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The 100 Most Influential Rock Albums of All Time

Updated: Nov 4, 2023


The 100 Most Influential Rock Albums of All Time

Pictured - The Rolling Stones (1964)

As challenging as selecting the 100 most influential rock albums of all time was, ranking them in order was a near impossible task. To give the proper respect to the albums, we selected what we believed the be the 100 most influential rock albums of all time, but decided not to rank them. Of the 100 most influential records, we highlighted and elaborated on the ten which we find to be some of the most fascinating. With that in mind, what makes rock music so fascinating and so infectious, is that it continually draws from a massive amount of musical influence and creates a sea of intriguing subgenres. To celebrate the feat of rock music, which could be called the greatest artistic accomplishment of the 20th century, we delved into all of rocks subgenres and the long, winding road that carves their influences. We took genres such as grunge, punk rock, country rock, blues rock, metal, acid rock, alternative rock, rap rock, pub rock and many more to find the key albums noted by the genre's pioneers and heavy-hitters. One notable finding for us, was how certain albums repeatedly popped in vastly different genres from metal to folk rock. For our criteria, albums included begin once rock-n-roll had been established the early 1950's. Rock precursors such as skiffle, R&B and blues have been excluded to keep our criteria focused on rock. Be sure to check out what we believe the Top 100 Greatest Rock Albums of All Time, as a handful of those records interlapped amongst the most influential. Be sure to check us out on Instagram @melophobemusicfor new articles, releases, reviews, pictures and more!

Aftermath - The Rolling Stones

By the release of Aftermath in 1965, The Stones had been known much more a cover band, putting unique and impressive twists on blues and early rock songs. Aftermath marked the first Rolling Stones album to made entirely of their own material and the word was incredibly receptive. Following the explosion of The Beatles, the timing could not have been much better for The Stones, with a massive American desire for British rock'n'roll. With listeners in the US,

and across the world for that matter turning their ear towards Britain, away from the '50s style rock of Elvis and Chuck Berry, the harder hitting attitude of The Rolling Stones introduced many Americans to a new, powerful, more aggressive side of rock. As hard as The Beatles hit the US in the mid-60s, The Rolling Stones left a massive impact on an wide array artists from OK Go to David Bowie. The Stone's brought a blues-oriented style of rock to millions of new listeners on Aftermath with instantly recognizable songs like Paint It Black and Under My Thumb. Although The Stones potential was still to be uncovered as they took to new heights with later records like Sticky Fingers and Exile on Mainstreet, the sheer impact on rock music Aftermath had certainly tops them on that front.


Ten - Pearl Jam

Although it was Nirvana's second album, Nevermind, that is often credited with kickstarting the grunge scene in the early '90s, Pearl Jam's debut album, Ten, was actually released a month beforehand. Holding all of the grunge sensibilities of Nevermind, Ten, along with Pearl Jam as a whole, played a massive role in the grunge movement of the '90s. Coming off as an incredibly refined debut, most of the band's most well-known songs found their home on this album. With the harder rock, pre-grunge sound of the late '80s seemingly steering toward the direction of metal, Ten played a huge part in the development of the new sound, keeping it along the lines of more traditional rock sensibilities as opposed to the quickly growing metal style. With Ten's influence ranging from bands like Creed and Incubus to The Strokes, Pearl Jam immediately established themselves as one of the most influential rock bands of the '90s.

The Best of The Everly Brothers - The Everly Brothers

To quote Paul Simon in a statement following the death of Phil Everly, "Phil and Don were the most beautiful sounding duo I ever heard. Both voices pristine and soulful. The Everlys were there at the crossroads of country and R&B. They witnessed and were part of the birth of rock and roll." One doesn't have to look further than the success of Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, or The Rolling Stones to understand the impact of The Everly Brothers. With two albums released prior to the release of The Best of The Everly Brothers, along with a handful of singles, this collection of tracks played a significant part in the evolution of rock music in the '60s. The stylistic effects of dual harmonies, along with duet-style melodies expressed by The Everlys on this album, led to the equally prominent vocal styles of Paul McCartney and John Lennon, along with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. It's no stretch to understand the impact of The Everlys if one comprehends the influence of The Beatles.


Allman Brothers Band - Allman Brothers Band

By the late '60s, rock music had begun to branch into a sea of sub-genres, including hard rock, country rock, folk rock, and blues rock. One emerging style that encompassed these sub-genres was Southern Rock. Initially conceived as a louder and more progressive form of country rock, southern rock quickly evolved into a vast musical territory with distinct Southern cultural sensibilities. Leading the charge for southern rock was The Allman Brothers Band. Today, they are regarded as one of the most influential American rock bands of all time. While their self-titled debut album wasn't a commercial success by even the most generous definition, the legacy and impact of the record left a serious mark on the rock landscape. On this album, the band embraced longer-form songs, diverging from the pop music norms, all while being heavily influenced by the blues. This influence resonated for years and contributed to the later success of The Allman Brothers Band, as well as bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, and The Marshall Tucker Band. Beyond its impact on Southern rock, its influence on jam bands was equally monumental.


