ShortList is supported by you, our amazing readers. When you click through the links on our site and make a purchase we may earn a commission. Learn more

The best rock albums of all time, ranked

The greatest rock records through the ages, revealed.

The best rock albums of all time, ranked
Marc Chacksfield
06 December 2023

Is rock music dead? It’s a question asked many times over the last 10 years. But just have a listen to some of the best rock albums and metal albums and you’ll conclude it is not.

Rock has simply moved out of the spotlight, meaning you need to dig a little deeper to find the good stuff.

However, today we’re looking back at rock through the decades, from recent years to the decades when rock was king. We’re talking about the iconic bands, the rock albums with a legacy much larger than any of the players on it.

Our earliest picks are in the mid-'60s. The most recent are just a few years old. From 1966’s Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys to 2019’s Dogrel by Fontaine’s D.C., these are the rock albums for the ages. We salute the tom-thudding drummers, the PA-rattling bassists, the wailing vocalists, as we sing along to the classic guitar solos.

Now it’s up to you to rifle through these albums, record store style, and upvote those you think really represent the best of rock through the years.

A few notes. Representing the history of rock in around 65 albums is actually not easy. We haven’t dug too much into the deeper veins of metal, although you will find albums on the borders of rock and metal from favourites like Metallica and Iron Maiden.

If you think there’s something this list sorely needs, an album that no history of rock is complete without, you can enter your suggestion at the bottom of this article.

Best rock albums of all time

Best rock albums of all time

1. Pink Floyd: The Dark Side Of The Moon

£7.86
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1973

After the initial Syd Barrett-inspired success of their debut album The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, it took a while for Pink Floyd Mk II to find their feet. There were moments of greatness throughout the subsequent six albums, but it all came to a head with The Dark Side Of The Moon. Everything about it was epic; the ambition, the scope, the dynamics. And, of course, it featured one of the greatest album covers of all time, designed by the legendary Storm Thorgerson. The public agreed: upon release, it stayed in the Billboard charts for an astonishing 741 weeks from 1973 to 1988. Profits from it even went on to help fund Monty Python & The Holy Grail and you can't argue with that.

Key Track: Us And Them

Image credit: Capitol Records

1627
635
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

2. Led Zeppelin: IV

£9.98
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1971

Arguably Led Zeppelin's finest moment, this was the record with the perfect blend of what made them one of the greatest bands of all time. Pure rock and roll thrills (literally, on track two), gentle folk and bulldozing hard rock. And, of course, in the case of Stairway To Heaven - all three in one song, complete with probably the greatest guitar solo of all time. Essentially, a faultless album.

Key track: Stairway To Heaven

Image credit: Atlantic Records

1544
569
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

3. The Beatles: Abbey Road

£6.99
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1969

The last music recorded by the band with Sir George Martin, Abbey Road was created in a far-from-ideal environment for the Fab Four. Tensions within the band were high and Lennon proposed splitting the A and B sides between him and McCartney. Nevertheless, things came together - literally - for both principle songwriters, while George Harrison contributed two of his best-ever songs in the shape of Something and Here Comes The Sun. It stands, against all the odds, as a brilliantly cohesive piece of work.

Key Track: Come Together

Image Credit: Apple Records

1362
617
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

4. Led Zeppelin: II

£15.76
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1969

It’s very hard to pick a second Led Zep album for this list, to stand alongside IV, but II just about gets our vote. The blueprint for so much of what was to come in rock, it saw Jimmy Page come of age in the studio and as a guitar player, and Robert Plant refine his, in turns, howlin’, then gentle, vocal style. And, of course, what opens the record? Probably the greatest guitar riff of all time in Whole Lotta Love. According to engineer Eddie Kramer, the mid-song breakdown, “where everything is going bananas, is a combination of Jimmy and myself just flying around on a small console twiddling every knob known to man.” Well, it came out pretty good Eddie.

Key Track: Whole Lotta Love

Image Credit: Atlantic Records

1240
545
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

5. Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here

£8.95
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1975

How could Pink Floyd follow up The Dark Side Of The Moon? Well, by recording an album that’s arguably superior. It extensively explored the theme of absence - inspired by original singer Syd Barrett’s plight - particularly on the stunning Shine On You Crazy Diamond, which bookended the record. A majestic record, dynamically and sonically rich, which explored different time signatures and sounds, but never forgot about the tunes and the lyrics. And of course, that 4-note riff in Shine On… which never fails to raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

Key track: Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)

Image Credit: Columbia Records

1267
596
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

6. The Beatles: Revolver

£10.50
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1966

How to pick the best of the Beatles' rock albums? It's difficult, but it's hard to argue that Revolver deserves the crown. A work of breathtaking quality - be it songwriting, performance, or sonically - and it opened up the boundaries of what was possible in popular music. Full of classics, of varying styles: if you've never listened to it, you should do so right now.

