Led Zeppelin, by Led Zeppelin
It’s unfortunate Led Zeppelin is often remembered only as a hard rock band, because this group of guys had a lot of variety in their music, from Celtic-influenced tunes to blues to softer tunes to sometimes goofy stuff and to, yes, hard rock. There are a number of albums from this group to pick from, and any of them could have made this list, but I’ve gone with the very first album, “Led Zeppelin,” because it doesn’t get as much overplay on the radio as what’s probably a better-known album, “Led Zeppelin IV.” This album, “Led Zeppelin” has a strong mix of blues and harder rock and some touches of folk music. The song “Dazed and Confused” from this album was one of the early concert staples for Led Zeppelin, and it’s easy to understand why with all the heavy ups and bluesy downs in this song; Jimmy Page really gets a chance to shine as a guitarist on this song, as he does on the entire album, and the vocals of a young Robert Plant are as hefty as ever. Also, I picked this album over others because I felt the lyrics were some of the strongest from Led Zeppelin. Released in 1969.
Who’s Next, by The Who
The Who might or might not be one of those bands that comes to mind initially when thinking of classic rock music. Many tend to think of them more as a 1960s rock band, along with groups like The Beatles and The Animals. But many of these bands were huge influences on classic rock, and The Who is sort of a band that bridges the gap from the earlier ’60s bands and the classic rock that really came into its own in the 1970s. This particular album, “Who’s Next,” came out in 1971 and it has some fantastic songs, including harder-edged pieces like “My Generation” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” as well as the soft and moody “Behind Blue Eyes.” If you’re a classic rock fan but not familiar with The Who, you really deserve to check out this album and the band.
pronounced ‘l?h-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd, by Lynyrd Skynyrd
There are some who might not consider this a classic rock album, but more of a Southern rock album. But the truth of the matter is that Southern rock has long been a sub-genre of classic rock. This album from 1973, the band’s first major release, has several radio favorites and just some darn good tunes, though the Southern rock anthem “Sweet Home Alabama” won’t come until the band’s second album, “Second Helpings,” in 1974. Still, soulful songs such as “Tuesday’s Gone,” “Simple Man” and the ever-popular-but-maybe-played-too-much-on-the-radio “Free Bird” can be found on “pronounced ‘l?h-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd.” And there’s always the classic, upbeat “Gimme Three Steps” tune here.
Toys in the Attic, by Aerosmith
Aerosmith is another of those bands with so much material that it’s difficult to pick which album is their best, and I wanted to stay away from greatest-hits albums for this listing. But after giving it some thought, I concluded that “Toys in the Attic” from 1975 is deserving of attention. If for no other reason, two powerful Aerosmith staples made me pick this album, “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion.” But there are other great songs to be found here, including “Round and Round” and “Toys in the Attic.”
Van Halen, by Van Halen
This might be one of the greatest rock albums of all time. It had a humongous effect on rock music over the next dozen years after its release in 1978. Eddie Van Halen’s howling guitar and singer David Lee Roth’s flashy wardrobe are just two of the things from this band that had a big impact on hard rock music in the 1980s and beyond. This might not be Van Halen’s best-known album, but in my opinion, it’s the band’s bestalbum overall. What classic rock fan could forget such songs as “Runnin’ With the Devil” and “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love?”
Back in Black, by AC/DC
This band has a ton of albums and a ton of songs, but “Back in Black” is likely the best known of the lot. Released in 1980, this album contains some hard-rocking tunes like “Hell’s Bells,” “Back in Black” and “You Shook Me All Night Long.” There’s even the slower-edged “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” to round things off. This is another of the greatest rock albums ever.
Appetite for Destruction, by Guns N’ Roses
If you’re old enough to remember 1987, you should remember that it seemed like hard rock music was just about dead. Sure, the hair bands were around, but other than Motley Crue most of them were pretty soft compared to true hard rock and classic rock. But then “Appetite for Destruction” came on the scene and it changed everything. Really, it was like a breath of fresh air, and this album is definitely one of the best, if not thebest, rock album from the 1980s. With kicking songs like “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Paradise City” and “Nighttrain,” you can’t go wrong.
Nevermind, by Nirvana
I can imagine what some of you who are reading this right now are thinking. Nirvana? A classic rock band? Yes, definitely. Don’t believe me? Listen to you local FM classic rock radio station for a day or two and I bet you’ll hear at least “Smells Like Teen Spirit” from this 1991 album. Much like “Appetite for Destruction,” this album forever changed rock music, but in a much bigger way. This album basically kicked off a national music craze that stayed strong for the next several years and can still be felt today. Songs such as “Polly” and “In Bloom” only helped to fuel the grunge drive.
The White Stripes, by The White Stripes
Too new a band for you? Are you thinking classic rock died off in the 1970s? You’re wrong, and this 1999 album proves it. Yes, this isn’t the most popular album from this band, but it’s the one that kicks the most tail. There’s lot of hard, guitar-driven, bluesy tunes here, including “The Big Three Killed My Baby,” “Stop Breaking Down” and “Jimmy the Exploder.” I wanted to make sure to list some more modern music, because classic rock still lives today, and this album is living proof.
Cocky, by Kid Rock
Yeah, Kid Rock was originally known more for his hip hop and rapping abilities, but his handful of albums have included not only classic rock tunes, but sometimes out-and-out Southern rock music. I picked this 2001 album because of its variety of songs. Yep, there’s some hard-rockin’ stuff like “I’m Wrong, But You Ain’t Right” and “Forever” to be found here, but there are also some some slower, soul-filled tunes like “Lonely Road of Faith” and the ballad duet with Sheryl Crow, “Picture.” Kid Rock keeps to his roots on this album, also, with some hip hop flavor and some country added in. But that’s what Kid Rock is about, mixing up the genres.