Jackson Browne – For Everyman
Words escape me to describe this album. Maybe because every time I try it defies classification. “These Days” has that steel string, country twang but it’s got that beautiful piano driving it. “Red Neck Friend” is a bit country, a bit rock and roll. At times, I hear Tom Petty. At times, I hear Counting Crows. At times, I hear Elton John. Maybe it’s the influence of all the difference guest artists that feature on this record. This is what you would hear at the Grammy’s and only those old enough to remember or those who’ve done their musical research would know who this is.
Highlights: Our Lady of the Well, Colors of the Sun, I Thought I Was a Child
- Big Star – Third/Sister Lovers
This is so lame, but I struggle to figure out what to say about these guys. It might remind me of the Beatles a bit? It’s hard to know for sure. Chilton has this delicate, smooth voice. And what I love about them is they’ve got a bit of melody and bounce to them. Apparently they’ve influenced bands like R.E.M. and The Replacements. It’s like I’ve heard this sound before but I can’t really place it. Side note: I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an album with more versions of a track list.
Highlights: Thank You Friends, Femme Fatale, O Dana, Kangaroo
- The Police – Synchronicity
I remember once in an interview John Mayer (I feel like he comes up a lot on this thing) talked about how he misses the 80s because you got more music per square inch. In that, he referenced The Police and their ability to be both musically technical but have mass appeal. I think my introduction to them, Guitar Hero aside, came with Coheed & Cambria’s “Number City.” When I was researching bands who had that sound, The Police was frequently mentioned. Nothing is ever simple with these guys. On the surface, Walking in Your Footsteps” is a track about dinosaurs. But when you actually listen it’s about the extinction of the human race. “Every Breath You Take” isn’t a love song but a song about the darkness of a person’s heart. Personally, I found the album more accessible towards its end. Like if you’re looking for classic Police sound, the first half might be that. If you’re looking for something a bit more poppy, the latter half is that.
Highlights: Synchronicity II, King of Pain, Wrapped Around Your Finger
- Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto – Getz/Gilberto
This is elevator music. The type of stuff they’d play in a fancy store as your significant other is shopping for clothes and you’re sitting on a couch, waiting for them to finish. This may seem completely random, but “Girl from Ipanema” has been all over the place and you’ll know you’ve heard it the second the chorus hits you. This is just enjoyable to have on in the background.
Highlights: The Girl from Ipanema, Doralice
- MC5 – Back in the USA
If you’re looking for an American rock and roll band, this is it. Everything happens at a mile a minute, including in-your-face guitar solos. Between “Teenage Lust” and “Let Me Try” you get the sense these guys are out to get some. It is the ’70s after all. This is the music of teenage rebellion. The music your parents are hearing about and you’re not allowed to listen to them. You sneak out at night to place where they’re playing anyway. Quick album, but it covers a lot of terrain. Extra points for the album starting and ending with a cover from black artist.
Highlights: Tutti-Frutti, Tonight, The American Ruse
- Steve Miller Band – Fly Like An Eagle
From the second the title track came on, I was like, “ooooh shoooot.” You know how cool Steve Miller had to feel, sitting in the studio listening back to this song fully produced? He had to feel like the coolest dude on the planet. I would’ve. I would’ve felt untouchable. If that was the only track on this album, this album would’ve been worth it. But they add to it and some of these other tracks feel like a victory lap (“The Window”). These guys play with so many sounds: blues “Mercury Blues”, Lynyrd Skynyrd-esque southern rock “Take the Money and Run”, and more. Makes me proud to be from San Francisco.
Highlights: Fly Like an Eagle, Serenade, Take The Money and Run, Rock’n Me
- War – The World is a Ghetto
If you haven’t heard “The Cisco Kid” you must’ve been under a rock. This is funk of its own kind. You can hear it in the bass. “City, Country, City” is just a jam track. The title track off this album is ten minutes long, but it’s probably the best song on this whole album. These guys take rock, funk, and create their own sound. There are horns, clean guitars, and Latin flavor galore. Takes me back to driving around with my dad.
Highlights: Cisco Kid, City Country City
- Cheap Trick – In Color
My first Cheap Trick album. All I can picture are checkerboard guitars. Another larger than life sounding band. Somehow, they command the stage while playing on record. “I Want You To Want Me” takes me back to Dawson’s Creek. At times it reminded me of Led Zeppelin or Aerosmith (who’s first album came out in 1973 as well).
Highlights: Hello There, I Want You to Want Me, Southern Girls, So Good to See You
- Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo
In some ways it reminds me of Talking Heads, whose first couple albums came out around this time. They’re quirky both in terms of sound and lyrics. Not quite sure if I’m buying it totally. Take “Jocko Homo” for example. In the way the band itself carries an image and concept, I imagine these guys paved the way for groups like The Phenomenauts. This album is produced by both Brian Eno (who went on to work with groups like U2) and David Bowie and maybe you get a sense of Bowie’s love for the theatrical with their image but I can’t get on the inside of this album. In some ways, this is all one giant art instillation.
Highlights: Mongoloid, Gut Feeling
- Suicide – Suicide
I procrastinated in listening to this album. The only time I would’ve ever been interested in listening to a band called “Suicide” might’ve been back in high school. But for all the gore the name suggests and the album cover invokes, this quite the opposite. It’s extremely minimalistic. If there’s any percussion, it’s faint. Synth is the main driver. It’s to the point where you keep waiting for the other foot to drop, these songs build and at any given moment they can crescendo but they just don’t. Be on the look out for the blood-curdling screams on “Frankie Teardrop”.