Putting together a list of the 10 best classic rock albums presents an array of problems. With so much fantastic music to choose from, a set of criteria defining the genre must come into play. For the sake of posterity, the following list offers an array of mid-twentieth century rock albums that impacted young impressionable minds while setting new standards for the rock music industry.
- “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John (1973): For many fans, John's seventh album remains the high point of his career. Tight cohesion creates a nice flow from track to track, while assorted themes like teen angst, drama and surrealism deliver a variety of messages. Highlights include "All the Girl's Love Alice," "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road."
- “Dark Side of The Moon” by Pink Floyd (1973): Floyd's sixth album entranced millions with brilliant lyrics backed by Gilmour's haunting guitar. Themes of madness ("Brain Damage"), consumerism ("Money") and unstoppable aging ("Time") resonated with listeners of all ages. In terms of arrangement, the songs flow without separation, effectively showcasing each band member's strengths.
- “Led Zeppelin IV" by Led Zeppelin (1971): Officially untitled, Zeppelin's fourth album is also known as “ZOSO” and “Runes Album.” Considered by rock devotees as the greatest album ever made, this record occupies a lofty position (third) on America's "All-Time Sales" list. From the sexually-charged "Black Dog" to the inspirational "Stairway to Heaven," no emotional stone is left unturned by the group.
- “Sticky Fingers” by The Rolling Stones (1971): "Sticky Fingers" delivers an overdose of swaggering bad-boy arrogance in a surprisingly palatable package. Tracks like "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" and "Brown Sugar" offer a satisfying rock-n-roll fix while "Wild Horses" and "Moonlight Mile" ease listeners into a dream-like state. "Sister Morphine" hearkens back to the 70s drug culture and solidifies both the retro-feel and the timelessness of this record.
- "The Doors" by The Doors (1967): While the world's youth teetered on the keen edge of revolution, this debut album steadily climbed the charts. Dark, lyrical themes punctuated by Morrison's renowned love of excess set the tone of rock music for several generations. Here, listeners could safely taste the wilder side of life with "Backdoor Man" and "The End."
- “Who’s Next” by The Who (1971): From its lingering elements of rock-opera to Daltry's incendiary vocals, "Who's Next" left an impression on the rock music genre. "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Baba O'Reilly" achieved rock anthem status over the years while the earnest "Behind Blue Eyes" cemented Daltry's place among the world's greatest vocalists.
- “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” by David Bowie (1972): Apparently, the world was ready for a record about an alien saving the Earth. As an extra bonus, Stardust was also a hard-rocking performer who was received with open arms in spite of (or perhaps because of) his human faults such as rampant wantonness and serious drug use. Notable tracks include "Suffragette City," "Ziggy Stardust" and “Hang on to Yourself."
- “Aqualung” by Jethro Tull (1971): "Aqualung" features six character studies on side one, including a pedophile, Aqualung, and a school-age prostitute, Cross-eyed Mary. Side two contains messages of an anti-religion/pro-God nature that found favor with people opposing the [then] current socio-economic times. No matter the subject, each track offers complex musical structures, flawless instrumentation and timeless lyrics.
- “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by The Beatles (1967): This album's themes linger on the psychedelic, drug-laced subculture of the times but the music comes infused with an element of sheer rock-n-roll. Along with unforgettable tracks like "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "Lovely Rita," the album became popular for its revolutionary cover art as well.
- "Blonde on Blonde" by Bob Dylan (1966): Layered with fresh and bluesy guitar licks amid surreal lyricism, "Blonde on Blonde" has remained culturally significant over the decades. This was the first Dylan album that showcased his evolution as an artist and is the first double rock album ever recorded. It's included in nearly all lists of top classic rock recordings.
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