1973 In Review (Let’s Take A Trip Around The World)
Readers of the Faux Show know that I love to take short trips around the world. For this music of 1973 series, I’m taking a much longer voyage with some extended stops along the way. Even with all the nations I’ve covered here, I’ve left huge gaps in the music I’ve presented. My goal is to cover some of what I feel are the most important impacts of international music at the time, but also include a variety of music from across the continents. My trips around the world are always meant to shine a spotlight on music that isn’t based in the English language, so there are no stops in the United States, Canada, Australia, or the U.K. on this voyage, but there is music from South America, Central America, North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
As usual, there is a playlist to go along with the show, but it is tracked in a way that made sense to me to move from artist to artist and not in groupings by country. There are 25 songs on the playlist, but I’m only going to discuss a few of them in detail. For the rest, I’ve added some brief descriptions as part of the track list.
Playlist Track List + brief descriptions
Track 1: The Upsetters “Blackboard Jungle Dub” (Jamaica) – see below
Track 2: Faust “Krautrock” (Germany) – see below
Track 3: Le Orme “L’equilibrio” (Italy) – Progressive Rock was very popular in Italy in 1973. This band started eight years earlier as a psych/Britpop band, but they converted to Prog Rock in 1971 (as did many Italian bands) after Peter Hammill’s Van der Graaf Generator became a huge hit in Italy. Le Orme toured with Hammill in 1972 and then released their album Felona y Serona in 1973. This is a landmark album in the Italian Progressive Rock movement.
Track 4: Eddie Palmieri “Puerto Rico” (Puerto Rico/New York) – see below
Track 5: Judith Reyes “Gorilita, Gorilon” (Mexico): Judith Reyes was in her forties before she started recording her socio-political folk songs. Her most well-known album, Mexico: Days of Struggle, was released in 1973. It is a collection of traditional songs known as corridos (poetry set to music) focused on the events of October 2, 1968. The Tragedy of the Plaza of the Three Cultures occurred when police shot and killed dozens of peaceful demonstrators, much like the Kent State tragedy in Ohio on May 4, 1970. The songs focus on the struggles of the Mexican people who were living in unjust conditions under an exploitative government.
Track 6: Inti-Illimani “Rin del Angelito” (Chile) – Inti-Illimani began as a student group in 1967. They were the musical voice of the liberal political movement and President Salvador Allende. Allende was assassinated on 9/11/73 while the group was touring in Europe. They were unable to return to Chile for another fifteen years, and during their exile they incorporated European musical forms into their traditional Chilean compositions.
Track 7: Burning Spear “Fire Down Below” (Jamaica) – see below
Track 8: Jean-Michel Jarre “Zig Zag” (France) – Jarre is a pioneer in electronic music. This song is from is soundtrack for the film Les Granges Brûlées.
Track 9: Museo Rosenbach “Zarathustra Al Di La Del Bene E” (Italy) – This is another example of Italian Prog Rock
Track 10: Flower Travellin’ Band “Look At My Window” (Japan) – Flower Travellin’ Band were one of the first Japanese hard rock bands.
Track 11: Tom Ze “Augusta, Angelica, e Consolocao” (Brazil) – see below
Track 12: Ladysmith Black Mambazo “Nomathemba” (South Africa) – If you’ve listened to their albums, you know how great this group is. If you haven’t listened to their albums, then you probably know them as the backing vocals on Paul Simon’s Graceland. If you haven’t heard any of that, what are you waiting for?
Track 13: Francoise Hardy “Message Personnel” (France) – Hardy is a beloved French pop and ballad singer.
Track 14: Anne-Marie David “Tu te reconnaitras” (Luxembourg) – This song won the Eurovision song contest in 1973.
