The write-up for Nancy and I's overall 1972 mix collection already addresses our biggest thoughts on the amazing, transitional music year that was 1972, so we're just going to dive right in into this collection of representative tracks from Nancy and I's favorite '72 albums following eighteen months of listening and reappraisal.
Our choices include a lot of familiar titles (it was a year loaded with well known classics), but also several mostly forgotten stunners we had never heard in our own listenings or on the radio until we started digging back in - records like Bonnie Raitt, Blacknuss, Only Visiting This Planet, and Keine Macht Fur Niemand - so hopefully there's a few songs/album titles here that will be new to almost every one.
And now, until next summer's retrospective when we'll look back on the 1983 hey day of the MTV era, enjoy!
ABOUT THE ARTISTS, ALBUMS AND SONGS ON THIS MIX:
1. Superstition - Stevie Wonder: The song and album that would kick start Stevie Wonder's extraordinary run of 1970s Grammy wins, Superstition from Talking Book(Strong Recommend) is the critics' consensus choice for the best song of 1972, and my guess is the general listening public views Superstition in a similar light. But even though Stevie would soon one-up Talking Book with Innervisions and Songs In The Key Of Life, this is the album where Stevie's influence as an early (and beyond imaginative) adapter of the synthesizer really takes hold (honed on his previous one-man 1972 effort Music Of My Mind), driving not just Superstition, but a number of other unforgettable classics like You Are The Sunshine Of My Life, the understated Big Brother, lovely closer I Believe (When I Fall In Love With You It Will Be Forever), and funky skronk-fest Maybe Your Baby.
2. Reelin' In The Years - Steely Dan: Sirs Walter Becker and Donald Fagan would prove even more adventurous on nearly every recorded collaboration that followed, but powered by Dirty Work, Do It Again, Only A Fool Would Say That, Midnight Cruiser, Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me) and all-time personal fav Reelin' In The Year's here, no album in the studio-ensconced lounge lizards' seductive, R-rated discography tops their full-length debut Can't Buy A Thrill (Highest Recommend) for sheer pop-chart punch.
3. Walk On The Wild Side - Lou Reed: Just weeks off his success with Ziggy Stardust and a career-resuscitation effort producing Mott The Hoople's All The Young Dudes, David Bowie, along with Spiders From Mars guitarist Mick Ronson, set their sights on elevating the profile of another of the their late 60s rock 'n' roll heroes, Lou Reed, who was just coming off the disappointing commercial and critical failure of his lame, self-titled, Velvet Underground songbook-pilfering, Yes-backed solo debut. Ronson would prove the more active contributor than Bowie this time out, delivering a significant portion of the album's arrangements and recorded instrumentation, but Bowie's convert-to-glam strategy proved the savvy choice once again and a easy shift for the already androgynous, preening Reed, making Transformer (Highest Recommend) and Walk On The Wild Side the best selling album and single of Lou Reed's career. Today, fueled by the enduring adoration of the Warhol Factory-referencing Wild Side and other Reed solo staples like Vicious, Perfect Day, and Satellite Of Love, Transformer is consider a high point of the brief glam era and remains a borderline top-100 resident on most all-time album lists.
4. School's Out - Alice Cooper: One of the most iconic hard rock songs of all time (so popular even the Muppets took a stab at it) the title track to Cooper's fifth album School's Out (Solid Recommend) would become the band's biggest hit and the most played live song of their career. But the same cannot be said for the rest of the record, which while a solid and playful concept album in its own right, went in too progressive and soft rocking a direction for the band's fans, making School's Out the album Alice Cooper's least-performed-in-concert release ever.
5. I'll Take You There - The Staple Singers: Though well into their third decade as a recording act by 1972, the Muscle Shoals backed Be Altitude:Respect Yourself (Solid Recommend) is widely regarded as the Staples' finest individual album, buoyed by three of the family act's biggest hits - This World, the title track, and the quintessential I'll Take You There included here - as well as stellar deep cuts like This Old Town (People In This Old Town) and We The People (a track Joe Biden called on repeatedly in his 2020 election campaign). Gospel doesn't comes much more appealing than this, and yes, it's not a oversight, I do prefer Be Altitude to Aretha Franklin's landmark gospel outing Amazing Grace, which was also released in 1972 but just missed making the cut for this mix.
