As a continuation of our much beloved segment where we make each other feel horribly, horribly old, I offer you the year 1975, often considered to be a pretty foul year for music since it preceded the punk explosion. However, and I do believe I speak for many here, 1975 is an absolute gem compared to just about year beginning with a "20."
I tried to keep it balanced here. The order is, once again, randomly precise. But the classics should scream out at you. Some I've never heard, but saw in the record stores and always wondered. Others I've likely played to death.
25) Black Sabbath - Sabotage: The first album where Tony Iommi sounds like he grew new fingertips, while Ozzy sounds likes he's having a nervous breakdown (his head really hurts). "Hole In The Sky" and "Symptom Of The Universe" veer wildly out of control. Besides, who doesn't love the album cover and wish they could be wearing red tights?
24) Kiss - Alive!: They also released Dressed To Kill this year, but it was the live album that finally put them over. Four albums in two years is a sure sign that they were going to break through by sheer inundation. If anyone actually enjoys the drum solo in "100,000 Years," I've got Iron Butterfly and Cream albums to sell you.
23) Tom Waits - Nighthawks At The Diner: Before Tom got completely weird, he got really chatty and then a little bluesy. I don't know that I've ever listened to this entire album, but if I did, I probably turned it down when he did all that talking. I'll take "Better Off Without A Wife," even though Tom, of all people, knows that ain't always so. Me? I don't fish.
22) Supertramp - Crisis? What Crisis?: I got ahold of this album like many other people did: through a record club offer of four Supertramp albums for something like $12. It didn't matter that I'd never heard them. They had to be great. Of the four albums, this was one I "didn't get to."
21) Robert Wyatt - Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard: Rock Bottom is more cohesive, but any album that invites Fred Frith and Gary Windo along is likely to be a little odd anyhow. Wyatt often made unconventional music that even people who say they like unconventional music don't really pay attention to. In other words, this ain't Pere Ubu, folks.
20) Rush - Fly By Night, Caress of Steel: The band that helped John Kordosh make new friends. Fly By Night even includes the song that all fans of modern music have come to appreciate: "By-Tor And The Snow Dog." Without that track, we likely don't have a civilization. Or maybe a little less gravity.
19) Paul McCartney and Wings - Venus and Mars: Careful readers of this blog know I once traded the Ramones first album on LP for a cassette copy of this album. In retrospect, I should've at least held out for a vinyl copy. But for all the great things written about Band On The Run, Venus & Mars is pretty much on the same footing in my world. Solid professionalism from a guy who was once in the biggest boy band of all time. And who also happened to be one of the major pop musicians of his age.
18) Jefferson Starship - Red Octopus: Once I realized exactly what "Miracles" was, I kind of threw up in my mouth a little. I liked the Airplane and I wanted to like the Starship. I suppose this is better than their album Earth that I won at a church carnival and which makes me wonder if I really "won" anything.
17) Aerosmith - Toys in the Attic: I'm perfectly OK with the first six or seven Aerosmith albums. They have enough good moments to overcome whatever comparisons they've been saddled with regarding the Rolling Stones. I'm not even counting "Walk This Way," which went on to mean something completely different upon its meeting with Run DMC. I'm counting "Uncle Salty," "No More No More" and "Adam's Apple," along with the title track, which REM massacred in the 1980s, proving that some things were best left to Aerosmith.
16) Nazareth - Hair of the Dog: Who doesn't love a band with a song that features the phrase, "Now you're messing with a son of a bitch"? That's pure gold where I come from. Who cares what the rest of this sounds like?
15) Bloodrock - Bloodrock n' Roll: I've been trying to getting ahold of more Bloodrock albums and you people haven't been helping. Can't you help a poor Yahoo! blogger out? I really want to own all these Bloodrock albums. I used to find them in the 99 cent bin and now I don't live anywhere near a comprehensive record shop. (Something tells me they don't exist anymore.) Considering the fact that they got completely horrid reviews in the Rolling Stone Album Guide is reason alone to figure this has to be pretty good.
14) Olivia Newton-John - Have You Never Been Mellow: On the other end of the spectrum, we have this wonderful piece of lite-FM fluff. Was it any surprise that the Nip Drivers chose to cover it in punk fashion? Stuff like this is just asking for it.
13) Donna Summer - Love to Love You Baby: Remember, not everyone gets to have sex upon reaching puberty. Many struggle into adulthood. Therefore, you need "incredible simulations."
