I Am Getting Closer to the Meat of the Lineup in My 1000 Favorite Albums with 1977, Part 1

5.17 Top 1000 Albums_LI

In the United States, there are five birthdays which are major in one’s life. The first one is when you turn 10, because you are now in double digits. Next, that’s when you turn 13 because you are officially a teenager, whatever that means. Then, when you turn 16, you are eligible to get your driver’s license, which you think means freedom. Unfortunately, no one warns you that it means insurance payments to you parents so you can drive their car, or, if you’re lucky, your own car. That one is followed up by your eighteenth birthday, meaning you are somewhat, but not fully, an adult. Finally, you turn 21, then you can drink, in addition to being required to take on adult responsibilities, which you discover sucks more than ever.

Oh, sure, your 30th, 40th and 50th birthdays are big deals to others but honestly not to you. And, I am certain that the rest of my birthdays will be the same to me, as 51 through 57 have been met with my own personal nonchalance. Truth be told, I would much rather watch my grandkids play around than to celebrate another birthday. Then, either retire to listen to music and write or read or watch a basketball game. But, those birthdays are special to my family, so I will play the game for them.

So, what does this have to do with 1977? Well, I did reach a somewhat significant milestone in the fall of that year because I started high school. I was excited because I had large intellectual dreams of higher learning at the time. Boy, was I ever wrong. I guess that’s why I attempted to teach chemistry at a higher level than what was required by the state. I know many of the students I would be teaching would be coming into it bored and developing a deep cynicism toward public education. I knew that because I had been there. So, I attempted to make chemistry and microbiology at a high enough level that it would challenge the average “good” student, resulting in everyone being forced to raise their academic efforts. I wanted to be close to the teacher that I would have wanted growing up. You know, someone that students bitched about because they were being forced out of their comfort zones.

Anyway, if you were to look at my favorite 15 years of music as a baseball batting lineup, 1975 and 1976 represent the lead-off hitter, basically setting the table for what was to come latter in the order. Now, 1977 and 1978 are batting in the “two-hole” so they can advance the runner for the meat of the lineup that’s waiting to hit. So, 1977 is definitely advancing my musical palette with some obviously classic albums, along with some surprises, as usual.

Batter up!

7.6 Billy Joel - The Stranger

Billy Joel – The Stranger (1977). This album was kind just selling steadily until Joel skipped his high school class reunion to perform on Saturday Night Live early in the year. His great performances really jump-started his career, which we all know how it went. And, this album remains his finest statement. Often compared to Elton John as an American version, I find that limiting and unfair. Joel IS uniquely American, as his music is as steeped in rock & roll as it is Broadway and Tin Pan Alley. This album was one of my pre-race “go-to” albums when I was a high school runner.

7.6 Bob Marley and the Wailers - Exodus

Bob Marley & the Wailers – Exodus (1977). As 1977 rolled around, Marley had become the most successful reggae artist in the world and, perhaps, the most powerful man in Jamaica. At least, Marley was believed to be powerful enough to have an assassination attempt taken on him. This only solidified his resolve to produce what I consider his greatest album. Seriously, he has the title song, “Jamming,” “One Love/People Get Ready” and “Waiting in Vain” all on this album. Please!

7.6 Cheap Trick - Cheap Trick

Cheap Trick – Cheap Trick (1977). Cheap Trick’s debut album set the stage for the Alternative Nation of Eighties and Nineties, as well as, unfortunately, hair metal. Their American Beatles sound channeled through early Who power also set the stage for power pop and new wave. Were they punk or arena rock? Yes.

7.6 Cheap Trick - In Color

Cheap Trick – In Color (1977). Our heroes from Rockford, Illinois, released two classic albums in the calendar year of 1977. This was steeped more on their pop side more than their rockier side. Still, it remains a power pop classic in the truest sense. Plus, much of what is recorded for At Budokan is found in its rudimentary forms. I became a life-long Cheap Trick fan with this album.

7.6 David Bowie - Heroes

David Bowie – “Heroes” (1977). The middle of Bowie’s much regarded Berlin trilogy just might be his finest of the three. As he and producer Brian Eno did with Low earlier in the year, half of the album has vocals while the other does not. All of these albums were steeped in the synthesizer experiments as defined by Kraftwerk. Simply a brilliant album.

7.6 David Bowie - Low

David Bowie – Low (1977). If you bought this album hoping to hear either “Fame 2.0” or “Golden Years, Part 2,” you were disappointed. But, you were cognizant of Bowie’s penchant for musical shifting, you were left stunned by the greatness of this album. No, it is not a punk album either. Instead, this album, along with the other two albums that he and Eno produced in Berlin anticipated the whole post-punk and new wave world that would be left in punk’s wake. Jarring, yet beautiful!

7.6 Dennis Wilson - Pacific Ocean Blue

Dennis Wilson – Pacific Ocean Blues (1977). The one Wilson brother voted least likely to have a solo career is the one who created the best adult version of The Beach Boys’ sound. This album, which I did not discover until well into the 21st century, is simply spectacular.

