This was one of the most eclectic years in music. It was easy to hear any kind of music on the radio or placed on the charts. Radio was becoming equally divided between AM and FM stations, and crossover songs between genres was common.
This was the heart of classic rock, a mixture of pop, hard rock, glam, R&B, soul, jazz-fusion, country-rock and funk.
Here are 100 albums that deserve mention. Some classics, many forgotten, but an exciting year of music.
- Born To Run – Bruce Springsteen, this album made The Boss.
- That’s The Way Of The World – Earth, Wind & Fire released two albums that year. “Shining Star” and “Reasons” were the big hits here.
- Blood On The Tracks – Bob Dylan, his most complete album, an acoustic masterpiece.
- Mothership Connection – Parliament’s best album, it combined rock, funk, jazz and R&B, and had the best musical lineup, including James Brown’s horns.
- A Night At The Opera – Queen made their most incredible album, richly produced and layered. “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “You’re My Best Friend” are the best of the best.
- Physical Graffiti – Led Zeppelin, a double album of dark, moody, more keyboard-driven hard-rock.
- Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd’s follow-up to Dark Side of the Moon has sold 20 million copies. The title track, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and “Welcome to the Machine.”
- The Heat Is On – The Isley Brothers, combined soul, funk and rock into silky ballads and hard-driving rock. Among the best of the band’s recordings.
- Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan – Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, the third album by the band, with “Sweet Thing.” Hot R&B, jazz, rock band.
- Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy – Elton John was riding a huge wave of success. This album was number one in its first week. The only single was “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.”
- Toys In The Attic – Aerosmith, the landmark album, with “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk This Way.”
- Alive! – Kiss, their first live album, featuring the best songs from their first three studio albums. Hailed as one of the best live albums and turned the band into superstars.
- Horses – Patti Smith, love or hate her, but this was a significant album. Post Velvet Underground, pre punk, it’s angry and snarling style would soon erupt.
- Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac, the first album with Buckingham and Nicks. The rest is history.
- Why Can’t We Be Friends – War’s popularity peaked with this album. One of the best of the urban bands, the title track and “Lowrider” are classics.
- Still Crazy After All These Years – Paul Simon, the Grammy-winning, big selling album. “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”
- Wake Up Everybody – Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes released two albums in 1975, To Be True, being the other. One of the best of the Philly R&B sound.
- Honey – Ohio Players were a very successful R&B/soul band. The erotic album cover might be as memorable as the songs.
- One Of These Nights – The Eagles, the title track and “Lyin’ Eyes” put the Eagles in the upper tier of bans.
- Live – Bob Marley & The Wailers, the album that exposed Marley to the masses. Not just a greatest hits collection, it showed Marley doing what he did best, playing in front of a live audience.
- Tonight’s The Night – Neil Young, critically lauded, but a dark, troubled recording. Now recognized as a classic.
- Love To Love You Baby – Donna Summer’s first internationally released album. Producer Giorgio Moroder wanted a disco song so he turned the title song into a sexual 16 minute soundscape of moans and groans.
- The Hissing Of Summer Lawns – Joni Mitchell, the follow-up to Court and Spark, but a commercial disappointment. Joni did not repeat herself.
- Welcome To My Nightmare – Alice Cooper, now a solo artist, Cooper scored a big hit with title track and “Only Women Bleed.”
- Young Americans – David Bowie, he turned the corner with this white-eyed soul album. A little help from John Lennon.
- Marcus Garvey – Burning Spear was not known to the American masses, the sound was less commercial than Bob Marley or Jimmy Cliff. This is more roots reggae, steeped in tradition.
- Pick Of The Litter – The Spinners were still very hot and also released a live album in 1975. Thom Bell produced the group and made them more than a singles band.
- Blow By Blow – Jeff Beck’s first jazz fusion, all instrumental album, working with producer George Martin, and Stevie Wonder.
- The Basement Tapes – Bob Dylan/The Band was mostly recorded in 1967. Dylan was recovering from a motorcycle accident and The Band worked as his backing players.
- There’s No Place Like America Today – Curtis Mayfield was known for social commentary in his R&B work. This was no exception, a solid set of urban music.
- Family Reunion – The O’Jays released two albums that year, solid but not spectacular works. They did have two songs that topped the R&B chart.
- Caught In The Act – The Commodores second album, a bit more diverse than their debut, but strong on soul and funk.
- KC & The Sunshine Band – KC & The Sunshine Band, the second album by the group and a highly successful one with “That’s the Way (I Like It)” and “Get Down Tonight.”
- Southern Nights – Allen Toussaint was more known as a songwriter than a performer, although he built a strong following. The title song was a big hit for Glen Campbell.
- Red Octopus – Jefferson Starship, the former psychedelic rockers scored several mainstream hits from this album including “Miracles.”
- Another Green World – Eno was the master of electronic/ambient/art rock. This album is hailed as a masterpiece, his consummate work.
- Never Can Say Goodbye – Gloria Gaynor, The beginning of the disco movement happened in the mid 70’s. The title track was one of the biggest hits.
