FEATURE: Starting the Decade in Style: Part II/V: The Finest Albums of 1970




Starting the Decade in Style


PHOTO CREDIT: @jacegrandinetti  

Part II/V: The Finest Albums of 1970


THE reason I am putting together this feature…


 PHOTO CREDIT: @danedeaner/Unsplash

is to shine a light on the albums that started a decade with a huge deceleration. I feel it is hard to define what a decade is about and how it evolves but the first and last years are crucial – I have already looked at decade-ending albums. I am bringing to life this feature that celebrates albums that opened a decade with a mighty amount of quality and gave inspiration to those who followed. In this second part, I am focusing on 1970 and the best ten records from the year. The 1970s was a wonderful and inspiration time and some of its best records were released right at the start! Have a look at these ten 1970-released albums and look at the brilliance that greeted the start....


 PHOTO CREDIT: @manuelsardo/Unsplash

OF the 1970s.



George Harrison All Things Must Pass


Release Date: 27th November, 1970

Label: Apple


The language of physical media still haunts our vocabulary. Streaming services debut playlists that get dubbed “mixtapes”; we pull music from the available air and pipe them through our phones like water from a tap, and we still call use quaint words like “LP” and “EP” to describe them. For that legacy, we have artifacts like All Things Must Pass to thank. Today, albums like this are a bit like old ruins: They are important to keep around, even if they mostly remind us of what has changed. This dichotomy is the kind of thing that Harrison, who exited the earth in 2001, would probably have appreciated. All Things Must Pass is a monument to impermanence that has never once, even for a moment, left us” – Pitchfork  

Standout Track: My Sweet Lord


Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin III


Release Date: 5th October, 1970

Label: Atlantic


And even the rockers aren't as straightforward as before: the galloping "Immigrant Song" is powered by Robert Plant's banshee wail, "Celebration Day" turns blues-rock inside out with a warped slide guitar riff, and "Out on the Tiles" lumbers along with a tricky, multi-part riff. Nevertheless, the heart of the album lies on the second side, when the band delve deeply into English folk. "Gallows Pole" updates a traditional tune with a menacing flair, and "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" is an infectious acoustic romp, while "That's the Way" and "Tangerine" are shimmering songs with graceful country flourishes. The band hasn't left the blues behind, but the twisted bottleneck blues of "Hats off to (Roy) Harper" actually outstrips the epic "Since I've Been Loving You," which is the only time Zeppelin sound a bit set in their ways” – AllMusic  

Standout Track: Since I’ve Been Loving You

Derek and the Dominos Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs


Release Date: 9th November, 1970

Labels: Polydor/Acto


Every song within this album tells a love story, but none are as enthralling or sincere as "Layla". This is Eric Clapton's passionate confession to Patti Boyd, the wife of his best friend, George Harrison. The song expresses all of the unrequited love Eric Clapton had silently kept locked inside himself. "Layla" is a very unique piece of music because of its rather contrasting movements. It begins as an eruptive, guitar-driven song, but as it progresses it transcends into a delicate piano ballad. Eric Clapton's performance in this song is among one of his best. The guitar solos are fiery and aggressive, expressing all of the intensity and frustration that seems to posses our emotions when we're in love. The latter half of the song is just as mesmerizing, providing a sensitive yet affectionate sound induced by the coalescence of Duane Allman's soothing slide guitar and Bobby Whitlock's sentimental piano arrangements. Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs is often recognized as one of the definitive releases in classic rock, and it is certainly one of Eric Clapton's finest efforts. The bluesy sound that coats the music of the album will be sure to prove itself as a captivating listen to the very end” – Sputnik Music  

Standout Track: Layla                                      

The Beatles Let It Be


Release Date: 8th May, 1970 (U.K.); 18th May, 1970 (U.S.)

Label: Apple


McCartney in particular offers several gems: the gospelish "Let It Be," which has some of his best lyrics; "Get Back," one of his hardest rockers; and the melodic "The Long and Winding Road," ruined by Spector's heavy-handed overdubs (the superior string-less, choir-less version was finally released on Anthology Vol. 3). The folky "Two of Us," with John and Paul harmonizing together, was also a highlight. Most of the rest of the material, by contrast, was going through the motions to some degree, although there are some good moments of straight hard rock in "I've Got a Feeling" and "Dig a Pony." As flawed and bumpy as it is, it's an album well worth having, as when the Beatles were in top form here, they were as good as ever” – Entertainment Weekly