Key Track: Tomorrow Never Knows

Image Credit: Apple Records

1193
566
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

7. The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Are You Experienced

£4.50
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1967

One of the greatest debut albums of all time, Hendrix announced his arrival on the scene with this record, which showcased his songwriting ability, virtuoso guitar skills and his not inconsiderable vocal skills - about which Hendrix was famously shy. It refined what was possible in rock, showcasing new sounds, new ideas, and a host of phenomenal songs. It’s still irresistible today.

Key Track: Purple Haze (originally left off the British release, but restored later)

Image Credit: Reprise Records

1089
528
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

8. The Who: Who's Next

£2.95
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1971

In a quandary over how exactly to follow up the sprawling rock opera Tommy, guitarist Pete Townshend attempted to create another concept piece in the form of Lifehouse. However, when audiences - who were meant to be part of the performance - failed to respond, it drove Townshend to the edge of a nervous breakdown and almost caused a band split. Eventually, they enlisted engineer Glyn Johns and instead recorded a straight-ahead rock record. It was a wise move - all nine tracks were incredible, they’d never sounded sonically better or more interesting, and every member was on top form. An undisputed classic.

Key Track: Baba O’Riley

Image credit: Decca Records

1105
551
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

9. Fleetwood Mac: Rumours

Year: 1977

For many a band, their 11th album (if they make it that far) isn’t going to be a classic, more a tiresome re-rendition of songs of their past. Not for Fleetwood Mac, they create Rumours - both a highlight of the band’s career and one of the best records ever made. Now, this is smooth rock, the type that can send you to another place by massaging your senses - which is surprising as it’s written by a band at war with each other.

Key track: The Chain

Image Credit: Warner Records

787
266
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

10. Queen: A Night At The Opera

£5.00
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1975

Having released Sheer Heart Attack the year before - the album where it all came together for the early Queen era - they spread their wings still further on the follow-up A Night At The Opera. Full of incredible songs written by all four members and sung by three of them, laden with studio trickery and a whole range of styles, it is a masterpiece. And, of course, while its sheer ubiquity makes us take it for granted, Bohemian Rhapsody remains pretty much the greatest six minutes of music ever created.

Key Track: Bohemian Rhapsody

Image Credit: EMI

1136
628
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

11. The Doors: The Doors

£4.50
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1967

The album which introduced the world to the shamanic genius of Doors frontman Jim Morrison and which was probably the best record they made. Their psychedelic sound, rocking tracks and Morrison's poetic lyrics set them out from the crowd, and nobody could argue with songs as good as Break On Through (To The Other Side), Light My Fire and the epic album closer The End, which was later to be used to mesmerising effect in Apocalypse Now.

Key Track: Light My Fire

Image Credit: Elektra

1087
580
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

12. David Bowie: Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars

£5.99
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1972

So much has been written about this album in the past that it seems a fruitless task to try and add any more. But when this record was released, it must have seemed like a literal alien had descended from Mars. A bisexual alien rock superstar alter-ego, lyrical themes of politics, sex and drugs, progressive production; it redefined what a rock star could do. And yet, all of this would have meant nothing if the songs were no good, but Bowie had that covered too. Still a thrilling listen.

Key Track: Starman

Image Credit: RCA Victor

1058
554
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

13. AC/DC: Back In Black

£6.99
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1980

Just how could AC/DC follow up Highway To Hell and, in particular, how could they even carry on after the tragic death of singer Bon Scott? With the blessing of Scott’s family, they recruited Geordie frontman Brian Johnson and promptly made the best album of their career: a masterpiece in riffing, pure rock energy and tight songwriting and production. The ominous, slow and heavy Hells Bells set the tone for the record and, with barely any gaps between songs, it’s nothing less than 42 minutes of unrelenting battering-ram rock and roll.

Key track: Shoot To Thrill

Image Credit: Atlantic Records

1095
614
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

14. The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Ladyland

£27.22
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1968

A sprawling double album, this was to prove Hendrix’s masterpiece. Not only was the great man himself on the form of his life, but so were his compatriots Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell. A dense, psychedelic opus, it also contained taut singles, including his legendary cover of All Along The Watchtower, Crosstown Traffic and Voodoo Child (Slight Return). A genius in full flow.

