Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Grading Billboard's Top 100 singles of 1975

1. Love Will Keep Us Together - The Captain and Tennille: A
This is a zippy take on the Neil Sedaka song that started the good-sized string of hits for married couple Toni Tennille and Darryl Dragon. The song is simply joyous, with simple, rhyming lyrics and a killer hook in the chorus. Darryl Dragon's production may sound dated now (and he played everything but the drums on it -- the great Hal Blaine handled that task), but back in 1975, his use of keyboards and synthesizers was pretty ahead of its time for American pop music. And Toni Tennille's powerhouse vocals are full of sunshine, and make this a great track.

2. Rhinestone Cowboy - Glen Campbell: A
While not a songwriter, Campbell knew a good song when he heard one. And somehow he heard songwriter Larry Weiss's original version on a radio station and taught himself the song. This is a big open song, so well suited for Campbell's clear singing voice, and has that tinge of country that was just right for Campbell's pop approach. This got Campbell back on the Top 40 for the first time in four years.

3. Philadelphia Freedom - The Elton John Band: A
This is easily the best song ever inspired by World Team Tennis (which is still a going concern). Elton and Bernie Taupin wrote it for Billie Jean King who captained the Philadelphia Freedoms team, and Elton managed to definitely inject his music with a certain Philly soul flavor (it was some years before he worked with Thom Bell), and the result is another terrific smash. I wish the lyrics had been more tennis-centric, however.

4. Before the Next Teardrop Falls - Freddy Fender: A
This song is the culmination of one of the most unlikely success stories in pop music history. Fender had some minor regional success in the early '60s, then did a stretch in Louisiana prison on a marijuana charge, and then scuffled about. Producer Huey P. Meaux asked Fender to lay down a vocal track over a version of this song, which had been kicking around since 1967, and Fender knocked it off quickly, thinking it wouldn't go anywhere. Rarely has a toss off been such a smash, and Fender went from nobody to star, and while his star only burned white hot for a short while, his career was set. Fender really nailed this tender country ballad, which still sounds great.

5. My Eyes Adored You - Frankie Valli: B-
This song isn't my cup of tea, but it's really well crafted and Valli showed off a more mature singing style. I certainly understand why this song was such a bit hit.

6. Shining Star - Earth, Wind & Fire: A+
This was the big hit that really broke Earth, Wind & Fire on the pop charts. It is also half of one of the great one-two punches to start off an album, as the exciting a capella cold end of this song is immediately followed by (the title cut) "That's the Way of the World". In some respects, E, W & F were the real heirs of Sly & The Family Stone's sound, as they mixed funk with pop in a way that was so accessible, but didn't water down the funk. This is truly an exciting single.

7. Fame - David Bowie: A+
This mix of funk and spaced out rock was Bowie's biggest U.S. hit at the time, with the bonus of uncredited backing vocals and guitar from John Lennon. The groove is not as loose as some funk, but it lurches just right and Carlos Alomar's electric guitar, both lead and rhythm, is pretty awesome. This sounded really futuristic back in the day.

8. Laughter In the Rain - Neil Sedaka: A-
With the backing of Mr. Elton John, Sedaka was able to get his records released in the U.S. again, and he came back with his immaculate pop sense intact, and a sound that was definitely updated, as a lot of Sedaka's '60s work can best be described as "cute." While I wouldn't quite call this soulful, this is lush and romantic in a way one wouldn't have expected from the chubby Canadian.

9. One of These Nights - Eagles: B+
I'm not an Eagles fan, but I can't deny they had some really good songs. This definitely was out of the more country rock thing that was a big part of their early work. Don Henley and Glenn Frey consciously wanted to throw some R & B and disco into the band's sound, and one can hear the inspiration. But the star of this single is the bravura guitar work by Don Felder, whose lead work gives the song its atmosphere and his solo brings it home. And wow, Randy Meisner could really sing high.

10. Thank God I'm a Country Boy - John Denver: A-
This one of those songs whose charm I can't deny. This was written by a member of John Denver's band, and originally appeared on a studio album in 1974. The original version is pretty good, and the country elements, particularly the fiddle, are more pronounced. Critically, the stomping (or, on the studio version) rhythm is in place, and the sung verses are equally rhythmic. The version that appeared on An Evening with John Denver the following year had an infectious energy that definitely captured the attention of record buyers, and whoever played the seventh inning stretch music at Baltimore Orioles games.

11. Jive Talkin' - The Bee Gees: A
The Brothers Gibb had dabbled in R & B from time to time, with perhaps the best example being "To Love Somebody". They went whole hog on Main Course, and this was the song that proved this was a fruitful direction. The chorus is just so hooky, and the music is suitably funky, but not too heavy. They throw in a few more hooks for good measure.

