Well, this has certainly been the toughest "best of the era" post yet. 1973 would certainly be up there if I were to do a "best year in music history" sort of list. The top two on this list have would have been the same if I'd made this seven years ago but that shouldn’t take away from the stiff competition. True classics. For the first time, I have an honorable mentions section at the end.
Gold Medal: Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin
My favorite album by one of my favorite bands. More than any other, HH shows the true mystique of the Hammer of the Gods. As great as each one of Zep’s first six albums is, this is the only record where every track is flawless. The word epic gets thrown around far too much nowadays but for this album the adjective is fitting. One of the greatest electric guitar monuments we’ve witnessed, this varied record flows perfectly from the stunning “The Song Remains the Same” to the rocking, 15/8 time strutting “The Ocean.” Listening to this album, you can’t help but feel the magic of Led Zeppelin.
Silver Medal: Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
Yeah, yeah, yeah. If you’ve ever spent any time looking at rock music criticism or blogging, you’ve read enough praise for this album to last many lifetimes. This isn’t my favorite Pink Floyd album (that would be the follow-up, Wish You Were Here) but like the first album on this post, this set of songs is a sort of a mythical sonic experience. Was there divine inspiration in the creation of this record? Probably not but there was enough pot smoke in the air to warrant some uncanny similarities to the first forty-three minutes of The Wizard of Oz. “Time” is one masterpiece of a song, and the rest of the album isn’t far behind. One of the legendary albums that undoubtedly lives up to the hype.
Bronze Medal: Dixie Chicken by Little Feat
The U.S. of A had to be represented right? Roger Waters and Jimmy Page are very talented but Lowell George more than holds a candle to the creative forces behind the above two albums. The frontman/songwriter of L.A. band Little Feat was a master craftsman of grooving Cajun-like Americana who found his stride here in 1973 but tragically passed away only six years later from a drug overdose. Dixie Chicken is one of the most underappreciated albums in existence. The smooth voice and inspired slide guitar of Mr. George along with some top-notch piano, back-up vocals, bass and percussion makes a fantastic piece of work. I’ve listened to it countless times and it just gets better and better.
Honorable mention: Quadrophenia by The Who, Paris 1919 by John Cale, Selling England by the Pound by Genesis, Countdown to Ecstasy by Steely Dan, The Captain and Me by The Doobie Brothers Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John and Innervisions by Stevie Wonder
Next up, 1985-8.