Wow! What a week! I’m getting too old for this shit (my apologies to Lethal Weapon). Either we’ve had one of the grandchildren at our house or I was taking care of my step-father who is now suffering dementia. So, I haven’t had time to really listen to music or write. And, today, I’m just plain exhausted.
Yet, today, I am digging deep to finish off my second entry of albums from 1974 that I have on this act of stupidity that I call my 1000 favorite albums of all-time. So, let’s get on with it!
Neil Young – On the Beach (1974). After the death of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten, Young went on a two-album-and-a-tour bender purging the demons of that death much to the chagrin to his record company. This album is as ragged as the previous two albeit with a survivor’s mentality. This is the prime period in which Young made his reputation as a songwriter and rocker.
Queen – Sheer Heart Attack (1974). Here’s the album in which Queen finally began to grow into their ambitions. Throughout the album, you hear the band following the muse of their own individual whimsy. Drummer Roger Taylor is the rocker, bassist John Deacon is the pop/R&B lover, guitarist Brian May is the lover of art rock based in the English experience and singer/band focal point is the master of camp. And all of this becomes an unlikely concoction of rock bliss that would dominate music for the next decade.
Randy Newman – Good Old Boys (1974). Newman has made a career out of walking that thin line between brilliant satire and outright cruelty. And, those for those people who take everything at face value, Newman is a pariah. Yet, there are those of us who love his take on bigotry. What is amazing is that our country has not moved beyond his canny take on the stupidity of racism, as we have witnessed over the past month or so of Black Lives Matter demonstrations throughout the country and world.
Raspberries – Starting Over (1974). After the departure of half the band, the Raspberries reconvened with an aptly titled fourth album by toughening their sound with an emphasis on The Who influences. While the whole album is killer power pop, which set the stage for the genres late-Seventies resurgence behind Cheap Trick and The Knack, the stand out song is the immortal rock & roll dreams stated in “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record).”
Roxy Music – Country Life (1974). This album is something of a transition album for Roxy Music, as they continue to record their artier version of Glam Rock and transition to that elegant pop/rock which will soon become their staple at the turn of the decade. It’s not much of a batch of singles but a coherent album statement.
Shuggie Otis – Inspiration Information (1974). You may be wondering who this artist is, and rightfully so. This man was criminally overlooked back in the Seventies. He made social and racial statements that were every bit as strong as Marvin or Curtis, but, today, his music actually sounds contemporary. Artists in the Nineties were singing the praises of the man as they discovered him. Oh, and the Brothers Johnson had a major hit with Otis’ “Strawberry Letter 23,” even though his original version easily outdistances that great cover.
Stevie Wonder – Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974). Much like Marvin Gaye, Wonder followed up his socially/racially motivated previous album with one taking on relationships. But, instead of fulling Marvin’s lead into the sexual, Wonder takes on the heart. “You Haven’t Done Nothin'” and “Boogie on Reggae Woman” are the hits here.
The Doobie Brothers – What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits (1974). I know! There’s probably better albums from The Doobies that were released earlier, but I still love this album! I dig the diversity of the songs, ranging from the huge hit “Black Water” to the laidback, nearly Chicago take on “Another Park, Another Sunday.” Plus, the use of the Memphis Horns was a great touch by the band.
The Meters – Rejuvenation (1974). The Rolling Stones always had a way of bringing great black artists to the forefront whenever they toured. This time, the band shown the light upon one of rock’s more overlooked funk bands out of New Orleans called The Meters. There’s much to compare The Meters to being a Seventies musical equivalent of today’s The Roots. In both cases, these guys could play anything and that ability made them able to transcend genres in being a terrific band. Go listen to this album to hear what Mardi Gras should actually sound like.
Tom Waits – The Heart of Saturday Night (1974). Tom Waits brilliance only comes through upon multiple listenings. There is an understated beauty to his tales of the losers that cross through the bars on the wrong side of the street. His music is impeccable and only enhances the loneliness of the many characters which inhabit his songs.
Van Morrison – It’s Too Late to Stop Now… (1974). Legend has it that Van Morrison is a temperamental live performer. You wouldn’t know by his passionate performance on this brilliant double album. He and his band run through scorching versions of many of his best-known songs. This album remains one of my favorite live albums of all time.
Van Morrison – Veedon Fleece (1974). This album marks the end of Morrison’s most innovative and creative period of his career. Still, he ended it on a high note. Unfortunately, this album lacks a big hit single that marked his previous albums. But, much like the album that kicked off this chapter, 1968’s Astral Weeks, Veedon Fleece is the sound of an artist working through his demons, specifically the sudden divorce from his wife.
And, that, my friends, wraps up my version of 1974. Have a stellar weekend! Peace!