The final part. The end, or I suppose, the beginning. Back to 1974, the year of my birth. The best release of 1974 was clearly me and frankly I only get better every year, but musically…
One of the few artists I got into when I was young (not in 1976, obviously) and before I was gripped by the majesty of rock (and the mystery of roll) was J-MJ. I like pretty much all his stuff and always have. Oxygene was probably my favourite of his, and "Oxygene 4" was used on the TV in the 70s and 80s all over the place. Still listen to this now and still love it.
Top tracks: The whole thing, really, but if you have to pick one out, it's "Oxygene 4"
Remember "the double album rule"? Well, this is not another exception I'm afraid – there's a bunch of filler on here, as Zep slid inexorably into the Valley of Diminishing Returns after Houses of the Holy, but when it's good it's very very good. Top track: "Kashmir", as well you know.
Early Queen is a mixed bag, but this one gave us lifelong classics "You're My Best Friend" and "Love of My Life" as well as overlooked gems like "Death on Two Legs" and "'39", and that's before you even get to track 11, a little ditty called "Bohemian Rhapsody" of which you may have heard. Top track: "Bohemian Rhapsody", like, duh.
Worth the price of admission several times over for the title track alone, Wish You Were Here is just great. It's great. That's what it is, great. Stick it on. It's great.
Top tracks: "Wish You Were Here", "Have a Cigar", "Welcome to the Machine"
Deep Purple have had as many lineup changes as any band you can mention, and are still going today. In fact, their 2017 album Infinite is on the longlist for that year, though I need more time with it to see if it makes the shortlist. Burn, however, was "the first Deep Purple album to feature then-unknown David Coverdale on vocals", and doesn't it just? Blackmore is on fire, Coverdale and Glenn Hughes smash the vocals out of the park, and mainstays Lord and Paice do what they do best. I hadn't properly consumed this album until recently, only really being familiar with the title track, but it is indeed a cracker. Top track: "Burn", natch.
Back to the mixed bag of Queen then, to round this thing out. This was in fact their second album of 1974, following the release of Queen II earlier on, and it is an entirely different gunnysack of weaselfish than the band's first two albums which were heavily 70s-prog influenced. This for me was where they started to really find their stride and start writing true Queen material, and while there are occasional oddities ("Bring Back That Leroy Brown", anyone?) it's otherwise solid and home to not only classics like "Killer Queen", "Brighton Rock" and "Stone Cold Crazy", but my favourite Queen song of all time, "Now I'm Here".
Not perfect, but bloody good.
Top tracks: "Stone Cold Crazy", "Now I'm Here", "Killer Queen"