The Best Rock Albums by Year 1964-2007

  • 2007: Year Zero (Nine Inch Nails)
  • 2006: 10,000 Days (Tool); Black Holes & Revelations (Muse)
  • 2005: X&Y (Coldplay); Catch Without Arms (Dredg)
  • 2004: American Idiot (Green Day)
  • 2003: Absolution (Muse); Train of Thought (Dream Theater)
  • 2002: El Cielo (Dredg); Audioslave (Audioslave)
  • 2001: Lateralus (Tool); Leitmotif (Dredg)
  • 2000: Mer de Noms (A Perfect Circle); The Sickness (Disturbed)
  • 1999: The Fragile (Nine Inch Nails); Scenes From a Memory (Dream Theater)
  • 1998: f#a# (infinity symbol) (Godspeed! You Black Emperor); Americana (The Offspring)
  • 1997: OK, Computer (Radiohead); Falling Into Infinity (Dream Theater)
  • 1996: Everything Must Go (Manic Street Preachers); Aenima (Tool)
  • 1995: The Bends (Radiohead); Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (The Smashing Pumpkins)
  • 1994: Weezer (Weezer); Sixteen Stone (Bush)
  • 1993: Siamese Dream (Smashing Pumpkins); Undertow (Tool)
  • 1992: Rage Against the Machine (Rage Against the Machine); Automatic For the People (R.E.M.)
  • 1991: Nevermind (Nirvana); Metallica (Metallica)
  • 1990: Shake Your Money Maker (Black Crowes)
  • 1989: Pretty Hate Machine (Nine Inch Nails)
  • 1988: Songs About Fucking (Big Black); ...And Justice For All (Metallica)
  • 1987: The Joshua Tree (U2); Appetite For Destruction (Guns 'N Roses)
  • 1986: Master of Puppets (Metallica)
  • 1985: Fables of the Reconstruction (R.E.M.)
  • 1984: Ride the Lightning (Metallica)
  • 1983: War (U2)
  • 1982: Number of the Beast (Iron Maiden)
  • 1981: Killers (Iron Maiden)
  • 1980: Back in Black (AC/DC)
  • 1979: The Wall (Pink Floyd)
  • 1978: Van Halen (Van Halen); Double Vision (Foreigner)
  • 1977: Rumours (Fleetwood Mac); Bat Out of Hell (Meat Loaf)
  • 1976: Boston (Boston); Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers)
  • 1975: Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd); Physical Graffiti (Led Zeppelin)
  • 1974: Second Helping (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
  • 1973: Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd); Pronounced (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
  • 1972: Exile on Main Street (Rolling Stones)
  • 1971: Led Zeppelin IV (Led Zeppelin); Who's Next (The Who)
  • 1970: Paranoid (Black Sabbath); Cosmo's Factory (Credence Clearwater Revival)
  • 1969: Led Zeppelin II (Led Zeppelin)
  • 1968: Electric Ladyland (Jimi Hendrix)
  • 1967: Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (The Beatles); The Doors (The Doors)
  • 1966: Pet Sounds (The Beach Boys)
  • 1965: Rubber Soul (The Beatles)
  • 1964: A Hard Day's Night (The Beatles)
Author Comments: 

I put two albums for one year when they're just too good comparatively to leave one out. I put the slightly better one first, though.

Of course I will disagree about most of your choices here... those I really need to point out are:
The Doors/The Doors being selected over The Moody Blues' Days of Future Past.
For 1970, I suggest Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band's Trout Mask Replica but you may not like it.
Boston/Boston being selected over Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' eponymous debut.
Pink Floyd's The Wall but no mention of Clash's London calling.
Foreigner over Meatloaf's Bat out of Hell.
Four albums from Tool is too much...once more, I think there is confusion between "the best" albums and your "most favorite" albums.
and you could/should have found ways to include these globally well-considered albums: The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society, The Byrds' Notorious Byrd Brothers, any of the Stooges' three albums (The Stooges, Fun House, Raw Power), Love's Forever Changes, Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures, Afghan Whigs' Gentlemen, Queens of the Stone Age's Songs for the Deaf.
But of course the strength of your selections is that they are quite personal and create discussion easily...

I appreciate the ideas and discussion. I definitely forgot about about The Moody Blues, Tom Petty, and Meatloaf. I definitely should have included them, either as first or runner up in their respective release years.

Most of the other albums I have not heard. But since you describe them as "globally well-considered," I will at least try some of them out.

I don't feel four albums from Tool is too much because I feel they are an awesome band without peer. Opiate may have been an extreme choice, as it's not even a full length album, but I couldn't think of anything better for that year.

As for this "confusion" between "the best" albums and my "most favorite" albums... I beleive you are making a false assumption. You may be assuming that to include "Best" in a list title automatically means that the list is a compilation of popular opinion, be it votes from Listology members or be it a list taken out of Rolling Stone magazine. "Best" when it comes to art of any form, is a matter of opinion. Albums that are my favorites are naturally the ones I consider the "Best."

