From 2005-2013 and 2014-2022, I punctuated each year with an ever increasingly complex Best of List. In 2021 I returned to weekly missives with FTCH. I’m humbled by my faithful readers who have stuck with me week after week. The previous two weeks I have made lists of my favorite movie and television shows. The final summary of my 2023 experience is much like me – all over the proverbial board. These are all the things I measured that just don’t fit in the previous categories. Grab a snack, get comfortable because this is a long one.
BEST OF THE REST 2023
2023 BY THE NUMBERS
- 4,707,804 steps taken this year (2283 miles) (70 miles less than 2022, 148 miles less than 2023) This year’s goal is to turn that around in the positive direction.
- 365 days walking over 5 miles per day in 2023
- 7 days not walking over 5 miles per day since 1/1/15
- 53 days with over 7 hours of sleep (14 days less than 2022)
- 49 beers drank that were new to me this year (first time below 50 new beers in 8 years)
- 31 books read (8th year in a row of meeting my 25 book/year goal) (11,300 pages read in the completed books – 3000 pages less than last year)
- 319 movies watched in 2023
- 73 films released in 1973 watched this year
- 0 times with the hiccups
- 0 tattoos
- 1 adopted cat (Hello, Pepper)
- 1 concert attended
- 1 professional sporting event attended
- 1 World Series Championship for my favorite baseball team
- 3 states visited (no new Capitol buildings)
- 3 countries visited (a thirst for more International travel fueled)
- 20 unique ice cream parlors visited for my 2023 project
- 35 Fridays with Tacos from Fuzzy’s Taco Shop
- 40,112 minutes listened to Spotify
- 329 albums released in 1973 listened to in 2023
- 13 entries in my Punk Project in 2023. I need to pick up the pace on this project.
- 57 combined entries in my John Ford and Clint Eastwood Projects (Eastwood started in 2022 / Ford started in 2021)
- 15 movies seen in theaters (a good year but short of my goal of 25)
BEST BOOKS I READ IN 2023
After almost a decade of not reaching my yearly goal of 25 books per year – I’m on a run of eight straight years of beating the goal. This year’s 31 books read were more diverse as my Stephen King Project was caught up to present time in 2022. I’ve used the year to start to cover some Classic Literature that I’m missing out on, and I’ve continued with some authors like Twain, Leonard, and Hiassen that I’ve not yet completed.
1. Stephen King – Holly (2023): Holly Gibney returns to the King Universe. She’s one of my favorite characters that he has ever created. This might not be the best book that she’s involved in, but it’s a pleasure to read her process of solving some pretty disturbing crimes surrounding the nearby college.
2. Charles Dickens – The Pickwick Papers (1837): I picked this as a light break between Moby Dick and War and Peace in my quest to go back and read some of the best books of the 19th century that I’ve missed. First, I wasn’t thinking initially that this was as long as it is and probably should have picked a shorter work. Second, I’m so glad I stuck with it because it’s hilarious. It’s been so long since I read any Dickens that I forgot his command of the English language. His ability to create a satirical scene with complete sincerity is rivaled only by Mark Twain. If you have the time, I recommend this title as background reading. The structure served me well to read other titles while I consumed this a chapter at a time.
3. Carl Hiaasen – Skinny Dip (2004): The fifth book in the Skink series only utilized Skink in a very minor way. That was perfectly organic to the story and it just makes the frequent reader comfortable that they know the Universe that the story takes place. I laughed through most of this simple revenge scheme title. That’s exactly what I want from his books.
4. Lars Kepler – The Sandman (2012): The fourth book in the Joona Linna series. It recycles some of the best parts of Silence of the Lambs with the interactions of the police and a serial killer who is at a psychiatric hospital when another murder in his style is committed. These are fun thrillers that exist somewhere between mystery, horror, and police procedural.
5. Dashiell Hammett – Red Harvest (1929): My introduction to his character, Continental Op. This hard-boiled detective story was a partial influence on Yojimbo as the character arrives in town and starts to play the bad guys against each other. I love Hammett’s style and this inspired me to add some of his titles to my “to read” list.
6. Mark Twain – Gilded Age (1873): Early in his career, Twain is at the top of his satire game. Taking the “Golden Age” moniker and calling his era the “Gilded Age” for the surface veneer of success that has no backing underneath it. It was uneven in parts, but I really enjoyed this look into his early writings.
