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Best Albums Of 1974: 68 Records Worth Revisiting

The year featured some of the best reggae, Latin, and rock music the decade had to offer.

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Bob Marley, artist behind one of the best 1974 albums
Bob Marley Photo: Chris Walter/WireImage

The best albums of 1974 are a varied bunch, to say the least. Reggae had begun to well and truly cross over from Jamaica’s shores to the world. Latin music was transforming in the same way as funk, soul, and rock. Stevie Wonder, Barry White, and Joni Mitchell all released some of their finest albums. And that’s not even covering rock and pop musicians like Eric Clapton and Elton John. In short, the albums released in 1974 were some of the best of the decade, encompassing a whole host of sounds and styles.

Explore the best songs of the 70s.

68: Roxy Music – Country Life

Following the exit of founding member Brian Eno, it was unclear what the art rock band’s 1974 album would sound like. Thankfully, Country Life confidently exceeded all expectations and became Roxy Music’s first album to make the American Top 40.

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67: Eagles – On The Border

The iconic rock group’s third studio album showcases the best of each band member’s unique talents – from banjo picking to slide guitar – and includes some of their greatest melodies.

66: Lou Reed – Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal

Reed’s 1974 live album includes some of his most crowd-pleasing anthems and is a great introduction to the world of glam rock.

65: Marvin Gaye – Marvin Gaye Live!

The soul master’s second live album was recorded at the Oakland Coliseum and features excellent renditions of tracks from his 1973 LP, Let’s Get It On, including an unforgettable performance of “Distant Lover.”

64: Mott the Hoople – The Hoople

The British band’s 1974 album is a sequel to an earlier LP, entitled Mott, and even though it wasn’t received as well, it includes some of the group’s best work including the stunner, “Roll Away the Stone.”

63: Loretta Lynn – They Don’t Make ‘Em Like My Daddy

The country legend’s 24th (!) studio album proves that more (and not less) is more, as she successfully bridges slow-burning ballads with charging rock and jaunty country.

They Don't Make 'Em Like My Daddy

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62: Ry Cooder – Paradise and Lunch

From Black spirituals to Burt Bacharach-era pop tunes, Cooder’s genius lies in drawing out the similarities rather than the differences between these seemingly disparate selections, making for a cohesive album that also doubles as a history lesson.

61: Todd Rundgren – Todd

Rundgren’s experimental and ambitious double album may scare first-time listeners of the singular artist, but, with time, its charm and impressive artistry will win anyone over.

60: Tom Waits – The Heart of Saturday Night

The singer-songwriter’s second album spins stories of a typical night out on the town into jazzy and folk-tinged tunes, making the ordinary feel poetic.

59: Van Morrison – It’s Too Late to Stop Now

The Irish legend’s double live album showcases everything that makes him great as a performer: energy, warmth, and stellar vocals.

58: Gal Costa – Cantar

The Brazilian singer’s fifth studio album strikingly sees Costa at her most intimate, without sacrificing the political bite that made her a mainstay in Brazilian music.

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57: Keith Jarrett and Jan Garbarek – Belonging

The pianist’s first album with his European quartet is a loose and measured take on jazz that leaves room for details to shine through, offering listeners something new upon each listen.

56: Blue Oyster Cult – Secret Treaties

The Long Island rock band’s 1974 album saw them returning to their psychedelic roots, while still nurturing the lyrical and sonic eccentricities that made them so beloved. The result was what many consider to be their best album to date.

55: Tomita – Snowflakes Are Dancing

The Japanese artist’s second album reinterprets Debussy compositions through beautiful and complex synthesizer arrangements, making the past feel futuristic.

54: Queen – Sheer Heart Attack

Featuring fan favorites like “Killer Queen” and “Brighton Rock,” Queen’s second album of the year expertly braids together pop, rock, and heavy metal.

53: Rufus featuring Chaka Khan – Rags to Rufus

The funk band’s successful second album includes the timeless hit, “Tell Me Something Good,” and helped cement Chaka Khan’s legacy as a vocal powerhouse.

Chaka Khan and Rufus | Tell me something Good

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52: Harmonia – Musik von Harmonia

The krautrock supergroup’s debut album is a masterpiece that is equal parts experimental and comforting, expanding the boundaries of minimal music far beyond everyone’s expectations.

