The best of 1971 mix tape
1971 was a tough one. There was a higher than normal number of great albums that didn’t necessarily have one great song that jumped out, such as Joni Mitchell’s Blue or Carole King’s Tapestry (though It’s Too Late was one of the last two songs dropped) or songs that I would have included if I had more space to work with (I’m looking squarely at you, Me and Bobby McGee.)
As it is, the final product is a one of the more interesting and varied mixes so far. In addition to those already mentioned, apologies to Baby Blue by Badfinger (say that 3 times fast) and Rod Stewart’s Every Picture Tells a Story for just missing out on inclusion.
Baba O’Riley – The Who
This is about as epic and thumping as rock gets. Teenage wasteland.
What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
The rare “important” album and song that also happens to be imminently listenable. I could have just as easily slotted Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) in here.
Jeepster – T. Rex
One of the tent pole songs of glam rock, which is great and wonderful despite leading to the 80s hair metal scourge.
Tiny Dancer -Elton John
This one initially just missed out, but Mrs. Lo made an excellent last minute case for inclusion, so Janis was kicked to the curb to make room. I’m feeling good about that decision, though if I had one more minute to play with I would have snuck Mercedes Benz on here to compensate Janis. There’s no denying this is a great song though, and hey we can all sing along with it in the bus while traveling to the next show. (For fun and to annoy people like me, sing the line “Hold me close now, Tony Danza…”)
Family Affair – Sly and the Family Stone
This song and album were hugely influential to a coming generation of R&B and hip hop artists, as well as just being a great listen.
Johnny Cash – The Man in Black
Possibly my favorite Cash song ever. The Man in Black explains his mantra (“just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back, up front there ought to be a man in black.”)
Ain’t No Sunshine – Bill Withers
One of the most soulful voices in history. This song never gets old.
Dead Flowers – The Rolling Stones
Brown Sugar is better known of course, but this Sticky Fingers track ranks among the Stones’ very best work. Whenever Mick affects a country accent good times are close behind.
Tired of Being Alone – Al Green
Speaking of soulful voices, Rev. Al was among the very best in his day. This is what the youngsters used to call “baby making music.” They still use that phrase, right?
Stay With Me – Faces
The combination of Rod Stewart and Ron Wood produced some of the best pure rock and roll music ever. I put this one in just ahead of Every Picture Tells a Story (which is Rod solo officially, though Wood played on that album), but I could have easily switched them out.
Coat of Many Colors – Dolly Parton
I’ve said it many times, but I’m prepared to fight anyone who does not recognize Dolly as one of the five greatest American songwriters of all time. There’s no debating this statement (Except for the part about me fighting. I’m a lover not a fighter. You will probably receive a sternly worded text message or blog post reference though. You’ve been warned.)
Tupelo Honey – Van Morrison
You can put Van’s output from ’68 to ’71 up against anyone and he’d come out on top more often than not. Another epic tune in the mold of Into the Mystic.
Rock and Roll – Led Zeppelin
I’m always prepared to drop Zeppelin for a song I like better, but in the end I just can’t justify it. This song is just too good.
Without You – Harry Nilsson
Nilsson Schmilsson is one of the most severely underrated records ever, as is this song, actually a cover and rearrangement of Badfinger’s original. One of the original, epic, sweeping power ballads, a style that will be much imitated in the future but rarely equaled.
Life on Mars – David Bowie
Hunky Dory is the bomb that Bowie dropped late in 1971, the first in a run of exceptional albums that few have ever approached, must less matched.
That’s a pretty solid year indeed. Buckle up though, kids, because 1972 promises to be a wild ride. As always, here’s the Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure.
Which one of your favorites did I miss?