Decades
A quarterly report that looks back
on music and film from 10, 20, 30 years ago

Top 25 Albums of 1977

on October 24, 2017, 6:00am
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Decades is a recurring feature that turns back the clock to critical anniversaries of albums, songs, and films. This month, we dial it back to the top 25 albums of 1977.

No year is ever insignificant. However, we do have a habit of writing off years, even decades, as being dead periods — spans where creativity slumped and art bore the brunt. We also toss around terms like golden age or golden era to mark both chronology and a certain perception of quality. As time accumulates in our collective rearviews, we have the luxury of slowing down, hitting the brakes, and sometimes even backing up for a moment. We examine our past and sometimes find a patina on what was once thought golden or something glistening through the cracks of what once seemed trashy, ephemeral, and destined for the pop cultural ash heap.

(See: How 1977 Broke All the Rules and Changed Music Forever)

Looking back at 1977, how little they could’ve known about what would matter far, far away in 2017 or even in the interim. It’s why time so often makes fools of criticism. We can’t tell the future, nor can we always predict what we’ll feel about a song or album tomorrow, let alone 40 years from now. To the ’77 state of mind, this list must be full of affirming nods, outright surprises, and glaring omissions. To us, it’s a testament to a golden era for so many types of music. In that spirit, these are the albums from 1977 that continue to shine or have revealed a hidden luster along the way. Read on and shine on.

–Matt Melis
Editorial Director

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elo out of the blue2 Top 25 Albums of 197725. Electric Light Orchestra – Out of the Blue

ELO released Out of the Blue not even two weeks after Steely Dan’s Aja, making 1977 a banner year for musical perfectionists. But where The Dan’s studio-rat methodology was always in the name of a sardonic kind of wit, Jeff Lynne wrote, played, and arranged, arranged, arranged with nothing but sincerity. It’s why there’s an entire concerto here dedicated to a rainy day — a rainy day that ends in one of ELO’s most famous and uplifting songs, “Mr. Blue Sky”, no less. Lynn’s spaceship could easily flood with sap if his tastes weren’t so eccentric, pulling from the happiest parts of disco, Britpop, and The Beach Boys, then weirding up the works with cybernetic vocals and sound design worthy of an Orson Welles radio play. It’s rare that optimistic pop music sounds so wonderful and strange. –Dan Caffrey

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leave home Top 25 Albums of 197724. Ramones – Leave Home

Between 1976 and 1978, the Ramones would release four albums of primarily original material, quickly honing a craft that was very much at the forefront of inventing the punk rock wheel. Their second album, Leave Home, demonstrated that a bigger budget and more professional recording environment wouldn’t strip the band of their bratty edge. As songwriters, the Ramones embraced their obsession with the pop music of their youth, dressing it up in leather jackets and rolling around in the gutter for their grimy fans. For anyone who could see past the aesthetic, Leave Home was a firm declaration of the band’s place within the music canon, even if the band itself wasn’t considering anything that lofty at the time. And it allowed the album’s most adventurous moments — the fist-shaking “Pinhead”, the swinging harmonies of “Oh Oh I Love Her So” — to both contextualize the Ramones within the punk rock movement and to stretch the definition of what could be considered punk. For a band that released so much music within such a short amount of time, Ramones are special in that it all served a purpose and all aged incredibly. –Philip Cosores

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simple dreams Top 25 Albums of 197723. Linda Rondstadt – Simple Dreams

It’s easy to focus on Simple Dreams for its commercial success. As Linda Ronstadt’s eighth album, it managed to knock Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours from the top of the Billboard charts after an unprecedented 29 weeks and would later earn a Grammy nomination for Record of the Year for its standout, “Blue Bayou”. But numbers and accolades aside, Simple Dreams cements Ronstadt in a special place that defied genre constraints in a way that was particularly ’70s. She could evoke both Echo Park and Montana on neighboring songs, dueting with Dolly Parton in one moment and singing the lyrics of Mick Jagger the next. It’s fitting that one of the album’s best moments, her exuberant vocals on the rollicking Warren Zevon-penned “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me”, could fit easily next to Lindsey Buckingham’s contributions on Rumours, even if it did go on to become a country music tent pole. With a voice that drifts seamlessly from mournful to ferocious, Ronstadt refused to be a single thing on this standout record. She contained multitudes. –Philip Cosores

