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

Year In Review: 1971

Things really started to pick up again in 1971. Prominent members of split 60s bands like Graham Nash and John Lennon produced fine solo records. The Who gave up temporarily on concept albums, but they did release what ended up being their greatest and loudest LP - as did the Stones and arguably Led Zeppelin. West Coast hippies like Janis Joplin, New Riders of the Purple Sage and Santana had crafted their message with commercial, but creative records. Elton John and Rod Stewart proved that they were a lot more than one-hit wonders. Glam rock was about to break in a big way, with T. Rex becoming a massive trans-Atlantic success this year. Prog rock had established itself with acts like Yes. Van Morrison was still in peak form, and two female singer-songwriters continued to blossom as powerful voices for the coming decade: Carole King and Joni Mitchell.

Another major story was the resurgence of Motown, Stax-Volt, and rest of the R & B/soul/funk industry after several years of trying and failing to catch up: Marvin Gaye produced an important concept album that broke all kinds of barriers. Other successful acts included Valerie Simpson, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield (who did well with live and studio albums), and Sly and the Family Stone; James Brown had settled down wih a new band and a minimalistic funk formula.

The lack of major embarassments also was a good sign, but there were a few minor ones. Steve Stills's sophomore solo record was mediocre, as were live albums by the Grateful Dead and Frank Zappa; British heavy rockers the Faces and Humble Pie released shambling, sloppy efforts; the Kinks tossed off a lousy soundtrack; the Isley Brothers and the Ohio Players experimented fruitlessly; the Supremes and Four Tops suddenly seemed washed up, whether working alone or as a team; and the nascent Weather Report was a long way from perfecting its jazz-fusion formula. (JA)

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