GRAMMYs' Best Albums

January 31, 2008 -- 1:09 pm PST

A retrospective look at GRAMMY Album Of The Year winners from 1970–1979

(Following is a roundup of the albums that have earned the GRAMMY Album Of The Year distinction over the last half-century. Some have surprised, some were seemingly consensus choices, and still others have fostered lasting debate. You'll read a bit about the albums and those involved in making them, the context of the time they were released, as well as a list of the other nominees. If you've been a longstanding music fan, this is your chance to reflect on a truly golden musical era. Conversely, the casual fan will appreciate this abridged glance at the history and evolution of contemporary pop. One thing's certain: it’ll start the debates all over again.)

(For a complete list of 51st GRAMMY Awards nominees, please click here.)

Bridge Over Troubled Water
Simon And Garfunkel

Simon And Garfunkel's final studio album is by far their most adventurous. With a mix of breakup songs such as "Bridge Over Troubled Water," frivolous love songs ("Cecilia") and plaintive folk ballads ("El Condor Pasa" and "The Boxer"), Bridge Over Troubled Water would become one of the duo's biggest sellers. In total, the album and tracks from it won six GRAMMYs including Song Of The Year and Record Of The Year. Despite the album's reassuring title track, the duo was in the midst of breaking up during the recording of this project.

Other Nominees:
Close To You (Carpenters)
Chicago (Chicago)
Déjà Vu (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
Elton John (Elton John)
Sweet Baby James (James Taylor)

Carole King

This year, a classic singer/songwriter beat rock, pop, funk/soul, and a blessed Broadway show. After becoming one of the most successful Brill Building songwriters along with her husband and creative partner Gerry Goffin — with confections including "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," "One Fine Day," and "Up On The Roof," among many others — Carole King's first attempts at a solo career were quietly received. But Tapestry became a benchmark recording in the singer/songwriter realm, staying on the charts for nearly six years and selling 10 million copies. King's songs on Tapestry (including Record Of The Year "It's Too Late," Song Of The Year "You've Got A Friend," "I Feel The Earth Move," and the King/Goffin/Wexler cut "[You Make Me Feel Like] A Natural Woman") are exquisitely written and undeniably compelling.

Other Nominees:
Carpenters (Carpenters)
All Things Must Pass (George Harrison)
Shaft (Isaac Hayes)
Jesus Christ Superstar (London Production, Producers: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice)

The Concert For Bangla Desh
Various Artists

The triple-LP live album The Concert For Bangla Desh was one of the first culturally significant all-star charity recordings. Proceeds from the record and concert film — which continue to this day, thanks to a re-release on DVD — went to UNICEF to benefit the Bengali homeless and poor, many suffering as a result of the 1971 war between India and Pakistan. The concert organizer, George Harrison, was made aware of the dire Bengali situation through his friendship with Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar. With participation from A-listers such as Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, and Beatle-mate Ringo Starr, the success of the concert would be a precursor to such efforts as Band Aid and USA For Africa.

Other Nominees:
Moods (Neil Diamond)
American Pie (Don McLean)
Nilsson Schmilsson (Harry Nilsson)
Jesus Christ Superstar (Original Broadway Cast, Producers: Tim Rice, Andrew Lloyd Webber)

Stevie Wonder

Only nine songs comprise Innervisions, but even today they stand out as examples of Stevie Wonder's deft ability to tackle religion, social issues and politics within a pop palette. Showcasing his multitalented songwriting and arranging skills, "Higher Ground," "Living For The City" (a GRAMMY winner for Best R&B Song), "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing" and "He's Misstra Know It All" (aimed at then-President Richard Nixon) are astute observations of '70s social issues.

Other Nominees:
Killing Me Softly With His Song (Roberta Flack)
The Divine Miss M (Bette Midler)
Behind Closed Doors (Charlie Rich)
There Goes Rhymin' Simon (Paul Simon)

Fulfillingness' First Finale
Stevie Wonder

Fulfillingness' First Finale, the second of Stevie Wonder's consecutive Album Of The Year wins, sits near the end of what is often considered his "classic period" of releases (Music Of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, …Finale and Songs In The Key Of Life). Moving in a different, more relationship-oriented direction than Innervisions, Wonder still takes another swing at President Nixon ("You Haven't Done Nothin'") with a little backing help from the Jackson 5. Still, African Americans' outrage at a relatively unchanged post-'60s social scene was well represented at the GRAMMYs this year: Richard Pryor took home Best Comedy Recording for That Nigger's Crazy.

