Let’s see, what do I remember about 1972? First, I was petrified at the thought of calling a girl I liked on the phone. Second, I probably had more in common with a basketball than anything else on the planet. Third, my third grade teacher became the first non-family member to encourage me to write more, although I really didn’t take her advise. Fourth, I discover just how hard a person’s head could be when another friend broke his front tooth on the head of another friend as we played basketball. The highlight of the whole episode was seeing the remnant tooth still implanted in the guy’s head. You know, exciting times for a nine-year-old.
And, for some odd reason, I became obsessed with the whole Watergate break-in. That fascination has remained a life-long thing. I’ve always been kind of odd. Enough of that! Let’s do the music.
Jimmy Cliff – The Harder They Come (1972). Everyone should have a reggae phase during their lives. Honestly, there’s no better music to listen to around water on a warm day. Of course, you have to start your reggae journey with this album that has more than only Jimmy Cliff on the album. But, those three Cliff songs are immortal. Throw in some Toots & the Maytals, and you have the basis of a beautiful introduction into the world of reggae. From there, branch out to Bob Marley, Johnny Nash, Peter Tosh, Burning Spear, Black Uhuru, and the rest. And Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross” is exquisite.
Lou Reed – Transformer (1972). Lou Reed left behind The Velvet Underground and got some production help from buddy David Bowie to stake his claim not only as a major player in glam rock or as a godfather of the upcoming punk movement, but as an important rock icon. Bowie tempered Reed’s gritty tales of the NYC underbelly without loosing Lou’s journalistic point-of-view. This classic album will always be best remembered for the terrific “Walk on the Wild Side.”
Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1972). Along with Stevie Wonder and The Temptations, Marvin Gaye has got to be the most important Motown artist of the early-Seventies. This album remains the man’s creative peak, with tales of anguish of inner city life (“Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)”), the environment (“Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)”) and the disparity in the deaths of poor black men, both at home and in Vietnam (the pleading title song). No other Motown album dealt with black issues like this one did. This album should remain required listening for race relations. It is especially poignant during these days of Black Lives Matter.
Mott the Hoople – All the Young Dudes (1972). Once again, David Bowie played a major role in the success of this great British band, giving them a glam overhaul and helping the band focus their energies. Plus, no one will ever forget the title song, a nice little gift from Ziggy Stardust himself.
Neil Young – Harvest (1972). Perhaps, this album remains something of a commercial albatross around the necks of critics more than Neil Young himself. This country rock sounding album remains Young’s only number one album, and there are so many great songs on it. And as fantastic as this album is, it only gives the average listener a small glimpse in the depth of the man’s talent. “Heart of Gold” was the hit, but “The Needle and the Damage Done” is the emotional heart of the album.
Nick Drake – Pink Moon (1972). This is the Drake album upon which his reputation is hung. And, it is his bleakest album, yet still achingly beautiful. Unfortunately, it was his last album as he would die from a drug-overdose in 1974. He never really experienced any commercial success in his lifetime, but his reputation as an artist continues to rise. The title song was even used in a car commercial a few years back.
Paul McCartney/Linda McCartney – Ram (1972). Beatles fans were awaiting major artistic statements from the first solo albums from the formerly Fab Four. And, they got them from John Lennon (John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band) and George Harrison (All Things Must Pass). But, McCartney was just McCartney on his debut, McCartney. So, what did Paul do for a follow-up? He teamed up with his beloved wife Linda and created another batch of “silly love songs.” But, these were very charming songs, including the Beatles-like pastiche of Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey.”
Paul Simon – Paul Simon (1972). If you were wondering why Simon & Garfunkel broke up, from a musical standpoint, Simon’s first solo album proved it. The man wanted to dive into different styles. After the glorious “Bridge over Troubled Water,” Simon showed his playfulness on “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.” The theme of death is tackled throughout this album, no matter how Simon dresses up the music. Still, Paul did record a brilliant hit song with “Mother and Child Reunion.”
Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon (1972). What can I say about this album that hasn’t been said before? Simply put, it remains a cultural milestone that truly defies its place in musical history. This album is the vision that you’d think Sgt. Pepper would have. This is the granddaddy of all classic rock albums, and much more.
Randy Newman – Sail Away (1972). This album just might be Newman’s best. The sarcasm is slightly toned down, but the lyrical impact is still there. It is simply beautiful in its execution. And, there is enough sly winks to keep me coming back. The satire is thick, though. Newman has described the title song as a commercial jingle for slave owners to recruit potential (naive) Africans. “Political Science” is, well, a cynical lesson in political science. And, Newman’s original take on “You Can Leave Your Hat On” is more hilarious when compared to Joe Cocker’s earnest take on the song.
Raspberries – Raspberries (1972). Before Eric Carmen went solo and gave us the teen weeper “All by Myself” or before he became a right-wing conspiracy-touting nut job, he was the one of the originators of power pop. This Cleveland band’s debut album is a terrific mix of “Paperback Writer”-era Beatles and early Mod-era Who. And, I could go on for days about what a masterpiece “Go All the Way” is. Everyone from Cheap Trick to Bruce Springsteen to Marshall Crenshaw to The Bangles to Matthew Sweet and beyond have all knelt at the alter of the Raspberries.