150 Best Albums of 1975

“Our long national nightmare is over,” Gerald Ford had promised his fellow Americans the previous August, as he was sworn in as the most un-elected president ever, replacing the only president who ever resigned. But 1975 still had plenty of nightmare left: State Department bombed by Weather Underground, FBI gunfight on a South Dakota Indian Reservation, Saigon falling and Jimmy Hoffa vanishing and Patty Hearst un-vanishing, Squeaky Fromme and Sara Jane Moore seemingly celebrating the International Year Of The Woman by both trying to shoot the awkward new president within a couple weeks in September – and on top of it all, lingering ripples of Watergate and the energy crisis. Music fans supposedly tried to escape through disco, which was starting to put songs atop the pop chart. But even disco felt on edge, nowhere near as carefree as its rep – one of the year’s most magnificent chart-toppers, Labelle’s “Lady Marmalade,” told the story of a Creole prostitute working hard for grey-flannel tourists’ dollars down in New Orleans.

Opening a chart-topping album where every track had a “part one” and a “part two,” the disco-adjacent Isley Brothers pledged to “Fight The Power” – “all this BULL-sh*t going ‘round.” Gil Scott-Heron looked at labor unionists demonstrating against apartheid in Johannesburg but suggested that, ultimately, Philadelphia and Detroit and especially South Carolina were no different; he also may have done the only song ( at least if you can call talking-word poems “songs”) about Gerald Ford, who he keeps calling “Oatmeal Man,” who he reminds us nobody actually voted for (even as VP), and who he’s upset at for pardoning “the man who tried to steal America” — hence the title, “Pardon Our Analysis (We Beg Your Pardon.”)

“Do you remember your President Nixon?,” David Bowie asked in “Young Americans,” the title track of an album surrounding two excellent hits with nothing else memorable — a British glam-rock elder statesman gone blue-eyed Thom Bell soul and obsessing on the U.S., just like Elton John in “Philadelphia Freedom” (included on neither his pretty-good 1975 album nor his pretty-bad one). On the cover of Shirley and Company’s Shame Shame Shame , now-grown-up New Orleans r&b singer Shirley Goodman wagged her finger at a cartoon of the disgraced ex-president; Australian grownups the Bee Gees’ first huge disco hit might have been directed at him: “Jive talkin’, you’re tellin’ me lies.” In “Bad Luck,” Philly soul group Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes fretted about Americans losing everything as prices go up so “I can barely afford a morning paper,” but one day Teddy Pendergrass opens the pages anyway and sees a president getting replaced.

Opening that album, Pendergrass wondered “Where Are My Friends” now that all his money was gone — Once upon a time he dressed so fine, threw the bums a dime in his prime, but now he’s begging for the same dime and his companions are nowhere to be found. Entirely opposite situation in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Am I Losin” (off an album that opens with “Saturday Night Special,” rock’s greatest ever challenge to the Second Amendment, though to start Side Two the proud rednecks head out “On The Hunt”): “I recall when I used to come home, never had a dime,” but now Ronnie Van Zant’s “losin’ one of my best friends” who “thinks I’ve changed because of a dollar sign.” Same year, Queen told us “You’re My Best Friend,” War asked “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” (more on that in a second), Bob Dylan and the Band (whose 1966-’67-recorded Basement Tapes gains 1975 eligibility via the Modern Lovers Rule) told some “mama” in “Crash on the Levee” she’d have to find herself “another best friend somehow,” and the Who’s Roger Daltrey wondered “how many friends have I really got” (he can count them on one hand) after “a handsome boy” buys him a brandy, maybe ’cause “he’s really just after my ass.”

The Spinners in “Games People Play” and Tavares in “It Only Takes A Minute” talked about days hopelessly eaten up, respectively by missed connections and the unemployment line. War asked why we can’t be friends even if you’re on the welfare line they pay their money too, or even if you’re in the CIA because “they wouldn’t have you in the Moff-eye-ay.” They even imagined being president themselves (“so I could show you how your money’s spent”), and elsewhere on their album came up with an eternal Chicano anthem about a “Low Rider” who “don’t use no gas” because he drives so slow – One way to cope with OPEC raising crude prices.

“Gasoline shortage won’t stop me now, oh no!,” New York smart-asses the Dictators pledged in their worrisomely titled “Master Race Rock” (give ‘em a break – they were Jewish!) on an album that can easily be heard as a blueprint for both the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill and the Angry Samoans, bragging about causing oil spills and sleeping all night and day (presumably wasted, whether or not in the Freddie Fender sense) because TV stinks now anyhow: “Country rock is on the wane/I don’t want music, I want pain!”