- Hair Of The Dog – Nazareth was a hard rock band and this was their most successful album, with the hit, “Love Hurts.”
- Diamonds & Rust – Joan Baez, the title song, reflective and a big hit put Baez in the commercial rotation.
- Al Green’s Greatest Hits – Al Green owned the soul charts in the 70’s. “Tired of Being Alone” and “Let’s Stay Together” were among the many hits.
- Rock of The Westies – Elton John, his second album of the year. “Island Girl” and “Grow Some Funk of Your Own” were the singles.
- The Original Soundtrack – 10cc, the most successful 10cc album, but success had its price. “I’m Not in Love” was moody and sad, but a big hit.
- Zuma – Neil Young, his second album of the year, this album is one of his best. Moody and hard-edged. Young finding his center.
- Fandango – ZZ Top, a combination live and studio album. “Tush” was the big hit.
- Just Another Way To Say I Love You – Barry White, was a busy guy with both group and solo work. This was another strong album with “What Am I Gonna Do with You.”
- Nighthawks At The Diner – Tom Waits’ third album, this one was recorded before a live audience in the studio. The intent was to create a small, smoky jazz club to showcase Waits’ live style.
- One Size Fits All – Frank Zappa was the last album with the Mothers of Invention. One of Zappa’s strongest periods. Blending jazz and prog into more conventional song structure.
- Inseparable – Natalie Cole’s debut album, winner of two Grammy Awards for the title track and “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love).”
- Katy Lied – Steely Dan’s fourth album. The original lineup was gone, replaced by studio musicians as Becker/Fagen focused on studio perfection. “Doctor Wu” and “Black Friday.”
- Blues For Allah – The Grateful Dead had been off the road for awhile. Recorded at Bob Weir’s house, this is a very existential album in musical stylings.
- Main Course – The Bee Gees, a comeback for the Gibb brothers as they adapted to an R&B sound that morphed into the disco movement.
- The Who By Numbers – The Who, a stripped-down, personal album that lacked the grandeur of Who’s Next and Quadrophenia.
- Let’s Do It Again – The Staple Singers/Curtis Mayfield, the soundtrack to the Bill Cosby-Sidney Poitier action film. The title track was a big hit.
- Siren – Roxy Music, a change of direction for the band, going more sophisticated in style. “Love is the Drug”was an international hit.
- Coney Island Baby – Lou Reed trade loud and distorted for warm and connectivity. My favorite Lou Reed album. Love songs? Who knew.
- Beautiful Loser – Bob Seger’s music became more introspective, but no less rocking. “Katmandu,” “Travelin’ Man” and the title track were the hits.
- Stampede – The Doobie Brothers, the end of an era with the change from guitar-riffs to soulful vibes. “I Cheat the Hangman” is an underrated classic.
- Nuthin’ Fancy – Lynyrd Skynyrd’s third album and not as definitive as their previous album. A harder sound emerged. “Saturday Night Special.”
- High On You – Sly Stone’s first solo album, it does not have the originality and power of his Family Stone albums. It’s good, not great.
- Minstrel In The Gallery – Jethro Tull, a mixture of folk and hard, progressive rock. Tull struggled to hand songs on the pop chart, but remained interesting and big concert draws.
- Face The Music – Electric Light Orchestra, the group found their stride, balancing prog with hit single pop. “Evil Woman.”
- Urban Renewal – Tower Of Power, soul and funk were big and this band brought the heavy horns. Maybe their best all around album.
- Fool For The City – Foghat, the title song and “Slowride” showed these guys could rock.
- Gorilla – James Taylor, his most complete album to this point, great songwriting, and harmony vocals by Crosby & Nash.
- Atlantic Crossing – Rod Stewart’s sixth album, he picked a new producer and toughened his rock and roll attitude. “I Don’t Want to Talk About It” and “This Old Heart of Mine.”
- Chocolate Chip – Issac Hayes scored a couple of modest hits with this album. He was adapting his music toward the disco movement.
- Teaser – Tommy Bolin’s first solo album, although he was in Deep Purple at the time. Bolin’s most successful work, it’s a shame he died so young.
- Cut The Cake – Average White Band, a white Scottish band, produced funky, R&B music. The title track was a huge international hit.
- Blue Jays – Justin Hayward & John Lodge, these guys were on hiatus from the Moody Blues and came up with this great collection.
- Ambrosia – Ambrosia, the debut by this folk-rock band, featuring moody harmonies. “Holding On” and “Nice, Nice, Very Nice.”
- Elite Hotel – Emmylou Harris, her second big album of the year after she moved to a major label. The country-rock vibe embraced Emmylou.
- Have You Ever Been Mellow – Olivia Newton-John, the title track and “Please Mr. Please” were big hits in the Olivia craze.
- Hearts – America, three hit singles from their last really big album, including “Sister Golden Hair” and Daisy Jane.”
- Chicago IX: Chicago’s Greatest Hit – Chicago, loaded with hits from their first 6 years, more hits than could fit on a vinyl album.
- Between the Lines – Janis Ian, “At Seventeen” was the hit from Ian’s very reflective album.