6. Pink Moon - Nick Drake: No musical artist of the last seventy-five years is more worthy of the label "the Van Gogh of popular music" than Nick Drake. Sure, The Velvet Underground were completely ignored in their prime, but Lou Reed/John Cale & co. all lived long enough to see the fruits of their influence blossom across the popular music landscape and the band's critical reputation reach today's Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame-caliber heights. Nick Drake received no such moment of redemption in his lifetime. A shy recluse who refused to do interviews or play live to promote his three poorly selling albums (two of which were never even released in the States in his lifetime) and a lifelong battler of depression, he would die of an anti-depressant overdose in 1974, five years before the 1979 retrospective compilation Fruit Tree would trigger a reassessment of his work, and twenty-five years before that magical November 1999 Cabriolet commercial would introduce Drake to the majority of his present-day American listeners (a group to which Nancy & I shamefully belong). Which brings us back to Drake's final album, 1972's Pink Moon (Strong Recommend), one of the most strikingly spare, calm and melancholy folk albums in existence. Recorded in only two late night sessions with just Drake and trusted engineer John Wood present, the brief twenty-eight minute work consists of nothing but Drake's soft vocals, guitar, and every once in a while, as on the title track here, the lightest touch of piano. The song quality drops a tiny but noticeable bit on the album's back half, the only reason for the our strong versus highest recommend, but a greater late-night mood album is hard to find, which is why it's affectionately referred to as the "dishes album" in our household, so frequently was it played during those after-midnight kitchen cleanups in our early parenting years. Not for everyone, but a singular album everyone should hear in full at least once.
7. Smoke On The Water - Deep Purple: Exhausted from two years of straight touring, the members of Deep Purple were eager to spend some time catching up on rest and recording their next album Machine Head (Strong Recommend), but finding a place to record Machine Head would prove to be a near-sisyphean task, and a recount of the band's struggles in this regard became the lyrical bedrock for the band's biggest hit. Eager, like every other UK act at the time, to record outside Britain and avoid their home country's higher labor taxes, Deep Purple rented the mobile recording van used to record Exile On Main Street from The Rolling Stones, and set out for Switzerland's Montreaux Casino, a legendary performing space with which they had brokered a deal to use after it shuttered for the winter. But the day before the Casino was to close, a fan at the last live concert of the season (Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention obviously) fired a flare gun into the casino's ceiling, "burned the place to the ground," and the rest is 70s AOR-radio history. But neither the recording headaches or the song's story were over for Deep Purple. Next location, a nearby theatre called the Pavilion, quickly became unworkable as it wasn't soundproofed and neighbors routinely called in the police to shut down the after-curfew noise, so the band finally ended up at Montreaux's Grand Hotel, also shuttered (and unheated) for the winter. But after some serious rigging of sound insulting mattress and remote communication devices (so the band wouldn't have to waste time walking back outside to the recording van between takes), the space proved workable and the rest of the recording sessions were by all accounts relaxed and untroubled. As for Machine Head the album, while sonically it feels more dated today than some of the other harder rocking records represented on this mix (All The Young Dude's whip-smart glam metal and the no-frills working-class party rock of Slade's Slayed? in particular), it remains an influential heavy metal classic housing a number of iconic songs.
8. Too Much Time - Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band: Ever since he hit the scene in 1967 with his fantastic, Ry Cooder-powered debut Safe As Milk, Captain Beefheart had always had a large set of detractors (or at least a large set of the handful of people who who actually listened to the Magic Band's music) who argued Beefheart, with his over-five-octave caterwaul, had the potential to be the greatest white blues singer of all-time if he would just scale down the weird. 1972 was the year he begrudgingly met those detractor's halfway. Determined to finally make a few cents and get his band off welfare-stamps and parental handouts, Beefheart produced the two most accessible albums of his career, the plodding slow-blues workout The Spotlight Kid (Mild Recommend), and the still blues-anchored but better in every way Clear Spot (Strong Recommend). In the end, neither album did much to change the band's financial fortunes, but for curious listeners interested in checking out Beefheart's oeuvre, these two releases are the best gateway albums to ease yourself in before taking on legendarily difficult titles like 69's Trout Mask Replica. And so, in that spirit, we're representing the "Spots" with the most mainstream track Beefheart ever recorded - Clear Spot's nearly normal R&B crooner Too Much Time.
9. Hello, It's Me - Todd Rundgren: Ex-Nazz frontman Todd Rundgren had already released two solo full-lengths and become one of the most in-demand producers in the biz by 1972, and yet none of that prepared listeners for the kaleidoscopic one-man tour de force that was Something/Anything (Strong Recommend). An aptly named double-album that touches on every style imaginable (and then creates a few new ones for good measure), it's best known today for its soft-rock hits I Saw The Light and Hello, It's Me included here, and the influential early power-pop number Couldn't I Just Tell You, but these three tracks convey only a fraction of the record's varied brilliance. Divided, like Stephen Stills' Manassas, into four distinct sides, Rundgren played and sang everything on side one's "bouquet of ear catching melodies" side two's "cerebral" explorations, and side three's "heavy" throw downs, before recording side four's mini pop operetta "Baby Needs a Pair of Snakeskin Boots" live in the studio with a full band. And while admittedly, there is some material scattered among the record's twenty-five tracks that almost feel like filler (especially on the slightly weaker first two sides), overall, album's rarely come more "one of a kind" than this.
