The Best Albums of 1973: 65 Essential Full-Lengths

From Stevie Wonder to Elton John and Mike Oldfield to The Wailers, the best albums of this year have something for everyone.

Published on

Stevie Wonder, writer of one of the best albums of 1973
Photo: Fox Photos/Getty Images

The year 1973 was a sterling one for albums. Stevie Wonder was in the midst of an unprecedented run. Pink Floyd turned in one of the most celebrated albums ever released. Elton John released two great full-lengths. And Betty Davis introduced herself to the world. It was a year in which music fans of just about any persuasion had something to shout about. We hope that in taking a look over this list of the best albums of 1973 that you find something to shout about too.

Explore more of the essential 1970s albums on vinyl.

uDiscover Music Store - Rock
ADVERTISEMENT
uDiscover Music Store - Rock
ADVERTISEMENT
uDiscover Music Store - Rock
ADVERTISEMENT
uDiscover Rewards Program
ADVERTISEMENT
uDiscover Rewards Program
ADVERTISEMENT
uDiscover Rewards Program
ADVERTISEMENT
uDiscover Rewards Program
ADVERTISEMENT
uDiscover Rewards Program
ADVERTISEMENT
uDiscover Rewards Program
ADVERTISEMENT
uDiscover Rewards Program
ADVERTISEMENT
uDiscover Rewards Program
ADVERTISEMENT
uDiscover Rewards Program
ADVERTISEMENT
uDiscover Rewards Program
ADVERTISEMENT
uDiscover Rewards Program
ADVERTISEMENT
uDiscover Rewards Program
ADVERTISEMENT

65: Jackson Browne – For Everyman

The singer-songwriter’s second album is a continuation of his stunning debut that tackles a wide array of subjects with incisive lyrics and beautifully layered instrumentation.

64: Bryan Ferry – These Foolish Things

Bryan Ferry’s debut as a soloist, released while he was still the lead singer of Roxy Music, is a fantastic covers album that offers fun and innovative takes on Bob Dylan, Elvis, Smokey Robinson, the Beatles, and more.

63: Vangelis Papathanassiou – L’Apocalypse Des Animaux

With its dreamy synth chords and the driving electronic rhythms of the title track, this soundtrack from Greek composer and electronic music pioneer Vangelis sounds like it was recorded at least ten years into the future.

62: Tom Waits – Closing Time

The debut album from the distinctive singer-songwriter, Closing Time announced the arrival of a major talent.

61: Joe Walsh – The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get

Joe Walsh’s idiosyncratic guitar playing is on full display on this album which musically spans the spectrum of rock music, from light pop standards to dense and luxurious solos.

60: Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On

Marvin Gaye’s 13th studio album is the “baby making music” blueprint. From the inimitable title track to deep cuts like “Just To Keep You Satisfied,” it’s a deeply sensual soul classic.

59: Paul Simon – There Goes Rhymin’ Simon

Simon’s 1973 foray into soul and R&B is among his most celebrated works and features standout tracks like “Loves Me Like a Rock” and “Take Me To The Mardi Gras.”

58: Blue Öyster Cult – Tyranny & Mutation

The inimitable rock band’s second album is faster, darker and weirder than their debut and all the more compelling for it. Though it didn’t spawn the commercial hits of their later work, it’s an excellent window into the complex creative world of the group.

57: Elvis Presley – Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite

The live recording of Presley’s 1973 concert at the H.I.C. Arena in Honolulu is a rockin’ good time that sees the pop icon taking on covers, new songs and his classics with unforgettable style.

56: Ringo Starr – Ringo

Ringo Starr‘s third solo album features all of his former bandmates in varying capacities, bringing back the musical spirit of the exceptional pop group.

55: Tangerine Dream – Atem

Full of haunting sounds and dark atmospherics, Atem fully displays Tangerine Dream’s ability to conjure otherworldly musical landscapes.

54: Klaus Schulze ‎– Cyborg

As blissful as it is menacing, Klaus Schulze’s Cyborg was a cutting-edge work of electronic music in 1973 and it is still intriguing and haunting today.

53: Alice Cooper – Billion Dollar Babies

The American band’s wildly successful sixth studio album is not for the faint of heart, but if you can brave the mostly disturbing subject matter, you’re in for a thrilling hard rock classic.

52: John Lennon – Mind Games

John Lennon’s 1973 album is some of his most introspective work and offers a unique window into the artist at a point of transition.

51: Derek and the Dominos – In Concert

The live double album from the blues rock band is a sprawling mix of concert material that captures the best of the band’s chemistry as well as their individual musicianship.

50: David Bowie – Aladdin Sane

Picking up where Ziggy Stardust let off, David Bowie’s 1973 album is exciting and unpredictable, taking listeners on a ride through experimental jazz, rock R&B and much more.

