Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Grading the Top 100 singles of 1974 (per Billboard)

1. The Way We Were - Barbra Streisand: B-
This song illustrates the conundrum I face when grading. I hated this song when I was a kid. So wimpy! Not for me! But I'm 54 now, and wow, Barbra Streisand is a deserved legend -- what a singer! And this is a well-crafted weeper, co-written by Marvin Hamlisch with Alan and Marilyn Bergman. So I appreciate the song more than I did then. But it's still not something I'd listen to by choice.

2. Seasons In the Sun - Terry Jacks: C-
This song has quite the pedigree. It was written by the legendary Jacques Brel, and the lyrics were translated into English by poet Rod McKuen. In the hands of former Poppy Family member Jacks, it's pretty insipid, even with the catchy chorus. I mean, it's a tearjerker, but there has to be a way to honor the lyrics and not sound so icky.

3. Love's Theme - Love Unlimited Orchestra: C-
This is the biggest thing Barry White ever did, as he wrote it and arranged the orchestration. One of the major TV networks eventually used this as bed music for golf tournaments. And that really tells you all you need to know about this instrumental.

4. Come and Get Your Love - Redbone: A
Now we get to something I love. This was the biggest hit for the Native American band, a wonderful piece of R & B-spiked pop with a great lead vocal. The tune is so good, the fact that the lyrics were apparently jotted down on the back of a candy wrapper in two minutes is of no import.

5. Dancing Machine - The Jackson 5: A
This was the song that propelled The J5 back into the Top 10 after a three-year drought. Co-written by producer Hal Davis, this is the funkiest thing they did at Motown, and Michael Jackson is at his best on this propulsive tune.

6. The Loco-Motion - Grand Funk Railroad: A-
The production really makes the song, from the massive sounding handclaps to the massive sounding backing vocals to the distorted, effed up guitar solo. I'm assuming some of their loyal hard rock fans blanched at this cover of a teenybop song, but it's super fun.

7. T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia) - MFSB: A-
MFSB >>> Love Unlimited Orchestra. I think of Gamble and Huff as more soul kings than funk meisters, and this falls somewhere in between, with that great, melodic horn line.

8. The Streak - Ray Stevens: D-
If I had written this when I was 9-years-old, it would have received an A++++. With a few exceptions, here and there, Ray Stevens' brand of comedy music hasn't aged very well, and this is really the bottom. Hearing it now, I wonder how there wasn't a quicker backlash to the song, and who wanted to hear it approximately every 90 minutes or so on Top 40 radio stations.

9. Bennie and the Jets - Elton John: A
A song about a glam rock star that is glammy without being glam rock. It's just such a simple piece of music, and it's all the little touches in the song, especially Elton's great piano playing. The melody in the verse is great, and the R & B-style chorus is a great touch. And when I was a kid, I thought Elton was singing that she had "electric boobs."

10. One Hell of a Woman - Mac Davis: C-
Mac Davis has some great songs. This is not one of them. This is more on par with contemporaneous material by Paul Anka, meaning it's unctuous as all get out. On Mac's summer replacement TV show, he had a bit where he'd improvise songs based on audience suggestions. Any of those would have been better than this.

11. Until You Come Back to Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do) - Aretha Franklin: A-
Oldies radio tends to reduce artists to a handful of songs, and very few artists (maybe The Beatles, for example) are immune from that. Aretha had a few bushels of hit records, and this smash, which was obviously co-written by Stevie Wonder, has fallen by the wayside. This song is basically the cousin of "My Cherie Amour" and it sounds great. Stevie claimed to have been producing an album for Aretha before she passed, and I'm so curious.

12. Jungle Boogie - Kool and The Gang: A
A funk classic and the most successful song for this band prior to their retooling as more of a pop/R & B outfit with singer James "J.T." Taylor. In the early to mid-'70s, Kool and the Gang were groove kings, full of great rhythms and riffs. This has such a great hook, and the band is locked in. And the singer on the song? Donald Boyce, who was the band's roadie. He got a co-writing credit on the song with the rest of the band.

13. Midnight At the Oasis - Maria Muldaur: B+
This is a terrific song and Maria Muldaur has a distinctive singing style. It's a bit eccentric and full of personality, and really works with this tune. This song was co-produced by Joe Boyd, who produced Nick Drake and Fairport Convention, among others.