Track 15: Neu! “Fur immer” (Germany) – see below
Track 16: The Fabulous Wailers “Get Up, Stand Up” (Jamaica) – see below
Track 17: Bob Marley & The Wailers “Stir It Up” (Jamaica) – see below
Track 18: Fela Kuti “Gentleman” (Nigeria) – Fela Kuti is one of the most important musicians that most people have never heard of. His 1973 album Gentleman is much like all of his albums. If you like Kuti, you’ll like this.
Track 19: Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe “El Dia De Mi Suerte” (Puerto Rico/New York) – see below
Track 20: Lata Mangeshkar “Teri Bindiya Re” (India) – This is from the soundtrack to the Bollywood film Abhimaan. Discussing the importance of Lata Mangeshkar would take an entire book. She was one of the most prolific playback singers (the artists who sing the songs to which the actors lip sync) of Indian film, one of the most important Indian performers of the last eighty years, and one of the most talented singers of any musical style in history.
Track 21: Joao Gilberto “Izaura” (Brazil) – see below
Track 22: Can “Future Days” (Germany) – see below
Track 23: Jorge Ben “Medley (Vendedor de Bananas/Cosa Nostra/Bicho Do Mato” (Brazil) – see below
Track 24: Bobby Valentin “Cuando de Vea” (Puerto Rico/New York) – see below
Track 25: Toots & The Maytals “Funky Kingston” (Jamaica) – see below
We’re Jamming: Reggae Music in 1973
If 1972 was the year that the world discovered reggae, then 1973 was the year that the genre’s most important artists started to perfect its sound. You obviously can’t discuss reggae with a strong focus on Bob Marley, and 1973 was a breakthrough year for Marley & The Wailers, but other giants of the genre also started to take hold of the music that year as well. What I find most interesting is the variety of styles of reggae that were already taking shape in 1973. Reggae has always been a music driven by the creative spirit of its performers, and 1973 is a perfect example of its dependency on each artist’s vision.
Bob Marley & The Wailers (Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer) had been working toward stardom for ten years before they released two of the greatest reggae albums of all time in 1973. Catch a Fire and Burnin’ took the international attention on the genre that was developed in 1972 by Jimmy Cliff and Johnny Nash and exploded Reggae’s popularity. Cliff and Nash were reggae artists, but their sound was easy for an international audience to digest. The songs weren’t especially political, the music was cleanly produced, and they both had voices that could have just as easily been singing Motown ballads. In comparison, the music of Bob Marley & The Wailers was straight out of the Rocksteady movement of the early ‘70s. The songs were political. The vocals couldn’t be identified as anything but reggae. When you think of what Reggae sounds like, you probably don’t think of Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now.” What you think of is what every song on Catch A Fire sounds like. Fifty years after the release of these two albums by Marley, Tosh, and Wailer, it probably isn’t fair that Bob Marley is still the most important, recognized, beloved, and important Reggae artist of all time. His place in history as the King of Reggae often overshadows the music of those who influenced him and his contemporaries in the same way that Elvis Presley is still often called The King, even though he did very little to influence the actual sound of rock and roll. That being said, the amazing string of albums that Marley released in the ‘70s starts with these two albums. The music of Marley defines Reggae and 1973 was the year that it all began.
Although he never gained the level of popularity that Bob Marley achieved, Toots Hibbert and his band The Maytals were more popular than Marley & The Wailers before 1973. The Maytals had already released a string of popular hits in Jamaica from 1966 through 1972, including several that were considered the most important of the genre. Their song “Do The Reggae” even gave the genre its name. There is no better proof of this than the fact that the 1972 soundtrack to The Harder They Come, which introduced Reggae to the world, did not include any music by The Wailers but included two tracks by The Maytals (“Pressure Drop” and “Sweet and Dandy”). The Maytals even appear in the film, performing their hit “Sweet and Dandy.” When The Wailers became Reggae’s global ambassadors in 1973, it was not at the expense of The Maytals.