10. Superfly - Curtis Mayfield: One of the few soundtracks in history to out gross the film that spawned it, Superfly the album (Strong Recommend) stands as a high point in 70s soul in general and a key release in the Blaxploitation soundtrack movement in particular. Powered by nuanced, slinky grooves and Mayfield's grounded, socially conscious lyrics that tackled the harm caused by inner-city drug trafficking in a way the ambivalently toned film itself did not, the album produced two top-ten US hits in Freddie's Dead and the title track included here, along with revered deep cut Pusherman. Some of these tracks, along with other '72 Blaxploitation touchstones like Marvin Gaye's Trouble Man and Bobby Womack's Across 110th Street, can all be heard on our Vol 8 - The Never Ending Soul Down.
11. Thirteen - Big Star: Though a major-league critical darling from day one of its 1972 release, Big Star's debut #1 Record (Strong Recommend) was so out in front of the musical zeitgeist of the day with Beatles-loving co-founders Alex Chilton and Chris Bell's herky-jerky, melodic power pop and achingly innocent acoustic balladry, and so mismanaged by the band's label (soul giant Stax), that it sold less than 10,000 units of its original pressing. Second album Radio City would suffer a near identical fate a year later (through-the-roof reviews, disastrous label support), downbeat third album Third/Sister Lovers so turned off execs it wouldn't even get released, and within two years of #1 Record's initial drop, the Memphis act was done. But then, a 1977 repackaging of the band's first two albums took hold in the UK, and within a few years, countless bands - especially college rock/alternative acts like Minnesota's The Replacments, Atlanta's The B-52s and REM and 90s brit-rockers like Teenage Fanclub - were citing Big Star as a primary influence on their sound. Today, the album feels as fresh as ever, and is a must hear for any fan of smart, idiosyncratic guitar-driven pop.
12. Iko Iko - Dr. John: Dr. John has made slightly better albums (his trippy, voodoo-drenched, Angel Heart-soundtracking 1968 debut Gris-Gris; late-career efforts like 2012's Dan Auerbach-produced Locked Down), and he's made better-selling albums (1973's In The Right Place), but for pure Tipitina-boogie fun, nothing in the good doctor's discography tops his celebration of the classic New Orlean's songbook Gumbo (Strong Recommend). Brimming with rollicking cajun-jamboree standards like Big Chief, Mess Around, Junko Partner, Stack-A-Lee, Let The Good Times Roll, Iko Iko included here, and of course, Tipitina, it's the best good-time album of 1972.
13. Doctor My Eyes - Jackson Browne: Though it made little impression at the time of its release outside of top-ten single Doctor My Eyes, ex-Nitty Gritty Dirt Band picker Jackson Browne's self-titled debut (Solid Recommend), often mistakenly referred to as Saturate Before Using, is a restrained (compare Browne's understated original version of Under The Falling Sky to Bonnie Raitt's ecstatic cover of the same year) and often apocalyptically dark (suicide, depression, drug addiction and an inability to feel hopeful in the aftermath of the 60s are all pondered) but ultimately timeless album that gradually earned a legion of fans (and enhanced critical standing) as the singer-songwriter's reputation grew, going gold in 1976, and platinum in 1997.
14. Metal Guru - T. Rex: King of glam T. Rex's victory lap following the huge success of their sixth album Electric Warrior, seventh release The Slider (Solid Recommend) covers the exact same musical territory as its Bang A Gong (Get It On)-wielding predecessor, and fans ate it up. The album charted high in the states, but owned the U.K for a stretch, with both the album and its two singles Telegram Sam and personal fav (and Smith's guitarist Johnny Marr's stated favorite song ever) Metal Guru all hitting number one and relagating similarly timed releases Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars, Roxy Music and Rod Stewart's Never A Dull Moment to lower status positions on the charts. Like most of T. Rex's work, it's a supremely shallow affair, but fun.
15. One Way Out - The Allman Brothers Band: The last Allman Brothers Band album to feature slide-guitarist/band leader Duane Allman, who died in a motorcycle crash during the middle of recording, Eat A Peach (Strong Recommend) is simultaneously, out of necessity, a patchwork affair, and also the group's last true classic, a fitting tribute to the the brother and friend the band lost. With Duane gone, the band scrambled to find ways to enhance his presence posthumously, so in addition to the three already completed tracks featuring Duane that end the record (Stand Back, Blue Sky, and Little Martha), the band recorded three more songs in Duane's honor (the album's opening trio of Ain't Wasting No More Time, Les Bres In A Minors, and Melissa, a song of Gregg's that Duane had always loved but Gregg had previously refused to record because he felt it was too soft for the band) and three stellar, unused leftovers from the Fillmore East performances (Trouble No More, the thirty-three minute Mountain Jam, and the blazing cover One Way Out featured here). The band's original lineup may have come to an end, but the Southern fried rock movement Duane helped create was just getting started.
