For this month's yearly musical tribute I chose 1973, a year where the last remnants of '60s psychedelia and the Motown sound played out while the seeds of the disco, funk, punk and new wave movements were first planted. I've made no secret of my classic rock bias --after all, I used to disc jockey in a '70s rock format-- but on this special occasion I've doubled the size of my usual best-of lists just to give you the sense of how loaded '73 was. When I think of '70s music in general, the first year that comes to mind is always 1973. Here's twenty reasons why:
1. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John. A sprawling double-album that encompasses Sir Elton's transition from thoughtful, cerebral pianist to flamboyant '70s pop star. Mega-hits like "Bennie & The Jets" and the title track flow effortlessly with deep tracks like "Grey Seal" and "All The Girls Love Alice."
2. Countdown to Ecstasy, Steely Dan. Walter Becker has a zillion great guitar solos on this album. Heck, there's a zillion great guitar solos on "My Old School" alone.
3. Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd. The first CD I ever owned, but that's almost beside the point. You can criticize the Floyd all you want for being stoner heroes, but this was a well-crafted concept album that proved there's more to space-rock than repetitive droning and cryptic lyrics.
4. New York Dolls, New York Dolls
5. The Wild, The Innocent, & the E-Street Shuffle, Bruce Springsteen
6. Quadrophenia, The Who
7. Raw Power, The Stooges
8. For Your Pleasure, Roxy Music
9. A Wizard, a True Star, Todd Rundgren
10. Paris 1919, John Cale
11. Berlin, Lou Reed. Like Cale's album, this is a solo career high point from a former member of the Velvet Underground. Where Cale put together a string of pretty, plaintive short stories, Reed created an opera of debauchery, a fascinating concept album about the pitfalls of drug abuse.
12. Innervisions, Stevie Wonder
13. Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelin
14. Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ, Bruce Springsteen
15. Headhunters, Herbie Hancock
16. Stranded, Roxy Music
17. There Goes Rhymin' Simon, Paul Simon
18. Brain Salad Surgery, Emerson, Lake & Palmer
19. The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get, Joe Walsh. The first twelve seconds of "Meadows" pretty much sums up everything you ever wanted to know about Joe as a person. Plus, this is the album with "Rocky Mountain Way."
20. Band on the Run, Paul McCartney & Wings. This is not a perfect album by any means --"Let Me Roll It" is a blatant rewrite of "Don't Let Me Down"-- but it captures Paul McCartney's oft-vilified side project at its tightest and most focused.
I also had a difficult time whittling down my ten favorite songs from that year (not including songs from the albums listed above), so I broke it down to two lists: here's the tops in pop and rock...
"You're So Vain," Carly Simon (the song's about Warren Beatty... I think)
"Frankenstein," The Edgar Winter Group
"She's Gone," Hall & Oates
"Tubular Bells," Mike Oldfield
"Heartbreaker (Do Do Do Do Do)," The Rolling Stones
"Captain Jack," Billy Joel (yes, I like this song more than "Piano Man")
"Ecstasy," The Raspberries
"Right Place, Wrong Time," Dr. John
"Dancing in the Moonlight," King Harvest
"The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia," Vicki Lawrence
...and soul and R&B:
"Killing Me Softly (With His Song)," Roberta Flack
"Love Train," The O-Jays
"Let's Get It On," Marvin Gaye
"Midnight Train to Georgia," Gladys Knight & The Pips
"Here I Am (Come and Take Me)," Al Green
"Stir It Up," Johnny Nash
"Drift Away," Dobie Gray
"One of a Kind Love Affair," Spinners
"Keep on Truckin'," Eddie Kendricks
"Masterpiece," The Temptations
Before I go, I have two pieces of news. First off, my article "The Night They Stole the Stanley Cup!" will be published in the Spring 2009 issue of Nostalgia Digest; this is my third contribution to the magazine since 2006. Secondly, make sure to check out my eulogy for "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (one of my few non-SNL reviews at TV.com) here. It should be third from the top.