Best Albums of the 1970s
Rock & Roll evolved as a genre in the United States between the late 1940s and 50s. The genre blended rhythm and blues, boogie woogie, and gospel, among other musical styles. Some of the best rock albums were released in the 1970s when new engineering techniques and recording studios became ubiquitous, and some of the greatest rock and rock-related albums of that decade are available on Hoopla to stream with your library card! This is a list of ten incredible albums that integrate elements of rock music throughout their wax.
Jimi Hendrix – Band of Gypsys (1970)
Genre: Rock, Funk, Psychedelic Funk, Funk Rock
The band Jimi formed after the Jimi Hendrix Experience was the Band of Gypsys. Even though Hendrix only released one live album with the band, it became legendary. The songs on this record come from four different shows on New Year’s Night and New Years Day of 1969 and 1970.
Stand-out songs: Machine Gun (maybe Hendrix’s best solo ever), Changes (written and sung by Buddy Miles, the drummer)
David Bowie – Aladdin Sane (1973)
Genre: Glam Rock, Hard Rock
After Bowie released The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, he released his sixth studio album Aladdin Sane. At the time, many music critics were saying that Bowie could never outdo Ziggy Stardust. Bowie proved them wrong immeasurably.
Stand-out songs: Aladdin Sane (also titled 1913-1938-197?), Drive-In Saturday
The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street (1972)
Genre: Rock and Roll, Hard Rock
Most of the album was either written or recorded at Nellcote, a 16-bedroom mansion in the south of France that Keith Richards was renting due to the Stones living in tax exile, hence the name of the album. The same mobile recording studio that Zeppelin used on IV was also used for certain songs on this record.
Stand-out songs: Sweet Virginia, Tumbling Dice, and Ventilator Blues (the only Stones song credited to Mick Taylor & Jagger/Richards)
Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)
Genre: Rock, Pop Rock, Glam Rock
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is generally agreed upon by music critics as Elton’s finest record, and it happens to be a double LP. The album was recorded outside of Paris France at the Chateau d’Herouville. Elton had previously recorded two other albums there: Honky Chateau and Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player (both in 1972).
Stand-out songs: Candle in the Wind, Bennie and The Jets, Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)
Neil Young – On the Beach (July 1974)
Genre: Rock, Psychedelic Rock
In 1972, Neil Young had done the unthinkable, his fourth studio album Harvest was a modest success and one of the singles from the record, “Heart of Gold,” had finally given him a number one hit. But Young’s first marriage was falling apart, and he had two close friends die from overdoses. Neil has never been one to appease critics, so he released three albums that became known to Young fans as his “Ditch Trilogy”: Time Fades Away (1973), On the Beach (1974), and Tonight’s the Night (1975). Out of the three records, On the Beach is best of the bunch.
Stand-out songs: See the Sky About to Rain, Revolution Blues (about Charlie Manson, to whom Neil once sold a motorcycle), On the Beach
Prince – S/T (1979)
Genre: R&B, Funk, Pop Rock
Prince’s self-titled second record definitely turned more heads than his first one, For You. Recorded at Alpha Studios in Burbank, California between April and June of 1979, many critics praised his follow up LP. Some music critics at the time even remarked that Prince may someday be a big star—they were definitely right about that one!
Stand-out songs: I Wanna Be Your Lover (Prince’s 1st Major single in the U.S.), Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?
Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life (1976)
Genre: Soul, Funk, R&B, Pop Rock
Between the years 1972 and 1976, Stevie Wonder was unstoppable, releasing masterpiece after masterpiece: Talking Book (1972), Innervisions (1973), and Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974). But 1976 saw the release of his magnus opus Songs in the Key of Life, a double album and an extra EP, spanning 21 tracks and clocking in at almost two hours. The record would end Wonder’s “classic period,” but in the process, the artist would gain three Album of the Year Grammy awards and accomplish the rare feat of being the only artist to win this award for three consecutive albums.
Stand-out songs: Love’s in Need of Love Today, Isn’t She Lovely, All Day Sucker
Aretha Franklin – Amazing Grace (1972)
Genre: Gospel, R&B, Soul
Though Aretha’s music may not be considered rock and roll by strict genre constructionists, and fits more in line with rock's relatives gospel and R&B, Amazing Grace needs to be added to the list. The double LP was recorded live in 1972 over two days in January at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, and it earned Aretha a Grammy to boot. Many music critics consider this Aretha’s finest album as a whole.
Stand-out songs: How I Got Over, Amazing Grace *A Film documenting the making of the record premiered in 2018
Van Halen – S/T (1978)
Genre: Hard Rock, Heavy Metal
Van Halen burst onto the music scene in 1978 with their self-titled debut album. The record features a cover of the Kinks song “You Really Got Me,” which was released as their first studio single. Amateur guitarists for years to come would try and learn how to play Eddie Van Halen’s instrumental guitar solo from “Eruption.” Many guitar aficionados believe this to be one of the greatest guitar solos of all time.
Stand-out songs: Runnin’ With the Devil, Eruption, Ain’t Talkin’ About Love
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Damn the Torpedoes (1979)
Genre: Rock and Roll, Heartland Rock
Damn the Torpedoes was the third release by the Heartbreakers, who had been assembled by Petty in Gainesville, Florida in 1976. The band’s unique rock sound has been called heartland rock with southern rock touches by some critics. This record was a major leap forward for the band professionally and was recorded with top of the line production. The Heartbreakers remained a touring band until 2017 when Petty passed away from an accidental medication overdose.
Stand-out songs: Refugee, Here Comes my Girl, Don’t Do Me Like That