14. You Make Me Feel Brand New - The Stylistics: A
This might be my favorite Stylistics song. The juxtaposition between the measured verses and the emotional chorus (courtesy of Russell Thompkins Jr., who was the high tenor voice in the group) works much better than I'm suspect producer and co-writer Thom Bell expected. This song had to been dedicated on the radio a million times.

15. Show and Tell - Al Wilson: A+
I finally went out and ordered up a bunch of Al Wilson stuff. This is probably the best song in his sadly too-small canon, but he had some others that weren't far behind. This guy flat out knew how to sing and he could play it cool and he knew when to break out his immaculate high end. This song has a great groove and then builds to that great chorus. So awesome.

16. Spiders and Snakes - Jim Stafford: B+
Stafford parlayed a bunch of novelty songs that hit in a short time into a good enough career that he has (or at least had) his own theater in Branson. This was his biggest and best hit, with it's swampy country funk backing and a super catchy chorus. Co-produced by MOR star Lobo. Look on YouTube for Jim singing this with Dolly Parton.

17. Rock On - David Essex: A+
Here's a guy who was a big star in England and this was his only hit in the States. This isn't a glam rock song, but it is some weird mix of glam (there's a certain T-Rex thing going on here) with proto-disco production touches, and the spartan instrumentation with the echo on Essex's voice. Nothing else quite like it.

18. Sunshine On My Shoulders - John Denver: B
Denver knew how to write the most appealing folk-pop tunes, but sometimes there was too much sap. This song is on the borderline, but I have to admit that the melody is pretty sweet.

19. Sideshow - Blue Magic: A-
A Philly soul group who didn't work with Gamble and Huff or Thom Bell, but certainly were cut from the same cloth as The Stylistics. There's also something about the harmonies that's akin to The Moments (who later became Ray, Goodman, and Brown). The fake carnival barker at the beginning of the song is memorable, but was absolutely not ended. Pretty song, pretty good.

20. Hooked On a Feeling - Blue Swede: B
Prior to ABBA, this was one of the biggest hits to come out of Sweden. They took the goofy "ooga ooga ooga chaka" chant wasn't their idea -- Jonathan King used it on his earlier cover of this B.J. Thomas hit. I'd love to find out what convinced a U.S. record company to put this record out, but it's certainly silly and fun, and the underlying song is quite good.

21. Billy, Don't Be a Hero - Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods: B-
This was a big favorite of mine when it came out and it's a decent bubblegummy story song. And it's a cover -- this was a hit in the UK for Paper Lace, but Bo and his boys managed to score with the song here. While it is the biggest of their two hits, it doesn't hold a candle to their other Top 40 hit, "Who Do You Think You Are"...which was a cover of a song by the British band Jigsaw.

22. Band On the Run - Paul McCartney and Wings: A+
This is the title cut from what some consider Wings' best album. I loved this song at the time and still love it now. Like some of Macca's other great solo/Wings songs, it's him stitching together great bits, because ideas constantly pour out of his head. I was so into the song that I convinced my mom to buy me a copy of Song Hits, from the folks who published the rock magazine Hit Parader. Song Hits was just full of lyrics to hit songs. So that's how I really got down all the words to this song.

23. The Most Beautiful Girl - Charlie Rich: A
A great slice of countrypolitan for the magic pipes of Charlie Rich, who invests the words with such emotion. It's too bad Rich never hit big with one of his own songs (or his wife's -- she was a really good songwriter too), but this is a classic.

24. Time In a Bottle - Jim Croce: A+
This was a 1972 album cut that Croce's record company released as a single after Jim died in a plane crash in September 1973. They chose it for obvious reasons, as the lyrics really hit hard given the context. But this really begs the question as to why it wasn't a single before, as it was certainly one of the best compositions of his all-too-brief career. The sentiment is beautiful, it's economically expressed, and that main guitar figure is so haunting.

25. Annie's Song - John Denver: B-
The best thing about this song is that Monty Python used it for a cut on their Contractual Obligation album called "The Sound of John Denver Being Strangled" (changing the opening lyric to "You came on my pillow..."). This is followed by what the title of that cut promises, so John Denver sued Monty Python to have the track removed from the album. The song itself is well-crafted but the sappiness overwhelms it.

