Thursday, August 16, 2018

If You're Only Going to Buy One Greatest Hits Set By... Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin sounded nothing like any female R&B singer in the 1960s.  Up until that point, most African American female singers tended to veer toward the middle of the road (Dionne Warwick, Nancy Wilson, even Diana Ross) – to find a female singer with any background in the blues, you’d be talking about Etta James, or going back further, anyone from LaVern Baker to Big Mama Thornton.  Franklin’s background was in gospel singing (she didn’t go secular until her late teens), and following her mentor Sam Cooke, she moved into pop.  After six years at Columbia at a time when the label didn’t know what to do with non-MOR acts, she moved to Atlantic Records and ran off a string of hits – “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” “Respect,” “Chain of Fools,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Think,” “Spanish Harlem,” “Rock Steady,” and more.  Her popularity faltered in the 1970s, but she got it back for a period in the 1980s with hits like “Freeway of Love” and “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” and she was always a top concert draw.

Franklin didn’t have a particularly easy personal life, despite growing up in relative luxury as the daughter of the Rev. C.L. Franklin.  She gave birth to two children before she turned 15, and two marriages ended in divorce.  Her weight fluctuated over the years, and she had problems with smoking and alcohol.  She lost her father to a gunshot wound (he would be in a coma for five years before dying), and was predeceased by two sisters and a brother.  In later years she had a variety of health problems that may or may not have been related to cancer.  So it’s best to remember her for her music – and she could do it all.  And she wasn’t just a singer, she wrote some of her own material and played piano as well.

Franklin was on three labels over the years – Columbia, Atlantic, and Arista from 1980 onward.  There aren’t any really good all-encompassing choices from all three labels (although there is some cooperation between them), but for one solid package, here’s what I would pick:

30 Greatest Hits

I’m puzzled as to why this isn’t in print anymore, but at least it’s around for download. Franklin had 31 Top 40 hits with Atlantic, and almost all of them are here (a couple of lesser hits are left off in favor of B-sides and other tracks). Released the same year as her biggest album on Arista, Who’s Zoomin’ Who, it sold pretty well on vinyl and became a catalog item when released on CD two years later (although, unfortunately, the track listing was created with vinyl in mind; it clocks in at roughly 99:14 – a one-disk version would had to have been 25 Greatest Hits). I don’t see a better two-disc Atlantic best-of from Franklin anywhere that’s still available, so this will have to do – a little searching in used CD stores should yield a copy. $14.49 for the download on Amazon, $14.99 on iTunes.

Some of the other choices (Franklin had many, many compilations released over the years) are listed below; the links go to the Wikipedia entries. Please try to stick with the major labels (Rhino, Atlantic, Warner Brothers, Columbia, Arista, Sony), as anything else may be a grey-market release.

Aretha Franklin’s Greatest Hits (1967) and Aretha Franklin’s Greatest Hits Volume II (1968) – both rushed out by Columbia after Franklin started having massive success on Atlantic Records. These are both out of print, but don’t worry – none of her big hits were here. (The only time she hit the top 40 while with Columbia was with a remake of the standard “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody,” which peaked at #37.) Columbia reissued and reshuffled her songs over and over again starting in the late 1960s and into the 1980s (Today I Sing the Blues, In the Beginning: The World of Aretha Franklin 1960-1967, The Legendary Queen of Soul, etc.); just be aware that anything on Columbia or Sony will be bereft of music you’ve heard on the radio.

Aretha’s Gold (1969) – released after her first four Atlantic albums generated a pile of hits. (Labels tended to release greatest hits sets very quickly in those days, because they sold better than studio albums and no one was really sure when the gravy train would end.) It was a pretty generous running time for that era at 41:17, and included “The House That Jack Built,” which hadn’t been on any of her studio albums. Out of print (although Amazon has a few copies of the CD and vinyl editions at ridiculous prices – I think the vinyl edition is one of those 180-gram reissues), but available for download at $9.49 on Amazon and $9.99 on iTunes; keep in mind this is only a small slice of what she did over her career at the label.

Aretha’s Greatest Hits (1971) – this seems unnecessary, coming two years after Aretha’s Gold and repeating eight of its 14 songs. Atlantic seems to have reconsidered it over the years as well; it’s long out of print on CD and unavailable for download, but it’s still around on vinyl (as an import). It’s certainly worth having, but again, it’s not a must-have. Ten Years of Gold (1976) fits the same pattern – another hits set repeating songs from previous best-ofs – and it appears to be unavailable in any format other than used vinyl.

Aretha Sings the Blues (1980) – another Columbia shuffle; this one may be of more interest to collectors because it’s mostly blues based (although not all). Out of print on vinyl, cassette, and CD, and unavailable for download.

The Best of Aretha Franklin (1984) –12-track Atlantic set probably meant as a vinyl-only stopgap; CDs weren’t a factor in deciding what to rerelease in 1984. Out of print on disc and vinyl, $9.99 for the download on both Amazon and iTunes; given there are so many better choices available, it’s embarrassing this is even available. And the cover is hideous; I barely recognize Franklin at all.

Queen of Soul: The Atlantic Recordings (1992) – I’d be reluctant to recommend this over 30 Greatest Hits because it’s a lot more expensive, but it sure covers everything she did on Atlantic. Four discs, 86 songs, nothing important missing to my knowledge (understanding that excludes anything she did after leaving Atlantic). This isn’t to be confused with a second Atlantic box set, The Queen of Soul, released in 2014, with a different track listing (also 86 songs in all) – I think either of them would be useful for a major Franklin fan. The 1992 set is out of print and unavailable for download (but should be easy to find at a good used record store), the 2014 set is $37.99 for the download on Amazon and $39.99 on iTunes, $43.58 for the actual physical box set on Amazon.

