It’s no secret that I’m rooted in the music of this era. 1970 holds four absolute treasures in my collection and I had no choice but to include all of them in this post.
Gold Medal: Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel
“The Only Living Boy in New York” is easily in my top five favorite songs of all time. It is perfect in every way and there may never be a song that hits me so hard. But even after that, the rest of Simon and Garfunkel's final album is nearly as good. Paul Simon was on the top of his game and the wave of success he'd been riding gave him the resources to dabble in whatever new styles he wanted to. The result is a masterpiece of wit, power and creativity. The songs ebb and flow between plain fun (“Cecilia”) and breathtaking beauty (“The Boxer”). This record makes me proud to be an American.
Silver Medal: Déjà vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
While we’re talking about top five songs of all time, “Carry On” may be another. After their folky debut (see 1969) CSN added Y and became a bit more serious and ambitious. In the end, this may have gotten the best of them as the quartet never made another great album. But for one brief moment, CSNY was recording some absolutely incredible music. Each of the four were writing classics and adding their talents to each of ten outstanding songs. Crosby had his paranoia, Nash his beautiful simplicity, Stills his bluesiness, and Young his strange darkness. Together they captured lightning in a bottle until the bottle broke soon after.
Bronze Medal: All Things Must Pass by George Harrison
To put it simply, this was the best solo Beatles album. In his own words, George Harrison was constipated with songs in the late sixties after Lennon/McCartney put a strict cap on how many songs he could contribute to each album. Once the band broke up, he recorded a triple LP of songs, mostly devoted to his God, like the biggest hit "My Sweet Lord". The songs here are superb but what makes this album special is the unforgettable production by the now infamous Phil Spector. It may not have always worked on Let it Be, but here, the Wall of Sound is huge and heavenly. This album went to number one on the charts and it seemed that George may become the most successful ex-Beatle. But admirably, he focused less on commercial appeal and more on solid material until the end of his days.
Bronze Medal Two: After the Gold Rush by Neil Young
As if recording the silver medal album on this list wasn’t enough, Mr. Young recorded his finest solo work in 1970 as well. That’s saying something considering that he has literally dozens of great solo albums. Part of what I like about After the Gold Rush is that it’s how transparent it is. An androgynous voice with a unique guitar style AND piano style, Neil’s one of the greatest songwriters ever and this album is the best example why. I tried to perform it with many of my friends in high school at rehearsing the songs over and over again showed us just how well-crafted this record is.