Five Greatest Guitar Albums Ever
Ask a dozen people to rank the five greatest guitar albums of all time and chances are you'll get as many different responses, each with its own compelling argument. Choosing "the greatest" is subjective business, and when it comes to the arts, to picking the best of the best in music, debate can be fierce. But in researching this topic, I found that the same four albums consistently rose to the top of the heap, in more or less the same order, while a solid fifth was just a wee bit trickier to nail down. What follows is an average of many unique opinions.
With albums like Monsters and Robots
and Population Override
(Buckethead), Passion and Warfare
(Steve Vai), Diary of a Madman
(Black Sabbath), Master of Puppets
(Metallica), Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs
(Clapton), and Dark Side of the Moon
and The Wall
(Pink Floyd) all vying for the fifth slot, I decided to kick things off with my sentimental favorite. 5. Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd (1973)
With an estimated 50 million copies sold, Pink Floyd's 1973 masterpiece is one of the greatest selling albums of all time. As Floyd's best-known work, Dark Side of the Moon
is a seamless, complex, kaleidoscopic adventure with multi-generational appeal that is transcendent when experienced in its entirety, from beginning to end. It spent an astounding 741 weeks on the Billboard
charts (that's more than 14 years!), longer than any other album in history. Dark Side's
themes of conflict, greed, mental illness, and the passage of time inspired such classics as "Us and Them," "Breathe," "Money,"
After losing founding member, guitarist, and creative genius Syd Barrett to mental illness early on in the band's career, Floyd forged a new identity for themselves with Dark Side
when bassist Roger Waters stepped up as the band's lyricist and Gilmour came into his own as a profoundly expressive guitarist. Rolling Stone
calls Gilmour one of rocks most distinctive guitarists, and anyone who has ever closed their eyes and listened to the lush, brooding, elegant work that is Dark Side
will understand why. Gilmour is that rare breed of guitarist whose tone is unmistakable. His soaring, atmospheric fretwork wrings every last bit of emotion out of even the simplest guitar line. He plays with an intensity and an angst that is chill-inducing. David Gilmour is one of the most influential rock guitarists of all time, and Dark Side of the Moon
, one of its most celebrated albums. 4. Appetite For Destruction, Guns N' Roses (1987)
Guns N' Roseswith its classic lineup of frontman Axl Rose, guitarists Izzy Stradlin and Slash, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Steven Adlergave '80s rock the shot of adrenaline it sorely needed with their raw, bluesy, hard-driving album, Appetite for Destruction
. Released in July 1987, Appetite
was grittier and nastier than the glam metal that was coming out L.A.'s Sunset Strip at the time. Although the record initially met with a tepid reception, it went on to become the biggest selling debut album of all time on the muscle of songs like "Welcome to the Jungle," "Sweet Child O' Mine,"
and "Paradise City." Appetite
defined Guns N' Roses as one of the most badass rock bands on the planet. Appetite for Destruction
featured Rose's feral vocals and the heavy guitar riffs of Slash, who established himself as one of rock's finest and most ferocious soloists of the late '80s. Slash laid down the deadliest riffs of the decade on Appetite
and helped make "Welcome to the Jungle" one of the greatest rock songs ever written. The broad appeal of the album made rock gods of GN'R and a deserted-island disc of Appetite for Destruction
. 3. Are You Experienced, Jimi Hendrix (1967)
What would any "best of guitar" list be without Jimi? Hendrix pulled off one of the most stunning debuts of 1967 with the release of Are You Experienced.
Widely regarded as one of the definitive records of the psychedelic era, not to mention one of the best rock albums of all time, Hendrix broke new sonic ground in feedback, distortion, and sheer volume on Are You Experienced
. It was a stylistic tour de force that showcased Hendrix's impressive songwriting talents on songs that featured psychedelia ("Purple Haze"
), instrumental jams ("Third Stone from the Sun"
), blues ("Hey Joe"
), and mellower, poetic compositions ("The Wind Cries Mary"
Jimi's masterful, mind-boggling guitar work on Are You Experienced
revealed an artist who was ahead of his time. A guitar genius who had the greats like Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend completely awestruck. Hendrix's talent for coaxing all manner of experimental sonics from his instrument made Are You Experienced
an instant success back in the late '60s, and it remains relevant and popular to this day. 2. Van Halen, Van Halen (1978)
After years of playing clubs and hotel bars throughout the Los Angeles area, Van Halen exploded onto the music scene in 1978 with the release of their eponymous debut. The arrogant, overblown showmanship of vocalist David Lee Roth and the heavy, inventive guitar work of Eddie Van Halen dazzled audiences (not to mention guitarists of every caliber) and proved that actual talent could make a lasting musical statement. Van Halen
has sold upwards of 10 million units in the US alone, and made its namesake one of America's most popular rock 'n' roll bands.
Second only to Jimi Hendrix for his originality and guitar heroics, Eddie's lightening-fast finger work on Van Halen
employed a variety of self-taught two-handed tapping, hammer-ons, pull offs and tremolo runs that have since become part of virtually every hard rock guitarist's musical vocabulary. The inspired shredding Eddie does on "Eruption"
is jaw dropping stuff. Originally just a guitar solo Eddie performed live in the clubs, producer Ted Templeman made a ballsy move when he decided to include the instrumental piece on the album alongside such rock staples as "Runnin' with the Devil"
and "Jamie's Cryin'"
. Van Halen
, and its insanely talented guitarist, shattered the boundaries of what the electric guitar was capable of. 1. Led Zeppelin IV, Led Zeppelin (1971)Led Zeppelin IV, Runes, Untitled, Zoso
, whatever you call it, Zeppelin's fourth effort is widely considered to be rock's Holy Grail. Released in November 1971, the unnamed album is a staggering masterpiece of hard rock, Celtic folk, rockabilly, and blues. With songs like "Black Dog," "Going to California," and "When the Levee Breaks," every blessed track on the record is a Zeppelin classic. Partly recorded at Headley Grange, an 18th century, two-story, stone workhouse in eastern Hampshire, England, the spooky atmosphere inspired numbers like "The Battle of Evermore"
and what has become radio's most-requested song ever, the epic "Stairway to Heaven."
Four decades after its release, Led Zeppelin IV
is a marvel of rock record making and stands as Zeppelin's best-selling, most commercially successful, and critically acclaimed work.
Jimmy Page is hands down one of the all-time greats. He has played some of the most memorable guitar in rock history and has influenced everyone from Johnny Ramone to Steve Vai to Kirk Hammett, Slash, Jack White, Keith Richards, and just about anyone who has ever picked up a guitar. Page's fluid work on Led Zeppelin IV
is hypnotizing. His solo on "Stairway" is considered by many to be the greatest guitar solo of all time. Page shows enormous versatility on Led Zeppelin IV
as he deftly moves from monolithic riffs to intricate fingerpicking and all points in between. The album is every bit as powerful and magical today as it was forty years ago. Some say that God learned to play guitar from Jimmy Page.
So there you have it, one version of the Five Greatest Guitar Albums Ever. Agree? Disagree? What does your
list look like?