Stevie Nicks arriving for the 2011 Glamour Awards

Stevie Nicks arriving for the 2011 Glamour Awards, Berkeley Square, London. 07/06/2011 Picture by: Alexandra Glen / Featureflash (Photo by Featureflash Photo Agency on Shutterstock)

Dust off your record player and get ready to dive into the grooviest decade of music history! The 1970s were a golden era for vinyl, with iconic albums that defined genres and revolutionized the soundscape. Whether you’re a seasoned audiophile or a newbie looking to start your collection, there’s nothing quite like the warm, rich sound of a classic ’70s record spinning under the needle. From rock anthems and disco hits to soulful ballads and punk provocations, these are the must-have albums that will make your vinyl collection a retro masterpiece. To find out what albums stood the test of time versus others, we at StudyFinds have researched across eight expert sources to bring you today’s ranking of the top seven best 1970s vinyl albums to own! Don’t agree with our list or feel we missed out on a good suggestion? No worries! We would love to hear from you in the comments below. Now, onto the list!

The List

1. “The Dark Side of the Moon” by Pink Floyd (1973)

“The Dark Side of the Moon” – Pink Floyd (1973)

The first album that is a must-have in our vinyl collection is Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” Described by Dig! as a “prog-rock masterpiece,” this album is nothing short of a classic. From the hauntingly beautiful lyrics to the mesmerizing instrumentals, each track on this album takes the listener on a journey through the depths of the human experience. The iconic album cover alone is enough to make it a standout piece in any collection. “Dark Side of the Moon” is truly a timeless masterpiece that deserves a place on every music lover’s turntable.

What HiFi adds that “Dark Side of the Moon” is a “remarkable piece of work” by one of the best groups to ever step foot in a studio. With its seamless blend of rock, psychedelic, and progressive elements, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” continues to captivate audiences worldwide decades after its release. The album’s themes of madness, mortality, and existentialism resonate with listeners on a deep level, making it more than just a collection of songs but a profound artistic statement.

Of course, owning this album also comes with the fun of listening to it over the classic film “The Wizard of Oz.” Fashion Magazine reports that the listening and viewing experience is truly a “defining moment” for any music and film enthusiast. The synchronicity between the album and the movie creates a unique and immersive experience that fans of both art forms can appreciate. Overall, there are endless reasons this record should be added to your collection, making it an easy number-one pick. 

2. “Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac (1977) 

“Rumours” – Fleetwood Mac (1977) 

Second up on our list is “Rumours” by none other than Fleetwood Mac. Reported by Vacation Vinyl to be the “fastest-selling LP of all time upon its release,” the effect that “Rumours” had on the world is undeniable. With hit songs like “Go Your Own Way” and “Dreams,” the album solidified Fleetwood Mac as one of the greatest bands of all time.

The raw emotion and vulnerability in each track resonated with listeners on a deep level, making it a timeless classic that continues to be celebrated decades later. Music Grotto notes “Rumours” as being hands down the band’s “most iconic album.” The album’s success was not only due to its commercial appeal but also because of the personal turmoil and relationships within the band that inspired the lyrics and melodies. Each song on “Rumours” tells a story of love, heartbreak, and resilience, drawing in listeners with its raw authenticity. It’s no wonder that the album has stood the test of time and remains a staple in music history, with its impact still being felt in the industry today.

Fleetwood Mac truly “summoned magic” when making this 1977 masterpiece, according to Dig! The interplay of vocals and instrumentals creates a rich tapestry of sound that has the power to transport listeners to a place of vulnerability and catharsis. “Rumours” continues to be a source of inspiration for musicians and fans alike. The legacy of Fleetwood Mac and their iconic album “Rumours” has undoubtedly shaped the landscape of music and will continue for years to come.

3. “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye (1971)

“What’s Going On” – Marvin Gaye (1971)

“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye is the next vinyl to take up rank on our list. Described by Vacation Vinyl as “one of the most politically charged” records to come out of the era, this album is a timeless masterpiece that still resonates today. The soulful vocals and socially conscious lyrics make it a standout in Gaye’s discography. The album’s seamless blend of R&B, soul, and jazz creates a rich tapestry of sound that captivates listeners from start to finish.

