5 Under-rated Classic Rock Albums To Hunt Down On Record Store Day

With Record Store Day happening this Saturday, record collectors everywhere will go out and support their favorite independent record stores with the hopes of getting their hands on one of the many exclusive releases available that day.  For those of you participating: once you have tracked down the rare EPs and LPs on your list, you might finish your shopping trip by browsing selections in the used vinyl section.  You never know what you will find!
 
This list highlights five under-rated classic rock albums that do not get as much critical praise as they should.  They are not the most famous records by their respective artists, but each title is awesome and rewarding in its own way.  If you are a classic rock fan and want to get outside of the usual suspects that occupy most “Greatest Albums of All Time” lists, this list is for you . . .
 
The Raspberries – Starting Over
 
Cleveland’s Raspberries, like Big Star and the Velvet Underground, are one of those bands who never were truly appreciated properly when they were together, but nevertheless, were influential on a spectrum of artists from Bruce Springsteen to Motley Crüe.  Starting Over is the band’s final album and features some of their most beautiful pop ballads as well as some of their most boisterous rockers.  The opening track, “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” is as inventive and lushly produced as anything by Phil Spector or Brian Wilson (the track even earned the praise of John Lennon).  Tunes like “Play On”, “Party’s Over” and “All Through The Night” fuse together the best elements of the Who, the Beatles and the Faces, thus creating some of the most infectious rockers known to man. 
 
Bob Dylan – New Morning

After throwing a curve to fans and critics alike with 1970's Self Portrait, Dylan released New Morning a short six months later.  Although, 1974’s Blood On The Tracks is seen as the marker of Dylan’s 70s renaissance, New Morning is no slouch.  The album is anchored by songs about domestic bliss such as the title track, the hit single “If Not For You”, and “The Man In Me”.  “Day of the Locusts” and “Went To See The Gypsy” are both strong and gripping works as well.  “If Dogs Run Free” is a strange jazzy song, but on the whole, New Morning is pretty damn good.  Check it out; it sucks you in deeper with each listen.
 
Graham Nash – Songs For Beginners

At the dawn of the 1970s, Crosby, Still, Nash and Young were releasing a tidal wave of great music - both as a group and as solo artists.  Of the four members, Graham Nash tends to get the least attention because he is not a guitar hero like Stills or Young and has not had as many run-ins with law as Crosby.  Nash’s 1971 solo debut, Songs For Beginners, can sit comfortable next to the best works of Nash’s bandmates and other contemporaries such as Carole King, James Taylor and Cat Stevens.  The album is poignantly political with tracks like “Military Madness”, “Chicago/We Can Change The World”.  It is also a very personally reflective collection with ballads like “Wounded Bird” and “Be Yourself”.  The chorus of “Simple Man”, which was written as his relationship with Joni Mitchell was falling apart, has some absolutely gorgeous harmonies.  Another gem is the folky “Sleep Song”, a tune Nash originally offered his old band the Hollies, but they deemed the lyrics too racy.  All in all, if you are a singer-songwriter fan, keep an eye out for this record.  It is a jewel. 
 
Deep Purple – Who Do We Think We Are?
 
Who Do We Think We Are? is an overlooked offering, because it followed Deep Purple’s smash LP Machine Head and their ground-breaking live release, Live In Japan.  While recording the album, the band’s Mark II lineup was falling apart.  Singer Ian Gillan was gearing up to quit and guitarist Ritchie Blackmore was being his usual difficult self.  The album was released, but no tour supported it.  From it, the song “Woman From Tokyo” is its only recognizable hit.  The following year, the Deep Purple Mark III lineup premiered (featuring new singer David Coverdale and bassist Glenn Hughes) and released its celebrated debut, Burn.  All these factors ultimately often leave Who Do We Think We Are? in the shadows.  Nevertheless, the album rocks.  Blackmore’s guitar riffs are tasty; the rhythm section of Ian Paice and Roger Glover is in fine form, as are Gillan’s vocals and John Lord’s signature organ playing.  Seek out heavy rockers like “Super Trouper”, “Smooth Dancer” and “Rat Rat Blue” and let the head-banging begin.
 
Chicago – Chicago II (although just labeled “Chicago” on earlier pressings)

Chicago gets a bad rap, because of their soft rock friendly offerings at the end of the 70s and throughout the 80s.  However, at the dawn of the 1970s the band fused rock, pop, soul, jazz and the threads of Beatlesque psychedelia into a series of ground-breaking double albums.  Their sophomore effort, 1970s Chicago II, is a rich work with a lot to appreciate.  There are the obvious hits like “Make Me Smile”, “Colour My World” and “25 or 6 to 4” as well as cool deeper cuts like “In the Country”, “Movin’ In”, and “Where Do We Go From Here”.  Each track flows seamlessly into the next as if it is all one giant suite.  Chicago II is great with its harmonies, horn sections and symphonic arrangements, but do not miss out on the late Terry Kath’s innovative guitar heroics.  When he get’s cooking, the songs really take off.  Even Hendrix was blown away by Kath’s playing.  In the end, if you stumble across this title when thumbing through the used vinyl, do not let your preconceived notions about Chicago get the better of you.  Chicago II is pretty cool. 
 
 

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