An advantage to using the word "Best" in my title, is that it generates discussion as to which titles people agree with or disagree with. When using the word "Favorite" instead, I feel people are less likely to comment because they know that everyone is entitled to their own tastes and opinions. I prefer to rely on what you admit is the strength of my list format: selections that are quite personal and create discussion easily.

You've got a valid point but I do not wholly agree that "most favorite" albums are necessarily the ones you consider "best" because you could really enjoy an album for very personal reasons and at the same time be aware that it's not very good on a more objective artistic level, I believe that's what is called a "guilty pleasure", isn't it ?

I see what you're saying about guilty pleasures. Sometimes we like an album a lot more than it deserves because of some nostalgic feeling, like it was the first album we ever owned or something. In my list, however, I tried to be as objective as possible according to the music I like. For example, I like Pisces Iscariot (Smashing Pumpkins) a LOT probably because it was one of the first awesome albums I owned, but I didn't crown it for it's respective year. Thus, I decided to keep the term "Best" in my list because I'm not putting my guilty pleasures on it.

Some of my other lists I used "Favorite" in the title because I realize there's significant bias in the guilty pleasures department.

thanks for these explanations

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I hope I didn't come off as being defensive as I appreciate your point of view.

I'm enjoying this list; it's quite a bit different than the other ones I've seen on listology (including mine;)

The Moody Blues are good, but I agree with you on The Doors; not only a great album, but one of the greatest debut albums of all time. I also was glad to see War, probably my second favorite U2 album, after Achtung Baby. (by the way, did Achtung get any consideration?)

Despite the parody of themselves they soon became, the first Boston album is an excellent album in a decade that was the high point for hard rock. Have you ever noticed that the "More Than a Feeling" riff is the same one used in "Smells Like Teen Spirit"?

And The Fragile is an underrated album...

Johnny Waco

I definitely considered Achtung Baby for 1991. However, I gave the slot to Nevermind (because it's the best Nirvana album) and Metallica (because it's my favorite Metallica album). Although I did have to think about it for a bit, I decided Achtung Baby had to have the bronze. But don't be too put out by my choice, however, as I haven't heard Achtung Baby more than a couple times. I'll have to borrow it again.

As for the The Doors, I think you're right about it being one of the greatest debut albums there is. I tend to believe that most decent bands reach their pinnacle with their sophomore releases.

Boston is simply great rock. The Fragile is an emotional masterpiece.

"I'm enjoying this list; it's quite a bit different than the other ones I've seen on listology (including mine;)"

I wish I had a better response, but Johnny said it for me. You obviously favor some of the metal music a bit more than I do, but I do enjoy many of your choices from that genre. Thanks for taking the time to complete this! Us Listologians are usually junkies for this sort of work!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Cool. Glad you enjoyed it. Yeah, I tend to favor Heavy Metal bands like Tool. Yet, I'm not into mindless, screaming, tantrum metal like Pantera or Linkin Park. I prefer real hard rock that's balanced out with beautiful lyrics, soft piano/violin, or electronica. Though Tool has a Heavy Metal label, it is definitely your thinking man's music.

Tool is certainly on a higher plane than most metal bands around today. They are terrific.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Well, I tend to believe that In Utero is the best Nirvana album... but of course that's a very personal opinion and it's a fact that Nevermind had such an impact on the scene at the time that it will remain better considered than In Utero by fans and critics alike.

Yeah, In Utero is a great album. I still like Nevermind better, though, primarily for "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "Lithium," and "Polly." And though I like Nirvana, I think they're way overrated because of Cobain's style of exit.

Are you talking about his suicide? If so, why do you think that makes Nirvana overrated?

When a great performer/artist dies at the peak of his popularity, it immortalizes him and his work. Suddenly, his importance and ability become bloated and everyone says "Wow. He would have been the best there ever was if only he hadn't died." On the other hand, great performers/artists who continue to create more work and lead long lives never can rarely hold onto that legendary status for long. The reason is because they can't keep producing top chart stuff as the times and tastes change. No one is perfect, and no one can be the king of the hill forever. Yet, those great ones who die in their prime always have this special recognition as greats who could have made the world far more glorious if only they lived. Other examples... Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrisson, Sylvia Plath, John Keats, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, John F. Kennedy, Princess Diana, John Belushi, Chris Farley, etc. I'm not saying these people weren't great, I'm just saying they are overrated. They died at a pinnacle in their lives that immortalized them and made them seem legendary when in fact they'd be less well known if they'd lived long lives.

