No blog for a few days as I have been busy decorating and room moving, as the kids are getting bigger and wanting more space, leading to the wife and I converting our dining room into our new master bedroom. That part’s now achieved (more to do though…) so normal service now being resumed.
Continuing my trawl backwards through the Seventies, having examined my favourite albums of 1979, today I present to you my top ten albums of 1978…
- Bruce Springsteen “Darkness On The Edge Of Town”
Following the huge success of 1975’s breakthrough album “Born To Run” was never going to be easy, and enduring a legal battle with his former manager kept Springsteen out of the studio until late 1977.
With a huge number of songs written and recorded, the eventual album was pared down to ten tracks, including singles “Prove It All Night”, “Badlands” and “The Promised Land”. Twenty two further recordings would surface in 2010 on the album “The Promise” – a collection of outtakes from the “Darkness…” sessions.
Back in ’78 the original album also contained future classics in the shape of “Racing In The Street”, “Streets Of Fire”, “Adam Raised A Cain” and, of course, the title track.
A less epic, more immediate sounding album than its predecessor, “Darkness On The Edge Of Town” is the least accessible of the two, but arguably the better artistically. Regardless, it remains a cracking and indispensable Springsteen record.
2. Jeff Wayne “The War Of The Worlds”
I think it was in the early Eighties that I first heard “Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds” (to give it its full title). I loved it straight away and still listen to it quite often today.
A musical retelling of the famous 1897 science fiction novel from English author H.G. Wells, this double album featured a number of high-profile performers including actor Richard Burton, and singers Justin Hayward, Phil Lynott, David Essex and Julie Covington.
Unusually for a double concept album, which itself spent nearly 300 weeks in the UK charts, it also produced a hit single – “Forever Autumn”.
With great packaging, well told story, great performances and superb compositions – very catchy songs and motifs – this is a classic album beyond doubt.
3. Jethro Tull “Heavy Horses”
This is an album that I have got into quite recently. In fact, it’s fair to say that the album has only really resonated with me since moving to the countryside and connecting with the natural world more.
The band’s eleventh studio album, this one is the middle piece of a trilogy of folk rock albums looking at themes surrounding nature and the effects of the changing world – the others being “Songs From The Wood” (1977) and “Stormwatch” (1979).
Group leader Ian Anderson had himself moved onto a farm and this is likely to have influenced his thinking and songwriting at the time. Whilst “Songs…” celebrated the enduring quality of nature “Heavy Horses” concerned itself with increasing industrialisation at the expense of the natural world.
Although the record was released in April of ’78 many have remarked that it has an autumnal feeling, and certainly I would have to agree that it does seem to fit that time of year particularly well, but is an excellent listen at any time of year.
“Moths” was released as a single from this album, and is one of the more folky tracks here, along with the likes of “Rover” and “Weathercock”, but the band’s progressive leanings still show through on songs like “No Lullaby” and “Heavy Horses”.
A truly great Jethro Tull album.
4. Kate Bush “The Kick Inside” / “Lionheart”
The first of two albums released in 1978 by a nineteen year old Kate Bush, debut record “The Kick Inside” was followed within nine months by “Lionheart”, with both making the UK top ten.
“The Kick Inside” contained the number one hit single “Wuthering Heights” and the beautiful “The Man With The Child In His Eyes”, the latter written when Bush was just thirteen years old. Other great songs here include “James And The Cold Gun”, “Feel It” and “Them Heavy People”.
On “Lionheart”, meanwhile, can be found a further two singles – “Hammer Horror” and “Wow“. Other notable tracks are “Oh England My Lionheart”, “Symphony In Blue” and “In The Warm Room”.
Bush herself was unhappy with how the second album turned out, as she felt that it was rushed under pressure from the record company. However, these two records mark an incredible year for the young artist who was destined to go on and create much more marvellous and inspirational music.
5. Queen “Jazz”
This was the seventh album from Queen, and their last studio album of the Seventies.
Released in November, the album’s release had been preceded by the double A side single “Bicycle Race” / “Fat Bottomed Girls” in October.
The album also contains “Don’t Stop Me Now”, another hit single for the group, as well as highlights such as “Let Me Entertain You” and “Dreamers Ball”. “Fun It”, a funky track, showed the direction the band would embrace wholeheartedly for 1982’s controversial “Hot Space” record.
If only May and Taylor could follow Deacon’s lead and stop tarnishing the Queen name in the present day. The collaboration with Paul Rodgers was a worthy, if ill-advised, effort, but the tours etc. with Adam Lambert and any number of guest singers that they have insisted in inflicting on the public since Mercury’s death are lamentable. Both could produce decent solo work – indeed Taylor’s most recent solo album is rather good – and I am unconvinced by the regular mantra that “Freddie would have approved”.
