Stevie Wonder released his classic “Innervisions” album in 1973.
R&B fans the world over, often complain about the lack of true soul music in today’s landscape, especially coming from male vocalists.
Well, soul music did not have a dearth of masterpieces in the early 1970s.
Back then, male artists did not want to be gangsters or pimps.
Instead, many male artists wanted to be ladies’ men or wanted to use their platform for social activism.
In 1973, Motown Records still enjoyed enormous success.
But many of the old Hitsville artists began leaving for “greener” pastures.
Furthermore, Philadelphia International Records began to be a hub for Black talent thanks to the songwriting skills of Gamble and Huff.
Regardless of the record label, the albums that dropped 50 years ago broke records.
So, to celebrate classic records finally reaching AARP status, RegalMag.com has ranked the top 10 albums of 1973.
As always, tell Regal what it got right and what it got terribly wrong.
- “Imagine” by Gladys Knight and the Pips—Gladys Knight and the Pips had a very busy year in 1973. They dropped their last album on Motown Records with “Neither One of Us.” Then, the family group went to Buddha Records and dropped, arguably, their most popular track with “Midnight Train to Georgia.” That track is still so popular, maybe leaving Motown was the “Best Thing That Ever Happened” to quote the second single from “Imagine.”
- “Touch Me in the Morning” by Diana Ross—By 1973, the former lead singer of The Supremes was a full-fledged solo singing star, as well as a movie star. “Touch Me in the Morning” reached number five on the pop charts and number one on the R&B charts. The title track became Ross’ second single to reach the top spot on the pop charts. Furthermore, the second single “All My Life” reached the top 10 on the charts in the United Kingdom. In 1973, Ross also released a collaborative album with Marvin Gaye (“Marvin & Diana”), in addition to receiving an Oscar nomination for “Lady Sings the Blues.”
- “Spinners” by The Spinners—With their first album after their departure from Motown, The Spinners found a new recording home at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, a new home at Atlantic Records, introduced a new leader singer in Phillipe Wynne and released a classic LP. The Spinners dropped a number one R&B hit with “I’ll Be Around.” The album which reached number one on the R&B charts and number 14 on the pop charts also included songs like “Could it Be I’m Falling in Love,” “One of a Kind (Love Affair),” “Ghetto Child” and “How Could I Let You Get Away.”
- “3+3” by The Isley Brothers—The “3+3” album would have been special for The Isley Brothers regardless of its success because it went down in history as the first Isley Brothers album to include six members, with original members Ronald Isley, Rudolph Isley and O’Kelly Isley being joined by younger brothers Ernie Isley and Marvin Isley and brother-in-law, Chris Jasper. But the album had classic singles too like “That Lady, Pts. 1 & 2,” “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” and the smooth “Summer Breeze Pts. 1 & 2.” Other great songs include “Listen to the Music,” “The Highways of My Life,” and “Sunshine (Go Away Today).”
- “Fresh” by Sly and the Family Stone—“Fresh” came at a turbulent and transitional time for Sly and the Family Stone. His drug abuse had led to erratic live shows. His style had been adopted by some of the greats of the day. And the band had lost some key members. But Sly could still record magic as evident with songs like “If You Want Me to Stay,” “Keep on Dancin’” and “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be).”
- “The Payback” by James Brown—Wonder if the producers of the blaxploitation movie “Hell Up in Harlem” regret rejecting “The Payback” album as the movie’s soundtrack? Reportedly, the producers of the film rejected the album, saying it was “the same old James Brown stuff.” But the “Godfather of Soul” got the last laugh because the title track became a comeback record of sorts for an artist who had dominated the 1960s soul music scene.
- “Ships Ahoy” by The O’Jays—After years of searching for a breakthrough, The O’Jays finally became superstars in 1972 thanks to “Back Stabbers.” What they do? Well, The O’Jays followed up their breakout album with the platinum-selling “Ships Ahoy,” which featured “Now That We Found Love,” “Put Your Hands Together” and “For the Love of Money,” a moral tale that got sampled by rappers and younger singers for years and years.
- “Call Me” by Al Green—The Rev. Al Green became such a force of nature in the early 1970s that he released two classic albums in 1973. However, critics consider “Call Me” as his masterpiece. The album reached number one on the R&B charts and the top 10 on the pop charts. In 2003, VH1 named “Call Me” as the 70th best album of all time, regardless of genre. “Call Me” featured songs like the title track, “I’m So Lonesome (I Could Cry),” “Here I Am (Come and Take Me),” “Funny How Time Slips Away,” and “You Ought to Be With Me.” Green also dropped the gospel song “Jesus is Waiting” on his penultimate album.
- “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye—The crooner Marvin Gaye found new life in 1971 with his politically-themed album, “What’s Going On.” Initially, Gaye wanted to continue that trend. However, when the 1972 single “You’re the Man” did not resonate, he canceled the socially-conscious album of the same name entirely. In 1972, he dropped the soundtrack to the movie “Trouble Man.” Then he dropped one of his most successful albums of all time with “Let’s Get It On,” which featured the title track, “Keep Gettin’ It On” and “Distant Lover.”
- “Innervisions” by Stevie Wonder—The difficulty in ranking masterpieces by Stevie Wonder, Al Green and Marvin Gaye is not an enviable task. However, very few can debate the greatness of Wonder’s classic period from the early to late 1970s. “Innervisions” included songs like “Living for the City,” “Higher Ground,” “All in Love is Fair,” “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing,” “He’s Misstra Know It All” and “Golden Lady.”