1971 Classic Rock Reviews
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1971 was an exceptional year with some phenomenal music. During that year, some of the highest regarded and timeless music ever was produced and released, as the outer limits of the rock n roll universe were constantly expanding into rich and entertaining fusions of genres and frontiers of technology. Although the Beatles broke up a year earlier and many of the most vital acts of the sixties had either run their course, disbanded, or died, 1971 was smack dab in the middle of the golden age of classic rock. From this slice of time, comes material from the prime of Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and The Who, the last great albums from The Doors and The Beach Boys, and perhaps the first great albums from Jethro Tull and Yes. Plus much more.

We featured albums from the year 1971 during January and February 2011. During this 40th anniversary celebration of this music, we have written original reviews the following albums:

*1971 Album of the Year

Below are further descriptions of each album, in the order that we reviewed.

January 1, 2011
L.A. Woman by The DoorsClassic Rock Review launched with the arrival of 2011 and with a review of L.A. Woman by The Doors, the last studio album by that great band with their legendary singer Jim Morrison, but the first from the year 1971 to be reviewed.

Review of L.A. Woman

January 5, 2011
The Yes AlbumA giant leap forward in the “progress” of progressive rock, The Yes Album offered us a glimpse of what was to come from this brilliant young band named Yes, which now included a phenominal new guitarist, Steve Howe.

Review of The Yes Album

January 10, 2011
Led Zeppelin IVFilled with many fortuitous “accidents”, along with one, deliberative masterpiece, the fourth album by Led Zeppelin holds an indelible place on walls of the chambers of the castle of rock majesty.

Review of Led Zeppelin IV

January 15, 2011
Aqualung by Jethro TullThe “concept album” that’s not really a concept album at all. Jethro Tull hit their stride with their fourth album. Blending their trademark English folk with strategic elements of hard rock, this unique, entertaining, and even bizarre addition to the rock mosaic.

Review of Aqualung

January 19, 2011
Imagine by John LennonThe second full post-Beatles album by John Lennon, kicks off with an idyllic song envisioning a utopian world where there is no conflict and everyone agrees. But then the album comes back to Earth and deals with conflict, doubt, love, and life.

Review of Imagine

January 23, 2011
Straight Up by BadfingerThere has never been such a band as Badfinger, a band with all the talent, skill, and connections to become huge commercially, but with the bad luck and misfortune that would eventually lead them to oblvion and tragedy. But the music was great, and the band may have peaked in 1971 with Straight Up.

Review of Straight Up

January 27, 2011
Meddle by Pink Floyd In between the phenominal successes of their debut 1967 album Piper At the Gates of Dawn and their tremendous 1973 album The Dark Side Of the Moon, Pink Floyd experimented with many different styles and musical approaches as is evident in 1971’s Meddle.

Review of Meddle

January 30, 2011
Ram by Paul & Linda McCartneyThis album is much more well respected today than it was upon it’s release in the spring of 1971 due to the confusion brought on by the different artists names used during this era by Paul McCartney.

Review of Ram

February 2, 2011
Fireball by Deep PurpleAt the start of this review, we assumed that this album set Deep Purple up for its, Breakthrough masterpiece, 1972’s Machine Head. But upon further listening of Fireball, the more we realized that it just may be on par with it’s more famous successor.

Review of Fireball

February 5, 2011
What's Going On by Marvin Gaye Marvin Gaye‘s 1971 breaktrough album What’s Going on is, in no way, a rock n roll album. But it did evolve from a common ancestor and would become an incredibly influential album that would effect the direction of rock n roll (as well as many other genres) as the subsequent decades unfolded.

Review of What’s Going On

February 8, 2011
The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys by TrafficTraffic reached a level of distinction with the second album of the second incarnation of the band. The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys is a diverse and entertaining album that showcases the band at its absolute peak, but also blazes a path as peculiar as the album’s title.

Review of The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys

February 12, 2011
Every Picture Tells a Story by Rod StewartWhile still a member of the band Faces, Rod Stewart produced his solo masterpiece, Every Picture Tells a Story. Even though the album only really contained four original songs with the other six being covers, it sounded completely original due to the ways the songs were arranged and interpreted.

Review of Every Picture Tells a Story

February 14, 2011
Love It to Death & Killer by Alice CooperIn 1971, Alice Cooper was not merely an individual performer, but was also a solid and excellent band which stood toe to toe with many of the more heralded groups of the day musically. Book-ending the year were two classic releases from this group.

