1) Who's Next - The Who
'Who's Next' arrived in place of Pete Townshend's proposed masterpiece that never was, a thematic LP titled 'Lighthouse'. Dropping the concept and making a regular Who album as it turned out was the best thing The Who could possibly have done. Quite apart from the epic opening and closing tracks, two of the very finest songs in rock - we also get 'Bargain', a nifty little drivin' tune. We get arguably the finest ballad Townshend ever wrote in 'Behind Blue Eyes'. What else? Well, the sound of The Who is supreme for this LP, i'd say the finest they ever sounded. Great mixing and production, Keith Moon before he got all bloated and Roger Daltrey laying down his finest vocals. It's all here and it's hard for me to think of any better example of Seventies rock music - not Led Zeppelin, nor Black Sabbath and certainly not The Stones. No, 'Who's Next' is the masterpiece for me. It's giddy position as my number one of the seventies is thoroughly deserved.
2) Sunflower - The Beach Boys
Let me be controversial for a moment and call 'Sunflower' the finest Beach Boys album of them all. What about 'Pet Sounds'? Well, important contributions from Mike Love and Carl Wilson aside, 'Pet Sounds' was very much a Brian Wilson album and concept. 'Sunflower' sees each and every member of The Beach Boys contribute, although Brian and Dennis emerge the more consistent writers. I still prefer 'Pet Sounds' by a whisker or three - yet 'Sunflower' is special too, a beautiful expression of warmth, love, fun and sun. Young engineer Steve Desper was the man responsible for 'Sunflower' becoming the best sounding Beach Boys LP of them all, his work in the studio made up for Brian not being so hands-on. Bruce even gets a couple of tunes - 'Deirdre' and the stunning 'Tears In The Morning'. Dennis writes his masterpiece 'Forever' - a song so good it beats almost all of 'Pet Sounds' - an absolutely heartbreakingly wonderful tune. Elsewhere we have convincing rockers, re-worked 'Smile' out-takes and pure pop - 'Add Some Music To Your Day' for example being utterly unpretentious, genuine and really rather special.
3) Muswell Hillbillies - The Kinks
The Kinks first LP for RCA Records saw high expectations disolve as the album failed to even chart in the UK. It did make some waves in the US, but this great band failing to sell records? They didn't even have the usual hit single to bolster them, 'Muswell Hillbillies' was designed without any obvious singles in mind. Having said this, '20th Century Man' was released as a single in some territories and 'Have A Cuppa Tea' could have been a massive hit for my money. I can picture it now, housewives whistling the tune as it comes on to host some hilarious clips on 'You've Been Framed'. Anyway, in common with the 1st and 2nd albums in this list, 'Muswell Hillbillies' captures The Kinks arguably sounding their very best. We've decent and muscular playing without obliterating The Kinks inate grasp of melody. We've a varied set mixing American and English sounds and concerns. We've a stone-cold five out of five classic and another point? The analogue studios used in the early seventies captured the finest sounding audio ever - studio's these days sound cold and digitally harsh by comparison.
4) Ziggy Stardust - David Bowie
A rare case of an album living upto the hype. Dame Dave Bowie reinvented himself as Ziggy, and the androdgynous, slightly alien look combined with wrapping his arm around Mick Ronson on 'Top Of The Pops' all helped to make Bowie arguably THE rock/pop star in England, 1972. He certainly put his old mate Marc Bolan's nose out of joint, particularly a few years later when it was Bowie, not Bolan, who managed to crack America. I've never grown tired of this album even if, peculiarly, the title track is perhaps my least favourite tune of the bunch. Far better is the likes of 'Moonage Daydream' and 'Starman', which manage to build upon the likes of 'Life On Mars' from 'Hunky Dory'. 'Ziggy Stardust' was never a natural fit in the USA, but once Bowie recorded his soul album, 'Young Americans', the USA was also in thrall to Bowie. Back to the 'Ziggy Stardust' album, this is fantasy, escapist pop of the highest order, pop when pop music still allowed guitars. Superb vocals, an excellent imagination and very nearly a flawless set of tunes. What's not to like?
