Can We Still Be Friends? Revisiting the Most Acclaimed Pop Albums of the 1970s

[Blogger’s note: In this series, I’m taking the Wayback Machine to a bygone musical era that began with the public break-up of the Beatles and ended with the first Top 40 singles by Prince. My source is Rolling Stone’s best 100 albums of the 1970s, culled from the magazine’s 500 all-time greats by an obliging Reddit user. I’ll focus on selected albums from the list and, if I may be so bold, award Test of Time Points based on how well they’ve held up over the decades, from 1 (stale as old toast) to 10 (still poppin’ fresh) in each case. Enjoy, and rock on!]

#93: Parliament – Mothership Connection (1975)

cof

Growing up in America in the mid-1970s, back in the pre-Spotify Stone Age, my go-to sources for new music were the three Rs: radio, record stores, and the roller rink. (Wait, is that four Rs?) Radio gave me my fix of the top pop hits of the day – “Philadelphia Freedom,” “Jive Talkin’,” etc. And as the record stores in my vicinity seemed to be staffed solely by long-haired potheads, I likely experienced my first taste of Pink Floyd and Yes in those hippie havens. But the roller rink is where I got schooled in funk and soul. Savvy ‘70s rink DJs knew that if they wanted to get us kids away from the snack bar and out onto the slick floor for an “All Skate,” they just had to drop the needle on “Getaway” by Earth, Wind & Fire, or “Love Rollercoaster” by the Ohio Players, or Parliament’s crossover smash “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker).” I couldn’t get enough of these rousing rink faves then and I’ve held them close to my heart ever since, even though I haven’t been on eight wheels in decades. Continue reading

Death by Streaming? My (Possibly Final*) List of the 10 Best Albums of the Year

9. Superorganism – Superorganism

cofIn the rather grumpy intro to this blog series, I laid the blame for the current dire state of the music industry squarely at the overpriced sneakers of those cursed millennials. But I must grudgingly concede that not everything the Snapchat generation does is bad. Take my #9 pick for the best albums of 2018. Superorganism, a multi-national collective of whippersnappers that features a shockingly young lead vocalist in 18-year-old Orono Noguchi, has a backstory that couldn’t be more “new school.” Continue reading

Death by Streaming? My (Possibly Final) List of the 10 Best Albums of the Year

After two consecutive annual lists that have been mired in mellow indie rock, I’m happy to report that my picks for the best albums of 2018 are a bit more diverse – soul, folk, rafter-shaking arena rock, and even dubstep are represented, as are venerable masters and young guns. This year’s winners are also, as in the past, testaments to the art form. With one or two arguable exceptions, they hang together as cohesive works and are meant to be listened to in their entirety, from beginning to end. And not just these, but other worthy runners-up by Beach House, Fantastic Negrito, the 1975, and Christine and the Queens. 2018 really was an embarrassment of riches musically.

Continue reading

Hasty Takes: Snap Judgments on New Record Releases

[Blogger’s note: This is an occasional series of offhand, highly suspect reviews of current albums. I reserve the right to change my mind. In fact, count on that happening in 3, 2, 1…]

Good Thing – Leon Bridges (Columbia, 10 tracks)

cofI loved the first album by this Texas-born soul revivalist. 2015’s Coming Home was one of the most confident debuts I’d heard in many a moon and it landed at number six on my influential* 10-best list for that year. Harkening back to ‘60s soul pioneers Lee Dorsey and Sam Cooke, the record hummed with vitality. For his sophomore outing, Bridges has broadened his sound to include ‘70s-era slow jams and even a bit of ‘90s new jack swing. The lead-off track “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand” sounds like a classic Stylistics ballad and “Shy” recalls ‘90s R&B bad boys Jodeci at their let’s-go-to-bed sultriest. Bridges is credible as a Casanova; his honeyed voice effortlessly soars to falsetto heights and plunges to pillow-talk lows.  But overall, the energy level here is waaaaay down. Part of the problem is the production, which layers on the reverb and the synthetic percussion and echo-y handclaps, diluting Bridges’ vocal delivery.  There are enough memorable tracks, such as the jazzy-cool “Bad Bad News,” that Good Thing narrowly escapes the curse of the sophomore slump. But the exuberance of that thrilling debut is sorely missed.

*Not at all influential.