Although they were separated by the Christmas break I’ve now shared three collections of Seventies albums with you, and feel it may be time to move on. The Sixties and Seventies were my formative years for music, and they were great times in which to grow up. But I guess most people think that about the music of their teens and twenties, even if they have the misfortune to have missed out on the times I had! Before moving on, I hope you’ll indulge me for one last session from back then – for now, that is, as there are still so many great albums from those days that I haven’t featured. Yet.
I thought I’d start today with something rousing, and they don’t come much better than this:
That was the second track on Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, released in November 1971. Officially the album doesn’t have a title, but is generally known, for obvious reasons, as Led Zeppelin IV, and also as Four Symbols, after the symbols that each band member chose for the inner sleeve illustrations. The album reached #1 here in the UK but only #2 in the US. Despite that apparent ‘failure’ it is their best selling album – over 37m to date – and is one of the all time best sellers by anyone in the States. The album is noted for containing the band’s ‘signature tune,’ Stairway To Heaven, but I wanted to give you this one instead. If you want a great version of Stairway, try here. This track was released as a single in some countries, but not here – the band never released singles in the UK while they were making new records. It only reached #47 in the US, which may go some way towards explaining why they didn’t like singles!
This is the second time I’ve featured Led Zeppelin in this series, and today’s next tune is also from a band making a return appearance:
That was released in May 1970, as the lead single for Free’s album Fire And Water, which came out the next month. It is the song that made the band a huge success: it was #2 here in the UK for several weeks that summer, and also reached #4 in the US. The album was also a British #2, and #17 in the US. It is still one of my all time favourites, and every track is brilliant. I could have given you any of them, but decided to go for the one you may well know.
Today’s third song is also from 1970. This is something of a rarity, as it is on an Elton John album, but wasn’t written by him and Bernie Taupin:
That, simply, is beautiful, made even more so by the background sounds of the surf and happy children’s voices. The song was written by Lesley Duncan, who plays the guitar and provides the harmony vocals. and remained the only song on one of his albums not written by him until his eleventh album, Blue Moves, in 1976. It comes from Elton’s Tumbleweed Connection album, released in October 1970 – his second album of the year (and third in total), following on from Elton John in April. If the movie Rocketman is to be believed, Elton and Bernie had written a huge number of songs together before his career took off, and wanted to record as many as possible. This one was written as a concept album, based around country and western/Americana themes, and reached #2 here in the UK and #5 in the US. None of the tracks was released as a single, apart from Country Comfort, and that was only in Australia, New Zealand and Brazil, for some reason. Rod Stewart recorded that one too, on his album Gasoline Alley. Lesley Duncan was much in demand as a songwriter and session singer around that time, notably for Dusty Springfield and Pink Floyd, as well as Elton. Despite this song being covered more than 150 times – including by David Bowie – her solo career never took off and after marriage she moved to the Isle of Mull and lived a happy life, mostly known locally as a gardener, until her passing in 2010.
Whilst I’m in the mood for beautiful songs, how about this one:
That was the final track on side one of Rumours, back in the days when music came on 12 inch slabs of plastic. You may have heard of the album – it has sold over 40m copies worldwide. Released in February 1997, it has become one of the all time best sellers, having reached #1 in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and The Netherlands. The story goes that the song was recorded solo by Christine McVie, who wrote it, in an extended session, in order that they could get it all in one take. It wasn’t released as a single in its own right, but was the B-side of Dreams, which was #1 in the US and Canada, but only got to #24 here in the UK. As you can see from the video, it has been the closing song for Fleetwood Mac’s shows, performed by Christine in the way it was recorded. Given that the band were going through some relationship issues at the time the song was written, you can still sense the emotion pouring out of her as she sings. It is, in my view, one of the most beautiful songs ever written, even if Eva Cassidy did destroy it!
My next one for today is also from a band I’ve featured before, because I have loved them since their early days in the Sixties. This song was on their eighth album, Seventh Sojourn, released in late 1972. The slight discordance in the title’s numbering is due to their not having counted their first album, from their early pop group days. This version is a recording from a live performance with the World Festival Orchestra at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 2000:
The orchestral setting really brings out the beauty of the song, and rounds out the sound in a way that adds something to the original recording – I think it’s lovely, and it still brings a tear to the eye now. The album reached #5 here but was the band’s first to reach #1 in the US. This track was released as a single in April 1972, ahead of the album, peaking at #13 here and #29 in the US. It was written by John Lodge, who takes the lead vocal.
I really must be in the mood for beautiful songs today, as this final one is another such. In the early Seventies Stevie Wonder dropped the ‘Little’ from his recording name, and produced a string of great albums that demonstrated his growing maturity. My favourite of these is Talking Book, which was released in October 1972. The best known tracks from it are the singles Superstition and You Are The Sunshine Of My Life, but the stand out track for me has always been the one which closes the album:
I think that is incredibly good. Like Songbird it has also suffered, in my eyes, from widespread publicity given to an inferior copy, in this case by Art Garfunkel. The original may not always be the best – but it often is! The song was written by Stevie and his sister-in-law Yvonne Wright, and he plays all of the instruments on the recording. The singer begins from a dark place, but still retains hope for his future: we could all use such optimism and positivity right now, I believe. I can’t think of a better, more uplifting way to bring this stage of my collection of Seventies albums to a close.
I’ll be back next Tuesday, once I’ve thought of what to do next in this series. As I said earlier, there is still so much I could share from the Sixties and Seventies, but I think it’s the right time for a change of tack. There is plenty of good music being released now, and there are still the four intervening decades to consider, so I’m not lost for choices!
Take care, obey the lockdown rules if, like us, you have them at present. If not, do take sensible precautions – you can’t see the virus but it’s lurking there. Above all, stay safe and well.