5) Desire - Bob Dylan
An exotic fiddle player by the name Scarlett Riveria is very nearly the sole reason I place 'Desire' so highly here, above and beyond even the lauded 'Blood On The Tracks'. Dylan, in a strange move, co-wrote some lyrics here with Jacques Levy, a guy who had previously co-written some acclaimed songs for The Byrds. So, what do we have? Well, Dylan pens five/six/seven minute long tunes and almost returns lyrically to the kind of oblique flights of fancy that decorated his mid-sixties work. His voice is in fine fettle throughout and the playing of Scarlett Riveria is just one of the most joyous sounds in rock music. She effectively replaces the usual role of lead-guitar player in Dylan's band. Even more so than 'Highway 61 Revisited', 'Blonde On Blonde' or 'Blood On The Tracks' - 'Desire' is the Dylan album of choice in the Denning household. There's just something so compelling about the sound of the album. So much so, even 'Abandoned Love', a 'Desire' outtake that was later issued on Dylan's 'Biograph' box-set, has worked its way into my heart to become one of my favourite tunes. You don't have to follow 'the canon', delve in and around Dylan's catalogue and you'll discover things like 'Desire' you'll never have expected from him.
6) All Things Must Pass - George Harrison
It's interesting noting the different approaches Phil Spector took for recording solo Lennon and solo Harrison. Lennon had a stronger voice than Harrison and his forceful personality would have seen Spector's minimalistic ( for him ) production tied to some kind of authenticity in Lennon's mind. Harrison meanwhile, whilst possesing an emotive voice, was seen by Spector as an opportunity to unleash his full studio arsenal. If you're a Spector fan, 'All Things Must Pass' ranks alongside his finest ever productions. Harrison was clearly less than convinced by Spector's methods, he never again used the producer. Still, sweeping up many of the songs Harrison had been writing in the latter part of the Sixties, 'All Things Must Pass' is a tour-de-force, a masterclass in song-writing. Receiving a rare 10/10 on adriandenning.co.uk, 'All Things Must Pass' takes you on a trip that even the jam based songs at the end can't spoil. There's just so many very good songs here, that even George Martin had to grudgingly admit that he had indeed treated George a little unfairly during the latter Beatles years.
7) Surfs Up - The Beach Boys
'Surfs Up'? Well, indeed it was. The Beach Boys ecological concerns were the natural way for them to progress from their early sixties 'teenage' surf and car songs. Carl steps up to write arguably the best two songs he ever wrote, the dreamy 'Feel Flows' and the multi-part 'Long Promised Road', both of which give the album its heart. Solid contributions also arrive courtesy of Al, Bruce and even Mike. As usual then, it's left to Brian to give the album its soul, and what soul. The title track was re-worked and finished by Carl, a 'Smile' era tune that on initial TV broadcast was compared to pop mozart. It's one of the greatest moments popular music has ever produced, without question. The one brand-new song of Brian's is the lovely 'Til I Die', really capturing well Brian's state of mind at the time and turning his misery and loneliness into art of the highest order.
8) Pink Moon - Nick Drake
A short thirty-minute album delivered to the receptionist at Island Records by Drake himself, the first anybody at Island actually knew of the albums existence. Shorn of orchestrations and overdubs 'Pink Moon' sees Nick relying instead on his guitar talents to mainly carry the songs through. Lyrically we have far fewer words here than we were used to from Nick, matching the minimalistic feel of the music - yet you can enjoy these songs. The title track with that descending 'pink, pink, pink, pink, pink, pink...... pink moon' vocal refrain, the closing 'From The Morning', both life-affirming tunes. All three of Nicks albums are worth picking up together, it may be a slim body of work, but the quality is always outstanding.
