Mark “Break!” Bentley digs for hidden 1970s gems
If you’re a collector of used records, you will have noticed spiralling prices in the past few years. This can’t be blamed entirely on inflation – there’s a supply/demand scenario where you have more punters after the same standard items. Vinyl records that were bargain-bin staples not so long ago have moved towards the £20 mark. We’re looking at you Kate Bush, Blondie, Blue Oyster Cult… and that’s just the Bs.
That said, there are still some cheapo gems languishing unloved across the nation. They deserve your attention a) not just because they’re inexpensive, but b) because they’re really great records. To accompany Uncut’s 500 Greatest Albums Of The 1970s…Ranked!, we’ve chosen 10 such releases below.
Ground rules: these are records whose typical provable market values in decent condition are still £10 and under. So we’re not counting lucky charity shop finds, or dealer errors, or indeed battered copies of more expensive items. They’re original UK-pressed records that you’ll see in the wild, and stand a sporting chance of finding at record fairs, shops and online.
(Bargainous releases from many major artists are omitted, as we’re working on the principle that you probably know what to expect from a ‘70s Paul Simon, Elton John or Roxy Music LP.)
However, you might flick past these 10 beauties in the racks, based on reputation, cover art or indeed some deep-held musical snobbery. We say: for the price of a chai latte, give them a home…
Bob Downes – Deep Down Heavy
Music For Pleasure, 1970
The sonic adventures of a respected avant-garde flautist/saxophonist, on a budget label more commonly associated with Geoff Love and His Orchestra? Believe: this skronky, noisy piece of psych-rock filthiness could be yours for next to nothing, and has Chris Spedding shredding guitar throughout. Custom made for Doors/Zappa heads, but sound quality sucks. Ergo: not for audiophiles.
Osibisa – Osibisa
The album that invented afro-rock? This is an undisputed masterpiece of funky, joyous, soulful music, fusing highlife with rock, pop, prog and all points between. The pioneering Ghanaian-West Indian band’s criss-crossing debut was produced by Tony Visconti, engineered by new wave legend Martin Rushent, and sounds sonically superb. One of those LPs that creates its own universe, and all for a fiver.
Daryl Hall & John Oates – Abandoned Luncheonette
This sensational sounding record – produced by Mr Atlantic, Arif Mardin – features the future pop-soul titans in reflective, folky-yet-funky mood. Look beyond sleeper hit “She’s Gone” to “Lady Rain” and “The Stewardess Song” for entry into an underappreciated catalogue. Like Steely Dan, CSNY and mid ‘70s Van? Then you’ll like this.
Carmen – Fandangos in Space
Regal Zonophone 1973
High camp, high-drama flamenco prog? Claro, señor! Another Visconti-helmed release, this underrated Anglo-American band’s debut is as plush, technically ambitious and la-la loco as the title suggests. From the handclaps, to the spoken-world interludes, it’s unimpeachably of its time: think Sparks, Queen II, and the funkier ends of Jethro Tull, whose legendary bassist John Glascock features.
Earth Wind and Fire – That’s The Way Of The World
You’ll see this in £5 boxes everywhere, but what a belter of a funk-jazz record, one of the cornerstones of ‘70s r’n’b, from a unique and brilliant band. Legendary arranger Charles Stepney is on board – and a UK original will sound awesome on vinyl. From the crisp hit of ”Shining Star” to the cop-show funk of “”Africano”, it’s unilaterally great.
Joan Armatrading – Joan Armatrading
Another sonically sparkling record, produced by Glyn Johns, and featuring the cream of the UK’s sessioneers – this is so much more than the “Love And Affection” album. Play loud, and enjoy a unique singer-songwriter, in a most elegant setting, with the loping, grooving “Like Fire” or chillingly desperate ballad “Save Me” highlights. All for a couple of quid? Criminal, really.
Various – The Front Line
Label samplers are still a great way to get precious music on a budget. Think Bumpers, This Is Soul, Fill You Head With Rock, or even German label Sky Records’ Picture Music Instrumental series, which hold the cream of kosmische within. The Front Line retailed at 69p. It was, and remains, a ridiculous bargain: righteous, mind-expanding roots reggae from U-Roy, The Mighty Diamonds, and more.
Ram Jam – Ram Jam
You’ll know rocked-up radio favourite (and Leadbelly cover) “Black Betty”, but the rest of this bubble-gum metal album has delights aplenty. Produced by the Kasenetz-Katz axis, these guys had roots in ‘60s pop acts The Lemon Pipers. But they could play, man. In “Keep Your Hands On The Wheel” and “404” you have some kinda Allman Brothers/Stones crossover. Don’t leave in the racks.
Heart – Little Queen
A proper lost classic, and probably the priciest record on this list at £10 or so. Yes it has the rip-tide riffage of “Barracuda”. But it somehow rows in the Sandy Denny bits on Zep IV (“Dream Of The Archer”), Aerosmith (the title cut) and improbably, Dark Side Of The Moon-style ambience on “Go On Cry”. If you only know Heart from “Alone”, prepare to have thy presumptions quashed.
The Cars – The Cars
I mean, come on. One of the greatest debuts ever, stuffed with peerlessly played-and-produced power-pop gold (“My Best Friend’s Girl”, “Good Times Roll”). It’s an essential album for anyone with a passing interest in rock. Blending ‘50s guitar licks with squashy synths and a new-wave spirit of exploration, it’s still showroom fresh. “Moving In Stereo” alone is worth your fiver.
Get your copy of The Greatest 500 albums of the 1970s…Ranked! here