Saturday, March 19, 2011

What Was the Better Decade--the Sixties or the Seventies?

You all are going to have your own take and favorites.  After the break, I'll take my shot at this:

Beatles vs. Eagles (edge to the 60's)  Rock music is pre-64 and everything else that followed.  That was the result of one band.  It's easy to look back and say the music was relatively simple and yes the early Beatles were.  But by Sgt. Pepper's they had really progressed with their instruments as well as their writing, both lyrically and musically.  You have to remember that when the Beatles hit, their sound was light years ahead of anything that had ever happened before.  Much of today's music would not be possible were it not for the Beatles.  They made it "OK" for a rock band to be on television (Ed Sullivan Show).  Their success paved the way for everyone else who followed.  And, making use of simple production technology, their records still sound fresh.  I'm sure they would have loved to have synthesizers back then, reverberations, echos, and the numerous other effects that we take for granted.  The Eagles of course grew out of Linda Ronstadt's backup band.  Ronstadt was supportive and encouraged the group to set out on its own.  They began with country rock roots and gave us early classics such as "Take It Easy", "Witchy Woman", "Peaceful Easy Feeling" and "Desperado".  With the arrival of first Don Felder then Joe Walsh, the Eagles' sound progressed to more of a rock sound and they scored big with "One of These Nights", "Lyin' Eyes" the all-time classic "Hotel California", "New Kid In Town", "Take It to the Limit", Heartache Tonight", "In the City" and "The Long Run".  Timothy B. Schmidt had joined the group by this time and gave us "I Can't Tell You Why".  There aren't too many places you're going to find better harmonies, and Don Henley became one of the best lyricists of all-time.  I'm a big Eagles fan, but they can't touch the Beatles in the 60's--no one can.

Rolling Stones vs. Rolling Stones (big edge to 60's)  By the 70's, the Stones sounded too much like a formula.  There are good songs in the 70's ("Brown Sugar", "It's Only Rock & Roll" and I don't even mind the disco songs "Miss You" and "Emotional Rescue".  But the Stones' music of the 70's lacks purpose, drive and energy.  The 60's Stones had that in spades.

Association vs. Bread (slight edge to 70's)  The Association had a great run of hits and terrific harmonies.  Bread basically took their place at the mantle in the 70's.  The instrumental talent of Bread can't be touched by the Association.  Both groups had an impressive array of songs and good vocals, but Bread kept up their success longer.

Beach Boys vs. Beach Boys (big edge to 60's)  Very similar to the Stones' situation, the more they went on, the more they became shadows of themselves.  The Beach Boys of the 60's may have been hotter than anyone that decade except the Beatles.  When they started, the group had that freshness, that new surfin' sound and songs of hot rods.  The themes of that decade were missing from the group in the 70's, and nothing else took their place.

Simon & Garfunkel vs. Seals & Crofts (big edge to 60's)  Simon & Garfunkel are legendary.  Their harmonies blended perfectly.  Paul Simon became one of the greatest lyricists of all-time, and that was already becoming evident as the 60's drew to a close and the duo split in 1970.  Seals & Crofts continued that easy folk sound into the next decade, but the lyrics are nowhere near their predecessors.

Steppenwolf vs. Boston (Hmmm--I'd say 70's)  I'm going to hear from Boston fans and I love the group too, but they were largely a one-album success.  I had high hopes for them but the tremendous innovation of the debut album did not continue with successive releases.  Steppenwolf had three or four great songs but their albums were not near as consistent as Boston.  Fairly close, but I have to go with Boston here.

Deep Purple vs. Styx (Styx didn't really get going until later, but I still go with the 70's)  Long-term, Styx had tremendous success even into the 90's.  Dennis DeYoung is a quality keyboard player but nowhere near the talent of Jon Lord.  Styx never gave us the classic that Deep Purple did with "Smoke On the Water", but that came in the 70's.  The Styx albums Equinox and Crystal Ball are superb, although most aren't aware of it.  Styx wins here.