Other Nominees:
Back Home Again (John Denver)
Caribou (Elton John)
Band On The Run (Paul McCartney And Wings)
Court And Spark (Joni Mitchell)

Still Crazy After All These Years
Paul Simon

Flush with some of his most accessible pop hits ("50 Ways To Leave Your Lover," "My Little Town" [featuring Art Garfunkel] and the title track), Still Crazy After All These Years was Paul Simon's third solo studio release after splitting with Garfunkel. By now, Simon and Stevie Wonder were at their '70s prime, duking it out almost yearly for best album in the eyes of the public and The Recording Academy voting members. Memorably, Simon, in accepting his award, thanked Wonder for not releasing an album that year. Wonder would have the last laugh the next year.

Other Nominees:
One Of These Nights (The Eagles)
Between The Lines (Janis Ian)
Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy (Elton John)
Heart Like A Wheel (Linda Ronstadt)

Songs In The Key Of Life
Stevie Wonder

Songs In The Key Of Life, a double-LP collection considered by many to be the quintessential Stevie Wonder recording, tackles freedom ("Black Man"), politics ("Village Ghetto Land"), the future ("Saturn"), love ("Isn't She Lovely"), and the powerful emotions behind them all. And 13 years after his Motown splash, 12 Year Old Genius, this album finds Wonder at his most prolific in terms of experimentation and creativity. In all, Songs… would spawn four GRAMMY wins, including Best Producer Of The Year honors.

Other Nominees:
Breezin' (George Benson)
Chicago X (Chicago)
Frampton Comes Alive! (Peter Frampton)
Silk Degrees (Boz Scaggs)

Fleetwood Mac

As a group, Fleetwood Mac's Album Of The Year nod for Rumours is their sole GRAMMY win. Following their blues-rock beginnings, it is the band's second release after the addition of young California-based singer/songwriters Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. Many of the album's songs are clearly steeped in the varying emotions resulting from incendiary relationships. The turmoil and strife proved to be bittersweet. (To this day, Rumours is among the most lauded and top-selling recordings of all time.) "Don't Stop," "The Chain," "Dreams" and "Gold Dust Woman" were breakout songs, and Buckingham's unique guitar stylings shine throughout this landmark recording.

Other Nominees:
Hotel California (the Eagles)
Aja (Steely Dan)
JT (James Taylor)
Star Wars — Motion Picture Soundtrack (John Williams, Producer: George Lucas)

Saturday Night Fever – Motion Picture Soundtrack
Various Artists

During the mid-'70s, many of the sounds wafting out of car radios and club doors were clearly influenced by R&B and its dance floor cousin, disco. The big winners at the 21st Annual GRAMMYs included Best New Artist A Taste Of Honey, Donna Summer, Earth, Wind & Fire, and the soundtrack to the most popular film of 1977. Both the film and accompanying soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever created a pop culture supernova. A third of the songs were composed and performed by the Bee Gees (including "Stayin' Alive," "How Deep Is Your Love," "More Than A Woman," and "Night Fever"). Other artists on the soundtrack read like a shortlist of disco royalty including Yvonne Elliman (singing another silky Gibbs composition, "If I Can't Have You"), Kool & the Gang, Tavares, the Trammps, and KC & The Sunshine Band.

Other Nominees:
Running On Empty (Jackson Browne)
Even Now (Barry Manilow)
Some Girls (the Rolling Stones)
Grease – Motion Picture Soundtrack (Various Artists)

52nd Street
Billy Joel

Coming off wins for Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year for "Just The Way You Are" from his 1977 breakout album The Stranger, Billy Joel had a lot riding on 52nd Street. But with its win for Album Of The Year, Joel captured three of the most prestigious GRAMMYs inside two years. The title and slight jazz undercurrents on the album (produced by Phil Ramone) are a nod to the New York City street renowned for its jazz clubs and glitzy nightlife. Catapulted by songs such as "Big Shot," "Honesty," "My Life," the ode to Phil Spector Brill Building pop "Until The Night," and "Zanzibar" (the latter featuring bright trumpet accompaniment by Freddie Hubbard and vibes by Steps Ahead's Mike Mainieri), 52nd Street was also Joel's first No. 1 album.
Other Nominees:
Minute By Minute (Doobie Brothers)
The Gambler (Kenny Rogers)
Bad Girls (Donna Summer)
Breakfast In America (Supertramp)

(GRAMMY Album Of The Year profiles written by Melissa Blazek.)

GRAMMYs' Best Albums, 1958-1969

GRAMMYs' Best Albums, 1980-1989

GRAMMYs' Best Albums, 1990-1999

GRAMMYs' Best Albums, 2000-2007