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Thread: Guitar World Ranks The 50 Greatest Guitar Albums

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    29) Reign In Blood, 1986 (Slayer)

    For their third full-length Slayer teamed up with producer Rick Rubin, who sharpened the guitars until they slashed and hacked like rusted razors, convinced Tom Araya to (mostly) ditch the castrato screams and instructed Dave Lombardo to beat his drums like Godzilla stomping out Tokyo. The result? An instant classic, bookended by two of metal’s most terrifying tunes: “Angel of Death,” the song responsible for Slayer’s being hit with Nazi sympathizer accusations for the past two decades, and “Raining Blood,” to this day still the band’s main set closer
    because, honestly, what the hell are you gonna follow it with?

    WHAT THEY SAID Kerry King: “When we started, nobody was doing what we did. Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth were all playing fast, but Reign in Blood was a new frontier.”



    28) OK Computer, 1997 (Radiohead)

    The fire and skill of Radiohead’s three-guitar frontline first drew major attention on 1995’s The Bends. Two years later, these Brits upped the ante with OK Computer, creating a captivating brand of space rock. While singer Thom Yorke handled the rhythm guitar parts, guitarist Jonny Greenwood took on the more “traditional” lead work (those freakazoid solos on the epic “Paranoid Android” are his doing) and Ed O’Brien specialized in wacky noises (that’s him pushing an AMS digital delay to its breaking point at the end of “Karma Police”). Lauded by critics, musicians and fans alike, OK Computer is arguably the most influential rock guitar album of the past decade.

    WHAT THEY SAID Jonny Greenwood: “Our ears get bored very quickly. Sometimes a guitar plugged into an amplifier isn’t really enough. So you hear sounds in your head, or on a record, and you say, ‘I want it to sound like this.’ And sometimes it won’t—I can’t play the trumpet, so it’s not going to sound like Miles Davis. But we aim for these things and end up with our own garbled version.”



    27) Moving Pictures, 1981 (Rush)

    A keyboard-heavy, new wave/hard rock amalgam, Moving Pictures contains no proggy sci-fi tunes about rebellious trees or Syrinx-dwelling priests. Instead, we get one song named after a Mark Twain character and another based on a short story about a freakin’ car. The thing is, both songs— “Tom Sawyer” and “Red Barchetta,”
    respectively—totally rule, as does the crunchy, crystalline “Limelight,” which features a stellar wang barabusing solo by Alex Lifeson. Add the Morse code cribbing instrumental “YYZ,” and you have that rare beast that classic rock radio used to refer to as the Perfect Album Side.

    WHAT THEY SAID Alex Lifeson: “If we’ve influenced a generation of bands or musicians, it’s because they look at Rush and think, Here’s a band that wasn’t popular in a mainstream way, yet they’ve been around for 30 years.”



    26) Alive!, 1975 (Kiss)

    Although renowned for their elaborate stage shows that filled arenas, Kiss’ albums were stiffing. Shrewdly, the band recorded Alive!, an album that packed all of the excitement of their live act into a two-record set. Listeners got the feeling that they were front-row center for white-hot takes on “Deuce,” “Strutter,” “Black Diamond” and “Cold Gin.” So vivid were the performances, one could almost smell the smoke emanating from Ace Frehley’s guitar. The live version of the previously released “Rock and Roll All Nite” became a radio staple, making Alive! a massive hit and perhaps the first album that inspired basement tailgate parties. Gene Simmons’ ego (and bank account) would never be the same.

    WHAT THEY SAID Gene Simmons: “The record exploded and immediately the world changed for us. For the next three years straight, we were the number-one band in the Gallup Poll, above the Beatles and everyone else. It quickly became larger than life. And all you had to do was look out into the audience and see everyone with painted faces to understand it.”



    25) Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?, 1986 (Megadeth)

    Recorded with the assistance of massive amounts of drugs and booze, Megadeth’s sophomore album and commercial breakthrough cemented Dave Mustaine’s status as both thrash metal’s blackest sheep and baddest dude. Tracks like “Wake Up Dead,” “Devil’s Island” and the MTV fave “Peace Sells” are fueled by his sneering vocals, piss-and-vinegar lyrics and rapid-fire riffs, and fortified with technically dizzying performances by fusion guitar whiz Chris Poland and jazzbo drummer Gar Samuelson. The cover of Willie Dixon’s “I Ain’t Superstitious” may be a tad blasphemous, but no more so than the band’s subsequent slaughtering of “Anarchy in the U.K.”

    WHAT THEY SAID Dave Mustaine: “I don’t care what anybody says; they can talk shit about me all they want. I’ve accomplished more in my career than most people can do in two or three lifetimes.”



    24) Rising Force, 1984 (Yngwie J. Malmsteen)

    In the Eighties, very few guitarists could make Edward Van Halen quiver in his Converse, but of all the great players that emerged from that decade, Swedish-born Yngwie J. Malmsteen came the closest. Like Van Halen, Yngwie rewrote the book on rock soloing. By combining a distinctly Bach-influenced compositional style with the raw psychedelic fury of Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore, he created a new language that has been adopted by at least three decades of metal guitar virtuosos.

