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.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Top 100 Albums of 1978

This came out of a Facebook note on Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell. At least a few of the people reading this have a bunch of albums that came out in 1978 (which, for me, was sophomore and junior year in high school); most of them are probably sitting in a pile in the basement (but for those who have noted vinyl’s revival, better there than donated to Goodwill, right?).

Anyway, here are the top 100 albums of the year (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. Soundtrack, Saturday Night Fever (CD) – And also on eight-track at one point. Huge seller, obviously (it’s now at 21.6 million units sold in the United States, which is somewhat inflated by the fact it was a double vinyl album; it’s one disc on CD), but not as much of a necessity as you’d think – honestly, I doubt many discos in 1977 Brooklyn were playing the Bee Gees. The first side is all Bee Gee-related originals; the rest is a combination of instrumentals (by David Shire, who’s married, in a neat Saturday Night Fever-Grease crossover, to Did Conn) and leftovers (both KC & The Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Shoes” and The Trammps’ “Disco Inferno” became standalone hits from being on the album, but they had both been recorded a couple of years before).

2. Soundtrack, Grease – Never really wanted this. This is another double album where everything you want (the title track, “Summer Nights,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “You’re the One That I Want”) is on Side 1 (which means it’s completely out of order relative to the movie – odd for a musical). The rest is songs from both the Broadway show and movie performed mostly by cast members other than John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John – I’m curious about “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” given none of the names listed -- Stockard Channing, Didi Conn, Dinah Manoff, Jamie Donnelley – are well known for their singing. (Okay, Channing and Donnelley can sing, but Conn was dubbed in You Light Up My Life, and Manoff freely admits she was cast in Grease before the producers realized she had no background in singing or dancing.) There’s also almost an entire side of ‘50s oldies sung by Sha-Na-Na, who had their own TV show at the time, and a few other nonhits from Louis St. Louis and Cindy (now Cidny) Bullens. Between my Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons and Olivia Newton-John greatest hits sets, I’ve got all the important songs.

3. Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (CD, vinyl) – This came out February 1977 – I think it was still at or near the top of the charts when Saturday Night Fever hit. It still plays great today, of course. There are now two-disc and three-disc sets available; it might be easier to find a one-disc version and download “Silver Springs.”

4. Billy Joel, The Stranger (CD, vinyl, cassette) – Almost everybody had this when I was in high school; New Jersey was close enough to Long Island to have some similar stories, and the hits were all over the radio. This now also comes packages with a concert album which is nice, but not a necessity.

5. Steely Dan, Aja (CD, vinyl, cassette) – Didn’t get this until a few years after it came out (although I’d enjoyed the hits on the radio). It’s as close to a perfect album as I’ve ever heard – no weak tracks (well, maybe “I Got the News”). My CD copy is from the box set Citizen Steely Dan, which includes all of their studio albums from 1972 to 1980.

6. Chuck Mangione, Feels So Good (vinyl) – This was the #1 jazz album of 1978, which gives you an idea where jazz was at that point – this is jazz for those who don’t want to be challenged much, or (like me) guys who thought this might sound seductive (it wasn’t). Thank God Wynton Marsalis came along.

7. Styx, The Grand Illusion – I own no Styx studio albums (I do have a couple of greatest hits sets), and I doubt that will ever change.

8. Linda Ronstadt, Simple Dreams (CD) – This is the one with “Blue Bayou” and “It’s So Easy” on it. If you’re a huge fan of Linda’s, get the studio albums; if not, a good hits set will do.

9. Kansas, Point of No Return – Same situation here as with Styx.

10. Eric Clapton, Slowhand – Can’t believe I don’t have this but I do have such crappy Clapton albums as August and Pilgrim. I can’t stand “Wonderful Tonight,” which may have something to do with it.

11. Jackson Browne, Running on Empty (CD, vinyl, cassette) – Another one all the white kids in suburban New Jersey had to have. It’s stood the test of time better than some of the other albums on this list, not to mention most of Browne’s other albums.

12. Earth, Wind & Fire, All ‘n All (CD) – This is the one with “Serpentine Fire” and “Fantasy.” I didn’t get into EWF until I was in college, but honestly, anything they released from That’s the Way of the World (1975) to Raise! (1981) is worth getting.

13. Meat Loaf, Bat Out of Hell (CD, vinyl) – An album that was an absolute necessity then, but not now. I spent a few years thinking this became a hit because we were in between Springsteen albums, but this came out nine months before Darkness on the Edge of Town and stayed on the charts much longer. It’s another one for white suburban teenagers, but it hasn’t held up as well as, say, Running on Empty.14. Rod Stewart, Foot Loose and Fancy Free – No thanks.

