Top 10 Albums of 1975

1. Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd

While I consider Dark Side of the Moon Pink Floyd’s best album, Wish You Were Here is their most cohesive. Every part flows effortlessly and plays into the larger theme. The two sections of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” which begin and end the album, are full of wonderful instrumental moments, the lyrics themselves commemorating former band member Syd Barrett. “Welcome to the Machine” and “Have A Cigar” are two social commentaries, the latter a jab at record companies, and the title track is one of the band’s most recognizable and famous songs. Wright’s keyboard really drives the album’s overall sound, which leads to a space-age feel common in their more progressive work.

2. Blood on the Tracks – Bob Dylan

After his 1966 motorcycle crash and a string of so-so albums that, while still good, failed to capture his earlier genius, Dylan was able to put together this comeback record. Unfortunately, his split with his wife Sara Lownds was the catalyst for many of the songs. “Tangled Up in Blue” and “Simple Twist of Fate” are melancholy looks at the past, and “Idiot Wind” is a stinging indictment in the vein of “Positively 4th Street.” The last two songs, “Shelter from the Storm” and “Buckets of Rain,” are more hopeful in their tender lyricism, but they still echo in tone the depression and loss that permeates the whole.

3. Physical Graffiti – Led Zeppelin

In this double album Led Zeppelin staged a solid return to its roots, albeit with a more expanded and refined sound. “Kashmir” is atmospheric and deserving of its notoriety. “In the Light,” its fellow eight-minute epic, is one of the group’s most underrated songs, along with “The Rover” and “Houses of the Holy.” Many of the other songs pursue different styles, from the Stevie Wonder-inspired “Trampled Under Foot” to the straight blues of “In My Time of Dying.” The second half has some gems as well, including “Night Flight” and “Down by the Seaside.”

4. Tonight’s the Night – Neil Young

This album, originally recorded in 1973, captures Young at a dark time, after two of his friends (one of them being the guitarist for his often-backing band Crazy Horse) had died of drug overdoses. The two parts of the title track bookending the album establish its bleak tone, and that tone is reinforced in songs like “Albuquerque,” “Lookout Joe,” and “Tired Eyes.” Others, like “Speakin’ Out” and the 1970 live track “Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown” are slightly more uplifting but, overall, this album, out of all that Young ever put out, paints a picture as starkly black as its cover.

5. Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac

The addition of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham to Fleetwood Mac gave the group the shot in the arm it needed after three so-so albums and launched them to unprecedented commercial success. With hit singles like “Rhiannon” and “Say You Love Me,” and a grueling tour schedule, the band slowly climbed to the top of the charts. “Monday Morning” and “Blue Letter” are infectious pop melodies, and others like “World Turning” and “I’m So Afraid” show that they could still embrace the rock aesthetic.

6. Katy Lied – Steely Dan

Another stellar installment in Steely Dan’s slow move towards jazz that would be epitomized in 1977’s Aja. “Black Friday” and “Daddy Don’t Live in that New York City No More,” also “Chain Lightning,” have a fun harder edge. “Doctor Wu” and “Your Gold Teeth II” reflect their classic easy melodies and slightly off-putting lyrics, as does “Bad Sneakers,” another of my personal favorites. While it can be alleged that the group didn’t develop its style enough between albums, I say, why change a winning formula?

7. Crisis? What Crisis? – Supertramp

This album may lie in the shadow of Crime of the Century and its huge success, but it has many of its own merits. The group’s two main singers/songwriters, Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies, once again demonstrate their various talents and play off each other well. “Sister Moonshine” is the best song here, with a guitar rhythm similar to their later hit “Give A Little Bit.” Other worthy offerings here include “Another Man’s Woman,” “Lady,” and “The Meaning.”

8. The Basement Tapes – Bob Dylan & The Band

After his motorcycle accident and a break from touring, Dylan settled down in the basement of an upstate New York house and began low-key recording songs with his old backing band The Hawks, who were soon to record their own debut as The Band. The twenty-four songs in this double album, most of them from 1967, reflect only a portion of the output that they recorded while in this semi-isolation, although eight of the songs here feature only The Band and were recorded between 1967 and 1975, like “Katie’s Been Gone” and “Long Distance Operator.” The album as a whole is in my opinion the most defining product of the modern Americana genre. Although many of the songs are lumbering and have poor quality, they are a welcome contrast to the often overdone psychedelic trappings of the period.

9. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen

With this set of eight songs encompassing America from its roots to its gaudy complexities, Springsteen burst onto the world scene to stay. He was determined to improve his output from his first two albums and threw himself into polishing this album heavily to fit his vision–the title track alone featured over a dozen guitar tracks and took nearly six months to finish recording. Fortunately, that vision translates well. The title track is one of the best he’d ever make, and “Thunder Road” and “Backstreets” are two of his most heartfelt. Also, the sax solo on “Jungleland” is nigh historic.

10. Young Americans – David Bowie

Beginning with this album, Bowie began to slowly drift away from the glam rock persona of Ziggy Stardust and into the “thin white duke” of blue-eyed soul and towards the Berlin Trilogy to come. “Fame” is the most famous song here, but the title track, “Win,” and “Somebody Up There Likes Me” are also great, leaning almost towards funk in several instances.

Honorable Mentions: Zuma – Neil Young, The Who By Numbers – The Who, One of These Nights – Eagles


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