Paste Magazine describes “What’s Going On” as “one of the greatest albums,” not just from the 1970s, but all time. The album’s title track is a poignant reflection on the state of the world, with themes of war, poverty, and environmental destruction. Gaye’s smooth voice and emotive delivery bring a sense of urgency to the lyrics, making it a powerful anthem for social change. The lush instrumentals and intricate arrangements further elevate the album, creating a rich and immersive listening experience that continues to captivate audiences decades later.

What HiFi states that this album deserves a place in “any record collection.” The innovative production techniques used on “What’s Going On” also set it apart from other albums of its time, with Gaye incorporating elements of jazz and gospel to create a unique sound that still feels fresh and relevant today. In an era of political and social turmoil, “What’s Going On” remains a poignant reminder of the power of music to inspire change and unite people in a common cause.

4. “London Calling” by The Clash (1979) 

“London Calling” – The Clash (1979) 

The next vinyl that should be added to your collection is The Clash’s “London Calling.” Said to cover “a variety of themes” by Cleveland, this iconic album is a must-have for any music enthusiast. From the title track’s urgent call to action to the haunting ballad “Train in Vain,” this album is a timeless classic that is enhanced on vinyl.

Music Grotto goes on to describe how “London Calling” was truly “a departure from their previous punk-rock style,” instead opting to explore other genres like reggae. This experimentation with different sounds and genres is what sets “London Calling” apart and solidifies its status as a groundbreaking album. This album is not only a reflection of the band’s musical evolution but also serves as a snapshot of the political and social climate of the time.

Pitchfork writes that “London Calling” was the band’s “ultimate expression” at the time, capturing the raw energy and urgency of the era. With its diverse range of influences and themes, “London Calling” remains a timeless classic that continues to inspire and influence musicians across generations. Its impact on music history cannot be overstated, solidifying The Clash’s place as one of the most important and influential bands of their time.

5. “Led Zeppelin IV” by Led Zeppelin (1971)

"Led Zeppelin IV" by Led Zeppelin (1971)
“Led Zeppelin IV” by Led Zeppelin (1971)

The next album up is Led Zeppelin’s officially untitled album, lovingly named “Led Zeppelin IV” by fans. Released in 1971, Pitchfork writes that there’s truly “nothing bigger” than this vinyl. The album features iconic tracks such as “Stairway to Heaven” and “Black Dog,” which only solidified Led Zeppelin’s place in rock history.

Dig! explains that with this record, Led Zeppelin “defined the sound of what would evolve into heavy metal.” The iconic cover art, featuring the mysterious Hermit, adds to the mystique and allure of “Led Zeppelin IV,” drawing listeners in with its enigmatic imagery. Overall, the album’s lasting impact and enduring popularity serve as a testament to Led Zeppelin’s unparalleled talent and creativity in the realm of rock music.

6. “Bitches Brew” by Miles Davis (1970)

“Bitches Brew” – Miles Davis (1970)

“Bitches Brew” by Miles Davis is the next vinyl we will be talking about today, and as What HiFi describes, this record was “revolutionary,” changing the face of jazz as we knew it. The album is a fusion of jazz, rock, and funk, with Davis experimenting with electric instruments. The result is a complex and innovative sound that pushes the boundaries of traditional jazz.

Music Grotto adds that though “Bitches Brew” wasn’t a must-have upon its release, with time, it has become one of “the most important albums” in terms of the shifting musical styles in the 1970s. The album’s experimental nature and bold departure from traditional jazz norms have solidified its place as a groundbreaking masterpiece that paved the way for future generations of musicians. Its raw energy and boundary-pushing compositions continue to captivate listeners to this day, showcasing Davis’s unparalleled talent and vision.

Paste Magazine reports that even years after its release, it is still “one of the most aggressive, confrontational, and downright beautiful albums ever recorded.” The album’s impact on the music industry cannot be overstated, as it pushed boundaries and challenged listeners to expand their understanding of what jazz music could be. It is a testament to his genius and creativity that “Bitches Brew” continues to inspire and influence musicians across all genres to this day.

7. “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen (1975)

"Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen (1975)
“Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen (1975)

Last but certainly not least, and a must-own, is “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. Described by Vacation Vinyl as being a “blue-collar love story,” “The Boss” truly made history with this record. From the anthemic title track to the heartfelt ballads like “Thunder Road,” Springsteen’s songwriting shines throughout the entire record. This album solidified Springsteen’s status as a rock legend and remains a timeless classic that continues to inspire generations of fans.

