Everyone gets this question eventually, but writers of the genre get it more frequently: If you were starting a music collection what albums would you recommend? I’ve been giving that question a lot of thought lately as I go to the roots of my personal album collection and try to reconnect on a deeper level with the music I love. If I had to strip it down to 50 records, what would they be? If I was telling someone to start their own rock music collection, which 50 albums would I tell them to buy?
Below is my list of recommendations. It blends modern rock, classic rock, metal, punk, guitar rock, and all other versions of “rock music” smoothly. For the purpose of this recommendation, I included bands such as Wilco and The Eagles as rock music. Some may argue that they are alt country, or pop, but whatever. First, as most of you know, I am not a big fan of labels to begin with. Second, if it has a guitar solo, it is close enough for me to call it rock.
Knowing that growing a music collection can be painfully expensive, I have arranged the list by putting the must have albums first. In other words, if you could only afford 10 of the 50, those 10 are marked 1 through 10. Hence the numbers listed next to the album is not necessarily a ranking order, as this is not a best rock album list, but more of a priority order.
I also purposefully left out double albums, live albums, and greatest hits. The goal of this exercise was to make a list of 50 great rock albums to start a music collection with. Many factors go into making that decision, and one of the major factors was that it had to be an album in the purest sense of the word. Live albums and greatest hits records are compilations. As for double albums, I’ve always felt they are too gimmicky. Yes, you could make a strong argument that Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness by The Smashing Pumpkins should be on this list and I could not disagree. But for the purpose of this list, I wanted single albums only.
If you are just starting out your music collection, it can be an uncharted sea that is tough to navigate. The following albums are my map to the start of a great collection. I hope it helps those starting out and those who have been collecting for years.
1. Appetite For Destruction – Guns N Roses
Any rock music collection must contain the self-titled debut from Guns N Roses, and it should be the first album in the collection. Appetite For Destruction was revolutionary and influenced countless bands. It is also a flawless record that can be consumed over and over and over again and never get old. There really is no other album to launch a rock music collection than this.
2. Destroyer – Kiss
3. IV – Led Zeppelin
It’s not even my favorite Led Zeppelin album, but every rock record collection needs to include “Stairway To Heaven.” It’s a must.
4. Nevermind – Nirvana
5. Back In Black – AC/DC
6. Under The Table And Dreaming – Dave Matthews Band
7. Born To Run – Bruce Springsteen
8. Rumors – Fleetwood Mac
Rumors is one of the best selling albums of all time for good reason. This is an exceptional record that is high on the priority list because it is so darned good.
9. Paranoid – Black Sabbath
10. Bat Out Of Hell – Meatloaf
This is progressive rock and roll at its finest. Every song on Bat Out Of Hell is like a mini-opera. The record is perfect and meant to be savored.
11. Dark Side Of The Moon – Pink Floyd
12. Van Halen – Van Halen
13. Vs. – Pearl Jam
There is a reason that this album sold over one million copies in one day---it’s exceptional!
14. Night Moves – Bob Seger
15. Hotel California – The Eagles
16. Highway 61 Revisited – Bob Dylan
17. Revolver – The Beatles
18. Metallica (The Black Album) – Metallica
19. The Stranger – Billy Joel
20. Dookie – Green Day
Punk pioneers that paved a path to the mainstream and kicked down the door for many acts to follow, Green Day were at their absolute best with their major label debut album, Dookie.
21. Number Of The Beast – Iron Maiden
22. Eat A Peach – The Allman Brothers
23. Moving Pictures – Rush
24. Cowboys From Hell – Pantera
25. Up From Below – Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeroes
26. Boston – Boston
27. Tattoo You – The Rolling Stones
This is perhaps one of the greatest records The Rolling Stones ever recorded. Ever song is brilliant.
28. White Blood Cells – The White Stripes
29. Night Visions – Imagine Dragons
30. Slippery When Wet – Bon Jovi
31. The Joshua Tree – U2
32. The Lucky Ones – Doug Keith
33. Heartbreaker – Ryan Adams
34. MusicForTheMorningAfter – Pete Yorn
Ever since I first heard the opening notes of “Life On A Chain,” I have been in love with this record. It’s magnificent and an exceptional gateway into other genres of rock music.
35. No Depression – Uncle Tupelo
36. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – Wilco
37. Hi Infidelity – REO Speedwagon
38. Sigh No More – Mumford and Sons
39. Nothing’s Shocking – Jane’s Addiction
40. Hozier – Hozier
Brilliant! Just freaking brilliant! One of the best albums I have heard in a long, long time.
41. Whitesnake – Whitesnake
42. Synchronicity – The Police
43. Celebrity Skin – Hole
44. British Steel – Judas Priest
45. Hybrid Theory – Linkin Park
46. War of Angels – Pop Evil
47. Pretty Hate Machine – Nine Inch Nails
48. News Of The World – Queen
49. How Will I Laugh Tomorrow…When I Can’t Even Smile Today – Suicidal Tendencies
Thrash metal at its finest! This album opened so many doors for me and turned me on to the whole speed metal genre.
50. Damn The Torpedoes – Tom Petty