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Essential Classic Rock Albums

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If you're new to classic rock, this is your starting place. These albums reflect the variety of musical styles that are found within the genre of classic rock. Choices are based on the continued popularity of the music and the artists, and the degree to which they define the genre. This list covers only a fraction of the best classic rock albums. It represents a recommended starting place for developing a full appreciation of the genre.

'Sticky Fingers' - Rolling Stones

Virgin Records
This was the first album recorded on the Rolling Stones' own label, the first in which Mick Taylor played guitar on all the tracks, and only the fourth to be released worldwide. Because it contains tracks recorded at various times between 1969 and 1971, it serves as a showcase of the band's work at a time when the group was shaping its musical identity.

'Who's Next' - The Who

MCA Records
If you're a fan of the various CSI TV shows, you're already familiar with two of the songs from this groundbreaking album by The Who: "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Baba O'Riley." Released in 1971, this was one the most technically advanced albums of its day, featuring some of the first use of an electronic synthesizer, and an acoustic engineering technique that gave the music a deep, full quality, even on AM radio.

'Led Zeppelin IV' - Led Zeppelin

Atlantic Records
Led Zeppelin's fourth album actually has no title that can be pronounced or reproduced with alphanumeric characters, consisting instead of a series of hand drawn symbols. The group could go hard, as with "Rock and Roll" or soft, as with "Stairway To Heaven," the song believed to have received the most radio airplay of all time. Because it represents the band's broad range of musical styles, this album (also sometimes known as Zoso or The Rune Album) is an essential.

'Wish You Were Here' - Pink Floyd

Although it has sold more than 13-million copies worldwide, this album wasn't as popular as The Wall or Dark Side of the Moon. It is significant because it is so indicative of Pink Floyd's intensely complicated musical compositions and its elaborate studio production. The title song was a tribute to founding member, Syd Barrett, who, by the time this album was released in September 1975 had left the group due to erratic behavior brought on by mental illness.
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'Revolver' - The Beatles

Capitol Records
This was the 13th of the 20 albums released in the United States by The Beatles. It was released in August 1966, roughly in the middle of the band's ten-year life. It is significant because it reflects both the style of their earlier work, and their first experiments with new stylistic elements that would become common in their later albums. Over the years, it has repeatedly received critical acclaim as one of the best albums of the era.

'After Bathing At Baxter's' - Jefferson Airplane

RCA Records
Jefferson Airplane's third album, released in 1967, is the quintessential psychedelic rock album. From its title, to its cover (which depicted a house as a whimsical flying machine) to quirky song titles like "The Ballad of You & Me and Pooneil" and "A Small Package of Value Will Come to You, Shortly" this album defined the psych rock genre.

'Eric Clapton'

Polydor Records
After the breakup of Cream in 1968, Eric Clapton wanted to get out of the spotlight, and signed on as a sideman with Delaney and Bonnie. Delaney Bramlett's encouragement led to this, Clapton's first solo album, released in 1970. Bramlett produced the album and also contributed his group as backup, and the song, "Bottle of Red Wine." The album is significant because it represents a turning point in Clapton's career as he began to get his chops as a singer.

'Electric Ladyland' - Jimi Hendrix

MCA Records
This album was released in 1968, when Jimi Hendrix was at the peak of his form. It was the legendary rock guitarist's only #1 album, and contains samples of his stylistic range, from blues to '50s rock to psychedelia. The album contains what many (including Dylan himself) believe is the best version ever recorded of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower."

'The Doors'

Atlantic Records
The debut album by The Doors was released in 1967. It contains the song for which the band is best known, "Light My Fire." The album's largely dark themes, combined with lead vocalist Jim Morrison's legendary wild lifestyle, set the tone for the rock genre for the next several years.

'Blonde On Blonde' - Bob Dylan

Sony Music
Bob Dylan's double album was also the first for the genre. It was released in 1966, and subsequently reissued in at least ten other forms, with changes in the way the tracks were mixed. It was recorded in Nashville, which was somewhat unique at the time, as was the fact that it appealed equally to music critics and music fans.
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