Best Albums of the 70's

Tags: 
  1. 9.5/10
  2. Escalator Over The Hill-Carla Bley (1971)
  3. Rock Bottom-Robert Wyatt (1974)
  4. Faust-Faust (1971)

  5. 9/10
  6. The Modern Dance-Pere Ubu (1978)
  7. Saxophone Improvisations, Series F-Anthony Braxton (1972)
  8. Improvisie-Paul Bley (1971)
  9. Lorca-Tim Buckley (1970)
  10. Desertshore-Nico (1970)
  11. Irrlicht-Klaus Schulze (1972)
  12. Y-The Pop Group (1979)
  13. Starsailor-Tim Buckley (1970)
  14. Streams-Sam Rivers (1973)
  15. Afternoon of a Georgia Faun-Marion Brown (1970)
  16. Neu!-Neu! (1972)
  17. Suicide-Suicide (1977)
  18. Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh-Magma (1973)
  19. Crystals-Sam Rivers (1974)
  20. Third-Soft Machine (1970)

  21. 8.5/10
  22. Future Days-Can (1973)
  23. Half Machine Lip Moves-Chrome (1979)
  24. Fare Forward Voyagers-John Fahey (1973)
  25. Third Ear Band-Third Ear Band (1970)
  26. Not Available-Residents (1974)
  27. Radio Gnome Invisible Part 1: Flying Teapot-Gong (1973)

  28. 8/10
  29. Yeti-Amon Duul II (1970)
  30. Meet the Residents-Residents (1974)
  31. Radio Ethiopia-Patti Smith (1976)
  32. The Survivor's Suite-Keith Jarrett (1976)
  33. Hosianna Mantra-Popol Vuh (1973)
  34. Pavilion of Dreams-Harold Budd (1978)
  35. Silent Tongues-Cecil Taylor (1974)
  36. Tago Mago-Can (1971)
  37. In Den Garten Pharoahs-Popol Vuh (1972)
  38. Marquee Moon-Television (1977)
  39. Cyborg-Klaus Schulze (1973)
  40. New Picnic Time-Pere Ubu (1979)
  41. Exile On Main Street-The Rolling Stones (1972)
  42. Weasels Ripped My Flesh-Frank Zappa (1970)
  43. Tubular Bells-Mike Oldfield (1973)
  44. Vernal Equinox-Jon Hassell (1977)
  45. Tanz Der Lemminge-Amon Duul II (1971)
  46. Close to the Edge-Yes (1972)
  47. Roxy Music-Roxy Music (1972)
  48. Les Stances A Sophie-Art Ensemble of Chicago (1970)
  49. The End of an Ear-Robert Wyatt (1970)
  50. Blue-Joni Mitchell (1971)
  51. Music For Airports-Brian Eno (1978)
  52. Pawn Hearts-Van Der Graaf Generator (1971)
  53. Faust IV-Faust (1973)
Author Comments: 

ALBUM RATINGS SCALE
0.0-4.5 NOT WORTH LISTENING TO AT ALL
5.0 MEDIOCRE
6.0 GOOD
7.0 VERY GOOD
7.5 AMAZING
8.0 EXTRAORDINARY
8.5 ASTONISHING
9.0 MASTERPIECE
9.5 SUPREME MASTERPIECE
10 ULTIMATE MASTERPIECE

Albums are rated and ranked based on how emotionally powerful I find them. The order I've given has been thoroughly considered and is very exact. The rankings here have evolved significantly over time and my current rankings have been concluded only after many, many listens of each and every album.

For me, the primary factors that make an album emotionally powerful are:

1. Emotional Conviction
2. Expansion of Ingenuity
3. Continuity

AMAZING: An amazing album is a very powerful emotional experience.

MASTERPIECE: A masterpiece is one of the most emotionally powerful albums in history. It is so overwhelming and singular an experience that it towers over virtually all albums ever made.

