10 Best Albums of the 1970s

See the results of this week's poll to find the best albums of the 1970s, which includes some of the greatest recordings of all time.

Ultimate Guitar

What are the best albums of the 1970s? That's what we asked UG readers in our poll this week, and after thousands of votes we have the results.

The 1970s were a great decade for music. Recording technology had come on in leaps and bounds since bands like the Beatles started to experiment with the studio as an instrument in the '60s, and a generation of creative producers and engineers made their mark on music with some of the finest sounds ever recorded.

Musicians were more ambitious than ever, and many had moved on from the '60s goal of releasing a selection of singles and instead writing concept albums to be consumed as a whole - or indeed, to challenge listeners with music that they had never heard before, as with the early metal albums.

Whatever you think of the results this week, we reckon the include many of the best albums ever recorded. It's time to put your feet up, hit play, and experience the sound of the '70s. Enjoy!

10. Queen "A Night at the Opera" (1975)

The fourth album by Queen was the most expensive album ever recorded by the time of its release. It sounded expensive too. With songs like "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the magical opening chords to "You're My Best Friend," the album was full of surprises and delights that had never been heard before.

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9. The Beatles "Let It Be" (1970)

"Let it Be" might have been the Beatles' final studio release, but most of it was recorded in early 1969 before the recording of "Abbey Road" which some purists think is their real final album. Regardless, it was unleashed upon the world in the 1970s and earns its place among the best of the decade.

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8. Rush "2112" (1976)

A dystopian story set in the year 2112, in a world run by priests who control all of modern culture. It's often voted as one of the greatest prog albums of all time, and with a story and sound like this, you wouldn't be surprised.

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7. Deep Purple "Machine Head" (1972)

One of the earliest albums to inspire the metal genre. It was a commercial hit for the band, no doubt thanks to its timeless classic "Smoke on the Water" which was inspired by a theatre fire which put their touring plans on hold. One interesting twist to the album recording was that they didn't always listen to their work because the mobile recording rig was too far to bother walking to. Their solution: keep playing until the performance felt right. It worked.

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6. David Bowie "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars" (1972)

Bowie's most famous alter-ego Ziggy Stardust was supposed to be an alien messenger, and with the wonderful sounds and production on this record it may as well be true. One of its biggest songs "Starman" wasn't originally intended to appear on the album, but Bowie's performance of the track on British music programme Top of the Pops in 1972 helped secure its legacy in pop music culture.

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5. The Doors "L.A. Woman" (1971)

Jim Morrison's last the Doors album before his death in the same year was a blues-infused joy. They played two shows shortly before its release, which would be their last as a band when Morrison had a breakdown on stage (and a proper one, not a tame Bille Joe Armstrong one).

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4. AC/DC "Highway to Hell" (1979)

Another final album for a classic singer, this time Bon Scott who died from alcohol abuse the following year. They almost recorded with Jimi Hendrix producer Eddie Kramer, but he was fired before completing a single song. Instead they went to Robert Lange, and it was a good move because the album became their biggest hit yet.

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3. Black Sabbath "Paranoid" (1970)

The Black Sabbath debut might be where the seeds of modern metal were sown, but the runaway success of "Paranoid" and the inclusion of some of Sabbath's greatest songs like "Iron Man," "War Pigs" and the title track could make this album more influential than any other in their canon.

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2. Led Zeppelin "Led Zeppelin IV" (1971)

No-one knows the real name of this album, so fans simply presumed it continued the roman numeral naming trends of its predecessors. Some fans prefer to call it "Four Symbols" or "Untitled," but they're thinking too hard and should just turn up the music. It's too darn rocking to sit down and nit pick.

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1. Pink Floyd "The Dark Side of the Moon" (1973)

Who else could have won? From start to end, every beat is carefully considered and composed to perfection. The songs would sound great if they were hammered out on a four-track tape recorder, but thankfully engineer Alan Parsons was on hand to make it one of the most beautiful recordings ever committed to tape. Perhaps the best.

