Tuesday, October 03, 2006

It's getting polyester up in here

I usually refrain from memes and the like, but today's "Tell It to Me Tuesday" over at The Art of Getting By was simply too close to my heart to pass up.

Janet asks her readers to list their Top Ten recording artists or bands of the 1970s. For someone whose musical tastes were shaped during that wild and crazy decade, that's pretty much like asking for my favorite recording artists or bands of all time.

As is typical for me, I had a tough time cutting the list to ten. To make the task at least somewhat manageable, I decided to stick to bands, and save the solo artists for another day. Even with that stricture, I ended up with an irreducible list of eleven. Sue me.

These appear in alphabetical order, because as challenging as it was narrowing the list, attempting to arrange it in order of preference, musical stature, or any other subjective quality would have melted my already fevered little brain into a limp puddle of protoplasm.
  1. Blue Öyster Cult. I was never a big heavy metal freak, but BÖC rarely left my turntable once I discovered them. Dazzling, often confounding lyrics, coupled with a melodic sense rare in the genre, elevated by the nonpareil guitar attack of Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser. No other band alive could have recorded songs like "(Don't Fear) the Reaper," "Godzilla," "R.U. Ready 2 Rock?" or the incredible power ballad "In Thee." Favorite '70s songs: See the preceding sentence.

  2. The Doobie Brothers. It really doesn't matter whether one prefers the hard-edged biker band boogie of their early hits or the R&B-tinged sound of the band's Michael McDonald period, the Doobies did it all with soul and style. Favorite '70s songs: "China Grove," "Long Train Runnin'," "Takin' It to the Streets," "It Keeps You Runnin'."

  3. The Eagles. People who know my flaming antipathy toward country music — which includes everyone who knows me, pretty much — are often surprised to discover that I'm an Eagles fan. They shouldn't be. I love stellar vocal harmonies, distinctive guitar playing, and songs with lyrics that are actually about something. That's the Eagles. Hotel California ranks as one of my five all-time favorite albums. Favorite '70s songs: "Desperado," "Take It to the Limit," "Hotel California," "Wasted Time."

  4. Earth, Wind and Fire. In the midst of the disco era, one band bridged the gap between the new-school production sound epitomized by the great disco artists and the old-school funk of bands like Parliament/Funkadelic. That band was Earth, Wind and Fire. If you can remain still in your seat when an EWF track pumps out of your radio, you're either terminally Caucasian or just terminal, period. Favorite '70s songs: "Shining Star," "September," "Serpentine Fire," "In the Stone."

  5. Heart. As I've written before, Heart may be the most underrated band in rock history. Seriously. On a scale measuring sheer talent and musicianship, you can't name five bands in all of rock who consistently outperformed Ann, Nancy, and the boys. With their unique blend of folk sensibility and heavy metal instrumentation, they truly were the American Led Zeppelin. Favorite '70s songs: "Magic Man," "Crazy On You," "Heartless," "Straight On."

  6. Journey. Go ahead, mock me. Favorite '70s songs: "Lights," "Wheel in the Sky," "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'," "Just the Same Way."

  7. Kansas. Not as well remembered today as some of their contemporaries — a lot of people still confuse them with Styx — but when it came to taking an American slant on British progressive rock, no one did it better than Kansas. Point of Know Return, the 1977 album that included the classic rock radio staple "Dust in the Wind," is one of the most innovative and technically brilliant records of the period. I spent my 19th birthday at a Kansas concert in San Francisco's Cow Palace. Those were the days, my friend. Favorite '70s songs: "Carry On Wayward Son," "Dust in the Wind," "Closet Chronicles," "Sparks of the Tempest."

  8. Meat Loaf. I know what you're thinking — I said no solo artists. It must be acknowledged, however, that the "Meat Loaf" who recorded the epic Bat Out of Hell is a perfect amalgamation of the vocal talents of the Loaf himself with the songwriting and production genius of Jim Steinman, plus the phenomenal combined talents of musical chameleon Todd Rundgren, several members of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band (including keyboardist Roy Bittan and drummer Max Weinberg), and Steinman's usual cast of backup vocalists (including Ellen Foley and Rory Dodd). Bat is therefore no more a solo effort than, say, a Steely Dan album of the same period. So there. Favorite '70s songs: "Heaven Can Wait," "For Crying Out Loud," "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad," "Bat Out of Hell."

  9. Queen. Two words: Freddie. Mercury. I rest my case. Favorite '70s songs: Listed here.

  10. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. When rock critic Jon Landau wrote in 1974, "I saw rock and roll's future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen," he wasn't just tossing off hyperbole. The Boss and his band came to define American rock in the latter half of the '70s. Popular music would never be the same again. Favorite '70s songs: "Rosalita," "Born to Run," "Thunder Road," "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)."

  11. Steely Dan. I can summarize the impact the music of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker made on my life in a single sentence: Without Steely Dan albums, I would not have survived adolescence. Favorite '70s songs: "Pretzel Logic," "Any Major Dude Will Tell You," "My Old School," "Deacon Blues."

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4 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Anonymous Bruce offered these pearls of wisdom...

Great list. I can't believe I forgot to put Queen, Eagles and Kansas on my list. Just goes to show you how great the music was, huh? And btw...Dust in the Wind is on my top 5 list of all time favorites.

11:26 PM  
Blogger Janet offered these pearls of wisdom...

The seventies were a tough decade, but I managed to whip up a list. We overlap on a few! I love the title of the post, btw.:)

1:58 PM  
Anonymous Donna offered these pearls of wisdom...

What a great decade for music and making friends! You're one of the three greatest friends on planet Earth! Hey, I see you left out the Bee Gees and Chicago. What's up with that? The Eagles are tops on my list. BTW, I at my advanced age just got a "vanity" plate (aka personalized) for my car. What's the plate, you ask? Hmmm...HOTEL CA in honor of my all time favorite album. I'll publish my list of top ten bands of the seventies and send it to you later.

4:44 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

Hey, Bruce: Thanks for stopping by. Your list was solid also.

Hey, Janet: I knew you'd like that. :)

Hey, Donna: Back at'cha, mi amiga. FYI, Chicago almost made the list. The first "real" record album I ever bought was Chicago's Greatest Hits.

5:03 PM  

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