Top 10 Albums Of 1971
After spending some time earlier this week dwelling on the top albums of 1991 and 1981 as part of 'Time Travel' week, let's roll things back to the roots of where it all really began.* The sheer number of highly influential albums released that year was staggering, so we had to exclude a lot of great candidates. That said, in our opinions, these are the Top 10 Albums of 1971:
'11-17-70' is a stunning portrait of Elton John as a young artist, still very much in development, but already with very impressive musical capabilities, as evidenced by the opening shot he fires with 'Take Me To The Pilot.' Captured only a few months after John made his live U.S. debut, the contents of '11-17-70' comprise what is still arguably his best recorded stage performance.
Providing the blueprint for an entire future generation of glam rockers, 'Electric Warrior' was the sixth album from T. Rex and the second release featuring their revised moniker, which used to be Tyrannosaurus Rex. 'Electric Warrior' broke it all wide open for the band, largely on the strength of the undeniably catchy 'Get It On,' which, incidentally, featured some guest piano work from Rick Wakeman, shortly before he joined Yes.
Four albums into their career, Jethro Tull recorded what would become their best selling album, with over 15 million copies sold to date. Led Zeppelin were in the same building, constructing what would become 'Led Zeppelin IV.' Was there something in the air? Certainly, there was lots of flute and a more acoustic direction for Tull. The title track maintains an epically sleazy feel, undiminished with time, appropriate for its subject matter, which details the pedophile sitting on the park bench, “eying little girls with bad intent.”
Credit Black Sabbath with helping to create grunge with 'Master of Reality.' For their third album, guitarist Tony Iommi decided to tune down one and a half steps to make the strings easier to play, having damaged several of his fingers in a factory accident in previous years. With bassist Geezer Butler adjusting his tuning to match, the result was a stoned-out masterpiece featuring future classics 'Sweet Leaf' and 'Children of the Grave,' capping an impressive trilogy of releases from the British hard rockers who defined the term “heavy metal.”
Future progressive rock legends Yes were well on their way to officially earning the title with their third album, the first to feature the guitar talents of one Steve Howe. It was also the first release that found them exploring longer songs, with 'Yours Is No Disgrace' and 'Starship Trooper' stretching past the nine minute mark. Keyboardist Tony Kaye's preference for the Hammond B-3 over the Moog (Jon Anderson's first choice) led to Kaye's eventual exit after this album. Who knew that keyboards could cause such strife?
It's hard to believe that it has been 40 years since the release of this classic Doors release, which will be celebrated with a lavish 40th anniversary expansion this year. The band clashed with initial producer Paul Rothchild over 'Riders on the Storm,' which he dismissed as “cocktail jazz.” It turns out, the Doors were right in sticking to their guns on the atmospherically gloomy track, which has become one of the signature favorites in their catalog.
The title track was a huge statement from the man who once told us that all we needed was love, imploring the collective minds of the world to explore a more peaceful way of life in the way that we interact with each other. 40 years later, it remains a necessary reminder and important message in the wake of continued strife worldwide. Phil Spector's production help offered sonic illustration to further flesh out Lennon's picturesque thoughts.
'Sticky Fingers' came in the middle of a creatively fertile time for the Stones, who held back 'Sister Morphine' from the 'Let It Bleed' sessions for the album, and also began to sprout material that would wind up on 'Exile on Main Street.' Without a doubt, the Stones were high on inspiration (and perhaps other stuff, too), birthing an album in 'Sticky Fingers' that had one of the strongest A-sides they ever committed to tape. Witness the lead-off quad attack of 'Brown Sugar,' 'Sway,' 'Wild Horses' and 'Can't You Hear Me Knocking.'
When attempting to follow in the footsteps of the utterly huge 'Tommy,' the Who had their work cut out for them. Scuttling a planned concept album called 'Lifehouse,' the band went back to the drawing board and came out with a winner in 'Who's Next,' featuring new and innovative sounds previously unheard in their prior releases. Roger Daltrey's scream was heard across the world with 'Won't Get Fooled Again,' and Townshend's mournful 'Behind Blue Eyes' is one of several 'Lifehouse' leftovers (wisely) resurrected for the LP.
Led Zeppelin decided to release their fourth album without a title, something which their record label wasn't thrilled about. Of course, Zep had the clout to flex their artistic muscle anyway they wanted to, and in the end no lack of title or strange set of symbols could keep the album from being burned into rock history. Just look at that track listing! Every song is a classic, from the call and response opening of 'Black Dog' to the closing moments delivered not so quietly in the form of 'When The Levee Breaks.'