Published on August 25th, 2011 | by Hugh Hession2
The top 30 obscure rock/pop ballads of the 70’s and 80’s: Part 2-The 70’s
So let’s turn back to the 1970’s for the second part of this series. For those of you who haven’t read Part 1, my goal is to introduce more obscure pop/rock ballads from the 70’s and 80’s that got lost over time, but are great songs! Additionally, I’d love for a band or artist to take one of these songs either in Part 1 or 2, and make them their own. Think of your genre, and how you can change the arrangement, instrumentation and overall production to fit what you do.
The thing I love about music today, is the versatility of genres. This is a huge change from 10 to 20 years ago, where you could essentially count the number of genres on your fingers. There are so many styles to borrow from. Be creative. I challenge you! And remember, don’t get so locked into the production. It’s obvious that the sound is archaic, but this was also a time when there were few overdubs and many of the bands played live on their records with reverb being the primary (and often the only) effect. Nowadays, it’s cut and paste and effects plug-ins are limitless, giving you the ability to achieve any sound you want.
By the way, according to my site analytics, this post is in the top 10. Good to know there is interest!
The Top 15 Obscure Rock/Pop Ballads of the 1970’s
1. Man I’ll Never Be-Boston (1978)
Curse them as you may for influencing the rise of corporate rock, but Boston was in a league of their own when it came to audio production. The greatest gem on their sophomore release Don’t Look Back is the rock ballad Man I’ll Never Be. Vocalist Brad Delp sang like a bird. The beauty of this song, is that no one to my knowledge has re-made it. Any takers?
2. Patiently-Journey (1978)
This is the third Journey song that made it to the list, but with obvious reason: Perry and Co invented the power ballad. From the album Infinity, Patiently was the first song that Neal Schon and Steve Perry wrote together as a tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd. Though this particular album was known more for hits like Lights, Feeling That Way/Anytime and Wheel in the Sky, Patiently is no doubt, one of Journey’s greatest ballads that is worthy of dusting off, making a great cover for the right band.
3. Seagull-Bad Company (1972)
What else can I say about one of the greatest rock-n-roll bands ever? We all know Bad Company for their timeless hits like Can’t Get Enough, Ready for Love and Shooting Star. But one of my all time favorites of lead vocalist Paul Rodgers is Seagull. Completely acoustic, this song is wide-open in terms of what you can add to it.
Jackson Browne was part of the singer/songwriter surge of the 70’s and penned some of the greatest songs of that era, including The Eagle’s Take it Easy. As a music artist, he was equally as talented with Running on Empty, Doctor My Eyes, and Somebody’s Baby. I use to perform Here Comes Those Tears in a more intimate setting, with just a piano and a keyboard pad, taking away the country feel that that the original recording has. It always went over well. Again, don’t be tied down to the original production. Re-create the song and experiment with various chord alterations, new arrangements and sounds.
5. Fool For You Anyway-Foreigner (1977)
Best known for Waiting for a Girl Like You, Urgent and I Wanna Know What Love Is (brought back to life by Mariah Carey), Foreigner was the quintessential super group of the 70’s and especially the 1980’s. There are so many possibilities for this one, and what an example of how a truly great song can shine through no matter what time period.
6. Everybody Has A Dream-Billy Joel (1977)
I don’t think there will ever be another Billy Joel. His style of piano pop, blended with blues, R&B, classical and gospel has never been matched because the man is simply a tremendous talent. His songs will forever be etched in the stone of greatness with the likes of Movin Out, Honesty, Only The Good Die Young and We Didn’t Start The Fire. From The Stranger, Everybody Has A Dream highlights Billy’s Gospel/R&B roots. The message is strong and this one would be great for anyone in Gospel or R&B. I can hear a huge choir in the background!
7. Just Remember I Love You-Firefall (1979)
Every once in awhile, you’ll hear this one on 70’s radio and definitely on satellite. Although it was a big hit for the band, in 2011 it’s more than obscure! I remember doing this one years ago, and actually played briefly with one of the band’s guitarists when I lived in Colorado.
