This isn’t a “most famous/acclaimed albums of the 1970s”, so skimming through with a checklist of live-or-die ‘essential’ classics in hand would miss the point of a personal perspective. Better to talk about the picks we both love than waste time throwing fits over an opinion you borrowed from Reddit or Rolling Stone.
What I think is the ‘best track’ on each album is hyperlinked in red to the song so you can listen as a taster :) CTRL+Click them into another tab.
150. London Calling (The Clash, 79, UK, Punk)
Probably the classiest full-punk album yet, if not the smartest or least wanky. The Clash hit it hard with less of the drooling contempt the genre is somewhat infamous for in my eyes and more of the considered, competent songwriting that has made its best songs international hits.
149. Red Queen to Gryphon Tree (Gryphon, 74, UK, Madrigal)
Best Track: Lament
Obliquely Medieval melodies from sub-genre adventurers Gryphon help make their four-cut chess based instrumental concept album forever fresh and always intriguing. A symphonic time-machine slow tide alternative to heavy, clattering Progg.
148. Faust (“, 71, Germany, Avant-Garde)
Best Track: Miss Fortune
Bizarre from the droning, gnarled, chord-tearing outset: Faust quickly established their tonal flexibility with this stunner that can be funny, alarming, silly and hideously nightmarish all at once. A very acquired taste but I love it- and it’s especially impressive for giving the legion of already well-established Krautrock acts a run for their money.
147. Black Sabbath (“, 70, UK, Heavy Metal)
Best Track: Sleeping Village
A brazen, genre-defining, semi-barbaric debut from the venerable Sabbath- and one that brutally encapsulates the international readiness to move away from the ‘swinging sixties’. ‘Paranoid’ is better fun and their following work would wear away the mystery but there’s something about the cover and the colossal darkness it holds that makes it their inescapable best.
146. Flying (UFO, 71, UK, Space Rock)
Notable for its vinyl boundary-breaking title track, UFO’s best record is driven by sludgey bass grooves and guitarist Mick Bolton’s relentlessly sharp picking cutting across the cosmic canvas like a light shower of scorching nebulas.
145. Faust IV (Faust, 73, Germany, Experimental)
Best Track: Krautrock
While it doesn’t sound quite worth the currency of several souls, Faust IV spins waves of ultra-sonic infestation to get utterly lost in. Cutting edge drone before it was played out and pretentious. As the likes of Swans’ albums can only nervously snag further grandiloquence, Faust’s inward-gazing ripples of intimate suggestion become all the richer with time.
144. Tea for the Tillerman (Cat Stevens, 70, UK, Folk)
Best Track: Father and Son
On his standout release, Stevens (now Yusuf) synthesised his sound and style in a remarkably moving bevy of cuts charged with an aching power he has yet to replicate, even on the fascinating ‘Foreigner’.
143. Secret Treaties (Blue Öyster Cult, 74, USA)
Best Track: Astronomy
It’s hard to pick a favourite among the Cult’s uniformly superb catalogue, from Fire of Unknown Origin to Agents of Fortune, but Secret Treaties seems the record on which they most cohesively came into their own: Serving a sublime array of brilliant cuts and closing on their best track to date, ‘Astronomy’.
142. Seventh Sojourn (The Moody Blues, 72, UK, Proto-Prog)
Best Track: New Horizons
The closest The Moody Blues (and their sometimes superb solo projects) have ever come to recapturing the ground-breaking majesty of ‘Days of Future Passed’, ‘Seventh Sojourn’ emblemises the end of an era: Summoning the sinews of the group’s now-exhausted creative energies for the capstone on their awe-inspiring seven album run of mystical wonder.
141. Moontan (Golden Earring, 73, The Netherlands, Hard Rock)
Best Track: The Vanilla Queen
More grounded and commercially focused than their Dutch contemporaries, Golden Earring’s decade-crossing, genre-adapting perseverance was rewarded on their seminal smash, ‘Moontan’- rooting itself in car radios everywhere with immortal single ‘Radar Love’ and catapulting into the prog-slaked stratosphere with the colossal closer.
140. Suicide (“, 77, USA, Frankie's Gonna Kill His Kid)
Best Track: Frankie Teardrop
Against all odds, given this is the kind of aesthetic I’d usually detest, Suicide’s innovative electronic darkness crept in and stayed for long after the final, fractured bar. The epic ‘Frankie Teardrop’ is a dimly-lit stunner and everything else is lightyears ahead of both the time and its imitators of today.
139. Setting Sons (The Jam, 79, UK, Punk)
Best Track: Eaton Rifles
Driven by Bruce Foxton’s earth-soaked bass tone that rumbles with a force that seems to threaten the lives of Weller and Buckler’s guitar and drums, Setting Sons is The Jam’s hard-fought masthead: Punk snot shot into maturity by the horror of war.
138. No Other (Gene Clark, 74, USA, Country Folk)
Best Track: Some Misunderstanding
I confess my patience for this kind of music is incredibly thin… but songs like ‘Silver Raven’, ‘Strength of Strings’ and the opulent, luminous ‘Some Misunderstanding’ charm in a singularly warm, captivating, universal sense only country music can really achieve.
137. Ruth is Stranger than Richard (Robert Wyatt, 75, Canterbury Sorrow)
Best Track: Five Black Notes and One White Note
Robert Wyatt’s best, most criminally underappreciated album- ‘Ruth is Stranger than Richard’ takes deep-seated emotional repression to a painfully simple extreme: Where symbols and searing memories are knitted into frenzied infantile oddity with a n incredibly subtle, gnawing thorn of tragedy that would probably make these tossers blush around their deafening acoustic wankery.
136. Lynyrd Skynyrd (“, 73, USA, Southern Rock)
Best Track: Freebird
A seminal Southern-rock shuffle, somewhat homogenous in its character but still immaculately performed for the most part: From the woozy pleasures of ‘Tuesday’s Gone’ to the career-making dual-guitar viscera of ‘Freebird’- with lava-flow soloing that could only ever have struck so much gold in 1973.
135. The Heart of Saturday Night (Tom Waits, 74, USA, Blues)
Best Track: Drunk on the Moon
A brilliant and straight-forward early record from Tom Waits, who’s troubled persona bleeds effortlessly into his beautifully impressionistic, achingly honest words without the distracting theatrics.
134. Tres Hombres (ZZ Top, 73, USA, Beard Rock)
Best Track: La Grange
The kind of record that makes me feel like showering. To be honest ZZ Top’s Southern rock is on paper not music of my speed- but their signature work transcends the acquired taste in a thousand savage, dramatic, deviously filthy ways.
133. Peter Gabriel (“, 78, Art Rock)
Best Track: White Shadow
There’s rarely a weak track on Peter Gabriel’s sophomore solo effort- and although the lyrics smack less than inspired the songwriting and enigmatic personality bristling from each track (made all the more alluringly alien by the producing Robert Fripp) makes ‘Scratch’ a striking step up from even the best of his debut ‘Car’.
132. Wet Dream (Richard Wright, 78, UK, Art Rock)
Best Track: Waves
Set against David Gilmour’s alluring atmospherics and Rodger Waters’ screeching faux-intellectual tedium (and probably some of Nick Mason’s prize cars)- ‘Wet Dream’ is still the very best of the Pink Floyd solo projects. Featuring ex-King Crimson Mel Collins’ ravishing sax work, it’s a work that cements Richard Wright as the soul of his parent band’s songwriting- and arguably their most sublime musician.
131. Rubicon (Tangerine Dream, 75, Germany, Komische)
Driving even further into the sonic territory they touched on the earlier ‘Zeit’ that was briefly diverted on the more accessible ‘Phaedra’- ‘Rubicon’ represents the absolute peak of Tangerine Dream’s artistry. Though it may stray a little too far into the endless at times, with fog-horn screams of cosmologic cacophony stretched on the slipstream rack of their otherworldly synthesisers, the return journey wouldn’t be worth missing the wonders of the musical infinite.