7.6 ELO - Out of the Blue

Electric Light Orchestra – Out of the Blue (1977). Seriously! Who knew that you could actually record a compelling concept album based upon the weather. Of course, ELO could. And, it is magnificent in its scope, as only a Seventies album this side of Queen could ever create. Oh, and it has one of the greatest odes to The Beatles EVER concocted in “Mr. Blue Sky.” Jeff Lynne actually “out-Beatled” The Beatles.

7.6 Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True

Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True (1977). Once again, another album that completely changed my life, Costello IS my Elvis. This is just a perfect album in a long line of perfect albums that Elvis made early in his career. Much is made about his lyrics, but his music mind is every bit as deep as his wordsmith. He is my generation’s Dylan, Lennon or Cobain.

7.6 Fleetwood Mac - Rumours

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977). Another of the HUGE selling albums of the Seventies, this album chronicled the falling apart of three couples, two of which were in the band together. And, how, when each one knew a song was about another, could hold it together to create such terrific music is incomprehensible to us mortals. Every song is just impeccably written, performed and produced. And, every one of them deserves to be overplayed on Classic Rock radio.

So, until next time! Peace!

1976, Part 2: My 1000 Favorite Albums

5.17 Top 1000 Albums_LI

So, sue me! I have left off my list two of possibly the biggest selling albums of the year: Wings at the Speed of Sound and Rod Stewart’s A Night on the Town. Wanna know why? I find them tedious and boring, even though I am currently listening to the former right now. They are just not these great artists’ best albums.

Unfortunately, I could not justify leaving space of Wild Cherry’s debut album, even if it does contain their brilliant one hit “Play That Funky Music.” Same goes for Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and their fun The Roaring Silence (with their Springsteen cover “Blinded by the Light) and Klaatu’s “are they The Beatles incognito or not?” debut. I love them all, but they are not classics. They represent curious albums that for some reason hold a dear place in my heart.

No, classic albums have a clear artistic statement being made by the artist. Maybe it takes years to discover it, maybe it’s immediate. They may have massive commercial appeal and maybe they did not, at least during their time. But, most have gone on to (or continue to) influence other artists, future trends or all of the above. Plus, in all honesty, I divide music into two specific categories: good and bad. And, what may be perceived to be “good” by me, may be horrible to you, and vice versa. That’s the true beauty of music. Whatever touches your heart and soul, that’s the music which is important to you and me.

So, let’s finish off the year of the bicentennial.

7.4 The Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers

The Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers (1976). This album was actually recorded in 1973 with former Velvet Underground man John Cale as the producer. This album is full of geeky lyrics, stripped down VU-influenced rock that fit perfectly into the new punk scene that was developing in the NYC underground. Now, the Lou Reed detached cynicism is replaced with Jonathan Richman’s nerdy obsessions, subject matter that was new to rock music yet would soon become common place. Just listen to the Ramones, Talking Heads, Weezer or any other nerd rockers from this moment onward. Oh, the band includes a future member of Talking Heads, guitarist/keyboardist Jerry Harrison.

7.4 Parliament - Mothership Connection

Parliament – Mothership Connection (1976). George Clinton’s band of cosmic funkateers seemed to drop on Earth as some mix of Sly & the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention and Kiss just in time to bring the funk to the masses. These acid-drenched, cocaine-fueled musicians tore the roof off the sucker and burnt the mother down with this album. Finally, the future was now!

Peter Frampton

Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive (1976). Kiss’ Alive! may have won the hearts of teenage boys everywhere, it was Frampton Comes Alive that sold the most copies, ever at the time. Of course, there was much to appeal to the masses: good songs, great performances, likable personality and Frampton’s good looks. 1976 was Frampton’s year.

7.4 Peter Tosh - Legalize It

Peter Tosh – Legalize It (1976). Want to know how deep the talent was in Bob Marley’s Wailers? Peter Tosh left the band at the end of 1975, and Marley still released some awfully good music. Of course, Tosh released this ode to marijuana that remains one of the finest examples of reggae music ever released. Tosh going solo allowed him to develop his own self-righteous voice.

7.4 Queen - A Day at the Races

Queen – A Day at the Races (1976). Many critics incorrectly have side this album was a simple rehash of A Night at the Opera due to the similar album title and artwork. I’d argue that this album was a the beginning of the band transitioning from rock gods into rock immortals. Seriously, how is “Somebody to Love,” broadly an ode to gospel music, specifically a nod to Aretha Franklin, just an obvious followup to “Bohemian Rhapsody.” other than the layered vocals? And, ANATO didn’t have a rocker like “Tie Your Mother Down.” Sure, they are similarities, but that’s the Queen sound, not redundant ideas.

7.4 Ramones - Ramones

Ramones – Ramones (1976). If The Stooges, New York Dolls and Patti Smith all are considered to be the pre-punk calling cards, that’s because the Ramones’ debut is when the dam broke open. Yes, the Ramones were NYC caricatures, but that was all part of the joke. The music was the real thing. Afterwards, musicians of the Eighties and Nineties all praised how they learned to play their instruments by putting the sound through one speaker to learn the guitar and vocals and the other for the bass and drums. Now, that’s how you spread the gospel of punk in the modern world.