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damned damned damned Top 25 Albums of 197722. The Damned – Damned Damned Damned

Even if they’re not accounted for in the family record collection, punk bands like Ramones, The Clash, and Sex Pistols are probably familiar names in many households. It’s less likely The Damned will ring as many bells, though, despite the fact that they were on the forefront of the British punk scene. In fact, their debut single, “New Rose”, put out on Stiff Fingers by Nick Lowe, beat out the Sex Pistols for the first punk single released in the UK by just over a month. This discrepancy in notoriety might merely be a matter of marketing. Looking at album covers and band attire, we have the Ramones in leather jackets, blue jeans, and sneakers; The Clash sporting more working-class fashions; and the Sex Pistols appearing as though the revolution has already begun. Look at The Damned, however, and, well, what do faces full of unidentified white goop (it’s cream pies) suggest? As for the record itself, Damned Damned Damned can stand up to any other punk album on this list, songs like “Neat Neat Neat” and “New Rose” spinning as fast, wild, and reckless as any of the band’s better-known contemporaries. Damn, damn, damn, indeed. –Matt Melis

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brian eno before and after science Top 25 Albums of 197721. Brian Eno – Before and After Science

Brian Eno has made a prominent mark in both the ambient world and the upper echelons of rock ‘n’ roll — and his 1977 solo album, Before and After Science sits as an intersection between the two. The record features contributions from German experimentalists Can and Cluster as well as members of English folk and rock outfits like Fairport Convention and former bandmates Roxy Music. More than its guests, the record’s ability to split the difference results in remarkable efforts like “King’s Lead Hat” (an anagram of Talking Heads, which offers an idea of what to expect). Though Eno is often known for heady abstraction, Before and After Science makes a personal, approachable impact and wins in its subtleties. –Lior Phillips

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lovegun Top 25 Albums of 197720. KISS – Love Gun

Being a KISS fan means having to accept that, like most rock acts who strutted out of the ’70s, there’s an inherent sexual grossness to the lyrics. Luckily, the band’s kabuki makeup and comic book personas have always rendered them goofy as opposed to some kind of actual threat, and the hedonism would never be sillier or more specific than on Love Gun. Yes, the title track is probably about Paul Stanley’s cock. Going even further down the phallic rabbit hole, “Plaster Cater” pays tribute to a groupie famous for making an alginate cast of Gene Simmons’ cock— and other rock stars’ cocks. Despite the carnal cartoonery, Love Gun remains the hardest-rocking of KISS’ ’70s output and the proper conclusion to their six-album winning streak. After the release of all four members’ solo albums and the fracturing of the original lineup, the debauchery became less focused. For nearly a decade, though, we wanted the best and we damn well got it. –Dan Caffrey

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slowhand Top 25 Albums of 197719. Eric Clapton – Slowhand

Long before Dad Rock was a thing, there was Eric Clapton’s Slowhand, an album that most, if not all, of our fathers owned and probably abused alongside bottles of bourbon, packs of Camels, and Hefty bags of cocaine. Look, there’s going to be a lot of talk about China White in these blurbs, at least by this writer, if only because these albums are so intrinsically tied to the substance. This one takes the whole cartel, though, as it opens with a titular theme song for the ages, a sonic fuckfest of woozy riffs and Clapton’s shaggy-carpet vocals. From there, it’s a cabin trip of rock ‘n’ roll as the six-string maestro earns his nickname by crocheting a delightful sweater of meditative rock, from “Wonderful Tonight” to “We’re All the Way” to “Looking at the Rain”. Just when you think he’s turned into Donovan, though, he tosses out an epic like “The Core”. Um, looks like we should have called him Sleight of Hand. –Michael Roffman

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david bowie heroes Top 25 Albums of 197718. David Bowie – “Heroes”

David Bowie’s Berlin era produced one of the most enigmatic stretches of records in any discography, let alone the discography of one of the all-time greats. The center of those three albums, ”Heroes” may not have the grand adventure of its previous counterpart, Low, but it revels in the smaller moments and wide expanses in equal parts. The record honors the Krautrock influences that were a part of the reason Bowie decamped to Germany in the first place, with one song named after a member of Kraftwerk (“V-2 Schneider”) and the title itself referencing Neu!’s “Hero”. Pairing with Brian Eno and Robert Fripp and co-produced by Tony Visconti, ”Heroes” is Bowie embracing a moment in time and still somehow producing a masterpiece beyond time and space. –Lior Phillips

