Various Artists

20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: Best of the '70s

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No album containing only 12 songs with a running time of 52 minutes can claim anything like a comprehensive look at the 1970s, much less present "the best" of the decade. But Hip-O's discount-priced compilation, part of Universal Music's 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection series and drawing upon the major label's vast archives, plus a couple of licensed songs from other companies, can attempt to be representative of the diverse musical styles of the '70s. Major trends in popular music included singer/songwriters (Cat Stevens' "Wild World") and Southern rock (Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama"). R&B music (often referred to as "soul" in the '70s) continued to be broadly popular, but it had expanded its styles to include social concerns (Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," Edwin Starr's "War") as well as easy listening (Gladys Knight & the Pips' "Midnight Train to Georgia") and bubblegum (the Jackson 5's "ABC"). Similarly, the British Invasion that had begun in the '60s continued to lap American shores, but it was diverse, touching on everything from reggae (Eric Clapton's "I Shot the Sheriff") to creamy pop (Elton John's "Daniel") and even folk-rock (Rod Stewart's "Maggie May"). All of these songs were popular, but the only two titles to rank among the most successful records of the decade are the final two on the disc: Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World," a piece of pure pop, and Don McLean's epic "American Pie." Annotator Sal Nunziato says of the latter that it "could be the 'anthem' of the decade," which is both ironic and fitting, since the song's lyrics actually constitute a musical history of the '60s, the decade from which most people spent the '70s recovering.

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