12) Patti Smith - Horses: As someone who isn't a huge Patti Smith fan, I must admit that this is a great piece of work. Radio Ethiopia might be even better, but then it turns into pick and choose. Then again, I've never felt one way or the other about "Redondo Beach" and "Kimberly," though "Birdland" is a keeper. This revisionism is making me angry and confused.
11) Toots and the Maytals - Funky Kingston: For people who love to have a Reggae Party, you need this album. Just listening to it gives you a contact high. Which makes me wonder: how come so many people I know get completely paranoid on the weeds, but these Rasta guys are baked all the time and seem to function ever better? Is it genetic?
10) Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti: The Led Zeppelin were bound to make a double album. The first four albums all came out pretty quickly, so by 1975, when their output had slowed, it was pretty likely that they'd have a stockpile of something to put out. Of course, this has messed them up somewhat, since while all the other bands now find ways to release box sets of unreleased material, LZ have to hope they can find more live tapes. Someone messed up their long-range plans! Fire that retirement specialist today!
9) Steely Dan - Katy Lied: I've always considered "Daddy Don't Live In That New York City No More" to be sound advice. Of course, back then it was a child's view of all the violence and crime, but these days it's a prudent way to avoid inflated rents, clueless hipsters and rich people!
8) The Dictators - Go Girl Crazy!: It's pretty funny to think that when this album came out "people didn't know what to do with it." Uh, maybe put it on and play it like every other piece of round plastic? I like the idea that people didn't know how to interpret humor. Why was a band "having fun" with the music? Why is Handsome Dick Manitoba listed as a lead vocalist and a "secret weapon." Why are they covering "I Got You Babe" and "California Sun" and writing songs like "Master Race Rock" when they are from NYC and are largely Jewish? Don't they realize what they're saying? I don't know about you, but I decided to tell my mom!
7) Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run: I've always felt mixed about this third album. In one sense, it is more focused and stands as a brilliant tribute to the Wall of Sound, blah, blah, blah. But it's also overtly long in spots. And phrases like "Maximum Lawmen" make me a little uneasy. But the title track, "Thunder Road," "Backstreets" and "Meeting Across the River" still sound pretty awesome. Still, live concerts from the era are even better. And I don't say that about many acts.
6) Neu! - Neu! '75: Back in 1975, you'd be hardpressed to find reviews of this album, never mind anyone who was aware of it enough to like it. Times change and now Neu! are considered one of the greatest bands of all time. Fine by me. At least we're not re-evaluating the importance of The Little River Band. But it does make you wonder if in another 20 years if all the critics who really love Kanye West won't discover they should've been rooting for Matt Boroff's Reaching For Sparks all along!
5) Lou Reed - Metal Machine Music: The boring conventional wisdom is that this is some sort of "extreme album," which it is for people who never listen to modern classical. But aside from cranking it at parties to clear the room, it's really not much fun. Give points to Lou Reed for getting it released on RCA's classical imprint, but then give it up. You'd think after 35 years those who liked it would find something else to alienate their friends. But some people are permanently in love with ideas they had when they were 15.
4) Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here: Among my favorite Pink Floyd albums, if only for the "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" tracks. The others are fine, too. Leisure time rock played leisurely. Holds up better than a lot (not all) of the music that supposedly replaced it.
3) Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks, Desire, The Basement Tapes: It took Dylan some time to get "back on track" with his followers. Me? I liked New Morning and parts of Planet Waves, so I would've just seen this as more of the same with a little better results. (Remember, the alternate take of "Idiot Wind" wasn't always readily available to tilt the balance). The sick part of all this is that within a few years he lost his followers again with his "Saved" period. I'm still waiting for his dalliance with Scientology. C'mon Hubbard!
2) Brian Eno - Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy): Even if you've never heard a note of Brian Eno's music, you have to admit he gives his albums some of the best names ever. I would own Here Come The Warm Jets, Another Green World, Before and After Science, Discreet Music and Music for Airports even if they were completely terrible, just for the names. This one even has a parenthetical aside. Perfect. Did I mention the music is really good, too?
1) Neil Young - Tonight's the Night, Zuma: Tonight's The Night had been in the can for awhile. I guess the fact that people seemed OK with On The Beach made Neil feel like maybe it was time to hit people with more heavy stuff. Then came Zuma, which felt lighthearted in comparison. Isn't life weird?