Thu. Jan 17th, 2019
The Fabulous Thunderbirds performed as part of Bluesfest Windsor on 14 July 2017 at Festival Plaza in Windsor, Ontario. Photo by Ian Shalapata.

The Fabulous Thunderbirds performed as part of Bluesfest Windsor on 14 July 2017 at Festival Plaza in Windsor, Ontario. Photo by Ian Shalapata.

Top 10 … Classic Rock Albums

(WINDSOR, ON) – Musical tastes travel a route to all genres from classical to classic rock, from hip hop to funk, from adult contemporary to big band, and all in between. Each genre can be stratified and branched off, creating a myriad and often confusing pattern of group compositions, influences, and off-shoots.

For example, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and sometimes Young have a varied lineage. Before coming together as a super group, David Crosby was with the Byrds, Stephen Stills and Neil Young had been with Buffalo Springfield, and Graham Nash was part of the Hollies. When CSNY came together, Young continued his solo career with Crazy Horse.

Musical history is replete with such examples, many which are much more convoluted than CSNY. At the same time, it isn’t uncommon for groups to cover each others songs and add their own twist to the arrangements.

Famously Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix traded songs when they each recorded the other’s music and made it their own. The recognizable version of All Along the Watchtower is a Hendrix reinvention of the original. Dylan was quoted as saying, “It overwhelmed me, really. He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn’t think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using.”

In exchange, Dylan returned the favour by killing Hey Joe during a live performance in 1992.

Covers have long been a form of homage to the original artists with many remakes overtaking the original releases, such as with Hendrix and Dylan. Some songs are even reimagined in the same year as the original was released.

In May 1966, the Rolling Stones released Paint it Black as a single and then as the lead track on Aftermath. In the same year, actress and singer Marie Laforet released a French-language version of Paint it Black entitled Marie-douceur, Marie-colère. She interpreted numerous North American hits, including pairing Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind on a single with House of the Rising Sun by the Animals occupying the B side.

There’s been no slow-down of bands covering previously released singles. Most recently Canadian punk rockers Billy Talent are charting with a version of Young’s Hey Hey My My while metal act Avenged Sevenfold has released a remake of Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd.

With the cross-over of classic rock into the so-called alt rock stream, many youth of today are starting to be exposed to the roots of their chosen genre. With this in mind, The Square conducted a focus group to determine the Top 10 classic rock albums that should be at the top of any teen’s listening list. Only studio albums were considered with an emphasis on those which played a significant role in the artist’s or group’s development.

Genesis A Trick of the Tail album cover10. Genesis – A Trick of the Tail (1976)

The 7th album release, and first without Peter Gabriel, A Trick of the Tail was a response to show fans that the prog rock quartet was still relevant. The album dropped under the shadow of the future of the band to both critical and fan acceptance, alike. It remained on the UK charts for 39 weeks after peaking at No. 3 and the US tour helped to solidify Genesis even through Steve Hackett’s departure just over a year later. Top Tracks: Dance on a Volcano, Mad Man Moon, Robbery, Assault, and Battery, A Trick of the Tail. Honourable Mention: Selling England by the Pound (1973), The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974).

Chicago Chicago II album cover9. Chicago – Chicago (1970)

The group’s second album, the first being released as Chicago Transit Authority, is considered their breakthrough to radio play even though all but three tracks are in excess of 4 minutes. James Pankow’s melange of seven songs into Ballet, and fronted by Terry Kath’s unrivaled vocals, gave birth to three separate singles and established the acceptability of horns in a rock group. The album was certified platinum in 1991. Top Tracks: Poem for the People, Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon, Fancy Colours, 25 or 6 to 4. Honourable Mention: Chicago Transit Authority (1969), Chicago IV (1973).

Jethro-Tull Thick as a Brick album cover8. Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick (1972)

One song spread across two sides, Thick As A Brick was Ian Anderson’s successful attempt to parody concept albums. It was released to mixed critical reviews from those who missed the joke. Being a bit more perceptive than rock critics, music fans sent the album to No. 1 in four countries. So enduring, Thick As A Brick has been re-released with both 25th and 40th anniversary editions. Top Tracks: Thick As A Brick. Honourable Mention: Aqualung (1971), A Passion Play (1973).


