148. is it because I’m black?

“I’m not black, I’m not even the lightest shade of brown. But I guess if the soul of a song is true – you get it anyway. Part of it, at least. Because there’s a lot to get from Syl Johnson‘s Is It Because I’m Black? (both song and album) – the sheer frustration, rage, pain, resentment of it, sadly still as relevant now as it was decades ago.” (Philip Random)

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150. ramble tamble

“As albums go, few from any era can top Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s 1970 monster Cosmo’s Factory, if only for the six charting singles. Let me say that again: six charting singles. That’s more than many successful bands get in a career. And then there’s Ramble Tamble (the best track on the album, maybe from their entire career) which wasn’t released as a single, because it was too long, too weird, a tough swampy rock song bookending an absolutely epic jam. In other words, this is me, twelve or thirteen, in my cousin’s bedroom, headphones on, getting sent, getting educated as to where music could go — that a song could be way more than just sticky sweet candy to get played on the radio between ads for soda pop and jeans. Welcome to my future.” (Philip Random)

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165. soul rebel

“With a small handful of exceptions, the very best Bob Marley is the very early Bob Marley, the stuff he recorded long before we, the godless multitudes of greater Babylon, had a clue that he even existed, when he was still just some struggling Jamaican local trying to believe in his soul. In particular, you’ve gotta love what he did with the singularly unsane Lee Scratch Perry in the producer’s chair. I do anyway, the two of them (and the band, of course) exploring far darker, edgier realms of soul and rebellion than what would eventually come to hog all the space on the Greatest Hits albums, get hippies dancing around bonfires, pretending they’re little birds.” (Philip Random)

(photo: Esther Anderson)

250. Memo from Turner

Second of two in a row from the soundtrack to the movie called Performance, which if you haven’t seen it yet, why not? Memo From Turner being the single Mick Jagger track that puts the lie to the entirety of the rest of his so-called solo career (ie: it’s really quite good), managing to sound every bit as down and dirty and relevant as what his regular crowd were up to at the time (ie: riding their sustained peak).

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251. natural magic

Performance (the 1970 movie) is almost as good as its soundtrack, or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, it’s a dark, dark gem – something to do with gangsters, an illusive rock star, drugs, sex, nihilism, and the only true performance ending in madness. As for the music, it covers at least as much ground and features all manner of then essential contributors, with producer/composer Jack Nitzsche at the heart of it all, delivering just what you might expect from a fatally bored rock star with piles of money but precious little inspiration, desperate for something/anything that might allow him to haul himself back into a world where anything matters.

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264. love song

“It’s 1970 and Elton John is still a ways from superstardom. Which doesn’t mean he may already have recorded the best album of his career. It’s called Tumbleweed Connection and yeah, it’s working a slightly silly concept about the old west, but the songs are so good, who cares? With Love Song a particular standout for me if only because it’s been so overlooked in its understated, ambient lushness. Almost too beautiful. And it’s a cover. Lesley Duncan wrote it.” (Philip Random)

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268. ride a white swan

“If you’re British, you’ve likely heard plenty of T-Rex in your time, maybe way too much. But over here in the Americas a track like Ride A White Swan never cracked pop radio back in the day, so it still retains the kind of freshness that turns heads, gets people nodding along, smiling, wondering, ‘Who is this?’ Like it was recorded last week, not better part of half a century ago. Still makes me smile pretty much every time I hear it, Marc Bolan’s oddly spry little ditty about skyways, sunbeams, druids and tatooed gowns. Some say it invented Glam. I ain’t arguing.” (Philip Random)

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288. Dharma for One [live]

The band known as Jethro Tull blew things wide open in 1972 with a single 43 minute song/concept album that hit #1 everywhere from Denmark to Australia to the Americas, even Vietnam. Which suddenly meant that Ian Anderson and the band could do pretty much anything they wanted career wise, including the release of a double album of (mostly) unreleased stuff from the previous four years and four albums of their career (so far). Living in the Past it was called and full of odd gems it was including a live version of Dharma For One which initially showed up as an instrumental on their first album but come the concert trails of 1970 had picked up some lyrics and otherwise expanded and evolved into a longer, wilder, more progressive beast indeed. The word gobsmacking comes to mind, though the drum solo does go on a bit.

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300. key to the highway

Derek and the Dominoes‘ only studio album was a 1970 release, but it didn’t cross my teeny bop consciousness until summer 1972 when they finally got around to releasing Layla as a radio single. Which led to my friend Malcolm getting the album, which mostly went way over our heads – all that loose jamming (and the drugging behind it) being more for the older kids. But I’d eventually come back around to it maybe twenty-five years later, particularly stuff like Key To The Highway where misters Eric Clapton (already well into a heroin addiction), Greg Allman (due for a fatal motorcycle accident), Jim Gordon (fated to go mad and murder his mother) and essential others sort of lay back and go long, delivering the news of what is to be genuinely free (you’ve got the key, you’ve got a vehicle, you’ve got an open road – what more could want?) for almost ten minutes anyway.” (Philip Random)