Most Underrated Albums of Rock & Jazz (in progress)

  1. Dream Theory in Malaya-Jon Hassell (1981)
  2. Hosianna Mantra-Popol Vuh (1973)
  3. Not Available-Residents (1974)
  4. Well Oiled-Hash Jar Tempo (1997)
  5. Even the Sounds Shine-Myra Melford (1994)
  6. Good-Morphine (1992)
  7. Saxophone Improvisations, Series F-Anthony Braxton (1972)
  8. Vernal Equinox-Jon Hassell (1977)
  9. Lorca-Tim Buckley (1970)
  10. Third Ear Band-Third Ear Band (1970)
  11. Mu-Don Cherry (1969)
  12. Fare Forward Voyagers-John Fahey (1973)
  13. Lullaby Land-Vampire Rodents (1993)
  14. Slow, Deep & Hard-Type O Negative (1991)
  15. Psychic...Powerless...Another Man's Sac-Butthole Surfers (1984)
  16. Parable of Arable Land-Red Crayola (1967)
  17. The Jazz Composer's Orchestra-Michael Mantler (1968)
  18. Twin Infinitives-Royal Trux (1990)
  19. Art & Aviation-Jane Ira Bloom (1992)
  20. Mundus Subterraneus-Lightwave (1995)
  21. Improvisie-Paul Bley (1971)
  22. Passion-Peter Gabriel (1989)
  23. Ocean Songs-Dirty 3 (1998)
  24. Cobra-John Zorn (1980)
  25. The Marble Index-Nico (1969)
  26. Half Machine Lip Moves-Chrome (1979)
  27. City of Glass-Stan Kenton (1951)
  28. Dreamtime Return-Steve Roach (1988)
  29. Desertshore-Nico (1970)
  30. Nail-Foetus (1985)
  31. The Good Son-Nick Cave (1990)
  32. Unit Structures-Cecil Taylor (1966)
  33. Radio Gnome Invisible Part 1: Flying Teapot-Gong (1973)
  34. Epitaph-Charles Mingus (1962)
  35. New York, New York-George Russell (1959)
  36. Rock Bottom-Robert Wyatt (1974)
  37. Faust-Faust (1971)
  38. Geek the Girl-Lisa Germano (1994)
  39. Yerself Is Steam-Mercury Rev (1991)
  40. The Ascension-Glenn Branca (1981)
  41. Third-Soft Machine (1970)
  42. Uncle Meat-Frank Zappa (1969)
  43. Escalator Over The Hill-Carla Bley (1971)
  44. The Magic City-Sun Ra (1965)
  45. Cyborg-Klaus Schulze (1973)
  46. A Rainbow in Curved Air-Terry Riley (1968)
  47. Irrlicht-Klaus Schulze (1972)
  48. From Her To Eternity-Nick Cave (1984)
  49. Starsailor-Tim Buckley (1970)
  50. Bricolage-Amon Tobin (1997)
  51. Remnants of a Deeper Purity-Black Tape For A Blue Girl (1996)
  52. Fontanelle-Babes In Toyland (1992)
  53. Atlantis-Sun Ra (1967)
  54. Novus Magnificat-Constance Demby (1986)
  55. The Modern Dance-Pere Ubu (1978)
  56. Spiritual Unity-Albert Ayler (1964)
  57. Y-The Pop Group (1979)
  58. Original Sin-Pandora's Box (1989)
  59. Yes-Morphine (1995)
  60. Frances the Mute-The Mars Volta (2005)
  61. Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables-Dead Kennedy's (1980)
  62. Radio Ethiopia-Patti Smith (1976)
  63. Streams-Sam Rivers (1973)
  64. Repeater-Fugazi (1991)
  65. Fire of Love-Gun Club (1981)
  66. Down Colorful Hill-Red House Painters (1992)
  67. The Days of Wine & Roses-Dream Syndicate (1982)
  68. Happy Sad-Tim Buckley (1968)
  69. Songs the Lord Taught Us-Cramps (1980)
  70. Perfect From Now On-Built To Spill (1997)
  71. Double Nickels on the Dime-Minutemen (1984)
  72. For Alto-Anthony Braxton (1968)
  73. Zen Arcade-Husker Du (1984)
  74. A Saucerful of Secrets-Pink Floyd (1968)
  75. A Picture of Nectar-Phish (1992)
  76. Pithecanthropus Erectus-Charles Mingus (1956)
  77. The River-Bruce Springsteen (1980)
  78. The Downward Spiral-Nine Inch Nails (1994)
  79. Volunteers-The Jefferson Airplane (1969)
  80. The Survivor's Suite-Keith Jarrett (1976)
  81. Faust IV-Faust (1973)
  82. Millions Now Living Will Never Die-Tortoise (1996)
  83. Freedom Suite-Sonny Rollins (1958)
  84. Songs of Leonard Cohen-Leonard Cohen (1968)
  85. Trout Mask Replica-Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band (1969)
  86. Suicide-Suicide (1977)
  87. White Light/White Heat-The Velvet Underground (1967)
  88. Tago Mago-Can (1971)
  89. Future Days-Can (1973)
  90. Safe As Milk-Captain Beefheart & HIs Magic Band (1967)
  91. Spiderland-Slint (1991)
  92. Kick Out the Jams-MC5 (1969)
Author Comments: 

