|A Metalhead's Journery through 1979|
As I would dig through the bins at my local record store--searching for metal of course, I realized I was pretty familiar with the 80's but largely clueless about the 70's and 60's. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to listen to the most acclaimed records of ever year and create a list of my favorites. I am starting with 1979.
Notable Omission: An ambitious concept drags down the music. Waters could have easily gotten his point across in 1 LP but instead fills 2 LPs with a bunch of half baked ideas. As my first PF experience, this left me very disappointed. However, "Comfortably Numb" is one of the best songs of 1979, so just listen to that and skip the rest.
|23||Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers|
Damn The Torpedoes
Notable Omission: Torpedos kicks off with the incredible "Refugee" and then fizzles away into a sappy snooze-fest.
Cheap Trick at Budokan
Notable Omission: Weak song choices keep this album off my list. "I Want You..." and "Surrender" are rightfully classics, and "Need Your Love' is a dark bluesy slow builder that would feel at home on UFO's album. However, the remaining tracks are merely OK to good.
Night of the Living Dregs
The Dregs have the first pseudo-live album on this list (only side B is live). They perform southern rock jazz fusion with excellent drumming, engaging melodies, and great arrangement.
Flirtin' With Disaster
Flirtin' has the bluesy triplet grooves, country inspired riffs, and mouth full of gum singing of Skynyrd, but the riffs and drumming have some heavy metal heft.
Reggatta de Blanc
I always knew Copeland was an excellent drummer but never listened to his work. He is the highlight here. Regatta has a youthful, upbeat mood but can be a bit odd at times.
Just like Flirtin', Strikes features Jacksonville southern rock with a harder edge. Although Flirtin' is heavier, the meaty riffs and superior songwriting on Strikes win.
Magnum create lush, glammy prog rock with some weight of metal. These songs are catchy and epic with just the right amount of cheese (any more and they'd be singing about robots in Japanese).
No Mean City
Straightforward and hook-filled bluesy hard rock. I'm a big fan of the gruff vocals and up front bass.
Rust Never Sleeps
Here's another live one. Why would a metal head listen to a folk album? This one has dark tone, gritty feel (especially those vocals that would be considered bad by most standards), and excellent storytelling. The electric songs are particularly good.
Top Priority is a hard rock album by someone who apparently is more of a blues guy. Well, this blues man writes catchy songs with tight riffs that never overstay. He also has this great sense of melody similar to his fellow Irishmen in Thin Lizzy (especially his solos). To top it all off, the production is well balanced, yet it has a raw quality.
Here we have the 3rd album in a row by an artist outside my hard rock/heavy metal box. I wanted to hate the lush keys, smooth vocals, and perfectly catchy melodies, but I am too weak to resist their charms. I can see why these guys are some of the best studio musicians ever (I always wondered why the guy playing on "Africa" was such a famous drummer). Each person plays exactly what the song requires but no more, and they did the same for the production. It is perfectly balanced. If side B had been as rocking as side A, this could have gone top 5.
The biggest surprise here is Lemmy's enunciation. He's actually pretty easy to understand when he sings. Bomber features catchy, bluesy hard rock riffs, gravely vocals, and a bass player that thinks he's a rhythm guitarist. Not only is Lemmy's bass playing unique, but the tone he extracts tastes like ambrosia to my ears. The drummer and guitarist are no slouches either, but Lemmy drops megatons of attitude on this record. It's what puts Motorhead above some very slick song writers.
Lovedrive is another album with very audible bass, but the stars of the show are the guitarists. Rudolf Schenker has a knack for catchy hard rock riffs, and his brother, Micheal, comes up with beautiful melodies on lead (for only half the songs). The guitar work and writing is so good that the instrument "Coast to Coast" is arguably the best track. But don't let that take anything away from the singer, Klaus Meine. His slightly abrasive high pitched voice fits Scorpions perfectly, and he has been wise to spend his whole career with the band. I don't think he could sing for anyone else.
Don't be fooled by the syrupy keys opening this album. This is not the pop rock Cheap Trick that classic rock stations play. These tracks are dark and gritty. Just check out the rougher vocals on "Gonna Raise Hell" or the lumbering mastodon "Need Your Love". But even the upbeat, catchy songs on here tend to have a degree of rawness and gloom. Dream Police could almost be considered a hard rock album.
Van Halen II
There are no surprises here. Van Halen II is an upbeat and catchy party album with a guitarist ahead of his time, a drummer with a swing background, solid (and audible!) bass player, and a unique and charismatic vocalist.
