Wednesday, February 1, 2012

75 Awesome 70s Songs, Part I: 75-51

I've been listening to a lot of 70s music lately.  What a great decade, when many timeless musicians wrote their most timeless music.  Anyways, I have all kinds of 70s records sitting on my shelf that I haven't listened to more than once or twice... And I didn't grow up in the 70s, so there are obviously all kinds of musicians from that time that I haven't even heard.  So I'm not going to have any pretense that these are the 75 best songs from the 70s; they're just 75 great songs, roughly sorted in order of how much I like them.

75. Neil Young - Hold Back The Tears
American Stars 'N' Bars - 1977
American Stars 'N' Bars kicked off a sort-of country/folk era for Neil Young.  This album is one of the least awesome in the strongest stretched of albums produced by any artist, but it's still solid.  This is probably my favorite track from the album, though "Like A Hurricane" is probably the most well-known.

74. Gentle Giant - Mobile
Free Hand - 1975
Gentle Giant weren't quite as successful as other such prog acts as Yes, King Crimson, ELP, etc., but they certainly didn't lack in originality.  I don't know what to say about "Mobile," other than it's an excellent prog track.

73. King Crimson - Ladies of the Road
Islands - 1971
"Ladies of the Road" is interesting for both its funky bass line, and the accusations of misogyny that resulted from this track.  It is most definitely naughty.  Ranks high in both humor and crudeness.

72. Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young - Helpless
Deja Vu - 1970
Truth be told, I like this one better when Neil does it solo, but I'll reference the CSNY version, anyways.  Nice, mellow, melodic pop song.

71. Elton John - I've Seen That Movie Too
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - 1973
I may be criticized for choosing this over more popular songs from the same album, "Bennie and the Jets," and "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting."  But this one simply has a better melody, and a nice feel.

70. Yes - Turn of the Century
Going For The One - 1977
I really like the sound of this one... Little, if any, percussion; just atmosphere.  It actually builds up nicely, despite its relative sparseness.

69. Gentle Giant - On Reflection
Free Hand - 1975
This song is a clinic on vocal harmony.  It sounds like there are at least 30 vocal parts playing off of each other.  Also, the band member switch instruments during the song, even when playing live.  Cool.

68. Jackson Browne - Under The Falling Sky
Jackson Browne - 1972
An excellent track from Browne's debut album, "Under The Falling Sky" really works because of its interesting traditional/minimalist percussion.

67. Yes - Release, Release
Tormato - 1978
Tormato was not well-received in the Yes community due to the perception that they were shunning prog in order to write pop music.  But it's hard for me to denounce this album, because it has some great music, even if they are slightly poppy.  "Release, Release" is certainly better than that completely unlistenable "Owner of a Lonely Heart" that somehow became their biggest hit in the 80s.

66. Crazy Horse - Dance, Dance, Dance
Crazy Horse - 1971
Crazy Horse has actually been Neil Young's backing band on many an occasion, but they did release an album or two on their own.  I believe "Dance, Dance, Dance" was actually penned by Neil, but it sounds great here.

65. Neil Young - Campaigner
Decade - 1979; Chrome Dreams - 1975 (unreleased)
"Campaigner" is the best Neil Young song never to make it onto a Neil Young studio album, besides maybe "Ohio."  I like the feel of this song, from the acoustic guitar, to the vocal dynamics.

64. The Rolling Stones - Far Away Eyes
Some Girls - 1978
I like the Rolling Stones when they get weird, and this is a weird song.  It features a spoken word verse with Mick Jagger talking like a country bumpkin, which makes the chorus that much more catchy.

63. Led Zeppelin - The Battle of Evermore
Led Zeppelin IV - 1971
At some point in time, John Paul Jones fell in love with the mandolin, and this was one of the first songs to really showcase the instrument.  Pair a few mandolins up with a renaissance-sounding vocal melody, and you get one of the more interesting songs Zeppelin conjured up.

62. Billy Joel - You're My Home
Piano Man - 1973
This is one of those songs that doesn't really stick out when you're listening to the record, but when you hear it in a mix, it shines.  I think it largely has to do with the guitar sound.

61. Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young - Ohio
Decade - 1979; So Far - 1974
"Ohio" was one of the most well-known protest songs in the 70s, but it never appeared on a record until CSNY's So Far collection.  Penned in response to the Kent State shootings, Ohio sometimes resurfaces when the issue of police violence enters into the public consciousness.

60. Creedence Clearwater Revival - Travelin' Band
Cosmo's Factory - 1970
John Fogerty was never accused of making his songs too complex, and this song is a perfect example of how great a really simple song can be.  It almost sounds like a late 50s rockabilly tune, except with Fogerty's distinctive vocal style.

59. The Rolling Stones - Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)
Goats Head Soup - 1973
This track is the perfect marriage of the British Invasion sound better characterized by early Stones work, and the 70s rock they were fully immersed in by Beggar's Banquet or Exile.

58. Led Zeppelin - Tangerine
III - 1970
Led Zeppelin's III has some great work, but this song best epitomizes Zep's folky side, which is my favorite side of Led Zeppelin.

57. Yes - Clap
The Yes Album - 1971
Possibly an unconventional choice, since it's really just a guitar solo, but it is one of my favorite guitar solos.  I'd consider my guitar playing ability sufficient if I could just learn this song.

56. Lynyrd Skynyrd - Sweet Home Alabama
Second Helping - 1974
Who doesn't like this song?  It has one of the most popular guitar riffs ever.  The history of this song makes it even better; it was written in response to one or two Neil Young songs about racism in the South (hence the reference to Neil Young in one of the verses), one of which is

55. Neil Young - Southern Man
After The Gold Rush - 1971
Neil Young is great when he stirs up controversy, and this one made quite the dig at the South.  Besides its being a scathing critique of racism in the South, it is just a great song.

54. King Crimson - Cat Food
In The Wake Of Poseidon - 1970
Poseidon was one of Crimson's weaker albums in the 70s, but it still produced some gems... One of which is the weird little track "Cat Food."  This one may need to be heard in surround sound, due to its many instrumental and vocal tracks.

53. King Crimson - Fallen Angel
Red - 1974
By the time Red came around, King Crimson was a trio, creating a much different feel than classical- and jazz-influenced work from PoseidonLizard, and Islands.  "Fallen Angel" has a nice melody and great dynamics, and is possibly the song that best utilizes the trio format.

52. Billy Joel - Why Judy Why
Cold Spring Harbor - 1971
Cold Spring Harbor, Joel's debut record, never achieved the fame his later records did, but it is, in my opinion, one of his best.  "Why Judy Why" was one of his first great ballads, and served as a great starting point for one of the best songwriters of the 70s.

51. Kris Kristofferson - Don't Cuss The Fiddle
Waylon & Willie - 1978
This song was recorded by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, but it was written by Kristofferson, generally considered one of the best country songwriters ever.  I'm not hugely familiar with Kristofferson's work, but this is probably one of my top five country songs ever.

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