December 31 – My 1970 Year End Top 30 Album Ranking

Greetings, and welcome back to the end of 1970! This list is not an attempt to claim which albums are the “best” in terms of any number of criteria. My ranking is nothing more than an attempt to share my favorites in loosely accurate order based mostly upon the ones I’ve played and enjoyed the most over the years, and it ain’t an easy exercise. Releases by the Flying Burrito Brothers, James Taylor, The Doors, Rod Stewart, David Bowie, and Jethro Tull did not make my top 30. Also edged out were really good albums by the likes of Syd Barrett, MC5, The Stooges, Band of Gypsies, King Crimson, Free, Clapton, Paul Kantner, Todd Rundgren, and others.  I did extend the list by five from the first time I did a year end ranking, but we’ve now entered the most bountiful years of music as far as my favorites go and it’s hard to narrow my list.

If interested in what I have to say about my top 30 and more, I invite you to look back through my posts from this year.  The date I published them is in parentheses. I’ve covered most of them, but a few albums slipped by due to time constraints or just plain laziness. That said, thank you all for coming along for the ride with me.  I hope you keep checking in as we move forward-yet-backward into 1971.  Happy New Year!


30. Brewer & Shipley – Tarkio (12/30)

Tariko album cover.JPG

29. The Allman Brothers Band – Idlewild South (9/23)

Idlewild South cover.jpg

28. Canned Heat – Future Blues (8/3)

Future Blues - Canned Heat.jpg

27. Stephen Stills – Stephen Stills (11/16)

Stephen Stills sitting outside in the snow and playing a guitar, with a toy giraffe nearby

26. Leon Russell – Leon Russell (5/29)


25. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory (7/16)

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Cosmo's Factory.jpg

24. The Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead (6/14)

A black-on-sepia image of men in Stetson hats standing along a road.

23. Dave Mason – Alone Together (7/11)

Alone Together.jpg

22. Delaney & Bonnie & Friends – On Tour with Eric Clapton (6/1)


21. Bob Dylan – New Morning

A black-and-white photograph of Bob Dylan

20. Joni Mitchell – Ladies of the Canyon

Joni Ladies.jpg

19. The Velvet Underground – Loaded (11/15)


18. The Moody Blues – A Question of Balance (8/7)


17. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III

A collage of butterflies, teeth, zeppelins and assorted imagery on a white background, with the artist name and "III" subtitle at center.

16. The Rolling Stones – Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! (9/4)

Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! The Rolling Stones in Concert.jpg

15. Elton John – Elton John (6/6)

Elton John - Elton John.jpg

14. Cat Stevens – Tea for the Tillerman (11/23)

Tea for the Tillerman.jpeg

13. Paul McCartney – McCartney (6/16)


12. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Déjà Vu (6/1)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Deja Vu.jpg

11. Santana – Abraxas (9/23)


10. Van Morrison – Moondance


9. Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die (7/1)

Traffic-John Barleycorn Must Die (album cover).jpg

8. The Grateful Dead – American Beauty (11/1)

A woodgrain panel with a circle in the middle—inscribed is a rose surrounded by the words "American Beauty".

7. Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water

Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge over Troubled Water (1970).png

6. The Beatles – Let It Be (5/25)

A black cover with four square photos of the band members' faces

5. Elton John – Tumbleweed Connection (10/23)

Elton John - Tumbleweed Connection.jpg

4. Derek and the Dominos – Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (11/9)


3. John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band (12/11)


2. Neil Young – After the Gold Rush (9/19)

After the Gold Rush.jpg
  1. George Harrison – All Things Must Pass (11/27)
All Things Must Pass 1970 cover.jpg

Rounding out December 1970 Album Releases, Pt. 2

Today I’m closing out the releases for December 1970. Check back tomorrow for my highly scientific subjective 1970 year-end album ranking.

