FEATURE: The Mid-Life Crisis? Ten Classic Albums Turning Forty-Five in 2019




The Mid-Life Crisis?


IN THIS PHOTO: Queen’s Freddie Mercury in 1974/PHOTO CREDIT: Mick Rock 

Ten Classic Albums Turning Forty-Five in 2019


MAYBE 1974 does not have as many giant albums...


 IN THIS PHOTO: LaBelle photoed in New York in 1974/PHOTO CREDIT: Bob Gruen

as other years but there are definite gems that turn forty-five this year! It is a great year for music and there are some records from that time that are still making an impression today. I have looked at the list of 1974-released albums and collated ten that are worthy of closer inspection. Do make sure you have a look and investigate them. I think those anniversaries that end in a ‘0’ or ‘5’ warrant attention and we need to keep the albums alive that have endured. Take a good listen to these ten albums that turn forty-five this year and, back when they were released, either made a big impression and succeeded or have grown in stature since their release. I am sure you will discover some albums in the assembled that will...


 IN THIS PHOTO: Stevie Wonder pictured in Detroit, MI in 1974/PHOTO CREDIT: Bob Gruen

PEAK your interest.



Jackson BrowneLate for the Sky


Release Date: 13th September, 1974

Label: Asylum

Producers: Jackson Browne/Al Schmitt


Another difference between "Pet Sounds" and "Late For The Sky" is - while "Pet Sounds" is made (officially) by the group but it is estimated that it's a work of Brian Wilson and guest stars, "Late For The Sky" is officially Jackson Browne album but many key ingredients were added by his backing band, most importantly David Lindley. So maybe it would be fair to say that "Late For The Sky" is Jackson Browne Band album. David Lindley's guitar parts are piercing through the air, check out intros of "Late For The Sky" and "Farther On", as well as backing vocals adding more colors and depth to already great picture. This is one of records you hear the air trembling between instruments, making silence audible and meaningful. In terms of completeness and perfection this is album at very top. Although all of the stuff are pure masterpiece, there are three songs which touch me every time I hear them: "Late For The Sky", "For A Dancer" and "Before The Deluge". 

Browne was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. In his induction speech, Bruce Springsteen noted that while the Eagles got to the Hall first, "You (Browne) wrote the songs they wished they had written". Amen to that, all the evidence is on "Late For The Sky
" – Sputnikmusic

Standout Cut: Late for the Sky

Stream/Download: Farther On/The Road and the Sky/Walking Slow

Roxy MusicCountry Life


Release Date: 15th November, 1974

Labels: Island/Polydor (U.K.)

Producers: Chris Thomas/John Punter/Roxy Music


Continuing with the stylistic developments of StrandedCountry Life finds Roxy Music at the peak of their powers, alternating between majestic, unsettling art rock and glamorous, elegant pop/rock. At their best, Roxy combine these two extremes, like on the exhilarating opener "The Thrill of It All," but Country Life benefits considerably from the ebb and flow of the group's two extremes, since it showcases their deft instrumental execution and their textured, enthralling songwriting. And, in many ways, Country Lifeoffers the greatest and most consistent set of Roxy Music songs, illustrating their startling depth. From the sleek rock of "All I Want Is You" and "Prairie Rose" to the elegant, string-laced pop of "A Really Good Time," Country Life is filled with thrilling songs, and Roxy Music rarely sounded as invigorating as they do here" – AllMusic

Standout Cut: Out of the Blue

Stream/Download: The Thrill of It All/Bitter Sweet/Casanova

QueenSheer Heart Attack


Release Date: 8th November, 1974

Labels: EMI/Elektra

Producers: Roy Thomas Baker/Roxy Music


One of the great strengths of the album is how all four members find their voices as songwriters, penning hooks that are big, bold, and insistent and crafting them in songs that work as cohesive entities instead of flourishes of ideas. This is evident not just in "Killer Queen" -- the first, best flourishing of Freddie Mercury's vaudevillian camp -- but also on the pummeling "Stone Cold Crazy," a frenzied piece of jagged metal that's all the more exciting because it has a real melodic hook. Those hooks are threaded throughout the record, on both the ballads and the other rockers, but it isn't just that this is poppier, it's that they're able to execute their drama with flair and style. There are still references to mystical worlds ("Lily of the Valley," "In the Lap of Gods") but the fantasy does not overwhelm as it did on the first two records; the theatricality is now wielded on everyday affairs, which ironically makes them sound larger than life. And this sense of scale, combined with the heavy guitars, pop hooks, and theatrical style, marks the true unveiling of Queen, making Sheer Heart Attack as the moment where they truly came into their own" – AllMusic

