Top 10 Best Classic Rock Albums of All Time

These are simply the albums that have defined rock and roll. No frills. Here we go.
The Top Ten
1 Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd

This really wasn't even a question. If we're talking about the best album ever, Dark Side wins it no matter what. It flows so well, it could honestly be just one song. Every song is good in its own way, and I can't just listen to one tune off of this album. I have to listen to the whole thing. It is also really deep and very thought-provoking. If you've never listened to this album, get some high-quality headphones, and just listen to the song in the dark. Nothing compares to it.

This album is unmatched in lyrical depth, musical excellence, imaginative instrumental innovation, and the timeless relevance of its narrative. I know that ranking albums is a matter of personal taste. But I suspect that Dark Side of the Moon will be studied 500 years from now, just as Shakespeare's finest masterpieces are researched today. It is peerless from that perspective, a clear #1 in my book.

This album tells a story and is definitely the most cohesive album of all time. It also has an answer for the major struggles people face in their lives, from work to stress, money, or war. Each song builds off the others and as a whole, it's amazing! My only knock on the record also comes from this: take the songs individually, and they aren't as strong as they are together.

2 Led Zeppelin IV - Led Zeppelin

I love Led Zeppelin so much, but no album comes close to Dark Side. Don't even try to convince me to put this above Dark Side. However, I love this album! Black Dog is a great hard rocker, and Rock and Roll goes back to rock music's roots. The Battle of Evermore is a great folk-rock song that is often overlooked because of the overplayed, overrated Stairway to Heaven. Misty Mountain Hop is really good, and then Four Sticks, which is okay. Going to California, the best song on the album, in my opinion, comes next, followed by the finale, When The Levee Breaks, an incredible blues song.

This is seriously the best album of all time. It has Stairway to Heaven. It's become very fashionable to knock Stairway, but the reason it's overplayed is that it's so good. Simply one of the epics of rock. It also contains classics like Black Dog and Rock and Roll, not to mention the other ones that are all so completely overlooked: Going to California, Misty Mountain Hop, When the Levee Breaks, etc. The drums are incredible, especially on When the Levee Breaks, Four Sticks, and Black Dog. The variety is amazing too, going from heavy rock (Black Dog, Four Sticks) to beautiful acoustic songs (Going to California, The Battle of Evermore).

John Bonham's powerful drumming, John Paul Jones's keyboards and thundering bass, Jimmy Page's incredible acoustic and electric guitar work, and Robert Plant's amazing vocals (Going to California, Black Dog, and Rock and Roll are the best examples of Robert's singing) all come together into the best 8 songs ever stuck together and packaged. It's sold 38 million copies to date. Funny, everyone told Jimmy Page it was professional suicide to release it untitled...

3 Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles

With this album, The Beatles proved that you can be famous by writing and recording whatever experimental music you want. If you do it with talent, you will succeed. The message of the album for other bands was, "Come on, guys, there's no need to write cheap 3-chord songs to become famous. Go on, do whatever you like!" I see that most people voted for Dark Side of The Moon, but in fact, without Sgt. Pepper, there wouldn't be Pink Floyd at all!

This is generally considered to be the most famous rock album of all time. The other albums can make the claim, but most people think this is the one. Standout track: A Day In The Life, which still sounds amazing after all this time.

While Rubber Soul and Revolver pointed to the path The Beatles were about to take, Sgt. Pepper's moved music past the "moon in June" stage to something much larger. Everything beyond this album owes something to it. It is singular in its importance to the music world.

4 The Wall - Pink Floyd

This is the first album that I ever purchased, and I am proud of it! While other albums on this list are amazing, they lack the showmanship and thought-provoking journey that The Wall takes the listener on. Add in the fact that the album made even more sense after the movie was made, and it becomes a crowning achievement of proactive beauty. An album "ahead of its time" can't even begin to describe the genius of this work of art.