12. The Best of My Love - Eagles: B-
Whereas a lot of Eagles music to this point was about pointing out the evils of music, this is a sweet, seemingly sincere ballad, with just a thin coating of country music. This consolidated the M.O.R. inroads of "Desperado".

13. Lovin' You - Minnie Riperton: A
I can certainly understand some people not liking when Minnie attempts to shatter any wine glasses in the room. But this pretty Stevie Wonder tune is given just the right musical treatment to allow Riperton's bubbling, rapturously happy singing to really make the direct lyrics shine. This is so summery.

14. Kung Fu Fighting - Carl Douglas: A-
This one-shot from the Jamaican Douglas is one of the great novelty hits because it manages to cop two trends at once -- disco and kung fu movies -- and who can resist how the chorus lines are punctuated by the exclamations of the fighters. Douglas sings this straight and lyrics have a nice rhythm to them.

15. Black Water - The Doobie Brothers: B+
This couldn't have been an obvious single choice, as it wasn't the riffing biker rock ("China Grove" and "Long Train Runnin'") that people associated with the Doobies. Indeed, producer Ted Templeman is quoted as saying they didn't think it was a potential hit. Patrick Simmons took a little Delta blues inspired guitar riff and it sounds like he just pieced some bits together to give the song three movements -- the bluesy verse, the simple chorus, and the famous a capella "funky Dixieland" bit. I like this more than I probably should.

16. Ballroom Blitz - Sweet: A++++
This is the first record I ever purchased with my own money. Up to that point, my record collection consisted of a Ronco records compilation called Good Vibrations (22 original artists! 22 hits!), a cheap collection of the vocal group The Lettermen (because I liked an 8-track of theirs my parents owned), and The Jackson 5's Looking Through the Windows, along with three singles my Aunt Kay apparently picked at random to be her family's Christmas gift for me (Elvis Presley - "It's Midnight", ABBA -- "I Do I Do I Do", and Carole King's "Jazzman"). I had been listening to radio religiously for a few years by this point, and the first time I heard this song, with the band introduction, the incredible hook of Mick Tucker's drumbeat, the three distinct musical sections, Steve Priest's crazed vocal interjections,and more, it became an obsession. So I eventually was able to go to K-Mart or Pearson's art store and purchase it (and buy it again when my sister accidentally broke it). This remains my favorite record ever. Yes, it's camp and yes, it's over the top - what's wrong with that. I think this track establishes a high level of energy and other than a brief breakdown after the second chorus, it doesn't let up. It's pure excitement, how could I not love it?

17. (Hey, Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song - B.J. Thomas: B-
For a guy with no discernible persona, B.J. Thomas had quite the career, with 14 Top 40 hits, including his other #1 single, the Oscar-winning "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head". He was an easy going pop singer who could handle lots of different material. This was a gentle country pop song, and Thomas did his usual professional job.

18. He Don't Love You (Like I Love You) - Tony Orlando and Dawn: B-
Tony Orlando was a behind-the-scenes guy when Dawn formed, and their early hits were kinds of bubblegum for adults. There was never any artistic pretense - it was all about finding songs that sold. This was a cover of a Jerry Butler and the Impressions tune that hit in the '60s. It's certainly not as soulful, but Orlando sings it fairly well. The best part is the middle eight -- cool arrangement.

19. At Seventeen - Janis Ian: A
This is a heart wrenching folk-pop number from the singer-songwriter who had her first hit in 1967 with "Society's Child". The recording is so intimate, her words so well chosen, and the way each verse picks up slightly in pitch and tempo until she resolves by invoking the title phrase is so ingenuous. A song so good that people responded to it.

20. Pick Up the Pieces - The Average White Band: A
This was the big hit for the funk band from...Scotland? Yep, these guys found a groove and the horn chart was awesome, and everything is both instantly memorable and undeniably danceable.

21. The Hustle - Van McCoy and The Soul City Symphony: A
Van McCoy had been bouncing around soul and pop music as a songwriter. He then put one of the signature hits of the early disco era. When I went to Fort Nightly formal dance class in junior high, The Hustle was the one modern dance we were taught. It sounds quaint now, with it's slightly Latin flavor in spots, Philly in others, but it's still hooky and you can still dance to it.

22. Lady Marmalade - Labelle: A+
This classic was co-written by Bob Crewe, who wrote or co-wrote many classics for The Four Seasons. I'm guessing he didn't offer this song to them first. Who better to produce a song about a prostitute in New Orleans than New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint? Labelle was three amazing women -- Patti Labelle, Sarah Dash, and Nona Hendryx, and their choral vocal power is tremendous. And Patti's vocal is just one of greatest soul performances ever. A perfect single.

