1976 was not considered a great year for music when it happened. It was considered an improvement over 1975, but all these years of research have led me to the conclusion that no part of the 1970s was bad as people said. Fact: people like to complain. It's a natural thing. What fun is there is saying everything's great all the time?
While it can be sensibly argued that the 21st Century has been noticeably worse in terms of music, it's been gangbusters for people wanting to access older music, and for people who like computers, air conditioning, TV dramas and pain-free dentistry.
There is a Part Two to this that is every bit as essential. Stay tuned.
24) Jackson Browne - The Pretender: Andrew Gold performed with Jackson Browne. Not here, apparently. But the great David Lindley is here, along with nearly everyone else who lived in Southern California at the time. Next time people say to you, "I don't like Jackson Browne; he's boring!" You reply, "You're boring!" It works everytime!
Black Sabbath - Technical Ecstasy: First Black Sabbath album to cause fistfights among fans. Non-essential or a logical progression? You fight it out.
22) Terry Reid - Seed of Memory: The guy who turned down Led Zeppelin ends up with the solo career he always wanted. This album, produced by Graham Nash and featuring the great David Lindley, the estimable Al Perkins and sadly passed Ben Keith, is in need of a revival. Several tunes were used in the film, The Devil's Rejects, a film by Rob Zombie that observes the lives of people not good enough for Satan.
Gordon Lightfoot - Summertime Dream: It has "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," which is the National Anthem of Canada. It remembers the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald on the waters of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area, which is 31,820 square miles. You still want facts?
20) David Allan Coe - Longhaired Redneck: Coe is world-famous for reminding people he knows other country stars. This album was among his more successful. It encouraged rednecks to grow their hair, an odd choice considering it's more difficult to get your neck red that way. No doubt most fans race to hear "Dakota the Dancing Bear, Pt. 2." I assume "Pt. 1" was awesome.
Robin Trower - Long Misty Days: Anything with Trower on guitar and James Dewar on vocals is worth checking out. They sound like guys who have gotten so stoned they can't find their way back home. Any likeness to Gummo, the sentient bubble, on the album cover is purely coincidental. Or is it?
18) The Trammps - Disco Inferno: At nearly 11 minutes, the title track is one of the best-known songs of the disco era, eventually being included in the film, Saturday Night Fever, the story of a disco dancer whose life is in desperate need of Scientology.
Wizz Jones - Happiness Was Free: British folk musician Wizz Jones remembers the days before capitalism when you could walk through a state park or a beach or get water, air for your tires and humankind without paying for it. This guy is messed up.
16) Les Dudek - Les Dudek: I took note that a certain weekly blogger here at Y! Music mentioned listening to the first three Les Dudek albums in a row. Will we find out which one was the best of the lot? Is 1981's Gypsy Ride not-as-good as the first three to not be listened to? Who else even cares about Les Dudek...
Steve Miller Band - Fly Like an Eagle: Oh, look, it's, uh, ahem, yeah, Les Dudek! He plays guitar on "The Window" and played on his own song "Sacrifice" on Miller's next album, Book of Dreams. OK, so one person's heard of him!
14) Boz Scaggs - Silk Degrees: OK, OK, Les Dudek also plays slide guitar on this album. Many of the guys in this studio band would go on to form Toto! Dudek did not! In related news, Scaggs played in the Steve Miller Band for the Children of the Future and Sailor albums. You ever get the feeling that all these musicians have sex parties together?
Aerosmith - Rocks: Finally out of the Les Dudek circle. Aerosmith's Rocks is considered one of the band's best albums. True to form, "Rats in the Cellar" is written in memory of the band's drug dealer.
12) Flamin' Groovies - Shake Some Action: Formed in 1965, The Flamin' Groovies finally broke through with their hit "Shake Some Action" with its inclusion in the 1995 film Clueless, starring former Aerosmith video star, Alicia Silverstone!
Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band - Night Moves, 'Live' Bullet: I like the punctuation on the 'Live' tag. Does this mean it's like nearly every other live album where the band goes back and sweetens it?
10) Graham Parker - Howlin' Wind, Heat Treatment: Graham Parker looked to be the next big thing in 1976. Then Elvis Costello came along in 1977 and he was the next big thing. Then came Toto in 1978 and everything was settled once and for all!
8) AC/DC - High Voltage: Written off as a joke when they first appeared, AC/DC proved the teenaged boys know what the men don't understand. It's called rock 'n' roll and it is to be loud and primal. You think Little Richard recorded a concept album? Why the Ramones got the initial critical kudos and not these guys might have something to do with the Ramones coming from NYC and AC/DC coming from the English penal colony of Australia.
Ramones - Ramones: Well, here they are. One of the few loud rock 'n' roll bands to ever get great reviews the first time around. (Everybody loves Black Sabbath and Motorhead in retrospect). By getting great reviews, of course, that meant they would never sell many records. You can't spend credibility.
6) The Rolling Stones - Black and Blue: Lousiest Stones album to date still has "Hand of Fate," "Memory Motel," "Fool to Cry" and Charlie Watts. Which makes this better than side two of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine for those of you still playing Beatles or Stones.
Led Zeppelin - The Song Remains the Same, Presence: Having heard the BBC Sessions and How the West Was Won, it's pretty obvious why Remains is a 'less-tha-definitive' live album. Presence, on the other hand, with its great obelisks, has "Achilles Last Stand." Robert Plant recorded the album in a wheelchair and Jimmy Page recorded the overdubs in record time since the Rolling Stones had booked the studio to record their album, the one better than side two of Yellow Submarine.
4) Blondie - Blondie: Before they were world famous, they were the most accessible band to play CBGBs. Their affection for girl group pop can be heard throughout this debut, as can the vocals of one Debbie Harry, who is not Blondie, but has her hair dyed blonde. Any confusion is your problem, pal.
Peter Frampton - Frampton Comes Alive!: If you didn't actually buy this album, you were likely given a copy by some well-meaning relative who knew you "liked music." Or maybe you got it from one of those mail-order record clubs where this double album counted as one free selection. More is always better.
2) The Runaways - The Runaways: Apparently, unless your name was Wanda Jackson or Janis Joplin, women were not supposed to rock. (Back in the '60s, dudes played bass!) Fanny weren't exactly great sellers and The Shaggs are a post-modern discovery closer to the Portsmouth Sinfonia and those Langley school kids than real rock 'n' roll. How messed up is it that it takes to the mid-1970s to find an entire group of females willing to rock out? Even then, they sold crap compared to ugly guys. Were guys happy staring at Mick Jagger? Did Ray Davies really complete an inner kink? Or was 'Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll' meant to be some sort of male bonding thing?
Uriah Heep - High and Mighty: Spinal Tap got all their best ideas from the Heep. Imitation being the sincerest form of ripoff, Uriah Heep are beloved by millions even if those millions haven't got a clue.
- Les Dudek