9) The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway - Genesis
Shall I be relatively controversial and say that I'm very doubtful any Genesis member past or present has come anywhere close to matching the beauty, reach and scope of 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway'? You know, comparing the Phil Collins led 'Invisible Touch' to the Gabriel led 'Carpet Crawlers' is to compare a pidgeon to a swan. There's pop tunes here, there's the usual progressive rock of the day, albeit done better than certainly Genesis ever had before. Genesis had somehow managed to go from geeky, unfancied university types to reaching both the common man and the progressive rock fan at the same time. One of the pivotal progressive rock albums everybody should own, this one is good enough to change a few minds.
10 ) Fragile - Yes
A progressive rock album here, but a very varied progressive rock album. Elements of this album are less progressive rock than one might imagine ( or fear? ) other elements are just plainly silly. This isn't tricky or silly for the sake of it, something like 'Roundabout' ( for all the twiddly guitar parts ) has a melody the size of a large city running all through it. Overall, let's just say that parts of 'Fragile' are punk rock, parts are classical, parts are pop music and please do ignore the fact Rick Wakeman of all people plays keyboards. Forget the external factors and just celebrate the sublime and the downright thrillingly brilliant 'Fragile' LP.
11 ) I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight - Richard Thompson
An album brimming with no hit singles whatsoever - Island Records were very good at spotting talent in the late Sixties / early Seventies - yet not so good when it came to promoting artists who didn't quite manage to fit in with the musical mainstream. No MOR or Glam Rock for Richard and Linda Thompson, then? Well, no - instead they set about redefining modern English folk music in much the same way Fairport Convention had done half a decade earlier. All in all, no home should be without at least one Richard Thompson album, and this one is a classic. It may not be a household name, but then again, that depends what kind of household you have, I guess. It's never far from the turntable in my household, at least.
12 ) 200 Motels - Frank Zappa
I remember vividly when I first played this album. I'd just got home from work, had been admiring the artwork and package for the album and put the cd in. What I heard quite frankly appaled me. What was this semi-operatic wailing, these weirdly titled orchestral snippets that jumped around and didn't seem to hang together? What on earth was the juvenile lyrics and the big band show number at the end? Quite frankly, I was thinking this was the biggest pile of..... since god knows when. For some reason, tired later on, I put in the CD when I went to bed. It worked much better in the dark, for some reason. Slowly but surely over the next few days, whilst listening to nothing else, '200 Motels' began to make sense to me. There's so many ambitious musical ideas here, so much going on that it would take several essays to detail it all. Possibly the only true 'rock opera' ever made, as this incorporates elements of actual opera, unlike say, 'Tommy'. True, the '200 Motels' story is somewhat confusing, yet '200 Motels' is possibly the only time Zappa laid everything down together on the one ( double ) LP - the avant-garde, the rock, the absurdist humour, the juvenile humour, the classical leanings, the solo's - everything he ever dabbled in is here. Only the posthumously released 'Lather' comes close to doing the same thing. Be warned though, it's very likely '200 Motels' will sound like junk for a dozen or so listens.
13 ) Tonight's The Night - Neil Young
The record company didn't like the thought of releasing one of the more dark and misery laden albums they'd ever heard. When eventually released, 'Tonights The Night' fitted right in with the emerging punk rock of the era and kept Neil Young in a position of critical acclaim when many of his contemporaries were being labasted as washed up hippies. 'Tonight's The Night' is just so much raw heart on sleeve stuff and so real. This is all the complete opposite of his best-selling 'Harvest' LP, which played upto singer/songwriter conceptions, contained friendly melodies and also sold a bucketload. Sometimes you have to do such things just so you are in a position to confound expectations later on. Yet, there's also moments of beauty here in the way Neil stretches out his vocals, so wearisome sounding yet also kind of reassuring.
