered) – Nick Drake
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Though he made three near perfect albums before tragically dying way too young, I have to say that his middle album “Bryter Layter” is my favorite of the three. All three are incredible albums for both different and similar reasons. While Drake’s other two albums are quiet and spare, “Bryter Layter” is relies much more on additional instrumentation. Drake brought in multiple members of the great Brit-folk group Fairport Convention as well as ex-Velvet John Cale and others, who play elaborately arranged tracks with a jazz bent. The music is closer to Van Morrison than early folk era Bob Dylan. Though there is something to be said for the intimacy of just a guy and his guitar, to me the trumped up production of “Bryter Layter” makes Drake’s music more interesting and prone to repeat listening. And the album contains his best bunch of songs as well, including my all time Drake favorite “Northern Sky”, who a bad ass friend of mine was cool enough to pick as her wedding song. “Hazey Jane Parts 1 & 2”, “At the Chime of the City Clock”, “Poor Boy” and “One of These Things First” are all at the top of his canon as well.  Because Drake died so long he left us with nothing but perfection- every album is essential. “Bryter Layter” though may be the best place to start.

Buy Northern Sky – Bryter Layter (Remastered)
Buy Northern SkyAmazon

Buy At the Chime of a City Clock – Bryter Layter (Remastered)
Buy At the Chime of the City ClockAmazon


Buy Station to Station (Deluxe Edition) – David Bowie
Station to StationAmazon

“Station to Station” is a bridge album between two important phases in David Bowie’s career and because of that it often gets a bit overlooked. It came at the end of Bowie’s coke fueled ‘Thin White Duke’ plastic soul phase exemplified especially by his previous album “Young Americans”. Moving to Berlin in 1977 and collaborating with super producer Brian Eno and mountains of cocaine began Bowie’s Berlin trilogy- made up of the “Low”, “Heroes” and “Lodger” albums, which experimented with electronic music paving the way for both post punk and early techno. Though the Berlin era is more celebrated, and it is justifiably important, I prefer “Station to Station” over any of those albums. Though it is certainly an avant-garde, art album, made up of just six songs (only one is under five minutes long), it is more song-oriented and resonates more with me as a whole. “Golden Years” was the big hit- a nod to the disco prevalent at the time in urban areas, but the 11 minute title cut stands as one of my single favorite Bowie moments and minor hit “TVC-15” is another standout. Ballad “Wild As the Wind” is also an underrated Bowie deep cut. “Station to Station” stands alone as a signature Bowie album but has it’s feel in both his previous plastic soul and the later experimental stuff. Bowie was operating on a different plane in the 70’s and to me this was one of his finest moments.

Buy Station to Station – Station to Station (Remastered)
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Buy TVC15 – Station to Station (Remastered)


Buy Third – Sister Lovers – Big Star
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Alex Chilton, fresh off of two brilliant, beautiful power pop masterpieces in 1972 and 1974, which completely belly flopped and had practically no sales or airplay, found himself at the end of his rope in 1975. His great band Big Star was close to dissolving and his record company, always miserable to promoting Big Star, was on the verge of bankruptcy. Well sometimes great art is created out of angst and desperation. Steering away from the power pop of Big Stat’s first two albums, Chilton recorded bunch of anti commercial, anti radio songs which were stylistically all over the map. He was out Velvet-Undergrounding the Velvets. The result is a beautiful, harrowing mess of an album, which was left on the shelf for three years, then subsequently repackaged and reissued a number of times in different versions with different track listings, adding to the albums chaotic vibe while feeding the Big Star cult. Though to me the album doesn’t stand up quite as well as the first two as a proper album, there are plenty of moments of brilliance on it that match anything on the first two. The ironic kiss off “Thank You Friends” starts things off perfectly. Later on are the beautiful but desolate “Holocaust”, “You Can’t Have Me” and “Jesus Christ” which put an exclamation point on Chilton’s less than sunny disposition at the time. This is music as autobiography. And it’s great. Chilton would remain nothing more than a cult hero until (and past) his recent death. But the music is strong enough on this album, that I believe even if Big Star never made the first two, Chilton and Big Star’s legacy would be set.

Buy Jesus Christ – Third – Sister Lovers
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Buy Holocaust – Third – Sister Lovers

46. THE CARS- THE CARS (1978)

Buy The Cars – The Cars
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The Cars debut album sounds like their greatest hits. The album contains the first three Cars top forty hits “Good Times Roll”, “My Best Friend’s Girl” and the Cars signature song “Just What I Needed” But just as good are album cuts, and modern classic rock radio staples “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight”, “Bye Bye Love” and the phenomenal “Moving in Stereo”- what guy my age doesn’t remember the Phoebe Cates pool scene in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High?” Yes most of these songs are overplayed. And no the album certainly does not sound as fresh as it once did. But along with “Parallel Lines” by Blondie this album defines commercial American New Wave music like no other album The Cars had even a less punk bent than Blondie- they took all of the weirdness of punk and synthesizer cues from far more outrageous bands like Suicide and were able to package it into perfect 3-4 minute slices of great radio music. The Cars were the template of the New Wave band designed for mass consumption right as record companies were trying to find a way to package punk music into a more agreeable and accessible format. But don’t hate the Cars for it. As overplayed as this stuff is, it still stands the test of time. And the Cars is still a perfect album- not a week song on it. They recorded an underrated near classic with “Candy-O” the following year and had a blockbuster hit with “Heartbeat City” in the mid 80’s and a few big hits in between, but other than that their debut stands as the band’s definitive document.

Buy Moving In Stereo – The Cars
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Buy Just What I Needed – The Cars
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Buy #1 Record Radio City (Bonus Track Version) – Big Star
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“Radio City” is the third Big Star album in my last eight entries- I told you these albums were close together in quality. Though “Radio City” is not quite as consistent as “#1 Record” and not nearly as desperate and eccentric as “Third/Sister Lovers”, it does split the difference between the two, taking the power pop of the first record to a sadder, more urgent place. After “#1 Record” so-writer/vocalist Chris Bell left the band so with “Radio City” Alex Chilton was now Big Star’s de-facto leader. The album has Big Star’s signature song “September Gurls”, later covered by the Bangles, and simply one of the most perfect pop songs ever recorded. Album opener “O My Soul” and “Back of a Car” are two other huge highlights as is the heartbreaking album closer “I’m In Love With a Girl”. With their first two records Big Star provided a bridge between the British Invasion music and folk-rock of the sixties and the beginning of the alternative scene with R.E.M. in the early eighties. With all three of their records they provided a template for all underachieving cult bands that came after.

Buy September Gurls – #1 Record Radio City (Bonus Track Version)
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Buy Back of a Car – #1 Record Radio City (Bonus Track Version)
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Buy Electric Warrior (Remastered) – T. Rex
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T. Rex was an absolutely huge band in their native U.K., and a one hit wonder (courtesy of “Electric Warrior’s”- Get It On (Bang A Gong)) in the U.S. How a band both this good and this accessible was for the most part ignored in America I’ll never truly understand. T. Rex was born out of the ashes of the tremendously weird folk-rock last 60’s combo Tyrannosaurus Rex, also fronted by talented eccentric and Brit pin-up idol Marc Bolan. “Electric Warrior” was the first album released under their new moniker, and it is still their best, despite several other excellent efforts, including the “Slider” album (#91 on this list). While “Warrior” remains an underheard cult classic to their American fans, it was pretty much the album that kick-started the glam rock era in the U.K., paving the way for Bowie, Sweet, Gary Glitter etc…And outside of Bowie’s material it’s the best album of the whole movement. Sassy, swaggering, sexy and nonsensical, every song on “Warrior” is a winner. Both ballads and rockers drip with sleaze and come-ons. Even if the lyrics are impossible to interpret literally their implied meaning leaves nothing to the imagination. It’s about sex sex sex and you can dance to it. Both Bolan’s vocals and his guitar playing are singular and memorable. No one sounds quite like them and their music hasn’t aged a bit.

Buy Jeepster – Electric Warrior

Buy Cosmic Dancer – Electric Warrior
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Buy The Harder They Come (Remastered) – Jimmy Cliff
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“The Harder They Come” is the only soundtrack, or multi-artist album that made this list- with apologies to the very great “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack that just missed inclusion. Normally I ban various artist comps from my ‘Best Of’ lists, but because Jimmy Cliff has four songs on it, and because the soundtrack itself is so groundbreaking, and genre defining I had to include “The Harder They Come”. Despite a few charting singles by Millie Small and Desmond Dekkar in the 60’s, “The Harder They Come” was really America’s introduction to Reggae- a hybrid of Jamaican ska & rocksteady combined with early American funk & soul. Bob Marley was still a year away from his first American album release and Reggae was only an American underground phenomenon until the release of Marley’s “Legend” album 10 years after that. Only two Cliff tracks, the outstanding title track and the equally great “You Can Get It If You Really Want It” were originally made for the movie, which Cliff also stars in. The rest of the soundtrack is basically a Reggae’s greatest hits from ’68-’72 and shows the listener how wonderful and varied the music could be. And sure enough tracks like Scotty’s “Draw Your Brakes”, Toots and the Maytals “Pressure Drop”, Desmond Dekkar’s “Shanty Town” and Cliff’s own “Rivers Of Babylon” and “Sitting in Limbo” are some of the best tracks in Reggae history. If you can sit down and listen to this album and not be moved by it you can safely say you’re not a reggae fan. It’s absolutely essential.