Well, people speculate about all sorts of things,... what if he/she hadn't died, what if he/she hadn't found religion and stopped making music, what if drugs or madness hadn't stopped or severely hampered his/her music career (Syd Barrett/Pink Floyd, Peter Green/Fleetwood Mac, Roky Erickson/13th Floor Elevators) but, ultimately, it's the music and not the 'what if' that keeps the music alive. As proof of that, try naming some other musicians from the '60s who died at their 'peak' at a young age. If you're having a hard time doing so it's because the music wasn't there and so they're not very well remembered today. Or, maybe the music was there (Tim Buckley) but a current band hasn't jumped all over them and revived interest in them.
If anything, a short career in films would probably take somone like James Dean out of the running in my list of great actors and not the other way around. With only a handful of roles in movies and tv, it's hard for me to consider him alongside someone like Kirk Douglas or Paul Newman or John Wayne with careers that have spanned 35-60 years.
Some people , like myself, would disagree with you that Marilyn Monroe in 1962 was at her peak when she died. I think she had reached a certain level and sustained it over a period of years. But, aside from that, most people know her as a sex symbol and really haven't seen many of the movies from her 15 year career. People certainly are entitled to their own opinion and so if you think this or that movie or performance was overrated, you got a right to say it but, let's be fair to people... if you want to call a career overrated you have to be able to back that up by having seen a substantial part of that career and not just one or two movies. If you don't mind my asking, how many have you seen?

I agree that "ultilmately, it's the music and not the 'what if' that keeps the music alive." First you have to make some high quality music before anyone is going to remember your death. Nirvana, Hendrix, Joplin, Morrisson, etc. all made truly awesome music and thus they deserve to be hailed for their talents. But don't you think that the fact that they died young gave them a heightened status?

A parallel to what I'm saying can be found in an episode of Seinfeld. George Costanza decides to tell a great joke and when all his co-workers are in hysterics, he just leaves. Thus he ends on a high note and his sense of humor was overrated, everyone thought he was the funniest guy in the office. That's because he didn't have to sustain it.

James Dean isn't considered a great actor, but he is considered an icon as a rebel. Kirk Douglas, Paul Newman, and John Wayne are also pretty legendary in film, I agree. I'm not saying that dying makes you better than everyone, as there are some actors who do great stuff throughout a long career. Yet, those old dogs don't get to hold onto a specific iconic image like Dean. Newman was a pretty big icon for the classic grifter for awhile. Now, his age and newer movies change that.

As for Marilyn Monroe, I'm no scholar by any means. I think she had a very decent career and I'll agree with you that it wasn't cut off at its peak. Nevertheless, the fact that she died at a young age must contribute to her lasting popularity as she will be forever beautiful. Never will you see an older, wrinkled Marilyn Monroe being interviewed in some documentary about her life.

Thanks for the great comments.

Paul's Boutique rock?, sure is the most underrated album of all time, but is hip hop not rock.

Good point. I'll take it off this list.

Just for curiosity's sake, here's the year-by-year list of Piero Scaruffi (I'm a big fan).

2004: Ghost - Hypnotic Underworld
2003: Books - The Lemon of Pink
2002: Low - Trust
2001: Solex - Low Kick and Hard Bop
2000: Spring Heel Jack - Disappeared
1999: Black Heart Procession - 2
1998: Dirty 3 - Ocean Songs
1997: Hash Jar Tempo - Well Oiled
1996: Black Tape for a Blue Girl - Remnants of a Deeper Purity
1995: Lightwave - Mundus Subterraneus
1994: Lisa Germano - Geek the Girl
1993: Vampire Rodens - Lullaby Land
1992: Morphine - Good
1991: Slint - Spiderland
1990: Royal Trux - Twin Infinitives
1989: Peter Gabriel - Passion
1988: Pixies - Surfer Rosa
1987: Swans - Children of God
1986: Big Black - Atomizer
1985: Foetus - Nail
1984: Husker Du - Zen Arcade
1983: Mark Stewart - Learning to Cope with Cowardice
1982: Dream Syndicate - Days of Wine and Roses
1981: Gun Club - Fire of Love
1980: Bruce Springsteen - River
1979: Pop Group - Y
1978: Pere Ubu - Modern Dance
1977: Suicide - Suicide
1976: Patti Smith - Radio Ethiopia
1975: Neil Young - Tonight's the Night
1974: Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom
1973: Popol Vuh - Hosianna Mantra
1972: Klaus Shulze - Irrlicht
1971: Faust - Faust
1970: Nico - Desert Shore
1969: Captain Beefheart - Trout Mask Replica
1968: Van Morrison - Astral Weeks
1967: Velvet Underground & Nico - Velvet Underground & Nico
1966: Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde
1965: Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited

You don't agree on a single album, though he names The Doors as the 5th best album of all time, unfortunately just behind Velvet Underground & Nico, also from 1967. And, he's got a broader definition of "rock" music which somehow includes works like Irrlicht, Passion, and Ocean Songs.

I don't agree with several of his selections, though I'm wholeheartedly on-board for Trout Mask Replica, Faust, and Rock Bottom. And I love Sgt. Pepper's, Ride the Lightening, Master of Puppets, OK Computer, and Absolution from your list.

Cool list. Definitely some out of the mainstream choices to explore here. Any mp3 site you'd recommend that has the majority of these available, 'prog?

Hell no. Most of these are way too unpopular. Most of these aren't carried by any library in Minnesota, either.

i totally agree with Everything Must Go (Manic Street Preachers), brilliant album.

Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised with that recommendation. "Kevin Carter" gets stuck in my head all the time. I still plan to get The Holy Bible album by them as well.