130. No More Heroes (The Stranglers, 77, UK, Punk)
Best Track: Peasant in the Big Shitty
In all honesty The Stranglers’ follow-up to their vinegary pub-battered punk-smashing debut doesn’t put its best foot forward but in the end ‘No More Heroes’ marshals the momentum of its sizzling deep cuts to storm onto the classic front.
129. Quartermass (“, 70, UK, Prog)
Best Track: Post-War Saturday Echo
With friendly ties to Deep Purple and stepping stone stylistic landscapes of urban decay and malaise via The Nice, Quartermass’ self-titled would fall into the muddy channels of rock obscurity soon after its release- and frankly deserved far better. Its compact and cohesive in the grounded darkness of its aesthetic much in the same way as ‘Unknown Pleasures’, just a decade prior. Nothing special, then. A stunner.
128. Bat Outta Hell (Meat Loaf, 77, UK, Anthem Rock)
Resting on the operatic pretensions of recent progressive rock, Jim Steinman’s songwriting and Meat Loaf’s ineffable charisma took Bat Outta Hell far beyond thunderdrome; wrapping itself in so many layers of cheese that it’s cracklingly unapologetic bravado almost seems beautifully earnest.
127. Aqualung (Jethro Tull, 71, UK, Folk Rock)
Best Track: Locomotive Breath
Ian Anderson’s cheeky over-wrought sophism hit the witty foundations of Tull’s coming opus in Aqualung’s titular vagrant- tailspinning past a scruffy song cycle that reeks of cheap vinegar, lust, and irresistibly lurid guitar solos.
126. In Rock (Deep Purple, 70, UK, Hard Rock)
Best Track: Child in Time
A pristine crystallisation of Deep Purple’s teeth-grinding rip, courtesy of a serendipitous line-up shift, and fronted by a piece so profoundly powerful and modally mature it’s almost out of place on such a straight-forwardly brutal record.
125. Eat a Peach (The Allman Brothers Band, 72, USA, Skydog Rock)
Best Track: Mountain Jam
One last hurrah for tragically lost slide guitar god Duane Allman, whose work on the superb but overlong ‘Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs’, while exquisite, could never compare to the incendiary energy of the whole band here. As gargantuan and compelling as Southern rock gets.
124. Cherry Five (“, 75, Italy, RPI)
Best Track: The Swan is a MurdererA shelfware gem from the band that would become venerably vicious soundtrack artist ‘Goblin’- Cherry Five out-does even their studio releases in its unabashed clarity of kinetic drive. No regard for safety, just reckless abandon to play fast, hard and lucid for as long as possible. Punk prog if there ever was such a thing.
123. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John, 73, UK, Pop Rock)
Best Track: I’ve Seen That Movie Too
Saturated with a vivid lineup of some of the man’s most iconic material, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is the apogee of Elton John’s mutli-platinum discography that suffers from being just one side too long. Still well worth the sprawl.
122. Ash Ra Tempel (“, 71, Germany, Deep Space Pharaoh Music)
Best Track: Traummaschine
If “Deep Space Pharaoh Music” doesn’t interest you then nothing will.
121. Voyage of the Acolyte (Steve Hackett, 75, UK, Prog)
Best Track: Shadow of the Hierophant
With what seemed like the last dribbles of classic Genesis sizzling in its seams, ‘Voyage of the Acolyte’ is in fact undervalued in such a definition. Less a last hurrah than the thrilling announcement of master guitarist Steve Hackett’s almost immaculate solo career, igniting a kaleidoscopic variety of moody tracks that come together in climax on the indomitable ‘Shadow of the Hierophant’- a mammoth epic that handily gives some tracks on even ‘Selling England by the Pound’ a run for their money.
120. Clearlight Symphony (Clearlight, 75, France, Symphonic Rock)
Brainchild of bafflingly talented pianist Cyrille Verdeaux, whose label chased the blood in the air after Tubular Bell’s 40 minute symphonic suite sold millions of copies (don’t tell me the 70s wasn’t an interesting time for commercial music), Clearlight Symphony also features guests from Gong on a phantasmagorical odyssey fit to embarrass Jarre and all.
119. Toad (“, 71, UK, Hard Rock)
Best Track: Pig’s Walk
Music with volcanic attitude and chops to match- Toad’s chugging songwriting swims through interesting interludes that keep the momentum crackling no matter how long their blistering jams become. Deep Purple, Rainbow and later Iron Maiden producer Martin Birch’s input can’t be understated- comfortably one of the best albums the mythic rocksmith has ever worked on.
118. Bigletto per L’inferno (“, 74, Italy, Heavy RPI)
Best Track: L'amico Suicida
Heavy stuff from Bigletto per L’inferno, who produce another of Italy’s one-hit-smashes before disappearing with barely a half-recorded shelfware gem in their wake. The woe-drenched organ and guttural guitar fireworks lashing across their sole 70s release would have surely been enough for Deep Purple-esque stardom in a more forgiving market.
117. Can’t Buy a Thrill (Steely Dan, 72, USA, Jazz Rock)
Best Track: Do it Again
Steely Dan’s revolving door aesthetic might have hit its personal goal on 1977’s ‘Aja’, but I think the later albums reach beyond considered into hopelessly contrived and cold. ‘Can’t Buy a Thrill’ taps Fagen and Becker’s audacious sessionist gimmick before it was overplayed and the result is dutifully classic jazz rock hit again and again until it was perfected.
116. Remember the Future (Nektar, 73, UK, Prog)
Anglo-German pseudo-rockers Nektar were forever straddling musical identities to the detriment of their confusedly chimerical aesthetic- but Remember the Future’s serendipitous meeting of all things European and pretentiously proggy proved they knew what they were building to- and then some.
115. Year of the Cat (Al Stewart, 76, UK, Pop)Al Stewart’s long-fought triumph could just have been its closing title track and made it this far. “She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running like a watercolour in the rain” will forever be as beautiful a lyric about love and longing as has ever been written, further assured by the following compositional magic, and the pleasing palette of tracks that lead up to it mark a hard-earned maturity that allows the songwriter comfort in his most infectious territory.
114. 2112 (Rush, 76, Canada, Hard Rock)
A breakout ballsy enough to ship a 20 minute side of vinyl free of grooves in 1976, Rush’s most iconic release flies on the coattails of its legend-making title track even if the remainder of the record runs off its ingenious rails.
113. Off the Wall (Michael Jackson, 79, USA, Disco Pop)
Best Track: Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough
Jackson’s personal life is pretty sickening, and yet I find myself unable to hate the music he and a host of other talented musicians pulled to life out of principle. Strange. ‘Off the Wall’, at least before the man’s reassessment, is still one of the most infectious, sensationally produced pop albums ever released.
112. Anabelas (Bubu, 78, Argentina, Progressive Rock)
Best Track: El Cortejo de un Día Amarillo
In truth, Bubu’s ‘Anabelas’ is kind of fucking mental. Its compositional freakouts rarely slow down and the sharp stringplay from mortally duelling guitars and violins spread like toxic spiderwebs across the group’s already loose sense of rhythm. It’s absolutely fascinating full-on Avant Rock… but not for the faint of heart.
111. For Girls Who Grow Plump in the Night (Caravan, 73, Canterbury Scene)
Best Track: C’thlu Thlu
Fuzz organ maniac monk Dave Sinclair returns after an absence on the steady ‘Waterloo Lily’, sadly sliding past his departing brother Dick as well as Steve Miller on the way in. Nonetheless, the line-up shifts force the fractured ground beneath Caravan’s feet to spit some of their very best material: Scintillating jazz rock Canterbury Scene goodness with a newly discovered icy, serrated intimacy.
110. Apoteosi (“, 75, Italy, Symphonic RPI)
Best Track: Prima Realta / Frammentaria Rivolta
Airy female vocals and symphonic leanings land ‘Apoteosi’ on the South side of Renaissance but its colourful flair and staggeringly tasteful harmonic sensibility is all the more impressive when you discover most of this family-based group where in their early teens when it was recorded. Pure beauty.