7.4 Rush - 2112

Rush – 2112 (1976). After having the world open upon hearing Kiss, teenage boys in my middle school were ready for the next thing. And into that void comes a Canadian band to talk all about getting authority figures off our backs. And, 2112 became something of an underground phenomenon, as the album was passed around from boy to boy until it reached me. Suddenly, I was discovering Ayn Rand and reading her books. And, just as quickly, I was discarding her “philosophy” as being too simplistic and lacking a workable way to be extrapolated to a macroscopic world. Man, was I ever a complicated kid.

7.4 Steve Miller Band - Fly Like an Eagle

Steve Miller Band – Fly like an Eagle (1976). If modern Pink Floyd were the blues for the Space Age, then the Steve Miller Band represented blues for SkyLab, not as exciting and deep but still modern sounding. Miller really captured the artistic and commercial zeitgeist of blues for the modern man by incorporating synthesizers. Today, it might sound a little dated, but that’s cool. It still sounds and smells like 1976.

7.4 Stevie Wonder - Songs in the Key of Life

Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life (1976). This double album AND an EP is Wonder’s masterpiece. For Prince fans, this album represents BOTH his 1999 AND Sign ‘o’ the Times simultaneously. You get everything that Wonder was working on previously, such as funk, soul, easy listening, as well as more controlled synthesized music, jazz flourishes and even an ode to the big band era in the timeless “Sir Duke.”

7.4 The Runaways - The Runaways

The Runaways – The Runaways (1976). You younguns just don’t understand this fact. This was the first all-teen female rock/punk band ever (apologies to the ladies of The Shags and Fanny). Yes, the band was marketed as jail-bait by the pervy Kim Fowley. But, he did put together a talented band, with punk godmother Joan Jett, punk-glam-chic Cherie Curie, metal goddess Lita Ford, and the excellent rhythm section of bassist, future Jeopardy champion, Jackie Fox and supremely talented drummer Sandy West. Together, these ladies knocked down the door opened by the Wilson sisters of Heart.

7.4 Thin Lizzy - Jailbreak

Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak (1976). Bassist Phil Lynott, the obvious Irish-rocker poet heir to Van Morrison and a graduate of the Springsteen school of wordplay and sincerity, brought his Irish hard rock vision to the States. Unfortunately, his music did not find the large following in the States that it deserved. But, those who heard them became musicians themselves. If they had been on any other Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ballot other than the 2020 list, they would be shoo-ins for induction.

7.4 Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (1976). See if you can discover the influences of this band on their debut? Let’s see, hmmm, there’s The Byrds’ Rickenbacker jangle and their vocal harmonies, but there’s something Stones-ish in their rhythm section, their guitars are steeped in the blues, and I hear some definite punk attitude in the lyrics and Petty’s vocals. Oh, but the band is so much more than all of their influences. This is the beginning of a brilliant band. Oh, my proof? “American Girl” and “Breakdown,” of course.

7.4 Warren Zevon - Warren Zevon

Warren Zevon – Warren Zevon (1976). Technically, this is Zevon’s sophomore release, but it does seem like a whole new career when compared to his stinker of a debut. This album has the harder-edged West Coast sound of Ronstadt, Browne and the Mac that was so popular at the time. But, it is full of all the cynical sass that made Zevon a favorite of late night king and Ball State alum David Letterman. The album includes two songs that Ronstadt will beautifully sing straight, without a trace of the acerbic wit of Zevon’s originals” “Hasten Down the Wind” and “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me.” I still cannot believe that he is not in the RRHOF. Next to Chic, Carole King and session bassist Carol Kaye, that is the biggest snub in history.

And that’s the way I see 1976. Next time, we will be starting my high school years.

 

Time for 1976 on My 1000 Favorite Albums of All-Time

5.17 Top 1000 Albums_LI

Well, it’s Independence Day, a day I used to get all excited for. As a kid, most of the families on our cul-de-sac in the neighborhood would get together to pool our fireworks while one father, with a martini and cigarette in one hand and a small blowtorch in the other, would like them for us. As we all grew up, that gave way to a tradition of my mom, brother and me joining my uncle and aunt at their house for some fireworks, capped off with my uncle, ever the history nut and teacher and Civil War expert, would pack his small cannon with gun powder and packing. He’d then point “Old Hummer” in the direction of one of his neighbors that was bugging him that particular summer, light the fuse on that little cannon, and, “BOOM!” That little thing would wake up the neighborhood, and Uncle Dick would simply cackle with delight. If the man weren’t Lutheran, I’d swear he would have thought he was a reincarnated Civil War veteran (Lutherans don’t believe in reincarnation, though I might find some scientific validity to the idea in matter can neither be created nor destroyed, it just changes form.).

During my college years, I’d go up to the frat house and watch my brothers have a bottle rocket fight in the house. Finally, as a father, I would try to teach my boys some of the science behind the colors being made, but they, like any boy, would just want to blow up firecrackers and fire off bottle rockets. As a matter of fact, they would have me buy some many of those things with their money that they would be periodically firing that stuff off for years, be it New Year’s Day at midnight, birthdays, special occasions or whenever the mood struck them.

