Best Albums of 1978: 72 Must-Hear Records

From Brian Eno to Bob Marley and Parliament to The Rolling Stones, the best albums of 1978 have something for just about anyone.

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Brian Eno, an artist behind one of the best albums of 1978
Photo: Roberta Bayley/Redferns

The best albums of 1978 see the world of music in flux. Punk was already “so old” that post-punk was starting, not least with albums by Magazine, Devo, and Public Image Limited. Parliament and Funkadelic were in fine form. But perhaps the artist that had the biggest year was Brian Eno, who released his genre-defining Music for Airports and produced a few records from this list. There’s plenty more to discover here, though. So sit back, relax, and enjoy this list of the best albums from 1978.

Explore more of the essential 1970s albums on vinyl.

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72: Rod Stewart – Blondes Have More Fun

Stewart took a bold risk with this album trying his hand at full-blown disco music. Depending on who you ask it may or may not have been worth it, but regardless it remains a super fun album to listen to.

71: Black Sabbath – Never Say Die!

The English rock band’s eighth studio album is a key moment in the band’s storied history. Subsequent personnel changes earned it the distinction of being the last album to feature Ozzy Osbourne on vocals for over 30 years.

70: Van Morrison – Wavelength

Mixing up folk, rock, and soul into a potent cocktail, Van Morrison’s Wavelength is a complex and uplifting album.

69: David Bowie – Stage

The pop icon’s second live album was recorded during the Isolar II Tour and features new arrangements of his older material in a style that’s electronic, slick, and ahead of its time.

68: Ted Nugent – Weekend Warriors

Released during a career-high, Nugent’s 1978 album is heavy metal in all its glory – biting, powerful and menacing.

67: Gerry Rafferty – City to City

Rafferty’s second studio album is a masterclass in pop composition filled with variety, confidence, and style.

66: Jethro Tull – Heavy Horses

Inspired by farming and country life, the British band’s eleventh studio album is full of gorgeous folk rock that captures the joys of simple living.

65: AC/DC – Powerage

Though it doesn’t contain any of their biggest hits, the Australian band’s often overlooked album has aged like fine wine and is one of their most cohesive and diverse projects.

64: Alice Cooper – From the Inside

Cooper pulled from his experiences at a sanitarium for the subject of this concept album; the result is a record that is just as haunting as it is encouraging.

63: Neil Young – Comes a Time

Full of steel guitar and bittersweet melodies, Young’s 1978 acoustic album memorably tackles the throes of romantic love, returning to nature and much more.

62: Heatwave – Central Heating

The band’s particular brand of polished funk is on full display on their 1978 album which features unforgettable hits like, “The Groove Line” and “Mind Blowing Decisions.”

61: Eric Clapton – Backless

Featuring songwriting contributions from J.J Cale and Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton’s sixth studio album is wonderfully inviting in its warmth and unhurried pace.

60: Foreigner – Double Vision

Bolstered by hits like “Hot Blooded” and the title track, Foreigner more than met the standard set by their epic debut.

59: Cheap Trick – Heaven Tonight

Home to the teasing rock anthem, “Surrender,” the band’s 1978 album boasts high production value and stadium-size rock songs that never fail to thrill and amuse.

58: Chicago – Hot Streets

The band’s first album without Terry Kath is an ambitious effort that extends the musical boundaries of the group into disco, jazz, and funk.

57: Joe Walsh – But Seriously, Folks…

The singer-songwriter’s fourth studio album, which spawned the hit single “Life’s Been Good,” is a refreshingly reflective and pleasurable listen.

56: Little Feat – Waiting For Columbus

The band’s first live album expertly captures the magic of their live shows, from new arrangements of old songs to luxuriously lengthy jam sessions.

55: Elton John – A Single Man

Elton John’s first musical foray sans Bernie Taupin was a big risk for the pop star but thankfully it paid off mightily in the form of a highly enjoyable and skillful pop record.

54: Ramones – Road To Ruin

The popular punk band’s fourth studio album introduced a new drummer and new approaches to song-writing and production that resulted in more complex emotions and a pop-friendlier sound.

53: The Moody Blues – Octave

Featuring the hit single, “Steppin’ in a Slide Zone,” the band’s 1978 album arrived after a four-year hiatus and it was well worth the wait.

52: The Stranglers – Black and White

The band’s 1978 concept album is tough as nails and sonically inventive and includes the unforgettable “Toiler on the Sea.”

51: The Village People – Cruisin’

The famed disco group’s 1978 album leaned into the raciness and indulgence of the genre to create an exhilarating, dance-driven record that’s home to the one and only, “Y.M.C.A.”

