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)