Thursday, December 5, 1974

Yes Relayer released

Relayer

Yes


Released: December 5, 1974


Peak: 5 US, 4 UK, 22 CN, 15 AU


Sales (in millions): 0.5 US


Genre: progressive rock


Tracks:

Song Title [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Gates of Delirium [21:55] (7/1/75, “Soon” – excerpt, --)
  2. Sound Chaser [9:25]
  3. To Be Over [9:08]

All tracks written by Yes.


Total Running Time: 40:09


The Players:

  • Jon Anderson (vocals, acoustic guitar, piccolo, percussion)
  • Steve Howe (guitar, sitar, backing vocals)
  • Chris Squire (bass, backing vocals)
  • Patrick Moraz (keyboards)
  • Alan White (drums, percussion)

Rating:

3.433 out of 5.00 (average of 9 ratings)


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

Relayer was the seventh studio album from Yes and the only one to feature Patrick Moraz on keyboards, replacing Rick Wakeman who left after Tales from Topographic Oceans to pursue a solo career. Greek keyboardist Vangelis (later of “Chariots of Fire” fame) was a close contender for the job and later collaborated with Jon Anderson on several albums.

Yes had fallen out of critical favor with Tales from Topographic Oceans, a two-record set of four songs that reviewers found indulgent,” WR but it was still a commercial success so the band “had little incentive to curb their musical ambitiousness.” WR “Critics continued to complain about the lack of concise, coherent song structures,” WR but Relayer still made the top 10 and was a gold seller.

The group did actually trim from Tales, going back to a single-disc album format. The three long songs that comprised the album made this feel more like a cousin to 1972’s Close to the Edge with “a long epic on the first side, and two nine-minute pieces on the second.” WK

However, Relayer “employs a radically different musical style” WK from that album. The “music [is] organized into suites that alternated abrasive, rhythmically dense instrumental sections featuring solos for the various instruments with delicate vocal and choral sections featuring poetic lyrics devoted to spiritual imagery. Such compositions seemed intended to provide an interesting musical landscape over which the listener might travel.” WR

The Gates of Delirium is is a dense, 22-minute piece that was inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace,” WK not exactly a work known for brevity itself. “It features lyrics about the futility of war and a lengthy instrumental middle section portraying ‘battle’ with galloping rhythms, martial melodies, dissonant harmonies, and clashing sound effects . The final section, in which the drive of the previous sixteen minutes is suddenly replaced by a gentle melody and a lyrical prayer for peace, was released as a U.S. single under the title Soon.”

Sound Chaser is a jazzy, mostly instrumental piece that echoes the then-popular jazz fusion of Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever. To Be Over, the gentlest piece on the album, features complex, melodic arrangements of guitar and electric sitar (at one point quoting a theme from Tales from Topographic Oceans), and arguably features Jon Anderson’s most straightforward lyrics since the band's second album, Time and a Word.” WK


Notes: The 2003 reissue added a studio run-through of “The Gates of Delirium” as well as single versions of “Soon” and “Sound Chaser.”

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First posted 6/7/2011; updated 7/24/2021.

Monday, November 25, 1974

Nick Drake died: November 25, 1974

Originally posted November 25, 2012.

image from eachnotescure.com

Nick Drake was an English folk singer/songwriter born in Rangoon, Burma, on June 19, 1948. Only three albums were released during his lifetime and each sold less than 5000 copies upon initial release. However, after his death he emerged as a doomed romantic hero. In the mid-‘80s, musicians such as The Cure’s Robert Smith and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck cited him as an influence. The Dream Academy’s 1985 single “Life in a Northern Town” was about Drake.

Drake’s parents were musically inclined, even composing music. At an early age, Nick wrote songs and recorded them on reel-to-reel. He played piano in the school orchestra and learned clarinet and saxophone. In 1967, he won a scholarship to study English literature at Cambridge. He was a bright student who didn’t apply himself. He was more interested in playing and listening to music while smoking marijuana.

