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Top 100 Greatest Rock Albums of the '70s

Updated: Nov 8, 2023


Top 100 Greatest Rock Albums of the '70s

(Pictured - Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band 1977)

Following our recent list of The 100 Greatest Rock Albums of All Time, the significant number of albums from the '70s that made the cut (unsurprisingly) raised the question: what were the finest rock albums of the '70s? In exploring the vast sea of fantastic records from perhaps rock music's most iconic era, we've compiled what we believe to be The 100 Greatest Rock Albums of the 1970s. Our criteria for this list includes all styles of rock music including punk, post-punk, new wave, experimental rock, blues rock, roots rock, country rock, progressive rock, southern rock, hard rock, and symphonic rock—basically, anything with "rock" at the end. Most pop albums and all disco releases have been excluded to maintain a rock-centric focus. That said, many of these albums never hit the pop charts, but they've left a massive impact in the rock realm. For more comprehensive lists spanning multiple eras, be sure to check out The Top 100 Greatest Rock Albums of All Time and The 100 Most Influential Rock Albums of All Time.

1. The Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd

Ambitious, exotic, and immensely thought-provoking, Pink Floyd's 1973 The Dark Side of the Moon is not only the best rock album of the '70s but also the greatest rock album of all time. Forever changing rock music, The Dark Side of the Moon reinvented recording and production techniques, as well as the use of transitional songs and empty space within an album. As creative as Pink Floyd was, The Dark Side of the Moon achieves a level of creativity that musicians have been chasing ever since. Within this powerful LP, the band managed to record a handful of tracks that would dominate rock radio for the next 50 years, such as Time and Money. However, fans often say that the real treats are the deeper cuts like Us and Them or Brain Damage. Pink Floyd forever changed what an album could be with their masterpiece, The Dark Side of the Moon.


2. London Calling - The Clash

By the late '70s, much of punk rock had diverged into the growing style of post-punk. London Calling found a way to embrace post-punk and alternative musical sensibilities while still pleasing traditionalist, punk rock fans. The Clash experimented with a plethora of styles, including ska, new wave, and rockabilly, alongside punk rock and post-punk, leaving listeners with perhaps the most impressive double album of all time. With 19 great songs, achieving such consistency is no easy feat. While punk rock traditionally required energy along with modest musical ability, post-punk allowed punk rockers to harness that same energy but expand on musical ideas, adding a layer of complexity. Records like London Calling established The Clash as a rock band first and foremost and helped turn post-punk into its own complete genre, while also sowing the seeds of alternative rock. Influence and impact aside, London Calling is a stunning musical creation that ought to exist in some form for as long as music exists.


3. untitled (Led Zeppelin IV) - Led Zeppelin

The fourth studio album by Led Zeppelin stands as a monumental feat in the history of rock music. By their fourth release, the Zeppelin sound had expanded confidently into folk and folk-rock, especially following their third release. On this record, Led Zeppelin masterfully crafted fantastic songs that incorporate hard rock, early heavy metal, folk-rock, and progressive rock. The famed guitar anthem Stairway to Heaven found its home on this esteemed album, alongside other tracks like Black Dog, Going to California, and When the Levee Breaks. Aside from receiving immediate praise from critics, musicians, and everyday listeners, the album has since built a legacy of its own, solidifying Led Zeppelin's place in rock music for years to come.


4. Paranoid - Black Sabbath

Widely regarded as one of the earliest heavy metal albums, Black Sabbath's second studio album Paranoid not only transcended the genre but also established itself as one of the premier rock albums of the decade. Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi revolutionized the guitar in hard rock alongside Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, creating a novel sound infused with industrial elements, ringing, and distortion. Serving as a stylistic counterpoint to the American counterculture and its buoyant music, Paranoid, along with Black Sabbath's self-titled debut, ranks among the most influential hard rock and metal albums of all time. Building on the intensifying landscape of rock music, Black Sabbath filled a void with Paranoid, earning widespread praise.