16. Rocket Man - Elton John: Regarded by many as his tightest and most focused record (despite some truly wide-ranging eclecticism) Elton John's fifth full-length Honky Chateau (Solid Recommend) was titled after the nickname John and crew gave to the 18th century French manor Chateau H'erouville where the album was recorded. Stuffed with signature songs, from Mona Lisa And Mad Hatters to I Think I'm Going To Kill Myself to Honky Cat to the iconic Rocket Man here, Honky Chateau was the first album John's label Uni allowed him to record with his regular touring band instead of assigned studio musicians, and also his first of many successive albums that would reach number one on the US charts.
17. I Saw The Light - The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band: Arguably the 20th century's standard-bearing album for cross-generational collaborations, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's triple-album Will The Circle Be Unbroken (Strong Recommend) is widely considered one of the late-60s/early-70s country-rock movement's greatest classics (even if the rock side of the equation is nary to be found). The gargantuan record's beginnings were actually humble. Wanting to improve the band's pure country bonafides, banjo player John McEuen asked fading Nashville legends Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson if they would want to join the group on their next album. But word got out amongst other Grand Ole Opry old-timers who had been gently pushed aside with the rise of the slicker 60's Nashville sound, and soon the Nitty's list of collaborators had grown to include Roy Acuff, Norman Blake, "Mother" Maybelle Carter, Pete Kirby, Randy Scruggs, Jimmy Martin, Merle Travis and legendary session fiddler Vassar Clements. To keep the sessions moving and the record feeling raw and spontaneous, most of the album's forty-two songs were recorded in just one or two takes, while a separate tape-recorder ran continuously, capturing all the banter between takes, and the liberal inclusion of those between-takes moments that is one of the album's greatest charms. The Maybelle Carter-led title track, the Doc Watson-fronted Tennessee Stud, and the Roy Acuff-powered I Saw The Light included here are the record's most enduring numbers, but personally I also love the all-instrumental side four, where the Nitty's step back out in front of their elders and just let it rip in eight rapid-fire two-minute bluegrass jams.
18. Mamie Is Blue - Faust: The weirdest song of this mix (if not also all of 1972) and completely unlike any other cut on musical mad scientists Faust's deranged but often brilliant second album So Far (Strong Recommend), Mamie Is Blue stands in here as our representative cut for all of 1972's great Krautrock releases (which you can explore in further detail on Vol 9 - Wolfgang Worshippers And Chaos Engineers). But this amazing, jarring track - which boasts an insanely cool opening two minutes - also has a significant historical claim to fame; many consider it to be rock's very first industrial song, recorded when Nine Inch Nail's Trent Reznor was only seven-years-old.
19. Take It Easy - The Eagles: While one of the last five albums to crack this mix and by no means a consistent effort, the Eagles (Solid Recommend) self-titled debut makes the cut based on the good will generated by its three monster singles, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Witchy Woman, and best of the bunch Take It Easy featured here.
20. Re-Make/Re-Model - Roxy Music: Personally, I've always felt Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno both benefitted from Eno's Roxy Music departure following second album For Your Pleasure, as each were then freed to follow their own sharply defined muse without compromise, but man, the band's debut Roxy Music (Solid Recommend) still generates a wild, bizarre, glammed-up art rock thrill regardless of the chaos that stemmed from trying to accommodate two visionary creative leads. And while tracks such as Virginia Plain and If There Is Something remain fan favorites and live standards, that creative chaos was never more thrilling than on pastiche-y album opener Re-Make/Re-Model, which throws down quick breakdown passages of Ride Of The Valkyries, Peter Gunn, and Day Tripper in the instrumental bridge and where guitarist Phil Manzanera only plays single note leads all song long (except in his brief solo, comprised only of bar chords) between band shouts of "CPL-593H," the license plate number to the car of some random hot babe Ferry eyed on his morning drive to the studio the day the song was recorded.
21. Don't Do It - The Band: One of my favorite live tracks ever from an absolute gem of a live recording, Don't Do It is the irresistible opener to Rock Of Ages (Strong Recommend), a double album which captured highlights from The Band's epic 1971 New Year's Eve concert where for one night only they added a full Allen Toussaint-led horn section to the mix. Rowdy, bawdy, joyous and somehow still tight as live albums come, Rock Of Ages doesn't hold the same cultural cache today as 1977's The Last Waltz, what with that final show's accompanying Martin Scorsese documentary and rolling parade of legendary guest star turns, but from a purely musical standpoint, it remains the superior, definitive document of The Band's live prowess.
