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The Top 13 Essential Rock Records

These lists are crazy right now and I have the topper of the toppers.

Yep, you’re going to see a lot of grunge on here, it’s just representative of the time. We aren’t going to argue Beatles or Prince albums here. This is 13 records that are essential to the folks that turn on the radio, go to concerts and support rock right now.  Beyond that, I’d like to say that I don’t really consider these 13 in order because I would have driven myself crazy nitpicking the merits of each.  I will say that I think you’d be pretty hard-pressed to find a record by a band not already on this list that has a release that should be on this list.


1

The Black Album

Metallica

 

 

It’s silly that there are still Metallica purists out there that want to downgrade the black album. The album has gone Platinum sixteen times, and scored the rare “Diamond” award, and all of this from a metal band. Those are facts, Sad But True (sorry I couldn’t resist).

 
Metallica
Elektra / Vertigo

2

Back In Black

AC/DC

 

 

Yeah, this album could actually laugh at Metallica’s sales figures. It went 22 times platinum.  So why did it land at #2?  Well this is “essential” rock albums and for my money, you could pick up “Dirty Deeds” or “Highway To Hell” and still be doing pretty dang good.

 
AC/DC
Kevin Mazur, Getty Images

3

Nevermind

Nirvana

 

 

This album completely changed the face of rock in our lifetime. I don’t care if you’re a Poison fan and hate Nirvana for ruining their careers, there’s still no denying the impact this album had and will have in the future. People in my business always say “We need another Nirvana”, they never say, “we need another Metallica” or “we need another AC/DC”. The reason for that is the change it represented and not necessarily even the popularity.

 
You Know You're Right
DGC / Geffen

4

Hybrid Theory

Linkin Park

 

 

This was the last album to have a MAJOR impact on rock music. Yes, we’ve had tons of great rock records, but this was the last time in the last 20 years that something sounded truly new and delivered on a full albums worth of great songs.

 
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

5

Appetite For Destruction

Guns N’ Roses

 

 

Guns N’ Roses did almost as much to kill hair bands as Nirvana. Yeah, they we’re a little poofy when this first came out, but they started strippin’ it down and keeping it real, real fast.  They recently sold 1 million tickets in less than 24 hours and you know the point where people will absolutely lose their minds is when the opening to “Welcome To The Jungle” is played.

 
Guns N Roses 1987
Geffen Records

6

The Wall

Pink Floyd

 

 

Timeless. I think this album could have come out this morning and people would still recognize it’s scope and it’s greatness.  The album features one of the greatest anthems of all time in the form of “Another Brick In The Wall Pt II”.  Now keep in mind, that is in the middle of telling a larger story.  I just don’t know if anyone will ever recreate that type of magic.

 
Pink Floyd Reunion

7

10

Pearl Jam

 

 

Eddie and the boys got slapped around (almost as much as Stone Temple Pilots) when they got started. The band was viewed as sounding a little too “classic rock” and not really in tune with the grunge movement. Can you even imagine someone saying that now?  Still, keep in mind that “Alive”, “Jeremy” and “Black” are on the same album. That’s just insane.

 
Pearl-Jam4

8

II

Led Zeppelin

 

 

Back in the day d.j.s had a bit more freedom. One of the rules that we were told, which was the lack of a rule, was that any song on any Led Zeppelin album was okay to play at any time. Well the boys are getting a little long in the tooth and some of the stuff is sounding a little dated. Strangely, Zeppelin’s 2nd album sounds less dated that the ones that came after it. It’s just a great mix of acoustic/electric back and forth.

 
Led Zeppelin
Michael Ochs Archives

9

Dookie

Green Day

 

 

I still remember hearing this the first time. I was ecstatic. I felt like this album was made for me. Before Dookie, no real punk rock made it on the radio. It’s like this album was made for us fans of the Clash and the Sex Pistols who were being neglected. There’s not a bad song on this album either.

 
Green Day
Photo by Frank Maddocks

10

Purple

Stone Temple Pilots

 

 

Man this was tough.  Core, or Purple? It was a virtual dead heat and this is how I mentally settled on Purple-while Core had more songs played on the radio, Purple had bigger songs. Core was also firmly in the grunge scene, while Purple was the sound of the bands true self.

 
Stone Temple Pilots
Mike Lawrie, Getty Images

11

Van Halen

Van Halen

 

 

Van Halen took metal and hard rock into places it never had gone before. It doesn’t matter what kind of metal you like now, Van Halen influenced it on some level.  Sabbath was a metal warning shot, Van Halen was an atomic bomb.

 
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

12

The Blizzard Of Oz

Ozzy Osbourne

 

 

I had to put Ozzy on the list. He’s just too important and essential to rock fans. Blizzard Of Oz featured “Crazy Train”, “I Don’t Know”, “Mr. Crowley” and the very controversial (at the time) Suicide Solution.

 
Ozzy-Osbourne

13

Smash

The Offspring

 

 

There has always been a band that brings a bit of “wacky” into rock and The Offspring did a great job of that.  Smash was a punk rock album but without the signature “nothing but barre chords” formula. It was creative punk that really expanded boundries.

 
Columbia
Columbia

Bous

Californication

Red Hot Chili Peppers

 

 

Like Ozzy, The Peps had to be on this list, but where? I made them a bonus selection just because a “Top 13 List” sounds cooler than a “Top 14 List”. Now, onto the selection.

Yes, “Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic” was a more important album, but this list is about essential rock albums and Californication delivered hits like Mike Tyson in his prime. The Chili Peps are vital and essential, it’s just hard to narrow their essence  down to one album

 
Red Hot Chili Peppers 1991
Warner Bros.

Best of Rock 108

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