Friday, November 19, 2004

Friday Top 5: Days of Future Passed

It's a good old-fashioned countdown, today, kids: the Top Five albums from the Billboard chart during this week in 1972:

5. Ben/Michael Jackson. There are multiple degrees of creepiness at work here. First, the whole idea of the rat movie, a brief craze during the 1970s. The rat movie Ben was a sequel to the rat movie Willard, which meant that people wanted to see two stories about the love between a boy and his rat. And of course, there's the song "Ben" itself, which is a tender love song to a rat (although it's pretty, and it's the first song I ever slow-danced to with a girl). And there's the whole creepiness issue involving Michael himself, which would take nearly a generation after "Ben" to fully manifest itself. Perhaps we should have seen it coming in 1972.

4. All Directions/Temptations. A major comeback album for the Temptations, in which producer Norman Whitfield completed the transformation of the Temps from guys with great moves and wardrobe to perceptive social chroniclers, which began with "Ball of Confusion" in 1970. This album features the epic 11-minute, 45-second version of "Papa Was a Rolling Stone."

3. Days of Future Passed/Moody Blues. This album, featuring "Nights in White Satin," was first recorded and released in 1967, where despite its close proximity to Sgt. Pepper, it was a bit ahead of its time. Not until the early '70s would the time be right for classically influenced art rock, especially the kind punctuated with spoken poetry that sounds all serious and stuff.

2. Superfly (soundtrack)/Curtis Mayfield. This was an insanely great year for R&B, and Mayfield provides some of the best of it here. Mayfield doesn't glorify the film's drug dealers and street characters with his music--he simply reports on what they do and lets listeners see what happens to them as a result. Key tracks: "Freddie's Dead" (which I bought on a 45) and "Superfly."

1. Catch Bull at Four/Cat Stevens. One of the more unusual number-one albums of the 1970s. Despite Stevens' string of hits in 1971, the All-Music Guide calls this album "a more difficult listen than its three predecessors," none of which charted nearly as well. Bull topped the charts for three weeks and then was gone. Its biggest single, "Sitting," only got as far as Number 16 (and I don't remember hearing it much at the time). You're not likely to hear it, or anything else from the album, on the radio these days.


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