SUPREME MASTERPIECE: A supreme masterpiece is one of the most emotionally powerful works in the history of art. It is so miraculous and singular an experience that it towers over virtually all masterpieces in any and all forms and times.

ULTIMATE MASTERPIECE: To my knowledge an ultimate masterpiece has never been achieved. It would be a work of almost unfathomable emotional significance.

Some very nice choices, as expected. When you say "albums," are you excluding classical music works (which is fine, since the album format belongs more to jazz and rock)? Otherwise, I'd suggest adding some Part, Gorecki, Shostsakovich, Reich, etc.
Also, how about Suicide's debut?

Yes, just jazz and rock. Later on I may add classical, but not now.

While Suicide's debut is certainly groundbreaking and I understand its merits, I don't particularly enjoy the album that much. It doesn't rank very high to me as a musical work. I own it, and it was once on my "greatest albums" until I realized I wasn't really that interested in listening to it and I was just putting it there for different reasons. I was rating it ahead of my actual enjoyment of it. This doesn't mean you won't see it on here at some point in the future (could be tomorrow for all I know), it just means that right now I don't find myself listening to it.

The Clash- The Clash and London Calling being absent make me scratch my head.

I think it's a very good album. I rate it a 7.3/10. Since punk is rarely very profound, in order to make a list of mine it usually has to be awe-inspiring through sheer emotional force (as opposed to beauty). An example of a punk album that accomplishes this to the correct order of magnitude would be Repeater by Fugazi. Another is Zen Arcade by Husker Du or Double Nickels On The Dime by Minutemen. Even greater examples could be Lullaby Land by Vampire Rodents or Modern Dance by Pere Ubu. Neither is strictly a punk album (both are so much more), but each accomplish a certain beauty, profundity, depth and compositional ingenuity that far surpasses London Calling. I think compared to most albums posing as the best ever made (Pet Sounds, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, etc.), London Calling holds up quite well. But, standing next to the albums I have here, I think it pales in comparison to greater degree as one goes higher on the list. Y by Pop Group is likely the greatest punk album of all time. It is way more emotional, ingenius and profound than anything by The Clash. Pop Group's compositional brilliance is astounding, and may be superior to all other rock bands (not counting single artists such as Robert Wyatt) aside from Velvet Underground, Faust and Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band. These are, of course, a matter of personal opinion that you don't have to agree with at all, but I thought you deserved a detailed explanation for me having left out a great album such as London Calling.

I just realized you mentioned their debut as well. I would rate their debut a little higher than London Calling but again, for similar reasons, it falls short in my opinion.

Have you heard Carla Bley's Escalator Over the Hill? I think it'd be a good fit for this list.

I am nearly certain it will too, but I haven't heard it yet. I am once again purchasing jazz and rock albums after a bit of a hiatus, so I will have it soon enough, and you will most likely see it on the list then.

How surprising, Rock Bottom is #1 :)

By the way, I know I shouldn't be saying this about an album that I like, but how is The Modern Dance constantly being paraded as one of the best albums of all time? I wouldn't even put it on my top 5 of New Wave. The first two tracks rule, and there's a lot of catchy stuff strewn throughout, but I think it's quirkiness is its main selling point. What did they do that was so revolutionary? Okay, they were the only new wave band to throw on a completely avant-garde composition on their album, but I wouldn't call it revolutionary. I don't think there's much artistic merit in reciting poetry and breaking glass on record. If I write an album with 10 minutes of me farting into a microphone is it a work of genius? (after all, nobody else has done it before)

Well, it's nice to see a lot of Krautrock on your list anyway. I wonder where you would rank Can's Ege Bamyasi, Neu! '75, and Faust So Far and IV? I think all of these eclipse Faust's or Neu's debut.

Speaking of which, have you ever picked up a Cluster album?

How surprising, Rock Bottom is #1 :)

Yes, it is among the most profound artistic experiences on record.

