Gonna make you, make you notice

Here in 2020, we’ve seen a whole bunch of “50 years ago” lists and tributes to albums, songs, bands and events from 1970.  I wrote my own blog about it several months ago.

This week, I thought I would instead focus on what was going on in music 40 years ago.  Here’s what I found:  1980 was a year of transition, when many artists of the Seventies were losing their clout and new artists were leading the industry in a different direction.

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Techno-pop.  The drum machine.  The morphing of punk into “New Wave.”  The death of disco.

In reviewing the list of more than 500 rock albums released 40 years ago this year, I found that nearly half were by artists who had been around for a while, while the other half were by newer bands, working on their debut or second LP.  I listened again to as many as I could and whittled down my list of the Best Albums of 1980 to the 25 or so that most inspired and influenced me.  My list has a similar split between established artists and new upstarts, reflecting my passion for Seventies styles while embracing the best of the new.  The hard part was selecting the final dozen; most of my “honorable mentions” could easily have made the cut on someone else’s list.

My accompanying playlist includes four tracks from each of the dozen albums on the list, plus two tracks each from the honorable mentions.

Crank it up!

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“Pretenders,” The Pretenders

Unknown-374Of the new contenders who first emerged in 1980, the most pleasant surprise was The Pretenders, led by the indefatigable Chrissie Hynde, one of the most talented badass women rock music has ever seen.  A product of the rough-and-tumble milieu of Akron, Ohio, Hynde moved to London in her early 20s and was profoundly influenced by not only the energy of the British punk scene but its defiance and “up yours” stance as well.  The difference between The Pretenders and the lame “pretenders” who had similar ambitions, in my view, is Hynde’s ability to write great songs with pop hooks that made their stuff palatable to old-school skeptics like me.  Their debut LP came out the first week of 1980 and went immediately to #1 in England, while in the US their popularity grew more slowly until the LP reached #9 mid-year.  “Brass in Pocket” became their signature hit single, although just as interesting were “Kid,” “The Wait” and “Stop Your Sobbing,” among others from this fine record.

“Arc of a Diver,” Steve Winwood

Unknown-382When he was still just 15, Winwood wowed critics and fans with his amazing voice on Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin'” and “I’m a Man.”  At 18, he formed Traffic, the British band who came up with a dazzling mix of folk, jazz and rock.  He took a break to join forces with Eric Clapton in Blind Faith for a short spell, and then reformed Traffic for another four-album run that included the exemplary “John Barleycorn Must Die” and “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys.”  A first attempt at a solo album in 1977 was surprisingly flat, although not without great moments.  Late in 1980 came “Arc of a Diver,” a phenomenal LP which featured Winwood playing every instrument and singing in fine form on a great batch of songs.  The album reached #3 on US pop charts, led by the #7 hit single “While You See a Chance.”  Other strong tracks included “Spanish Dancer,” “Night Train” and the title song.  He followed it with three more strong albums in the same vein — “Talking Back to the Night,” “Back in the High Life” and “Roll With It.”

“Empty Glass,” Pete Townshend

Unknown-375Since forming The Who with singer Roger Daltrey in 1964, Townshend had assumed the responsibility of writing nearly all of the band’s material, which took its toll on his physical and mental health.  His never-easy relationship with Daltrey became strained, largely because Townshend would occasionally insist on handling lead vocals on certain tracks.  When drummer Keith Moon died in 1978 after the release of their “Who Are You” album, the band wasn’t sure how to proceed.  Townshend took the opportunity to gather some intensely personal songs about alcoholism, drug abuse, marital strife and the death of friends and release them as a solo album, “Empty Glass,” which reached #5 in the US.  This further rankled Daltrey, who felt the songs were superior to the ones Townshend offered to the band for their lackluster concurrent album “Face Dances.”  I think he’s right — “Rough Boys,” “And I Moved,” “Gonna Get Ya” and “Empty Glass” are superb tracks that might have been even better if The Who had recorded them.  Still, Townshend’s solo effort is a fine piece of work on its own.