15. Peter Brown, Fantasy Love Affair – This first “who the hell is this?” entry. Brown had a pretty big crossover hit from the disco charts with “Dance With Me” in 1978 (not the Orleans soft rock song; that was a couple of years earlier), and apparently that dragged the album to multiplatinum status. “Do Ya Wanna Get Funky With Me” had hit the top 20 the year before; you never hear that song on oldies stations at all. Anyway, his followup album didn’t hit; his record label (TK Records) collapsed, and that was that. He now does architectural design.

16. Barry Manilow, Even Now (vinyl) – Yeah, I once bought a few Barry Manilow records. I don’t want to talk about it.

17. Bob Welch, French Kiss (CD, vinyl) – Almost anything that was attached to Fleetwood Mac was a huge seller in 1978, including their former guitarist, who managed to get Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, and Mick Fleetwood to play on a remake of his Mac song “Sentimental Lady.” Welch slowly ran out of good songs over the next few albums, but this one is still listenable, although Gene Page’s string arrangements haven’t aged well.

18. Electric Light Orchestra, Out of the Blue (vinyl) – The story behind my purchase of this album is interesting. I bought the album for a ridiculous $3.99 (it’s a double LP) at Korvettes in the spring of 1979, after it had fallen off the charts. It wasn’t a cut-out, but it was fairly warped – still playable, however. Years later, I learned ELO and their label, Jet Records, had pulled the distribution deal they had with United Artists after they learned UA was letting the warped vinyl copies into the marketplace against their wishes – they moved Jet to Columbia Records (which eventually bought out Jet).

19. Foreigner, Foreigner – I had a vinyl copy of this at one point, but I think I gave it to my sister.

20. Dolly Parton, Here You Come Again – Her first big crossover hit on the pop charts.

21. The Bee Gees, Here at Last… Live – Released in 1977; I have no doubt this revived when Saturday Night Fever hit.

22. Abba, The Album – I can’t imagine buying an Abba studio album – the hits are all anybody knows.

23. Jefferson Starship, Earth – Marty Balin and Paul Kantner barely wrote anything for this one (Balin left the band a few months after its release), all the hits were written by outside songwriters, and Grace Slick was tossed out of the band during the tour due to a drinking problem. Any questions?

24. Natalie Cole, Thankful – Don’t have any of her albums other than Unforgettable.

25. Eddie Money, Eddie Money (CD) – Downloaded this a year or so ago, and it wasn’t worth the wait.

26. George Benson, Weekend in L.A. – Double live album, which for some reason I don’t have (I have 10 others, including all of his Warner Brothers albums released between 1976 and 1985).

27. The Village People, Village People – I’m not sure how this ranked #27 for the year considering it never made it past #54 on the charts. Did somebody double-check the bean counters at Billboard?

28. Journey, Infinity – The first of the band’s big best sellers. No top 40 singles, though; “Wheel in the Sky” did the best at #57. Journey’s another “greatest hits sets only” band for me.

29. Queen, News of the World – This is the one with “We Will Rock You”/”We Are the Champions.” Again, I only have greatest hits sets by Queen, but I don’t find them irritating like I do the other top 40 rock bands of that era (Styx, Kansas, Journey, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, etc.)

30. Andy Gibb, Flowing Rivers – Joe Walsh played guitar on “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” and “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water”? How far down did they mix his parts, anyway?

31. Atlanta Rhythm Section, Champagne Jam (vinyl) – ARS had their biggest hits while the Allman Brothers were broken up and after Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane crash. I think that’s just a coincidence; their sound isn’t much like those two bands, even though they’re all Southern rockers. It’s a pretty decent record.

32. Donna Summer, Once Upon a Time – first of four double albums in a row for Summer (along with Live and More, Bad Girls, and On the Radio: Greatest Hits), which may (along with the Saturday Night Fever and Grease soundtracks) explain the 1979 oil shortage for some people (I’m kidding, really).

33. Van Halen, Van Halen (CD) – almost nobody was doing metal in 1978 except these guys and Kiss (Led Zep was between albums); that would change in a few years.

34. The Village People, Macho Man – geez, their albums were short – neither this nor Village People made it to 30 minutes, which was just about the minimum for a single album at this time. I figured they were budget priced, but their first album was $7.98 list price for 21 minutes of music. (The download for that same album today is $3.49. Music and soda are cheaper now than they were 40 years ago.)