By the way, I know I shouldn't be saying this about an album that I like, but how is The Modern Dance constantly being paraded as one of the best albums of all time? I wouldn't even put it on my top 5 of New Wave. The first two tracks rule, and there's a lot of catchy stuff strewn throughout, but I think it's quirkiness is its main selling point. What did they do that was so revolutionary? Okay, they were the only new wave band to throw on a completely avant-garde composition on their album, but I wouldn't call it revolutionary.

Modern Dance is a force of nature, one of the most emotionally blistering and profound albums of all time. Thomas' voice literally hurls and contorts itself at the listener, lost in a state of manic delirium. The backing band is a slew of instrumental assaults, relentless rhythms, sudden tacked on recordings, nuclear waste, cracking steel, billowing smoke. The album, nor any album, is not great by merely exhibiting avant-garde tendencies, but by doing these in such a way that is new, exciting, emotional and powerful. To me there is no question that Modern Dance does this.

I don't think there's much artistic merit in reciting poetry and breaking glass on record. If I write an album with 10 minutes of me farting into a microphone is it a work of genius? (after all, nobody else has done it before)

Of course not. That would be a work of idiocy. Farting into a microphone would not be emotionally powerful. Breaking glass while singing in a creeping, suspenseful delirium as drums and cracks and noises come crashing down in climaxes of manic, barbaric savagery is--at least to me.

Well, it's nice to see a lot of Krautrock on your list anyway. I wonder where you would rank Can's Ege Bamyasi, Neu! '75, and Faust So Far and IV? I think all of these eclipse Faust's or Neu's debut.

I don't even think it's close. I personally wouldn't even consider those albums in the same league. Faust's debut is a supreme masterpiece, one of the very greatest works of music in the history of mankind. None of those hold a candle to it. While not as incredible, Neu! is an all time masterpiece and probably the closest of the albums you've listed above would be Faust IV. They rank higher because they're more emotional and profound.

Speaking of which, have you ever picked up a Cluster album?

Nope. Would you recommend them? If so, what makes them worth checking out?

I don't know, many of the riffs and ideas on Modern Dance didn't strike me as too original or groundbreaking. If breaking glass and nonsense lyrics are your idea of good music, I guess I can't really argue.

But I do disagree that those other Krautrock albums pale in comparison to Faust's debut. I think So Far was a big improvement. It was experimental, and emotional ("No Harm" in particular, featuring my favorite scream in rock music, even better than the Who's famous one), yet at the same time listenable and meaningful. Or maybe it's just too accessible? I think Ege Bamyasi was a groundbreaker too, it featured intense jamming that could also be resonant ("One More Night"), and I always thought the beat to "Vitamin C" (which was somewhat copped from their own "Halleuwah" but whatever) sounded like a precursor to hip hop. Just a fantastic album. Faust and Neu! on the other hadn were too avant-garde for my tastes. I think a good chunk of the ideas in Faust were just made up on the spot. It's a unique concept for an album to be sure, but I feel the style is a dead end.

to each his own

The 70's Best albums not having Dark Side of the Moon as one of the best is almost as myopic as not including the Beatles among best Albums of the 60's. Yes, I know Dark Side is the popular choice, but there's a reason for that. It remains a wholly brilliant piece of music, from beginning to end without losing anything to time, and remains one of the most original things ever made. For me it's the greatest album post Beatles.

Well, you have an opinion that many would agree with. DSOTM is commonly voted amongst the greatest ever. For me, it's about a 7.25/10.

I actually find Piper at the Gates of Dawn to be significantly more emotional and original than DSOTM.

I find Dark Side very boring. It's amazing how my tastes have changed so much, I used to try and work out why people thought Faust & Irrlicht etc were great, and love stuff with great melodies (things like timbre, atonality, fusion of genres etc never occourred to me) but now I just hate stuff like that and love albums that just go that step further.

By the way (to AfterHours): Just got Escalator Over The Hill, and it was instantaneous love, it's amazing, it reminded me of a cross between Soft Machine, Charles Mingus & Joanna Newsom (while having its own unique style). My favourite song off it so far is probably Hotel Overture.