Key track: Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

Image Credit: Reprise Records

976
500
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

15. Dire Straits: Brothers In Arms

£5.25
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1985

They might be dismissed in some quarters as dull and middle of the road, but those people are wrong: there's a reason Brothers In Arms sold more than 30 million copies and catapulted Dire Straits to stadiums everywhere - it's fantastic. Combining high end production, pop melodies, a touch of boogie as well as straight up rock, it boasted the enormous hits Walk Of Life, Money For Nothing and the epic, heartbreaking title track. Mark Knopfler proved throughout that while there might be quicker, and more fancy guitar players out there, he was one of the most effective, always choosing the right notes at the right time.

Key Track: Money For Nothing

Image Credit: Warner Bros Records

1033
570
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

16. The Eagles: Hotel California

£13.99
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1976

It's fair to say that this one didn't do too badly on the sales front - over 32 million and counting worldwide. It wasn't all plain sailing though - Black Sabbath were recording in the studio next door and the band often had to stop because of the noise coming through the walls. A classic record in every sense, with its title track one of the most famous tracks ever recorded, it was inspired by a dark concept: the decline of America into materialism and decadence. A heavy theme for a grand record.

Key Track: Hotel California

Image Credit: Asylum Records

1081
630
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

17. The Rolling Stones: Exile On Main Street

£17.99
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1972

A record not highly regarded by the band themselves - Mick Jagger said that “when I listen to Exile it has some of the worst mixes I’ve ever heard” - but it remains a classic; a sprawling double album which captured the Stones at their most rootsy, their most bluesy, their most rock & roll. It was Keith Richards’ finest moment and, although it didn’t yield any smash hits, is a fantastically cohesive body of work.

Key Track: Tumbling Dice

Image Credit: Rolling Stones

944
497
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

18. Creedence Clearwater Revival: Green River

£16.29
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1969

Described at the time by Rolling Stone as "the most vivid American rock since Music from Big Pink", Green River had a lot in common with The Band's classic record. Rootsy, bluesy, country rock was the order of the day while, lyrically, it featured classic storytelling, and old childhood memories from frontman John Fogerty. Stick this on the stereo to be transported to a world of 60s Americana and good old rockin' tunes.

Key Track: Bad Moon Rising

Image Credit: Fantasy

932
490
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

19. Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

£4.99
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1973

Prolific doesn’t really do justice to Elton John’s early output. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was his seventh album in four years and contained 17 songs, with John writing the music for virtually all of them in just three days (For his part, Bernie Taupin took just two and half weeks to write the lyrics). This was Elton at his rocking, rollocking best, with a host of classic singles, including Candle In The Wind, Bennie & The Jets, the title track and the ultimate hedonistic rock and roll track, Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting; it was to become his best-selling album, and rightly so.

Key Track: Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting

Image Credit: DJM

948
549
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

20. AC/DC: Highway to Hell

£7.60
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1979

If Back In Black heralded the start of a brave new era for AC/DC and a staggering debut for Brian Johnson, then Highway To Hell was the glorious final act of original singer Bon Scott. The first of their records to be produced by Mutt Lange, he refined and beefed up their sound to stunning effect as it became their breakthrough record. 10 tracks of no-nonsense rock and roll with riffs a-plenty, the most solid rhythm section in rock, and Scott’s vocals blasting over the top: a fitting goodbye.

Key Track: Highway To Hell

Imager Credit: Albert

922
545
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

21. Deep Purple: Machine Head

£5.99
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1972

If it didn’t have a single other song on it, Machine Head would merit its place in this list purely for the four bars of the riff in Smoke On The Water, which millions of aspiring guitars would go on to learn. Fortunately, the rest of the record is also brilliant, laying the roots for the later development of heavy metal, with stellar guitar, drum and organ work completed by Ian Gillan’s howlin’ vocals.

Key Track: Smoke On The Water

Image Credit: Purple

862
497
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

22. Boston: Boston

£4.70
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1976

The story of Boston's debut album is an incredible one. Upon getting a record deal, Boston main man Tom Scholz was unhappy at his label's suggestion that a producer be brought in to oversee the project. He hired a friend of a friend to act as an intermediary and stage an elaborate ruse to make Epic believe they were recording on the West Coast in a state-of-the-art location, while Scholz got to work in his tiny basement studio. He wrote or co-wrote every song, played virtually every instrument and engineered and produced the entire thing for a cost of just $2,000. It went on to sell 25 million copies and spawn huge, timeless, rock radio hits: all the product of a lone genius.