5. Unknown Pleasures - Joy Division

On the other side of the post-punk and new wave coin in the late 1970s was the darker and more sinister music of Joy Division. With hindsight, we know that frontman Ian Curtis was dealing with severe epilepsy and depression, likely adding a layer of urgency and darkness to the lyrics of Unknown Pleasures, contributing to the musical complexity of the record. Curtis's frantic singing style, paired with Bernard Sumner's fine guitar work and Peter Hook's underrated bass techniques, resulted in a sheer emotional post-punk masterpiece filled with some of the decade's finest riffs and hooks. Although the album found only minimal commercial success upon its release, its significance has grown over the years, securing its place as one of the finest alternative rock albums ever. To this day, songs like She's Lost Control, Shadowplay, and Disorder have become some of the finest alternative rock songs ever recorded, particularly on the darker side of the genre.


6. Sticky Fingers - The Rolling Stones

For many of the albums on this list, their greatness took a while to be recognized; that was certainly not the case with the 1971 release of Sticky Fingers. Part of a string of exceptional '70s Stones albums, alongside Exile on Main St. and Some Girls, Sticky Fingers stands as the most raw, gritty, and complete album in the band's extensive tenure. Featuring the long-form jam track Can't You Hear Me Knocking, the country-rock anthems Dead Flowers and Wild Horses, and, of course, the head-banging track Bitch, The Rolling Stones crafted an album with absolutely no skip-worthy songs. On Sticky Fingers, The Rolling Stones proved they could excel in diverse styles of rock, each executed better than almost anyone else. While Stones fans are often divided on their favorite work, nothing seems more complete and grittily refined than Sticky Fingers.

7. The Stranger - Billy Joel

The long-winding road of Billy Joel's musical legacy spans from the early '70s to the present day, with the New York artist consistently wowing massive audiences. Billy Joel's legacy is second to very few, but his crowning musical achievement was 1977's The Stranger. Songs like Scenes From an Italian Restaurant and The Stranger have completely transcended time, blowing the minds of younger, first-time listeners. Meanwhile, the more pop-oriented songs like Movin' Out (Anthony's Song) and Just the Way You Are became some of the most popular songs of the latter half of the decade. Billy Joel introduced millions of listeners to an alluring, romanticized New York sound that truly hits the mark.


8. Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen

Following two praiseworthy records that especially resonated with folks on the Jersey Shore, Born to Run became an album for an entire era, resonating with millions of young Americans. Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band captured the spirit of rebellious, motorcycle-riding youth with their third studio album, Born to Run. Apart from the record's title track becoming a generational anthem, Jungleland has gone down in history as one of the finest album-closing tracks, featuring an epic saxophone showcase by the legendary Clarence Clemons. Thunder Road serves as the perfect, energy-boosting opening track, while Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out hits real home to those with the Jersey Shore in their blood. Born to Run established Bruce as one of the premier rock acts of the time, a title he has held for decades.


9. Horses - Patti Smith

With an initial release falling on largely deaf ears, Patti Smith's 1975 release Horses has established an almost larger than life legacy. Not only did it put the New York punk scene on the map alongside bands like New York Dolls, but Horses also played a significant role in reshaping the alternative rock style later in the decade. The album reinvented the sound of The Velvet Underground, whose legacy was beginning to be uncovered. Influence aside, Horses was a shockingly perfect debut, experimenting with sounds that wouldn't be commonly heard again until the '80s. The record has received praise from artists like Peter Buck of R.E.M., PJ Harvey, The Smiths, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and The Slits. Horses is exciting, sophisticated, and gritty, showcasing some of the best music New York has ever produced.

10. Blood on the Tracks - Bob Dylan

After a series of underappreciated albums that followed iconic '60s works like Blonde on Blonde and Highway 61 Revisited, 1975's Blood on the Tracks emerged as a comeback for the folk-rock giant Bob Dylan. Widely considered one of his best works, the album features well-received songs such as Tangled Up in Blue and Shelter From the Storm. More than just his most polished release up to that point, Blood on the Tracks stands as a painfully emotional and deeply authentic record, once again exposing Dylan's second to none lyrical writing ability. Touching a tad on his early acoustic style while also reaffirming his rock musician credentials, Dylan grabbed attention once more with this 1975 release.