Buy The Harder They Come – The Harder They Come (Remastered)
The Harder They ComeAmazon

Buy You Can Get It If You Really Want – The Harder They Come (Remastered)
You Can Get It If You Really Want ItAmazon


Buy Houses of the Holy (Remastered) – Led Zeppelin
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OK so the first six Zeppelin albums are all pretty close to note perfect and may just be the most ridiculously great sustained run of amazing albums in rock history even including the Beatles and the Stones. 6 albums. 6 classics. And again they were the band’s first 6- incredible! Each of Zep’s first four albums was quite a bit different from the other, but “Houses of the Holy”, their fifth album, was where Zep really started to experiment. Tracks “Dancing Days” and closer “The Ocean” are the straight forward rockers, albeit funkier than most past Zep material. “The Crunge” is Zeppelin’s attempt at pure James Brown-inspired funk and to me is the only major misstep on the album, though it certainly adds to “Houses” eclecticism. Hook-fest “The Song Remains the Same” keeps pace with the band’s past enormous album openers and it’s one of my very favorite Zeppelin tunes. The acoustic follow-up “The Rain Song” is one of the most gorgeous songs in their catalog. “D’Yer Mak’er” is their attempt at reggae music, and was a hit, but to me has worsened with age and overplays. The seven minute, haunting“No Quarter” sounds unlike anything else the band ever did. John Paul Jones switches over to electric piano and stretches the band to the jazziest place they’ve ever been “Houses of the Holy” would mark the career pinnacle for almost any band but Led Zeppelin was not “almost any band.” Believe it or not for me it’s my least favorite of their first six albums. Zeppelin was flat out operating on a different plane than any other band in the early seventies.

Buy The Song Remains the Same – Houses of the Holy (Remastered)
The Song Remains the SameAmazon

Buy The Rain Song – Houses of the Holy (Remastered)
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Buy Natty Dread (Expanded) – Bob Marley
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If 1977’s “Exodus” is Bob Marley’s biggest ‘pop’ record, “Natty Dread” is his biggest ‘reggae’ record. Where “Exodus” for the most part focuses on love songs, “Dread’s” main concerns are spiritual and revolutionary. Many call “Natty Dread” the ultimate reggae album of all time. I’m not quite sure it’s even Marley’s best but it IS pretty damn amazing. It was Marley’s third American release (after 1973’s duo “Catch a Fire” and “Burnin’”), his first without former bandmates Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingstone, and his first billed as Bob Marley & the Wailers. This was Bob’s show and he made the most of it. The Wailers rhythm section was kept in place and Bob added the wonderful female backing vocalists The I-Threes, featuring his wife Rita. The only song on “Legend” you’ll find here is “No Woman No Cry”, one of Bob’s signature songs andd perhaps his best known ballad. Album opener “Lively Up Yourself” is at least as good and is also quite popular despite its exclusion from “Legend”. “Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)”, the title cut, “Revolution” and “Rebel Music (3 O’Clock Road Block) are all standouts as well and political calls to arms, doing for the 70’s what early Bob Dylan’s songs did for the 60’s. If you dig Marley but only know “Legend”, pick up “Natty Dread”. It will likely make you want everything in his discography.

Buy Lively Up Yourself – Natty Dread (Expanded)
Lively Up YourselfAmazon

Buy No Woman, No Cry – Natty Dread (Expanded)
No Woman No CryAmazon

Top 100 Albums of the 70’s: 31-40


Buy The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle – Bruce Springsteen
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“The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle” was the Bruce Springsteen’s second album, and his second released in 1973. His first album, “Greetings from Asbury Park, New Jersey”, while great sold extremely poorly. Springsteen built on the epic neo-Dylan-esque poetry of the debut by making a much more musically complex and expansive album. While “Greetings from Asbury Park” was hardly a stripped down all acoustic affair, even its lengthier songs were far more straight forward musically than his follow-up. He added jazz and even carnival music flourishes to “Innocent”, creating not just epic songs but song suites, giving the E street band plenty of room for jamming. The album is only seven songs and four of the seven are over seven minutes long. No other Springsteen boasts this many epic tracks and epic is usually one of the first words used to describe “The Boss”. The amusement park/boardwalk world of Asbury Park so well described by Springsteen on “Greetings”, feels less insular than before with much more at stake. Though “Wild Billy’s Circus Story” is at best a minor Springsteen cut, the 6th other tracks on the album are all winners. The shortest song on the album “The E Street Shuffle” sets the tone, followed by the beautiful “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” one of the Boss’s best and most underrated gems and a farewell kiss to the town that made him. “Kitty’s Back”, “Incident On 57th St.” and album closer “New York City Serenade” in their own way are as tasty as later lengthy Springsteen classics like “Jungleland” and “Backstreets” and their lack of prominence in his catalog make them to perfect deep cuts to go back to- Springsteen’s well of great tracks runs deep. And then there’s my favorite Springsteen cut after “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)”. In fact it might just be my favorite song of all tim period. It’s pure exuberance. It make my feel. Every single time. “Rosalita” is Springsteen’s signature song from his early days and remains a permanent fixture for him live and on any hits package.

Buy Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) – The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle
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Buy Incident On 57th Street – The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle
Buy Incident On 57th St.Amazon


Buy American Beauty (Remastered) – Grateful Dead
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Though I’m hardly what could be considered a Deadhead, I am a Dead fan. I really am. They have had a tons of influence over the last fifty years, both culturally and politically as well as musically. They have a huge batch of great songs and their live performances and sense of improvisation helped expand the parameters of the rock format. That said, as good as the Dead’s official live albums are, I’m more a studio Dead fan. Blasphemy I know. Of the Dead’s 13 studio albums, I only consider two of them great- “Workingman’s Dead” and “American Beauty”, both released in 1970. And of the two I think that “Beauty” is by far the superior. After going through roots rock and heavy psychedelic phases in the late sixties, the band stripped it down to the basics for both albums, focusing their attention on song writing, and playing the mostly acoustic songs with a country-rock twang while adding beautiful harmonies to the mix ala Crosby, Stills & Nash. The majority of the most well-known Dead songs are found on these two albums. “American Beauty” plays out like a Dead’s Greatest Hits boasting standouts like “Box of Rain”, “Sugar Magnolia”, “Ripple”, “Truckin’” and “Friend of the Devil”. The deeper cuts on the album are all solid as well All three main Dead songwriters (Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir & Phil Lesh) contribute at least one masterpiece each to “American Beauty”. Along with the first two Crosby, Still & Nash (and Young for the 2nd) albums “American Beauty” (and “Workingman’s Dead”) set the standard for late 60’s/early 70’s folk rock, one of the very defining sounds of the era.

Buy Box Of Rain (Remastered Version) – American Beauty (Remastered)
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Buy Ripple (Remastered Version) – American Beauty (Remastered)
Buy RippleAmazon


Buy Catch a Fire (Deluxe Edition) – Bob Marley & The Wailers
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Bob Marley had already been recording and releasing ska, rock steady and early reggae tracks in Jamaica, his home country, for the better part of a decade when he recorded “Catch a Fire”, his first U.S. album release. Though he was already a huge star in Jamaica, he was an absolute nobody outside of his home country. “Catch a Fire” and its fellow 1973 album follow-up “Burnin’” were Bob Marley & the Wailers first true band releases. In fact Bob Marley’s name was only added in front of the band to later reissues. In 1973 they were simply ‘The Wailers’ and every person in the band made major contributions to the group effort. Peter Tosh, later a solo reggae star in his own right) both wrote and sang on two of the tracks. Though only the sensual ballad “Stir It Up”, and to a lesser extent “No More Trouble” are known to Marley neophytes, every track on the album is amazing. The songs were either ultra political or pure sex. The two opening cuts, “Concrete Jungle” and “Slave Driver” are two of my favorites in Marley’s entire discography. But most of all, the entire album is even better than the sum of its parts. It’s my favorite reggae album of all time. And it’s still a bit unknown compared to some of his later albums like “Natty Dread” and Exodus” and especially “Legend”. Hear it!

Buy Concrete Jungle – Catch a Fire
Buy Concrete JungleAmazon

Buy Slave Driver – Catch a Fire
Buy Slave DriverAmazon


Buy The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (Remastered) – David Bowie
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“Ziggy Stardust” was David Bowie’s fifth album. He had been kicking around since 1967, releasing a folk album in the vein of Bob Dylan, followed by “Space Oddity”, where he had a major hit with the title cut, the proto hard rock/heavy metal album “The Man Who Sold the World” and the phenomenal “Hunky Dory” which garnered him his second major hit, the career defining “Changes”. But “Ziggy” was the album that truly took Bowie into the stratosphere. Taking liberally from the glitter rock of T. Rex’s “Electric Warrior”, released the prior year, Bowie kept the heavy guitar rock template of “Man Who Sold the World” and created a new persona in Ziggy, a fey, alien rock star. The is David Bowie gay rumors flew around immediately and Bowie did nothing to quell them, ironically leaving more people to ‘wonder’ about Bowie than even Elton John at the time. America was much more homophobic than the U.K. in the early 70’s so the album wasn’t as big of a hit in America, but time has been very kind to it. It’s hard to find any major music fan who has not at least heard of “Ziggy”. The music on Ziggy” is stylish, epic and riff-tastic. Guitarist Mick Ronson is as prominent as Bowie himself laying down some of the most memorable guitar lines in classic rock with the title cut and “Sufragette City”. Though some of the album is very heavy rock, the ballads play as considerable a role- “Starman” was the big hit, but “Five Years” and the grandiose “Rock N’ Roll Suicide” are also two of Bowie’s best. Rockers “Hang On to Yourself” and “Moonage Daydream” are a pair of great album tracks as well. “Ziggy” is neither the best nor my favorite Bowie album, and he has had so many great and important ones- but in his long and storied career and it perhaps his most defining moment. Through all of his phases and different characters many times the first image in your head when you hear Bowie is Ziggy Stardust.

