The Bold Groove of ’74

A nation crawling out of an energy crisis, the resignation of Nixon, and the Muhammad Ali/George Frazier “Rumble In The Jungle” are what probably come to mind in recalling 1974. Two Mel Brooks classics, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, as well as the disaster epic The Towering Inferno, were among the top movies. In terms of American popular music, a diverse array of artists (new as well as veterans) had their first number-one tracks (25 in total).

R&B, Soul, and Funk music were competing for the hearts of young record buyers. The year 1974 would see 30 singles and 19 albums top the Billboard Soul Singles/Album charts.  During this year, a slew of innovative, popular albums were released. This article seeks to shine a light on eight albums (along with the hit singles they produced) that continue to yield massive influence 50 years later.


Rejuvenation was the second album by the Meters after switching labels from Josie to the Warner Bros. distributed Reprise Records. Rejuvenation would emerge as the band’s most critically acclaimed project. It would also receive enough notoriety that would lead to collaborations with rock legends such as Paul McCartney.



For the first time since 1970, both of George Clinton’s bands (Parliament and Funkadelic) would release individual albums for two different labels. Though both albums delivered hard-hitting Funk, it would be the title track from Up For The Down Stroke that would give the band their first top-ten single in seven years.


Winter In America would be the first album release credited to Gil Scott-Heron and musical collaborator Brian Jackson. Winter In America would produce Gil/Brian’s first notable hit “The Bottle.” Regardless of the success of both the album and single, Winter In America was the only album by the duo released by the Strata East label.


Released during Stevie’s “golden era” of the 1970s, Fulfillingness First Finale not only gave Stevie his first number-one album of the decade, but he also earned a Grammy award for Album of the Year (his second award in that category). The album’s standout track “You Haven’t Done Nothin‘” topped the Hot 100 and Soul singles charts and stands as the Funkiest single Wonder has ever recorded.


The sophomore release by Rufus would give them their first big hit, “Tell Me Something Good” (written by Stevie Wonder) and “You Got The Love” (written by lead singer Chaka Khan and R&B superstar Ray Parker Jr.). “Tell Me Something Good” would peak in the top five on the Hot 100 and Soul singles charts and would go to number one on the Cash Box Soul charts.


For their Mercury Records debut, the Ohio Players continued their tradition of tightly woven Funk jams and highly provocative album covers. The move from Westbound to Mercury would prove to be an excellent call. The Skin Tight album would be their first album to peak at number one on the R&B album chart and the title cut would be their highest charting hit up until that time (#13 pop).


Though he was never typecast as a movie soundtrack artist, Curtis Mayfield built an impressive resume in that particular field. He would be the driving force behind four hit soundtracks in the 1970’s. The Claudine soundtrack was fronted by Gladys Knight and the Pips. Mayfield would score and produce the entire soundtrack, culminating in the #2 R&B hit “On And On.”

LOVE IS THE MESSAGE-MFSB (Philadelphia International)

Philadelphia International Records was the house that Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff built, but their house band MFSB was their musical construction crew. They were the backing band for nearly all of the label’s hits. On this album, their second for the label, they would deliver the massive hit instrumental “TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia),” a number-one pop and R&B hit. It would also serve as the theme song to the television series Soul Train. But the title cut, the album’s second single, would resurrect itself four years later into a massive club and block party classic.

-Tim Kinley

Photo: Album cover montage courtesy of the author

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1 comment on “The Bold Groove of ’74

  1. John Smistad

    So many of these were square in the sweet spot of the soundtrack of my life-our lives-as kids. Great piece here, Tim.

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