Our tribute to the fine year 1971 continues. While albums such as John Lennon's Imagine, Paul McCartney's Ram, Rod Stewart's Every Picture Tells A Story and Paul Siebel's Jack-Knife Gypsy are surely deserving of this list, I couldn't in good conscience leave off the contributions of Bloodrock and Uriah Heep.
25) Wings - Wild Life: One of the great advantages of growing up with an 8-track player in the family car was finding 25-cent 8-tracks and then listening to them so many thousands of times that even if they were lousy, they were familiar. The original eight-song album, before "expanded," "deluxe," "anniversary" and "super deluxe" versions, made for quick, easy listening. I think my dad wanted to throw the 8-track out the window after hearing "Bip Bop" too many times. I don't remember if he liked "Mumbo." Macca? You're the best!
24) Bill Withers - Just As I Am: Just finished watching Still Bill, the fine documentary about this singing star who decided to hell with it. This is a great album, back when you could still get away with throwing in a couple of modern covers in because you liked singing them. Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'" and the Beatles' "Let It Be" are here. The hits were "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Grandma's Hands," but I'm big on the closing track, "Better Off Dead," which in a little over two minutes literally kills!
23) Gene Clark - White Light: Also known as simply Gene Clark, White Light is yet another reason why Gene Clark was the greatest member of the Byrds. David Crosby may have cleaned up (not quite the right term) as a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Roger McGuinn may be the guy people think of when it comes to the Byrds. And Gram Parsons may be the guy who turned them into a country-rock band. But it was Gene Clark who wrote their best tunes and whose voice held the most nuance. His solo work should be heard by everyone who has ever lived, is currently living or will live in the future.
22) Bloodrock - 3, U.S.A.: A funny thing happened in the early 1970s. The newly formed rock critic brigade decided that anything recorded by people who were most like themselves or of a lower social class would be mocked. Therefore, much of the hard rock of the era was considered crap by association. I'm not saying Bloodrock were the greatest band of their era, but they weren't the worst! They lost points just by being associated with Terry Knight who also pushed Grand Funk Railroad. Let's get really into them just to annoy the crap out of other people!
21) The Kinks - Percy, Muswell Hillbillies: Percy contains "The Way Love Used To Be," one of those super-amazing tracks that make the Kinks the great underrated band of their era. Muswell Hillbillies is where they decide to lean towards country music. But this being the Kinks, it ends up sounding like the Kinks. "20th Century Man" alone is worth your time. The next 11 tracks are all bonuses!
20) John Martyn - Bless The Weather: Iain David McGeachy knew he needed a better stage name, so he went by John Marytn. While mass audiences eluded him, his super-big cult audience knew they were beholding a genius. Bless The Weather features the great Danny Thompson on double bass and the guesting of another pretty good guitar player in Richard Thompson. I don't want to make any broad sweeping generalizations, but music really was better in 1971 than it is in 2011. But then you had to pay for it back then!
19) Judee Sill - Judee Sill: It's pretty incredible that Judee Sill is now a well-known name amongst the freak-folk scene and other young musicians. Her albums have been reissued to acclaim and her music has been reevaluated by modern ears and is now acknowledged as being pretty damn intriguing. The lyrics still flail all over the place and her enunciations can be a bit intense, but the arrangements are fascinating. Besides, she wrote "The Archetypal Man" about me, "The Phantom Cowboy" about John Kordosh, "Enchanted Sky Machines" about Lyndsey Parker and "Lady-O" about Dave DiMartino! The rest of the songs on the album are written about you, dear readers! "Ridge Riders" one and all!
18) Ash Ra Tempel - Ash Ra Tempel: Anyone with a copy of this album or Schwingungen should send a copy to me. Krautrock for the people!
17) Colin Blunstone - One Year: I was just reading somewhere that someone was dismissing this great man. (Was it the self-appointed Dean of American Rock Critics, Robert Christgau?) All I could think was how wrong that was. This former lead singer of the Zombies is one of the greats. His cover of Denny Laine's "Say You Don't Mind" and Mike d'Abo's "Mary Won't You Warm My Bed" along with originals like "Caroline Goodbye" and "Though You Are Far Away" are...well, can you tell I'm a fan?
16) MC5 - High Time: On the opposite end of the musical spectrum from Colin Blunstone, we have the MC5, whose two studio albums were never as great as their live performances. (Kick Out the Jams was a live album.) However, this album, their third, comes pretty close. No one longer saddled with the conceptual production of Bruce Springsteen svengali Jon Landau, the band lets loose. Real rock for real people.
15) Jimi Hendrix - The Cry Of Love: The death of Jimi Hendrix surely cheated the world out of great music. Nowhere is that more apparent than on the tapes he left behind. The Cry Of Love was assembled from the tapes most complete at the time of his death. There's no sign of artistic drop-off here. Just a further expansion of the Hendrix sound. Sometimes I wish we could make trades with the universe, and tell it, we want to keep Hendrix, you can have somebody in Iron Butterfly in exchange.
14) Wishbone Ash - Pilgrimage: If I had a time machine, I would go back to 1971 and buy multiple copies of every album made, sell half of them on eBay sometime in the late 1990s and now listen to the rest every day without ever leaving the house.