    Malmsteen’s razzle-dazzle technique is evident on all of his albums, but Rising Force, his first release with his own band, is considered his best and most
    revolutionary. Never before had a rock guitarist played with such breathtaking speed and precision. Yngwie’s gonzo command of exotic scales, sweep-arpeggios and chromatic runs was every bit as innovative as Van Halen’s use of tapping and false harmonics. And even though Yngwie’s larger-than-life personality and huge ego is the stuff of legends, this recording proves he’s always had the goods to back up his biggest brag.

    WHAT THEY SAID Yngwie Malmsteen: “ ‘Black Star’ and ‘Far Beyond the Sun’ from that album sort of sum up my style. There are fast runs, slow harmonies and some really nice arpeggios in them. I’ll probably play those songs until the day I die.”



    23) Who's Next, 1971 (The Who)

    In the early Seventies, still buzzing from the success of Tommy, Pete Townshend labored long and hard on an elaborate concept piece called Lifehouse. Embracing everything from Sufi mysticism to avant-garde electronic composition, it proved unrealizable, even for a supergroup of the Who’s stature. So the band took nine of the best songs from the project, went into the studio with producer Glynn Johns and emerged with one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time. From the skittering synth telepathy that kicks off “Baba O’Riley” to the final crashing power chords of “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” this is rock on an epic scale, and an album that captures Townshend, singer Roger Daltrey, bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon at the height of their formidable powers.

    WHAT THEY SAID Pete Townshend: “I’d been fucking damaged by the Lifehouse project. In the end I had an actual nervous breakdown. So by the time we were in the studio making Who’s Next, we had great music and we were playing great because we’d already recorded the album something, like, 15 fucking times!”



    22) Wish You Were Here, 1975 (Pink Floyd)

    A lot was resting on Pink Floyd’s collective shoulders as they entered EMI’s Abbey Road Studios in 1975 to make Wish You Were Here. Their previous album, Dark Side of the Moon, had been a massive success, and the pressure was on them to come up with something just as remarkable, both artistically and commercially. Bassist Roger Waters and drummer Nick Mason were working through
    marital strained relations, which would end in divorce for both couples. Within Abbey Road, Waters and guitarist David Gilmour were quarreling over musical direction—the early stages of a friction that flared into an all-out conflagration by the time the group made The Wall some four years later.

    In these volatile relationships, Waters found his grand theme for Wish You Were Here: the music business itself, and its tendency to crush the dreams of those who pursue fame, fortune and a chance at creative self-expression. As in the past, Waters made the central figure of the piece Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd’s original leader, who had had cracked under the pressure of stardom and become too mentally unstable to continue with the group. It is Barrett who served as the inspiration for Waters’ “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” a messianic martyr to the soulless mechanisms of the music biz. The ominous “Welcome to the Machine” and the unctuously disquieting “Have a Cigar” rank among Waters’ darkest compositions. But David Gilmour’s yearning lead guitar lines shoot rays of light and glimpses of hope throughout the album. His playing on the epic “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” which both opens and closes the album, ranks among his greatest guitar work. As is often the case in Pink Floyd’s oeuvre, Waters and Gilmour manage to counterbalance one another with yin/yang poise.

    In “Wish You Were Here,” Waters calls out to the absent Barrett, evoking him as a comrade and counterpart. (After Barrett’s departure, the job of leading Pink Floyd fell to Waters.) And while Waters’ concepts and lyrics would see the band through numerous artistic triumphs, here he seems keenly aware of the dangers of falling over the edge.

    WHAT THEY SAID David Gilmour: “Wish You Were Here is about the feeling we were left with at the end of Dark Side, that feeling of ‘What do you do when you’ve done everything?’ But I think we got over that. And for me, Wish You Were Here is the most satisfying album. I really love it. I mean, I’d rather listen to that than Dark Side of the Moon, because I think we achieved a better balance of music and lyrics on Wish You Were Here.”



    21) Rage Against the Machine, 1992 (Rage Against the Machine)

    They came out of L.A. at the dawn of the Nineties. The aptly named Rage Against the Machine combined the ghetto anger of hip-hop and the testosterone fury of metal with a keenly felt political mandate to champion the oppressed and fight the abuses of privilege and power. It was a new and exciting concept back then, and what really drove the point home was the fiercely disruptive guitar work of a Harvard educated young Marxist named Tom Morello. The napalm cry of exploding bombs, the jagged rhythm of strafing machine guns—Morello wrought seemingly impossible sounds with his ax and became an innovative and radical force in metal, as Hendrix and Van Halen had before him.

    WHAT THEY SAID Tom Morello: “Rather than being influenced by other guitarists, my playing in Rage was more influenced by hip-hop and techno DJs. The rhythmic freedom they have to drop sounds into a track. That’s what I aspired to.”



    20) Surfing with the Alien, 1987 (Joe Satriani)

    Peaking at No. 29, Surfing with the Alien was the first instrumental rock guitar record to crack the Billboard album charts since the Ventures’ Sixties heyday, but, as its title suggests, this was surf music from another galaxy altogether. From the new millennium blues of “Satch Boogie” to the cosmic lyricism of “Always with Me, Always with You,” Satriani dared to boldly go where no Shrapnel label artist had gone before by injecting harmony, humor and humanity into his outrageous displays of technique. Unlike Jeff Beck on his jazz-inspired Wired and Blow by Blow albums, Satch aimed below the belt instead of at the brain, rocking out with balls-to-the-wall abandon.

