425. Desperado

One of those comparatively early Alice Cooper cuts that puts the lie to it all being just kids’ comic book horror stuff, particularly the bit about being a killer, a clown, a priest who’s gone to town. That’s poetry. And all the more exquisite given the song that’s built around it, dark and moody, and more than just a little evil. From 1971’s Killer, the one that (back in the day) all the older kids said was Alice’s best album, way better than School’s Out. They were right.

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433. what are their names?

As the story goes, David Crosby‘s girlfriend Christine Hinton had recently been killed in a car accident, and out of the haze of grief (and with a lot of help from his friends) came 1971’s If Only I Could Remember My Name, his first and best solo album, and one of the finest folk-based, free-form exploratory records of any era. Case in point, the mostly instrumental What Are Their Names? which just sort of creeps along at first but by the time it’s done, it’s delivered a defiant punch. Like hanging out with your friends, getting high, yet bemoaning the deep inequities of the world, how the rich keep on getting richer and the poor just keep getting eaten. And guess what? The masters of war behind it all live just over yonder hill. Perhaps we should go pay them a visit, do a little sharing.

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434. sailor’s tale

“By 1971’s Islands, their fourth album in barely two years, the force of mind and nature known as King Crimson were not so much lost as just a very long way from shore. Down to only two of the original five members, and one of them (Pete Sinfield) had never provided much in the way of actual music, just “… words, sounds and visions, cover design and painting, production” (and in fact, he was on his way out, Islands would be his last Crimson involvement). Robert Fripp, on the other hand, was firmly ensconced on whisper-to-apocalyptic-howl guitar, with Sailor’s Tale a particularly powerful offering. Just wait until whatever high you’re riding is at its peak, then crank the sound system and wait for that sucker punch eruption at around the 4-and-a-half minute point. Not a sudden eruption from silence. No this is far trickier than that. Because the song’s already charging along at that point. It just suddenly goes way further. The earth shakes. The skies open. A gaping hole gets blown from the jigsaw of time.” (Philip Random)

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438-7-6. Second Coming – Ballad of Dwight Fry- Sun Arise

Alice Cooper and puberty found me at roughly the same moment, which means 1971’s Love it to Death was around at least a year old before I even heard about the freak named Alice who was not a she, and all the other rumoured atrocities. But the bigger shock, I guess, was just how strong the actual music was, and the band playing it. Yeah, it was all sick and evil, no question, but it was also dramatic, melodic, and come the bulk of side two, epic. Three songs all spilling into each other. First a little ditty about Jesus apparently, stuck in hell, then family man Dwight Fry’s widescreen descent into insanity and finally, incongruously, a heartfelt and hopeful closer which I’d eventually discover was a Rolf Harris original.” (Philip Random)

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457. pali gap

“On a bad night, with the wrong kind of ears, Pali Gap just sounds like more Hendrix noodling. The rhythm section locks into a groove, the great man proceeds to wander. But on a good night, with the right kind of lightning tearing up the sky, it’s a secret door to one of the Lord’s own mansions. Or as old friend Chris once put it, ‘With Hendrix sometimes, it’s not the notes he’s playing, it’s what they’re suggesting, except he plays so many f***ing notes, it’s impossible to grasp even a fraction of what he’s suggesting.’ So all the more reason to play Rainbow Bridge one more time (even if it has nothing to do with the movie of the same name).” (Philip Random)

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458. long dark road

The Hollies were supposed to be finished by the time the 70s hit (Graham Nash had split to California, hooked with Crosby, Stills and eventually Young; their whole sort of sunny pop psychedelia just wasn’t a thing anymore), but, it turns out, they still had a tricks left, including in Long Dark Road, a serious gaze into the shadows. But not without those three-part harmonies, even if some of the names had changed, and would keep changing.

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527. wind up

“It’s Christmas 1972, a party at family friends. I’m thirteen and barely old enough to be hanging with the big kids. Just shut up and sit in the corner. And then they all go outside to smoke a joint. They even invite me along, but no way, not with my parents barely fifty feet away. Which leaves me alone with the record that’s playing – Aqualung by Jethro Tull, getting to the end of Side Two, a song about all the religious bullshit they push on you when you’re a kid, which I had no problem agreeing with, particularly the part about God not being a simple toy. You didn’t just wind Him up once a week, say few stupid prayers and then get on with your everyday lying, cheating, stealing. Nah, if there was a God worth giving a shit about, He or She or It had to be magnitudes more complex and wise than that. I don’t believe you — you’ve got the whole damned thing all wrong.” (Philip Random)

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570. I am a rock

“I found this Buck Owens cover of a Simon + Garfunkel nugget in Cache Creek, British Columbia, I think, thrift store, mid-90s sometime. An entire album of electrified countrified takes on some of that hippie sh** the kids were so into at the time (1971). And delivered with all due sincerity, because don’t fool yourself. Nobody knows lonely like a one man island, or a Country + Western superstar.” (Philip Random)

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587. mushroom

Can‘s Tago Mago is the greatest album in the history of humankind. At least it was (for me) for a good chunk of 1986-87. Sounds that were so far ahead of their time even then (a decade and a half after its release) that normal folks are still trying to figure it all out. Hint: it’s applied magick, four Germans cranking out the avant-grooves and textures, Japanese singer cruising cosmically in and out of it all as only 1971 could allow. The Axis powers of WW2 reunited (sort of, Can never containing any Italians), but this time taking the right drugs, only concerned with conquering all of the world’s freak scenes. Which is as it should be.” (Philip Random)

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