Still, “Jazz” is one of the band’s best records, from a time when they embraced a whole variety of genres on their albums, and is as good to listen to today as ever.
6. Rainbow “Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll”
The third album from Ritchie Blackmore’s band, and the last to feature the wonderful vocals of Ronnie James Dio.
The majority of the record was recorded by the trio of Blackmore, Dio and drummer Cozy Powell in 1977 before bassist Bob Daisley and keyboardist David Stone joined the line-up.
The album made number 6 in the UK, whilst two singles also charted – “L.A. Connection” at number 40 and “Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll” at number 33.
Hits aside, however, the best of the album included “Kill The King”, “The Shed (Subtle)”, “Rainbow Eyes” and the brilliant “Gates Of Babylon”. The band’s sound would take a turn towards more commercial territory by the time of their next album, leaving this as the last of their epic and expansive hard rock records. Essential listening.
7. Rush “Hemispheres”
Recorded just down the road from here, at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, “Hemispheres” was Canadian band Rush’s sixth studio album.
As with the group’s previous three albums, this one contains a lengthy track alongside some more concise tracks.
In the case of “Hemispheres”, the lengthy track is the sci-fi opener “Cygnus X-1 Book II : Hemispheres” which comes in at just over eighteen minutes. Book I had closed the group’s 1977 album “A Farewell To Kings” and was itself ten minutes in length.
“Circumstances”, at under four minutes, was the album’s shortest song, with single “The Trees” being next at nearly five. That just left closing instrumental track “La Villa Strangiato”, subtitled “An Exercise In Self-Indulgence” which is over nine and a half minutes long.
So, four tracks totalling thirty-six minutes. A fairly average length for a Rush record in the Seventies, but the music is of such quality that this is anything but an average album. Excellent.
8. Status Quo “If You Can’t Stand The Heat…”
The eleventh studio album from the group saw Status Quo incorporating a brass section and female backing singers into their sound for the first time, resulting in a record that is very much of its time.
Featuring two hit singles – “Again And Again” and “Accident Prone” – this is quite a poppy sounding record from the band (perhaps indicating that Francis Rossi had the upper hand during recording sessions?), though thankfully much fuller sounding than the previous year’s “Rockin’ All Over The World”. Nonetheless it still makes for a good listen.
“I’m Givin’ Up My Worryin'”, “Oh! What A Night”, “Stones”, “Let Me Fly” are all great catchy songs and “Long Legged Linda” and “Like A Good Girl” up the tempo nicely.
Incidentally, the ballad “Someone Show Me Home” reappeared as “Someone Show Me” on Rossi’s 1996 solo album “King Of The Doghouse”, though I personally prefer the original version found here. The band would return in 1979 with the much harder rocking “Whatever You Want” album.
9. Van Halen “Van Halen”
Released in February ’78, this was the debut album from California band Van Halen.
One of the great debuts in hard rock history, “Van Halen” contains tracks that have become live staples for the group ever since, including two hit singles – “Runnin’ With The Devil” and “You Really Got Me”, as well as the likes of “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” and “Jamie’s Cryin'”.
And let’s not forget the revolutionary instrumental guitar extravaganza that is “Eruption”! It sounds as fresh and exciting today as the day I first heard it. Eddie Van Halen is on fire throughout this record and the rest of the band are non too shabby either. Classic!
10. Whitesnake “Trouble”
I remember buying a cheap reissue of this on a cassette in the early Eighties, probably around the time of “Saints & Sinners”, and not being too sure about it to begin with.
Over the years since then, however, I have grown to love this album, and probably enjoy it more than “Ready An’ Willing” and “Come An’ Get It” to be honest.
Released during the same year as David Coverdale’s second solo album “Northwinds”, “Trouble” was the first record credited to Whitesnake and features the same personnel as 1979 album “Lovehunter” – another favourite.
Both the excellent “Lie Down (A Modern Love Song)” (not so much suggestive as blatant lyrically!) and “The Time Is Right For Love” were released as singles, although neither charted, and the album itself only made number 50 in the UK. A slow-burn version of the Beatles’ “Day Tripper”, instrumental “Belgian Tom’s Hat Trick” and tracks like “Love To Keep You Warm”, “Nighthawk (Vampire Blues)” and the title track, together with stellar performances from all involved all contributed to a fabulous first record from this now legendary rock band.
The usual round-up of events in this year include James Callaghan as British Prime Minister and Jimmy Carter as President of the USA, Nottingham Forest winning the old First Division and Ipswich Town beating Arsenal for the FA Cup, and top film releases of the year included “Grease”, “Superman” and the powerful “The Deer Hunter”.
1977 will be up next in a week or two…