    WHAT THEY SAID Joe Satriani: “ ‘Satch Boogie’ was intended as an instrumental guitar “barn burner’ in the great tradition of tunes like ‘Jeff’s Boogie’ by Jeff Beck or ‘Steppin’ Out’ by Eric Clapton.”

    19) Exile on Main St., 1972 (The Rolling Stones)

    The Stones were on a roll in the early Seventies, riding out a long creative streak. It all peaked at Keith Richards’ rented villa in the south of France amid scenes of rock-star decadence and epic consumption of intoxicants and drugs, including heroin. Exile on Main St. is a sprawling double-disc set that distills the Stones’ itchy blend of raw blues voodoo, shit-kickin’ country honk, world-weary balladry and dirty old rock and roll. Richards was wasted on smack but in top musical form, nonetheless, and coguitarist Mick Taylor was fitting like a glove. Exile was a perfect moment in the summertime of rock that would never again be equaled by the Stones—or anyone else.

    WHAT THEY SAID Keith Richards: “Mick Taylor’s a really shy guy. I wouldn’t say that you ever get to know him. I don’t think anybody does. But probably the closest I ever got to Mick was playing guitar on Exile on Main St.”



    18) Blood Sugar Sex Magik, 1991 (The Red Hot Chili Peppers)

    It came out of a haunted mansion in the Hollywood Hills—the album that established the Red Hot Chili Peppers as major-league contenders in the game of rock. By this point, the Peppers had survived the Eighties L.A. punk scene, a head-spinning succession of personnel changes and the death of founding guitarist Hillel Slovak. But now they had John Frusciante in the fold, not to mention producer Rick Rubin, who worked with the band for the first time on Blood Sugar Sex Magik. There would be no Rage Against the Machine, nor any rap metal, without Blood Sugar’s amalgam of funk, metal and hip-hop vocalizing.

    WHAT THEY SAID Flea: “That was the beginning of a new era for us. Breaking into the mainstream was a real change in our lives. Also it was a time when John brought a whole new concept into the band as a guitar player and songwriter. It suddenly gave us so much more to draw from—a bigger launch pad for us all to get launched into outer space from.”

    Frusciante: “Following the great creative peak of recording Blood Sugar, the positive feelings I had had began to dissipate.”



    17) The Number of the Beast, 1982 (Iron Maiden)

    “You know when astrologers talk about a planetary lineup?” Iron Maiden’s foghorn-in-chief Bruce Dickinson once mused. “Like, ‘this conjunction only happens once in a blue moon’ sort of thing? What you have with Number of the Beast is the musical equivalent.” The metaphor, while extravagant, was and is absolutely right. Released in 1982, Maiden’s third album marked the moment when all the pieces fell into place for the British band.

    Prior to its recording, Iron Maiden were a band in transition. Paul Di’anno, the group’s volatile frontman, walked out after the world tour for Maiden’s second album, Killers. While his departure lessened the group’s internal friction, it also left a sizable void. Di’anno wasn’t the ideal metal singer— his stage presence owed more to the snarl and spittle of punk—but he was a vital ingredient in the band’s growing success. Now, the remaining members—bassist Steve Harris, guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, and drummer Clive Burr—faced the challenge of building upon their accomplishments with an unproven frontman.

    What happened next is the stuff of modern mythology. Dickinson, then the singer in Samson, had been watching Maiden from the pit on their tours—and thinking that he could do a rather better job of fronting them. Word of his talent and aspirations reached Maiden’s manager, who tracked him down at the Reading Festival and subsequently signed him to the band’s lead singer slot.

    The Beast lineup was in place, consolidated by the return of Martin Birch, the production legend who had given Killers its muscle and whose past clients included Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. With little more than a desire to make a record that would maintain their career trajectory, Maiden headed into the Battery Studios to start work. When they lef, they were armed with what many consider the most important metal album of the decade.

    The Number of the Beast was anything but a lobotomized metal juggernaut. Thanks in part to Dickinson—who, alongside his abilities as a vocalist, was obsessed with military history, fencing and literature—the new album combined its aggression with imagination and an awareness of culture. The title track, for instance, was based on Tam O’ Shanter, a Robert Burns poem that Harris had read at school. “The Prisoner” was inspired by the cult Sixties TV program of the same name (and required the band’s manager Rod Smallwood to seek permission from Patrick McGoohan to sample the dialog). Meanwhile, the reflective “Children of
    the Damned” combined lyrics inspired by the classic horror film with Harris’ love of prog-rock time signatures. Inevitably, Maiden’s detractors ignored Beast’s kaleidoscope of subjects in their rush to condemn it as a youth-corrupting work of Satanism. Some burned the record in mass bonfires; others battered it into shards with hammers. As the band toured the U.S. in support of the album, protesters showed up at gigs, dragging crosses and handing out leaflets. “Americans do tend to be over the top about things like that,” says Harris.

    Fortunately, the hand wringing of the minority could not change the fact that Maiden had found their audience. Even with no airplay and little marketing, The Number of the Beast reached 33 on the Billboard Pop charts, earning a Gold disc the following year and going Platinum a few years later, setting up the band for the hallowed position they occupy to this day.