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r 223354 1381947085 7813 jpeg Top 25 Albums of 197717. Wire – Pink Flag

Over the course of the 21 songs on Wire’s highly influential debut LP, Pink Flag, only a trio of tunes cross the three-minute mark. The vast majority sit comfortably under two minutes, and a fair amount even manage to get their point across in less than one minute. It was a different shape of punk than that of the Ramones, less bounce-along anthems than flexing bursts of attitude. Wire still loved a good melody and didn’t feel married to a single temper, with their mere existence presupposing a post-punk before punk had even fully matured. It’s for these reasons that those that would follow, be it in hardcore or college rock or Britpop, would all be so inspired by the dial-switching style of Pink Flag. Much has been written about the definition of punk, but with Wire, the lack of rules was underscored. They might not have been as accessible as many of their peers, but managed to be every bit as inspirational. –Philip Cosores

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talking heads Top 25 Albums of 197716. Talking Heads – Talking Heads: 77

The Talking Heads released three superb albums in the ‘70s, beginning with their debut, Talking Heads: 77. The record is an announcement of a wholly unique perspective on both pop and art; from the “Uh-Oh” in “Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town”, it’s clear that David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, and Jerry Harrison were throwing something new into the mix. Instant classic “Psycho Killer” was just new wave pop enough to make a splash on the singles chart and just no wave enough to keep the art kids fascinated. 77 blazes a trail that Byrne and co. would push further in years to come, but the debut hits some astronomical heights in its deceptive simplicity and magnetic eccentricity.–Lior Phillips

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 Top 25 Albums of 197715. Pink Floyd – Animals

Long before our pigfuck of a president took office — he was busy marrying Ivana Trump, who was pregnant with his first devil child, Junior — Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters was already comparing politicians to swine. Fueled by an inherent love for George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the singer-songwriter swapped Stalinism for capitalism and the titular farm for the social-political landscape of late-’70s Britain. While the band maintained the spectral suites that made 1975’s Wish You Were Here so sprawling and epic, they brought the jams down to Earth for Animals, marrying the sonic textures with ultra-visceral storytelling, the likes of which would inform their following masterpiece, 1979’s The Wall. “With your head down in the pig bin/ Saying ‘Keep on digging’/ Pig stain on your fat chin,” Waters sings on “Pigs (Three Different Ones)”. “What do you hope to find down in the pig mine?” His feelings are further exacerbated by the six-string lassoing of David Gilmour, the keyboard wizardry of the late Richard Wright, and the eerie accoutrements of percussionist Nick Mason. It’s a furious blend that earns the album’s brilliant cover, which continues to haunt our politicians today. Or maybe just Trump. –Michael Roffman

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myaimistrue Top 25 Albums of 197714. Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True

Chained to family life and ignored by every label in London, Nick Lowe and new label Stiff Records finally took a chance on a young Declan MacManus, first as a songwriter and then eventually as a recording artist dubbed Elvis Costello. The genius of My Aim Is True stems from Costello’s deep love and knowledge of all types of music, instilled in him by his musician father. Each song rings of a familiar style that Costello adapts for himself, mixing these sounds with a preternatural sense of melody and lyrics drawing from the frustrations of daily life. From the pain of pre-record deal Monday mornings (“Welcome to the Working Week”) and stress of being a provider (“Miracle Man”) to regretting the girl who got away (“Alison”) and fumbling on the couch as the disturbing politics of the day unfold (“Less Than Zero”), Costello spins the mundanity of young married life into a punk record that actually relates to the average listener. –Matt Melis

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iggy pop Top 25 Albums of 197713. Iggy Pop – Lust for Life

After The Stooges’ second breakup and an attempt to kick his heroin habit, Iggy Pop released Lust for Life, produced by David Bowie, while in Berlin. With its tight production, punk rock base, and traces of Bowie’s melodic hand, the album is still hailed as Pop’s most successful solo-effort. Tracks like “Tonight” and “Turn Blue” take a surprisingly haunting turn in their depiction of drug abuse. On the other hand, “Lust for Life” — with its now-famous drum line pulled from Motown — acts as a lively rallying cry, full of vim and vigor. Though a touch more polished than the din of The Stooges, Lust for Life still thrashes in comparison to the soaring seventies soundscape. By 77, the punk scene was on fire. Taking cues from more art-driven punk acts like Television and Patti Smith, Lust for Life marks Pop’s move from proto-punk provocateur to a conscious, unabashed artist. –Carly Snider