Chain of Fools (1993) – cheapie eight-track compilation, for impulse shoppers only. Rhino/Atlantic generally released these to bring in CD buyers who didn’t want to buy multidisc box sets (but seriously, only eight songs?). Out of print, $8.99 for the download on Amazon. Spend a few more bucks and get something good.

Greatest Hits 1980-1994 (1994) – Franklin moved to Arista in 1980 after several hitless years on Atlantic; she fit Clive Davis’ preferred artist profile (veteran singer who didn’t write much music); this reflects her Arista time period only. This isn’t an especially well-chosen set, as several hits were left off (“Through the Storm,” a top 20 hit with Elton John, “It Isn’t, It Wasn’t, It Ain’t Never Gonna Be,” a duet with labelmate Whitney Houston, her “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” remake, and “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” with Eurythmics). I get that they had space limitations, but some of the songs selected instead (the non-hit duet “Doctor’s Orders” with Luther Vandross, the dull “Ever Changing Times” with Michael McDonald) just don’t make sense. Out of print and unavailable for download, but used CD stores should have this, given it went platinum.

The Very Best of Aretha Franklin, Vol. 1 (1994) and The Very Best of Aretha Franklin, Vol. 2 (1994) – Atlantic did a really nice job with these, splitting Franklin’s output with the label up right at the turn of the decade. If anything, the song selection here is better than 30 Greatest Hits, as “Something He Can Feel” and “Master of Eyes (The Deepness of Your Eyes)” are both here. Both volumes are out of print, so if you’re looking for two discs in used record stores, I might get these two instead of 30 Greatest. However, the downloads for these two are $11.49 apiece on Amazon ($11.99 on iTunes), whereas 30 Greatest Hits by itself is only three dollars more – so you’d be spending a lot more money for the single albums if you download. (It would actually be cheaper to download 30 Greatest Hits by itself and the five songs that are on these two sets but not 30 Greatest Hits individually – they’re all on Volume 2 – than to download the two Very Bests by themselves.)

Love Songs (1997) – yes, I have this. The good news is it’s not all ballads, and I only spent $2.99 for it. It’s all from the Atlantic years. $5.99 for the disc on Amazon (I suspect they’re clearing out inventory); $11.49 for the download on Amazon and $11.99 on iTunes.

Aretha’s Best (2001) – one of the few best-ofs that has both Atlantic and Arista material, although since it’s a Rhino product, it leans heavily on the former (the Arista period is represented by “Jump to It,” “Freeway of Love,” “Who’s Zoomin’ Who,” and the George Michael duet “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)”). 20 songs, seven dollars for the physical disc on Amazon (for now). I’m much more of a fan of the Atlantic years, but this is a pretty good all-encompassing package.
Respect: The Very Best of Aretha Franklin (2002) – another best-of that combines Arista and Atlantic material. My B.S. detector normally goes up when I see something like this only available as an import and not for download, but the label is listed on Amazon as “Warner Spec. Mkt. Uk,” so I guess it’s all right. I’d still stick with the American releases unless you’re adventurous. $17.76 for the two-disc set.

Rare and Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of The Queen of Soul (2007) – somebody at Atlantic had fun with that title. Outtakes and a couple of B-sides, probably of interest only to diehard collectors. Out of print on disc, $16.99 for the download on Amazon, $17.99 on iTunes.

Jewels in the Crown: All-Star Duets with The Queen (2007) – Arista’s retort to Rare and Unreleased, I guess. All duets (or famous backing musicians; Keith Richards produced and played on her “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” remake, for example), mostly previously released on her own albums (although “Chain of Fools” with Mariah Carey is from VH1 Divas Live, and “What Now My Love” was a duet with Frank Sinatra from late in his career). Out of print, but available for $9.99 for the download on both Amazon and iTunes, which isn’t a bad price.

Queen of Soul: The Best of Aretha Franklin (2007) – one disc and 24 songs from the Atlantic years; this was probably released in 2007 as a one-disc option for the casual fans. It’s now out of print and goes for $14.49 for the download on Amazon and $14.99 on iTunes. I haven’t compared the track selection between this and 30 Greatest Hits, but since the latter is the exact same price, that’s got to be the better buy (30 – 24 = 6 extra songs, right?).  And I’d love to know why they insisted on calling this one Queen of Soul when there was already a box set by that name; there’s already enough confusion among greatest hits titles.

Playlist: The Very Best of Aretha Franklin (2008) – low-budget Sony release, notable only because all three labels are represented here (a surprise to me, as I’ve never seen any other Playlist albums include music from non-Sony sources).  The only Atlantic songs are “Respect” and “Chain of Fools,” but those are pretty good choices, and you have to like “Skylark.”  Almost everything else is from the Arista days, which means it’s weighted heavily toward her 1980s sound. Out of print and unavailable for download, however; if you have Spotify, though, have at it.

The Essential Aretha Franklin: The Columbia Years (2010) – yet another Columbia rerelease (and this itself was a reissue of a 2005 two-disc set called, appropriately, The Queen in Waiting). Nothing essential, but I’m sure it’s all useful. And two extra checkmarks: the title, which makes it clear it’s her output from Columbia (no Arista or Atlantic material here), and Sony sticking with just the 1960s output – they could have added her 1980s and 1990s material from Arista at that point to this package, but that would have been a very odd combination. Out of print on disc, $14.49 for the download on Amazon and $14.99 on iTunes.

