The 10 Best 70s Soul Albums

Aretha Franklin

If you love soul music, you have to admit that the 70’s era had some of the best soul music of all time. Simply put, it was the Golden Age of Soul Music. Despite it being a decade of political turmoil, it produced some of the most talented soul artists who addressed social and political issues in new ways. As a result, incredible music was created. Here is a list of the best ten soul albums of the ’70s.

10. I Am – Earth, Wind, and Fire


Earth, Wind, and Fire were some of the greatest African-American soul groups of the 1970s. “I Am” was their ninth studio album and was released in June 1979. The album rose to number one in the Billboard Top Soul Albums and has been certified double platinum in the US. If you like to dance and open your heart to love, this is the type of album you need. The album contained some great singles, including “After the Love Has Gone,” which peaked at number 2 in the Billboard Hot 100. It also had the hit single “ Boogie Wonderland,” which was nominated to the Grammy Awards.

9. Off the Wall – Michael Jackson


A few weeks off his 21st birthday on 10th August 1979, Michael Jackson released the “Off the Wall.” This was the album that established him as a real icon in soul music. Off the Wall was his fifth studio album, and it was the first one to be released by Epic Records. The single “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” was one of the three songs Michael Jackson wrote himself, and it peaked at number one in Billboard’s Hot 100. However, it was not as commercially successful as his recent albums, “Off the Wall” has widely been regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time.

8. Maggot Brain – Funkadelic


Maggot Brain was the third studio album of American soul group Funkadelic. The album was released in the summer of 1971, and it was the last album recorded by the group’s original members before they split. The album art is that of a black woman screaming with her head coming out of the ground.

7. Spirit in the dark – Aretha Franklin


Spirit in the dark was released when Aretha Franklin had a hard time in her career, race, and family. It was a relief for her, a sign of triumph for coming through and surviving. Although the album did not hit record sales, it acquired critical acclaim and had two singles (“Don’t Play That Song” and “Spirit in the Dark”) which peaked at number 1 and 11, respectively.

6. Understanding – Bobby Womack


Through his fourth studio album, “Understanding,” Bobby Womack proved how unstoppable a force he was with a killer and no filler album with an overall running time of around 37 minutes. In the album, Bobby Womack shows his wide range of vocals and a few of his guitar skills in the track “I Can Understand It.” The lead single of the album, “Woman’s Gotta Have It,” peaked at number 1 in the Billboard R&B charts. The album also contains a cover of The Beatles song, “And I Love Her,” which you can feel Bobby Womack’s emotional voice and passion which is enhanced by the piano and organ work of Bobby Emmons and Bobby Wood.

5. Machine Gun – Commodores


This was the first studio album of The Commodores, and it was released in 1974. The album contained some memorable hit songs such as “Machine Gun,” which reached position seven on the US Billboard R&B singles charts. The single was also a hit in UK and Canada, reaching position 20 in the UK singles chart.

4. Prince (album) – Prince


Although he credits and thanks his drummer Bobby Z and bassist Andre Cymone, Prince wrote, composed, produced, and performed this album. The album was recorded as a follow-up, just a few weeks after he released his first album, “For You.” The album performed better both commercially and critically as compared to his first album. The hit song “ I Wanna Be Your Lover” sold more than 2 million copies and was certified platinum. The single peaked at number 11 in the Billboard Hot 100 while also topping the R&B charts.

3. There’s a Riot Goin’ On – Sly & the Family Stone


The album was released on 1st November 1971 in California. The album is widely regarded as a masterpiece that captured the positivity of the early ’70s and late ’60s with a unique sound, bleak tone, and a leisurely mood.  The album top the Billboard Pop Album and Soul Album charts, and its hit single “Family Affair” reached the top spot on the Pop Singles chart. The album was later certified platinum by the RIAA and sold more than a million copies in the US.

2. What’s going on – Marvin Gaye


What’s going on is widely considered as one of the greatest soul albums of all time. The album was released in May 1971 and was Marvin Gaye’s eleventh studio album. It was a commercial and critical success, with the hit song “What’s Going On” being praised for its approach towards social and political issues. The album has collected numerous accolades over the years, and in 2003, it was one of the 50 recordings selected to be added to the National Recording Registry.

1. Innervisions – Stevie Wonder


The album was released on 3rd August 1973 and was inspired by Marvin Gaye’s album “What’s Going On.” Stevie Wonder entirely did the album’s composition, production, and lyrics. The album marked the transformation of Stevie Wonder from his romantic ballads to an artist with a more mature and conscious artist. The album contained nine tracks and is widely considered Stevie Wonder’s best works and one of the greatest albums ever made. The album peaked at number 4 in the Billboard’s Top LPs and Tapes and number 1 on the Billboard Soul LPs. In 1999, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

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