Well, maybe not quite on the wane — Ozark Mountain Daredevils and Orleans (and, uh, the Eagles) were still on the radio, alongside country crooners like Michael Martin Murphey losing his pony in a Nebraska blizzard. When Olivia Newton-John first asked the world’s populace in 1975’s first month whether it had ever been mellow, requesting “I just want you to slow down,” “kick your shoes off, close your eyes”, she might not have known what she was getting into. In the U.S., anyway, a near-unprecedented (and since unequaled) 35 songs hit Number One, and the vast majority were very, very…relaxed. And to boot, most non-chart-toppers all over the airwaves that year were just as low-key. Disco and punk were rumbling up from subterranean hideaways, of course, as teenagers blasted Aerosmith and Ted Nugent and Kiss in 7-11 parking lots. But seems like most of America just wanted to put Watergate and Vietnam behind and curl up with a trusty paperback of Looking for Mr. Goodbar or I’m OK You’re OK and breathe easy about the most boring president in modern history (a sentiment familiar to plenty of current Americans, though there’s a scary chance our own long national nightmare might have only just begun.)

Slow jams hit in ’75 from all over: Sensitive singer-songwriters like Sammy Johns making love in his Chevy van and Janis Ian getting picked last for basketball; fancy-pants British twerps like 10cc and Jigsaw; quite a few Tin Pan Alley throwbacks: Neil Sedaka, Frankie Valli, Melissa Manchester, Chopin fan Barry Manilow, Rachmaninoff fan Eric Carmen. And maybe above all Captain and Tennille, whose Sedaka-penned four-weeks-at-number-one ivory-tinkler “Love Will Keep Us Together” was, in this company, almost raucous.

Even hard rockers were laying back – Fleetwood Mac’s blockbuster self-titled album made everyone forget their power-boogie past, and with Nazareth’s Everly Brothers update “Love Hurts” and Alice Cooper’s feminist manifesto “Only Women Bleed,” 1975 counts as Ground Zero for the power ballad — “It’s Been a Soft Year For Hard Rock,” the headline to the Village Voice‘s Dylan-dominated second (or third) annual rock critics poll proclaimed, even if ballads weren’t really what it had in mind (and also it was wrong). Anyway, speaking of ‘80s ladies’-choice genres in the making, while most ’75-charting r&b was too funky to ride the hammock to (though Hot Chocolate’s movie-starlet suicide tragedy “Emma” and Minnie Riperton’s glass-shattering proto-Mariah bird-call “Lovin’ You” were at least not fast), in April Smokey Robinson laid groundwork for future silk-sheet seduction by releasing an album called A Quiet Storm.

Smokey’s old mates the Miracles, meanwhile, were making the most of Motown’s move to L.A., complaining about”Smog” in a song that sounded an awful lot like War’s three-year-old “The World is a Ghetto,” whose own first line had been “walkin’ down the street, smoggy-eyed,” hmmm. Even weirder: The slightly bilingual “Ain’t Nobody Straight in L.A.,” about how going to gay bars is fun seeing how “homosexuality is part of society/Well, I guess they need some variety.” Tell that to their new labelmates the Dynamic Superiors, whose uncloseted lead vocalist Tony Washington was fond of treating live performances as personal drag shows. And costuming might also have figured highly in Philly soul quintet Blue Magic’s Thirteen Blue Magic Lane, given that its September release date was clearly scheduled to support a first side featuring “Born on Halloween.” “Haunted (By Your Love)” and “The Loneliest House on the Block,” presumably the haunted one pictured on the front cover, presumably at the address in the album title. Back of the sleeve, the group’s dapper-suited former sideshow callers stand around in a graveyard, one drinking from a skull-shaped coffee mug, accompanied by a couple cute little ghosties.

And that wasn’t even the most bonkers concept album of 1975! The prize goes to Hawkwind space commander Robert Calvert’s solo set Lucky Leif and the Longships, about what would’ve transpired had the Vikings settled down for the colonialist long haul on not-American-yet soil after Leif Erikson discovered the New World circa 1000 A.D. (Actually, just this week, an article in the science journal Nature pinpointed Newfoundland’s L’Anse aux Meadows, the oldest verified Norse settlement in North America, to 1021 — exactly a millennium ago!) Lucky Leif‘s second song is a Beach Boys parody called “The Lay of the Surfers” that literally made me crack up laughing when the band started chanting “Bah-bah-bah! Bah-bear-eeunns!” Science fantasy writer Michael Moorcock lends his banjo to the hillbilly hoedown “Moonshine in the Mountains”; there’s a minute-long “Phased Locked Loop” that’s actually a pilfered used-car commercial; and Brian Eno’s production is most unmistakable in the closing disco parody “Ragna Rock” — right up there with Phil Manzanera’s “Miss Shapiro” as secret 1975 Eno tracks and City Boy’s “Oddball Dance” (or Crack the Sky’s “She’s a Dancer” or Babe Ruth’s “Elusive” or Led Zeppelin’s “Trampled Under Foot”) as 1975 art-rock disco spoofs and/or tributes go.