But, Independence Day in 1976 was hyped so much that it never did leave up to it. But that should not have surprised me, as 1976 was the year my dad left my mom. So, it was full of disappointment. Except for a couple areas of refuge in my life at the time, I was excelling in sports and the music I was listening to was fantastic.

Let’s check out a portion of my favorites from 1976.

7.4 ABBA - Arrival

ABBA – Arrival (1976). Don’t laugh! I love ABBA! They were the quintessential pop band of the Seventies, and this album is their first classic of their career. “Dancing Queen” is the big one on the album.

7.4 Aerosmith - Rocks

Aerosmith – Rocks (1976). Toys in the Attic put the Boston band on the map, but Rocks is the band’s greatest album. They grew by leaps and bounds, as this album became one of my go-to LPs of that summer. How can you go wrong with “Last Child,” “Back in the Saddle,” “Rats in the Cellar” AND “Sick as a Dog.”

7.4 Bob Dylan - Desire

Bob Dylan – Desire (1976). If Blood on the Tracks was Dylan at his most personal, Desire finds Bob trying to pull back a bit while still having his marriage crumble around him. While not as focused as the previous album, Desire still finds Dylan in the middle of his mid-Seventies renaissance.

7.4 Bob Seger - Live Bullet

Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – Live Bullet (1976). Live albums were kind to many of the great journeymen rockers of the day in the mid-Seventies. Kiss, Cheap Trick, Thin Lizzy, Peter Frampton and Seger all had live albums save their careers. And, Seger may have taken the best advantage that Live Bullet gave him. This album showed the world the brilliance of the man, music and his band’s live performance on a night when they might have been the greatest show on earth. After all these years, I still love “Turn the Page.”

7.4 Bob Seger - Night Moves

Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – Night Moves (1976). As I said, Seger took advantage of his new found fame, wrote was terrific songs and let the world come to him with this album. This album was perfect for teens in the themes covered, although we never realized that those themes would resonate more as adults.

7.4 Boston - Boston

Boston – Boston (1976). This album changed the course of rock history. Before this album, hard rock was based in blues-based thing called boogie, typified by Bachman-Turner Overdrive and Humble Pie. Then, Boston brought to the world this clean-sounding arena rock sound on this album. Unfortunately, many of the bands that followed in Boston’s wake lacked Tom Scholz’ soulful production values and his guitar-stacking sounds, while no other band has a the soaring vocals of Brad Delph. This is very close to a perfect album, almost like a greatest hits album. No wonder the band only releases an album every decade or so.

7.4 Boz Scaggs - Silk Degrees

Boz Scaggs – Silk Degrees (1976). Originally, Scaggs began as a blues rock singer with Steve Miller’s original band. Eventually, Boz, much like the Bee Gees did the year before, stumbled upon a new sound that was steeped in R&B with light touches of disco thrown. In Scaggs’ case, he stumbled into a sound we now call Yacht Rock. For a teenager, this was perfect background music for reading, talking on the phone with your girlfriend or most any gathering of people your age. Plus, “Lowdown” is just plain sexy, while “Lido Shuffle” is simply fun.

7.4 David Bowie - Station to Station

David Bowie – Station to Station (1976). Ever the chameleon, Bowie now transitions from glitter rock god to Philly soul man to, now, The Thin White Duke, whatever that meant. To me? I think it represented that Bowie was keeping some of the soul in his music from Young Americans, but also beginning to integrate new sounds coming from Kraftwerk and the burgeoning punk scene. That man was the ultimate rock alchemist. The proof is all in his hit “Golden Years.”

7.4 Eagles - Hotel California

Eagles – Hotel California (1976). The Eagles were a great pop/rock band with some country leanings. But, Hotel California was on a whole other level. They elevated their game so much that it became nearly impossible to follow it up. This album was the perfect metaphor for an American culture that was being bogged down by its past. Ironically, it is the perfect album for today, as we face a similar crisis in confidence.

7.4 ELO - A New World Record

Electric Light Orchestra – A New World Record (1976). Originally, ELO was formed with the intention of taking The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour, melding it with some symphonic flourishes, all the while bringing it up-to-date. This is the album in which the band finally reaches this goal, all the while creating their own voice. Credit has got to go to Jeff Lynne for willing the band to greatness.

7.4 Flamin' Groovies - Shake Some Action

Flamin’ Groovies – Shake Some Action (1976). Back in 1983 when I was working in Wisconsin, one of my buddies came up to me, holding a cassette tape telling me, “This is the greatest rock & roll album of all time!” Well, we went back to his dorm room and listened to it. This album was the perfect mix of punk attitude and power pop fun that I fell in love with it immediately. Today, many critics consider it a classic, as do I. This was a veteran San Francisco band that had been playing this type of music for nearly a decade when the world finally caught up to them. There are many similarities between the Groovies and Big Star as far as their career trajectories are concerned. But, that’s were they end, as this band has more in common with the Dave Clark Five than The Beatles. This one is fun from beginning to end.