51: The Meters – Rejuvenation

Featuring fan-favorite, “Hey Pocky A-Way,” the New Orleans band’s 1974 album brings together the grade A funk of their early days with glossy production to create a stellar album.

50: Bob Dylan – Planet Waves

Dylan’s reunion with The Band produced some of his most beautiful work. Wonderfully understated, the record mines the intricacies of ordinary life and love – offering sharp insights and soothing melodies.

49: Randy Newman – Good Old Boys

Newman’s big commercial success takes the South as its muse and is as critical as it is admiring – creating a complex portrait of a complicated region.

48: Ringo Starr – Goodnight Vienna

The former Beatle’s fourth studio album featured John Lennon on acoustic guitar and brought Ringo much-deserved commercial success, thanks to hits like “Only You” and “No No Song.”

Only You (And You Alone)

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47: The Rolling Stones – It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll

Anchored by the lively title track, the English rock band’s 1974 album successfully attempts a Motown cover, reggae, and much more, solidifying the British domination of American charts that year.

46: Thin Lizzy – Nightlife

With the introduction of two new guitarists, Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham, Nightlife saw the band truly come into form and produced the live performance staples, “Sha-La-La” and “Still In Love With You.”

Still In Love With You

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45: UFO – Phenomenon

UFO’s first album with guitarist Michael Schenker proved to be a turning point in their sound, taking them from forgettable band to hard rock champions.

44: Ohio Players – Fire

The funk band’s sixth studio album shows off their impressive range – from moving ballads to explosive jams to soul-saving gospel – and confirms them as leading lights of the genre.

43: Camel – Mirage

The prog rock band’s sophomore album features hits like “White Rider” and “Lady Fantasy” and has since become a hallmark of the entire genre.

42: David Bowie – Diamond Dogs

Taking inspiration from George Orwell’s novel, 1984, Bowie’s eighth studio album made dystopia sound so funky, that it topped the charts in the UK.

41: Electric Light Orchestra – Eldorado

From the opening notes of “Eldorado Overture,” Jeff Lynne’s prog rock classic is full of vivid soundscapes that feel cinematic in their scope.

40: Elton John – Caribou

Featuring stone-cold classics like “The Bitch Is Back” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” the music legend’s eighth studio album is a masterclass in pop finesse.

The Bitch Is Back

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39: John Cale – Fear

The Velvet Underground member’s fourth solo album is an eclectic blend of pop and rock that cemented Cale’s place as an artist distinct from his former band’s massive shadow.

38: Little Feat – Feats Don’t Fail Me Now

The band’s 1974 album finds them at the top of their game as they churn out some of the best Southern rock’n’roll you’ll ever hear.

37: Kiss – Kiss

The famed rock band’s debut album introduced their unique brand of glam rock to the world and, though it didn’t make a huge impact on arrival, in time it more than proved its worth.

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36: Minnie Riperton – Perfect Angel

The inimitable singer’s second studio album features her timeless track, “Lovin’ You,” as well as those super-human high notes, showing off her mastery at both soul and vocal technique.

35: Shuggie Otis – Inspiration Information

Otis’ famously-sampled, trippy soul album continues to be a favorite, decades after its release, thanks to elegant arrangements and a meditative pace that leaves enough space for both vibing out and reflecting.

34: Parliament – Up for the Down Stroke

In addition to featuring the classic title track, which became Parliament’s first chart hit, the funk band’s 1974 album also reintroduced the inimitable Bootsy Collins to the group, following a two-year hiatus.

33: Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson – Winter in America

The powerful combination of Heron’s revolutionary lyricism and Jackson’s compelling piano is as resonant today as it was in 1974; it’s the perfect soundtrack for turbulent times.

32: Queen – Queen II

The rock superstars’ second album was almost titled “Over The Top,” which is apt considering how ambitious it is. From fantastical storylines to complex arrangements, the album provided the blueprint for the group’s unique sound.

Queen - Seven Seas Of Rhye (Official Lyric Video)

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31: Lynyrd Skynyrd – Second Helping

The Florida rock band’s sophomore album spawned their most famous song, “Sweet Home Alabama,” and established them as Southern rock legends.

