20 Rock Albums Rolling Stone Loved in the 1970s That You Never Heard
From 1970 to 1979, Rolling Stone printed over 250 issues, many of them with 20-plus record reviews. That means we reviewed somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 albums, so it’s not surprising that some of our favorites have gone unplayed recently. These are 20 rock albums that we loved in the Seventies — from Mitch Ryder to Twiggy, from Kate Hudson’s father to Paul McCartney’s brother — that have gone largely unheard in recent decades but still deserve to be played loud.
Fanny, ‘Fanny Hill’
Fanny were the first all-female band to release an album on a major label; by the time of their third album, Fanny Hill (produced by Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick), they had hit their stride, making endlessly inventive hard rock. They continued through the mid-Seventies and broke up, largely forgotten — but not by David Bowie, who told Rolling Stone in 1999, "They were one of the finest fucking rock bands of their time, in about 1973. They were extraordinary: they wrote everything, they played like motherfuckers, they were just colossal and wonderful, and nobody's ever mentioned them. They're as important as anybody else who's ever been, ever; it just wasn't their time."
What We Said Then: "June Millington's guitar work is superb, uniformly functional from both the standpoint of lead and rhythm–and as good as it is, it's merely typical of Fanny's ensemble playing throughout the album, which is full of melodic hooks exactly when they're most needed. . .The number of groups that can inspire affection the way Fanny have with this album, simply from the pure exuberance of their music, are far and few between." — Mike Saunders, RS 106 (April 13th, 1972)
The Motors, ‘Approved by the Motors’
This band exploded out of the British pub scene and through our speakers with their second album, where they transformed their buzz-saw guitars into a power-pop confection. "Airport" was a Top Five single in the U.K., but the band never cracked the American market. Guitarist Bram Tchaikovsky left the band after this album, and had a fairly successful solo career; the Motors broke up in 1982.
What We Said Then: "Approved by the Motors is a near-perfect LP of pure, pulverizing pop in the best Sweet, Slade, and Pilot tradition, cutting through the cuteness of that genre with Nick Garvey's and Andy McMaster's dynamic dual vocals… the band sings sweetly about S&M activities, disarming the entire subject in the same endearing manner as Cheap Trick joyously trivializes suicide." — Jim Farber, RS 274 (September 21st, 1978)
Hudson Brothers, ‘Hollywood Situation’
The Hudson Brothers had roughly as much musical credibility as the Jonas Brothers: they similarly got famous through TV (the variety program The Hudson Brothers Show, plus the Saturday-morning Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show and the syndicated Bonkers!). But they were a top-notch rock band, rawer and funkier than one would expect from TV stars. They kept working through the Seventies, sometimes produced by Bernie Taupin; Bill Hudson married Goldie Hawn (and later, Cindy Williams of Laverne & Shirley), and is now most famous as the father of Kate Hudson.
What We Said Then: "The title rocker jolts the adrenalin right off, and a succession of irresistible melodies, brash, dynamic rock and exhilarating harmonies sustain the initial intensity. The Hudsons display enviable polish, too, on 'Song for Stephanie,' 'Three of Us' and the slower, amazingly Lennonesque hit single, 'So You Are a Star' . . .The three Hudson Brothers wrote everything and played almost all of it and obviously have vast musical potential." — Ken Barnes, RS 179 (January 30th, 1975)
Maggie Bell, ‘Queen of the Night’
Maggie Bell was lead singer of the Scottish rock band Stone the Crows, who broke up after their guitarist was fatally electrocuted onstage. Managed by Peter Grant (Led Zeppelin) and produced by Jerry Wexler (Aretha Franklin), Bell made a staggeringly good solo debut that seemed to position her as the heir to Janis Joplin (even covering "A Woman Left Lonely"). But she never broke through commercially, not even when Jimmy Page played guitar on her followup album — the only way she surpassed Joplin was by staying alive.
What We Said Then: "Bell knows how to turn pop into blues in the way that almost everyone else seems to have forgotten. . .Still, I wonder whether Bell can sidestep Joplin's poltergeist. Ghosts are often best met through confrontation. If Maggie Bell makes another album this good, her problem will become living up to her own reputation." — Dave Marsh, RS 159 (April 25th, 1974)
The Chambers Brothers, ‘Feelin’ the Blues’
The interracial Chambers Brothers band were pioneers in blending soul and psychedelic rock, most famously on the epic 1968 hit single "Time Has Come Today." But their studio albums were often over-produced: the place to check out their uncensored sound was on live records such as this one, "delivering their human-electricity amalgamations of rock, blues and gospel." The band stopped recording in 1975, but regularly reunited for live shows.