35. Barry Manilow, Live (CD) – Yeah, I know, you want a piece of me?

36. Roberta Flack, Blue Lights in the Basement – Contains “The Closer I Get to You,” her duet with Donny Hathaway. She started recording a full album with him a few months later, before his death in early 1979.

37. Chic, Chic – Contains “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowzah, Yowzah, Yowzah),” which was all over the radio in 1978. Still, this would be forgotten today if it weren’t for their next few albums.

38. Gerry Rafferty, City to City (CD, vinyl) – Rafferty’s huge hit after spending a few years knocking around with other band (he was the guy who sang and cowrote “Stuck in the Middle With You” for Stealer’s Wheel). This one actually knocked Saturday Night Fever off #1 on the album charts. This and 1979’s Night Owl yielded five top 30 hits. It’s too bad Rafferty didn’t record his subsequent albums at a more leisurely pace (I don’t know if that was his choice or his record company’s); by the time Snakes and Ladders came out in 1980, he was remaking old songs to fill out the track list. He worked more leisurely after he stopped charting in America, but by that time he’d also developed a drinking problem, which killed him in 2010.

39. Carly Simon, Boys in the Trees – this one has “You Belong to Me” on it, cowritten with Michael McDonald. Apparently the danskin she’s wearing on the cover was airbrushed on; she posed for the photo topless but then decided that was unnecessary. That’s pretty impressive work for that era, as most 1970s airbrushed art looks very fake.

40. Parliament, Funkentelechy vs. The Placebo Syndrome – “Flashlight” was the big hit from this one.

41. The Commodores, Natural High – “Three Times a Lady,” which I still don’t care for to this day, was the one that sold this record.

42. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Street Survivors – Their last studio album before the plane crash that killed Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and Cassie Gaines.

43. The Rolling Stones, Some Girls (vinyl) – This makes it obvious the top 100 albums of the year are from roughly November 1 to October 31 (in order to allow time to calculate the results); this would have been much higher on the list if it was the actual year.

44. Steve Martin, Let’s Get Small (vinyl) – The late 1970s was about the last gasp for standup comedy albums hitting high on the charts.

45. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, Stranger in Town (CD, vinyl) – Four top 40 hits from this one, which is one of his two best-selling studio albums (along with Night Moves) at six million copies.

46. Kiss, Alive II – Geez, these guys moved product. Between their debut in 1974 and the end of 1978, they released six studio albums, two double live albums, a double greatest hits set, and four solo albums.

47. Grover Washington, Jr., Live at The Bijou – This is another one I can’t figure out. It did peak at #11, but it didn’t even go gold – which, considering it was a double vinyl album (which counted as two sales), makes it seem unlikely that it could be in the top half of albums sold over the entire year. Also hard to understand how The Crusaders’ Images finished ahead of this in the Jazz year-end charts, but didn’t show up on the overall 100 top albums at all.

48. Ashford & Simpson, Send It – UPS or through the mail?

49. Lou Rawls, When You’ve Heard Lou, You’ve Heard It All – Lou was doing Budweiser commercials at the time, which explains the album title.

50. Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson, Waylon & Willie – This is one I would have liked to have downloaded before my library’s Freegal subscription expired.

51. The O’Jays, So Full of Love – This is another good one I missed. “Use Ta Be My Girl” was the hit from this one.

52. Shaun Cassidy, Shaun Cassidy – Could have been worse; could have been Leif Garrett.

53. Randy Newman, Little Criminals – Newman’s biggest seller (actually, some of his Pixar soundtrack work may have done better) on the strength of “Short People.” It’s a shame such a good songwriter is best known for a Dr. Demento-worthy song, but that’s the way it goes.

54. Warren Zevon, Excitable Boy – Zevon’s biggest seller; this includes “Werewolves of London.”

55. The Commodores, Live – With only twelve songs on a seventy-minute album, a bunch of these songs are very long – “Easy,” “Sweet Love,” and “Just to Be Close to You” are all over seven minutes long, which is way too much for ballads on a double live album.

56. Wings, London Town – Not one of Paul’s best; the album was recorded in kind of a chaotic period (Joe English and Jimmy McCulloch both bailed on the band).

57. Kenny Rogers, Ten Years of Gold – 34 minutes of dreck.

58. Shaun Cassidy, Born Late – And another one from Shaun.

59. Genesis, And Then There Were Three – The trio of Tony Banks, Phil Collins, and Mike Rutherford recorded six studio albums and three live albums as Genesis (excluding the reunion album Live Over Europe 2007). I have all of them but this one.