Their 1973 album Funky Kingston is a classic and was a huge hit at the time. It was produced by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell to exploit the popularity of The Harder They Come and make Toots and The Maytals international superstars. It was relatively successful in this attempt, but there was no way to know that The Wailers were about to own Reggae in 1973. For me personally, Toots Hibbert was the best Reggae vocalist of all time. There is no argument that Bob Marley wasn’t the best songwriter, but Hibbert’s vocals were pure joy. He is what Wilson Pickett would have sounded like if he had been from Jamaica. Hibbert could lay down a soulful ballad and then explode into a funky delivery in the same way that Pickett and Otis Redding impacted every soul song they ever recorded.
Most people tend to focus on the hits collections of The Maytals, and that is fair since their hits are classics and they didn’t really attempt to record great albums for the first ten years of their existence. However, Funky Kingston is a great record from start to finish and a wonderful showcase for the diversity of The Maytals.
While most of the world became obsessed with the sound of Reggae presented by artists such as The Wailers and The Maytals, there were other artists working in an area of Reggae that is much more experimental. Commonly known as Dub Reggae, the work of artists such as Lee “Scratch” Perry, King Tubby, and Augustus Pablo was equally as important, if not as popular. Future forms of music such as Punk, Hip Hop, and many forms of electronic dance music were strongly influenced by the pioneers of Dub. The influence was so great that there are entire books written about the topic, and hundreds of online articles that you can research if you are interested. For me personally, Dub Reggae is one of my favorite forms of music. I’m fine listening to some Bob Marley or Black Uhuru occasionally, but I’m much more likely to play a collection of King Tubby songs when I want to feel that infectious groove that only Reggae can provide. Like most experimental music, Dub Reggae is not as easy to digest as straight-ahead Reggae. At times, it can be difficult listening. You aren’t going to walk away from a Lee “Scratch” Perry record singing catchy choruses, and in most cases there aren’t any choruses to even sing. Dub Reggae is more like Jazz than Rock, Pop, or Soul, but if you can learn to love it, there is a world of sonic delights waiting for you.
Historically speaking, although arguments like this are never fully resolved, 1973 is the year that Dub Reggae was invented. I don’t believe that is true, as artists such as Lee “Scratch” Perry had been experimenting with the sounds and technologies of Dub Reggae for several years prior, but it is true that one of the first, if not THE first, full length Dub Reggae album is Upsetters 14 Dub Blackboard Jungle. It was definitely the first recorded with reverb and in stereo. Also of note is that, unlike the start to many new types of music, all three of the most important figures in Dub Reggae worked on this album. Lee “Scratch” Perry and King Tubby worked as the sound engineers and Augustus Pablo played the melodica.
The Upsetters were the house band for Lee “Scratch” Perry’s recording studio, and Blackboard Jungle Dub was their tenth album over five years. The fact that this was a new form of music is evident in the fact that a group who was so prolific over a five-year period recorded an album that had an initial pressing of only 300 copies with limited release only in Jamaica. Fifty years later, the impact of this record and others by Perry’s contemporaries on the sounds of music today cannot be overstated. While more mainstream Reggae artists were broadening the popularity of the form throughout the world, these Dub Reggae pioneers were creating the sounds of the future.
The Burning Spear album Marcus Garvey is my favorite Reggae album. Released in 1975, it is the group’s third album and worth a search if you haven’t ever heard it. Burning Spear were one of the most important acts in Reggae from 1973 through the late ‘70s. Their mix of Rocksteady, Reggae, and Dub set them apart from some of their contemporaries, who often focused on just one specific sound. All of this starts with the album Studio One Presents Burning Spear in 1973. This is not a well-known album, and isn’t that easy to find (thank you YouTube). The production is spotty and a little rough, but the vision of the band was evident from the first track of their first album. The fact that a vocal group was attempting to perform Reggae in 1973 using the new technologies introduced by the Dub Reggae pioneers is amazing. The fact that the compositions are so strong is even more so. If nothing else, this album shows that the experimental spirit that has been an integral part of Reggae since its creation was moving at as rapid a pace as any other comparable aspect of other forms of music at any period in their histories.