What We Said Then: "[One] thing is always evident and that is the astonishing musicality and tense understatement of their music. Willy's unique blues-guitar style, so electric and so sonorous, is the background of their sound, embellished by Joe on bass or second guitar. . .But what really makes them work is their voices, their harmonies, their foot-stomping rhythms, their trading of vocals from bass to tenor, their hand-clapping enthusiasm, their often wry vocal song introductions." — Gary von Tersch, RS 62 (July 9th, 1970)
Crabby Appleton, ‘Crabby Appleton’
This LP was straight-ahead California rock, but impeccably done: catchy, compelling, "nearly faultless." Over 40 years later, it still sounds fresh. A single from this album, "Go Back," scraped into the Top 40, but the five-man band broke up after the follow-up LP flopped. Frontman Michael Fennelly went on to release two albums in England, and later recorded some backing vocals with Steely Dan.
What We Said Then: "Crabby Appleton is an inventive L.A. group in the classic mold: high ringing guitar, crackling organ and a lead vocalist whose delivery is strenuous and dramatic, in contrast to his phlegmatic demeanor, which carries all the sullen narcissistic charisma any band needs. Another patented, short-lived hype group? Nope. Crabby Appleton, I'm happy to report, is the real thing." — Lester Bangs, RS 69 (October 29th, 1970)
Lon & Derrek Van Eaton, ‘Brother’
The last act signed to the Beatles' Apple Records, the Van Eaton brothers were recruited for a five-year deal by George Harrison, who handed off production of most of this album to Klaus Voorman but handled the single "Sweet Music" himself. This debut showed that the brothers had a Beatlesque level of musical finesse: we said it "might just be the perfect studio album." When Apple folded, the Van Eatons relocated to Los Angeles and got work backing up Ringo Starr on his solo albums.
What We Said Then: "This staggeringly impressive first album. . .displays more energy, good feeling, and sheer musical talent than any debut record I've heard this year. Derrek's lead singing is amazing. His style ranges from a weird, tremulous falsetto to the hardest rock holler, and he is capable of shading in the difference as well." — Stephen Holden, RS 122 (November 23rd, 1972)
Blue Jug, ‘Blue Jug’
By the mid-Seventies, the Band were wrapping it up — after some uneven albums, they went out with a bang (the legendary Last Waltz concert). But Blue Jug (from Seattle by way of Nashville) stepped up to take their place, with a debut record that suggested close study of Music From Big Pink. We said it sounded "like the best album the Band's released in years," but the public wasn't looking for another Band; Blue Jug never recorded again.
What We Said Then: "First albums are rarely as impressive as this one, and now I wonder if I've overstated the case for Blue Jug's initial effort. But no. On re-examination, I understand that what I feel is honest — before it's finished, Blue Jug will make a significant contribution to American music." — David McGee, RS 203 (January 1st, 1976)
Blue Ash, ‘No More No Less’
The Ohio quartet Blue Ash made power pop early enough that there wasn't a common, concise name for the genre yet: we called it "three-minute songs, stressing melody, powerful rhythm chords, harmonies and communicating enthusiasm and contagious high spirits." But nomenclature aside, this was a thrilling album full of catchy songs. Blue Ash were active until 1979 (plus some later reunion gigs). Bassist Frank Secich went on to play with Stiv Bators; guitarist Bill "Cupid" Bartolin died from cancer in 2009.
What We Said Then: "'Wasting My Time,' 'Here We Go Again' and 'I Remember a Time' amazed me with their sheer infectiousness, charming harmonies, and stunning power chords. . . 'Dusty Old Fairgrounds' turns an implausibly obscure Dylan trad-folk cop into a raging rocker. . . No More No Less is an astonishingly explosive debut, and with apparently limitless potential, Blue Ash should by all rights become a major phenomenon." — Ken Barnes, RS 139 (July 19th, 1973)
The gamine Twiggy was the defining fashion model of the Sixties — and in 1973, she appeared alongside David Bowie on the cover of his Pin Ups album. That was apparently enough to launch her singing career, but she proved to have actual interpretive talent: we named her debut album "more than just a pleasant surprise." While the album didn't sell much, she continued singing and acting professionally, most notably as the star of the Broadway show My One and Only (opposite Tommy Tune).