60. Soundtrack, Thank God It’s Friday – This may have been slightly more reflective of what discos were actually playing in this era than Saturday Night Fever, and certainly did more than anything else to move Donna Summer’s career into the stratosphere. I’ll keep an eye out for it.

61. Soundtrack, FM – I’d like to see this movie (which is supposed to be pretty good). The soundtrack I can live without, mostly because I already have 18 of its 20 songs elsewhere. It was assembled by Irving Azoff, who managed The Eagles, Steely Dan, Jimmy Buffett, and Dan Fogelberg.

62. Player, Player – They weren’t a one-hit wonder, “This Time I’m in It for Love” was also a top 10 hit.

63. Jimmy Buffett, Son of a Son of a Sailor (CD) – If you’re going to start listening to Buffett and a greatest hits set isn’t available, start here: “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “Livingstone Saturday Night,” and the great title track are all on this album.

64. Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True (cassette) – Hard to believe I haven’t gotten this on CD yet, but with all the different versions (the original came out on Columbia, and Rykodisc, Rhino, and Hip-O have all rereleased the album with demos, additional tracks, and live versions) I haven’t found one I liked at a reasonable price. I’m also of the opinion that This Year’s Model, Armed Forces, and Get Happy! are better albums.

65. Heatwave, Too Hot to Handle – One of two solid albums by the group (this contains “Boogie Nights”).

66. Linda Ronstadt, Greatest Hits (CD) – This came out in December 1976, and still ranked here in 1978. Pretty great set.

67. Joe Walsh, But Seriously Folks – It has “Life’s Been Good,” which is a great song; since I’ve never heard anything else from the album to my knowledge, I think I’m good with the greatest hits set.

68. Bruce Springsteen, Darkness at the Edge of Town – Darker than Born to Run (Springsteen had been sidelined for a couple of years due to management lawsuits), this didn’t do as well as expected on initial release, probably because it didn’t have a great single (“Prove It All Night” and “Badlands” did just okay, neither making top 30). But it’s still sold 3 million copies.

69. Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Street Player – The billing is important; Rufus’ next few albums didn’t always have Chaka in the lineup. The title track was cowritten by Chicago drummer Danny Seraphine, which that band tried releasing the following summer as a disco single. Didn’t work.

70. Heatwave, Central Heating – Their other solid album (this one has “Always and Forever” and “The Groove Line”). After this one came out, Rod Temperton left the band to focus on songwriting, then the bass player was stabbed by his girlfriend, and a year later the lead singer was paralyzed in a car accident, and the group slowly ground to a halt.

71. Andy Gibb, Shadow Dancing – I know some people loved Andy Gibb, but to me it’s just more Bee Gees songs with a weaker lead singer.

72. Neil Diamond, I’m Glad You’re Here With Me Tonight – Uh, okay Neil.

73. Johnny Mathis, You Light Up My Life – Debby Boone’s version of the title song was still on the charts when this came out, and there are two Bee Gees songs, plus “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late,” his #1 duet with Deniece Williams. Anything else you need to know?

74. The Steve Miller Band, Book of Dreams (CD, vinyl) – Another leftover from 1977, albeit one of my favorites.

75. Little Feat, Waiting for Columbus (CD) – Double live album and probably the best place to hear the band; original CD version is hurt by lopping off two songs to fit the whole thing on one disc.

76. Evelyn “Champagne” King, Smooth Talk – Her big hit from this album was “Shame.”

77. Pablo Cruise, Worlds Away (vinyl) – Poppy band from the late ‘70s had three chart hits here: “Love Will Find a Way,” “Don’t Want to Live Without It,” and “I Go to Rio.” My copy was manufactured by RCA Music Service; I was very confused as a result when my vinyl copy had the Mercury stock labels instead of A&Ms (manufacturing error).

78. Foreigner, Double Vision – Released in late June 1978, which is why it ranks so low. The opening of “Hot Blooded” is fairly similar to Pablo Cruise’s “Love Will Find a Way” to the point that I couldn’t always tell which one it was in the first 10 second of listening on the radio.

79. Todd Rundgren, Hermit of Mink Hollow (CD) – A pretty good Todd album, after a few years of confusing listeners with a move toward prog rock. Sometimes I wish he’d had someone else in the room when he made this record (he played all the instruments and did all the vocals, engineered and produced himself); “Can We Still Be Friends” might have been an even bigger hit if he’d done something a little more interesting with the bridge and outro.