Key Track: More Than A Feeling

Image Credit: Epice Records

951
588
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

23. Black Sabbath: Paranoid

Year: 1970

If you had to stick a pin in the dawn of metal then it would pierce Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, a record that both signified that the 60s had well and truly ended and showed off the power of rock. It feels like a record that was about the end of the world - and for the kids from the Black Country that made it, the industrialisation surrounding them probably felt like that. Ozzy Osbourne’s voice is perfect, conjuring up a psychedelic darkness that the band is now famed for.

Key track: Paranoid

Image Credit: Warner Bros Records

573
212
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

24. Guns 'N' Roses: Appetite For Destruction

£8.50
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1987

Almost the perfect distillation of pure rock songs, debauched lyrics and general insanity, Appetite for Destruction has it all. From the guitar blasts at the start of Welcome To The Jungle all the way through to the groupie-assisted end of Rocket Queen, there is simply no let up, with Duff McKagan, Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler’s powerhouse rhythm section laying the groundwork for the majestic guitar playing of Slash and the raw vocal power of Axl Rose. They burnt briefly, but brightly, and this was their true peak.

Key track: Sweet Child o’ Mine

Image Credit: Geffen

995
642
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

25. Cream: Disraeli Gears

£5.99
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1967

Probably rock's most successful supergroup, as the supreme individual talents of Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton combined to stunning effect. Disraeli Gears was their masterpiece, combining their classic rock and blues roots with psychedelia - as the cover hinted at (very subtly). It took just three and a half days to record; the product of a band at the peak of their powers.

Key Track: Sunshine Of Your Love

Image Credit: Reaction

842
497
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

26. Nirvana: Nevermind

Year: 1991

Nevermind doesn’t sound like an album that’s now 30 years old. Butch Vig’s clinical production may have took the fuzz away from Nirvana but it also gave them a unique sound that still resonates today. Teen Spirit may have stolen the pop charts but there’s darkness throughout - from the scarily prophetic Come As You Are to Polly and its talk of the abduction of a little girl. This is rock with an edge that only Cobain could give.

Key track: Come As You Are

Image Credit: DGC Records

634
299
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

27. Bruce Springsteen: Born To Run

£19.40
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1975

The album that saw Springsteen break into the mainstream, Born To Run was a masterclass in production and songwriting, full of swaggering tunes and coming-of-age lyrics which resonated with listeners across the globe. It took 14 months to record, with 6 of those being spent just on the title track. It is safe to say it was worth it.

Key Track: Born To Run

Image Credit: Columbia Records

936
611
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

28. Van Halen: Van Halen

£5.99
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1978

Hit singles came later, but Van Halen's self-titled debut album was a thunderbolt from the blue for rock music. David Lee Roth swaggered and crooned, but it was Eddie Van Halen that was the star of the show, redefining rock guitar playing through his legendary Eruption - a song that was literally entirely a solo and which brought tapping into the mainstream.

Key Track: Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love

Image Credit: Warner Bros

870
557
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

29. The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds

Year: 1966

It tore Brian Wilson up, perfecting the album’s wall of sound, er, sound but the extreme effort created an exceptional record that is one of the greatest of all time. Melding pop, Jazz, electronic - Pet Sounds is a rare rock record that sounds like nothing before it and nothing has sounded the same since.

Key track: God Only Knows

Image Credit: Capitol Records

522
262
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

30. Pearl Jam: Ten

Year: 1991

While it could have been that Pearl Jam’s 10 disappeared with grunge, Eddie Veder’s timeless voice, the guitar arrangements and sheer beauty of the tracks mean that this is an album that has stuck around. And we love that it has: there’s still a real majesty to many of the songs, from the power-sodden Jeremy, heartbreaking Black to the epic Alive it’s just sublime.

Key track: Black

Image Credit: Epice Records

513
304
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

31. Aerosmith: Toys In The Attic

£4.70
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1975

Aerosmith had already released two well-received albums before their major commercial breakthrough, and it was Toys In The Attic that did it for the Boston boys. A heady mix of the Stones and Led Zep, with Joe Perry providing the riffs and solos and Steven Tyler the blues and sex on lead vocals, it was dirty no-good rock and roll at its absolute finest.