Knew You Were Waiting: The Best of Aretha Franklin 1980-1998 (2012) – Confusing looking package; the title clearly states the music is from the 1980s and 1990s, but the cover photo looks like it was taken years before. Anyway, this has a better selection than Greatest Hits 1980-1994 (all of the songs I mentioned that were left off that set are here), and it’s in chronological order. Pick this up to complete your Franklin collection. $6.98 for the CD, $10.99 for the download on both Amazon and iTunes.  Try to find this instead of Greatest Hits 1980-1994 if willing to spend more than the price of a used CD.

There are also some omnibus packages available of studio albums from the Atlantic and Columbia years – The Atlantic Albums Collection, at $87.03 for 19 discs, looks like it’s a steal, even though it doesn’t include her last few albums for the label (which aren’t supposed to be very good). And I haven’t touched her gospel albums – Amazing Grace: The Complete Recordings includes everything from the original studio release plus some extra cuts, and at $14.49 for the download, it’s probably worthwhile (the original version is $9.49 for the download); she also did some early gospel sides before signing with Columbia that show up on nonamo labels from time to time. Franklin didn’t release a gospel best-of in her career, and unless Atlantic and Arista combine forces on one (she did One Light, One Faith, One Baptism for Arista in 1987), that seems unlikely to change.

Other “If You’re Only Going to Buy One Greatest Hits Set From…” Blog Posts:

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Double Live Album!: Gregg Allman, Live: Back to Macon, GA

Since I seem to only write one of these every six months or so, here are my rules again on what qualifies to be considered:

  • The album will need to be at least two vinyl LPs (which means Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty isn’t eligible). For compact disks, I’ve set the minimum running time at 68 minutes – so I may have a single CD here from time to time.
  • Reissues that add to the running time are okay. Cheap Trick has reissued At Budokan in a two-disk version, so that would be okay.
  • I’m also okay with reviewing albums that are a combination of studio and live, as long as the live content is more than 2/3 of the total running time. (David Bowie’s Station to Station has been reissued with a full concert from Nassau Coliseum, which bumped the running time up to 135 minutes or so.)
  • I’m not going to review comedy albums (most comedy albums are live, anyway) or classical albums (no background in the subject).

Gregg Allman, Live: Back to Macon, GA

Year Issued: 2015

Running Time: 89:57

Dates of Live Performance: January 14, 2014, at the Grand Opera House, Macon

Track Listing:
Statesboro Blues
I’m No Angel
Queen of Hearts
I Can’t Be Satisfied
These Days

Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More
Brightest Smile in Town
Hot ‘Lanta
I’ve Found a Love
Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’

Before the Bullets Fly
Midnight Rider
Love Like Kerosene
Whipping Post

One Way Out

Background: Allman made piles of live albums with The Allman Brothers Band (I count six full live album releases during their career, plus a bunch of retrospective live albums released on their own label as their career was winding down), but he only made one solo live LP (1974’s The Gregg Allman Tour, which is still available for download), so this one is a welcome addition. Allman’s solo tastes run a little more toward R&B than The Allman Brothers Band, so there’s a three-piece horn section on most of the songs.

Does It Have the Hits?: “Ramblin’ Man” was written and sung by Dickey Betts, so that’s not here. Other than that, yes – eight of the sixteen songs here were originally by the Allmans, so even if none of them were “hits” in the Top 40 sense, you’ll be familiar with most of them. “I’m No Angel,” which was a major AOR solo hit for Allman in 1987, is also here.

Any Rarities?: Not really. There’s a remake of the old Wilson Pickett classic “I Found a Love,” but everything else appears to have been recorded previously by Allman either solo or with the Allman Brothers.

Studio Tracks?: None.

Musicians: This is embarrassing; the copy I have doesn’t have liner notes (bought it for a dollar at the library), so I’m picking this up from an Amazon review. Gregg Allman, guitar, keyboards, and vocals; Scott Sharrard, guitar; Jay Collins, saxophone; Art Edmaiston, saxophone; Dennis Marion, trumpet; Mark Quinones, percussion; Steve Potts, drums; Ron Johnson, bass; Ben Stivers, organ and keyboards.

Performance: Really good, considering Allman was 66 years old and had undergone a liver transplant a few years earlier (and, of course, he would die of liver cancer three years later). Allman’s voice sounds great, and the horn section shakes things up enough to ensure it’s not an “Allman Brothers music without the actual band” album. It’s nice to hear his version of Jackson Browne’s “These Days” as well (Allman recorded it for his first solo album, which came out the same month as Browne’s solo version on For Everyman ­– although Nico had made the first version of the song years before).

Sound Quality: Fine. There are a couple of sour notes on some of the vocals, but since this was a one-night only performance, they couldn’t pick the best one of several. I’d rather have the sour notes than have someone sweeten it in postproduction.

Any Songs Over 10 Minutes?: Just “One Way Out” at 11:28. For Allman, who spent a lifetime playing with a jam band, that’s restrained.

Warning, Will Robinson: The drum solo is on “One Way Out.”

Stage Patter: Virtually none. Gregg greets the audience after the first song, and thanks them for attending after the last one.

Still Available: Only released three years ago, so yes. My physical copy may have been missing liner notes, but it came with a Blu Ray disc of the concert and interviews with Allman (which I haven’t watched yet). The MP3 download is just $9.49 on Amazon. My theory is record labels have been throwing in DVDs and Blu Rays over the last few years not because they care if you can actually see the concert, but because they’re a lot harder to copy than music CDs, and collectors will feel like they’re missing something if they don’t have the whole package.

Chart History: Didn’t chart, to my knowledge. It’s on Rounder Records, which is an independent label with an affinity for folk and blues (Allman released two studio albums on the label in addition to this one).

