The best ’70s rock albums are a broad topic because this was the decade when the genre was at its peak. The ’70s was a fruitful time for great music and to do a lot of experimentation. Bands were not afraid to try many different things, which added to the experience.
That is why this list of the best ’70s rock albums will have a lot of musical variety. There are a lot of great albums to choose from, which is why some sadly missed out. However, those that remain are truly some of the genre’s crowning jewels.
It is also worth pointing out that the list is entirely subjective. And is not meant to offend any band or their other musical achievements.
The Best ’70s Rock Albums
This list focuses on the best 70s rock albums based on the bands’ legacies, the merits of the album, and the success they had. While is true some records are missing, feel free to mention them in the comments. It is also worth pointing out that there is going to be one album per band.
Which are the 13 best 70s rock albums?
- Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV
- Black Sabbath – Sabotage
- Deep Purple – Burn
- Rush – 2112
- Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
- Queen – A Night at the Opera
- Yes – Fragile
- Boston – Boston
- Van Halen – Van Halen
- The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
- Rainbow – Rising
- The Who – Who’s Next
- The Scorpions – Taken By Force
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV
There is no denying Led Zeppelin‘s first four albums are absolute masterpieces. And this “Led Zeppelin IV” record is possibly the best of the four. As a fun fact, it’s worth pointing out that none of these four albums have names.
This has a simple explanation: the album compiled the experience and evolution of the band with the three previous albums. Furthermore, they were the most important band in the world at the time, so they felt the freedom to experiment musically.
For example, “Black Dog” and “Rock and Roll” easily could be songs from “Led Zeppelin II” or “The Battle of Evermore” from “Led Zeppelin III“. And this without mentioning “Stairway to Heaven“, a musical classic.
Black Sabbath – Sabotage
It’s very true that Black Sabbath had a more complex and ambitious production with this record. They changed their musical formula from previous releases, resulting in one of the best 70s rock albums.
It is difficult to talk about any song in particular since they are all at a very high level. An album that has undoubtedly survived the passage of time and that can be praised as much now as it was in 1975 when it was first released.
Deep Purple – Burn
The “Burn” album was a bit of a reboot for the band. Any band that adds David Coverdale and Glen Hughes to their lineup is going to reach a new level, even if they were not that known back then.
Add the likes of Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, and Ian Paice, and this results in one of the best 70s rock albums. In addition to the band’s classics such as the title track or “Mistreated“, there is also a masterpiece like “Sail Away“.
The thing about the “Burn” record is not only the musical quality. This new lineup reenergized and changed Deep Purple. Bassist Glenn Hughes and vocalist David Coverdale added some amazing vocal harmonies. Furthermore, they added a stronger element of funk and blues to the band’s sound.
It was a very fruitful time for the band and they returned to the summit of the genre in 1974 with this album.
Rush – 2112
In 1975, Rush released “Caress of Steel“, which did not have the expected success. Maybe because of the difficulty of placing 12 or 19-minute songs on the radio and that’s why it didn’t receive as much attention.
One might think that would make them change their direction but Rush‘s integrity and conviction was something that always defined them. That’s how in 1976 they released 2112, with the title track lasting 20 minutes and becoming a staple of progressive rock.
It’s also worth pointing out that this was a concept album. It focused on drummer Neil Peart, the lyricist of the band, exploring a lot of philosophical themes. That’s something that makes this album quite different from several others on this list. It also shows that Rush wasn’t afraid of taking risks.
Both the concept and the music of “2112” were great and that is why it’s considered among the best 70s rock albums.
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
When talking about Pink Floyd, many people automatically think of “The Dark Side of the Moon” or “The Wall“. However, “Wish You Were Here” cannot be left aside considering its quality and legacy in rock music.
The truth is that this album can’t be missing from the list of the best 70s rock albums. The song “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” that begins and closes the album is a unique experience. “Welcome to the Machine” brings a darker and futuristic tone to the record as a whole. And adding the classic “Wish You Were Here“, with all its emotional feel, there is a timeless work.
Pink Floyd had reached a creative peak with this album. The band had enough experience and success at this point, which gave them a lot more freedom. That freedom to express themselves shines throughout the record. It still holds up extremely well even to this day.
Queen – A Night at the Opera
Before starting to record the album, Queen lived through a turbulent time in which they changed managers and record labels. These new people decided to invest in the band to make the best album possible and let’s just say they succeeded.
“A Night at the Opera” consolidated Queen as one of the best bands in history and brought them the critical and commercial recognition that a band of that level deserved. Just mentioning that this record has the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” would be enough. However, the entirety of the album is an absolute masterpiece.
