A few years back, following David Bowie’s death, I did a deep dive into his catalog. It was my first real exposure to a lot of his work, which I mostly knew through the hits.
1973’s Aladdin Sane emerged as a favorite, alongside Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust, the two albums that preceded it. It’s funny how so many of the albums I’m writing about were part of successful streaks. The early 70s were a gold mine for new music from some of the greatest pop artists of all time.
In 1973, Al Green released Call Me, the album widely considered his finest. Featuring soul classics such as the title track, ‘Here I Am (Come and Take Me), and ‘You Ought To Be With Me,’ as well as covers of country hits ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’ and ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,’ this is am excellent introduction to the range and silky smooth sound of the Reverend.
Soul isn’t my genre, so I haven’t given Call Me as many listens as it deserves, but every time I do it’s a transporting experience.
This week I’m looking at five more albums from 1973 that I know and like, but not as much as I know and like the five I covered last week. Next week I’ll get to albums I don’t know well at all.
Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions was his 19th album, released when he was just 23 years old. It came right in the middle of a five-year streak among the greatest of all time: Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness’ First Finale, and Songs in the Key of Life. I’m not a Stevie Wonder fanatic — I appreciate more than love his music — but the genius of that run of albums is undeniable.
The last 1973 album among my personal favorites is Pink Floyd’s classic The Dark Side of the Moon. This is, of course, one of the most celebrated and beloved albums of all time.
In terms of sales, Dark Side is fourth on the all-time worldwide list, having sold more than 45 million copies while spending over 900 weeks on Billboard’s Top 200. It’s really pretty amazing that an album full of sound effects and instrumentals, and so few traditional songs, is nestled among Michael Jackson’s Thriller, The Eagles’ Greatest Hits, the Saturday Night Live soundtrack and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours as one of the most popular albums of all time.
Yesterday I covered the seventh studio album by Elton John, one of the great piano rockers of our time. Today I’ll focus on the sophomore album by another of them, Billy Joel.
Piano Man was inspired by John’s Tumbleweed Connection, in its use of Western themes and country-fueled character sketches (including a literal ‘Ballad of Billy the Kid’). The album’s classic title track offers up a bar full of memorable characters, enough to stock a decent NetFlix series.
Here’s another 1973 album I recently revisited on the blog, after the film Rocketman sent me down an Elton John rabbit hole.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road ended a run of six excellent and highly successful albums, all released before John was out of his mid-20s. Few artists have pulled off a streak like that (next week, I’ll write about another who pulled it off).
I’ve written about another of my favorite 1973 albums a number of times already. In fact, this is the fifth track from Bruce Springsteen’s The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle I’ve posted as a Song of the Day. And the album has only seven songs.
In one of those posts, I described this as “an album bursting with musicality, theatricality and an infectious creative energy. Springsteen spins his street-smart character sketches with staccato bursts of bruiser poetry. The lyrics could pass for stream-of-conscious if they weren’t so meticulously shaped. Musically, the newly formed E-Street band tore through multiple genres, but mostly settled into a jazz-rock groove that makes every track feel like the world’s coolest lawn concert.”