109. Stained Glass Stories (Cathedral, 78, USA, Prog)
Best Track: Gong
Missing their window (I accept cheques) of both opportunity and originality by several years, Cathedral chose to brave the punkpocalypse anyway. Stained Glass Stories is a fascinating artefact of prog bands likely inspired to make music by the genre’s classic wave but too late on the scene to join it. The vivid hope in such a doomed enterprise makes it an unexpectedly vital listen.
108. Soon Over Babaluma (CAN, 74, Germany, Krautrock)
Best Track: Quantum Physics
Airier but in turn a little less uncomfortably cosy than the band’s previous mind-invading jams, ‘Soon Over Babaluma’ is debatably CAN’s most ambitious record- bleeding into the distant ether with faraway whispers of long-forgotten bravado washing on the shores of their previous, more immediate work. Patience finds many rewards in the band’s last truly great release.
107. Lizard (King Crimson, 70, UK, Jazz Rock)
Crimson found fuel for their more Avant overtones with the addition of Keith Tippett (see. the nightmare that was Septober Energy)- with even pure-souled guest Jon Anderson unable to resist the corrupting influence of Fripp and co.’s incendiary proto-Medieval witch-jazz.
106. Head Hunters (Herbie Hancock, 73, USA, Jazz Fusion)
Best Track: Sly
The second you hear ‘Chameleon’s opening clavinet riff, you’re hooked. Regarded as one of the all-time fusion releases, and rightfully so: Hancock and co. bring a funky serenity to the usual kinetic musicianship that overrules gripping intensity with irresistible groove.
105. Frutti per Kagua (Capitolo 6, 72, Italy)
Painfully obscure in spite of its immense sound (and likely immune to re-appraisal by cultural appropriation hounds), ‘Frutti per Kagua’s opening suite runs like a mind-bleeding acid trip tipped in enough cataclysmic melancholy to set the old world on fire. The singles and epics on the B side continue to be superb. Very surprised to see a pitifully underexposed Italian rock album is sold brand new on LP today, but that's a blessing. A real gem.
104. The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome (Van der Graaf, 78, UK, Art Rock)
Best Track: Cat’s Eye / Yellow Fever(Running)
Re-shuffling and re-branding as impending economic pressure threatened to crack their core a second time, Quiet Zone / Pleasure Dome’s newfound members lent Van der Graaf’s most accessible release a jet of electric brilliance they sadly just couldn’t quite ride through the punk invasion.
103. The Kick Inside (Kate Bush, 78, UK, Art Rock)
Best Track: Wuthering Heights
Bustling with fresh songwriting, divine vocal chops and enchanting style, The Kick Inside is a radiant delight spotlighting the kind of talent that members of Alan Parson’s “Project”, of all bands, should feel lucky to play on. The ravishingly kinetic counterpoint to ‘Hounds of Love’s considered splendour.
103. Unknown Pleasures (Joy Division, 79, UK)
Best Track: Day of the Lords
Virus-like mopey mood aside, which would wreak havoc on every painfully serious snuff band for generations to come, Joy Division’s debut is among the most aesthetically interesting albums released at the time- an originality made immortal by its precise songwriting. Post punk and prog conflict set ablaze in the instrumentation while the war in Ian Curtis’ tragic mind bled into its frenetic wordplay.
102. Songs of Love and Hate (Leonard Cohen, 71, USA, Folk)
Best Track: Famous Blue Raincoat
If the infamous ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ is the pinnacle of sleepy singer/songwriter wordsmithing then it’s the graceful texture of Cohen’s stripped-back instrumentation on most all of the tracks that takes his distant vocals and the spiderweb words they spin up through the outer limits of what an album like this can achieve. Vital Sunday evening sorrow.
100. Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd, 73, UK, Progressive Pop)
Best Track: Brain Damage / Eclipse
Beyond legendary, if not beyond give or take 99 other albums, Dark Side of the Moon’s broad musings on existential malaise hit too many bumps to soar- but not enough to sour the band’s oftentimes revelatory sound.
99. Angel’s Egg (Gong, 73, International, Psycadellia)
Best Track: Other Side of the Sky
Gong’s albums don’t so much tick from track to track as they do melt through for a side of vinyl before turning and promptly tripping for another beautifully nebulous twenty minutes. ‘Flying Teapot’ was their formative success but it’s on ‘Angel’s Egg’ that the band find its ok to lose themselves and quickly proceed to shoot burning rainbows into their bloodstream. The result is beyond words.
98. Free Hand (Gentle Giant, 75, UK, Prog)
Best Track: His Last Voyage
GG’s unstoppable reign began grinding down when they ditched Vertigo for Chrysalis in 75’, but they still fired off one final classic cut before capitulating under commercial pressure. Free Hand is the band’s most accessible romp, coloured with a charisma as bright and stupefyingly vibrant as ever.
97. Demons & Wizards (Uriah Heep, 72, UK, Hard Rock)
Best Track: Circle of Hands
Heep’s pinnacle splits somewhere between Salisbury, Look at Yourself and the venerated Demons & Wizards- plunging the Dickensian wyrm born on their debut deeper into the realms of hard rock fusion where there be both monsters and a career-topping tome of stellar tracks.
96. 666 (Aphrodite’s Child, 72, Greece, Prog)
Best Track: All The Seats Were Occupied
Barnstorming Progg imbued with fizzing fixtures of jazz fusion and ancient Mediterranean flavour, filtered through biblical lunacy and shot out into 77 vital minutes of your life just waiting to be experienced.
95. Fandangos in Space (Carmen, 73, Spain/UK, Flamenco Prog)
Best Track: Looking Outside (My Window)
Produced by Tony Visconti of Berlin Trilogy fame- ‘Fandangos in Space’ is perhaps the most profoundly apt album title ever. Carmen’s English-speaking window in cosmic Flamenco rock (an alarmingly solid market in Spain) is a nebulous wonder just waiting to be indulged in.
94. Illusions on a Double Dimple (Triumvirat, 73, Germany, Prog)
German ELP on steroids and helium would be the best way to trivialise Triumvirat, though if we are making the comparison then while Greg, Keith and Carl were blasting away at Abaddon- Jürgen, Hans and Helmut (plus Georg) were shooting into the schnitzel-caked stratosphere with enough reckless abandon and insatiable energy to prick them right around the nebulous kitsch loop from tacky to tremendous in give or take two side-longs flat. Gleefully grinning excess in every wonderful way you can imagine.
93. Heavy Weather (Weather Report, 77, USA, Jazz Fusion)
Best Track: A Remark You Made
Sniffing the blood in the air of their previous 'Black Market', Weather Report took on godly bassist Jaco Pastorius full-time (and coaxed out arguably his finest work) and filled their set with a diverse span of crashing virtuosity and searingly gorgeous slow-dives.
92. Intorno alla mia Cattiva Educazione (Alusa Fallax, 73, Italy, RPI)
Best Track: Splendida Senzazione
Any album where each track flows into the next piques my interest- but you don't need a concept, let alone to understand the language one is in, to fall head-over-heels with the pure magic of Alusa Fallax's breathlessley blue-skied wonder which careens through a new musical idea every couple of seconds and finds the perfect end for its forty-minute rainbow of delightfully passionate musical invention.
91. Mekanïk Destruktïẁ Kommandöh (Magma, 73, France, God Knows)
Best Track: Hortz Fur Dëhn Štekëhn Ẁešt
Cracking down like the looming march of the apocalypse, little compares to Magma’s caustic blend of horror-opera sepulchres and made-up language less popular and a hell of a lot less holy than Latin if you want to throw a room of Coldplay fans into their own personal bake-your-own hellscape.
