Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left
Nick Drake’s debut came out at a time when heavy rock was really starting to make an impact on popular music. A fine and fragile blend of folk and pastoral majesty, the LP has a timeless quality to it, transcending the era in which it was made. The late Robert Kirby’s exquisite string arrangements accentuate rather than dominate Drake’s flowery compositions. Five Leaves Left is a poetic collection of tunes which are as enchanting as they are mysterious.
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV
The cover to this album could be seen as an attempt by the band to remain anonymous; however the sheer power and authority of its contents left no question as to its creators. Arguably this is Messrs Page, Plant, Jones and Bonham’s finest moment (or moments) on the one disc. Quite simply, this LP has it all. From the unadulterated balls to the wall confidence of “Black Dog” and “Rock and Roll”, the dramatic blues of “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, to the gracefully exotic “Battle of Evermore” (featuring a cameo by Fairport Convention’s Sandy Denny), and yes, everyone’s favourite May Queen epic “Stairway to Heaven”. Sure, plenty of these songs have no doubt been ruined by classic FM stations, but to hear the record in its entirety remains the best way to experience it. And now with 2015’s deluxe vinyl reissue, Led Zeppelin IV has never sounded better.
Neil Young – Tonight’s The Night
Since its release in 1975, this often tortured and depressing album has remained a favourite amongst critics. The morbid title track storylines the deaths of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry, events which had a profound effect on Young’s psyche. What this record demonstrates is that Neil was hardly dancing on the ceiling. Whether it’s the reflectively melancholic “Albuquerque”, the shabbily performed “Mellow My Mind”, or just plain fucked up “Roll Another Number (For the Road)”, never has Neil sounded so heartfelt and ragged.
Manassas/Stephen Stills – Manassas
At the time of this album Stephen Stills was literally bursting with inspiration, a bold statement indeed considering that the 2LP concept was still relatively new. Ex-Byrds Chris Hillman contributes some fine songs, but clearly Manassas was Stephen’s own creation, and a vehicle for his own not too inconsiderable talents. Rock, blues, country, pop, and even a little bluegrass, spread out over four sides, makes for a rich and varied listen. Sadly, despite their promise, the band would prove to be short lived, issuing just one more album before permanently going their separate ways. Soon Stills returned to old mates Crosby, Stills Nash (and sometimes Young), then gradually faded into relative obscurity as the 1970’s moved on.
I recommend Rhino’s 180 gram reissue, however an original American pressing will also do just as well.
Paul McCartney – Ram
McCartney’s second post-Beatles effort saw him distance himself ever further from his previous band’s far more polished endeavours. Released in 1971, Ram had a home grown, very DIY feel to it, none more so than on opener “Too Many People”, “3 Legs” and the bucolic “Heart of the Country”. “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is a classic slice of McCartney at his whimsical best, while closing number “The Back Seat of My Car” consists of more melodic hooks than any one song has a right to. Derided by some, celebrated by others, Ram is one of those LPs that seems to improve with age.