Top 10 Albums From 1973
Even though 1973 seemed like a year in transition for so many artists, none of them really made a bad album. The best records of the year weren’t necessarily career-defining or even the artists’ best work in some cases, but most of classic rock’s biggest names — including Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the Who — released great albums in 1973. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that every LP on our list of the Top 10 Albums from 1973 belongs in every collection.
Mott the Hoople had already made four albums with very little success when David Bowie produced their fifth LP and gave them their breakthrough hit, ‘All the Young Dudes,’ in 1972. They returned a year later with restructured focus and their best album, a glam-rock milestone that buzzes with intensity.
Whether or not it was designed that way, Browne’s second album was a reaction to his first. Faced with making a followup to his successful 1972 debut, Browne beefed up some of his older songs and crafted an album that was even better than his other one, a personal, and melancholic, look at Vietnam-era anxiety blanketed in mostly sunny melodies.
Bowie’s followup to the groundbreaking ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars’ scales back a bit, giving its 10 songs some breathing room within the busy mix. It’s artier than its predecessor, and more clear-cut, but it’s also more song-driven and tougher at times, leaving the glam stuff for his pals in Mott the Hoople (see No. 10 on our list of the Top 10 Albums From 1973).
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut is a lot more wistful than its southern-rock label implies. The three big ballads — ‘Tuesday’s Gone,’ ‘Simple Man’ and ‘Free Bird’ — go way deeper than most of the genre’s typical muscular bluster. And there’s genuine heart to these songs. The band would fill out its sound with horns and more over the years, but they’re at their best on the quietly soulful ‘Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd.’
McCartney’s best solo album strips away the mushy ballads and vaudeville posturing that plagued much of his work since the Beatles‘ final days. He’s in fine form throughout, checking in with his greatest set of songs since the Beatles and his toughest-sounding collection since who knows when. One of the handful of solo Beatles records that belongs in everyone’s collection.
John was close to becoming the biggest star on the planet when this double-album opus was released in 1973. And he didn’t hold back, writing (with longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin) some of his best ballads and rockers for the record. It’s one of the cleanest-sounding records on our list of the Top 10 Albums From 1973, a marvel in pop production and performance. John tried to top it for the next decade, with occasionally terrible results.
Springsteen’s second album sounds unlike anything else in his vast catalog. The classic E Street Band lineup was still taking shape, and Springsteen was still more of a club rat than a studio hound at this point. So the record is alternately raw, unhinged and occasionally sloppy, in a hard-working bar-band kinda way. But shades of future greatness ooze through each and every song.
In a way, Pete Townshend‘s second rock opera is more ambitious than his first. The songs are certainly better, even if the narrative doesn’t quite come together as tightly as ‘Tommy”s. But the band sounds bigger and fuller on ‘Quadrophenia,’ delivering the story of a British working-class teen’s coming of age with rock-god force.
Unlike every other Led Zeppelin album, their fifth is the hardest to pin down. There’s no identifying style or theme running through the record. So we’re basically left with a wide range of songs that need to stand on their own. And they do — from the lean ‘The Song Remains the Same’ to the reggae-influenced goof ‘D’yer Mak-er’ to the epic ‘No Quarter.’ Plus, there’s lots of cool production and guitar tricks.
‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ is the album where Pink Floyd went from spaced-out psych-rockers to spaced-out psych-rockers with lots of money. The quartet had been heading in this direction for a few years, but nobody expected ‘Dark Side’ to be so monumental. It’s epic in every way: musically, lyrically, thematically. Forty years later, bands are still trying to make an album just like it.