December 1970: The Move – Looking On

Looking On was the third of four studio albums by The Move. It was the first one to include Jeff Lynne. Lynne and Roy Wood already had their vision for a new band, so in a way this was The Move in name only. Once contractual obligations were fulfilled after their next album, they became the Electric Light Orchestra.

Looking on.jpg

December 1970: Ry Cooder – Ry Cooder

Ry Cooder released his solo debut album in December of 1970. Cooder’s talents, styles, and influence are so varied I can’t begin to write about him intelligently. As with other accomplished musicians I know little about, after seeing his name associated with movie soundtracks, the Rolling Stones, Malian multi-instrumentalist Ali Farka Toure and others, I began with a compilation.


December 1970: Eric Burdon and War – The Black-Man’s Burdon

This double album was the final release by the band to feature Eric Burdon before he left and they continued on as War. Its two suites are based on cover songs: Paint it Black and Nights in White Satin.

War - The Black-Man's Burdon.jpg

December 1970: Sir Lord Baltimore – Kingdom Come

The trio Sir Lord Baltimore released their debut in December. I’d honestly never heard of them until putting together my rough outline for this year. There are some interesting factoids about this album and band, who are considered highly influential on later metal bands. For one, a review for this album in Creem is unofficially where the term “heavy metal” was coined. Also, all of Kindom Come’s songs were written and arranged by Mike Appel, who would become Springsteen’s first manager. If you like Zeppelin, Sabbath, the Stooges, Hendrix, etc., give this album a listen if you aren’t already familiar with it.

SLB kingdom come.jpg

December 1970: Gordon Lightfoot – Single: If You Could Read My Mind

And on a completely different wavelength from Sir Lord Baltimore, Gordon Lightfoot released the single If You Could Read My Mind this month fifty years ago. It’s one of my all-time favorite singer/songwriter tunes. It reached number one in Canada and was his first song to chart in the U.S., where it reached number five.

If You Could Read My Mind by Gordon Lightfoot (Canadian single).png

1970: Richie Havens – Stonehenge

The final two albums in this post have release dates simply stating “1970,” but they’re more than significant enough in my book to mention here before we move into 1971. Stonehenge isn’t Havens’ strongest album, but I like a few of its tracks including Minstrel from Gaul, Prayer, and the Bee Gees cover I Started a Joke.

RHavens Stonehenge.jpg

1970: Brewer & Shipley – Tarkio

Tarkio was the third album by Missourians Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley. It was the most commercially successful release for the folk/country rock duo, containing the somewhat throwaway song that became a minor hit, One Toke Over the Line. (This song was hilariously covered as a “gospel” tune by Lawrence Welk duo Gail and Dale who apparently had no clue what the song was really about.) Other tasty nuggets include Tarkio Road, Song from Platte River, Don’t Want to Die in Georgia, Ruby in the Morning, Oh Mommy (on which Jerry Garcia contributed steel guitar), and – screw it, the whole album’s good. Brewer and Shipley were friends with mid-late 1960’s L.A. music luminaries such as The Association and Buffalo Springfield, but chose to move back to the Show Me State. They continue to perform today individually and as a duo, mostly across the Midwest. Brewer & Shipley goes good with: CSN, Grateful Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Gene Clark, Flying Burrito Bros., Ozark Mountain Daredevils, and you get the picture.

Tariko album cover.JPG


December 1970 Album Tidy Up, Pt. 1

The turn of the 1970’s brought an interesting variety of music styles which would all find a home on early free-form FM radio – a format for which I was born a tad too late to be able to enjoy in its heyday (although it’s been resurrected with the advent of internet radio). This two part month-end wrap up for December 1970 is evidence of that variety, and includes some artists who were on the cusp of big things.

12/4/70: Wishbone Ash – Wishbone Ash

Blues/prog group Wishbone Ash released their first album on the 4th after being recommended to MCA by Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore. They’re still around, with founder Andy Powell as the singular original member.

