Friday 11 April 2014

Top 5 Albums of 1974

Nothing remarkable springs to my mind about 1974, though this might have been the year I accidentally cycled into an old lady who was walking down our road. I got a serious thump for that from my Dad, who didn't accept my claim that it wasn't my fault as I'd been transfixed by the pattern of the pavement whooshing by as I cycled head down as fast as I could. Dad went and checked she was OK but I've always felt very guilty about it, realising afterwards that my over the shoulder shouted apology, as I hurriedly cycled off in the opposite direction, didn't quite cut it.

Wikipedia tells me that this was the year Swedish pop group ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo. I don't really remember a time when ABBA weren't a fixture in Mum & Dad's record collection so I guess this was before my interest in music took hold. 1974 was also the year the Watergate scandal finally caused U.S. President Richard Nixon to resign and, of more direct import to me, the year Ceefax started by the BBC.

1. Genesis "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" - The fourth year in a row that Genesis have featured, which I guess shows that I really quite like them. It took me longer to get to grips with The Lamb than any of their other albums, it's a double with a fairly epic scope, but that might be why I still hold it in such high esteem. There's a background story that, if I'm honest, I never fully got to grips with but that aside this is a fine collection of songs. It was the perfect conclusion to the Gabriel era, and though the band made many more albums, I don't think they ever bettered this.

2. Richard & Linda Thompson "I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight" - Fairport Convention's late sixites output is fantastic but they didn't make an album I really loved in the seventies. This is Richard Thompson's second solo LP (though the first credited as Richard & Linda) and it has become a bit of a favourite for me since picking up a copy last year. Linda has a great voice that brings out the warmth in Richard's compositions. Meanwhile the music is sublime and Thompson's guitar really shines.

3. Hawkwind "Hall of the Mountain Grill" - For me (and I think Lemmy) this was Hawkwind at their peak. Robert Calvert is absent, and his madcap input could only be missed, but this line-up includes Dave Brock, Lemmy & Nik Turner who were all on very fine form. The album opens with The Psychedelic Warlords (Disappear in Smoke) a corker of a tune that was also released as a single. Lost Johnny (written by Lemmy with Mick Farren of The Deviants) is a real rocker and was subsequently rerecorded by Lemmy's post-Hawks band, Motorhead. Side two starts and ends with a live track, both recorded at the Edmonton Sundown in January 1974, which might not suggest the most consistent of albums but actually work really well.

4. Camel "Mirage" - OK, a small confession. I'm not entirely sure this album is better than the entry at number five BUT I really wanted to squeeze Camel into my top 50 and, not wanting to give away any spoilers, already had a Status Quo albums making the cut. I listened to a lot of Camel in the build up to this, and struggled to nail down my favourite. The Snow Goose, Moonmadness and Breathless came close but Mirage edged them all out by a smidge. Mirage couldn't be more Prog with the punchy opener of Freefall and two epic tracks, the Lord Of the Rings influenced Nimrodel/The Procession/The White Rider and the 12 minute, multi-part genius of Lady Fantasy.

5. Status Quo "Quo" - So, not only have I slightly falsified it's position in the cannon of 1974 albums I also feel a little guilty that this doesn't score higher on my list of Quo albums. It's Quo's rockiest effort, thanks largely to the increased input of original bassist Alan Lancaster. The recent Frantic Four reunion shows have revived my love of Quo and also reminded me how brilliant an album this is. Perhaps if I ever revisit this top 5 or the whole 70s top 50 it will get it's due reward. In the meantime just know this is a cracking rock album that you really ought to own.

Near misses; John Cale "Fear", Tom Waits "The Heart Of Saturday Night", King Crimson "Red" and Jethro Tull "Warchild"

Albums to try; Budgie "In For The Kill", Eno "Here Come The Warm Jets" & "Taking Tiger Mountain", King Crimson "Red", Neil Young "On The Beach", Rory Gallagher "Irish Tour 1974", David Bowie "Diamond Dogs" and The Residents "Meet The Residents".


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