What are the most important Rock Albums Ever Recorded?
Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley (1956)
The first true album of rock 'n' roll music by the man that would break the ground for everyone that followed him. While many will attest that Elvis was simply presenting what many black rock 'n' roll and blues artists were already doing, Elvis was the one who brought rock n roll into the limelight. Gathering all the controversies that attend recordings that challenge the status quo, Elvis Presleys debut record will always showcase the danger and youthfulness associated with great rock 'n roll and rock.
The Beatles - Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band [mono version] (1967)
From the opening sounds of a crowd mulling about to the echoing production of this classic, this Beatles record was built on a concept by Paul McCartney. After travelling from England to California to be at the launch party of The Beach Boys Pet Sounds album and then returning back to England, Paul experienced a day that didnt seem to end. It was with this idea gave birth to the album. The first progressive rock album, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band ends with the chord that never ends. The mono version is the original way that this album was released and gives the sound the best justice. Spawning the entire progressive rock genre and giving rise to employing sound effects in rock music, McCartney and Lennons genius shines the greatest on this seminal recording.
David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)
Bowies most famous alter ego, Ziggy Stardust is an androgynous, self-styled tragic icon. Ziggy is a rock star who transmits messages for aliens. The album is a concept album, a staple type of record in the mid-70s. Unlike other concept albums, though, all of the songs are highly listenable and continue to inspire many artists today. The song Ziggy Stardust is still a staple that Bowie performs on tour.
The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
The cover? Designed by Andy Warhol. The music? Co-written by two of rocks cantankerous archdukes: Lou Reed and John Cale. Although a complete financial failure when it was released because the nature of the topics of the songs on the album, this album opened the door for future rock artists to express themselves more openly and with more boldness. Record stores wouldnt stock it, radio stations wouldnt play it, but eventually fans bought it anyway. This is the definition of a rebel record and epitomizes the attitude of great rock: youthful rebellion.
Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath (1970)
At the beginning of heavy metal music, Black Sabbaths debut album stands as one of the most important rock albums of all time. Like Sgt. Peppers, Black Sabbath invented a genre of rock music single-handedly. No band prior to this release, and arguably after this release, quite attained the intensity that is achieved in this darkest of albums.
Nirvana - Nevermind (1991)
Another groundbreaking album, Nirvanas Nevermind showcased the Seattle Grunge scene, a scene that Nirvana dominated for the short time that they recorded. Nevermind opens with the super-hit Smells Like Teen Spirit. The sound is a blending of punk and heavy metal with trance-like moments providing dramatic sonic juxtaposition. With its chorus highlighting the slacker moral of Here we are now, entertain us, Kurt Cobains voice laments as this rocker of an album lifts off the lid of what would be a rock genre that would dominate the 1990s and affect practically every rock musician.
TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain (2006)
Blending jazz, soul, blues, hip-hop, rock 'n roll, and electronica, TV On The Radios second effort transformed rock in its risky adventures into a unique, progressive hybrid of genres. Opening with infra-beats and a sampled electronic horn section on I Was A Lover and moving through heart-pumping rockers such as Wolf Like Me, TV On The Radio made their mark in rock with this crazy and juicy album.
Deep Purple - Machine Head (1972)
Heavy rock had exploded across the UK, and Deep Purple, a heretofore art-rock and progressive band, streamlined their sound to incorporate heavy blues and rock licks. The result is Machine Head. The album not only contains the rock anthem Smoke On The Water, but Purple favourites such as Highway Star, a song that features early shredding. The explosive keyboards of classically-trained Jon Lord mixed with the solid rhythm section of Roger Glover, bass, and Ian Paice, drums, lets the majesty of Ritchie Blackmores guitar drive this album, an album that hallmarks the less dark side of what would later become heavy metal.
Rush - Farewell To Kings (1977)
Canadas progressive trio Rush released this album after dazzling, and infuriating, the critics with their amazing concept album 2112. While 2112 featured one side of the vinyl album as a single song in several parts, Rush furthered the creative aspects of their music exponentially when they created Farewell To Kings. Still featuring lyrics by drummer extraodinaire Neil Peart, the music was co-authored by high school chums Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson. The album figures as their most important release because the band showcased multi-instrumental abilities for the first time, especially on the track Xanadu. Pearts drum kit expanded to a massive size and included gongs, tubular bells, and various exotic percussive instruments. Lifeson tackled several different types of pedals and guitars including a Gibson doubleneck. The album had a hit single with Closer to the Heart, a song that is still sung by the band when on tour.