Buy Suffragette City – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (Remastered)
Buy Suffragette City (1999 Digital Remaster)Amazon

Buy Ziggy Stardust – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (Remastered)
Buy Ziggy Stardust (1999 Digital Remaster)Amazon


Buy Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Buy (Pronounced ‘Leh-‘Nérd ‘Skin-‘Nérd)Amazon

I will go to my death bed swearing that the great Lynyrd Skynyrd are unfairly maligned and underappreciated, particularly where I live in the northeast. They get tagged as stupid rednecks, or even worse, as ‘racists’, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Musically they are often lumped in with the current annoying ‘big hat’ cookie-cutter country music and defined by their two great but overplayed and omnipresent signature songs “Free Bird” and “Sweet Home Alabama”. After the death of three members of the band in 1977, including their great frontman and chief songwriter Ronnie Van Zant, in a plane crash, the band soldiers on to this day with a far more than bastardized version of the band that plays strictly to the red state, Nascar crowd, while tarnishing the band’s legacy. But here’s the deal. During Ronnie Van Zant’s stint with the band, Skynyrd released five studio albums. All five were great and three of them were southern rock classics. Their first album, “Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-erd” was note perfect, every song memorable and at least half of them rock n’ roll classics. “Pronounced” defines southern rock as a genre, Lynyrd Skynyrd as a band, and is the best southern rock album ever recorded- and that includes the “Allman Brothers”. In addition to the still-great “Free Bird”, the album contains Skynyrd classics and classic rock radio staples, the boogie rave-up “Gimme Three Steps”, and the two gorgeous ballads “Simple Man” and “Tuesday’s Gone”. Lesser known “I Ain’t the One” and “Poison Whiskey” are two other standouts. Guitarists Allen Rossington and Gary Collins were also heavily involved in writing the album, at least from a musical standpoint and Skynyrd’s three electric guitar attack (along with third guitarist Ed King) gave them their signature sound, but Van Zant’s writing is sharp as a tack. He is one of the underrated writers, vocalists and frontman of the 70’s. His swagger and unique drawl set him apart. Skynyrd could never be the same without him. Despite their other artistic and commercial successes later in the decade, Skynyrd would never top their debut. They were already fully formed by the time of their debut album, and left the world too soon.

Buy Free Bird – Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd
Buy Free Bird (Album Version)Amazon

Buy Tuesday’s Gone – Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd
Buy Tuesday’s Gone (Album Version)Amazon


Buy Darkness On the Edge of Town (Remastered) – Bruce Springsteen
Buy Darkness On The Edge Of Town (2010 Remastered Version)Amazon

After 1975’s “Born to Run” made Springsteen a star and a household he did an about face with 1978’s “Darkness On the Edge of Town”. “Born to Run” found Springsteen’s characters on the precipice of adulthood, and wanting to break out of their home town, pining for freedom. “Darkness” shows them as full blown adults with all of the responsibilities that entails, resigned to their small towns and blue collar jobs. Though some of the tracks show a longing to escape the lower middle class dread, where “Born to Run” was exuberant, “Darkness” is dreary and pessimistic. That’s not to say that the album doesn’t also have hair raising anthems. “Badlands”, “Promised Land”, and “Prove It All Night” are catchy tracks that have all seen their time on the radio and “Candy’s Room” is one of my favorite Springsteen deep cuts. Centerpiece “Racing In the Street” as well as album tracks “Streets Of Fire” and “Factory” are all integral to the album as well. The only misstep for me is “Adam Raised A Cain” The album closing title track encapsulates the sense of dread that many lower middle class workers had just before the dawn of “Morning in America” which would make most of their situations even worse. It’s a cut that really defines the vibe of the whole “Darkness” album. Springsteen may just be the John Steinbeck of his generation- providing a window into the lives of society’s losers and malcontents and finding empathy in their everyday struggles.

Buy Candy’s Room (Remastered) – Darkness On the Edge of Town (Remastered)
Buy Candy’s Room (2010 Remastered Version)Amazon

Buy Badlands (Remastered) – Darkness On the Edge of Town (Remastered)
Buy Badlands (2010 Remastered Version)Amazon


Buy Parallel Lines (Deluxe Collector’s Edition) – Blondie
Buy Parallel Lines: Deluxe Collector’s EditionAmazon

Along with the Cars debut, and the first three Elvis Costello albums, Blondie’s “Parallel Lines” really defines late 70’s New Wave for me. Blondie was born out of the lower east side, CBGB’s punk scene. Though their first two albums had also combined punk, pop, girl-group and 50’s rock n’ roll, and they had some minor hits on each album, “Parallel Lines” is where their sound really came together. Established pop music producer Mike Chapman helped the band hone all of their great ideas into a perfect pop-punk package. Blondie image and attitude remained, but now their songs were polished enough for the radio, and with sex bomb Debbie Harry at lead vocals they were ready to take over the world. Songs like “One Way or Another”, “Sunday Girl” and their cover of the Nerves “Hanging On the Telephone” became instant New Wave classics, but some of the album cuts were just as good including “Picture This”, the kiss-off “Just Go Away”, and the hauntingly beautiful “Fade Away and Radiate”. But what really took the album over the top was the #1 disco hit “Heart of Glass”, which still sounds great today even after massive oversaturation. Blondie would go on to record great music, breaking ground with a reggae cover “The Tide is High” and becoming the first white group to have a hit with a rap song- “Rapture”, but they would never come close to reaching the quality of “Parallel Lines” again. It’s an album without a dull moment or misstep.

Buy Hanging on the Telephone – Parallel Lines
Buy Hanging On The Telephone (2001 Digital Remaster)Amazon

Buy Fade Away and Radiate – Parallel Lines
Buy Fade Away And Radiate (2001 Digital Remaster)Amazon


Buy My Aim Is True (Deluxe Edition) – Elvis Costello
Buy My Aim Is TrueAmazon

A mixture of punk rock, UK pub rock, and New Wave, “My Aim Is True” is a genius debut- one of the best debut albums in rock history. It’s much more musically varied than most of the punk music of the time, owing as much to fifties rock n’ roll and to folk-rock music as it does to punk or New Wave. But even in the acoustic songs Costello’s snarl and acerbic wit were pure punk rock attitude. “My Aim is True” sounds very different from the rest of Costello’s 70’s and early 80’s output, as he was backed by the band Clover (which later became Huey Lewis and the News) rather than the great Attractions as with most of his later albums. Clover does a more than credible job even if they aren’t quite able to reach the heights of his later band. Costello’s signature song “Alison” is here, along with other classics like “Watching the Detectives”, “Less Than Zero”, “(Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” and “Welcome to the Working Week”. Though Costello would get much more musically sophisticated with later release, dabbling in just about every genre of music even indirectly related to rock, his talent and vision were quite apparent from the get go. “My Aim Is True” is still one of his best albums and one of the best and most important debuts in rock and punk history.

Buy Less Than Zero – My Aim Is True
Buy Less Than ZeroAmazon

Buy Alison – My Aim Is True
Buy AlisonAmazon


Buy Funhouse (Deluxe Edition) [Remastered] – The Stooges
Buy Funhouse [Deluxe Edition]Amazon

The Stooges only released three proper studio albums during the first life of the band. 1969’s self-titled debut was very possibly the first true punk rock record ever released. 1973’s great “Raw Power” was a huge influence on both the nascent NYC CBGB’s scene and the U.K. scene started by the Damned, Clash & Sex Pistols, but it was an almost entirely different band from the original. “Funhouse”, the Stooges 2nd album, was where they got everything pretty much perfect. The shoddily recorded garage rock of the debut was beefed up considerably for “Funhouse”. While the debut had its share of classic tunes, “Funhouse” is much more consistent. Even its sprawling free jazz noise experiment “L.A. Blues” serves a purpose, unlike the debut’s aimless and pointless 10+ minute “We Will Fall”. The Stooges were fronted by the immortal Iggy Pop (then Iggy Stooge)- Iggy was pure angst and nihilism, completely raw and intense. He railed against the straights & the hippies in almost equal measure and set the prototype for all punk, hardcore & grunge that came after him. As rudimentary as the band’s musicianship was, the Stooges possessed sex, swagger & swing and absolutely obliterated their instruments onstage and in the studio. They were never boring and certainly not for the faint of heart. “Down In the Street”, “Loose”, “TV Eye” and “1970” still sound dangerous today and are all proto-punk classics. Before the Ramones, the Stooges were the band who made music so dumb that it was smart. But where the Ramones came off as cartoony, the Stooges sounded like a pack of drugged-out cavemen who were coming to take your daughter. The rock n’ roll your grandparents warned your parents about.

Buy 1970 – Funhouse (Deluxe Edition) [Remastered]
Buy 1970 (Remastered LP Version)Amazon

Buy Down On the Street – Funhouse (Deluxe Edition) [Remastered]
Buy Down On The Street (Remastered LP Version)Amazon


*Album not available via iTunes
Buy ParanoidAmazon

In my opinion the birth of Heavy Metal was Black Sabbath’s 1970 debut album, but “Paranoid”, their 2nd album released later the same year is where Sabbath perfected it. Much fuss has been made about who released the first Metal song/or album. Was it Steppenwolf? Vanilla Fudge? Blue Cheer? Led Zeppelin? All of them and more released songs that could be metal prototypes, but no one but Sabbath captured it all- the cryptic lyrics, the spooky, bottom-heavy bass, the desperate, overdramatic wailing of singer Ozzy Osbourne, and the satanic imagery- all would set the template for the genre. “Paranoid” was not only their best, but their best selling and most popular album. Their two signature songs “Iron Man” and “Paranoid” are here, as is the great “War Pigs”,- just these three tracks alone encompass some of the most recognizable riffs in metal history. The freaky, bugged out psychedelic ballad “Planet Caravan” rounds out the first side. Side two is one long, scary ass, brilliant song suite- “Electric Funeral” into “Hand Of Doom” into “Rat Salad” into “Fairies Wear Boots”. Heavy Metal’s answer to Side 2 of “Abbey Road”. Sabbath’s concerns about war, hard drugs and the squelching of the masses by the politically powerful are overlooked in favor of their demonic imagery. This was a band that despite their critical lambasting at the time, had something to say. Their gloomy outlook meshed perfectly with the pounding bass and metallic crunch of their music and was tailor-made for a group of pissed off, dispossessed group of rock fans who were sick to death of listening to hippie-dippy crap.