Pink-Floyd Wish You Were Here album cover7. Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)

Building on the success of Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd continued their concept album movement with an homage to former lead singer and group founder Syd Barrett. Highly critical of the music industry, the album had 250,000 pre-release sales and couldn’t be kept in print to meet demand by fans. Dark Side of the Moon premiered at No. 1 in the UK and took just a week to reach the same position in the US. Top Tracks: Welcome to the Machine, Wish You Were Here, Have a Cigar, Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I–IX). Honourable Mention: The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Animals (1977).

Neil-Young Harvest album cover6. Neil Young – Harvest (1972)

Despite having success with CSNY and some individual solo recognition, Harvest was Young’s breakthrough album release which earned him the continued respect he continues to enjoy today. Though the release was criticized when it first came out, fans and casual observers saw through the puffery to give Young their unwavering support for Harvest. The work have become certified as quadruple platinum in the United States. Top Tracks: A Man Needs a Maid, Heart of Gold, Old Man, The Needle and the Damage Done. Honourable Mention: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969), After the Gold Rush (1970).

Rolling-Stones Sticky Fingers album cover5. Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers (1971)

Encompassing a wind-ranging track listing from urban (Brown Sugar) to rural (Dead Flowers), the 11th album from the Stones ushered the band into the 1970s with a bang. Originally panned by critics, fans voted with their dollars, sending the release No. 1 in nine countries including Canada, the US, the UK, and Spain, and certified triple platinum. Top Tracks: Brown Sugar, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, Bitch, Dead Flowers. Honourable Mention: Beggars Banquet (1968), Let It Bleed (1969).


Cat-Stevens Teaser and the Firecat album cover4. Cat Stevens – Teaser and the Firecat (1971)

The folky hooks and thoughtful lyrics highlight Stevens’ inward looking album which continued his move up the music ranks. Peace Train and Morning Has Broken both topped out at No. 1 at Billboard. Teaser was certified triple platinum in 2001. Top Tracks: Changes IV, Morning Has Broken, Moonshadow, Peace Train. Honourable Mention: Tea for the Tillerman (1970), Catch Bull at Four (1972).



Bob-Dylan Highway 61 Revisited album cover3. Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

The second of two albums released by Dylan in 1965, Highway 61 Revisited peaked at No. 3 at Billboard. His 6th album expanded on his controversial move to electric at the Newport Folk Festival less than a year earlier and solidified Dylan as a lasting force for social justice. Top Tracks: Like a Rolling Stone, Ballad of a Thin Man, Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, Desolation Row. Honourable Mention: Blonde On Blonde (1966), Blood on the Tracks (1975)


Led-Zeppelin Houses of the Holy album cover2. Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy (1973)

Despite flashes of brilliance from earlier albums, especially their self-titled premier release, Houses of the Holy was solid production from start to finish. The band’s 5th album climbed to No. 1 at Billboard as well as in Canada, Australia, and the UK. The album move Led Zeppelin away from straight ahead heavy rocking and toward more thoughtful and fulfilling tracks. Top Tracks: The Song Remains the Same, Dancing Days, No Quarter, The Ocean. Honourable Mention: Led Zeppelin IV (1971), Physical Graffiti (1975).


Beatles Let it Be album cover1. The Beatles – Let it Be (1970)

Arguably the most influential group since 1960, the Beatles released just 12 full studio albums in their 8 years on the world stage. But, a more diverse discography is hard to find, ranging from Love Me Do to The Long and Winding Road, the maturity of society was reflected in the growth of the Beatles. The lifespan of the Beatles culminated with Let It Be but from every end there is a new beginning. Top Tracks: Across the Universe, Let it Be, The Lon and Winding Road, Get Back. Honourable Mention: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), Abbey Road (1969).

1 thought on “Top 10 … Classic Rock Albums

  1. There’s no dispute about the artist at the top of the list: the Beatles, unarguably, are the most influential musicians of the 20th century. But choosing Let It Be seems perverse. A much stronger case can be made for Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt Pepper and the White Album. I think Dylan should be second and Led Zeppelin third and the Who should definitely be in this list.

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