22. Let's Stay Together - Al Green: Reverend Al gets stiff-armed here a bit as he released not one but two of 1972's forty best albums with the smooth-soul classics I'm Still In Love With You (Solid Recommend) and Let's Stay Together (Strong Recommend), but only gets one representative track. Tough break, but by dropping I'm Still In Love With You's Love and Happiness at the eleventh hour, I was able to squeeze two other worthy artists/albums onto this mix.
23. From The Beginning - Emerson, Lake & Palmer: 1972 was a landmark year for progressive rock, one of its top years ever, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Trilogy (Mild Recommend), while a regularly mentioned standout, is in no way the best prog release in a year that also included Yes's Close To The Edge, Jethro Tull's Thick As A Brick, Genesis's Foxtrot, and Wishbone Ash's Argus. But given that my favorite cuts from those albums clock in at 8:55, 22:40, 23:06 and 9:42 respectively, Trilogy's anomalous, FM-radio regular From The Beginning with its manageable 4:13 run time gets the genre's representative call here. And a reminder, cuts from all those other prog classics can be found on our 1972 theme mix Wolfgang Worshippers & Chaos Engineers.
24. Ziggy Stardust - David Bowie: Fans and critics will be arguing which David Bowie album is his best until the end of time, but I think there's little argument that The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (Highest Recommend) is Bowie's signature album. Landing smack dab in the middle of an insanely productive 1972 stretch that started with the release of Hunky Dory, included active producer roles on Mott The Hoople's All The Young Dudes and Lou Reed's Transformer, and closed with the recording sessions for Aladdin Sane, Ziggy Stardust's loosely structured tale of bi-sexual aliens, the apocalypse, and the artificiality of rock stardom brought a twisted glam theatricality to rock 'n' roll rarely witnessed up to that point in time, and served up several of the tracks Bowie remains best remembered for today - Five Years, Starman, Moonage Daydream, Suffragette City, and of course, the title track included here.
25. The Harder They Come - Jimmy Cliff: In many critical circles, two of the ten best movie soundtracks of all time were released in 1972, and while some hold Curtis Mayfield's Superfly in slightly higher regard (not me) since the entire soundtrack was composed of original material, there's no question that the The Harder They Come soundtrack (Highest Recommend) was the more culturally impactful of the two, and arguably the second most culturally impactful movie soundtrack ever after Saturday Night Fever. Simply put, this collection of career-best reggae hits circa 1967-1972 from the movie's star Jimmy Cliff - as well as Desmond Dekker, Scotty, The Melodians and Toots And The Maytals - was the album that lifted reggae off the island of Jamaica and delivered it to the world. Going with the title track (the soundtrack's only original number) as representative track, but the album as a whole is a must listen for anyone who has yet to hear it. IMHO, it's the greatest reggae album ever.
26. Celluloid Heroes - The Kinks: For original 60s-era Kink's fans who were growing alarmed by the increasingly vaudevillian concept-record vibes of 1970's Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround, Pt. 1 and 1971's Muswell Hillbillies, 1972's Everybody's In Showbiz (Solid Recommend) must have felt like the death knell of the band they once loved, the album where Ray Davies' campier tendencies were fully unleashed and would never be reigned back in. A double album exploration of life on the road, the just okay disk one digs into the spiritual grind of touring - a never-ending string of bad food, bad hotels, more bad food, and bad night's sleep in unremarkable towns - culminating in the band's last true classic Celluloid Heroes included here, where Davies, wizened by his own grueling experiences, empathizes with the private pain past cinema legends endured to achieve their own measure of fame. The much better live disk two presents the fruits of the band's pained labors with a spirited set of selections from a two night Carnegie Hall stand. Hardly The Kinks' best album, but for all intents and purposes, their last notable one.
27. Mother And Child Reunion - Paul Simon: Okay, I half lied. From a critical consensus perspective, Paul Simon (Mild Recommend), the singer's self-title second solo outing, absolutely belongs here on a mix celebrating 1972's best albums, ranking 21st for the year and 749 all-time on www.acclaimedmusic.net and coming in at 425 on Rolling Stone's 2020 poll of the 500 greatest albums of all time. I, however, have never shared the critic's overall enthusiasm, finding certain stretches of the record maddeningly dull. But I do love its best two songs (Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard being the second), hence the inclusion of Mother And Child Reunion here.
