The 25 best albums of 1971
23 September 2023, 18:00 | Updated: 26 September 2023, 13:07
Classic albums from the classic year of 1971 including John Lennon, Paul McCartney, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Doors and David Bowie.
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Janis Joplin - Pearl: released 11th January 1971
Released three months after Joplin's death from a heroin overdose aged 27, this posthumous collection included one of her signature songs Me And Bobby McGee, Cry Baby, Get It While You Can and the humorous Mercedes Benz.
Nick Drake - Bryter Layter: release date 5th March 1971
The second album from the British singer-songwriter who died tragically young included At The Chime Of A City Clock and one of his most famous tracks, Northern Sky.
James Taylor - Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon: release date April 1971
The Boston singer-songwriter was originally signed to The Beatles' Apple label, but soon found his way to Warner Bros. This third solo outing includes his cover of Carole King's You've Got A Friend, You Can Close Your Eyes and Long Ago And Far Away.
The Doors - L.A. Woman: release date 19th April 1971
The mystical LA band's final album with singer Jim Morrison before his death in July 1971 saw them get back to their blues roots. Songs included the hypnotic title track, Love Her Madly and the eerie Riders On The Storm.
The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers: release date 23rd April 1971
The Stones launched their own label with this collection that featured Andy Warhol cover art and some classic songs, including Brown Sugar, Wild Horses, Dead Flowers and Sister Morphine, co-written by Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull.
Paul & Linda McCartney - Ram: release date 17th May 1971
Paul 'n' Linda's only credited album together sewed the seeds of the band Wings and remains one of McCartney's best solo outings. Tracks included Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey, The Back Seat Of My Car, plus Too Many People and Dear Boy, which old colleague John Lennon saw as a snipe at him through song, leading him to retaliate on his own 1971 album Imagine, via the vitriolic How Do You Sleep?
Marvin Gaye - What's Going On: release date 21st May 1971
Gaye's eleventh album is his best-known; a conceptual piece about society, ecology, racism and justice, the title track is a classic, as is Mercy Mercy Me and Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).
Rod Stewart - Every Picture Tells A Story: release date 28th May 1971
Rod was still a member of the Faces when he issued his third solo album, which spawned the famous title track and one of his biggest hits, Maggie May.
Joni Mitchell - Blue: release date 22nd June 1971
The Canadian singer-songwriter's fourth studio album included Carey and California.
Isaac Hayes - Shaft: release date July 1971
This double album from Hayes served as the soundtrack to the 1971 film starring Richard Roundtree. The Theme From Shaft was a huge hit that year and remains the soul singer's best-known track.
Black Sabbath - Master Of Reality: release date August 1971
The metal pioneers issued their third album, which included Sweet Leaf and Children Of The Grave.
The Who - Who's Next: release date 2nd August 1971
Featuring re-worked songs from Pete Townshend's abandoned Lifehouse project, the band's fifth album included Behind Blue Eyes, Won't Get Fooled Again and the incredible Baba O'Riley.
T. Rex - Electric Warrior: release date 24th September 1971
'71 was a huge year for Marc Bolan: his second album under the "T. Rex" moniker topped the album charts, singles Hot Love and Get It On topped the single charts and Jeepster made it to No 2. Also included on this album was the classic Life's A Gas.
Don McLean - American Pie: release date October 1971
The New York singer-songwriter's second album was his best-known; the title track tells of the death of rock pioneer Buddy Holly and "the day the music died", while Vincent is a sketch of the famous artist van Gogh.
Cat Stevens – Teaser and the Firecat: release date 1st October 1971
The British singer-songwriter - now known professionally as Yusuf - issued his fifth album, which included his famous version of Morning Has Broken, Moonshadow and Peace Train.
John Lennon - Imagine: release date 8th October 1971 (UK)
The ex-Beatle's second (proper) solo album was a softer affair than the previous Plastic Ono Band "primal scream" outing and included the famous title track, plus Jealous Guy and the McCartney-baiting How Do You Sleep?
Pink Floyd - Meddle: release date 30th October 1971
The sixth album by the British prog masters included the epic, side-long track Echoes, One Of These Days and Fearless.
Sly & The Family Stone - There's A Riot Goin' On: release date 1st November 1971
The San Francisco funk outfit's fifth album included the hit Family Affair and also feature Runnin' Away and Thank You For Talkin' To Me, Africa, a re-working of their single Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).
Elton John - Madman Across The Water: release date 5th November 1971
Elt's fourth album included his all-time classic Tiny Dancer, plus the single Levon and Indian Sunset.
Led Zeppelin - IV: release date 8th November 1971
The fourth untitled Zeppelin album was an all-time best seller, featuring the classic Stairway To Heaven, Rock & Roll, Black Dog and the much-sampled When The Levee Breaks.
Nilsson - Nilsson Schmilsson: release date 11th November 1971
Harry Nilsson's seventh solo album was his commercial peak: it included the tracks Jump Into The Fire, Gotta Get Up, Coconut and a cover of Welsh band Badfinger's tune Without You, which went onto become a monster hit for the American singer.
Faces - A Nod Is As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse: released 17th November 1971
The British rock band - which featured Rod Stewart, Ronnie Lane and future Stone Ronnie Wood - issued their third album, which spawned the hit Stay With Me.
The Kinks – Muswell Hillbillies: released 24th November 1971
The Davies brother paid tribute to their North London upbringing with an album that featured 20th Century Man and Muswell Hillbilly. It failed to chart in the UK but has been retrospectively considered as one of the band's best releases of the 70s.
David Bowie - Hunky Dory: release date 17th December 1971
Issued in the final days of 1971, this was a turning point for Bowie, who was in danger of becoming a one-hit wonder with Space Oddity. This excellent connection included the beautiful Changes and Life On Mars, plus other enduring Bowiesongs such as Oh! You Pretty Things, Queen Bitch and Quicksand. The next year would bring Ziggy Stardust.
George Harrison - The Concert For Bangladesh: released 20th December 1971 (US release)
The former Beatle masterminded two huge charity events at New York's Madison Square Garden in August 1971 to aid refugees from Bangladesh Liberation War in the South Asian country. A precursor to events such as Live Aid, stars such as Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston and Ravi Shankar came together for the gigs and subsequent triple live album, performing some Beatle classics and recent Harrison hits from his album All Things Must Pass.