Any More Live Albums?: Just this and The Gregg Allman Tour as a solo act. But as for the Allman Brothers Band, there’s a long and impressive list.
  • At Fillmore East/The Fillmore Concerts – Their first, and their most important live album, even though they’d only recorded two studio albums to this point. I have The Fillmore Concerts (two CDs), which is great; I would like to get At Fillmore East Deluxe Edition, which adds “Midnight Rider.” The single-CD At Fillmore East version (it was two LPs when originally released on vinyl in 1972) seems a little skimpy, but it’s the easiest one to find. The six-CD set seems more than anyone will ever need. I’ll probably review this separately at some point.
  • Wipe the Windows, Check the Oil, Dollar Gas – Meh. Product for product’s sake when the band had basically broken up.
  • An Evening With the Allman Brothers Band: First Set – I got this as a free download; it’s okay.
  • An Evening With the Allman Brothers Band: Second Set – The followup, obviously.
  • Peakin’ at the Beacon – Recorded in 2000, so of some value to hear Gregg after he’d sobered up and Dickey Betts before he was pitched from the band.
  • One Way Out – 2003 album with Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks.

As I noted earlier, there are a bunch of archival live albums, including several released under the band’s own label. The latter are recorded directly from the sound board, so any mistakes have been kept in. I have three of those from the days before Duane Allman died (American University 12/13/70; Boston Common, 8/17/71; S.U.N.Y. at Stonybrook, Stonybrook, NY 9/19/71), and they’re all pretty good; S.U.N.Y. at Stonybrook provides the most bang for the buck, running over an hour and 45 minutes.

Is It an Absolute Necessity?: Of course not – start with Fillmore Concerts, then see if you’re a fan. But this is a lot of fun.

My Favorite Song: “Whipping Post” isn’t my favorite Allman Brothers song (that honor goes to either “Midnight Rider,” “Revival,” or “Jessica”), but the addition of the horn section here makes it an entirely different song, and one that should be played on classic rock stations. If they were willing to play that stupid unplugged version of Eric Clapton’s “Layla,” there’s no reason this couldn’t be dropped into the rotation occasionally. “Statesboro Blues,” “These Days,” and “One Way Out” are also quite good. These all range from sounding almost exactly like the Allmans’ version (“Statesboro Blues”) to not much like their version at all (“Whipping Post”), so your love of this may depend on how much of a purist you are.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Top 100 Albums of 1979

Here are the top 100 albums of 1979 (per Billboard magazine’s year-end charts) and a few comments on each.  (Parentheses after the album titles indicates what format I have the album in; either CD, vinyl, or cassette. No parentheses means I don’t own it.)

1. Billy Joel, 52nd Street (CD, vinyl) – I should give Joel a lot of credit here; The Stranger was such a strong album that I would have thought he’d need a couple of years to come back with a good followup, or else there wouldn’t be enough worthwhile songs. I wouldn’t say this is as consistently great as The Stranger (side 2 is a little weaker, especially the overlong Righteous Brothers soundalike “Until the Night,”), but it’s a darn good album.

2. The Bee Gees, Spirits Having Flown – okay, I do have two Bee Gees studio albums, but I got them 30 years ago when someone was moving – if they weren’t free, they didn’t cost more than a dollar. (For the record, they’re Idea and Odessa, both from the 1960s – the latter is the red felt cover that I would have hoped would be worth a fortune nowadays; it’s not.) I saw this on CD in 2nd and Charles for four dollars last weekend and wasn’t the least bit tempted; all the hits are on any of their anthologies.

3. The Doobie Brothers, Minute by Minute (CD, vinyl) – I have a theory that the reason this and several other rock albums released in late 1978/early 1979 were the best-selling albums ever by their respective acts because there wasn’t much else for rock fans to buy. Disco was at its peak, and several other major rock acts (The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd) were in between albums or overdue for new ones. This album has sold more than any Doobies studio album at over three million copies, and only Best of the Doobies has sold more overall. Strange, because the band was falling apart at the time (Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and John Hartman both left early in the year over disagreements about their direction).

4. The Cars, The Cars (CD, vinyl) – This was a leftover from 1978, of course, but it continued to sell really well right up until the summer, when the followup Candy-O was released. It’s my favorite of their studio albums (I’m not one really one to judge, however, as I don’t have any of the others – just greatest hits sets). This one has also outsold all of their other studio albums, although Candy-O and Heartbeat City aren’t that far behind.

5. Supertramp, Breakfast in America (CD, vinyl) – Another all-time act best seller; this has sold over 4 million copies in America – the only other Supertramp albums to sell one million are the live album Paris and a greatest hits set. It’s a great album, and at least four songs are still in heavy rotation on classic rock stations to this day.

6. Donna Summer, Live and More – Donna was incredibly popular around this time, and I’m much more appreciative of her work than most white middle-aged guys (I have a few of her other albums), but this doesn’t really tempt me. Most live disco albums just play everything a little bit faster, and the arrangements usually aren’t as full (which is bad for disco; the strings and horns are minimized as a result). The studio (“And More”) side has a 17-1/2 minute medley of “MacArthur Park” and “Heaven Knows” with a third song, “One of a Kind,” which I already have on a various artists compilation. I guess the good news about that one is DJs could take a bathroom break when they played that one.

7. Styx, Pieces of Eight – Another Styx album I don’t own. Interesting that Tommy Shaw wrote and sang lead vocals on all three of the album’s hits (“Blue Collar Man,” “Sing for the Day,” “Renegade”); it was the Dennis DeYoung show from there on out.