In the Court of the Crimson King - King Crimson

Plain and simple, in 1969, when King Crimson released their debut, In the Court of the Crimson King, nothing had sounded even remotely like this. While sharing some of the darker sentiments of bands like Black Sabbath, the sheer complexity of the songwriting was in a league of its own. Even with bands like The Moody Blues delving into symphonic rock and progressive rock beforehand, the release of In the Court of the Crimson King completely changed the game with its intricacies and complexities, leaving musicians in awe. Beyond just leaving musicians in awe, it was give up and throw your instrument away kind of good. The record left a massive mark on '70s progressive rock, challenging other bands to "top that." Hailed as a masterpiece by many, including Pete Townshend of The Who, the one thing this record did perhaps better than any other album on this list is that it raised the bar of rock to new, soaring heights.

Workingman's Dead - The Grateful Dead

The uniqueness of The Grateful Dead spreads in many directions, but perhaps the most frequently attributed tendency of the band was their ability to transform four or five-minute-long songs into sprawling pieces of music lasting sometimes 20-30 minutes. With the impact of The Grateful Dead on jam bands being second to none, the most frequently cited influential album by the group was their fourth studio album, Workingman's Dead. By mixing psychedelia with Americana-style roots rock, The Dead created something entirely new on Workingman's Dead, leaving listeners with some of the group's most covered songs, such as "Casey Jones" and "Uncle John's Band." Workingman's Dead introduced millions of listeners to a new form of music, designed to be played live and expanded upon. With the explosion of jam bands in the '90s, following a style essentially dominated by The Dead and The Allman Brothers for twenty years, the roots of jam bands more often than not lead back to the influence of Workingman's Dead.


The Smiths - The Smiths

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: what is considered "indie rock" would not exist without The Smiths. Following a wave of post-punk and new wave, The Smiths' 1984 self-titled debut created seemingly simple pop songs and centered them around the guitar. The debut Smiths album can be heard in almost every indie rock song released by any artist since. The band's unique use of the guitar, often centering their songs around repeating, infectious riffs, played a massive role in guitars' place in indie and alternative rock. Along with the impact of Johnny Marr and his guitar, Morrissey's clever and snarky lyrics have equally influenced countless artists since. The band's fresh take on pop music rejuvenated jangle-pop sound and gave it a spin like never before. The group left listeners with memorable songs like This Charming Man, Hand in Glove, and Still Ill, all of which are covered time and time again.


Led Zeppelin (I) - Led Zeppelin

The debut album of the band we crowned the greatest rock band of all time has been noted as heavily influential on blues rock, hard rock, metal, and progressive rock. Communication Breakdown is often considered the first, or one of the first, heavy metal songs, largely due to its use of distortion. The records closing track, How Many More Times is noteworthy for its fusion of jazz-rock and blues rock into a classic hard rock song. The influence of Led Zeppelin on rock music is massive, particularly concerning the band's disinterest in being played on the radio or being considered pop-friendly. The band's bluesy undertones on the record added an aura of emotion to the songs, while the bombastic nature of the songs forever changed rock songwriting. Being released in 1969, the album perfectly encapsulated a decade of rock'n'roll and set the stage for a more creative, post-Beatles world of rock music.


Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan

Folk hero Bob Dylan departed from his minimalist, traditional folk style in the mid-1960s with his sixth studio album, Highway 61 Revisited being his second rock album. On this record, Dylan hit his creative climax, releasing a collection of thought-provoking songs adding an element of social awareness that was rarely heard in the rock music of the day. The album's opening track, Like a Rolling Stone, is often called the best, or certainly one of the best, rock songs of all time. While many Dylan fans were initially uneasy about the departure from the acoustic folk sound, shortly after the release of Highway 61 Revisited, he won them back and expanded his sonic reach to millions of new listeners. Bob Dylan showed the world on this album that folk-rock is alive and well, echoing that sentiment for years as other musicians adopted the sound.


Graceland - Paul Simon

Paul Simon's 1986 masterpiece, Graceland, introduced much of the English-speaking world to an array of musical styles rarely heard. By blending calypso, reggae, and African music with rock, Paul Simon created an immensely interesting and infectious rock album. Some standout tracks from the album, such as Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes, You Can Call Me Al, and the album-titled track, were received very well worldwide, adding a new level of color and complexity to rock music. The record found particular popularity amongst indie and alternative rock musicians, influencing bands like Vampire Weekend and Bombay Bicycle Club with its unusual yet perfected sonic characteristics. Alongside Simon's newfound love for African music and his desire to incorporate it into popular rock, the studio personnel on the album were vast and diverse. The talent pool of artists credited on the album included the Chicano rock band Los Lobos, the South African Choral Group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and even The Everly Brothers.

