There are many albums that end up being a product of their time and tend not to age all that well over the years. For most classic rock albums, though, that tends not to be the case (unless you’re talking strictly about some hair metal bands).
There are many classic rock albums that are still beloved and critically acclaimed even decades after they were released. From the 1960s to the early 1990s, here are five classic rock albums that have withstood the test of time.
“Nevermind” by Nirvana
Nirvana wasn’t around for a long time as lead singer Kurt Cobain tragically took his own life in 1994, but he led the trio that put together a perfect album for its time that still holds up today. “Nevermind” starts with a memorable album cover and then hits you right in the face with “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, which would be the band’s anthem.
The great songs didn’t stop coming after the intro, either, as the next four songs were “In Bloom”, “Come As You Are”, “Breed” and “Lithium” which all ended up being grunge classics. There were even some deep tracks including “Drain You” and “Something in the Way” that were great, with the latter even being featured in the 2022 film “The Batman” and reaching the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time.
“Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac
If you were to ask a group of people to name a perfect album, there’s a good chance that a lot of them are going to say “Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac. The album was the band’s attempt at making a poppier version of a rock album, and the result was an 11-track masterpiece that reached number one on the charts and is still relevant to this day.
Of course, there are the big hits from “Rumours” that include “Don’t Stop” and “Go Your Own Way”, but there are plenty of other top-tier tracks that include “The Chain”, “Dreams” and “You Make Loving Fun”. There’s really not a single bad song on the album, which is why it was recognized as the Album of the Year at the 1977 Grammy Awards.
“Master of Puppets” by Metallica
You could really pick any of the Metallica albums from before the mid-1990s to appear on this list, but the one that really stands out is “Master of Puppets” for a lot of different reasons. First, there’s the memorable album cover that’s considered to be one of the greatest of all time, then there are eight tracks, all of which are hard-hitting classics.
For the first 14 minutes, listeners are treated with one of the best back-to-back openings in music history with “Battery” followed by the title track, “Master of Puppets”. There’s not much of a break as the album is high octane all the way through, including songs like “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” and “Orion”, which many consider to be one of the most underrated Metallica songs since it wasn’t a big radio hit.
“Led Zeppelin IV” by Led Zeppelin
When you try to visualize what a classic rock album looks like in your head, you might picture “Led Zeppelin IV”. The 1971 album from the legendary British rock band was one of the greatest-selling albums in history and is considered by many music historians to be the best. Like “Master of Puppets”, there are eight songs total, and they’re all memorable.
The front side of “Led Zeppelin IV” features “Black Dog”, “Rock and Roll”, “The Battle of Evermore” and concludes with “Stairway to Heaven”. That list alone could be an entire album, but there’s also the second side that’s comprised of “Misty Mountain Hop”, “Four Sticks”, “Going to California” and “When the Levee Breaks”.
“Van Halen” by Van Halen
Van Halen has had a lot of great albums, especially when David Lee Roth was the frontman. However, their debut self-titled album released in 1978 remains their best work. It was a great introduction to the band, especially since the lead single was “You Really Got Me”, though the opening track on the album was “Runnin’ with the Devil”.
The hits kept coming thanks to songs like “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love”, “Feel Your Love Tonight” and “Ice Cream Man”. According to Roth himself, this was the band’s best work and was critically beloved upon its release.