14 ) Kimono My House - Sparks
A singer with a high-pitched wail of falsetto. A bunch of hired hands playing glam rock. A keyboard player who looks like Hitler and stares out at the audience most memorably indeed on Top Of The Pops, circa 1974. That was Sparks and 'This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us' was one of the hits of the year and has since been reworked by Sparks themselves, and more worryingly, also by Faith No More. The parent album 'Kimono My House' is routinely hailed by Sparks fans ( and famous Sparks fan Morrissey ) as the groups finest work. Their invention met full on with glam and the results suited Ron and Russell Mael right down to the ground. Greater commercial success might have arrived at Sparks door had they managed to write songs you could dance to or sing-a-long with. Still, there's never been anything else like them and 'Kimono My House' is a fine place to start with their career.
15 ) Close To The Edge - Yes
I hated prog-rock. Well, more honestly speaking - I hated what I thought prog-rock was and I suspect, such an opinion is also the case for a good majority of music fans who expressing a preference, said their ears didn't prefer it. So, I come to 'Close To The Edge' by Yes in a funny, roundabout way. As a huge fan of vocal harmonies - i've picked up many an album described by at least one person somewhere 'as being like The Beach Boys'. With Yes, I saw 'Close To The Edge' on CD for about £5, took it home and when the 'I Get Up, I Get Down' vocal section came in ( about eighteen minutes into the first track ) accompanied by Rick Wakemen's churcy sounding echo laden organ flourishes - i was hooked. That was it. 'Close To The Edge' has remained a favourite of mine ever since and although pipped to the post by 'Fragile', still ranks as one of my favourite Seventies albums. So there.
16 ) Blue - Joni Mitchell
Black coffee? I only started drinking it when I fell in love with 'Blue'. It's less varied than 'Ladies Of The Canyon' ( 'Blue', not black coffee - i really should take writing lessons... ) yet arguably the finer work, because the mood created by Joni is just so strong. She basically created something of a template for all female singer/songwriters to come, for decades afterwards. If Joni lost me a little with her more severely Jazz inspired works, 'Blue' was the period where everything she touched just worked on so many levels. Yeah, it's a melancholy work but it's also kind of like a painting - you don't notice everything at first - and years afterwards, little snippets and images come to you that previously you hadn't noticed.
17 ) Hunky Dory - David Bowie
Despite one or two mis-steps ( war-hole, andy warhol. war-HOLE - etc ) 'Hunky Dory' demonstrated such a rise artistically for Bowie - that you could be forgiven for drawing a line under everything he'd done before and just working forwards from 'Hunky Dory'. 'Life On Mars' alone is enough to mark out Bowie as a special talent, let alone 'Kooks', 'Changes', etc. 'Ch-ch-changes.....' - I mean, how did Bowie get to be so good all of a sudden? Let's put it this way, try to think of a 2008 artist writing stuff this good that's also accessible to the mainstream? It's difficult, isn't it? Bowie was a glam-rock God, yet so much more than just that and 'Hunky Dory' and 'Ziggy Stardust' are both essential albums everyone should own.
18 ) Electric Warrior - T Rex
The production of Seventies Bolan has well and truly arrived and everything is suddenly sounding fantastic. Glossy and rich vocal harmonies with simple yet stunningly effective guitar lines from Bolan. "I was dancing in the womb" sings Marc on standout 'Cosmic Dancer' and you can believe that he was, too. 'Electric Warrior' cememted the success of 'Ride A White Swan', after such a hit - Bolan ensured he wouldn't fail. The backing vocals of Flo and Eddie are much in evidence yet 'Electric Warrior' isn't just a glam, bam - thank you mam. Lovely ballads such as 'Girl' prove that Bolan could write emotionally and with depth when the fancy took him. It's touch and go between 'Electric Warrior' and 'The Slider', but what's for certain is that Bolan deserves to be here amongst the greats of the Seventies.
