Five albums from the 1970s that had no business being as excellent as they are

The 1970s were an excellent decade for music, but no one expected these albums to be as good as they were.
David Bowie in concert
David Bowie in concert / Ron Pownall Photography/GettyImages
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The Cars - The Cars (1978)

In a previous article, I wrote that the Cars should not be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and I stand by that. The debut studio record from the band is fantastic. Both things can be true. The Rock Hall should be about sustained excellence over many years, not one or two accidentally great records. Still, the Cars wanted to be something akin to Aerosmith and turned out to be a bit more like Talking Heads.

This record begins with three tracks that might be the band's best. "Good Times Roll," "My Best Friend's Girl," and "Just What I Needed" are a proper way to start any LP, but for a band to announce themselves that way on a debut record is even more impressive. The entire record goes by too quickly at just 35 minutes and 11 seconds so the Cars did leave fans wanting more.

They delivered too, at least until they faded into cliche pop-rock. Had they kept up the sound they created on the first album, they would surely be worthy of Rock Hall induction.

Van Halen - Van Halen (1978)

Had this album come out ten years later, people might have been thinking, "OK, fine. But don't we have enough of this music?" Hair bands were all the rage in the late 1980s, but in 1978 Van Halen was a bit different. They wanted to be guitar gods - and, as far as Eddie Van Halen is concerned, he was - but they didn't want to continue in the same dark realm as Black Sabbath. Van Halen wanted to have a lot of personality.

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This worked, at least in the first lineup of the group, because while David Lee Roth did not have the greatest voice, he did know how to fit what he could do with the musical excellence of the rest of the group. The band could not make true ballads, but that was a great thing. Not until Sammy Hagar joined the band after Roth was kicked out did Van Halen start to lose its originality and become the same thing as Ratt and Quiet Riot.

The group's debut record had a number of bangers. "Runnin' with the Devil" was dangerous enough to scare middle-American parents. "Eruption" set the stage for Eddie Van Halen to become one of the most important guitarists in rock history. "Jamie's Cryin'" was a wicked stream of metal. The album did not change the history of rock, but it sure remains entertaining.

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