Doors vs. Aerosmith (60's)  Jim Morrison was one of the classic front men of all-time.  The Doors' overall lineup was far better than that of Aerosmith.  Aerosmith's secret has been longevity, although Steven Tyler looks like he died two lifetimes ago.  Eventually, Aerosmith caught the Doors, but it hadn't happened by the end of the 70's.

Bee Gees vs. Bee Gees (70's by quite a bit)  And that is not a slight to the Bee Gees of the 60's by any means.  Their early ballads still stand up very well, especially "Words", "Massachusetts" and "To Love Somebody".  But beginning with "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart" in 1971, their career really took off. And, the Brothers Gibb were on top of the world in the late part of the decade.  There haven't been too many artists hotter than the Bee Gees were from 1976-1979, either before or since.

Supremes vs. Pointer Sisters (huge edge to 60's) The Pointers were an exciting act as the top female group of the 70's but are no match for the Motown trio.  Diana and the girls were gold and were behind only Elvis and the Beatles in #1 songs at one point.

Mamas and Papas vs. America (edge to 70's)  America had more long-lasting success that started in 1972 with "A Horse With No Name" and continued through the decade.  The Mamas & Papas had several good songs and a few classics but they were not long-lasting.

Led Zeppelin vs. Led Zeppelin (close but slight edge to 70's)  Most music fans really became aware of Led Zeppelin for the fourth album in 1972 that I am working on for a review on this blog.  But the early work of the group is fascinating, especially knowing what happened after.  Led Zeppelin II is a great album with "Whole Lotta Love" "Heartbreaker", "Living Lovin' Maid" and "Ramble On" and the debut features the group's blues roots.  Still, the Runes album, Physical Graffiti and especially In Through The Out Door puts Led Zeppelin in the 70's ahead of Led Zeppelin 60's.

The Animals vs. Elton John (huge edge to 70's)  I couldn't find anyone in the 60's to compare Elton John to (he was and is one of a kind).  EJ was red hot in the mid 70's and one of the top stars of the decade.  The Animals gave us a lot of winners but are no match.

The Who vs. The Who (not close--huge edge to 60's)  I have to be honest; for the most part, I didn't like the group that the Who had become in the 70's.  They definitely peaked with "Tommy" and I don't think the 70's tracks are even in the same league as their early material (with the notable exceptions of "Won't Get Fooled Again", ""Join Together", Love, Reign O'er Me",  Baba O'Riley" and "Behind Blue Eyes".  I just think songs like "You Better You Bet", "Slip Kid", "Squeeze Box" and even "Who Are You" are weak compared to the group's potential.  Compare those songs to "I Can See For Miles", "Pinball Wizard", "See Me, Feel Me", "I'm Free" and "My Generation".  For my money, I like the Who's 60's material.

Marvin Gaye vs. Marvin Gaye (slight edge to 60's)  This is tough comparing Marvelous Marvin material.  Gaye put out one of his better albums in 1971 that contained the socially aware "Mercy Mercy Me" and "What's Going On", two of the most important singles ever released in rock.  "Let's Get It On" was also a big hit in 1972.  To be honest, I never cared for "Got To Give It Up"--I know it was a huge national hit; I just didn't like it much.  Marvin's 60's music included the classic "I Heard It Through the Grapevine","How Sweet It Is", "Ain't That Peculiar" and the Tammi Terrell duets.  Very close, but I give the edge to the 60's.

Stevie Wonder vs. Stevie Wonder (70's)  Another tough question considering the music of one of the giants.  songs like "Uptight", "I Was Made to Love Her", "For Once In My Life" and "My Cherie Amour" were 60's gems, but Wonder really began to grow musically, developing great synthesizer work, especially with the Innervisions and Fulfillingness' First Finale albums.  I thought those albums helped define Stevie as an artist and more than just the singles he had put together earlier.  "You Are the Sunshine of my Life", "Superstition", "Living For the City", "Higher Ground", "You Haven't Done Nothin'" and "Sir Duke" are classics.  The Songs in the Key of Life double album is one of the best ever made.  If you don't already own it, check it out from start to finish--powerful stuff.