Cheap Thrills - Janis Joplin

Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley

Chuck Berry is on Top - Chuck Berry

Unkown Pleasures - Joy Division

High Voltage - AC/DC

My Generation - The Who

Mr. Tambourine Man - The Byrds

London Calling -The Clash

Born To Run - Bruce Springsteen

Superunknown - Soundgarden

Slanted & Enchanted - Pavement

Under the Table and Dreaming - Dave Matthews Band

If You're Feeling Sinister - Belle & Sebastian

Buddy Holly - Buddy Holly

Surfer Rosa - Pixies

Psychocandy - The Jesus and Mary Chain

The Stooges - The Stooges

Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon & Garfunkel

Can't Buy a Thrill - Steely Dan

Real Life - Magazine

Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys

Maggot Brain - Funkadelic

License to Ill - Beastie Boys

This Year's Model - Elvis Costello & The Attractions

Shout at the Devil - Mötley Crüe

Power Corruption and Lies - New Order

Pyschic... Powerless...Another Man's Sac - Butthole Surfers

Here's Little Richard - Little Richard

Another Music in a Different Kitchen - Buzzcocks

Untitled (Led Zeppelin IV) - Led Zeppelin

Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables - Dead Kennedy's

Everybody Knows This is Nowhere - Neil Young with Crazy Horse

Dookie - Green Day

Love it to Death - Alice Cooper

Horses - Patti Smith

Nevermind - Nirvana

Screamadelica - Primal Scream

Music From Big Pink - The Band

Ritchie Valens - Ritchie Valens

Daydream Nation - Sonic Youth

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Elton John

Eagles - Eagles

Pretenders - The Pretenders

Van Halen - Van Halen

Murmur - R.E.M.

Are You Experienced? - The Jimi Hendrix Experience

This is Fats Domino - Fats Domino

Loveless - My Bloody Valentine

Raising Hell - Run-D.M.C

Safe as Milk - Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band

Please Please Me - The Beatles

Shades of Purple - Deep Purple

Sheer Heart Attack - Queen

The Marshall Tucker Band - The Marshall Tucker Band

Ramones - Ramones

Kid A - Radiohead

Bringin It All Home - Bob Dylan

Master of Puppets - Metallica

Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles

Days of Future Passed - The Moody Blues

The Man Who Sold the World - David Bowie

The Undertones - The Undertones

Greetings From Asbury Park - Bruce Springsteen

Exile on Mainstreet - The Rolling Stones

Kinks - The Kinks

Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd

The Velvet Underground & Nico - The Velvet Underground & Nico

The Doors - The Doors

Outlandos d'Amour - The Police

Apetite For Destruction - Guns N' Roses

Bo Didley - Bo Didley

Enema of the State - Blink-182

Freak Out! - Frank Zappa

New York Dolls - New York Dolls

Nevermind the Bollocks - The Sex Pistols


Paranoid - Black Sabbath

Purple Rain - Prince

Ace of Spades - Motörhead

Crazy Rhythms - The Feelies

Led Zeppelin (II) - Led Zeppelin

You Don't Mess Around with Jim - Jim Croce

Definitely Maybe - Oasis

Thick as a Brick - Jethro Tull

Beggars Banquet - The Rolling Stones

Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden

Crosby, Stills and Nash - Crosby, Stills and Nash

Fresh Cream - Cream

Destroyer - Kiss

 

25 Honorable Mentions

These are albums we would put between 101-125

Rumours - Fleetwood Mac

Up The Bracket - The Libertines

Sad Wings of Destiny - Judas Priest

Buffalo Springfield - Buffalo Springfield

If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears - The Mamas & The Papas

Walk Among Us - Misfits

Back in Black - AC/DC

Piper at the Gates of Dawn - Pink Floyd

The Clash - The Clash

Parklife - Blur

Surfin' Safari - The Beach Boys

Entertainment! - Gang of Four

Electric Warrior - T. Rex

The Gilded Palace of Sin - The Flying Burrito Brothers

Cheap Trick - Cheap Trick

War - U2

After the Gold Rush - Neil Young

You Forgot it in People - Broken Social Scene

Bleed American - Jimmy Eat World

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

The "Chirping" Crickets - The Crickets

Hard Days Night - The Beatles

Moondance - Van Morrison

Ozma - The Melvins

Zen Arcade - Hüsker Dü

Be sure to check us out on Instagram @melophobemusicfor new articles, releases, reviews, pictures and more! Be sure to take a look at the Top 100 Rock Albums of All Time, or the Top 100 Rock Artists of all Time.


Top 100 Greatest Rock Albums of All time






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