Tom’s Top 5’s: Albums of 1972

Alright, folks, 1972 is where the prog side of my personality comes out swinging. Which means that seemingly obligatory choices like Exile on Main Street, Machine Head, or Ziggy Stardust get sidelined for the likes of Emerson Lake & Palmer and King Crimson. What this says about my personality or my tastes, I leave to my reader to determine. (I should mention that all three of the aforementioned records are classics.) For my part, I offer no apologies, but merely note that your mileage may vary.

5. FOXTROT (Genesis)


1971’s Nursery Cryme is a mighty fine album, but Foxtrot is Genesis’s first unalloyed classic. Listeners tend to focus (with good reason) on the monumental, apocalyptic “Supper’s Ready.” But tracks like “Can-Utility & the Coastliners” and “Get ‘Em Out by Friday” are equally potent distillations of the band’s dense, symphonic sound and unparalleled flair for the dramatic.

4. PER UN AMICO (Premiata Forneria Marconi)

Per Un Amico

PFM are one-third of a “Holy Trinity” of sorts in Italian progressive rock, and their superlative second album is the finest by any member of the trinity (which also includes Le Orme and Banco del Mutuo Soccorso). But while Per Un Amico may be the blueprint for 1,000 Italian symph-prog bands, its pastoral beauty is one-of-a-kind – even if you don’t understand the lyrics, it doesn’t really matter when the music is this gorgeous.


Close to the Edge

Ah, Yes. Although both Fragile and The Yes Album feature incredible compositions, Close to the Edge is the true pinnacle of the band’s achievement. “And You and I” and “Siberian Khatru” are both magnificent, but the real triumph here is the incomparable title track. It took me a several full listens to get into the celestial sinfonietta that is “Close to the Edge,” but it was well worth the effort – it makes great incidental music to reading Hesse’s Siddhartha.

2. CAN’T BUY A THRILL (Steely Dan)

Can't Buy a Thrill

Because Steely Dan numbers among the very first rock acts I ever heard, I don’t tend to hear the complexity in their music; what sounds jazzy and unusual to others has been normalized for me over two decades of obsessive listening. Their late-night jazz-rock hybrid didn’t arrive fully-formed on Can’t Buy a Thrill; for one thing, the Dan an was an actual band with permanent members when it was made. But Becker/Fagen’s knowing manipulation of pop-rock conventions, their snarky-smart melodic and lyrical sensibilities, and their sonic perfectionism are all out in full force.

1. THICK AS A BRICK (Jethro Tull)

Thick as a Brick

When someone says “progressive rock,” they’re thinking of Thick as a Brick. The dense, obtuse lyrics; the ridiculous concept; the extended song structures (obviously); the compound time signatures; the blazing instrumental solos; the startling dynamic contrasts; the stunning album artwork (I’m thankful to have inherited the LP, since the CD booklet just can’t do it justice)… Jethro Tull’s album-length opus has it all.

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2 Responses to Tom’s Top 5’s: Albums of 1972

  1. marshallgu says:

    Great year, though only Foxtrot would end up on my top 25 of that year. Exile on Main Street (Rolling Stones), #1 Record (Big Star), Ziggy Stardust (Bowie), Transformer (Lou Reed) and Talking Book (Stevie Wonder) would’ve probably been my top 5, not in that order.

    • Tom Emanuel says:

      #1 Record is one that I need to hear yet – somehow I adore power pop (Badfinger, Jellyfish, Matthew Sweet, Squeeze, Fountains of Wayne, the Raspberries, you name it) and yet have spent very little time with Big Star.

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