Buy Paranoid – Dazed and Confused (Motion Picture Soundtrack)
*Track not available via Amazon

Hand Of Doom
*Track not available via iTunes or Amazon

Top 100 Albums of the 70’s: 21-30


Buy Songs in the Key of Life – Stevie Wonder

Buy Songs in the Key of LifeAmazon

The double cd (triple vinyl at the time of its release) “Songs In the Key Of Life” came at the tail end of  the most incredible five album run in soul music history, and one of the best of the rock n’ roll era. Most double albums are filled with bloat and excess, but “Songs” is one of the few that carries not a wasted note. The album touches on nearly every political subject relevant at the time- war, poverty, neglect of the poor, racism, spiritual emptiness and crooked politicians.  As Wonder had done on past albums he also leaves room for love, human relationships and family.  As deep as the album is it’s also fun & funky.  When the album moves into contemplative and downbeat territory there is always a bouncy track like the #1 hit “Sir Duke”, Wonder’s joyous tribute to the jazz great Duke Ellington, to bring the mood back up.   “I Wish” & “As” were also big hits off the album, while the tribute to his newborn daughter “Isn’t She Lovely” remains a modern day standard. “Pastime Paradise” was sampled by 90’s rapper Coolio for the #1 hit “Gangsta’s Paradise” and the 8 ½ minute “Black Man” is THE most poignant anti-racism song I have ever heard. Rather than railing against bigotry, Wonder name checks all of the different colored people who helped build America- red, white, black, brown, yellow, woman & man. I get choked up every time I hear it. Every cut on the album is a worthwhile listen.  After owning the album for over twenty years I still don’t feel like I’ve scratched its surface.  It’s an embarrassment of riches that will keep you learning and loving it with each passing year.

Buy Sir Duke – Songs in the Key of Life

Buy Sir DukeAmazon

Buy Black Man – Songs in the Key of Life

Buy Black ManAmazon


Buy What’s Going On (Remastered) – Marvin Gaye

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“What’s Going On” was the album that changed everything- at least from a Motown and soul music standpoint. The wildly talented Marvin Gaye had been a major player in the Motown machine since just after its inception. He started as a Motown session drummer, began to write and sing some hits under his own name & then became even more successful singing a string of amazing duets with Tammi Terrell & Kim Weston. Along the duets, songs like “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, were some of the best and most enduring songs in rock and soul music history. But Gaye wanted more artistic expression and set out to create  “What’s Going On”, an album about the Vietnam War, inner city poverty and decay, the worsening environment and other spiritual and social problems. Motown head Berry Gordy initially refused to release the album, deeming it totally uncommercial and anathema to the Motown machine, which until then churned out an assembly line songs about love and relationships (at least on the surface) that were designed and succeeded to cross over to ‘white America’. Operating across color lines was a big part of Motown’s success. Gordy reluctantly relented and released the album and it quickly became a huge artistic and commercial blockbuster, perfectly in touch with the changing times. Gaye had three pop hits in the title track, a #1 smash and one of Gaye’s signature cuts, “Mercy Mercy Me (the Ecology)” and “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)”. Though the rest of the album is much less well-known, every track is beautiful and soulful and adds depth to an album that’s truly greater than the sum of its parts. The album’s impact on soul music for the rest of the decade is impossible to overstate.  It was a game changer to black music the way Bob Dylan was a game changer to rock music in the 60’s.  After its release soul music was able to be taken more seriously as art, and soul artists were given much more control over their own creations. Gaye paved the  way for much more great art that came in his wake.

Buy What’s Going On – What’s Going On (Remastered)

Buy What’s Going OnAmazon

Buy Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) – What’s Going On (Remastered)

Buy Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) (Album Version)Amazon


Buy Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols – The Sex Pistols

Buy Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols Amazon

“Never Mind the Bollocks” was not the first punk album.  It wasn’t even the first punk record released in the U.K.- the Damned beat the Pistols to that by a few months.  But “Never Mind the Bollocks” was a game changer like no other punk album released before or since  The Sex Pistols and “Bollocks” both embody the entire spirit of punk as well as its quick rise and fall. “Bollocks” was the only full length release by the band and yet both the album and band are so influential as well as famous… even your grandma has probably heard of them- or at least she had back in the seventies.  Mythology says that the Pistols were just a bunch of degenerate amateurs who couldn’t play their instruments. Though no one would confuse the Pistols with Hendrix or the Beatles, the album is thoroughly well produced and every song on the album is strong- rather than all sounding the same like so much punk & hardcore music, each track sounds like it could have been released as a single.  Vocalist/lyricist Johnny Rotten is the essence of contempt as he spits his angry, nihilistic invective at the British establishment. Unlike much of the outrageous, heavy music that can appear cartoonish, Rotten and the Pistols were offering real social critiques. They were pissed and they meant it, man! I honestly dig every track on the album but the punk classics “Anarchy in the UK”, “God Save the Queen”, “Holidays in the Sun”, “Pretty Vacant” and “Bodies” are the best.   Quickly after the Pistols ascent, hundreds of punk bands formed in the U.K. creating a scene that metastacized and split into many different factions.  The Pistols flamed out just a year later but left a permanent mark on punk & rock n’ roll culture. Any band who played heavy music with something rebellious to say owes the Pistols.

Buy God Save the Queen – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

Buy God Save The Queen (Album Version)Amazon

Buy Holidays In the Sun – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

Buy Holidays In The Sun (Album Version)Amazon


Buy Rumours – Fleetwood Mac

Buy RumoursAmazon

Fleetwood Mac was a fairly obscure (except in their native U.K.) blues rock band who originated in the late sixties and were led by eccentric & troubled guitar genius Peter Green.  Green left the band in the early 70’s and the band floundered for a couple of years until they snatched up L.A. singer songwriter duo Lindsay Buckingham & Stevie Nicks for their self-titled 11th album in 1975. The album was a massive success and broke them wide open America, setting the stage for 1977’s “Rumours”. By the recording of the album Buckingham & Nicks, who had been a couple, had split up and Nicks began having an affair with Mick Fleetwood, the drummer. Singer/keyboardist Christine McVie and bassist John McVie were also in the midst of a divorce. Obviously tensions during the recording were high. Add  boatloads of cocaine  to the mix and you have a situation ripe for drama. Listening to these two couples pour out their  pain on vinyl basically as it was happening must have been akin  to the voyeurism in watching a modern day reality show. But unlike  most of the pathetic non-talents on “The Bachelor” or “The Kardashians, the Mac was laden with talent.  Nicks, Christine McVie & Buckingham were all brilliant singers and songwriters, Buckingham was an absolute ace on guitar and John McVie and Fleetwood were a standout rhythm section.  ““Rumours”, until it was overtaken by Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” a half decade later, became the biggest selling album of all time. Today it remains a top seller and has been re-discovered and adored by each successive generation of music fans. The album produced four huge pop hits at the time “Don’t Stop”, “You Make Loving Fun”, “Go Your Own Way”, and “Dreams” as well as the classics “Gold Dust Woman” and “The Chain”, but every track on the album has pleasures to offer.

Buy Go Your Own Way – Rumours

Buy Go Your Own WayAmazon

Buy Dreams – Rumours

Buy DreamsAmazon


Buy Blue – Joni Mitchell

Buy BlueAmazon

For whatever this is worth, “Blue” is my hands down favorite album by a female singer-songwriter. And please don’t think of that as a backhanded compliment as I love plenty of female singer-songwriters and “Blue” is also one of my favorite singer-songwriter albums period. For any man afraid to get in touch with their feminine side, I dare you to listen to this album and not love it. “Blue” is not just a title. This is a sad, confessional album about introspection and lost love. But it’s also an album of deep beauty. It was Mitchell’s fourth album, and though it is still in the acoustic vein of her first three albums, she branches out more musically setting the tone for her next batch of albums which moved into jazz territory. Though Mitchell had already had a few hits and was popular among the hippie crowd, “Blue” was the album that truly made her a star. Ironic for such a contemplative, non-radio ready album. My favorite songs are the title track, “A Case Of You”, “All I Want”, “My Old Man”, and “The River”- the saddest Christmas song ever made. But you can’t go wrong with any of them. This album is a masterpiece.

Buy River – Blue

Buy RiverAmazon

Buy Blue – Blue

Buy River Amazon


Buy Moondance – Van Morrison

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In the 60’s Irish born Van Morrison fronted the garage-rock group Them, which had 3 or 4 enduring hits, including the classic “Gloria”, then released his first solo album which included the classic “Brown-Eyed Girl”. In 1968 he took a huge left turn and released the brilliant and totally non-commercial “Astral Weeks”, which sold nothing but is now widely regarded as one of the best albums ever recorded.  His follow-up to “Astral Weeks”, 1970’s “Moondance” was a more commercial affair but also both artistic and confessional.  America was smack dab in the middle of the singer-songwriter craze and was ripe for “Moondance”.   “Moondance” is every bit as good as “Astral Weeks”. In fact it may even be better. Where “Astral Weeks” was rooted in folk, “Moondance” is rooted in rock and jazz. Most of the songs deal in the wonders of nature and the vibe of “Moondance” is purely autumnal. The majority of the album tracks are now well known to music fans- the title track, “And It Stoned Me”, “Crazy Love”, “Caravan” and my very favorite Van Morrison track “Into the Mystic” have all become standards. This may be the most romantic album in my entire music collection and it remains popular to this day – its overall legacy has far outweighed its initial impact .

Buy Into the Mystic – Moondance

Buy Into The MysticAmazon

Buy And It Stoned Me – Moondance

Buy And It Stoned MeAmazon


Buy Innervisions (Reissue) – Stevie Wonder

Buy Innervisions (Reissue)Amazon

“Innervisions” appeared smack dab in the middle of Wonder’s amazing five album run from the early to the mid 70’s and I think it’s his very best- nudging the amazing “Songs in the Key of Life” by a nose. Wonder deals with the same subject matters- drug abuse, poverty, racism, spirituality & the failure of the 60’s dream- as he dealt with later on “Songs”, but this collection of songs is tighter, funkier and captured the zeitgeist of 1973 perfectly. The seven + minute epic “Living for the City” is simply one of his most amazing tracks- the protagonist in the song is a black southern youth who escapes the poverty and racism of the south only to find both different and similar problems in a northern city, mirroring the flight and plight of so many black Americans in the 20th century. The track should be taught in U.S. history classes. The hits on the album were the funky “Higher Ground”, later covered by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing”. Opener “Too High” is another masterpiece, a cautionary tale about doing too many drugs sung by someone with experience. The beautiful second track “Visions” is the perfect bridge between “Too High” and “Living for the City”- the album flows perfectly throughout.  Wonder ends the album with “He’s Misstra Know It All”, a direct swipe at President Nixon right as the Watergate scandal was breaking.