Key Track: Sweet Emotion

Image Credit: Columbia Records

749
540
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

32. Clash: London Calling

Year: 1979

From the anger seething from the iconic album sleeve image to its haunting call to arms of a title track, London Calling is The Clash at their rockiest, bristling with punk fervor and spittle, gnarling away at the world they find themselves in. It’s a sprawling political polemic that’s also a masterpiece.

Key track: London Calling

Image Credit: Epic Records

484
276
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

33. Rush: Moving Pictures

Year: 1981

While prog rock can leave a sour taste in the mouth for some, Canadian rock outfit Rush were different. With Moving Pictures they showed progression within prog rock, creating a sound that not only has fantastic rhythm but some of the best guitar riffs on any record - a year later, the guitar was ditched for synths which makes it even more special.

Key track: Tom Sawyer

Image Credit: PolyGram Records

494
296
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

34. Radiohead: OK Computer

Year: 1997

Radiohead had already ruled the world. First with a hit song on a so-so record (Creep). Second, with a guitar album brimming with melodies and beauty that skirted on the edge of britpop (The Bends). They didn’t want to be known as Britpop darlings, so they reconfigured themselves with guitar pedals and computers, distorting their sound into something unique and not of this earth. The result is one of the greatest albums of all time. One that opens with a car crash and ends with Thom Yorke wanting the world to ‘slow down’.

Key track: Paranoid Android

Image Credit: Parlophone

497
344
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

35. ZZ Top: Eliminator

£4.84
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1983

Named after the car that frontman Billy Gibbons built - and which features on the cover - Eliminator was Texas band ZZ Top's finest hour. The car was an appropriate metaphor, seeing as the record motors along, rocking throughout, with three enormous hits - Legs, Sharp Dressed Man and Gimme All Your Lovin'. A classic record from a band at the peak of their powers.

Key track: Gimme All Your Lovin'

Image Credit: Warner Bros Music

717
579
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

36. Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Rust Never Sleeps

£18.99
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1979

An album with an interesting genesis, it was mostly recorded live at San Francisco's Boarding House and during a tour, with half the record being acoustic, and half electric. Arguably Young's greatest album, his beautiful melodies and lyrical brilliance shine out through all the album's nine tracks.

Key Track: Powderfinger

Image Credit: Reprise

678
568
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

37. Rod Stewart: Every Picture Tells a Story

£5.99
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1971

With Rod Stewart now indulging in easy listening covers and the like, it's easy to forget that he always had an effortlessly powerful rock voice. Nowhere was it better showcased that on this record, his third solo album, which featured guest appearances from fellow members of The Faces throughout. A great rock vocalist at the top of his game.

Key Track: Maggie May

Image Credit: Mercury

659
593
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

38. The Band: Music From Big Pink

£6.89
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1968

A beguiling cocktail of country, rock, folk, classical and soul, Music From Big Pink was quite unlike anything that had been heard before. Striking out on their own after working as Bob Dylan's backing band, they nevertheless employed Dylan's help - he co-wrote five of the songs on this, but the rest - including the laidback style, was all their own. Hugely influential for fellow artists including Pink Floyd, George Harrison and Eric Clapton: a great record.

Key Track: The Weight

Image Credit: Capitol Records

623
561
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

39. Metallica: Master of Puppets

Year: 1986

Filled with heavy melodies and deep aggression, Master of Puppets is a timeless record that feels a world away from the mid 80s it was recorded. Each song is a statement, almost an album in its own right - they are sprawling, epic music-filled rooms. This is an album that redefined what metal is, what Metallica were and questioned what your life was really for. It’s proper cinematic, soul searching stuff.

Key track: Master of Puppets

Image Credit: Elektra Records

394
337
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

40. U2: Achtung Baby

£4.79
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1991

After achieving worldwide fame with The Joshua Tree and then capitalising with the good, but flawed continuation of Rattle & Hum, U2 were in need of a creative refresh. They promptly decamped to Berlin, embraced electronic and industrial sounds and took themselves a whole lot less seriously. It was probably their darkest, densest record; but, paradoxically, contained their most uplifting hit, the anthemic One. Inventive, interesting and full of great songs, it's probably their best album.

Key Track: The Fly

Image Credit: Island Records

724
693
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

41. Thin Lizzy: Jailbreak

£4.99
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1976

The band's breakthrough album, Jailbreak, came after various lineup changes and four albums which had failed to chart. This record, however, was where it all came together: duelling guitars, a hard rock swagger and the descriptive lyrics of frontman Phil Lynott. The title track was a classic and, of course, it featured the irresistible blast of youthful rebellion that is The Boys Are Back In Town. It broke them in America and set them on the road to rock stardom.

