Our Greatest Albums Of The 70s, numbers 30 to 17.
30) REAL LIFE – Magazine (Virgin, 1978)
This was the album that prompted the NME to dub Magazine singer Howard Devoto “the most important man alive”. He had that messianic aura, while the music had the requisite gravity and heft, even if it’s usually Magazine’s third LP, The Correct Use Of Soap, that gets the plaudits. Real Life signalled the shift from punk to post-punk, the moment the scene switched its gaze from tower blocks to more cerebral matters and started experimenting. Although with its glacial keyboards and discordant musicality, it rather posited Magazine as a displaced prog band, even a latter-day Roxy Music.
What they said at the time: “Magazine shut down once and for all any Buzzcocks comparisons. A commercial, quality rock album with deceptive depths.” Sounds
29) EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY – Rod Stewart (Mercury, 1971)
Remembered by Rod as “all the planets aligning”, his third solo album proved the sand-and-glue vocalist was also a master interpreter (from the tough soul of I Know I’m Losing You to the country-blues of That’s All Right), and no slouch as a songwriter. Every Picture was a critical and commercial slam-dunk at the time, but as Rod’s standing has dropped with every Great American Songbook it’s cited less in pub debates. Which is a shame.
What they said at the time: “[With] his fantastic ability to interpret tunes and to wail… Stewart once again weaves a musical web of knowing. His best here is every tune.” Billboard
28) LOADED – Velvet Underground (Cotillion, 1970)
For all the avant-garde conceits of Sister Ray or European Son, Lou Reed always insisted that VU were essentially a rock’n’roll band. This fourth album, which also happened to be his swansong, seemed intent on proving the point. Whether or not the songs were conceived in response to the record label’s demands for a hit single, they came packed with great melodies and hooks, from Sweet Jane’s trademark riff to the stained beauty of Lonesome Cowboy Bill and the majesty of Rock And Roll.
What they said at the time: “This is just possibly the most important pop record issued in years” Melody Maker
27) THE WILD, THE INNOCENT & THE E SREET SHUFFLE – Bruce Springsteen (Columbia, 1973)
Bruce Springsteen may have been the future of rock’n’roll, but he wasn’t yet its present. Second album The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, his first to really showcase the E Street Band, got great reviews but sold dismally (until Born To Run launched him over the edge). Rich in self-mythologising tales of the frustrated boys and girls of Asbury Park’s balmy boardwalk days and nights, it delivered a show-stopping, cinematic Side Two. Incident On 57th Street is where Springsteen moved from dreamer to creative colossus.
What they said at the time: “The size and style of Springsteen’s talent is suggested by the title, and this is very good in spurts – but it never coalesces.” Creem
26) IN THE LAND OF GREY AND PINK – Caravan (Deram, 1971)
Very probably the only great rock album that begins with a parping trombone, In The Land Of Grey And Pink was a pivotal album of 70s prog, by the Canterbury scene’s de-facto heads of state. The old-school charm of Golf Girl and the melodic elegance of Winter Wine – the latter arguably the best ‘short-course’ track the band ever recorded – are Caravan signatures, while the side-long, expansive, multi-part Nine Feet Underground is in a class of its own. This album more or less single-handedly defined the scene that it stood at the centre of, yet is largely ignored outside of it.
25) GIVE ‘EM ENOUGH ROPE – The Clash (CBS, 1978)
When they were operational, The Clash were far from today’s untouchable heroes; they attracted flak from punk purists and were accused of “selling out” when Blue Öyster Cult mastermind Sandy Pearlman produced this, their presciently titled second album. But from powerhouse barrages like Safe European Home and Tommy Gun to Mick Jones’s poignant Stay Free, Give ’Em Enough Rope is packed with deceptively subtle missiles, framed in glorious high definition. It also brought The Clash to America and drummer Topper Headon into the classic line-up, while the knowledge Jones gained from Pearlman led to their 1979 album London Calling.
What they said at the time: “A triumphant roar of battles won, which must be placed among the handful of rock albums that merit the term ‘classic’.” Zigzag
24) WHO DO WE THINK WE ARE – Deep Purple (EMI/Purple, 1973)
The final full-length record from the Mk II Deep Purple (until they re-formed in 1984) is widely regarded as their weakest. The band were admittedly in complete and utter disarray when they recorded it… but then again, were they ever anything but? And how bad can an album be when it has Woman From Tokyo on it, surely one of the Top 10 Purple songs of all time? Mary Long, which remains a staple of the modern-day group’s live set, and Rat Bat Blue are no slouches, either. Who Do We Think We Are even reached No.4 in the UK. Which isn’t bad for a supposed career low point.