German Progressive Music
I don’t like the term Krautrock due to its connotation as an ethnic slur. I much prefer to use the phrase German Progressive Music. No matter what you call it, though, the experimental sound of rock music being produced in Germany during the early ‘70s was a thing of beauty. I understand if you don’t like this music. Most people don’t even like listening to Yes or ELP, so listening to Can or Faust is probably not on your House Party To-Do List. However, the goal of the Faux Show is to present a variety of music that you may not know, and there is no better place to broaden your sonic landscape than with the music coming out of Germany in 1973.
My, and many people’s, favorite German progressive band was Can. Unlike most bands of this type, Can were finishing up their most influential and productive period by 1973. After working with vocalist Malcolm Mooney in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Can released three albums with vocalist Damo Suzuki in 1971-73. These three albums (Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi, and Future Days) are now seen as not only the masterworks of the group but also as one of the best trio of albums by an experimental rock band. I’ve written about Can a lot in past Faux Shows, so I’m not going to repeat my thoughts about their genius. Instead, I’ll focus on their 1973 album Future Days with a simple track-by-track review.
Track One – “Future Days”: The title track starts the album off with an extended ambient section that slowly builds into a minimal percussive rhythm. It is a simple yet beautiful groove and you hardly notice the sparse vocalizations that come in at the 3-minute mark. Around the 4-minute mark, Suzuki provides his most subdued vocal performance of any Can song up to that point. The lyrics are a subtle counterpoint to drummer Jaki Liebezeit’s shuffle beat. As with most Can songs, the groove is incessant. There are sporadic bursts of sound along with a noodling guitar line for most of the next few minutes before the last minute of the song builds and then falls apart. As with most of the best Can tracks, this one is hypnotic in its simplicity. Unlike the tracks on previous albums, the overall ambient feel of the track indicates that the band has moved yet again in a new direction. This track pre-dates Brian Eno’s first solo albums and was clearly an influence on his future work post-Roxy Music.
Track Two – “Spray”: Harking back to some of their more experimental tracks, this one provides a diverse soundscape underneath another steady groove over the first five of its 8-minutes. It then drops into a quieter section as the groove continues. When the vocals arrive after six minutes, they seem more like an afterthought, provided low in the mix without much purpose. This is another one that Eno most assuredly listened to repeatedly.
Track Three – “Moonshake”: This is one of the most popular and best Can tracks. Suzuki’s vocals are as soulful as he ever recorded, and the drums and guitars provide an infectious groove. The synths and other sounds clearly identify this as a Can tune, but it is also about as close to a straight-ahead soul tune as the band ever got. If you want to introduce Can to someone with the intent of making them want to hear more, this is the track to use.
Track Four – “Bel Air”: This 20-minute song is an ambient-rock masterpiece. The first eight minutes are comprised of two different sections, each one a trademark Can groove with more low-key vocals by Suzuki. This fades into a slow ambient soundscape that builds into a quieter reprise of the first section. This builds into a guitar solo driven groove that falls apart with about two minutes to go before returning to a final reprise of the opening that ends suddenly, almost as if the tape ran out. This final Suzuki-sung Can song is a fitting finale to the trio of albums they recorded with the vocalist. It is a progressive rock masterclass, with a drum-driven groove that is emblematic of the German progressive scene but which only Can and their drummer Jaki Liebezeit were ever able to master. In the end, this track on this album is the perfect place for Damo Suzuki to leave and for the band to move on to a new sound. They never came close to producing another album of this quality, but the music they made from 1969-73 stands as a landmark of experimental music.
Unlike Can, Neu! were in the middle of their only period of music when they released Neu! 2 in 1973. The music of Neu!, which is basically three albums recorded over four years, is not distinguishable by album, or often by song. They had one thing they did, they did it better than anyone, and then they were done. However, the influence of their music, which is most notable for its incessant use of the Motorik Beat, is undeniable. Bands like Stereolab, High Llamas, and other ‘90s indie electronic rock groups owe their existence to the music of Neu!. I have to admit that Neu! 2 is my least favorite of their three albums, but only because their debut and third album are so great. If you like Neu!, you like all of their recordings.
