39. Würm

“Second of two in a row from Yes’s early 1970s glory years, though Würm is technically only part three of 1971’s Starship Trooper, which I figure most people probably have heard in one way or another. But probably not the longer, bigger, vaster 1972 live version, which truly takes off at its standalone climax – the Würm in question here. The album in question is the six sided monster known as Yessongs which was my proper introduction to Yes, the first album of theirs I actually owned. Talk about starting big. And even to this day, I have no problem arguing that at least four of those sides are a waste of nobody’s time, proving beyond any doubt that even as this crowd sometimes chased their high and mighty conceptual concerns perhaps a little (or a lot) too far, they always did it from a foundation of solid ROCK. With Würm’s deceptively simple, ever expanding power exhibit A in that regard.” (Philip Random)

40. close to the edge

“So here we are, decades after the fact and it’s still difficult to discuss the music of the band known as Yes without somehow disparaging it as overwrought, pretentious, guilty of trying too hard. To which I say, f*** that (unless you’re talking about their later stuff – the 1980s and beyond, some of which I’m pretty sure is on perpetual repeat in hell’s jukebox). Because the good stuff, the grand stuff, the vast and virtuous and ambitious stuff of their early-mid 1970s phase, we need that stuff, particularly Close To The Edge (the song and the album, but particularly the side long song). Because it’s true, I think, the edge isn’t a place, the edge doesn’t exist. You’ve either gone too far and you’re falling the long fall into oblivion, or you’ve found that sweet spot just short of it where everything opens up. All those BIG unifying passions and ideas that have been floating in and around you since before puberty even – the idea of indivisibility. Jehovah and Allah and Jesus and Muhammad and Krishna and every known and unknown god or whatever, all one big happy. Bigger than any cathedral, that’s for sure. Because every church, every creed, every ideology gets it wrong the instant it claims to have gotten it all right. Because even if you have vast chunks of the truth, you can’t have it all. It’s the nature of it, beyond mortal comprehension. So the very claim of TRUTH divides us, sets loose corrosive elements, brings the f***ing roof down.

Which is what’s going on in the middle of Close To The Edge, I think, the part where the church organ kicks in. That’s the capital T Truth failing. That’s the cathedrals all collapsing, and the mosques, the temples, the synagogues. That’s the outside crashing in, the inside gushing out. Now that you’re saved, now that you’re whole. Seasons will pass you by. You get up. You get down.  It’s all so clear once you stop trying to make sense of it. Just smoke a doob, put on the headphones, stretch out and let it all be … for eighteen and a half minutes anyway. Maybe the best damned band on the planet. Ever. Or certainly close to it. Hell even Led Zeppelin had to be looking over their shoulders by 1972. Because Yes simply had more going on. Hell, they had Rick Wakeman and his mountainous stacks of keyboards, conjuring choirs and orchestras and all manner of big and mysterious colours and textures and everything really, or damned close to it anyway. As close as anyone got at the time, and maybe ever since. Because has there ever been another time like it? We were definitely close to something.” (Philip Random)

47. I'm gonna booglarize you, baby

“In which the good Captain (Beefheart, that is) sublimely demonstrates what white men ought to be doing with the ole Mississippi Delta Blues – not just imitating them but working them, taking them somewhere deep, strange, more complicated, and yeah, probably inappropriate, because I don’t think booglarize just means to compel someone to get out on the dance floor. Though I did have the exquisite experience of watching a couple dance to it once, all wild hair and hippie beads. I was still just a kid really, maybe fourteen, hanging out at my friend Carl’s place during one his big brother’s parties. One of those legendary wild and wasted mid-70s affairs, before disco hit and confused everything in terms of what constituted suitable dance music. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s first time I ever heard the Captain’s music. Paid attention to it anyway. But how could I not have noticed something like I’m Gonna Booglarize You, working at least three separate yet finely intertwined grooves with such finesse that a man couldn’t help but get to growling. Or a boy. Anybody really.”  (Philip Random)

(photo: Gijsbert Hanekroot)

49. ladytron

The First Roxy Music Album is still mostly ahead of its time even now decades after the fact (and the next four or five are pretty amazing as well). But it’s the first one that lays it all out – the glamour, the romance, the noise, the pop, the rock, The Future. And the single track that delivers it all in less than four and a half minutes, the one Roxy artifact I’d grab if the world was burning down (and it probably is), is Ladytron. Which (it occurs to me as I jot this down), I don’t even know what it’s about. It’s about a lady, of course, and beautiful at that, though I guess she may be a robot. But maybe Bryan Ferry‘s kiss can make her human. Or something like that. Equal parts fairy tale and science fiction and pure fun modernity, circa 1972.” (Philip Random)

51. thick as a brick

“Speaking of songs that aren’t afraid to be long, Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick is by far the longest on this list (clocking in at 43 plus minutes) and it shouldn’t be one second shorter, even if it’s ultimately not really about anything — an in-joke within an in-joke, which is to say, the alleged epic poetry of a pre-teen genius (one Gerald Bostock) taking on everything he sees as hypocritical, absurd, foolish about the world, society, God, his small town … and never really coming to any conclusion short of the wiser you are, the less thick you are, which is a problem when it comes to empathy, because how does a wise man begin to grasp what it is to be … well, about as dumb as a brick? Or something like that. According to Tull main man, Ian Anderson, it was intended as a lark, a piss take on the whole concept album craze of the time. Except once he started writing, things rather took on a life of their own … and the result ended up conquering the world (for a few weeks anyway in late spring, 1972). #1 in Australia, Canada, Denmark, USA. Top five in the UK, Norway, Netherlands, Italy, Germany. Apparently, it was even all the rage in Vietnam.