What they said at the time: “It ain’t as good as Machine Head (their best and one of the greatest albums ever) ’cause it’s more like Fireball (only the critics liked that one).” Creem
23) MACHINE GUN ETIQUETTE – The Damned (Chiswick, 1979)
Of course, by this point The Damned had already played their first farewell show, re-formed, reshuffled, reinvented, signed their second deal and brought in their fourth bassist. Their second album, the Nick Mason-produced Music For Pleasure, had been good enough to lose them their contract with Stiff records. But Machine Gun Etiquette wasn’t just a full-tilt, psychedelicised, punkicidal kick in the bollocks, it had hits on it. Not shit, here-today-toss-tomorrow hits, either: Love Song, Smash It Up; monolithic posterity-bothering classics. Any other band would have been taken seriously after this. I dunno, maybe blame the Captain’s beret.
What they said at the time: “A bewildering mix of genius, garbage, taste, idiocy, noise, misjudgment, alcohol, aggression, wind-ups, grotesqueness, psychosis and awful clothes.” Sounds
22) SIN AFTER SIN – Judas Priest (CBS, 1977)
The new wave of British heavy metal gave Judas Priest a well-deserved boost. After all, their musical histrionics and provincial sex-shop S&M image inspired the genre. But it’s on Sin After Sin rather than the more common choice, 1976’s Sad Wings Of Destiny, where Rob Halford’s banshee wail and Glenn Tipton and KK Downing’s tag-team guitars really came of age. Sin After Sin is the album where Priest became a heavy metal band. The dated production aside, the likes of Sinner and Dissident Aggressor still sound like a How To… manual for every metal band from Iron Maiden to Metallica and beyond.
What they said at the time: “Music that has a sledgehammer effect on its head-shaking mesmerised audience.” Daily Express
21) BUCKINGHAM NICKS – Buckingham Nicks (Anthem/Polydor 1973)
A year after Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks’s debut, the couple joined Fleetwood Mac and wowed America with the Mac’s self-titled White Album. Buckingham Nicks sold badly, and has never had an official CD release. More’s the pity. It’s stuffed full of charming folk rock and West Coast pop: Nicks’s cheesecloth headscarf-and-tarot cards persona offset by Buckingham’s trademark needling guitar. Don’t Let Me Down Again and Frozen Love sound like a trailer for Rumours, and Fleetwood Mac re-recorded Crystal and re-worked the intro of Lola (My Love) for The Chain. The best album Fleetwood Mac never made.
What they said at the time: “May well be one of the finest American albums released over the last three or four years.” Rock Magazine
20) VAN HALEN 2 – Van Halen (Warner Bros, 1979)
How do you follow up a debut album universally hailed as a classic? You don’t. Van Halen faced this problem, and as a result their second record, Van Halen 2, was seen as disappointing. But when you strip away all the superlatives about their debut, this one was a fine album. If anything it established the VH style, with the band sounding more comfortable in their skin. Songs like Dance The Night Away and Light Up The Sky were sharp and confident, and there was a charismatic swagger throughout.
What they said at the time: “After almost one careful listening, I’m utterly convinced that the members of Van Halen must have been up half the night creating it.” Rolling Stone
19) THE IDIOT – Iggy Pop (RCA, 1977)
Although tactically released after his own Low, David Bowie started work producing Iggy’s debut solo album first, so technically The Idiot marked the opening instalment of Bowie’s Berlin period. Consequently it’s charged with dark, gothic majesty as one might expect. The Idiot presented a new Iggy Pop to the world; Bowie encouraged him to investigate his lower registers, and his stentorian tones accentuated the singularly European soundscapes emanating from Hansa studios. In the year of punk, here was the sound of the future.
What they said at the time: “This isn’t blistering punk rock like 1973’s Raw Power. This is zombie-rock – with heart.” Circus
18) SECOND HELPING – Lynyrd Skynyrd (MCA, 1974)
On their debut album there was the epic Free Bird, the Stairway To Heaven of southern rock. With their second, Skynyrd didn’t even try to top it. They just hit a groove on Sweet Home Alabama, and stayed there. That famous song would prove as defining for Skynyrd as Free Bird. But there was as much good stuff on Second Helping, from gritty hard rock songs such as Workin’ For MCA (a stinging critique of the music business) to the lazy blues of The Ballad Of Curtis Loew.
What they said at the time: “This band has the expertise, the youth and the confidence to keep things going its way for a long time to come.” Crawdaddy!
17) DEGUELLO – ZZ Top (Warner Bros, 1979)
In 1977, ZZ Top disappeared from public view for two whole years – an eternity in an era when major rock acts were locked into annual album/tour cycles. Adding to the Texan trio’s mystique, they resurfaced with guitarist Billy Gibbons and bassist Dusty Hill sporting foot-long beards. Their comeback album, Degüello, was worth waiting for: a rich blend of funky rock’n’roll, blues and southern soul, with Captain Beefheart-style weirdness in Manic Mechanic, and the trio blasting horns on the joyous She Loves My Automobile. Although the title warned ‘no quarter’, this is ZZ’s warmest, most soulful record.
What they said at the time: “Cars, girls, and blues. They’re still a power trio. And the ZZs are still in touch with the masses.” Creem