The 25 best Classic Rock Albums of 1971

3 June 2024, 12:00

Classic albums from the classic year of 1971: Pink Floyd, The Doors, The Who and Led Zeppelin.
Classic albums from the classic year of 1971: Pink Floyd, The Doors, The Who and Led Zeppelin. Picture: Alamy

Let's roll back to the classic year of 1971 including John Lennon, Paul McCartney, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Doors and David Bowie.

Radio X

By Radio X

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Turn up Radio X Classic Rock on Global Player here- dedicated to the greatest classic rock music of all time

Listen to Radio X Classic Rock on Global Player now!
Listen to Radio X Classic Rock on Global Player now! Picture: Radio X
  1. 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.

    Janis Joplin - Pearl cover art
    Janis Joplin - Pearl cover art. Picture: Press
  2. Yes - The Yes Album: release date 19th February 1971

    The third studio album from the British prog legends featured the singles Yours Is No Disgrace and Your Move. Their next, Fragile, would arrive in November of '71 and would see the introduction of keyboardist Rick Wakeman.

    Yes - The Yes Album album cover
    Yes - The Yes Album album cover. Picture: Alamy
  3. Jimi Hendrix - The Cry Of Love: release date 5th March 1971

    The first posthumous album from the guitar legend featured tracks that Hendrix had been working on when he died in September 1970, including Angel, Freedom and Night Bird Flying.

    Jimi Hendrix - The Cry Of Love album cover
    Jimi Hendrix - The Cry Of Love album cover. Picture: Alamy
  4. 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.

    James Taylor - Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon cover art
    James Taylor - Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon cover art. Picture: Press
  5. Jethro Tull - Aqualung: release date 19th March 1971

    The fourth album from the progressive folk rockers ended up being their biggest seller, and spawned the singles Locomotive Breath and Hymn 43.

    Jethro Tull - Aqualung album cover art
    Jethro Tull - Aqualung album cover art. Picture: Alamy
  6. 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 Doors - L.A. Woman cover art
    The Doors - L.A. Woman cover art. Picture: Press
  7. 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.

    The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers cover art
    The Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers cover art. Picture: Press
  8. 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?

    Paul & Linda McCartney - Ram cover art
    Paul & Linda McCartney - Ram cover art. Picture: Press
  9. 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.

    Rod Stewart - Every Picture Tells A Story cover art
    Rod Stewart - Every Picture Tells A Story cover art. Picture: Press
  10. Joni Mitchell - Blue: release date 22nd June 1971

    The Canadian singer-songwriter's fourth studio album included Carey and California.

    Joni Mitchell - Blue cover art
    Joni Mitchell - Blue cover art. Picture: Press
  11. 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.

    Black Sabbath - Master Of Reality cover art
    Black Sabbath - Master Of Reality cover art. Picture: Press
  12. Can - Tago Mago: released August 1971

    The second album from the the German cosmic rockers saw the first appearance of vocalist Damo Suzuki.

    Can - Tago Mago album cover
    Can - Tago Mago album cover. Picture: Alamy
  13. 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.

    The Who - Who's Next cover art
    The Who - Who's Next cover art. Picture: Press
  14. Deep Purple - Fireball: released September 1971

    The British rock band's fifth album featured the line-up of Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Paice and was their first to make Number 1. Tracks included Strange Kind Of Woman, Fireball and The Mule.

    Deep Purple - Fireball album cover art
    Deep Purple - Fireball album cover art. Picture: Alamy
  15. 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.

    T. Rex - Electric Warrior cover art
    T. Rex - Electric Warrior cover art. Picture: Press
  16. 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.

    Don McLean - American Pie cover art
    Don McLean - American Pie cover art. Picture: Press
  17. 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.

    Cat Stevens – Teaser and the Firecat cover art
    Cat Stevens – Teaser and the Firecat cover art. Picture: Press
  18. 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?

    John Lennon - Imagine cover art
    John Lennon - Imagine cover art. Picture: Press
  19. 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.

    Pink Floyd - Meddle cover art
    Pink Floyd - Meddle cover art. Picture: Press
  20. 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.

    Led Zeppelin - IV cover art
    Led Zeppelin - IV cover art. Picture: Press
  21. 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.

    Faces - A Nod Is As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse cover art
    Faces - A Nod Is As Good As A Wink To A Blind Horse cover art. Picture: Press
  22. 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.

    The Kinks – Muswell Hillbillies cover art
    The Kinks – Muswell Hillbillies cover art. Picture: Press
  23. Alice Cooper - Killer: release date 27th November 1971

    The fourth album by the shock rock band led by the former Vince Furnier included the singles Under My Wheels, Be My Lover and the controversial Dead Babies.

    Alice Cooper - Killer album cover
    Alice Cooper - Killer album cover. Picture: Alamy
  24. 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.

    David Bowie - Hunky Dory cover art
    David Bowie - Hunky Dory cover art. Picture: Press
  25. 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.

    George Harrison - The Concert For Bangladesh cover art
    George Harrison - The Concert For Bangladesh cover art. Picture: Press