Thursday, August 30, 2012
That Wonderful Year in Music... 1972
Nobody guessed, therefore nobody wins that cookie...
I saved one of the best for last. In an era of unprecented creative freedom and genre-defining masterworks that were the result of that constant experimentation, 1972 extended the all-encompassing winning streak that began in the mid-to-late 1960s. Nearly every LP in my top ten is a five-star, "A" effort. Even if the psychedelic era was over and most of its core players (Hendrix, Morrison, Joplin) were already dead at this point, that sense of progressive thinking was still alive and kicking. Glam rock ruled the seas, and my #1 album pick captained the ship. Makeup wearing, androgynous bands like T.Rex and Roxy Music --who both put out fine recordings in '72-- were merely riding Bowie's wave.
If 1972 wasn't all about the glam, it was about the twang. America and The Eagles weren't critics' darlings, but they sold albums like hotcakes. This was also the singer-songwriter era, and sensitive souls like Paul Simon, James Taylor, and Carly Simon gave pop music a mellow, acoustic aftertaste to the "free love" '60s. R&B was at its sexy zenith courtesy of Al Green, and Roberta Flack gave us the best of both worlds. The void left by The Beatles (whom as seperate entities, mostly sat out '72) begat power-pop and a generation of rock acts heavily influenced but not contempory to the Fab Four. Over in Central Europe the Kraut-Rock movement was in full swing, though the general agoraphobia and weirdness of their output would barely make a dent in the US until years later, if at all.
1. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars, David Bowie. I love this album to the extent that I have a poster of the album cover hanging above my bed. A concept album in which the plot falls apart by the third song, Bowie's debauched swagger and paranoid lyrics matches well with Mick Ronson's heavy yet energetic guitar. Already the leader of the glam rock movement, Bowie's vision and execution match seemlessly in a manner not entirely seen on hisfirst four albums.
2. Exile On Main St., The Rolling Stones. Like so many of my past picks, this is not an album you'll "get" after one listen. Jumping between boogie, blues, soul, and country it doesn't seem like the Stones are doing anything new, but the substance of this double album is quite fresh. The slow but steady bleakness of their previous three albums hits pitch black; Mick Jagger howls with futility, crying in the night as Keith Richards and Mick Taylor exchange one incredible guitar riff after another.
3. #1 Record, Big Star. With the Box Tops, Alex Chilton was a teenager trying to sound like an adult. With Big Star, a twentysomething Chilton was allowed to regress. The result is akin to The Velvet Underground and Nico in craft and overall influence, ignored upon its initial release but deservedly celebrated in hindsight. If everything about the album seems familiar, it's only because Chilton and partner-in-crime Chris Bell set the power-pop blueprint.
4. Pink Moon, Nick Drake
5. Harvest, Neil Young
6. On The Corner, Miles Davis
7. Transformer, Lou Reed
8. Roxy Music, Roxy Music
9. Talking Book, Stevie Wonder
10. Can't Buy a Thrill, Steely Dan. The most unconventional debut of '72 reveals an iconoclast almost fully formed. The Becker/Fagen combo are already near the peak of the powers on tracks like "Do It Again" and "Midnight Cruiser"; the only stumbling blocks are the unnecessary second lead singer (sorry, David Palmer) and only the vaguest hints of their future innovation. Regardless, this is a fine ten-song set eclipsed somewhat by The Dan's later work.
11. The Harder They Come soundtrack, Jimmy Cliff/Various Artists
12. Machine Head, Deep Purple
13. Something/Anything?, Todd Rundgren
14. Eat a Peach, The Allman Brothers
15. Honky Château, Elton John. This is my second favorite Sir Elton album, but ranked kinda low due to stiff competition. If Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was Reggie Dwight's Sgt. Peppers, than this is his Rubber Soul. We begin to see hints of John's flamboyant side on "Susie (Dramas)" and "Hercules," but overall this is a fun, jaunty, almost bohemian effort that feels eclectic but never boring. Plus, who can resist "Rocket Man?"
16. The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, Spirit
17. Fresh, The Raspberries
18. Manassas, Stephen Stills et al.
19. Neu!, Neu
20. Return to Forever, Chick Corea. A Corea solo album in name only, this is the de facto debut of a '70s jazz fusion juggernaut. Corea's trippy mysticism is lathered on so much that it dates the album almost immediately, but the unit of Chick, Airto, Joe Farrell, Stanley Clarke, and guest vocalist Flora Purim click from the very get-go. Blending electric piano with Brazilian and Latin rhythms, Return to Forever is playful yet daring, somehow cosmic and grounded at the same time.
"Superfly," Curtis Mayfield
"If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don't Want To Be Right," Luther Ingram
"Thunder and Lightning," Chi Coltrane
"The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," Roberta Flack
"Let's Stay Together," Al Green
"Back Stabbers," The O'Jays
"I'll Take You There," The Staple Singers
"Use Me," Bill Withers
"I Can See Clearly Now," Johnny Nash
"Last Night I Didn't Get to Sleep At All," The 5th Dimension
"Go All The Way," The Raspberries
"School's Out," Alice Cooper
"Telegram Sam," T.Rex
"Baby Blue," Badfinger
"Without You," Harry Nilsson
"Everything I Own," Bread
"Taxi," Harry Chapin
"The City of New Orleans," Arlo Guthrie
"Take It Easy," The Eagles
"Garden Party," Rick Nelson