Rock

Cheap Trick “Cheap Trick” (1977)

One of the best albums and greatest debuts of all time! “Cheap Trick” must have sounded light years ahead of its time when it arrived in 1977. Arena rock and power pop meet glam and punk with a trashy, live, unpolished sound. Too pop to be punk and too punk to be considered pop, the record tanked in ’77, but listening to it now it’s hard to imagine how this record wasn’t an instant hit. A few years later Cheap Trick would fill stadiums but musically they never topped this debut. Highlights include the glam “ELO Kiddies,” the dark and delightfully perverted “Daddy Should Have Stayed In High School,” the catchiest song ever written about the IRS, “Taxman Mr Thief,” and the infectious “Oh Candy.” Power pop perfection! –David

Arthur Brown “The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown” (1968)

Occasionally, screaming out of two scant seconds of dead FM radio silence, would be “I AM THE GOD OF HELL FIRE, and I give you FIRE!” Terrified, before the first phrase of the song’s riff was finished, I’d jump up and turn off the radio. Um, it WAS the mid ’70s and, being a kid easily creeped out, I truly believed Arthur Brown WAS the god of hell fire! He, and his big CREEPY voice… it’s possessing as it IS possessed…, was coming after ME! It haunted me, if ever I thought about evil things (um, clowns mostly) that song, that VOICE, provided the soundtrack. Eventually, I got over being honestly freaked out, it was just theatrics (RIGHT?!). Now “The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown” is one of my favorite ’60s albums. The A side is a wicked psychedelic concerto of swirling Hammond organ, thundering drums and Mr. Browns big BAD voice… which gives me shivers, still. –Nipper

X “Under The Big Black Sun” (1982)

A record that sums up Americana as well as any other. “Under The Big Black Sun” is proof that X was as good of a country band as they were a punk band. Rockin’, rollicking, dissonant and dizzying, this record is a forty-five minute bender. Bookended by “The Hungry Wolf” (an superblast of syncopated yell along) and “The Have Nots” (possibly the best drinking song ever), this is the soundtrack to an unencumbered night out. –Cameron

T. Rex “T. Rex” (1970)

First Tyrannosaurus Rex release featuring the shortened moniker, T. Rex balances Bolan’s brain-fried, hippie-folk mysticism with a pop sensibility that would explode in T-Rexstacy, once he figured out this stuff might sound better with bass and drums. Of course, Bolan could craft a killer hook in his sleep, and T. Rex is full of them, be it on tender numbers like “Diamond Meadows,” close encounter of “The Visit,” electric freak out “Jewel,” or glam boogie previews like “One Inch Rock,” many numbers benefiting especially well from added string accompaniment. Highly recommended to anyone wanting to dig deeper than “Electric Warrior.” –Ben

Blue Öyster Cult “Blue Öyster Cult” (1972)

Long before the mega-hits “Godzilla” and “(Dont Fear) The Reaper” roamed FM radio waves there lived a different kind of creature: “Blue Öyster Cult” the album. Everything about BÖC is unique: from their mysterious name, the umlaut over the Ö and the famous hook and cross logo to the cryptic lyrics and their instantly recognizable sound. Nowhere is their uniqueness more apparent than on this classic self-titled debut. The music lies somewhere between psychedelia and heavy metal and the cover features black and white op-art that perfectly captures the sci-fi and horror themes inside. My favorite tracks are the classic “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll,” the tripped out “Screams,” the even trippier “She’s as Beautiful as a Foot” and the country-rock of “Redeemed” with it’s beautiful harmonies. All I can say is: “More Cowbell!” –David

Harry Nilsson “Nilsson Sings Newman” (1970)

Delicate, gentle and earnest, it’s hard not to believe every word Harry Nilsson sings, even if a yet-to-make-it-big Randy Newman wrote them. I challenge any man with a heart to remain dry eyed during his rendition of “Living Without You.” Plus, this is one of the most technically amazing recordings ever (it won 1970’s Record of the Year award from Stereo Review Magazine), and a treat on headphones. –Cameron

Mighty Baby “Mighty Baby” (1969)

Most of the members of Mighty Baby began in The Action, a Scouse soul/R&B group, and slowly evolved, as their hair and beards grew and thier minds expanded, into Mighty Baby. Mighty, indeed!

This is a great album of solid easy groovin’ by English boys assimilating American psychedelic West Coast sounds. Full of heady, reserved guitar fills/leads, harmonies… and that Hammond! Sheesh! –Nipper

Ronnie Lane “Anymore For Anymore” (1974)

Out of all the albums that I’ve heard this is the one that has touched me the most. It’s such a joy to hear Ronnie Lane sing about unimportant things that, after a second listen, become the most important issues you can think of. Seemingly loose played, but at the same time heartfelt and pure. Music far removed from the standards of those days but at the same time so very timeless. Yes, this album means the world to me. If I had to describe “Anymore for Anymore” in one word it would have to be “love.” From the beautiful sax solo on “Don’t You Cry For Me” to those spine tingling strings on “The Poacher”, every track is a gem. The passion and sincerity with which it is crafted is of a standard previously unknown to me. This album will make you enjoy and appreciate life so much more. It’s simply brilliant and, in my opinion, essential listening for every roots/country/folk listener. –Ton

Gandalf “Gandalf” (1969)

This is late period, super dreamy sike from Jersey! Gandalf sounds a bit like if Nick Drake were in the Zombies, but where Nick Drake can be uplifting and the Zombies’ always turn your frown upside down, Gandalf instills a terse, creepy tense sense of melancholy. Though it doesn’t feel self conscious in it’s “moody,” they balance mood without overstating creepy and sad. Of course, I don’t know if they were trying to be dark, but it works…almost too well. That said, the band has said given the chance they mixed the album heavier, as they were heavier live, but due to label interference they weren’t invited to the mixing sessions…fine by me, this LP ought not be fixed. It ain’t broke. –Nipper

Paul McCartney “Ram” (1971)

I was just a sprout of a boy when dad brought home the shiny Pioneer hi-fi, and this was the only album I was allowed to play (as it was already scratched). It turns out this is the perfect album for a small child; sweet, sentimental, slightly silly at times, and incredibly easy to sing along to. Surprisingly devoid of radio hits, it works better as a 40 minute pastiche of tunes, rather than a collection of three-minute confections. If pop music is simply some form of arithmetic that pleases the brain, then I learned basic math from this record. The same qualities that appealed to me as a child make Ram sound just as great today. –Cameron

The Rascals “Peaceful World” (1971)

The Rascals “Peaceful World” is a surprising first listen owing more to Sly Stone, War and Tower of Power than the blue-eyed Young Rascals who gave us the sixties hit “Groovin.’” The album is a soulful blend of rock, jazz and world music featuring jazz legends Joe Farrell, Hubert Laws, Alice Coltrane and Ron Carter. The funky “Love Me,” the cosmic “Sky Trane” and the mellow, twenty-minute title track, are just three of my favorites here. Fortunately this is LP is still pretty easy to find and usually under $15 making it a peaceful world we can all visit. –David