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Old 04-06-2013, 05:52 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default 10 Great Lesser-Known/Weird Albums of the 1970s

As someone who finds the 1970s to be the most creatively diverse and wonderful musical decade to explore, I wanted to do something slightly different this time around. I had first thought I'd do a "Top 10 (or maybe more) Albums of Each Year: 1970-1979" list, and I still might. But to get my interest going, here's a short list of hidden and semi-hidden gems to check out.

Keep in mind, these are albums that are either: foreign, and therefore less known in English-speaking countries; weird, and therefore less known in all countries; or both. Some you might recognize, some you might dislike, and some will be completely new. Either way, I'll do my best to explain each choice and frame them in such a way that they can be best enjoyed.

Final note: I consider all of these to be favorites. If our taste agrees, these should all work for you.

1. Chico Buarque - Construção (1971)

Chico Buarque puts down this beautiful Brazilian album in 1971, and despite not being nearly as experimental as, say, Caetano Veloso or especially Tom Zé were, demands respect for the incredibly solid and polished album he has created here. A couple of highlights are the epic title track, and the breezy but political Samba de Orly, both linked here:
Construção - Chico Buarque - YouTube
Chico Buarque - Samba de Orly - YouTube

Moderator cut: image removed
2. James Chance & The Contortions - Buy (1979)

Changing it up here, um... a lot, is a particularly experimental album punctuated by moments of genuine funk and danceability. James Chance in my opinion was the most interesting artist to come out of the No Wave scene in NYC in the late 70s. This is certainly not a record for everyone, nor is it a record for every mood even if you do like it. It's also not a perfect record, I'll be honest. But with that said, I find the high-points all too rewarding to ignore, and when you're in the mood for a challenge, the "low" points can be interesting as well. I'll link to the most accessible (I think) track, Designed to Kill, as well as the most known, Contort Yourself.

(By the way, despite the way this review sounds, I actually do think this is my favorite record from 1979 despite some very stiff competition. It's a flawed record, but one that rewards my ears more than the others despite this.)
James Chance and the Contortions- Designed to Kill - YouTube
James Chance - Contort Yourself - YouTube

3. Dadawah - Peace and Love (1974)

This is one of the most different reggae albums I can think of. Featuring four tracks - two over 7 minutes and the other two just over 10 - it sounds at time like a long psychedelic jam album than it does the usual reggae. But it works, especially on the tracks Run Come Rally and Seventy-Two Nations:
Dadawah - Run Come Rally [1974] [Dug Out, 2010] - YouTube
Dadawah - Peace & Love - Seventy Two Nations - YouTube

4. Exuma (1970)

This is an awesome record for several reasons. For one thing, you get the idea listening to Exuma wail that he believes all the thing he's saying. With all the force and vitality he screams them with, how couldn't he? What a raw and wild record. There probably isn't another record that sounds like this and does it so convincingly. Just listen:
Exuma - Exuma, the Obeah Man - YouTube
Exuma - Mama Loi, Papa Loi - YouTube

5. Os Novos Baianos - Acabou Chorare (1972)

Taking a break from the insane for a moment, Acabou Chorare is a totally accessible and beautiful classic from Brazil. Considered by many Brazilians to be the finest Brazilian album of all-time, you can be assured that this will be a pleasant listen. I may bow down to a creative madman like Tom Zé, but there's no way in hell I could resist sounds like these:
Novos Baianos - Brasil pandeiro - YouTube
Um Bilhete Prá Didi * Novos Baianos - YouTube

I'll finish the next five later today! A warning: things get a bit more experimental on the second half of the list. Not on purpose, just the way it worked out alphabetically.

Last edited by streetwaves; 04-06-2013 at 07:12 PM.
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Old 04-06-2013, 08:06 PM   #2 (permalink)
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6. Augustus Pablo - King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown (1977)

This is a dub album, and in my opinion, far-and-away the very best example of one. A contact of mine on RYM describes this as the "most un****able-with sounds ever conceived", and I doubt I can put it any better than that. These are 11 near-perfect tracks, all infectious in their own right. And of course, what kind of dub record would it be if the basslines weren't some of the most simple-but-unforgettable you've ever heard?

7. Pere Ubu - The Modern Dance (1978)

This is a fairly well-known - infamous, perhaps - album in music circles. For some reason it has the reputation of a very "difficult" album, despite the fact that to my ears it's quite a lot less difficult than people make it out to be. By far the most challenging aspect of it is the singer's voice: David Thomas really does have a unique one, and it's not out to charm you with its beauty. With that said, get past that and enjoy what I think is one of the most wildly and enthusiastically innovative albums of all-time. Once you get to that point, you'll also find David Thomas's voice to be an integral part of the magic. I'll link to the most accessible songs on the record in hopes of drawing you in: (Warning: this starts with about 30 seconds of high-pitched feedback)

8 and 9. Tangerine Dream - Zeit (1972) and Klaus Schulze - Cyborg (1973)

I group these two together because of the wealth of similarities between them. Surely, these two are probably the most mood-dependent choices on the list, and certainly there are also people who will never be in the mood to listen to stuff like this. Frankly, I find that to be bizarre, but in the interest of full disclosure, let me describe what these two albums are: dark, droning, spacey, ambient, atmospheric music. Each song - make that 'track' - is over 15 minutes, several of them over 20. That goes for both records. They are very much in the same vein - in fact, the Schulze record preceding Cyborg is supposed to have been based on the very same concept as Tangerine Dream's Zeit, with Schulze having a difference of opinion about the way to execute it and thus leaving to make Irrlicht himself.

Cyborg, though, is the superior record, very much on the same level in terms of scale and quality as Zeit. Both records are fantastic experiences. Naturally, you don't turn on such an album to tap your toes. But is that a requirement for every album? Those who immediately dismiss albums such as these seem to object to the very idea of them, as if they think they should not exist in the first place. I just can't get on board with that.

For what these records are, both are incredibly beautiful. Both are incredibly enthralling and captivating if you'll give them your full attention. They're full of atmosphere and depth, and they're pretty much the closest you'll get to drifting out in space somewhere without leaving your bedroom. You may have heard of them before, but if you didn't like the idea, reconsider. Give them a chance when you're fully prepared for what they are, and I don't see how you couldn't enjoy them.

10. Tom Zé - Estudando o Samba

We end closer to Earth - although still perhaps not quite all the way back down to the surface - with a masterpiece of Brazilian descent by an artist I mentioned by name a couple of times in the previous post. Estudando o Samba literally means "Studying Samba", and the album does so in a way that makes obvious we're dealing with a sort of genius here. Even the more experimental tracks are obviously interesting upon first listen, and the more accessible tracks are basically impossible to resist. I'll link to a couple of those:

Last edited by streetwaves; 04-06-2013 at 08:13 PM.
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