50: Kate Bush – Lionheart

Released the same year as her debut, Bush’s second studio album is bold and playful, proving that the young artist had a long career ahead of her.

49: Atlanta Rhythm Section – Champagne Jam

Featuring the Top 10 hit, “Imaginary Lover,” the southern rock band’s 1978 album is an excellent blend of charging rockers and bluesy ballads.

48: Boney M – Nightflight To Venus

The pop titans struck gold with their 1978 album which sees them spin inputs as disparate as calypso, rock, and Russian guitars into delightful disco gems.

47: Boston – Don’t Look Back

The American rock band defeated the sophomore slump with their 1978 record, expanding the anthemic jams and killer hard rock tunes they perfected on their debut album.

46: Styx – Pieces of Eight

The band’s eighth studio album is home to hits, “Blue Collar Man” and “Renegade,” and continued to build off of the success of their prior work reaching triple platinum status.

45: Judas Priest – Stained Class

The heavy metal band’s 1978 album made a lasting impact on the genre as a whole, intensifying and darkening the sound significantly.

44: Buzzcocks – Another Music In A Different Kitchen

The English band’s debut album is inventive, fun, and expansive pop-punk that established them as a major force in the genre.

43: Parliament – Motor Booty Affair

Featuring fan-favorite “Aqua Boogie,” the funk band’s 1978 album is humorous, musically complex, and a guaranteed good time.

42: The Doobie Brothers – Minute by Minute

The band’s Grammy-award winning album features a new line-up and a sound that’s more soulful and funky.

41: Rush – Hemispheres

The Canadian rock band’s sixth studio album is a trippy prog rock classic that traverses sci-fi, politics, and the state of the world in a way that still resonates today.

40: The Jam – All Mod Cons

Full of rich-storytelling and captivating characters, the English band’s 1978 album shows their evolution as songwriters.

39: Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (Scratch)

Peter Gabriel’s second solo album didn’t have a breakthrough single like its predecessor, but it further showed the former Genesis member was a songwriter of repute.

38: Linda Ronstadt – Living in the USA

Linda Ronstadt’s 1978 album saw her branching out into various styles including New Wave; the result is a fun and wide-ranging record that topped the charts.

37: Warren Zevon – Excitable Boy

On Excitable Boy, singer-songwriter Warren Zevon’s voice is rich and enrapturing. Zevon’s outstanding vocal performances are only matched by his keen ear for lyrical detail.

36: Third World – Journey to Addis

Groovy, rocking, and righteous, Third World’s 1978 album Journey to Addis is reggae at its cool and soulful best.

35: Thin Lizzy – Live And Dangerous

Loud, brassy, and full of energy Thin Lizzy’s Live And Dangerous is one of the best live albums of the 1970s.

34: Goblin ‎– Zombi (Original Soundtrack)

This original soundtrack for a film from Italian horror master Dario Argento is as dark and arresting as anything that came after it.

33: Ryuichi Sakamoto – Thousand Knives

Yellow Magic Orchestra keyboardist Ryuichi Sakamoto’s Thousand Knives is an intriguing combination of trippy electronics and melody.

32: The Cars – The Cars

The Boston band’s eponymous debut is a New Wave meets rock instant classic in which no song is filler and after listening everybody leaves a fan.

31: Sylvester – Step II

Containing the massive disco anthem “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” as well as cuts like the sweet soul ballad “I Took My Strength From You,” Step II makes a strong case for Sylvester as one of his generation’s great unheralded stars.

30: Tom Waits – Blue Valentine

With songs like the gorgeous ballad “Somewhere” and gnarly spoken blues of “Romeo Is Bleeding,” Blue Valentine is as bewitching and frightening as it is tender.

29: Jean-Michel Jarre – Equinoxe

With its dramatic synths and ever-shifting textures, Jean-Michel Jarre’s Equinoxe was one of the most outstanding electronic albums of the 70s.

28: Nick Lowe – Jesus of Cool

Alternately titled Pure Pop for Now People, the British singer-songwriter’s debut album is a subversive and highly entertaining ride through the various flavors of pop and rock that dominated the ’70s.

27: Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – Stranger in Town

Stranger in Town is considered to be Bob Seger’s first album as a full-blown pop star, but rather than buckling under the pressure he confidently reasserts the down-to-earth, Midwestern flair that made him so beloved in the first place.

26: Kate Bush – The Kick Inside

Featuring the hit “Wuthering Heights,” the influential singer-songwriter’s debut album was released when she was just 19 years old and beautifully captures the ups and downs of young adulthood.

25: Big Star – Third/Sister Lovers

The third album by power pop savants Big Star, Third/Sister Lovers is a beloved collection of perfectly crafted songs.