What We Said Then: "Her voice, which at alternate times recalls Olivia Newton-John and Melanie (but without the former's calculated submissiveness or the latter's hyperextended vulnerability) is strong and self-assured. . .Moreover, she has a fine sense of where the heart of a song lies. . .There is a delicateness and vitality in Twiggy's music that is well above the usual MOR fare and one wishes her good luck in a field that is, if anything, more volatile and fickle than the modeling and fashion world." — Billy Altman, RS 225 (November 4th, 1976)
Hoodoo Rhythm Devils, ‘The Barbecue of Deville’
The Hoodoo Rhythm Devils made hot, raucous country rock that discarded every art-rock pretension in favor of loud songs about eating barbecue sandwiches. On their second album (after Rack Jobbers Rule), this Berkeley band provided a late-night party on wax. They made music through the Seventies, and after breaking up, continued in the worlds of music and advertising: bassist Richard Greene sang the famous "Fall into the Gap" jingle for the Gap.
What We Said Then: "[Like] a candygram from the gods, here it is. More wonderfully worthless than even Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. As seedy as the legendary Asleep at the Wheel. Totally devoid of image and metaphor. Destitute of any redeeming social value. Aesthetically unimposing. Shamelessly derivative. No long cuts. Sloppy. Loud. Yes, it's almost too good to be true." — Nick Tosches, RS 122 (November 23rd, 1972)
Robin Trower, ‘Twice Removed from Yesterday’
Leaving Procol Harum and going solo, guitarist Robin Trower showed off his Hendrix chops in what we called "a brilliant debut album." Trower had guitar skill to burn, but thankfully, he mostly avoided supersonic solos: this album spent most of its time in a slow, bluesy groove. It didn't have blockbuster sales, but it was the cornerstone of Trower's lengthy solo career.
What We Said Then: "Robin Trower transcends the realm of traditional music forms, staking out a musical turf that most musicians can't even comprehend, much less attempt to explore. Twice Removed from Yesterday exists on a level so far beyond the rest of most of today's rock that this writer finds it nearly impossible to speak of group and album in traditional critics' jargon." — Gordon Fletcher, RS 137 (June 21st, 1973)
The Move, ‘Shazam’
The Move was a British band notorious for attacking TVs onstage with axes. This heavy album was meant to counteract some previous pop dalliances (they scored plenty of hits in the U.K., but never in the States) — thankfully, they couldn't shake off their gift for melody and free-wheeling experimentation. After this enjoyable sophomore LP, the Move were joined by Jeff Lynne, who wrote the hit "Do Ya" for them; a few years later, the band evolved into the much more successful Electric Light Orchestra.
What We Said Then: "[An] honest, happy child of that heavily electronic brand of rock and roll which was born of the Who and later massively popularized by Cream and their imitators. Those tens of thousands of tours they've endured have paid off handsomely for the Move: their music, both in performance and on this album, is both powerful and intricately structured and flowing. Shazam is a brutally energetic rock and roll album." — John Mendelsohn, RS 58 (May 14th, 1970)
Mike McGear, ‘McGear’
Mike McGear, best known as leader of the British band Scaffold — wait, who are we kidding? He's best known as Paul McCartney's brother. His famous sibling produced this album; the two of them cowrote all the songs (pick hit: "The Man Who Found God on the Moon"), and the result is a Beatlesque delight that can stand alongside the best of McCartney's solo work. McGear stopped making albums after this one, devoting himself to photography (he took the cover picture for Sir Paul's Chaos and Creation in the Backyard).
What We Said Then: "McGear is the record of two impressive musical intelligences coaxing each other into exciting areas neither of them might otherwise have explored. Producer/writer McCartney has accepted the invitation to be more adventurous than he ever has been in any setting, while writer/performer McGear's potentially intimidating wit is kept from becoming top-heavy by a lovely lilting quality that is one of Paul's specialties." — Tom Nolan, RS 180 (February 13th, 1975)
Louie and the Lovers, ‘Rise’
This pioneering Latin-American rock band hailed from the small agricultural town of Prunedale, California — when they were still in high school, they were discovered and produced by Doug Sahm of the Sir Douglas Quintet. Their debut album was "just plain incredible," in the sweet spot between Creedence Clearwater Revival and Ritchie Valens. They broke up after their second album got shelved, but leader Louie Ortega spent years gigging with Sahm.