WishboneAsh WishboneAshalbum.jpg

12/7/70: Creedence Clearwater Revival – Pendulum

CCR released their second album of 1970 on the 7th. It was their only album with all original material. It was also the final release Tom Fogerty would appear on. It produced the single Have You Ever Seen the Rain b/w Hey Tonight. A good album, but the tank was just about empty.

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Pendulum.jpg

12/10/70: Ginger Baker’s Air Force – Ginger Baker’s Air Force 2

Unlike its predecessor, this jazz fusion album was recorded in a studio as opposed to live and featured two different track lists. Some of the same musicians appeared here as on 1, including Denny Laine, Graham Bond, and Ric Grech.


12/11/70: King Crimson – Lizard

Robert Fripp’s prog/jazz fusion band King Crimson – with its revolving door of band members – released their third album on the 11th to mixed reviews. Some early critics didn’t really know what to make of this music at the time. This band has certainly grown on me over the years.

Lizard - Original Vinyl Cover.jpg

12/18/70: T. Rex – T. Rex

With this album, Marc Bolan simplified his band’s name from Tyrannosaurus Rex to T. Rex and shifted its sound from the previous folky albums to the more mainstream rock sound that made him famous.

T. Rex (Album).jpg

December 1970: The Wailers – Soul Rebels

Soul Rebels was Marley and Co.’s second album, and their first to be released outside Jamaica. It was produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry.


December 1970: Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band – Lick My Decals off, Baby

Don Van Vliet’s highly experimental band released its fifth album – and follow up to Trout Mask Replica – in December 1970. It was highly regarded, even by Robert Cristgau, and was the band’s highest performing album in the U.K. charts.

Captain Beefheart - Lick My Decals Off, Baby.jpg

December 1970: Vashti Bunyan – Just Another Diamond Day

At this stage, I find the story behind this album and artist more interesting than the album itself, which has garnered universal praise as a lost classic from the folk/psych folk arena. Vashti Bunyan had recorded a handful of songs in 1965 before disappearing. She literally wandered across the Scottish countryside by horse and wagon, penning new songs which eventually made up this album. Displeased with the recording process, it would be her last album for 35 years when Just Another Diamond Day was rediscovered and lavished with praise. I think Bunyan has a beautiful voice, but like her contemporary Jacqui McShee from Pentangle I find it a little too much on the dainty/shrill side for my taste.

Just Another Diamond Day (Front Cover).png


December 11 – Lennon’s Primal Debut Album

12/11/70: John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band

John Lennon ushered in his post-Beatles career 50 years ago today with the stark, bare-bones, powerful, and sometimes harrowing Plastic Ono Band. Production was credited to John, Yoko, and Phil Spector, though the album bears little resemblance to Spector’s multi-layered behemoth by George Harrison which appeared a few weeks earlier. While all of Lennon’s albums are to some degree self/Yoko/Beatles-referential, his solo debut was a scab ripping primal scream therapy session played out on vinyl, and it became a classic.

John Lennon's Children, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr Honor Legend on 40th  Anniversary of His Killing | Hollywood Reporter

It’s interesting to me how the ex-Beatles waded into their respective post-Fabs lives. Paul secluded himself at his Scotland farm and wrote and recorded the loose McCartney album earlier in the year as an exercise – with Linda’s help – to pull himself out of his Beatles hangover. George spent months in the studio with Phil Spector and a cast of musicians so numerous he wasn’t even aware of all of them for a few decades. The results included songs of lament over lost friendships as well as further declarations of his spiritual aspirations. Ringo’s musical breakthrough was still a few years away. Then came John’s rather minimalist Plastic Ono Band.

