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The 20 best rock albums of 1973

The 20 best albums of 1973
(Image credit: Future)

In 1973 the US ended its part in the Vietnam War after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, and oil prices increased by 200% after OPEC throttled supply.

Elsewhere, American Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned after being accused of tax evasion, Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in the infamous "Battle Of The Sexes" tennis match, Britain joined the European Union, and The Bosporus Bridge in Istanbul was completed, allowing locals to walk from Europe to Asia in a few short minutes.

In music, Kiss played their first ever show, at the Coventry Club in Queens, Lou Reed was bitten on the buttocks by a fan during a concert in Buffalo, The Scorpions played their first show with Uli Jon Roth after he replaced Michael Schenker, CBGB opened, and AC/DC formed in Sydney.  

These are the 20 best albums of 1973.

Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar Babies 

Alice Cooper’s fourth album with Bob Ezrin marked the apex of his creativity. With School’s Out fresh in the international psyche, expectations were high and Cooper, at the peak of his tabloid notoriety, delivered. 

Elected, No More Mr Nice Guy and I Love The Dead ooze malevolent class.View Deal

David Bowie - Aladdin Sane 

Written on tour in America while David Bowie soared into the celebrity stratosphere at home, Aladdin Sane was a dazzling song cycle freed from the conceptual constraints that characterised its iconic predecessor, Ziggy Stardust

Drive-In Saturday finds Bowie bursting with imaginative creativity, while Mike Garson’s signature piano adds crucial depth to the Stones-y raunch of The Jean Genie and Cracked Actor.View Deal

Emerson, Lake And Palmer - Brain Salad Surgery 

Built around the 30- minute climactic leviathan that is Karn Evil 9, a veritable brontosaurus of unashamed virtuoso overstatement that gradually unfolded across an entire side of vinyl, Brain Salad Surgery defined ELP

Prior to Karn Evil 9’s futuristic free-for-all, history is rewritten (Jerusalem), Palmer pummels (Toccata), Lake croons commercially (Still... You Turn Me On) and Emerson boogie-woogies (Benny The Bouncer).View Deal

Faces - Ooh La La 

With the band already playing reluctant second fiddle to Rod Stewart’s ever-burgeoning solo career, Ooh La La marked the original Faces’ swansong; a disillusioned Ronnie Lane quit shortly after its release. 

Frequently overlooked, it’s a multi-faceted (though characteristically raw) gem, rich in kitchen-sink drama (Cindy Incidentally), Jack-the-lad poignancy (Ooh La La) and sheer, ragged brilliance (Borstal Boys).View Deal

Hawkwind - Space Ritual

Arguably the only Hawkwind album you’ll ever really need, the sumptuously packaged, double vinyl Space Ritual set was destined to become a staple of any self-respecting stoner’s record collection. 

Recorded live in Liverpool and Brixton, this emphatic maelstrom of unrelenting riffage (Brainstorm), sci-fi ramblings (Sonic Attack), and trip-enhancing electronic bleeps (Born To Go) is one Silver Machine short of perfection.View Deal

Iggy And The Stooges - Raw Power 

A true masterpiece of pure narcissistic nihilism, punk rock’s Dead Sea Scrolls can all be found etched into these grooves. Though latterly celebrated for its incalculable influence on rock’s next generation, Raw Power was initially dismissed as a mere curio. 

Duff Bowie production or not, Search And Destroy’s alliance of Iggy’s primal howl and James Williamson’s fretboard ferocity redefines intensity.View Deal

Led Zeppelin - Houses Of The Holy 

The breathtaking ensemble interplay and dynamics of Zeppelin IV were still in place for Houses Of The Holy

Yet despite the undeniable excellence of solid gold classics such as the rampaging The Song Remains The Same, scintillating The Rain Song and foreboding No Quarter, small chinks started to appear in Led Zeppelin’s creative armour. But we can forgive them the occasional Crunge.View Deal

Lynyrd Skynyrd - (Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd) 

A staggering debut that immediately established Lynyrd Skynyrd as the jewel in the crown of southern rock, there’s far more to (Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd) than simply its epic closing track, Freebird

The evergreen American FM radio staple might still deliver involuntary air-guitar nirvana to even the most casual listener, but Gimme Three Steps and Tuesday’s Gone can’t be underestimated.View Deal

Mott The Hoople - Mott 

Coming hot on the heels of Mott’s inaugural chart success with a cover of Bowie’s All The Young Dudes, here was a chance for Ian Hunter to demonstrate his very own songwriting prowess. 