Key Track: The Boys Are Back In Town

Image credit: Mercury Records

612
589
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

42. Meat Loaf: Bat Out Of Hell

£5.03
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1977

An utterly unique piece of work, Bat Out Of Hell married the Wagnerian dreams of composer Jim Steinman with the truly larger-than-life quasi-operatic frontman that is Meat Loaf. It took years to record, it was rejected by many labels and executives, and even when it did find a home, almost everyone there hated it. Yet, slowly but surely, the record grew into a monstrous hit, selling more than 43 million copies, becoming a beloved rock classic. Thrilling, operatic and truly powerful.

Key track: Bat Out Of Hell

Image Credit: Epic Records

708
685
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

43. Ramones: Ramones

View at Amazon

Year: 1976

While they may be punk icons rather than rock ones, Ramones’ first album is most notable in the modern era for how well its songs stand up as pop tracks. Tracks don’t come much catchier than Blitzkrieg Bop or Beat on the Brat. It was apparently recorded in just a week, and barely made an impact on the charts at the time, but has gone on to have an outsized impact on rock and punk in the decades since.

Key Track: Blitzkrieg Bop

Image Credit: Rhino


39
36
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

44. Journey: Escape

£4.99
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1981

Journey had already undergone quite a musical, erm, journey, prior to this record, their eighth album - but here the elements combined to perfection. Timeless songs - including the epic opener Don't Stop Believin', which would become the ultimate slow burn hit and a track that even Glee couldn't ruin - Steve Perry's peerless vocals, lashings of rhythm section groove and virtuoso guitar playing; it's nothing less than a classic. It's sold over 12 million copies and almost certainly inspired many more air guitarists the world over.

Key Track: Don't Stop Believin'

Image Credit: Columbia Records

665
664
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

45. Smashing Pumpkins: Siamese Dream

View at Amazon

Year: 1993

While Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is Smashing Pumpkins’ magnum opus, Siamese Dream is a perfect capsule of alternative rock. Today, Cherub Rock and Disarm transport us right back to the mid-90s. The album was co-produced by Butch Vig, producer of Nevermind (and drummer of Garbage).

Key Track: Today

Image Credit: Virgi


35
36
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

46. Jeff Buckley: Grace

View at Amazon

Year: 1994

Jeff Buckley’s Grace meanders through a bunch of genres throughout its 11 tracks. But there’s a harder edge here than you might remember from his ultra-famous cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. So Real, Mojo Pin and Eternal Life rock pretty hard, even without a thick layer of guitar distortion to lean back on. This was Buckley’s one album release before his death in 1997, the later Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk made up of demos.

Key Track: Hallelujah

Image Credit: Sony Music

32
37
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

47. Heart: Heart

£6.49
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1985

The world of rock might be seriously skewed toward the masculine, but Heart showed it doesn’t have to be. Their self-titled eighth album, following a period in the commercial wilderness, was a bona fide classic, containing no fewer than five hit singles, including What About Love? and the brilliant These Dreams. We heart Heart.

Key Track: These Dreams

Image Credit: Capitol Records

608
615
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

48. Foo Fighters: The Colour And The Shape

£6.79
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1997

After the demise of Nirvana, Dave Grohl quickly recorded the first Foo Fighters album as a cathartic release; ostensibly just a demo with all instruments played by himself, it nonetheless performed well commercially. But The Colour And The Shape was where he really showed what he could do. With a proper band in place (yet himself still playing most of the drums - a wise choice), they recorded a classic record, packed full of great songs, both heavy (the peerless Everlong) and gentle (Walking After You). Turned out the drummer's songs were pretty good after all then.

Key Track: Everlong

Image Credit: Capitol Records

640
647
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

49. Def Leppard: Hysteria

£3.99
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1987

Yet another appearance on the list for legendary producer Robert “Mutt” Lange, with the rock masterpiece that is Hysteria. It was a triumph for a variety of reasons, not least the recovery of Rick Allen. The drummer lost his arm in a car accident prior to recording, but the band waited for him to come out of hospital and recorded the biggest album of their career, full of huge-sounding no-nonsense stadium rock anthems - indeed, they aimed to make every song a potential single. It was to be the last album to feature guitarist Steve Clark, but what a fitting legacy.