John Lennon - John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band Lyrics and Tracklist | Genius

There were many indications in the music world at the turn of the 1970’s that the Flower Power era was over, and John put his own stamp on it with this album. His wounds were deep and went all the way back to childhood. He was barely thirty years old but had lived ten lives by 1970. He had entered an alternative, “primal” therapy developed by Arthur Janov which used screaming more so than analysis as part of one’s healing. Two of the heaviest songs feature this element: the opening track, Mother, and side two’s God. The latter is a paring down of all the things he no longer wants, needs, or believes in, from religion to political cults of personality to Elvis, Dylan, and lastly, the Beatles. He only believed in Yoko and himself by that point, and the world would just have to deal with it.

John & Yoko/Plastic Ono Band | Book by John Lennon, Yoko Ono | Official  Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster

The rest of the album is no less dramatic in its simplicity with John, Ringo, and Klaus Voormann playing the majority of the instruments. Love is a welcomed respite in the middle of the onslaught, but it’s an emotionally draining affair overall from start to finish. Coincidentally, I’m writing this the day after the 40th anniversary of Lennon’s passing. I played Plastic Ono Band before leaving for work yesterday morning and I’m still feeling it. It’s just as powerful as ever.


Side One:

  1. Mother
  2. Hold On
  3. I Found Out
  4. Working Class Hero
  5. Isolation

Side Two:

  1. Remember
  2. Love
  3. Well Well Well
  4. Look at Me
  5. God
  6. My Mummy’s Dead


November 27 – My Favorite Album by My Favorite Artist: All Things Must Pass Turns 50

Note: The following is a slightly edited re-post from a few months back when I was participating in a desert island album draft.

Where to start with George’s 1970 triple album opus, and how to explain concisely why this album means so much to me in a manner that doesn’t make me sound full of myself? If you’re reading this you’re probably a music fan and can, at least to some extent, relate. Despite the fact that I have no clue what it’s like to be musically gifted, internationally famous (never mind an ex-Beatle), a millionaire, etc., if there’s one artist who I think I can relate to as a person, it’s George. I wear my heart on my sleeve like he did, and if I were ever to experience any degree of fame, I’d probably react to it similarly to him. That is to say, “Hari Krishna, now please get off my lawn while I enjoy this piece of cake.” Maybe it’s because I’m a fellow Pisces, I don’t know. And if there’s one album of his which displays his full range of emotions relating to personal relationships and spiritual longing, and is presented in beautifully crafted songs with fantastic musicianship from start to finish, it’s All Things Must Pass, released 50 years ago today.

Eight Things I Learned From George Harrison

Due to the limits he faced regarding his songs making it onto Beatles albums, Harrison had been stockpiling them since roughly 1966. After starting 1968 by staying in India longer than the other Beatles, in the fall of that year George spent time with Dylan and The Band at Woodstock, which was perhaps the final nail in the Beatles’ coffin as far as George was concerned. Their influence is all over this solo debut album, which was an artistic and emotional purging for Harrison. There are songs of human love for friends, including the Dylan co-written I’d Have You Anytime, and George’s attempt at coaxing Bob out of his self-imposed exile on Behind That Locked Door. Apple Scruffs is his humorous love song to his loyal fans who waited daily outside the recording studio, and What is Life is one of a number of George’s uniquely ambiguous love songs over the course of his solo years which leaves it up to the listener to decide if it’s about human or Godly love.

Bob Dylan George Harrison - May 1 1970 - Listen Full Session - NSF - Music  Magazine

There are songs of lament over friendships on the wane. Wah-Wah was written when George walked out of the Get Back sessions. It’s a double entendre which refers to the guitar effect as well as the headache John and Paul had caused him. Run of the Mill, too, was written out of his sadness over the Beatles’ slow dissolution. Isn’t it a Pity, to me, is the most powerful track on this emotional roller coaster of an album. There are two slightly different versions on the album, and he could’ve added a third one as far as I’m concerned – a rendition for each of the three LPs.