“Zenyatta Mondatta,” The Police

Unknown-376I remember first hearing this Brit trio’s debut hit, “Roxanne,” and thinking it was an enticing blend of reggae and punk.  “Message in a Bottle” from their second LP grabbed me as well, but I wasn’t motivated to buy either album.  By the time “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” was released in September 1980, I was far more open to the New Wave styles that were beginning to reach the mainstream, so I bought “Zenyatta Mondatta,” The Police’s strong third album.  It became a popular soundtrack at the crazy parties my roommates and I were throwing, where we danced up a storm to these songs, sometimes on the furniture!  The mix of Andy Summers’ guitar stylings, Stewart Copeland’s jazzy drumming and Sting’s bass lines and vocals created an indelible sound that only grew more compelling  with their subsequent albums — “Ghosts in the Machine” and the phenomenal “Synchronicity” — before they disbanded.  On “Zenyatta,” tracks like “Man in a Suitcase,” “Canary in a Coal Mine” and the hypnotic “When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around” stay with me four decades later.

“One-Trick Pony,” Paul Simon

Unknown-380Following the success of his 1975 LP “Still Crazy After All These Years,” which won a Grammy as Album of the Year, Simon took some time off.  Never a prolific writer, he suffered through one of his bouts of writer’s block by turning his attentions to film.  He had a small role as a music industry luminary in Woody Allen’s Oscar-winning “Annie Hall” and then began work on his own film project.  He not only composed the songs for the soundtrack but also wrote the script and assumed the lead acting role.  “One-Trick Pony” is the story of a once-popular folk musician who is struggling to record a new album in the face of pressure from record label execs and a wife who is pulling away from him.  The poignant movie flopped at the box office, which affected sales of the accompanying album, which is a crying shame.  “Late in the Evening” was a hit, but there are so many other fine tunes that flew under most people’s radar.  “God Bless The Absentee,” “Ace in the Hole,” “Jonah” and the title song all deserve your attention.

“Gaucho,” Steely Dan

Unknown-379Over the course of six outstanding albums in six years, from “Can’t Buy a Thrill” to “Aja,” Donald Fagen and Walter Becker had taken Steely Dan from an actual band to a two-man project involving dozens of session musicians.  Then 1978 and 1979 went by with no new album, and fans wondered if they’d heard the last of them.  Turns out the period was full of personal and professional problems that affected recording sessions and relationships.  When “Gaucho” finally appeared in the fall of 1980, it was cause for celebration.  To me, the seven beautifully produced songs carried on logically from the sound heard on “Aja,” and lyrically, they continued the Steely Dan tradition of creating character studies about sketchy outliers and woeful ne’er-do-wells.  Sadly, “Gaucho” would be the last Steely Dan album for 20 years, but with songs like “Babylon Sisters,” “Glamour Profession,” “Time Out of Mind” and the hit single “Hey Nineteen,” they surely went out with class.

“Making Movies,” Dire Straits

Unknown-7I found the first two LPs by this band mildly interesting, mostly because of the spare, delicious guitar playing of Mark Knopfler.  His singing left me cold and some of his songs were kind of dull.  But boy, did I sit up and take notice when Dire Straits’ third LP, “Making Movies,” arrived in late 1980.  Knopfler had been writing more sophisticated, more personal songs, and with the stunning contributions from The E Street Band’s Roy Bittan on piano, the arrangements and production quality took quantum leaps forward.  Even Knopfler’s singing had improved, to the point where I no longer wished they’d hired a different vocalist.  Dire Straits would go on to become one of the biggest sellers of the decade, thanks to the 1985 blockbuster “Brothers in Arms” and its mega-hit single “Money for Nothing.”  But I will always be partial to the outstanding tracks on this album, especially the gorgeous “Romeo and Juliet,” “Tunnel of Love,” “Skateaway” and the aggressive rocker “Solid Rock.”