Review of Love It To Death and Killer

February 17, 2011
Surf's Up by The Beach BoysSurf’s Up by The Beach Boys can be very frustrating, as it is a mish-mash of deep, rewarding, quality compositions and tacky, forgettable songs. However, the album does possess a cohesive mood and tone and it does get more consistant and stronger as it goes along. So, in the end, we decided that album needed to be reviewed.

Review of Surf’s Up

February 21, 2011
Sticky Fingers by The Rolling StonesSticky Fingers stands out from other Rolling Stones albums by being a distinctly transitional album. It is the band’s first “independent” album on their own label and it bridges the gap between their hit-making, English-sound of the 1960s and their more urban-American sound of the 1970s. Also, it is probably the earliest rock album that reflects on the sixties drug culture.

Review of Sticky Fingers

February 24, 2011
Pearl by Janis JoplinPearl was the final, posthumous album in the brief but explosive career of Janis Joplin. She lived in the moment with every note she sang, deeply entrenched in the emotions that effervesced from every strained vocal. Janis died before the album’s completion.

Review of Pearl

February 28, 2011
Whos Next by the Who, 1971 Album of the Year
Perhaps THE most complete rock album in history, Who’s Next has just about everything. It has three chord power riffs, piano ballads, cutting edge technological innovation, virtuoso performances, raw power, accessibility, depth, message, anthems, a nice balance between acoustic and electric, a nice balance between electronic and analog, it wildly entertaining and it hits its absolute peak at the very end.

What started out as a “Plan B” after a frustrating, failed project was spun into pure gold by the band that never shied away from taking chances on this album. As a result, The Who struck a chord that still resonates to this day, forty years later.

Review of Who’s Next

November 1, 2014
Hunky Dory by David BowieThe initial entry to our “What Did We Miss?” series looks back to the 1971 classic Hunky Dory by David Bowie. This album was a transition between his folksy origins and his movement into what would become his signature sound for years to come.

Review of Hunky Dory

December 26, 2014
Madman Across the Water by Elton JohnElton John was extremely prolific in the earliest part of his career, releasing six albums over a span of just 29 months. The last of these six is Madman Across the Water, an album filled with John’s mellow and melodic music.

Review of Madman Across the Water

June 22, 2016
Blue by Joni MitchellFor her fourth album, Joni Mitchell released a sparse and elegant album called Blue. This record went on to be regarded as one of the quintessential templates for the confessional singer/songwriter album.

Review of Blue

July 21, 2016
Master of Reality by Black SabbathAlthough Master of Reality is a very compact album, it would go on to become Black Sabbath‘s most influential, spawning several rock sub-genres in the decades to come. This 1971 record was also for diverse as the group explored new areas of music beyond the sonic foundations they had established on their first two albums.

Review of Master of Reality

November 14, 2016
Nilsson Schmilsson by Harry NilssonHarry Nilsson made a very diverse yet cohesive and well-produced pop record with his 1971 release Nilsson Schmilsson. This album, which was the most successful of his career, summarizes the wide range of Nilsson’s performance and compositional abilities.

Review of Nilsson Schmilsson

Final 1971 Poll Results

Q: What is the best album of 1971?

1 Who’s Next by The Who 33.3%
2 Led Zeppelin (IV) by Led Zeppelin 27.8%
3 L.A. Woman by The Doors 16.7%
4 The Yes Album by Yes 5.6%
4 Imagine by John Lennon 5.6%
4 Straight Up by Badfinger 5.6%
4 Meddle by Pink Floyd 5.6%

Conducted on our site, January-February, 2011

Other 1971 Albums of Note

Beyond those we’ve reviewed there were many other fine albums released in 1971. Some of these, like Genesis‘s Nursery Cryme, Tarkus by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, and David Bowie‘s Hunky Dory offered glimpses of the brilliant albums that these artists would all release within the next year or two.

Elton John‘s Madman Across the Water contains two of his finest ballads, “Levon” and “Tiny Dancer”, while American Pie by Don McClean provided an anthem by the same title that would resonate for decades.

Chicago released their third straight double-length album right out of the gate, while the double-live At Filmore East would be the last Allman Brothers release before the tragic death of guitar great Duane Allman.

Elsewhere, The James Gang released their final album while Billy Joel and Nazareth each released their debut.

 American Pie by Don McClean           
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