My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison – lyriquediscorde

And there are the songs which focus on George’s spiritual journey. The smash hit, of course, was My Sweet Lord, which includes a Vedic chant for which Harrison took heat from Christian fundamentalists for supposedly trying to subliminally indoctrinate America’s youth into heathen Eastern religion. As with his organizing the Concert for Bangladesh a year later, it took nerve (and Phil Spector’s insistence) for him to put this song out as a single, but it paid off. The Art of Dying had its genesis around 1966 when Lennon’s Tomorrow Never Knows was the Tibetan Book of the Dead-influenced song to make the cut on Revolver. To the uninitiated, it can be a dark or disturbing song. It is not. As with The Art of Dying, Awaiting on You All is Harrison encouraging us to wake up to what’s real and eschew that which isn’t. And lastly, after all the madness, fame, and fortune of his Beatles experience left him emotionally and spiritually frayed, there’s George’s bare bones plea in Hear Me Lord. For such a private man, it doesn’t get any more open and sincere than this.

LP posters that should be framed | Steve Hoffman Music Forums

But wait, there’s more! The third album in this set, known as Apple Jam, includes four extended instrumentals and a 49 second Monty Pythonesque ditty with an appearance by good ol’ Mal Evans. The indulgent jams include Dave Mason, Ginger Baker, Gary Wright, Billy Preston, and Derek & the Dominos. I’ve actually read opinions by fans who are put off by inclusion of these tracks, as if they are interspersed throughout the first two records and they’re forced to listen to them. I think of it as the unbuckling of the belt after a big meal. Sometimes I listen to it, sometimes I don’t. Either way, I unapologetically like it.

Bobby Whitlock Talks Layla – American Songwriter

I could go on about other tracks, the plagiarism lawsuit, other session players, the cover, etc. Wiki’s got that covered if you’d like to read more. I would, however, like to comment briefly on Phil Spector’s production. As with Let it Be, this is the version we grew up with, and I love it just like it is. Perhaps when the deluxe 50th anniversary edition comes out, whenever that might be, it will include alternate versions and demos with toned down production. Some of it is available on bootlegs and YouTube.


Side One:

  1. I’d Have You Anytime
  2. My Sweet Lord
  3. Wah-Wah
  4. Isn’t It a Pity (Version 1)

Side Two:

  1. What is Life
  2. If Not for You
  3. Behind That Locked Door
  4. Let It Down
  5. Run of the Mill

Side Three:

  1. Beware of Darkness
  2. Apple Scruffs
  3. Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)
  4. Awaiting on You All
  5. All Things Must Pass

Side Four:

  1. I Dig Love
  2. Art of Dying
  3. Isn’t It a Pity (Version 2)
  4. Hear Me Lord

Side Five (Apple Jam)

  1. Out of the Blue
  2. It’s Johnny’s Birthday
  3. Plug Me In

Side Six (Apple Jam)

  1. I Remember Jeep
  2. Thanks for the Pepperoni


November 23 – Another Classic from Cat Stevens

11/23/70: Cat Stevens – Tea for the Tillerman

Cat Stevens released his fourth studio album on this day 50 years ago. Tea for the Tillerman was his second release that year, with Mono Bone Jakon released the previous April. The album was recorded over three months in the middle of 1970, with Father and Son and Wild World issued as singles, the latter reaching #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 while becoming an enduring classic. Wild World has also been covered by a number of artists. Just two months ago, Stevens/Yusuf released a new version of the album titled Tea for the Tillerman 2.

Yusuf/Cat Stevens Talks Revisiting 1960s Catalog for New Album - Rolling  Stone

Five of the songs on the album were featured on the 1972 soundtrack to the movie Harold and Maude (not all the songs issued on the soundtrack were in the film), the other half originating on Mona Bone Jakon. The album has garnered classic status in the world of music critics despite the typical “someone pee’d in my Cornflakes” contemporary take by Robert Christgau, who found it monotonous at the time. To me, this album represents the second in a trilogy of fantastic albums, with Teaser and the Firecat following in 1971.

