Patti Smith's Horses.

Top Albums of the 1970s, Cohort #7

By Mark Abraham & Dom Sinacola · Jun 27, 2013

40. Ann Peebles:
Part Time Love

(Hi; 1971)

Maude Findlay: “The best R&B sounds effortless, which incidentally is absolutely the thing that Peebles excels at. She sounds like she knocked this off in an afternoon, nonchalant, like it was really no trouble. At the same time, everything is so precise and calculated: each wink, nod, and elliptical melody spins in synchronicity with everything else. Everything sits well together. Obviously music in the 1970s didn’t stay this way, but Peebles sort of figured out how to produce the best possible 1960s R&B album in a way that still sounds light years beyond of the previous decade. Things change, right? And when they do they do hard.”

39. Terry Allen:
Lubbock (On Everything)

(Fate; 1979)

Kellye Yamato: “Lubbock isn’t so much a place on this album as it is an epistemology: a name for all of Allen’s weird and probably over-thought meanderings about artists, philosophers, Americans, and everybody else who probably gets too drunk in bars. This is the sweat on the wood of a lacquered surface where many big ideas have been thought and forgotten and many conversations have been cut short by belches. It sounds exactly like that; it’s intrinsically woozy.”

38. Patti Smith:

(Arista; 1975)

Bobby Brady: “I actually probably think Easter is the better album, but nowhere on this list are you going to find an artist’s performance that so defines the 1970s. Released at the decade’s mid-point, Smith’s vocals seem to look back and anticipate at the exact same time: all the rock ‘n’ roll you’ve loved, and all the punk that is about to wreck your shit. And all delivered like “song” is just an abstract concept; a space where things—beautiful, restless things—might happen. It’s too mature for me, obviously, which is why I only listen with closed eyes.”

37. Tim Buckley:

(Straight; 1970)

Stanley Roper: “Does everyone know by now that I’ve modeled the esprit de corps of my apartment complex, not to mention my overall posture and everyday facial features, on the cover of this album? Then come to find out there are some seriously duplicitous tunes within, a whole smorgasbord of pipe organs and guitars and flutes and flugelhorns acting as if they are finally discovering themselves together, while all along sniggering with the truth pressed to their chests that this is who they truly are. Who they’ve always been. If only Jack had so much levity and grace.”

36. Aretha Franklin:
Young, Gifted & Black

(Atlantic; 1971)

Archie Bunker: “Don’t tell George that this is my favorite album. Don’t tell Meathead either. They’ll never let me hear the end of it. But also, like, duh!”

35. Gal Costa:

(Phillips; 1973)

Alex Rieger: “I listen to this in the cab; I take a new street whenever the music changes, which is a lot. There’s something captivating about the absence of coherence, I think; snatches of music fitted together like a road map to some treasure to incomprehensible for humans to understand. This album is brightly colored like Costa’s earlier tropicália—it’s cast in the same shades. It’s a neon sign that isn’t advertising anything; a face with eyes wide open, gasping at the vibrancy of modern life.”

34. Clash:
London Calling

(Epic; 1979)

Leonard “Lenny” Kosnowski: “The reason why everybody thinks this album is so good is because it’s so good. But also? It’s because, like, it’s fig. 1 in a case of how mind-blowing the whole punk this was, where bands that were punk a couple years before were suddenly writing things that punk couldn’t even comprehend only a couple of years later. This album is the story of how the 1970s became the 1980s became modern music as we know it.”

33. Françoise Hardy:
La Question

(Sonopresse; 1971)

Ted Baxter: “Yé-yé for Ted is like butter on bread. This album chronicles my secret, deep life, where complicated emotions and thick description are the name of my game. I am more than you see on the surface; I mature inch by inch; I have plenty to offer. Just like a young pop star would, if you think about it. Hardy spent most of the 1960s singing about the frivolity of love; this was her shot across the bow for the 1970s: nothing was simple yé-yé, because nothing ever is.”

32. Laura Nyro:
Christmas and the Beads of Sweat

(CBS; 1970)

Mork: “This album describes human life as I expect to find it: complicated, yes, but presented in snapshots, similes, and vignettes. It makes me smile. More importantly, it gives me insight into human emotion and thought patterns in a way that most music, so concerned with music, doesn’t. There are sounds here, sure, but Nyro’s strength is largely her voice and stories and the sense that she is letting you inside something warm and anthropological. It’s not the whole kit and caboodle of what you humans are, but it makes you make sense.”

31. Curtis Mayfield:

(Buddah; 1970)

James “J.J.” Evans, Jr.: “There’s a story about how disappointed Miles Davis was when the modal jazz he worked to develop at the end of the 1950s—what he though would be the dominant sound of the 1960s—got overtaken by free jazz. Curtis is kind of like The Shape of Jazz to Come, Ornette Coleman’s Davis-cock blocking manifesto—it’s the Dyno-MITE that curbed the thing Motown was trying to do with funk. Certainly, stuff like Funkadelic and Sly and the Family Stone was more mangy, but the scope of Mayfield’s cinematic approach to funk anticipates everything right through disco in a way that’s almost shocking.”

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