The Best Hard Rock Albums Of All Time

The best hard rock albums ever made? The best Heavy Rock bands that ever existed? A tricky question…where to start…?

There have been many helpful words written, and I saw an excellent article on Wikipedia, but here’s my simple beginner’s guide to getting a basic introduction into the world of heavy rock: I have tried to keep the list down to 25 bands, (apologies to Ratt, Rainbow, Ozzy, Alice Cooper, Twisted Sister, Black Crowes, Cinderella, Mastodon etc – you were/are all good, but this is my list!) and one album per band – not all of which will be everybody’s choice, but I’ll argue these ones until I’m blue in the face…or I change my mind…

Listen to all these and you’ll have a pretty good grounding. Note that it all stops when Nirvana arrive…

As I mention each band in Every Record Tells A Story, I will link to each one for ease of reference…

1969 – 1973:

Led Zeppelin – Led Zep 2

Black Sabbath – Paranoid

Deep Purple – Machine Head

1974-1978

Blue Oyster Cult – Secret Treaties

Aerosmith – Rocks

AC/DC – Live at the Atlantic Recording Studios

Kiss – Alive!

Judas Priest – Unleashed In The East

ZZ Top – Tres Hombres

UFO – Strangers In The Night

1979-1983

Rush – Moving Pictures

Iron Maiden – Live After Death

The Scorpions – World Wide Live

Van Halen – Van Halen 1

Whitesnake – Slide It In

Def Leppard – Pyromania

1984-1990

Motorhead – Orgasmatron

Motley Crue – The Dirt (the book is great – and better than their records)

Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet

Poison – Look What The Cat Dragged In…

Guns n Roses – Appetite for Destruction

Metallica – Master of Puppets

Anthrax – Among the Living

Megadeth – Rust in Peace

Slayer – Reign in Blood

1991

Nirvana – Nevermind

26 replies

  1. This is a really cool post – some weird and cool albums here. 🙂 Many I have/agree with/know well and a few new ones for me too which is fantastic! 🙂

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  2. I have to say UFO – purely cos I don’t know them! Better flipping not be Aerosmith!
    Are you going to put a new one in? Something by, ooh, say Queen, maybe? 🙂

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  3. Nice list. I would have chosen some different ones by Scorpions and Maiden, but for the most part, I’d have to agree with your choices. And kudos for including those gems by The Big Four.

    Question for you… I’ve noticed that my friends and I have interesting definitions of ‘old’ and ‘new’… with the old stuff (generally speaking, of course) being the good stuff. For example, “old” Scorpions ends with Blackout. (One friend thinks I’m crazy– I was talking about having some Dire Straits on vinyl… but only the old stuff, and she replied, “ALL Dire Straits is old stuff…”)

    Other examples: old KISS ends with Creatures of the Night; old Metallica ends with And Justice for All (actually for me, with Master, but that’s arguable); old Maiden ends with Seventh Son (okay… Somewhere In Time, again arguable).

    Do you notice the same thing in the way you see music in relation to the past? Are your definitions of old and new as whacked as mine?

    Rock on,
    Tim

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    • Old and new? I think you are right. Old Magnum, for example, ended with Storyteller’s night. Scorpions? I thought Toyko Tapes was the old stuff and Blackout new, with Winds of Change “new new” (when they jumped the shark). I would vote Somewhere in Time for Maiden as old. Not sure where the boundaries lie and why, or whether it matters. I’ll ponder – perhaps a topic for a future post….? Thanks for reading.

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  4. I think you need Alice In Chains – Dirt in there with Nevermind. That album is an amazing hard rock album and to me more grunge than Nirvana ever were.

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  5. Oww excellent – that’s inspiration to did out the old records and have a listen to the classic’s. Have to say, I am not familiar with UFO (or maybe I would know it if I heard it!!). And AC/DC – just the best band ever!

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  6. What? No Nazareth? No Uriah Heep? Saw them both last night. (I don’t like Nazareth, but Uriah Heep are OK and still going strong.)

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  7. The current Heep lineup has, with one change (original member Lee Kerslake dropped out for health reasons a few years ago), been going on for about 25 years now. Mick Box is the only original member, but Bolder was already there in the 1970s and Lanzon and Shaw have served far longer than any of the other “old” members. New albums are rare but (in contrast to, say, the late 1970s) the quality is quite high. More important, the current band carry on the legacy without being their own cover band and produce new music, even though they plan to 500 and not 50,000 today. I challenge any nostalgic fuddy-duddies to compare Bernie Shaw’s singing to David Byron or Phil Lanzon’s Hammond playing to Ken Hensley’s.

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  8. What a cool list. Some surprising but welcome choices! Ac/Dc at the Atlantic Studios is just blistering, so glad you picked that. And Slide It In often gets lost in-between the ’87 era vs. the Blues years arguments. And Secret Treaties… what an absolutely stunning dark album!! Everyone should have that. If you have any idea what the lyrics of Dominance and Submission are about please let me know!

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  9. Soundgarden- Superunknown??

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  10. I’d have put Megadeth – Peace Sells… in there possibly Jimmy Barnes – Freight Train Heart and one of the Gary Moore blues albums. Plenty of memories in those posts though.

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  11. Hello from Australia and a man who used to sneak out of the house, when he was a teenager, to see AC/DC live back in the seventies. (eat your hearts out……) I have just had a listen to the Atlantic Studios recording you mentioned above and I must say my estimation of you and your judgement has been seriously lowered.
    Have you ever heard “If You Want Blood”. Admittedly, it is a faux “live” album but, bugger me (to use an Aussie euphemism), you must have excrement in your ears if you think that lame recording that you recommended is anywhere near “heavy”. That “record” (I am pretty sure it’s only available on CD) is unheard of here in Australia…….and for good reason. Anyway, Acca Dacca died when Bon died and this woeful fool fronting them now is a joke. It was all down hill after Back in Black and the only reason that sold was because of Bon Scott’s lyrics. As for the rest of your list…..Who, who and who?

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    • Where is any mention of this album above, or even of AC/DC?

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      • Hmmmmm…..excrement in your eyes too. Try situated between Aerosmith and Kiss (’74 – ’78). As for Jimmy Barnes, try the Cold Chisel album, “Swingshift”. Now that rocks!

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    • Hello! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The album was a DJ only vinyl album (until released on the Bonfire box set) and I do have a copy (albeit sadly an unofficial one) on vinyl. We all have different views and tastes, clearly, and listening is subjective. Sorry you didn’t enjoy the album as much as I do (and I do play it far more often than the also excellent “…If You Want Blood”). As for the list? If you don’t know who these acts are, then that’s kind of the point. Hopefully you’ll feel enthused enough to check one or two out.
      Feel free not to let me know what you think if you don’t like them, though.

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      • Of course I have heard them…..I have also heard several albums by The Ramones, Offspring, The Stems and many other fine bands. My rather blase comments about those listed can be attributed to what I consider to be a very run of the mill list. I understand you limited yourself to only 24, but I personally found the list to be just another comprised of “the usual suspects” and limited to the same hoary old chestnuts trundled out whenever such lists are compiled. Not all great “hard” rock is confined to the U.S and the U.K. Ever heard of The Nomads? How about The Hoodoo Gurus debut album? Google Dave Grohl’s comments about The Scientists and their influence on Nirvana. Check ’em out and expand your scope. Great site by the way. Long live vinyl!

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s the great thing about music – there’s always something new to be discovered. I shall check out your suggestions.

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  1. Rush – Why Moving Pictures is one of Rock’s Greatest Albums « Every record tells a story

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