Pop Top 40: Top LPs & Tapes for Week Ending January 27, 1973

50 years ago, soft rock was dominating the chart

James Taylor One Man Dog, Warner Bros. Records 1972

It’s interesting to me that the recent Paramount+ documentary Sometimes When We Touch: The Rise, Ruin, and Resurrection of Soft Rock doesn’t spend much time on the singer-songwriter revolution of the early ‘70s.

Instead, the filmmakers focused more on what should really be called soft pop (cf. Carpenters) and what we’d eventually call Yacht Rock (McDonald, Loggins, et.al.). 

But the singer-songwriters had actual rock in their bones, were lauded (or at least covered) by the likes of Rolling Stone, and–this is key–were treated as true album artists, even as they notched hit singles. At the same time, however, they were all over the Easy Listening chart (which we now know as Adult Contemporary – see #3, below). To my ears, this is true soft rock.

And not only did radio like a lot of it, it was selling by the truckload. Here’s the album chart’s top 20, plus the #1s on Billboard’s other album charts. (Due to the sheer number of albums here, I’m not grading all of them.)


[This Week, Last Week, Weeks on Chart, Title, Artist]


1 1 (8) NO SECRETS, Carly Simon – peak: #1; charting singles: “You’re So Vain” (#1), “The Right Thing to Do”/“We Have No Secrets” (#17). In the midst of a 5-week run at the top, obviously due in part to the monster smash “Vain” but by no means only because of it. This album is a killer, one I still can hardly believe topped the chart, though heaven knows the early ‘70s were a good moment for highly literate female singer-songwriters (cf. Flack, King (#3), Mitchell (#13)). I’d compare this hitting #1 to a collection of John Cheever short stories topping the best-seller lists – the lyrics here, my god, the pointillisme of “The Carter Family” alone is just devastating. And “The Right Thing to Do” is one of the greatest love songs ever penned. Don’t ignore Richard Perry’s production, either, which seems to know just what these songs needed. And if you’ve any interest in/love for No Secrets, I can’t recommend enough that you watch the BBC2 Classic Albums episode from 2017 devoted to it.  (9/10)


2 3 (11) THE WORLD IS A GHETTO, War – peak: #1; charting singles: “The World Is A Ghetto” (#7), “The Cisco Kid” (#2). This jazz-funk combo’s fifth album was Billboard’s #1 album of 1973 (!), and kicked off a run in which six of the seven studio singles they released through 1976 made the pop and R&B top 10. Much like Parliament-Funkadelic or Prince and the Revolution after them, War could lock into a groove and just ride it, as evidenced here by “City, Country, City” (13:24) and the title track, 10:17 in its fully unfurled album version. (8/10) 


3 2 (13) RHYMES AND REASONS, Carole King – peak: #2; charting singles: “Been to Canaan” (#24). Two weeks prior, lead single “Canaan” had topped the Easy Listening chart; here was the top 10 that week.

Talk about singer/songwriters and soft rock ahoy: wow. The only things here I wouldn’t classify in either of those buckets are Hurricane Smith, Elvis, and maybe Gilbert O’Sullivan. (And very much worth noting is that much of the singer/songwriter revolution on the pop charts can be credited to the smash success of King’s Tapestry in 1971.) The rest of this top 10 is very much of a piece, led by “Canaan,” one of my favorite King singles. The warmth with which Lou Adler produced it: another wow. And the entirety of Rhymes and Reasons is of a piece with that, spotlighting, as Adler and King had been doing for a couple years at this point, her immaculate songs, vocals, and piano. Those multi-tracked harmonies are something else. (10/10)


4 11 (6) TALKING BOOK, Stevie Wonder – peak: #3; charting singles: “Superstition” (#1), “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” (#1). You assuredly know the hits and probably a couple more besides – “You and I” and “I Believe (When I Fall in Love…)” became Quiet Storm staples over the years. His use of synths and keys here is pretty groundbreaking, not to mention the things he could do with a Clavinet. My pick hit is “You’ve Got It Bad Girl,” a slinky twist on a love song with some truly deep lyrics. (Look ‘em up.) (8/10)


VIDEO: Stevie Wonder “Superstition” live on Sesame Street


5 7 (8) TOMMY, London Symphony Orchestra and Chambre Choir with Guest Soloists – peak: #5. No charting singles. It’s Tommy done symphonically, with guest vocalists (Daltrey, Townshend, Ringo Starr, Steve Winwood) here and there. And I don’t care for Tommy under the best of circumstances – which this ain’t. (2/10)


6 5 (12) LIVING IN THE PAST, Jethro Tull – peak: #3; charting singles: “Living in the Past” (re-release) (#11). 