19 ) Dragnet - The Fall
The engineer was thanked 'for his trust'. The record sounds like it was recorded for £10. The sound is murky and dusty and grubby - indistinct with quiet vocals, unless Mark E Smith is shouting. Think of 'White Light White Heat' by The Velvet Underground and you'll have some idea what 'Dragnet' sounds like. The Fall still have punk echoes here yet also introduce some Manchester rockabilly on cuts such as 'Printhead', 'Diceman' and 'Put Away'. The key song however is the monster that is 'Spectre Vs Rector', The Fall's very own 'Sister Ray'. With lyrics touching on exorcism, it was never going to be an easy listen - and when it also sounds like it was recorded on a 1930's wax cylinder - you just know that The Fall want to make you think, somehow. 'Dragnet' is often overlooked in favour of the more, um, popular 'Grotesque' and 'Hex Enducation Hour' yet it's 'Dragnet' that first captures The Fall and their own, distinctive sounds.
20 ) Red - King Crimson
'Red' was to have been the bands swan-song - following its release - Fripp would disband the group, only to reform them again half a decade later. King Crimson by now were just a three-piece of bassist John Wetton, Fripp himself and former Yes drummer, Bill Bruford. With Bruford playing actual jazz melodies on his drum-kit, Wetton adding the required heaviness and Fripp himself ditching mellotrons and suchlike for an arsenal of upfront guitar sounds sees 'Red' manage to be utterly thrilling from beginning to end. Indeed, you'll be left breathless, wondering quite what you've just experienced. For lovers of guitar music, whether prog fan or not, 'Red' by King Crimson deserves to be seen as an essential purchase and part of the rock 'canon' magazines throw up and celebrate every year.
21 ) Diamond Dogs - David Bowie
No more Spiders from Mars - Diamond Dogs saw Bowie himself take on the guitar duties. A more than accomplished rhythm section of Herbie Flowers and Ansyley Dunbar fill out the sound that saw Bowie move further away from glam-rock simplicity. Well, he'd gone from being David Jones to being David Bowie to being Ziggy Stardust and then to Alladin Sane. What else but to turn yourself into half human, half canine? Well, you would, wouldn't you? So, with such a concept, Bowie stretches out on the three-part centrepiece hung around the desperation of 'Sweet Thing'. 'Rebel Rebel' had a Rolling Stones apeing riff and became another hit for Bowie who could seemingly turn out this stuff in his sleep, such was his creativity at the time. 'Diamond Dogs' is often neglected, Bowie has that many great albums - but perhaps 'Diamond Dogs' has more depth than either 'Hunky Dory' or 'Ziggy Stardust' and just takes a little longer to get used to? In any case, in our house it's regarded as yet another Bowie classic and not to be missed.
22 ) Full House - Fairport Convention
This is a hard one for me, because Sandy Denny leaving should have destroyed the band. Sandy was a goddess of folk vocals and someone i'm so glad I discovered - life would have been much poorer without her. Still, Fairport elected to carry on and have a 'lads' band, with the remaining members sharing out the vocals. It's not the vocals that make 'Full House' the folk-rock classic that it is however, it's the instrumental duelling between fiddle maestro Dave Swarbrick and the vituoso Richard Thompson on lead guitar. Alongside trad-arr material, Swarbrick and Thompson also provide the majority of the classy original material. 'Full House' had a reputation that suffered due to being unavailable for years - recent CD editions have rightly restored the album to the hearts and minds of folk and Fairport fans alike.
23 Small Change - Tom Waits
What I love about opening the site up to comments is the little snippets of information you pick up along the way. For example, on the Tom Waits reviews page we learn from one of our readers that the stripper featured on the cover art is a Vegas showgirl named Casgeorge Peterson. She would later become famous as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Now, I haven't verified that fact, but it's great if it's true. Anyway, 'Small Change' saw Tom Waits at his smokiest - with a cigarette and bottle of whiskey in hand. Songs such as 'The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)' and 'Bad Liver And A Broken Heart' were performed on US chat-shows to often bemused audiences, in front of which, Waits would ham up his performance to enhance the audiences nervous titters of laughter. Some days, this is my favourite of all Tom Waits albums, his voice just sounds so impossibly rusty and sandpapery - just try singing along and see how quickly you lose your voice. So, for that, and for the magnificent songs present, 'Small Change' is a wonderful listen.