49: George Harrison – Living in the Material World

The former Beatle’s fourth studio album finds the singer deeply reflective and spiritual as evidenced by standout track “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth).”

48: Jethro Tull – A Passion Play

The British band’s 1973 concept album takes its inspiration from a biblical interpretation of the afterlife and spins it into an exciting mix of progressive rock.

47: King Crimson – Larks’ Tongues in Aspic

The prog rock band’s fifth studio album featured a brand new line-up and a new, challenging sound composed of unique textures, rhythms, and vocals.

46: The Beach Boys – Holland

Recorded in Utrecht, The Beach Boys’ 19th studio album still has a California feel and utilizes more songwriters than normal, making for a distinctly collaborative yet unified project.

45: Magma – Mekanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh

Combining jazz, rock, choral music, and prog into a unique whole, Magma’s third studio album is one of the most distinctive releases of 1973.

44: Pescado Rabioso – Artaud

A masterful and utterly unique Spanish language rock classic. Songs like “Cementerio Club,” “Por” and “La Sed Verdadera” are subtle and painfully understated.

43: Faces – Ooh La La

Released just as Rod Stewart’s solo career was taking off, the band’s fourth and final album to date is chock-full of pop rockers that will leave listeners yearning for their long anticipated comeback.

42: Thin Lizzy – Vagabonds of the Western World

Groovy, fun, and completely over the top, Vagabonds of the Western World is indicative of why Thin Lizzy was one of the most beloved and influential bands of their day.

41: The Marshall Tucker Band – The Marshall Tucker Band

The South Carolina band’s debut album is a distinct blend of psychedelic rock, jazz, and country music that proved that Southern rock was a force to be reckoned with.

40: Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy

The band’s first album of all-original music finds them more relaxed and lighter as they take on folk rock, reggae, and touches of funk.

39: Sly and the Family Stone – Fresh

The San Francisco funk band’s sixth studio album balances pop and funk without ever sacrificing its precise political messaging.

38: Gladys Knight and the Pips – Imagination

The R&B stars’ first album with Buddah Records shows off their maturity and first-class musicianship in both content and style, making it one of their most popular records to date.

37: John Cale – Paris 1919

The Welsh musician’s critically acclaimed album is deep, resonant, and replete with beautiful orchestration.

36: Paul McCartney and Wings – Band on the Run

Even though two band members quit right before the recording of this album, Paul McCartney produced some of his best and most commercially successful solo work on it including the soaring title track.

35: Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Brain Salad Surgery

The English prog rock band’s 1973 record is among their most successful to date and shows off their impressive arrangements and their love for electronic sounds.

34: Elton John – Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player

Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s follow-up to super smash Honky Chateau is a delightful sampling of pop tunes that topped the charts in both the US and UK.

33: Paul McCartney and Wings – Red Rose Speedway

The band’s second studio album is varied and eclectic as they take on art rock, pop, and experimental music. The result is an album that offers up something new upon each listen.

32: Carole King – Fantasy

King’s fifth studio album saw the singer-songwriter branch out from the signature homey sound of her earlier work into expanded production that wonderfully brings out her groovier side.

31: Lynyrd Skynyrd – Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd

The rock titans’ debut album boasts some of their most memorable work including, “Free Bird,” and shows why they will forever be legends of the genre.

30: The Allman Brothers Band – Brothers and Sisters

Featuring fan-favorite, “Ramblin’ Man,” the band’s 1973 album was their first and only chart-topper, paving the way for Southern rock to enter the mainstream.

29: Steely Dan – Countdown to Ecstasy

Countdown to Ecstasy is an incredible fusion of Steely Dan’s breezy jazz-informed arrangements and rocking guitar.

28: Secos & Molhados – Secos & Molhados

Secos & Molhados’ self-titled 1973 explores the depths of soul and rich feeling that exists at the core of Brazilian music. Whether it’s rock, folk, or prog rock, the album is full of exciting twists and turns.

27: Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters

Home to the crossover hit “Watermelon Man,” Herbie Hancock’s 1973 album paved the way for jazz fusion in its masterful blending of jazz with funk and R&B.

26: Billy Joel – Piano Man

Coming off the heels of a series of legal hiccups, Joel’s second album could have easily languished under the curse of the sophomore slump. Instead Joel produced a remarkable breakthrough album that shows off his undeniable ear for beautiful melodies.

25: Rolling Stones – Goats Head Soup

Reveling in raunchiness and sleaziness, The Rolling Stones’ 1973 album is a reckless and thrilling ride through the dank, dirty corners of the rock world.

24: Bruce Springsteen – Greetings from Asbury Park

The beloved American rock star’s debut is a great place to start to understand what makes his music so special. In it you’ll find Dylan-inspired folk, rooted narratives and charging rhythms brimming with the spirit of teenagehood.