13) Traffic - The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys: The title track is one of those great 11-minute-plus tunes, up there with "Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands," "When The Music's Over" and anything by Steve Roach. Album is noted for featuring two tracks not sung by Steve Winwood.
12) Toe Fat - Two: OK, I admit, I like to mention Toe Fat because I like the band name and because I once compared them to Wolfmother under the assumption that they might sound like each other. Besides, the group featured members of Uriah Heep! You can't go wrong with that! Can you?
11) The Move - Message From The Country: Sometimes I think Jeff Lynne did more harm to his career by getting involved with The Traveling Wilburys and the Beatles. Electric Light Orchestra may have begun to tip things ever so slightly against him, but had he kept a lower profile (not that I'm advocating going broke the Alex Chilton way), Lynne would've been a sizable cult artist being rediscovered like so many others. Chances are, Roy Wood is considered "cooler." And that can't all be due to songwriting. Can it?
10) Merle Haggard - Hag, Someday We'll Look Back, The Land of Many Churches: One reason country music used to be a great music is because they released a lot of albums all the time. Three albums from Merle Haggard in a single year were not that unusual for a country artist and he'd done it before.
9) Grand Funk Railroad - Survival, E Pluribus Funk: This often maligned band made better music than their reviews suggested, but not necessarily great music. Their cover of "Gimme Shelter" is an acquired taste and anything called "Jam (Footstompin' Music)" is to be avoided as much as someone singing "Amazing Grace." The idea that "Footstompin' Music" followed on E Pluribus Funk with a track called "People, Let's Stop The War" and then something called "Save The Land" makes you wonder if you didn't get tricked into thinking this was a hard rock band and not just another set of deadbeat hippies.
8) Soft Machine - Fourth: Not to be confused with Third or Fifth or Chicago V, Fourth is Soft Machine's fourth album and the last to feature drummer Robert Wyatt, who would subsequently endure tragedy for leaving the group. The album is best known for including the smash hits, "Virtually Part 1," "Virtually Part 2," "Virtually Part 3" and "Virtually Part 4." Most people prefer "Part 2," since it's longer.
7) Faces - Long Player, A Nod Is As Good As A Wink...to a Blind Horse: The Faces have become a cult band known for once housing Rod Stewart, Ron Wood and Kenney Jones. All went elsewhere to reach fame. But their records were quite good and deserving of greater attention. But, apparently, they didn't pay the Classic Rock Gods enough money, and have been relegated to sitting well behind James Taylor and The Eagles, in terms of airplay and public support.
6) Uriah Heep - Salisbury, Look At Yourself: A friend of mine swore the band wrote their second album, Salisbury, after touring for their first album and meeting their first hardcore groupies in Salisbury. But he liked to make up stuff even more than I do. Look At Yourself includes a foil mirror on the cover for you to believe this is your record. "July Morning" is surprisingly good, especially for people who love organ! Sure, Spinal Tap partly based themselves on the Heep, but someday a mockumentary will come out based on Sonic Youth and all their alt.celebrity worship, "integrity" and unlistenable side projects. (For the record, I like SY, too.)
5) Third World War - Third World War: Often described as "England's first punk band," Third World War wrote songs containing "far-left political sentiment." As in real far-left stuff and not the watered down centrist stuff that Fox opinionator Bill O'Reilly calls "far-left." Rolling Stones fans will be interested in the fact that Jim Price and Bobby Keyes added their horns to the album.
4) Incredible String Band - Be Glad For The Song Has No Ending, Liquid Acrobat As Regards the Air: Be Glad... is a soundtrack album for a film of the same name. Liquid Acrobat... is the band's first mostly electric record. It is said to be the band's most "financially successful" if we are to believe Wikipedia, which, really, who doesn't? "Evolution Rag" has been banned by the simple people.
3) Yes - The Yes Album, Fragile: I can't make it through "I've Seen All Good People" and it's only seven minutes but the eight minutes of "Roundabout" are fine by me. And while we're talking hits, I'm perfectly fine with "Long Distance Runaround." Blame it on an endless deluge of mediocre alt-rock kids from Brooklyn, but Yes are sounding better these days than they have any right to. Or maybe I'm just digging Bruford and Howe.
2) Can - Tago Mago: Album three and second with Damo Suzuki, Tago Mago is considered by some to be the band's most "extreme" album. Personally, if you have a choice between a band's best album, their most commercial and their most extreme, pick extreme first. Usually "extreme" and "best" come together. But when it comes to Can, I'm hesitant to call a "best" album, since each one from the early 1970s serves a particular mood. This one is good for pizza night.
1) Buffy Sainte-Marie - She Used To Wanna Be A Ballerina: With tracks like "Rollin' Mill Man," "Smack Water Jack" and "Song Of A French Partisan," it's pretty obvious that Buffy Sainte-Marie was a voice of a generation. This album, produced by the estimable (!) Jack Nitzsche (son of Friedrich?), also includes a cover of Neil Young's "Helpless" and a Leonard Cohen song called "Bells." Personally, I'm swayed by any song called "Sweet September Morning" because it's better than something called "Cold-Assed February Morning."