7. Dashiell Hammett – The Dain Curse (1929): The Continental Op is back again. This is four shorter stories connected to form a single story of Alice Leggett (born a Dain) who may or may not be cursed to be compelled to kill the men in her life. Not as good as Red Harvest (1929) but it has me wanting to read more adventures of the Continental Op.
8. Mark Twain – A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889): This book wasn’t exactly what I expected. It’s a satire but it’s got an element of science fiction (alt-history) that I didn’t see coming. It’s hard to call it a humorous novel even though there are a few laughs. It’s more of a fairy tale with a series of lessons.
9. Stephen King – Danse Macabre (1981): This non-fiction work covers books, movies, and television shows in the horror genre released between 1950 and 1980. It’s a great primer of King’s influences and good for King fans to know where to go when they are caught up with his books. It has served again to add multiple books and films to my “to watch” list this year.
10. Herman Melville – Moby Dick, or The Whale (1851): Part of my post-King reading personal assignments is to catch up on some classics that I have missed or skipped through the years. This was a book that tops out on lists of Great American Novels that I missed throughout my English Major at Michigan. Melville’s style took a bit to get used to and the plot unfolded much more slowly than I was led to believe. In the end, I’m glad I read it. The writing is great but there just isn’t enough there for me to recommend it to anyone reading this blog. Be warned.
WORST PROJECT PROGRESS OF 2023
I start a new set of projects every year, but I rarely technically end a project. For every project that you see play out on Instagram or Facebook, there are at least a couple that either die on the vine or just don’t get off the ground. Some are abandoned for good and others are waiting in the wings to really get their due. Some are just waiting for the right moment to pick back up again. Here are a few of the ones that I’m not willing to bury just yet.
- ICE CREAM PROJECT (2023): I thought that I would be motivated to put at least forty of these under my belt in a 52-week year. Ending at twenty was a disappointment. I found some awesome local places. I just didn’t travel enough to go to some of my favorites in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. I hope to continue a few more of these in the upcoming year.
2. JOHN FORD / CLINT EASTWOOD PROJECT (2021/2022): I made better progress this year with both than I did last year. In the Eastwood Project, I went from 1959 to 1980 and saw a lifetime of changes in the man. His career is so prolific that I’m only now about to enter the meat of his works. I’m savoring the John Ford Project and I’m just getting into a run of his best works. I went from 1928 to 1939 this year, but I need to pick up the pace into the new year. I finished Hitchcock in a year and Spielberg in two years. I’m happy with both of these but it’s been slower going.
3. DOCUMENTARY PROJECT (2020): I started this in 2020 to make sure that I codified going through some of the most acclaimed documentaries of current and past eras. I slacked off to less than one per week in 2023. I’m just short of 400 documentaries and I have almost 200 categorized that I want to get through. I need to get back to at least one per week.
4. THE DOCTOR WHO PROJECT (2020): I soft started this “unofficial” project during the beginning of the Pandemic. I’ve been going through the stories in order from the start. In 2023, I started with the Second Doctor at the start of 1969. I ended the year with the Third Doctor in May of 1972. I won’t live long enough to finish the project at this speed. It’s been really interesting to watch them in order, unlike how I’ve experienced them in the past. I just have to get into more of a habit with the stories.
5. PUNK PROJECT (2021): I lost momentum with this project in the middle of so many others. It’s sad because I enjoy this project as much or more as anything else that I’m working on currently. I went from June 1978 to September 1978 this past year. I would love to be sitting towards the end of 1979 by the time we convene here again next year.
BEST ICE CREAM PARLORS OF 2023
This was the first food-related project since 2019 that wasn’t affected by COVID closings. I have had a lifetime love affair with ice cream parlors. When I move to a new home, one of the first things I do is find the nearest ice cream stop. I learned this year that the ingredients are what matter most and that the dairy is what makes the difference. I don’t need crazy flavor options to enjoy the visit. I will also say that the workers at almost every stop along the way were some of the most happy and positive I’ve encountered in any project.
1. BRUSTER’S ICE CREAM (Butter Pecan): I was already primed to enjoy this location because Caleb worked there for a few years, and it happens to be my dog’s, Rigby, favorite ice cream. After sampling 19 other options in the past year, there’s just something about this place that makes it my favorite. It was good enough to be our Christmas ice cream to fill the freezer over any grocery-store-purchased ice cream. The butter pecan is the best for the salty pecans with the extra creamy vanilla.
