10 career-altering third albums from bands in the 1960s and '70s

Things changed for these groups with their third full-length releases.

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SAIL AWAY by Randy Newman (1972)

Every record label in the USA was looking for singer/songwriters in the early ‘70s. Carole King’s Tapestry hit number one on the album charts in early 1971 and I believe it has its reservations booked in the top 200 until the dawn of the 23rd century. That might explain this mini-run of third albums by singer/songwriters in the early ‘70s. Randy Newman’s Sail Away will be the last such album.

Newman had achieved great critical success with his first two albums but had yet to really register with the public. Sail Away was only a modest hit when it was released, but its varied styles and moods – from music hall to rock, from satiric to poignant – began to carve out Newman’s reputation as a very sophisticated song stylist.

Playing with standout accompanists like drummer Jim Keltner and slide guitar virtuoso Ry Cooder, Newman created brilliant songs from the opening title track (about the slave trade) to the dirge-like finale “God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind).” Newman explores topics not typically in the purview of pop musicians. Cooder gives a genuine swampy wash to songs like “Last Night I Had a Dream,” and “You Can Leave Your Hat On.” There are lovely trifles like “Simon Smith and the Amazing Dancing Bear” and “Dayton, Ohio – 1903.” And there is “Political Science,” which was at one time seen as satiric, but these days might sum a particular strand of American foreign policy rather accurately.