8. Donna Summer, Bad Girls (CD) – Home of three more gigantic hits (“Hot Stuff,” “Dim All the Lights,” title track), but since those are all on the first LP (it’s a double album) I’m not sure how often the second one was played (unless you were a huge fan of “Sunset People,” I guess). Now on one disc on CD, which is how I own it.

9. Blondie, Parallel Lines (vinyl) – I hadn’t even heard of the band before “Heart of Glass” and “One Way or Another” started getting airplay on WDHA (The Rock of North Jersey), with “Heart of Glass” eventually hitting #1 during the disco era. I don’t think the album would have been as big a hit without the club play “Heart of Glass” generated, but it’s such a strong album that keeps listeners from being bored (12 songs, all less than four minutes long) that it’s hard to imagine it wouldn’t have become popular. I have two vinyl copies of the album; the second is a picture disk with one side the original front cover and the other a shot of Debbie Harry licking a vinyl album. It seemed like a good buy at the time.

10. Rod Stewart, Blondes Have More Fun – This received a collective groan from my high school (which was nearly all white and mostly despised disco); “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” told everyone he’d completely sold out, and the followup hit “Ain’t Love a Bitch” was interesting only for the shock value.

11. Kenny Rogers, The Gambler – The title track and “She Believes in Me” were the hits on this one. Kenny Rogers and The Carpenters are two of the very few multiplatinum albums that are completely unrepresented in my record collection.

12. The Village People, Cruisin’ – This is the one with “Y.M.C.A.” on it. And, yes, I have a Village People album (one of my fraternity brothers gave me Live and Sleazy after accidentally ordering it from RCA Music Service).

13. Cheap Trick, Cheap Trick at Budokan – yet another all-time best seller for this act; this has sold 3 million copies, mostly on the strength of “I Want You to Want Me.” Epic would have been better off issuing “Surrender” as the second single, but the studio version had flopped the previous year, so they went with a cover of “Ain’t That a Shame” instead. I had planned to download this from Freegal (there have been several rereleases with expanded track listings); I guess I’ll have to scour the record stores instead.

14. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, Stranger in Town (CD, vinyl) – another 1978 leftover, but this had two chart hits in 1979 (the mawkish “We’ve Got Tonite” and the essential “Old Time Rock & Roll”).

15. Van Halen, Van Halen (CD) – yet another 1978 leftover.

16. The Knack, Get the Knack (vinyl) – This must have sold a pile of copies to make the end-of-year chart this high, considering those charts usually reflected numbers roughly from November 1 of the previous year to October 31; Get the Knack was released in mid-June. I bought this on vinyl to close out my deal with RCA Music Service, and I wish I’d made a different choice.

17. Peaches & Herb, 2-Hot! – Two huge singles, “Shake Your Groove Thing” and “Reunited” made this a best seller. There have been seven different women billed as “Peaches” in the act, but only one Herb – who has worked in law enforcement a few times when they weren’t getting gigs (or royalties).

18. Billy Joel, The Stranger (CD, vinyl, cassette) – This came out in late September 1977. I wonder how many other albums were in the top 20 of the year-end charts two years running.

19. Toto, Toto – a group of solid studio players made themselves a top-selling act, and got all sorts of grief as a result. I’ve survived for years on a greatest hits set, but I have nothing bad to say about them – maybe their songwriting isn’t the best, but you can’t fault the talent playing the instruments.

20. Soundtrack, Grease – I guess this answers the question I asked in The Stranger entry – there have been at least two.

21. Poco, Legend (vinyl) – I’m kind of surprised this made it so high on the year-end charts; it was definitely a best seller for the band, but it never made it past #14 on the weekly charts. Phil Hartman designed the cover (a bunch of sources say he did the cover art, but I’m reserving judgment on that until I can dig up my copy of the album; designers often create the typography and placement but don’t necessarily create the art itself).

22. The Rolling Stones, Some Girls (vinyl) – another 1978 leftover. The band famously had to redesign the album cover after it turned out the cover designer hadn’t bothered to get permissions from the women pictured on the cover (most of whom sued the band); I wish I had the original cover, but I didn’t buy my copy until mid-1979 or so.

23. Dire Straits, Dire Straits (CD) – Very successful debut for the band, who benefited (again) from little competition at that point. Not their all-time best seller though; Brothers in Arms has sold over 9 million copies.

24. Earth, Wind & Fire, The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire Vol. 1 (vinyl) – Man, this is a good album. And I just realized one song (“Love Music”) isn’t available anywhere else, so I may have to download it and put it somewhere.

25. Foreigner, Double Vision – Critical backlash was starting to set in, as the general consensus was “not as good as the first album.” Not that their fans seemed to mind.

26. Led Zeppelin, In Through the Out Door – The band’s fans must have camped out at the record stores; this released on August 25 and still made it to the top 30 in the year-end list. I’m familiar with most of the songs but don’t have the album. (Which may be because, to this day, I feel weird about it because I misspelled the band’s name in a year-end music feature for our high school newspaper.) 

27. Soundtrack, Saturday Night Fever – Another leftover, this time from 1977.

28. Barbra Streisand, Greatest Hits, Volume II (CD) – This is the one with “The Way We Were,” “Evergreen,” and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” on it – so if you’re trying to find a good single-disc Streisand set, this would be the best choice.

29. Bad Company, Desolation Angels (CD) – The band was on Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song vanity label, and I’m thinking this release was timed to stay away from In Through the Out Door. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy” was the hit here, which may have confused a few radio programmers (The Kinks had released the nearly-identically titled “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy” as a single the year before).

