This week’s 1001 takes us to the 1970s, which has yielded some of my favourite fruit from the project (‘Marquee Moon’, ‘A Wizard, A True Star’ etc). Let’s see what this Seventies seven have to bring to the table.
The third of an inexplicable three entries for Aerosmith on the list, this doesn’t feature any of the band’s best known songs, but does feature their characteristic hard rock without any of the commercial trappings of the mega-hits. I mean I guess it sounds about as fine as a hard rock album from 1976 is likely to sound: hard rock has never really been my bag and the 1001 has failed to convert me.
The Carpenters, ‘Close to You’
I’ve always associated Karen and Richard with schmaltzy MOR, only slightly offset by watching Karen’s goofy energy when playing drums. This album does feature some of their most famous easy listening cuts: ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’, and Bacharach/David’s ‘Close To You’. It’s only later in the album when the claws come out: the peculiar ‘Crescent Moon’ and the spiteful ‘Mr Guder’ are both strange deep cuts from the record. There’s also an awful cover of ‘Help’, performed at the tempo Lennon allegedly originally intended.
David Crosby, ‘If I Could Only Remember My Name’
This album’s origins lie in two key events: the recording of the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young album that preceded it, and the 1969 death of Crosby’s girlfriend Christine Hinton. It’s hard to get a grip on the album that came out, which is steeped in harmonies (Nash and Young both feature, along with Joni Mitchell) and peculiar, lengthy instrumental passages. In some places, like the intro to ‘Tamalpais High’, it sounds like a precursor to Slint. Elsewhere, it sounds like a contemporary of Devendra Banhart or Newton Faulkner. A strange one, and it didn’t impress everyone at the time (Christgau gave it a D+, calling it a “disgraceful performance”).
Electric Light Orchestra, ‘Out of the Blue’
A double album written in a burst of inspiration by Jeff Lynne and featuring their most famous song, ‘Mr Blue Sky’. If you’ve heard that – and who hasn’t – you’ll know what they’re about: a twist on 60s pop with orchestral strings. They’re often compared to the Beatles, but there’s also a Beach Boys element to it: ‘Across the Border’ sounds like it has the same melody as ‘Heroes and Villains’. There’s some really good stuff here – ‘Summer and Lightning’, ‘Mr Blue Sky’, and the weird pub-rock meets Bolero of ‘Birmingham Blues’. You can also hear echoes of this stuff on Super Furry Animals, among others.
George Jones, ‘The Grand Tour’
Jones was one of Tammy Wynette’s husbands. At the time, their marriage was disintegrating, which they of course take pains to insist is not the case in dreadful closer ‘Our Private Life’. Of course, all the other lyrics and songs suggest the exact opposite (the title track is about a break-up, there’s a song defiantly titled ‘Once You’ve Had The Best’, etc). It’s a sophisticated take on country without any desire to cross over into pop, but it’s also too steeped in Nashville cheese to overcome my natural reservations about country. ‘She’ll Love The One She’s With’, despite having almost the same title, chorus and theme, is not related to the Stephen Stills song.
Janis Joplin, ‘Pearl’
The only solo album of Joplin’s to make the list sees the production and playing refined and polished in order to allow Janis’s own natural roughness to shine through. It’s a fine platform for her strong voice and personality, and gives us two of her best-known songs in ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ and ‘Mercedes Benz’. Unfortunately she was unable to capitalise: she died four days after recording ‘Mercedes Benz’, and one song on the album ended up going on there without any vocals.
Milton Nascimento and Lo Borges, ‘Cluba de Esquina’
This is a sort-of ‘Buena Vista Social Club’ deal where the musicians were a loose collective who gathered around the titular Cluba de Esquina: Nascimento and Borges are the singer/songwriters around which it rotates (they alternate lead vocals, but never appear on the same song). It’s a double album so it is – guess what – too long, but its roots in, or similarities with, psychedelic rock make it an easy enough album to appreciate even if you don’t speak Portuguese. You can see similarities with the dazed Californian folk scene, or in later shimmery mostly-acoustic outfits like Fleet Foxes.
Next week: predictably enough, we hit up the 80s to see what we’ve got left there.
Status update: 924 listened to (92%), 77 remain.