“Hotter Than July,” Stevie Wonder

Unknown-381Following the unparalleled success of his 1970s albums (“Talking Book,” “Innervisions,” “Fulfillingness’ First Finale” and “Songs in the Key of Life,” three of which won Album of The Year Grammy awards), Wonder tried something new and wrote a soundtrack for a documentary called “The Secret Life of Plants.”  That album had some fine tracks like “Send One Your Love” and “Black Orchid,” but overall, it didn’t click with most fans.  So it was a welcome return to form when he came roaring back in September 1980 with “Hotter Than July.”  Critic Stephen Holden accurately described Wonder as “our most gifted pop muralist because of his evocative, unique synthesis of pop and African musical elements.”  He dedicated the album (and the song “Happy Birthday”) to his effort to have Martin Luther King’s birthday declared a national holiday, which came to pass only three years later.  “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” was a fabulous dose of reggae in honor of Bob Marley, while “I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It,” “Rocket Love” and “All I Do” stand out as the best tracks.

“Boy,” U2

Unknown-385From 1980 onward, few bands have had the impact or the sales success of U2, Ireland’s most popular rock band.  I wasn’t hip to their music from the get-go, but I joined the party around the time of 1984’s “The Unforgettable Fire.”  The combination of innovative guitar work by The Edge and passionate vocals by Bono have served the band very well throughout their 14-album catalog.  Just as important is the songwriting, which the band claims is credited to all four members, though it’s clear that Bono writes the lyrics and The Edge is responsible for most of their musical direction.  U2 has evolved into international superstars, both in concert and on record, but you would be well advised to go back to their humble beginnings, where you’ll find “Boy,” a remarkably mature album for a bunch of 20-year-olds.  The songs deal largely with childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, including “I Will Follow,” “Stories For Boys,” “Out of Control” and “Twilight.”  It’s a damn good record — overshadowed by later works, perhaps — but well worth your time.

“Shadows and Light,” Joni Mitchell

Unknown-383I’m not much of a fan of live albums.  In most instances, the crowd noise serves as an annoying distraction, and too often the band is encouraged to turn a five-minute song into a ten-minute excuse for endless soloing.  There are exceptions, of course;  The Allman Brothers Band’s “At Fillmore East” immediately comes to mind.  In 1980, no less than nine major artists saw fit to release a live album (and they’re always double albums, by the way, increasing the risk of boring the listener).  Nevertheless, I was thoroughly taken by Joni Mitchell’s “Shadows and Light,” which beautifully captured her creative genius as she performed with jazz greats like Pat Metheny on guitar, Jaco Pastorius on fretless bass and Don Alias on drums.  (There’s a great concert video of this show available that you should definitely check out).  Mitchell drew mostly from her more recent jazz-influenced tunes like “Amelia,” “Shadows and Light” and tracks from her 1979 collaboration with Charles Mingus, but she included favorites like “Free Man in Paris,” “Raised on Robbery” and “Coyote” as well.

“Remain in Light,” Talking Heads

Unknown-384I have a difficult confession to make.  David Byrne and his amazing band from New York City weren’t really my cup of tea when they were new.  There, I said it.  I loved “Take Me to the River,” but that was about it.  It took me until sometime in the late ’80s when I saw the astounding live concert film “Stop Making Sense” to appreciate the great songs and excellent sonics of this band.  In 1992, I bought “Sand in the Vaseline,” a 2-CD anthology of the best of Talking Heads, and finally brought myself up to speed on their catalog.  Since then, I have delved back into the original albums, and decided that “Remain in Light,” released in the fall of 1980, is probably their best work.  “Once in a Lifetime” is easily my favorite, but I was impressed with unfamiliar tracks like “Seen and Not Seen” and “Houses in Motion.”  I’ve been jazzed by Byrne’s more recent solo stuff, which I’ve been listening to lately, but the Talking Heads tracks here are not to be missed.