Standout Cut: Killer Queen

Stream/Download: Brighton Rock/Lily of the Valley/In the Lap of the Gods

Randy NewmanGood Old Boys


Release Date: 10th September, 1974

Label: Reprise

Producers: Lenny Waronker/Russ Titelman


Perhaps, in another universe, he might have remained more at the center of the pop songwriting world, whether or not he was singing on the records (his voice had always been a hard one to sell). But his compulsions forced him elsewhere. “I like to know what makes people tick, what their mothers and father were,” Newman told journalist Paul Zollo. “Why they talk the way they do, using this sort of word or that sort of word. What it all means.” Randy Newman, in that search for meaning, became the king of the unreliable narrator in American popular music, and one of rock’s greatest lyricists full-stop. But part of earning the distinction involved venturing into dark corners, and inhabiting them for a while; in his Good Old Boys review for Rolling Stone, Stephen Davis would use this logic to diagnose Newman as deeply “troubled.” It was a dirty job, and certainly, no one had to do it. It was usually thankless and almost always alienating. But it also yielded one of the best singer-songwriter albums of the 1970s, which remains as shocking, pristine, and regrettably relevant as the day it was released" – Pitchfork  

Standout Cut: Birmingham

Stream/Download: Rednecks/Guilty/Naked Man

Steely DanPretzel Logic


Release Date: 20th February, 1974

Labels: ABC/Probe

Producer: Gary Katz


Dense with harmonics, countermelodies, and bop phrasing, Pretzel Logic is vibrant with unpredictable musical juxtapositions and snide, but very funny, wordplay. Listen to how the album's hit single, "Rikki Don't Lose That Number," opens with a syncopated piano line that evolves into a graceful pop melody, or how the title track winds from a blues to a jazzy chorus -- Becker and Fagen's craft has become seamless while remaining idiosyncratic and thrillingly accessible. Since the songs are now paramount, it makes sense that Pretzel Logic is less of a band-oriented album than Countdown to Ecstasy, yet it is the richest album in their catalog, one where the backhanded Dylan tribute "Barrytown" can sit comfortably next to the gorgeous "Any Major Dude Will Tell You." Steely Dan made more accomplished albums than Pretzel Logic, but they never made a better one" – AllMusic   

Standout Cut: Rikki Don’t Lose That Number

Stream/Download: Night by Night/Any Major Dude Will Tell You/Pretzel Logic

Stevie WonderFulfillingness’ First Finale


Release Date: 22nd July, 1974

Label: Tamla

Producers: Stevie Wonder/Robert Margouleff/Malcolm Cecil


As before, Fulfillingness' First Finale is mostly the work of a single man; Stevie invited over just a bare few musicians, and most of those were background vocalists (though of the finest caliber: Minnie Riperton, Paul Anka, Deniece Williams, and the Jackson 5). Also as before, the appearances are perfectly chosen; "Too Shy to Say" can only benefit from the acoustic bass of Motown institution James Jamerson and the heavenly steel guitar of Sneaky Pete Kleinow, while the Jackson 5 provide some righteous amens to Stevie's preaching on "You Haven't Done Nothin'." It's also very refreshing to hear more songs devoted to the many and varied stages of romance, among them "It Ain't No Use," "Too Shy to Say," "Please Don't Go." The only element lacking here, in comparison to the rest of his string of brilliant early-'70s records, is a clear focus; Fulfillingness' First Finale is more a collection of excellent songs than an excellent album" – AllMusic    

Standout Cut: You Haven’t Done Nothin’

Stream/Download: Too Shy to Say/It Ain’t No Use/Please Don’t Go

Eric Clapton461 Ocean Boulevard


Release Date: July, 1974

Label: RSO

Producer: Tom Dowd


The Clapton original “Let It Grow” may be the true highlight of the album, featuring a mixture of acoustic and electric guitars under more very somber vocals, perhaps the quietest Clapton sings on this quiet album. This base hippie folk song about “planting love” builds in tenacity and mood with acoustic, electric, piano, organ, ever so creeping to prominence. A short but potent slide guitar leads to an intense outro with a picked electric pattern and subtle, swelling keyboards by Dick Sims. “Steady Rollin’ Man” is a piano and clavichord driven rendition of a Robert Johnson Tune with good bass by Radle. The ending song “Mainline Florida” was written by Terry and feels like the most rock-oriented song on the album, featuring a great seventies rock guitar riff and a wild lead over the vocals later in the song.