I was looking through my dad's old record collection. Back then, I liked some really bad pop music. When I found this album, I was hesitant to play it. However, I put it on, and as soon as the needle touched the record and I heard the first crackle, I cried for as long as I could. Quite embarrassing, I know. Then, I put on side 3, followed by side 4, and I found myself in a pool of tears. To this day, I don't know why, but I listen to the record every night, right before I go to sleep. Sorry this was long, by the way.

5 Back in Black - AC/DC

Rock at its purest and most raucous, Back in Black is AC/DC's most cohesive album, as well as perhaps its most important. It showed the world that the band had a future despite the tragic death of its legendary original lead singer, Bon Scott. Brian Johnson's pipes filled the part nicely, doing Scott plenty of justice and serving as the voice of the band's most famous song, this album's title track.

10 songs of pure rock and roll. Malcolm Young's rhythm is heavy and unmatched. I don't think anyone ever hit the strings harder than him in his day. He may be the greatest riff guitarist of all time. Angus Young's leads are flawless and brilliant, leaving you wanting more and more. Johnson's vocals are that of a confident front man in his prime, which is stunning in itself as this was his first album with an already established band.

This was in the prime years of AC/DC, and every single track is instantly recognizable after the first few notes. The drums and bass offer a rock-steady backbone to the plethora of guitar brilliance. The tone both Angus and Malcolm have in the Back in Black track is enough alone to put them in the Rock Hall of Fame. Throw in the rest, and it's a world-class rock song. You Shook Me All Night Long is just a sexy song and displays amazing songwriting from front to back. Hells Bells is a bit darker than anything else on this album, but man, is it killer or what? It definitely adds some nice depth to a pretty straightforward classic rock album.

Shoot to Thrill, Given the Dog a Bone, Have a Drink on Me, and Shake a Leg are rock at its absolute best and some of the greatest songs in their entire catalog. Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution sums up AC/DC, letting the entire world know they're in it to rock the world every single time they record or play live. Ain't Noise Pollution is what AC/DC is all about. Let Me Put My Love Into You is prime AC/DC sex and rock n roll hits. And What Do You Do for Money Honey isn't bad either.

One of the finest albums ever put together. Its sales are the stuff of legend, and I can't think of songs from any other album from anyone that's constantly played everywhere more than Back in Black. Pro sporting events? Yes. Movies? Yes. TV Commercials? Yes. When 9 out of 10 people think of a rock album, it's this one.

6 Moving Pictures - Rush

Rush is my favorite band.

I first bought this album on vinyl, but later it was the second CD I ever bought (the first being U2's Joshua Tree). I had to hear YYZ on the latest technology of the day.

It's rare when you can listen to an entire album where every song is fantastic and half of them are masterpieces. This is one of them.

I can't believe this album is so high, but I couldn't be more pleased! This album and band are amazing. Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta, YYZ, Limelight, and Vital Signs are amazing. The Camera Eye and Witch Hunt are great too.

Inventive and groundbreaking, this album redefined rock and created a genre of its own, stepping away from 70s prog and reaching the perfect mix between great songwriting and intricate and fabulous playing.

7 Who's Next - The Who

Baba O'Riley, Behind Blue Eyes, Won't Get Fooled Again, need I say more? This album represents one of the greatest rock groups at their best. It contains some of the greatest rock tunes and some of the greatest rock ballads as well. This album has every band member performing at their best and most rocking. It deserves top 3 for sure.

Roger Daltrey's scream marks the pinnacle of classic rock. Nothing before that moment had so well captured the essence of rock and roll, and nothing after it matched the primal nuance of rock's earlier days. Surrounding this singular moment is rock and roll at its very finest.

Roger Daltrey's scream at the end of the instrumental section in Won't Get Fooled Again is the moment rock music came of age (said someone). Everything since has been an anticlimax.