11. Who's Next - The Who

12. Hunky Dory - David Bowie

13. Songs in the Key of Life - Stevie Wonder

14. Exile on Main St. - The Rolling Stones

15. Let It Be - The Beatles

16. Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd

17. Nevermind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols - Sex Pistols

18. This Year's Model - Elvis Costello & the Attractions

19. Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon and Garfunkel

20. Loaded - The Velvet Underground

21. Moondance - Van Morrison

22. Rumours - Fleetwood Mac

23. Aja - Steely Dan

24. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - David Bowie

25. Live At Filmore East - The Allman Brothers Band

26. Harvest - Neil Young

27. LA Woman - The Doors

28. Hotel California - Eagles

29. The B-52's - The B-52's

30. Marquee Moon - Television

31. Aqualung - Jethro Tull

32. Pretenders - The Pretenders

33. Look Sharp! - Joe Jackson

34. The Wall - Pink Floyd

35. Back in Black - ACDC

36. Night at the Opera - Queen

37. Dire Straits - Dire Straits

38. Abraxas - Santana

39. Blue - Joni Mitchell

40. Boston - Boston

41. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Elton John

42. American Beauty - The Grateful Dead

43. Excitable Boy - Warren Zevon

44. (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd) - Lynyrd Skynyrd

45. John Prine - John Prine

46. Ramones - Ramones

47. Van Halen - Van Halen

48. The Clash - The Clash

49. Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. - Bruce Springsteen

50. My Aim Is True - Elvis Costello

51. Fleetwood Mac - Fleetwood Mac

52. Pink Flag - Wire

53. Every Picture Tells a Story - Rod Stewart

54. John Barleycorn Must Die - Traffic

55. Talking Heads: 77 - Talking Heads

56. Pearl - Janis Joplin

57. The Basement Tapes - Bob Dylan & The Band

58. Saint Dominic's Preview - Van Morrison

59. All Things Must Pass - George Harrison

60. Three Imaginary Boys - The Cure

61. Physical Graffiti - Led Zeppelin

62. Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath

63. Metal Box - Public Image LTD

64. Close to the Edge - Yes

65. Déjà Vu - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

66. Paul Simon - Paul Simon

67. Outlandos d'Amour - The Police

68. Love it to Death - Alice Cooper

69. Lust For Life - Iggy Pop

70. Parallel Lines - Blondie

71. Toys in the Attic - Aerosmith

72. Electric Warrior - T. Rex

73. Dixie Chicken - Little Feat

74. Low - David Bowie

75. After the Gold Rush - Neil Young

76. John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band - John Lennon

77. Brain Salad Surgery - Emerson Lake & Palmer

78. Pink Moon - Nick Drake

79. The Royal Scam - Steely Dan

80. Eat a Peach - The Allman Brothers Band

81. 2112 - Rush

82. Fun House - The Stooges

83. Some Girls - The Rolling Stones

84. Maggot Brain - Funkadelic

85. A1A - Jimmy Buffet

86. New York Dolls - New York Dolls

87. Band on the Run - Paul McCartney & Wings

88. Real Life - Magazine

89. 52nd Street - Billy Joel

90. Sheer Heart Attack - Queen

91. Rattus Norvegicus - The Stranglers

92. Destroyer - Kiss

93. Sad Wings of Destiny - Judas Priest

94. Damn the Torpedoes - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

95. Fear of Music - Talking Heads

96. Entertainment! - Gang of Four

97. The Man Who Sold the World - David Bowie

98. You Don't Mess Around With Jim - Jim Croce

99. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway - Genesis

100. Red - King Crimson

 

Just Outside the Top 100

101. The Scream - Siouxsie and the Banshees

102. Sweet Baby James - James Taylor

103. Suicide - Suicide

104. Idlewild South - The Allman Brothers Band

105. Houses of the Holy - Led Zeppelin

106. Workingman's Dead - The Grateful Dead

107. Drums and Wires - XTC

108. Thick as a Brick - Jethro Tull

109. All Mod Cons - The Jam

110. Living and Dying in 3/4 Time - Jimmy Buffett

111. The Cars - The Cars

112. Cheap Trick - Cheap Trick

113. Transformer - Lou Reed

114. The Undertones - The Undertones

115. The Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers

116. Running on Empty - Jackson Browne

117. There Goes Rhymin' Simon - Paul Simon

118. Machine Head - Deep Purple

119. The Marshall Tucker Band - The Marshall Tucker Band

120. Dreamboat Annie - Heart


121. Changes In Latitudes, Changes in Attitude - Jimmy Buffet

122. Master of Reality - Black Sabbath

123. Another Music in a Different Kitchen - Buzzcocks

124. Fly Like an Eagle - Steve Miller Band

125. Warren Zevon - Warren Zevon


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