Buy Living for the City – Innervisions (Reissue)

Buy Living For The CityAmazon

Buy Too High – Innervisions (Reissue)

Buy Too HighAmazon


Buy Blood On the Tracks – Bob Dylan

Buy Blood On The TracksAmazon

Over the past fifty years Bob Dylan has recorded many amazing and important albums. 1975’s “Blood On the Tracks is my favorite excluding his incomparable material in ’65-’66- “Bringing It All Back Home”, “Highway 61 Revisited”, and “Blonde On Blonde”, which are really #’s 1-3.   I know it sounds like quite a caveat to lavish a heap of praise on an album that may only be my 4th favorite by an artist but this is Bob Dylan we’re talking about. After Dylan’s amazing span of albums in the 60’s he hit sort of a rough patch relatively speaking. None of his early 70’s albums were thought to be up to the quality of his past work. “Blood on the Tracks” changed that perception and announced the Dylan was still one of the most viable recording artists around.  The songs on the album were nearly all acoustic, and sung in a folk vein taking Dylan back to his early recordings.  But rather than focusing on political material, “Blood On the Tracks” was 100% personal and perhaps as good as look into the window of Dylan’s soul that we will ever get.  The album came in the wake of the dissolution of his marriage and the albums lyrics reflected the breakup, at times allegorically and at times more literally. “Tangled Up in Blue”, the opener, has become one of Dylan’s most recognizable songs. “Idiot Wind”, “Simple Twist of Fate”, “Shelter from the Storm” & “If You See Her, Say Hello” are also all standouts. “Blood on the Tracks” is a beautiful and heartbreaking album. Dylan is probably the poetic writer in the history of rock and “Blood On the Tracks” was when he truly spilled his guts on the page.

Buy Tangled Up In Blue – Blood On the Tracks

Buy Tangled Up In BlueAmazon

Buy Shelter from the Storm – Blood On the Tracks

Buy Shelter From The StormAmazon


Buy The Wall (Remastered) – Pink Floyd

Buy The Wall (2011 – Remaster)Amazon

When I was a teenager I watched my VHS tape of “The Wall” so many times that I broke it.  My familiarity with “The Wall” is probably only rivaled by AC/DC’s “Back in Black”, the first four Led Zep albums and a Beatle album or six.  It makes it hard to even rank  or write about “The Wall” on a list like this because it’s become so much a part of my musical DNA.  But here goes… The album is called is called bloated and overindulgent by some, and I’ll admit that not every track on it can stand by itself as a rock masterpiece, but the whole album tells a story and each song is an integral part. The story it tells might by whacked out and convoluted, but the hours I’ve spent overanalyzing every lyric to each song and ever scene in the movie tell me that I wouldn’t change a thing. Floyd were already riding high off of the success of “Dark Side of the Moon”, “Wish You Were Here” and “Animals”, and at the time of “The Wall’s” recording, Floyd were  one of the biggest rock bands on the planet. Up until then, at least throughout the 70’s, Floyd was truly a band effort. But for “The Wall”, bassist and chief lyricist Roger Waters really took control. “The Wall” is a rock opera about a neurotic, narcissistic rock star on the verge of a nervous breakdown and the life and times that led him there. The album is made up of many song fragments that lead into more fully fleshed-out songs, many of which are very familiar to the average classic rock radio listener- “Hey You”, “Comfortably Numb”, “Another Brick In the Wall Part 2”, “Mother”, “Young Lust” and “Run Like Hell”, have all been played to death by radio and with good reason. They are amazing cuts and all rank high in Pink Floyd’s canon. But more than these songs, “The Wall” is a fascinating look at an era- roughly World War II through 1979, from the perspective of a British baby boomer rock star.  The pain of losing a parent in the War.  The tyranny of the British school system.  The groupies, the drugs, the counter culture.  The excesses of a generation.  It’s all here.

Buy Comfortably Numb – The Wall (Remastered)

Buy Comfortably Numb (2011 – Remaster)Amazon

Buy Goodbye Blue Sky – The Wall (Remastered)

Buy Goodbye Blue Sky (2011 – Remaster)Amazon


Buy Hunky Dory (Remastered) – David Bowie

Buy Hunky DoryAmazon

Out of all of my friends who are Bowie fanatics each one has a different favorite Bowie album. Pretty much every one of Bowie’s 70’s records including and in between 1971’s “Hunky Dory” and 1980’s “Scary Monsters” gets a nod from one of them.  This shows the depth, diversity and the might of the Bowie catalog.  I love all of his 70’s stuff from “Hunky Dory” onward but my absolute favorite is Hunky Dory”.  “Hunky Dory” was a bridge between Bowie’s early psychedelic-folk period and the Ziggy Stardust Glam-Rock that came later. “Hunky Dory” captures the spirit of both periods. Side 1 contains the immortal “Changes”, “Life on Mars?”, and “Oh! You Pretty Things,” all quieter songs, acoustic & folky, but sung with a feyness and a personality all his own.  They were worlds away from the American singer songwriter stuff of the same time period.  Much quirkier and glammed up.  Side 2 is much harder rocking featuring the ripping hot “Queen Bitch”, a nod to Lou Reed, and “Andy Warhol”,a nod to….you guessed it.  It was on “Hunky Dory” that Bowie would begin to explore ambiguous sexuality and outside of 1969’s “Space Oddity”, his first hits are here. His image was coming together, his songwriting now fully formed and he was ready to take over the seventies. Ziggy Stardust was just around the corner.

Buy Life On Mars? – Hunky Dory (Remastered)

Buy Life On Mars? (1999 Digital Remaster)Amazon

Buy Queen Bitch – Hunky Dory (Remastered)

Buy Queen Bitch (1999 Digital Remaster)Amazon

Top 100 Albums of the 70’s: 11-20


Buy Wish You Were Here (Remastered) – Pink Floyd

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It’s hard to believe that “Wish You Were Here” was Pink Floyd’s ninth album. Up until their previous album, the worldwide smash “Dark Side of the Moon”, Floyd was a relatively unknown cult band. The wild success of “Dark Side” enabled Floyd to pretty much do whatever they wanted for their follow-up as they now had a legion of followers ready to lap up whatever material Floyd spit out.  Thankfully “Wish You Were Here” was hardly a disappointment, though it is a very different album from “Dark Side of the Moon”.  It’s a five song concept album about founding member Syd Barrett and his deep descent into psychosis, which left Barrett unable to perform, contribute to the band, or remain an active member of society. Tracks “Welcome to the Machine” and “Have A Cigar” seem to place at least part of the blame for Barrett’s downfall on the music business at large and the pressures that it brought on him.  The title track as well as the “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” song suite that begins and ends the album are love letters and elegies of sort to Syd. The suite takes up twenty-five minutes of the album on its own and the other three tracks are on constant rotation to this day on Classic Rock radio. Though Floyd had lengthy song suites on prior albums, “Diamond” is arguably their most successful.  “Wish You Were Here” is close to a perfect album.  I love all five tracks and the album exemplifies the band’s improvisational skills, David Gilmour’s amazing guitar solos, along with Floyd’s burgeoning ability to craft a brilliant pop song.

Buy Wish You Were Here – Wish You Were Here (Deluxe Experience Version) [Remastered]

Buy Wish You Were Here (2011 – Remaster)Amazon

Buy Have a Cigar – Wish You Were Here (Remastered)

Buy Have A Cigar (2011 – Remaster)Amazon


Buy After the Gold Rush (Remastered) – Neil Young

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During the recording of “After the Gold Rush”, Neil Young was coming off both a  successful 2nd solo album “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere”, released in 1969 and featuring the epic & sprawling hard rock of his band Crazy Horse & his first album with Crosby, Still & Nash “Déjà vu”, who were then probably the biggest band in America.  Outside of “Southern Man”, the brilliant anti-racist admonishment of the American south,  “Gold Rush” was a much quieter affair than his previous solo album, just in time to inadvertently capitalize on the singer-songwriter phenomenon happening in the early 70’s. This was likely just a stroke of good fortune as Young was never one to follow trends, but the considerable success of “Gold Rush” set the stage for “Harvest”, two years later which would become and remain his biggest ever album. The majority of the songs on the album were played in a country-folk style, often focusing on romantic love in a far more optimistic way than most of Young’s stuff.  Other than “Southern Man” an exception to that rule is the title track, one of his most mysterious songs and a personal favorite that seems resigned that the end of the world is coming due to environmental catastrophe.  But he imagines that the human race will survive on another planet- heavy!  “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”, “Don’t Let It Bring You Down”, “I Believe In You”, and “Tell Me Why” also rank with his best work. Great Neil Young songs are spread out on many of his albums, and “After the Gold Rush” has less ‘hits’ than some of his others, but I feel that this is the best collection of songs of any album in his discography.

Buy After the Gold Rush – After the Gold Rush (Remastered)

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Buy Southern Man – After the Gold Rush (Remastered)

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18. LED ZEPPELIN- III (1970)

Buy Led Zeppelin III (Remastered) – Led Zeppelin

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Led Zeppelin III tends to be the forgotten album from Zeppelin’s early period. Only album opener “The Immigrant Song” sees any significant radio play today and albums I, II, & IV did so much to set the template for blues based power rock and heavy metal in the 70’s that they were destined to overshadow the quieter and sneaky great III.  To me the quality of Zep III puts it right up there with the others.  In high school I burned out on others so much that it became my favorite Zeppelin album for a time. Zeppelin was a great band and all of their albums are at least somewhat musically diverse, but III was where the band really stretched out and grew musically. They dabbled more in stripped down traditional acoustic blues and folk music. Though the garbled and unwieldy “Hats Off to (Roy) Harper” is a miss for me, every other song on the album is a winner. “Tangerine” and “That’s the Way” are two of the bands best acoustic ballads and “Celebration Day” and “Out on the Tiles” are two great under-recognized stompers along with the aforementioned “Immigrant Song”, certainly one Zep’s signature cuts. Both “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and “Gallows Pole” are two of their better blues cuts. All and all this album is as diverse as the great “Physical Graffiti” and it’s half as long. Like almost every other Zep album, it’s totally essential.

Buy That’s the Way – Led Zeppelin III (Remastered)

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Buy Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin III (Remastered)

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17. THE CLASH- THE CLASH (1977 U.K./1979 U.S.)