Key track: Pour Some Sugar On Me

Image Credit: Mercury Records

697
707
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

50. Motorhead: Ace of Spades

View at Amazon

Year: 1980

Ace of Spades is one of the great rock songs of all time. But the album? There’s more to it than just the most iconic Motorhead track. Love Me Like a Reptile and Shoot You in the Back marry with Ace of Spades to form a zero-fat start to a shot-of-adrenaline album. Over and out in under 40 minutes. (We Are) The Road Crew is another Motorhead classic you should not miss if skimming through these rock classics for inspiration.

Key Track: Ace of Spades


25
45
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

51. Idles: Joy as an Act of Resistance

£7.99
Buy now at Amazon

Year: 2017

Idles is one of just a handful of guitar-led bands that has carved out a sense of cultural relevance over the last decade and change. It’s in spite of, and because of, the anger that drips from many of their songs. Joy as an Act of Resistance was their second album after their seething debut Brutalism.

Key Track: Colossus

35
69
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

52. Queens of the Stone Age: …Like Clockwork

£9.60
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 2013

It’s a sign of what a great band Queens of the Stone Age is that one of their best albums was released 15 years after their debut. Like Clockwork has arguably the tightest of any QOTSA album to date, and retains the signature chunky and bracing production that worked so well in 2002’s Songs for the Deaf more than a decade earlier.

Key Track: I Sat By The Ocean

30
70
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

53. At the Drive-in: Relationship of Command

View at Amazon

Year: 2000

2000’s Relationship of Command was At the Drive-In’s last album before their first break-up. It launched them into the mainstream, an unlikely eventuality when few could quite nail down exactly what this band was. Post-hardcore? Alternative rock? Whatever you called it, the chaotic slam of tracks like One Armed Scissor, Pattern Against User and Mannequin Republic was undeniable. This album also features a cameo from Iggy Pop.

Key Track: One Armed Scissor

Image Credit: Transgressive Record

8
50
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

54. Jeff Beck: Truth

£5.53
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1968

More accurately, an album by the Jeff Beck Group, featuring as it did a host of legendary players, including Keith Moon, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart alongside the famous guitarist. Sonically, it was an eclectic bridge between blues and hard rock, featuring nods to Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Howlin' Wolf amongst others, and was to inspire countless future musicians (including Boston's Tom Schultz, who named it as his favourite album). An influential classic.

Key Track: Let Me Love You

Image Credit: Columbia Records

515
566
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

55. Iron Maiden: The Number Of The Beast

Year: 1982

The third album from Iron Maiden is an absolute cracker. It was the first of the bands to reach to the UK top 40 and it set a huge trend for metal and rock, with its operatic singing, long guitar parts and massive energy. The themes on the album were wide ranging. From condemned prisoners (Hallowed Be Thy Name), colonisation (Run to the Hills) and, well, the devil it’s got some heady stuff in it but the riffs are so constant all you want to do is wave your head around and mosh.

Key track: The Number Of The Beast

Image Credit: EMI

289
343
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

56. Fontaines D.C.: Dogrel

£7.97
Buy now at Amazon

Year: 2019

On release Fontaines D.C.’s debut album Dogrel seemed the sort of record you don’t hear too often anymore. They were a band with a sense of conviction and vigor — rock characteristics, without them seeming to exist only as a reference to the years when rock had more cultural cache. Fontaines D.C. is a Dublin band with a poetic bent.

Key Track: Big

13
68
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

57. Aerosmith: Rocks

£4.99
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1976

Released just a year after Toys In The Attic, there was no let up for Aerosmith on their fourth album, which did exactly what it said on the tin. It took the Toys.. blueprint and upped the ante, with its unrelenting rocking proving hugely influential for the likes of Slash and James Hetfield - who both said that Rocks made them want to learn guitar. For that alone, it deserves its place on this list.

Key Track: Back In The Saddle

Image Credit: Columbia Records

517
599
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

58. Green Day: American Idiot

£4.49
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 2004

After almost 20 years of success as a punk band with indie sensibilities, it was a fairly unexpected move when Green Day really let rip on American Idiot. A fully-fledged rock opera, frontman Billy Joe Armstrong said that they decided to, "just go balls-out on the guitar sound - plug in the Les Pauls and Marshalls and let it rip", whilst also, "for the first time, we fully accepted the fact that we're rock stars." It paid off, with the record becoming an enormous hit, critically-acclaimed and even spawning a Broadway show.