7.4 Jackson Browne - The Pretender

Jackson Browne – The Pretender (1976). Browne was a known quantity and well-established artist by the time he released this album. Unfortunately, the tragedy of losing his young wife to a suicide led the man to channel all of his pain into making this outstanding album. If you aren’t moved by “Here Comes Those Tears Again,” then you are heartless.

7.4 Kansas - Leftoverture

Kansas – Leftoverture (1976). Seriously, who would have ever expected an prog rock band with lyrics that borrowed from Christianity, hailing from the great state of Kansas, to create one of the classic albums of the Seventies? And, they even had a Top 10 hit with “Carry on Wayward Son.” My dad, proving to be ever-behind-the-curve when music was concerned, once asked me if I had ever heard this rock band who played with a violin called Kansas? I just smirked and smiled, knowing that he had unwittingly bought that album for me a year earlier than when he asked me. Parents!

7.4 Kiss - Destroyer

Kiss – Destroyer (1976). Let me set the record straight right now! After I bought this album at the beginning of the summer of ’76, I played it every day until I got Queen’s A Day at the Races at the end of the year. Oh, sure, I played the others on this list, but I ALWAYS came back to this album religiously. This was the perfect mix of Alice Cooper-type anthems and simple Kiss monstrous playing that was so appealing to my teenage self. And, truth be told, I’m still not tired of it, though hearing “Beth” on the radio every couple of hours for months on end did push me to skip the song for a few months. Look, I still recognize the fact that “Beth” would perfect make-out music for my age group.

I will finish up the albums from the year of America’s Bicentennial next time. Peace!

Let’s Wrap Up 1975 in My 1000 Favorite Albums

5.17 Top 1000 Albums_LI

As I have stated before, 1975 marks the start of what I consider the prime listening years of my life. And although I believe that I was keeping abreast of music through 1995, I was also a parent and a young adult attempting to navigate a young family through life. That means from 1985 to 1995, music was not as intense as it had been the prior decade. After 1995, I began to experience music through my boys, students and athletes. And, now, with all the downloading and streaming available to me, I tend to simply be an academic in my experience. Sure, I can still discern the good (Kendrick Lamar) from the bad (Rascal Flatts), but I no longer feel music viscerally, unless it happens to be music from my youth.

I really don’t miss being a young person, with all the drama and such. What I miss is my youthful idealism and enthusiasm for the new, without the truly jaded cynicism of being a middle aged adult. I miss the excitement of the new singles being released by artists from the U.K. or the latest Michael Jackson video. For those of you that actually know me, you know what a huge fan I am of the comic strip Bloom County. In that strip, the character I related to the most was Binkley. Binkley, if you don’t know, was a pre-teen character who was kind of wimpy and full of angst and anxiety. Specifically, I loved the strip in which he went to a “Lost and Found” area at a store looking for his youthful idealism. I loved that strip back in my college days and continue to read it online today. But, that one has stuck with me since I first read it, then cut it out of the Ball State newspaper, The Daily News, and posted it on my dormitory room door (that’s how we did Facebook in the Eighties!).

So, I will not apologize for my bias on this list on the music of my “era.” But, do understand that any list of this sort has a built-in bias. Rolling Stone still skews toward the Boomer/Gen X crowd, while Pitchfork is innately millennial. And, the UK-based magazines will always rightfully tilt toward the music that was popular there. And, all are valid, but I am telling you my leanings upfront so there will be little controversy, except when I leave your favorite albums off the list. So, my suggestion is to try my albums then make your own lists. Nothing is more democratic than that.

Enough all ready Keller! On with the countdown!

6.29 Patti Smith - Horses

Patti Smith – Horses (1975). This album is where the modern punk era began. Smith was known as a writer, rock critic and poet. So when she gathered a band led by former rock critic (and compiler of the great Nuggets compilation on this list back in 1972), Smith set her poems to some of the sloppiest and harshest machine. And, it became absolutely magical and influential to the whole NYC punk scene. If you want to Smith of this era, just watch the Easter episode of SNL during which she performed. It was a game changer.

6.29 Paul Simon - Still Crazy After All These Years

Paul Simon – Still Crazy After All These Years (1975). Speaking of SNL, Paul Simon’s first two appearances on the show are legendary, and they both were pretty much pimping this monster of an album. Oh, sure, I was so pissed when I found out on American Top 40 that “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” had hit number one and not my beloved “Rock & Roll All Nite.” But, I have gotten over it. Still, this album has aged well and has become one of my favorites as I have gotten older.

6.29 Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975). I can remember the excitement of high school students upon the release of this album, as expectations were sky high after the landmark success of The Dark Side of the Moon. Much as been made of the fact that this album, and the title song specifically, being a tribute to their fallen leader Syd Barrett. Ironically, Barrett showed up during the recording sessions, and his former bandmates did not recognize him at first. This album represents the band at its most vulnerable.

6.29 Queen - A Night at the Opera

Queen – A Night at the Opera (1975). Let’s face it, this is the album that made Queen into the stadium rockers they knew they were. If you are reading this, I figure you have seen the movie, so I will not go into the recording. This album made me a life-long fan of the band. It’s simply a fun romp through the minds of one of the most creative and innovative bands of all time.