30. Chic, C’est Chic – This is the one with “Le Freak” on it (and the followup hit “I Want Your Love”). “Le Freak” is a great song, but it’s available on lots of anthologies and best-ofs. The disco backlash clobbered this band (as one essay explained to me, white guys outside of cities didn’t react well to a genre of music whose most visible artists seemed to be mostly blacks, women, and gays), but Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards had solid careers in production and songwriting for years after disco “died.”

31. The Jacksons, Destiny – These guys kind of lucked out. The first single released from the album was “Blame It on the Boogie,” which only hit #54 (although it did much better on the R&B and dance charts), partially because the song’s original writer, Mick Jackson (who is not Michael; he’s a British singer-songwriter) brought out a competing version at the same time, and no doubt the similar names confused people. Michael’s film, The Wiz, also opened at the same time this released in December 1978, and was not a success; neither was Michael’s solo single release from that soundtrack, “You Can’t Win.” But the next single, “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” got lots of play as a disco track, and crossed over, hitting #7 and bringing this album with it.

32. Heart, Dog and Butterfly – Pretty good album for the band, with “Straight On” and the title track among its contents.

33. Rickie Lee Jones, Rickie Lee Jones – This was such a big deal when it came out, and the assumption was she would be around forever. Unfortunately, Jones has become kind of the Alanis Morrissette of my generation – she’s released a lot of music since then (some quite good), but she’s never had the kind of commercial success this album had.

34. George Thorogood, Move It on Over – I had no idea he had an album this successful.

35. Olivia Newton-John, Totally Hot – Newton-John’s career got a big boost from Grease. “A Little More Love” and “Deeper Than the Night” were the two hits from this album.

36. Barry Manilow, Greatest Hits – Two-album set. There are piles of Manilow compilations out nowadays, and this one is relatively hard to come by on CD as a result. (I don’t think it’s even available for download.)

37. Sister Sledge, We Are Family – This may be one of the cases where a single studio album might do just as well as a greatest hits set; the sisters only had two pop top 20 hits, and they’re both here (the title track and “He’s the Greatest Dancer”). I’ve got a two-disc best-of, but I got it for two dollars.

38. Van Halen, Van Halen II (CD) – “Dance the Night Away” is on this one.

39. GQ, Disco Nights (vinyl) – Unfortunate album title, as the album isn’t all disco (their remake of Billy Stewart’s sweet ballad “I Do Love You,” also here, was a top 20 hit). But nothing hit after this one for them.

40. Gloria Gaynor, Love Tracks – “I Will Survive” is on this album.

41. Linda Ronstadt, Back in the U.S.A. (vinyl) – Another one I got as a picture disk. “Living in the U.S.A.” and “Ooh Baby Baby” were the two big hits from this one.

42. Eric Clapton, Backless – “Promises” was a big hit, but Clapton might have been better served holding off on this one for a few more months – the biggest complaint I’ve seen about this one is weak material. Another Clapton album I don’t own; I’ve got to make better choices (his Pilgrim may be one of the worst albums I’ve ever heard by a major artist).

43. The Blues Brothers, Briefcase Full of Blues (vinyl) – Remember when John Belushi was the king of the world? This hit #1, Saturday Night Live was the most talked-about TV show, and Animal House was a huge movie. Anyway, it was easier to get the poorly edited The Definitive Collection than this on CD (that set has what’s getting off the movie soundtrack and their second album); too bad Atlantic didn’t do a better job of editing Belushi’s band introductions off that one.

44. Journey, Evolution – I don’t have any studio albums by these guys, and I can’t stand “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” which is like half a song. Strangely, the first single, “Just the Same Way,” has Gregg Rolie on lead vocals – his wispy voice was the reason they brought in Steve Perry.

45. Spyro Gyra, Morning Dance (vinyl) – I liked this a lot better back then than I do now – I probably haven’t played this album in 30 years.

46. The Village People, Macho Man – This came out in 1978, of course. Casablanca knew what they were doing with these guys; put out as much product as possible while the gimmick’s still fresh. If they hadn’t parted ways with lead singer Victor Willis (who was the one who wrote their clever double-entendre lyrics) they might have lasted a little bit longer.

47. Gino Vannelli, Brother to Brother (vinyl) – The big hit “I Just Wanna Stop” is here, along with the minor followup “Wheels of Life.” His material hasn’t aged well to me, but Google his photos sometime – man, this is a hairy guy.

48. The Charlie Daniels Band, Million Mile Reflections – The band’s biggest hit, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” is here.

49. Talking Heads, More Songs About Buildings and Food – I’d probably pick this up if I saw it cheap, but it’s not high on my list. This hit based on their remake of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River.”

50. Joe Jackson, Look Sharp! (vinyl) – I heard “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” and the title track a lot on WDHA, and then when the album showed up as two 10-inch disks (with a button of the title logo as part of a special die-cut cover) and it wasn’t too expensive, I figured that was a neat collectible and took the plunge. It’s a great album and I’m looking for a reasonably-priced CD with the bonus tracks. (Too bad I left the button in my dorm room after freshman year ended.)

51. Nicolette Larson, Nicolette – This was the late Larson’s moment in the sun; she did her own version of Neil Young’s recent “Lotta Love” and turned it into a top 10 hit. She had a lovely voice, best heard here and on some of Young’s albums (American Stars ‘n’ Bars, Harvest Moon).

52. Al Stewart, Time Passages (vinyl) – His biggest solo album, featuring the title track and ”Song on the Radio.” Those were written with the express purpose of being hits (note the title of the latter song); Stewart’s preferred music is based on history (songs on this album reference Sir Thomas More, Versailles, and the abandoned brigantine Mary Celeste).

