I realized a couple of things after the beginning of this list. First, you will quickly tell that I am a child of the late-Seventies and early-Eighties by the fact that I had less than 100 albums from the early years of rock music. I’m not really going to apologize because there is plenty of room for a more early Boomer-centric list, as displayed in lists by Rolling Stone or 1001 Albums You Have to Hear Before You Die. And that’s fine, because music truly is about our youth. Second, I discovered another box set compilation that I left out that should have been near the beginning of this list, even though it was released in the early-Nineties. So, I will be backing up a bit to acknowledge that one before I jump into the Seventies.
Therefore, let’s get this thing going.
Phil Spector – Back to Mono (1958-1969) (1991). Long before Phil Spector became a convicted murderer, the man was a pop genius record producer. The man was responsible for the famous production technique known as The Wall of Sound, which influence artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Brian Wilson. Spector’s production work can be heard on this box set in all of its glory, from “Spanish Harlem” and “He’s a Rebel” through “Be My Baby” and “Da Doo Run Run” all the way to “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” and “River Deep-Mountain High,” and all places in between. Hell, the set includes his seminal Christmas album which was unfortunately released the very day President Kennedy was assassinated. Unfortunately, the collection does not include something from his work on the Ramones 1980 album End of the Century or his work with The Beatles as a group and as solo artists. However, the work from his peak is all here.
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (1970). Yes, artists such as Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck Group, Blue Cheer, Deep Purple, among others were all turning up the volume on their amps, but heavy metal really began with this album. The format is all here: banshee wail vocals, down-tuned guitar riffs, thunderous-yet-nimble rhythm section and B-movie horror lyrics. This is metal from the moment the needle hits the groove, becoming a HUGE influence across the decades.
Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970). So, what did Sabbath do for an encore after inventing heavy metal? They dropped a second, more polished and most influential metal album of all-time a mere seven months later. Four of the band’s classics are all found on the album, “Paranoid,” “Iron Man,” “War Pigs” AND “Fairies Wear Boots.”
Bob Dylan – New Morning (1970). Dylan bounced back from the disastrous (but is it really that bad?) Self Portrait album with a more focused album that picks up with the laidback country vibe of the last two albums of the Sixties. Simply a great album for those slow moving mornings.
Carpenters – Close to You (1970). Not every rebel in the Seventies was unshaven and unkempt. Actually, more of us looked as scrubbed and well-groomed as the Carpenters. So, stop groaning and listen to this album! Sure, the music is a little gooey, but, dammit, Karen Carpenter has the voice of a broken angel. It is the underlying pain in her soul that makes the darker lyrical material simply jump forth to grab your heart. Kiss my butt! The Carpenters rule!
Cat Stevens – Tea for the Tillerman (1970). When I heard “Wild World” for the first time at age seven, I understood that this was a much different cat who did this one. Then, I got this album on 8-Track for Christmas, along with a vinyl Partridge Family album but I digress. I played the hell out of this tape until it broke a year later. Stevens was a premier artist of the time and here’s the proof.
Chicago – Chicago II (1970). The band broke new ground the previous year on their debut double album. So, to follow it up, Chicago released yet another double album and actually upped the ante. For my money, this is the band’s greatest album in their huge catalog. This album has many of their early classics like “Make Me Smile,” the early-Seventies prom standard “Color My World,” and the immortal “25 or 6 to 4.” I saw the band perform this album live a couple of years ago and reawakened my respect for these rock survivors.
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory (1970). Seriously! Outside of Lennon and McCartney at the beginning of Beatlemania, who had a greater two-year run than the great John Fogerty? C’mon! All of CCR’s classic songs were released in a two-and-a-half year time period. For my money, this is their studio album to own, since it contains “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and “Travelin’ Band.”
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Pendulum (1970). Unfortunately, the music business cut this hit machine short. The band’s sound is still crisp and forceful, but the inter-band dynamics were horrible and their management was even worse. But, before the band imploded, they dropped one more classic album with the immortal “Who’ll Stop the Rain?”
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Dèjá Vu (1970). Shortly after releasing their debut album, the law firm-sounding band of David Crosby, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills added the mercurial Neil Young to the roster. The lineup debuted at Woodstock, then began work on this landmark album. This is nearly a greatest hits album, and the band’s most cohesive work of any variation of this great group.
Derek & the Dominos – Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs (1970). After begging The Band to add him to their lineup, then playing the sideman to Delaney and Bonnie, Eric Clapton grabs that duo’s backup band and added some friends (most notably Duane Allman) and recorded these songs of unrequited love. You see, Eric was in love with his best mate’s (George Harrison) wife, the beautiful Patty Boyd. Instead of acting upon this heart-rendering situation, Clapton instead creates this beautiful blues-infused album of confessional love. The highlights include two of Clapton’s most enduring songs, the title song and “Bell Bottom Blues.”
I have several more albums from 1970 for the very near future. Stay tuned!