The best 10 albums from the 1970s (in my opinion)

    Start to write about the “best” music of any period and you open yourself up to tongue-lashing criticism.  

Once in a while, we ask a member of the Just Recruitment team to name their favourite music from a given era. This time, Peter Foy gives us the lowdown on the 1970s

By Peter Foy

Start to write about the “best” music of any period and you open yourself up to tongue-lashing criticism. Especially if you do it online, and have the foolishness to share on social media. At the weekend, when everyone has time to slag off your choices.

But I’ve always enjoyed a challenge, and I live in hope that the criticism will be constructive and kind. So here are my top 10 albums from the 1970s. Enjoy.

*Stands back anticipating violent disagreement from all quarters

1. Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run

The E Street band was a phenomenon that bucked all of the trends in the 1970s. These top-hole musicians didn’t follow fashions. They just did what they did.

Greetings From Asbury Park had been brilliant. The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle was great. But Born to Run set a new standard. Bruce’s writing suddenly seemed to gel with Clarence’s Sax in a way it hadn’t before. Every track on this album is a poem. A street poem. Genius. Pure Genius.

    ...The Clash took Punk and made it music.  

2. The Clash: London Calling

In the decade that gave us Punk, you’d expect a mention of the Sex Pistols and Never Mind The Bollocks. But The Clash took Punk and made it music. Seeing them live was exciting to the point of being painful. Like the Pistols, they screamed. But The Clash had something to scream about. In that disaffected, Thatcherite world these guys provided a voice to, well, any one who wanted a voice. And that very much included me.

3. Bob Dylan: Blood on the Tracks

Bob Dylan is a colossus of late-20th century music. As a student of American Studies, I once wrote an essay saying that he should be a Nobel Laureate; my tutor insisted that I rewrite as it was a preposterous idea. Where is that tutor now, I wonder?

In Blood on the Tracks Dylan hits his peak. Every song is perfectly formed. Tangled Up In Blue and Simple Twist of Fate are sublime love stories. Girl from the North Country is simply blissful. And Idiot Wind seems as relevant in 2019 as it ever did in the 1970s.

4. David Bowie: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from from Mars

Ziggy Stardust belongs in this list because it’s brilliant.

Bowie would appear here at least three times to accommodate the different personas he adopted in the period. The man was a true phenomenon. To move from Ziggy to The Great White Duke to the Berlin incarnations in one decade is amazing. He was the ultimate chameleon.

But Ziggy was the one for me. I still play it to this day, and I still follow the instructions on the sleeve notes: “Play at full volume.”

This is one of the eternal albums. Six years ago I received an email from my daughter at university: “Dad I’ve discovered this great album, do you know it? It’s called Ziggy…”

5. Neil Young: After the Gold Rush and Harvest

When I went up to Manchester University I had pretensions to be a poet. I took with me books by my favourite poets: Walt Whitman, Alan Ginsberg and Leonard Cohen. My roommate took one look at the Cohen and proclaimed that he’s not even the best poet in Canada. He played me After the Gold Rush and I was a Neil Young convert.

These two albums are the most lyrical offerings from the 1970s. Words and music working in perfect harmony.

    I find the song Imagine grating...Plastic Ono is too often overlooked.  

6. John Lennon: Plastic Ono Band and Imagine

When the Beatles split each member brought out his own albums. George, in my opinion, flourished later but John hit the spot with these two great offerings. I find the song Imagine grating but it’s proved hugely popular. The album as a whole is great, though, and Plastic Ono is too often overlooked.

7. Carole King: Tapestry

If you know Tapestry your only complaint will be that it’s too far down the list. If you don’t know it, get onto YouTube or Spotify now and listen. It is one of the definitive albums of the 70s.

8. Derek and the Dominos: Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs

If you love guitar, and I do, you must love Clapton. Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is Clapton at his absolute best.

9. Blondie: Parallel Lines

When Debbie Harry and Blondie appeared on the scene music changed. It didn’t become more profound or meaningful. It became more fun. Every track on Parallel Lines could have been a single, and most were. This album sums up the pure joy of being young in the late 70s.

10. Elvis Costello: My Aim is True

Elvis Costello burst onto the music scene with a great album and then continued to deliver. My Aim is True was followed by This Year’s Model and Armed Forces. Each one was brilliant in its own way, establishing Costello as a definitive voice for the period.

11. Patti Smith: Horses

Okay, I know I was only supposed to choose 10 albums. But this one is simply too good to leave out.

In 1975, Patti Smith released one of the best debut albums in rock history, and she challenged everything punters expected from a woman. Horses was an instant force of nature on the punk rock scene. It created a radical sound and style that has been aped, but never bettered, by acts ever since.

Published: 10 June 2019

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

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