10 Classic Rock Albums That Every Music Lover Should Hear
By Rob Watts
And no, Led Zeppelin is nowhere on this list. Eric Clapton wasn’t even considered and AC/DCs Back in Black need not be discussed. If you hear the same songs by the same artists over and over on a daily basis via radio, television, streaming or wherever, a best of list with those artists aren’t going to convince you that you should like them any more than you already do.
This list is a collection of ten ALBUMS that I LOVE, and feel that you might enjoy as well if given a full listen. Of course, I’m talking about full albums in their entirety, not hit singles. Some, of course, you probably are more familiar with. But some, may be a mystery waiting to be discovered. Check them out and give them a shot. Buy them, download them, Spotify them, whatever you like. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts after. Enjoy.
1- Forever Changes (Love)
Signed by Electra Records at the insistence of Jim Morrison of The Doors, , but sadly, LOVE has pretty much flown under the mainstream radar since their formation in the mid 60s. But this Los Angeles garage band had a secret ingredient in the form of vocalist/songwriter Arthur Lee. Their first two albums LOVE and DeCapo were met with modest success, but it was their third album, Forever Changes, that would put them on the map. Rightly so, as Forever Changes features Arthur Lee at his absolute best. Stellar songwriting and orchestration, this album is a beautiful front-to-back listening experience. Standout tracks: andmoreagain, You Set The Scene, and Maybe the People Will Be The Times or Between Clark and Hilldale.
2-Spirit, Self-Titled (Spirit)
Sharing the same roots as the above mentioned LOVE, Spirit were a psychedelic pop rock band from Los Angeles, California. Their debut self-titled effort, released in January of 1968, features an abundance of experimentation but still maintains the catchiest of hooks. The instrumental TAURUS was so hauntingly catchy, in-fact, that it’s been alleged that Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page lifted a good portion of its notes for his own “Stairway to Heaven.” Listen for yourself and be the judge. Standout tracks: Fresh-Garbage, Taurus, and Topanga Windows
3-Flush The Fashion (Alice Cooper)
On his Twelfth studio album, released in 1980, Alice Cooper employed famed producer Roy Thomas Baker to oversee production of, what is arguably, one of Coopers finest offerings since Welcome To My Nightmare. Leaning more towards the new wave sound of the times, Cooper more or less threw aside his signature theatrical shock rocker anthems and went for the jugular with songs dealing with his own loss of identity and personal battles with ongoing alcoholism. It would be the last great album released by Cooper for some time, as he admittedly was in a self-induced drug and alcohol blackout during the recording of his next three albums Special Forces, Dada and Zipper Catches Skin. Standout Tracks: Clones (we’re all), Leather Boots and Aspirin Damage
4- Meddle (Pink Floyd)
Of course we all know and love Darkside of the Moon, The Wall and Wish You Were Here, but the Floyd’s sixth album Meddle often goes unnoticed. Mainly an experimental endeavor due to the band’s lack of material and ideas, the bands sixth album released in 1971 contains only six tracks, yet each one takes you on a journey as only Pink Floyd can do. Opening with the blistering One of these Days and closing with the 23 minute opus Echoes, other long-forgotten gems still exist while bookended between those two classics. David Gilmore, primary vocalist on this album, sings over the mellow psychedelic A Pillow of Winds, while sharing the microphone with a howling dog (owned by Humble Pie’s Steve Marriott) on the track Seamus. Standout Tracks: A Pillow in the Winds, Echoes and Seamus
5- Pacific Ocean Blue (Dennis Wilson)
As the first Beach Boy to release a solo album, Dennis Wilson proved himself to be more than just the good looking drummer in his family’s rock and roll band. As brother and Beach Boys musical mastermind Brian Wilson’s mental health had been deteriorating, younger brothers Carl and Dennis had taken a more hands-on call of duty with songwriting and production in order to keep The Beach Boys career afloat. In doing so, Dennis crafted his songwriting skills and by the time 1977 rolled around, had recorded an amazing batch of material he could call his own. With his more soulful vocal delivery and mature sounding lyrics, which shied away greatly from the surfing and drag racing themes, Pacific Ocean Blue received many great reviews and even outsold The Beach Boys’ contemporary releases during the time. Sadly, this would be Wilson’s only solo release, as he died as a result of a drowning accident in 1981. Standout Tracks: River Song, Moonshine and Pacific Ocean Blues.