2. MARGIE’S CANDIES (Butter Pecan/Turtle): This iconic Chicago location is like stepping back into 1962. It’s a small location with limited seating and some of the best ice cream in Chicago. I was as much a fan of the experience as the ice cream but that’s all part of the Project. The butter pecan also nailed the perfect mix of salt and cream.
3. BETH MARIE’S OLD FASHIONED ICE CREAM & SODA FOUNTAIN (Jack & Coke/Doctor Texas): This gets back to “it’s all about the cream” and the presentation. They have lots of interesting flavors but nothing that isn’t just a slight variation of an old standby. The Doctor Texas was pretty much a cherry vanilla with a little touch of cola flavor. It’s hard to go wrong with anything on the menu.
4. HANDEL’S HOMEMADE ICE CREAM (Chocolate Pecan/Buckeye): This other local place shares the same creamery as Bruster’s. The ice cream has that same wonderful creamy taste, and the chocolate had a nice bitterness. If I go here a few more times, it might approach a solid #2 status.
5. YARD: THE MILKSHAKE BAR (Buttery Pecan/Dark Chocolate Raspberry): There were some other flavors that I want to try at this parlor. The milkshakes look pretty good, but this year was all about the ice cream itself. The buttery pecan was good, but as I’ve said before, I like a more salty pecan inside the cream.
6. CAN SOLER CAFE (Oreo/Cola Gellato): This cafe in Montgat, Spain is probably a case of best place at the best time. I had fallen in love with this city by day two and I didn’t need any more convincing that I’d like to live here. Or I didn’t think I did until I had some ice cream on the sidewalk at this cafe. If I end up moving here, this will be the place I want to hang out on every late sunny afternoon. The ice cream was pretty good too.
7. THE COCKTAIL CREAMERY (Kit Kat Bourbon/White Chocolate): The award for best concept of the year goes to this small town location that mixes booze with the ice cream. It’s way more effective than I imagined. The flavors are consistently in each spoon without being overwhelming. I’m anxious to take all of you there when you come visit me.
8. BRAUM’S ICE CREAM (Cherry Pecan Cream): I’m not being fair to this parlor in my rankings because it has been on our rotation since the kids were very little. It has the best prices to match the solid offerings of your classic flavors. There’s absolutely nothing detracting this from other places other than it isn’t trying to be anything more than an everyday ice cream stop. Bonus for having good burgers and cheap milk.
9. ICELAND ICE CREAM (Vanilla and Oreo/Thai Tea and Graham): This is the only rolled ice cream place to make the list. The presentation was the best of the year. The flavor is deeper than you might expect for a thinly rolled ice cream. I think it’s just a matter of finding the right combination.
10. CAULDRON ICE CREAM (Sea Salt Caramel Crunch/Chai): This was my only Nitro ice cream of the year. The production of making the ice cream at the time you order is a nice touch. The flavor is good but might not live up to the hype of watching it come together. I love the flavor options and this is another fun place to take guests.
BEST SNACKS OF 2023
I have always loved snacks. They have served as influence on my different projects. I love beverages, candy, cookies, and other salty goodies. These have become a fixture in my weekly FTCH blog. The more you snack, the more you go down the rabbit hole of snack culture. A few of the memorable ones this year. The 2022 Snack of the Year: Oreo Brookie-O.
- LITTLE DEBBIE CHERRY CORDIALS ICE CREAM: In a year where I did ice cream parlors, you wouldn’t think I’d get too many ice creams at home. I’m glad I tried this one. The Little Debbie ice creams have been decent but this one is where they have peaked. I have had to stock up before they disappear.
2. OREO BLACKOUT CAKE: Chocolate cake creme and dark chocolate cake creme double stuffed under the chocolate biscuit. These were going to be my favorite before I ever tasted them and they lived up to the hype.
3. FUNYUNS SPICY QUESO: I have had very little opinions of Funyuns in the past. They were a second- or third-tier salty snack. This flavor came out of nowhere to be one of the most addictive snacks for me this year. Rarely do companies manage to find the perfect mix of onion, cheese, and jalapeno flavors in a queso-flavored snack. This one nails it.
4. MOUNTAIN DEW GAME FUEL CITRUS CHERRY: They didn’t push many boundaries with this brand in 2023. Bringing a classic flavor to the Game Fuel line was a great choice. This brand is best when it goes cherry or grape. I can’t wait to road trip with these in the cooler.