Also intriguing: The O’Jays’ 13-years-before-Bobby Brown praise of one “tenderoni” in their rather condescending “She’s Only a Woman.” Joe Bataan recording a Latin bugalú version of Jose Feliciano’s Chico and the Man theme. Brass Construction titling four of six songs on their debut album with dropped-g gerunds (“Movin’,” “Changin’,” “Talkin'” and the kinda pervy peepin’ Tom number “Peekin.”) The idea that Fela Kuti may have invented the 12-inch single; his best-remembered 1975 release (out of at least six) had the 13:13 “Expensive Shit” on one side and 11:00 “Water No Get Enemy” on the flip. (Apparently not near the first time he’d done such a thing, so never mind pointing out that Lou Reed and Michael Manthler/Carla Bley did something similar in ’75 — Fela made dance music!) The Rolling Stone Record Guide review that said of Midwest AOR yokels Head East, “the band tends to be flatulent” (as a pancake??) The fact that the only full version of Nick Gilder-fronted Vancouver glam rock band Sweeney Todd’s debut currently streamable on youtube was recorded off an eight-track tape.

More: Van Der Graaf Generator’s Peter Hammill becoming the first prog rocker to go punk, when punk still barely existed. (Unless Dagmar Krause of Slapp Happy and Henry Cow counts, but if you counted her you’d probably need to count Kurt Weill.) Steve Hackett making a better prog album than Steve Hillage, even though I can never remember which one is which. Battle of the “an”s: Man vs. Manfred Mann vs. Steeleye Span vs. Steely Dan. Man putting Alfred E. Neuman holding a fish on their album cover. Steely Dan and Dylan w/ Band both singing about Katies, at least one of which was said to be cult folk-blues singer Karen Dalton. Planet of the apes: Rubinoos “Gorilla” vs. Gil Scott-Heron “Guerilla” (from an album with a gorilla on the cover) vs. Jimmy Castor Bunch “King Kong.” The Commodores and Grand Funk both putting out 1975 albums called Caught in the Act — the former studio, the latter live. (Incidentally, promoting his new book Major Labels in a video interview earlier this month with Carl Wilson, Kelefa Sanneh confessed that he only recently for the first time listened to Grand Funk, and had for years assumed they were a funk band. Thing is, they kind of were.)

“This was a bad year for black music, especially on albums,” Robert Christgau wrote at 1975’s end. And sure enough my top 10 — all “rock”/ no “disco” (or funk) after Sir Monti Rock III leads things off — couldn’t be whiter; the Blackest it gets is, uh, Black Sabbath. But from there, things diversify quickly: I count 19 Black albums in my top 50, 41 in my top 100, 55 in my entire 150 — perfectly respectable numbers especially since I may well have missed a couple, with Africa and multi-racial Brazil especially well-represented, and two reggae artists top 20 (plus one more top 100) even if (sue me) I couldn’t quite get with Natty Dread. Christgau’s “excellent year for country music” I’m more skeptical about — six or seven albums total (none top 50), depending on whether you include the often musically clueless Nashville soundtrack. Bobby Bland (whose Get On Down With, like Stoney Edwards, would’ve counted as both Black and country) and Merle Haggard came close.

Finally, another Black album that didn’t make the cut: I can’t let 1975 go without pondering how my deep-seated and ridiculously neurotic phobias of honey and sweet sticky stuff in general (jelly, caramel, bubblegum, maple syrup like Head East put on their pancakes — probably some childhood trauma, who knows) might bear on my lack of appreciation of the Ohio Players’ Honey, featuring “Sweet Sticky Thing” not to mention its legendary gatefold centerfold of a woman completely sweet and sticky with golden bumblebee byproduct encasing her entire naked body. Honestly, just typing that sentence gives me the willies. I mean, “Love Rollercoaster” and “Fopp” are awesome, obviously. But we all have to draw the line somewhere.

