Monday, August 3, 2015

Retro Favorite Albums: 1971

1971 was another big year for studio albums. Yes released 2 records with new members Steve Howe and then Rick Wakeman later. Genesis also released their 1st "classic lineup" record with Hackett and Collins. Many others also came to define the year in music for me; from The Who to Mahavishnu Orchestra to Floyd to Zeppelin to my favorite ELP record.

I guess I see this year as being one of those years with many trademark, statement records that many fans come to catch on and love amongst the respective bands catalogs. Although I guess nothing actually I place at 5-stars, but many close, which would have made this quite a year to have been a music fan and collector. Even just seeing Meddle, Nursery Cryme and Fragile come out all within a few weeks would have been something.

Chicago - Chicago III
rel January 11, 1971

I'm going with this is another slept-on album, and a length-ly double album again. More time may lend to how well this might compare, but in the scope of the calendar, it would have been 1st out of the gates by default I suppose.

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Yes - The Yes Album
rel February 19, 1971

The album where Steve Howe joined the band, and really, changed their sound significantly. I guess I think of Yes almost by default, for this album. It has of course "I've Seen All Good People" which is a feel good classic rock staple, even as almost happy/hippie it can seem, I still enjoy it.

"Starship Trooper" I at one time, used to hear frequently on KQRS when I was in HS or at least just after when I was somewhat of a loyal listener. And it's a great multi-part track, that does feature Howe and others like Jon Anderson of course.

"A Venture" I enjoy as well, with it's Beatles-element with the piano and chorus. It almost reminds me of like a traditional tall-tale, family going-to-the-country.

"Yours is No Disgrace" and "Perpetual Change" while lesser known, still add a lot to what makes this album unique. A lot of the dynamics and almost unexpected twists and little noodling, really work and I look forward to.

I enjoy this record a lot, although at the same time, I am not ever really blown away by it. But I still think for someone new to Yes, it's about as safe and easy record to recommend. Even without Rick Wakeman I suppose.

However, the record they put out later in the year I think they went up a bit.

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Soft Machine - Fourth
rel February 28, 1971

The 4th Soft  Machine album per the name. Not filled with epics like Third, but the 2nd side is a multi-part suite titled "Virtually."

Jethro Tull - Aqualung
rel March 19, 1971

This is by many, considered Tull's best or at least most well-known, which I follow, but I think that is a classic case of a couple of singles carrying their name and legacy. And while I definitely find this album their best or my favorite up to the point in their career (mind you, without a lot of listening experience from their others), I suppose I look at it as a transition album from where they would go.

But the specifics that stand out being tracks like the title track ("Sitting on the park bench"), "Cross-Eyed Mary" (which Iron Maiden would go on to cover, among others), and the classic rock standard "Locomotive Breath."

Some of the others come to mind like "Mother Goose" and "My God."

But like Yes The Yes Album, released early '71, I enjoy it, but within their catalog it hardly is a go-to right away. But I suppose like The Yes Album, it's probably the best 1st album to recommend from Tull, at least for people who enjoy prog and classic rock.

Caravan - In the Land of Grey and Pink
rel April 8, 1971

Some people regard this as the best Caravan record. I have seen Caravan live and listened to many of their studio tracks, but sadly, I'm still in the dark if this may be their best and how it compares to the rest of the 1971 releases. The 2nd side does have the 22+ minute "Nine Feet Underground,"one of their big epics, which seemed to be really in vogue at this time.

The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers
rel April 23, 1971

This is one of the most popular Stones albums, although it's surprising how just from a vague knowledge standpoint, it seems every record includes some hits, but also many songs I don't recall ever hearing before.

But this is the 1st album without guitarist Brian Jones. It includes songs like "Brown Sugar"
 and "Wild Horses" notably.

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Weather Report - Weather Report
rel May 1971

The debut album from Weather Report, The band Joseph Zawinul formed after departing Miles Davis band. WR went on to release a ton of studio records, and I'll fully admit, as much as I enjoy them, not having heard that many (probably less than 5). But it is noteworthy as 1971/early 70's saw some of the big jazz fusion bands start.