8 Paranoid - Black Sabbath

This album actually contained the blueprint of heavy metal. Beginning with wailing air-raid sirens, Ozzy's demented howling, and the sweeping power chords of Iommi, along with the crushingly heavy team of Geezer Butler and Bill Ward, the band made this album worthy of the apocalypse. I am still stupefied by this Sabbath sound ever since I listened to this album 20 years ago. Although I feel it should not be classified here, as it is a genre-defining album, giving birth to the genre of heavy metal.

Why is this not in the top 3? Black Sabbath is the greatest metal band of all time, and this album is better than The Who's, Rush's, and AC/DC's! Also better than The Wall and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band...

Most unique sound out of all the above artists. This band has influenced all the heavier bands I listen to today. This should definitely be at the top of this list.

9 A Night at the Opera - Queen

This album showed the world that nearly anything can be rock if you just do it right. Freddie was the greatest frontman of all time, and what he, Brian, and the rest of them did on this album completely changed not just rock, but everything that played on the radio because it showed that the world would listen to great music regardless of genre.

Not to mention commercial success, but musically, the album is considered one of the few historical records in Queen's history. It features a variety of genres like The Beatles' White Album, and the quality of each song is very high. In particular, Bohemian Rhapsody, the highlight of the album, is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of all time.

I can't believe this one is so low! It's a Top 5 contender for sure! An eclectic album perfectly illustrating Queen's eclectic and diverse style. Something for everyone, and this is pure raw talent at its best. Also, it goes without saying that the timeless 'Bohemian Rhapsody' is on this album too.

10 Led Zeppelin II - Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin II is probably my favorite album out there. Individually, each track is strong, but not the best per se. Led Zeppelin II is not an album made to showcase any track in particular, and this becomes apparent when you listen to the whole album through. "Heartbreaker" is great, "Living Loving Maid" is great, but the way they sound back to back on a record just can't be beat. Led Zeppelin IV is great as well, but there are a few weaker tracks, thus putting II higher in my ranks.

This was a very tough choice, but overall, I think this is the best Led Zeppelin album, just barely beating Led Zeppelin IV. This album contains some of the best writing the band ever put forth, including maybe the best all-around guitar work in rock history.

By far, my favorite album of all time. I think this album is much better than IV, even though I love every Led Zeppelin album to death. So many great songs though. It definitely deserves a top 10 spot.

The Contenders
11 Are You Experienced - The Jimi Hendrix Experience

The quintessential Hendrix album, a true trip in its own right. Anyone who listens to it comes away enlightened. Anyone who hasn't listened to this on acid is missing one of life's key musical experiences.

So many good songs on this album, from Purple Haze, Hey Joe, Foxy Lady, Manic Depression, Fire, to The Wind Cries Mary. The best of all time, no doubt. Never has an album had such a great list of songs!

An absolute classic that has stood the test of time. Perhaps "standing the test of time" should be a category. In my opinion, this album should be in the top 2.

12 Abbey Road - The Beatles

In my humble opinion, this album is a masterpiece. No contemporary musical opus is perfect, and sadly, that's a fact. However, what makes a good album might be a single unforgettable track supported by a load of nearly but not quite tracks. What makes a great album is perhaps two or three awesome tracks. But with the exception of two pointless fillers, namely Octopus's Garden & Maxwell's Silver Hammer, this album is faultless musically, lyrically, and production-wise.

A veritable tsunami of sound and harmony is there, timelessly set in stone, to engulf all fortunate past and future audiences' emotions. It will forever be a mystery to me how four undereducated working-class youths ever managed to conceive and deliver such a level of musical genius.

The Beatles are the band that every other band looks to as the archetype. They were the original classic rock band that all the other classic rock bands bow to. Bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the Doors, the Eagles, and the Rolling Stones all looked to the Beatles as their idols.

To address a topic raised by another comment - yes, back in the day, they called them "pop," but they also referred to the Rolling Stones, the Who, and Led Zeppelin as pop. Back then, the word "pop" literally meant "popular," and everyone from Frank Sinatra to Janis Joplin to James Brown was considered "pop." Saying that the Beatles sounded more "pop" than Led Zeppelin makes no sense in the context of that time period.

