By Justin Kresse
Class is only just starting, but I’m about to give you the best lesson you’ll learn this semester: a lesson in music. Today’s lecture is on the top 10 albums turning 50 this year, and a few honorable mentions. We’re talking about music that came out all the way back in 1972, which might have been a while ago, but all of these albums still hold up quite well in 2022. Well, there’s no point in delaying, so let’s get into it.
#10 “Obscured by Clouds” by Pink Floyd Released on June 2, 1972, it is their seventh studio album. It’s not exactly their most famous one, but it’s certainly worth a listen for Floyd fans. The songs are shorter and incorporate a lot of acoustic guitar parts. It shows listeners a glimpse of the evolution of the Pink Floyd sound, specifically with the opening drum beat of the song “Childhood’s End,” which was actually used again in their next album: “The Dark Side of the Moon.”
#9 “Close to the Edge” by Yes Their fifth studio album was released on September 13. There are only three tracks in total on the album and the title track takes up the entirety of side one at a staggering 18 minutes and 42 seconds. Overall, the album gives listeners a good introduction to Yes, with both conceptual songs and more popular rock tracks. It’s also the last album to feature Bill Bruford — their original drummer — before he joined King Crimson.
#8 “Paul Simon” by Paul Simon Simon’s first solo studio album after he split from Art Garfunkel—released on January 24—included a number of popular singles—from “Mother and Child Reunion” to “Duncan” and the upbeat “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.” If you like Simon and Garfunkel, you need to give Simon’s solo career a try, and this is arguably one of the best solo albums he has to offer.
#7 “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper The title track of this rock classic may not apply to the beginning of the semester, but it’s so good that it’s still well worth a listen. It’s his fifth studio album, released on June 30, and it reached number two on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart in 1972. The album also deals with the loss of youth when leaving school.
#6 “Eagles” by the Eagles This debut album released on June 1 of 1972 proved that the Eagles’ country rock sound could make it, with the singles “Take It Easy,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Witchy Woman” all making it onto the top 40.
#5 “Still Bill” by Bill Withers It’s his second studio album and it was released in May. After his previous albums’ success with the single “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Withers kept up the quality of his albums with the singles “Use Me” and the iconic “Lean On Me” in this album. Featuring a variety of music styles—from soul to funk to blues music—“Still Bill” shows the variety of music on this list, making the list all the more worth a listen.
#4 “Homecoming” by America Their second studio album, released on November 15, is yet another country-rock-leaning album. It features the song “Ventura Highway,” which is arguably America’s most popular track ever, but it doesn’t stop there. “Don’t Cross the River,” “Only in Your Heart” and “Saturn Nights” are also excellent songs, making this an album to listen to in its entirety.
#3 “Harvest” by Neil Young Young’s fourth studio album, released on February 1, is his most popular album with singles like “Old Man” and “Heart of Gold,” making it required listening. The album topped the Billboard 200 album chart for two weeks in March and was the best-selling album of 1972.
If “Harvest” was the best selling album of 1972, then what two albums can go above it on this (subjective) list? Let’s find out.
#2 “Can’t Buy a Thrill” by Steely Dan Steely Dan released their debut album in November, which featured the songs “Reelin’ In The Years,” “Dirty Work” and “Do It Again.” The album presents a soft rock music base, with elements of folk and pop that give it a unique character as compared to some other popular music from this time. This is arguably their most commercial album, and is worth a full listen if you’re looking for music with a bit of pep.
#1 “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” by David Bowie Released on June 16 as his fifth studio album, this concept album/rock opera includes numerous classics like “Moonage Daydream,” “Starman,” “It Ain’t Easy,” “Ziggy Stardust” and “Suffragette City.” This iconic album is even better when you listen to the entire album in order, so I would highly recommend experiencing it in that way.
Before we finish this lesson, I want to give a few honorable mentions to the Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main Street,” Black Sabbath’s “Black Sabbath, Vol. 4,” and Elton John’s “Honky Chateau.” You can add these and the other albums to your listening homework and it’s all due next class. Don’t worry, though, because that isn’t until a year from now. However, I’m already getting excited about that one, because 1973 was an amazing year for music, too.