Yea, Escalator is something else, isn't it? One of my all time favorites (obviously). Funny thing is that Bley said it was a response to Sgt Pepper, which is something like saying Jimi Hendrix was a response to John Denver.

Obviously that's a little bit of an overreaction (but not as much as some would probably argue to their deathbed). Compare...just for fun:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHC9bxQkLCQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkGS263lGsQ

In other words, to me Escalator obliterates virtually all music ever made (not just the Beatles).

LOL Nice comparison :).

That video reminded me just how good Hendrix really is, his playing is insane.

I can't imagine why she'd make it a response to Sgt Pepper, regardless of quality they sound completely different.

In other words, to me Escalator obliterates virtually all music ever made (not just the Beatles).

Absolutely.

I also got Hosianna Mantra by Popol Vuh today, which I really liked, but I don't really understand how it's rock.

I can't imagine why she'd make it a response to Sgt Pepper, regardless of quality they sound completely different.

I'm pretty sure it was, to a large degree, a joke on her part, as anyone can see (regardless of which album they feel is better) that a vastly higher degree of talent and energy was poured into Escalator than was Sgt Pepper. I'm sure Bley, who is an immensely skilled composer and musician, had her own views on how highly regarded the Beatles compositional skills were and set out to blow Sgt Pepper out of the water. Whether she succeeded or not is simply a matter of opinion.

I also got Hosianna Mantra by Popol Vuh today, which I really liked, but I don't really understand how it's rock.

Well, it isn't really. Through some long string of family trees it manages to be an offshoot of rock. But I won't even try to explain. It's a combiation of many things.

Hi AfterHours, thought I'd pop in and see what you thought of Another Green World by Brian Eno? I thought it was excellent and gave it an 8.0. I have a feeling like you've already heard this and was wondering how high you'd rank it? I really enjoyed Music for Airports. Keep up the great work my friend, your lists have helped change the way I listen to music!

Thanks! I'd give it a 7.25 on last listen which was about a year or 2 ago. I love Music For Airports. It gets better and better each time I return to it.

hey afterhours
have you listened to in den garten pharaos by popol vuh?

no but I'm sure I'd love it. Hosianna Mantra is miraculous

yup i'm listening to it at the moment and its one of the greatest ambient/spiritual stuff i've listened to

Heard Robert Wyatt's debut, The End of An Ear? I think it's pretty good (7.5/8.0)

Yea, it's amazing. It was supposed to be on here as an 8. It's been on my 8-8.5 list for a year or 2. Thanks for mentioning that, I'll add it!

Also, WOW at Starsailor, it could even be better than Lorca but I've placed it just 0.5 below at this point. Favourite song? Mine is either Song to the Siren or Down by the Borderline.

I recently rediscovered Starsailor and yeah, it's pretty amazing. Down by the Borderline is my favorite, personally.

Agreed all around on Starsailor. One of the greatest albums ever. If I'm remembering the track listing right I think my favorites were the title track and Song to the Siren.

Good, but nowhere near as good as the album version.

I'm going to be listening to Starsailor for the first time soon. I'm pretty excited about it.

You're lucky. Amazing album, including one of the greatest vocal performances ever (whole album).

Yeah, man, it was great. His voice is just...well, unique is the first word that comes to mind. Great work.

If you haven't already heard it, I strongly suggest picking up the Pere Ubu record "Terminal Tower". It is a collection of early singles (1975-1980) that easily rivals "The Modern Dance", but it is not an actual album so it is often overlooked. Regardless of its compilation status it is definitely worth a listen.

I'm sure it is. Any collection of Pere Ubu would be amazing. Certainly one of history's greatest bands.

Where would you rate Syd Barrett's solo albums? The second one, in particular, is one of my favorite albums of all time. According to iTunes, I've listened something like 30 times to "Baby Lemonade" and "Gigolo Aunt."

Barret's self titled would be about 7 or 7.5 for me, but I haven't listened to it that much. Great album though.

