2013 sees the 40th anniversary of the release of many great albums. 1973 was all about glam rock, hard rock and concept albums, a vintage year for music in many different styles. We have taken a fresh look at our 10 favourite albums of that year.
It is very difficult to narrow down a list like this to just ten albums, so before we run down our top 10 albums of 1973, we would like to mention a few that did not make the cut but are still great albums, and well worth checking out.
The best of the rest
- Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On
Marvin Gaye’s timeless soundtrack about, and for, getting it on.
- Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells
Mike Oldfield’s masterpiece, owned by millions of hairy students in it’s time, performed live at the London Olympics, launched the Virgin brand.
- Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy
The premier hard rock band move on from their blues roots on their fifth album.
- Hawkwind – Space Ritual
Spaced-out throbbing grooves from the psychedelic warlords.
- Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin – Love Devotion Surrender
John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme taken into an entirely new orbit.
Raw Power, the third album from Iggy & The Stooges, was never more than an underground hit, but has influenced rock music through successive generations.
Produced by David Bowie, The Stooge’s sound on Raw Power was cleaner than on the band’s first two albums, but they were still operating in a world far away from the Glam-Rock wave that dominated the time.
The Stooges line-up had changed but the intention had not. Wild, disturbing rock & roll played with a looseness and distortion that somehow worked, with Iggy Pop’s manic, twisted weirdness dominating.
The sound and feel of The Stooges on Raw Power became the template for every subsequent Punk Rock, Garage and Grunge band.
Innervisions is widely considered to be Stevie Wonder’s finest work and one of the great albums in popular music history. Wonder wrote the lyrics, composed the music, played almost all of the instruments, and produced the album.
Four of the nine tracks were hit singles: Higher Ground, Living For The City, He’s Misstra Know-It-All and Don’t You Worry ’bout A Thing, but the album as a whole is a complete piece of music.
The music is a perfect blend of soul, jazz, blues and rock, and, with the new ARP synthesiser featured throughout the album, was groundbreaking at the time. The lyrics address a range of social issues; drugs, spirituality, politics and urban life in the 1970’s.
With it’s great songs and grooves, Innervisions is an album that deserves to be in every music collection.
The first Wailers album to become known internationally, Catch A Fire was also the last to be recorded with the original line up. After recording the album, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingstone were to be replaced on vocals by the female harmonies of the I-Threes.
The Wailers sound on Catch A Fire is crisp and tight, very cleanly produced. The songs are excellent – Concrete Jungle, Stir It Up and Kinky Reggae are now iconic. Bob Marley’s voice is soulful and intense, it blends perfectly with the balancing voices of Tosh and Livingstone, and the slick reggae rhythms.
The album was the first reggae album to crossover to a wider audience, and helped to establish reggae internationally. The significance of Catch A Fire was huge.
For Your Pleasure was the second album from Roxy Music, and established them as one of the most popular acts to emerge from the glam rock era. From the opening track, Do The Strand, which became one of the band’s most popular anthem’s, to the closing title track, the album has great songs, elaborate production and some very danceable grooves.
The stand out tracks are the rocking Editions Of You, In Every Dream Home A Heartache – a love song to a blow-up doll, and The Bogus Man – a nine minute groove with an infectious bassline, layered with Bryan Ferry’s alien crooning, Brian Eno widdling on his Moog, Andy McKay blowing spaced-out textures on his oboe and sax and Phil Manzanera playing licks on his experimentally effected guitar.
With For Your Pleasure, Roxy Music created great music that has lasted well over four decades, which is more than can be said for their fashion sense.
Head Hunters was a major breakthrough in the jazz world and marked the beginning of the genre of jazz-funk.
Mixing funk rhythms with jazz form and extended soloing, it appealed to a wide audience, the album has a relaxed, funky groove that introduced jazz to R&B fans and the reverse as well.
Head Hunters has been a big influence on, and has been sampled by, many subsequent R&B and Hip-Hop acts.
The opening track, Watermelon Man, is a rework of an old Herbie Hancock tune, and has been covered by many artists. Chameleon and Vein Melter contain some very familiar elements. Play loud!
Welcome, Santana’s fifth album, blends latin, jazz, blues and rock grooves, creating a record that is inspiring, soulful, full of intricate rhythms, and, of course, the unmistakable tone of Carlos Santana’s expressive guitar.
