Blast from the Past: 1971 music

Here’s another thing I wanted to follow through on since I mentioned it on here last December. I’ve still been listening to (almost) every album I can find on Spotify for various calendar years.

My process:

I use the lists on Wikipedia (typically called “19xx albums”) to create Spotify playlists. Even when I weed out artists I know I can’t stand to listen to, or genres I generally don’t like, the lists are incredibly massive (like, 200+ hours massive). I tend to skip over some country music, a lot of reggae, and a lot of punk once you get into the late 70s and early 80s. I then listen to the albums while I draw Jimmy Jone, and I mark the ones that I like upon first the first listen. Then, after however many months THAT took, I’ll give myself a breather from that year and listen to another for a while. Once my previously marked “favorites” have sat long enough to be semi-new to me again, I’ll cull the list. I shoot for around 250-300 songs in my final “favorites” list, but I know better than to think anyone’s going to give an actual shit about my tastes for 20 hours. So I create a smaller, more focused list of the songs that really blew me away in some way.

I’m doing this mostly for me, because there are definitely some nuggets buried amongst all the crap and also-rans for any given year. It’s been a worthwhile endeavor, and lets me just not have to think about what I’m going to listen to next while I draw.

Anyway, let’s see if I actually have anything to say about 1971!

First of all, 1971 is full of artists who really, really want you to believe that they’re desert-dwelling hippies attempting to return to a Native American way of life. Even if they weren’t out in the desert, they were still all about being the love generation (check out Les Crane’s Desiderata if you don’t believe I imagine it was still quite a few years after this that music got most of the 60s out of its system. In fact, you could probably argue that 1971 feels like mostly 1960s holdovers. What we think of as 70s music hadn’t quite asserted itself yet. After all, this year only saw the debuts of bands such as Electric Light Orchestra, Sparks, the Doobie Brothers, Kraftwerk, ZZ Top, and R.E.O. Speedwagon. Even within my playlists, there’s a surprising amount of sameness to the music. It’s got a definite feel.

You do see some strong indications of things to come with prog rock. Yes were going great guns by that point, with both Fragile and the Yes Album out that year. “Echoes” from Pink Floyd’s Meddle is still my all-time favorite prog track, but make sure to check out Catapilla and Jade Warrior as well if you’re into early 70s prog. A number of regular bands had some strong lengthy tracks as well (see Bloodrock, Traffic, and Barclay James Harvest, to name a few).

Also some of my absolute favorites from 1971 were foreign bands. The French were just crushing it back then using tons of strings and orchestration for their grooves. And Osibisa, through hailing from Britain, was made up mostly of African expatriates. Seriously, go check out Osibisa, they’re my new favorite prog band. Also, I’ve heard a fair amount of Santana and Barrabas already, but they were amazing even back in ’71.

Let’s see if I can determine what my top 10 albums were, based on these playlists I’ve created. This will be simply 10 albums, not in any order.

Hawkwind – In Search of Space
Traffic – The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys
Jethro Tull – Aqualung
Yes – Fragile
Serge Gainsbourg – Histoire de Melody Nelson
Al Kooper – New York City (You’re a Woman)
Osibisa – Osibisa
Santana – Santana III
Barrabas – Wild Safari
Caravan – In the Land of Grey and Pink

Okay, so most of those albums I’d already heard. So here’s artists that I didn’t know before listening to 1971 that I now like:

The Sunday Manoa
Long John Baldry
Kevin Ayers
Al Kooper
Michel Polnareff
Shuggie Otis

Okay, I think that’s all I have to say about 1971. If you like playlists, I hope you like these!

The “best of my favorites” list (50 songs, 4 hours)


And the full list (273 songs, 20 hours)


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