    16) The Essential Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, 2002 (Stevie Ray Vaughan)

    Stevie Ray Vaughan had a tremendous impact in his too-brief career, which featured just four studio albums and one live recording. From the moment his debut, Texas Flood, hit the streets in 1983, Vaughan made the world safe again for old-school blues-based rock and simultaneously took the music he loved into the future. His impassioned, yet highly technical, style altered the perceived parameters of virtuoso guitar playing. This two-CD collection features 33 of his best tracks, each beautifully remastered, and makes an excellent starting point for anyone who wants to dig into this modern master.

    WHAT THEY SAID Stevie Ray Vaughan: “If people tell me they don’t want to hear a blues band because it brings them down, they’re not paying attention at all. I like a lot of different kinds of music, but if it doesn’t have any soul I can’t relate to it.”



    15) Ten, 1991 (Pearl Jam)

    Although Pearl Jam rose from the ashes of Mother Love Bone (whose singer, Andrew Wood, overdosed on heroin), Ten didn’t explode out of the box. That would be the case with Nirvana’s major-label debut, Nevermind. Slowly, however, radio programmers in search of acceptable “grunge” to play alongside Led Zeppelin, U2 and Guns N’ Roses started spinning tracks like “Alive” and “Even Flow.” What they discovered were songs that sounded great anytime, anywhere. Between the urgent, highly distinctive timbre of Eddie Vedder’s voice and the emotionally charged guitar playing of Mike McCready and Stone Gossard, commitment poured from Pearl Jam. Music fans who viewed other grunge acts as too aloof (or just too damned weird) suddenly had new heroes.

    WHAT THEY SAID Mike McCready: “Eddie’s lyrics are extremely honest. People can tap into that. They know something real is coming from that. He’s a man full of conviction. That comes in his singing and writing, and hopefully our music backs that up.”



    14) Aenima, 1996 (Tool)

    Their 1993 debut, Undertow, was harsh and compelling, but Tool paved their more experimental future with Aenima, their sophomore outing. The band’s first major foray into epic structures and unconventional arrangements, Aenima showed that prog-metal needn’t sound like Dream Theater or Porcupine Tree. While the songs are technical and challenging, they’re also suffused with enough mystery and emotion that they don’t resemble music lessons. Guitarist Adam
    Jones plays an equal balance of crushing chords, jagged riffage and ominous noodling, and the unusual time signatures and sprawling passages keep the tension in the songs building until the fierce, climactic release.

    WHAT THEY SAID Maynard James Keenan: “The record is written so that there are layers to get into. It’s about unity—realizing that everything is connected. It’s about breaking down the process of pointing the finger.”



    13) Blizzard of Ozz, 1980 (Ozzy Osbourne)

    The album that introduced Randy Rhoads to the world (the previous two albums he made with Quiet Riot came out only in Japan), Blizzard of Ozz set the template for the shreddin’ Eighties with its combination of NWOBHM aggression and Hollywood flash. Rhoads burst onto the scene as the most unique and influential rock guitar hero since Eddie Van Halen, distilling inspiration from Ritchie Blackmore, Van Halen and classical maestro Andres Segovia while placing his tasteful personal stamp on “I Don’t Know,” “Crazy Train” and the acoustic solo centerpiece “Dee.” Osbourne may have rescued Rhoads from obscurity, but Randy made Ozzy a star.

    WHAT THEY SAID Randy Rhoads: “We were just thrown together on that album. It wasn’t planned out; whatever came out was purely inspiration.”



    12) ...And Justice For All, 1988 (Metallica)

    When Metallica entered Los Angeles’ One On One studios with producer Flemming Rasmussen in early 1988, they were, musically speaking, at the height of their powers, having achieved critical and mass acceptance with Master of Puppets. Emotionally, it was a whole different story. James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett and Lars Ulrich were shattered from the death of bassist Cliff Burton two years earlier and still had not (did they ever?) completely gelled with his replacement, Jason Newsted. The new music they brought to the recording sessions—crude and jittery, incredibly aggressive and complex, and occasionally lacking direction—reflected the band members’ bruised psyches. Justice’s nine marathon-length songs (which at the time had to be issued on two separate slabs of vinyl) are full of unexpected compositional quirks, among them jarring tempo shifts and musical transitions, multiple key changes, odd-metered time signatures, awkwardly grouped note patterns and long, labyrinthine instrumental sections. Hetfield’s lyrics, meanwhile, are among his most nihilistic, from the apocalyptic “Blackened” (“Evolution’s end/never will it mend”) to the blistering “Dyer’s Eve,” a pointed depiction of a damaged upbringing (his own?) at the hands of callous parents.

    And then there’s the album’s overall sound: Rasmussen’s wonky production almost entirely squeezes out the bass guitar, leaving only Hetfield’s vocals, the heavily scooped six-strings and Ulrich’s clicky drums to carry the load. Many reasons for the absence of low end have been offered over the years: Newsted merely doubled all of Hetfield’s riffs, rendering his bass indistinguishable from the guitars; it ws
    intentional "hazing" directed at the new kid by his bandmaates; and so
    on. Whatever the reason, the production on Justice-harsh, unsettling and bone dry-accentuates the music's raw-nerve intensity.