What We Said Then: "Unlike many first albums these days, there's not a bum cut or a well-intentioned-but-failed experiment on the whole disc. These guys are stone professionals, and they know what they want. Each song flows with a self-assurance and unity that is sadly missing in these days of frantic get-to-the-top-and-stay-there musicianship. And the songs are so genuine: after meeting his girlfriend for the first time, Louie went and wrote 'I Just Met You.'" — Ed Ward, RS 67 (October 1st, 1970)
Badger, ‘One Live Badger’
Tony Kaye, founding keyboardist with Yes, left the band (replaced by Rick Wakeman), and started this prog-rock outfit, who audaciously chose to release a live album as their debut. With the cosmic lyrics dialed down and the rock dialed up, they sounded more like the Allman Brothers than Yes. Kaye went on to play with David Bowie, and rejoined Yes in the Eighties for the successful 90125 era of the band.
What We Said Then: "It surges and drives and plots the perfect course between the opposing musical excesses of snobbish inaccessibility and mindless boogie. . .Also important is the fact that Badger's songs are of the perfect length. Five of the album's six tunes run between 7:00 and 7:12 — long enough for the group to get into high gear but short enough to keep the listener hungry for more." — Gordon Fletcher, RS 142 (August 30th, 1973)
Wilderness Road, ‘Wilderness Road’
This Chicago quartet combined hard rock, bluegrass, and improvisational theater with chaotic but thrilling results. Formed in the overlap between Second City comedy and the Yippies, they interrupted their own live shows with fake commercials. We declared that there "was no better music to be heard anywhere in the land," but Wilderness Road broke up not long after recording their second album (Sold for the Prevention of Disease Only).
What We Said Then: "They seemed like. . .the Who crossed with the Byrds, Jerry Lee Lewis spawning the Firesign Theater. . . the J. Geils unit all mixed up with the boys in the Band, two Eric Claptons playing dual (and dueling) lead guitars with the Carter Family while everybody goes crazy." — Paul Nelson, RS 106 (April 13th, 1972)
Frankie Miller Band, ‘The Rock’
On his third album, the Scottish rock singer Frankie Miller worked with producer Elliot Mazer, who emphasized the soulful side of his music by calling in the Edwin Hawkins Singers and the Memphis Horns. The Rock, recorded in San Francisco, was named after Alcatraz, and had the excitement of a well-executed jailbreak. In 1994, Miller was working on a new band with Joe Walsh and Nicky Hopkins when he had a brain hemorrhage; he was in a coma for five months, but recovered.
What We Said Then: "Vocally, Miller's gruff but flexible voice and aggressive attack place him in the Otis Redding school. . .Miller's got better equipment and better moves than any rock vocalist to emerge in the last year–all this forceful, intelligent young writer/singer lacks is an audience. The Rock is bound to take care of that." — Bud Scoppa, RS 199 (November 6th, 1975)
Crack the Sky, ‘Crack the Sky’
This West Virginia prog-rock group incorporated rock, funk and string sections into a jagged album with "dazzling stylistic diversity," perfectly reflecting singer John Palumbo's lyrics about media-induced schizophrenia. The LP wasn't a smash hit, but Crack the Sky became popular in Baltimore and have continued a Maryland-centric career to this day, releasing well over 20 albums.
What We Said Then: "Like the first albums of Steely Dan, 10cc and the Tubes, Crack the Sky's debut introduces a group whose vision of mid-Seventies ennui is original, humorous and polished without seeming too arty. . .If Palumbo's lyrics are the latest in Seventies cynicism, their darkness is countered by the light-spiritedness of most of the music. Palumbo avoids conventional melodies, preferring to repeat a tuneful phrase and then abruptly break the mood he's established with something nearly opposite in spirit." — Stephen Holden, RS 203 (January 1st, 1976)
Mitch Ryder was only a few years past his Sixties hit singles with the Detroit Wheels, but that was enough time for his career to crash on the rocks and for him to head an ill-advised Vegas-style soul revue. This album was the comeback from his self-inflicted wounds: the forceful debut of a new rock band that showcased Ryder as "one of the primal blue-eyed shouters of our time." The LP was produced by a young Bob Ezrin, who would go on to work with Kiss and Pink Floyd; Ryder's reputation would be sustained over the following decades by Bruce Springsteen's frequent live rendition of his hits in the "Detroit Medley."
What We Said Then: "The drumming, without exception, is extremely forceful, and the bass playing — especially on Ray Davies' 'It Ain't Easy,' here captured in what must surely be its definitive version — is nothing short of incredible. . .as you might expect, the louder it gets the better it gets. But I think the thing I like most about Detroit, which would make them something a little special even if their album limped along like a stray dog, is the kind of moral commitment they bring to their music." — Lenny Kaye, RS 97 (December 9th, 1971)