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marquee moon Top 25 Albums of 197712. Television – Marquee Moon

Where much of the music from punk’s early days is notable for its grime and grit, Television’s debut album, Marquee Moon, stands in stark opposition. The band rehearsed extensively before recording the record and chose instead to draw in musical techniques associated with jazz and mainstream rock to get their points across. The result is a record as remarkable for its technical proficiency as it is for its refusal to play by the rules. Standing as the centerpiece is the 10-minute-plus title track that finds playful, battling guitars reaching celestial heights, but Marquee Moon often manages to impress through a singular vision from leader Tom Verlaine. Television created rock music that felt like the future, where they could pick and choose the best of what other subgenres were doing and package it into a product that sounded like nothing else. What they didn’t know at the time is that no one else would really be able to take Television’s vision much further. Sure, there would be combos like Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo or Jeff Tweedy and Nels Cline who would betray an influence from the group and recontextualize their accomplishments into new sounds, but it’s hard to find anyone that could make dual guitars work in tandem the way Television could. Decades later, Marquee Moon still sounds like the cutting edge, like a mystery we’re only just beginning to solve. –Philip Cosores

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steely dan Top 25 Albums of 197711. Steely Dan – Aja

Steely Dan’s trick was always one of juxtaposition — impenetrable tales of lowlifes and science-fiction discord paired with pristine, rather pleasant-sounding (at times, rocking) musicality. On their masterpiece, Aja, Donald Fagen and the late, great Walter Becker pulled somewhat of an inverse, their jazz rock now so hard to play that it couldn’t help but be clinical. Not so for the lyrics. While the album’s characters aren’t always the best people, the loser in “Deacon Blues” is more sympathetic than, say, the pedophile in “Everyone’s Gone to the Movies”, if only for his self-awareness. Likewise, the source material for “Home at Last” (The Odyssey) and the prodigal hood in “Josie” are far more familiar to me than anything else in The Dan’s catalog. Aja isn’t just their coldest-sounding album — it’s their most relatable. –Dan Caffrey

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sex pistols never mind the bollocks Top 25 Albums of 197710. Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

With the occurrence of Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee, 1977 seemingly should have been a pretty patriotic year in England. Instead, it became knows as the year the monarchy was challenged through one of the most powerful forms of societal commentary — punk rock. Throughout their debut album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, the Sex Pistols honed a ferocious sense of abandonment in their music that would later go on to define the band’s career. Their sonically charged, delectably unapologetic commentary on England’s government shook up the country — so much so that their music was banned from radio and television. This, of course, only contributed to the growing public intrigue surrounding the band. With tracks such as “Anarchy in the U.K.” and “God Save the Queen”, Never Mind the Bollocks… revels in rebellion and reminds us that, at its core, rock ‘n’ roll is rooted in resistance. Though the Sex Pistols called it quits shortly after the album was released, they achieved widespread cultural influence despite having just one album to their name — an especially impressive feat when that one album is regarded as the pioneer of punk rock. –Lindsay Teske

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kraftwerk Top 25 Albums of 197709. Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express

While 1978’s The Man-Machine may be more widely recognizable (thanks to that black and red cover), Trans-Europe Express is the peak of Kraftwerk’s ability to develop ultra-effective pop songwriting through intensely and intelligently layered synths decades ahead of their time. For that reason, it had a lingering impact on everything from Radiohead to Madonna. But, of course, its also the root of so much of modern electronic and dance music, equal parts expressionistic soundscape and body-moving mysticism. As synths and electronic music become more and more important, so too does Trans-Europe Express.–Lior Phillips

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billy joel Top 25 Albums of 197708. Billy Joel – The Stranger

Apart from mixing in old hits during his highly successful solo tours and lucrative “face-to-face” performances with Elton John, Billy Joel has more or less drifted away from rock and roll over the last 25 years. However, if you dialed back the clock to the mid-‘70s, you’d find the young New York rock pianist still scratching for the limelight and doing all he could to shake labels like “soft rock” and “balladeer” in favor of his music being dubbed pure rock and roll. By the time 1977’s The Stranger got done saturating the airwaves and dominating the charts, Joel could call his music whatever the hell he liked. Mixing rock, jazz, and pop like nobody else, he lusted for Virginia (“Only the Good Die Young”), championed working-class life (“Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”), and defended a new breed of modern woman (“She’s Always a Woman”), scoring hit after hit and unknowingly shaping classic rock and FM radio for the next 40 years in the process. –Matt Melis

