Top 10 classic rock albums of all time

Justin Rodstrom

It’s not often I get to indulge in my favorite era of music. I like to keep the focus on the here and now, but when asked to make a list of classic albums, I couldn’t resist.

There’s no tallying of votes, no exit polls or data to calculate. This is as subjective a list as you’ll get; it’s all me. So without further adieu, here’s your guide to the top 10 classic rock albums of all time:

“Highway 61 Revisited”

Bob Dylan

As Bob Dylan is often hailed as the greatest songwriter in the modern sense of the word, it is only fitting that he begin the top 10 list of classic albums. (And he’ll reappear later.)

“Highway 61 Revisited” is an album of drastic change for the artist whose fans expect moody acoustic guitar, tinny harmonica and challenging lyrics as the acceptable shape for folk music to take.

As the biopic “I’m Not There” let’s us know, Dylan was not one for convention, nor was he one for fitting into any mold neatly.

Although there were certainly repercussions for Dylan’s stylistic change, the music here is just as challenging, incisive and direct as ever.

The problems are just as tangible as ever with political implication and personal struggle, spoken through the walking-on-egg-shells lifestyle of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” or the utterly absurdist painting that is “Desolation Row.”

“Axis: Bold As Love”

Jimi Hendrix

Oh, how the colors splatter all over the sonic room of one’s mind with “Axis: Bold As Love,” Jimi Hendrix’s most enigmatic, diverse cross section of songcraft.

This is the second of three full-length studio albums from one of the most biographed, short-lived artists from the cultural revolution that was the America in the ’60s.

With the idea of revolution in mind, Hendrix was looking to speak in new tongues in the language of sound.

Hendrix conceptualized sound as something malleable to be bent to one’s will through the use of studio effects, pedals, feedback and the latest in recording techniques.

“Black Sabbath”

Black Sabbath

An avalanche of questions come to mind with Black Sabbath’s first album, released in 1969. Where did this music come from?

What kind of powers (or hallucinogens) did these musicians tap into to unlock the sort of fury evident here? What kind of black magic is going on?

It’s not as if you can even look to the influences of the band members to unlock the code either; Ozzy Osbourne’s favorite band is the lighthearted, pop-sensible, carefree Beatles.

This album is what separates Black Sabbath from the pack with daring, unconventional song structures and pointed, challenging lyrics.

“Who’s Next”

The Who

This is the Mecca of The Who – the Alpha and the Omega.

Every bone-crushing, stadium-rocking melding of guitar, bass, drums, vocals and synthesizer are present on this sprawling collection.

The Who’s finest moments come on “Who’s Next,” including “Bargain,” “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Baba O’Reilly.”

Daltry’s voice is soaring, Townshend’s guitar is seering and Moon and Entwistle lock in for a foundational thumping all the way through to the final, punk-esque defiant stand that is “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

“Blood On The Tracks”

Bob Dylan

As any good Dylan album does, 1975’s “Blood On The Tracks” plays through flawlessly.

The album is saturated with an ironic pain and self-reflection that inflicts itself upon the listener, challenging listeners to laugh, to cry but, most of all, to think for themselves.

“Blood On The Tracks” shows Dylan as a man vulnerable to the ever-changing winds, a man in need of love and shelter from the storm.

“Eat A Peach”

Allman Brothers

Named as a dark reference to the death-by-watermelon-truck of former Allman brother Duane Allman, “Eat A Peach” serves to show both the studio work and improvisational live talents of one of America’s boldest rock treasures.

The album features standout hits like “Melissa,” “Blue Sky” and a live version of “One Way Out,” as well as the larger-than-life half-hour jam session simply titled Mountain Jam.


Led Zeppelin

Probably the most emblematic statement of any classic band, Led Zeppelin peels off riff after riff, showing that it is, indeed, more than the sum of its parts.

It almost seems as if there was some sort of magic at work during the making of “IV,” with the cryptic four symbols bestowed upon each band member derived from this album.

Tones of folklore mix in with raunchy blues and Jimmy Page’s patented “guitar army” that could raise the dead (or the hair on the back of your neck).

The mother of all things rock – “Stairway to Heaven” – is housed in this collection, along with some lesser known but equally weighty conjurings like “Battle of Evermore” and “When The Levee Breaks.”

“Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs”

Derek and the Dominoes

Top to bottom, this has to be one of the most underrated albums ever recorded.

Not only did Eric Clapton and Duane Allman’s blues connection deliver painstaking riffs, gut-wrenching howls and beautiful songs, but they did it with the type of artistic vision rarely seen in such a jam session-like dynamic.

The songs are loose, playful and well-executed. They tell the true story of a forbidden love between a man and his best friend’s wife – the story of the strange affair between Eric Clapton and George Harrison’s wife, Patti Boyd.

This was the bittersweet pinnacle of Clapton’s career.

“Abbey Road”

The Beatles

Not only was “Abbey Road” the last-recorded album for the gents from Liverpool, it also contains their most ambitious, forward-thinking and creative moments together.

The level of songcraft present on the second half of the album – with a smattering of ditties, jingles and songs composed of “Mean Mr. Mustard,” “Polythene Pam,” “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window,” “Carry That Weight” – all show just why The Beatles changed everything every time they put pen to paper.

“Darkside of The Moon”

Pink Floyd

The first time I heard “Darkside of The Moon” played together with “The Wizard of Oz,” I was an impressionable 14 year old at a buddy’s clubhouse full of psychedelic posters. The best way to describe it is to say that the music danced before my eyes, mesmerizing me into an eerie state of hypnosis.