26. Let Me Be There - Olivia Newton-John: B
This was during that early period, when ONJ was establishing herself as a singing star, and she had hits on the country chart, like this one. Which led to discussions as to whether she was authentically country enough. This is only vaguely country, but certainly hooky. And co-produced by John Farrar, who went on to write some of her biggest hits.

27. Sundown - Gordon Lightfoot: A
Anyone really interested in Lightfoot's music should track down country singer Robbie Fulks' extensive essay on his entire body of work. One thing I learned was that Gordon was an egotistical, womanizing jerk. Which puts him in the company of most successful men in the rock/pop world of the era. His transformation from folk singer to pop star is really interesting -- working with the right producer, he waxed some of the best soft rock hits, and this might be his best (but not his best single).

28. (You're) Having My Baby - Paul Anka: F
This song is both smarmy and creepy. It is, and always has been, painful to listen to.

29. Rock Me Gently - Andy Kim: A-
Kim is a Canadian pop star who co-wrote The Archies' "Sugar Sugar". Some of his early solo material is kind of bubblegummy, some of it is Neil Diamond-wannabe, and it's all pretty listenable. This song isn't quite bubblegum, but it would have also sounded great if David Cassidy sang it. Great hook.

30. Boogie Down - Eddie Kendricks: B+
This is one of the songs where they had to have come up with the hook and then spent a while trying to find other stuff to go with it so they could have a single. This is Tamla tune that definitely seems influenced by the burgeoning disco movement, and had to have been a big inspiration to the German masterminds that eventually gave us Silver Convention.

31. You're Sixteen You're Beautiful (And You're Mine) - Ringo Starr: C+
Yeah, this was the type of song no one made much of a fuss about in 1974 that would not pass muster today. It was a hit for Johnny Burnette in the '50s, and Starr is in typical affable mode. He had better songs than this.

32. If You Love Me (Let Me Know) - Olivia Newton-John: B
Come to think of it, Olivia Newton-John was kind of the Shania Twain of her day. Like Shania, she wasn't American, and she worked with a talented producer who guided her through most of her hits, and she eventually blew up beyond country to become a pop icon. This is a well-written tune, for sure.

33. Dark Lady - Cher: B+
These Cher story songs are so tacky, but she revels in the overly dramatic setting, because her voice was made for this type of stuff. And any song where the protagonist kills someone is inherently interesting.

34. Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me - Gladys Knight and The Pips: A-
This is an MOR song, albeit a soulful one. And then you give it to one of the ultimate soul singers, and it becomes a soul song with slight MOR elements. Yeah, Gladys Knight rules.

35. Feel Like Makin' Love - Roberta Flack: A
This song sounds more modern than many of the songs on this chart. Recently, critic Ann Powers wrote a lengthy piece for NPR, stating that Robert Flack should get more credit for being one of the true inventors of the quiet storm sound. And that's certainly true. This Eugene McDaniels composition is soulful, and maybe it's Flack's jazz background that gives this a bit different feel, but you can draw a pretty direct line from this song to Sade.

36. Just Don't Want to Be Lonely - The Main Ingredient: B+
This was originally recorded by Ronnie Dyson from the original cast of Hair, but popularized by this New York City group that dated back to the '60s. In the early '70s, they got a new lead singer, Cuba Gooding Sr., and hooked up with Thom Bell and this was their second biggest hit to "Everybody Plays the Fool". Gooding was certainly good, and this is a solid slice of '70's soul.

37. Nothing from Nothing - Billy Preston: A+
This song is a joyous and happy as Preston's afro was towering. It was probably right behind "Band on the Run" among my favorites of the time. And 46 years later, the bouncing poverty and sheer hookiness still work. And, for whatever reason, I now love the lines "don't you remember I told ya/I'm a soldier, in the world of poverty." They are so incongruous with the nursery rhyme quality of the song, yet it works. Every dumb song should drop in a politically aware couplet.

38. Rock Your Baby - George McCrae: A+
Most folks say this is ground zero for disco on the pop charts. It certainly has the pedigree, as it was written by Harry Casey and Rick Finch, a prelude to all the smash hits they wrote for Casey's KC & The Sunshine Band. This song is more chill than those songs, with McCrae's soaring, sensuous lead vocal, and some touches in the composition that foreshadow devices used in some of those KC hits.