Welcome explores jazz-fusion, continuing the path taken by the previous album, Caravanserai, but with more experimentation across different musical styles. The line-up had expanded, replacing keyboard player Greg Rolie with Tom Coster, second guitarist Neal Schon left without replacement, ending the twin guitar line-up that the band had experimented with on their last two albums. Singer Leon Thomas added a new soulful vibe. Guest artists – guitarist John McLaughlin, John Coltrane’s widow, Alice, as a pianist on the album’s opening track, Brazilian Jazz singer Flora Purim on additional vocals, added an extra dimension to the Santana sound.
Welcome was ground breaking at the time, and is one of the more enduring Santana albums. This is an album that has hip-shaking rhythms, superb musicianship, inspiring tunes and a lot of soul. With Welcome, Carlos Santana produced an album of free-flowing jazz based rock music at it’s finest.
Lou Reed followed up the success of his 1972 album Transformer by coming up with Berlin, an album that was in many ways wildly different, but holding many similarities. Both Berlin and Transformer explored themes focusing on despair and decadence, but where Transformer had a sense of fun, the music on Berlin is dark and reflective.
The songs on Berlin tell the story of a failed relationship, with themes of drug use, depression, domestic violence and suicide. The songs generally have heavy orchestral arrangements, the mood is bleak, but the music is strangely beautiful.
Several tracks are re-works of Velvet Underground songs – Men of Good Fortune was a Velvet Underground original, as was Sad Song, although the original version had milder lyrics. Oh Jim is based on the Velvet Underground song, Oh, Gin. Caroline Says (part II) is a rewrite of Stephanie Says.
Lou Reed’s singing is more like speech than song, but his laconic, cynical style is perfect for these songs, with their dark lyrics and jaded view of life. Berlin is an album of dark, melancholic and totally absorbing music. Highly recommended.
One of Frank Zappa’s more commercially successful and accessible albums, Over-nite Sensation has great songs, superb musicianship, wonderful production, and Tina Turner on backing vocals.
The album is a highly entertaining mixture of tight, jazzy, rock grooves, Frank’s thundering guitar solos and deeply deep vocals. The songs have plenty of imaginative musical jokes and lyrics that are guaranteed to make you smile.
Each song is a great story, after observations on TV programming, 70’s hippie girls and illicit sex, the album closes with Montana, an epic tale of a man moving to the mid-west to make his fortune growing dental floss.
If you have never experienced the genius of Frank Zappa, Over-nite Sensation is the perfect introduction.
Aladdin Sane followed up the huge success of David Bowie’s previous album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars, with a rockier and more experimental sound. Bowie described Aladdin Sane as “Ziggy goes to America”. The songs were observations of life whilst touring the USA, with tales of drugs, sex and glamour.
The band are great on this album, Mick Ronson’s sleazy guitar riffs and Mike Garson’s elaborate piano sweeps perfectly suit Aladdin Sane’s avant-garde mixture of hard rock, futuristic doo-wop and cocktail lounge jazz.
With Aladdin Sane, David Bowie produced an album that perfectly sums up the decadent mid 70’s vibe. It stands out as one of his best albums.
Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon is one of the most widely known albums ever produced. It was an instant success when released in March 1973, it stayed in the charts for the next 15 years. With sales of more than 50 million, it is one of the biggest selling albums of all time.
The Dark Side Of The Moon is a concept album, the lyrics exploring the madness of everyday life, greed, conflict and insanity. Musically, the style is Pink Floyd’s unique blend of rock, jazz fusion and psychedelia, perfectly played and produced.
The music is exceptional – the compostion, performance and production still sound as good today as the album did in 1973, when, as a progressive-rock loving 15 year old, I bought my first copy. Between the heartbeat launching Speak To Me and fading out the final track, Eclipse, the album is a journey through a sophisticated soundscape.
There are many musical highlights on The Dark Side Of The Moon. David Gilmour’s sublime guitar solo on Time and Clare Torry’s gospel vocal on The Great Gig In The Sky are, for me, two of the most spine-tingling perfect musical moments ever recorded, but the album should be listened to as intended – as a whole piece of music.
Do yourself a favour, sit down and listen to The Dark Side Of The Moon, it will be the best 43 minutes you have had for a long time.