This wasn't the only Pink Floyd album that scored high in our poll this week - "Animals," "Wish You Were Here," "Atom Heart Mother," "Obscured By Clouds" and of course "The Wall" were also among the nominees this week.

Come on then: hit play, close your eyes, and relax...

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That's the end of our top 10 albums of the 1970s. What a shame we only have room for ten albums - there were tonnes of great nominations from our readers this week, including the jazz epic "Bitches Brew" by Miles Davis, classic self-titled albums by Van Halen and Boston, and Fleetwood Mac's excellent "Rumours."

What do you think of the results? Does it hit the mark, or could you do better? Let us know your reaction and personal favorites from the '70s in the comments.

203 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Totally knew that 9 out of 10 of those were going to be on there. Kinda expected Iggy Pop to be on there though.... Fucking Raw Power man.
    Agreed, I'd say anything on that list besides Bowie and Sabbath could easily be thrown out in favour of some Stooges.
    As I previously wrote in the Question, my vote is given to another great album - even though it is not guitar music - but it's a truly masterpiece (in our top it took 11th place): Miles Davis - "Bitches Brew" (1970) If you haven't heard of this yet and you enjoy the unusual music and just want to expand your musical horizons - I recommend you this album. Video below is the only 1/3 of the title track, which lasts 27 minutes - all 6 tracks on the album last more than 90 minutes.
    P.S. Of course, this is a great list - there are a lot of amazing music was released in the '70s.
    Pity it only got to place eleven, it really is an amazing album.
    Not even going to give it a try. Just look at that hippy black african american loving album cover....yyyyhyyhywy! (Shiverrz)
    "Black African American loving"... you know Miles Davis and his wife at the time, Betty, were actually black, don't you?
    iCarebear wins the price for douche of the year and the price for being a biased **** that judges by an album cover.
    I'm surprised there weren't more votes for Meddle. That and Animals are my favorite Floyd albums.
    I've just realised how many albums Floyd did in the '70s. Nearly one a year. What a time to have been alive...
    It's a better time to be alive now because we can listen to any of those albums whenever we please instead of having to wait another year for the next one to come out! Just because it isn't new to world, doesn't mean it loses any of its value.
    Wow...nowadays bands release albums like every 3 years, and if they release a poor one, that's half a decade without a good release! Or in some extreme cases (see avatar) it ends up being over two decades!
    Boston's self titled didn't make it :,(... oh well.
    I signed in to say exactly that...what an amazing debut album, Sholtz is a genius. Regardless, this is a good list, but useless...a "Greatest Album of the 70's" should be at LEAST a Top 20 list.
    would have liked to see more prog on here, but hey, f'n Dark Side of the Moon! that's enough to make me happy
    Yeah, there are so many great albums from the 70's, but I reckon it's a pretty good list. No complaints.
    would have liked to see rumors, but ah well, every album up there is well deserving of it's place. good list guys.
    HAHA i love how 4 of the 5 albums i mentioned in the last thread made it here. LOL the other one that didn't make it was Rush's Hemispheres Album which i genuinely think is better than 2112. But anyway nice list.
    I wouldve had Boston by Boston, Exile and maybe Never Mind the Bollocks but not to sure on that last one. Anyways still a great list!
    What about 'The Best Pink Floyd Album' for the next week's poll?
    This entire contest was basically that. Did you see how high the upvotes were for the rest of the Floyd albums?! It was like an all-out war for which Floyd album got to be on the list!
    I like that they included Obscured By Clouds. I posted the link but it never got any votes. My favorite Floyd album. Check it out if you've never heard it.
    1.Dark Side 2.Animals 3.Wish You Were Here 4.The Wall 5.Meddle IMO. Although if you asked me a different day you'd probably get a different answer.
    It's nearly impossible to choose "the best Pink Floyd albums", I just usually say that I think "Wish You Were Here" is their best and "The Wall"'s my favorite to make things easier.
