Below are ten of My Favorite Albums from 1975 that were in Dad's collection, either on 8-track tapes or vinyl. I remember my Dad not so much as a regular record buyer but more of the going weeks without buying a thing and then binge-buying a dozen albums and singles in a day record buyer. But like I said he also bought a lot of 8-track tapes, too, often buying albums he really liked in both formats. He also borrowed lots of albums from his younger coworkers, who often transferred in from Air Force Bases in England, Germany or Japan with the latest music, which kept him in the know for a lot longer than other folks his age. He'd either tape entire albums onto blank 8-track tapes, cherry-pick his favorite songs from a bunch of albums to make his own compilation or go buy his own copies of the albums if he really liked what he heard. For example, he borrowed Culture Club's first album before any songs were played on American radio. I was listening to that wonderful album on a dubbed cassette before any of my friends had even seen Boy George let alone heard him sing. In addition, Dad was a "preferred" member of both the Columbia House and RCA Music Services; "preferred" because he often forgot to send in the Selection of The Month reply cards and thus received and always eventually paid for albums he did not order. Sometimes twice as his payments and another billing statement would sometimes cross in the mail so the clubs would send Free Selection vouchers which weren't really free since he'd actually paid for them by mistake. Anyway, these albums below mean a great deal to me either musically, sentimentally or both. I look forward to hearing your comments below.
Thanks to both his appreciation of finely-crafted pop music and his uncanny inability to return record club Selection of The Month cards on time, Dad owned the six Manilow records from Barry's self-titled debut in 1973 through 1979's Even Now. I have a soft spot in my heart for each of them, especially the vibrant Live album from 1977 but it is Tryin' To Get The Feeling Again from 1975 that reminds me the most of Dad. Ever the trivia nut, he repeated whenever possible that the album's "I Write The Songs" was written by a Beach Boy "not named Wilson" which he probably learned from Casey Kasem on America's Top 40. The album's dramatic title track, as well as Manilow's update of the American Bandstand theme - with WORDS! - remain huge favorites. I also dig the little figurine that adorns the cover.
To his credit, my father had been a Bee Gees fan since the late Sixties and his pink 8-track Best of Bee Gees, Vol. 1 got lots of plays around our house. And while he didn't buy most of the albums the Brothers Gibb put out in the Seventies, he jumped back in at just the right time with 1975's Main Course and continued his allegiance through Spirits Having Flown in 1979. If memory serves, he bought them all as 8-tracks though he first bought Saturday Night Fever on vinyl. The unique structure of the 8-track tape meant that sometimes an album's track list had to be arranged so that the tape could be used more efficiently. Such was the case with Main Course - I've recreated the 8-track playing order in the playlist above so if you're only familiar with the vinyl, cassette or compact disc formats of the album, you can hear how I prefer to listen to it as that is how I grew up listening to it. (The Best Of Bee Gees, Vol. 1 link is also an 8-track recreation.) The ultra-funky "Wind Of Change" was released as the b-side of "Jive Talkin'" though I feel it could have been a hit in its own right. My favorite track on the album remains "Nights On Broadway" with its funky phat synth bass line, those harmonies and Barry's interlude. "Fanny" is a great if awkwardly titled song that I never tire of hearing as well.
From the spidery, slinky bassline that kicks off the album to the orchestral bluegrass hoedown that closes it, One Of These Nights is most definitely one of those albums that always reminds me of Dad. I don't recall which he bought first but Dad had the album on both 8-track and vinyl and while the tape did have a different running order (listen to playlist above - that is what I was referring to when I wrote the opening line of this paragraph) I've since become accustomed to hearing the vinyl/CD version which closes with "I Wish You Peace" rather than the majestic "Journey Of The Sorcerer". I pretty much like the whole damn album though if forced to pick a single favorite, right now, with a slight chill in the air and bright stars in the dark sky, I'd go with Bernie Leadon's "Journey Of The Sorcerer".
I've written before how this album and the follow-up Rumours were unanimous favorites in our house growing up though in my and my younger sister's defense, we were oblivious to the lyrical meaning of most songs and just liked the poptastic sing-along quality of most of the songs. Mom definitely leaned towards Christine's compositions but Dad seemed to enjoy both albums from top to bottom. Listening today forty years down the road, both albums are top-notch recordings yet inexplicably left out of most debates about best-sounding albums. Like other albums on today's post, Fleetwood Mac's tracklist was shuffled up for the 8-track but fortunately for me, Dad mostly played his vinyl copy of the album and that is what I grew up listening to quite often. All the songs are special to me but the one song that has grown on me the most is "World Turning" which has gone from my least favorite track on the album to being my most favorite track some days.
While I've confessed to being a fan of John Denver's music, this live album is not an enjoyable listen. No one can argue that Denver's immensely likable stage presence isn't a plus but 75% of the songs on the album are not favorites of this fan. However, there are enough gems among the twenty-three tracks so An Evening With John Denver easily makes the list. Dad had the double-length 8-track; RCA called it a Twin-Pack and touted that the tape contained the equivalent of two complete stereo records, which allowed the tracklist to match its vinyl counterpart. As a nine-year-old I loved the sing-alongs "Grandma's Feather Bed" and "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" but I had been indoctrinated into John Denver's folky-pop with the Poems, Prayers & Promises, his Greatest Hits, and the masterpiece that is Back Home Again so the tracks from those albums are my favorites. The four songs that precede the final song on An Evening With John Denver make up my favorite part of the album.
