100 Hits: The Best 70’s Album, by various artists
Spoiler alert: This album is not the best 70’s album ever. That’s not to say that this is a bad album, but there are 5 cds and 100 total songs on here and this album has no songs by Fleetwood Mac, none by the Beatles together or solo, none by the Eagles, none by ABBA, and none by Rod Stewart. It has two songs by Boney M but neither of them is their only American hit, “Rivers Of Babylon.” That said, even though it is easy to think of songs that this collection should have had but didn’t, it is more fair to judge this collection by the songs it does have. Is it a good collection? Yes. It is definitely uneven but some of these disks are strong and full of enjoyable songs. The approach of the collection as a whole appears to mix familiar songs that have a high degree of widespread appeal with lesser known songs that the listener may appreciate finding out about that have not received as much attention in the past, and in general that approach works well here, except for the first disk which is by far the weakest one here. If you can get through the disco opening to this collection, it gets much better after that.
Each of the five disks in this collection has a rough theme. The first disk is made up of disco music in general, and among these songs only the Village People’s YMCA, and MFSB’s TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia) are likely to be well-known. Although I found this to be the weakest disc in the collection, there were still some good songs here, like First Choice’s “Armed And Extremely Dangerous,” which needs to be made into a movie, Tina Charles’ “Dance Little Lady,” and an early track by Dan Hartman, “This Is It.” The second album features some strong rock and singer-songwriter contributions including Toto’s “Hold The Line,” Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear The Reaper,” Boston’s “More Than A Feeling,” Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son,” The Guess Who’s “American Woman,” and Santana’s “Oye Como Va” as its first six songs. After that Meat Loaf has “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad,” we have Ian Hunter’s “Once Bitten, Twice Shy,” and a closing duo of Harry Nilsson’s “Coconut” and Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day.”
The third album in this collection then gives us a selection of R&B that includes a few strong songs like the Isley Brothers’ “Summer Breeze, Pt 1,” The Three Degrees’ “Woman In Love,” Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Billy Paul’s Me And Mrs. Jones,” Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” Earth, Wind, & Fire’s “After The Love Has Gone,” Heatwave’s “Always And Forever,” Hall & Oates’ “Sara Smile,” and the Manhattan’s “Kiss And Say Goodbye.” The fourth disk is a bit less famous in terms of its songs but still includes standouts like Linda Lewis’ “It’s In His Kiss,” Tony Orlando & Dawn’s “Knock Three Times,” Guys’ ‘N’ Dolls’ “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me,” Lynn Anderson’s “Rose Garden,” Sweet Dreams’ “Honey Honey,” John Travolta’s “Greased Lightning,” and David Essex’s “Rock On.” Finally, the fifth disc includes some country songs and country-adjacent tunes like Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man,” Charlie Rich’s “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World, ” Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now,” John Denver’s “Annie’s Song,” Art Garfunkel’s “I Only Have Eyes For You,” Dionne Warwicke’s “I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” and Barry Manilow’s “Could It Be Magic,” among others.
Overall, this collection does a good job at showing the characteristic concerns of the 70’s in a reasonably broad way, and as is the case in many periods of time, especially over the past few decades, the drama of love and relationships fills these songs. There are songs about people worried about their obligations and fretting over having to end things with their side pieces. There are people who glory in their devotion to people who just don’t care about them in return. There is coy flirtation at parties and dances with the hope of a relationship building out of it. There are reflections of the ups and downs in relationships as well as the nostalgic look back at the past love that was enjoyed even where it is not present. I had a melancholy feeling listening to this material even if many of the songs were written with upbeat dance beats, because the sadness of the fraying of family and marriage that is at the basis of society was all too readily apparent here and fake happiness just cannot disguise the sort of sorrow that this collection shows.