  1. Disco Tex and his Sex-O-Lettes Disco Tex and his Sex-O-Lettes (Chelsea)
  2. Sweet Desolation Boulevard (Capitol)
  3. Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti (Swan Song)
  4. Crack the Sky Crack the Sky (Lifesong)
  5. Bob Dylan Blood on the Tracks (Columbia)
  6. Black Sabbath Sabotage (Warner Bros.)
  7. The Dictators Go Girl Crazy! (Epic)
  8. Aerosmith Toys in the Attic (Columbia)
  9. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band Nightingales & Bombers (Warner Bros.)
  10. Fleetwood Mac Fleetwood Mac (Reprise)
  11. The Holy Modal Rounders Alleged in Their Own Time (Rounder)
  12. Toots and the Maytals Funky Kingston (Island)
  13. Roxy Music Siren (Atco)
  14. Gilberto Gil/Jorge Ben Ogum, Xangô/Gil & Jorge (Phillips Brazil)
  15. Steely Dan Katy Lied (ABC)
  16. Nazareth Hair of the Dog (A&M)
  17. Brian Eno Another Green World (Island)
  18. U-Roy Dread in a Babylon (Virgin)
  19. The Headhunters Survival of the Fittest (Arista)
  20. Henry Cow In Praise of Learning (Virgin UK)
  21. Black Blood Black Blood (Mainstream)
  22. Kool and the Gang Spirit of the Boogie (De-Lite)
  23. Bob Dylan & the Band The Basement Tapes (Columbia)
  24. Babe Ruth Babe Ruth (Harvest)
  25. Bruce Springsteen Born to Run (Columbia)
  26. B.T. Express Non-Stop (Roadshow)
  27. The Blackbyrds City Life (Fantasy)
  28. Amon Düül II Made in Germany (Nova Germany)
  29. Milton Nascimento Minas (EMI Brazil)
  30. Neil Young Tonight’s the Night (Reprise)
  31. KC and the Sunshine Band KC and the Sunshine Band (TK)
  32. Buari Buari (RCA Victor)
  33. Duke Ellington The Afro-European Eclipse: A Suite in Eight Parts (Fantasy)
  34. Tonight at the Discotheque (Smile Canada)
  35. The Tubes The Tubes (A&M)
  36. Shirley and Company Shame, Shame, Shame (Vibration)
  37. Peter Hammill Nadir’s Big Chance (Charisma UK)
  38. Slade Slade in Flame (Warner Bros.)
  39. Dudu Pukwana & Spear In the Townships (Caroline UK)
  40. Beserkley Chartbusters Volume 1 (Beserkley)
  41. Parliament Mothership Connection (Casablanca)
  42. Budgie Bandolier (A&M)
  43. Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel The Best Years of Our Lives  (EMI)
  44. Dollar Brand African Herbs (The Sun South Africa)
  45. Styx Equinox (A&M)
  46. Funkadelic Let’s Take it to the Stage (Westbound)
  47. Bachman-Turner Overdrive Four Wheel Drive (Mercury)
  48. Wayne Shorter Native Dancer (Columbia)
  49. Skyhooks Ego is not a Dirty Word (Mercury)
  50. Joe Bataan Afrofilipino (Salsoul)
  51. Gloria Gaynor Never Can Say Goodbye (MGM)
  52. Patti Smith Horses (Arista)
  53. Gary Stewart Out of Hand (RCA)
  54. Slapp Happy/Henry Cow Desperate Straights (Virgin UK) 
  55. Mighty Clouds of Joy Kickin’ (ABC)
  56. Head East Flat as a Pancake (A&M)
  57. Bohannon Insides Out (Dakar)
  58. Ian Hunter Ian Hunter (Columbia)
  59. The Miracles City of Angels (Tamla)
  60. Ted Nugent Ted Nugent (Epic)
  61. Brass Construction Brass Construction (United Artists)
  62. Journey Journey (Columbia)
  63. Cain A Pound of Flesh (ASI)
  64. Commodores Caught in the Act (Motown)
  65. Gil Scott-Heron, Brian Jackson and the Midnight Band First Minute of a New Day (Arista)
  66. The Sensational Alex Harvey Band Live  (Atlantic)
  67. Steve Kuhn Trance (ECM)
  68. Lou Reed Metal Machine Music (RCA Victor)
  69. Fela Ransome Kuti & Africa 70 Expensive Shit (Soundworkshop Nigeria)
  70. Artful Dodger Artful Dodger (Columbia)
  71. The Fatback Band Raising Hell (Event)
  72. Blue Magic Thirteen Blue Magic Lane (Atco/WMOT)
  73. The Kids Anvil Chorus (Atco)
  74. The O’Jays Family Reunion (Philadelphia International)
  75. Rob Jo Star Band Rob Jo Star Band (Dom France)
  76. Johnny Bristol Living the Magic (MGM)
  77. Elliott Murphy Lost Generation (RCA)
  78. Richard and Linda Thompson Hokey Pokey (Island UK)
  79. Air featuring Henry Threadgill, Fred Hopkins & Steve McCall Air Song (Whynot/Trio Japan)
  80. Bobby Bare Cowboys and Daddys (RCA Victor)
  81. Scorpions In Trance (RCA Victor Germany)
  82. Earth, Wind & Fire That’s the Way of the World (Columbia)
  83. Sadistic Mika Band Hot! Menu (Doughnut Japan)
  84. Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes To be True (Philadelphia International)
  85. Armageddon Armageddon (A&M)
  86. Hank Williams Jr. Hank Williams Jr. and Friends (MGM)
  87. Tavares In the City (Capitol)
  88. UFO Force It (Chrysalis)
  89. The Isley Brothers The Heat is On (T-Neck)
  90. Strawbs Ghosts (A&M)
  91. Jorge Ben Solta O Pavão (Phillips Brazil)
  92. Spinners Pick of the Litter (Atlantic)
  93. Sweeney Todd Sweeney Todd (London Canada)
  94. Muhal Richard Abrams Things to Come From Those Now Gone (Delmark)
  95. Bob Seger Beautiful Loser (Capitol)
  96. Burning Spear Marcus Garvey (Island)
  97. Bee Gees Main Course (RSO)
  98. Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson From South Africa to South Carolina (Arista)
  99. Maggie and Terre Roche Seductive Reasoning (Columbia)
  100. Man Slow Motion (United Artists)
  101. Eddie Palmieri Unfinished Masterpieces (Coco)
  102. Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes Wake Up Everybody (Phildelphia International)
  103. Strife Rush (Chrysalis UK)
  104. Dr. Feelgood Malpractice (Columbia)
  105. George Brigman Jungle Rot (Solid)
  106. Thin Lizzy Fighting (Mercury)
  107. War Why Can’t We be Friends? (Far Out Productions)
  108. Michael Murphey Blue Sky · Night Thunder (Epic)
  109. Lula Côrtes E Zé Ramalho Paêbirú (Solar Brazil)
  110. Betty Wright Danger High Voltage (Alston)
  111. Smokey Robinson A Quiet Storm (Tamla)
  112. Paul Simon Still Crazy After All These Years (Columbia)
  113. The Dynamic Superiors The Dynamic Superiors (Motown)
  114. Neil Young with Crazy Horse Zuma (Reprise)
  115. Hawkwind Warrior on the Edge of Time (Atco)
  116. Michael Mantler/Carla Bley 13 3/4 (Watt)
  117. Steeleye Span All Around My Hat (Chrysalis)
  118. April Wine Stand Back (Aquarius/Big Tree)
  119. Lynyrd Skynyrd Nuthin’ Fancy (MCA)
  120. Rush Fly By Night (Mercury)
  121. Elton John Rock of the Westies (MCA)
  122. Blackfoot No Reservations (Antilles)
  123. Natalie Cole Inseparable (Capitol)
  124. Nils Lofgren Nils Lofgren (A&M)
  125. Kevin Coyne Matching Head and Feet (Virgin UK)
  126. Robert Calvert Lucky Leif and the Longships (United Artists UK)
  127. Stoney Edwards Mississippi, You’re on My Mind (Capitol)
  128. Kansas Song for America (Kirshner)
  129. Caravan Cunning Stunts (BTM)
  130. Kraftwerk Radio-Activity (Capitol)
  131. City Boy City Boy (Mercury)
  132. Donna Summer Love to Love You Baby (Oasis)
  133. Babe Ruth Stealin’ Home (Capitol)
  134. Earth Quake Rocking the World (Beserkley)
  135. Nashville (ABC)
  136. Harmonium Le Cinq Saisons (Celebration Canada)
  137. Kilburn & the High Roads Handsome/Upminster Kids  (Dawn UK)
  138. James Talley Got No Bread, No Milk, No Money, But We Sure Got a Lot of Love (Capitol)
  139. Hustler Play Loud (A&M)
  140. Esther Phillips What a Difference a Day Makes (Kudu)
  141. Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here (Columbia)
  142. The Who By Numbers (MCA)
  143. Marlena Shaw Who is This Bitch, Anyway? (Blue Note)
  144. Milk ’N’ Cookies Milk ’N’ Cookies (Island UK)
  145. Dionne Warwick Then Came You (Warner Bros.)
  146. Carole King Really Rosie (Ode/A&M)
  147. The Jimmy Castor Bunch Supersound Featuring the Everything Man (Atlantic)
  148. David Bowie Young Americans (RCA Victor)
  149. Ambrosia Ambrosia (20th Century) 
  150. Patrick Zabé Agadou Dou Dou (Nobel Canada)