39. Top of the World - The Carpenters: B+
This was another co-write for Richard Carpenter, and it's truly adult contemporary bubblegum. The production is so warm and Karen's voice is just right. Better than it has a right to be.

40. The Joker - The Steve Miller Band: A-
This is the song that broke the veteran blues-psych rocker on pop radio, and he was just getting started. I'm still behind in exploring Miller's earlier work, but what seems to have happened is he simplified his approach, and with his vast knowledge of blues based music, he sure found a way to marry those basics to big hooks. The lyrics here are shallow as can be, but they sound great with the music.

41. I've Got to Use My Imagination - Gladys Knight and The Pips: A
A driving, passionate song that allows Gladys to unleash her full power. This was co-written by Gerry Goffin (!) and sounds like a great mix of Philly soul and something from deeper in the south.

42. The Show Must Go On - Three Dog Night: A-
Before Leo Sayer hit the pop charts in the U.S., and only by months, Three Dog Night did quite well with this cover of one of his big British hits. I'm presuming Three Dog Night singer Danny Hutton, who was a sponge for material, heard Sayer's version and knew that lead singer Chuck Negron would nail this song, and it's really similar to Sayer's original. However, I don't think Three Dog Night ever performed the tune wearing mime's makeup (which Sayer did at the time).

43. Rock the Boat - The Hues Corporation: A+
This co-ed vocal trio from Santa Monica were the perfect match for the only hit written by Wally Holmes (and one of two Top 40 hits for The Hues Corporation). The slight calypso feel of groove, the wonderful lead vocal, complimented by the two female singers on backing vocals, the lovely melody, and three hooks -- each hook good enough to support a single song. One of the best of the year.

44. Smokin' In the Boys Room - Brownsville Station: A
Brownsville Station was fronted by ultra-dweeb Cub Koda, who was quite the musical scholar. Their records were a mix of fun originals with a sterling selection of covers. They weren't the greatest band, talentwise, but they had plenty of good material, and they clearly loved playing it. While Chuck Berry wouldn't have written a song about this subject matter, this is in his tradition of chronicling the youth of America. The lyrics are awesome, and the simple music sets up an easy chorus to sing (or shout) along to. Not even Motley Crue's abortion of a cover of this song can dampen my enthusiasm for the original.

45. Living for the City - Stevie Wonder: A+
Holy cats, this song has never lost its power. It fits with fellow socially relevant Motown artists such as Marvin Gaye and The Temptations, but it's got an anger those artists didn't have. And the little instrumental filigrees with a classical feel throughout the song are awesome.

46. The Night Chicago Died - Paper Lace: B+
From the same songwriting team that penned "Billy Don't Be a Hero" for Paper Lace, and they actually had the hit with it here too. This is a dual hook song, as both the bridge and chorus are really catchy. Yes, there's really no east side of Chicago, but who listens to a pop record for verisimilitude? There is a video on YouTube of them playing the song live, and it's surprisingly good.

47. Then Came You - Dionne Warwick and The Spinners: A
But of course Dionne Warwick would sound great singing an urbane Philly soul song. So teaming her up with The Spinners was guaranteed to work. It's too bad she and Spinners singer Bobbie Smith didn't record more together.

48. The Entertainer - Marvin Hamlisch: B+
This was featured in the movie The Sting, which was a big hit. It was written by the legendary Scott Joplin in 1902. And the producers of The Sting decided to have that master of Ragtime, Marvin Hamlisch, record it. I'm guessing they could have found someone to do it better. But it's a great piece of music, and sounded great between Brownsville Station and Stevie Wonder on the radio.

49. Waterloo - ABBA: A
This is the most successful Eurovision winner ever. ABBA's manager, Stig Larsson, had the instinct that Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus were destined for gigantic success in pop music, and man, was he right. That they happened to couple with two great singers in Agnetha Faltskog and Anna-Frid Lyngstad meant they had the perfect vehicle for their tunes. Benny and Bjorn absorbed all forms of pop, and this driving song has traces of Roy Wood of The Move and Wizzard and Phil Spector, and it's so cheery. It's well worth going to YouTube to watch them perform the song at Eurovision, which ranks right near Elvis Presley and The Beatles respective Ed Sullivan debuts as among the most historic televised pop music performances.