Cat Stevens - Wild World - Live BBC TV Studios - 1970 - YouTube

Stevens may have had his internal struggles with the limelight, but you wouldn’t know it simply by listening to these songs. The album is the epitome of what was good about the singer/songwriter era. They are songs that transcend the years. If they were relatable in 1970, then they can touch nerves in 2020. I certainly don’t limit myself on when I listen to Tea for the Tillerman, but I think of it as Sunday morning music. And if it’s raining, all the better.


Side One:

  1. Where Do the Children Play?
  2. Hard Headed Woman
  3. Wild World
  4. Sad Lisa
  5. Miles from Nowhere

Side Two:

  1. But I Might Die Tonight
  2. Longer Boats
  3. Into White
  4. On the Road to Find Out
  5. Father and Son
  6. Tea for the Tillerman


November 20 – The Debut of Emerson, Lake & Palmer

11/20/70: ELP – Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Flailing, booming, bozos, clunky, heavy-handed, savage, imposingly gothic edge, 5/5 stars, A grade, C grade, lively, ambitious, almost entirely successful, impressive musicianship, deliberately archaic, daunting talents…

By its nature, rock music is subject to impassioned stances taken by fans and critics, and perhaps no sub-genre elicits stronger opinions than prog. One of the most successful prog bands, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, released their eponymous debut 50 years ago today, and the responses from critics as seen above illustrate the wide variation of views on the genre as a whole, not just this record.

The Song Remains the Same: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, and Carl Palmer entered the studio in July 1970 having yet to play on stage together. Sessions lasted three months, and the competed album contained six tracks over 41 minutes, including three instrumentals and arrangements of classical works by the likes of Bartók, Janácek, and J.S. Bach. It reached number four on the U.K. album chart, and 18 on the Billboard 200 in the U.S. The single Lucky Man/Knife-Edge climbed to 48 in the U.S., and as such are the best known songs on the album.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Music) - TV Tropes

But tracks like the keyboard-drenched Barbarian (a rather audacious opener for a debut record), Greg Lake’s jazz-inflected Take a Pebble, and Tank, which features Emerson on clavinet and Moog, also make this an enjoyable album. Some of the keyboard adventures of late Emerson, himself classically trained, get to be a bit much for me – specifically the pipe organ (same goes for Neil Young) – but it doesn’t dissuade me from listening ELP one bit.

Keith Emerson, '70s Rock Showman With a Taste for Spectacle, Dies at 71 -  The New York Times

I see myself as a music fan, period, and don’t subscribe to all-encompassing maxims about any musical classification. Sometimes I want to hear “bloated” prog bands, other times The Clash or Hüsker Dü hit the spot. I’d rather not limit myself. I couldn’t if I tried, actually.


Side One:

  1. The Barbarian
  2. Take a Pebble
  3. Knife-Edge

Side Two:

  1. The Three Fates: a) Clotho b) Lachesis c) Atropos
  2. Tank
  3. Lucky Man


November 16 – Stephen Stills’ Solo Debut

11/16/70: Stephen Stills – Stephen Stills

November 1970 was quite a significant month in the world of album releases, and today the train rolls on with the second of four major solo releases from the members of CSNY after Déjà Vu’s release the previous March. Stephen Stills relocated to England to put some distance between himself and the drama emanating from the group, moving into Ringo’s old residence in Surrey. While there, he established musical connections and wrote a bunch of songs which he recorded primarily in London in the first half of 1970 between CSNY tours. His somewhat eclectic and fantastic Stephen Stills was released on this day 50 years ago.

Stephen Stills - Stephen Stills - Music

Though he crossed the Atlantic to get away from it all, and while this is 100% solo Stills in terms of songwriting, by the time the album was finished he’d enlisted the help of a number of A-Listers including the names Hendrix, Clapton, Starr, Crosby, Nash, Sebastian, Mama Cass, Booker T., Rita Coolidge, and others. The songs on the LP are personal in nature and hint at his relationships in CSNY as well as his unsteady romantic involvement with Coolidge, the latter symbolized by the giraffe on the album cover photo taken by Henry Diltz (Stills and Coolidge either bought the stuffed animal together or she bought it for him). By the time of its release, she had left Stills for Nash, putting a temporary nail in CSNY’s coffin. And what of that odd cover? AllMusic refers to it as an understatement, that judging by the cover one might think the album is full of gentle, introspective singer/songwriter material, only to hear a “seamless” blend of folk, blues, hard rock, and gospel.