23. Why Can't We Be Friends - War: A
Compared to the mega jams that War turned into hits, this is a simple reggae-pop tune with simple, humorous lyrics. The cheer with which they perform this makes it such a winner. This is one of my early 45 purchases. My favorite lyric? "I know you're working for the C.I.A./They wouldn't have you in the Maf-I-A." This might be the only Top 40 single where all seven members of the band have a lead vocal.

24. Love Won't Let Me Wait - Major Harris: B+
This is a nice, well sung soul ballad from this former member of The Delfonics. This sounds like a lot of the ballads that were big hits in the past two years, but Harris doesn't sing in such a high register. Yes, he's a one-hit wonder, and no, he wasn't the Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback of West Virginia.

25. Boogie On Reggae Woman - Stevie Wonder: A-
It's a tribute to Stevie Wonder that this song, which would be a career highlight for about 98% of the recording artists on the planet, is merely a terrific song, but with a number of others being even better. I will say, the hook on this song is good, but not great. But the overall sound of the record and groove is insinuating.

26. Wasted Days and Wasted Nights - Freddy Fender: A
And this is the most wonderful way to put a capper on a career resurrection. Fender's other big hit of 1975 was a song he co-wrote and originally recorded in 1959. The Sir Douglas Quintet did a version of it in 1971, so Freddy, at the beginning of the song, dedicates it to bandleader Doug Sahm. And then he takes the song back. It's a timeless '50s slow rock song, with a hints of rockabilly and country. Fender invests so much in the words, with just a bit of vibrato.

27. Fight the Power (Pt. 1) - The Isley Brothers: A+
This is one of those political songs that really doesn't say much, but it's somehow both angry and full of joy, it's certainly funky, Ronnie Isley sounds great, and they had to bleep the word "bullshit" out of the title.

28. Angie Baby - Helen Reddy: A+
One of the strangest number one singles of the '70s, if not ever. Written by future "Undercover Angel" performer Alan O'Day, this tale of a mentally unbalanced woman who entices a creepy dude into her room and somehow traps him inside her radio is batshit crazy. And the track is so strong. The song has a bit of a R & B vibe and Reddy takes command of the lyrics, and the production and swirling of sounds as Angie takes control of her interloper is pure theater. Great stuff.

29. Jackie Blue - The Ozark Mountain Daredevils: A
This is one of the more anomalous Top 40 hits for a band. The original OMD was a country-rock band (remember "If You Want to Get to Heaven"?) mixing drawling acoustic numbers with some twangy boogie. Producer Glyn Johns heard this song, which was inspired by a drug dealer drummer Larry Lee knew (before they regendered the lyrics), and told the writers to finish it. It sounds much more like a British rock band. But Johns was right -this is like a mix of Steely Dan and some British band I can't put my finger on and it's immediately memorable.

30. Fire - The Ohio Players: A+
The Ohio Players had been touring and recording for quite a while, hitting the charts with stuff like "The Funky Worm". Things finally came together around this time, and this is one of the heavier funk numbers to hit the pop charts. The vocals are hard and intense. The groove slams. And that's percussion and horn break in the middle is genius.

31. Magic - Pilot
: A+
This is superb slice of pop from this Scottish trio that had more hits in England. They were produced by Alan Parsons (and worked on the early Alan Parsons Project records), and while none of their others songs quite had this magic (pun intended), this is a good reflection of their relentlessly upbeat sound. The had great harmonies and could really play -- the lead guitar on this song is so key. And the way the chorus just ascends, in some sort of melding of The Beach Boys and power pop, is just sublime.

32. Please Mr. Postman - The Carpenters: B
This was another early 45 purchase. My babysitter Joanne recoiled when she saw it. She told me, "That's a Beatles song!" Well, not quite. But it's a classic, and this is certainly a namby pamby take on it, but the song is so good, and Karen Carpenter seems to be having so much fun, I still like it.

33. Sister Golden Hair - America: A-
One of the ultimate AM Gold artists of the era. Of course, rock critics of the era absolutely reviled them. Yes, they were a rock band that didn't rock. They began with inspiration from Crosby, Stills and Nash, and then carved out their own niche with catchy folk rock numbers with various inspirations and great harmonies. Sure, the lyrics didn't make much sense, but they sounded good together, and the opening lines of this song are memorable.

34. Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds - Elton John: A+
Perhaps I'm biased because I heard this cover of The Beatles song (I had to learn that on my own -- apparently my babysitter never found this 45) before this cover by Elton. And it's not that I'm not a fan of the original. But Elton turbocharges this song, adding his own grandeur, finding a mid-point between his style and its psychedelic origins. There are so many great production tricks on this single, and whoever had the idea of the brief reggae section deserves a medal.

35. Mandy - Barry Manilow: B+
This grade is definitely influenced by the recent Barely Manilow project from Joe Pernice, where he sings acoustic versions of Barry's hits. Pernice is doing it to show that the songs are actually good, although sometimes overwhelmed by production choices. This MOR classic was Manilow's first hit single, retitled from "Brandy" to avoid confusion with the big hit from Looking Glass from a few years prior. The core song is really good, and the swelling backing is effective, because it builds as the song goes on.