28. Old Rugged Cross - Rahsaan Roland Kirk: OMG, what an insanely fun discovery this was for me. Standing in for all the great jazz releases of 1972 (which can be explored in further detail on Vol 4 - Jammy Jazz) Rahsaan Roland Kirk's Blacknuss (Strong Recommend) is the most crowd-pleasing jazz album of the '72 lot. Taking contemporary pop and soul hits of his day like My Girl, What's Going On, Ain't No Sunshine, and Never Can Say Goodbye, as well as aged religious standards like Old Rugged Cross featured here, Kirk gives them all a self-proclaimed "blackening" pass, with one ear focused on jazzy reinterpretation, and the other on connecting the songs back to their elemental plantation-day roots. The end result is constantly listenable, vibrantly energetic, and for a good portion of the time, funky as all hell.
29. Love Me Like A Man - Bonnie Raitt: Somehow, Bonnie Raitt's loaded second LP Give It Up (Strong Recommend) has drifted from public memory to the point where it is no longer mentioned in the same breath as her renown, Grammy-hoarding '89 release Nick Of Time, but I gotta tell you, if anything, Give It Up is even better. Raitt was only twenty-three at the time, but already a fantastic, versatile guitarist and a master of all forms, drifting with ease between raunchy acoustic blues (Love Me Like A Man here), raunchy Dixieland raves (Give It Up Or Let Me Go, You Got To Know How), gorgeous country-folk (Too Long At The Fair), two-stepping honky-tonk (Under The Falling Sky), killer psychedelic soul (You Told Me Baby) and JT-styled singer-songwriter fare (Nothing Seems To Matter). A ridiculously easy album to like, every time I hear Give It Up, I'm compelled to lift it higher in our 1972 album rankings.
30. Johnny's Garden - Stephen Stills: A significant comeback for Stephen Stills following his split from CSN&Y, double album Manassas (Solid Recommend) is the crown jewel of Still's solo recordings, but talk about a difficult album to have been a part of. Stills was in an ultra-driven phase at this time, and while he never resorted to the near cultish, abusive motivational techniques of a James Brown or Captain Beefheart, he nonetheless drove his sequestered all-star band (The Byrds/Flying Burrito Brothers Chris Hillman, The Stone's Bill Wyman, and Al Perkins were all primary contributors) to the breaking point, working them day and night, sometimes more than forty-eight hours straight, so that no fleeting idea to pop into his head was lost. Eventually, Hillman and Stills came to blows over the craziness, at which point Stills was forced to concede to normal working hours for the band. But not for him. After sessions, Stills would sometimes go another eighty to one-hundred hours straight mixing the captured material. Not surprisingly, Manassas is one of those '72 albums that best captures the sense of hungover weariness that pervades that year's musical offerings, but it's also really good, so good that Wyman even flirted with the idea of leaving the Stones to join Manassas the band on the road. To bring some sense of order to the eclectic bounty of recorded material, the album itself was thematically divided over its four sides. Side One:The Raven served up latin-accented rock designed to slay live, Side Two:The Wilderness gathered the session's best country and bluegrass efforts, Side Three:Consider presented the album's folkiest and most experimental numbers (including best song Johnny's Garden featured here), and Side Four:Rock & Roll Is Here To Stay delivered on it's premise with surging, Graham Nash-tweaking cuts like Right Now. Today, Manassas's standing in the music pantheon is as a mostly forgotten near classic, but anyone who's ever liked The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, or CSN&Y will be richly rewarded by stepping back in time and checking this one out.
31. Die Letzte Schlacht Gweinnen Wir - Ton Steine Scherben: 1972 was the year the German rock scene came into its own. As presently ranked on Metacritic, five of the top 50 all-time German albums were released in 1972 (including Faust's So Far, Can's Ege Bamyasi, Neu!, and Ash Ra Tempel's Schwingungen), and for a huge portion of German listeners, especially those on Germany's far left, Keine Macht Fur Neimand (Strong Recommend / English translation "No Power For Nobody") is the best of the bunch. A raucous, fiercely political effort that anticipated the bar-band movement three or four years before the likes of Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Mink DeVille and J. Geils would popularize the style, it's one of the better foreign-language albums I've heard, and a must-listen for anyone that considers themselves a bar-band connoisseur.
32. Lean On Me - Bill Withers: Another career peak represented on this mix, Bill Wither's self-produced second album Still Bill (Strong Recommend) is a highlight of early-70s middle-class sophista-soul. Led by the so-slinky Use Me and monster hit Lean on Me included here, as well as awesome deep cuts like Lonely Town, Lonely Street and Who Is He (And What Is He To You)?, Still Bill is a smooth, spare offering every bit on par with Al Green's best efforts of the day.