In the sad town cold iron hands clamp the party of clowns downtown
Rain falls in gray far away
Pleeeeeease pleeeeeease
Baby Lemonande

I love Barrett. So whimsy and surreal, yet emotional. His songs are quite fun to play on guitar.

"rain falls in gray far away" always struck me as the mind of a painter, kinda like some Beefheart lyrics. In terms of listens, "Wavin' My Arms in the Air" takes the cake: 45 and counting! It's the perfect carefree song (albeit with self-awareness of his mental condition toward the end, that only augments the emotional factor)

Pavilion of Dreams is great!

I've listened to Not Available in its entirety over 500 times, Meet The Residents a little over 600. This is a pic of my iTunes folder for the 2005 CD version of NA: http://img713.imageshack.us/img713/802/residents.png (I have about another 100 listens for the 2011 extended version.)

Now, I've said this before, and I'll say it again: Meet The Residents, in its original mono mix, is a masterpiece. It deserves no less acclaim than Not Available, and in my opinion, is even more rewarding in the intensity of musical emotion.

Scaruffi was, more than anyone or anything else, my go-to guy for music suggestions. I was a fan and champion of Captain Beefheart, Pere Ubu, and The Residents long before I had heard of him, and I first stumbled upon his website (specifically, his best rock album list) through a Google search of information on musical links between the three masters of avant-garde rock. When I saw that albums by all of them were in his top 30, I knew I found a critic I could trust on finding music to my tastes.

Anyways, at that time (a couple years ago), I had never heard Not Available. When I saw that was given a 9/10 compared to my then-current-favorite Eskimo's 8/10, I knew I had to hear it. I bought a copy off eBay, listened to it, and it clicked on the first listen. There was no denying that it was a masterpiece. Trusting Scaruffi's judgement, I decided to focus on only listening to albums that he had rated a 9 or higher, and left Meet The Residents, having scored a measly 8/10, to wait. It would not be until I went through every 8.5/10 and higher album that I would revisit The Residents.

Six months and dozens of albums later, I gave it a listen. My initial impression? 8/10. It was interesting, but not as "epic" as Not Available. However, as I always do with albums I enjoy, I gave it a few more listens, to make sure I had squeezed every bit of emotion out of it I could. Needless to say, those few listens turned into the 600+ times I have heard it to this day. In fact, as I am typing this, "N-ER-GEE (Crisis Blues)" is playing in the background. When I took the snapshot of my Not Available plays, it was also playing, but between then and now the album, on repeat, has come full circle.

During the same period of time I racked up all those plays, I did the same for Not Available, wondering if there was something I missed that would give me insight as to why Scaruffi rated that a complete point higher than Meet The Residents. Alas, here is an approximation of my ratings as the play counts increased:

# of plays: MTR - NA
1: 8/10 - 9/10
100: 8.5/10 - 9/10
250: 9/10 - 9/10
500: 9.2/10 - 9/10

There has been only one other album that displayed such a trend for me after repeated listenings, and that would be Trout Mask Replica.

Anyways, I wrote this up as a response to not seeing MTR on your list. I encourage you to give it a few listens if you have never heard it, and if you have, give it a few more. I'm sure you will enjoy the experience!

Wow, great, detailed, thoughtful post. Thanks for your insight. It is very odd to me that I've never heard Meet The Residents (or Eskimo) in their entirety yet, especially considering how incredible Not Available is. Right about the time I was going to delve into the 8's more thoroughly, I believe I had just discovered some films that gave me hope cinema had 9+ works to match that of rock or jazz, and ever since this has been a very time consuming (but extremely rewarding) adventure. I promise you I will get to MTR very soon - as a matter of fact, I was just thinking about it a few days ago as I was mulling over a set of films to revisit in my (fruitless?) search to find the "film equivalent to Not Available"... I would be extremely thrilled if it ended up being a 9, and still so if it were an 8.

As a note: what I've heard of Meet The Residents some time ago was quite remarkable.