Oh boy! Am I ever becoming the music connoisseur by the age of ten. Not really, because if I’m honest, I was actually a big fan of “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree” and “Shambala” as much as “No More Mister Nice Guy” and “Long Train Running.” Still, I did begin to slow become a better judge of good music as opposed to bad music, regardless of these discrepancies.
Since I am still battling these persistent back spasms, I have a little more time to write today than I normally would. Plus, I’m in a little groove with my other musical obsession, Tom Petty, playing in the background.
So, let’s get this 1973 bus rolling!
Al Green – I’m Still in Love with You (1973). Yet another terrific set of steamy soul songs, a few of them covers. I remember a grade school friend’s teenage sister, who we all thought was hot, playing this 8-track tape. If she liked it, as my pre-hormonal thought process went, it had to be good. And, it is!
Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies (1973). This is the first album I ever bought with my own money. Good choice? No! Great choice!!! This album continues the band’s winning formula of shocking stage shows and lyrics, budding hard rock and a high dose of teenage pandering. Kiss and every hair metal band after Van Halen must pay homage to Alice Cooper for their success.
Bob Marley & the Wailers – Burnin’ (1973). Wanna know where Eric Clapton discovered “I Shot the Sheriff”? Look no further! As you will soon discover, Clapton’s version is lame in comparison to Marley’s original. Not only that, but this album contains the immortal “Get Up, Stand Up.” So, what else do you need in order to realize reggae is a great genre?
Bob Marley & the Wailers – Catch a Fire (1973). Here is Marley’s major label debut, and it is a classic! Johnny Nash brought the song to the masses, but Marley’s original version of “Stir It Up” is dripping with sex. Plus, the rest of the album introduced reggae to the mainstream rock audience. This one was the first of two landmark albums in 1973 for Marley & the Wailers.
Brian Eno – Here Come the Warm Jets (1973). Eno, the self-described noise manipulator for the band Roxy Music, struck out on his own for the innovative take on Glam Rock. This album set the stage for his great run of albums in the Seventies that influenced punk, new wave and hip hop. Additionally, we get to hear his production work that would become so vital for artists like Talking Heads, U2 and Coldplay, among many others.
Bruce Springsteen – The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle (1973). Dave Marsh once described Side Two of this album like a typical weekend for a working class hero, and that has always stuck with me. Two more mellow songs, representing the Friday workday and the Sunday day off, sandwich the wild Saturday blowout of “Rosalita” in the middle. And nothing better described that album. This is when Springsteen began to sprout into The Boss.
David Bowie – Aladdin Sane (1973). As the title cryptically implies, Bowie is working out some demons on this album with some slightly bizarre music within the Glam Rock context set forth by his work on Ziggy Stardust. This is a terrific set, even though it lacks the big single like its predecessor or the albums that will follow.
Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy (1973). Led Zep pretty much follows the same game plan they followed on Zeppelin IV only their playing seems a little looser and freer. This album might just be their most consistent and satisfying statement in their illustrious catalog.
Lynyrd Skynyrd – (pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd) (1973). This is Southern Rock in all its glory and warts. Unlike the present day version of this band, the Ronnie Van Zandt-led version was lyrically grappling with what it was like to be an American from the former Confederacy. Outside of “Sweet Home Alabama,” all of the band’s big concert songs are found on their debut album, from “Freebird” and “Simple Man” to “Tuesday’s Gone” and “Gimme Three Steps.” It remains a great album today that influenced a huge run on Southern Rock artists in the Seventies up through today in bands like the Drive-By Truckers and North Mississippi Allstars.
Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On (1973). So, how did Gaye choose to followup his greatest musical statement? With an album written as an ode to sex. And, if you don’t think about the muse of this album, it stands as one terrific song for physical love. However, the story behind the album would never fly today during the #MeToo movement. I tend to block that story out of my head when revisiting this album, as I do for all Michael Jackson LPs.
New York Dolls – New York Dolls (1973). While Detroit’s Stooges nudged the door open on a thing soon to be called punk rock, NYC’s New York Dolls brought an art school mentality to the sound as they did a Warholian thing by cross dressing onstage. Between the two bands, along with a pinch of political awareness from MC5, they set the parameters of punk. If the band could have only held it together long enough to become as heralded as The Stooges and MC5.
Paul McCartney & Wings – Band on the Run (1973). McCartney fans argue all the time as to which of his albums are the greatest. Personally, I love to read their posts on the subject. Some enjoy the obscure latter day albums, while others push the big sellers. Me? I go with this album. Why? The title song! It remains a romanticized yet magical song of the power of a rock band that I want to buy into.
Paul Simon – There Goes Rhymin’ Simon (1973). Once again, Simon shows what a musical force of nature he was becoming as he continues to dip into musical styles from outside of the typical rock world. “Kodachrome” and “Loves Me like a Rock” are classics that we would play on our high school radio station in the early Eighties as a sing-along bit. And, we were NOT being ironic!
Stevie Wonder – Innervisions (1973). Now, Wonder is hitting his full creative stride on Innervisions. All I need to say are “Living for the City,” “Higher Ground” and “He’s Misstra Know It All.” Classic.
The Isley Brothers – 3 + 3 (1973). Yes, The Isley Brothers were a terrific band from the late-Fifties through the early-Sixties, but this is the album when they turned a creative corner and became true rock immortals. The album comes from the band expanding from the three original brothers to six with two younger brothers and a cousin joining the lineup. Most importantly, younger brother Ernie added his Hendrix-influenced guitar playing to the funk, making them a more commercial version of Funkadelic. “That Lay, Parts 1 & 2” remains a landmark song, and their version of Seals & Crofts’ Yacht Rock classic of “Summer Breeze” is a sensual innovative take.
The Stooges – Raw Power (1973). For all the praises worthily heaped upon the band’s first two albums, this is the one where the whole rage and rawness came to a head and burst its influence all over rock’s budding punk scene. Of course, you will find Bowie’s fingerprints on the creation of this classic. “Search and Destroy” remains a punk classic.
The Who – Quadrophenia (1973). While Who’s Next is rightfully praised as The Who’s creative peak and Tommy is considered the granddaddy of all rock operas, I actually prefer this ode to the band members’ Mod days. The story line is so much better, and the songs are terrific. I simply find this album as the most satisfying Who adventures ever.
ZZ Top – Tres Hombres (1973). This is the album that kicked off ZZ Top’s career. But, never lump these Texans in the Southern Rock category. They are way more blues rock than Southern Rock, just like The Allmans. To me, any album that has an original like “La Grange” is going to be a classic in my book.
And that folks, wraps up 1973 in my list. Peace!