5 comments

  1. The only omissions that strike me to the quick are “Nils Lofgren”, “Slow Dazzle”, “Cissy Strut” and “Al Green is Love”. Chuffed to see “Crack the Sky” and “Jungle Rot”; the latter a true punk harbinger.
    Enjoy seeing these lists even if I smack my head over a few of the inclusions: Amon Duul, Journey, Kansas, Sabbath, “Nashville”, etc.
    Admire the testicular fortitude of you picking the occasional musical!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That Lofgren LP came *extremely* close — Like, bumped-it-from-list-over-the-weekend close. To make room for…I forget. Not out of the question I might change my mind and slide it back in at some point. The Cale and Green albums didn’t quite do it for me. I listed the Meters’ Rejuvenation at #93 for 1974, but I’ve always preferred them as a backing band on other people’s records — Wild Tchoupitoulas, Lee Dorsey, Dr. John, Professor Longhair. (Also, Cissy Strut’s a best-of — hence ineligible — isn’t it?) The Brigman record’s very cool; it’d be better with “Blowin’ Smoke” on it.

      Like

  2. via facebook:

    John Ned
    Chuck Eddy DISCO TEX AND THE SEX O LETTES!!! Now there was a supergroup: Monti Rock III, Bob Crewe, Kenny Nolan, Cindy Bullins. Plus a favorite of The Simpsons. Why aren’t they in the Rock And Roll HOF? HUH?

    Brian MacDonald
    Another year I did a CDRGO 700MB for! Unsurprisingly, we overlap quite a bit here too.
    https://www.ilxor.com/ILX/ThreadSelectedControllerServlet?boardid=41&threadid=52593&fbclid=IwAR0Xhbpx7CNcZEmFXTvuatTNWqrBVk3_G4XJqsQmUQlzeDXNkDxSblw9gr0

    Patrick Hould
    Is this on Spotify?

    Brian MacDonald
    No. I don’t even know if I have a CD-r of this anymore. Spotify didn’t exist when this was made.