“The Turn of a Friendly Card,” The Alan Parsons Project

Unknown-377Back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, if you went shopping for new speakers for your home stereo, you made sure to have some albums by Alan Parsons Project to test their quality.  Parsons, you may know, was engineer for The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” and producer for Pink Floyd’s sonically perfect “Dark Side of the Moon,” so he knows what he’s doing in the studio.  Much like Steely Dan, Parsons and his musical partner Alan Woolfson wrote songs together and then brought in dozens of different players to turn the tracks into aural gold.  “I Robot” from 1977 is many fans’ favorite APP album, but I have always been partial to the majestic tracks heard on “The Turn of a Friendly Card,” released in the waning days of 1980.  Side two (remember album sides) was largely devoted to the titular five-song suite, of which I’ve included the final section on the playlist.  Just as strong are the sax-dominated instrumental “The Gold Bug” and the two Top 20 hits, “Games People Play” and “Time.”

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Honorable mention:

The Up Escalator,” Graham Parker;  “Duke,” Genesis;  “The River,” Bruce Springsteen;  “One Step Closer,” The Doobie Brothers;  “Double Fantasy,” John Lennon & Yoko Ono;  “Crimes of Passion,” Pat Benatar; “Back in Black,” AC/DC;  “Hold Out,” Jackson Browne;  “Sandinista!,” The Clash.

We’re captive on the carousel of time

As the books closed on The Sixties, I didn’t know that several of my favorite artists would be breaking up over the next twelve months.  The Beatles, especially, but also Simon and Garfunkel, and Peter, Paul & Mary.  But not to worry — new talent would soon dominate my horizon, gently grabbing me by the throat and forcing me to take notice.

images-1531970 was the year I learned an important truth about rock music.  Instead of staying in the same lineups year after year, many rock musicians enjoyed playing with different combinations of people.  Guitarists, keyboard players, singers and rhythm sections eagerly sought out opportunities to record with friends and strangers alike.  It was a benign free-for-all, and we all were the beneficiaries of the musical experimentation.    Everyone showed up as guests on each other’s records, a practice that became the norm still in vogue today.

In reviewing the list of more than 380 albums released 50 years ago this year, I was impressed by the diversity of genres and the number of new artists making their debut, from Emerson Lake & Palmer to Emitt Rhodes, from Jimmy Buffett to Black Sabbath.  From this unwieldy offering, I separated “the wheat from the chaff,” as David Crosby would say, and came up with about 25 albums that most inspired and influenced me.  The hard part was selecting the final dozen; most of my “honorable mentions” could easily have made the cut on someone else’s list.

I get criticized sometimes for listening to the music of long-ago decades instead of what’s more recent, but I can’t help it.  When it comes to music, I am a joyful captive on the carrousel of time, and I feel no need to apologize for it!

Immerse yourself in the selections from these albums.  Then go find the whole records and listen to them in their entirety.  Fifty years ago was such a grand year for music!

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Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Simon and Garfunkel

Unknown-245At the tender age of 13, my friend Ben and I had dreams of becoming the next Simon and Garfunkel, playing guitars and harmonizing our way through a repertoire of folk and acoustic rock.  We learned virtually the entire S&G catalog, from early rudimentary works like “April Come She Will” through more sophisticated tracks like “America.”  When “Bridge Over Troubled Water” came out in the first weeks of 1970, it was almost overwhelming to us how awesome the songs were, especially the iconic title tune, carried, for the first time on an S&G track, by piano.  Unable to do it justice on guitars, we focused instead on “The Boxer,” released nine months earlier as a hit single.  Just as special to me was “The Only Living Boy in New York,” followed by “Song for the Asking” and “So Long Frank Lloyd Wright.”  It was obvious that Simon was blossoming as a songwriter, toying with rock beats (“Baby Driver,” “Keep the Customer Satisfied”), South American rhythms (“El Condor Pasa”) and even impromptu drumming on a piano bench (“Cecilia”).  The album won multiple Grammys and sold more than 25 million copies.