    lol was about to make the same list, but I would rank the Wall 2nd or third though, but that's the top five for sure
    Dark Side will probably win that too. I'm pretty sure it's won every poll it's eligible in.
    Eww Let It Be. I love the Beatles and Let It Be (the song) could be my all time favourite, but that album absolutely does not deserve a spot on this list. If any other band had put out an album like that we would not remember it.
    I think I'll agree with you - The Beatles are great band, but all of their greatest albums was released in the '60s - I think it was voting for name, not for the album.
    Let It Be is not even close to one of the top 10 70s albums. That album does not stand up to the rest of their catalog.
    I wouldn't have minded Van Halen's first album being on here. Not a bad list though.
    That's a great list of albums there. Think about how many musicians that body of work inspired.
    Still no Alice Cooper, Rainbow, Judas Priest for lot of people this is it if 'year'or 'genre' < The Wall && > The Dark side of the Moon Pink Floyd = pollwinner
    Needs more prog. Where are Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, Jethro Tull? That's right, I'm on UG; where the metal comes first.
    Other than Black Sabbath whats metal on that list?? And surely having Rush & Pink Floyd is enough to show that prog made it there very comfortably? I like the list, it shows the 70's off for the truly diverse decade it was.
    Shit I completely forgot about 'Red' by King Crimson. Easily one of the best albums of the 70's.
    Awesome album. I also really think Yes - Fragile and Frank Zappa - One Size Fits All deserve slots. Also, 2112 is not my personal favorite Rush album... I would have gone with Hemispheres.
    Don't Ask
    That album is unbelievable. I would have liked to see Genesis up here as well. Selling England by the Pound is in my opinion not only the best prog-album, or even the best album from the seventies, any genre, but the best album ever made. But that's just me. Other than a lack of Genesis, good list.
    Absolutely agree with you - there are a lot of great progressive, krautrock, psychedelic, jazz and funk records in the '70s.
    that may be, but at the end of the day, the question was best albums of the 1970's, so it's the best to the most audiences, very few people listen to jethro tull
    "Rocks" - Aerosmith 1976...anyone who plays rock guitar needs to know how to play this back to front.
    I thought everyone, including the Beatles hated Let it Be? And I'm glad A Night at the Opera got on there, thank god some people appreciate it the way it should be appreciated.
    You have to listen to Let it Be... Naked. They stripped off all of Phil Spector's stupid production and made it 20X better in my opinion. Also cut out a couple of weak tracks by John.
    No Zappa? wtf voters
    Yabba Who
    Don't need Zappa to make the list to know he's the best. Besides, this list is the same as a radio list. It's chosen by the masses, and the masses never choose Frank. Which is fine by me. If the masses voted for Frank, then the masses would be listening to Frank, and there'd be a lot more awesome music out there. Arf!
    In a world where Zappa is practically mainstream, i'll be a very happy panda.
    Frank Zappa's "Apostrophe (')" almost hit the top-10 - he took 13's place.
    It was a pretty good list regardless. The 70's were an amazing decade for music. There are always so many choices that are always left out when a top ten list is done.
    right. for the 70's we should really do a top 25 list, that'd be a hell of a lot more accurate.
    "Morrison had a breakdown on stage (and a proper one, not a tame Bille Joe Armstrong one)." haha amen!
    70s and no punk?? Wow have you heard of London Calling? Nevermind the Bullocks? Ramones? Sheeesh
    ...and no Rainbow. Why is that band so goddamn underrated? Between Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, Long Live Rock & Roll and Rising, how can you go wrong? Aside from that, the list is excellent, one of the better ones I've seen so far on UG.
    Disappointed not to see Raw Power, Rainbow Rising, Van Halen, Boston, or Sticky Fingers.
    Face R1pper
    I will never understand why people prefer 2112 to A Farewell to Kings and Hemispheres.
    Agreed. The title track is awesome, but the rest of the album doesn't live up to it, whereas the two you listed are consistently great. Plus, La Villa Strangiato is reason enough for Hemispheres to be on this list.