Contemporary reviews ranged from tepid with its “undefined” or “elusive” qualities, to fantastic, such as AllMusic’s retrospective description as a “jaw-dropping experience, the musical equal to Crosby, Stills & Nash or Déjà Vu.” I tend to hear it as a little of both, though not elusive in a negative way. Stephen Stills starts out with a bang. The theme of his anthem to free love might be dated, but the song is a classic in which he uses the chorus to full effect. By the end of side one we’ve heard signature guitar licks from Jimi Hendrix (who would pass before the album’s release, and who it’s dedicated to) on the funky Old Times Good Times, and Eric Clapton on Go Back Home. My other favorites include the quieter Do for the Others, the spirited Sit Yourself Down, and the CSNY concert staple, Black Queen.

Love the One You're With - Wikipedia

Looking at it through the lens of 2020, perhaps the only thing the album suffers from is the fact that there were other great albums released in 1970, namely Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, which came out just a couple weeks later. (And to tie them together, it’s interesting that Stills borrowed the phrase “love the one you’re with” from Billy Preston, who also tutored Harrison in the ways of gospel music George used on My Sweet Lord. Was there ever a time of more cross-pollination in music than around 1970?) Stephen Stills reached number three on the U.S. Billboard album chart, and eight in the U.K., and was fueled by singles Love the One You’re With b/w To A Flame and Sit Yourself Down b/w We Are Not Helpless. This is Stills at or near the peak of his powers, and it gets better for me with each listen.


Side One:

  1. Love the One You’re With
  2. Do for the Others
  3. Church (Part of Someone)
  4. Old Times Good Times
  5. Go Back Home

Side Two:

  1. Sit Yourself Down
  2. To a Flame
  3. Black Queen
  4. Cherokee
  5. We Are Not Helpless


November 15 – The Velvet Underground’s Swan Song, Sort Of

11/15/70: The Velvet Underground – Loaded

The shifting of rock’s tectonic plates in 1970 continued this day 50 years ago with the fourth studio release by the Velvet Underground, Loaded. In a year that gave us legendary swan songs by Simon & Garfunkel and The Beatles despite their respective disintegrating songwriting partnerships, the finale from the second phase of VU shows us once again that great music can be created despite discord. While technically not the final VU album, it was the last one to include Lou Reed, who left the group prior to the album’s release. John Cale had departed after White Light/White Heat.

Loaded': The Velvet Underground in 5.1 surround, win a free box set from  Rhino | Dangerous Minds

Loaded is an outstanding album arising from multiple streams of conflict within the band, from Doug Yule’s increasing role to bad feelings between Sterling Morrison and Reed over Cale’s departure. Additionally, drummer Moe Tucker was on maternity leave, her duties assumed by three session players including Yule’s brother Billy. Finally, Atlantic wanted an album loaded with hits, hence the double entendre in the title. Despite Reed’s pop leanings, he was not pleased with edits made in the name of shorter, radio-friendly songs. These factors led some purists to think of Loaded as something other than a “real” VU album. The group would finally dissolve after their next release in 1973. There was also plenty of controversy after Loaded’s release. Among other song edits not authorized by Reed (this is disputed by Yule) was the “heavenly wine and roses” bridge on Sweet Jane, which I didn’t even know about until I heard Cowboy Junkies’ version in 1990. It was restored on later releases. Also, it took legal proceedings for songwriting credits to be restored to Reed after the initial release credited the entire band.