5. H.E.B. CITRUS & CAYENNE RIDGED POTATO CHIPS: I was lukewarm on this summer release at first. Once I had paired them with sandwiches, I was ready to declare them the potato chip release most deserving of a permanent release in 2023. This combination should be revisited by other
6. BLUE BELL DR. PEPPER FLOAT ICE CREAM: The next best ice cream was out in the spring to activate my summer mood. It’s still around and I hope that means it’s a keeper for Blue Bell. It’s exactly what the title says and it doesn’t need any supporting cast to be a great snack.
MOST MISSED OF 2023
1. NORMAN LEAR (1922-2023): Many of his shows started as adaptations of U.K. sitcoms. That’s a reduction of the talent he had at sensing how to construct a comedy that could also provide social commentary. All In The Family (1971-1979) is not much more than a single-set play most episodes, never leaving the living room. They say he changed the face of television, and there are few shows today as daring as his topics on Maude (1972-1978) and Good Times (1974-1980). His legacy is amazing.
2. WILLIAM FRIEDKIN (1935-2023): He doesn’t have the output of other directors, but he’s responsible for helping move Hollywood out of their old system of the previous decades and into the creative explosion that started in the ’70s. I find his commentaries interesting even if his speaking style is monotone. It’s hard to discount his run of The French Connection (1971), The Exorcist (1973) and Sorcerer (1977) as all being influential to his fellow directors.
3. JIM BROWN (1936-2023)/ RICHARD ROUNDTREE (1942-2023): Jim Brown was as versatile a superstar as there was in his generation. He was an unstoppable football player that is in every argument as the best ever. He was a Civil Rights activist. He was an actor that had groundbreaking roles in Westerns and the burgeoning Soul Cinema movement. Richard Roundtree gave legitimacy to Soul Cinema with his serious take as titular detective in Shaft (1971) that helped bring the genre to a much larger audience.
4. PAUL REUBENS (1952-2023): More than just Pee Wee Herman, Paul Reubens had a wonderful way of twisting your expectations. His sense of humor ran that fine line of good taste/bad taste that all of the best comedians know how to straddle.
5. SHANE MACGOWAN (1957-2023): The Pogues lead singer led a life full of trouble. Most of it self-inflicted. If anyone doubts his importance, you only have to look at the outpouring of tributes across the musical spectrum upon his death. Start with “Rainy Night in Soho.”
6. TINA TURNER (1939-2023): A truly amazing journey to stardom. Her story is one of grit and determination that we rarely see today. Her incredible voice helped. Well deserved title of “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll”. Start with “Proud Mary.”
7. BOB BARKER (1923-2023): A name that my generation associates with the comfort of staying home sick from school watching The Price Is Right (1972-2007). I have long championed his run on Truth or Consequences (1956-1975).
8. SINEAD O’CONNOR (1966-2023) / SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR (1930-2023): I have always had a soft spot for Sinead’s singing voice. A troubled soul that for a brief shining moment was one of the top female vocalists in the world. Start with “Nothing Compares To U.” Sandra Day broke ground at a time that you didn’t expect a mostly understated personality to become the first female Justice. Peace to the O’Connor families.
9. AL JAFFE (1921-2023): Probably my favorite of the “usual gang of idiots” at MAD Magazine. His fold-in concept was magic to me in my youth (and to be fair, it still is today).
10. JIM LADD (1948-2023): The last DJ. I remember him fondly from my time in California. His interviews with rock legends are still some of the best available.
HONORABLE MENTION: Not all of the missed of 2023 are of the human variety. We said goodbye to the Paqui “One Chip Challenge”, the Buick Encore, the Grimace Shake, Sierra Mist, and the underrated Taco Bell Quesarito.
I’ve been disappointed with the Oscars’ version of “most missed” over the past few years. TCM has far surpassed them with selection and presentation. This is made by people who understand why we love movies. This will serve to cover so many that I didn’t get a chance to list. The silks and the cover of “Learning to Fly” by A.G. and Christina Perri were also great choices.
THINGS FROM 2023 THAT DIDN’T MAKE ANY OTHER LISTS
1. PEPPER / RIGBY (Rigby #2 in 2022): Any semi-regular reader is familiar with my loyal pooch, Rigby. We are together from 5:00 a.m. every day through bedtime with her at my feet each evening. Ellie, our ten-year-old cat, had become solely Caleb’s pet over the past years. When he moved out this year, he took her with him. On a whim, I stopped by the local shelter and found a boy that is eight years old and needed a home. His name is Pepper and he is the most chill cat that I’ve ever known. He has fit right in as a member of the household immediately. The three of us form a work day crew that is unstoppable. These two bring much joy to my life.