50. The Air That I Breathe - The Hollies: A+
The last great Hollies single. Albert Hammond, of "It Never Rains in Southern California" and father of the Strokes' guitarist fame, wrote and recorded this song. Then Phil Everly went into a studio with Duane Eddy producing, and a young fella named Warren Zevon provided the arrangement. The Hollies (or, more likely, Hollies drummer Bobby Hicks) heard Everly's version and decided to record it using the same arrangement, but then piling on the strings and using those awesome Hollies harmonies. This song is so big.

51. Rikki Don't Lose that Number - Steely Dan: A
This song got all the way to number 4, the highest placement of the Dan's ten Top 40 singles. It is one of the band's best pop singles, with that insinuating intro, the piano fill before hitting the chorus, and the building structure of the chorus. And Donald Fagen's lyrics are superb and less opaque than some of his stuff.

52. Mockingbird - Carly Simon and James Taylor: B
Enjoyable cover of the Inez and Charlie Foxx hit from the '50s. Carly and James should have done more duets.

53. Help Me - Joni Mitchell: A
This was the first Joni Mitchell song I remember hearing and what a sophisticated tune for a chart smash. It's no wonder Joni was eventually drawn to jazz with the phrasing and structure in the verses. And her singing is so free and pure.

54. You Won't See Me - Anne Murray: B
Anne was always a good cover singer, but she didn't get the type of sympathetic backing that Linda Ronstadt did, so songs like this Beatles remake come closer to karaoke, albeit karaoke with a really talented singer. Choosing an album cut was a good move, and this always sounded good on the radio.

55. Never, Never Gonna Give You Up - Barry White: A-
One of White's signature tunes, more straight up romantic than sexy, and he did both well. The lush production is superb here -- he was an even better producer than singer, when he didn't succumb to cheesiness.

56. Tell Me Something Good - Rufus: A+
The song that really broke Rufus big and delivered Chaka Khan to the stardom she deserved. This is a Stevie Wonder song, but Stevie couldn't have topped this version, so I'm glad he passed it on to Rufus. The guitar sounds are so ultra-'70s, and the verses are so distinctive.

57. You and Me Against the World - Helen Reddy: C
Did the 45 come with tissues, so you could wipe away the tears. No problem with Helen Reddy's singing. She's so utterly sincere, that it cuts through some of the syrup and keeps this from being unlistenable.

58. Rock and Roll Heaven - The Righteous Brothers: D
This song, co-written by Mr. Undercover Angel, Alan O'Day, was originally recorded by Climax ("Precious and Few"), and sadly, it didn't end up obscure and forgotten. This was foisted on The Righteouses after they had just reformed, and they didn't really like the tune, showing that they had good taste. The producers changed some lines to add more recent deaths (like Jim Croce). This song is actually below the lowest common denominator. That being said, someone should do a 21st century version.

59. Hollywood Swinging - Kool and The Gang: B+
This song has been sampled by a lot of hip hop acts. It's really does swing, and isn't as deeply funky as most of their stuff at the time. I'm guessing this is one song they could do with J.T. after they retooled in the late '70s. The hook isn't all that great, but the groove is undeniable.

60. Be Thankful for What You Got - William Devaughn: A+
Devaughn was a government worker who penned a song called "A Cadillac Don't Come Easy" and then forked over his own dough to record it at a studio where it ultimately was transformed into this song. There's definitely some Curtis Mayfield influence, but plenty of Philly soul too. The lyrics are so evocative, and this is song has such a great hook in the chorus, in part because of the rhythm of the words themselves, which fit so well together.

61. Hang On In There Baby - Johnny Bristol: B+
Bristol made his career as a Motown songwriter and producer, and this was his moment in the sun as a solo artist, as this went Top 10 in the UK and the U.S. Bristol obviously learned lessons from Marvin Gaye, and then melded them to the early disco efforts of Barry White in coming up with this lush, self-produced single. Considering his talent, it's strange he didn't have more hits.

62. Touch the Wind (Eres Tu) - Mocedades: D
This effluvia is Spain's most successful entry in Eurovision, finishing in second in 1973. It was controversial, since accusations flew that the song plagiarized a 1966 entry from Yugoslavia, Berta Ambro┼ż's "Brez besed". There is certainly some similarities, but "Eres Tu" manages to make a generic mediocre pop song into something so sugary that listening to it three times in a row causes diabetes in most adults. Yecch.