Key Track: American Idiot

Image Credit: Reprise Records

640
726
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

59. Bon Jovi: Slippery When Wet

£8.46
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1986

After two albums finding their feet, Bon Jovi decided to go for the jugular with their third album, enlisting the help of songwriter Desmond Child and producer Bruce Fairbairn. It was to prove a spectacular decision, with Slippery When Wet becoming an international smash, packed with stadium rock, sing-along staples such as You Give Love a Bad Name, Livin' On a Prayer and the epic power ballad Wanted Dead Or Alive. By the end of the subsequent tours after this came out, Jon Bon Jovi had indeed seen a million faces - and rocked them all.

Key Track: Livin' On A Prayer

Image Credit: Mercury Records

613
715
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

60. Queen: The Works

£6.99
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1984

A Night At The Opera was the high point of Queen in the 70s but, as the band revitalised themselves after the relatively disappointing Hot Space, they found their stadium-filling sound on 1984's The Works. The title was inspired by a quote from Roger Taylor as recording began - "Let's give them the works!" - and they certainly achieved that, combining their rock roots together with synth and electronic elements. Radio Ga Ga, Hammer To Fall, I Want To Break Free and It's a Hard Life were all part of this record - you simply can't argue with tunes as good as those. A year later they would perform on Live Aid and steal the show, with Radio Ga Ga unifying Wembley and the world.

Key Track: Radio Ga Ga

Image Credit: EMI

544
669
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

61. Bruce Springsteen: Darkness On The Edge Of Town

£6.69
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1978

The follow-up to the smash hit Born To Run, Springsteen adopted a different approach, recording songs ‘as live’ with a full band and shying away from his commercial sound. Despite not boasting any hit singles, as a body of work it was arguably superior, and became a slow burn success. The album was summed up by the cover image, with Springsteen commenting: “When I saw the picture I said, ‘That’s the guy in the songs.’ I wanted the part of me that’s still that guy to be on the cover. Frank [Stefanko, photographer] stripped away all [my] celebrity and left [me] with [my] essence. That’s what that record was about.”

Key Track: Adam Raised A Cain

Image Credit: Columbia Records

528
665
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

62. Alice Cooper: Billion Dollar Babies

£3.99
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1973

According to Cooper, "the whole idea behind the Billion Dollar Babies album was exploiting the idea that people do have sick perversions." Having achieved fame two years previously with Love It To Death, and followed that up with Killer and School's Out, the band really let rip on this record, writing lyrics that covered necrophilia, horror, sex and - because why not - the fear of dentists. Everything a rock record should be, it was provocative, strange and full of energy.

Key Track: Elected

Image Credit: Warner Bros Records

497
647
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

63. Queens Of The Stone Age: Songs For The Deaf

£4.49
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 2002

Queens of the Stone Age had already set down a marker with 2000's superb Rated R, but they seriously upped the ante with Songs For The Deaf, an epic, dust-dry hard rock record. Core members Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri were bolstered by the supreme talents of Mark Lanegan and Dave Grohl, who promptly reminded everyone why he had a reputation as the best rock drummer around. Heavy, unrelenting, but never forgetting the songwriting, this is a modern classic.

Key Track: No One Knows

Image Credit: Interscope Records

570
775
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

64. Whitesnake: Whitesnake

£6.48
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1987

A defining record of 1980s power rock, Whitesnake was a white-knuckle ride through an array of big production, huge tunes, David Coverdale’s powerhouse vocals and the virtuoso guitar skills of Adrian Vandenberg. Featuring two enormous hits in the shape of the rerecorded Here I Go Again (originally featured on their 1982 album Saints & Sinners) and the power ballad Is This Love, it was a huge crossover hit.

Key Track: Here I Go Again ‘87

Image Credit: EMI

443
810
Thanks for voting
Best rock albums of all time

65. The Small Faces: Ogden's Gone Nut Flake

£5.99
Buy now from Amazon

Year: 1968

A concept record with a title to match, this was the creative peak and last act of frontman Steve Marriott. A quintessentially British affair, it featured psychedelic elements in both music and lyrics, a story about a boy named Happiness Stan - narrated by Stanley Unwin - and a host of memorable tracks. Lazy Sunday was originally written as a joke about arguments with Marriott's neighbours and released against the band's wishes. You can't keep a good tune down though, and it duly raced to No.2.

Key Track: Lazy Sunday

Image Credit: Immediate

344
777
Thanks for voting

SOMETHING MISSING FROM OUR SHORTLIST?

Tell us about it, and if enough people agree we'll add it in.