Sharp solos, heavy riffs, pounding rhythms, aggressive vocals, and speed make the raucous Narita the heaviest studio album to drop in 1979 (depending on your definition of studio). Just don't listen to this album while driving, and don't listen to "Hot for Love" in front of your parents. You have been warned.
What do you know? More Motorhead. Everything I said about Bomber applies here except more so. I was going to say Motorhead improved their song writing in the 11 months between Bomber and Overkill until I checked Wikipedia and discovered Overkill was the one that came out in January. Either way, the writing here is better.
Highway To Hell
In typical AC/DC fashion, Highway to Hell is packed with heavy bluesy riffs, fantastic vocals with a hint of rasp, cheeky lyrics, and driving rhythm. The surprise for me was the variety. There are upbeat tracks, mid-paced tracks, and the monolithic "Night Prowler". I didn't know how good AC/DC records were before they discovered the Back in Black formula.
From the Fjords
Legend took 70's prog rock and added speed and the metal riffs of Priest and Rainbow. I guess this makes them the first prog metal band ever. The songs are well composed and the musicians display great technical skill (especially the rhythm section) without getting caught up in wankery. The production is raw because these guys must have hardly had a budget. As far as I know, Legend recorded the album, pressed 500 copies (anyone selling?), and then faded into obscurity until the internet reintroduced people to this underground classic.
Black Rose: A Rock Legend
This band is so much more than "The Boys Are Back in Town"! Thin Lizzy's catchy and infectiously melodic song-writing make even songs with a dark subject matter seem upbeat and friendly. Seriously, some of the melodies here are Iron Maiden good, especially the closer. But this album also features one of the best rhythms sections. The drums sound full and play exactly what the song needs. Lynott's bass is up front in the mix, has a wonderful tone, and is even more on point than the drums. Not only is Lynott one of the best bassists not named Lemmy or Harris, but his smooth, unique vocals are the cherry on top of this album. Although this album has a light, accessible, and radio-friendly feel to it, the dual guitars, sharp solos, full and driving rhythms, and Lynott's deep voice give Black Rose a surprising amount of heft.
Live! Go For What You Know
The funky hard rock on this live album is mostly known for 2 things: the drummer and guitarists. Aldridge unleashes a double bass drumming textbook with his tasteful and funky beats/fills. The guitarists capture a change in trends of the era. Travers's playing and tone is more 70's blues rock while Thrall plays the sharper tones of the 80's. This gives the solos some unique interplay. Now, I would be remiss to ignore the bass playing of Cowling. He and Aldridge play as one skilled and tasteful unit, and the full, bubbly tone of his instrument makes me wonder why modern producers try to hide the glorious sound of the bass.
Strangers in the Night
How did this band never escape the 70's?! Why have the radio stations ignored them? Why have I never heard of them before? Songwriting this incredible should not be kept under a pot or basket, but rather it should placed on a stand to give light to all musicians. Each instrument provides an essential sonic layer to the aural masterpiece (and the producer ensures all is clearly heard). The boys on rhythm perfectly and creatively accent and interplay with the melodies. The keys will play rhythm guitar, lead guitar, or follow along with Schenker and subtly enhance already excellent melodies. Those melodies emitted by Schenker's guitar are the highlight. His hard rock riffs are addictive, and his solos are not the most technical, but they are some of the most beautiful. They elicit awe and ecstasy. Sprinkled on top of the whole thing are Mogg's vocals. He brings the energy that sets a live album apart from studio tracks of which it is built.
Unleashed in the East
Judas Priest were off on their own lead planet with arsenic based life in the late 70's. Seconds into Exciter my jaw dropped because nothing else in 1979 was remotely as heavy as Unleashed. The track kicks off with rapid fire double bass drumming and aggressive cymbal (I think he uses the china as much as death metal drummer). On top of that, Dowing and Tipton unleash a viscous riff. These guys make Riot and Motorhead sound pedestrian. Once Priest has your head banging, Halford's siren wail enters the scene. These guys continue the onslaught for the entire album. Sure, they covers are a bit slower and catchier, but those too were a leviathan in '79. Even their song titles--Sinner, The Ripper, Tyrant, Genocide--are more evil and violent than anyone else's. I think Niel Young has the next most aggressive song title with Thrasher. This album is even heavier than their 80's material. To top it all off, the songwriting is top notch and the album captures the "live" energy.