The Who released their landmark album Who’s Next on August 14, 1971. A funny thing about 1971, though, was that it saw many landmark albums released that year.
In honor of Who’s Next turning 50, we take a look at other albums released in 1971 we think everyone should own. Scroll through the gallery below to see which ten LPs made our list. (And yes…this was very difficult to keep to just ten.)
The Who’s most-successful studio LP, ‘Who’s Next’ remains one of the greatest hard rock albums of all time and for good reason. It may have featured only nine tracks, but among them are some of the most popular Who songs in their catalog: “Baba O’Riley,” “Bargain,” “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” the latter of which is one of the best closing album tracks in rock history.
The third album in the Stones’ epic tetralogy between 1969’s ‘Let It Bleed’ and 1972’s ‘Exile on Main St.’ ‘Sticky Fingers’ found the band bouncing back following the tragedy at Altamont. Every track is a winner without a skip in sight. Notable standouts included “Brown Sugar,” “Wild Horses,” “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” “Dead Flowers” and “Moonlight Mile.”
While ‘Every Picture Tells A Story’ is technically a Rod Stewart solo LP, every member of the Faces does appear on it, with Ronnie Wood and Ian McLagan appearing the most. There are a variety of sounds and influences on this classic album, from blues to folk to country, but they all work so well together, from the title track to “Maggie May” to “(Find A) Reason To Believe” and everywhere in between.
When it comes to break-up albums or works where an artist bares all, ‘Blue’ is the gold standard. Few albums are quite as personal as this Joni Mitchell classic, which was inspired by her break-up with Graham Nash and her then-burgeoning relationship with James Taylor. Mitchell would say in an1979 interview, “The ‘Blue’ album, there's hardly a dishonest note in the vocals. At that period of my life, I had no personal defenses. I felt like a cellophane wrapper on a pack of cigarettes. I felt like I had absolutely no secrets from the world and I couldn't pretend in my life to be strong. Or to be happy. But the advantage of it in the music was that there were no defenses there either.”
Simply put, ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ is a monster. It’s sold 37 million copies worldwide, with 23 million of those copies coming from the United States alone. Those staggering figures make sense when you look at the tracklisting, which boasts “Black Dog,” Rock and Roll,” “When the Levee Breaks” and, oh yeah, “Stairway to Heaven.”
From the opening track of “Move Over” to the closing of “Get It While You Can,” this 'Pearl' is a diamond of an album. Released just three months after Janis Joplin’s untimely passing at the age of 27, ‘Pearl’ would top the album charts in five countries, including in the United States. ‘Pearl’ also featured Joplin’s lone number one hit “Me and Bobby McGee.”
‘Tapestry’ is many things, but above them all, it’s a masterclass in songwriting from one of music’s greatest songwriters. It’s one of the biggest commercially and critically successful albums of all time selling 25 million copies worldwide, with over 13 million copies sold in the U.S. alone. ‘Tapestry’ also netted Carole King four Grammy Awards: Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female; Song of the Year for “You’ve Got a Friend”; Record of the Year for “It’s Too Late”; and Album of the Year.
All of the albums on this list still sound as fresh today as they did when they were released 50 years ago, but Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On,’ sadly, is still socially relevant. In an interview with the ‘Detroit Free Press’ around the time of the LP’s release, Gaye said of the album, “The world’s never been as depressing as it is right now. We’re killing the planet, killing our young men in the streets, and going to war around the world. Human rights … that’s the theme.”
Despite featuring “Changes” and “Life on Mars?,” ‘Hunky Dory’ wasn’t a hit out the gate. It took the commercial success of ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ released six months later for ‘Hunky Dory’ to finally chart. Better late than never.
The 1970’s were a magical time where a live LP could break you into the mainstream. (Just ask KISS, Peter Frampton and Bob Seger.) The Allman Brothers Band, however, helped pave the way in this phenomenon with the release of ‘At Fillmore East.’ Recorded during two nights of a three night stand at New York City’s Fillmore East, the album captures the Allman Brothers Band in their element and in full jam band glory. Tragically, it was the last Allman Brothers album released while guitarist Duane Allman was alive; he tragically died in a motorcycle crash three months after the album’s release.