Be the inoffensive music snob you've always wanted to be, with the essentials that comprise our list of the top 10 best soft rock albums ever. Lite rock, mellow rock, or yacht rock—by any other name would sound as cheesy—is a genre often given a bad rap but one that cannot be denied. In the 1970s, commercial American radio was so overwhelmed with rock music that it divided everything into two categories: soft and hard. They shared the airwaves but not the same fans. So we understand if you would cringe to hear anything with the soft rock label, but we suggest you give it another shot.
While there are some classics that instantly come to mind—10cc's "I'm Not In Love" or Spandau Ballet's "True"—our sights were on the solid albums by soft rock's key players. We're willing to claim that these are so good, you don't even have to admit to liking soft rock to recognize that these are so smooth you'd think they were made of tasteless fake cheese dip.
- Fleetwood Mac "Rumours" Not only was this record the top-selling album of its decade, it was with good reason—because it kind of rules. Containing a number of female-led ballads like "Songbird" and "Dreams" to qualify as soft, Rumours also has its fair share of rocking with hits such as "The Chain" and "Go Your Own Way." With this record, Fleetwood Mac had produced something for just about everyone.
- The Doobie Brothers "Minute By Minute" No list of the best soft rock albums would be complete without something involving Michael McDonald, lead singer of The Doobies. His corny falsetto screams yacht rock to the max, and when you add the band's biggest hit "What A Fool Believes," you're set.
- Joni Mitchell "Court and Spark" Following the success of her critically acclaimed Blue, Joni took a less folky approach and brought in some jazz for her sixth album. Not to badmouth jazz or anything, it's just that in this case it brought with it some cheesy soft rock to reek through Joni's excellent songwriting. Case closed.
- Todd Rundgren "Something / Anything" This pop masterpiece was released as a double LP when it debuted, each of the four sides highlighting a self-proclaimed theme like "A Pop Operetta"—the side with his only hit, "Hello, It's Me."
- Harry Nilsson "Nilsson Schmilsson" The cover shows him in a bathrobe, and this happens to be where pop culture got "put the lime in the coconut…" Need we say more?
- Elton John "Honky Chateau" Elton's fifth album marked a shift from singer-songwriter to rock and hence fits into soft rock. But it's good. This guy has been knighted, for chrissakes, so he must have done something right.
- Daryl Hall & John Oates "Rock 'N Soul Part One" Though cheating because it's a greatest-hits album, this disc has so many hits you won't be able to stand it. Maybe you couldn't stand it in the first place, but please give it another try.
- Paul Simon "Paul Simon" Just after splitting up with Garfunkel, Simon went solo and came out with "Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard." Not bad for the soft-spoken kid trying to make it on his own.
- Cat Stevens "Tea For The Tillerman" Before he found religious salvation, Cat made delightful sounds about children playing and wild worlds.
- Steely Dan "Aja" If there was such a genre as stoner-soft-rock (and stoner-rock does exist), Steely Dan would be all over it. It's not so much about "jamming"—but once these smooth-as-butter saxophones and guitars get into a groove, they let it stew for awhile. Plus, soft rock darling Michael McDonald does backup vocals, so it's a must-have for any list of the best soft rock in existence.
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