There was a time, pre-Beatles if you want something more specific, when singles ruled pop music.

But around the mid '60s things started turning toward album-length statements by artists. Of course, you could make a strong argument that Frank Sinatra was doing this during the latter half of the '50s, and you wouldn't be wrong. But generally the mass exodus toward albums didn't start until around Rubber Soul.

Still, not all genres made the move. R&B and soul music, for one, was still pretty much a singles game as the '60s turned into the '70s. But then, right at the turn of the decade, something happened with Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. Even James Brown, who was responsible for some of the best singles of the '60s, began making albums that were great – and carried a common theme – from start to finish.

Many of the same names appear again and again on the below list of the Top 25 Soul Albums of the '70s. There's a reason for that: They were the ones who took control of their careers and no longer relied on managers and record-company execs to call their shots. There's also a reason why the majority of these albums come from the first part of the decade. The unrest of the times better lent itself to these often-singular artistic statements.

Any of the records on the list of the Top 25 Soul Albums of the '70s rank right up there with the very best the decade had to offer, regardless of genre. There's way more to explore and enjoy once you digest the classics below, but these are the ones whose impact and legacy still resonate decades after their release.