63. Takin' Care of Business - Bachman-Turner Overdrive: A-
When Randy Bachman left The Guess Who to form his own band, he didn't forget to bring catchy guitar riffs and plenty of hooks. There is zero pretension in this good time rock and roll song. These guys never got much respect from American critics (I don't know how they were received in their native Canada), but their singles were pretty good.

64. Radar Love - Golden Earring: A+
The first U.S hit for the Beatles of the Netherlands. This band started in 1964 and only quit recording a few years ago. The core members simply kept evolving the band's sound to whatever was contemporary. This is simply one of the coolest rock songs of its time, with the heavy snare beat, slamming guitar chords, blues riffs, and a declarative lead vocal, all building drama until it's all released in the chorus.

65. Please Come to Boston - Dave Loggins: B+
I have a real soft spot for this song -- whether it's in my head or heart is for you to decide. A guy tries to convince his gal to meet him up in various cities, and she keeps shooting him down. This is so '70s in its production. I remember hearing back in the day that the tag line of the chorus, "I'm the number one fan of the man from Tennessee" was a reference to Johnny Cash, which makes no sense at all. In fact, Loggins is from Tennessee, and that's what his lady is saying to her wannabe-wandering lover. Did any female singer record an answer record, "No, on Second Thought, Go to Boston!"

66. Keep On Smilin' - Wet Willie: A-
This sounds like a Southern J. Geils Band, with it's blues-cum-reggae rhythm, and general vibe. Jimmy Hall was a great singer, and the gospel backing choir is a nice touch. For a band that had such a commercial sound, they only had three Top 40 hits, and I have to think naming your band after a gross childhood prank is a bad career move. I wonder if they ever toured with a band called Wedgie.

67. Lookin' for a Love - Bobby Womack: B
Is it a cover when you were involved with the original. Womack sang the original with his family group, The Valentinos, in the '60s with the help of Sam Cooke. It was an R & B hit, but not a pop one. The J. Geils Band revived it in 1971, and Bobby decided to do it solo. The song is great one, a pop re-fitting of a gospel number. The J. Geils version smokes, but although Womack's vocal is really good, this is a pretty tepid arrangement.

68. Put Your Hands Together - The O'Jays: B+
This was a good-sized hit that has been kind of forgotten, primarily because The O'Jays had a handful of super-awesome songs. This is a Philly soul song with a bit of a social message, great vocals, and a nod to the burgeoning disco phenomenon. There's a great vocal breakdown, as the song slows down near the end, only to get the momentum back.

69. On and On - Gladys Knight and The Pips: A-
Wow, 1974 was a good year for Knight and those Pips. This is such an insinuating and insistent number, penned by Curtis Mayfield. The interplay between Knight and the Pips was always special, and it makes the chorus. The only flaw is the backing could have matched the intensity of the singing.

70. Oh Very Young - Cat Stevens: B
Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam is an artist I have warmed to over the years. He had certain pretensions, as many a successful singer-songwriter in the '70s, but his best songs were simple and direct and his performances were always sincere. This is not his best song, but still enjoyable.

71. Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress) - Helen Reddy: D
I know Ms. Reddy is suffering health problems, but I'm sure she'd agree with this grade. When asked what song she liked to sing the least among her many hits, she cited this one, because of the fact she has to sing the title roughly 887 times during the course of three-plus minutes. Not even her talent could overcome this dreck.

72. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Elton John: A+
The title track from one of the candidates for Elton's best album of all (I'd probably choose Honky Chateau, but it would be close). What Elton John accomplished in the '70s is hard to grasp. Big hit after big hit, and an ability to absorb so many forms of pop music in a way that it's often hard to pick out particular influences. This is Beatle-y, but it doesn't really sound like any Beatles song. And it has certain devices that he used in other songs, but perhaps never as well as this song.

73. (I've Been) Searchin' So Long - Chicago: B
Whatever rock edges these guys had were getting quickly sanded off, as Peter Cetera, who played in garage bands back in the '60s, was a prime mover in getting the band to head in a more MOR direction. There is a certain plastic soul thing going on here, and I hear some Beach Boys in here. And the coda that ends the song is bit Three Dog Night-y.

74. Oh My My - Ringo Starr: B+
A rare co-write by Mr. Starkey. This appears to be an attempt to write something in the vein of the rocking side of his good buddy Harry Nilsson. It's not that good, but it's a fun light rock number and Richard Perry was quite the hot producer, and the record sounds great.