He discovered the folk scene via performers like Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs and began performing in clubs and coffee houses around London. With the help of college friend Robert Kirby and American producer Joe Boyd, Drake recorded Five Leaves Left in 1968.

In the autumn of 1969, Drake moved to London to concentrate on music. 1970’s Bryter Layter sported a more upbeat and jazzier sound and featured John Cale and members of Fairport Convention. In October 1971, Drake recorded songs over two nights for what would become 1972’s Pink Moon. Thinking that the sound of Bryter Layter was too elaborate, Drake opted for a stark collection of bleak songs in which his singing was accompanied solely by his own guitar with one piano overdub on the title track.

He visited a psychiatrist in 1971 and was prescribed antidepressants. He also suffered from insomnia and his friend Kirby worried at one point that Drake was showing early signs of psychosis. In 1972, Drake had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for five weeks. He returned home to live with his parents. Musician John Martyn, who wrote the title song of his 1973 album Solid Air about Drake, described him as the most withdrawn person he’d ever met. Nick died at age 26 on November 25, 1974, of an overdose of amitriptyline, a prescribed antidepressant. The death has largely been assumed to be a suicide although some have considered it an accidental overdose.

A Skin Too Few (documentary about Nick Drake)


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Award(s):


Saturday, November 16, 1974

Lynyrd Skynyrd's “Free Bird” flies on to the chart

Last updated 2/11/2021.

Free Bird

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Writer(s): Allen Collins, Ronnie Van Zant (see lyrics here)


First Charted: November 16, 1974


Peak: 19 US, 25 CB, 31 HR, 1 CL, 21 UK, 47 CN (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 2.11 US, -- UK, 2.11 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 128.84 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

It “has become a rock and roll joke” to shout out “Free Bird!” at concerts, SF but it is also a tribute to “a towering rock anthem crowned with the mother of all guitar solos” BBC that “has entered hard rock folklore.” HL The song “extend[ed] the influence of Southern rock...started by the Allman Brothers [and was] recorded as a tribute to Duane Allman, who was killed in a motorcycle crash in 1971.” RS500

“‘Free Bird’ is the tale of a restless spirit attempting to explain to his sweetheart” HL “why he can’t settle down and make a commitment.” SF Guitarist Allen Collins’ “steady girlfriend, who realized that the band would always come first, kept asking him questions like, ‘If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?’” KN

He worked on the song on and off for two years. SF When he “first brought it into rehearsals, volatile singer Ronnie Van Zandt was unenthusiastic, claiming it had too many chords.” BBC The band first recorded the song as a ballad BBC in 1972 that clocked in at 7 ½ minutes. SF Club audiences didn’t respond until “the climatic guitar duel” BBC was added to the end, stretching the song to 10 minutes.

The “record company…thought it was too long [for a single]. Even the band never thought this was going to be a hit.” SF After “Sweet Home Alabama” was a chart success, an edited “Free Bird” was released, but “the long version from the album has always been more popular.” SF

“When Skynyrd reformed in the late ‘80s it was performed as an instrumental, with an empty mic stand...adorned with Ronnie’s trademark cowboy hat” BBC as a memorial to him. He was killed in a plane crash in 1977 along with two other band members.


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Monday, November 4, 1974

Elton John's first Greatest Hits released

This page has been moved here where the Greatest Hits compilation and other Elton John anthologies are highlighted on one page to offer a career retrospective.

Friday, October 25, 1974

Bob Marley & The Wailers released Natty Dread

Natty Dread

Bob Marley & the Wailers


Released: October 25, 1974


Peak: 92 US, 44 RB, 43 UK, 98 AU


Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.1 UK, 2.5 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: reggae


Tracks:

Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Lively Up Yourself (1971, --)
  2. No Woman, No Cry (8/75, 8 UK)
  3. Them Belly Full But We Hungry
  4. Rebel Music (3 O’Clock Road Block)
  5. So Jah She
  6. Natty Dread (6/75, --)
  7. Bend Down Low (4/67, --)
  8. Talkin’ Blues
  9. Revolution