    ————————–

    Steve Schneider
    “Incidentally, promoting his new book Major Labels in a video interview earlier this month with Carl Wilson, Kelefa Sanneh confessed that he only recently for the first time listened to Grand Funk, and had for years assumed they were a funk band.” — Hey, as long as he knew who Mary K Blige was while he was still in utero. (CALLBACK)

    Nate Patrin
    I’m wigged out by the very credible idea that we’re living through 1975 mk II (except with a shittier World Series matchup and a version of the Swine Flu that showed up a little earlier and stuck around a LOT longer). But I’m also dismayed by the idea that ‘Young Americans’ isn’t a borderline classic (ditch “Across the Universe” for “Who Can I Be Now” and that “borderline” disappears), not to mention the possibility that Allen Toussaint’s ‘Southern Nights,’ the Trammps’ self-titled, and Joni Mitchell’s ‘The Hissing of Summer Lawns’ don’t rank at all. Then again, I experience(d) that year entirely through the kind of long-after-the-fact Gen X-ass-end beathead revisionism that canonizes stuff like Ronnie Laws’ ‘Pressure Sensitive’ and Donald Byrd’s ‘Places and Spaces,’ so I guess the old gas-crisis-savvy note still applies that Your Mileage May Vary. Plus hindsight affords me the added luxury of being able to dork out over a Herbie Hancock live album that was only available in Japan until Obama’s second term.
    1. Parliament – Mothership Connection
    2. Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti
    3. Joni Mitchell – The Hissing of Summer Lawns
    4. Herbie Hancock – Flood
    5. The Headhunters – Survival of the Fittest
    6. Gloria Gaynor – Never Can Say Goodbye
    7. Donald Byrd – Places and Spaces
    8. Allen Toussaint – Southern Nights
    9. The Trammps – s/t
    10. Ronnie Laws – Pressure Sensitive
    (you know what, wedge ‘Wish You Were Here’ somewhere in there, too. Like 6th.)

    Nate Patrin
    seriously tho, ‘Flood’. Damn, ‘Flood’.

    Chuck Eddy
    I had hopes for that Toussaint album, given that I’ve always loved Glen Campbell’s version of the title track. Found it surprisingly dull. The Trammps was also a disappointment, much thinner and spottier than I expected. Gloria Gaynor, on the other hand, was way better than I’d remembered.
    The Joni Mitchell was fine — In my next 20 or so (after 150), probably.

    David Williams
    Nate Patrin canonized for samples doesn’t necessarily mean straight-up canonized

    David Williams
    Chuck Eddy all the albums were thinner during the gas crisis! Thank you, I’ll be here all week!
    *seriously though, you could see daylight through some records

    Nate Patrin
    David Williams eh, I’ve got a bunch of back issues of ‘Wax Poetics’ that suggests otherwise. Though maybe I’m overestimating the enthusiasm for mid ’70s jazz-funk after seeing its reputation climb out of “the Mizells ruined everything” damnation to something further resembling appreciation.

    Brian MacDonald
    “1975 mk ii” meaning amazing music from the UK and the U.S. underground, but mostly milquetoasty U.S. pop?
    (and I should add amazing U.S. RnB)

    Chuck Eddy
    Also inflation, especially gaswise. And political lull, White House-wise.

    Nate Patrin
    Brian MacDonald that seems to be the case this year, though it’s also seemed to be the case for me the last ten years, so there’s that. (is Drake our Eagles? sure, why not)

    David Williams
    Nate Those back issues had to justify paying Japanese collector-inflated prices somehow!
    Matt Dike (RIP) and I used to hit up LA used vinyl shops together weekly during a crucial period ca…. 86-88? when it was becoming clear that price and opinion inflation were becoming hyperinflation.

    Brian MacDonald
    It’s weird to compare any post-Spotify year to a pre-Spotify year. The fundamentals have changed in youth music discovery so quickly and drastically, that I can’t think of a one-to-one comparison unless we make the vacuum of comparison really really right.

    David Williams
    (Chuck we were typing “inflation” at the same time)

    Brian MacDonald
    For starters, Greatest Hits have almost the opposite footprint today vs. any year before 5 years ago

    David Williams
    WHIP INFLATION NOW (AGAIN)

    David Williams
    Brian MacDonald every generation gets the bubblegum it deserves

    Edd Hurt
    “The Hissing of Summer Lawns” is quite an achievement. I bought it in 1975 and loved it. But is the “jazz” dinky or not? I still can’t decide.

    —————————-

    Tom Lane
    My R&B bias would have higher rankings for the Spinners, Isleys, both Melvin’s, EWF (Gratitude album too), Smokey and the Bee Gees, which is mostly R&B. And of course in there as well would be the Ohio Players’ Honey.

    Chuck Eddy
    Al Green didn’t make my cut, either. Pretty sure some people love that one.

    Tom Lane
    That Green LP was a solid A from Christgau.

    Chuck Eddy
    Sounded like Al-Green-by-rote to me. (I dunno, four songs with “love” in the title might be a couple too many.) But Bob loves him more than I do.

    Edd Hurt
    The remix of “Love Ritual” from that album is one of the most powerful things Green ever did. Much better than the 1975 version.

    Chuck Eddy
    Wait, what album? We’re talking the 1975 one here, Al Green Is Love. My favorite cut — one of the few that jumped out at me at all — was “I Didn’t Know,” at 7:49. Maybe Al should’ve let his Hi guys stretch out more often.
    And Xgau gave it a B+ (down from an A-), not a solid A. I’m confused.

