Nick Drake is like one of those classical painters who died penniless before their work became widely known. The three albums he recorded before his suicide at age 26 sold fewer than 10,000 copies combined. But after his death, mostly in the last two decades, all three have reached Gold status.
1971’s Bryter Later was his second album and many critics consider it his best. I’m familiar with only his final album, the wonderful Pink Moon, but a single listen to this one had me swooning.
Of all the albums I sampled to prepare for my look at the music of 1971, none hooked me as quickly or completely as T. Rex’s Electric Warrior.
My knowledge of T. Rex pretty much began and ended with today’s SOTD, ‘Get it On (Bang a Gong),’ the band’s only U.S. hit. It’s a great song, but one of many on an album that maintains that infectious glam rock groove throughout.
When it comes to 1971 albums released by ex-Beatles, you have John Lennon’s Imagine on one end of the spectrum and Paul McCartney’s Ram on the other.
Written and recorded by Paul and wife Linda, Ram is a bit of a mess, sounding more like a poor Beatles imitation than a coherent solo album by one of the world’s great songwriters. Listening to this record and Imagine side by side, it would be easy to conclude that John was the driving force behind all those classic Lennon/McCartney songs.
Aqualung was the fourth, and most successful, album by British prog rock band Jethro Tull. A loose concept album about faith, religion and the downtrodden, featuring plenty of lead flute, it’s one of the unlikeliest hit rock albums ever.
I remember listening to this album fairly often during high school, when 70s bands were the musical bread and butter for me and my fellow classmates.
My top ten 1971 albums represent some of the best music of the whole era, but that year was loaded enough to produce even more albums worth mentioning.
This week, I’ll feature tracks from five celebrated 1971 albums I don’t know very well. Some I’ve heard before, some I’m hearing for the very first time. They might not have cracked my own top ten list, but they all help round out the musical portrait of 1971.