70s Albums

New Tomasky Blog Feature: Overrated/Underrated

Reader weigh-in time: The most overrated album of the 70s

Our first non-politics post! The enterprising blog proprietor attempts to create a sense of community. Experience has taught me that a good way to do this is to bring in subjects other than politics. We all have opinions about a lot of things, and they don’t usually track with ideological leanings. So the comment threads can get very interesting: “Gee, so-and-so, I think you’re a f---ing Nazi when it comes to politics, but I totally agree with you about” whatever. Hitchcock, Roth, Harry Potter, the Cowsills.

It is in that ennobling spirit that we launch a new feature: Overrated/Underrated. As in, what is the most overrated or the most underrated X? We’ll cover movies, novels, nonfiction, TV, even art and other high-brow things. Also, the stuff of everyday life, like the most overrated fancy food or car or some such. The possibilities are infinity.

So we’ll start with something that everyone knows and everyone feels comfortable talking (or sermonizing) about. Rock and roll. What’s the most overrated album of the 70s? I’m always interested in the question of the way tastes and assessments change over the years and a strong believer in the general principle that we should reexamine everything. Plus I will learn some valuable demographic information about you people. I take most of you to be roughly my age, but I suppose I’ll find out more about that (and by the way, to you old Guardian folks whose handles I recognize: Great to see you all!).

Below the fold, my list of a dozen suggested contenders.

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Hailed at the time as The Artist At His Most Naked and Emotionally Honest. But was it maybe The Artist At His Most Self-Indulgent?

The Dark Side of the Moon. Come on, weren’t the Floyd a little pretentious? A lot pretentious? They bear part of the responsibility for a lot of bad trends.

Exile on Main Street. Heresy, I know. But: The first reviews were tepid. Could it be that the first reviews were right? Maybe the vocals were mixed really low because…the lyrics are banal!

Led Zeppelin IV. It seemed soooo deep at the time. But was it, really? “And my spirit is crying for leaving”? And did you ever really listen to Side 2? Thought so.

Songs in the Key of Life. Should I confess, even all this time later, that some friends and I shoplifted the eight-track of this? Other than that, I don’t remember a thing about it.

Court and Spark. Admit it, you only really remember two songs on this one, “Help Me” and “Free Man in Paris.” The rest were, like, regular Joni songs.

Hotel California. Did Rolling Stone really once say this was the 37th greatest album of all time? Really? Yes, it did.

Tapestry. It was colossal at the time. She is undeniably a genius. But wasn’t there something a little...chardonnay-and-St. Andre about this record?

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Toys in the Attic. The oft-forgotten “Uncle Salty” is really a fantastic song. But the band’s super-inflated rep at this point has maybe put more of a shine on this record overall than it deserves.

Rumors. Has this one aged well? Clinton gave them a boost in 1992 by using “Don’t Stop,” and they’re still a classic rock staple, but is this actually on a lot of iPods?

This Year’s Model. Just suggesting that maybe this is a candidate for sophomore jinx. My Aim Is True was incredible. Does this record still hold up?

Give ’Em Enough Rope. I remember that Rolling Stone rated this one an instant classic. Do we still think that, or was it so surpassed by later Clash efforts that its stock has gone down?

That should get us started. You’ll notice I made them all good records—I thought it would have been too cheap and easy to throw in Yessongs or Tarkus or some Dan Fogelberg, which aren’t in any case overrated. But of course you don’t have to stick to the list at all. This is a free-for-all. That’s the point.

My own vote from the above goes to Hotel California, but I never liked it all that much anyway. Or Rumors. I guess I was just anti-California, wasn’t I? Although I did love the early Warren Zevon records, but of course his lyrics were what made him.

Exile would be my favorite record on this list by far, and I still think it’s great, although it is true that the lyrics are often banal. But still. It’s probably the only one of these I’ve listened to in the last, oh, 15 years. Possibly This Year’s Model too.

Okay people—go at it!