75. For the Love of Money - The O'Jays: A+
This is a timeless song, both due to the passionate, funky R & B and the lyrics that still apply in 2020. Bass player Anthony Jackson co-wrote this with Gamble and Huff and played his bass with a wah wah pedal, which they then ran through a phaser to give it kind of a swirling, swishing sound. The music has atmosphere and one of Eddie Levert's best vocals ever.

76. I Shot the Sheriff - Eric Clapton: B
The good news is that this was the second Bob Marley-penned tune to reach the U.S. Top 40. The bad news is that it was performed by the sonambulent Eric Clapton. This adequate effort reveals what a good song this is. You know how they say some singers are so talented they could sing a shopping list and have a hit with it? Eric Clapton here sang a classic song with just slightly more intensity that someone reading their shopping list.

77. Jet - Paul McCartney and Wings: A+
Right up there with "Paperback Writer" among the best really rocking Macca songs. This song just explodes with energy, and is essentially a parade of hooks, attached to silly rhyming lyrics that just make the song even more giddy fun.

78. Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me - Elton John: A+
I like this even more than "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road". This is such a great piece of music that earns the drama of its chorus. It's not a soul song, but the structure of that end bit of the chorus is pure soul. The production is spectacular, coming to the edge of overkill without smothering the song. And it's one of Bernie Taupin's better lyrics.

79. Tubular Bells - Mike Oldfield: A-
This classic instrumental had its popularity elevated by its use in the movie The Exorcist. It's such a resonant, haunting piece of music and no wonder it caught the public's imagination. That being said, you'd have to pay me a decent amount of money to listen to the entire 48-minute version of the track. It also gets props because it basically turned Virgin Records in a big moneymaker, and despite the label's treatment of XTC, Virgin has put out lots of great music over the years.

80. A Love Song - Anne Murray: B-
Murray once again travels to the songbook of Loggins and Messina for some mellow country-ish tunesmithing. The backing is so basic, with Murray's voice front and center. Much like Karen Carpenter, she exudes warmth, and her performance lifts this song to something decent.

81. I'm Leaving It (All) Up to You - Donny and Marie Osmond: D-
Arrested Development made me laugh often, but one of the biggest laughs was when Michael and Maeby sing karoake karaoke together. The song is "Afternoon Delight" and it's all fun and games until uncle and niece finally connect with the lyrics and it's not so fun. This is somewhat akin to listening to Donny and Marie sing duets in their competent but saccharine fashion, but it's really even grosser because: a) they are real people, b) who are siblings.

82. Hello It's Me - Todd Rundgren: A+
The version that Todd's old band The Nazz did of this song was somewhere between Love and lounge ballad. Linking the melody to a more lively, but fairly unobtrusive, rhythm, which gave it a slightly faster tempo, made that melody work better. And Todd didn't sing the original, and he did so here in his best sort of Philly soul manner. He turned an deep cut into a classic.

83. I Love - Tom T. Hall: C-
I love Tom T. Hall, creator of some of the greatest country story songs of the '60s and '70s. This was his biggest pop hit as a singer, and it's got sub-greeting card level lyrics. If it took him more than 15 minutes to write this piece of crap, he should be ashamed.

84. Clap for the Wolfman - The Guess Who: A-
This is one of two Top 40 hits featuring the legendary DJ Wolfman Jack. And the song is actually about him. It is the rare novelty song from a band who was not known for novelty songs. I still find it utterly charming, it gets the most out of its silly premise, Burton Cummings sings the hell out of it, and Wolfman's parts are fun.

85. I'll Have to Say I Love You In a Song - Jim Croce: A-
I'm a sucker for most Jim Croce songs, and this is just a smidgen below his best. He just made everything sound so effortless, his lyrics were direct, his melodies weren't flashy, but they were appealing, and he always had a memorable chorus. This is a sweet song that never gets cloying.

86. The Lord's Prayer - Sister Janet Mead: C
My favorite band Sparks had a big European hit with a tune called "Number One Song in Heaven", which is about the song you hear when you get to the pearly gates, "written of course, by the mightiest hand." My favorite couplet from the song is "lyrically weak/but the music's the thing." Whenever I run into this rendition of the prayer I had to say three times after every confession (how many times would I have had to say it if I committed a mortal sin?), I think of that line.

