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Top 100 Greatest Rock Albums of All Time

Updated: Jan 10


Top 100 Greatest Rock Albums of All Time

(Pictured - Led Zeppelin)

Whether it's alternative and indie rock, which we generally set our focus on here at Melophobe, or surf, psychedelic, punk or hard rock, rock music is perhaps the greatest artistic gift given to the world in the last century. Following the relatively recent release of our ranking of The Top 100 Greatest Rock Bands/Artists of All Time, we decided to take a stab at ranking the top 100 rock albums of all time. With bands like The Beatles changing the game for what exactly an "album" was, by the mid-60's rock albums began to become more complete, and viewed as a singular unit instead of a collection of two or three highlighted tracks mixed in with a handful of "filler tracks." With that in mind, the majority of the albums on this list are post mid-60's although the influence and impact of pioneering rock artists of the 50's is sincerely noted and appreciated. Let's face it though, if you're cranking out 2,3,4 albums a year, all 30 minutes or less, the quality of the albums as a whole, struggle to compete with what was on the horizon for rock, although certain songs may still harbor a massive amount of greatness and musical impact. We will be sticking strictly to rock in all of it's forms, but we will be excluding most artists considered primarily pop over rock such as Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston etc. Alongside that, hip-hop, soul, country, reggae and other non-rock genres have been excluded this time around. We're certainly not the first to rank the top 100 rock albums and we won't be the last, but this sure was a treat to dive into. Below the top 100, we have also listed our next 25 as honorable mentions. For a narrower look at alternative artists, be sure to check out Top 100 Greatest Alternative Albums, or Top 100 Greatest Indie Rock Albums. Check us out on Instagram @melophobemusic for new articles, releases, reviews, pictures and more!


1. Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd

The Eighth studio album by Pink Floyd is not only the greatest rock album of all time, but it is arguably the most groundbreaking albums of all time, forever changing recording practices, greatly expanding the concept of transition songs, while at the same time mixing in what could be considered "singles." The stellar record holds some of the finest rock tracks of all time within its 43 minutes of music such as Time, Money and Us and Them. What Pink Floyd did on this album has yet to be topped and consistently called one of the best, if not the best rock album of all time. The group successfully experimented with concepts of psychedelia, longing, pain and mysticism tied together in a masterpiece of progressive and art rock. With Pink Floyd already being recognized as one of the most unique, interesting and clever rock bands of the time prior to release, once Dark Side of the Moon was released, that notion was all but cemented. Emotional, intense, political and intricate are words that only scratch the surface of this groundbreaking LP.


2. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin

The debut studio album from the band we crowned the greatest rock band of all time is often credited with many accolades including having the first "metal" song (Communication Breakdown), being one of the first hard rock albums, reinventing blues rock and of changing the role of a drummer in rock music. All accolades aside, one thing quite undeniable is that the Zeppelin debut marked a turning point in rock and roll, launching a deeper interest in longer, more intricate rock songs with no intentions of gaining popular radio airplay. The band took blues rock in a direction never taken before, intertwining elements of hard rock, progressive rock and soul, heard probably no better than in You Shook Me, a cover of a song originally written by blues icon Willie Dixon harnessing a HUGE bluesy organ breakdown. Other tracks like Babe I'm Gonna Leave You mess with traditional delta blues licks paired with powerful rock breaks whereas How Many More Times begins with a jazzy bass and drum intro before the hard rock elements come barreling forward about 30 seconds in. The level of talent and creativity on this record is challenging to put to words, but the craziest part is frontman Robert Plant was just barely 21 when the band recorded the album...


3. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles

It should be no surprise that every album in the top 10 is immensely groundbreaking in their own right and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is no exception to that. A key work of psychedelic rock, the story goes that after Paul McCartney first took LSD after eventually giving in to the pressure of his bandmates, his sense of possibility was greatly expanded, defining the next project for the band, this record. After a massive amount of commercial success resulted in the band essentially giving up on playing live, the musical development and knowledge of the band increased substantially. The fab-four began taking influence from circus music, Indian music alongside some of the avant-garde styles of Frank Zappa and the Mothers. As the level of talent and knowledge hit new heights, the final product was Sgt. Pepper's. Tracks like Within You Without You, Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite! and A Day In The Life were at the time, some of the most "out there" rock songs to receive popularity. Alongside those three, the group still released some of the most graceful, beautiful, more traditional Beatles-esque, pop-rock tracks like When I'm 64 and With a Little Help From My Friends. Make no mistake, the brilliance of the Beatles will be well-acknowledged in this list.


4. London Calling - The Clash

Prior to 1979, The Clash were a well-respected punk rock band with a lot of success in their neiche, but outside of the world of punk, the group had relatively little appeal. Following the release of their third studio album in 1979, London Calling, that notion was gone with the band smashing down the walls between punk rock, post-punk, new wave and alternative rock in their uniquely punk-fueled fashion. Mixing elements of punk, rockabilly, reggae, new-wave, New Orlean R&B, roots rock and jazz, The Clash released one of the most musically diverse albums of all time having something for just about everyone. Whether it's the zydeco-esque Hateful, the reggae infused Rudie Can't Fail, the new-wave fueled Lost in the Supermarket or the aggressively punk title track, the record showed that the group could do it all, and at the end of the day, genres are arbitrary placeholders. With respect to The Clash, they really did not have any songs that were very long on the record apart from the five-and-a-half-minute track Revolution Rock allowing them to squeeze a ton of songs onto the double album, all of which are great which is generally tough to say for a record of 19 songs. The impact of The Clash is massive leaving them as one of the best bands of all time and influencing countless artists from alternative rock to punk.


We called The Queen is Dead the finest alternative album of all time along with the finest indie rock album of all time as a result of its long-lasting influence and legacy and its perfect musical craftsmanship. The Queen is Dead alongside The Smiths as a group can be largely credited with creating what we now call indie rock. Furthermore, The Smiths can be heard in just about every indie act post The Queen is Dead from Belle & Sebastian, to Elliot Smith, to Death Cab for Cutie, to Alex G. Alongside its influence, the musicality of the band on this record is top tier with the brilliant guitar playing of Johnny Marr at the forefront. It appears the Johnny Marr formula for a good indie rock song is craft a four-measure guitar riff, make its as catchy as possible and play it in a loop. As simple as that may seem, nobody has been able to quite do it as well as him, heard no better than on Bigmouth Strikes Again, Some Girls are Bigger Than Others or Frankly Mr. Shankly. Apart from the brilliance of Marr, bassist Andy Rourke often takes the role as rythym guitarist, while still filling his role as a bass player, playing harmonies beneath Marr, often ignoring the root note of the chord, and hanging around the 3rd or the fifth. His momentous bass playing pairs beautifully with Marr's guitar; Morissey's vocals above the group result in a level of chemistry hardly ever heard in the rock realm. Make no mistake, The Smiths, although they often can get miscategorized or dismissed, are one of the finest rock bands of all time, and this record is a genuine masterpiece.



6. Are You Experienced- Jimi Hendrix

Forever changing the way the guitar is played, Jimi Hendrix turned the world on its head with his debut studio album Are You Experienced. Greatly influenced by blues guitarists Muddy Waters, Elmore James and B.B. King, Hendrix took blues guitar playing to a new level incorporating distortion, gain and feedback. The debut holds some of the most decorated rock songs of all time such as Purple Haze and Hey Joe. Fire is also considered one of the best recorded drum performances of all time with Mitch Mitchell sitting at the throne. Hendrix loaded the album with standard three-minute pop song forms yet instead used them as a vehicle for his creative, heavy guitar work to change the world. Embracing experimentation, Hendrix used unusual chords and amplifier effects to use his guitar as a tool as much as he used it as a musical instrument. While doing so, Hendrix took influences from a plethora of musical styles and genres. The debut by Hendrix lives on as one of the finest debut albums of all time, changing the world of rock when it was at its most malleable. Jimi crafted wholesome and full-bodied albums when most of the music world was still focused on singles, with the albums being more of an afterthought.