6.29 Roxy Music - Siren

Roxy Music – Siren (1975). Roxy Music may not have made much of a commercial impact here in the States, but, like Bowie, their influence is everywhere throughout the late-Seventies and Eighties. The whole New Romantic movement’s blueprint is found right here. And, personally, I was hooked the first time I heard the coolness of “Love Is the Drug.” By the way, that’s Mrs. Rupert Murdoch, ex-Mrs. Mick Jagger, former girlfriend of Roxy leader singer Bryan Ferry Jerry Hall on the cover.

6.29 Rufus feat. Chaka Khan - Rufus feat. Chaka Khan

Rufus featuring Chaka Khan – Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan (1975). Rufus burst onto the scene in 1974 with their terrific rendition of the Stevie Wonder-written hit song “Tell Me Something Good.” The band was an excellent, tight funk band with talented player. But, up front, they have the most beautiful woman with a voice that could rival Aretha in its soulfulness in Chaka Khan. And, they put it everything together perfectly on this album, which is anchored by the sublime “Sweet Thing.”

6.29 Smokey Robinson - A Quiet Storm

Smokey Robinson – A Quiet Storm (1975). What can be said about an album that totally influenced the creation of a whole radio station programming format? That’s how important this album is. Smokey was an established name for his songwriting for Motown and his work with the Miracles, but this album transcended all of that. This was ground zero for all of those smoky (pun unintended) soul ballads that some many of people my age put on their “Make Out Music” mixtapes in college. Oh, and never forget how WKRP in Cincinnati parodied this format with Venus Flytrap’s brilliant show within the show.

6.29 The Dictators - Go Girl Crazy

The Dictators – Go Girl Crazy! (1975). Okay, was the band heavy metal or punk, two factions that would have nothing to do with each other at the time? I would say both! They were the first to meld the two genres into one dirty sound. If you like Andrew WK’s debut album from the early 2000s, this album is for you, though some of their “jokes” might not be as funny in today’s environment. The music still holds up for those who wanted their punk a little less arty and more from the groin. Oh, Twisted Sister, you better thank these guys for your career.

6.29 Willie Nelson - Red Headed Stranger

Willie Nelson – Red Headed Stranger (1975). Who would have predicted that an outcast of the Nashville country music establishment would create an concept album telling the story of a preacher-turned-murderer on the run after killing his former wife and her lover and it would completely change the course of country music? Well, only in the Seventies is what I say. Willie moved country back to the basics as far as playing is concerned and channeled his inner Johnny Cash to create one of the true latter day classics that influenced artists across the musical spectrum.

6.29 ZZ Top - Fandango

ZZ Top – Fandango! (1975). ZZ released this half-live, half-studio album just as they popularity was on the rise. And, this one raised their profile even higher. What person in the 55-65 age range didn’t cruise around in their car blaring “Tush” when it came on the radio or 8-Track tape player? It’s even used in Dazed & Confused, so I know it’s an American truth. Plus, the album has “Heard It on the X,” a great radio song if there ever was one.

Wow! I just realized some serendipity with 1976, the year of the bicentennial, being covered around Independence Day. It wasn’t planned that way.

It’s Day 2 for 1975 on My 1000 Favorite Albums of All-Time List

5.17 Top 1000 Albums_LI

Back in middle school, my dream was to become a disc jockey at a radio station. Now, that dream was in extreme contrast to what my mother wanted me to become and that was a dentist or a physician. Granted, I did possess some qualities that would have made me a good prospect for all three of those professions. So, when I discovered that DJs were increasingly being told what songs to play, well that went against the artistry I heard on radio stations like Chicago’s WLS-AM. So, that was out.

Next, I realized that I really didn’t want to become a dentist. Let’s simply say that was not my dream. Then the whole physician thing really did appeal to me. For some reason, the whole science part was not an obstacle for me. And, ego-wise, being a physician sounded fulfilling to me. Honestly, however, the whole being a doctor 24/7, whether on call or not, was not my bag, baby. I have a quirk in my personality that requires me to withdraw from humanity and not run toward it. That’s why I could never be a politician even though I love political science.

So, I discovered that I was a paid extrovert, which means that I could be entertaining while conveying the information to others. All of that meant I was born to teach and coach. And, during my down time, I could feed my desire to learn about rock and sports history.

And all of that psychobabble began in 1975. So, let’s get going with the next batch of great albums.

6.29 Elton John - Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy

Elton John – Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975). This album marks the last of the great Elton John albums during his early-Seventies run of classics. And, this was his seemingly most personal album to date. Throughout it, both he and lyricist Bernie Taupin were purging many of the demons that were beginning to plague their lives through the songs on this album. This album was the perfect epithet on an unprecedented run.