23: Hawkwind – Space Ritual

With its brutal riffs and tripped-out atmosphere, Space Ritual perfectly captures the live experience of the finest space-rock outfit of the 70s.

22: James Brown – The Payback

Originally meant to be a film soundtrack, James Brown’s 1973 album has since been lauded as a funk classic with the title track being sampled countless times by producers.

21: The O’Jays – Ship Ahoy

The group’s groundbreaking album starts with a reference to the middle passage before confronting other social ills, proving that soul music was much more than ballads on love and heartbreak.

20: Grand Funk Railroad – We’re an American Band

Produced by Todd Rundgren, the hard rock band’s seventh studio album is their best work and expertly brings together pop sensibilities with sharp and compelling songwriting.

19: Roxy Music – For Your Pleasure

The last record featuring the band’s original line-up shines in its experimental and unpredictable genre-blending, creating a blueprint for many bands to come.

18: Todd Rundgren – A Wizard, a True Star

A Wizard, a True Star is a career highlight for singer-songwriter/guitarist/producer Todd Rundgren. Boundlessly eclectic and experimental, “International Feel,” “Zen Archer,” and others combine magnificent songs with tape loops and synths to create an ambitious work of 70s psychedelia.

17: Iggy and the Stooges – Raw Power

Alongside David Bowie in the role of producer, Iggy Pop and the Stooges delivered a punk classic with their 1973 album, a ferocious and visceral explosion of music that more than lives up to its title.

16: The Wailers – Catch a Fire

Fiery, soulful, and revolutionary, The WailersCatch A Fire taps into reggae’s tradition of casting an unflinching eye on uncomfortable historical and political realities.

15: Brian Eno – Here Come the Warm Jets

Without question one of the most singular records of 1973, Brian Eno’s Here Come The Warm Jets shows off the ambient pioneer’s penchant for leftfield pop-rock tunes.

14: ZZ Top – Tres Hombres

One of the great hard rock albums of the early 70s, ZZ Top’s Tres Hombres was also their first huge commercial success.

13: Yes – Tales From Topographic Oceans

Dizzyingly complex and ambitious, Yes’ Tales From Topographic Oceans is a conceptual and technical high point for the prog rock superstars.

12: The Who – Quadrophenia

An ambitious and engaging rock opera, The Who’s Quadrophenia never sacrifices riffs and dynamite songs for the narrative.

11: Lou Reed – Berlin

Lou Reed’s fiercely ambitious concept album revolves around the doomed prospects of a couple addicted to drugs. It’s among his darkest and most compelling work.

10: Genesis – Selling England by the Pound

The English band’s fifth studio album chooses eclecticism and detail over universal pop appeal resulting in a folk-themed, prog-rock masterpiece that is widely regarded among the genre’s best.

09: Bob Marley & The Wailers – Burnin’

Featuring classics “Get Up, Stand Up” and “I Shot The Sheriff,” the Wailers’ second album for Island Records is militant and powerful, reflecting a shift in their politics from avoidance to full on confrontation.

08: Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells

Recorded when Mike Oldfield was still in his teens, this acclaimed debut is an instrumental masterpiece that at turns delights, startles, and soothes.

07: Black Sabbath – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

This heavy metal classic from icons of the genre proved that embracing fancy new technology and production techniques didn’t have to compromise the grit and raw energy that made the band so beloved in the first place – in fact, it only made it better.

06: Bruce Springsteen – The Wild Innocent & The E Street Shuffle

Released just eight months after his debut, Springsteen’s second album formally introduces the E Street Band and new musical inspiration to his arsenal, including jazz and funk. The result is an ambitious and flawlessly executed body of work.

05: Betty Davis – Betty Davis

Full of taut, bruising funk-rock tunes, Betty Davis’ 1973 self-titled album is an unsung masterpiece and a rollicking good time.

04: Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

Including mega-hits “Bennie and the Jets” and “Candle In The Wind,” Elton John’s stunning double album spans the breadth of human emotion and delivers a beautiful song for every mood.

03: Al Green – Call Me

Hailed as one of the greatest soul albums ever made, Al Green’s affecting vocals alongside Willie Mitchell’s masterful production is an intimate journey into the depths of love and heartbreak.

02: Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon

The English rock band’s seminal record is widely regarded as one of the best albums ever created.

01: Stevie Wonder – Innervisions

Ever progressive in both its messaging and music, Stevie Wonder’s 1973 album rightfully earned him the title of musical visionary.

Explore more of the essential 1970s albums on vinyl.

“The
ADVERTISEMENT
The Beatles - Let It Be
ADVERTISEMENT
The Beatles - Let It Be
ADVERTISEMENT
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. CCg

    October 13, 2021 at 4:25 am

    “It Don’t Come Easy” is not from Ringo’s 1973 album

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Don't Miss
uDiscover Music - Back To Top