The 10 Best Singer-Songwriter Albums

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In the BB musical years – that is, before the Beatles – the overwhelming majority of chart artists did not write their own songs. Crooners of the time performed the compositions of other people, notably those of the Great American Songbook; George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein and others.

There were even stables of songwriters whose job it was precisely to sit down and write songs for others. But then the folk scene exploded into the mainstream in the early ’60s.

Before we knew it, people like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Simon & Garfunkel (in the US) broadened their tenure, started writing their own songs, and started breaking into radio and the pop charts. . While in the UK, folks like Donovan and John Martyn started to follow suit and quickly found success outside of their usual circle of attention.

However, what began in the folk scene of the 1960s really found its teeth in the troubadours of the 1970s. These men and women presented their songs to anyone who wanted to listen to them, and most of the time, everything. they needed was a microphone and an instrument to convey their story.

The narrative storytelling of much traditional folk music has been replaced by the singer’s personal observations of the world, or his own emotional view of the world. The songs started to get a lot more personal.

The lyrics were confessional, raw, and at times uncomfortable for the listener – as if writing them had been a form of catharsis for the composer. The kind of songs that started to emerge were the kind you can only imagine their writer singing – who else can really bring the true depth of feeling to a song like Neil Young’s. Needle and damage caused, who deals so heartbreakingly with the death of a dear friend from drug addiction?

Where can someone else live Tangled in the blue in the same way that Dylan succeeded in on his seminal Blood on the slopes?

But before you started to think that the great singer-songwriter uprising was just a bunch of fey boys and girls with pianos or acoustic guitars complaining about their doomed loves or shit lives, stop there. Many of this new generation of artists have relied on their own full-fledged group. Stand up The Heartbreakers, Tom Petty’s support group, Neil Young’s Crazy Horse conglomerate, and Bruce Springsteen’s E Street group do they need a presentation?

They were all artists who weren’t afraid to rock when the time called for it. Or, similarly, weren’t afraid to reduce it to a whisper when needed.

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Bob Dylan – Blood on the Rails (1975)

Already 15 years in a very noticed career, and the adopted “voice of a generation” delivers an album of such quality that it remains the reference to which his following albums are held. Chronicle of the traumatic breakdown of her marriage, Blood on the slopes sees Bob Dylan in a calmer, more melancholy state of mind.

Lyrically, it goes from grief to bitterness, resignation, anger and regret – it’s so personal, it almost hurts. This is the album that gave us Tangled in the blue and Sheltered from the storm. And it doesn’t get any better than that.

Neil Young – Harvest (1972)

Throughout his nearly four-decade career, Neil Young has encompassed many styles, but it is perhaps Harvest that best shows his unique singer-songwriter talent.

While going through the whole range of simple country rock (Are you ready for the country) to richly orchestrated (Words (between age lines)), Young never fails to convey the emotion of the story at your fingertips. The needle and the damage caused – Neil’s austere acoustic musical documentation on the destruction of his friend (and guitarist) by the heroine which remains deeply touching.

Elton John – Madman Across Water (1971)

Pianist / songwriter / rocketman Elton John released a brilliant pair of albums in the 1970s. At the time of the Crazy…, her writing partnership with Bernie Taupin was at its creative peak.

Opening with Little dancer (since immortalized in Almost known), Elton sets the stage for nine perfectly crafted songs. Indian Sunset is a brave move for both its lyrical content and sparse musical arrangement – and it was given a new lease of life when it appeared as an important sample on Tupak Shakur’s No.1. Ghetto gospel.

Tom Waits – Closing Time (1973)

If stories of heartbreak and songs populated by characters who’ve had a hard old life are your thing, then look no further than Tom Waits’ debut. Straddling the line between rock and lounge singers like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, Wait’s melancholy and gruff performance conjures up images of shattered dreams and colorful characters.

Although primarily piano-based, Waits displays his writing versatility with the ragged acoustic guitar of I hope I don’t fall in love with you and the pseudo jazz funk of Man ice cream.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1976)

Naming his debut album after himself and his band, Tom Petty’s initial assault on audiences was a thing of the past. Filled with short (no song is longer than four minutes), vignettes of life and love for blue collar workers, Petty managed to convey the feeling of ‘everyone’ in her work as her crackling branded guitar propelled them. melodies.

And 30 years later the hoarse thrill of three and a half minutes closer american girl sounds as fresh today as when it was originally released.

Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975)

This is the album that saved the career of the young Boss. And it’s easy to see why. Developing the blue collar groove and everyday folk stories of his first two albums, Born to run was an educated and lean beast of a record.

Opening with the ferocious Thunder road, the guitars are full, and Bruce’s vocal performance is as passionate and vital as his stories of small town despair. If there is any doubt that this is a songwriter at his best, just listen to the title track‘s conviction.

Joni Mitchell – Blue (1971)

Known for her quirky lyricism and weird guitar chords (Mitchell is said to not be able to play many of her early songs as they were recorded because she can’t remember how she tuned her guitar), Blue is Joni’s tour de force.

Of the plaintive and heartbreaking Christmas complaint of River via the lyrically brilliant case of you (“I could drink a case of you and stay standing”) on upbeat and benevolent Carey, this album takes the listener through the gamut of emotions. This flight tonight, Joni’s song that Scottish rockers Nazareth would make their own, debuted on this record.

Carole King – Tapestry (1971)

In the early 1960s, pianist Carole King made a name for herself as songwriter on hire. Teaming up with Gerry Goffin, she wrote countless hit songs (The Loco-Movement and A beautiful day to name just two). Having gained enough self-confidence to trust her own voice, King went out on her own, but it wasn’t until Tapestry (his third outing) as his solo career took off.

Featuring the likes of I feel the earth moving, will you still love me tomorrow and You have a friend (made famous by James Taylor), it is the work of a songwriter in his prime.

Jackson Browne – Late for Heaven (1974)

1977 resolutely country Running empty may be the album everyone remembers when Jackson Browne’s name is mentioned, but it’s his third album, Late for heaven, who truly flaunts his talents as one of the best singer-songwriters of the 70s.

Covering traditional singer-songwriter subjects like life, love, and death, Browne brings a depth of emotion and a shrewd lyrical feel to his work. The epic, closing Before the flood has the line ‘Now let’s let the music keep our spirits high‘- a sentiment that embodies Browne’s work.

Don McLean – American Pie (1972)

Surely there can’t be a living person who doesn’t know the title track from Don McLean’s second album, the epic tale of the untimely death of Buddy Holly (you know, ‘The day the music died‘). But McLean is not limited to this often-covered song, as this set of ten tracks proves.

From the sweet melancholy of Vincent’s acoustic guitar (Starry Night) – a tribute in song to the painter Vincent Van Gogh via le morne, regrettable Empty chairs to the beautiful ballad of Winter wood, McLean proves he can just stay on the safe side of schmaltz with his songwriting.


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