Total Running Time: 38:59


The Players:

  • Bob Marley (vocals, rhythm guitar)
  • Aston “Family Man” Barrett (bass)
  • Carlton “Carlie” Barrett (drums, percussion)
  • Bernard “Touter” Harvey, Jean Roussel (piano, organ, keyboards)
  • Al Anderson (guitar)
  • Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt, Griffiths (backing vocals)

Rating:

4.130 out of 5.00 (average of 20 ratings)


Quotable: “The ultimate reggae recording of all time” – Jim Newsom, All Music Guide


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

Natty Dread is Bob Marley’s finest album, the ultimate reggae recording of all time. This was Marley’s first album without former bandmates Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston, and the first released as Bob Marley & the Wailers. The Wailers’ rhythm section of bassist Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett and drummer Carlton ‘Carlie’ Barrett remained in place and even contributed to the songwriting, while Marley added a female vocal trio, the I-Threes (which included his wife Rita Marley), and additional instrumentation to flesh out the sound.” AMG

“The material presented here defines what reggae was originally all about, with political and social commentary mixed with religious paeans to Jah. The celebratory Lively Up Yourself falls in the same vein as ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ from Burnin’. No Woman, No Cry is one of the band's best-known ballads. Them Belly Full (But We Hungry) is a powerful warning that ‘a hungry mob is an angry mob.’ Rebel Music (3 O'Clock Road Block) and Revolution continue in that spirit, as Marley assumes the mantle of prophet abandoned by ’60s forebears like Bob Dylan.” AMG

“In addition to the lyrical strengths, the music itself is full of emotion and playfulness, with the players locked into a solid groove on each number. Considering that popular rock music was entering the somnambulant disco era as Natty Dread was released, the lyrical and musical potency is especially striking. Marley was taking on discrimination, greed, poverty, and hopelessness while simultaneously rallying the troops as no other musical performer was attempting to do in the mid-‘70s.” AMG


Notes: The 2001 Definitive Remasters edition also includes the track "Am-A-Do," which was recorded during the Natty Dread sessions but shelved until the 1991 compilation Talkin' Blues.

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First posted 3/26/2008; updated 5/10/2021.

Friday, October 11, 1974

Billy Joel’s Streetlife Serenade released

First posted 5/9/2011; updated 9/21/2020.

Streetlife Serenade

Billy Joel


Released: October 11, 1974


Peak: 35 US, -- UK, 16 CN, 85 AU


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.5 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: pop/rock singer-songwriter


Tracks:

Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Streetlife Serenader
  2. Los Angelenos
  3. The Great Suburban Showdown
  4. Root Beer Rag (instrumental)
  5. Roberta
  6. The Entertainer (11/30/74, 34 US, 13 CL, 30 AC, 30 CN, 89 AU)
  7. Last of the Big Time Spenders
  8. Weekend Song
  9. Souvenir
  10. The Mexican Connection (instrumental)


Total Running Time: 37:41

Rating:

3.403 out of 5.00 (average of 8 ratings)

About the Album:

With his sophomore album, Billy Joel had achieved success with “Piano Man,” but it threw him. Billy Joel was driven “to deliver an album that established him as both a serious artist and a commercial contender.” AMG While critics didn’t love him, his sophomore album had delivered big with the top-25 success of “Piano Man.” Now he needed to quickly release another album to maintain a high profile, but he’d used his best stuff on Piano Man, so he was short on material.