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bobmarleyexodus Top 25 Albums of 197707. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Exodus

If ever a record has been culturally misappropriated, it’s Exodus, the ninth full-length from legend and reggae ambassador Bob Marley and his band, The Wailers. No doubt Marley, in spirit, would approve of the album being welcomed into as many homes as it has and further uniting people, but let’s be honest: far too often we’ve heard this album spun at Neanderthal frat parties, on drunken boat outings, and as a token bit of diversity in an otherwise whiter-than-white record collection. It’s a shame when you learn that Exodus directly followed a failed assassination attempt on Marley’s life, which led to him embracing more direct messages of hope, change, and politics. To listen to a song like opener “Natural Mystic” is to be called to the table of humanity in the same way that Bob Dylan summoned people with songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” or “The Times They Are a-Changin’”. Part of the appeal of Exodus has always been that you can spin “Jamming”, burn one, and not think about a damn thing. Unfortunately, never has Marley given us more to contemplate and give a damn about. –Matt Melis

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the clash Top 25 Albums of 197706. The Clash – The Clash

Let’s clarify things: There are a lot of bands out there that matter. It’s just that when you’re spinning a Clash record, all those other bands and their names seem to melt into one unidentifiable, forgettable blob. That ability to hold a mob’s attention already existed on the band’s 1977 self-titled debut. Disenchanted, fiercely melodic, and socially conscious, Joe Strummer’s barking and Mick Jones’ guitar work threaten to stage a sit-in or spark a riot on each and every track from the opening salvo of the rallying, disgruntled “Janie Jones” to the album’s closing pledge to not forget the band’s roots (“Garageland”). Forty years later, pressing play on any of these songs still feels like picking a fight in a pub with a guarantee of getting more than you bargained for. That a record this inventive still left the band unchartered places to go on London Calling remains a bloody miracle. –Matt Melis

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meat loaf bat out of hell Top 25 Albums of 197705. Meatloaf – Bat out of Hell

The DNA of Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell is easy to identify. There’s the rock theatrics that The Who used in their rock operas, using the rock song as a jumping-off point to create an album as a performative experience. And, of course, there’s the narrative storytelling, occasional sleigh bells, prominent Roy Bittan piano, and Max Weinberg drums that all evoke a comparison to Springsteen. But Bat Out of Hell is also a work that couldn’t have been made by another artist at another time. Meat Loaf is fearless in his willingness to ham up the drama, using the skills that would later translate to his work as an actor to inflate huge emotional swells that would come across as unbearably corny in someone else’s hands. But while it’s easy to take the record as a whole, what is often forgotten is just how firmly the individual songs can stand on their own. “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” is as good as jukebox power ballads get, the opening title track stretches its wings for nearly 10 minutes while making every moment count, and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” creates a spotlight moment in the form of a Broadway-worthy duet. The years that would follow would see Meat Loaf continually reference this career high-water mark, which would go on to sell 43 million copies worldwide. But within the context of 1977, Meat Loaf really was reinventing the wheel, delivering an exercise to stretch the limits of rock and roll’s capabilities. –Philip Cosores

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bowiedavid low 300x300 Top 25 Albums of 197704. David Bowie – Low

With all due respect to an album’s worth of incredible songs found on Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, David Bowie’s “Heroes”, in my estimation, makes the strongest case for best song of 1977. It’s that rare force of nature that you suspect Bowie unearthed like a gem rather than cobbled together as a mere mortal. And that song, of course, isn’t even on Low, making the prolificacy of Bowie’s time in Berlin (don’t forget two Iggy Pop records in ’77) all the more remarkable. Though a still from the film The Man Who Fell to Earth, the album’s artwork could easily be seen as a cloaked, wandering Bowie gazing out upon scorched earth – and given his marital issues and a rock-bottom drug addiction at the time, that interpretation makes sense. It also stands to reason that Bowie, with the help of Brian Eno and Tony Visconti, might want to seek out sounds unlike any he’d produced before. As a result, Low dives into the avant-garde, shattering the boundaries of Bowie’s previous songwriting. Whether he was bottoming out, seeking asylum, or being reborn, Low marked the death of the Thin White Duke and informed Bowie’s work for the next several years. –Matt Melis