    Edd Hurt
    The so-called Bwana remix came out in 1989 on the “Love Ritual” album, and it’s incredible. The Hi band at its most propulsive.

    Tom Lane
    I’m seeing a solid A for Al Green Is Love on his website.

    Chuck Eddy
    Aha. His ’70s book has it as B+. So it went down, then back up again. Weird!

    —————–

    Steve Pick
    In my clueless yet fanatical youth (up to about age 26), I would have claimed 1975 was the worst year in music history, with only your number 7 and number 25 albums being anything special. Now, I nod my head at roughly 2/3 of your list, saying either that one is better than Chuck says, or slightly worse. Of course, most of the records I like the most from this list, from Dylan to Fleetwood Mac to Toots & the Maytals to Parliament to Patti Smith to Ted Nugent (which still thrills me even as I hate the motherfucker more than ever) to the Isley Brothers to Burning Spear to Zuma by Neil Young could easily be shuffled up with a bunch of records I just like a lot and probably a bunch you list that I haven’t heard yet (but definitely not with Pink Floyd), and I’d be pretty happy. Far from the worst year in music history, it turns out to have been a pretty typically good one.
    Also, fun story about your number one record. Shortly before I started working at Vintage Vinyl, the store had somehow acquired boxes and boxes of remaindered Disco Tex records – they were giving them out free with any purchase, and one day, I remember a guy who didn’t actually work there but who was always hanging there (who soon thereafter was playing bass in Blind Idiot God) stopping traffic on the street and giving copies of the record away.

    Jake Alrich
    Pretty fallow year. I’ve probably heard 75% of your list, and of that, I wouldn’t quibble with any of them beyond moving some either up or down. The exception being “Metal Machine Music”, which I think is terrible but I get why other people like it. (Don’t know why — maybe cuz I’m an “Arcweld” guy when it comes to that sort of thing.)
    My list of “misses” is very short:
    Glen Campbell Rhinestone Cowboy
    Yabby You & The Prophets Conquering Lion
    Big Star 3rd
    Hugh Masekela The Boy’s Doin’ It
    Parliament Chocolate City
    Status Quo On the Level
    Spirit Spirit of ’76 (I love that they couldn’t wait one more year to release this. Randy California must have been sitting on that title for years but COME ON.)

    Chuck Eddy
    Yabby You didn’t do anything for me, which was surprising — I wanted more dub, I guess. I’m a Big Star skeptic, but 3rd didn’t come out til ’78, so..

    Jake Alrich
    Actually, 3rd never came out properly at all. But it was pressed and “shopped around” to labels in 1975 apparently. Should have done my homework.
    https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/22348-complete-third/

    ————————

    Clifford Ocheltree

    Chuck, Lucky Leif indeed. My reaction, than and now…. But I’ll save you the obvious embarrassment by suggesting you clearly left out Clifton Chenier’s finest moment, Bogalusa Boogie. A clerical error?

    Chuck Eddy
    I used to own it; only own a CD comp now. But didn’t Xgau write once that the thing that made Chenier’s zydeco seem special was just that it was zydeco, or something like that? Made sense to me, whatever he said. [WHAT HE ACTUALLY SAID: ” the most distinctive thing about his accordion playing is that he plays accordion.” But agreed Bogalusa Boogie was a peak: https://www.robertchristgau.com/get_artist.php?id=263&name=Clifton+Chenier%5D

    Clifford Ocheltree
    Chuck, in the notes for Turn Me Loose, Lowe speaks about the impact of live zydeco as opposed to recordings. It may well be the case for me that having seen Chenier multiple times in the late 70s early 80s my vision is colored. Very fond memories of Marie’s bar in Lafourche Parish. Dancing, drinking and playing bourré all night. Guess you had to be there.

    —————–

    Vesto Visconti
    I can get wit this #1

    Edd Hurt
    1975 doesn’t seem like such a great year for country. You got Bare, Stewart and Stoney, I’d add “Bandy, the Rodeo Clown.” Jones’ “Memories of Us” is spotty except for the great “I Just Don’t Give a Damn.” Good year for crossover, though, and nascent alt-country (Charlie Rich, John Denver, Guy Clark). Otherwise I like Randall Bramblett’s first Polydor album, Andy Fairweather Low and I admit it, the Dudes’ weird disco-shlock-Bee Gees-power pop “We’re No Angels,” a truly prophetic record.

    Chuck Eddy
    Fairly certain I paid $1 for that Dudes LP once! Did not keep it long.
    C&W-wise, I also have Hank Jr., Michael Murphey and James Talley. (Never thought of John Denver as “nascent alt-country.” Interesting…)

    Eric Johnson
    Edd Hurt I’m curious if Charlie Rich is crossover or nascent alt-country in this formulation. I don’t really hear him as either.

    Edd Hurt
    Crossover, like his imitator Ronnie Millsap.

    Chuck Eddy
    Well, he crossed over bigtime in ’73. But that’s about it, right?
    Though I suppose r&b/soul stylings might make him crossover by definition.