7 4 (10) ONE MAN DOG, James Taylor – peak: #4, charting singles: “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” (#14), “One Man Parade” (#67). His third consecutive top five album was also his fourth produced by Peter Asher; Asher had a real knack for giving Taylor’s songs a warm glow. This collection of little songs (18 tracks in 38 minutes), both vocal and instrumental, is like an hors d’oeuvres platter: not necessarily filling, but surprisingly tasty. I liked this much more than I’d expected, even though I already loved “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight,” my favorite Taylor single. (7/10)


8 10 (8) HOT AUGUST NIGHT, Neil Diamond – peak: #5, charting singles: “Cherry, Cherry (live)” (#31). 


9 9 (9) HOMECOMING, America – peak: #9; charting singles: “Ventura Highway” (#8), “Don’t Cross the River” (#35), “Only in Your Heart” (#62). The real surprise of this chart, a superb mostly country-rock record heavily influenced by CSNY (RIP David Crosby). (8/10)


10 6 (11) SEVENTH SOJOURN, Moody Blues – peak: #1; charting singles: “Isn’t Life Strange” (#29), “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)” (#12).  


11 8 (16) CATCH BULL AT FOUR, Cat Stevens – peak: #1; charting singles: “Sitting” (#16). 


12 12 (15) I’M STILL IN LOVE WITH YOU, Al Green – peak: #4; charting singles: “Look What You Done for Me” (#4), “I’m Still in Love with You” (#3).


13 16 (9) FOR THE ROSES, Joni Mitchell – peak: #11; charting singles: “You Turn Me on, I’m a Radio” (#25). In between Blue and Court and Spark came this transitional album, full of remarkable musical arrangements alongside the lyrics Mitchell is most known for. (And in “Radio,” her first top 40 single!) “Barangrill” grabs me by the throat, with Tom Scott’s bassoon – bassoon! – really giving it a distinctive punch. And when the drums, and then band (entirely an overdubbed Stephen Stills), come in at 1:32 in “Blonde in the Bleachers,” my breath is taken away. (9/10)


AUDIO: Joni Mitchell “You Turn Me On I’m A Radio”


14 15 (10) LADY SINGS THE BLUES, Diana Ross/Soundtrack – peak: #1; charting singles: “Good Morning Heartache” (#34). I’m genuinely surprised that the soundtrack to Ross’s Billie Holiday biopic features so many dialogue cues, often atop the songs, which makes them very hard to listen to. Ross sounds fine singing Holiday, but just that: fine. The album would top the chart after this year’s Oscars, for which it was nominated for five awards (including Ross for Best Actress), going home empty-handed. (4/10)


15 27 (5) MORE HOT ROCKS (BIG HITS & FAZED COOKIES), Rolling Stones – peak: #9. No charting singles. An odds-and-sods collection meant to ride the coattails of late ‘71’s Hot Rocks that doesn’t do a lot for me; acoustic Mick ‘n Keith just doesn’t get me off, and that’s what a lot of this is. (5/10)


16 13 (22) SUMMER BREEZE, Seals & Crofts – peak: #7; charting singles: “Summer Breeze” (#6), “Hummingbird” (#20). 


17 19 (12) LOGGINS AND MESSINA – peak: #16; charting singles: “Your Mama Don’t Dance” (#4), “Thinking of You” (#18).


18 18 (10) 360 DEGREES OF BILLY PAUL – peak: #17; charting singles: “Me and Mrs. Jones” (#1), “Am I Black Enough for You?” (#79).


19 21 (8) I AM WOMAN, Helen Reddy – peak: #14; charting singles: “I Am Woman” (#1), “Peaceful” (#12). A good-not-great voice hindered by extreme, Vegas-y overproduction. Includes a cover of Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade” several years before George Benson would cut his famed version. (3/10)


20 17 (23) SUPERFLY, Curtis Mayfield / Soundtrack – peak: #1; charting singles: “Freddie’s Dead” (#4), “Superfly” (#8). To quote a Parliament classic from a couple years later: this is pure uncut funk, the bomb. But its brilliance comes from the way Mayfield weaves classic-sounding soul into the album’s DNA. This is boundary-smashing soul (those wah-wash guitars) and funk, which helped push R&B into the future. (10/10)


VIDEO: Curtis Mayfield performs “Pusherman” on Soul Train


Billboard’s other #1 albums:


Soul LPs: TALKING BOOK, Stevie Wonder – See #4, above.


