281. love hurts

“No, Nazareth didn’t f***ing write Love Hurts. It was Boudleaux Bryant, a guy who most definitely knew a thing or two about love and how it simultaneously sets you free as the wind and carves raw chunks out of your soul. My essential version has to be Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris’s take — quiet, heartfelt, grievous and true. Unfortunately, Mr. Parsons would be dead before the world ever heard it.” (Philip Random)

GramParsons+Emmylou-1974

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289. Cyprus Avenue

“I saw Van Morrison once. 1986, I think. Underwhelmed would describe my response. Not that I was horribly surprised. I had been warned. Van was notorious for less than stellar shows. If he wasn’t feeling the gods own light in his soul, he wasn’t going to fake it. But on a good night, well, words don’t suffice. You’ve got to just shut up and listen to the likes of what happens here in Cyprus Avenue, recorded in 1973 sometime, final song of the evening apparently. Too late to stop now.” (Philip Random)

VanMorrison-1973-tooLATE

339. Mr. Brown

Mr. Brown is definitely the most garage sounding track I’ve heard from Bob Marley, which is not a surprise given Lee Scratch Perry‘s presence at the mixing board, conjuring his unique and multihued magic. Found by me on Rasta Revolution, a 1974 compilation of various pre-fame Marley and the Wailers odds and ends, which means it probably got recorded prior to 1972. Not that Marley saw much fame anywhere beyond Jamaica until after 1974 anyway. And then I didn’t stumble onto it until at least 1994. But it still felt fresh, if a little ripe.” (Philip Random)

BobMarley-RastaRevolution

 

370-69-68. Boy Boy – Laredo Tornado – El Dorado

“When I was kid, maybe fifteen, it was the story, the big concept that appealed most, perfect for my still growing brain and imagination. Which made Electric Light Orchestra‘s fourth album, Eldorado essential. The one concerning the Dreamer, the Unwoken Fool. He starts out high on a hill, catches a glimpse of the ocean’s daughter, goes after her, gets caught up in a war, a tornado in the desert, Sherwood Forest, a lost kingdom, the south seas, some painted ladies, and so on … finally ending up atop another hill, still a dreamer, unwoken, still a fool. For months, I’d listen to Eldorado beginning to end at least five days out of seven, until one day, I guess I finally got into Yes, or maybe ski season finally started. Or just girls and alcohol. Whatever happened, Eldorado got put aside for more than a decade.

Until one night in 1987 sometime, high no doubt, tired of punk rock and hardcore and whatever, I’m picking through the dregs of my old vinyl (the un-essential stuff not filed on a shelf, just piled in various boxes) and the cover catches my eye. It still does. A still from an actual film frame from Wizard of Oz – Dorothy’s contentious ruby slippers, the wicked witch of wherever trying to zap them off with her pale green hands. I put the album on and I couldn’t help but smile. It was just so big and fun. Sheer melodrama, all those strings and choral overloads, and related surprises. Like in Boy Blue where everything’s revving up to an obvious sort of b-movie climax, but it doesn’t go there. Not yet. Just sidesteps into plucked cellos (I think), and then it goes for the obvious climax. And then in Laredo Tornado, it’s the raw power of electric guitar with everything else majestic and soaring all around it, like a genuine tornado, grand and intense.

And then jump ahead to the climax of the whole thing, the title track, Eldorado, I swear Jeff Lynne‘s channelling Tom Jones here, strong as a coal miner, even if the lyrics are just passing space filler for the most part (I recall Jeff Lynne saying he wrote them all in a weekend). Nah, it’s the music that matters, the big and beautiful journey it takes, electric and full of light.” (Philip Random)

 

382. the man in the jar

“I saw the Sensation Alex Harvey Band in 1975, warming up Jethro Tull, and yeah, it was sensational. They had props and costume changes, and there seemed to be a story being told. Maybe concerning a Man In a Jar, a track which I only got around to hearing (on record) maybe ten years later, bored, picking through a pile of old albums a friend was getting rid of. It was an instant keeper, and not just for the one song, the whole album being a sort of sleazy back alley opera about sleazy back alley stuff, and yet redeemed by an impossible dream, which are always the best ones. There were even bagpipes before it was all done.” (Philip Random)

SAHB-Penthouse

401. every step of the way

“Because there had to be some Santana on this list. Might as well go with the biggest, wildest, livest thing I’ve got. Because the force of nature known as Carlos Santana always sounded best to me live, from stealing the show at Woodstock (for a while anyway) to conquering Japan in 1974 with maybe the hottest band on the planet. I only wish I’d actually known about Every Step of the Way at the time. Would’ve allowed me to destroy all comers in all those stupid yet essential who’s-the-fastest-guitarist arguments we seemed to need to have in Grade Ten.” (Philip Random)

Santana-1974-live

428. this town ain’t big enough for the both of us

“How dumb was America in 1974 (and Canada for that matter)? This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us, one of the fiercest, funniest, pop smart eruptions to ever get pressed to vinyl, didn’t make the singles charts, didn’t even crack the Top 100. In fact, no Sparks single ever charted in the entire decade of 1970s, their best. Thank God for friends and friend’s big sisters being somehow cool enough to find out about them anyway, and share the f***ing glory.” (Philip Random)

Sparks-1974

462. seven deadly Finns

In which Brian Eno kicks out some almost punk intensity dada circa 1974, at least two years before such aggressive tendencies would even begin to stick, culturally speaking. Though the surrealism of the lyrics suggests other more complex forces at work than mere punk anyway. Also, the yodeling.

BrianEno-1974-live

469. time waits for no one

Time Waits for No One being arguably the Rolling Stones‘ most beautiful song, epic and tragic and the kind of nugget that got at least a little radio play back in the day. Years later, I discovered it was mostly Mick Taylor‘s accomplishment. He didn’t write it, but he did everything else, fought for it in the studio, played the guitar solo. And then, as the story goes, he was done. He quit the band, did a good job of becoming completely obscure. Apparently, heroin was involved.” (Philip Random)

RollingStones-MickTaylor