The ten best albums from 1971

1971 was a special year in the world of popular/rock music. Some of the greatest acts of the classic rock era released their best and most influential work.

For the last year, this column has run a series highlighting almost thirty albums from that year. The goal was to see how they held up after fifty years. Many of them sounded as good or even better than back in the day. Others, not quite as much.

But now, as the year comes to an end, it’s time to rate the best of the best. Some honorable mentions include “Aqualung” by Jethro Tull, “L.A. Woman” by The Doors and Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey.”

What are the best albums from that consequential year in music? Here’s the top ten:

10. Pearl-Janis Joplin. Her final album, which was released after her untimely death, showcases her unforgettable and unequaled voice.

9. Every Picture Tells A Story-Rod Stewart. The peak of his solo career. “Maggie May” is a song that always gets stuck in your head and you don’t care.

8. The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys-Traffic. The eleven-plus minute title track is still haunting, but there’s much more than that one song to this classic album from Steve Winwood and the boys.

7. Tapestry-Carole King. Although the album doesn’t sound as special as it did fifty years ago, there’s a reason it sold more than thirteen million units in the United States. That’s right…13,000,000!!!

6. At Filmore East-The Allman Brothers. At the time of its release, this was considered one the best live albums of all time. Fifty years later, it still sounds that way to me.

5. Who’s Next-The Who. “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.” Sadly, the lyrics still ring true. Sadly, we’re still getting fooled again.

4. Sticky Fingers-The Rolling Stones. They may have dropped “Brown Sugar” from their concert setlist, but the album is much more than that one tune. Other great songs include “Wild Horses”, “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” and “Moonlight Mile.”

3. Led Zeppelin IV- Led Zeppelin. “Stairway To Heaven” is high up on the list of the greatest rock songs. Nothing more needs to be said.

2. Marvin Gaye-What’s Going On. Songs about politics, race and the environment helped turn Gaye from a Motown hit artist into a serious musician with something important to say,

  1. Blue-Joni Mitchell. An album that was so open and personal it almost hurts to listen to it. “River” is the most untraditional and haunting holiday tune. It’s hard to find a better Christmas song.

If you have any other choices, let me know.

Related Post: Fifty years later, Joni Mitchell will still make you feel “Blue”

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    Every five years or so I decide to update this section. I can't believe I've been doing this for close to ten years. The last time I did this I was close to sixty years old. Now I'm just a few months away from the big 7-ZERO. Scary AF!!! I'm pretty sure I won't be doing an update when I hit 80, but you never know. But until then, lets just be grateful.

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