Throughout 2020 we’re going to be celebrating a lot of 50th anniversaries of iconic rock and blues albums (we know, right?!)! You could say that 1970 was one hell of a year for rock music!
So, we though we’d take a little bit of time to bring you what we think are some of the most iconic Blues & Rock albums celebrating this massive milestone!
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Led Zeppelin III, 1970
To put this album into context, it’s first necessary to understand what a crazy year 1969 was for Led Zeppelin. The band recorded two best-selling albums packed with powerful riffs forever etched into the rock hall of fame, played over 150 shows and toured the US multiple times. In the midst of all this madness, it was singer Plant’s idea to try something different – and so the band packed up their equipment and headed for the secluded Welsh 18th century cottage of Bron-Yr-Aur. A place which had no electricity, no running water and an outside toilet. All of that however, turned out to be pretty good set of ingredients to create the band’s third album.
We like to think that the sound on this album has a medieval quality to it – a sort of countryside bitter sweetness. It’s as if we took away the big mega riffs and turned the focus back to the melody. Our favourite track – That’s The Way, is one of the moving tracks in the band’s entire repertoire. A somewhat simple riff is supplemented by the beautiful singing of Plant – without all of the high pitched shrieking and raw power. He saved that for Immigrant Song – a tune which created one of the most memorable riffs in rock and roll history. And then there’s Since I’ve been Loving you. A gorgeous blues tune which over time builds up a powerful tension and suspense, only to achieve a climax which Jimmy Page absolutely shreds with his guitar playing.
This was the transition album which had to be created… and fortunately it was right between what are arguably the most iconic Zeppelin albums – II and IV, and that’s part of why we love this one. Happy 50th Birthday!
Allman Brothers Band
Idlewind South, 1970
This is the second album by what we consider to be the greatest and most important southern rock band out there. Due to the tragic and untimely death of Duane Allman caused by a motorcycle accident, this particular star line-up of the band only enjoyed a brief period of five years. We like this album a lot given that it offers a much different sound to the harder and rockier debut album – The Allman Brothers Band. There’s certainly more diversity in the style of the tracks and it’s likely that the band were trying to “do something different” after their first album. It seems 1970 was a year for that sort of thing, as we mentioned in our Led Zeppelin III note as well!
Although the album only offers a short 30 minute play time, it’s packed with all sorts of treats and diverse tones. Of particular note to us are the instrumentally beautiful In Memory of Elizabeth Reed and the groovy Midnight Rider. These are then contrasted by the blues classic Hoochie Coochie Man and the blues rocky Leave My Blues at Home.
The guitar duelling of Duane Allman and Dicky Betts is always a highlight for us. Those guys certainly always knew how to pack a punch and this album is no different!
Band of Gypsys, 1970
It’s amazing for us to believe that it’s already been 50 years since this incredible funk-rock crossover with the one and only Hendrix. It’s one of those albums that is so unique in style we don’t think anyone else would ever be able to re-create something like it. Unlike his usual powerful and raw style, Hendrix gives us a tasteful blues which is complemented by Billy Cox’s funky bass and Buddy Miles’s drumming. In fact, Cox and Hendrix had already played together at Woodstock, while Miles was someone who had crossed paths with them in the 60s. The album was recorded live at the Fillmore East on New Year’s Even 1969/1970. Given that this line-up hadn’t been together very long, the music on this one is essentially one long jam session – but that’s part of what we dig about the whole thing.
Many people aren’t really a fan of the flat, and at times poetic vocal style of Hendrix, but we don’t really mind it and think that it actually goes quite well in the context of this album. The album opens with Who Knows – a funk-filled, foot tapping groove of a tune which features some freaky wailing and yelping by Miles. The 12-minute rendition of Machine Gun features some of the finest and fiercest guitar work of Hendrix, yet it’s never really that overbearing. It’s probably one of the most political of Hendrix’s songs, the staccato sounds of his Strat imitating a machine gun… not to mention the opening of the song in which he dedicates it to “all the soldiers that are fighting in Chicago and Milwaukee and New York, oh yes, and all the soldiers fighting in Vietnam.”
The line-up wasn’t one which lasted long unfortunately. The group appeared together at Madison Square Garden in late January when Hendrix, who’d likely been unwittingly dosed with LSD before the show, broke down onstage after the second song, saying to the crowd, “That’s what happens when earth fucks with space.” The group disbanded shortly thereafter.