The Beatles don't need to sound like Zeppelin because they pioneered the musical sounds that Led Zeppelin later employed. The definition of "Classic Rock" is album-oriented rock & roll music. Previously, rock & roll centered on singles, but then in the mid-1960s, the emphasis started to shift to albums.

Which album was the first to pioneer this shift? Most would probably focus on the Beach Boys' album "Pet Sounds," but some might put it a little earlier with the Beatles' album "Rubber Soul." However, it was the Beatles' album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" that really completed the shift from single to album emphasis, as it was an artistic statement in a music genre that was never regarded as "art" before.

By the way, I strongly suggest to all classic rock fans to take the time to study the history of rock & roll in general. Remember that music never happens in a vacuum. It is shaped by the context of its time and the music that came before it.

13 Machine Head - Deep Purple

This is the first album that really made me a rock aficionado. After listening to this album, I had to explore music that was like this. The music scene in the '60s and '70s was constantly exploding with albums that were masterpieces, and this is one of them.

Easily Deep Purple's best album, Machine Head features a wide variety of sounds, from the explosive Highway Star, to the surprisingly groovy Lazy, to the classic riff to rule all other riffs, Smoke on the Water.

Machine Head is a milestone in the history and development of rock music, and an album that has influenced countless groups and musicians for 42 years. There is no competitive album. All the albums that are better for a position are just below Machine Head.

14 Hotel California - The Eagles

While the whole album is great, it must be said that the title track is one of the most incredible chapters in the history of rock, both lyrically and instrumentally.

One of my favorite albums ever, with many great rock songs. Joe Walsh and Don Felder on dual guitars - what more could you ask for?

I love every single song on that album. It is amazing and really shows how the band changed when Joe Walsh joined.

15 2112 - Rush

Why is Moving Pictures ranked before 2112? That's like saying Justin Bieber could sing for Nirvana! Or even saying he could sing in the first place!

Played so often on my turntable that it sounds like it has no highs left. Still amazing to listen to.

Rush at their best.

16 Boston - Boston

The best album I've ever heard. They were so far ahead of their time. Delp's vocals were incredible along with Scholz's sense of timing and melody. When kids today hear it for the first time, they are blown away, which is not an easy feat!

Always number one in my opinion. Everyone's tastes are different, but all things considered, Delp's vocals, Scholz's genius, the songwriting, the music... man, just nothing else better. Plus, it's timeless. Sounds just as modern today as it did almost 50 years ago.

For me, Boston is all about this album, and the follow-up Don't Look Back. Like someone on this thread mentioned, not a dud to be found. While the later albums are not bad at all, I felt that Tom Scholz chose to recycle a lot of riffs and melodic phrasings. Too many later songs of Boston sounded similar.

Anyway, I love this album and can never get bored of it.

17 Rumours - Fleetwood Mac

The only thing prettier than Stevie Nicks is her voice. All the bands in the 70s were so different, yet the era was the same. In a sentence: a bunch of young people with a 12-pack of beer, a big old four-finger bag of Colombian, and a mountain top sunset, listening to Fleetwood Mac. Man, how I miss the 1977 to 1981 era!

When they were at their worst, they did their best... Among my top three albums!

For sure, one of the best! Every single song is awesome!

18 Appetite for Destruction - Guns N' Roses

Guns N' Roses released this album in 1987 and brought back sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll to the music scene. It definitely deserves a spot in the top 5 or even top 3 albums of all time, in my opinion. I may be a young kid, but I know my music facts, and right from the start, I've loved this album. I recently bought the CD and every song on it is simply spectacular, including Sweet Child O' Mine, Welcome To The Jungle, Paradise City, It's So Easy, Out Ta Get Me, and more. But, to conclude it all, this album has had a greater influence than any other album and is simply perfect.

