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Internet Radio Station Review: Big R Radio 70s FM

Ralph Graves is one of Crutchfield's blog editors, and part of the company's social media team. He writes about home audio/video gear, specializing in Apple-related and wireless technologies. Ralph holds a master's degree in music composition, and his works have been released on various labels. He's served as product manager for an independent classical and world music label, produced several recordings, and worked extensively in public broadcasting. Since 1984 he's hosted a weekly classical music program on WTJU, and is also active as a blogger and podcaster.

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If you're of a certain age, an Internet radio station that only plays music of the 1970's can have some appeal. Perhaps it was the soundtrack to your childhood, high school years, or even early adulthood. Whatever your nostalgic needs, Big R Radio's 70s FM Internet radio station delivers with a wide variety of tunes (you have to supply your own fond memories to go with them).

The playlist is a balanced mix of the decade's music —  as defined by the Top 40 charts. During a typical broadcast day, I heard some great tracks, some that were pretty good, and some downright cheesy ones (I'm talking to you, Captain and Tenille). I heard some songs I had forgotten about, like Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," and some I wished had remained forgotten (like the Osmond's "One Bad Apple").

That's the thing about Top 40 of the 70's (and earlier eras). Before radio settled into tightly controlled and market-tested playlists, pop music was an eclectic blend of just whatever appealed to the listener. So you could hear a teen idol group like the Sylvers one minute, followed by country artist Lynn Anderson, and then end the set with "Hot Blooded," by Foreigner.

These days, the 70's are known as the disco era, but there were a lot of other types of music going on before, after, and during the disco craze. 70s FM doesn't avoid disco, but it doesn't give them any more representation than any other genre (see the set list below).

70s FM has two holdovers from 70's radio; the deep-voiced station ID, and short commercial breaks. The sounders (station IDs) are short and sweet, and help keep the vintage feel the music generates. There weren't a lot of advertisers, so I tended to hear the same spots over and over. But there were only one or two ads per break - unlike the eight to ten I normally hear on broadcast radio - so it was pretty painless.

And those short breaks didn't slow down the pace, either. Two or three songs, then a sounder or an ad (or two), then back to the music. No DJs to break the flow, just music and lots of it. I kept track of the tunes I heard during a two-hour period. Here's the mix:

Billie Joel - Only the Good Die Young

Edward Bear - Last Song

Spinners - They Just Can't Stop It (Games People Play)

Debbie Boone - You Light Up My Life

Seals and Crofts - Diamond Girl

Stephen Bishop - On and On

Wings - Band on the Run

Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose - Treat Her Like a Lady

Billy Swan - I Can Help

Hot Chocolate - Sexy Thing

Grass Roots - Sooner or Later

Meco - Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band

Mac Davis - Baby, Don't Get Hooked on Me

Barry Manilow - Can't Smile Without You

Red Bone - Come And Get Your Love

AWB - Pick Up the Pieces

Hall and Oates - Rich Girl

Cher - The Way of Love

Billy Preston - Nothing from Nothing

Peter McCann - Do You Wanna Make Love

Barry White - Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe

Sylvers - Boogie Fever

Three Dog Night - Out in the Country

Stevie Wonder - I Wish

ELO - Evil Woman

One final thing: sound quality was outstanding, especially over headphones. 70s FM streams at 128kbps, which is a higher bitrate than many stations use. The stereo separation was quite good, and I heard a lot of detail coming through — similar to listening to FM through headphones back in the day.

How To Listen:

Accessible through most wireless music players


iTunes: In the iTunes Radio menu, the station's listed in the 70's Retro folder as Big R Radio — 70s FM

There's also a free smart phone app for the station available from Big R Radio:

For iPhone®, iPad® and iPod touch®: iRadio Suite

For Windows® smart phones and PDAs: Big R Mobile

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