Loaded: Re-Loaded 45th Anniversary Edition - Rolling Stone

I’ve always liked the Velvets, but don’t consider myself a hardcore fan, whatever that may look like. This includes some of the heavier, avant-garde contributions of John Cale. I came to Loaded well after becoming familiar with the previous three albums, and as a result it’s not an album that usually comes to mind as being among my favorites from 1970. But it never fails that when I listen to it I have an “Oh yeah, that is one of the best” epiphany. I love a well-crafted pop song like anyone else, and there’s no shortage of them with its singles including Who Loves the Sun, Sweet Jane, Rock & Roll, and Head Held High. The B-side Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ is also one of my favorites. Simply put, it’s a very accessible album, which is not something I normally associate with this band. Yet despite the radio promotion the album didn’t chart. As is often the case, retrospective reviews have been quite kind, as they should be.


Side One:

  1. Who Loves the Sun
  2. Sweet Jane
  3. Rock & Roll
  4. Cool It Down
  5. New Age

Side Two:

  1. Head Held High
  2. Lonesome Cowboy Bill
  3. I Found a Reason
  4. Train Round the Bend
  5. Oh! Sweet Nuthin’


November 15 – Van Morrison’s Less Great Album?

11/15/70: Van Morrison – His Band and the Street Choir

Van Morrison’s fourth studio album, His Band and the Street Choir, was released half a century ago today. It was recorded over two sessions in New York’s A & R Studios in the first half of 1970, and released less than a year after Moondance. By the time the album reached stores, it had been renamed from Virgo’s Fool without Morrison’s consent. Despite the overall long term success of Street Choir, which peaked at 32 on the Billboard chart and 18 on the U.K. album chart, Morrison has expressed displeasure with seemingly everything to do with the album. He originally intended to record it a cappella – hence the “Street Choir,” but ultimately abandoned the idea when he became dissatisfied with the result.

His Band and the Street Choir - Wikipedia

Critics noted the songwriting is a bit simpler than on the previous two albums, and that the tracks are more R&B inspired with only hints of folk. But simpler isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as there is an element of joy in these songs with minimal overdubbing which were inspired by the likes of James Brown. Singles from the album included the gospel-inflected Call Me Up in Dreamland, plus Blue Money and Domino, the latter being the most successful single of Morrison’s career. Some of the songs on Street Choir were originally intended for the Astral Weeks and Moondance albums, which Morrison rearranged for the personnel on this release. These include I’ve Been Working and Domino, his tribute to Fats Domino. Other lyrics were inspired by his marriage, such as in I’ll Be Your Lover, Too, Call Me Up in Dreamland, and Sweet Jannie.

Vinyl Album - Van Morrison - His Band And The Street Choir - Warner Bros. -  USA

By almost anyone’s standard, His Band and the Street Choir could be a career-making album. This is a good album with a couple of strong singles. Highlights for me include the soulful Crazy Face, I’ve Been Working, the whimsical Blue Money, and album closer Street Choir. I prefer the live version of Domino on 1974’s Too Late to Stop Now to the studio original. Perhaps I’ve heard it too many times. But in the context of the creative streak Van Morrison was on at the time, this album just isn’t as interesting to me overall as those preceding and following it. I’m more of an Astral Weeks/St. Dominic’s Preview/Veedon Fleece kind of guy, though I’m certainly not turning my nose up at Street Choir. As Stephen Thomas Erlewine noted in his 2015 review in Pitchfork, the album is “all about the rough and tumble joy of living,” and Van the Man did it well enough for this to be considered a classic.


Side One:

  1. Domino
  2. Crazy Face
  3. Give Me a Kiss
  4. I’ve Been Working
  5. Call Me Up in Dreamland
  6. I’ll Be Your Lover, Too

Side Two:

  1. Blue Money
  2. Virgo Clowns
  3. Gypsy Queen
  4. Sweet Jannie
  5. If I Ever Needed Someone
  6. Street Choir