How on earth did The Beatles have not one, but two albums ahead of this? I am a huge classic rock fan, and this album is at least top ten, deserves top five, and should probably be top three. And no hate towards Rush. Moving Pictures is amazing, but no way both Moving Pictures and 2112 are ahead of this.

The Beatles above this? Not a chance. Even my 13-year-old daughter agrees with this. When it comes to rock, no one exemplifies the total package more than early Guns N' Roses. Period. This is the greatest album ever made.

19 Revolver - The Beatles

While Abbey Road is better musically, and Sgt. Pepper is more influential, Revolver exemplifies everything that was so amazing about the Beatles. At the time, the Beatles were still on good terms, and Lennon and McCartney were still writing songs together. This combination resulted in one of the greatest albums of all time (ask Rolling Stone, they have it ranked as the number 3 greatest album of all time).

Revolver includes musical innovations like Eleanor Rigby and Tomorrow Never Knows, and brilliant songwriting like Here, There and Everywhere and I'm Only Sleeping. While it's not the most recognized or the most influential, it is among the Beatles' best albums and should be high in the top ten.

Why isn't this in the top ten? It should be #1, not #95! What the hell! I was going to vote for Joshua Tree, thinking this album would already be up there, and that Tree would need the vote. But I see The Beatles' best album and the greatest of all time at 95. Shame. I don't like this list, mostly because of this album's poor placement.

20 Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd

This album should be higher up. From the epic Shine On You Crazy Diamond to songs like Wish You Were Here and Have a Cigar, this album is awesome in every way.

It should be number 2. Exceptional music. Outstanding in every aspect. It definitely has to be ranked much higher.

The most touching and personal Pink Floyd album. Maybe not the best, but definitely my favorite.

21 Highway To Hell - AC/DC

This album is better than Back In Black and every other album on this list, other than the Queen ones.

This is AC/DC at their finest. BIB is a close second, however, HTH just rocks more.

22 In Rock - Deep Purple

This is a far better album than Machine Head. It's more intense, and the songs are more daring. Not surprising, considering it's the lineup's first album together and they were still unknown, so they were more free to stamp the songs with whatever direction they wanted. Child In Time on its own would be worth the album price, but the whole thing is full to bursting with loud, intense raw power.

By the time Purple came to do Machine Head, they were more cautious and had more pressure on them after the lackluster Fireball. Deep Purple In Rock showed what a band could do without any shackles.

I had been playing drums as a young guy (started pre-teens, about 10 years old). I turned 13 in May of the year this came out - 1970, and joined my first really good local rock band that winter as well. No other album (and all the above are amazing, and greatly influenced me as well), but no other album, music, drummer, influenced my hard rock playing ability more than Deep Purple, Ian Paice, and this album. I had heard "Hush" years earlier, great stuff, but this album and line-up just blew me away for years to come! Long Live "DP".

23 Nevermind - Nirvana

Since the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, nobody has had such an enormous impact on music. This album didn't just kill hair metal, it made alternative metal popular, which has been 98% of rock for the last 25 years... Rock will never be the same after this.

The album that finally put an end to hair metal and was the prototype for a decade of music to follow. No Smashing Pumpkins on this list, which is tragic, as they were contemporaries of Nirvana.

This obviously shouldn't be number one, but it's just an amazing album. This album is almost the soundtrack of my life. But I have one question, how the hell is Kurt Cobain a genius? He killed himself... Dave Grohl is the real genius.

24 Made In Japan - Deep Purple

Yes, one of the best live albums. The drum solo on The Mule is like a roller coaster ride, and what a ride it is! Great drum solo. Highway Star is a great opener that really rocks. We can't forget another great album: Humble Pie - Performance Rockin' the Fillmore.

This and Live At Leeds by The Who are two of the greatest live recordings ever!

"The Mule"... Now, tell me Ian Paice has only one bass drum here! Yup, that's right!

25 Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap - AC/DC
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