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

Year In Review: 1978

With funk, disco, punk, and New Wave all in high gear, 1978 - not 1979 - was the 70s last great hurrah. George Clinton's P-Funk factory spat out fine albums by both Parliament and Funkadelic, not to mention a Bootsy Collins solo album. Blondie Elvis Costello, and the Jam were all near the peak of their careers, the Cars, the Police and XTC joined the New Wave onslaught with strong debut albums, and Todd Rundgren adapted well to the new aesthetic. Soft-rock singer-songwriters were waning, but Janis Ian's talents were intact. Meanwhile, ACDC had matured into a great heavy metal band, and the Who led the dinosaur rockers with one last great album before the tragic death of Keith Moon.

Disco may never have been great art, but for what it's worth some of the best disco albums date from 1978. Chic's C'est Chic and the Bee Gees' Saturday Night Fever (released in 1977, but all over the charts throughout the year) are probably the best examples; even the Bee Gees' kid brother Andy Gibb was able to tear up the charts. Rock stars like the Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart turned to disco and promptly scored major hits, although Aretha Franklin and Martha Reeves bombed with the approach. Disco also influenced more conventional, but first-rate soul and R & B was still coming from older acts like Ashford & Simpson, the Isley Brothers, the Jacksons, and newly independent artists Chaka Khan, Patti LaBelle, and Bonnie Pointer.

On the down side, a lot of important artists just took the year off: Led Zeppelin, John Lennon, Joni Mitchell, and most notably Stevie Wonder. The Beach Boys, James Brown, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan all probably should have taken the hint, but didn't. Frank Zappa made a damned fool of himself with "Baby Snakes." Black Sabbath was floundering. Meanwhile, the Ohio Players were falling apart, and Prince's debut album wasn't exactly impressive. All of that, and the sputtering momentum of the newest innovations, didn't bode well for the coming years. (JA)

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