87. Trying To Hold On To My Woman - Lamont Dozier: B+
This is a nice soul ballad sung by one-third of one of the greatest songwriting teams of all-time, Holland, Dozier, and Holland. He had a smattering of R & B hits, and this was his big pop hit. It's a ballad somewhat in the vein of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Dozier is a good, not great, singer, but this song really is in his wheelhouse and he gives a terrific, emotion-filled performance. Oddly enough, he didn't write the song.

88. Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing - Stevie Wonder: A
Stevie added a Latin flavor to this superb song. Not many singers can exude pure joy so authentically as Stevie Wonder, and this is one of his most joyful songs. Does that make it one of his most authentic?

89. A Very Special Love Song - Charlie Rich: B+
This song must have spent a lot of time on the Hot 100, as it peaked at only number 11. This is another hit for Rich from Billy Sherrill and company. It's a ballad celebrating his lady. The lyrics are pretty over the top, and Rich manages to rein it in and make the words actual sound like they have meaning. To overcome how trite this is shows how talented Rich was.

90. My Girl Bill - Jim Stafford: D
This is like the Three's Company meets The Usual Suspects, as this inane novelty tune takes about two and half minutes to get to the punchline -- the song is about two guys who have fallen for the same girl, not two guys in love with each other. Another head scratcher as to who would want to hear this song played on the radio on a regular basis.

91. My Mistake (Was to Love You) - Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye: B+
Motown loved duets, and it was only around this time that they started petering out. This is a really nice song, co-written by Gloria Jones, the original singer of "Tainted Love" and the woman driving the car who got into an accident and killed Marc Bolan. This comes close to Philly-style soul, with a really nice chorus. Marvin and Diana sound good together.

92. Helen Wheels - Paul McCartney and Wings: B
This is a solid tune, I suppose. I remember the hook of the song, but not a whole lot else about it. Let me listen to it. Hmm...Linda gets a co-writing credit on this and plays a synthesizer. This sounds like some cross between 10CC, Mungo Jerry, and a country song. It's fun, but it doesn't stick like the best McCartney songs.

93. Wildwood Weed - Jim Stafford: C+
This silly ditty was somewhat like Ray Stevens, but Stevens never would have sung a song about farmers who inadvertently grew a marijuana crop. Stafford is in maximum bumpkin mode and sells it fairly well.

94. Beach Baby - First Class: A+
First Class was one of number of fake bands featuring the great session singer Tony Burrows. This track is the best thing he ever sang on, a Beach Boys homage (that really isn't all that Beach Boys-like, more like Phil Spector) that is cinematic in scope, with immense production, from the backing vocals to the strings. All of this for a song about California kids who sing about the beach but want to go to San Jose? It doesn't matter -- this song is just so fun.

95. Me and Baby Brother - War: A
This song has fallen out of oldies radio rotation, which is a shame. This song has a vicious funk groove, one of those grooves you could ride for half an album side. There's really not much more to it, other than some chanted choral vocals that sound great over that groove.

96. Rockin' Roll Baby - The Stylistics: B+
This is an uncharacteristically upbeat number from The Stylistics. One wonders if this was a reject for The Spinners. A good, but not great, song, very well sung.

97. I Honestly Love You - Olivia Newton-John: C
You can't question the talent of the songwriters here, Jeff Barry and Peter Allen. But this is a syrupy, obvious love song. Olivia gamely does all she can, but she deserved a better ballad than this.

98. Call On Me - Chicago: B-
When this song starts, the horns kick in, and it sounds like something that could have come off the first two Chicago albums. So it's promising. But that facade gets dropped pretty quickly, and Peter Cetera turns it into a wussfest. A catchy wussfest, but that's little consoltion.

99. Wild Thing - Fancy: A-
This is a mechanical, glam rock version of the song from a studio band whose original singer was a Penthouse Pet. The song leaves the riff and uses an intent drumbeat, and the breathy vocal works nearly as well as Reg Presley's sleazy vocal in The Troggs' hit version. The weird, synthesizer disco instrumental breakdown in the middle is a plus for me.

100. Mighty Love - The Spinners: A
This is a Spinners oldie that doesn't get spun much anymore, but it ranks up there with their best songs. The group's harmony vocals really come to the fore here, and the song is so joyful.

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