Possibly the most experimental of the German progressive groups was Faust. They are definitely the most difficult to listen to for long periods. Their albums never settle into one vision. Their songs, especially on The Faust Tapes, are extremely improvisational and often unstructured. These qualities explain why they will never be mentioned in the same sentence as Can or Neu! as the best of the genre. Can and Neu! were masters of their style. Other contemporaries, such as Popol Vuh and Cluster, were experimenting in entirely different areas of the sonic spectrum. Popol Vuh’s experiments in Eastern music were unlike any other German bands at the time. Their music is like meditation, which is why it works so well as the soundtrack music for Werner Herzog’s films (I’m not going to discuss this – just go watch Aguirre Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo, and Nosferatu). Cluster’s experiments in electronic minimalism and ambient music were the German version of Brian Eno’s vision, which is why he collaborated with them during his ’70s evolution.
Faust, on the other hand, aren’t easily identifiable as any one thing. This is probably why I don’t often listen to their music, and don’t feel very satisfied when I do. However, they released their best album, Faust IV, as well as their most infamous album, The Faust Tapes, in 1973 so I have included them. If I was going to listen to a full Faust album, Faust IV would be my pick every time.
Nuyorican Music and The Fania Records Label
Someday I should focus an entire Faux Show or series on Nuyorican music. It is one of my favorite music styles, and I will most likely do this soon as part of the Faux Show jazz series. For this week’s show, I’ll keep it brief. The term Nuyorican is a generic term used to describe the music, literature, arts, and culture of New York residents of Puerto Rican heritage. Nuyorican music is a genre of music developed in New York City by Puerto Rican immigrants, especially in the 1960s and ‘70s. One common form of the music could be called salsa, although a more correct description includes very specific forms such as Cha Cha Cha, Charanga, Boogaloo, and other variations. No matter the specific label attached, there is one common quality. This is dance music. If you listen to Nuyorican music and do not get up and start to move then you need to visit WebMD and enter the following symptoms: my soul has left my body, someone has stolen my legs, I’m too busy to enjoy myself.
The year 1973 is not the start of a Nuyorican music revolution. The greatest artists of the genre did not record their debut albums in 1973. You’d need to go back to the mid-60s to learn about the development of Nuyorican music by artists such as Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Jonny Pacheco, and Ray Barretto. Instead, 1973 was a year smack dab in the middle of the genre’s popularity. Most notably, 1973 is the year that Fania Records recorded a concert featuring their house band, The Fania All Stars, performing for 45,000 people at Yankee Stadium. It is also the year that the label released one of the greatest holiday albums ever recorded – Asalto Navideno – a collection of compositions by Fania artists. As for the other releases during that year, there are dozens worth noting, and I’ve included a few here. As a set of three albums, these provide a great introduction to the sound of Nuyorican music. They also provide three different styles of the music, and hopefully make you want to search for more.
Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe are two of the most important Nuyorican artists, and a driving force behind the popularity of Fania Records, the style’s most important label. Colon was one of the first Fania artists, signing at the age of fifteen. He is a trombonist, bandleader, composer, and civil rights/social/political activist. He was born in The Bronx, raised by Puerto Rican immigrants, and is a legendary New Yorker. Lavoe, who began working with the teenage Colon in the early days of the Fania Records story, is one of the most important salsa vocalists. His interpretations helped define the music’s style from the ‘60s onward and continue to influence the sound of the music today. As collaborators, they started working together when Colon was seventeen and Lavoe was twenty-one, and their discography is a history of the evolution of the music. Their 1973 album, Lo Mato, is one in a series of classic albums they released from the late ‘60s through the ’70s. If you are unfamiliar with this style of music, there is no better place to start than with this album.