30: Tangerine Dream – Phaedra

The German group’s landmark album catapulted them onto the international stage and, today, it remains one of the most innovative records in electronic music.

29: Brian Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)

Released barely a year after his debut album, Brian Eno’s second solo effort introduced his subversive Oblique Strategies cards and paved the way for art rock’s future.

28: Sparks – Kimono My House

The rock band’s 1974 album is an exhilarating blend of glam rock and pop that, through hits like “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us” and “Amateur Hour,” became their commercial breakthrough.

This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us

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27: Funkadelic – Standing on the Verge of Getting It On

The seminal funk band’s sixth studio album is marked by the return of guitarist Eddie Hazel – whose solos are major highlights – and wonky, extended jams that only a band like Funkadelic could pull off so well.

26: Van Morrison – Veedon Fleece

Before embarking on a three-year hiatus, Van Morrison released Veedon Fleece a deeply intimate album that sadly, yet beautifully, chronicles the emotional turmoil that follows a divorce.

25: Rufus featuring Chaka Khan – Rufusized

Though not even a year had passed from their last release, Rufus’ third album marked a significant improvement in the band’s musical ability. Funkier, sexier, and more flexible, Rufusized took the band from great to incredible.

24: Rory Gallagher – Irish Tour ’74

Captured during a time of national crisis, the recording of the Irish rock hero’s homecoming tour has been hailed as one of the greatest live albums ever – and is as historic as it is musically sound.

23: Miles Davis – Get Up With It / Big Fun

The two compilations are composed of previously-recorded outtakes and are a treasure trove of cutting-edge jazz tracks that are essential listening for any Miles Davis fan.

22: Frank Zappa – Apostrophe (‘)

Full of his characteristic irreverent humor and skillful musicianship, Frank Zappa’s 1974 album set a new standard of success by being his first Top Ten record in the US.

Don't Eat The Yellow Snow

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21: Robert Wyatt – Rock Bottom

Recorded after an accident that left him paralyzed, Wyatt’s 1974 album is a high-water mark of art rock and, despite the tragic circumstances, is one of his most calm and centered albums.

20: Robin Trower – Bridge of Sighs

The British guitarist’s second album is widely considered to be his masterpiece and includes the endlessly-covered “Too Rolling Stoned,” as well as the gorgeous “In This Place.”

19: Richard and Linda Thompson – I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight

Even at its saddest, the folk-rock duo’s first album together is strikingly beautiful as it masterfully catalogs the painful struggles of life.

I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight

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18: Brian Eno – Here Come The Warm Jets

The idiosyncratic artist’s debut album sets the stage for Eno’s wildly inventive and influential approach to music; braiding together a myriad of musical influences – from funk to new wave – with experimental, if not downright nonsensical, lyrics.

17: Big Star – Radio City

Commercial success eluded the Memphis band at the time of their landmark album’s release, but in the years since, they have morphed into cult favorites and are widely recognized as the progenitors of power pop.

16: Supertramp – Crime of the Century

The English band’s third studio album featured their first major hit, “Dreamer” and established their unique take on art rock.

Crime Of The Century (Remastered 2010)

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15: Betty Davis – They Say I’m Different

The elusive funk singer’s second album is a raucous, sex-positive, and squarely feminist take on funk music that grooves harder than the vast majority of her contemporaries.

14: Elis Regina and Tom Jobim – Elis & Tom

Two beloved Brazilian artists team up on this excellent bossa nova album, which is not only inimitably beautiful, but is also considered to be one the greatest Brazilian pop records ever made.

13: Keith Hudson – Pick A Dub

Hudson’s landmark dub record stands alongside greats like King Tubby and Lee Scratch Perry, while its sheer percussive intensity will take over your mind, body, and soul.

12: Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

The English band’s sixth studio album is easily the reason they are considered legends of prog rock. With its ambitious storytelling and stirring instrumentation, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is required listening for any fan of the genre.

Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (Official Audio)

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11: Gram Parsons – Grievous Angel

Finished just weeks before he passed away, Parsons’ second and final album showcases his incredible songwriting and graceful playing.

