Category Archives: The 1972 Project

1972 Case File #4.

Ike & Tina
Ike & Tina, Feel Good

File Between: James Brown and the Rolling Stones

Comments: The musical career of Ike & Tina Turner is one of the few I’ve studied at all exhaustively, and I can say with pretty firm conviction that this is one of their best records. During the early 70s, Ike was experimenting with all kinds of studio techniques and tricks, borrowing from funk, hard rock, roots-rock, and even progressive music to some extent (he was one of the first to use synthesizers in black music, along with Stevie Wonder) in order to get new sounds, new rhythms, and new songs behind Tina’s increasing songwriting talent. There’s some wicked funk here, some great buzzsaw guitar attacks, the Kings of Rhythm just cook, and Tina is in fine, wallpaper-melting voice throughout. The one misstep is a cover of “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” that adds nothing to either the Beatles’ or Joe Cocker’s versions, but wtf covers were always part of the Ike & Tina package.

A Keeper? Ike & Tina Turner are like pizza and sex: even when they’re bad, they’re pretty good. And this session’s really nice and hot, with all the fixings.

Vinyl Rip: Black Coffee

1972 Case File #3.

Neil Diamond
Neil Diamond, Moods

File Between: Carole King and Tom Jones

Comments: I’ve never really been able to reconcile my fondness for Neil Diamond’s canny pop songwriting (“Cracklin’ Rose” is one of the all-time classic pop songs) with the cheesy pretentiousness that was the Achilles’ heel of so many pop stars and would-be pop stars as the high of the 60s faded into the drag of the 70s. This record is packaged with the high production values of a Serious Singer-Songwriter, with a stiff dust jacket and everything, but one song is called “Porcupine Pie” and another “Gitchy Goomy,” like he’s dusting off old Brill Building numbers that found no takers. “Song Sung Blue” was a moderate hit (Altered Images did a good cover in the 80s), but the aching-to-be-taken-seriously soul of the record is in drippy tosh called things like “Canta Libre” and “Prelude In E Major.”

A Keeper? One Neil Diamond album is all anyone needs, and this is the wrong one.

Vinyl Rip: Walk On Water

1972 Case File #2.

Tower Of Power
Tower Of Power, Bump City

File Between: The Meters and Chicago

Comments: If there was ever such a thing as workmanlike funk, Tower of Power made it. An interracial big band following in the footsteps of the Meters, the Bar-Kays, and the MG’s, they were less innovative than their Latin contemporaries in War, but at least had a good guitarist in Willie James Fulton, who follows the Steve Cropper model, at least on the upbeat songs. There are a few too many sub-Philly soul ballads with hippyish sentiments like “You’re Still A Young Man” and “(We Are Children) Of The Earth” on the second side, but this is still a worthwhile record.

A Keeper? A handful of the songs deserve to be better known.

Vinyl Rip: Gone (In Memory Of Jacqueline Mesquite)

1972 Case File #1.

Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks
Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks, Striking It Rich

File Between: Leon Redbone and Commander Cody

Comments: There aren’t many records in my collection more anachronistic than this one. Well, kind of. Dan Hicks is definitely a post-hippie songwriter, but his sound is western swing instrumentation and jazz composition in a Django Reinhardt vein. The Hot Licks are an upright bass player, a fiddle player, a rhythm guitarist (Hicks himself plays nice electric solos in the Chet Atkins tradition), and two female singers who harmonize like a couple of Andrews Sisters and add in the occasional tambourine or maraca. Probably the most famous song here is “I Scare Myself,” a ghostly nightclub number which Thomas Dolby covered in the 1980s (yeah, okay, that’s a weird definition of fame). But the whole record’s great, a country-jazz date with gypsy overtones, folk-rock with chops, a Zevonish sense of humor, and plenty of breakdowns.

A Keeper? You bet. I’m not sure I feel the need to investigate his other work, but this is a fantastic record.

Vinyl Rip: Moody Richard

The 1972 Project.

This is all Josh Rouse’s fault.

In 2003, the stylistically restless singer-songwriter put out an album titled 1972, and as I did at the time with anything that was getting decent reviews, I downloaded it and listened to it at work. All the press about the album that I’d read talked about how Rouse had really nailed the musical styles of 1972, the year of his birth. But when I listened to it, I found myself dissatisfied. Sure, there were touches of California soft-rock production, one or two gestures towards Philly soul, and the eternal pensiveness of the singer-songwriter movement, but I wanted more. The songs themseves could only have existed in a post-indie world, and Rouse’s literate, thoughtful self was all over the place, getting in the way of the world of 1972 I craved. (This is not really a flaw, of course; I only ever listened to the one album the one time, but Josh Rouse is a perfectly great modern singer-songwriter. He just happened to trigger an obsession.)

I hopped on and started rooting through discographies, looking for artists, movements, songs, albums, genres representative of 1972. I started buying CDs, downloading songs, getting into post-60s soul music for the first time, checking dates very closely. Then one day I noticed that the independent music stores I visited had a lot of used vinyl — cheap. Within about three months, I’d bought a couple hundred records, rooted through thousands more, become intimately familiar with the discographies of acts I’ve still never heard, memorized the Roman numerals MCMLXXII, and gotten terrifyingly good at spotting a © in a large block of text. I found out that there were local stores that specialized in vinyl; I watched prices go up as other hipsters discovered the same thing. Most of what I bought was stuff that I’d never heard of before, or at least stuff that I hadn’t heard. On the other hand, I found a handful of killer deals on some quite famous records. They all went on the shelf together.

I listened to many of the records, at least at first. Then I kept finding more and more, and my turntable became less and less satisfactory (it was an old school player — no, literally, a model made for use in classrooms), even apart from the fact that its output was only mono, and I started just buying the records, sticking them on a closet shelf, and forgetting about them.

Well, tonight I bought an Ion USB turntable. An hour ago, I ripped a record I had grabbed at random from the pile: Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks’ Striking It Rich. Which brings me to my new project.

Over the next few months to a year (we’ll see how it goes), I’ll be ripping my vinyl albums to mp3s, listening to them, and letting you know what I think. (The idea, by the way, was shamelessly stolen from Noel Murray’s “Popless” feature on the Onion’s A.V. Club blog.) I still have only a fraction of the music that was released in 1972, and a good third of that collection is on CD or . . . otherwise obtained. But it’s the records that fascinate me. And anyway, it’s scratchy, clicky rips from the records that I’ll be posting as mp3s, so you’ll have an incentive to seek out your own pristine copies if you like what you hear.

Unlike with my 1920s list, I’m not doing a damn bit of research beyond what my ears and the record sleeve tell me, so this will be more of a lark than a history lesson, and a chance for us to collectively make up our minds about a bunch of music that has been largely overlooked. Except for the bits which haven’t.