Wilson and Alroy's Record Reviews - We listen to the lousy records so you won't have to.

Year In Review: 1970

Although there was still plenty of great music coming out at the dawn of the 70s, the large number of highly rated records on this page mostly results from our intense interest in the period. In truth, most major acts were merely treading water: the only noteworthy new or almost-new stars were David Bowie, Elton John, War, and singer-songwriters Carole King and James Taylor (discs by Van Morrison and Laura Nyro also heralded the genre's success over the next few years). The Beatles had split, but George Harrison and John Lennon seemed to find it liberating. The Stones and Who marked time with good live records, and Eric Clapton made the greatest album of his career. Prog rock and metal were still picking up steam; the best prog effort this year was actually Traffic's jazz-folk blend John Barleycorn Must Die, and Led Zeppelin's third record was semi-acoustic and steeped in the American folk and blues traditions.

In the States, Motown was still in disarray, but a few artists like Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and the newly solo Diana Ross had landed on their feet. Independent R & B artists like the Isley Brothers also were prospering; in particular, Curtis Mayfield's eponymous disc this year turned out to be the first great political concept album in soul music. Simon and Garfunkel split, but did so in style. The hippy movement was starting to fade, but many West Coast veterans were still productive: Santana; Spirit; CSNY, with Stephen Stills and Neil Young finding success as solo performers; and the Dead, who had worked out their mellow cowboy-hippy formula for the 70s. And a few acts that defied categorization continued to merit critical acclaim, including the Band, the Velvet Underground, and the MC5.

All of this good news was balanced with mounds of musical misery. Bob Dylan had his first major embarassment; the Supremes were adrift without Diana; there were trivial live records by Eric Clapton, fellow ex-Cream member Ginger Baker, the exhumed Cream itself, the Beach Boys, and Stevie Wonder; and there were sloppy misfires not just by the Byrds and Airplane veterans Hot Tuna and Paul Kantner, but by many minor acts like Blood, Sweat & Tears, the Faces, the Nice, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. (JA)

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