Stevie Wonder reigned supreme with the albums of his classic period from 1972-1976 (Photo Credit: Todd A. Smith/Regal Media Group).



Platform shoes.

And Don Cornelius wishing people love, peace and soul on the Saturday morning ritual, “Soul Train.”

The 1970s were a vibe like the young folks say today.

In the early 1970s, soul music still reigned supreme.

But at the same time, funk began to find its place.

And although hip-hop had not transferred to records, the artform known as rap turned one-year-old in 1974.

Therefore, to honor the golden anniversary of some classic urban albums, decided to rank the top 10 albums of 1974.

Enjoy this trip back down memory lane!

  1. “Al Green Explores Your Mind” by Al Green—Those not yet born in the 1970s might not realize how big Al Green was. During a decade with many male balladeers, Green stood out with his gospel-infused Southern voice. The album “Al Green Explores Your Mind” went gold and peaked at number one on the R&B charts. The single “Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy)’ reached number seven on the pop charts. Furthermore, Green’s version of “Take Me to the River” ranked 117 on Rolling Stone’s 500 best songs of all time.
  1. “Machine Gun” by The Commodores—The Commodores got their start as the opening act for The Jackson 5. Although they had not hit their prime, obviously, when they released their debut album, “Machine Gun” showed just how funky some boys from Tuskegee University could be. When Lionel Richie became the focal point of The Commodores, the group became more known for their love songs. But songs like the instrumental title track, “The Assembly Line” and “I Feel Sanctified” were perfect for house parties and “Soul Train” lines.
  1. “Dancing Machine” by The Jackson Five—Before the single “Dancing Machine” began tearing up the charts, The Jackson Five has pretty much lost their way. Too old for the bubblegum soul sound that made them famous and having a lead singer too young to become a balladeer put the brothers in a predicament. However, the disco-infused sound of the title track restored their place back at the top of the pop charts. Michael Jackson’s robot dance did not hurt either. The album also featured slow songs with a message like “I Am Love” and up-tempo songs like “Whatever You Got, I Want” and “The Life of the Party.”
  1. “Small Talk” by Sly and the Family Stone—By 1974, Sly and the Family Stone had begun to lose their winning mojo too. Although the album “Small Talk” went to number 15 on the pop charts, ultimately earning gold status, it did not have the anthems that previous albums had. But a talent as great as Sly could not truly put out a bad album back in the day. The band earned their final top 40 single with “Time for Livin.’” The band also released “Loose Booty” as the album’s second single. The album cover stood out because it featured Sly, his wife and baby son.
  1. “Nightbirds” by LaBelle—Although Patti LaBelle would go on to superstardom as a solo star. How could she not with a voice as powerful as hers? But her girl-group LaBelle hit paydirt with the gold-selling album, “Nightbirds.” The classic single “Lady Marmalade” hit number one and it still plays on the airwaves 50 years later. Even people not yet born in 1974 love to chant the lyrics, “Gitchie, gitchie, ya-ya, da da (hey, hey, hey), Gitchie, gitchie, yay-ya- here (here), Mocha, Chocolata, ya-ya (ooh, yeah), Creole Lady Marmalde…Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir? “
  1. “AWB” by Average White Band—Although Hustle Man (Tracy Morgan) from the sitcom “Martin” almost ruined it, “Pick Up The Pieces” is still one of the best instrumental tracks of the 1970. The band from the United Kingdom stood out because many British bands that imitated Black styles went in the rock direction. The Average White Band’s flavor, however, was strictly funk and R&B. The sextet also did justice to an Isley Brothers classic, “Work to Do.”
  1. “Perfect Angel” by Minnie Riperton—Oprah Winfrey once dubbed Whitney Houston “The Voice” and rightfully so. But back in the 1970s, Minnie Riperton could have held that title because of her broad range and angelic tone. People who have no business ever singing tried in vain to hit that signature high note on the song, “Lovin’ You.” Although she continued to make hits during the decade of the 70s, her star was dimmed by cancer. But going back down memory lane will remind everyone just how special Riperton was.
  1. “Rags to Rufus” by Rufus & Chaka Khan—One lyric from Chaka Khan and fans knew the former Black Panther was meant for superstardom. However, she made some classic funk jams with her boys from Rufus. The band was one of the most successful R&B and funk bands of the 1970s with four straight number one R&B albums, 10 top 40 singles and five number one R&B songs. “Rags to Rufus” featured such hits as “Tell Me Something Good” and “You Got the Love.”
  1. “Can’t Get Enough” by Barry White—In the 197s and into the early 1990s, music fans literally could not get enough of Barry White. His 1974 album “Can’t Get Enough” contained hits like “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything” and “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe.” White’s music stood out from the rest because of his deep baritone voice and lush orchestration. The music oozed with romance and sensuality and might have been the beginning of the baby making subgenre of R&B music.
  1. “Fulfillingness’ First Finale” by Stevie Wonder—Few artists had a run like Stevie Wonder had from the early to late 1970s. Each album during his classic period were epic. Furthermore, no cat was cooler than this musical genius. On this album, Wonder hit people with songs to make fans dance like “Boogie on Reggae Woman.” He had songs about spirituality and God like “Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away.” And he had songs of political protests with songs like “You Haven’t Done Nothin’” that featured background vocals from his famous third cousins, The Jackson Five.
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