8. Crazy Love-Poco (1978)
Yep, I know. They sound like The Eagles, huh? For a little music trivia, two members of The Eagles were part of Poco at one time, mainly bassist Timothy B Schmidt (vocalist on The Eagle’s I Can’t Tell You Why and Love Will Keep Us Alive) and guitarist/vocalist Randy Meisner. Ironically, Schmidt also sang back-ups on the previous song, Firefall’s Just Remember I Love You. Love this tune and would be a good fit for the right country band.
9. Songbird-Fleetwood Mac (1977)
Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is the tenth best selling album of all time with 40 million copies sold worldwide. If that doesn’t say something about songs that stand the test of time, I don’t know what does. I remember playing with a female vocalist who did this one and would bring the house down every single time. Although Songbird has been re-recorded before (most popular from the show Glee) there is still room for another version, because it’s simply an exceptional song.
10. Do it or Die-Atlanta Rhythm Section (1979)
ARS was a group of studio musicians in the 70’s from Doraville, Georgia, just outside Atlanta. Engineer Rodney Mills opened the legendary Studio One and it was ARS who became the house band of the studio. They are known for Spooky, Imaginary Lovers and So Into You. This song was recorded towards the end of their run in 1979 and reached #19 on Billboard in May of that year. Still, it goes virtually unknown. Ronnie Hammond had such a unique voice. He resided in the same area I do – Macon, Central Georgia region and was a great guy. He died March 14, 2011. RIP Ronnie.
11. Racing in The Streets-Bruce Springsteen (1977)
If you are in the Americana genre, you should be all over this one. What separated Springsteen from most (and equally, why he is an icon in the music world), is that he could tell vivid stories within his songs. It was never about his voice. That’s where people are missing the boat. It’s more about his sincerity, his emotion and the connection he creates with his fans through his ability to paint a picture that captures all the senses and takes you to another place. From Darkness on the Edge of Town, Racing in the Streets could be your most requested song, in my opinion.
12. The Sad Café-The Eagles (1979)
The Eagles need no introduction. They are equally revered by artists and fans alike in both country and rock. I always loved The Sad Café, which was written about their times at The Troubadour in LA. It was never a major hit, but always a fan favorite and more than worthy of a re-do.
13. Still in Love With You-Thin Lizzy (1974, 1978)
Phillip Lynott (pronounced “lie-not”), was definitely unique. An “Afro-Brazilian”, Irish bassist/vocalist fronting a rock band. Can’t get anymore original! Fans know them best for The Boys are Back in Town, and Jailbreak. Their live version of Still in Love With You, released on the album Live and Dangerous is incredible. A Gary Moore classic. And to bring home my point? Sade released a version of it this year. Still, I’m partial to the original!
14. Helpless-Neil Young (1970)
Ok. I know that this song is not exactly obscure from a true rock fan’s point of view. But, most people these days have never heard Helpless. It’s easy to get caught up in the old production of this song, and even the genre. One word: Don’t. I can see this song being covered within many genres. Someone in the style of Joss Stone, for instance, could tear this up. So could Crystal Bowersox.
15. Sara Smile-Hall and Oates (1976)
I pulled this one out, not so much because it’s obscure, but to show you the viability of re-creating a song and making it your own. Here are some versions of Hall & Oates 1976 hit.
Hall & Oates Version (Pop)
Brian McKnight Version (R&B)
After 7 Version (R&B)
Jimmy Wayne Version (Country)
Joan Osborne Version (Pop)
Boyz II Men Version (R&B-great production on this one!)
Monte Montgomery duet with Daryl Hall Version (More blues based, another cool one!)
If you’re into some of these, and have recorded, or going to record one of them, please drop me a line and let me know how it worked out. If you send me a link at firstname.lastname@example.org, I might just put it up on the Making it in Music website!
Go back to Part 1: The Top 15 Obscure Rock/Pop Ballads of The 1980′s.