Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen released his fourth studio album, New Skin for the Old Ceremony, in 1974. It was a continuation of the spare, elegiac style of his first three releases, though he did introduce new instruments to the mix.
I’m familiar with Cohen more through his reputation than his music. The only full album of his I’ve owned is 1992’s The Future, a gloriously dark and apocalyptic record. Of course I know ‘Hallelujah,’ his most beloved (and at this point, overexposed) song, and a smattering of other singles (‘Suzanne,’ ‘Everybody Knows’).
Elton John is yet another legendary artist to release an album in 1974. That release was Caribou, which went double platinum and reached #1 on the albums chart (a feat matched by only four other John records).
It’s also, by all accounts, not very good.
Recorded in just nine days to free John up for a world tour, Caribou is a redheaded stepchild among his run of classic albums in the early to mid 70s.
Another legendary act to release an album in 1974, The Rolling Stones dropped their 12th studio album, It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll. While this album has a relatively low profile in their discography, apart from its title song, it did mark a turning point for the band.
For starters, it was the first Stones album produced by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. After working with producer Jimmy Miller on a stretch of albums widely considered their best, the duo felt they were ready to take the reins. They would produce or co-produce every subsequent Stones release.
1974 was a great year for releases by musical legends, as my previous six Decades posts have shown. Imagine getting albums from Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Randy Newman and David Bowie all in the same year. Now add Stevie Wonder to that mix, and know I still have eight more posts to go. What a time that must have been for music fans!
Wonder’s 1974 release was Fulfillingness’ First Finale, his 17th studio album. This one won the Best Album Grammy the following year, one of three times Wonder won that award (he won all three in a four-year span, becoming the only artist in history to win Best Album for three consecutive releases).
Diving back into my Decades series, and specifically the year 1974, brings me to Radio City, the sophomore album by American power pop band Big Star.
This album was one of only three released by the pioneering act, who recorded between 1972 and 1978 before breaking up. Their work was hugely influential on the alternative movement, with R.E.M. and The Replacements among their biggest fans.