If you are compiling a list of the top five greatest classic rock albums of all time, chances are you’d end up with these five albums in some order: The Who’s Quadrophenia, Led Zeppelin IV, The Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street, Pink Floyd’s DSOTM and the Beatles’ Revolver. If those aren’t your top five choices, they have to at least be in your top 10. If they aren’t, find a time machine and warp yourself back to when Scott Muni was still the voice of WNEW.
All of the albums mentioned above are superbly crafted works of art that represent the cream of the crop of the classic rock genre. But just a small notch below that thick cream at the top of the list, idles the second tier of classic rock studio album respect – a group that deserves more than just an occasional spin on some Sirius station that boasts Boston, Kansas and Bon Jovi among its “classic rock” artists.
Without taking anything away from the top dogs, and leaving live albums out of the mix, here are five classic rock albums that don’t get the credit they deserve:
1. Rush: Moving Pictures
Most people have a “love it or hate it” relationship with Rush largely because of Geddy Lee’s high-pitched voice. But this album is pure rock and roll. The album opens with the thick drumming of Tom Sawyer, probably Rush’s best known song. The most underrated song about a car ever follows and provides a nice lead-in to the instrumental assault, and Neil Peart concert explosion, known as YYZ (named after the airport code in Toronto). Limelight, with Alex Lifeson’s springy guitar lick, and the dark and down Witch Hunt are also great classic rock songs.
Read on for four more underrated classic rock albums…
2. Rolling Stones: Some Girls
It’s hard to say that a Stones album doesn’t get enough love. But with Exile, Sticky Fingers and Let it Bleed getting most of the attention, Some Girls can get lost in the shuffle. The disco-ed out Miss You opens the album, but gives way to the rolling When the Whip Comes Down and a cover of the Temptations’ Motown hit Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me). The title track, a bouncy tribute to some of Mick Jagger’s floozies, features some wailing harmonica. Beast of Burden and the frenetic yet catchy Shattered bolster the second half of the album.
3. Bob Dylan: New Morning
Dylan has enough albums to keep you busy for months, but New Morning, an acoustic and mellow collection, deserves more attention than the other non-essential Dylan albums. Everyone has Blonde on Blonde, Blood on the Tracks, Highway 61 Revisited and Desire in their collection. But not everyone has heard New Morning beyond The Man in Me, which was featured prominently in The Big Lebowski.
If Not For You, with it’s twangy glory, opens the album and offers a hint of the mellow morning feel to come. Winterlude, New Morning and Three Angels highlight an album that features Dylan at his acoustic best.
4. The Kinks: Lola Vs. the Powerman and the Money Go-Round Pt. I
Most people, rightfully, look to the Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society for the band’s best work. But Lola vs. Powerman offers such a diverse taste of the Kinks that it has to be recognized. The Kinks take on the music business in tracks like Contenders, Get Back in Line, Top of the Pops and Moneygoround, while offering some comic relief in the form of the catchy yet political Apeman. With the powerful and emotional Strangers, which was recently covered on the newest Golden Smog album and featured in The Darjeeling Limited, the timeless Lola (that’s L-O-L-A) and the straight ahead rock chops of Powerman, this album offers much insight into the Kinks and their music.
5. Pink Floyd: Animals
I think this album has something to do with George Orwell’s Animal Farm which has something to do with animals allegorically running our country. Roger Waters has always had a political agenda to his music but on Animals, you’ll be more impressed with David Gilmour’s soaring guitar and the scorching marathons that comprise the album’s middle three tracks – Dog, Pigs and Sheep – than the lyrical barnyard. The calmness of the intro/outro Pigs on the Wing combination belies the aggressiveness in between. A great concept album from start to finish.