Yesterday I started writing about Warner Special Products’ “Superstars of the 70s” compilation series, four sets released between 1973 and 1975, all of which I eagerly bought. The first two volumes, Superstars of the 70s and Heavy Metal, could form the foundation of a classic-rock radio station library—and in fact, the summer I worked at WXXQ in Freeport, Illinois, we played a couple of tracks straight from Heavy Metal. Even then, the coincidence made me woozy—how many times had I dreamed of being on the radio while playing Heavy Metal in my room at home?
Volume 3 in the series, Rockin’ Easy, was released in 1975, and I got it maybe a year later (on an 8-track tape, baby, although I acquired a vinyl copy in later years). Unlike the two previous volumes, it purported to contain “laid-back hits.” That didn’t make it wimpy, though, except for America’s “Muskrat Love” and the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.” The bulk of the tracks came from the softer side of album rock. Rockin’ Easy was my introduction to the original versions of “Sentimental Lady” (Fleetwood Mac) and “Take it Easy” (Jackson Browne), and to Bonnie Raitt (“Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy”), as well as to superb tracks like the Doobie Brothers’ “South City Midnight Lady” and Stephen Stills’ “Change Partners.” Plus it’s got some hits: “Hello It’s Me,” “Diamond Girl,” “She’s Gone,” and “Suavecito” by Malo.
The fourth volume, Silver Bullets, was also released in 1975. It has more R&B than the other sets combined, featuring hits by the O’Jays, Chi-Lites, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Staple Singers, AWB, the Spinners, and Tower of Power, plus lesser-known tracks by the Persuaders, the Main Ingredient, Aretha Franklin, and Isaac Hayes. Add a few dollops of other stuff—Foghat’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” “Casey Jones” by the Grateful Dead, “Lookin’ for a Love” by the J. Geils Band, and, for some reason, Abba’s “Waterloo”—and you’ve got the least cohesive entry in the set. That didn’t stop me from playing it regularly for several years.
You can tell from the looks of all four sets that they were well-loved. The covers are as worn as any in my library. The discs inside, however, are not especially bad off after 30-plus years of wear and tear—certainly no worse than anything else I own. I have replaced a lot of the songs with pristine CD versions in the intervening years, but I’m keeping the vinyl. Some people have baby pictures of their kids to cherish in their old age. I’ve got these, and that’s OK with me.