36. Have You Never Been Mellow - Olivia Newton-John: B
Your darned right I had a crush on ONJ. This one was written by her long time producer John Farrar, and has Olivia singing at the top of her range in a few spots. It's innocuous and I'm probably giving it too high of a grade.

37. Could It Be Magic - Barry Manilow: A-
This is my favorite Barry Manilow single. He originally wrote the music for a studio group called Featherbed (with lyrics by Tony Orlando!), and recorded it himself with a new set of lyrics. The tune adapts and reforms a piece from Chopin, and it's simply a lovely piece of music, and the "come..come into my arms" is very affecting. The song builds with more instruments and then ends with just the piano, and that's very effective. Donna Summer did a great cover of this song.

38. Cat's In the Cradle - Harry Chapin: C+
Chapin was a great guy, of that I have no doubt, but something about his singing and songs does little for me. As a kid, I like the song, and the easy to sing along to chorus. The pat story certainly reflects how a lot of people's lives are. Yet something about feels off. For one thing, Chapin really didn't mind how awkward he words could be in service of having them rhyme.

39. Wildfire - Michael Murphy: A-
Michael Martin Murphy was a Texan who wrote one of the best Monkees songs ever, "What Am I Doin' Hangin' 'Round?", sung by his buddy Michael Nesmith. He eventually had a successful country career. This was his big pop moment, a song about a runaway horse. So a story song about an animal, which is very '70s. Well, Mr. Murphy knew how to construct a tune, and sure, this is dramatic, but that's how this story song game is played. And Murphy invests the song with real feeling. He certainly couldn't have thought it was his meal ticket -- he had written the song with a former bandmate in 1968.

40. I'm Not Lisa - Jessi Colter: A-
It's fascinating what songs managed to crossover from country to pop. This is certainly one of more country-leaning songs to do so. Colter wrote this wonderful tune, and her husband, Waylon Jennings, co-produced it. It has great lyrics and she sings them quite well. I don't recall this getting airplay on any of the Top 40 stations I listened to back in the day.

41. Listen to What the Man Said - Paul Mccartney and Wings: A-
This is another song I bought on 45. The Wings 45s had a raised part around the label that was unique. This song exists in a pure '70s netherworld. Some of McCartney's best songs in this era are so simple, like this one, which has an effortless melody and bouncy cheer. The production and performances are excellent, and it's not hooky in the way the best Macca is, but I still dig it.

42. I'm Not In Love - 10cc: A+
There is a video on YouTube that explains how the song was put together. It's certainly a production marvel. Indeed, 10CC's production of this record put the studio they owned, Strawberry Studios, on the map. And that was a big deal, because before then, London was really the only place in England with top flight studios. A lot of classic post-punk sides were recorded at Strawberry. The production and arrangement enhances what is a really good tune, as covers I've heard of it have confirmed. But it's the production that makes it a masterpiece.

43. I Can Help - Billy Swan: A
A wonderful rockabilly-ish number from this keyboardist/singer/songwriter. This song sounds like something Ringo Starr might have recorded, with Swan's genial vocal presence. The lyrics are simple and direct. The organ sounds like it was borrowed from a small church. And that great walking guitar solo. According to Casey Kasem, the reason for the clapping at the end of the song is because a dog had clamped its jaws on Billy's leg while he sang the vocal -- and this is somewhat consistent with what's on the song's Wikipedia page.

44. Fallin' In Love - Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds: B-
An innocuous piece of blue eyed soul from one of the more anonymous trios to have a few big Top 40 hits. This seems to foreshadow England Dan & John Ford Coley.

45. Feelings - Morris Albert: C-
This is such a cloying song, but the melody is nice. I'm sure there are covers of it somewhere that are more tolerable.

46. Chevy Van - Sammy Johns: A-
One of the quintessential '70s story songs, the lyrics are just terrific, really descriptive and fitting the rhythm and melody of the song. The chorus is a little pat, but danged if you can't get it out of your head. Inspired a bad movie that ran too many times on the USA Network back in the day.

47. When Will I Be Loved - Linda Ronstadt: A-
It's great to see Linda Ronstadt revisionism. While she never made a great album (some good ones, for sure), she had so many great singles and album tracks. She and Peter Asher and band turbo charge this nice Everly Brothers tune and give it some gusto. Where the Everlys sing the title in a curious, rhetorical manner, Linda sings it with the clear intent that dammit, she's going to find someone.

48. You're the First, the Last, My Everything - Barry White: B-
Revisiting the charts has made me come to the realization that I don't like Barry White's music as much as I thought I did. The production is superb, and White had such a clear persona. But the songs are very memorable and they definitely kind of blur together.

