The Best of The Animals, by The Animals
I’ve been trying to stay away from greatest-hits collections on these lists, but this one was hard to pass up because it has so many great songs and because it wasn’t an album that came years after the band was no longer recording. Nope, this album came in 1966 while the band was still going strong. If you like the blues, you’ll love The Animals and this album. There’s tons of guitar-heavy, bluesy tunes here, some of my favorites being “It’s My Life,” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” You’ll also find some great cover songs here, such as “I’m Mad” originally by John Lee Hooker and “I’m in Love Again” by Fats Domino. Probably the most recognized song on this collection is the classic, “House of the Rising Sun.”
The White Album, by The Beatles
Yes, I didn’t list The Beatles on my first listof classic rock albums, but that was intentional; I was trying to focus on harder rock stuff for that list, and even though The Beatles do have some rock heavy songs, they’re not generally as well known for that kind of material (not as much as a band like Led Zeppelin, for example). Here you’ll find some classic rock greats, like “Helter Skelter” and “Revolution No. 9,” but as with many of the later The Beatles albums there’s a funky mix of harder stuff, soft ballads, bluesy material and just some crazy, mind-boggling recordings. “Dear Prudence” and “Black Bird” are fantastic songs for those of you who prefer softer material from this 1968 album.
The Dark Side of the Moon, by Pink Floyd
If you like classic rock, you have to own this 1973 album. It’s that simple. While this album could seem to be a bit of a departure from traditional classic rock, what with it’s progressive sounds and innovative looping, it’s still an album that draws you in with great guitar riffs and some of the strongest, though sometimes oddest, rock lyrics ever written. “Money” is probably the most straight-forward of all the songs found on “The Dark Side of the Moon,” but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The songs run together throughout the album with no breaks between, creating a constant flowing of moody, surrealistic sound that in some cases assaults the senses and other times lifts up the soul. It’s difficult to pick just a few of these songs to point out, because all of them are great, but “Time,” “Eclipse” and “Us and Them” are possibly my favorites.
Bad Company, by Bad Company
This band’s very first album from 1973 seems like it’s a greatest-hits album. Yep, it has that many great songs on it. “Can’t Get Enough” and “Rock Steady” will keep you rockin’ all night long, and the song “Bad Company” will almost have you weeping at the thoughts of cowboy outlaws on the run.
Hotel California, by The Eagles
If you have listened to a radio any time in the last 30 years for any amount of time, you have had to have heard a song by The Eagles. And this 1976 album includes a number of their greatest hits as well as just some darn good tunes. The song “Hotel California,” as well as “New Kid in Town” and “Life in the Fast Lane,” should be familiar radio hits to just about any FM listener. And there are some sad love songs like “Wasted Time” and “Victim of Love” that can keep you crying over your beer just as well as any classic country tune.
Boston, by Boston
This album is a conundrum. It’s stylistically and thematically similar to a lot of arena rock from the 1970s, but it isn’t. It’s better. It’s stronger. It’s possibly got the best guitar sounds of the 1970s in its tunes. Staple classic rock songs like “Rock and Roll Band,” “Peace of Mind” and “More Than a Feeling” can be found here, as can the nostalgic “Foreplay/Long Time.” Really, this 1976 album is one of the best straight-forward rock albums ever produced. There’s very little fat here, just rockin’ tunes, great lyrics and awesome singing.
Don’t Say No, by Billy Squier
Today Billy Squier isn’t remembered all that much, but back in the early ’80s he was pretty popular. In my opinion, this 1981 album is the best of his work, another album that almost seems as if it could be a greatest-hits recording. You can rock out with “In the Dark” and “The Stroke,” or you can slow down just a tad with “Lonely is the Night” and “Nobody Knows.” Truly an awesome album from beginning to end.
Shake Your Money Maker, by The Black Crowes
The Black Crowes are kind of a latecomer to the classic rock scene, but the band kicked off its career with this powerful, blues-driven album in 1990 and has been remembered ever since. Songs like “Hard to Handle” and “Twice as Hard” are great for blaring out of your car speakers, but there are also softer tunes like “She Talks to Angels” and “Seeing Things” for those tender moments with your favorite other.
The Long Road, by Nickelback
Yes, you’ve heard this band way too many times on the radio. Nickelback seems to be one of those bands you either love or hate, but I mention them here because their post-grunge and hard rock sound show that classic rock is still alive today. “Someday” and “Feelin’ Way Too Damn Good” are likely the most notable, radio friendly tunes from this 2003 album. Even if you’re not a fan of this band, you have to at least give them credit for helping to keep electric guitars on the radio.
Daughtry, by Daughtry
Daughtry isn’t the most original, nor the hardest-hitting group out there, but with this 2006 debut recording, Chris Daughtry and band have shown that new talent is still coming from the hard rock arena. “It’s Not Over” and “Home” are some of the better-known tunes from this album, but there is some strong material here, such as “What I Want,” which even features Slash on guitar.