Standout Track: Let It Be

Joni Mitchell Ladies of the Canyon


Release Date: March 1970 

Label: Reprise


Joni Mitchell writes some of the finest tunes around and matches their flowing hesitancy with her enduring epiphanies and modern parables. Her clever inner rhymes and stylized satire have been around for years—recall Tom Rush's "Circle Game" and Judy Collins' "Both Sides Now"? Ably matched here by "For Free," "Conversation" and the already CSNYed "Woodstock," not to mention the elusive "The Priest" or the incisive "Ladies of the Canyon" and seven other enigmatic, poetic word-journeys that move from taxis to windows to whiskey bars to boots of leather and racing cars. Plus the fact that Joni has now mastered the piano to the point where she employs it rather than guitar on nearly half the cuts—she plays it shrilly with a lot of echo and lingering notes, giving certain songs even more dimension and wideness. Other innovations this time out are a mild use of horns and even vocal choruses on some cuts. The choruses don't work for me—I think they ruin her long-awaited version of "Circle Game"—but the point is debatable. The use of horns is excellent—in particular the minor riff at the close of the stunning. "For Free” – Rolling Stone

Standout Track: Woodstock

Simon and Garfunkel Bridge Over Troubled Water


Release Date: 26th January, 1970

Label: Elektra


At the other extreme are sprightly tunes that hearken back to the duo's Fifties roots: "Cecelia," whose echoed hand claps sound like an early hip-hop drum loop, and "Keep the Customer Satisfied," the antic tale of a flimflam man staying ahead of the law. During the Bridge sessions, Garfunkel was often working on the film Catch-22 in Mexico; Simon gently notes his absence in "The Only Living Boy in New York." The notion of life chapters closing also permeates the folksy bossa nova "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright." It's ironic that "Bridge Over Troubled Water," a gospel-style song of reassurance and solidarity that Simon wrote as a vehicle for Garfunkel's golden tenor, would be one of their final collaborations. But they exited on an exhilarating note” – Rolling Stone  

Standout Track: The Boxer

Miles Davis Bitches Brew


Release Date: 30th March, 1970

Label: Columbia


The first thing that Bitches Brew made clear is that Miles was keenly interested in expanding the idea of what his music could be, and was starting to stretch it way out. The title track runs 26 minutes, which then and now is at the extreme end of what a side of vinyl on an LP can hold; the opening "Pharaoh's Dance" also breaks 20 minutes. And these pieces weren't lengthy compositions or single jams, but were assembled by Miles and producer Teo Macero through editing-- unrelated tracks could become one piece through the miracle of the razor blade and magnetic tape. For an improvisatory art form that was founded on the idea collective expression in the present moment, the idea of stitching together pieces into a new whole was radical enough on its own. But Miles was changing his approach in several ways simultaneously as the 1960s came to a close” – Pitchfork  

Standout Track: Bitches Brew


John Lennon John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band


Release Date: 11th December, 1970

Label: Apple


It was a revolutionary record -- never before had a record been so explicitly introspective, and very few records made absolutely no concession to the audience's expectations, daring the listeners to meet all the artist's demands. Which isn't to say that the record is unlistenable. Lennon's songs range from tough rock & rollers to piano-based ballads and spare folk songs, and his melodies remain strong and memorable, which actually intensifies the pain and rage of the songs. Not much about Plastic Ono Band is hidden. Lennon presents everything on the surface, and the song titles -- "Mother," "I Found Out," "Working Class Hero," "Isolation," "God," "My Mummy's Dead" -- illustrate what each song is about, and chart his loss of faith in his parents, country, friends, fans, and idols. It's an unflinching document of bare-bones despair and pain, but for all its nihilism, it is ultimately life-affirming; it is unique not only in Lennon's catalog, but in all of popular music. Few albums are ever as harrowing, difficult, and rewarding as John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band”– AllMusic   

Standout Track: Working Class Hero


The Stooges Fun House


Release Date: 7th July, 1970

Label: Elektra


And Fun House is where Iggy Pop's mad genius first reached its full flower; what was a sneer on the band's debut had grown into the roar of a caged animal desperate for release, and his rants were far more passionate and compelling than what he had served up before. The Stooges may have had more "hits," but Fun House has stronger songs, including the garage raver to end all garage ravers in "Loose," the primal scream of "1970," and the apocalyptic anarchy of "L.A. Blues." Fun Houseis the ideal document of the Stooges at their raw, sweaty, howling peak” – AllMusic    

Standout Track: Down on the Street


James Taylor Sweet Baby James

Release Date: February 1970

Label: Warner Bros.


Taylor only shifts from this stance a couple of times. “Oh Baby, Don’t You Loose Your Lip On Me” is less than two minutes long; bluesy yet random, it sounds like studio hi-jinks used to fill out an album. But the other exception, “Steam Roller,” is a different story. Here Taylor is earthy and lowdown with definitely crude electric guitar behind him as he moans “I’m gonna inject your soul with some sweet rock and roll and shoot you full of rhythm and blues.” Then a miasmic, brass riff to make sure things stay tough, followed by a particularly timely and potent couple of verses: “I’m a napalm bomb for you baby/stone guaranteed to blow your mind/ and if I can’t have your love for my own sweet child/there won’t be nothing left behind.” A double-entendre tour-de-force pulled off effortlessly.

This is a hard album to argue with; it does a good job of proving that his first effort was no fluke. This one gets off the ground just as nicely, as Taylor seems to have found the ideal musical vehicle to say what he has to say” – Rolling Stone

Standout Track: Fire and Rain