2. WEDDING / MOVING (#1 in 2022): The wedding this year was for my niece. It was in Barcelona and got me off my duff for International travel finally. I hope that continues into the next decade. The moving this year was Caleb off to college at Texas A&M. He’s back home more often than the other two ever were because of a local girlfriend. I love watching my children thrive. They are spirited and independent.
3. MICHIGAN FOOTBALL (#3 in 2022): It is the best three-year run for my team since 1970-1972, and I was too young to remember that era. I know I’m spoiled, and I’m not ready to go back to two- and three-loss seasons. This year’s team has such a likable group of guys that I will tell stories about them until my final days. College football is going to have a seismic change in 2024. Win or lose the College Final on Monday, I’m just glad to end this current era as one of the two best teams.
4. MONTGAT, SPAIN: After eight days in Barcelona for the wedding of my niece, this was supposed to just be a quiet rest for the last couple of days before heading back to the United States. I didn’t expect to instantly fall in love with this small beach town on the Mediterranean Sea, a 20-minute train ride North of Barcelona. It has moved to the top of my retirement communities. There was just such a vibe there that fit my personality. I want to go back sooner than later.
5. TEXAS RANGERS: I started following the team in the summer of 2003. They broke my heart in 2011 with their loss in the World Series to the Cardinals. The team had been at some of their lowest points in 2020 and 2021. They made some signings and created a team of players that I’ve loved to follow. I’m not going to tell you I thought they would even make the playoffs this year. This World Series victory was a true gift, and it raised my spirits at a tough time in my work life.
6. WORK FROM HOME: Speaking of “work life,” this year was as chaotic as 2016, 2013, and 2003. I went through a change in job (a promotion), a loss of contract, closing three stores, and then a new job with the same company all in the span of a couple months. I work from home now and it’s been both a blessing and a little sad. I miss the social contacts, but I’ve enjoyed the extra time with the pets and the lack of other drivers on my commutes.
7. ARSENAL FOOTBALL: Christian and I decided this summer to start following Arsenal Football Club of the Premier League in England again this season. It has been just over a decade since we last made the effort to watch all their games. We picked a good season as they’ve been at the top of the Table until two recent losses before the year end. I enjoy having a team to follow and to share with my son.
8. SUBS AND BALLOONS: In an era where the news is all doom and gloom, the bad news stories seem to just stack up on each other day after day. There were two particular stories that created multiple-day mysteries. The Titan submersible turned out to be a non-starter, but we thought we were hearing knocks for days before finding the wreckage. We all imagined the fear of being stuck in a sub with the air running out hour by hour. The Chinese “weather” balloon floating majestically across the United States was used for political stories. On the surface, I loved the mystery of what was up with the balloon and who might have been controlling it if anyone.
9. TELEVISION SHOWS THAT END: The consensus among critics is that the combination of the post-pandemic economy and the writer’s/actor’s strikes, this was the last year of the current era of Prestige TV. The idea of linear television shows last a decade feels like a thing of the past. Even streaming shows that go beyond 3-4 seasons feels like an arcane idea. This year, brought an end to shows I’ve been watching. In theory that opens up more hours in a week to watch new material. Gone but not forgotten in 2023 – Carnival Row (Amazon) (2 seasons), The Goldbergs (ABC) (10 seasons), Fear the Walking Dead (AMC) (8 seasons), The Flash (CW) (9 seasons), Mayans M.C. (FX) (5 seasons), Riverdale (CW) (7 seasons), Archer (FXX) (14 seasons) and Nancy Drew (CW) (5 seasons).
10. CANDLES/SCENTS (#6 in 2022): Yankee Candle, Goose Creek, and Wood Wick are my leading brands. Working from home has created a larger candle budget and I love following the change of seasons with the change of appropriate scents. I love the winter scents but I’m already thinking about the fresh spring scents like lavender, lily, and lemongrass.
BEST PUNK ROCK HEARD IN 2023
I chose Punk Rock for a project topic in 2021 based upon my interest but lack of detailed knowledge of the subject. I’ve really been enjoying the research and listening angle of the project. So much so that I’m getting bogged down listening to the albums over and over. I’m in no hurry to finish up but this past year only covered June 1978 to September 1978. These are my favorites from that time period.