These are either often underrated by critics and/or general consensus, or receive far too little recognition relative to how incredible they are.

I will only be placing amazing albums here (8/10+), as I don't really care if an album that's a 5/10 is "criminally underrated" as a 2/10.

I personally feel that Kick Out the Jams, the Downward Spiral and TMR are quite appreciated, but they are closer to the bottom of the list, so...

What about adding Devo's first album, or Double Nickels on the Dime? No one outside of diehard punks have heard of them.

I'd say the same about Spiderland, Faust, and The Modern Dance. All three of these albums receive nothing but glowing reviews it seems. I guess Faust is still a little under the radar but I don't think the reviews 'underrate' it, unlike, say, Rock Bottom...

But I have to agree at least about TMR and Downward Spiral - every review of TMR is either 10/10 or "I don't get it", and Downward Spiral was HUGE when it came out.

I've observed or talked to numerous people about Faust and rarely do I find one who gives it the recognition I think it deserves (remember this list is all based on my opinion of their merit, so Faust could easily look overrated to someone who thinks it's awful). It is considered borderline unlistenable to most. Short of Scaruffi's and Scaruffists lists (which are the vast minority), I've never seen it mentioned anywhere near the best albums of all time or the 70's. Occasionally it does receive great reviews though. Same as above with Modern Dance. Spiderland, and Downward Spiral will continue to decline in position as I extend the list. They are some of the better rated "underrated" albums. TMR is either total love or total hate, generally, which is far from a 10/10 on average. Downward Spiral has been gaining acclaim over the last couple years since its re-release, but almost no "credible" source mentions it among the best albums of all time or the decade.

'TMR is either total love or total hate, generally, which is far from a 10/10 on average."

I'm saying those who like it generally give it 10/10. Are you trying to say that the album deserves an average of 10/10? (or something close?) That is ludacris - I think TMR is rated exactly where it should be. The reason why some people hate it is the same reason why some people love it.

I guess I'm ludacris then. ( :

In my opinion it certainly deserves it (especially given what usually passes for "10/10") but it is unlikely to ever receive it due to how "unlistenable" it's often regarded as.

How is this different than your 'best albums of all time' list?

I think that could be answered quite easily by just comparing the two.

The order here is based on how "underrated" they are, not how great they are, though of course how great they are would be a factor in determining the degree of how underrated they are.

But how exactly are you determining that? According to Scaruffi? RYM? Albums that didn't sell well? Critical consensus? Take for example Future Days - it's a really really great album, but I haven't read any reviews that say otherwise. It's definitely one of the most 'famous' albums of the Krautrock generation - I think most people knowledgable about music or who take an interest in that era will have heard it.

Determined by how underrated and/or how underrecognized they are as great albums. Assessed by general consensus. I've been discussing music on the net for a good 10 yrs now so I have a pretty good idea. is a great source. Sales are not a factor or you'd see albums like Astral Weeks and VU & Nico on here. Critics' and Fans' Best Albums lists are the most significant determining factor (best of decade ones and of all time). You rarely see an album like Future Days, or many of the above albums, occupying these. Scaruffi's lists are probably the main source I don't use for this as he is among the only ones who rates/ranks these albums similarly to what I think of them--and my opinion is rather obscure in the grand scheme of things.