Barely teenage me ate it up, of course, the whole mad and epic stew of folk and rock and classical and pop tangents, the ebb and flow of themes and counter-themes, coming, going, kicking up, burning down. And yes, it really is all one big song, because try as have over the years (and trust me, I’ve tried hard), I’ve never found any piece of it that works better on its own than it does as part of the epic whole. And that includes the cover which is essentially an entire small town newspaper, twelve full-size pages of scandals, non-rabbits, art crimes, comics, even an advance review of the album itself, which probably says it best. One doubts at times the validity of what appears to be an expanding theme throughout the two continuous sides of this record but the result is at worst entertaining and at least aesthetically palatable.” (Philip Random)

70. the world is a ghetto

“Because it’s true, what the title says, the world is a ghetto, and never more so, it seems, than 1972-73, when I was finally getting serious about music, exploring the FM radio waves (which were still infinitely cool then, still dominated by DJs who loved music playing the stuff they loved). And that meant the extra long album version of The World Is A Ghetto got a lot of play, the version that really took you therewalkin down the street, smoggy-eyed, looking at the sky, starry-eyed, searchin’ for the place, weary-eyed, the fires of the 1960s riots and insurrections still smouldering, the smoke reaching even the whitebread suburbs of the Pacific Northwest where we didn’t really have so-called Black people. Yet we had their music and thus some small piece of their truth, I guess. Which, in the case of the band known as War meant all manner of genres, influences, ethnicities, impressions. They even had a white guy from Denmark playing some very haunted harmonica. Because this music wasn’t of or about any one place. It really was the whole world.” (Philip Random)

76. Ohio

“The album was released in 1972 under Neil Young’s moniker (soundtrack to a movie almost nobody saw, and probably for good reason), but this Crosby Stills Nash + Young live recording of Ohio dates to June 1970, barely a month after the events in question – the murder by National Guard marksmen of four students on the campus of Kent State University, Ohio. So what you’re hearing is a band that’s very much in the line of fire, the smoke hasn’t even cleared, they’re playing for their lives, ferociously. Because Richard Nixon has given the executive order. F*** the long hairs and their protests, send in the tin soldiers and shoot ’em all down.” (Philip Random)

81. holly holy

“We’ve already heard from Neil Diamond‘s Hot August Night on this list, arguably the greatest live album of all time. Or the best ending to one anyway, the fourth and final side, which kicks off with Holly Holy. Some have called it a Christmas song, which is odd, because Mr. Diamond is Jewish – what it is, is a gospel-inspired, wild and profound reach for (and grasp of) glory — a beautiful noise indeed. Because it’s not ironic, man, this stuff makes me live, man, let the seed be full with tomorrow, it doesn’t get more hopeful than that, man, and also the part about the lame man not just walking but flying – and then the song f***ing takes you there, beyond gravity. Because only music can. I’m paraphrasing my friend Steven here from better part of a decade ago, and I agreed with him, even if I needed about five drinks in me to bring myself to it. Or more to the point, back to it, because he wasn’t saying anything I hadn’t said myself (or tried to anyway) decades previous, twelve or thirteen, the first time Holly Holy sent me over the rainbow. The Hot August Night version being the version, hot band and small orchestra, and singer and song and audience all coalescing in one grand and miraculous f***ing slam.” (Philip Random)

85. child in time

Deep Purple‘s Child In Time is one of the first times I ever really connected with a lyric, the one about the blind man shooting at the world. I guess thirteen year old me had enough of a grasp on randomness and karma and the overall crumbling state of the post-60s zeitgeist to have no problem buying in. Because there were blind men out there, figurative and otherwise. They did have guns and they were just letting rip. Of course, Ian Gillan’s vocals helped in this regard, always one more octave to be nailed with all due terror and glory, this being the guy who played the title role in the original Jesus Christ Superstar. So heaven really was the limit.

“And then there’s the band itself, jamming through the extended middle section like the world was ending (and it probably was), particularly the live Made In Japan version, Made In Japan being what one might call the definitive 1970s double live album. It was certainly required listening in every big brothers’ beater of a car, always on 8-Track tape, soundtrack for bombing recklessly around suburbia as if there was actually a reason to. And maybe there was. I do remember one rather psychedelically enhanced conversation with old friend Motron wherein it was decided that maybe the entire reason for our particular suburbia to have existed was to give us young folk (boys mostly) something to tear around in at absurd speed, thus justifying Deep Purple at the peak of their attainments. If that makes sense. And even if it doesn’t, what do you expect from men who spent their childhoods ducking blind men with guns? Figuratively and otherwise.” (Philip Random)