15 Most Iconic Albums in Rock History


Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam have one of the most iconic albums in rock history, says Audio Ink Radio – Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Danny Clinch

Here’s Audio Ink Radio’s list of 15 of the most iconic albums in rock history

There was a time not too long ago when albums meant everything. This was before streaming, when singles took on a new level of importance. But, there was a time when bands would labor over their new albums and make them as perfect as possible for someone listening from front to back. While albums don’t mean what they once did, we can look back into music history and point out some of the most iconic albums in rock history with no filler.

What’s interesting is that many of the following albums also had great singles. However, while these albums had those one-off hits, they also had plenty of non-singles that stood on their own. That’s what makes these albums so strong.

In honor of those albums that truly rock, Audio Ink Radio has dug through the archives to determine the records that stand above the rest. Read on for our list of 15 of the most iconic albums in rock history. Reach out and give us your picks via our social media.

15. Alice in Chains, “Dirt”

With “Dirt,” Alice in Chains showed that they were more than just a typical grunge band, offering bits of metal and hard rock that crossed genre lines. “Dirt” was also one of the most well-rounded sets from the early-1990s rock scene, offering radio hits such as “Down in a Hole,” “Rooster,” “Would?” and “Them Bones,” as well as an abundance of stellar album cuts. When it comes to grunge albums, “Dirt” is one that rocked the most.

14. Deep Purple, “Deep Purple In Rock”

The 1960s were an important time for the rock movement, and Ritchie Blackmore was a major part of it. The Deep Purple guitarist made progressive rock all the rage and presented some of the greatest guitar riffs of all time. While all of Deep Purple’s albums are solid, “In Rock” is a clear winner, with songs such as “Speed King” and “Child in Time” etched in the legacy of rock.

13. The Who, “Who’s Next”

The Who have been a rock entity for more than 50 years, and they really have no weak albums in their catalog. But, “Who’s Next” took the band to the next level of popularity. Buoyed by strong songwriting and songs that made a statement, such as “Baba O’Riley” and “Behind Blue Eyes,” The Who created a masterpiece with “Who’s Next.” Every song has its own place in the rock world.

12. Fleetwood Mac, “Rumours”

Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” is one of those rare albums that is a must-listen among a range of music fans, from rock to pop to folk. It’s the album that really catapulted Fleetwood Mac to superstar status. It also has no filler cuts, with a handful of radio singles and plenty of album songs that simply don’t get old.

11. Van Halen, “Van Halen”

Eddie Van Halen changed the rock world with his penchant for imaginative guitars that left the listener wondering, “How did he do that?” The band’s debut album featured Eddie’s fiery guitar playing and fun, energetic rock tunes such as “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love,” “Runnin’ With the Devil” and “Jamie’s Cryin’.” Let’s not forget David Lee Roth’s rock star vocals, too.

10. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Are You Experienced”

When talking about the greatest rock guitarists in the genre’s history, one has to mention Jimi Hendrix. He took the electric guitar and made it into a new kind of monster, one with intricate melodies and psychedelic beauty. “Are You Experienced” is an album of perfection. With eternal tracks such “Fire,” “Are You Experienced” and “Foxy Lady,” this record is a winner from start to finish.

9. The Doors, “The Doors”

When it comes to rock music in the 1960s, Jim Morrison was a huge part of it. The Doors’ debut album quickly became a trendsetter and solidified Morrison as one of the key rock vocalists of the moment. Classics such as “The End” and “Break on Through” stood out, but every song on this record has its own special moment.

8. Pearl Jam, “Ten”

Pearl Jam released “Ten” a few months before Nirvana put grunge on the big stage with their sophomore album, “Nevermind.” So, it was a slower build than one might expect. But, once grunge fans discovered “Ten,” all bets were off. Bringing together former Green River and Mother Love Bone members Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament with new vocalist Eddie Vedder was rock magic. “Jeremy,” “Alive” and “Even Flow” were the album’s big hits, but the entire record deserves recognition.

7. AC/DC, “Back in Black”

Whether you’re a Bon Scott or Brian Johnson AC/DC fan, there’s no denying that no matter who was fronting the band, AC/DC soared to new levels for any rock band during their era. “Back in Black” appeased fans of both Scott and Johnson. It’s a tribute of sorts to the late, great Scott. Whether it’s “Hells Bells” or “Shoot to Thrill,” this record showed that AC/DC were, although wounded, going to forge ahead with their straight-ahead, catchy rock style and continue to thrive, even in the face of tragedy.

6. Pink Floyd, “The Dark Side of the Moon”

There’s a reason why “The Dark Side of the Moon” is still, to this day, the album with the longest number of consecutive weeks on the Billboard 200 chart. It’s an opus that can’t be ignored. Moreover, this album was created to be listened to in its entirety. Besides, how many albums get their own planetarium shows dedicated to their music? Just one, and that’s “The Dark Side of the Moon.”

5. The Rolling Stones, “Sticky Fingers”

The Rolling Stones are another rock band that has countless albums that could have been included on this list. But, 1971’s “Sticky Fingers” is the album that made things get real. From start to finish, “Sticky Fingers” has the kind of rock ‘n’ roll vibe that few bands can deliver with such pizzaz. It’s is a must-listen for anyone reaching back into rock history.

4. Nirvana, “Nevermind”

It would be blasphemy to leave one of the most groundbreaking and influential records of all time off this list. When Nirvana released “Nevermind” in 1991, the entire music world shifted. Suddenly, everyone wanted to be like Nirvana. Everybody wanted to have that Seattle sound and flannel-clad look. Nirvana didn’t mean to shake up music history, but they did. Aside from the hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” this album is captivating from beginning to end.

3. Led Zeppelin, “Led Zeppelin IV”

It’s difficult to pick just one Led Zeppelin album for this list, but “Led Zeppelin IV” stands out. From “Black Dog” to “The Battle of Evermore” to “Rock and Roll,” Robert Plant and company take the listener on a hard rock adventure with this record. It’s unrivaled. Oh, and let’s not forget that a little song called “Stairway to Heaven” is included on this set.

2. The Beatles, “Abbey Road”

The Beatles has numerous albums that could be among the most iconic in rock history. It’s difficult to beat winning titles such as “Yellow Submarine” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” But, “Abbey Road” was more than an album. It was a moment. From start to finish, the record presented long-lasting cuts such as “Come Together,” “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something.” The album was so legendary that it made the studio for which the album was named, “Abbey Road,” pretty much the most famous recording studio of all time.

1. Guns N’ Roses, “Appetite for Destruction”

Guns N’ Roses are known for their epic rock albums. “Appetite for Destruction” is the point when they really became something of supernatural rock heroes. The album wasn’t an instant hit. But, it eventually reached No. 1 on the charts and has sold more than 30 million copies. Songs such as “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Paradise City” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” are timeless classics that absolutely withstand the test of time. But, even the lesser-known cuts are solid. For its pure rock ‘n’ roll fire, “Appetite for Destruction” is No. 1 on our roster of the most iconic albums in rock history.

Find Audio Ink Radio’s feature on the best classic rock bands of all time here.

Anne Erickson
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Posted by Anne Erickson | Features, Music, Rock