The sound of 1973: 10 classic albums turning 50 in 2023

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The sound of 1973: 10 classic albums turning 50 in 2023

1973 Albums
words by Christopher Hockey

From Stevie Wonder to Bowie - a deep dive into some iconic albums turning 50 this year - released all the way back in 1973.

The music of 1973: with Psychedelia firmly in the rear view mirror and punk not yet on the horizon, the year saw some of pop’s biggest stars returning to their rock and roll roots with a new operatic sensibility.

Read all the latest features, columns and more here.

All the while, R&B was reaching monumental heights with some of the best records ever made. Let’s take a look back on ten of the best albums turning 50 in 2023.

Stevie Wonder: Innervisions

When it comes to the word genius, nobody fits the bill quite as comfortably as Stevie Wonder. Completely unrestricted in his ability to exercise his creative will, Wonder was on an unbelievable streak when he released Innervisions, his sixteenth album, at the age of just 23. Featuring some of the funkiest grooves ever committed to tape and a myriad of stunningly perfect melodies, Innervisions earned Wonder three Grammy awards and is considered by many to be his finest work.

Highlights: “Living For The City”, “Golden Lady”, “Higher Ground”.

Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Elton John’s operatic magnum opus Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is about as classic as it gets. The premier example of John’s prolific relationship with lyricist Bernie Taupin, this record exemplifies the drama, wit and musical freedom that made Elton John one of the biggest stars of the 70s. Bouncing between foot-stamping glam and serene balladry, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is one of the few double albums that more than justifies its generous length. A cinematic journey through glitzy nostalgia and comical sleaze, this is a record that will live in our hearts long past its 50th birthday.

Highlights: “Candle In The Wind”, “Bennie And The Jets”, “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting”.

Led Zeppelin: Houses of The Holy

Led Zeppelin Houses of the holy

In 1973, Led Zeppelin were the biggest rock band in the world. Coming off the back of their hugely successful self titled fourth album, the band were in a position to do virtually anything they wanted. As it turns out, what they wanted was to make their most diverse, unpredictable and joyful album to date. Houses Of The Holy sees a relaxed but formidable Led Zeppelin weaving their way through rock epics, heartfelt ballads and tongue in cheek reggae, all with a power and grace that only they were capable of.

Highlights: “The Rain Song”, “The Ocean”, “Over The Hills And Far Away”.

Little Feat: Dixie Chicken

Little feat Dixie chicken

Thanks to a newly expanded lineup, eclectic Americana outfit and cult heroes Little Feat finally found their signature sound on their classic third album ‘Dixie Chicken’. Known for his powerfully soulful voice and jaw-dropping slide guitar playing, bandleader Lowell George was able to bring the swampy swagger of New Orleans home to the West Coast with this brilliant and varied collection of songs.

Highlights: “Dixie Chicken”, “Fat Man In The Bathtub”, “Two Trains”.

David Bowie: Aladdin Sane

Bowie’s first album released from a position of superstardom, Aladdin Sane was written on the road in the USA and is largely influenced by his perception of the country. Featuring a tougher sound than its predecessor, this record was Bowie’s final collaboration with his esteemed backing band The Spiders From Mars. Dripping with attitude, guitarist Mick Ronson particularly shines thanks to the stripped back production of this dirty little glam rock triumph.

Highlights: “Drive in Saturday”, “Cracked Actor”, “The Jean Genie”.

Marvin Gaye: Let’s Get It On

Marvin Gaye’s sublime protest album What’s Going On may have made him a star, but it was Let’s Get It On that turned him into a bonafide sex symbol. Despite the album’s raw and unfiltered sexuality, the vulnerable, fragile beauty of Gaye’s voice shines through on every track. Many have lauded Gaye as one of the finest singers in history and upon hearing his effortless transitions between soft sensuality and gut-wrenching power on this record, one can certainly understand why.

Highlights: “Let’s Get It On”, “You Sure Love To Ball”, “Just To Keep You Satisfied”.

The Rolling Stones: Goat’s Head Soup

Quite easily the Stone’s most underrated record, Goat’s Head Soup is the last of the band’s glorious five album run with producer extraordinaire Jimmy Miller. Recorded in Jamaica, Goat’s Head Soup is the richest sonic tapestry the band ever created and signified the end of their golden era. Featuring spectacular performances by lead guitarist Mick Taylor, the album also largely owes its uniquely deep and funky sound to keyboard players Nicky Hopkins and Billy Preston.

Highlights: “Dancing with Mr D”, “Coming Down Again”, “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)”.

Dr John: In The Right Place

The stars of New Orleans aligned in 1973 when Mac Rebennack, AKA Dr John, set out to make his sixth, and ultimately career defining record. Produced by R&B royalty Allen Toussaint and backed by the funkiest band in the world, The Meters, Dr John would have been hard pressed to make anything other than the jewel in Louisiana’s musical crown. Needless to say, that’s what he did.

Highlights: “Right Place Wrong Time”, “Qualified”, “Such A Night”.

In a time when stuffy progressive rock was enjoying its moment in the sun, it was up to that little ol’ band from Texas to remind us exactly what a simple three piece rock band can do. Featuring driving riffs, hypnotic rhythms and an evergreen, dry production style, Tres Hombres exhibits all the wonderful idiosyncrasies of ZZ Top at their best.

Highlights: “Waitin’ For The Bus”, “Jesus Just Left Chicago”, “Master Of Sparks”.

Iggy and The Stooges: Raw Power

Not many people got the Stooges when they first exploded into the world, but David Bowie did. Stepping into the producer’s chair for what was meant to be Iggy Pop’s first solo record, Bowie encouraged The Stooges to reform and with new guitarist James Williamson, they made one hell of an album. Perhaps the most aptly titled record of all time, this chaotic masterclass in proto-punk debauchery was just the shot of adrenaline that 1973 needed.

Highlights: “Search and Destroy”, “Gimme Danger”, “Shake Appeal”.

Read a review of one of Iggy Pop’s recent live performances here.