“Moondance,” Van Morrison

Unknown-246Full confession:  For much of the ’70s, my knowledge and appreciation of Van the Man’s music was limited to his ubiquitous 1967 single “Brown-Eyed Girl.”  I wasn’t hip to this excellent LP until many years after its release.  My loss.  He was as important a part of the singer-songwriter movement as others whose work was far more successful commercially.  Morrison largely abandoned the folk-jazz explorations of 1968’s “Astral Weeks” for the R&B/folk rock he would prefer for most of his career from then on.  “Two horns and a rhythm section — that’s the kind of backing I like best,” he said in 1972.  Side One of “Moondance” in particular (the first five songs) ranks right up there as one of the best album sides of the year — “And It Stoned Me,” “Moondance,” “Crazy Love,” “Caravan” and “Into the Mystic” all ended up as FM radio staples for years to come, carried by Morrison’s delicious growl.

“Deja Vu,” Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Unknown-247If ever an album deserved to be fleshed out into a double album, this is it.  The “Crosby, Stills and Nash” album had demonstrated the songwriting prowess of all three musicians, and now they’re going to add Neil Young to the mix?  Two songs apiece from these four gents was simply not enough, not when their egos were always working overtime, and that in large part was why they broke up only three months after “Deja Vu”‘s release.  Too bad some of the songs that ended up on each of their solo debuts (“Southern Man,” “Love the One You’re With,” “I Used to be a King,” “Cowboy Movie”) didn’t show up here instead.  But what a collection of 10 classic folk rock songs, covering so many moods and emotions:  contentment (“Our House”), anger (“Almost Cut My Hair”), pathos (“Helpless”), searching (“Carry On”), mystery (“Deja Vu”), despair (“4+20”), unconditional love (“Teach Your Children”).  And to top it off, the foursome concocted a brilliantly ferocious rendition of Joni Mitchell’s spooky “Woodstock.”

“Elton John,” Elton John

Unknown-253This gorgeous album was released in April 1970 but I didn’t acquire it until I received it at Christmas.  It was the beginning of a three year love affair, when I embraced every album he released up through “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” in September 1973.  But this American debut (he’d released an earlier one, “Empty Sky,” in the UK only) is still my favorite of all his work.  “Your Song,” of course, was what first drew me in, but there’s so much more here.  Bernie Taupin’s thought-provoking lyrical imagery on “First Episode at Hienton” and “The King Must Die,” Paul Buckmaster’s string arrangements on “Sixty Years On” and “The Greatest Discovery,” the full band arrangements on “Take Me to the Pilot” and “The Cage,” the gospel vocals on “Border Song,” even the jaunty country beat of “No Shoestrings on Louise.”  Most of all, I was captivated by Elton’s vocal acrobatics throughout the album.

“Ladies of the Canyon,” Joni Mitchell

Unknown-249Thanks to “Big Yellow Taxi,” Mitchell’s perky protest against paving paradise, I gambled my hard-earned $3.99 and bought “Ladies of the Canyon” upon its release, hoping there might be a couple more tunes to my liking.  What sheer delight to find a dozen brilliant songs, comprising a truly breakthrough album for the Canadian songstress.  I went on to buy every LP Joni ever released, and I place her at the very top of my list of favorite songwriters and artists.  “Morning Morgantown” remains one of the prettiest songs in her catalog, and “For Free” is pure lyrical genius, describing her feelings as a professional musician hearing a talented street performer playing for spare change.  “Willy” is a tribute to her then-lover Graham William Nash, and “Rainy Night House” describes a night with her dear friend Leonard Cohen.  “The Circle Game,” written when she was just 23, is a coming-of-age tale that had been covered by Tom Rush.  Finally, there’s her original arrangement of “Woodstock,” which still brings chills.

