Well, here it is – an attempt to sort through rock history and come up with the definitive “top 10” greatest rock albums of all time. Now, this is an impossible task, and there is no possible way that any one person’s list would match mine. In fact, I’m guessing that most of you will disagree with my choices and argue that specific albums should have made the cut. You may say that some are actually pop or jazz instead of rock, and you might be correct.
At the core, each entry falls into the category, broadly, of rock music. In reality, this is more or less “Bob’s Top 10”; nevertheless, they are great rock albums. As a blogger, it’s impossible to please everyone. So, without further ado, here is my list of the ten greatest rock albums of all time.
1. David Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” (1972): I knew of Bowie throughout my youth and thought he was some strange dude with a few good songs. In fact, he wasn’t given much attention as an artist until my senior year in high school. Oddly, there seemed to be a sudden interest in his music among my friends.
I hadn’t owned any Bowie records, and this was my first purchase because I liked the song Ziggy Stardust. While preparing to play the first song, I noticed the words. “Play this at Maximum Volume” on the back of the album cover…this was about to get good! Running through both sides, I was not disappointed.
“Ziggy” is recognized as a concept album that is supposed to tell the story of an androgynous alien rock star that is both ahead of its time and timeless. Talk about something different and “out there” at the time. The album is made up of glam rock, pop, and hard rock, and it is a classic that continues to sound great all these years later.
Highlights include one of the first songs I learned on electric guitar, the catchy “Ziggy Stardust,” the ballad “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide,” and the epic “Starman.” Overlooked gems on this record include the haunting “Lady Stardust” and the frenetic “Suffragette City.”
2. The Beatles’ “Revolver” (1966): One of my all-time favorites! Revolver is an album that I can l effortlessly listen to from beginning to end. When I was around 12 years old, I would fall asleep every night while listening to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on my little cassette player. However, as I got older, I stumbled upon Revolver, which quickly became my new favorite due to its unique and diverse style.
One of the first guitar riffs I learned was the “Taxman” opening, so it has a special place in my heart. “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Eleanor Rigby” are also my favorites of mine. However, this album has several other fantastic songs, such as the whimsical “She Said She Said” and the soulful “Got to Get You into My Life.”
3. Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” (1973): This was a tough decision, as I could have easily replaced it with “The Wall,” which contains my favorite Floyd song, Comfortably Numb. That said, from top to bottom, Dark Side of the Moon is one of the most incredible pieces of art ever constructed. Every time I listen to this album, something new hits my ears. It is layered in a way that is hard to define. Besides, the pyramid prism on the album cover is as iconic an image in rock history as any.
Get your hands on some edibles, put this on, and go for a ride. Highlights include the haunting “Time,” the soaring “Money,” and the dreamy “Us and Them.” Overlooked gems on this record include “The Great Gig in the Sky” and the atmospheric “On the Run.”
4. The Eagles’ “Hotel California” (1976): This album has always been a favorite of mine, and I don’t think I’m alone. This album has the best pure vocal arrangements of any album on the list, alongside Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. This album blends country, rock, orchestral, and folk influences with lyrics that keep you engaged in the story being told.
The title track is the defining track. I love Joe Walsh’s opening riff of “Life in the Fast Lane.” He was a great addition to the band, replacing Bernie Leadon, who was more country-oriented. Other highlights on the album are the haunting “Wasted Time” and the introspective “The Last Resort.” Overlooked gems on this record include the upbeat and catchy “New Kid in Town” and “Pretty Maids All in a Row,” sung by Joe Walsh.
5 Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” (1977): It’s an easy decision, as it contains one of my favorite songs of all time, “Dreams.” Every time I hear it, I’m reminded of the time I was in the backseat of a station wagon driving home from one of my youth baseball games. It was starting to storm when the song came on the radio. I was in the backseat of the car, with no seatbelt, and I still remember the pulsing beat of Mick Fleetwood’s drums and the swell of Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar. Layered on top were Stevie Nicks’ mesmerizing vocals.
Many of you out there may have been introduced to “Dreams” on Youtube. You know, that adorable young lady who drinks the cranberry juice and then delivers a flawless take (pitch correction used, not sure) of this classic. I digress. This album captures the band’s blend of pop, rock, and folk influences, along with all the drama of personal relationships between members of the band. Unsurprisingly, this is one of the best-selling albums of all time. Highlights for me are the aforementioned “Dreams” and the Lindsey Buckingham vocal on “Go Your Own Way.” Sad to learn about the passing of Christine McVie, who provided the ultra-smooth vocals for “You Make Loving Fun” and “Songbird.”
6. Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” (1975): The emotional depth of this album is impossible to ignore, and despite not becoming a fan until after “Born to Run,” I found myself drawn to Bruce Springsteen’s earlier work upon listening to it. It was only then that I truly appreciated the power of his storytelling. Upon reading the album jacket lyrics, I realized I was witnessing true poetry. “Thunder Road” and “Jungleland” are standout tracks perfect for singing along to. Still, this album also has hidden gems, such as the upbeat and optimistic “She’s the One” and the haunting ballad “Backstreets.”
7. Steely Dan’s “Aja” (1977): Without question, this is a masterpiece of jazz-rock fusion that showcases the band’s impeccable musicianship and intricate songwriting. I lived on a lakefront in the early ’90s and would blast this album on my new Klipsch speakers until the circuit protection popped. The album’s production has lush arrangements, complex harmonies, and witty lyrics. If I had to use a template or sonic blueprint for mastering, this album is right up there. Highlights for me include the upbeat “Peg,” the dreamy “Deacon Blues,” and the jazzy “Josie.” Overlooked gems on this record include the groovy “Black Cow” and the melancholy “Home at Last.”
8. The Who’s “Who’s Next” (1971): First, the cover alone makes this a noteworthy addition, especially if you were in junior high school when you purchased it. There they were, four guys, relieving themselves on the facade of some cement structure. It seemed to be some statement on rebellion. Anyhow, I was pulled along one weekend to a church garage sale, and there it was in a bin, and I had to have it. I liked “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” so I borrowed $2 from my grandmother and snatched it up.
Looking back, I don’t think the album left my turntable for a month straight. It certainly is a timeless rock album that captures the band’s energy and power; with its raw guitar riffs, thundering drums, and unforgettable anthems, it was an album that was hard to escape at the time. Highlights for me include the explosive “Baba O’Riley,” the epic “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and the poignant ballad “Behind Blue Eyes.” Overlooked gems on this record include the catchy “Going Mobile” and “The Song Is Over.”
9. AC/DC’s “Back in Black” (1980): It was the start of high school, my first year, and you couldn’t escape the thundering sound of this album…everywhere! With its driving rhythms, wailing guitars, and memorable hooks, it’s hard to argue that this album shouldn’t be higher. I liked Highway to Hell, but this was different. Of course, I’m referring to the debut of lead singer Brian Johnson, who replaced frontman Bon Scott after his death, which altered the course of the band’s history. Highlights include the anthemic title track, the hard-rocking “Shoot to Thrill,” and the blistering “Hells Bells.” Overlooked gems on this album include the gritty “What Do You Do for Money Honey” and the bluesy “Given the Dog a Bone.””
10. Oasis’ “Definitely Maybe” (1994): Last but not least, we arrived at Oasis. I always liked them but I started getting into their catalog a few years ago. Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory are great albums, and it was tough to pick between them. Something about this album begs you to sing along and mimic Liam’s Lennon-like vocals.
Oasis was more prominent in the UK than in the US; nevertheless, they had tremendous success worldwide with this album. Definitely Maybe is a quintessentially British album that captures the spirit of the ’90s with its catchy hooks, swaggering attitude, and sing-along anthems. The album, which was their first, remains a classic in the genre. It’s still wild to see the video for “Supersonic,” where Noel is playing a reasonably inexpensive Epiphone Les Paul Standard.
Just goes to show that you don’t need a high-end guitar to make a hit record. Highlights for me include “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” the upbeat “Live Forever,” and “Supersonic.” Overlooked gems on this record are the melodic “Slide Away” and the raucous “Cigarettes & Alcohol.”
Some may wonder about the absence of famous bands like The Rolling Stones, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Radiohead, Nirvana, Guns & Roses, and U2 on this list. I questioned myself on why they didn’t make the cut. However, this is just one person’s opinion, and everyone’s list may differ. There are countless fantastic rock albums out there waiting to be discovered. If you haven’t listened to these albums yet, give them a chance – they might just become your new favorites! Feel free to share your thoughts with me.