Jazz LPs: CHICAGO V – Yes, that Chicago. This spent nine weeks atop the the pop chart from August through October 1972, their first #1 album. Reminiscent of their debut, 1969’s superb Chicago Transit Authority, this is a fairly jazz fusion record, but doesn’t have the sparkle of that album; it would do well for more of these songs to be instrumentals (and with fewer Robert Lamm vocals). (5/10)


FM Action: Before AOR (Album Oriented Rock) was really a thing, early FM stations by and large played a progressive rock-plus format. I say “rock-plus” because most of these stations would also play some soul (especially Stevie Wonder and the Isley Brothers) and jazz, along with folk on some occasions. Billboard eventually started keeping tabs via their FM Action report, in which they compiled the albums stations were playing; they didn’t start ranking them until later. At this point, Billboard was only taking reports from 19 stations across the country, and rather than go through all nine records deemed “Hot Action Albums” (which were new adds being reported by three or more stations apiece), I’ll just show you. (Plus which stations were reporting, as I suspect some of you may be interested.)

Latin LPs (Chicago): ¿POR QUÉ?, Los Babys – In December 1972, Billboard began charting sales of Spanish-language (aka Latin) albums, via five separate charts, top 20 listings of the best-selling Latin LPs in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Texas, and New York, which initially alternated, one running each week. The charts weren’t combined into genre charts (for Pop, Regional Mexican, and Tropical music) until 1985. Some of the charts tended to naturally lean towards one genre early on: salsa often ruled the roost in Miami and NYC, for example, as norteño and tejano did in Texas. But the Chicago chart – the very first one! – is all over the place, with salsa, mariachi, and tejano artists all appearing in the top 20, along with rock en español standbys Los Baby’s sitting at its apex. This Yucatan group had been around since the start of the ‘60s, but really blew up in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s doing their own material (they’d started out largely as a cover band); this was also around the time they added a brass section, which really enlarged their sound. Straight-down-the-middle mainstream pop/rock is the order of the day here. (6/10) 


AUDIO: Los Babys ¿Por Que? (full album)


Country LPs: IT’S NOT LOVE (BUT IT’S NOT BAD), Merle Haggard – Not only his ninth country chart-topper to this point, but his second of the month; The Best of the Best of Merle Haggard had just ended a seven-week run at #1 three weeks prior. If that’s not enough to tell you that he was very much in his Imperial Phase, how about this stat: from 1966 through early ‘76, he charted 32 consecutive singles in the country top 5, 23 of those hitting #1, including this album’s title track. As for the album itself, it’s largely a collection of middling “woe-is-me” and/or marriage songs – it’s not great, but since it’s Hag, it’s not bad. I’m partial to the sad two-step “I Never Told on You.” (6/10)  


And just for fun: the UK’s #1 album was Slade’s SLAYED? Their first UK #1 album got to the dizzying heights of #69 in the US – but then again, the US never remotely got glam. Allmusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine has called Slade “blue-collar glitter,” which is such a great descriptor I’m not going to try to top it; this is balls-to-the-wall, party-boy hard rock, and if that’s what you’re looking for, you can’t do much better than Slayed?’s eight originals and two covers. Vocalist Noddy Holder is a bit of an acquired taste, sure, but goddamn if he doesn’t nail this stuff. (10/10)


VIDEO: Slade “Gudbuy T’Jane”



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Thomas Inskeep

Rock and Roll Globe contributor Thomas Inskeep tweets @thomasinskeep1, and has previously written for The Singles Jukebox, SPIN, Seattle Weekly, and Stylus. He lives in Indianapolis, IN.

One thought on “Pop Top 40: Top LPs & Tapes for Week Ending January 27, 1973

  • February 2, 2023 at 3:16 pm

    This is great. Brings me back to my Senior year in HS. I especially love the kid boogieing out to Superstition and the smooth, funky sound of Curtis Mayfield.


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