80. A Taste of Honey, A Taste of Honey – This is where you’ll find “Boogie Oogie.” It’s a shame in a way it was such a fluke hit because it’s enormously catchy, and the two women in the band weren’t there as eye candy – they played guitar and bass and cowrote most of the songs.

81. Willie Nelson, Stardust – His first album of standards.

82. The Isley Brothers, Showdown (CD) – I just downloaded this a few years ago; it’s pretty good. “Groove With You” was the biggest hit.

83. Rick James, Come Get It – His first big solo album (only took ten years; he originally signed with Motown in the mid-1960s), with “You and I” and “Mary Jane.”

84. Odyssey, Odyssey – You know, I have no problem with “Native New Yorker,” which isn’t really a standard disco tune.

85. Peabo Bryson, Reaching for the Sky – I’m not really familiar with Bryson’s work, but what I’ve heard makes me think he’s a less interesting version of Luther Vandross.

86. Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Bootsy? Player of the Year – Bootsy Collins was an offshoot of George Clinton’s Parliament/Funkadelic stable, although he hasn’t been associated with Clinton in decades. I’d like to start hearing some of this, but the chances of finding a used Bootsy CD aren’t good. The only sample I have of his work is on Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is in the Heart.”

87. Barbra Streisand, Songbird – The title track was a moderate hit; the big song is her solo version of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” which only became a duet after some enterprising DJs mashed up her version with Neil Diamond’s version on I’m Glad You’re Here With Me Tonight.

88. Boz Scaggs, Down Two Then Left (vinyl) – Really uninteresting followup to Scaggs’ Silk Degrees, which sold approximately five times as many copies.

89. Teddy Pendergrass, Life Is a Song Worth Singing – Sometimes the lead singer does better after bolting the group, sometimes not. In this case, Pendergrass was trying to improve his billing in Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (some fans thought he was Melvin, since he was their lead singer). The end result was he left the group, who bolted Philadelphia International Records for ABC (and never got the handle again outside of one nifty single, “Reaching for the World”). Pendergrass stayed at PIR and with superproducers Gamble and Huff, and became even more popular than before.

90. Heart, Magazine – Heart bolted the tiny Canadian label Mushroom after “Magic Man” hit because, frankly, their promotions for the band were gross (Google for details). Mushroom tried to get vengeance by releasing an album of outtakes; Heart sued to have the original version taken off the market and won. This is the rerelease; it ain’t great but it’s better than what it was.

91. L.T.D., Something to Love – I guess they’re less particular than Jefferson Airplane, who wanted “Somebody to Love.”

92. Little River Band, Sleeper Catcher – Two top 10 hits on this one, “Reminiscing” and “Lady,” but I don’t think I’d bother with LRB except for greatest hits sets.

93. Bob James, Heads – yet another mellow fusion jazz album from the late 1970s. Again, I question Billboard’s accounting methods, as albums by both Joe Sample and Quincy Jones finished ahead of this one on the year-end jazz album chart, but not here.

94. Brick, Brick – “Dazz” was their monster hit. They’re still around.

95. War, Galaxy – Not a bad showing considering the title track was the only hit, and that barely cracked the top 40. I only have a greatest hits set by the band; my knowledge of their hits is limited by the fact WABC seems to have kept many of their hits off the air (at least in the daytime).

96. Santa Esmeralda, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood – Title track was a major pop and disco hit.

97. Raydio, Raydio – no, not Elvis Costello’s song. This is the band’s first album (with “Jack and Jill”); Ray Parker Jr. later became the focus of the band.

98. Patti Smith, Easter – Probably her best-known album due to the hit “Because the Night” (written by Bruce Springsteen) and Gilda Radner’s impression of her on Saturday Night Live. Smith’s still releasing albums on major labels, and they’re still charting (her latest, Banga, hit #57 in 2012).

99. Boston, Boston (CD) – this came out in August 1976; to be on the top 100 albums two years later is quite a feat. Don’t Look Back came out in August 1978, too late to be included here.

100. Rita Coolidge, Anytime… Anywhere – Coolidge’s stuff never interested me (as Robert Christgau once noted, “It takes a very special kind of stupidity to slow "Higher and Higher" into a down”), as she’s not a songwriter herself and thus is dependent on whoever’s producing to get her good material. Linda Ronstadt made a career out of that, but Ronstadt’s a better singer than Coolidge in my opinion.