Four Tops vs. Spinners (60's)  Two Motown groups going at it here.  I loved the sound of both.  The Four Tops were a great act live; It doesn't get much better than Levi Stubbs.  Both groups gave us great songs; I think what distinguishes the Tops is that they gave us classics--"I Can't Help Myself" and "Reach Out (I'll Be There)".  So many other winners from the group but those two were the best.  The Spinners were a good consistent group beginning with "I'll Be Around" in 1971 and continuing through the end of the decade.  "Games People Play" and "Rubberband Man" in my mind aren't much below the two mentioned by the Four Tops but overall, the Tops have a legacy that lives on longer than the Spinners.

Creedence Clearwater Revival vs. Creedence Clearwater Revival and Santana (huge edge to 60's)  Don't get me wrong--I love Santana.  Carlos is one of the greatest guitarists in rock history no question and he has endured, in fact coming up with his top work Supernatural in the 90's.  Abraxus in 1970 is fantastic as well, featuring "Black Magic Woman".  And CCR put forth two great 70's albums.  But CCR was on fire in the 60's, one of the most magical times that any music artist has ever enjoyed.  Creedence loaded up 12 hits on four albums in 1968 and 1969 and led the league in double-sided hits during that period with five of 'em.  CCR's music is raw rock & roll, as dependable as it gets.  John Fogerty was an amazing talent, the likes of which we may never see.  His later solo work featured Fogerty playing all the instruments himself.  Even with Santana's 70's music factored in, I still give a big edge to CCR of the 60's.

Byrds vs. Carpenters (huge edge to 70's)  The Byrds were pioneers in their field of soft rock and folk music.  Of course they gave birth to Crosby, Stills & Nash.  The Carpenters, however, were a phenomenon and far more talented than the know-nothings give them credit for.  Those people aren't aware that, prior to their recording contract, the group competed in the Hollywood Battle of the Bands--and won.  Not only that, but the studio musicians chosen by Richard were second to none.  Listen to some other songs besides what radio played to see what I mean.  There's a song called "Crescent Noon" on their debut that exemplifies their tight accompaniment well.  Of course, their singles take a back seat to no one; highlighted by Karen's rich, haunting alto voice and Richard's amazing vocal arrangements, they are some of the most beautiful melodies the world has ever known.  "Close to You", "We've Only Just Begun", "Rainy Days and Mondays", "For All We Know", "Top of the World", "Sing", "I Won't Last a Day Without You", "Bless the Beasts and the Children" and "Superstar" are timeless classics that still sound awesome.  When you listened to Karen, it was like you were listening to music from the angels; in fact she was an angel put here for a short time to sing to us.  Karen's was a voice and style that you could listen to anytime and they weren't hits nor were they meant to be but her remakes "Baby It's You", "Reason to Believe", "Help" and others are wonderful.

Four Seasons vs. Doobie Brothers (very close--go with 70's)  Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons were a hit-making factory (if you haven't seen the play The Jersey Boys--do).  "Sherry", "Big Girls Don't Cry", "Walk Like A Man", "Big Girls Don't Cry", "Rag Doll" and "Dawn" define early 60's rock.  However, after "Working My Way Back To You" in 1966, they didn't have another top 10 hit until 1976.  I take nothing away from the Four Seasons--it's enjoyable music and those falsettos reached by Valli are hard to beat.  The Doobies' material, however, was more developed.  Tom Johnston was a genius and I prefer the group of his tenure to that of Michael McDonald and am so glad he rejoined the band.  "Black Water", "China Grove", "Long Train Runnin" and "Listen to the Music" are all standards.  But delve into more of the group's catalog and you discover gems like "South City Midnight Lady", "Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me)", "Another Park, Another Sunday", "I Cheat the Hangman", "Rockin' Down the Highway" and "Jesus is Just Alright".  And that's just the Doobies before Johnston left.  McDonald took the group in a new direction and gave us the classic "What A Fool Believes" as well as "Takin' It to the Streets" and "It Keeps You Runnin'".  Most of the other songs in that period are basic pop hits but check out "Steamer Lane Breakdown" on the Minute by Minute album.  Again I don't take anything away from the Four Seasons in their heyday--they were great.  I just believe the Doobies' music, especially the early material, will stand the test of time much better.