Paste Magazine writes that “Born to Run” is near “perfect” in just eight tracks. The album’s production, done by Jon Landau and Springsteen himself, was groundbreaking for its time and has been praised for its cinematic quality. The E Street Band’s dynamic and energetic performances on tracks like “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” and “Jungleland” further showcase the band’s incredible musicianship.

Explained as a “coming-of-age tale” created by one of “the most gifted songwriters” of all time, according to Cleveland, “Born to Run” remains a cornerstone of Bruce Springsteen’s illustrious career. The album’s themes of escape, freedom, and longing resonate with listeners of all ages, making it a timeless and universal work of art. Springsteen’s raw and emotive vocals, paired with the E Street Band’s powerful instrumentation, create a sonic experience that is both exhilarating and deeply moving. “Born to Run” is not just an album but a cultural touchstone that captures the spirit and essence of American rock ‘n’ roll.

Sources that helped us form this consensus list

Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links in which we receive a commission if you make a purchase.

About Jilly Hite

Janelle is a freelance writer from New York. Her writing focuses on parenting, tech, business, interior design, education, and telling people’s inspiring stories. Janelle has written for Mustela and Newton Baby and has bylines in Pregnant Chicken, Syracuse Woman Magazine, the Baldwinsville Messenger, and Family Times Magazine. She holds a master’s degree in literacy from the State University of New York at Oswego.

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StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

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57 Comments

  1. Tom L says:

    Where is Allman Brothers Fillmore East album? Their influence shaped the southern rock genre. The Band’s blend of jazz, blues, rock and country music would not exist today without this influence.

    1. Yamumm says:

      I’m sorry to break it to you, but the Allman Brothers are f**kin boring, regardless how good they sounded and how many hicks they rubbed off on

    2. Eddie B says:

      Couldn’t agree more!!

    3. Alice says:

      One of my all time favorites, but given the portable equipment used in the 70’s it wouldn’t make my top ten vinyls…nor would anybody’s live album (my opinion, somebody else may prefer the less engineered sound). Neither would the raw sound of London Calling.
      Though not in the article, Hotel California and A Night at the Opera would make my top ten vinyls.

    4. PosaunePeon says:

      Not audiophile quality. But yes: what and album!

  2. Richard says:

    You forgot The Who’s Quadrophenia…. Right up there with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side.

    1. Thomas Morgan says:

      Sorry to exclude the who……drops this story to fake news

  3. Gary says:

    I think Electric Warrior deserves more credit than it ever gets and I’m sorry Bruce Springsteen would never grace my vinyl collection!

    1. Jim says:

      Where is songs in the key of life by Stevie Wonder or goodbye yellow brick Road by Elton John also band on the run by Wings and Joan Armatrading’s eponymous album

  4. Arto Kulak says:

    “The warm sound and nostalgia of vinyl records bring these classic albums to life in a way that digital formats can’t replicate.”

    That is a statement that can only be made by someone who has never heard an audio system that is state of the art digital verses state of the art analog, nor has done any of their own high resolution recording in both formats.

    The reality is, the recording engineer has you by the *****. What he/she does dictates what you hear. Next is the listening room. Vinyl is NOT a lossless format. It is lossy. DSD is as close to lossless as we have come. OTOH, it’s your ears & your money. Pick your poison.

    BTW, all the albums mentioned, while I agree with their value/sound quality, are all highly processed and modified.

  5. Brian J says:

    Close to the Edge, Yes
    Frampton Comes Alive, Peter Frampton.

  6. Bryan E Wood says:

    What about the eagles

  7. Michael Raineri says:

    By the title I would think that the list would be based on Sonic quality that would blow you away.
    My favorite is the 1978 Telarc Digital, Firebird Suite, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. So dynamic that it will tax most systems.

    1. Jeff Greenfield says:

      I agree… but what about Telarc’s 1812 Overture, which was recorded in the field, next to live cannons?! It was new digital technology that produced wider record grooves than any album, ever. It was exhilarating (and, scary) to crank the volume up and hear that my Dual 721/Shure V15(3) cartridge was able to track those grooves!

    2. Jont says:

      With Robert Shaw?