90. Tubular Bells (Mike Oldfield, 73, UK, Symphonic Rock)
The Kick Inside is an indelible feat for a 16 year old artist at the raw, buzzing peak of her game but I’d argue few youthful debuts compare to Mike Oldfield’s thrillingly melodic Tubular Bells- and proves that if you make a perfect film, millions of people will buy the 40 minute suite flowing in rivulets of 15/8 that accompanies it.
89. Hamburger Concerto (Focus, 74, The Netherlands, Symphonic Rock)
The very best of Dutch rock that Supersister, Earth & Fire and even Golden Earring can only dream of, Focus’ final full-blooded prog release of the 70s feels like a work of capstone elegia, further sharpening the volcanic thrum of ‘Moving Waves’ while sanding off the extra eccentricities of ‘Focus III’ to find their very own musical treasure.
88. Ashes are Burning (Renaissance, 73, UK, Symphonic Rock)
Best Track: Can you Understand?
Renaissance’s lightningbolt streak through the early 70s hit an early peak in Ashes are Burning- which stretched their formative powers to the limit and forced the band to evolve their creative palate in order to find a follow-up opus.
87. Machine Head (Deep Purple, 72, UK, Hard Rock)
Best Track: Highway Star
Deep Purple was, like Yes, another one of those bands that seemed to have every instrumental base covered with a blistering virtuoso- and Machine Head is the earth-shattering counterpoint to every comparable Led Zeppelin release with fire instead of pretension and freight-train momentum in place of numb tedium. Never lofty enough to get a little too aloof, instead pummelling into the earth with brute-force brilliance.
86. Starless & Bible Black (King Crimson, 74, UK, Jazz Prog)
Best Track: Fracture
Not perhaps King Crimson’s crowning moment as much as it was sandwiched between several: Starless & Bible Black is frankly a B-release by a band so fucking good it’s still as vital as the other bone-crunching carpal tunnel drilling incubus-infested mayhem they let loose from 70-73.
85. All Things Must Pass (George Harrison, 70, UK, Soft Pop)
Best Track: My Sweet Lord
George was the quiet Beatle and in spite of its bluesier moments, All Things Must Pass retains his reflective image. Quite frankly more than a match for several of the most seminal Beatles albums, excluding their profound influence: A colossal, almost divine uproar of soul and song.
84. The Yes Album (Yes, 71, UK, Symphonic Rock)
Best Track: Starship Trooper
The cover makes me beg for Rodger Dean and it’s not perfectly produced their follow-up streak but the hazy arrangements, charmingly cheap sound and simpler but in turn more serene Kaye keyboards make it just as classic and if anything more admirably earnest than the titanic ‘Fragile’ Yes dropped just a few industrious months later.
83. A Farewell to Kings (Rush, 77, Canada, Hard Prog)
Best Track: Xanadu
Rush had a moment of epiphanic historical clarity in the late 70s where each album grew exponentially from the last and while they wobbled over Permanent Waves it was in the brilliant, visionary A Farewell to Kings that the galactic leap up to 2112 finally cemented their cult-garnering birthwright.
82. Tales from Topographic Oceans (Yes, 73, UK, Symphonic Rock)
Best Track: Ritual
Yes’ 73 sell-out smash has a reputation infamous for alienating Rick Wakeman, scaring Bill Bruford into the arms of Fripp and co. at the mere thought of making it and frankly for running just a little too long. There are passages of Tales that drag- but then again there’s ten beautiful moments for every one hiccup- a fair price for such a behemoth classic, I think.
81. Suddance (Osanna, 78, Italy, RPI)
Best Track: ‘O Napulitano
A dizzying alchemical concoction of lucid jazz texture and veteran RPI mystique, Suddance feels like the final word for stately, symphonic European rock as it spends fifty minutes finding a feeling of nuanced, bracing and ultimately beautiful elegia most would assume impossible for rock music.
80. Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth (Twenty-Four Carat Black, 73, USA, Soul Prog)
Best Track: Poverty’s Paradise
While politicsed tossers waste their lives writing ironically wanky hit-pieces on entire genres, The Twenty-Four Carat Black’s landmark continues to slide neglected (and perhaps purposefully) under the radar of such spiteful narratives. The band’s bracing, raw and yet musically literate takedown of African American standards of living is still scathing now, and increasingly prophetic in a musical movement that has save for classics like ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ seems to have only gotten blunter and louder than this sumptuously serrated gem.
79. Marquee Moon (Television, 77, UK, Art Punk)
The best new wave / art punk has to offer, though as we’ll discover later not all the best acts had to present themselves haughtily to put out brilliant music in this ethos. If there’s anything that sums up the sub-zeitgeist grabbing lighting-in-a-bottle genius of Marquee Moon, its listening to Television’s clinical, embarrassing follow-up. Every shred of their energy was sunk into this sleeper landmark.
78. Yeti (Amon Düül II, 71, Germany, Wrekcingball Rock)
While Krautrock was busy re-inventing and inventing the standards of music as we know it (moreso perhaps than the dingy old Velvet Underground are so mythologically credited with), Düül decided that American and British hard rock wasn’t quite hard enough and decided to drench it in enough side-long spine-splitting dirges to give anyone with good enough headphones a fucking hernia.
77. Ege Bamyasi (CAN, 72, Germany, Krautrock)
Best Track: Soup
Flexing their slightly less cosmic muscles a year before they ascended into the ethereal further, CAN’s Ege Bamyasi is steel-cast shut with surgically tight rhythm and then blown wide open with nightmarish instrumental mindscapes that would still shrivel in front of the likes of ‘Aumgn'.
76. Giro de Valzer per Domani (Arti+Mestieri, 75, Italy, RPI Fusion)
Best Track: Saper Sentire
Leave it to the Italians to out-shoot two of Germany's most titanic heavy-hitters: Arti+Mestieri's firebrand sophmore careens through jazz fusion progressive pop maelstroms while the hummingbird heartbeat of inhuman drummer Furio Chirico burns bright under (and oftentimes over) the delicious mix.
75. Phaedra (Tangerine Dream, 74, Germany, Komische)
Best Track: Sequent ‘C’Krautrock pioneers and later soundtrack titans Tangerine Dream were basically doing what Kraftwerk lacked the talent and balls to pursue- and decades on these intoxicating soundscapes preserve their cavernous atmosphere in the beautiful exploratory bravado of the people who once plugged their depths. Phaedra is ice-cold mind-warping gold.
74. Melos (Cervello, 75, Italy, RPI)
Neapolitan one-hit martyrs of the apparently vicious Italian recording industry Cervello released this incandescent gem before losing their guitarist to the significantly more successful Osanna- though its spirit could never be dimmed by poor sales. From the piercing atmosphere that preludes the river of life soon to flow right down to its closing bars, ‘Melos’ is a sleeping giant lying in wait behind European obscurity and a wonderfully kitschy gimmick gatefold.
73. First Utterance (Comus, 71, UK, Acid Folk)
Best Track: Drip Drip
While bands like Harmonium were perfecting folk across the water, Comus was ripping it to shreds in the dark woods of old England: Assuaging the pound of traditional percussion for a caustic freak-out of sound and split-end soul that seems to dribble arcanely from the mouth of their maleficent mascot.
72. Maggot Brain (Funkadelic, 71, USA, Funk)
Singing us to sleep with a stinging George Clinton guitar marathon before descending into a funky dream-world of pulsing rhythms and occasionally apocalyptic psych-outs, ‘Maggot Brain’ still represents the apex of the Funkadelic/Parliament output.
71. Third (Soft Machine, 70, Canterbury, Jazz)
Best Track: Slightly All The Time
Frankly there’s barely a bad Soft Machine release for all seven years of their prolific first bout- but ‘Third’ is widely recognised as the band’s peak for its grimy aesthetic clarity being backed by deceptively intimate musicianship and beautifully murky jamming that devolves so delicately if that if you drop during it probably sounds like the second coming.