- Judith – Judy Collins’ most successful album to date and a Grammy Award. “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” and “Send in the Clowns.”
- Dream Weaver – Gary Wright, the title song and “My Love is Alive” were keyboard-driven rockers. The biggest hits of Wright’s career.
- Love Will Keep Us Together – Captain & Tennille won a Grammy Award for the title song, which topped the charts. The duo’s debut album also featured several other charting singles.
- Made in the Shade – The Rolling Stones, a greatest hits collection from the first half of the decade.
- Initiation – Todd Rundgren, “Real Man” was the hit on this collection of stylized rock and electronic experimentation.
- Greatest Hits – Cat Stevens ruled the early 70’s with many chart hits, captured here. A great collection.
- Ride a Rock Horse – Roger Daltrey’s second solo album and his best. Combining rock, folk and R&B.
- Head Over Heels – Poco, less country and more pop, this is an underrated album. No huge hits, but no filler.
- Scheherazade and Other Stories – Renaissance, a complex suite of songs on one side and shorter, pop songs on the other. A great blending of classical, progressive and pop.
- Dreamboat Annie – Heart, the debut album, hard rock and silky ballads. “Magic Man” and “Crazy on You” are classics.
- Nightingales & Bombers – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, another solid record from this rock and progressive version of the group. “Spirits in the Night” was the big hit.
- Searchin’ for a Rainbow – Marshall Tucker Band is another solid album with the title track, “Fire On the Mountain” and a live version of “Can’t You See.”
- Wind on the Water – Crosby & Nash, every bit as good as a CS&N album, the title song with “Take the Money and Run” are classics.
- The Car Over the Lake Album – Ozark Mountain Daredevils, not the huge hits as before, but a solid collection. “Mr. Powell” and “From Time to Time.”
- Prisoner in Disguise – Linda Ronstadt could weave together country, rock and R&B into collections that crossed genres and demographics. This was no exception. “Heat Wave,” “Tracks of My Tears” and “Love is a Rose.”
- The Best of Carly Simon – Carly Simon, her best career work. Not a weak song here.
- Fish Out of Water – Chris Squire, the best solo album of the Yes members. Great songs, dense and melodic.
- Blast From Your Past – Ringo Starr, album hits and singles, Ringo’s best solo work of his career.
- Shaved Fish – John Lennon retired in 1975 and his recording contract lapsed, so Capitol Records put together his solo hits and Plastic Ono Band singles. A great collection.
- Venus and Mars – Paul McCartney and Wings, a retooled band. “Listen to What the Man Said” and “Rock Show” were the hits.
- Red-Headed Stranger – Willie Nelson, with a new recording contract, went for a gritty, sparse sound and hit it big. “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”
- Sabotage – Black Sabbath recorded this album in the midst of a lawsuit with their former management. “Megalomania” and “I Am Going Insane (Radio)” are the best songs.
- Straight Shooter – Bad Company’s second album. “Shooting Star” and “Feel like Makin’ Love”, “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad” were big hits.
- Equinox – Styx, they were turning a corner, less prog and more radio friendly songs. “Lorelei” and “Suite Madame Blue” were the best.
- Blue Sky/Night Thunder – Michael Murphey’s “Wildfire” was a huge hit from this album. “Carolina in the Pines” was also successful. Overall, a big album for Murphey.
8 thoughts on “Best Albums of 1975”
That’s a lot of good music. After about ’76 or ’77, things started going south for me. Nice that you listed Burning Spear. But a significant omission is the debut Outlaws album, not only their best, but one of Southern Rock’s best.
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I almost put that on the list.
Absolutely! Many forget Southern Rock was the “grunge” of the ’70s. The genre dominated and was populated with incredible albums. As with grunge, labels snatched those bands up in a dizzying rate . . . but, as you said, the Outlaws’ debut is a barnstormer. Blackfoot’s debut was released that same year: a great debut, but they really didn’t hit their stride until their third album, when the genre hit its peak and began its burnout.
Lots of great stuff on your list. I’ve just started writing about 1972. Clearly, ‘75 is yet another outstanding year in ‘70s music! I guess I’ll get there in three years!😀
1975 was a huge year: It was the first time that an FM station beat an AM station in the ratings, with KLOS beating KKHJ “Boss Radio” in L.A. The afternoon drive time for KLOS dominated for 8 hours, straight. Springsteen was featured on, I do believe, the covers of both Time and Newsweek. (This was right around the time of Jon Landau’s proclamation about Bruce.) The KLOS success made the national press and various publications, as well. (Then KMET 94.7 went through a transformation that blew out KLOS — and made them one of the first stations to receive national press coverage/awareness.)
That paved the way for Peter Frampton having his massive-million seller with Comes Alive and the “Arena Rock” blow out that was Boston’s first album, in 1976. No rock albums had those type of sales before. At that point, AOR arrived and “progressive rock” radio run by those damn hippies would never be the same.
Thanks for those comments. I didn’t know those things.
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A great post, Mike. I’ve been You Tube’in the list.
Thanks, there is a lot of awesome stuff.