Like a lot of early Beatles fans, my Father grew to dislike the "radicalized" John Lennon and blamed Yoko for the group's break-up. But then he heard Lennon was cutting an album of classic oldies, songs my Dad had loved even before seeing the Beatles that fateful night on the Ed Sullivan Show. Acquiring this particular album became an obsession of his one weekend and after a couple of misses we got a hit on it and the shrink wrap was peeled off and the tape slid out of its protective cardboard sleeve and slammed into the 8-track player mounted under the dash of his '68 Chevelle Super Sport. It may well have been my first ever exposure to a covers album. Now Dad was very vocal about his belief that there will always be too much music in the world to listen to the same stuff repeatedly but for a solid week or two, he broke his own rule and we binged on this tape. I was familiar with the original versions of the songs before Lennon did them his way but after that continued exposure to Rock 'N' Roll, I knew every song by heart. (The playlist above is a recreation of the 8-track's running order which differed from the vinyl and eventual compact disc.) Do they make a poster of this album cover where the neon sign actually lights up? Because if they don't, they most certainly should.
It was an open secret in my parents' nearly fifty-year marriage that Dad had a crush on Linda Ronstadt but he was smooth about it often saying she was very pretty but not nearly as attractive as my mom. Well played, Dad, well played. Mom doesn't suspect a thing. As a fan of her music, he had all of her albums including 1975's Prisoner In Disguise. Linda's impeccable song selection, backed by her absolutely gorgeous vocals make the album a must listen for fans of pop, rock, country and even easy listening/adult contemporary music. The two Motown covers recast the songs in a different light with "Tracks Of My Tears" going country and "Heat Wave" getting rocked up. And with all apologies to the late Whitney Houston, short of Dolly Parton's original version, Linda's cover of "I Will Always Love You" is second to none though I'm sure it was of little consolation to my lovesick father. Prisoner In Disguise was another in a relatively short list of albums that appealed to the four music fans in our household with Mom even singing along with her romantic rival. This may have also been my first time hearing the high, sweet voice of Emmylou Harris, who sings on "The Sweetest Gift".
The lovely Olivia Newton-John first made an impact on me via her presence on the Cow Talk Jukebox with three singles from 1973-1974: "Let Me Be There", "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)" and "I Honestly Love You",each of which seemed to get a few more plays than most of the other 45s at the time. When I returned to Navasota for the Summer of 1975, two newer singles had replaced those older ones on the jukebox: "Have You Never Been Mellow" and "Please Mr. Please". There were TV appearances (talk shows? award shows? I know I didn't see her early Midnight Special appearances until much later) during the time where that whisper soft voice and those expressive eyes overcame the layers of I'm guessing silk, chiffon, and taffeta she appeared in and her lack of stage moves. Dad had the Have You Never Been Mellow 8-track by the time I was back home after that Summer but I do not recall him ever listening to it though I will admit I snuck a few listens to it while he was at work. Until I pulled up the playlist and listened for this post, I didn't recall any of the songs except the two singles. The 8-track was front-loaded with both singles appearing on the first of the tape's four programs. And while I didn't know it at the time, the song that separated them on that first program ("It's So Easy") was repeated later on the third program so that each program was at least ten minutes long. As with most of the other albums featured today, the playlist above features the 8-track tape running order, repeated song and all. The only thing missing is the few seconds of silence between each program and that KA-CHUNK! sound the players made as they switched between programs.
Dad had always been a Willie Nelson fan, having been fortunate enough to catch a non-bearded Nelson doing small club gigs in the Houston area in the mid-Sixties. He had this loose concept album on both 8-track and vinyl but I only remember him dropping the needle on the second to last track on side one: "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain". I recently have been enjoying Red Headed Stranger, unique among concept albums with half the songs being cover versions, as a high-resolution download from HD Tracks. The album is timeless and sounds as fresh today as it did five decades ago if not fresher. All I know is that Dad would have loved hearing it on the new stereo he installed in his truck just weeks before he passed in May 2015.
After the certified gold success of the soundtrack double album American Graffiti in 1973, MCA Records quickly moved to cash in with another similarly themed collection of oldies going so far as to secure the voice talents of "the howling, prowling Wolfman Jack", approval from film producer George Lucas to use his trademarked title American Graffiti again and feature a yellow '32 Deuce Coupe on the album's cover that may have very well been the one that John Milner had driven in the original film. The result was this "soundtrack sequel" More American Graffiti in 1975, a title which George Lucas later used for his own film sequel in 1979. This album features the one song heard in the film American Graffiti that wasn't included on the original 41 song soundtrack album for the film: "Gee" by The Crows. MCA stretched the twenty-five songs, a total of sixty-two minutes of music, across four sides of vinyl with The Wolfman doing his thing on every other song. The tracklist is packed with still more hits from the era of the film, which is set on the last day of school in 1962, and was followed in 1976 by one last "soundtrack sequel" American Graffiti Vol. III. Dad had all three albums and now they reside on my shelf, each one full of treasured memories.