33. Mama Weer All Crazee Now - Slade: One of England's biggest bands in the early 70s, routinely besting the likes of David Bowie, Roxy Music, T-Rex, Elton John, and Led Zeppelin on the UK charts, glam-rockers and legendary live act Slade delivered raunched-out, foot-stompin' proto-metal with an energy few could match, and they were never better than on their third studio release Slayed?(Strong Recommend). Packed with UK chart hits (and an incendiary cover of Janis Joplin's Move Over) that would also go on to become most of hair metal act Quiet Riot's biggest MTV hits as well, the album is a non-stop party rocker that has aged exceptionally well. And if you're hearing a dash of AC/DC in Slade's sound, you're hardly alone. Fan Angus Young felt there was such a stylistic affinity between the bands that Slade lead singer Noddy Holder was the first person he reached out to to replace Bon Scott after Scott's death. Holder obviously declined, perfectly content to stick with the band he co-founded, but Back In Black fans should know Noddy was instrumental in steering Young towards an up-and-coming vocalist that had opened for Slade a few times over the previous year, Brian Johnson.
34. Papa Was A Rollin' Stone - The Temptations: Fun trivia fact. The Temptations final number-one hit, the triple-Grammy-winning Papa Was A Rollin' Stone, was a cover. And not just any cover, but a stereotypical cannibalistic Motown cover at that. Never a label owner to shy away from repurposing his own hits, Berry Gordy and writer/producer Norman Whitfield had the Temps rerecord Rollin' Stone as the centerpiece for their '72 album All Directions (Solid Recommend) just months after their fledgling act The Undisputed Truth scored some chart success with their original version. But greed proved to be the right motivator. Given a second chance at the song's arrangement, Whitfield knocked it out of the park, making the Temp's version one of the definitive soul recordings of the 1970s. And as for All Directions the album, it's none too shabby, featuring an awesome live version of Funky Music Sho Nuff Turns Me On and one of the Temp's very best ballads Mother Nature in addition to the masterpiece featured here.
35. Song Of The Wind - Santana: Upon hearing it, master peddler of the surefire generic Clive Davis called Carlos Santana's first foray into jazz fusion Caravanserai (Solid Recommend) "career suicide," but over the years, the band's fourth album - and last to feature several early band members, most notably keyboardist/lead-singer Gregg Rollie and guitar-protege Neil Schon, who would soon depart to form Journey - has emerged as a fan favorite. And while Davis deserves some credit for recognizing Caravanserai is not nearly as immediate an album as the band's rousing first three, the record nonetheless possesses a number of jaw-dropping instrumental moments.
36 & 37. Momma's Little Jewel/All The Young Dudes - Mott The Hoople: Through fantastic earlier albums like their Dylan-esque self-titled debut and 1971's hard-rock scorcher Brain Capers, Mott The Hoople had already found their artistic voice, but they had failed miserably in finding an audience. Enter the band's biggest fan, David Bowie. Informed by bassist Pete Overend Watts that the band was about to call it quits, Bowie urged them to continue on, and offered to help. Recognizing the band was too smart and sophisticated for the heavy metal types they had been targeting, Bowie's first step was to convince the straight-as-they-come band members to commit to a glam makeover, an idea to which they reluctantly agreed. Bowie's second step was to find them some hit songs. First offering, the-yet-to-be-released Suffragette City, was declined, so Bowie sat down to write them a new undeniable song, and did just that with All TheYoung Dudes. Recorded as a single, the anthem was a huge hit in the UK (even though the machismo-heavy band completely subverts the track's pro-gay sentiment with their barely audible "How'd it feel/Sick!" chatter in the closing seconds), as was a follow-up cover of The Velvet Underground's Sweet Jane. Those two tracks and the album ordered up immediately after gave Mott enough commercial cache to continue on for another few years and produce an even better follow up - 1973's cult classic Mott. As for the rest of All The Young Dudes (Highest Recommend) the album, it's awesome, loaded with Stones-worthy sleaze rockers like Momma's Little Jewel (had to include it here cause it transitions so well into All The Young Dudes), One Of The Boys, Ready For Love/After Lights (later a hit for Bad Company in near identical form), and Jerkin' Crocus. Bottom line - the best hard-rock album of 1972.