Buy The Clash (US) – The Clash

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Where the Sex Pistols were angry and nihilistic, the Clash were angry, and idealistic. They wore their leftist political ideals on their sleeves like a badge of honor. The  Sex Pistols and the Damned came before them in the U.K., but the Clash did more than any other band in punk’s first wave to expand the parameters of punk. Though their debut album was more stripped down and straight ahead punk than their later stuff for sure, even in their early days they brought diversity to the table as exemplified by their great cover of Junior Murvin’s “Police and Thieves”.   The Clash begins with the barely two minute anthem “Janie Jones” and never loses steam, closing the record out with the autobiographical “Garageland” 13 songs later. Clash classics “White Riot”, “London’s Burning”, “Remote Control”, “I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.” & “Career Opportunities” are all here.   Just reading the song titles tells you that the Clash were a call to arms.  In the late 70’s the Clash were called ‘the only band that mattered’.  Years later they are as popular as ever.  Their sound and message has resonated with younger generations arguably more than any other punk band.  Though the debut was a huge success in the U.K. it wasn’t even released in the U.S. until 1979. The U.S. company deleted “Cheat”, “Deny”, “Protex Blue”, and “48 Hours” from the track listing- all are lesser songs on the album. In their place they added U.K. singles “White Man in Hammersmith Palais”, “Clash City Rockers”, “Jail Guitar Doors” & “I Fought the Law”. “White Man” is my favorite Clash song. “Clash City” rules and their cover of “I Fought the Law” is epic.  Though it is a bastardized version of the band’s original vision of the album, it’s tough to deny that the U.S. version is better as it plays like an early Clash’s greatest hits.

Buy Janie Jones – The Essential Clash

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Buy White Riot – The Clash (US)

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Buy Unknown Pleasures (Collector’s Edition) – Joy Division

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Joy Division was formed in England, in 1977 during the height of the U.K. punk explosion. Though they had a similar spirit and attitude, unlike other punk groups like the Sex Pistols, the Clash & the Damned, Joy Division’s music was not fast or aggressive. They get deserved credit as the first post-punk group, which set off its own explosion in ’78 and ’79, and the were also the biggest influence on goth music, if not the first goth group. Joy Divison’s first singles were released in ’78, but “Unknown Pleasures”, their first full length album, didn’t come out until 1979. They clearly worked out any kinks in the early singles as their debut is one of the most fully formed and perfect debuts in rock history. There was simply nothing before it that sounded anything like it. The best description I can come up with is a mixture of punk rock, dub reggae and German Krautrock groups like Can & Faust. The best songs are “She’s Lost Control”, “Disorder”, “Shadowplay” & “New Dawn Fades”, but every song on the album resonates.  No song on the album is as recognizable as their most popular singles“Transmission”, “Atmosphere” or “Love Will Tear Us Apart”- “Unknown Pleasures” is best absorbed as a whole rather than a collection of songs. It’s lack of cultural saturation makes it a great album to go back to, with the ability to still surprise.  Joy Division would go on to release only one other album and a few more singles before the unfortunate suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis. The rest of the band would go on to form the equally influential New Order.  Those two bands alone are so influential on modern indie rock music that eliminating them from history would be unfathomable.

Buy She’s Lost Control – Unknown Pleasures (Collector’s Edition)

Buy She’s Lost Control [2007 Re-mastered]Amazon

Buy Disorder – Unknown Pleasures (Collector’s Edition)

Buy Disorder [2007 Re-mastered]Amazon


Buy Sticky Fingers (Remastered) – The Rolling Stones

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Blues, Jazz, Country and lots and lots of drugs. “Sticky Fingers” is vintage Stones and it’s almost unbelievable to me that they actually have albums I like more- the level that the Stones were on- particularly between -68-‘72, was just sick!  “Sticky Fingers” has a classic riff driven rock cut to open each side. “Brown Sugar”, one of their signature cuts opens side 1 and the lesser known sleazy “Bitch” opens side 2. The rest of the tracks on the album are much more experimental. The underrated boozy & drugged out “Sway” follows “Brown Sugar”. Next is “Wild Horses”, one of the bands most beautiful and well-loved ballads. The 7 minute jazzy jam “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’” is one of my all-time favorites and shows the Stones stretching out and jamming perhaps more than any other song in their discography. The forgettable blues cover, “You Gotta Move” closes side 1. After “Bitch” on side 2 are a great pair of haunting acoustic ballads “I Got the Blues” and “Sister Morphine”, followed by the boozy country sing along “Dead Flowers”. The great coked up howler “Moonlight Mile” ends the album with one of Mick Jagger’s best performances. With only 10 tracks the Stones show how amazingly diverse they are. The dark, ominous tone of the albums and many references to hard drugs were a window into the Stones own decadence and were also indicative of many of the narcotics-related problems happening among many of their musician peers at the time.

Buy Can’t You Hear Me Knocking – Sticky Fingers (Remastered)

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Buy Sister Morphine – Sticky Fingers (Remastered)

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Buy There’s a Riot Goin’ On (Bonus Version) – Sly & the Family Stone

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“There’s A Riot Goin’ On” is, in a way, the black version of “Sticky Fingers”. Also released in 1971 in the wake of Kent State, Nixon and the death of hippie idealism, “Riot” is even more drugged out and much more pessimistic than “Sticky”. Sly was coming off the hugely successful “Stand!” album in 1969 which had numerous hits and was a true crossover  between white and black audiences. The #1 hit in 1970 “Thankyoufalletinmebemicelfagain” only added to their winning streak, but its irony foreshadowed the hopelessness of “Riot”. “Stand!” was upbeat and a call for brotherhood. Though it called out racists and asked for change it couldn’t have been more optimistic. “Riot” sounds like a band coming apart at the seams and in the throes of addiction. The tone is one of disgust and resignation that the social progress of the sixties not only wouldn’t keep moving forward but would in many ways had started to reverse. The lead single “Family Affair” went to #1 but unlike civil rights songs of the 60’s like “Keep On Pushing” and “Everyday People”, it actually sounds smoked out and paranoid. “Riot” is also a musically brilliant album. It’s funky as hell for sure, but also miles away from the upbeat funk of early Sly, James Brown or the Meters. The grooves and vocals are slurred and stoned out. It may sound like a mess but the songs are consistently great and the hooks are memorable if not radio ready. Never has an album sounded so much of its time, while also influencing so music for years to come. It truly sounds better with each passing year.  Listen to music of today like Shabazz Palaces or the latest Roots album.  “Riot” is their direct descendent.

Buy Runnin’ Away (Single Version) – There’s a Riot Goin’ On (Bonus Version)

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Buy Family Affair (Single Version) – There’s a Riot Goin’ On (Bonus Version)

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Buy Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. – Bruce Springsteen

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Most of my top twenty albums of the 70’s are fairly unsurprising. Even the few fairly obscure titles are almost universally beloved and acknowledged as great by the people who know them. If I have a truly polarizing pick in the bunch it’s probably “Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ”, Bruce Springsteen’s debut album. Many people and critics seem to think this album is too neo-Dylan, too wordy, trying too hard. It also bears the misfortune of containing the clunker “Mary Queen of Arkansas”, probably the worst of Springsteen’s early songs. But aside from “Mary” I hear  an amazing collection of songs- many of them all-time Springsteen classics. For me it doesn’t get much better than “Growin’ Up”, “Blinded By the Light” (later covered by the Manfred Mann Earth Band who had a big hit with it), “For You”, the epic “Lost in the Flood”, the classic rock radio staple “Spirit in the Night”, and “It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City”. The lyrics are poetic, hyper-detailed and often exaggerated to a hilarious degree.  Springsteen, like Dylan, is a lover of words.  He can be verbose and on Greetings, more is definitely more’, but his lyrics create dazzling images.  They are so detailed and descriptive that you really get to know the characters and places in his song.  And that’s exciting.  Springsteen was singing about a particular people, a particular region, even a particular boardwalk beach town. So specific but universal enough that any kid could relate.  The youth in his songs are at the edge of adulthood when every night and act seems momentous. And you can’t wait to hear what happens to them next.

Buy Growin’ Up – Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

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Buy For You – Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

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Buy This Year’s Model (Deluxe Edition) – Elvis Costello & The Attractions

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Like many second albums, “This Year’s Model” was mostly made up of leftover material from the first album’s sessions. Unlike most second albums, “This Year’s Model” sounds wildly different from Costello’s debut “My Aim Is True”. The reason is simple. Costello ditched his backing band (Clover) and the stripped down production of “My Aim Is True” and hired a new band, the Attractions, made up of Steve Nieve on keyboards, Bruce Thomas on bass and Pete Thomas on drums, who I think are absolutely one of the mightiest bands in rock.  Now the music behind Costello matched his anger and aggression and “This Year’s Model” actually sounds like punk rock- though Costello’s music was always a bit too complex to be easily labeled. Costello has many great albums but start to finish “Model” is my favorite. The hits are “Pump It Up” and the incendiary album ender “Radio Radio”- a diatribe against the “hand that feeds him”, but there are plenty of album cuts that are just as worthy. “The Beat”, “I Don’t Want to go to Chelsea”, “Lipstick Vogue”, “No Action” & “This Year’s Girl” are all personal faves. Every track is under 4 minutes and the whole album whips by at a breakneck pace- there are no ballads ala “Alison” here. It may not be the most musically diverse Costello album but it’s the most fun.