    Eric Johnson
    Maybe so. He’s hard to categorize, in that he started out as a rockabilly guy who probably could have played jazz if he wanted to. I don’t really hear much in those recordings from this period that sounds at odds with the general orientatio… See More

    Chuck Eddy
    Two 1975 LPs it didn’t occur to me to check out. Maybe I should..

    Edd Hurt
    For me, that Waylon album with the hokey version of “On the Road Again” is also alt-in-utero.

    Edd Hurt
    Jim Dickinson once said, “I don’t even acknowledge Waylon’s version.” Never been a Waylon fan, but he looked great…

    Chuck Eddy
    Willie Nelson’s big concept album too, maybe.

    Edd Hurt
    Yeah, another really overrated demo, a template for Americana.
    Willie is so various, and I’m positive the adulation for “Red Headed” is a kind of snobbery about country’s sonics. His 1976 “The Sound in Your Mind” is way better and has the amazing “I’d Have to Be Crazy,” which I recently rediscovered on a jukebox here.

    Edd Hurt
    The Miracles’ “City of Angels” is a top 50 album of all time, every second totally wrong and askew, and sincere.
    And, Gilberto Gil’s “Refazenda,” one of his best, especially the title track.
    Fwiw, Big Star’s “3rd” is a 1975 album, and one of the best records of the decade, absolutely prophetic and would’ve been hailed as a great work had anyone been brave enough to put the thing out. I return to it far more than I do the other Big Star records or anything by Lou, Lennon, Neil or Dylan.

    Chuck Eddy
    Never been a fan, at all, but didn’t it actually come out in 1978?

    Edd Hurt
    Yeah. Jerry Wexler to Jim Dickinson in 1975: “That makes me very uncomfortable, baby.”

    Edd Hurt
    Almost all power pop is just derivative, even “Radio City” and the best Raspberries. Which I can love anyway. All style and little substance. But “3rd” is truly original, probably because they didn’t give a fuck and just made what they considered interesting.
    ·
    Eric Johnson
    I definitely wouldn’t say “all style and no substance”. I hear plenty of substantive rock songs on Radio City, and there’s some innovation there to go with the derivation.
    But there’s definitely some derivation. Alex was trying to consciously write certain kinds of songs. I think a lot of fans confuse the style of expression on those first two albums (straightforward, unguarded) with the intent, which was to write classic hit songs.

    Edd Hurt
    True. “Radio City” is the exception that proves the rule, I guess, to a degree.

    Eric Johnson
    Edd Hurt Also, kudos for dropping two Jim Dickinson quotes on this thread. I’m always up to hear what Jim had to say about anything.

    ——————————

    Patrick Hould
    Patrick Zabé’s inclusion cracked me up, and the album cover that immediately follows had me straight-up laughing out loud. How on earth did you even stumble upon this?? Anyway, I’m glad you picked the album with his yodeling masterpiece « Je bois de l’eau au lit ».

    Chuck Eddy
    Must have been from a dollar bin in Detroit! Decades ago, probably.

    Patrick Hould
    (Harmonium’s prog-folk seems very un-Chuck-like though, but maybe I need to check out Les Cinq Saisons)

    Chuck Eddy
    It’s beautiful. And I’ve never had any kind of vendetta against prog-folk. (Hatfield & the North were a close also-ran, by the way. As were Van Der Graaf Generator, Curved Air and Steve Hackett or was it Steve Hillage. And oh yeah, Giorgio Moroder’s wa… See More

    Graham Ashmore
    The three Quebec bands from that time I remember listening to were Harmonium, Cano, and Maneige.

    Patrick Hould
    Try Plume Latraverse – hilariously ill-tempered and weirdly eclectic folkie (but avoid anything past mid-80s).

    Boris Palameta
    I would say definitely try Beau Dommage as well.

    Patrick Hould
    Fine, I’ll give Desolation Boulevard and Crack The Sky a second chance. Not Sabotage though – that one got enough chances from me (I wish it was even 10% as eccentric and unpredictable as Stairway To Hell made it seem).

    Graham Ashmore
    Patrick Hould Give Artful Dodger a second chance!

    Zac Harmon
    Desolation Boulevard was the closest thing to a consistent album the greatest rock & roll band of all time ever made.

    Graham Ashmore
    Though they didn’t make it as an album; it’s really a comp. Which we didn’t know at the time.

    Patrick Hould
    I can’t give Artful Dodger a second chance until I give them a first one!

    Patrick Hould
    My beef with Desolation Boulevard 20+ years ago was the overstatement, especially in the vocals, like they were trying to be Queen. But I gave it the 3-song test last night and it sounded fine, so it’s back on my want list.

    Zac Harmon
    Just listen to my double-disc Sweet mix instead, which salvages everything I considered worthy from the remastered box set that came out a few years back.

    Chuck Eddy
    You’ll notice Queen didn’t make the list. And Desolation Boulevard was a comp of stuff that hadn’t come out in the States before, so it’s fair game!
    Sweet’s early album discography is super convoluted and confusing.

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