Tired of listening to the same Top 40 songs over and over again and looking for some new music in your life? This week in Jasper Jams I’ve highlighted seven albums from the past that ruled the charts in their heyday. When you go home over the well-deserved winter break, ask your parents about these hit records from some classic artists. If you’re lucky, they may even have some of them lying around the house. If not, there is always the Internet.
1) “The Stranger” by Billy Joel
While I am just as big a fan of “Piano Man” and “Uptown Girl” as the next person, Billy Joel has a catalog that is packed with a litany of songs that deserve equal praise and airtime. “The Stranger” (1977) is a prime example of his storytelling skills and musical prowess. Including classics such as “Only the Good Die Young” and “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” the album could easily be mistaken for a greatest hits collection.
2) “Graceland” by Paul Simon
While one of the more relatively recent albums on this list, “Graceland” (1986) is from an artist whose career stretches back several decades. You might recognize some of Simon’s well-known songs from his days with Art Garfunkel, such as “The Sound of Silence.” At the very least, “Graceland” deserves a listen for its unique sound and back-story. During the final years of apartheid, Simon traveled to South Africa to incorporate local African instrumentals and musicians into his pop music for a catchy blend.
3) “Aja” by Steely Dan
Steely Dan is a group whose sound frequently blurs the line between jazz and rock. Their 1977 album “Aja” oozes 70s-era smoothness while still packing some serious musicianship. “Peg” is a frequent favorite from the record that features some outstanding guitar and keyboard instrumentation.
4) “The Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd
A commercial success and critic’s favorite, this 1973 album from the British prog rock group features the iconic cover image of a prism separating a ray of light. Psychcadelic synthesizer notes and extended guitar riffs that characterize the record help create a dark and emotional soundscape. Simply put, “Dark Side of the Moon” is a work that needs to be listened to as a whole in order to appreciate the full effect. Not only are the songs seamlessly linked together, but the closing notes of the final song are also the same as the opening notes on the album to create an endless loop of powerful music.
5) “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye
While also a seamless record like the previous entry on this list, Gaye’s 1971 album is a work of classic soul music. The lyrics of the album’s stirring nine songs touch upon the social unrest and domestic strife of the Vietnam War era. On a musical level, Gaye’s velvety vocals backed by soft drumbeats and quintessential Motown sound make for a superb listen.
6) “Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac
1977 was a fantastic year for music, as it also gave us Fleetwood Mac’s classic album “Rumours.” If you enjoyed the cover band at family weekend, definitely give this record a spin. It includes popular tracks such as “Dreams,” “Don’t Stop” and “Go Your Own Way.”
7) “Moondance” by Van Morrison
Chances are you know the toe-tapping title track from this 1970 album. While “Moondance” certainly is a jam, give the rest of the album a listen. Van Morrison throws together folk, rock and jazz for an excellent mix. Fans of the singer-songwriter style of music will definitely enjoy this album.