The resulting third album, Streetlife Serenade, was, therefore, “a bit of a slump.” AMG Still, “since he has skills, he's able to turn out a few winners – Roberta, a love song in the vein of Cold Spring Harbor, the mournful Streetlife Serenader, and the stomping” AMG and “vigorous Los Angelenos,” DB on which he “rocked an electric piano.” DB

“Joel is attempting a grand Americana lyrical vision, stretching from the Wild West through the Depression on ‘Los Angelenos’ and The Great Suburban Showdown.” AMG “Joel’s ruminations on suburban malaise…are at their most overblown.” DB In the end, “it doesn't work, not only because of his shortcomings as a writer, but because he didn't have the time to pull it all together.” AMG

“The presence of two instrumentals screamed, ‘Right – I didn’t have time to write songs for my new album.’” DB “Even if Root Beer Rag, yet another sign of The Sting’s influence, is admittedly enjoyable, they're undeniably fillers.” AMG

Stylistically, it was a reiteration of its predecessor’s” AMG obsession with Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection, “spiked with, of all things, Rockford Files synthesizers and ragtime pulled from The Sting.” AMG “It’s no coincidence that the record’s single and best song, The Entertainer, shares a title with the Scott Joplin rag that provided The Sting with a main theme.” AMG

On that “astonishingly bitter” AMG song, “he not only disparages his own role, but is filled with venom over ‘Piano Man’ being released in a single edit, that made the subtext clear: he’d had enough with California, enough with the music industry, enough with being a sensitive singer/songwriter. It was time for Billy to say goodbye to Hollywood and head back home to New York.” AMG

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Saturday, October 5, 1974

Olivia Newton-John hit #1 with “I Honestly Love You”

First posted 10/24/2020; updated 3/11/2021.

I Honestly Love You

Olivia Newton-John

Writer(s): Peter Allen, Jeff Barry (see lyrics here)


First Charted: August 3, 1974


Peak: 12 US, 12 CB, 12 HR, 16 RR, 13 AC, 6 CW, 22 UK, 11 CN, 14 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 2.0 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 4.0 radio, 4.5 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Jeff Barry made a name for himself co-writing songs like the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and the Shangri-La’s “Leader of the Pack,” as well as #1 hits for the Dixie Cups, Manfred Mann, and the Archies. He set to produce Peter Allen’s first album for A&M Records. Allen had already written some tunes, but Barry didn’t hear any hits. He had an idea for a song which the two then wrote together and then they made a demo. BR1

The demo was just intended for themselves, but it made its way to John Farrar, the producer for Olivia Newton-John. He’d been a member of the Shadows but took up songwriting and arranging for Olivia. SF He played the song for her and she loved it. In her 2019 memoir Don’t Stop Believin’, she recalled thinking “that everyone would be able to make those words fit in their own personal story of love and perhaps even loss.” SF She told Billboard magazine “I flipped out when I heard it…I was terrified that I would find out it had already been done.” BR1 Barry convinced Allen to let her record it since she was one of the world’s most popular singers. SF

It proved a savvy move which helped launch Allen’s career as a songwriter, SF although he did release a version on his Continental American album which came out at the end of the year. WK She recorded the song in just three takes with vocals which were, at times, “almost a whisper,” as she said. SF Surprisingly, the label didn’t originally intend to release Olivia’s version as a single until radio demand pushed them to decide otherwise. BR1

Radio stations in Denver and Chicago ranked it the song of the year. WK VH1 ranked the song at #11 on its list of soft-rock songs. It also makes the DMDB’s list of the top 100 adult contemporary songs of all time. It won Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance – Female.


Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Olivia Newton-John
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 378.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

Friday, August 16, 1974

The Ramones’ first gig at CBGB: August 16, 1974

Originally posted August 16, 2011.



When Hilly Krystal launched his New York club, the intended focus was country, bluegrass, and blues (CBGB). However, the dive bar became perhaps the world’s best-known venue for launching punk rock. Among some of the best loved bands to get at least CBGB assists in their careers are the Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith, the Talking Heads, and Television.

August 16, 1974 marked the day when Queens, New Yorkers took the stage in jeans, black leather jackets, and Converse high-tops. It was their debut public performance. With a rapid-fire intro of “One! Two! Three! Four!”, the Ramones kicked their career – and the punk revolution into gear. As Legs McNeil, founder of Punk magazine said, “These guys were not hippies. This was something completely new.” TDH


The Ramones at CBGB


The Ramones were “a bracing antidote to the tamed and bloated corporate rock and roll of the mid-1970s.” TDH They went back to the basics with quick, loud blasts of stripped-down rock consisting just of vocals, guitar, bass, and drums. Their shows were showcases for their philosophy of “no makeup, no egos, no lights shows, no nonsense.” RH The group provided the template for future punk bands like the Sex Pistols and the Clash.