The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds [mono version] (1966)
Paul McCartney commented that God Only Knows could very well be the most beautiful song ever written. He may be right. Even if youre not a fan of surf rock, The Beach Boys Pet Sounds is a flawless album. The soundscape and perfection of the harmonies coupled with the solid songs, many of which are hits, grant this album well-deserved accolades. Brian Wilson wrote the songs for this album after hearing Rubber Soul by The Beatles. He apparently felt that Rubber Soul had not one weak song, and so he wanted to create an even better album. Part of the history of the respectful, friendly competition between The Beatles and The Beach Boys, this album stands as an album almost outside any genre. Its just great music. Like The Beach Boys Pet Sounds, the mono version is how it was first realized and recorded, so choose that for the best listening experience.
The Who - Tommy (1969)
At the age of 21, Pete Townshend invented the rock opera with this release. A form of progressive rock, Townshends magnum opus shines as one of the most important albums of all time simply for the fact that it is the progenitor of the genre. Featuring lengthy, orchestral-style pieces performed flawlessly by The Who, this amazing journey is a mix of drug-induced psychedelia and a spiritual coming of age story mixed with early arena rock stylings. Parts of Tommy were performed at Woodstock. The album still stands as one of the most iconic albums by The Who.
The Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street (1972)
By 1971, The Rolling Stones had lost their vision for the band and desperately needed a rejuvenation. The album combines rock 'n roll, gospel, blues, country and r&b. That mix would become the hallmark of The Stones sound from this point on in their career. Before Exile On Main Street, The Rolling Stones were viewed as the darker and bad-boy answer to The Beatles. Now that The Beatles had broken up for good in 1970, The Stones had an opportunity to redefine themselves. Exile was released as a double album on vinyl and is still viewed as The Stones best album by fans and critics alike. There is an infectious roughness to the recording as if youre listening in on a practice rather than the finished album. That roughness lends the album a live sound that pulses with real life. A must have album for any rock fan.
Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin I (1968)
Some would argue that their fourth album, also called Led Zeppelin, would be the best album to choose from their syllabus, but the first album by this supergroup that rose to become rock gods in the 70s truly reflects the whole modus operandi of the band. Many of the tracks on this album were first performed by The Yardbirds before they completely broke up. Born out of the remnants of the third lineup of The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin were first named The New Yardbirds.
Jimmy Page spoke to John Lennon after one of the bands gigs and asked Lennon what he thought of the band. Lennon reportedly said, This band is going to go down like a lead balloon. Unwittingly, Lennon named the group. Page and Plant simply dropped the a out of lead and took a famous airships name to name their new band. The first Zep album, although rife with work from other artists, displays the bands heavy approach to blues, an approach that would help fuel the development of heavy music and, of course, heavy metal.
The Moody Blues - Days Of Future Passed (1967)
The second album by The Moody Blues, Days of Future Passed is a rock version of Dvořks New World Symphony and, like Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, employed a full orchestra of classical instruments. A genuinely beautiful album, this is The Moody Blues most famous and innovative recording. Featuring Nights In White Satin, Days of Future Passed stands as a great addition to any collection.
The Ramones - Ramones (1976)
The album that spearheaded the punk rock movement. The first punk rock band to record an full album, The Ramones came out of New York and created a sound that rebelled against the excesses of bands that played huge arenas. A direct middle finger raised at bourgeois culture which included progressive rock, punk was a return to the fun, and danger, of rock 'n roll. This is the album that started it all.
U2 - The Joshua Tree (1987)
The fifth studio album by Irish post-wave rockers U2, The Joshua Tree was produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno. The sound of this album captured the 1980s perfectly. While U2 had successful releases before this album, the incredible textures and soundscapes accomplished by the band and Brian Enos wizardry mark this as not only U2s best album, but quite possibly one of the most important records of all time. The listener needs to be reminded that this album was recorded with analog equipment and performed using standard electrical and studio equipment.