A photo of Gaye looking away from the camera
Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
rel May 21, 1971

This is a classic R&B record. And the title track is one of those songs that it seems everyone knows. Kind of a therapeutic song, with warm vibes and thought provoking messages. It's also a concept album of a kind, about among other things, someone whose come home from being at war and questioning the state of his home's society.

I've meant to pick it up for awhile, just in the right format/condition.

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Emerson Lake and Palmer - Tarkus
rel June 14, 1971

I don't have a huge preference among many of ELP's studio records I like, but I did come to conclude this is my favorite. The 20+ epic suite, I found works incredibly well, and flows. Well composed and thought-out. The climaxes are well worth getting to.

The analog synths, interplay between Lake and Emerson.. The closing "Battlefield" movement totally works.

I have not revisited it in a few years, but I came to the feeling of almost wanting more. ELP often get accused of having filler or just playing long-winded sections in their music, but while I have noticed that at times, I really don't find it to be present on this album or really many of their early records.

Joni Mitchell - Blue
rel June 22, 1971

This is one of Joni's most well received. I guess this and Court and Spark. Although for my taste, I should probably seek out the records she did with Jaco Pastorius.

"Carey" is the 1 track that charted.

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Black Sabbath - Master of Reality
rel July 21, 1971

This isn't Children of the Grave, which I recall was the 1st Sabbath album I ever got, but the track list is similar. It does include that tune, along with "Sweet Leaf" which I always associate with a KQRS bit with a florist (or "Plant Lady") which was hilarious.

The Allman Brothers Band - At Fillmore East
rel July 1971

A classic live album, that actually may be the most well-known Allman Bros release overall. It is of course the Allman  Brothers with Duane Allman, who would pass away only a few months after it's release in late October.

Like The Who's Live at Leeds, while the original version is engaging including a 13-minute version of "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" and a 23-minute version of "Whipping Post," a couple of the expanded/deluxe versions released many years later included the real gem of the 33+ minute "Mountain Jam."

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Gyspy - In the Garden
rel July 1971

The 2nd Gypsy record that I don't see as often as the S/T debut, but still is considered pretty favorably.

In due time..

The Beach Boys - Surf's Up
rel August 30, 1971

I enjoy the title track which may have been both written and recorded during the Smile period, as I recall seeing a video/special that Christian Nesmith posted from that period with a news guy (Walter Kronkite?) that talked about Rock and Roll and that period, and Brian Wilson was interviewed while at a piano playing it.

The rest of the record I'm unfamiliar with, although it's well rated from just looking online.

In due time...

A photograph of The Who walking away from a stone monolith and zipping up their pants, with visible streaks of urine on the structure
The Who - Who's Next
rel August 14, 1971

Probably the best or most popular The Who album, that actually was meant originally to be mostly on another concept album titled "Lifehouse."but the project was ultimately abandoned in the process, and this album ended up with a lot of the material they had written for it.

"Baba O'Reilly" "Won't Get Fooled Again" "Behind Blue Eyes" and "Bargain" all became frequent classic rock radio tracks. And while I have heard them many times, especially those 1st 2, I still appreciate them enough to not be totally sick of them.

The rest of this album I enjoy, but from memory, is somewhat non-descript. Although I have it on cd, but probably haven't listened to it in 10 or more years.

Mahavishnu Orchestra - The Inner Mounting Flame
rel August 14, 1971

The debut Mahavishnu, and unlike some of their jazz-fusion contemporaries, this is among if not their best record. And at least under the Mahavishnu Orchestra name,  I guess I would lean towards it as my favorite. Although I probably could flip a coin between it and the follow-up Birds of Fire.

"The Noonward Race" and "Vital Transformation" and "The Dance of Maya" would be the biggest highlights for me. I guess my best association with for one, "The Dance of Maya" is seeing Dean Magraw's band Eight-Head cover it a number of years ago at The Dakota Jazz club and my jaw dropped.

The dynamics on it are amazing.

-Billy Cobham is one-of-a-kind.

-John McLaughlin fronted intro to the world

-Jerry Goodman's virtuosic electric violin work.

-Jan Hammer's crazy organ compositions

-Rick Laird's thumping bass tone

An essential Jazz-Fusion record, and really, the 1st significant album a genre that seemed to flourish throughout the 1970's.

John Lennon - Imagine
rel September 9, 1971

Amazing title track, and probably still my favorite song of his non-Beatles tunes. Some of the names on this record include George Harrison, Alan White and even Phil Spector on the closing track "Oh Yoko!"

Among his solo work, this really is the only record I know somewhat, but I do enjoy some of the singles. "Instant Karma" among them, but that was not on this, nor on the Plastic Ono Band record from the year before.

Pink Floyd - Meddle
rel October 30, 1971

One of the better and not over-mentioned/overplayed Floyd albums, although the hipsters frequently love to boast about this album as being obscure. And I suppose it is still to the general public, but not as *obscure* as some other their others, lol.

But from a musical standpoint, I find I enjoy nearly all of it, including the odd tracks like "San Tropez" and "Seamus" which add charm and different kind of side of the band.

But the real meat exists on others like the dreamy "A Pillow of Winds" and "Fearless" which I happen to love the twangy folk mantra it seems to carry. "Fearlessly the idiot face the crowd..smyyyyyleeen....I'll clihhhhhmb the hills in my ohhhhhwn wayyyy"

That line along with the crowd chanting I always picture an english soccer (futbol) player from a visiting team, taunting and pissing off a home-crowd. The whole thing about "They'll never be alone" or "being alone" was a phrase a soccer coach I had in high school used to use with throw-ins and corner kicks from a defensive position. If every man on your team is marking someone, they are not *alone* and that leaves nobody from the other team alone, etc.

"One of These Days" is like lightning in some ways. Waters energetic bass lines, and Rick Wright's methodically placed keys. It almost sounds like a gallop or something a horse or animal would do well to run to. In fact I wouldn't be surprise if a lot of people work out to it, even with the whole demonic voiced line "one of these days I'm going to cut you into little pieces,"  Which was spoken oddly enough by drummer Nick Mason. 

Anyway, and then of course there's one of their best epics in "Echoes." It is incredibly dreamy and trippy. From the lyrics and the mellotron? thumping, I forget. It later uses an interval pattern on maybe both piano and guitar, that sounds like the Phantom of the Opera theme, in a slow tempo. I really like how they use that part, regardless of how much it reminds me of it.

One of Floyd's best, although not my favorite, but certainly a top 5. Within 1971? likely not an album of the year, but certainly in heavy rotation and likely among the top 5.

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Jon Lord - The Gemini Suite
rel October 1971

Deep Purple's organist solo record that was recorded live with an orchestra. Some friends and I bought a bunch of Vinyl records from Down in the Valley like 12 years ago and this was 1 of them. I have this, but of course, have yet to hear it to know truly how much I enjoy it. But the reviews are pretty much all positive.

A drawing of a man in a field with a large bundle of sticks on his back
Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin [IV]
rel November 8, 1971

Led Zeppelin's most well-known record and it of course includes likely the most radio tunes out of any other record they made. And while when I got into Zeppelin in the early 90's, I did enjoy every track on here for the most part, I guess in the last 15 or more years, I have kind of soured on some of the overplayed tracks on this like "Black Dog" and "Rock and Roll" especially.

"Misty Mountain Hop" to a point as well, although I still really enjoy the lyrics on that one.

"Stairway to Heaven" on the other hand, I still love, and I suppose in some ways, I could count as my 1st favorite Zeppelin, sans for the fact I got Houses of the Holy 1st. But I still love it, the crescendo and especially the climax with the guitar solo (BTBAM's "White Walls" guitar solo, I always think of it it for).

But beyond those, the more underrated tracks I still love a ton. "Four Sticks" infectious groove. "The Battle of Evermore" I adore, including of course Sandy Denny's falsetto harmonies. And the mandolin is wonderful.

"Going to California" is still decent, although they did better acoustic ballads.

"When the Levee Breaks" does still have charm for me, especially seeing bands cover it live, namely The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra recently.

Solid record still, despite some of it (mainly 3 tracks) being worn out.

Genesis - Nursery Cryme
rel November 12, 1971

The 1st "classic lineup" Genesis album, with Phil Collins and Steve Hackett joining. Interesting how Hackett and Steve Howe's 1st album with the bands they got known for was in '71, altho  And I suppose put Rick Wakeman in the '71 club as well.

And this only was released just a few weeks before that record with Wakeman with Yes.

But I do love this album, as I love all of the Gabriel-Genesis albums sand for the debut. My favorites being most fans favorite "The Musical Box" and it's march among others things. The fable/fairytale/story is what gets me a lot about it. The story of the boy who goes out to play croquet with the girl, she chops his head off, and then later inside she opens the music box and hears a voice and it ends up being the boy turned to an old man, etc.

Creepy, but also rather surreal and fascinating.

Love Hackett on that tune.

Another favorite is "The Fountain of Salmacis"..wonderful Mellotron, and lyrics/story to it as well about a mythical or even biblical tale with a Hermaphrodite being seduced if I recall.

The story I suppose is even eclipsed by a lot of the music. Some of Gabriel's best characterized vocals.

"Return of the Giant Hogweed" I would put as the 3rd of the big 3 tracks on this album. Very riffy/rockin tune. The demonic-like voice for the Hogweed, while a little creepy, also has its appeal and grew on me after initially not loving it. The organ layers complement Hackett's guitar parts incredibly well.

The rest of this record I enjoy, although more from a complementary standpoint. Harold the Barrel, Harlequin, Seven Stones and the Phil Collins-sang acoustic ballad "For Absent Friends."

Not my favorite Genesis record, but among 1971, it is right up there with the best certainly.

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Yes - Fragile
rel November 26, 1971

This was my 1st favorite Yes record, after failing to get into them with Tales. "Roundabout" totally won me over, even if it was kind of a classic rock staple, it is progressive in multiple ways. From the dynamics, to the interplay between members.The lyrics, like many of Yes lyrics, are there for how they sound, more than what they say literally. "Mountains Come out of the Sky and they Stand There."

But as great as "Roundabout" is, I actually think it almost pales when compared to "South Side of the Sky" and "Heart of the Sunrise." 2 of the best tracks Yes (or any band) ever wrote really.

Chris Squire's rumbling bass and the incredible dynamic and emotional shifts on HOTS is just so bloody good. It's how prog is and should sound in a lot of ways. "Sharp. Distant" How, Can, the wind all around me?...I get lost in the ci-teeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" it. The back and forth is just totally orgasmic.

It also didn't hurt when it was used in Buffalo'66 of course.

"South Side of the Sky" also just gets me every time. The huge guitar riff and the big vocal chorus with the harmonies I adore. And the piano work by Wakeman that leads to more of those harmonies. Lord, this song is some of the best magic ever conceived in rock. "Were we ever colder on that day, many miles away, it seemed from all of eternity"

"Long Distance Runaround" is a song also that I think of hearing on radio, but has managed to hold up and still be a track I enjoy. It's quite catchy and ear-wormy, almost in a subtle way.

The other bits/sections and pieces, I really do like. "Mood for a Day" "Cans and Brahms" "The Fish" and even "We Have Heaven." They add an unusual, yet effective flow, which also was found on later records.

Not my favorite Yes record, but damn, I love a ton about this album, and looking at '71, it would be hard to say I like another record more.

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King Crimson - Islands
rel December 3, 1971

The 2nd post-Greg Lake/pre-Wetton/Bruford Crimson record, that like Lizard, my memory is quite vague about. Boz Burrell did the vocals on this one, Ian Wallace played the drums.

The title track and "Formentera Lady" are the 2 epics that bookend it.

Like Lizard, in due time, my take may be more clear.

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David Bowie - Hunky Dory
rel December 17, 1971

I love this album mostly for  a couple of tunes. Namely "Life on Mars?" I adore the string harmonies with Bowie's vocals in in the chorus.

This album also has "Changes" which was a radio hit.

I know the rest of it is good, because I remember checking it out many years ago and enjoying it, although I'm not sure if it was during an initial interest in Bowie when a co-worker of mine burned like 8 of his albums, or maybe  a few years later.

I need to revisit it of course. But I also wonder if ultimately this could be my favorite Bowie record, as I while I enjoy many of his songs, I have never been floored by any 1 album, but just enjoyed many songs.

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Renaissance - Illusion
rel 1971

The 2nd Renaissance LP, but still not with their classic lineup/and sound exactly. But this one seems like they were starting to head more to the orchestral and progressive arranged pieces.

Wikipedia includes a factoid about it only being released in Germany in '71, and not being widely released until 1973.

I own it on CD and Vinyl, but still have slept on it.