6 More Must-Listen-to Albums for Classic Rock Enthusiasts

Getting acquainted with the canon of classic rock albums can be a time-consuming pursuit. We here at American Songwriter have already offered a list of 10 essential classic rock albums to explore, as well as a list of five that defined classic rock in the ‘70s. But we know full well some of you want to keep going beyond these initial lists as much as we do, so…here we go.

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Below are half-a-dozen more albums that are rightfully considered classics. They are required listening for anyone who has yet to explore them, and worth keeping in rotation for those who are well-acquainted.

1. The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The “must-listen-to” label could apply to any album in the Beatles’ discography, but Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band represents the band’s sound taking a leap unlike any other in their 10-year history. Everything about the album, from the sophisticated recording techniques to the psychedelic effects and imagery to the vibrant cover art, was fresh and new upon its release. This is not to say that the songs were less accessible. Even the more psychedelic songs, like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Day in the Life,” are remarkably melodic.

2. Yes, The Yes Album

Of the albums featured here, The Yes Album may be the least accessible, at least for those unacquainted with progressive rock. But it may not take long to grow on new listeners. Four long tracks—”Yours Is No Disgrace,” “Starship Trooper,” “I’ve Seen All Good People,” and “Perpetual Change”—form the core of the album, and each exemplifies the musicianship and dynamics that has made early ‘70s Yes a staple of classic rock radio.

The Yes Album can be enjoyed on two different levels. Listeners can focus on the drama that unfolds over the course of each track, or they can zero in on breathtaking individual performances, such as Jon Anderson’s crystalline vocals on the “Your Move” section of “I’ve Seen All Good People,” or Chris Squire’s rumbling bass on “Yours Is No Disgrace.”

3. David Bowie, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

This album is both a seminal work of glam rock as well as one of Bowie’s finest moments. He builds on the cosmic imagery of his 1969 hit “Space Oddity” by creating Ziggy Stardust, an even more fantastical figure than Major Tom.

Bowie’s far-out lyrics and confident delivery along with Mick Ronson’s buzzing guitar give songs like “Moonage Daydream,” “Ziggy Stardust,” and “Suffragette City” exactly the right vibe for a concept album about an alien rocker sent to Earth to save the planet. It’s hard to overstate how much mileage Bowie gets from his vocal performances on this album. It takes a lot of swagger to pull off lines like I’m an alligator / I’m a mama-papa coming for you / I’m a space invader / I’ll be a rock and rollin’ bitch for you.

[RELATED: Behind the Strange Album Cover for David Bowie’s ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’]

4. Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

If the album cover, showing John stepping from a city sidewalk onto the yellow brick road from The Wizard of Oz, doesn’t send the message that listeners are about to hear something epic, the 11-minute opener, “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding,” gets that point across.

John has no shortage of albums from his ‘70s heyday that combine inspired songwriting with great ensemble playing, but it’s hard to top the power of “Love Lies Bleeding,” “All the Young Girls Love Alice,” or “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.” Even quieter piano-driven tracks like “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and “Harmony” feel grand with a little help from Del Newman’s string arrangements.

5. Steely Dan, Pretzel Logic

Just about any one of Steely Dan’s albums would be an appropriate addition to this list, but Pretzel Logic represents a particularly significant moment in their catalog. It’s when Walter Becker and Donald Fagen began to shed the pretense of Steely Dan being a band. Jim Hodder, their drummer on the first two albums, only provides backing vocals, while a pair of legends—Jim Gordon and Jeff Porcaro—serve as the timekeepers.

Though Pretzel Logic boasts an impressive cast of session musicians, the real star of the album is the songs. Who besides Becker and Fagen could write a number that begins with some quiet flapamba, tosses in a blend of Latin, jazz and blues elements, and it becomes a No. 4 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 like they did with “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number?”

That big hit, the album’s leadoff track, foreshadows the variety to be found across the other entries. “Any Major Dude Will Tell You” is gentle and mellow, “With a Gun” has a country feel, “Monkey in Your Soul” is funky, and the title track is bluesy, with Fagan’s Wurlitzer carrying the melody. Steely Dan’s future albums would veer increasingly toward jazz rock, but on this album, they pull off a variety of styles with aplomb.

6. Fleetwood Mac, Rumours

Sitting down with a pair of headphones and giving Rumours a start-to-finish listen is time well spent, whether you’re new to the album or you heard it countless times when it was ruling radio in the late ‘70s. Even the uninitiated are likely to be familiar with the album’s biggest hits, like “Dreams,” “Don’t Stop,” “Go Your Own Way,” and “You Make Loving Fun.”

But these songs have so many fascinating subtleties that may have been missed or forgotten. Get lulled by the vibraphone on “Dreams,” or mesmerized by the interplay between Lindsey Buckingham’s various guitar parts on “Go Your Own Way.” And in the middle of it all is the album’s centerpiece, “The Chain,” a group composition about the disintegration of the romantic relationships between Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, Christine and John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood and his wife, Jenny Boyd. It’s an ambitious track, but it manages to successfully convey the frustration and heartbreak the band members were feeling.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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