108 Important Rock Albums That Turn 50 in 2021: Class of 1971
When looking at the list of rock albums released in 1971, several strains emerge.
For starters, it was a year for records that came off larger than life, with Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, the Who and John Lennon putting out LPs that would define the way rock would sound throughout the decade. But it was also when the singer-songwriter movement began to fully take hold, thanks to works by James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, Leonard Cohen, Carly Simon and the individual members of Crosby, Stills & Nash. And there was one album that single-handedly combined the autobiographical content of singer-songwriters with the monolithic nature of those rock classics: Carole King‘s Tapestry.
Another practice from rock’s earliest days remained, that of emerging artists putting out more than one record a year in the hopes that something would stick. Yes, Alice Cooper, Carly Simon, Grand Funk Railroad, Harry Nilsson, Mott the Hoople and others released two albums in 1971. Elton John had three (although one was a live album), as did Rod Stewart, with two being credited to Faces. Conversely, the Doors‘ two releases of 1971 bookended Jim Morrison‘s death, and the mining of Jimi Hendrix‘s vaults after his passing in 1970 began with two LPs.
Soul music also took great strides forward in 1971, with established stars like Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes and Sly & the Family Stone and up-and-comers such as Funkadelic, Al Green, Bill Withers and the Stylistics delivering classic records.
The below list of 108 Important Rock Albums That Turn 50 in 2021: Class of 1971 focuses mostly on studio records, although we’ve included some live LPs if they were essential in helping to break an artist.