The 25 Best Albums of the 1970s
Disco, funk, rock, electronica, dub, and more!
The 70s was the first decade of music I was around for, and I have a lot of nostalgia for a lot of bands from that era. I’ve tried not to let that sway me too much though, since my early enthusiasms were...well, let’s be kind and say not especially wide-ranging. In retrospect, my younger self knew remarkably little of what was happening in music in the 70s. Not sure what younger, Billy-Joel-loving me would have made of this list exactly, or slightly older Pink-Floyd-loving me. No, past-Noah, The Wall is not in fact the greatest album ever. No, not even though it has a “concept”. Sigh.
Irish singer/songwriter Phil Lynott tries to turn sold-out heavy metal into sincere heart-on-the-sleeve roots rock; Thin Lizzy sounds like Sabbath cosplaying as John Cougar Mellancamp or vice versa. On Jailbreak, twin guitarists Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson are a juggernaut of proggie chops as Lynot belts out too-cheery outlaw anthems and semi-unconvincing tales of working-class bro-dom in Van Morrison-with-a-head-cold vocals. Like heavy metal, it’s tacky in its bombast; like heartland rock it’s tacky in its earnestness—what else can you say about rhyming “Romeo” with “all on his own-ee-o”? There’s something poignant about the dueling genre missteps though, and damned if those meaty riffs don’t get you shaking your posterior even if you’re a little embarrassed to be doing that at Dino’s Bar and Grill while the “Boys Are Back in Town” chorus jumps from speaker to speaker. I could make a musical and aesthetic case that any number of 70s hard rock bands are better than Jailbreak, from Aerosmith to ZZ Top. But if you’re going to corny dad rock, nothing makes the case for going all the way with quite the imperfect perfect heart of Thin Lizzy.
Revolution Dub (1975)
Lee “Scratch” Perry & the Upsetters
Lee Perry’s first real foray into the swamps of deep dub at his own Black Ark studio is also his greatest. The Upsetters lay down solid groove after solid groove as if all is fine as fine while Perry bats tracks like Junior Byles’ hit “The Long Way” back and forth from channel to channel, randomly interpolates television dialogue while shouting, “I am Kojak!”, turns the vocals all the way down so that they sound like they’re coming from the house down the street, and literally burbs and belches over his masterpiece(?) “Dub the Rhythm.” It’s wildly silly, cannabis-marinated, ultra-cool lumps of audio brisket hacked, slurped, and snorted by one of the world’s premier slurp-snorters of earhole ephermera.
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