The Ramones are a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. According to Dave’s Music Database, the group’s 1976 debut is one of the top 100 albums of all time and their 1978 song “I Wanna Be Sedated” is in the top 1000 songs of the 20th century list.




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Monday, July 22, 1974

Stevie Wonder’s Fulfillingness’ First Finale released

First posted 4/8/2008; updated 11/6/2020.

Fulfillingness’ First Finale

Stevie Wonder


Released: July 22, 1974


Peak: 12 US, 18 RB, 5 UK, 11 CN, 19 AU


Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.1 UK, 4.5 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: R&B


Tracks:

Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Smile Please [3:28]
  2. Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away [5:02]
  3. Too Shy to Say [3:29]
  4. Boogie on Reggae Woman [4:55] (11/9/74, 3 US, 1 CB, 1 HR, 10 RR, 1 RB, 12 UK, 8 CN)
  5. Creepin’ [4:20]
  6. You Haven’t Done Nothin’ [3:29] (8/3/74, 1 US, 1 CB, 1 HR, 1 RB, 30 UK, 1 CN)
  7. It Ain't No Use [4:01]
  8. They Won't Go When I Go (Wonder, Yvonne Wright) [5:58]
  9. Bird of Beauty [3:48]
  10. Please Don’t Go [4:07]

Songs written by Wonder unless noted otherwise.


Total Running Time: 42:33

Rating:

4.257 out of 5.00 (average of 21 ratings)


Awards:

About the Album:

“After the righteous anger and occasional despair of the socially motivated Innervisions, Stevie Wonder returned with a relationship record: Fulfillingness’ First Finale. The cover pictures his life as an enormous wheel, part of which he’s looking ahead to and part of which he’s already completed (the latter with accompanying images of Little Stevie, JFK and MLK, the Motor Town Revue bus, a child with balloons, his familiar Taurus logo, and multiple Grammy awards).” AMG

First off, there’s the albums two top-ten singles. “With a deep electronic groove balancing organic congas and gospel piano,” AMG the Caribbean-inspired Boogie on Reggae Woman is raucous with an undertone of sadness. The socially conscious You Haven’t Done Nothin’, “an acidic dismissal of President Nixon and the Watergate controversy” AMG is dipped in funk with its midtempo groove and spirited horn arrangement.

Beyond the singles, however, this album has one classic soul recording after another. The album is focused in tone; the music is thought-provoking, from the melody to the lyrics. “The songs and arrangements are the warmest since Talking Book, and Stevie positively caresses his vocals on this set, encompassing the vagaries of love, from dreaming of it (Creepin’) to being bashful of it (Too Shy to Say) to knowing when it’s over (It Ain’t No Use).” AMG In the wake of his serious car accident, Wonder contemplates death and afterlife on Heaven... and They Won’t Go When I Go.

“As before, Fulfillingness’ First Finale is mostly the work of a single man; Stevie invited over just a bare few musicians, and most of those were background vocalists (though of the finest caliber: Minnie Riperton, Paul Anka, Deniece Williams, and the Jackson 5). Also as before, the appearances are perfectly chosen; ‘Too Shy to Say’ can only benefit from the acoustic bass of Motown institution James Jamerson and the heavenly steel guitar of Sneaky Pete Kleinow, while the Jackson 5 provide some righteous amens to Stevie’s preaching on ‘You Haven’t Done Nothin’.” AMG

“It’s also very refreshing to hear more songs devoted to the many and varied stages of romance, among them ‘It Ain’t No Use,’ ‘Too Shy to Say,’ Please Don’t Go. The only element lacking here, in comparison to the rest of his string of brilliant early-‘70s records, is a clear focus; Fulfillingness’ First Finale is more a collection of excellent songs than an excellent album.” AMG

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