Best Rock Albums Ever (according to me)


I've listened to thousands of albums from every possible genre (renaissance madrigals to experimental noise to the folk music of Mozambique). These are the greatest albums I've heard related to "rock" music.

My criteria for greatness are very simple. Many artists (1) invent a new language for music and/or emotion (Karlheinz Stockhausen, etc.), or (2) use that language in an emotionally powerful way (Radiohead, etc.). The greatest albums do both.

My tastes are heavily influenced by what is undisputably the best and most scholarly history of rock music ever written, Piero Scaruffi's masterful and continuously updated A History of Rock and Dance Music (Volume 1 and Volume 2). Currently, Volume 2 tells the story right up to 2008.

Albums keep falling off this list. What remains are the albums that still sound amazing after 200+ listens.

See below the graphic for links to the albums on the list.


1. Faust - Faust (1971)
2. Captain Beefheart - Trout Mask Replica (1969)


3. Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom (1974)
4. The Red Krayola - Parable of Arable Land (1967)
5. Royal Trux - Twin Infinitives (1990)
6. Klaus Schulze - Irrlicht (1972)
7. Vampire Rodents - Lullaby Land (1993)
8. Soft Machine - Third (1970)
9. The Velvet Underground & Nico - The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)

8.5/10 (chronologically)

Van Morrison - Astral Weeks (1968)
Third Ear Band - Alchemy (1969)
Frank Zappa - Uncle Meat (1969)
Tim Buckley - Lorca (1970)
Neu! - Neu! (1972)
The Residents - Not Available (1974, released 1978)
Pere Ubu - The Modern Dance (1978)
Pop Group - Y (1979)
Glenn Branca - The Ascension (1981)
Jon Hassell - Dream Theory in Malaya (1981)
Peter Gabriel - Passion (1989)

8.0/10 (chronologically)

The Doors - The Doors (1967)
Pink Floyd - The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (1967)
Parson Sound - Parson Sound (1968, released 2001)
Pink Floyd - A Saucerful of Secrets (1968)
The United States Of America - The United States Of America (1968)
King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King (1969)
Peter Green - The End of the Game (1970)
Third Ear Band - Elements (1970)
Nico - Desertshore (1971)
Can - Tago Mago (1971)
Taj Mahal Travellers - July 15 1972 (1972)
Can - Future Days (1973)
Popol Vuh - Hosianna Mantra (1973)
Gong - Flying Teapot (1973)
Magma - Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh (1973)
The Residents - Meet the Residents (1974)
Jon Hassell - Vernal Equinox (1977)
Suicide - Suicide (1977)
Contortions - Buy (1979)
Dead Kennedys - Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables (1980)
Pere Ubu - The Art Of Walking (1980)
Mark Stewart - Learning to Cope with Cowardice (1983)
Butthole Surfers - Psychic... Powerless... Another Man's Sac (1984)
Husker Du - Zen Arcade (1984)
Minutemen - Double Nickels On The Dime (1984)
Constance Demby - Novus Magnificat (1986)
Talk Talk - Spirit of Eden (1988)
Ant-Bee - Pure Electric Honey (1990)
Techno Animal - Ghosts (1990)
Mercury Rev - Yerself is Steam (1991)
Slint - Spiderland (1991)
Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 - Mother Of All Saints (1992)
Tortoise - Millions Now Living Will Never Die (1996)
Amon Tobin - Bricolage (1997)
Joanna Newsom - Ys (2006)

hey nice list there although i'm still starting to increase my music library with this type of great music (in comparison to the crappy choices we see on magazines, etc.) so i haven't listened to all of those albums
just asking about why you placed Alchemy higher than TEB's self-titled. i think their self-titled is better and more fun to listen to. in a way i guess its personal opinion but i want to hear your opinion too.

Alchemy, to me, is both more diverse and more innovative. Alchemy hits me as one of the few radical breaking points in rock music - for which there are truly NO predecessors. It came out of nowhere. The self-titled album is basically an album that smooths out, mellows, and meditates on the first album's ideas.

nice thanks i'll listen to both of them again

Hey Luke, what do you think of these albums (based on your scale)

Tim Buckley - Starsailor
Robert Wyatt - End of An Ear
Rolling Stones - Exile on Main St.
Tangerine Dream - Zeit
Cop Shoot Cop - Consumer Revolt
Spring Heel Jack - Disappeared

And the avant garde:

Meredith Monk - Dolmen Music
Diamanda Galas - Litanies of Satan

Sorry I know there's quite a few! Just curious for your opinion is all. I'm a little surprised to see no Cop Shoot Cop or Tangerine Dream on here.

All of those, with the possible exception of Exile on Main St. and Disappeared, just barely missed the cut here. The Buckley and the Wyatt actually were on the list at one point.

I'm not sure the Monk or the Galas would qualify for the genre on here, but maybe. I did include Hassell.

Those are all great albums you've listed, in the 7ish range for me (which corresponds to Scaruffi's 8ish range).

Hey Luke, still like Metallica? They have to be one of my favourite bands at the moment. I love Four Horseman, Disposable Heros and Sanitarium.

I'm also interested to know your opinion of Salome by Strauss?

I still really like Metallica's first three albums. I think they will always have a special place in my heart because those albums - along with Dream Theater's A Change of Seasons - were one of the first albums a friend "snuck" into my life back when I was only allowed to listen to Christian music. So, Metallica and Dream Theater were like 10x better music than anything I had ever heard before - it was easy to be blown away by them! I would listen to them with headphones in my room and then pause it whenever my parents knocked on the door. They thought I was listening to dc Talk.