Eddie Palmieri is my favorite artist of the genre. His 1973 album, Sentido, is not his best, but it is still a wonderful record. Palmieri was not part of the Fania Records group of artists, but he is just as important. His innovations in the specific dance style called Charanga in the early ‘60s changed how the music is performed. His piano playing defines the modern method of salsa performance on the instrument. In 1975, Palmieri won the first Grammy for Best Latin Recording for his album The Sun of Latin Music, but he could have just as easily won for his 1973 album if the award had existed at that time. This 1973 album is the definition of the sound of Nuyorican music.
Bobby Valentin is a little bit older than Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe, and got his start in Puerto Rico and Central America instead of in New York. He had already become a well-known musician by the time he signed with Fania Records in 1965, but his Fania recordings are the albums that have given him his nickname as The King Of The Bass (El Rey Del Bajo). His 1973 album, Rey Del Bajo, is a great example of his style and one of his most popular recordings.
Three Very Different Bossa Nova Masters
Unlike my selections from Jamaica, Germany, and Puerto Rico, there wasn’t anything entirely new happening in Brazilian music in 1973. However, the early ‘70s were a fertile playground for Brazilian artists, both old and new. Coming out of the original bossa nova evolution of the early ‘60s, the samba explosion of the mid-60s, and controversial Tropicalia movement of the late ‘60s, the early ‘70s were filled with great new music by the artists who had spearheaded those earlier changes in the country’s music. I selected three of my favorite Brazilian artists who had albums in 1973.
João Gilberto was the primary artist responsible for the bossa nova craze of the early ‘60s. His work with Stan Getz and Antonio Carlos Jobim created a world-wide sensation that still impacts how jazz is performed today. In 1973, Gilberto had nothing left to prove, so the fact that he released one of the greatest Brazilian albums is surprising and worthy of respect. This self-titled album is about as minimal as he ever recorded, featuring only his vocals and classical guitar along with minimal percussion. The electronic music pioneer Wendy Carlos worked as the sound engineer, and the overall effect of the album is one of transcendence. It is often called Gilberto’s White Album (a la The Beatles) and is even more relevant in the modern world of music fifty years later than it was when originally released.
Jorge Ben is one of the primary influences on the merging of rock, funk, soul, samba, and bossa nova, although he started as a bossa nova master influenced by João Gilberto. Ben quickly became an innovator of comparable importance to his mentor. He was integral in the controversial Tropicalia movement of 1969, and recorded some of the movements most important songs. By 1973, he had honed his sound into a unique fusion of a variety of forms of music. His album 10 Anos Depois is not as well known as the records he would release over the next few years, but it is just as good. This is as funky as Brazilian music gets and showcases his signature sound.
While Brazilian artists such as Gilberto, Ben, Caetano Veloso, and Gilberto Gil were international stars by 1973, Tom Ze was forgotten for twenty years until his music was rediscovered and reissued by David Byrne on the Luaka Bop label in the early ‘90s. Although he was as influential in the Tropicalia movement as Jorge Ben and Gilberto Gil, Ze’s music was not able to transition into the more global sounds of the ‘70s that Ben and Gil presented. Instead, Ze was extremely experimental and never attempted to create music designed for a mass audience. Fifty years later, Ze’s music sounds thrilling and perfect for the modern world of music in which most genres are combined into whatever sounds the artist wants to create. In the world of Brazilian music, João Gilberto, Jorge Ben, Caetano Veloso, and Gilberto Gil are like Buddy Holly, John Lennon, Keith Richards, and Van Morrison. In contrast, Tom Ze is like Frank Zappa. There is no better example of his adventurous spirit than his 1973 album Todos os olhos. This is experimental music based in the foundations of bossa nova and samba. It is incredible, difficult music that shouldn’t have existed fifty years ago.
That’s it for the third show of this 1973 series. I’m pretty sure the next part of the series will focus on soul and funk. In the meantime, as always, thanks for listening (and reading)!