70. Ocean (Eloy, 77, Germany, Space Rock)
Best Track: Poseidon’s Creation
Space rock gods Eloy were one album into drummer-stroke-idea machine Jürgen Rosenthal’s tenure when they dropped their masthead classic: ‘Ocean’, on which perhaps the only thing holding the band back from perfection was their clunky English vocals. The instrumental run-up that begins the album on ‘Poseidon’s Creation’ remains one of the best ever recorded.
69. Garden Shed (England, 77, UK, Symphonic Prog)
Best Track: Poisoned Youth
Some complain the music of ‘England’ is derivative of Yes and Genesis- however it’s also just as brilliant as anything they put out at the time, if not more so- and the wankers should steer their ire towards ‘Starcastle’ instead. So vibrantly alive it’s a wonder it reared its head while punk was pounding away in the gutter. The sprawling closer, ‘Poisoned Youth’, is to die for.
68. Three Friends (Gentle Giant, 72, UK, Prog)
Gentle Giant were one of many bands on a roll in the early 70s but few were as prolifically dense: Spewing album after album of fiendishly complicated, characterful and therefore dizzyingly replayable innocent grin-toting prog maelstroms; and ‘Three Friends’, dropping the same year as ‘Octopus’, is a dazzling primer for their extrasensory flair.
67. Going for the One (Yes, 77, UK, Symphonic Rock)
Best Track: Awaken
Not counted by some among Yes’ seminal run (the kind of profound musical genius that frankly more than gives Stevie Wonder a run for his money), Going for the One features a title track of such vibrant, venomously virtuosic progressive pop that it must have been a nightmare for Jeff Lynne to hear through money-slaked snores- as well as ‘Awaken’- a transcendentally moving farewell to their gargantuan ambitions worthy of every Gate of Delirium and Close Edge under the sheltering sky.
66. What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye, 71, USA, Soul)
While Gaye’s lyrics were little special, his sentiments surely were- and the immutable importance of What’s Going On will forever be preserved by the spirit of its sublime musical vitality.
65. Songs in the Key of Life (Stevie Wonder, 76, USA, Soul)
Best Track: As
Wonder capped off his legendary run of albums by cramming all of his last ideas into one much, much too long to work- and yet it somehow soars. There’s another three masterworks wrestling with eachother for dominance here and while the sprawl is distracting there’s rarely a moment where it eclipses the magic.
64. Apostrophe (Frank Zappa, 74, USA, Jazz Rock)
Best Track: Uncle Remus
It could be said that Apostrophe is Zappa’s most accessible release (excluding of course ‘Civilization Phaze III’) and yet it’s meticulously silly suites, vivacious jazz-rock instrumentals and comparably tiny but singularly sensational ‘Uncle Remus’ make it perhaps the best continuous 30 minutes of music he ever released.
63. Hotel California (The Eagles, 76, USA, Soft Rock)
It’s almost odd to think how well The Eagles sold in the 70s given their reputation now is middling at best and unrecognisable at worst- but for decades and more we will never escape the haunting perfection of their 76’ smash’s killer title track: Hopefully pulling one out of ten listeners into the painfully eloquent takedown of Americana that proceeds it.
62. I’sola di Niente (Premiata Forneria Marconi, 74, Italy, RPI)
Best Track: La Luna Nuova
‘The Isle of Nothing’ shows just how brilliant the players of PFM are, if nothing else, although the way it flavorously fuses stately operatic grandeur to spiny, razorwire rock cacophony is especially fascinating given how much their previous album gave them to live up to.
61. The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Eachother (Van der Graaf Generator, 70, UK, Dark Prog)
Best Track: After the Flood
Van der Graaf Generator’s surrogate debut, engaging years of practice and crucially the still-vivid originality of their creativity to craft an aesthetic so far beyond most everyone else before or since it’s no wonder they’ve been banished to the realms of the esoteric curio. Nobody does the crushing eloquence of existential doom quite like VdGG, and Peter Hammill’s fever-dream digitized scream on ‘After the Flood’ cemented that in a quivering heartbeat.
60. Bitches Brew (Miles Davies, 70, USA, Jazz Fusion)
Best Track: Pharaoh’s Dance
Bitches Brew saw Miles Davies blow jazz fusion right open, with the help of masters like John McLaughlin [important later], and is a worthy counterpoint in clattering hornet-barrage fervour to the beautifully tangible serenity on ‘Kind of Blue’.
59. La Grande Casa (Formula 3, 73, Italy, Soft RPI)
Best Track: Bambina SbagliataIndelibly gorgeous, if not the compositional tour-de-force most Italian outfits were peddling so naturally it put any other country in the world to same, Formula 3’s most accessible release fuses jubilant pop choruses with progressive and even psycadellic atmospherics for a veritable wave-machine of intoxicating builds and lionhearted crescendos.
58. H to He Who Am the Only One (Van der Graaf Generator, 70, UK, Dark Prog)
Best Track: Lost
More catastrophic dread from VdGG, though this time a little more rushed and turned further inward. The heart-breaking poetry and brutal harmony of ‘H to He’ eclipses its production difficulties and then some though: Sharpening the band’s material into a five-piece suite of songs once heard and never forgotten.
57. In a Glass House (Gentle Giant, 73, UK, Deep Prog)
Sacrificing some listenability for thematic depth, though not as indulgently as some more modern tales on mental health, Gentle Giant struck a semi-perfect balance between instrumental compulsion and expressive existentialism on their mid-career apex. Debatably their finest hour, if even less accessible than their regular strand of madness.
56. Películas (La Máquina de Hacer Pájaros, 77, Argentina, Jazz Pop)
Best Track: Ruta Perdedora
Argentinian pop/jazz/folk/soul… you name it and the Latins dabbled in it with such incredible energy and subtle wit that the grace they glean is almost unbelievable. ‘Películas’ by The Bird-Making Machine is so good that each of its eight tracks stands on its own. Supremely confident but delicately sincere genius.
55. Meddle (Pink Floyd, 71, UK, Soft Prog)
Best Track: Echoes
Pink Floyd were just about figuring out what they wanted to do with themselves when Meddle dropped, lacking the McCartney-esque drive of someone like Peter Hammill to focus their obvious talents… and when a band scarcely aware of their future ambitions releases something like ‘Echoes’ then their place in history is immutably assured.
54. Something / Anything? (Todd Rundgren, 72, USA, Pop)
Best Track: I Saw the Light
Quite a change of pace from cosmic epics and the terror of the interior- Todd Rundgren’s ‘Something / Anything’ displayed Wonder-esque virtuosity (Todd played all the instruments on three of the four sides of vinyl himself) and sublime pop writing that masked piercing themes behind irresistible hooks and joyfully harmonic tones. A rare dual-LP more than worth its runtime.
53. Zarathustra (Museo Rosenbach, 73, Italy, Heavy RPI)
RPI’s face couldn’t quite fly with fascistic undertones but in truth the muddy politics of Museo Rosenbach’s first and only album was sadly more misinterpreted by thin-skinned pseudo-critics than actually harbouring any insidious ideas (how times have changed). ‘Zarathustra’ sounds so colossal it’s not hard to believe that had it not been for the pigshit thick witchhunt this would have battered the British and American rock markets into sorry surrender.
52. Scheherazade & Other Stories (Renaissance, 75, UK, Symphonic Rock)
Best Track: Song of Scheherazade
Renaissance’s magnum opus after half a decade turning out unbelievably strong material year-on-year: Scheherazade & Other Stories took the band about as far as they could go with classical splendour and a tracklist so tightly disciplined barely a second of the four songs go by without spreading a smile.
51. Uomo di Pezza (Le Orme, 72, Italy, RPI)
Best Track: Figure di CaronteThe progress of skill and confidence in clarity across Le Orme’s stunning 70s streak is just beautiful to witness and it’s with Uomo di Pezza (or ‘The Rag Doll Man’) that the shards of sunlight glimmering in the brightest moments of their previous work broke through into the ascendency: A fanatically literate flurry of baroque balances and boiling textural bliss that would shortly inform their magnum opus.