53. Steve Martin, A Wild and Crazy Guy (vinyl) – This album was split in half between a club appearance at The Boarding House and Red Rocks Ampitheatre. I’d get Let’s Get Small before this one, but it did win a Grammy for Best Comedy Album.

54. Santana, Inner Secrets (vinyl) – It sold a fair amount of copies, but it isn’t all that good. The singles were “Well All Right,” “Stormy,” and “One Chain (Don’t Make No Prison),” all of which were done better by their original artists (Buddy Holly, The Classics IV, and The Four Tops, respectively). I’ve heard “Open Invitation” and “Wham!” are much better, but it’s been so long since I’ve listened to the album I can’t really confirm it.

55. Chicago, Hot Streets (vinyl) – My parents got me the latest Chicago album nearly every year for my birthday for five years between 1974 and 1978 (unfortunately, they somehow missed the greatest hits set). This isn’t bad, but nothing stands out, and I don’t remember playing side two very much.
56. Neil Young, Comes a Time (CD) – WDHA played the title track plenty when this came out, but they somehow missed out on the single, “Four Strong Winds” (originally a hit for Ian & Sylvia). Now overshadowed by Rust Never Sleeps, which came out later in 1979.

57. Dan Fogelberg and Tim Weisberg, Twin Sons of Different Mothers (CD, vinyl) – Is it a mellow folk rock album? Is it a fusion jazz album? There’s no need to decide! Seriously, I don’t dislike this one, and I wish Weisberg had a few more albums available to judge his work (other than a best of, all his 1970s LPs are out of print).

58. Rick James, Bustin’ Out of L. Seven – This charted about as well as James’ first album Come Get It!, but none of the singles broke the way “You and I” did.

59. Willie Nelson, Willie and Family Live – This was a huge seller for Nelson; it’s moved 4 million units (of course, it’s both a double vinyl album and CD, which counts as two sales in the RIAA’s eyes). Emmylou Harris and Johnny Paycheck both guest here. Another one I wish I’d downloaded from Freegal.

60. Anne Murray, Let’s Keep It That Way – Let’s not and say we did.

61. Neil Diamond, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers – Neil got some mileage out of the title track, which had also been on his previous album as a solo recording; the duet with Barbra Streisand is here. (Diamond also cowrote the song, which certainly helped his bank account.) “Forever in Blue Jeans” was also a top 20 hit.

62. John Stewart, Bombs Away Dream Babies (CD, vinyl) – I wasn’t happy to see a 2006 clip of Stewart on YouTube dumping all over the hit “Gold,” which drove the sales of this album. He called it “vapid” and “empty” and said he wrote it only to please RSO Records (I’m sure it did). I suppose it’s possible he didn’t mean it (he was diagnosed to be with early-stage Alzheimer’s less than a year later), but I doubt it. Anyway, this is about half of a good album (the songs “Lost Her in the Sun” and “Midnight Wind” also hit the top 40), but the second side is less than 15 minutes long and is a little weak. Still worth searching out (it’s virtually impossible to find nowadays on CD, and I’m pretty sure the CD download I did was from a pirated file).

63. Chuck Mangione, Children of Sanchez – The followup to Feels So Good was a two-LP soundtrack to a movie not a whole lot of people saw, but it still sold well enough to show up here.

64. George Benson, Livin’ Inside Your Love (vinyl) – I think I got this because it was mismarked as a single album at the record store. For some reason I remember the chorus of the single version of “Love Ballad” having different lyrics as the album version, for reasons unknown.

65. Earth, Wind & Fire, I Am (CD, vinyl) – Great album that would be much higher on this list, except (1) it was released in June (as noted previously, the figures for Billboard’s end-of-year lists were usually taken from November 1 to October 31 to allow time to calculate the results), and (2) the disco backlash probably hurt this band more than it should have (the third single, “In the Stone,” was one of their best songs ever, but didn’t come close to making the top 40).

66. Little River Band, Sleeper Catcher – A leftover from 1978, but it made this list on the strength of “Lady,” which dominated the AC charts for the first third of 1979.

67. Raydio, Rock On – The big hit on this one was “You Can’t Change That.”

68. The Pointer Sisters, Energy – I’m not super comfortable with the lyrics to the big hit “Fire” off this album, which in hindsight seem to be about date rape (or at least coercion). But it was a huge hit for the group at the right time (Bonnie Pointer had left to go on her own).

69. Eddie Money, Life for the Taking – “Maybe I’m a Fool” was a moderate hit from this one.

70. Meat Loaf, Bat Out of Hell (CD, vinyl) – Yes, this was still around in 1979. Epic released “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” as a single early in the year, which managed to crack the top 40.

71. The Police, Outlandos d’Amour (CD, vinyl) – “Roxanne” wasn’t a gigantic hit for the band (it didn’t even make top 30), but it was big enough to put them on the map in the States. My CD copy is from their box set Message in a Box, which included the entirety of all five of their studio albums (back before record companies realized that wasn’t such a clever idea).

72. Boston, Don’t Look Back (CD) – Very weak second album by the band, which Tom Scholz will admit. (Of course, he also thought nothing of taking eight years between albums.)

73. Cheryl Lynn, Got to Be Real – Winning The Gong Show put her on the map, and even though the title track was her only pop hit, she managed to generate a few albums from it.

74. Electric Light Orchestra, Discovery (CD, vinyl) – Or Disco Very, as both band members and fans referred to this one, based on the initial single “Shine a Little Love” (and, to a certain extent, the later single “Last Train to London”). Fortunately for the band, “Don’t Bring Me Down” was released right around the disco backlash was kicking up and became one of their biggest hits.