24: Wire – Chairs Missing

Featuring lengthier tunes with more conventional song structures than their debut Pink Flag, Wire’s 1978 album Chairs Missing was no less of a potent statement.

23: Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!

Devo’s debut album was a powerful punk document of jagged guitar riffs and quirky song structures, with a healthy dose of synthesizers on top.

22: Various Artists – Grease Original Soundtrack

Ultra-sweet and undeniably catchy, this smash hit musical has been loved and celebrated for decades.

21: Pere Ubu – Dub Housing

Dub Housing has been called one of the finest post-punk records ever recorded and it’s easy to hear why with atonal guitar solos and sputtering keyboards aplenty.

20: X-Ray Spex – Germfree Adolescents

Featuring the compelling frontwoman Poly Styrene, X-Ray Spex’s Germfree Adolescents is a nearly perfect punk record.

19: Van Halen – Van Halen

“Eruption” and “Ain’t Talkin Bout Love” are standouts and beloved classics, but all of Van Halen’s 1978 debut is worth a listen.

18: Willie Nelson – Stardust

“All Of Me,” “Unchained Melody,” and the title track are all timeless classics that would lose their power in the hands of a lesser singer/performer. Stardust succeeds on the strength of Nelson’s crystal clear voice and unhurried delivery.

17: Billy Joel – 52nd Street

Building off of the breakthrough success of The Stranger, Joel leaned into the jazz-inflected pop of his earlier work for this album, proving that he had real staying power as a popular artist.

16: Kraftwerk – The Man Machine

Home to UK chart-topper, “The Model,” the German electronic music pioneers’ 1978 album is a precursor to electro-pop and boasts some of the group’s most pop-leaning songs.

15: Public Image Ltd. – First Issue

The English rock band’s debut album helped usher in post-punk music and has influenced generations of artists.

14: Magazine – Real Life

Regarded as one of the great post-punk records, Magazine’s Real Life proved that there would be life after punk for many of the genre’s leading lights.

13: Yellow Magic Orchestra – Yellow Magic Orchestra

Japanese electronic pioneers Yellow Magic Orchestra were one of the most distinctive bands of the 1970s. Their 1978 self-titled debut is a visionary work that contains seeds of hip-hop, post-punk, and New Wave.

12: The Police – Outlandos d’Amour

The English band’s debut album and its lead single, “Roxanne,” introduced the world to their genius and why they deserve a place amongst the best of their genre.

11: The Band – The Last Waltz

The Band’s second live album saw the addition of a horn section and several high-profile guests to their arsenal to create an unforgettable set of performances that we are lucky to have in recorded form.

10: Blondie – Parallel Lines

The band’s landmark album is home to favorites such as “Heart Of Glass” and has been widely heralded as their best work.

09: Patti Smith Group – Easter

Produced by Jimmy Iovine, Patti Smith’s third studio album finally brought her commercial success without her having to sacrifice her poetic roots.

08: Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town

Springsteen sharpened his working-class politics on this album which came three years after his smash hit Born To Run. Without sacrificing his excellent musicianship, Springsteen created a socially conscious masterpiece.

07: Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model

Costello’s first album with rock band the Attractions is gloriously off-the-rails punk music that’s hard, fast, and potent.

06: Funkadelic – One Nation Under a Groove

Easily the band’s most well-known album, George Clinton and company hit gold with their 1978 record which expanded the P Funk mythology and jump-started a movement of Black rockers.

05: Bob Marley and the Wailers – Kaya

“Kaya” is Jamaican slang for weed, and that’s the overall feeling that pervades on this 1978 gem of an album from the legendary Bob Marley.

04: The Rolling Stones – Some Girls

The Stones released their 1978 album to address a music landscape more interested in disco and punk than the hard rock of their youth; the result is a sharp and invigorating album that made a strong case for the band’s dominance.

03: The Clash – Give ‘Em Enough Rope

The English punk icons’ sophomore effort is sleeker and more produced than their debut but no less powerful, proving that nothing can hold back the raw energy of the band.

02: Brian Eno ‎– Ambient 1 (Music For Airports)

An enduring masterpiece that has inspired generations, Ambient 1 (Music For Airports) perfectly captures the fleeting moments of calm that exist between the noise and bustle of modern life.

01: Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings and Food

Working with producer Brian Eno, Talking Heads turned in one of their finest front-to-back albums with this second effort in 1978. The highlight, though, is the Al Green cover “Take Me to the River.”

Explore more of the essential 1970s albums on vinyl.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Tom Rasmussen

    October 26, 2021 at 3:15 am

    You missed Dire Straits debut in 1978. Should land in the top 5.

  2. george5751

    October 26, 2021 at 4:54 am

    also missing is Sanctuary by J. Geils Band, a great mix of pop and blues

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