Buy Radio, Radio – This Year’s Model

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Buy The Beat – This Year’s Model

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Buy Ramones (Deluxe Version) – Ramones

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Punk rock music certainly has its antecedents. There was “Rumble” by Link Wray in the late 50’s, the Kinks “You Really Got Me” and countless garage-rock bands in the 60’s found on various Nuggets and Pebbles compilations. In the late 60’s and early 70’s there were the Velvet Underground, MC5 and especially the Stooges- and then the New York Dolls and the Modern Lovers first recordings in the early 70’s. But the first true punk rock record, as we know punk music today, was the Ramones debut in 1976. The Ramones, who hailed from the Forest Hills section of Queens, worshipped the sounds of fifties rock n’ roll, sixties girl groups and the aforementioned Nuggets-style garage rock. They despised any note of pretension in rock and wanted to boil the music down to its essence, like it was at its inception in the 50’s- 2 to 3 minute burst of energy, simple lyrics about being young, lusty and rebellious. The result is 14 songs built on speed and aggression, the majority under 2 minutes long and none over 2:40.   Unlike so much later Punk, the Ramones didn’t sound angry and were almost entirely apolitical.  Their main concerns were the concerns of a teenager- the opposite sex, escape & boredom.  Their so stupid they’re smart lyrics are hilarious.  Each song focused primarily on one topic- “Beat On the Brat”, “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue”, “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement”, the great ballad “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”. They simply described what was happening leaving the listener to fill in the rest- and usually there wasn’t anything else. Every track on the album is awesome. Some other signature Ramones tracks are album opener, “Blitzkrieg Bop” (my fave!), “53rd & 3rd” about gay male prostitutes, “Judy Is a Punk” and “Chain Saw” and a great cover of sixties gem “Let’s Dance”. The Ramones first four albums are essential. After that, they are hit and miss. But none is more essential than their debut, one of the true touchstones of both punk and rock music.

Buy Blitzkreig Bop – Hey Ho Let’s Go – Greatest Hits (Remastered)

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Buy Judy Is a Punk – Ramones (Deluxe Version)

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Top 100 Albums of the 70’s: 1-10


Buy Physical Graffiti (Remastered) – Led Zeppelin

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By Led Zeppelin had released five near perfect albums and were the biggest rock band in the world. So the only thing they could do to top themselves is to throw all of their excess creativity into one sprawling double albums featuring multiple 1o + minute length jams and tapping into every different side of the band imaginable.  “Physical Graffiti” set the template for hard rock bands for the mid-career bloated double album, but the funny thing is that “Graffiti” really doesn’t have much bloat.   Every song on it is either a monster or a curiosity showing Zep’s incredible range.  There isn’t a single cut that I don’t enjoy though certainly some tracks tower over the others in quality.  “Physical Graffiti” to me really cemented Zeppelin status as one of the very best rock bands of all time and it’s still among my very favorites of all their releases.  The first disc is nearly perfect starting with the one-two punch of “Custard Pie”, and “The Rover”, one of my personal favorite Zep tunes. Next is 11 minute delta blues work out “In My Time of Dying”.  The 2nd side opens with classic rock radio staple “Houses of the Holy”, followed by extended funk work out “Trampled Under Foot” (a much better track than “The Crunge” from the previous album), with the far east influenced dinosaur stomp “Kashmir” closing it out. The second disc is more diverse and even more fun. Three of the best tracks are the slow burning opener “In the Light”, the epic “Ten Years Gone” and the beautiful country-esque ballad “Down by the Seaside”, and the quirkier “Wanton Song”, “Boogie with Stu”, and “Black Country Woman” showing the band at their loosest and lightest. Zeppelin may have blown their wad after “Graffiti”. They would only release two more albums before breaking up after drummer John Bonham’s unfortunate death in 1980. Both “Presence” and “In Through the Out Door” had great moments but neither measure up to the greatness of their first six albums. Outside of maybe “The White Album”, “Physical Graffiti” may just be the best double album ever made.

Buy The Rover – Physical Graffiti (Remastered)

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Buy Ten Years Gone – Physical Graffiti (Remastered)

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Buy Marquee Moon – Television

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“I remember when the darkness doubled. I remembered when lightning struck itself.” And so begins the most epic punk rock song ever made. It’s almost 11 minutes of beauty and ferocious guitar interplay between dueling guitarists Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd; it has more in common with Neil Young & Crazyhorse than the Sex Pistols or the Ramones. They are far too weird and arty for classic rock, but their sound was rooted in angular, long intense jamming.  It wasn’t funky and danceable like fellow CBGB’s art-punk band the Talking Heads.  Though Television was and remains a huge critical fave, they are still an underground phenomenon- one of those bands who are loved and discovered by small cults of music lovers of every generation. Television may have only been together for 2 albums, but no one really sounds like them. I had never heard the band before arriving to New York City in 1994. And it, more than any other album, defines living in the East Village to me.   I still remember the track “Marquee Moon” constantly blaring out of jukeboxes long after midnight.  To this day it’s probably one of my favorite songs of all time.  And the rest of the album is great too- particularly “Venus”, “See No Evil”, “Friction” and “Elevation”. Though Television was present at the beginning of the CBGB’s punk scene they probably did more for post-punk music than actual punk rock. The playing on the album is very anti-punk- it’s stretched out rather than fast and aggressive, but it does have a twitchy tension. The lyrics are intellectual and abstract. The bass playing was completely monotone with no groove or swing, which focuses your attention on the amazing guitar work. It gave bands that came after them the freedom to move away from the standard groove of punk while keeping the attitude and DIY ethics of it. Television’s next record “Adventure” though good, in my opinion didn’t come close to matching the brilliance of the debut.  “Marquee Moon” remains one of the classic punk/alternative albums ever made.

Buy Marquee Moon – Marquee Moon

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Buy See No Evil – Marquee Moon

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Buy The Dark Side of the Moon (Deluxe Experience Version) [Remastered] – Pink Floyd

Buy The Dark Side Of The Moon – Experience Version (2011 – Remaster)Amazon

After losing their band leader Syd Barrett during the recording of their second album “Saucerful of Secrets” in 1968, Pink Floyd released several more tripped out psychedelic albums, included a few movie soundtracks, and then gathered more focus for 1971’s “Meddle” which garnered them more success than they had seen since Barrett’s departure. “Meddle” was more song oriented than their other albums for sure, but it is still pretty out there and the album even closed out with a 20 + minute song suite called “Echoes”. Despite “Meddle’s” trend toward more accessible music, Floyd’s next album“Dark Side of the Moon” was a quantum leap in comparison. “Dark Side” is just as sonically experimental as “Meddle” but the production on “Dark Side”  is state of the art with well-placed bugged out sound effects, soulful female blues howling and splices of spoken words taken from interviews which adds to the overall weirdness. It was a engineering feat which moved the needle for the entire recording industry.   Floyd did a much better job editing their long, instrumental passages- honing their jams so that they resembled  actual songs.  None of the songs on the album were made to cater to radio but amazingly enough practically the entire album plays on classic rock radio today.  “Money” is the only track that actually charted as a single but even it is over 6 minutes long. “Dark Side’s” subject matter is concerned with the big philosophical questions in life- Birth, death, religion “Time”, “Money”- all of the deep philosophical questions. It’s an extremely heavy album that has given birth to millions of bong hits.  “Dark Side” catapulted Floyd to worldwide fame and probably made them only 2nd to Zeppelin among the seventies most popular rock bands.  “Dark Side” still holds the record for longest album to stay on the charts- 741 weeks (from 1973-1988).

Buy Speak to Me – The Dark Side of the Moon (Remastered)Breathe (In the Air) – The Dark Side of the Moon (Deluxe Experience Version) [Remastered] Buy Speak To Me (2011 – Remaster)/Breathe (In The Air) [2011 – Remaster]Amazon

Buy Time – The Dark Side of the Moon (Deluxe Experience Version) [Remastered]

Buy Time (2011 – Remaster)Amazon

7. THE WHO- WHO’S NEXT (1971)

Buy Who’s Next (Remastered) – The Who

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Pete Townsend is a man with seemingly limitless ambition. After the huge success of the double album/rock opera “Tommy” in 1969 and the great “Live at Leeds” the following year, Townsend was poised to do another double album- this one a sci-fi double album rock opera called “Lifehouse”. He was forced to abandon the project due to having a mental breakdown, but the collection of songs left on the cutting room floor was staggering. The 9 songs that make up what was left of the Lifehouse project was made into an album called “Who’s Next”, which is I think far and away the best album the Who ever released. All 9 songs are great, most of them classics and 3 of them are signature Who songs. Album opener “Baba O’Reilly”, known to some as “Teenage Wasteland” has lost none of its power over the ages, and “Behind Blue Eyes” may even be a notch better. Album closer, the 8 ½ minute “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, is simply one of the best rock songs ever recorded. It’s the Who at their smartest, most inventive and loudest. Daltrey’s scream at the end does any metal singer proud. Aside from those three are Pete’s love letter to his wife “Bargain”, bassist John Entwistle’s humorous “My Wife”, the beautiful “The Song is Over”, the hippie ode to the road “Goin’ Mobile” and the underrated gems “Love Ain’t for Keeping” and “Getting’ in Tune”. Most of these songs would be recognizable to anyone who listened to classic rock radio in the 80’s or 90’s- nowadays with the streamlined playlists maybe not. One thing is for sure, “Who’s Next” is an essential rock record- as essential as “Led Zeppelin IV”. It’s a right of passage. Anyone who likes loud, righteous rock music must have it.

Buy Won’t Get Fooled Again – Who’s Next (Remastered)

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Buy Behind Blue Eyes – Who’s Next (Remastered)

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Buy Entertainment! (Remastered) – Gang of Four

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“Entertainment” is still relatively unknown outside of critic/hipster/musician circles, but its influence is massive- on post-punk, punk-funk bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine and Fishbone, post-hardcore of Fugazi and Jawbox and on the entire dance-punk movement at the beginning of the oughts. The band plays extremely aggressive, nervy punk but with an incessantly danceable rhythm- credit to both the lightning quick staccato guitar riffs and the ridiculous swing of both the GOF drummer Hugo Burnham and  their phenomenal bassist Dave Allen. The singer, Jon King, sing-shouts leftist manifestos, attacking the greedy and the powerful and Capitalism in general- anyone who exploit the masses or the weak. The lyrics are not only angry, but intellectually sound and thought provoking. There isn’t a bum track on the album, but the true classics are “Anthrax”, “Not Great Men”, “I Found that Essence Rare”, “At Home He’s A Tourist” and “Natural’s Not In It”. Gang Of Four was together for more than a decade after the release of “Entertainment!”, with many major lineup changes. They were never able to equal the brilliance of their debut, but did release several very good albums in the early 80’s with “Solid Gold” and “Songs Of the Free” before petering out and becoming a shell of their former selves. If you haven’t heard this album and like any of the bands mentioned above or Interpol or the Rapture or Franz Ferdinand etc… you must check this album out.