“Sweet Baby James,” James Taylor

R-7254128-1559296274-4995.jpegThis nearly perfect album arrived as I was learning to play guitar, and it became my close companion for many months, and for the rest of my life as well.  Taylor’s voice and mine shared the same range, and his songs were relatively easy to learn (even if I couldn’t match his often intricate guitar work).  And what compelling songs they were, full of heart-on-his-sleeve confessional lyrics and irresistible melodies.  “Fire and Rain” got all the airplay, reaching #3 on the charts, and “Country Road” turned into my signature song.  “Blossom,” “Sunny Skies,” “Anywhere Like Heaven” and the title tune (which Taylor refers to as “a cowboy lullaby”) established him as one of the emotional centers of the laid-back music scene.  But he had muscle, too — the kick-ass blues track “Steamroller” and the full-band closer “Suite for 20G” presaged the kind of records he would make a few years later.

“Benefit,” Jethro Tull

Unknown-255In June 1970, I wasn’t yet the Tull fanatic I would become once “Aqualung” and “Thick as a Brick” came out, but I’d been sufficiently intrigued with the group once I heard a local band offer their rendition of “Teacher.”  I took the plunge on “Benefit,” and was flabbergasted at the ingenious combination of excellent hard rock and delicate acoustic guitar, woven together by Ian Anderson’s distinctive vocals and haunting flute.  Electric guitarist Martin Barre fully established himself on this LP, particularly on “To Cry You a Song,” “Son” and the raucous “Play in Time.”  Anderson now dismisses many of his lyrics on this album as “immature and embarrassing,” but I beg to differ.  “For Michael Collins, Jeffrey and Me” tells what it must have been like to be the Apollo astronaut who remained in the space capsule while his pals were walking on the Moon; and “Inside” and “With You There to Help Me” emphasize the importance of companionship.  “Benefit” captures Jethro Tull on the rise.  If you missed it, check it out.

“John Barleycorn Must Die,” Traffic

R-945992-1360360248-7016.jpegI must confess again that I was late to the party when it comes to Traffic, the creative British folk-jazz-rock group steered by the great Steve Winwood.  Their first two records went under my radar, so my introduction to Winwood came on “Can’t Find My Way Home,” the acoustic gem he contributed to the “Blind Faith” LP in 1969 during a lull in Traffic’s career arc.  In fact, Winwood’s next move was intended to be his first solo album, but he found himself missing the accompanying musicians he’d grown accustomed to, so he invited Traffic compadres Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood to the studio, and it became “John Barleycorn Must Die,” Traffic’s splendid third album.  The infectious piano riff on the opening instrumental track “Glad,” the undeniable baritone sax lick on “Freedom Rider,” Winwood’s plaintive vocals on the line “Staring at the empty pages” — all these elements and more combine to make a delicious stew of jazz and rock and traditional English folk I feasted on throughout the summer and fall that year.

“Tea For the Tillerman,” Cat Stevens

imagesBorn in London to parents of Greek and Swedish extraction, Steven Demetre Georgiou showed great promise as both a painter and musician at a young age.  At 21, he contracted a case of tuberculosis that almost killed him, but his convalescence in the hospital surrounded by people dying gave him a new perspective on life and spirituality.  Cat wrote more than 40 songs, most of which became the material that appeared on “Tea for the Tillerman” and its 1971 follow-up, “Teaser and the Firecat.”  Both LPs are terrific, but I prefer “Tillerman” because the songs resonate with me more.  “Father and Son” is musical perfection as a dialog hampered by disagreement, and in “Wild World,” which reached #11 on the US singles chart, Stevens tenderly warns his departing lady about the pitfalls and challenges ahead.  “On the Road to Find Out” covers similar territory, and “Where Do the Children Play” bemoans the industrialization of the environment.  Stevens sings these wonderful tunes in a distinctive voice that alternates effectively between ethereal and forceful.