Glam standards All The Way From Memphis and Honaloochie Boogie charted strongly, and with Violence and Whizz Kid in reserve, Hunter’s point was proven.View Deal

Nazareth - Razamanaz 

The melodic hard rockers from Dunfermline enjoyed respectable singles chart success in 73, and Razamanaz includes both of their biggest top 10 hits. 

A prototype Bon Scott, Dan McCafferty’s paint-peeling vocals are heard to best effect on Bad Bad Boy, yet can also do the business when applied to the heartfelt balladry of Broken Down Angel, while the band remain rock solid.View Deal

New York Dolls - New York Dolls 

With the Rolling Stones gradually dove-tailing into the establishment, the New York Dolls seized their moment. By blending libertine excess, ambisexual delinquency and piratical swagger, the pattern was set for the cavalier obnoxiousness that eventually coalesced into punk. 

Their first album is their masterpiece; scuzzy, street-life vignettes honed to scalpel sharpness by Johnny Thunders’ switchblade riffs.View Deal

Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells 

Written while the former Kevin Ayers guitarist was still a teenager, this symphony-length instrumental exemplar of the over-dubber’s art was initially greeted by a barrage of industry rejection before Richard Branson, head of the Virgin Records retail chain, decided to release it independently. 

The result? Multiplatinum sales, a five-year chart run, a theme tune for The Exorcist and an airline for Branson.View Deal

Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon 

Previewed at London’s Planetarium, Roger Waters’ treatise on mental illness finally found the post-Barrett Pink Floyd fulfilling their potential. 

The fluidity of Us And Them, strident dynamism of The Great Gig In The Sky, jarring alarm bells of Time and staccato cash registers of Money typify an album that defines an era.View Deal

Lou Reed - Berlin 

The core conceptual premise of Berlin (boy meets girl, boy slaps girl, girl has breakdown, loses kids, takes life, boy repents at leisure) might be one of the most depressing stories ever told. 

But Lou Reed’s lyrical sensitivity and Bob Ezrin’s production transform a potential doom-fest into an oddly uplifting experience.View Deal

Rolling Stones - Goats Head Soup 

Exile On Main St was always going to be a hard act to follow, and in Stones lore Goats Head Soup is frowned upon as something of a poor relation. 

That said, the majority of bands would kill to concoct material of this quality. Angie is a fabulously decadent slice of acoustic jet-set ennui, and Star Star is delightfully salacious.

View Deal

Roxy Music - For Your Pleasure 

Roxy Music were the exception that proved the rule when it came to the 70s not being on nodding terms with sophistication. Everything about For Your Pleasure, from the decadent aspect of its cover art to the arch European drawl with which Bryan Ferry despatched each evocative couplet, was exquisitely contrived. 

A tantalising glimpse into rock’s future from glam’s most glamorous.View Deal

Sensational Alex Harvey Band - Next 

Having a background in Hamburg, cabaret and musical theatre left the gap-toothed Gorbals journeyman well-equipped to tackle any musical style that took his fancy with casual aplomb. Consequently, you’d have to look long and hard to find any album as varied, unpredictable, assured and well-rounded as Next

From the proto-electronica of Faith Healer to the gritty Glasgow-kiss rehash of Jacques Brel’s title track, Alex invariably astounds at every turn.View Deal

Status Quo - Hello 

For many, the album that set Status Quo’s trademark clipped, muscular, boogie style in stone represents the band at their best; an opinion that’s almost impossible to contradict. 

After all, what better Quo single than Caroline? And what better heads-down, no-nonsense crowd-pleaser than Roll Over Lay Down or fists-aloft set-closer than Forty Five Hundred Times? Exactly.View Deal

The Who - Quadrophenia 

Pete Townshend’s homage to the 60s mod subculture that helped catapult The Who to stardom was a long time coming. 

But the complex conceptual tale of everyman mod Jimmy Cooper’s fraught passage to adulthood – a spiritual journey exacerbated by a four-way personality split (one for each Who member) – was well worth the wait.View Deal

ZZ Top - Tres Hombres 

The Texas trio’s first US hit found Billy Gibbons dirtying his already filthy guitar sound while gradually edging towards a distinctively ZZ Top sound. 

He nailed it on the chart-busting, shit-kicking ode to a whorehouse that was La Grange, as well as the evocatively titled Beer Drinkers And Hell Raisers.View Deal