50. Station to Station (David Bowie, 76, UK, Art Rock)
David Bowie hit a brief but vital moment of tragic, self-destructive passion when he recorded Station to Station and by all accounts he left even the memory of this monolithic period locked in the grooves of the disc. A more perfect story behind the man’s one true masterwork couldn’t have come from his own hand- tortured magic so lucidly vulnerable it could only be his best album.
49. Blood on the Tracks (Bob Dylan, 75, USA, Folk Rock)
Best Track: Buckets of Rain
It’s hard to peg a favourite Dylan album, much less one where every song doesn’t kick off with a drum crescendo, but ‘Blood on the Tracks’ is still the artistic high-point of his career. I get the feeling that’s what he intended, which compromises its rawness just a little… but when the pain in his words is as unflinchingly real as this everything impure is simply lost in the pounding rain.
48. The Inner Mounting Flame (Mahavishnu Orchestra, 71, USA, Jazz Fusion)
Best Track: The Noonward Race
John McLaughlin cut his teeth playing with Miles Davies but the real magic at his fingertips was let loose here- surrounded by an infinitely talented band ready to just about play their fucking hearts out for the best 40 minutes in jazz fusion. All killer.
47. Foxtrot (Genesis, 72, UK, Symphonic Prog)
Best Track: Supper’s Ready
Foxtrot is an odd duck, because in some ways it’s actually a step back from Nursery Cryme: Riding on their bravado the band lost their focus and stumbled few some middling cuts to start it off but in all honesty when you drop a song as astronomically profound as Supper’s Ready the first half could literally just be Kenny Loggins B sides and still sell like hot shit.
46. You (Gong, 74, International, Magic Mushrooms)
Best Track: Master Builder
Gong’s string of stargazing early 70s treasures hit their natural peak on 1974’s ‘You’, a celestial cataclysm where nebulas leak instrumental breakdowns of both meteoric meltdown and delicate cosmic confetti and the sun seems to burn on acid. Jaw-dropping spacey psycadellia that’s almost intoxicating by proxy.
45. Harvest (Neil Young, 72, Canda, Folk)
Best Track: Old Man
Young’s smash breakout, and why not? After years writing great material, albeit under the shadow of Buffalo Springfield and to the great annoyance of Lynyrd Skynyrd, ‘Harvest’ was the pure moment of absolute clarity his career needed to soar. Barely a weak track and more to say than Dylan had for the last half-decade.
44. Tarkus (Emmerson Lake & Palmer, 71, UK, Loveable Progg)
While the music press was taking their fourth piss of the night on heinous, wicked, unholy prog- ELP were delighting in finding new ways to irk their self-appointed, unhealthily obsessed nemesis’. ‘Tarkus’, and its succulent second serving of more minor songs on the B side, is as titanically bold and viscerally, beautifully dumb as its kitsch-gallery-levels-of-garish cover even today.
43. Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (King Crimson, 73, UK, Dark Jazz)
A defining moment for King Crimson, Larks’ Tongues in Aspic saw the recruitment of Bill Bruford, fresh out of Yes and quite soundly the best drummer in the world at that time (and perhaps still since) along with Muir & Whetton who came together to make the mellotron-soaked dirges of Crimson’s past look like kiddy pantomimes compared to the snarling, ‘rock’-shattering maelstrom summoned here.
42. The Power & The Glory (Gentle Giant, 74, UK, Progressive Rock)
Best Track: Proclamation
Despite opening on what could be their catchiest tune, this chamelonesque outfit’s most cohesive concept album is no easy ask- following up with the futurist arrangements of ‘So Sincere’ and entering into kaleidoscopic freefall shortly thereafter. The ride, if you can stomach it, is just sensational.
41. Rising (Rainbow, 76, UK, Metal)
Best Track: Stargazer
Dio, Powell, Blackmore and co. deliver what is, at least to me, the definitive metal album: A volcanic sprawl of captivating fantasy lyricism, galaxy-spanning guitar tectonics and a bevy of immortal, epic cuts that reach far beyond rock.
40. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (Genesis, 74, UK, Progg)
Best Track: Carpet Crawlers
The Lamb was Peter Gabriel’s final outing with Genesis for good reason: Its (ill-advised or not) as far as the band could possibly go under him. Manic, bizarre and entirely convoluted- and yet the music and ever-sublime vocals are spectacularly precise in their mad-monk vision of just how far the Genesis aesthetic could run off its rails. Certainly a lot better than ‘The Wall’, anyway…
39. Storia di un Minuto (Premiata Forneria Marconi, 72, Italy, RPI)
Best Track: Dove… Quando…
PFM had three years to tighten their quintet before 1972’s ‘Storia di un Minuto’ (and its same-year follow-up) and it shows in every song. The band brings a distinct, luminous delicacy to some of the most soothing symphonic cuts to ever come out of Italy- and proves their acrobatic musical mettle on faster-paced rockers that would almost become obsolete as the following years shot their skill into the heavens. So tasteful for such a young band it’s frightening.
38. Rattus Norvegicus (The Stranglers, 77, UK, Punk)
Best Track: Down in the Sewer (Medley)
The Stranglers were and are the best punk band ever- quite simply because they shot the snotty, contemptuous ethos through with a jolt of perfect wit and irony about as massive as a Dave Greenfield keyboard solo. It really cannot be overstated just how far ‘Rattus Norvecguis’ soars: So high it can grin gleefully while it shits on The Ramones, The Pistols, XTC and pretty much anyone else still looking smug after ‘Down in the Sewer’ has turned a pub-crawl movement into a fucking maelstrom.
37. Octopus (Gentle Giant, 72, UK, Soft Prog)
Best Track: The Boys in the Band
Gentle Giant spent their time synthesising hours of musical innovation into a few short minutes of song and Octopus is far and away the apex of their faux-pop aspirations. The tonal control and inspiring confidence of any album that can have something like ‘Think of me with Kindness’ fly next to ‘Knots’ is just staggering.
36. On the Beach (Neil Young, 74, Canada, Folk Rock)
Best Track: Ambulance Blues
Young’s best album, no easy feat in such a storied and versatile career, perhaps because it chose to look inward with the most grace and quiet humility- all while the tender, bravely smiling tragedy of his words has never been stronger.
35. Contaminazione (Il Rovesico della Medaglia, 73, Italy, RPI)
Best Track: La Grande Fuga
Based on the life of Bach and notoriously hard to find, let alone hear, outside of native Italy- the rapturously elusive ‘Contaminazione’ is proof a holy grail is worth the journey. Building from New Trolls’ classical innovations in years prior, Il Rovesico della Medaglia’s word on symphonic rock isn’t so much an answer as it is a closing statement. Baroque beauty in serene step with unchained chaos so singularly in the spirit of what it’s trying to achieve that it’s almost hard to believe I can hold it in my hands.
34. L’Heptade (Harmonium, 76, Quebec, Symphonic Folk)
Best Track: Comme un Sage
Criminally underexposed folk-magic masters Harmonium took their intimate, ethereal majesty as far as it could go over three years and three albums of indelible music- and while it lacks the perfect brevity of its predecessor, L’Heptade’s dramatic range and seemingly infinite inspiration continue to floor me.
33. Fragile (Yes, 71, UK, Symphonic Rock)
Best Track: Heart of the Sunrise
Giving every member a moment to shine while pooling their immense talent in a trio of immortal rock epics, ‘Fragile’ is compositional intelligence, crystal-clear production and immense virtuosity made manifest in a deservedly seminal classic.
32. YS (Il Baletto di Bronzo, 72, Italy, Mad Shit)
Best Track: Epilogo
Il Baletto di Bronzo, maturely noting that their clunky debut didn’t summon quite enough overwhelming cosmic doom, corrected their past mistakes on one of the most metal sophomore records out there. No wonder its so obscure: Diving through this harmonically byzantine ten-tier spiderweb of relentless RPI rampage is pretty much equivalent to gazing into the eye of terror.