Tommy James & the Shondells vs. Fleetwood Mac (fairly close but 70's)  Some might find it surprising for me to call it fairly close and perhaps "fairly" is an inappropriate choice.  But I absolutely loved the Shondells; they were one of my favorite 60's groups.  I just loved the sound that they put out; it defined the later 60's.  "Crimson and Clover", "Crystal Blue Persuasion", wow, man.  Just kidding, but you know what I mean.  "Hanky Panky" and "I Think We're Alone Now" are pretty basic early rock #1's but "Ball of Fire" (look at that big ball up there, like far out), "Sweet Cherry Wine" (it's all good, man) and "Mony Mony" (If Billy Idol can sing it, it must be worthy) are legitimate contributions.  That said, album wise, they don't come close to the Mac.  This site is featuring a song by former Mac member Jeremy Spencer as the "Unknown" song right now.  Spencer left long before the group took off to the stratosphere.  You won't find three better back-to-back albums than the self-titled album of 1976, Rumours and Tusk.  Peter Green did some fantastic early work in the band prior to this time ("Oh Well" and others).  But when Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks arrived, it not only gave them two more songwriters but two more lead singers and the driving guitar of Buckingham, which balanced out their live sets.  I could go on and on about this group with those three albums but I will save that for specific story ideas.  For now, I'll just say that those three albums put Mac over TJ & company.

Monkees vs. Shaun Cassidy (ummm, not a contest--60's)  There was no teen idol in the 70's that came close to the Monkees.  The interesting thing about the group is that, while they began as the corporate manufactured American answer to the Beatles, they got to the point where they were musicians, and Michael Nesmith was definitely talented.  But the corporate hitmaking of the Monkees was successful without question.  "Daydream Believer" and "I'm a Believer" are classics.

Lovin' Spoonful vs. Hall & Oates (60's)  Be aware that the Lovin' Spoonful touring today doesn't include leader John Sebastian.  If you just want to go and hear someone reproduce Lovin' Spoonful songs, it's entertaining but just know that you're missing the real thing.  Sebastian's group was a force in the mid-to-later 60's with "Daydream", "You Didn't Have To Be So Nice", "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind", "Do You Believe in Magic" and the classic "Summer in the City" are fun songs.  We all know how serious life can be, and sometimes songs like this help to take our mind off of everyday problems.  Now eventually, Hall & Oates would go and pass the Spoonful, but it hadn't happened by the end of the decade.

Paul Revere & the Raiders vs. Queen (60's)  This is similar to the above comparison.  Paul Revere and the Raiders (from my Boise) were one of the hot acts of the 60's and had their own television show.  To this day, as Paul continues to perform, they are one of the most entertaining groups out there.  He is one of rock's great all-time characters and one of the best people you'll ever meet to boot.  They do cover versions of other 60's hits that will knock your socks off.  "Indian Reservation" was another landmark song that the Raiders put their own touch on; it came out in 1970 however, but "Kicks" is an outright classic.  While 99.9% (larger than that) of the groups thoroughly embraced drugs both in their personal life and in their music, the Raiders shunned it and "Kicks" is monumental for that reason alone.  "Hungry", "Good Thing", "Don't Take It So Hard", "I Had a Dream" and "Too Much Talk" are more than enough to get the group serious respect.  Queen would go on to surpass the Raiders but not until 1980.  Prior to that, the group lived on "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "You're My Best Friend".