    For all of its idiosyncrasies, Justice quickly eclipsed the success of Master of Puppets upon its release. This was in large part due to the overwhelming popularity of the power ballad “One.” With lyrics based on the gruesome antiwar novel Johnny Got His Gun and accompanied by a disturbing video (the band's first) that featured clips from the 1971 film adaptation of the book, the song made Metallica unlikely MTV darlings. Nominated for a Grammy in the category of "Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal," Metallica infamously lost out to aging British rockers Jethro Tull. Talk about disturbing.

    But …And Justice for All is not significant for these moments of mainstream triumph. Rather, it is a remarkably raw and uncompromising document of a band exorcising their demons, as well as the sound of thrash metal pioneers taking the music they helped to create as far as possible before washing their hands clean of the whole damn thing for good.

    WHAT THEY SAID James Hetfield: “The idea for the opening on ‘One’ came from a Venom song called ‘Buried Alive.’ The kick drum machine-gun part at the end wasn’t written with the war lyrics in mind, it just came out that way.”

    Kirk Hammett: “I had only eight days to record all my leads for the album because we were heading out on the Monsters of Rock tour. With ‘One,’ the first solo went fine, but I had trouble with the second lead. I did the third one in a couple of hours. I worked out the tapping thing at the beginning, and from there it flowed very well, I think because I was so pissed off about the second solo.”



    11) Cowboys From Hell, 1990 (Pantera)

    The first Pantera record to be heard by anyone outside of the Lone Star State, Cowboys from Hell was also the first to fully capture the hard-swinging, head-pummeling interplay of guitarist Diamond Darrell (soon to be renamed Dimebag) and his older brother, drummer Vinnie Paul. Songs like “Primal Concrete Sledge,” “Cemetery Gates” and “Cowboys from Hell” kicked shit and kicked ass in equal measures, while Dime’s soulful shredding and Texas-sized riffs served notice that here indeed was a young gunslinger to be reckoned with. This was extreme metal before the term existed.

    WHAT THEY SAID Terry Date, Cowboys producer: “I think we won’t see another guitar player with Dime’s kind of creativity and passion for his instrument for a long, long time, if ever.”



    10) Revolver, 1966 (The Beatles)

    The Beatles had already altered the course of music forever by the time they set out to record Revolver. What they had yet to do was create an album that reflected their growth and maturity as composers and recording artists. Revolver filled that void, and did so in remarkable fashion, reflecting both the band members’ emerging consciousness, via LSD, and the changing cultural landscape. Pop art, drugs, free love, Dylan, politics, the I Ching, the sounds of the Far East and the West Coast—Revolver refracted these influences, and more, with such stunning alacrity that it was hard to tell which was moving faster, society or the Beatles. The studio innovations used to create Revolver loom large in Beatles lore. What lasts, however, are the songs: “Taxman,” “Here, There and Everywhere,” and the endlessly fascinating “Tomorrow Never Knows” are standouts in rock’s first bona fide work of art.

    WHAT THEY SAID John Lennon: “We’d had acid on Revolver.
    Everybody is under this illusion—even George Martin was saying, ‘Pepper was their first acid album.’ But we’d had acid, including Paul, by the time Revolver was finished.”
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    9) Physical Graffiti, 1975 (Led Zeppelin)

    Daring, Sprawling, and enthusiastically eccentric, Physical Graffiti is one of the most beloved of all Led Zeppelin albums and also the most misunderstood. To many, its synthesis of funk and Eastern music into the Hammer of the Gods Zeppelin thunder is a joy to behold, the sound of a band realizing there are no limits to its powers. To others, the album is dense and frustrating, stuffed with filler. By any measure, it’s an artistic gamble, full of detours and moments of supreme triumph and quirky experimentation. And like all successful double albums, it captures the unique personality of each band member. That nary of trace of caution can be found on the record is a testament to the band’s unwavering belief in its craft.

    Although the bulk of Physical Graffiti resulted from recording sessions at Headley Grange in 1974, some of the tracks had been waiting for a home for years. The instrumental “Bron-Yr-Aur” was recorded at Island Studios in London and was originally tagged for Led Zeppelin III. “Night Flight” and “Boogie with Stu” (as in Ian Stewart, who played on “Rock and Roll”) were cut during the Led Zeppelin IV sessions. “The Rover” and “Black Country Woman” were recorded at Stargroves, Mick Jagger’s house in Newbury, Berkshire, and were originally pegged for Houses of the Holy. Despite such gaps in time, the tracks, once assembled in a playing order, seemed to meld together as if by some grand, magical design.

    “Trampled Underfoot,” “Houses of the Holy,” “Custard Pie” and “The Rover” rock the sure-shot like nobody’s business. The 11-minute “In My Time of Dying” is some of the heaviest Delta-style blues Zeppelin ever laid down. But Physical Graffiti’s signature track is the wondrous “Kashmir.” With Page’s tense, unyielding DADGAD chord pattern, John Paul Jones’ “Arabian string symphony,” John Bonham’s steady 4/4 beat against the 3/4 riff, and Plant’s surrealistic lyrics (written while driving through the Sahara Desert in Morocco, far from Kashmir, which is located between Central and South Asia), the song is a spellbinding monolith that sends tendrils of anxiety in all directions. In many ways, it distills the essence of Led Zeppelin: dramatic, epic, bewitching and fiery till the end.