Well the 'general consensus' of Tago Mago and Future Days is that they're awesome. I've seen them on the 'best of' lists of many - if not, then the critic probaby hasn't heard it. I see you have Tago Mago at 8.5/10 and Future Days at 8.25/10. I would say that most reviews I've read have these albums at about 9/10 - 10/10 levels. Of course, these are on scales where albums can get 10/10, but I digress. Maybe you think these people underrate these albums because people give them the same ratings as stuff like Ziggy Stardust which you don't like as much. Oddly enough the list doesn't have Neu! on it, which you gave a 9/10, and AFAIK shows up on less lists than Can's albums do.

Take for instance a band like Cardiacs - they are pretty much completely unheard of, but I couldn't claim they're 'underrated' since pretty much everyone who has heard the band and likes the music is fanatical about them. There are almost no 'casual' fans. And yet if a 'best of' list doesn't list Sing to God, which is my favorite album ever, I can't necessarily blame the author, as I can't expect people to have heard of them. This is going to be a point of contention but out of your top 20 the only album I've heard outside of this place and Scaruffi is maybe the Residents one. So I'm thinking this list is most of a "best albums nobody has heard" rather than a "most underrated one".

According to
Can's Tago Mago is #93 of the 70's and Future Days isn't within the top 200, so they definitely need to be on this list but perhaps their positions should be adjusted somewhat. The results of the site are based on best albums and decade lists across the internet compiled together to give an average.

So I'm thinking this list is most of a "best albums nobody has heard" rather than a "most underrated one".

I cover what it's based on in my comments section above, including what I said to you before. The thing that keeps the two Can albums from being higher is that they tend to be given high ratings by the critics that do attend to them and promote them, though this is still in the minority.

Also, looks like you're correct that Neu (#182 of the 70's) should be added as well so I'll do that. Thanks.

By the way, currently I am just throwing this list up there on intuition. In the near future I will be scouring it a bit more and getting the results more exact, but there is little question the albums deserve to be on here--the primary difference in the future will be their exact positions.

I may get ridiculed for this, but... When discussing "most" underrated albums I'd have to throw out at least one of Canadian Rock's lesser known groups: Klaatu. Specifically for this thread, the album "Hope." The co-mingling of rock operatic / concept album makes it unique in its own right (IMO). The production values and use of orchestral / traditional rhythm instruments / synthetic textures also would seem worthy attributes. It has elements of symphonia, jazz, R&B and psychedelia all in a single offering. An ambitious endeavor.

Klaatu was passed over in large part as the result of the Radio industry feeling they'd been "punked" largely due to Capitol Records not squelching early rumors of the band being a reunification of the Beatles, likely attributed to similarities in the vocal harmonies (and some borrowing from Beatles symbols and imagery in their first offering).

I'll probably get nowhere with this given the apparent existence of Listology as a vehicle for reviling the musical contributions of The Beatles, having drawn a likeness to them. Nonetheless, it's always been a personal favorite.

Thanks for the suggestion. I've actually never heard it that I'm aware of so I'll have to check it out and see (don't hold your breath though--my focus is hardly on music these days).

Track 9, "We're Off You Know," begins the album that is "Hope." When you have an opportunity, I'd give them a listen. Many people I've shared this band with are amazed they missed them. For me, my first listen was at age 17 (some time ago). As we all know, the things going on in our lives at the time we experience the music has a lasting impact.

As it is a concept album, you really can't appreciate it unless you hear it in its entirety.

The previous track, "Little Neutrino" (the last track on their 1st album) is great with headphones, or in a sound room. Close your eyes and it will take you away!


And yet Metal Machine Music is not included.

I haven't heard it in a long time, but it may deserve to be on here if I were to give it another go. Keep in mind that this list was last updated almost 4 years ago.

Like Revolution 9, Metal Machine Music was unlucky, and it didn't get the recognition, which, IMO, it deserved. Instead, I find it on Worst Albums lists more than on Best Albums lists. I think Scaruffi should have given it an even higher rating than 7/10, but he probably got turned off a bit by it too.

Haha, ever since I was shocked by hearing a weird song like Tomorrow Never Knows, there's been no album I couldn't "conquer". XD Which is probably why I loved TMR on first listen. And many other "difficult" albums.