6- Candy-O (The Cars)
Just prior to their MTV phase and string of hit songs such as Magic, You Might Think and Drive, The Cars released on of their finest albums in the form of Candy-O in 1979, produced by the great Roy Thomas Baker (mentioned above in Flush The Fashion,) the melodic new wave sounds of Let’s Go, Double Life and the title track are grounds enough for multiple plays, but the one-two punch comes in the form of It’s All I Can Do and Dangerous Type. It’s hard to pick a favorite from The Cars’ catalogue, but Candy-O is in my mind, their greatest achievement. Standout Tracks: Candy-O, It’s All I Can Do and Dangerous Type.
7- Agents of Fortune (Blue Oyster Cult)
The beauty of Blue Oyster Cult‘s fourth album, Agents of Fortune, is that they never repeat themselves once on this album. Yet, they still released an incredibly cohesive album. Each band member contributed to the songwriting and vocal duties, thus recording a patchwork of songs that seem to play well with one another. So, if you are expecting to hear Don’t Fear the Reaper ten different ways, forget it. But you’ll be thrilled to know that right from the opening track This Ain’t The Summer of Love to Debbie Denise, you’ll be blown away with rock anthem after anthem. Blue Oyster Cult did not show up to mess around with this album. Standout Tracks: True Confessions, Tattoo Vampire and Extra Terrestrial Intelligence
8- Holland (The Beach Boys)
For the Beach Boys‘ nineteenth studio album, the band retreated to Baambrugge in the Netherlands during the winter of 1972 to record Holland, which turned out to be one of the band’s best efforts since Pet Sounds. The change in recording location served as an attempt at fresh inspiration and perhaps a chance to bring Brian Wilson out of his long self-induced drug depression. Although the elder Wilson’s contributions were meager, the group delivered a mature sounding collection of tunes which oftentimes make you question as to whether it’s a Beach Boys album or not. Standout Tracks: Sail on Sailer, California and Leaving This Town.
9- Queen II (Queen)
On top of this being an incredible classic rock album, I basically selected it because it’s one of the few Queen albums that feature songs not overplayed (or just played in general) on an hourly basis on classic rock radio. Perhaps this one has fallen away from the consciousness of the casual Queen fan. Yet, everything about this album screams classic Queen and boasts everything we love about this band. From the vocal deliver of Freddy Mercury, Brian May’s signature guitar sound and Roy Thomas Baker’s (again???) solid production, this is an all-around win for the band. Standout Tracks: Father to Son, Ogre Battle and Some Day One Day.
10-Kiln House (Fleetwood Mac)
Long before the Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham era. Long before the band took on their classic laid back Southern California pop rock sound. Long before they were “cool”, Fleetwood Mac had various line-up changes and sound direction. On their fourth album, just after founding member and guitarist Peter Green made his exit from the band, the remaining original members Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan recorded 1970s Kiln House. Slightly abandoning the blues-influenced rock that dominated their first three albums, Kiln House is far more experimental. With Spencer and Kirwan sharing songwriting and vocal duties, both musicians offer drastically different music styles, with Kirwan performing melodic soft rock balladry and Spencer having free-reign to play his 1950s Rockabilly music, reminiscent of Buddy Holly. With absolutely zero traces of the all-too-familiar Fleetwood Mac sound, this album is very much worth discovering if it hasn’t been already. It’s a great lubricant to the other Fleetwood Mac releases around that time period, of you are so inclined to venture into them. Standout Tracks: This is the Rock, Buddy’s Song and Hi Ho Silver.