    WHAT THEY SAID Jimmy Page: “It just made sense for Physical Graffiti to be a double. There may have been double and even triple albums by other bands at the time, but I didn’t really care, because ours was going to be better than any of them.”



    8) Nevermind, 1991 (Nirvana)

    The grunge revolution started with Nirvana’s 1991 breakthrough album. Nevermind united the sludgy distortion of metal with punk rock’s “who gives a fuck?” attitude. The anguished voice and guitar of frontman Kurt Cobain encapsulated the hopeless frustrations of the Ritalin generation. The arrangements were violent mood swings—somnambulistic verses buoyed by clean, watery guitar tones that then exploded into screaming, distorted choruses. Cobain’s suicide a few years later lent dramatic emphasis to Nevermind’s troubled cry for help. From the Warped Tour to Ozzfest, rock music is still working out the implications.

    WHAT THEY SAID Dave Grohl: “I was in awe of what was happening with Nevermind. I was in awe of those songs. And intimidated. I didn’t feel like my own songs were anywhere near the ones that we were doing. When you’re in a band with somebody like Kurt, who’s an amazing songwriter, you do anything you can to keep from polluting the songwriting process. I thought, I don’t want to be the person responsible for ruining these songs. There’s a famous old joke: ‘What was the last thing the drummer said before they kicked him out of the band? “Hey guys, I got a new song I just wrote.” ’ ”



    7) Van Halen, 1978 (Van Halen)

    There is no exact accounting of the number of guitarists who crapped their pants upon hearing “Eruption,” the second track on Van Halen’s self-titled debut. but the safe money is on “a lot.” Yet, while Edward Van Halen brought boys back to the electric guitar in droves, what’s often overlooked is what Van Halen brought to the party: girls. Perhaps it was Eddie’s Cheshire-cat grin or frontman David Lee Roth’s over-the-top bravado. More than likely, it was the songs. “Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love,” “Jamie’s Cryin’ ” and the band’s riotous remake of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” rocked like a nonstop wet T-shirt contest, allowing the little girls to finally understand what the guys knew all along—that metal was fun.

    WHAT THEY SAID Eddie Van Halen: “ ‘Eruption’ wasn’t even supposed to be on the album. I showed up at the recording studio early one day and started to warm up. I had a gig that weekend and I wanted to practice my solo guitar spot. Our producer, Ted Templeman, happened to walk by and he asked, ‘What’s that? Let’s put it on tape!’




    6) Paranoid, 1970 (Black Sabbath)

    A primal howl of fear and loathing at a time when it was far more fashionable to sing gentle acoustic songs about “getting back to the garden,” Black Sabbath’s second album perfectly captured the rage, confusion and, yes, paranoia of the Vietnam era. Tony Iommi’s stump-fingered leads and down-tuned riffs provided the perfect platform for songs about war-mongering generals, boots-wearing skinheads and nuclear fallout, and set the standard against which all heavy music
    would forever be judged. And with the title track, a three-chord classic dashed off as last-minute album filler, Sabbath presaged the coming of punk rock.

    WHAT THEY SAID Ozzy Osbourne: “Tony Iommi, in my opinion, is the most underrated guitar player on the face of the earth. And if you take into consideration that he plays with plastic tips on the end of his fret fingers—I mean, how the fuck can you feel where you are?”



    5) Dark Side of the Moon, 1973 (Pink Floyd)

    Pink Floyd’s 1973 masterpiece is an epic musical rumination on time, money, war and madness. It’s the album on which Pink Floyd found their identity a second time, having lost their leader and guitarist, Syd Barrett, to insanity in 1968. With Dark Side, bassist Roger Waters emerged as the band’s sole lyricist and chief conceptualist, while David Gilmour blossomed as a deeply expressive guitarist, one whose soaring style has become an indispensable part of rock. Dark Side classics like “Money,” “Us and Them” and “Breathe” have gone into perpetual heavy rotation all around the world.

    WHAT THEY SAID Roger Waters: “I knew there had to be a song about money on the album. Having decided that, it was extremely easy to make up the seven-beat intro that went with it. I often think the best ideas are the most obvious ones.”



    4) Master Of Puppets, 1986 (Metallica)

    It could be said that Master of Puppets was the realization of all the promise Metallica, and thrash metal music in general, had previously hinted at, but who knew either was capable of so much? Metallica, for starters. Puppets features requisite barnstormers like “Battery” and “Damage, Inc.,” but elsewhere, particularly on the tremendous title track, the band plays metal as modern-day classical music, offering up harmonically and structurally complex arrangements that convey a stunning range of ideas and emotions. It’s a masterfully executed statement of purpose, and it is still thrash metal’s finest moment.

    WHAT THEY SAID Kirk Hammett: “I really felt that Master of Puppets was the album that defined that lineup—James, Lars, Cliff and I. We had gotten to know each other’s musical capabilities and temperaments over the three-year period we’d been together, and every song we came up with was another great conception.”