Strauss' Salome is an extremely complex and daring musical work I'm not in the least qualified to comment on. I don't much like the artificiality and limitations of opera, but I do rather like the part where Salome makes love to John's severed head.

Haha, I can picture the scene! I really like Master of Puppets and Kill Em All, I think that Dream Theater aren't quite as good, but Petrucci is amazing.

Indeed, Salome is beautiful =) Not a fan of opera then?

I usually don't enjoy opera, no.

I have to comment and agree with a very early post that you have a skewed view of what "rock music" is, but I'm not agreeing with the original poster that "non-mainstream" is the issue. My issue is that none of these bands or artists even characterized themselves as rock bands or rock musicians (which is not a criticism of any of them! there are some greats on this list!) but it's not a list of "rock" bands.

Nico, not rock. Classical instruments, harps, etc. -- folk, but not in the Joan Baez sense of the word -- but nowhere near rock.

Rock comes from "rock and roll" which came from r&b when it was still called "rhythm & blues," mixed in with southern music, i.e. "country" though it wasn't called that then. That's why Elvis is called "the king of rock and roll," because he was the first to mix the two, which evolved into rock music. There is nothing of this in the music of most of your list (which again, is a list of some great bands), so, that's my dispute. I may make my own list, but oh, the time it would take me . . . .

I do respect, however, that you've ventured to listen to some great stuff, and appreciate the non-mainstream, I just can't call it rock.

Any idea on your favourite tracks nowadays Luke? Also, is your 2009 listening log a true reflection on all you've listened to this year? =o

No and yes. :)

You mentioned before somewhere that at one point you considered Docteur Faust to be better than Faust's debut. What would you rate it these days? Is it worth getting hold of?

Definitely worth getting hold of, but I now admit that was an emotional exaggeration because my subconscious mind was hoping to have found a musical masterpiece BEFORE Scaruffi did. But no, it's more like a 7/10 on Scaruffi's scale.

It's scary how much my taste is aligning not only with Scaruffi but more specifically with this list.

Lol, well, whatever you love. I kept trying to distance myself from Scaruffi because I felt like a fanboy unable to think for myself, but every time I thought for myself I ended up with the same conclusions as Scaruffi. Which I suppose is the mark of a truly brainwashed person...

I was interested to know which of Amon Duul II's albums you considered to be the best? Having just gone through Yeti and Tanz Der Lemminge (I've listened to the track Phallus Dei before as well) I thought both were extremely good albums. I thought they epitomised the extended psychedelic jam (both improvised and composed) in a far more effective way than The Grateful Dead did, despite the latter being far from a bad band.


Unfortunately, it's been too long since I heard Amon Duul II! I shall have to give another listen.

I am wondering, what is your opinion of Dub Housing compared to Pere Ubu's other early works? I've always considered it at least an 8/10 and on par with, if not higher, than New Picnic Time and The Art of Walking (both solid 8s too in my book).

After repeated listenings, I have to agree with you on placement of The Art of Walking over Dub and Picnic. It really is their best album after The Modern Dance (well, unless you count Terminal Tower, which is all their early singles collected).

Good to see my request was fulfilled :) I echo Marquee's sentiments that he left on your other list. I think I like the Faust review most but then that may be just because its my favourite rock album too.

I recently listened to Lorca again and it's one of the Scaruffaves that I truly love. I think you were the one who got me into Tim Buckley initially (with Happy Sad), so thank you.

I also listened to Y recently. That might be a different story... :-)


Just wondering how you've defined 'Rock', and how Joanna Newsom could potentially be categorised to be within that definition?

I'm basically dividing music into three traditions: folk/pop/Rock, Classical/avantgarde, and Jazz/improv.

in the top 1 with all the album covers the only 1 i knw iz velvet underground :l

The list is great, Faust is like, everything I like in music (Jazz, Rock, Psychedelic, Collage, Classical) I got a T-Shirt of the cover. It's kinda creepy though that It's like really REALLY like Scaruffi's list but, as you please. Oh, and is there a 2000 that you consider masterpiece, or near it?


Yup, my list is a LOT like Scaruffi's. I make no claims of originality. I kept trying to squeeze in masterpieces that Scaruffi doesn't rank highly but I kept finding that I couldn't justify those selections.

Maybe the best album of the 2000s is Joanna Newsom, Ys. I made a list for the last decade, here.

This is a good list

I hate scaruffism, the issue is not the originality but the personality, you don't have personality, you just copy. Also as Scaruffi you have not given 10 to any album.

Why no Led Zeppelin

Why no Led Zeppelin

Why no Led Zeppelin

"It was [Soft Machine's Third] that awakened most critics to the fact that rock music was not just for dancing: it could make significant artistic contributions on the level of Igor Stravinsky and John Coltrane."

This simply isn't true. During the Beatles' run (1963-70), many critics wrote editorials comparing - and not at all in an unfavorable way - the chords, melodies, and arrangements of the Beatles with those of the Western tradition's great classical composers. The Beatles were one of the groups which made intellectuals begin taking rock music seriously. Critics realized far before Third (1970) that rock music was not just for dancing.

Scaruffi's website is hands-down one of the greatest areas for discovering obscure music, but not a great source when searching for a professional historian's take on rock music; there are many inaccuracies in his Beatles article.