“Blows Against the Empire,” Paul Kantner

Unknown-254I’m betting very few of my readers are hip to this compelling album.  I wasn’t introduced to it until four years later in a college dorm, with the aid of cannabis, as the artist no doubt intended.  As one of the three principal players in Jefferson Airplane, Kantner brought earnest vocals and rhythm guitar, but mostly he brought songs of fantasy and rebellion.  When the Airplane took a break in early 1970, Kantner gathered his many California kindred spirits and put together an extraordinary sci-fi concept album about hijacking an interstellar starship to abandon Earth and head in search of new life in distant galaxies.  A bit far-fetched, perhaps, but there are some stunning songs and performances here.  “Let’s Go Together” is a joyous tune of shared community and purpose, with Grace Slick’s soaring vocals in full control;  “A Child is Coming” celebrates new life, featuring a duet between David Crosby and Kantner ; “Have You Seen the Stars Tonite” again feature Crosby on vocals and 12-string guitar; and “Starship” is the glorious finale.  Don’t miss Jerry Garcia’s contributions on banjo and pedal steel guitar.

“Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs,” Derek and The Dominos

images-150It’s hard to imagine now, but this titanic double album of quintessential blues rock was neither a critical nor a commercial success upon release in November 1970.  Since the breakup of Cream in late 1968, Eric Clapton had wanted to shun the limelight, working with Delaney & Bonnie and company as just a session guy.  He used these same musicians on his debut solo LP in spring 1970, then continued with them throughout the summer, eventually convening in Miami to record the songs he’d been writing with keyboardist Bobby Whitlock.  As they recorded in Miami that summer, the great Duane Allman happened to be in town for a gig, so Clapton attended the show and then invited Allman to sit in on the sessions.  The resulting chemistry between the two guitar virtuosos made for some of the finest recordings in Clapton’s storied career, notably “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad,” “Have You Ever Loved a Woman,” “Key to the Highway,” and of course the iconic title song.  It’s interesting to note that “Layla” the single wasn’t a chart success until August 1972 when it reached #10 upon re-release.

“All Things Must Pass,” George Harrison

Unknown-2511970 brought us five new albums from the Fab Four:  The final Beatles album (the underwhelming “Let It Be”); two bare-bones solo debuts from the two halves of rock’s greatest songwriting team (“McCartney” and “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band”); Ringo’s mostly forgettable collection of standards (“Sentimental Journey”); and by far the best of the bunch, George’s sprawling triple album “All Things Must Pass.”  Released just in time for Christmas and announced via the stunning international #1 hit “My Sweet Lord,” this album offered a cornucopia of marvelous songs, from “What Is Life” to “Isn’t It a Pity,” from “Let It Roll” to “Awaiting on You All,” from “I’d Have You Anytime” to “Wah-Wah.”  It was recorded by “Wall of Sound” producer Phil Spector with the help of a dozen musical pals like Ringo, Eric Clapton, Gary Wright, Billy Preston, Dave Mason and members of Badfinger and Derek and the Dominos.  Clearly, George had been stockpiling great tunes during the final Beatles years, and they all came spilling out to us here.

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It pained me to consign some of these superb albums to “honorable mention” status (particularly “After the Gold Rush” and “Tumbleweed Connection,”), but hey, I had to draw the line somewhere…

After the Gold Rush,” Neil Young;  “Woodstock original soundtrack“;  “Alone Together,” Dave Mason;  “Tumbleweed Connection,” Elton John;  “Chicago II,” Chicago;  “A Question of Balance,” The Moody Blues;  “Led Zeppelin III,” Led Zeppelin;  “Sit Down Young Stranger,” Gordon Lightfoot;  “John B. Sebastian,” John Sebastian;  “American Beauty,” The Grateful Dead;  “Eric Clapton,” Eric Clapton;  “Abraxas,” Santana;  “Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” Joe Cocker & Leon Russell;  “Let It Be,” The Beatles;  “Black Sabbath,” Black Sabbath.

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The Spotify playlist offers three tracks from each album selection, and one track each from the honorable mention group, thereby giving a pretty solid representation of 1970’s best music.

 

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