The Most Influential Rock Albums of All Time
For Those About To Rock We Salute You...
The Clash – London Calling
If there's one band that comes to mind when thinking of the early punk music, it's The Clash, more specifically their 1979 punk classic London Calling.
Punk would never have been the same without this record. The Clash's third studio album took the music world by storm. At a time when heavy music was evolving into abstract and even occult themes, The Clash's London Calling helped to spearhead a new form of music that had its roots in social and political commentary with a more simplistic take on the music to not distract from its message. London Calling gained critical acclaim and served to finally validate to the rest of the music world what the punk world had known all along.
Nevermind – Nirvana
Rock music history took a serious turn in 1991. That turn was Nirvana's album Nevermind.
Nirvana's sophomore effort helped spawn a brand new genre in rock music: grunge, which infused elements of metal and punk into a surreal soul-wrenching experience shared to us by Kurt Cobain, the singer and guitarist of Nirvana. The response to the album and the song was unlike anything that had ever been seen before. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" became an instant classic, so much so, that Kurt Cobain himself is said to have despised the popularity of the song and of the band. Nonetheless, Nevermind has since become a true staple in the halls of rock history.
Metallica – Master of Puppets
Metallica – Master of Puppets
Metallica is perhaps the single biggest metal band known around the world, and for good reason.
In 1984, Metallica's third album Master of Puppets was released and reshaped the metal world itself. With Master of Puppets, Metallica showed the world the metal could be heavy, brutal and melodic, all at once. Sine then, it has helped to propel metal as one of the biggest genres of music on the planet. The deep and dark tone of the album helped to inspire countless musicians who have themselves furthered rock and metal music.
Queen – A Night At The Opera
A Night At The Opera was released in 1975 by British rock heavyweights Queen as their fourth studio album. At the time of release, it was the most expensive record ever produced.
This album has one of the most popular songs of all time as its penultimate song, "Bohemian Rhapsody," along with others like "You're My Best Friend" and "Death On Two Legs." The vocal stylings and guitar riffage of Freddie Mercury and Brian May are the stuff rock legends are made of. A Night At The Opera did something incredible for rock music: it legitimized it as a form of high culture. Without Queen, it might not have happened as seamlessly as it did. Suddenly, it was okay to like rock music, because Queen blew the lid right off it.
The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd
The Dark Side of the Moon changed the face of listening to music in 1973. Suddenly, rock music became something that had space, depth and imagination.
During the infant years of rock and roll, anything was fair game. Pink Floyd was one of those bands who kept pushing that boundary. After the departure of Syd Barrett from the band, his replacement David Gilmour introduced much of the "psychedelic noodling" that the band would then become known for starting with Dark Side of the Moon. The psycho-progressive masterpiece is conceptually and texturally brilliant. As Loyd Grossman declared in his 1973 review, the album "not only invites, but demands involvement."
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced?
The debut album of the legendary rock band The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Released in 1967 to unprecedented critical acclaim, many music writers consider "Are You Experienced?" one of the best debut albums in rock history.
Not much needs to be said about Jimi Hendrix. The man was a guitar god who changed the way the guitar would be played, heard, and treated for decades to come. "Are You Experienced?" was the first record to showcase Jimi Hendrix as a guitarist and singer. With classics like "The Wind Cries Mary," "Hey Joe," and the eponymous song "Are You Experienced?" elements of jazz, blues, folk and experiments in sound design created this new psychedelic sound that continues to be so incredibly influential.
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
Of course, this list would not be complete without Black Sabbath. In 1970, their self-titled album blew heavy music wide open.
From the very first notes of the song "Black Sabbath", the foursome give a healthy "screw you" to western musical tradition by showcasing the "diminished 5th," long thought to be "the devil's note." For this reason Black Sabbath was both loved and hated. Giving the newly formed genre of music, soon to be called metal, a musical language to expand on as such had never existed before. But make no mistake, while Black Sabbath can be seen as the inventors of metal, they are largely a heavy psychedelic band.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band broke all the rules of the recording industry.
Sgt. Pepper's was the very first fully produced album in the modern sense. It wasn't just a really good recording of the band playing live: it was a fully realized, produced album for the first time in history. It was also the first time a band wrote and recorded an album portraying themselves as another band. An immediate critical and commercial success, it further solidified Beatlemania across the world in 1967. Sgt. Pepper's symbolizes a turning point in rock music, where suddenly darker, more self-conscious concepts could be explored.
Led Zeppelin IV – Led Zeppelin
The album with no name. Well, not literally, but do you see any letters on that cover? That was a first for any rock album.
There might be more classic hits packed into Zeppelin IV than any other album in history. It's...it's just perfect. "Black Dog", "Rock and Roll", "Stairway to Heaven", "Going To California" What else does a rock album need? If the album was just those four songs, it would be deserving of this spot, but thankfully we get the other songs as well.
There just aren't enough good things to say about Led Zeppelin IV. Just go listen. Listen. Listen. Listen. It has influenced countless musicians to pursue their passion. You'll never hear anything like it.