10: Labelle – Nightbirds

Featuring the smash hit “Lady Marmalade,” the influential group’s fourth studio album is an exhilarating and empowering ride through funk, R&B, and gospel, with unforgettable vocals to boot.

09: Eric Clapton – 461 Ocean Boulevard

Clapton’s first chart-topping album is a testament to the magical power of his irresistible blend of rock, blues, and R&B music.

I Shot The Sheriff

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08: Neil Young – On The Beach

Anchored in disillusionment, Young’s 1974 album is dark, introspective, and full of remarkable songs that aptly speak to the artist’s state of mind at the time.

07: Kraftwerk – Autobahn

Featuring the title hit single, the German group’s iconic 1974 album is the wellspring of the electronic music boom of the 80s and 90s.

06: Steely Dan – Pretzel Logic

The band’s 1974 album is widely considered to be their best work. Full of complicated arrangements and sardonic lyricism, it also spawned the hit single, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.”

05: Joni Mitchell – Court and Spark

Mitchell’s 1974 album, which beautifully meshes pop and jazz, reached the pinnacle of commercial success in the US. Not only did it top the Billboard 200, but it was eventually certified double platinum.

04: Eddie Palmieri – The Sun of Latin Music

The influential pianist explores a range of styles on his 1974 album, from salsa to guaguanco, making for a delightful journey through the best of Latin jazz.

03: Barry White – Can’t Get Enough

Full of decadent strings, sensual harmonies, and of course, that voice, Barry White’s 1974 album is in a league of its own and is a staple for any true R&B lover.

Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe

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02: Stevie Wonder – Fulfillingness’ First Finale

Featuring the hit, “Boogie on Reggae Woman,” the R&B giant’s 17th studio album embraces the highs and lows of romantic love and features some of Wonder’s most affecting vocal performances.

01: Bob Marley and the Wailers – Natty Dread

The first album that Bob Marley recorded without Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, Natty Dread was the essential Marley full-length released during his lifetime, full of classic songs like “No Woman, No Cry.”

Bob Marley - No Woman, No Cry (Official Video)

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Explore the best songs of the 70s.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Steve Brownlee

    January 10, 2022 at 9:37 pm

    What about Yes, Relayer? Meet the Residents? Gong, You? Black Sabbath, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath?

  2. Steve C

    January 11, 2022 at 1:29 am

    What about The Marshall Tucker Band that released two LPs in 1974, A New Life and Where We All Belong with four Live songs including the killer 24 Hours at a Time with Charlie Daniels. Both charted in the top 60 and that was the era of Country Rock and Roll that dominated the halls like Winterland and other rock venues.

  3. Michael Karlsson

    January 15, 2022 at 1:13 pm

    Deep Purple “Burn”, essential listening! It’s a shame you forgot to put it on the list!

  4. Jon

    January 21, 2022 at 12:27 pm

    Steve— I was wondering about Sabbath too but Sabbath Bloody Sabbath came out in 73. This is a really good list with a bunch of my favorites, it’s cool to see all the different genres and artists juxtaposed by year, even gave me some things to go check out. But: where’s King Crimson Starless and Bible Black or Red, also Grateful Dead From the Mars Hotel?

  5. Mark Grissom

    January 21, 2022 at 6:31 pm

    Sandy Denny’s “Like An Old Fashioned Waltz”

  6. Jules

    January 22, 2022 at 9:34 pm

    The Shuggie Otis album should be ranked way higher than 35. Inspiration Information is a much better album than Eric Clapton’s 461 Ocean Blvd.

  7. Dale

    January 23, 2022 at 12:35 pm

    Such an interesting year! Great article, because this year is definitely an underrated year, where the average music fan has to dig for buried treasure. Rock, and pop music overall, was firmly in one of its (very many!) transitional phases in 1974!

  8. Michael Hopf

    January 24, 2022 at 1:31 am

    Steely Dan’s Pretzel Logic is widely considered to be their greatest work? That’s pretty much plain wrong. Any critic or Dan fan would pick Asia or The Royal Scam way ahead of Pretzel Logic.

  9. Darwin

    February 13, 2022 at 1:32 pm

    “Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974. It’s a scientific fact.” – Homer Simpson

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