49. Please Mr Please - Olivia Newton-John: B-
This gets a bonus for being a jukebox-related song. This is a piece of fluff even relative to ONJ's career to this point, and it's okay I guess.

50. You're No Good - Linda Ronstadt: A+
One of the two songs that form, in my opinion, the apex of all of Ronstadt's great performances. This is a perfect single, taking a great song (originally by Dee Dee Warwick and a hit for Betty Everett) and adding a smoky rock feel to it. Then every element of this is superb. The production and arrangement. The band is amazing, especially lead guitarist (and future hitmaker with "Lonely Boy" and "Thank You For Being a Friend") Andrew Gold unleashing a smoking solo. Finally, Linda Ronstadt subtly brings up the temperature until she lets loose in fury with a bravura performance.

51. Dynomite - Tony Camillo's Bazuka: B
Another one that I owned on 45, and another hit instrumental. I suppose someone had to cash in on Jimmy Walker's catch phrase on the sitcom Good Times, and why not this veteran record producer from New Jersey whose biggest success was co-producing Gladys Knight & The Pips' "Midnight Train to Georgia". I'm sure my love for Good Times is why I bought it. It's certainly catchy and well played, with the interplay between the horns and piano being the best part of the track.

52. Walking In Rhythm - The Blackbyrds: B+
The Blackbyrds were a distinctive group led by Donald Byrd, who mixed vocal soul with some jazz influences. This was their biggest hit, and it's a chill mid-tempo track with a disco pulse. The vocals are sunshiney and it's just a happy song.

53. The Way We Were/Try to Remember - Gladys Knight and The Pips: B+
Ms. Knight certainly gives this song a new life and shows how one can inject some soul into almost anything. I'm not sure who had the idea of making this a medley with another ballad from the Broadway show Fantasticks, but it works better than I would have expected. The track is enhanced by it being a live performance, as there's a bit something extra in the performance.

54. Midnight Blue - Melissa Manchester: C+
Manchester, who co-wrote this song with Carole Bayer Sager, pitched it first to Dusty Springfield. Meanwhile, Bayer Sager gave a demo to producer Richard Perry, who thought it could be a hit, and steered Manchester to associate Vini Poncia, who co-produced with Perry. These machinations are more interesting to me than the song, which is well done, but I'm not a fan of Manchester's overly showy vocals, when something more like Carly Simon would have been appropriate here.

55. Don't Call Us - We'll Call You - Sugarloaf: A
Sugarloaf had been unable to follow up their hit and broke up, then partially reunited, and that didn't work. Lead singer Jerry Corbetta then wrote this song, his humorous look at the record business. Of course, with such a great guitar riff and hook, the song could have been about anything, but it's extra fun, as it has the touch tone phone number of CBS Records (I presume that was changed), musical nods to The Beatles and Stevie Wonder, and a DJ imitating Wolfman Jack (although the Wolfman did that part when they played the song on The Midnight Special). Here's the thing -- Corbetta recorded the track with session musicians. Then, when the track became a hit, they reissued a 1973 Sugarloaf album with this song added to it, and it became the title cut, and the band got back together yet again. No more hits were in the offing, however.

56. Poetry Man - Phoebe Snow: B+
This jazzy song seemed to occupy the space between Joni Mitchell and Roberta Flack, making Top 40 playlists just a little bit classier. While Snow only managed one more Top 40 hit, this song gave her a career, and she would continue to make appearances on the adult contemporary charts. The success of this song had to be surprising, because it's very appealing, but doesn't scream pop, but right place, right time, you know?

57. How Long - Ace: A+
Paul Carrack is the musical equivalent of a journeyman in baseball. flitting about from band to band and his solo career, tinkling the ivories when asked, and supplying one of the great British soul voices of his time. For all the things he's done, this song that he wrote and played with this pub rock band is still his best known work. And why not, it's a splendid piece of blue eyed soul, with a great arrangement that gives it a bit of a haunting quality. And Carrack's singing is aces. I saw him sing it twice when he played in Nick Lowe's band (with Martin Belmont of The Rumour playing the guitar solo), and once at promotional appearance at Chicago Recording Company, where he just sat at the piano and made magic with this great tune.

58. Express - B.T. Express: C+
This disco-funk tune with a bit of a Philly vibe is the lesser of B.T. Express's two big chart hits. It's pleasant and forgettable.

59. That's the Way of the World - Earth, Wind & Fire: A
Maurice White was a pretty good singer, but he didn't have the magic that Philip Bailey had with his angelic voice. White knew that Bailey was the best vehicle for his sunniest, most inspirational melodies, and this track certainly fit that bill.