  8. Michael says:

    Apart from Fleetwood Mac there’s none in the list I would own.
    Just grateful there’s no Beatles albums.
    Crime of the Century.
    No more heroes
    Gone to Earth
    Oxygen
    Live and dangerous

    1. Chris Godfrey says:

      Have not heard Gone to Earth but the others are good shouts. This is probably an American list so they won’t have heard of The Stranglers.

    2. Robert says:

      Your taste is as bad as the authors!

    3. Jeff Greenfield says:

      That’s just a reflection of your personal taste. But, I think the list is spot on! You’d have to be narrow-minded to not appreciate the chosen 7. Dark Side of the Moon had been in the top 100 selling albums for well over decade… unprecedented! Zoso remains Zeppelin’s best album. Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” addressed the issues of the Vietnam War, class, poverty, the environment, etc., better than any album, ever… with soul and lyrics that reflected my Woodstock generation’s concerns; a true masterpiece! Of course there were other great contemporary records… but each of the 7 is certainly worthy of inclusion. And, I feel sad for anyone who didn’t appreciate the singular greatness of The Beatles in the ‘60’s!!!

  9. John Frame says:

    This list is based on what? Quality of sound or authors favorite music? There are many better 60’s and 70’s rock and fusion albums when it come to production and sound quality.
    Audiophiles are interested in sound quality, in some cases over the music itself. All of your descriptions of “vinyls” (what a dorky reference, vinyl recordings, vinyl genere but not “vinyls”) refer to the songs and performance, but not to the actual sound QUALITY” which can vary from release to release.

  10. Bill H says:

    The Stranger > Goodbye Yellow Brick Road > Born to Run
    LZII > LZ > LZIV

    Music tastes are subjective of course. I don’t really listen to Miles Davis or Marvin Gaye much so I won’t say that their albums aren’t good but they’re certainly not in my Top 7. In no particular order here are 7 must-haves from the 70’s according to my tastes.

    Tapestry – Carole King
    Led Zeppelin II
    The Stranger – Billy Joel
    Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John
    Eat to the Beat – Blondie
    Abraxas – Santana
    Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd

    1. Kirk Moore says:

      Zep 2 – 1969……my parents HATED that album ….it’s not a 70s album…..Zep 3 came out in 1970 and Zep 4 was in 1971…

    2. James says:

      Led Zep IV not II, Tapestry, DSOTM all great.
      First 4 Santana albums difficult to separate but Abraxas probably edges it. How about Allman Brothers Band ‘Live at the Fillmore East’, Peter Gabriel’s latest i/o, Deutsche Grammophon Beethoven’s 5th conductor Carlos Kleiber with Vienna Philharmonic. I’m not an audiophile but there is a quality about all these albums that leaves you just saying “Wow, fantastic!”

  11. Tony says:

    Not bad but what about Bowie ALADIN SANE. GENESIS TRICK OF THE TAIL and QUEEN NIGHT AT THE OPERA

  12. John says:

    No Steely Dan? Aja or Gaucho at the very least.

  13. Rod says:

    If “audiophile” is really part of the analysis, I can’t see this list without Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells album. A true audiophile recording quality.

  14. Mike says:

    This is all subjective but I think the greatest album from one of the most influential performers of all time would be Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars by David Bowie released in 1973 (that year was the zenith of classic rock) as was Dark Side of the Moon.

  15. Bud Ryan says:

    How could Who’s Next not be on the List??? And isn’t 7 a Dumb number for a list, 10 is the number. Other Great Sounding Vinyl Albums Blood On the Tracks, After the Goldrush, Court & Spark, Higher Ground, & All Things Must Pass

  16. Michael says:

    Court and Spark, a must listen

  17. David says:

    What about Bowie, diamond dogs or Patti smith, Bruce Springsteen. ……?????

  18. Paul Mainwaring says:

    I own them all but there are better sounding albums from the 70s..

  19. Mark Weddington says:

    Tusk. Fleetwood Mac
    Parallel Lines. Blonde
    She’s So Unusual. Cyndi Lauper
    Ram. Paul McCartney
    Second Helping. Lynyrd Skynyrd
    Lone Justice. Lone Justice
    All Over the Place. The Bangles

  20. Mark Weddington says:

    Nevermind long nite those aren’t all 70’s