It could be also argued that this is the beginning of the “classic Queen sound“. While the first albums were heavier, this one shows the band’s entire musical tapestry. Their capacity to adapt to different music styles would become commonplace in future releases.
Yes – Fragile
“Fragile” is simply one of the best progressive rock albums in history and logically one of the best 70s rock albums. The record itself could be divided into: the joint compositions and the individual ones. In the first group, Roundabout stands out, which is among the band’s greatest hits, which was somewhat surprising at the time. Originally intended as an instrumental, the song evolved into what was the final product.
As a fun fact, “Roundabout” enjoyed a second era of success in the mid-2010s. This was because the song was included as the ending of the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure anime.
It is a very ambitious album and one that popularized progressive rock in the 70s. A lot of progressive bands, including the likes of Dream Theater, have mentioned it as one of their biggest influences.
Boston – Boston
This is the first debut album that is part of this list of the best 70s rock albums. So it was a great start for Boston, especially considering that the first song is More Than a Feeling.
The album had a complicated recording process that took around seven years due to constant changes and rejections. The legendary hit is focused on Tom Scholz‘s feelings for a girl, something that many fans identified with. However, the rest of the songs are just as good, if not better in some instances.
Sadly, Boston peaked with this album. The following records, while fun and well-crafted, never reached these highs. Each album would take longer to record and release, adding to the band’s decreasing popularity.
Van Halen – Van Halen
Another huge debut that deserves to be among the best 70s rock albums. It can be argued that Van Halen‘s eponymous album is the beginning of the glam rock movement that would dominate Los Angeles in 80s. The first two tracks of the album are simply great: “Runnin’ with the Devil” and “Eruption“. However, songs like “Little Dreamer“, “On Fire“, and “Atomic Punk” deserve a lot of credit too.
The guitar is a key element in Van Halen and it is demonstrated here from the beginning. The album itself cemented Eddie Van Halen as one of the definitive guitar heroes for the next decade. A generational record.
The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
Within the Rolling Stones‘ extensive discography, many fans and critics consider this album to be the band’s best. With that said, it obviously should be on the list of best 70s rock albums.
The band reached a point of maturity in this album that also defines the sound of The Rolling Stones very well, being one of their most rocking-sounding albums. It also showed the band’s increasing ability to adapt to the times.
The Rolling Stones made a habit of adapting to different eras and musical trends. That is why they are still going strong even in 2023.
Rainbow – Rising
Ritchie Blackmore made huge changes to Rainbow‘s lineup before starting to record
“Rising“. Only vocalist Ronnie James Dio was saved from the changes. Although there is no denying that Blackmore knew best, considering the album’s legacy and success over the years.
In just one month, the band made an album that can be considered short (just over 30 minutes) but that condenses a lot of quality. “Rising” starts off strong with “Tarot Woman” and “Run with the Wolf” but the closing of the album is simply epic. Rock fans only need to think of “Stargazer and “A Light in the Black“. Majestic.
The album is also extremely influential. There is an argument to be made that European metal changed forever because of this album. A lot of power metal bands have taken a huge influence from this record as well. It is also widely regarded as Rainbow‘s best record and one of the finest in Blackmore and Dio‘s careers.
The Who – Who’s Next
Who’s Next is The Who‘s fifth album and possibly the band’s best, which is why it is one of the best 70s rock albums. It came out in 1971, at a time of transition of the decades, with a changing world.
For many, Who’s Next was a kind of refuge from everything that was happening in the world. The album is full of songs that would later become classics of the band such as “Baba O’Riley” or “Behind Blue Eyes“.
The Who is one of the greatest rock acts of all time and this album is a huge example of that notion.
The Scorpions – Taken By Force
“Taken by Force” is a turning point for the Scorpions that comes out at a turbulent time for the band. However, that same turbulence would later bring many other positive things. This was arguably the band’s best album, showcasing its mix of rock, proto-metal, and progressive music.
The album has a deeper theme than it may seem at first glance, including the cover that talks about young people involved in wars. The album’s quality can’t be debated and its success allowed Scorpions to make “Tokyo Tapes“, a legendary live record, a year later.
Some songs, such as “We’ll Burn the Sky” and “The Sails of Charon“, are timeless classics in the band’s catalogue. There is also a lot of musical diversity here. From ballads to heavier stuff. One of the best 70 rock albums by a large margin.
What are your thoughts on the top 13 best ’70s rock albums? Let us know in the comment section!