60. Lady - Styx: A-
This gets bonus points for its great use in an episode of Freaks and Geeks. I'll admit it. I have a soft spot for Styx. Their mix of prog influences, show tunes, and meat-and-potatoes rock still has an appeal to me. This song originally appeared on the band's second album, which came out in 1973. A visit to Chicago Top 40 powerhouse WLS in 1975 led to some spins for this Dennis DeYoung composition, and it really caught the ears of listeners. DeYoung's showy croon, the Midwestern version of Yes-inspired harmonies, the use of keyboards and synthesizers, and J.Y. stinging guitars melded together just right.

61. Bad Time - Grand Funk: A
Who knew the lunk headed blues-based rockers had this pop sense in them? Mark Farner wrote a great pop song here and sang the hell of it. It's of its time, but with melodic sense that goes back a decade, if not two. No wonder The Jayhawks did a faithful cover years later.

62. Only Women Bleed - Alice Cooper: C-
This proto-power ballad is a blemish on what had been, to this point, a sterling decade for Alice Cooper, recording so many great songs. The classic Alice Cooper tune "Desperado" (which is way better than the Eagles song of the same name) shows he could do a good ballad. But this is overcooked.

63. Doctor's Orders - Carol Douglas: C+
A decent soul-disco number is undermined by the cutesy intro. I guess the lyrics are kind of lame too. The music's nice and Carol sounds okay.

64. Get Down Tonight - K.C. & The Sunshine Band: A
This began a run of chart domination by Harry Casey and company. The guy knew how to put together a great pop tune and meld it to a disco beat. Like the Bee Gees, R & B informed his work and his disco had even less of an R & B feel. KC's music is one of the major artists in making disco into something really unique and enduring.

65. You Are So Beautiful / It's a Sin When You Love Somebody - Joe Cocker: B
Talk about over the top. Joe Cocker knew no other way. As Ray Charles said about Cocker in his autobiography, "Man, that cat must sleep with my records." This is a simply written song, and over warm piano backing, Joe wrings every ounce of emotion out of this sucker. He's one of the few guys who could get away with this.

66. One Man Woman / One Woman Man - Paul Anka and Odia Coates: F
Another plastic piece of music that gives cheating songs a bad name. It also brings a lie to the notion that putting negative lyrics with cheerful music makes for a nice juxtaposition. Someone admitting he's a serial cheater shouldn't sound so peppy. The song is devoid of human emotion.

67. Feel Like Makin' Love - Bad Company: B-
Paul Rodgers is one of the greatest rock singers ever, but his post-Free work generally doesn't do much for me. Bad Company was a powerhouse, but the band's sound was a bit too pristine. This sounds like the Doobie Brothers in the verses and a poor man's Led Zeppelin in the choruses.

68. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) - James Taylor: C
James Taylor doing Marvin Gaye isn't like Pat Boone doing Little Richard, because James Taylor has talent, but turning a fun Motown song into adult-contemporary fodder is not a high achievement.

69. Dance With Me - Orleans: B
There is a somewhat country-ish vibe to this soulful ballad. The chorus is nice, but the path the song takes to get to each chorus is more interesting, with some nifty melodic shifts. Well sung, too.

70. Cut the Cake - Average White Band: B
The kilt-clad funkmeisters seemingly up the ante by singing on this track, and while their funk rhythms are really good, the barely adequate vocals don't do much for me. It might have been better if they had sung in their normal accents.

71. Never Can Say Goodbye - Gloria Gaynor: A-
As the '70s went on, the practice of covering recent hits and releasing them as singles really fell by the wayside. This is one of the last examples of the phenomenon. And heck, there was a four-year lag between The Jackson 5's number two original and this Top 10 cover by disco diva Gaynor. There was a time when the Top 40 might have two versions of the same song in it. Anyway, this is pretty faithful to the original, it just adds a prominent disco beat. Gaynor only had two Top 40 hits, but she made the most of both of them.

72. I Don't Like to Sleep Alone - Paul Anka: D
This isn't as icky, from a performance aspect as Anka's other hits of the period. But it's Paul Anka, and this wussy ballad still sucks.

73. Morning Side of the Mountain - Donny and Marie Osmond: F
Trouser Press magazine had a Ripley's Believe it or Not parody called Don't Believe a Word. My favorite joke from it was "Donny and Marie aren't actually Mormons. It was a misprint." Think about it. This single is even more sickly sweet than the typical Donny and Marie tune, causing diabetes to many who were overexposed to it.

74. Some Kind Of Wonderful - Grand Funk: A-
Kudos to the Funksters for digging up this late '60s soul obscurity and turning it into another big hit. The blues part of the rhythm and blues still remains, but otherwise this is jumping tune with Mark Farner oversinging, but not for dramatic effect. He simply seems to be having fun.