    3) Are You Experienced, 1967 (Jimi Hendrix)

    The first Jimi Hendrix album was one of the most stunning debuts of 1967, a year packed with amazing new artists and album releases. The world had never seen anyone quite like James Marshall Hendrix. His flamboyant electric-gypsy image wowed the ladies, while his astounding guitar technique had greats like Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend scratching their heads in wonderment as they stood on the floors of Swinging London’s hippest nightspots and took in early gigs by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

    When he arrived in London in September 1966, Hendrix was an unknown young American guitarist, broke and scrambling for a break. He quickly assembled a killer band consisting of veteran British musicians Mitch Mitchell, on drums, and Noel Redding, on bass. The trio began laying down tracks for their first two singles, “Hey Joe” and “Purple Haze,” plus other tunes that would emerge on Are You Experienced. Working on a tight budget, they booked sessions at a variety of London studios during downtime, to get a cheap rate. But once Hendrix secured a U.S. record deal with Warner Bros., sessions moved to Olympic Studios, then the hot new facility in London and soon to host the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and the Who, among others.

    Released in May 1967, Are You Experienced was a stylistic tour de force. Hendrix artfully fused his blues and R&B roots with the amped-up excitement of the new psychedelic sounds then starting to emerge from both London and San Francisco. His boldly unique guitar tone came from a combination of elements. On Pete Townshend’s advice, he’d started using 100-watt Marshall and Hiwatt amp stacks, powerful gear that had only recently come on the market. These were combined with a right-handed Fender Stratocaster that the left-handed Hendrix played “upside down,” with the strings reversed so that the low and high strings were in a different relationship than usual to the Strat’s slanted bridge pickup. In the studio, Hendrix employed a variety of techniques, including “backward guitar,” a tape effect that had been pioneered by the Beatles but which Hendrix took to new heights on Are You Experienced’s title track. Psychedelic manifestos like “Are You Experienced?” “Purple Haze,” “Manic Depression” and “Third Stone from the Sun” captured the hallucinogenic mood of the hippie movement, just then peaking in 1967s Summer of Love. But the music remains just as vital and popular today.

    FUN FACT Jimi’s amps were so loud that the bank above London’s De Lane Lea Studios complained that the high-volume vibrations were disrupting their computer system.

    FUN FACT Hendrix manager Chas Chandler, formerly bassist with the successful beat group the Animals, had to pawn his bass to pay for early Jimi Hendrix Experience studio sessions.

    WHAT THEY SAID Recording Engineer Eddie Kramer: “Once we got to Olympic, Jimi really got a chance to stretch out. The sounds become deeper. The drum sounds improved. Originally, we recorded four-track with mono drums on one track, the bass on another, the guitar on the third and Jimi’s voice on the fourth. But when we got to Olympic, I’d record stereo drums, bass and guitar on one four-track machine and then bounce that down to two tracks of a second four-track machine, which gave us two more tracks for overdubs.”



    2) Appetite For Destruction, 1987 (Guns N' Roses)

    Before he became a wacky-looking white guy with shaved eyebrows and cornrows, Axl Rose was the real deal: a Sunset Strip–stridin’, Jackswillin’, coke-tootin’ rock and roller. His band at the time (which, in addition to Axl, included guitarists Slash and Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagen and drummer Steven Adler) was the real deal, too, living the wasted rock star lifestyle with such earnest determination that you’d think they invented it. They also played lacerating music that was tough, ugly and sometimes misogynistic, and when they did, they were fucking giants.

    Rock was in a sorry-ass state in the mid Eighties. Bon Jovi was riding his steel horse, Van Halen had turned into the mainstream Van Hagar, and that’s about all she wrote. As Slash recalls: “When we had to go up against whatever was going on at the time, there were no gritty rock bands, and we were sort of a break-through rock band, sort of a fluke in a way.” Appetite for Destruction was released on July 21, 1987, to raging apathy. Radio and MTV showed no love at all. A year after the album’s release, David Geffen, convinced of the album’s appeal, got on the horn and begged MTV to play “Welcome to the Jungle.” He didn’t have to beg twice. Once music fans got a look at Guns N’ Roses, they liked what they saw: five tough dudes who weren’t all gussied up like Cinderella or some other pussy band.

    And the record? Forget about it. “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Paradise City,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “It’s So Easy”—this was raw, hard-driving, classic-sounding rock and roll. The riffs were heavy, the solos soaring, and that Axl had some voice on him. It was metallic enough for metalheads but melodic enough for the chicks. Glam Metal kids weren’t embarrassed to be seen with it, yet Bob Seger fans could drink beer to it. Suddenly, everybody loved Guns N’ Roses. Twenty-five million everybodys, in fact.

    Five years later, of course, the band imploded. Slash and Duff are now part of Velvet Revolver, Steven Adler is M.I.A., Axl is still promising Chinese Democracy, and Izzy recently joined Axl onstage at a New York City Guns N’ Roses show. But for many music fans, Appetite for Destruction remains a desert-island disc, a powerful one-off from a band that could have had the world.

    WHAT THEY SAID Slash: “In the early Guns days the solos were a little bit more thought out, I have to admit. As time goes by, I realize that when solo sections get a little bit complex, it gets to sound a bit corny.”

    FUN FACT When signing with Geffen Records, Axl Rose revealed to A&R exec Tom Zutaut that he promised a female A&R scout from Chrysalis Records that he would sign with her if she walked naked down Sunset Boulevard. A nervous Zutaut spent three days watching Sunset Boulevard from his office window.