24 Hot Rats - Frank Zappa
Right in the middle of his Mothers Of Invention, Frank launched his first solo album, proper, we could say. He got his old friend Captain Beefheart to sing superlative lead vocals on the second song, wrote some of his finest ever instrumentals - 'Hot Rats' is candidate for best ever Frank Zappa album. No lyrics apart from the aforementioned Beefheart tune - so no reason to be offended. Jazz inspired musical settings, stellar playing from everyone and Zappa even your grandmother can enjoy. What's that? Well, it's the sound of cash registers ringing up further sales of 'Hot Rats', one of the central Zappa releases everyone should own.
25 Band On The Run - Paul McCartney
'Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five' is his best ever solo track and this is his best ever solo album. So much so, it sent John Lennon flying into retreat and his lost weekend, if you can call a weekend half a decade. Paul had proved all his critics wrong. 'Band On The Run' is of Beatles quality and demonstrates all of Paul's best qualities. 'Jet', the title track, the aforementioned track, 'Bluebird', etc, etc. It's all stellar stuff and John was right to be worried. There was a contest and Paul had John going into hiding. Who would have thought it?
26 Ladies Of The Canyon - Joni Mitchell
Perhaps her happiest and most varied album - at least, in the true, old folky style. She writes hit songs, deep songs, funny songs and very human songs. Her playing is immaculate and before she got in a bunch of jazz guys that took away from her initial soul. Soul is a word used for black musicians of a certain era, but no doubt, Joni had soul. The female Bob Dylan, if such a thing ever existed, is Joni Mitchell and this album is one of the reasons why she's held in such high regard.
27 Clear Spot - Captain Beefheart
Mr Beefheart gets commercial for him, yet keeps in the flowing, zuna lula, moon notes. Fantastic solo's abound, 'Her Eyes Are A Million Miles' prove that Beefheart has heart and genuine poetical emotion. What else? 'Big Eyed Beans From Venus' was almost like 'Trout Mask Replica' encapsulated into one single song. It was! You can buy this album with 'Spotlight Kid' added on - incredible value for money in anyone's book.
28 Sticky Fingers - The Rolling Stones
A straightforward and fun rock n roll album from 'The World's Greatest Rock n Roll Band - TM'. From the riffing of 'Brown Sugar' to the melancholy tinged beauty that is 'Wild Horses', arguably the greatest ballad The Stones ever wrote. The Stones have released more famous albums than this one ( Exile On Mainstreet, Let It Bleed, etc ) but 'Sticky Fingers' is a favourite of mine because it hangs together so well, a truly consistent set of top rockin' tunes.
29 The Wall - Pink Floyd
By writing shorter, darker songs the Floyd survived punk without having to make too many artistic conpromises. Well, how a two verse Roger Waters song became a three verse, chart topping single? Repeat the music and get a bunch of school-kids in to sing the missing verse. Hit single.... done. Pink Floyd hadn't really bothered with singles and indeed, 'Another Brick In The Wall' became their first hit since the Syd Barrett days. 'The Wall' is seen very much as a roger waters concept album yet also the last truly classic album Pink Floyd would make.
30 Blue For You - Status Quo
The sound of this album is great, very clear and very live - a little ommph present that perhaps the early Quo albums lacked. 'Blue For You' was released at the height of Quo's seventies boogie-rock success and although spawning a couple of top ten hits, there isn't a radio anthemn on 'Blue For You' as such - rather every single song is good and the Quo are heard playing with the energy of a punk-rock band. The heaviest album they ever made? Check. Where are the pop anthemns? Well, there aren't any, but there are riffs and guitars and joy aplenty.