75. When Will I See You Again - Three Degrees: A
This is one of the last of the big sweet soul ballads of this era. It's a Gamble and Huff tune and there's not much to it other than its indelible chorus and basic verses. Indeed, lead singer Sheila Ferguson hated the song. But the arrangement, with that splendid intro that sets up the melodic delights that are soon to occur. And Ferguson overcame her reservations enough to simply kill her lead vocal.

76. Get Down, Get Down (Get on the Floor) - Joe Simon: B
This is a solid, but not overwhelming, slice of Southern soul that was retro-fitted into a disco song. The pea soup beat and totally out-of-place synthesizer give it a then-contemporary feel. I presume Simon was thinking this was a canny move to extend his career, as this was his eighth Top 40 single (and third song to top the R & B charts). However, he wasn't able to ride the floor, and the hits began drying up.

77. I'm Sorry / Calypso - John Denver: C+/B
Not one of Denver's better efforts, mainly because the song, while somewhat pretty has fairly inane lyrics. This was state-of-the-art sensitive male posing, 1975-style. The b-side is a strummy folk song with strings and a yodeling chorus, which is the preferable side, and should have been the bigger hit of the two.

78. Killer Queen - Queen: A
It had only been a year or two before that Queen opening for Sparks, and there's definitely some Sparks in the DNA of this song. This was the song that got Queen noticed internationally, and it's full of nifty arrangement tricks, while Freddie is ultra-playful, and Brian May shows off a decent-sized part of his considerable guitar lick arsenal.

79. Shoeshine Boy - Eddie Kendricks: B
This was the last significant solo hit for the sweet-voiced former member of The Temptations. I suppose you'd call this a character study, with music that falls somewhere between the pop-soul of Main Ingredient and Philly soul. Solid enough to keep you changing the station, but not good enough to make you want to turn it up.

80. Do It ('Til You're Satisfied) - B.T. Express: A-
This is one of those songs where the vocal hook just rides the groove, and why not, since the groove is so good. The Express add some Latin flavor to this song that finds the intersection of disco and funk, and that's a pretty good place to be.

81. Can't Get It Out of My Head - Electric Light Orchestra: A
The first of the 20 Top 40 hits ELO garnered on the American charts, this song brought just a tiny, smidgen of psychedelia back to the charts. This is one of Jeff Lynne's more Beatle-y songs, on the Lennon side, which is saying something. But like a lot of Lynne's songs around this time, there's a bit of an R & B undertone, which comes through in the verses. The chorus is pure magic.

82. Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy) - - Al Green: B+
If you want to know how big an impact disco was making at this time, this single is a good indication. It's definitely been forgotten now, but it's a good, but not great, Willie Mitchell-produced soul song for the Reverend Al. While most of the elements are the same as always, the beat is definitely a disco beat, and the horns in the verses have a different vibe.

83. Lonely People - America: B+
A lot of music fans are unaware that America worked with George Martin worked with the band on a couple of albums. I haven't heard really much about how they collaborated, but the albums sound really crisp and good, and this single was a fairly typical representation of America's easygoing folk-pop sound, with strong harmony vocals being the calling card. They didn't write this one, so the lyrics make more sense than usual.

84. You Got the Love - Rufus (featuring Chaka Khan): A-
If any band merits a totally remastering and reissue of their catalog, it's Rufus, whose mix of funk, soul, and jazz was distinctive, and, of course, they introduced the world to the mega-talent of Chaka Khan. She co-wrote this number with Ray Parker Jr., and the funk in the verses and choruses moves to something more melodic and jazzy in the bridge out of the chorus. Khan is the best thing this side of Gladys Knight and Aretha Franklin.

85. The Rockford Files Theme - Mike Post: A
Mike Post is the only artist in this Top 100 who The Who have a song named after. Post wrote scads of television themes (this one a co-write with Pete Carpenter), and this is his best. The combination of a mini-moog synthesizer, harmonica, horns, and some great guitar work is superb. The mini-moog was perfect for the melody that was written, and the juxtaposition of the harmonica over the horns and orchestration is brilliant. The single, of course, is extended from the amount of time it was used in an episode, and Post and company make many great arrangement choices, and it won a Grammy for best instrumental arrangement.

86. It Only Takes a Minute - Tavares: A
This was the first Top 10 hit for the four Tavares brothers who got their start in 1959 as Chubby and the Turnpikes. They didn't change their name until 1973, after actually having hits with that terrible name. They hooked up with the great Lambert and Potter songwriting team, and this was a great song, somewhat in the vein of the O'Jays, with great harmony singing, and just a little kiss of disco.

87. No No Song - Ringo Starr: B-
This is a novelty song that is better because of Ringo's low key charm. Co-written by Hoyt Axton, Ringo turns down various vices. His good pal Harry Nilsson sings backing vocals, and while he was doing so, he was probably thinking "yes, yes."