1. The Ramones – Road to Ruin (1978): Their fourth album features a new drummer and some new influences. There’s a nod to the Heavy Metal genre and a tribute to the classic ’60s sounds that influenced them. It’s amazing that these albums weren’t big sellers in their day. They are so fresh and fun to listen to today. Start with “I Wanna Be Sedated” and “Needles and Pins.”
2. Blondie – Parallel Lines (1978): Considering the timeframe, this is an amazing mix of Punk, New Wave, and a hint of Disco. It’s hard today to put this album in context of the day. It was such a unique collection of songs. They’ve hit the Big Time by their third album. Start with “Picture This” and “Hanging On The Telephone.”
3. Devo – Q: Are We Not Me? A: We Are Devo (1978): This is their debut album. Because of their later sound, this is often called a New Wave album. There’s just too much chaotic noise going on in these songs not to call it anything but Punk Rock. It’s hard not to fall in love with the pure energy behind most of these songs. Start with “Uncontrollable Urge” and “Jocko Homo.”
4. Wire – Chairs Missing (1978): Wire’s second album is a giant leap forward for them. This is Art Rock meets incredible synth and guitar mixes. Start with “French Film Blurred” and “Practice Makes Perfect.”
5. Buzzcocks – Love Bites (1978): Their second album followed a pattern for these Punk bands in 1978. The first albums seemed to have one or two songs and lots of filler. The second albums came out after twelve straight months of playing hundreds of gigs and the bands are tighter and the instrumentation is more solid. This band shows some chops. Start with “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” and “Nostalgia.”
BEST PODCASTS I HEARD IN 2023
I have tried to become Podcast Guy for the past couple of years and I have to admit that with my other projects and my current work situation that it just isn’t happening. I am calling this category officially cancelled.
MOST PLAYED SONGS FROM SPOTIFY IN 2023
Music is ever present in my life. It’s on when I’m working, when I’m exercising, and often when I’m reading. It’s always interesting to look back at the top songs from the year. Thankfully, Spotify keeps track of my listens so I don’t have to. Last year #1 was Prince – “1999” (1982).
- Traffic – “Medicated Goo” (1968): “My own home recipe will see you through” It’s odd that this song bubbles up to my most played in 2023. I like it. It just isn’t part of a specific Project. I’m not doing Traffic albums or Steve Winwood Projects. I am not on 1968 albums or on a project related to goo. I have to believe it’s a combination of the algorithm finding it close to so many other songs that I listen to over and over. It’s definitely one that I don’t skip when it comes on.
2. The Clash – “Train in Vain” (1979): This is such a go-to song for me in the car, at the gym, and on a walk that I’m surprised it hasn’t been a Top Ten for the past decade. It’s an anthem for anyone (everyone) who has ever had trouble in love. “But the heart aches in me ’til this day.”
3. Ramones – “Needles and Pins” (1978): Another song about a lost love. The Ramones put their Punk style into a Jackie DeShannon 1963 tune. It works and I repeated it over and over in 2023.
4. Emerson, Lake & Palmer – “Karn Evil 9 1st Impression Pt. 1 & 2” (1973): “Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends” This album was a little much for me to decipher. I felt like I was missing some greater story. This particular single is my favorite. I like the use of Classical music structure with a Prog Rock instrumentation.
5. Little Feat – “Rock and Roll Doctor” (1974): I was surprised that this was on my Spotify most played only because this is a jukebox favorite of mine and I don’t listen to it at home as much. It’s best consumed as a live version. Listening again today, I have no shame at it being a top five tune for last year. This is what I often put on to get through the days.
6. Jackson Browne – “Take It Easy” (1973): Written by Jackson Browne and Glen Frey, this was obviously a much bigger hit for the Eagles. I only really discovered this version and this album as part of my 1973 Project. I ran through this album almost as much as any other this year and this single was a standout. Less Country and more Rock is a good take.
7. Rod Stewart – “Mandolin Wind” (1971): “But you chose to stay, stay and keep me warm” This is another album that has survived my yearly projects to get replayed over and over. I know all the words to all the songs and it makes sense that this tune would work its way up the charts.
8. Buffalo Springfield – “Rock & Roll Woman” (1967): My Top Ten could all fit into a pretty smooth transition of a playlist outside of the Clash. This is a great song that has always been just on the outside of my most listened.
