No need to bore you with the trivial, so let’s get to the final third of my list for 1978.
The Jacksons – Destiny (1978). Let’s be honest about this album. No matter how great this album is, in hindsight, it is clear that this was a dry run for Michael’s solo albums. And, that statement does not diminish the fact that this album is pure Jackson brother magic. The dance songs are terrific, led by the huge hit “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” and “Blame It on the Boogie.” But, it is the songs “Bless His Soul” and “Push Me Away” that display the depth of mature Michael’s talent. But, in 1978, this album was a party album that got people dancing.
The Jam – All Mod Cons (1978). After a terrific debut then a lackluster sophomore album, The Jam regrouped to create their finest album to date. This one is stuffed full of UK hits that as enduring as anyone else’s hits of the day. This album established the band and specifically Paul Weller’s prowess as a musical visionary. And, the band had not even peaked yet.
The Rolling Stones – Some Girls (1978). Punk was a necessary reaction to the over-abundance of great playing musicians whose myths made them seem like gods. Then, the Ramones came along with their punishing 30-minute, 15-song sets with nary a guitar solo, that threatened to make all the Sixties “dinosaurs” passe. So, within that environment, The Stones made their final grand musical statement in the face of both disco and punk. This album is punishing, fun and sexy, you know, albums like they used to make. After this album, unfortunately, the band was spent, no matter what their fans say.
The Saints – Eternally Yours (1978). What is about Australian bands that can take a modern sound and just turn it on it’s side? Is the isolation? Or, do the toilets really flush in the opposite direction (they don’t)? The Saints took the punk template and mixed in some tempo changes, flashes of R&B, and, God forbid (!) sax solos that actually laid the groundwork for fellow Aussies like INXS to follow into platinum sales. This is an oft-overlooked gem.
Thin Lizzy – Live and Dangerous (1978). Thin Lizzy was on a great creative roll by the time of this much-heralded live album was released. This is an absolutely exciting environment in which to enjoy the band’s music. Unfortunately, much like Kiss Alive!, the sound was doctored a bit in the studio to increase that excitement and playing. But, who cares?!?! Thin Lizzy was absolutely awesome!
Todd Rundgren – Hermit of Mink Hollow (1978). I am a sucker for the singer-songwriter version of Todd. I just am. While I love all of his music, it’s his vulnerable side which speaks to me. And, this album remains his finest since 1972’s Something/Anything. “Can We Still Be Friends?” is still a great song.
Van Halen – Van Halen (1978). By 1978, metal was directionless and bloated. Then along comes the first band from Sunset Strip to set the world on fire. They brought humor and pop melodies to the genre that was overrun with satanic nods and stories about mythical creatures. Basically, the boys brought some sex back to rock & roll, along with the most influential guitarist of a generation in Eddie Van Halen. Unfortunately, many half-baked bands followed in their wake, which almost negated Van Halen innovations. But, that happens often in the rock world.
Warren Zevon – Excitable Boy (1978). Excitable Boy is Zevon’s finest album. His song cycle is impeccable yet troubling in his own acerbic manner. Next to Randy Newman, Zevon is the best at acid-tinged insults to the power structure of society. We could use his voice today.
Willie Nelson – Stardust (1978). Remember during the first decade of the 2000s, established rock artists like Rod Stewart began recording traditional standards as if they had stumbled upon some great American songbook. Well, in 1978, after creating the whole outlaw country genre, Willie Nelson did this first, eschewing any originals or country or folk standards, to record an album’s worth of pop standards and produced by soul great Booker T. Jones. And with his own style, he made these standards all his own. This was a truly risky move, but it paid off in spades.
X-Ray Spex – Germ Free Adolescents (1978). The truly great thing about punk is that it opened up the music world to new possibilities, especially those with one foot in the art world. Into that space comes X-Ray Spex with their visionary singer/songwriter Poly Styrene. If new wave had not been thought of at this point, it was now! This is the beginning of the voice of Generation X, the sociological generation not the Billy Idol-led band, though a case could be made for that too. Unfortunately, X-Ray Spex never made here in the States, but their musical revolution would be won, however briefly, by artists who followed on a thing called MTV. Plus, you just gotta hear “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” on the CD reissue.
And, that brings 1978 to a close. Now, the door to new wave and power pop has been opened, paving the way for new exciting sounds that will begin popping up in 1979. With this blog, we have now covered 349 albums over approximately 24+ years, with many more classics and surprises left. Will be back during the working week. Peace.