    I was wondering this too. 2112 is a great song, and while the rest are decent, I feel like they're just filler songs. A Night At The Opera should be higher too
    Wish You Were Here decimates Dark Side of the Moon.
    I don't know if it decimates Dark Side, you can't even sync it to The Wizard of Oz : P Wish you were here is my favorite Floyd Album too though.
    Wish You Were Here is my favorite too. When I try to remember how to spell "were" cause I tend to confuse it with "where" I always think "Wish You WERE Here." Always a big help and a great album.
    I could guess 8 out of 10 albums before even scrolling down. As per usual. But I know there's no point in complaining, it was a poll. Still... *Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd, Rush*
    No Clash whatsoever, and no Miles Davis. . . I'm beginning to suspect that people on here are biased toward music their dads listened to.
    Tomo J O
    Massively disappointing to have no Born to run on that list. A fantastic album, gritty, meaningful and some of the best lyrics ever let alone from the 70s. FAIL.
    Why the downvotes? - Born To Run - Darkness on the Edge of Town - The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle Were all brilliant albums and certainly one of them deserves a top 10 spot
    Yeah, the entire lack of Bruce is disappointing. But, it is UG, not enough fans of that type of sound.
    Good list but i wouldve likes to see rumours on here...
    My roommates and I have a record player and I borrowed my parents albums, we've bought a bunch of old and new albums too, but my Dad's Rumours album has been played the most, by far. Its just too good.
    Lack of Sex Pistols, The Ramones or The Clash or any originating punk band make this list a failure.
    It isn't a failure at all, it's a decent list. But I agree, you'd expect at least /one/ punk album.
    One of those tree should have been included...Punk changed the direction of music substantially at that time...very influential
    Sabbath are easily better than Pink Floyd
    I don't know that I would say "easily". I can't complain about either band as they are 2 of my 3 favorite bands. If you think Black Sabbath is better, fair enough. I can't argue against that (not many can). But it's also pretty hard to argue that they blow Pink Floyd out of the water.
    Sabbath are fantastic, defiantly in my top 20 bands, but there's no way there's a good as Floyd. And to say Sabbath are 'easily' better than Pink Floyd is a little ridiculous really. I understand that good music is largely down to opinion but the only band I feel came anywhere near matching Pink Floyd in terms of creativity and pushing the boundarys of music are The Beatles.
    If you honestly think that I feel sorry for you.
    they're both great bands, and between sabbath, led zep and pink floyd, I genuinely think that it's just opinion. personally I prefer the floyd, but I cant go see them this december like I am sabbath. now if we had a big four style concert with floyd, sabbath and zeppelin, that would be interesting.
    A Big Three Inventors-of-Metal with Sabbath, Zeppelin, and Deep Purple would cause the world to spontaneously combust in pure awesomeness. Now THAT would be a dream come true.
    Yes, Dark Side made it to #1!!! Yeah!!!!! All around excellent list. Of course there will always be some big omissions that weren't able to make it, but this has some great representations from great bands.
    AC/DC over Deep Purple and Queen? Are you kidding me?
    I'm still confused why people think Deep Purple were amazing...
    Im not a huge fan myself, however, they were one of the first metal bands, they have been so influentuil and with bands like them, led zeppelin, the kinks, sabbath, ac/dc (the list goes on) metal may have never came about
    STRAYA!!!!! Nah dude, I personally would put Queen over them, but AC/DC was the big thing at that time. It put the Australian music industry on the map. Without AC/DC, other countries probably would have never heard of bands like Crowded House, Silverchair or INXS
    where the **** is London Calling by The Clash (or any punk for that matter), London Calling beats anything by The Beatles any day
    I myself like some Kiss. Self-titled, Alive, Destroyer, Love Gun, Alive II. All classic albums. Balls out rock n' roll.
    Fleetwood Mac's big album and BOSTON should be on there...still cool to see so much good music. I know they had disco and lots of other music but they still had better music than we do today...
    Thank God Pink Floyd is up there... it would be wrong if they weren't.