Sunday, December 27, 2020

1970 – The Year in Review: January - June

No one wants to review 2020. Indeed, we will all be glad when 2020 is hindsight. Not that there wasn’t worthy music with artists working from out of their homes or, like Pixar’s Soul, were made taking turns in the studio and through Zoom (stellar, classic Pixar, btw – and the best soundtrack since Edward Norton’s Motherless Brooklyn). But let's chronicle the LPs of 1970 instead (I couldn’t possibly begin to rank the year’s LPs from best to worst, nor could I cover them all). Just one per month or the list would be three days long.

The first significant release of the year was Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water, their best-selling and final LP, released on January 26. Maybe not as significant as Bookends, the duo ended their career with three of their biggest hits, but more so, a youthful interpretation of the world in which we lived, the title track a veiled protest of Vietnam and civil rights violations.
Arguably the first Heavy Metal album from the first Heavy Metal Band, February saw the release of the debut LP from Black Sabbath. I would say no to both, the LP is more psychedelic than Heavy Metal and was preceded by The Stooges and MC5 (among others), nonetheless, a new genre had arisen (from hell, obviously).
March brought us an AM10 and one of the great Americana LPs, Déjà vu from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Four incredible talents coming together to release a masterpiece, each song a classic rock staple. "Our House," "Helpless," "Woodstock," "Teach Your Children," "Carry On," and "Country Girl" were each genre/era-defining. Legendary! Here, though I have to break the post rule (for the first time, already) and give a definitive shout out to Ladies of the Canyon from Joni Mitchell. It wasn't Blue but it was getting there and darn close; a defining LP.
April is more about recording than releases with Derek and the Dominos, Neil Young and the Grateful dead gearing up for later in the year, but two significant players released important debuts, Elton John and Paul McCartney, each with eponymous LPs. Were I to whittle down, Elton's American debut is the far superior LP but for, of course, McCartney’s "Maybe I’m Amazed."
May gave us the last Beatles LP, Let It Be, which, despite its production by Phil Spectre, was a back-to-basics LP that would offer two No. 1 hits in the title track and "The Long and Winding Road." The Beatles always significant, I can't leave off one of the catalysts to progressive rock, King Crimson's In the Wake of Poseidon.
June would bring on the first of two releases for the year from The Grateful Dead, Workingman's Dead, which alongside partner, American Beauty, make up the Dead's most significant studio work.

I broke my own rules with a pair of LPs in several of the months, but how hard it was to leave off LPs like Diana Ross's debut as a solo artist, Deep Purple in Rock, Bitches Brew from Miles Davis (the first Fusion LP), The Doors' Morrison Hotel, Van Morrison's Moondance, and Sweet Baby James. Keep in mind, the year ahead only gets better. Final note, just a shortlist of bands that formed in 1970: Aerosmith, Doobie Brothers, America, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, ELO, Gentle Giant, Queen and Weather Report. Here’s to better things to come, then and now.

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