Dusty Springfield vs. Linda Ronstadt (70's)  We come to the gals.  Dusty Springfield not only embodied the 60's female singer but every girl had to have that Dusty Springfield look (of love).  That song is one of the all-time classics in my opinion; you won't see it on the best songs of all-time lists, but it is timeless.  Her music still sounds ahead of its time--see "Son of a Preacher Man" and the absolute classic "Windmills of my Mind" from the original Thomas Crown Affair starring Faye Dunaway and Steve McQueen.  Dusty also hit with "I Only Want to Be With You" "Wishin' and Hopin" and "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me".  She was great.  From the first moment we heard "Long Long Time" from a young Tucson, Arizona singer, though, it should have apparent that she was something special.  Her amazing diversity of country, folk, adult contemporary, rock and even new wave is astounding.  Linda specialized in remakes and she was one of a select few that could make them sound better than the originals.  Ronstadt made"Heat Wave", "That'll Be The Day", "Tracks of My Tears", "Blue Bayou" and "You're No Good" sound not only as if she had written them herself but that she had just done so the night before.  I love all her material--people often ask me "What type of music do you like?" to which I reply "Good music".  I'm open to anything but quality matters.  I don't like a bland, boring ballad but I like one that is presented with richness both in vocal ability and musicianship.  I don't like loud noise for the sake of loud noise, but I like AC/DC and Def Leppard.  So when I say that Ronstadt's early country music is great, listen to it if you're so inclined.  Personally, I like the way she belts out "Love Is A Rose", "Silver Threads and Golden Needles" and "Love Has No Pride".  They weren't big hits but I think they are examples of some of her best vocal work.  She then began drifting into rock with "It's So Easy", "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" and "Back in the USA".  It had to shock some of her fans when she did the new wave song "How Do I Make You" in 1979, however.  Still, I liked it; it was just one more example of her tremendous and versatile talent.

Petula Clark vs. Barbra Streisand (70's)  Clark was another of the great 60's singles artists--she gave us her classic "Downtown" as well as "I Know a Place", "My Love", "Don't Sleep in the Subway", "This Is My Song" and "I Couldn't Live Without Your Love".  But Streisand took us by storm from the moment we saw her in "Funny Girl".  She has since become a multi-talented star who at the time, was the only performer ever to win an Oscar, a Grammy and a Tony.  When I worked in radio, I would watch the VU meter during Streisand's songs.  She could make that meter peg right quicker than anyone I've ever heard.  Babs too is special and a legendary talent.  Her pure voice and command of it made her an international superstar with songs like "The Way We Were", "People" and "Evergreen".  She is one of the longest enduring stars of her generation, but even by the 70's we knew how great she was.

Janis Joplin vs. Donna Summer (had she lived longer.., but 70's here)  Joplin was an amazing spectacle of raw talent, sheer energy and hallucinogenic performance.  She could belt out a song like no one and if you were there at the time, had to see live to appreciate.  But her wild lifestyle took her from us far too early.  You can like or dislike Summer but no one can dispute her talent and the ride she took the world on in the 70's.  Between Streisand and Summer, I don't know who could hold a note longer (I think they alternated setting records for pop music during the 70's).  And interestingly enough, they joined forces for the duet "No More Tears" which showcases both of their vocal abilities on one record.  That is what I don't think Summer gets enough credit for--her amazing voice.  People got burned out on the whole disco thing, largely because most of the songs just had a beat.  Sure, it was fun to dance to but they were worthless songs.  Summer's music, however, holds up to this day, because she was immensely talented and chose material that had a personal feel to it.  "I Feel Love", "Last Dance", "Dim All the Lights", "I Love You" and Hot Stuff" are the songs you likely know.  Her Once Upon a Time and Bad Girls LP's contain a couple of awesome songs that you likely don't.  Give a listen to the title track of Once Upon A Time (there are two versions so listen to both; you will know which one I am talking about) and "On My Honor" on Bad Girls.

Three Dog Night vs. Three Dog Night (really close, but 70's)  TDN was one of the truly great musical groups of all-time and other than Fleetwood Mac or the Eagles, I can't think of a group that used three lead singers to such great advantage.  It is a shame that the trio can't work out their differences to reunite; they continue to tour as a duo and Chuck Negron by himself.  Talk about a group that expressed the feelings of a generation.  "Mama Told Me Not to Come", "Eli's Coming" "Easy To Be Hard", those are all heavyweight songs.  The group also gave us "One", "Out In The Country" and "Celebrate" in the 60's.  They scored their biggest hit in 1971 with "Joy To the World", but I think of songs like "Never Been to Spain" and "Black and White", "Pieces of April", "Shambala" and "An Old Fashioned Love Song" from the period, again songs with a conscience, songs that meant something.  They were phenomenal in the 60's; they were phenomenal in the 70's, but a slight edge to the 70's.

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