6.29 Emmylou Harris - Pieces of the Sky

Emmylou Harris – Pieces of the Sky (1975). Upon the death of her mentor Gram Parsons, Harris embarked on her legendary career as an unparalleled country singer with this career-defining debut album. Her selection of songs ranged from traditional (the Louvin Brothers’ “If I Could Only Win Your Love”) to the sublime (The Beatles’ “For No One”). Today, Harris is considered one of the more important figures in both country music and the current Americana movement.

6.29 Fleetwood Mac - Fleetwood Mac (1975)

Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac (1975). Fleetwood Mac was all ready known as a legendary English blues rock band, having released some of the finest music in the genre during the late-Sixties and early-Seventies. But, the band had become something of a revolving door at guitar, when leader and drummer Mick Fleetwood heard the debut album of a California duo called Buckingham-Nicks. Fleetwood’s genius was the ability to immediately recognize that he needed both parties in a new version of his band. And, the rest, as they say, is history. This version of the Mac became its most well-known and commercially successful, and it all began here on this classic album.

6.29 Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes - Wake Up Everybody

Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes – Wake Up Everybody (1975). At this juncture in musical history, the smooth R&B sounds of Philly Soul was slowly morphing into disco. And, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes found this transition period to lay down this album over socially conscious lyrics set to a smooth groove. It sounds as if The Spinners teamed with Curtis Mayfield and Barry White to created this beautiful amalgamation.

6.29 Heart - Dreamboat Annie

Heart – Dreamboat Annie (1975). Heart cannot be denied their place in the history books because their creative force was the feminine side of the band. These women were blessed with the skill, ability and talent to navigate through the sleazy sexist world of rock music but to rise amongst the immortals of the world. Lead singer Annie Wilson possesses the most powerful voice in rock’s history, while sister and guitarist is most adept with her Jimmy Page-like playing. Thank God the Wilson sisters broke open that door, setting the stage for the women of the future.

6.29 Jeff Beck - Blow by Blow

Jeff Beck – Blow by Blow (1975). Just when you think Beck is nothing but a hard rock guitarist, he goes and makes a jazz-rock fusion guitarist’s wet dream. Beck can simply make a guitar sound like a singer. He makes his guitar sign and moan in all the right places while keeping his playing disciplined and innovative. Just a magnificent listen.

6.29 Kiss - Alive

Kiss – Alive! (1975). This is the album in which the Kiss Army was assembled. It immediately became my favorite album for most of the year. I don’t care much doctoring was ultimately done to the album (mistakes fixed, crowd noise enhanced, etc.), the packaging and the sound was perfection to every teen boy across the country. And, “Rock and Roll All Nite” is the anthem of 1975.

6.29 Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti

Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti (1975). Physical Graffiti is Led Zeppelin at its most bloated and overindulged, yet it’s most majestic at the same time. Honestly, it’s everything a pre-punk double album should be. Yet, it’s full of immortal songs, led by “Kashmir.” That song alone typifies everything you need to know about this album.

6.29 Neil Young - Tonight's the Night

Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night (1975). Creatively, Young seems to have a short attention span, as this album was written and recorded in 1973 in the immediate aftermath of the death of Crazy Horse roadie Bruce Berry. That was the second untimely death in Young’s world in six months, influencing Neil to rip the bandages off his wounds resulting in one of the most mesmerizing albums of his illustrious career. It is a dark trip to take, yet it remains a beautifully poignant trip through one’s grief.

6.29 Neil Young - Zuma

Neil Young – Zuma (1975). After the cathartic exorcising of the demons on Tonight’s the Night, Neil returns to his commercial strengths on this album. And, if you want to hear Young rip through a guitar solo, look no further than “Cortez the Killer.” You gotta admit that Young has had one of the more diverse yet dazzling rock careers of all.

By the way, that album marks the 249th album on my list. Statistically speaking, we are nearly one quarter of the way through this journey. Peace!

This Is Day 1 of 1975 on My 1000 Favorite Albums List

5.17 Top 1000 Albums_LI

Technically, I was still a year away from my teenage years when 1975 rolled around. However, the year does represent the year during which I started my middle school years, which meant dances, learning all kinds of things (both good and bad) from the older guys in the team locker rooms, and so many other kinds of social interactions. All kinds of things happen during those years, especially the development of your musical tastes. And, I found myself absorbing music and anything written about rock artists in magazines like Creem, Circus, Hit Parader, Billboard and, most importantly, Rolling Stone.

One can never replicate the time in which the possibilities of the world seemed endless, but your teen years seem wasted with this. And I say “wasted” because we are not ready for that. As teens, we are riddled with self-doubt and a seemingly endless supply of angst. And, if you are dealt a crappy hand in life during that time period, it tends to either momentarily or permanently screw up your life. It’s no wonder that teens are so dramatic. Your brain is not ready for all of this new information bombarding it all the while being cooked in an overabundance of hormones being hyper-produced by your endocrine system.

For me, I threw myself into two refuges: music and sports. Both helped me somewhat deal with my environment. I’d rather not get into the sports side since it seemed to define much of what I am today, both good and bad. Instead, let’s focus on some of the great music in which I discovered while the old hormones were kicking in, making for a lethal mixture.

1975, here we go.