Buy I Found That Essence Rare – Entertainment! (Remastered)

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Buy At Home He’s a Tourist – Entertainment! (Remastered)

Buy At Home He’s A Tourist (Remastered Album Version)Amazon


Buy The Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers

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I totally missed out on this band through high school and in college. I remember them being propped in 1995’s Spin Alternative Music Guide (AKA the bible of my early 20’s), but I didn’t hear them until my wonderful future wife, not coincidentally from Boston (same as the Lovers), introduced me to them shortly after meeting her in the spring of 1996. Certain band/albums take awhile to warm up to. I was floored with the Modern Lovers from the first note. Their sound is pure driving rock n’ roll- pro-Velvet Underground, anti-hippie. By the time of the 1976 release of their debut, the Modern Lovers had already morphed into something else.  Richman had ditched his former bandmates and was now playing quiet, acoustic child-like music.  Richman remains a cult hero today and releases worthwhile albums every few years or so but nothing for me touches their debut.  The album was actually compiled of demos produced by ex-Velvet John Cale in 1973, making them along with the New York Dolls and other than the Stooges, the first punk rockers. The music is minimal and pounding like the Velvets but with a wide-eyed sentiment that is the Velvets’ complete opposite.  Richman is mopey and gawky, but also completely sincere and optimistic- trying to cut through the cynicism & depravity of the world and find what truly matters.  He is opinionated and unbending in his values. A dork role model.  He believes in the salvation of rock n’ roll as much as Bruce Springsteen.  Outside of the Modern Lovers heavy influence on punk, they would be an even greater influence on nerd-rock bands like the Violent Femmes, the Feelies, They Might Be Giants & Jens Lekman. Richman is a wonder on guitar as well and is ably backed by Boston scenester Ernie Brooks on bass, future Talking Heads keyboardist Jerry Harrison on organ and future Cars drummer David Robinson. Every track on the debut is amazing, starting with the classic road anthem “Roadrunner”, “I’m Straight” and “Pablo Picasso. But the heartbreaking “Hospital”, the dream love fantasy “Astral Plane”, “Old World”, which tussles between nostalgia for bygone eras vs. loving the present time, are all nearly as good. No weak links. One of my favorite albums of all time.

Buy Roadrunner – The Modern Lovers

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Buy I’m Straight – The Modern Lovers

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Buy Born to Run (30th Anniversary Edition) [Remastered] – Bruce Springsteen

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I go back and forth with “Born to Run” as to whether or not it’s actually my favorite Springsteen album. Sometimes “Greetings from Asbury Park” just hits my right in the sweet spot and I think ‘it’s the one!’, but then I realize that’s just due to my over-familiarity with “Born to Run”. When I first got really into music, around 8th grade, I was not a Springsteen fan. “Born in the U.S.A.” was uber-popular and I didn’t dig it then (I was wrong).  “U.S.A.” turned me off to him for years, but gradually I succumbed after hearing some of his earlier songs on classic rock radio and then eventually to practically his whole catalog. Now he’s one of my favorite artists. Several years into high school I finally got “Born to Run”. It is flat out amazing. It rocks, it swings, it plays out like a movie, the lyrics are poetic and tell a story.  I played “Born to Run” incessantly. It was tough to escape the title track, “Jungleland”, “Thunder Road”, “Tenth-Avenue Freeze Out” and even “She’s the One” back then on the radio too. These songs and the whole album are now as ingrained in me as “Back in Black” or Led Zep II. After Springsteen’s first two Columbia albums were huge flops, he buckled down in the studio for months and ditched the majority of his backing band for new players. He knew the “Born to Run” album would be his last shot with his record label- they would drop him if this one flopped as well. And his perfectionism paid off as “Born to Run” was a huge hit, both the song and the album, making him a household name among rock fans. He was so big in 1975 that he simultaneously graced both the covers of Time and Newsweek. “Born to Run”, “Thunder Road” & “Jungleland” are probably 3 out of 5 of his most beloved tracks. They all represent escape- from a dead end job or a one horse town before you’re too old and it’s too late. The longest, most epic songs on the album- “Backstreets” and “Jungleland” close each side. The hits- “Thunder Road” and “Born to Run” open each side. In between you have the block party horn workout “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” and the moody “Night” on side 1, and the yearning “She’s the One” into the jazzy, paranoid “Meeting Across the River” on side 2 which segues seemlessly into “Jungleland”.  The production, the musicianship, the writing and the attention to detail everywhere on “Born to Run” is unbelievable.  It’s a true masterpiece.

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Buy Jungleland – Born to Run

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Buy Exile On Main St. (Deluxe Version) [Remastered] – The Rolling Stones

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Coming at the end of an incredible four album run starting with 1968’s “Beggar’s Banquet”, “Exile On Main Street” marks the end of the Rolling Stones best period. Though it was not well thought of upon its release due at least in some way to its murky sound quality and didn’t have much in the way of hit singles- only minor hits with the amazingly great “Tumbling Dice” and the Keith Richard’s sung “Happy”, the album has worn exceptionally well. It’s often called the band’s pinnacle. I’ve gone back & forth with several of their albums as to which is my favorite but at this point in my life I’m going with “Exile”. Recorded in a mansion in the south of France and under the heavy influence of drugs, “Exile” is the Stones their deepest album, with songs, lyrics and riffs that only reveal themselves after many plays.  Similar to Led Zep’s “Physical Graffiti” it likely won’t be your starting point with the Stones but it’s where you’ll end up once you totally fall in love with them.  And the big hit singles on so many other Stones albums may be absent but there are plenty of classic here- besides the aforementioned “Dice” and “Happy”, there is song opener “Rocks Off”, my personal favorite “Rip This Joint”- the closest they ever came to punk rock, the straight up country-rock of “Sweet Virginia”, “Shine A Light”, “Loving Cup” and “All Down the Line”. The mood of the album is dark, drugged out and decadent. The Stones never sounded looser or more freewheeling. They try their hand at Delta Blues, Country, Soul & Gospel and unlike past tracks like “Country Honk” or “You Gotta Move”, they don’t sound like their taking the piss out of the genres. This album is the real deal, just don’t give up after only a couple of tries. The more you play it the better it gets.

Buy Rip This Joint – Exile On Main St. (Deluxe Version) [Remastered]

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Buy Tumbling Dice – Exile On Main St. (Deluxe Version) [Remastered]

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Buy Led Zeppelin IV (Remastered) – Led Zeppelin

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Led Zeppelin IV is so difficult to even rank. They are so much a part of my teenage years. I know every lyric, every guitar riff. Each song Zep IV was a classic rock radio staple and half of them are known to people who barely follow music. The only track on the album I don’t consider a classic is “Four Sticks” and even it is pretty damn good. Due to its over saturation, IV may not be the Zeppelin album I return to the most often, but I have to say that it’s still the best. Opening tracks “Black Dog” into “Rock and Roll” practically define hard rock in the 70’s and have some of the most recognizable riffs in the history of rock. The beautiful folk ballad “Battle of Evermore” comes next where Zep switch gears and Page plays mandolin while Robert Plant duets with British folk hero Sandy Denny. And then the most requested rock song of all time “Stairway to Heaven” closes side 1. What more is there to say about “Stairway”.  Everyone’s heard it a million times but to me still packs a punch and is so perfect it sounds like the band was possessed while making it. Guarantee that we’ll be listening to that song 100 years from now. Side 2 starts out with the pounding hippie anthem “Misty Mountain Hop”. Next is “Four Sticks”, and then another beautiful acoustic ballad “Going to California”. “When the Levee Breaks”, possibly my favorite Zeppelin tune closes things out with what may be the heaviest drum beats and coolest warped harmonica playing that I’ve ever heard. As great as Zeppelin whole catalog is, Zep IV, is what really gave them their mystique and mythology. It’s why the band has become a right of passage for every hard rockin’ teenage kid. It’s why we still get the Led out on all every classic rock station around the United States. It’s why Zeppelin are legendary rather than just one of the greats.

Buy When the Levee Breaks – Led Zeppelin IV (Remastered)

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Buy Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin IV (Remastered)

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Buy London Calling (30th Anniversary Edition) – The Clash

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“London Calling” is not a perfect album. Zeppelin IV, “The Modern Lovers”, “Who’s Next”, even the Cars debut are more perfect, but there’s something about “London Calling” that’s so ambitious, so sprawling that I had give it first place on this list.  It’s still rooted in punk rock and is the perfect explanation point to end that era, but it also point the way to so much of the great music we heard in the 80’s and later.  After following up their amazing debut with the relatively disappointing “Give ‘Em Enough Rope”, the Clash truly went for it with  “London Calling”.  With Led Zeppelin dying out, the Clash was ready to claim the title of not only best punk band but best rock band period.  “London Calling” is punk rock, rockabilly, ska, roots reggae, hard rock, old school R&B, jazz and with the single “Train in Vain”- absolutely perfect pop.    “London Calling” foreshadowed the blending of so many different genres that we see happen all the time today.  The Clash were huge music fans, and  like the Beastie Boys, oftentimes the biggest music fans make the most interesting  and diverse music. Like I said before not every track is a masterpiece- “The Right Profile”, “Koka Kola” and “the Card Cheat” are all very minor Clash songs. But this album has as many truly great songs as any album I can name outside of maybe the Beatles  The monumental title track, which has now become a radio staple, “Train in Vain”, which was an actual pop hit, the Paul Simonon sung “Guns of Brixton”, the workers’ lament “Clampdown”. “Rudie Can’t Fail”, “Last in the Supermarket”, “Spanish Bombs”, Death or Glory”, “Hateful”- one brilliant song after another. A year later the Clash would go even more ambitious with the triple album “Sandanista”. Though it had a few great moments it was mostly a big mess. Two years later they successfully crossed over to pop radio with “Combat Rock” and then co-leader Mick Jones left the band and they recorded one more forgettable album “Cut the Crap”, the “Caddyshack II” of Clash releases. That said “London Calling” more than cemented the Clash’s legacy as one of the best and important bands ever. They may not be my all-time favorite band but when I’m listening to them sometimes I think they actually are.

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Buy Clampdown – London Calling

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