Saturday, September 01, 2007

That 70s Feeling

Get Ready, Here Come … the 70s

Various Artists

Shout! Factory

Reviewed by Mark Gallo

The 1970s are apparently the new 1950s. Those of us who lived through that historical period have mixed feelings about the musical fare of the era. It was such a vacuous time for pop music. Even for those of us listened to Zappa, Santana, Coltrane and Muddy and called ourselves hip, the pop music of the day still permeated the airwaves and sunk in when we weren’t looking. Time has a habit of being forgiving.

Regardless of how cool I try to be 35 years on, there’s nothing (well, OK, almost nothing) on this three CD set that doesn’t ring a bell of nostalgia and get the mind’s toes to tapping. From the opening super-energized “Get Ready” from Rare Earth, cut in 1970 for Motown, to the closer, Don McLean’s 1971 anthem, “American Pie,” this is chock full of memory-tuggers. And, if you weren’t there, it still has the appeal of well crafted rock, pop and soul that transcends the generations.

Though the 1970s will forever be scarred by the disco years that dominated the second half of the decade, there is little hard core disco on Get Ready.... What has been included is first rate, though. The only band who shows up twice on the collection is the group that might have best represented the emergence from disco, while still captivating that dance floor groove. KC and the Sunshine Band check in with “Get Down Tonight” and “That’s the Way (I Like It),” both of which still beckon adventurous feet to the dance floor, even is it’s in the living room these days.

Alicia Bridges’ “I Love the Night Life” was a dark dance floor fave that sounds cooler now than it did in ’78. Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love,” The Emotions’ still great “Best Of My Love,” Patti LaBelle’s group doing “Lady Marmalade,” A Taste of Honey’s “Boogie Oogie Oogie,” Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” The Commodores’ “Brick House,” The Trammps’ “Disco Inferno,” The Isley Brothers’ “That Lady” (not as cool as “Fight The Power,” but a killer tune still), and the great “Love Train” from the O’Jays dominate the dance floor selections.

Rockers from Rare Earth to Rod Stewart (“Maggie May”), Elton John (“Crocodile Rock”), Alice Cooper (“School’s Out”), Norman Greenbaum (the infectious Spirit In The Sky”), Lee Michaels (“Do You Know What I Mean,” even though “Stormy Monday” would have been the more incendiary choice) and Fleetwood Mac (“Don’t Stop”) are well represented. The rest isn’t as slot-able.

Scattered throughout are readily recognizable classics by Orleans, Maria Muldaur, Blues Image, Gary Wright, Jim Croce, Brewer and Shipley, Edison Lighthouse, Bread, Jonathan Edwards (nope, not “Shanty”), Dobie Gray, Stealers Wheel, Harry Chapin, Hues Corporation, Janis Ian, Marshall Tucker Band (with the very cool “Can’t You See”), Mungo Jerry’s summer time classic “In The Summertime,” Gerry Rafferty, Billy Paul, Jefferson Starship, Elvin Bishop with latter day Starship vocalist Mickey Thomas, and Firefall. Even Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” a sultry blues that was passed off as county, is here. There are some fluff tunes here and there, but that was the nature of radio in the 1970s.

There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the arrangement of the collection. It isn’t chronological or arranged by style. Like a good radio program, it just seems to string tunes together in a flowing pattern. The result is largely well done.

I was a club DJ in the late 70s and many of these tunes worked well on the dance floor. There are a lot of vital pieces of music missing from this stellar collection, but much of that can be attributed to licensing fees and just choosing the most representative songs from the era that might fit on three CDs.

No Chaka Khan (solo or with Rufus), Bee Gees, Sly and the Family Stone, Michael with or without the Jacksons or the Jackson 5, Earth, Wind & Fire, Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Rolling Stones, Parliament/Funkadelic, Rufus, Bowie, Blondie, Eagles, War, Aretha, Queen, Temptations, AWB, or even the Village People. Needless to say, no Zappa or Santana. Given what is here, though, the collection is first rate and loads of fun. Highly recommended!

Mark Gallo is a long-time freelance music journalist whose byline has appeared in over 30 publications in the past 25 years. He has also been a DJ, publicist and archivist/researcher. When not writing about music he is a social worker.

1 comment:

C M Barons said...

"That 70s Feeling... If you like "Boogie Nights"- you'll get your rocks off reading:
In the Midst Of
by C. M. Barons
Sticker price on a 1975 Corvette was $6,550. A bag of Columbian: $30. In the Midst Of features a barefaced ensemble of true-to-age characters. Brian connects with an offbeat mentor cum older brother named Hollis in a lopsided relationship. Hollis moves on, but Brian will not let go. He clings to a myth perpetuated by dependency and self-denial. The 1970s was an era of global hang-time; the 60s pendulum had swung as far as the silent majority would allow. Poised to back swing, the repercussions were unclear. The shock value of the previous decade had been commercialized. Like pre-faded jeans: off-the-rack and ready-to-wear. “How's your love life?” “Try it... You’ll like it!” ...Couldn’t raise the eyebrows of the Tidy-Bowl man. The nation was in transition, post Watergate-pre AIDS. The war was over, and Disco was an urban anomaly. Americans shimmied into hip-huggers, submitted to analysis and shucked inhibitions. Suburban cool: Naugahyde living room set, Tiki-lit backyard and coveting the neighbor's spouse. ...Cocaine for your groove and a doobie to unwind. What distinguishes In the Midst Of? Barons’ characters are not trite icons typically enlisted to resemble the 70s. Brian, et al, leap beyond stereotypes; video verite, spurred by downright, gut-metered dialogue. The backdrop is unaffected, a Kodacolor © snapshot- definitive 70s. The era pretends to be a character, à la Grand Central Terminal, too epic for the label: train station. Brian and his friends’ lives play out, guided by elements more onerous than the clockworks of society and politics. They are ensconced on a college campus. Co-ed dorms, liberal drinking, open drugs and casual sex. Edge-lurking has always been fashionable. Hollis dangles by his fingertips. Beneath his public facade lies a disturbing void. His multiple secrets are protected by an ambiguity that passes for cool. His inner sanctum is Brian's obsession; a fixation that yields a mirror with a chilling reflection. Hollis is the aim- as clear as the bull's eye emblazoned on any Zen-archer's target.