75. Bobby Caldwell, Bobby Caldwell (CD, vinyl) – This became a major hit based on “What You Won’t Do for Love.” I’ve had two different copies of the vinyl album over the years, and “Can’t Say Goodbye” has two distinctly different mixes, for those who are fanatical fans.

76. The Allman Brothers Band, Enlightened Rogues – First album after a breakup/hiatus of three years (mostly because the rest of the band was pissed off at Gregg for testifying against one of their security guys at a drug trial). Their second top 40 hit, “Crazy Love” (not the Poco song) is here. Don’t have this one, but I’m keeping an eye out.

77. Elvis Costello, Armed Forces (CD, cassette) – One of his biggest albums here in the States – it would have been bigger if Costello hadn’t gotten into a bar argument with Stephen Stills and Bonnie Bramlett, which ended with Bramlett punching out Costello after he made some really, really stupid comments about Ray Charles (Google it for the details).

78. The Crusaders, Street Life (CD) – This was more of a fusion/smooth jazz band by this point, but a good one. The title track is probably one of my favorite songs from 1979, and even managed to crack to pop top 40.

79. James Taylor, Flag (CD, vinyl) – Not-great followup to his 1977 album JT. His remake of The Drifters’ “Up on the Roof,” written by old friend Carole King, was a minor hit. At least the album cover stood out on the racks.

80. Waylon Jennings, Greatest Hits – I may have to find a copy of this (or one of his hits sets) at a used CD store sometime.

81. Instant Funk, Instant Funk (CD) – The single “I Got My Mind Made Up (You Can Get It Girl)” is a classic; too bad it’s their only hit (they did back up other artists, such as Lou Rawls, The O’Jays, and Evelyn “Champagne” King). About 35 percent of my CD is either the original “I Got My Mind Made Up” or various versions of same.

82. The Cars, Candy-O – Big hit album which came out in June. “Let’s Go” was the hit from this album, as well as “It’s All I Can Do.”

83. Bob James, Touchdown – The title track was offered to the producers of the TV series Taxi as a possibility for the theme song, but they went with “Angela” instead, which is also here.

84. The Babys, Head First – “Every Time I Think of You” is a rewrite of their first hit “Isn’t It Time,” but at least it’s something.

85. Diana Ross, The Boss – Title track was a major hit, although it took awhile for the song to scale the charts. 

86. Ian Hunter, You’re Never Alone With a Schizophrenic – “Just Another Night” was a minor hit for Hunter (formerly of Mott the Hoople), but the more recognizable songs are “Ships” (which Barry Manilow remade and turned into a major hit) and “Cleveland Rocks” (The Presidents of The United States of America did a remake that became the theme for The Drew Carey Show).

87. Alicia Bridges, Alicia Bridges – Remember “I Love the Nightlife”? That was her one major hit (she did have a couple of minor chart hits later on), but it sold a few albums.

88. Teddy Pendergrass, Teddy – This didn’t even have a top 40 single (“Turn Out the Lights” conked out at #48).

89. The Village People, Go West – Final significant studio album for the group; this one contains “In the Navy.”

90. Ace Frehley, Ace Frehley – All four Kiss band members released solo albums in the fall of 1978; most of them wound up being shipped back to Casablanca Records a few months later (all of them famously “shipped platinum” or 1 million copies, but none made it above #22 in Billboard). Frehley’s surprisingly had the most staying power, behind the infectious single “New York Groove.”

91. Aerosmith, Live Bootleg – This probably sold a lot less than the band expected. It might have helped if they’d included the studio version of “Chip Away the Stone” that was released as a single; the live version was the only one on the album.

92. Frank Zappa, Sheik Yer Bouti – Another one that sold big despite not having a hit single, but in this case “Dancing Fool” was his second-biggest single ever (behind “Valley Girl”).

93. Dionne Warwick, Dionne – This sold a pile of copies behind the singles “I’ll Never Love This Way Again” and “Déjà Vu,” which were Warwick’s first solo top 20 singles (thus not including her collaboration with The Spinners, “Then Came You”) in ten years. That massive fur coat she’s wearing on the cover sure dates it, though.

94. Kiss, Dynasty – The last big-selling Kiss album for a while, on the questionable strength of the single “I Was Made for Loving You,” which many in the Kiss Army disdained since it had a disco backbeat. Peter Criss actually only played on one song on the album; Anton Vig was the drummer for the rest.

95. Amii Stewart, Knock on Wood – another from the “who?” file; Stewart’s only top 40 single was the #1 title track, a remake of the old Eddie Floyd R&B standard.

96. Triumph, Just a Game – Canadian power trio that was a cross between Rush and The Who. The single “Hold On” just barely made the American top 40, but it still gets played on classic rock stations today.

97. Stephanie Mills, What Cha Gonna Do With My Lovin’ – The title track was a big R&B and pop hit. Not bad for a woman whose name had been made by portraying Dorothy in the Broadway version of The Wiz. (The movie version, which came out in 1978, was famously ruined when 34-year-old Diana Ross played Dorothy.)

98. Anne Murray, New Kind of Feeling – Same old mopey ballads.

99. Barry White, The Man – I actually kind of like Barry White’s stuff, but by 1979 his schtick had grown old and tired (“Your Sweetness Is My Weakness,” the only pop chart hit from this album, would be his last one until a 1990 collaboration with Quincy Jones).

100. Kansas, Monolith – Major flop for the band after the multiplatinum success of their two previous studio LPs Leftoverture and Point of Know Return, but it’s still their most recent platinum studio album.