    FUN FACT For the Appetite sessions, Slash did not play a Gibson ’59 Les Paul Standard, as is commonly assumed. Instead, the guitarist relied on a Les Paul Standard copy built by a luthier in Redondo Beach.



    1) Led Zeppelin IV, 1971 (Led Zeppelin)

    Call it Led Zeppelin IV, Four Symbols, Runes, Sticks, Zoso, Four or even Untitlted. By any name, Zeppelin's fourth effort is widely considered rock's Holy Grail, fusing hard rock, Celtic folk, boogie-woogie rock and roll and blues into one staggering, beguiling, epochal, masterpiece. (For the record, Jimmy Page has been known to refer to it as simply Led Zeppelin IV.)

    The album was released in the States on November 6, 1971 (November 19 in the U.K.), and for Led Zeppelin, the timing couldn’t have been better. The public’s tepid response to the folky, acoustic-drenched Led Zeppelin III was a letdown, considering the wild reception that greeted the band’s smash-hit predecessors. (And forget the music press, which famously hated the band.) Zeppelin needed to come back strong.

    Led Zeppelin IV was rehearsed and partly recorded at Headley Grange, a two-story, mostly stone structure, built in 1795 and located in the village of Headley in eastern Hampshire, England. While the rest of the band initially balked at the less-than-luxurious conditions, Jimmy Page was smitten: “Right from the early days of working at Headley Grange, it was very, very spooky. It had been a workhouse. The whole place was very grey and damp. There was no heating...I thought it was fantastic!”

    While the old country workhouse undoubtedly influenced laidback numbers like "The Battle of Evermore" and "Going to California," Jimmy Page found that the 18th-century structure's acoustics perfectly suited rockers like "Black Dog," "Rock and Roll" (featuring an uncredited Ian Stewart on piano) and "Four Sticks." When it came time to track "When the Levee Breaks," Page had John Bonham set up his drum kit in the stone stairway that connected the floors. The resulting sound is one no studio in the world has been able to replicate.

    Of course, the album’s apogee is “Stairway to Heaven,” renowned as much for Robert Plant’s curlicue poetry as for Jimmy Page’s fluid compositional structure. Remarkably, what has become radio’s most-requested song came together late one night in the most relaxed of settings. As Robert Plant recalls, “It was done fairly quickly… Jimmy and I just sat down by the fire and came up with a song which was later developed by the rest of the band in the studio.”

    Thirty-five years after its release, Led Zeppelin IV stands as a marvel of rock record making. The music comes at you from all directions: Jimmy Page’s limitless array of riffs, Robert Plant’s air-raid screams, John Bonham’s chest-pounding drumming and John Paul Jones’ Rock of Gibraltar bass playing. It is as powerful, magical and oddly elusive today as when it first appeared.

    WHAT THEY SAID Jimmy Page: “We were recording something else—I can’t remember what it was...and John Bonham just started playing the opening bars of ‘Keep a Knockin’,’ by Little Richard. I heard that and just started playing what you know as the riff of ‘Rock and Roll.’ The other song was just totally forgotten about and we did ‘Rock and Roll’ in a matter of minutes.”

  3. Thanked Full Bug for this KICKASS post:

    Panamark (02-20-2009)


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    Thanks Bug, good read..
    As always I dont agree with the placements, and they
    also forgot a few. But the albums listed are good'uns.
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    I didn't do an exact count, But I think I own 80% of those albums. Definitely all of the top 10. And while I don't agree with the ranking, at least its a more realistic list than most of the shit lists put out by Spin, Rolling Stone or other so called "rock" magazines.
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    Agreed with Panamark on some of the placings, but suppose that's a matter of personal choice.

    Classic Rock is one of the better rock magazines these days...my own personal feeling is that back in the day, CREEM magazine took a big dump on Rolling Stone, even if it wasn't as popular.
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    ll of us

    Quote Originally Posted by FORD View Post
    I didn't do an exact count, But I think I own 80% of those albums. Definitely all of the top 10. And while I don't agree with the ranking, at least its a more realistic list than most of the shit lists put out by Spin, Rolling Stone or other so called "rock" magazines.

    thanks "Full bug", All of Us Who like music have at home more 10 albums of this list.
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    3 Metallica albums listed but no Venom?

    Another sponored placement ad. I'm getting sick of these plastic polls, they're useless.
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    And where the fuck is Michael Schenker Group's first album from this list?
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    Quote Originally Posted by GAR View Post
    3 Metallica albums listed but no Venom?

    Another sponored placement ad. I'm getting sick of these plastic polls, they're useless.
    What the fuck is so special about Metallica from a guitar standpoint?

    Maybe I`d put in "Kill `em all" just for the fast riffing that was kinda new for the time, but that`s all.

    This list is trying to be too hip.

    No Queensryche or Night Ranger, who had two of the best guitar pairings?

    Or Yes, Deep Purple or Thin Lizzy?
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    I thought "Permanent Waves" or "Hemispheres" should have been on this list instead of "Moving Pictures" IMO.
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    How the fuck is Back in Black not on the list????
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    God I hate those lists....
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    List like this dont mean much to me, but I did find the comments on the albums, especially from those involved, interesting....
    Like FORD mentioned, at least this list has a little credibility, unlike anything Rolling Stone does....

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