31. One Size Fits All (Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention, 75, USA, Jazz Rock)
Best Track: Inca Roads
Parodying pretentious Progg [music not good enough to take itself as seriously as it does, a-la Porcupine Tree] and shooting his own comedy jazz rock into the stratosphere ‘Apostrophe’ barely hinted at in comparison, ‘One Size Fits All’ is a perfect send-off to the Zappa/Mothers moniker. There’s scarcely a track that won’t put a smile on your spaced-out face.
30. Palepoli (Osanna, 73, Italy, RPI)
Best Track: Oro Caldo
Like walking into some Neapolitan marketplace with a mind drenched in acid and ambience from Mars, Osanna’s venerable ‘Palepoli’ is a titan of RPI for its immaculate use of the ever-rare Italian side-long executed in a one-two-punch so viscerally hypnotic and charged with the passion of a thousand rural nights soaking up the tab-riddled sun and the moon that little could ever compare. Mad gold.
29. Breakfast in America (Supertramp, 79, UK, Soft Rock)
Best Track: Child of VisionIf Crisis? What Crisis? was the result of incohesive demos so special they had to break the light of day, ‘Breakfast in America’ was Supertramp’s decade-defining song cycle I’m genuinely upset music outlets still treat as a guilty pleasure. While the instrumental ambitions of the past are reeled in, the band’s visionary, dynamic songwriting rolls out beautifully on almost every cut. Essential.
28. Thick as a Brick (Jethro Tull, 72, UK, Progressive Folk)
Not to say Jethro Tull aren’t a talented band, but amidst their later slops and some of the simpering indulgences on their earlier records it’s a wonder something as cohesive and compelling as Thick as a Brick ever came from such a band. Ian Anderson and co’s poetic parody masterwork: So full of musical treasures that it transcends the fragile comedic aspirations and runs right back into discovering a very special, wholly unique brand of profundity with its beautifully brief orchestral closer.
27. Concerto Grosso No.1 (New Trolls, 71, Italy, Symphonic RPI)
Best Track: Shadows
The New Trolls blew the Italian market’s hunger for symphonic prog wide open with this inspired rock-classical fusion- with credit due to original composer Luis Enríquez Bacalov for pitching the band the idea to flavour his spectacular arrangements with serrated guitar grounding and snarling drum snaps. While the LP is somewhat primitively mixed, this is still the bleeding edge of irresistibly energetic, vivid European music.
26. Brain Salad Surgery (Emmerson Lake & Palmer, 73, UK, Lovable Progg)
Best Track: Karn Evil 9
ELP catch a lot of shit for doing all the same things as every other big prog band from people who worship the archaic opinions of long-irrelevant music critics, but I think the best argument against the band’s detractors blooms here: There’s a kind of song for everyone and group-devotees were gifted a side-long so ridiculously gargantuan it spilled onto the first half and probably even stained Greg Lake’s prized Persian rug with its inky digital dirges.
25. Hemispheres (Rush, 78, Canada, Hard Prog)
Best Track: La Villa StrangiatoLittle has to be said other than this is the album on which Rush fully earn their namesake. Every track slaughters, but the perhaps a little too self-conscious closer ‘La Villa Strangiato’ is simply the best rock instrumental ever recorded. A knockout.
24. The Silent Corner & The Empty Stage (Peter Hammill, 74, UK, Dark Prog)
Best Track: A Louse is Not a Home
For my money the best solo album yet recorded, though given the members of his previous band members that definition is barely qualified: Silent Corner’ tours through Hammill’s expanding musical influences with such singular vision that by the time the masterpiece closing track brings it home I can only sit baffled at how this band weren’t selling enough to survive.
23. Future Days (CAN, 73, Germany, Krautrock)
Best Track: Bel Air
Willowing wafts of steely breeze belie the spooky sensuality of CAN’s masterful headphone odyssey, drifting through what feel like the warm ends of the universe.
22. Crisis? What Crisis? (Supertramp, 75, UK, Pop)
Best Track: Two of UsThe supreme, sincerely intimate magic of Supertramp, as well as genius producer Ken Scott, is little better evidenced than this collection of leftover demos from their previous breakout that hold together as one of the best pop records of the decade. From the otherworldly balladry of ‘A Soapbox Opera’ which tastefully put a legion of competing progressive pop bands’ overuse of orchestration to shame, to the stunning climax of ‘Another Man’s Woman’ and the soulful melancholy of ‘Just a Normal Day’- Crisis? What Crisis? has it all.
21. Mirage (Camel, 74, UK, Symphonic Rock)
Best Track: Lady Fantasy
The thing about Camel, a little like Television on Marquee Moon, is that after getting their chops they dropped a sophomore so fully committed to burning dry every fibre of their musical creativity and capability that after it was over they either had to shift genre or be crushed trying to match it. The band have lived under the shadow of this wall-to-wall stream of treasures ever since, and pretty much any guitarist witness to any one of the monster solos Andy Latimer lets fly as naturally as breathing on the epic closer should forever be in awe of its awesome power.
20. Relayer (Yes, 74, UK/Swiss, Symphonic Space Jazz)
Best Track: The Gates of Delirium
Rick Wakeman could always be a bit pompous, despite his immense talent and schoolboy sense of humour, so leave it to Swizz jazz keyman virtuoso Patrick Moraz (formerly of the criminally underrated ‘Refugee’) to shake the grandiose structures of his pondersome sound sepulchres to the ground in the wake of cosmic space-battle madness. If Bill Bruford was still writing with this man the record would have probably split the world in half.
19. Joe’s Garage (Frank Zappa, 79, USA, Who gives a fuck anyway)
Best Track: Watermelon in Easter Hay
If you think this two hour comedy rock opera could have done without the song about a malfunctioning sex robot giving someone a golden shower then shame on you. So deliciously weird and genuinely hysterical it really isn’t fair that Zappa and his ridiculously literate band play as immensely as they do for the entire scatalogical saga.
18. Les Cinq Saisons (Harmonium, 75, Quebec, Dream Folk)
Best Track: Histories sans Paroles
The mind-numbingly gorgeous dream-folk keystone of genre masters Harmonium’s seminal 70s trilogy, ‘Les Cinq Saisons’ is the kind of record anyone can enjoy. Lushly performed, with lyrical arrangements anchored in accessible time and generally acoustic instrumentation set to fill any space with magic the second it springs to life.
17. Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd, 75, UK, Sad Dad Rock)
Best Track: Shine on you Crazy Diamond
The first album on which Pink Floyd’s sagely array of talents converged on masterful, in part because it ran on a more sincere core than Dark Side, ‘Wish You Were Here’ is one of those works of art that serendipitously unites a group of creative people with the feeling and concept they are most suited to and allows them to soar through it, with an ethereal elegia a thousand more grounded songsmiths couldn’t hope to find.
16. Godbluff (Van der Graaf Generator, 75, UK, Dark Prog)
Best Track: The Sleepwalkers
Sandwiched between two of rock’s subtlest song cycles, one of Godbluff’s great virtues as a comeback after years of the band flexing their fingers on smaller Hammill solo albums is its tonal flexibility in unapologetically presenting the band’s searing talents. Four cuts, all classic- ranging from the rare instrumental maelstrom of ‘Scorched Earth’ to the seething vocal carnage of ‘Arrow’. The deal was sealed with what is arguably their witty, fearless pinnacle piece, ‘The Sleepwalkers’, and the rest is mist-shrouded history.
15. Felona e Sorona (Le Orme, 73, Italy, Space RPI)
Best Track: Ritratto di un Mattino
One of Italian rock music’s crowning moments, Le Orme’s nebula-piercing concept album dovetails from song to song in a cohesive suite that finds the full instrumental talents of the trio in perfect step with their artistic ambitions. A lyrically arranged space rock masterpiece.
