Friday, February 18, 2005

Top 5: Maybe I'm Amazed

As a guy who spends his time poking through the record charts of years gone by, I frequently find myself lifting a line from the book of Genesis: "There were giants in the earth in those days." So it was at the top of the Billboard album chart on this date in 1977.

5. A Day at the Races/Queen. A Night at the Opera was a tough act to follow; Queen made the job tougher by giving the followup a title designed to make people think of it as more of the same. It wasn't, but it's not a bad album on its own. The band even released a Spanish version of it. Find that, and you've got yourself a collector's item. Key tracks: "Somebody to Love," "Tie Your Mother Down," "Teo Torriate."

4. Wings Over America/Paul McCartney and Wings. This topped my Christmas list in 1976, and includes a version of "Maybe I'm Amazed" that improves on the original. McCartney sang several Beatles tunes onstage for the first time with Wings during the 1976 tour the album documents, and the acoustic set featuring "Bluebird," "I've Just Seen a Face," "Blackbird," and "Yesterday" is probably the best part of the album.

3. Songs in the Key of Life/Stevie Wonder. This is, of course, quite nearly a greatest-hits album all on its own--"I Wish," "Sir Duke," "Isn't She Lovely," "As," "Another Star"--and I'll never stop wondering what it would have been like if it had been a filler-free single disc instead of a double. There's no guarantee Stevie would have kept my choices for the best tracks, of course--but that's what CD burners are for.

2. Hotel California/Eagles. Millions--probably billions--of words have been written about this album, which just might be the single album from the 1970s to own if you're only going to own one. Some of the most interesting words are those of Charlie Bertsch, who says that the title song taught him how to use his own powers of interpretation--to read beyond the words on the page and give a written work meaning of his own, much as one would do with works by Poe, Melville, Hawthorne, or Kafka. Key tracks: all of 'em, but since "New Kid in Town" was at Number 2 on the singles chart this week in '77, I'll take it.

1. A Star Is Born (soundtrack)/Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. OK, "giants" is a relative term, and you'd be right to believe Streisand and Kristofferson are the odd ones in a game of "one of these things is not like the others." But even people buying those classic albums by Queen and the Eagles were going to the movies on the weekend, and in the early months of '77, A Star Is Born ruled the box office. And of all the Streisand movie songs, "Evergreen" (at Number 5 on the singles chart this week in '77) is probably the best, neither bombastic nor melodramatic--and that delicate little acoustic-guitar intro still sounds to me like the fall of late-winter snowflakes.

Elsewhere on the chart that week, Boston, Best of the Doobies, A New World Record by ELO, Night Moves, Year of the Cat, Rumours--in other words, a significant percentage of my record collection. And maybe yours, too.


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