6.29 Aerosmith - Toys in the Attic

Aerosmith – Toys in the Attic (1975). With all due respect to one of my former athletes, this album is when Aerosmith were cool. Don’t get me wrong, it was pretty cool for this guy to see the boys make a huge late-Eighties comeback. But, this was actually when the band was the funkiest rock band on the planet. This album represents the band’s first Seventies masterpiece. You know how cool this album was? “Big Ten Inch Record” was banned by my high school radio station. And, they were talking about a record, right?

6.29 Bee Gees - Main Course

Bee Gees – Main Course (1975). Just a couple of years earlier, the Brothers Gibb had gone their separate ways, thinking their version of baroque pop/rock in the vein of Magical Mystery Tour-era Beatles was passe. But, in 1975, the trio reunited and began incorporating flourishes of R&B and a little underground sound that was leaking into the mainstream called disco. Their first foray into this sound was this album, led by the singles “Jive Talkin’,” “Nights on Broadway” and “Fanny (Be Tender with My Love).”

6.29 Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks

Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks (1975). Dylan made a dramatic comeback of sorts with this set of terrific songs. Unfortunately, it took the dissolution of his first marriage to bring Dylan back to the forefront in a major way. Truth be told, this album was my first introduction to the voice of the Sixties. And, although it’s weighed down by all kinds of factual inaccuracies, “Hurricane” was an important song in the eventual release of Ruben “Hurricane” Carter from his wrongful conviction for murder.

6.29 Bob Dylan and The Band - The Basement Tapes

Bob Dylan & The Band – The Basement Tapes (1975). Back in the Sixties and Seventies, bootleg and import albums were an important part of the underground world of “true” rock fans. Without question, there was a rumor back in the day that Bob Dylan and The Band were secretly making some of the best music of their careers. And, while that rumor swirled, bootleg tapes of the sessions were finding their way into fanatics’ hands. Finally, in 1975, many of those recordings were officially released by the parties, and we got to hear the magical music these two creative forces made while all were at their creative peaks.

6.29 Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run

Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975). After being hailed for a couple of years as a new Bob Dylan and hyped as “the future of rock & roll,” The Boss dropped his first truly classic album with Born to Run. The whole thing is one beautiful ode to growing up on the East Coast, full of rock and soul, all baked in a Phil Spector-like “Wall of Sound” production that made his songs sound like everybody before him yet like no other. This album continues to be one of my ten favorite albums of all time.

6.29 Daryl Hall and John Oates - Daryl Hall and John Oates (The Silver Album)

Daryl Hall & John Oates – Daryl Hall & John Oates (The Silver Album) (1975). Arguably, Hall & Oates are rock’s greatest duo. At least, they are in my book. And, this album represents their commercial breakthrough. Although not on the level of their Eighties work, The Silver Album does hint at what is to come. Plus, “Sara Smile” was the best song slow at school dances this side of Barry Manilow’s “Mandy.”

6.29 David Bowie - Young Americans

David Bowie – Young Americans (1975). Oh, David Bowie, I honestly had no idea you were a glitter god before this album. And, this album got me into your sly little world, and my life, and my boys’ lives, were forever changed because of your little dip into the Philly Soul world on this album. And, yes, “Fame” was my entry drug.

6.29 Dr. Feelgood - Down by the Jetty

Dr. Feelgood – Down by the Jetty (1975). After reading about the band in an issue of Creem magazine, I went on a search and destroy mission to find this album. I distinctly remember the band being hyped as an updated version of early Stones and J. Geils, only with more energy. I knew I liked those bands, and I LOVED energy, so my interest was piqued. Needless to say, I was sold! These guys were another English lot that were something of a John the Baptist to the whole punk scene that would break up on both sides of the Atlantic over the next 18 months. I just wish I had gotten to see them live. You Brits were so lucky!

6.29 Dwight Twilley Band - Sincerely

Dwight Twilley Band – Sincerely (1975). If you want to know when the second generation of great power pop began, look no further than this album. Unfortunately, this band’s momentum was grind to a halt by an incompetent label. Just take a moment to think about this fact: Twilley had a huge hit song at the time called “I’m on Fire.” It was tearing up the charts, until it unexpectedly began a precipitous chart free fall. Then, the album was delayed, not because it wasn’t done but because the company lacked funds. But, this album remains a landmark in the power pop movement that will peak later on in the Seventies. Side note: both Dwight Twilley Band AND Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers were on the same label at the same time. That label should have been financially set for an eternity.

6.29 EWF - That's the Way of the World

Earth, Wind & Fire – That’s the Way of the World (1975). Funkadelic were the acid-fried rock gods, Parliament were the horn-laced funkateers and EWF represented the world of positivity in funk. Little by little, the P-Funk brand merged, but EWF continued to make their own brand of horn-based funk. In reality, the band shares similarities with Chicago. Both were on fire with their brands of jazz infused music that turned into something of a ballad machine. But, EWF were reaching their best around this album and would hold onto it through the early-Eighties.

Well, that wraps up Day 1 of 1975. You might read a little more enthusiasm in my writing beginning with these albums. Regardless, enjoy! Oh, and Happy Birthday to Canada! Peace.