After resuming this series last week with the one off collection of winter songs, I thought I’d take you back to where we were at the end of November, before Advent took over here. If your memory is good, you might just recall that I had been working my way through singles and albums from the Sixties and Seventies – the formative years of my musical tastes. This was also the time when I really began buying albums in earnest, and although I have already given you a couple of collections from the Seventies it seemed right to add a third on the series’ return: there are so many I could choose from!
There is a fairly strong theme of singer-songwriters running through this week’s choices which, when I look back over my years of listening to music, doesn’t really come as a surprise to me – I’ve listened to a lot! The first four selections all date from the early Seventies, from my late schooldays leading up to uni, and all have wonderful memories attached to them for me (which definitely won’t be revealed!).
First up is a song from someone I have probably listened to more than anyone over the years:
Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam is, I think, my ‘go to’ when I need to hear something comforting. There is a warmth to his voice which the years haven’t dimmed, and this live performance from 2015 is lovely. The song was originally released on his Teaser And The Firecat album in October 1971. My copy was already well-worn by the time I went to uni a year after that! The album reached #2 in both the US and the UK, and spent fifteen weeks at the top of the Australian chart. The album sleeve featured a picture of a small boy (Teaser) wearing a top hat, alongside his cat (Firecat) – these were the subject of a book written by Cat for children the following year, which told the story of the moon falling out of the sky and the efforts of these two to put it back. Sadly, it has long been out of print, though I hope there may be a copy in the library of the school he set up in NW London – if only I’d thought to look while I was there! The original recording includes two bouzouki players covering the part played here on mandolin, and is very much in keeping with his Greek family roots.
My next three selections are also from albums I bought and played a lot whilst still at school – money from weekend and holiday jobs was well spent! This is from an album which is felt by many critics to be one of the best ever made – I wouldn’t disagree:
As the video shows, that was on Joni Mitchell’s album Blue, released in June 1971. It was a toss up as to whether I gave you this one or the opening track, All I Want, and you may recall I included River, another track from the album, on Day 9 of my Advent Calendar. It really is a spectacularly good album! It was her second album in a row to reach our top ten, peaking at #3, and it also reached #15 in the US and #9 in her native Canada. James Taylor played on three tracks, though not this one: bass and guitar were played by Stephen Stills. They were a close-knit group of friends, who often helped each other out.
Speaking of James Taylor, this is originally from his album Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon:
This is a version of the song recorded by JT and Carly Simon in 1977, during the period when they were married, and you get a little guest appearance from Whispering Bob at the end! The album was released in March 1971, providing my third piece of evidence as to what a good year that was for music. It reached #2 in the US and #4 here, and was notable for guest appearances by Carole King and Joni Mitchell, though neither sang on this track. The album was produced by Peter Asher, brother of Jane and one half of Peter And Gordon (of A World Without Love fame).
My next tune is from someone who didn’t release an album in 1971 (how remiss of him) but he did give us a new record in February 1972, from which this comes:
I went for the obvious one there but this is yet another great album from that era, with loads of good tracks. Again, it has a guest list to die for, featuring all of Crosby, Stills and Nash on backing vocals, and both James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt appear on this track. This was Neil Young’s fourth solo album, and it built hugely on the success of its predecessor, After The Goldrush. Harvest was #1 in both the US and the UK, and also in Canada, Australia, France, Norway and the Netherlands, selling somewhere over 7m copies along the way. This song was released as a single, reaching #1 in the US and Canada, and #10 here in the UK.
My next one today moves us slightly further forward into the Seventies. It comes from Jackson Browne’s third album, Late For The Sky, which was released in September 1974:
Amongst a catalogue of some truly wonderful songs, that has always been my favourite of his. This is a live performance from 2010, which is when I saw him play live at the Royal Albert Hall in London, three days after this video was recorded. It was fabulous to see him after all the years of loving his music but I did come away feeling a tinge of disappointment: he didn’t play this one. But it was still a great evening. The album peaked at #14 in the US but didn’t reach our charts – he has a loyal following here and has regularly played at the RAH during his tours, but his albums generally only make the lower reaches of our charts. Some of us know good music when we hear it, though! The song’s meaning is still as valid today as it was back then, perhaps even more so. Fingers crossed that the incoming US president reverses some of the damage caused by 45.
For today’s final tune I’m returning to these shores. A long-time favourite band of mine has been Jethro Tull, who I finally got to see playing live at the Union Chapel in London, in March 2010. Towards the end of the Seventies they released what is often known as a trilogy of folk-based albums, though I’ve always thought that a bit of a misnomer: many of their songs prior to then had folk elements, as they have done since. This is from the second of those albums, Heavy Horses, released in April 1978 (the others in this ‘trilogy’ were Songs From The Wood (Feb 1977) and Stormwatch (Sept 1979):
This was far from being the band’s best-performing album in chart terms, only reaching #19 in the US and #20 here, but it has always been a favourite of mine, along with their previous release. My apologies for not giving you a live performance, as they are a great live band, but I couldn’t find one with decent sound quality. Whichever way you hear it, it’s a lovely song.
That’s it for today. I’ll be back next Tuesday with some more tunes, and will see you again in the interim for my review of my blog’s 2020 – a treat not to be missed! See you again soon – let’s face it, if you’re in the UK you aren’t allowed to go out to play, so you may as well stay in and read this rubbish instead. 🙂