88. Junior's Farm / Sally G - Paul McCartney and Wings: A
Paul McCartney is capable of great lyrics at any time, even though he's such a talented composer that great lyrics are a bonus. Sometimes he lapses into doggerel or nonsense. This is nonsense, but great sounding nonsense, going so well with one of best true rock numbers. The song has such a great pulse to it, with those internal rhymes in the lyrics, and a top flight chorus. "Sally G" was a fine b-side, and was Macca's first entry into the country charts.

89. Bungle In the Jungle - Jethro Tull: B+
Another song I owned on 45, probably charmed by the animal sound effects. I once read an interview with Ian Anderson where he talked about every Tull album that had been released to that point, and he was remarkably self-deprecating. This gave me a lot more of an open mind about Jethro Tull's fascinating disregard for trends. This is such a non-representative Jethro Tull song, but that could be said about most of their songs. Ultimately, this is an oddly catchy rock number with a memorable chorus. And animal noise.

90. Long Tall Glasses (I Can Dance) - Leo Sayer: A-
This was Sayer's first entry into the Top 40, and he ended up with a string of hits. The guy who used to do a mime act on stage shows some dramatic flair here with this strangely flowing story song about a hungry guy who finds a place where his dancing skills can get him a good meal. The song has different tempos, stops and starts, an a capella section, which leads into a driving, boogie woogie finale.

91. Someone Saved My Life Tonight - Elton John: A+
The big hit from the big selling, but critically underrated Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy album is an epic ballad that starts with that super-hooky piano part and then has distinct movements. The chorus pops up enough to hold interest and the song builds to a dramatic ending. Back when I was in 5th and 6th grade, my friend Mike Redlich would host overnight campovers. We didn't rough it -- we slept in beds in one of those trailer campers that hooked to the back of a car. We'd get into mischief, talk about things almost-teenage boys talk about, eat junk food, and drink RC colas, all the while with radio always on in the background. This is the song I most associate with those late nights hanging out under the moon and stars.

92. Misty - Ray Stevens: B
This is a true country crossover and a solid performance from Stevens. If this had more pop sheen, it would have been fodder for Glen Campbell.

93. Bad Blood - Neil Sedaka: A-
This is just a really good pop tune that other than contemporary instrumentation, follows no major trend of the times. Unless you count having Elton John sing on your record as a trend. The chorus is catchy and the hook is in the interplay between Sedaka and John singing the title in sequence. Fun tune.

94. Only Yesterday - The Carpenters: B+
Most of Richard Carpenter's co-writes are decent, but pale in comparison to the top drawer material that the Carpenters had their first hits with. This, however, is a really good effort that seems closer to the quality of Paul Williams and other top notch songwriters. Of course, Karen's singing elevates the quality.

95. I'm On Fire - Dwight Twilley Band: A
This is a seminal power pop tune that was originally just considered a test run for an album that never came out because Twilley's original record company went under. Eventually, things worked themselves out and this became a hit (but the subsequent album was delayed). The song comes out of the gate with such energy, pulsing around, and then each hook comes to the fore, from the "you ain't got no lover" refrain, the pithy chorus, and the awesome, Beatesque middle eight.

96. Only You (And You Alone) - Ringo Starr: C+
John Lennon suggested to his former bandmate that he cover this Platters' classic, so if you want to point the finger of blame. This is a low energy cover with a spoken word section that is cheesy. Not one of Ringo's better ones.

97. Third Rate Romance - Amazing Rhythm Aces: A-
A first rate country pop tune. Singer and songwriter Russell Smith has a sandpapery voice that's somewhat close to Kenny Rogers in quality. The band backed Jesse Winchester in the early '70s, which is where they got the Rhythm Aces moniker, and added the Amazing when they went back on their own. This combines classic '70s storytelling with a simple and indelible chorus.

98. You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet - Bachman-Turner Overdrive: A-
I imagine that Randy Bachman first played those chords in the chorus by accident, and then realized he had a good thing going. Then he sang the title and had to figure the rest out. That's not quite the truth, but it was basically Bachman screwing around in the studio (the stuttering lines were apparently an "affectionate" jape at Randy's brother Gary, who stuttered -- you see Canadians are nice all the time), and the producer thought they needed a catchier tune on the album - why not try the one that Randy was throwing together? So the lyrics truly were tossed off. Some complain that the riffs ape The Who, but so what? This is dumb fun.

99. Swearin' to God - Frankie Valli: D
This isn't Paul Anka bad, but it's just so treacly, and Valli can't overcome that.

100. Get Dancin' - Disco Tex and The Sex-O-lettes: C+
This was the first disco novelty hit, but more significantly, it was an initial foray of gay culture into pop music in a more overt manner. Celebrity hairdresser Monti Rock was the ostensible front man for this act, which was steered by Bob Crewe, who guided the Four Seasons and Mitch Ryder, among others. The whole production is camp as can be. It's fun, but a bit much for me.

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