9. Three Dog Night – “Shambala” (1973): This song about love and peace has a George Harrison influence to my ear. Try to sit still while this is on. I feel like I listened to this every day in August.
10. Derek & the Dominoes – “Got to Get Better in a Little While” (1970): This song is just a flat out jam. Next time you are at a dive bar with a jukebox that has some good volume to the music, play this. Trust me.
BEST ALBUMS OF 1973
The year of 1973 was much closer to how I initially imagined that 1972 would turn out. There was still more Prog Rock than I expected. The expansion of Funk, politically influenced lyrics in Soul, and Electronic Music is all exciting. There were tours by David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and Led Zeppelin. It’s been 50 years, but there are artists releasing albums in 2023 that were releasing albums in 1973. The Best Albums category is not necessarily how they were viewed in 1973 but how they sound to me today.
1. Stevie Wonder – Innervisions (August): Stevie was 23 years old when he wrote and recorded this album. I can’t even imagine. This is the middle album of an incredible five-album run that might only be matched by the Beatles. No surprise that it won the Best Album Grammy. This is groundbreaking Soul and Funk, and he’s not afraid to take political shots at the government and institutional racism. Start with “Living for the City.”
2. Paul McCartney & Wings – Band on the Run (December): Paul found his second muse in collaborator Denny Laine and it took them a few albums to iron out their sound. When they hit, they hit hard. This album doesn’t have a bad song. It has hits that still sound fresh today. There’s a sense of creative fun to these songs. Start with the funky “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five.”
3. Steely Dan – Countdown to Ecstasy (July): Steely Dan’s second album doesn’t have all the hit songs but it’s just a pleasure to listen to. As usual, the horns and piano are well mixed. The guitar work is something extra here. Start with “Show Biz Kids.”
4. Van Morrison – Hard Nose the Highway (July): Not as heralded as his other solo albums. I think this album deserves a second listen from critics who have dismissed it in a run of good albums by the Irish artist. Start with “Warm Love.”
5. Elton John – Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road (October): Elton and Bernie Taupin show off their skills at a variety of styles. This album is full of the songs that I still want to listen to by Elton. Start with “Harmony” and “This Song Has No Title.”
6. John Prine – Sweet Revenge (October): I have to give love to these albums that just do their own thing and change the game. That’s the best thing about listening to the albums in chronological order from year to year is that you hear something like this and just say “Wow. That’s new.” John nails doing his own thing. Start with “Sweet Revenge” and “Please Don’t Bury Me.”
7. Tom Waits – Closing Time (March): I partially blame my obsession with dive bars on hearing this album for the first time in 1987. This album sounds like dive bars smell. There’s a lonely pride in these songs. They don’t apologize. They document. This debut album is just amazing and in any other year of the decade this would be a Top Five Album of the Year. Start with “I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love with You.”
8. Iggy & the Stooges – Raw Power (February): This is either proto-Punk or one of the first Punk albums. No matter how you fall in the argument, it’s a powerful and unforgettable album. Guitars should always crunch like these. I love this so much. Start with “Search & Destroy.”
9. David Bowie – Alladin Sane (April): Bowie comes to America and wears his new influences on his sleeve. This is another genre-bending release that fits well within the Glam Rock category and it’s a hard rock as many other British bands of the year. Start with “Jean Genie.”
10. Al Green – Call Me (April) / James Brown – The Payback (December): Both of these artists preached in their own way. Al was more traditional but he’s got his sexy side. James preaches against the economy and drug dealers. These are the two funkiest albums of the year. Start with Al Green’s “Here I Am (Come And Take Me)” and James Brown’s “Mind Power.”
This list might omit some of your (and my) favorites. I was amazed at the breadth of talent releasing albums in 1973. I acknowledge that this list leaves off some important albums by Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the Who, Bob Marley, and Bruce Springsteen.
Thank you for your indulgence if you made it this far. My obsessions all stem from a desire to keep discovering and keep learning. The thirst for knowledge hopefully makes me a better man. The time I spend on these things is only rewarded by sharing opinions and observations with friends like you. So feel free to always chime up when I post things and make recommendations because my mind is always open.
“Cause when you are dreaming,
you see for miles and miles.
When you are much older, remember when we sat
At midnight on the windowsill,
and had this little chat
And dream, come on and dream.” – Tom Waits
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