34 TANGERINE DREAM — Alpha Centauri
In some ways the most psychedelic of the early Tangerine Dream albums, Alpha Centauri is as powerful as a neural freight train and as spacey as a black hole. This is powerful cosmic music. It starts with a brief preamble, “Sunrise in the third system” before launching into the spooky ambience of “Fly and collision of Comas Sola”… organ, VCS3 synth screeching, drums dance a thunderhead counterpoint with flute until, eventually, only the drums and some underlying synth washes remain, the percussion receding until it ends, suddenly, as if the power lead was kicked out of the wall. Highlights: “Alpha Centauri”, which occupies side two. [Released March 1971]
33 BADFINGER — Straight Up
The first signing to The Beatles’ Apple label (when they were still called The Iveys), Badfinger had their first hit with McCartney’s song “Come and get it” in 1969. Straight Up, their fourth studio album, included the hits “Day after Day” and power pop classic “Baby Blue”. Their music has, not surprisingly, a Beatlesque flavour. There’s a wonderful quote (source: Wiki) by Janis Schacht of Circus: “For a while, most people watched George Harrison watching Badfinger, then everyone noticed how good Badfinger were – good enough to draw attention away from a former Beatle.” This is a very strong pop-rock album that deserves a wider audience. Highlights: “Day after Day”; “The Name of the Game”; “Baby Blue”. [Released December 1971, US. February 1972, UK]
32 PAUL & LINDA McCARTNEY — Ram
As everybody knows, this is the only album credited to Paul and Linda McCartney. As everybody knows, it came out during the chaotic legal and emotional period following the break up of Paul’s former band. As everybody knows, the silly yet catchy single “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” topped the US chart, giving Macca his first solo #1 in that jurisdiction. As most people are aware, critics certainly did not fall instantly in love with Paul’s LP, NME describing it as “an excursion into almost unrelieved tedium”. Time has been kinder. These days it is seen as a high water mark in McCartney’s solo career. Still, it is no accident that Ram is placed where it is on this list. Highlights: “Back seat of my car”; “Too many people”. [Released May 1971]
31 BLACK SABBATH — Master of Reality
Brief but intense, Birmingham’s heaviest sons really nailed it with their third album. As it was covered not long ago in these pages, I’ll simply add a link to that post.
[Released July 1971]
30 GIL SCOTT-HERON — Pieces Of A Man
Although Gil Scott-Heron had created ripples with his debut poetry collection Small Talk At 125th And Lenox, it was a re-recording of that album’s key track—”The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”—that caused the young songwriter/wordsmith to get a whole lot of attention. That Pieces Of Man sustains and rewards such attention is a testament to the brilliant combination of words and under-stated jazz arrangements throughout the album (Ron Carter on bass and Hubert Laws, flute, alongside collaborator Brian Jackson on piano). The inspired and inspiring homage “Lady Day and John Coltrane” is spirit-lifting, while the title track is a well-told painting of human struggle. This is an album that still needs to be heard. Highlights: “Home is where the hatred is”; “The revolution will not be televised”. [Released mid-1971]
All of these are recommended.
Any personal favourites?