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Labelle's Chameleon.

Top Albums of the 1970s, Cohort #9

By Mark Abraham & Dom Sinacola · Jun 28, 2013

20. Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band:
Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band

(RCA Victor; 1976)

Thelma Evans: “I imagine myself as a flapper, maybe, or a gangster. Imagine a speakeasy with this, a musical stew so calculated it sounds like a bad marketing idea, playing inside. It works because disco was still having growing pains and nobody really knew what it might look like, so anybody could purloin shit from the past and make it an epilogue. In Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band’s vision disco looks like complex arrangements and a bunch of wild instruments and everybody dressed anachronistically in newsboy caps. On paper it sounds fucking horrible; in practice it sounds like the ghosts who inhabit the spine of all American music. They want to dance.”

19. Labelle:
Chameleon

(Epic; 1976)

Jan Brady: “Labelle taught me just how to let go every fret I’ve ever had for every freckle on my face. What’s true is that freckles are just patches of individuality that look and feel different, or a Connect the Dots map to buried treasure, where the treasure is your own gorgeous soul. Just like Labelle, me and my freckles want everything to sound like a chameleon. I don’t have to repeat my older sister’s name anymore; Labelle taught me that I am a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

18. David Bowie:
Hunky Dory

(RCA Victor; 1971)

Chico Rodriguez: “I feel like in the end I failed this album. I gave up. Hunky Dory is exactly how the album sounds, but it’s so much more. It’s the scary answer to a question posed by sycophants, and it’s the sycophantic question to an answer posed by scaredy-cats. I couldn’t deal with what it was telling me because what it was telling me was so simple. It made me feel small, is what. And feeling small is not a job I’m willing to live with.”

17. "Mama" Béa Tékielski:
La Folle

(Isadora; 1977)

Andrew “Squiggy” Squigman: “La Folle sounds like what Oz might sound like if it were ruled by the flying monkeys, maybe? Or a fascist dictatorship of ocelots? Skin peeling, but, like, golem skin? The internal thoughts of Skittles? Pantaloon love? I’m reaching, because…well, fuck! Have you heard this album?”

16. Steve Reich:
Music for 18 Musicians

(ECM; 1978)

Bailey Quarters: “Excuse me, but have you heard how clean this is? How efficiently it synthesizes all the world’s binaries into one cthonic pulse? Its rhythm is synchronous with the dolphins and whales and seaweed of the sea, as it is the flap of a bird’s wing or the blinking light on an airplane’s tail in the air, as it is the beating of traffic and the cadence of a heckler on the sidewalk. One can be an asshole and one knows one can avoid being one just as easily. And I feel like everyone is both. This is music that keeps me up at night. This is music that lulls me to sleep with my forehead on the top of my desk, sweating through the month-at-a-glance calendar.”

15. Upsetters:
Super Ape

(Island; 1976)

John Francis Xavier “Trapper John” McIntyre: “I am the first dub plate beloved within American family rooms. I am a primordial coaster on your coffee table. Like: I sort of drastically changed my appearance more than twice over the course of two decades, give or take, and yet I persisted as good ol’ Trapper John, my wit wetting, my facial hair graying, my ethnic background skewing, but still surviving as the best damn thoracic surgeon the army could muster up. And so I sense ecstatic kinship in Super Ape, that these are fellas—or whomever, really—to whom characters are reluctantly given, knowing at once they will pare down and rebuild them to be so much better. Like me, they are the OGs of incompletion. It’s a bit like the human body, in that the regeneration of our cells means we’re pretty much always a new corporeal thing whether we like it or not. Trust me; I’m a doctor. I mean, no wonder Perry and his Upsetters look back on our primate origins and find a new throughline at the spine of all our evolutionary rigmarole, one that will superimpose itself on our lesser reality. One that’s just so much funkier. One that’s super.”

14. Esther Phillips:
From a Whisper to a Scream

(Kudu; 1971)

Max Horvath: “Phillips was up for Grammys in a cohort that included Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Candi Staton, and Nina Simone. Franklin was convinced in 1973 that Phillips should have beaten her. That Phillips is so rarely talked about is kinda shocking, but maybe not surprising given that this, her best album, is so completely uncomfortable. So good because it is essentially about Phillip’s lifelong heroin addiction; so saddening for the same reason. ‘Harrowing’ was probably invented as a word just to describe this vocal performance.”

13. Genesis:
The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway

(Charisma; 1974)

Andy Travis: “I wish I could program music like this on the radio, but how do you sell an album narrated by an ostrich where men get castrated to advertisers? Of course, the attractive thing about The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway has never been its needlessly convoluted plot, or even Peter Gabriel’s needlessly complicated character costumes; what makes it amazing is how this utterly ludicrous band managed to figure out a way to condense the 6- and 8- and 20-minute opuses that were their bread and butter into 3- to 5-minute songs. This is Genesis’s most complex 1970s album by sounding like it’s their least complex, because nowhere before or since were they able to so masterfully stitch all their contradictory shit together.”

12. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti & Africa 70 Organization:
Zombie

(Polydor; 1976)

Grady Wilson: “When I hear this it’s like a fountain of youth; I feel young again, strong enough to dance all night and hearty enough to hold and play every horn in every magnificent fanfare on this album. Zombie is, I know, a scathing attack on the punitive Nigerian military, but in practice it sounds like a glorious celebration of everything that is wonderful about indomitable human spirit. Not the things we say to each other are good; the things that actually are as we hold hands and dance across the horizon.”

11. Pink Floyd:
Animals

(Harvest; 1977)

Dr. Johnny Fever: “This one time I played all of ‘Dogs’ on air while the Big Guy sat in the booth with me flipping the vinyl packaging over and over and over until the corners were greasy and bent. It was a time of great sea change for Art; he was real torn up over the trampling of a bunch of kids at the Who show, which he helped promote, and he was finally coming to terms with his love for Crosby, Stills, and Nash, among others. I think he may’ve been starting to truly see the power of rock music in those days, as well as the influence our radio station had on the kids who’d been a part of the herd that stamped to death its own ilk, even if all he asked me regarding Animals was about whether or not those were real dogs in the song. I told him they were, that there are real farm mammal noises braying and oinking all over this wacky, epochal thing. When I later explained to the Big Guy the concept behind the album, his eyes went wide and white, and he retreated to his office for a seemingly full two days. I thought about him often. I assumed he feared he was a pig.”

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