Meatloaf - Bat Out Of Hell (1976)
First performed in clubs in 1973, Bat Out Of Hell featured Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman, veterans of Broadway. Meat Loaf had starred in several rock 'n' roll musicals. An accomplished composer, Steinman wrote all the songs and performed piano and keyboards for the album. For 2 and a half years Steinman and Meat Loaf walked the demo tracks from record executive office to record executive office, suffering over 200 nos. The record labels claimed that the listener wouldnt get the same effect of the live dramatic performances of the songs that functioned as mini-broadway musicals on stage. Frustrated, Meat Loaf gave up and left Steinman to continue to try to sell the album.
Steinman took the demos to one last friend on his list: Todd Rundgren. On the first listen and viewing of the concert footage that Steinman brought him, Rundgren reportedly laughed so hard that he fell off his stool proclaiming that it was so outrageous that they had to do it, and that he himself had to be part of it. A testimony to his amazing abilities, Rundgren laid down the guitar parts for the entire album in lass than one hour, all in one take! He then contacted his label, Epic Records, and managed to broker a deal for a limited release. Bat Out Of Hell has since gone multi-platinum with several hits, including the title track, the love ballad Two Out Of Three Aint Bad and the lengthy party-rocker Paradise By The Dashboard Light.
Bachman-Turner Overdrive - Not Fragile (1974)
The third album by this Canadian supergroup, Not Fragile hit the airwaves with several hits, including the #1 hit You Aint Seen Nothing Yet, a song that features Randy Bachmans famous stuttering. Blair Thompson joined the band at this point in BTOs history and provided a second lead guitar that wove with Randy Bachmans stellar licks. The album is unique for a mid-70s album in that it has not one filler song. A solid addition to anyone wanting the epitome of heavy rock.
Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon (1973)
What has to be said about this album to support its appearance on this list? This is Pink Floyds most famous, most iconic, and arguably most popular album. Engineered by Alan Parsons for the fee of 25 Pounds, this is Floyds decided exit from art-rock and entry into the progressive realm. Dark Side Of The Moon is a staple recording for any record collection.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced? (1967)
Incendiary guitar work by the master of the full throttle psychedelic guitar solo. Charismatic, handsome and tragic, Jimi Hendrix epitomizes the crazy life of a rock star. This album is the beginning of it all. At the end of the album, the listener is left still asking the question that the title of this album poses.
Hawkwind - Hall Of The Mountain Grill (1971)
Hawkwind are the grandfathers of Space-rock. Considered the best album by Hawkwind, Hall Of The Mountain Grill shows this band at their early peak. With Ian (Lemmy) Kilminster on bass and Dave Brock on keys, the remaining members of Hawkwind perform a perfect album of space-oriented songs that will take you on a journey through their science fiction universe. The best way to describe Hawkwind is in comparison to a contemporary UK band, Pink Floyd. While Pink Floyd is like floating around in a capsule in space, Hawkwind is like riding in the rooster-tail of the rocket.
Gary Numan + Tubeway Army - Replicas (1979)
This was the second and last album that Gary Numan would make with Tubeway Army. This album is part of the post-punk era, but quietly avoids being part of the new wave movement that would plague the late 70s and early eighties, a movement that cannot be called rock. This album is electronic, post-punk rock. Still utilizing Gibson guitars, but performances that are at once coldly restrained and highly emotional. Drawing on funk, blues, rock 'n' roll and even metal, Replicas is a refreshing listen.
The Clash - London Calling (1979)
This album by UKs The Clash broke all the standard rules associated with producing a record at the time. The recording sounds imprecise and loose. At times, the listener hears something reminiscent to The Stones Exile on Main Street. And thats exactly the approach. The Clash had decided to break ground with combining reggae, ska and punk into a melange of beer-fuelled fun. Originally a double vinyl record, the final song Stand By Me wasnt listed on the back cover. The front cover of the album mimics the graphics from Elvis Presleys debut album, bringing up the inherent danger of the punk movement with a picture of Joe Strummer about to smash a guitar.
Written by: Jason Bermiller, Canada
Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )