Joel Goldenberg: The 1970s top-10 hits review part 13

The Commodores performing Sail On in 1979.

Before we resume our survey of the top-10 hits of the 1970s, a major update on the topic of a column from two weeks ago.

In that column, we called/cajoled/urged/pleaded with those within the Beach Boys organization to release the completed box set Feel Flows, which is dedicated to sessions that produced the highly acclaimed Beach Boys album Sunflower and Surf's Up. There are not only copious outtakes from those sessions, many of which have been released on various collections, but the potential for different and revelatory versions of songs already released. There are several petitions calling for the release of the set, which has been held up for reasons unknown, though many fans have their suspicions that focus on a particularly litigious member of the group.

As of the time I am writing this column, barring Internet forums like Smiley Smile, The Suburban seems to have been the only media publication calling attention to this situation. And that Sept. 12 column has had an impact — it has prompted new information (using the column as a source) on the Wikipedia sites of The Beach Boys, their Surf's Up album and its song Feel Flows. The column has also been mentioned on the Smiley Smile and other Beach Boys forums, as well as Facebook and Twitter.

This is all to the good. The more widely the word spreads about this highly worthy set, the better. And maybe the new Wikipedia entries will attract the attention of the surviving Beach Boys themselves.

And now back to the top-10 survey:

Dennis Coffey: I first heard the 1971 instrumental hit Scorpio on the 3-LP K-Tel album Today's Super Greats, and to be honest, I was a bit put off by its less than optimal sound quality. But it is supremely funky, and great to hear while walking with a portable speaker that emits the sound into the air. You feel like you're in one of those early-1970s crime movies.

Natalie Cole: The daughter of singing legend Nat King Cole exploded on the scene with three top-10 hits in the mid-to-late 1970s, and those songs are high-quality 1970s slick hits, particularly the mildly funky This Will Be, which has superb sound quality. I've Got Love On My Mind and Our Love are also very pleasant listens.

Jessi Colter: I'm Not Lisa is downright eerie.

Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen: Their cover of the early 1960s country song Hot Rod Lincoln is one of those hits that could inspire speeding in one's car. Caution!

Commodores: Where do I begin? One of the most successful groups of the 1970s which helped make Motown relevant after its 1960s peak, along with the Jackson 5 (in the early 1970s), Marvin Gaye (especially in the early 1970s) and Stevie Wonder (throughout the entire decade). The hits of the Commodores did not have quite the quality of Stevie Wonder's brilliant songs, but they were all near-perfect pop-soul, varying between the ballads sung by future solo superstar Lionel Richie and the heavy pop-funk sung by other members, like Brick House. Three Times A Lady has been widely mocked, especially on Saturday Night Live, but it is actually a very touching song inspired by the anniversary of Richie's elderly parents. My favorite of their many top-10s is Sail On, which has laid-back horns of the type I've heard on the early hits of the group Chicago.

I love what I call "lazy horns."

Perry Como: Speaking of derision, Como's one 1970s top-10 hit It's Impossible was widely mocked on comedy TV shows and by stand-up comedians. But it is a nicely wistful song in Como's trademark laid-back style.

Bill Conti: Gonna Fly Now, is, of course, the instrumental theme of the first Rocky movie. It's better with the visuals.

Next time: Rita Coolidge, Alice Cooper and others.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.