While singles and mono albums had dominated the 1960s music scene, the stereo album became king in the 1970s. Rather than be intimidated by the larger canvas, songwriters used the possibilities inherent in the 20-minute-per-side album to tell a longer story. Sequencing became crucial and so-called "concept albums" became fashionable. Newly dominant FM radio began playing album cuts rather than singles. And by the early 70s, as the possibilities inherent in multi-track recording were exploited to their fullest, the recording studio evolved into a full-fledged member of the band. Overdubbing everything and anything from a solo voice singing its own harmonies to exotic instruments, oceans of violins, and punchy horns had become routine. Additionally, tape slicers who could wield a razor blade and masking tape with cool aplomb became essential roleplayers in the studio. Gear had also improved with the appearance of keyboards of various tones and timbres—including the earliest synthesizers. Even album cover artists became a serious issue. Finally, there was something deeper going on with popular music in 1972. Gone were the politics, strife, and psychedelia of '60s music and in its place were literate, personalized lyrics, bullish storytelling, and incredibly smart and enthusiastic melodies. Genres were also maturing and spreading in different creative directions driven by the fact that, in this era before social media and video games, music was still a vitally important entertainment medium. In short, the moment was right for long players to have their golden moment.

Aretha Franklin - Young, Gifted and Black

By the time the 1960s turned into the 1970s, Aretha Franklin had found her groove. With a killer mix of material that includes another Otis Redding cover ("I've Been Loving You Too Long" a cover of a Beatles classic ("The Long and Winding Road"), and several originals, including the groover "Rock Steady," this 1972 collection is arguably the '70s record that shows her voice and vision at their best. Not to undersell her powerful, wide-ranged voice and the seemingly effortless control Franklin exerted over her impeccable vibrato, but the album's success owes just as much to its instrumental firepower. Recorded in New York and Miami, some of the outstanding talent in the backing players includes Cornell Dupree on guitar, Donny Hathaway and Billy Preston on Hammond organ, Hubert Laws on flute, Bernard Purdie and Al Jackson, Jr. on drums, and Dr. John on percussion. Franklin's sisters Erma and Carolyn are among the extensive list of backing vocalists. Even more impressive are the combined producing and audio engineering talents of Arif Mardin, Jerry Wexler, and Tom Dowd, who added stylish touches like the rising and falling otherworldly instrumental mélange at the end of the #1 R&B hit "Day Dreaming." She wails on the big band blues of the Jerry Butler/Kenny Gamble number "A Brand New Me." Finally, there's Franklin's version of the Civil Rights anthem and title track, written and premiered by Nina Simone during the concert featured in Questlove's 2021 documentary film Summer of Soul.