461 Ocean Boulevard topped the charts in the USA and Canada and reached the top ten in several other countries. While this was his only album in four years, Clapton got much more prolific and released four studio albums over the next four years, all of which pretty much follow the same style patterns as this one" – Classic Rock      

Standout Cut: Motherless Children

Stream/Download: Get Ready/I Shot the Sheriff/Let It Grow

Leonard CohenNew Skin for the Old Ceremony


Release Date: 11th August, 1974

Label: Columbia

Producers: Leonard Cohen/John Lissauer


The fact that Cohen does more real singing on this album can be seen as both a blessing and a curse -- while his voice sounds more strained, the songs are delivered with more passion than usual. Furthermore, he has background vocalists including Janis Ian that add significantly to create a fuller sound. It is no surprise, however, that he generally uses simple song structures to draw attention to the words ("Who By Fire"). The lyrics are filled with abstract yet vivid images, and the album primarily uses the metaphor of love and relationships as battlegrounds ("There Is a War," "Field Commander Cohen"). Cohen is clearly singing from the heart, and he chronicles his relationship with Janis Joplin in "Chelsea Hotel No. 2." This is one of his best albums, although new listeners should start with Songs of Leonard Cohen" – AllMusic    

Standout Cut: Chelsea Hotel #2

Stream/Download: Is This What You Wanted/Field Commander Cohen/A Singer Must Die

New York DollsToo Much Too Soon

Release Date: 10th May, 1974

Label: Mercury

Producer: Shadow Morton


To help bestow a modicum of spiritual contentment on those born too late to have seen their original incarnation, the New York Dolls released two perfect albums in August 1973 and May 1974. The second ranks second because the greatest David Johansen originals are on the debut--only the climactic "Human Being" achieves the philosophical weight of "Personality Crisis" or "Trash." But if any band today shopped hooks as sure and lyrics as smart as those of "Who Are the Mystery Girls?" "Puss 'n' Boots" or guitarist Johnny Thunders' "Chatterbox," the Strokes would buy a boutique and retire. And the covers are magnificent: a Sonny Boy Williamson song that turns the Chicago blues master into a campy scold, and two R&B novelties whose theatrical potential was barely noticed until the Dolls penetrated their holy essence" – Blender

Standout Cut: Stranded in the Jungle                                                

Stream/Download: Babylon/It’s Too Late/Bad Detective



Release Date: 13th September, 1974

Label: Epic

Producer: Allan Toussaint


The band broke loose from the decorous girl-group tradition on Nightbirds and redefined sexual relations using the terms of R&B and its debt to gospel as metaphors for a larger cultural move. “Somebody Somewhere” confronts female indecision, hints that God might be the answer, but finds salvation in the arrangement — blaring horns and a New Orleans strut. “Are You Lonely?” is nouveau urban funk made stately by Toussaint’s marching piano and gritty by impatient bass arabesques. When claiming empowerment — cultural, sexual and spiritual — the band is fiercely engaged, responding in kind to the raucous percussion of “What Can I Do for You?” and forgoing its gospel unison to swoosh in sisterly harmony on the repetitive, hymnlike “It Took a Long Time.” Toussaint’s compositions bristle with suggestiveness: “Don’t Bring Me Down” is sly, stop-start R&B, showcasing Patti at her sassiest and most elastic. The poignant “All Girl Band” stumps along cheerily, pretending it’s not about the quotidian struggle of being young, female and relentlessly hopeful. By 1974, black had been beautiful for almost a decade; the astrofunk goddesses of Labelle made it chic" – Rolling Stone

Standout Cut: Lady Marmalade                                                          

Stream/Download: Are You Lonely?/It Took a Long Time/Nightbird