Category Archives: The 1972 Project

1972 Case File #9.

Bob Seger
Bob Seger, Smokin’ O.P.’s

File Between: Mitch Ryder and Grand Funk Railroad

Comments: For a long time I resisted the lure of Bob Seger, convinced that late-period schmaltz like “Turn The Page” and the ultra-lame “oooh, like a rock” that dominated my childhood memories of television were all there was to him. But then I started looking stuff up for this 1972 project, which was supposed to be all-inclusive regardless of my personal taste, and I found out he’d been making music long before the Silver Bullet Band — and then, when I scored this record, I found out that the music was actually good, even at times great: wild blue-eyed soul with a swagger and a toughness straight out of garage rock, with a great crunch that 70s production allowed. This is mostly a covers album, with Seger running through Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and Tim Hardin songs (with, it must be said, detours into lugubrious self-penned schmaltz), but the highlight here is a monster cover of Stephen Stills’ “Love The One You’re With,” where he trades vocals with soul belters Pam Todd and Crystal Jenkins, and makes Stills’ original sound like a half-assed Pat Boone version.

A Keeper? I’m not sure Seger ever made any perfect LPs, but I’d be sorry to lose about half of this one.

Vinyl Rip: Love The One You’re With

1972 Case File #8.

Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder, Music Of My Mind

File Between: Marvin Gaye and Funkadelic

Comments: This is very much a transitional record between the youthful Stevie’s hit Motown singles packages of the late 60s and the mature album artist who would be hailed as one of his generation’s greatest composers and pop artists in the decade to come. Although he’s wielding a new-found control over the record-making process, writing, producing, and singing the whole album himself, the record suffers from a lack of focus, a few too many ideas that go nowhere, and one badly misjudged goof of a song (“Sweet Little Girl”) that comes off as simply creepy in the context of the burnished, pulsing elegance of the work that surrounds it. But the good stuff is very, very good: melodic, forceful, futuristic in its use of synthesizers without sacrificing any of the warmth of live instrumentation. And it stretches out, luxuriating in the extended possibilities of a post-pop world.

A Keeper? It’s not Stevie Wonder’s best album — not even his best album of 1972 — but it’s naggingly listenable, and several of the songs are overlooked classics.

Vinyl Rip: Happier Than The Morning Sun

1972 Case File #7.

Genesis, Foxtrot

File Between: King Crimson and the Blossom Toes

Comments: If you’re not willing to settle down for the long haul a progressive rock record requires — and I only very rarely am — then the Peter Gabriel version of Genesis is one of the least enjoyable bands ever. But then, once you start to listen to them — and this album in particular kicks off in a great way, with a song about a Jack Kirby creation — you don’t want to stop until it’s over. And of course by you I mean me. Probably the best and the worst thing about Genesis, aside from the lengthy instrumental sections that show off without virtuosity, is the unapologetic Englishness of Gabriel’s lyrics, a lunatic mashup of mythopoeic history, kitchen-sink drama, and grand wizards of silliness like Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. The (almost) side-long “Supper’s Ready” may or may not have anything to do with the Book of Revelation, but as a C. S. Lewis fan from way back, I can’t stop digging it.

A Keeper? I may prefer Selling England By The Pound, but that’s like saying I like hamburgers more than pizza: I’m perfectly willing to eat either at any given moment, assuming I’m in the mood.

Vinyl Rip: Time Table

1972 Case File #6.

Rita Coolidge
Rita Coolidge, The Lady’s Not For Sale

File Between: Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Bramlett

Comments: In 1972, Rita Coolidge had dumped Leon Russell for Kris Kristofferson, who would later dump her for Barbra Streisand.  That little incestuous circle jerk is the only reason she had a recording career: her vocal personality wasn’t very developed, and the soulful country-blues-rock material she sang was made for fuller voices.  Still, on ballads she could kill, and probably the best song here is a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird On A Wire.”  It kicks off a string of great covers that takes in Bob Dylan, Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham, Kristofferson himself, and the great Booker T. Most of the rest of the record is taken up with second-rate hippy-chick numbers, but I’ll always have time for the loose, rootsy sound that made the early 70s great.

A Keeper? There’s probably not such a thing as a great Rita Coolidge record, but this one is about as good as she gets.

Vinyl Rip: I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight

1972 Case File #5.

The Persuasions
The Persuasions, Spread The Word

File Between: The Platters and the Five Blind Boys of Alabama

Comments: This is almost as anachronistic as Dan Hicks. It’s five guys singing a capella harmony, like the earliest gospel groups of the thirties and forties (the Dixie Hummingbirds, the Golden Gate Quartet, etc.) And they are a gospel group, of sorts. Tracks include “When Jesus Comes Again,” “The Lord’s Prayer,” and “The Ten Commandments Of Love” — okay, that last one is wholly secular (and Elvis Costello rings in my head every time I read it). There are also socially-conscious songs, in the vein of Marvin Gaye or Donny Hathaway around the same time, and a great cover of “Lean On Me” that must have been one of the first out of the gate. But it’s all in a very straight-faced doo-wop style, though there is some soul singing that owes something to the later 60s, and reconciling the fairly progressive lyrics with the very traditional style requires some attention.

A Keeper? It’s taken some getting used to, especially the way the bass singer keeps patterning his bum-bum-bums like he’s James Jamerson or something, but it’s growing on me.

Vinyl Rip: T. A. Thompson