14. In the Land of the Grey & Pink (Caravan, 71, Canterbury Scene)
Best Track: Nine Feet Underground
As if an A-side packed with beautiful ballads, sleepy progressive epics, deliriously earnest loved-up singles and jazzy pastoral atmosphere wasn’t enough, the fuzz-organ marathon that is ‘Nine Feet Underground’ swamps the second half with a stamina and double-edged elegance of electric wonder that would make Emmerson, Wakeman, Wright and Manzarek blush their bursting hearts out.
13. Even in the Quietest Moments (Supertramp, 77, UK, Pop)
Best Track: Downstream
There’s not a weak track amongst the seven usually lengthy cuts on ‘Even in the Quietest Moments’, and what strikes me most about it is the album’s delicate aesthetic so comfortably housing such a vast range of music. Any record that can lead off on immortally moving single ‘Give a Little Bit’ and have the curtain fall under Rodger Hodgson’s 10-minute knockout ‘Fool’s Overture’ has a tonal command that merits more credit than it’s got over the years. A quiet, mellow, melancholy diamond by five masters at the top of their game.
12. Acquiring the Taste (Gentle Giant, 71, UK, Prog)
Best Track: ?
Tony Visctonti’s infamous liner declaration that the band would ‘expand the frontiers of popular music at the risk of being very unpopular’ was prophetic to say the least; and the group proved you didn’t need an underlying concept or side-long epic to do so. Most every shredding second of this dizzyingly eclectic opus is so radiant that it’s the only album here I refuse to pick a favourite track from. A record this uniformly inspired sees it change from day to day.
11. Alphataurus (“, 73, Italy, Mythic RPI)
Best Track: La Mente Vola
Alphataurus are somewhat infamous in informed circles given that they’re one of countless Italian bands that dropped one classic before folding back into the mists of time because their lone self-titled was the best of the best. Five cuts, each one sprawling with so much energy it’s almost criminal that the songwriting could be running away so tastefully on the wayside: Every minute a new volcanic joy, erupting from one über-talented band member before the next slips in to deliver yet another killing blow. A smash sensation.
10. Tago Mago (CAN, 71, Germany, Acid Temple)
Best Track: Aumgn
There might never be another album as colossal as Tago Mago. It was a freak-out monster psych earthquake through the bowels of rock music; a Rosetta stone for dozens of genres that are still taking root today and even among them remains the abominable titan at the peak of the mountain. Jaki Liebezeit’s living machine drum work here might be my favourite on any album, ever. A supreme beast.
9. Selling England by the Pound (Genesis, 73, UK, Pastoral Prog)
Best Track: Firth of Fifth
There’s a reason this album, and notably its masterpiece ‘Firth of Fifth’, is an appointed gatekeeper of classic progressive rock for people first venturing outside of Pink Floyd: It’s about as fundamental a release as the genre’s ever seen. Not particularly experimental or meek in spite of its spattering of lovely little pop singles but brimming with prog perfected through exceptional energy, immense songwriting and graceful swoons of alluring calm. The caustically twee tour-de-force Genesis had been building towards.
8. Pawn Hearts (Van der Graaf Generator, 71, UK, Deep Dark Prog)
Best Track: A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers
Still huge, this cacophonic nightmare from cacophonic nightmare masters Van der Graaf Generator doubles the unchained venom of its unapologetically feverish instrumentation with some of Peter Hammill’s most acute, Nostradaman lyricism and the band’s songwriting might never have been stronger. From the hellish digitized scream of “mind and machinery box-press our dreams” on 'Lemmings' to the gorgeously gut-wrenching croon of “dooooooomed” on the devastating 'Man-Erg', this is the stuff only the darkest dreams are made of.
7. Red (King Crimson, 74, UK, Evil Jazz)
Best Track: Starless
The bleeding-edge musicianship of inalienably genius extra-terrestrial Robert Fripp’s killer trio radiates in whiplash waves off the band’s grunge-fathering, metal-mortifying evil jazz masterpiece- ripping the monolithic talents of acid-throated bassist John Whetton and spider-limbed octo-minded drum sage Bill Bruford so far from home that nothing any of the three have torn across since has ever compared to the spine-shredding snarl of 1974’s ‘Red’.
6. Per un Amico (Premiata Forneria Marconi, 72, Italy, Liquid Gold)
Best Track: Geranio
As mentioned earlier, PFM had three years of touring to tighten their astronomically talented unit before hitting the studio. Earlier in '72 they tested the waters with ‘Storia di un Minuto’ and, either in knowing recognition of Italy’s merciless recording industry or just for the fun of it- they next poured about three classic albums’ worth of ideas into one. No creative expense was spared crafting ‘Per un Amico’, the group’s sub-genre defining masterpiece, and its genius won them the international limelight no Italian band had seen before, signing with ELP’s Manticore. A river of gold.
5. Lady Lake (Gnidrolog, 72, UK, Ice to Tears)
I don’t know if the capital-punishment-worthy commercial ignorance towards Gnidrolog was a good thing, and that had they seen the interest to follow Lady Lake they wouldn’t have produced anything near as classic- but loving this has only made me beg for more. There’s scarcely a more ‘underrated’ album than this one- crashing through visionary, thunderous, profoundly moving songwriting with such unstoppable bravery you’d think they’d been doing it for decades. Find it. Buy it. Love it like a son.
4. Close to the Edge (Yes, 72, UK, Symphonic Joy)
I’ve often thought, had Fragile’s ‘Heart of the Sunrise’ been saved for the curtain call on Close to the Edge, it might have been the best album ever made. I don’t say that lightly: Yes’ side-long title track is one of music’s crowning achievements- a classical masterpiece for the modern age with all the sunbursting emotion to set your heart on fire. Everyone should hear it once on a clean record before they go. Then ‘And You And I’ dives through achingly beautiful synth bridges and vibrantly catchy vocal stylings with divine flair. Finally… there’s ‘Siberian Khatru’. Brilliant, honestly, but trite by comparison. If only.
3. Still Life (Van der Graaf Generator, 76, UK, Existential Crisis Prog)
Best Track: Childlike Faith in Childhood’s End
One thing that’s always separated VdGG’s music from any other band, at least of the time, is their utter devotion to the music. It didn’t sell, and they didn’t care- and unlike some they didn’t care less about acclaim either. The opus of the group’s lionhearted artistic purity is ‘Still Life’- the most brutally tragic album I’ve ever heard. Beyond Hammill’s extrasensory birthwright in poetic, unflinchingly honest lyricism the band have never been tighter: Every phrase and gesture is followed in split-seconds as one cohesive tide, never wavering and crashing harder and deeper than anything they’ve put out before or since.
2. Animals (Pink Floyd, 77, UK, We Live in a Society that ditched This for The Sex Pistols)
Best Track: Dogs
If Rodger Waters’ tenure in Pink Floyd proved anything, it’s that his lyrics tapped into the broad social consciousness better than they did his own head. ‘Dogs’ is driven by the band at their tightest, with a gruelling malaise more precisely snapping at their notes as opposed to the numb pain of their previous album. ‘Pigs’ and ‘Sheep’ strike with an eruptive, beautifully vile power so unrelentingly overwhelming it can genuinley leave me breathless and the ingenious bookends take the structure to perfection. An anthem for Britain in its darkest days, socially and musically- and more than that the final masterpiece for one of its most legendary bands. Devastatingly perfect.
1. Crime of the Century (Supertramp, 74, UK, There's you, and there's me)
Best Track: Hide in your Shell
Three years ago I started researching this list, flippantly flicking through hundreds of ‘classic’ albums- and Crime of the Century was the first to stop me dead in my tracks. Then it helped save my life and today it’s as transcendentally emotive and sincere as ever before. Where other bands screamed for the masses Supertramp, then on the precipice of being dropped by A&M, freed themselves from expectation and wrote straight from the heart the record that would skyrocket them to international resonance. Eight masterful cuts whispered by cosmic prisoners with harmonicas in hand that will last beyond forever.