7. Blonde on Blonde - Bob Dylan

Released in 1966, this double album stands as an iconic collection of tracks that redefined the very essence of rock. Its immense musical significance lies not only in its artistic brilliance, but also in its role as a game-changer for the genre. Dylan fearlessly fused folk, rock, and poetic lyricism, creating sprawling compositions like Visions of Johanna and Just Like a Woman that shattered the three-minute pop format and immersed listeners in a world of mystery and seriously deep thought. At a time when listeners were still weary of the electrification of Dylan's sound, the folk hero fearlessly pushed against the grain. With the backing of members of The Hawks, some of whom later became The Band, Bob Dylan's versatile talents and the band's instrumental might resulted in a fresh fusion of folk, rock, blues, and country, underscoring the album's rich sonic palette. The record remains a testament to the boundless possibilities of artistic experimentation, pushing the boundaries of studio production and leaving a serious mark on generations of musicians to come, many of whom fall outside the folk-rock category. Frequently being called one of the finest rock albums of all time, we at Melophobe have to concur.


8. What's Going On - Marvin Gaye

Emotional, soulful, sincere and powerful, the eleventh album by Marvin Gaye is a masterpiece of classical music, blues, R&B, soft rock and gospel tied together in a brilliant, soulful bow. Featuring complex classical arrangements with plenty of horns and strings, the record towed the line between classical music and soft rock. As much as Marvin Gaye is synonymous with soul, he is just as much a rocker, be it soft rock, given his inclusion on the list. Softer, more jazzy songs like Flyin' High (In the Friendly Sky) pair perfectly alongside the textbook emotional, soul tracks like What's Going On. As ambitious as the record was, it certainly did not miss the mark on any level subtly introducing what would later be called yacht rock with its graceful orchestral arrangements atop passion filled, soulful, authentic lyrics. Discussed as concept-album regarding the views of Vietnam War veteran returning home covering topics of suffering, injustice, poverty and drug abuse. Pristine as the musical elements are, it's the lyrics that truly make an impact. Marvin Gaye introduced a powerful, soulful new perspective on contemporary music for generation to come with What's Going On.


9. Nevermind - Nirvana

Although the distinctive sound of grunge music often separates it from the explosion of alternative rock in the 90's, Nevermind by Nirvana can be rightfully credited with introducing a generation to not only the quickly developing grunge scene, but exposing listeners to an expansive world of alternative rock. The second album by Nirvana essentially ended the "hair-rock" movement turning those listeners in a new, darker direction, completely vacant of glam and over the top theatrics. Nevermind encapsulated youth culture in a way arguably no album has done in the time since. Filled with crisp, yet distorted hooks most notably in songs like Come As You Are, Smells Like Teen Spirit and Lithium, the trio was able to create memorable songs for the ages. Frontman Kurt Cobian's ominous low-pitched voice became synonymous with the grunge movement as a whole alongside dark lyrics and somber musical themes. Nevermind was one of the most unique records in the history of rock and was an album for an entire generation.


10. Revolver - The Beatles

Building upon the advancing studio technology heard in their album Rubber Soul, Revolver marked the beginning of the bands psychedelic period introducing some of The Beatles most psychedelic tracks like Eleanor Rigby and Yellow Submarine. Through the use of compression, double tracking, looping and tonal equalization, the band truly began to change their sound marking the dramatic sonic difference between the first half of The Beatles discography, and the second half when The Beatles began to stop playing live. Similarly to Sgt. Pepper's, this record experimented with traditional Indian instruments such as tabla and tambura alongside other unusual instrumental selections like clavichord and tack piano. Revolver often finds itself quite decorated and rightfully so for the legacy of the individual songs, but primarily for its cultural and musical significance. A factor which made the later Beatles records so iconic was the desire to cross genres and produce the music which interested them, taking from chamber pop, acid rock, R&B while still acknowledging and utilizing their knack for textbook pop songs.

11. Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys

12. Paranoid - Black Sabbath

14. Led Zeppelin II - Led Zeppelin

15. Sticky Fingers - The Rolling Stones

17. The Velvet Underground & Nico - The Velvet Underground & Nico

18. In the Court of the Crimson King - King Crimson

19. Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan

20. Horses - Patti Smith

21. The Stranger - Billy Joel

22. The Joshua Tree - U2

23. Uknown Pleasures - Joy Division

25. Purple Rain - Prince

26. Hunky Dory - David Bowie

27. Graceland - Paul Simon

28. untiled (Led Zeppelin IV) - Led Zeppelin

29. Master of Puppets - Metallica

30. Slanted and Enchanted - Pavement

31. Tommy - The Who

32. Songs in the Key of Life - Stevie Wonder

33. Surfer Rosa - Pixies

34. Exile on Mainstreet - The Rolling Stones

35. This Year's Model - Elvis Costello & The Attractions

38. Electric Ladyland - Jimi Hendrix

39. Ten - Pearl Jam

40. Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd

41. Loaded - The Velvet Underground

42. Night at the Opera - Queen

43. Daydream Nation - Sonic Youth

44. Rubber Soul - The Beatles

45. Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen

46. Remain In Light - Talking Heads

47. The Number of the Beast - Iron Maiden

48. Superunknown - Soundgarden

49. The Doors - The Doors

50. Moondance - Van Morrison

51. Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon & Garfunkel

52. Automatic For the People - R.E.M

53. Hotel California - The Eagles

54. 1999 - Prince

55. Abbey Road - The Beatles

56. Who's Next - The Who

57. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols - Sex Pistols

58. Rumours - Fleetwood Mac

59. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - David Bowie

60. Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain - Pavement

61. Harvest - Neil Young

62. Brothers in Arms - Dire Straits

63. Live at Filmore East - The Allman Brothers Band

64. Aqualung - Jethro Tull

65. L.A. Woman - The Doors

66. Murmur - R.E.M

67. Metallica - Metallica

68. Aja - Steely Dan

69. (What's the Story) Morning Glory? - Oasis

70. Blood Sugar Sex Magik - Red Hot Chili Peppers

71. The Wall - Pink Floyd

72. The Beatles (The White Album) - The Beatles

73. Closer - Joy Division

74. Blue - Joni Mitchell

75. Green River - Creedence Clearwater Revival

76. The Bends - Radiohead

77. Synchronicity - The Police

78. Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath

79. Dookie - Green Day

81. Appetite For Destruction - Guns N' Roses

82. In Utero - Nirvana

83. Look Sharp! - Joe Jackson

84. Back In Black - AC/DC

85. The Band - The Band

86. Here's Little Richard - Little Richard

87. Abraxas - Santana

88. The Clash - The Clash

89. The Downward Spiral - Nine Inch Nails

91. The Smiths - The Smiths

92. Loveless - My Bloody Valentine

93. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Elton John

94. Rid of Me - PJ Harvey

95. Disraeli Gears - Cream

96. American Beauty - The Grateful Dead

97. Elephant - The White Stripes

98. Van Halen - Van Halen

99. Let it Bleed - The Rolling Stones

100. (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd) - Lynyrd Skynyrd


 

Just Outside the Top 100

101. Making Movies - Dire Straits

102. Excitable Boy - Warren Zevon

103. If You're Feeling Sinister - Belle & Sebastian

104. My Aim is True - Elvis Costello

105. Surrealistic Pillows - Jefferson Airplane

106. Moving Pictures - Rush

107. Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. - Bruce Springsteen

109. Every Picture Tells a Story - Rod Stewart

110. Boston - Boston

111. Superfly - Curtis Mayfield

112. Over-Nite Sensation - Frank Zappa

113. 1984 - Van Halen

114. Idlewild South - The Allman Brothers Band

115. John Prine - John Prine

116. Déjà Vu - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

117. Pinkerton - Weezer

119. Disintegration - The Cure

120. Physical Graffiti - Led Zeppelin

122. Music From the Big Pink - The Band

123. Funeral - Arcade Fire

124. Out of Time - R.E.M

125. Grace - Jeff Buckley





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