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saturdaynightfever Top 25 Albums of 197703. Various Artists – Saturday Night Fever OST

Rare is the album synonymous with an entire genre. Such is the case for Saturday Night Fever, the 15x Platinum-selling, Grammy-winning soundtrack that iconized an entire cultural movement and captured an era, all in under 20 tracks. Now, say what you will about disco — seriously, if you’ve got a problem, we can take this shit outside and dance — but there’s zero disputing the power behind this album. The son of a bitch managed to stay afloat the Billboard charts for 24 straight weeks — not to mention, 18 straight weeks overseas in the United Kingdom — making this one of the most successful albums ever. Are you shocked? Sure, John Travolta’s hunky mug helped sell at least a few million units, but man, this thing just straight-up bleeds hits. Filling most of the space are the Bee Gees’ greatest songs in their storied catalogue, from the obvious fare like “Stayin’ Alive”, “Jive Talkin'”, and “You Should Be Dancing” to the more sensual stuff like “More Than a Woman”, “How Deep Is Your Love”, and “Night Fever”. Those songs alone would be enough to propel this album to legendary status, but then you have other bonafide stunners like KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Shoes” and Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You” sharing space with crazy shit like Walter Murphy’s 19th century strut “A Fifth of Beethoven” or David Shire’s Fantasia-aping “Night on Disco Mountain”. It’s the grooviest 76 minutes ever pressed to vinyl, which is probably why most used copies have bits of cocaine residue caked into its sleeves. How else do you think our parents survived this era? –Michael Roffman

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ramones rocket to russia 1977 Top 25 Albums of 197702. Ramones – Rocket to Russia

Three time’s the charm for this Queens quartet. After tipping off 1977 with Leave Home in the wintry heights of January, the Ramones returned that November sounding bigger, broader, and better. Much of that had to do with the hefty sum they received from Sire, allowing them to spend a little more on production, but really, the shift came from being in the right place at the right time. Punk had been celebrating one hell of a summer, and the Ramones were pushing and shoving at the center of it. With Rocket to Russia, you get the feeling this was their proverbial selfie of that watershed moment, a collection of ridiculous scenes from their equally ridiculous mythology. That idea is further bolstered by John Gillespie’s iconic album cover, which captures Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy Ramone leaning against the wall with enough attitude to sink all five boroughs. Except, unlike the bratty, snot-nosed dickheads from the Sex Pistols, these guys were after your heart, and you can hear it in the distorted doo-wop of songs like “Locket Love”, “Ramona”, and their highly addicting cover of Bobby Freeman’s “Do You Wanna Dance”. They were the rejects with all the best poetry in English II, and that genius applied to their minimalism behind their instruments. It’s all so simple, it’s all so similar, but they somehow found a way to tweak each song to make ’em ever so singular, as we see in the brutal three-hit slam of “Sheena is a Punk Rocker”, “We’re a Happy Family”, and “Teenage Lobotomy”, a punk rock trilogy if there ever was one. Sadly, this would be the last album to feature all four original members, but by then, they had already set the watermark for themselves. –Michael Roffman

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 Top 25 Albums of 197701. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

It’s no coincidence that the word harmony relates both to relationships going well and pieces of music fitting together perfectly. But then again, sometimes a little discord can produce just as much beauty. So many bands have ended after the dissolution of a romantic relationship, but Fleetwood Mac were ahead of the curve both in timeline and volume. After the success of their 1975 self-titled album, the two long-term couples at the band’s core hit the rocks — John and Christine McVie got divorced, while Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks broke up. Add to that murky stew a whole bunch of cocaine and California sunshine, and you’d expect a followup album to fall apart and the band to hit the skids. But instead, Rumours is an alchemical substance of beauty, a record that cracks open all the wounds and exposes the conflict, yet still somehow soars on honeyed wings. Each songwriter and vocalist gets their time to shine — from Nicks’ “Dreams” to Buckingham’s “Go Your Own Way” to McVie’s “You Make Loving Fun” — while the lone track credited to the whole band (“The Chain”) somehow a supreme highlight. There’s no reason Rumours should work at all, and somehow it is a magnificent album, one that has cast a major influence across decades and decades of pop and rock music.–Lior Phillips

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