38. Righteous Rocker - Hard Rock Version - Larry Norman: The grandfather of Christian rock's finest moment, Larry Norman's Only Visiting This Planet (Strong Recommend) still regularly polls as one of the two or three greatest Christian rock albums of all time, and is an album even a combative agnostic like me can heartily enjoy. Much of this stems from Norman's own open-mindedness towards other's beliefs and hip non-conformist orientation. Sure, it's clear he was hoping to convert some non-believers with these tunes, but he seemed to be even more interested in stopping the Vietnam war and converting rock-and-roll haters into rock-and-roll lovers. As such, there's a tremendous sense of fun to many of the album's songs, most notably the Subterranean Homesick Blues-mimicking Reader's Digest, boogie-woogie crowd pleaser Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music, and the swaggering CD reissue bonus cut Righteous Rocker - Hard Rock Version featured here. Even when Norman goes full-on preachy, as on the comically apocalyptic Why Don't You Look Into Jesus, the effect is more endearing than off-putting. Combine that the with the fact that like Bonnie Raitt, Norman was an exceptionally talented jack of all trades (the blues, Dylan-esque folk, reggae, gospel, country and bubblegum pop are all skillfully tapped on this eclectic effort) and you're left with one of my favorite first-time discoveries of this 1972 listening cycle.
39. Listen To The Lion - Van Morrison: Van Morrison's Saint Dominic's Preview (Highest Recommend) was his highest charting album until 2008's Keep It Simple stole the honor thirty-six years later, and for good reason: just like The Rolling Stone's Some Girls or U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind it's a unintentionally brilliant recap album - a record that, though composed entirely of original material, feels like a greatest hits retrospective of the best musical ideas the artist had explored before. You want Astral Weeks' gloriously stretched-out, soul-stirring denouements, SDP's got 'em (Almost Independence Day, Listen To The Lion here). Tupelo Honey's tight, bouncy song craft, check (openers Jackie Wilson Said and Gypsy). And what about Moondance's welcoming, big-band romanticism? Saint Dominic's Preview has that covered, too (Redwood Tree, the memorable title track). As accessible as any album of the early 70s, Saint Dominic's Preview is the perfect place for inquisitive listeners new to Van Morrison to start.
40. Tumbling Dice - The Rolling Stones: So much has already been written about the Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street (Highest Recommend) - about the crazy, haphazard, drug-fueled recording sessions in the rented South France villa Nellcote the band absconded to to avoid tax charges in England; about its infamously low-grade, highly influential grungy-before-grunge mix; about its creepy parade of circus freaks album cover - that one could find a million justifications for why, even to this day, the album is still considered one of the rock 'n' roll's ten greatest recordings and the Stone's finest work (both sentiments I agree with), but after dozens of listens over the years, for me, it all boils down to one thing; Exile On Main Street is the greatest "greater than the sum of its parts" album ever made. There's nothing on Exile that hits with the force of Sympathy For The Devil and Street Fighting Man from Beggar's Banquet, or Gimme Shelter and You Can't Always Get What You Want from Let It Bleed, or was as big a commercial hit as Aftermath's Paint It Black or Sticky Fingers' Brown Sugar, but taken as a whole, Exile's sleezed-out intangibles, often powered by the best lazy-drawl faux-country vocals the band ever summoned (Torn And Frayed anyone?), are just through the roof, to the point where even obvious throwaways like Sweet Black Angel, Turd On The Run, Shake Your Hips, and I Just Wanna See His Face feel essential to the overall experience. Going with Nancy's favorite cut Tumbling Dice here over my personal fav Rock's Off (which I burned through in our 2012 mix collection highlighting a 40-year anniversary reissue), and then you can hear a whole lot more on our '72 country, rock and blues themed mix Vol 5 - CRB.
41. Political Science - Randy Newman: It starts with a mock advertisement for the slave trade, ends with one of the most excoriating takedowns of religious belief ever put to vinyl, and in between seems determined to raise the hackles of just about every other anti-defamation society imaginable, so yeah, I think it's safe to say most major labels would be at least wary of releasing Randy Newman's Sail Away (Highest Recommend) today. Which is a shame, because political incorrectness this well conceived should never go out of style, if for no other reason than to keep the thought police of every stripe and persuasion in our society at least a little bit in check. A masterpiece of comic timing, biting Tin-Pan-Alley lyricism and read-between-the-lines irony that refuses to accept any creed, norm, demographic group, or institution as beyond reproach, the album should be a point of study for every budding Father John Misty out there, even if on tracks like Political Science here Newman's aim appears to be no grander than shocking the listener with an ambitiously-in-poor-taste (but very funny) joke.
42. Love Train - The O'Jays: The members of the O'Jay's had been toiling away in minor soul-hit purgatory since their 1950s high school days, but their fortunes would change dramatically when they signed with producer's Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff Philadelphia International label in 1972 and the subsequent release of Back Stabbers (Strong Recommend), which transformed the vocal act from relative no names into future standard bearers of the lush, string-dominated Philly Soul sound. Going with obvious choice Love Train to close out this mix on a positive note, but most of the album's highlights reside in darker, more aggressively funky numbers like 992 Arguments, When The World's At Peace, Shiftless, Lazy, Jealous Kind Of People, and the knock-out title track.