Top 10 Albums of the 1960s

Your votes for the best albums of the 1960s have been counted. You might be surprised to see who made it to the final top 10...

Ultimate Guitar

What are the best rock records of the 1960s?

That's was we asked UG readers on Wednesday. It's a tough question - some of the most influential artists of all time emerged in this decade among a cultural explosion of drugs and political awareness, and it's hard to rank their awesome releases against each other.

But your votes rolled in, and we've got the results right here. There were a lot of great nominations that didn't quite make it to the final top 10, but still deserve a nod for being so influential. The Rolling Stones' "Let it Bleed" missed out on the top 10 by only a handful of votes; the Velvet Underground and the Who could easily have had more luck on another day and made the chart, and jazz hero John Coltrane did remarkably well for a non-rock musician by reaching no. 15 with his masterpiece "A Love Supreme."

So which albums stood the test of time, and more importantly, earned your votes this week? Read on and hit play to enjoy our run down of the top 10 albums of the 1960s.

10. Jefferson Airplane "Surrealistic Pillow" (1967)

Jefferson Airplane were the first band from San Fransisco to break out and make a name for the city's bohemian musical landscape. Their fusion of folk and psychedelic rock put them in line with the likes of Bob Dylan and the Beatles.

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09. Bob Dylan "Highway 61 Revisited" (1965)

Dylan's sixth studio album was his debut with a rock backing band, to the distain of his old folk following. It didn't matter; a new hoard of fans loved his new direction, which layered his rocking new sounds with the same genius poetry that marked him out as a prodigy in his previous acoustic years.

We're sorry to say that the full album isn't available online that we can see, but you can get a taster of it right here:

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08. Pink Floyd "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" (1967)

The first single from this psychedelic experiment was rejected by London radio stations who refused to air a song about kleptomaniac transvestites. Who would have guessed? Singer Syd Barrett led the direction of this album, presumably influenced by his experiments with LSD.

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07. Johnny Cash "At Folsom Prison" (1968)

Cash always wanted to record a live show in a prison, and a new boss at Columbia Records granted his wish in 1968. Several prior years of drug abuse had almost stalled his career, but this live record put him back at the top of the US charts and kickstarted the next phase of his remarkable life.

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06. Cream "Disraeli Gears" (1967)

"Disraeli Gears" was the record that helped Cream break into the US conscience. Apparantly the name came from a friend who wrongly pronounced "derailleur gears" from a racing motorbike, which the band found hilarious.

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05. King Crimson "In The Court Of The Crimson King" (1969)

One of the defining progressive rock albums of any decade, and perhaps the most influential. It's been remastered more times than might be dignified, and often from tapes which were several generations removed from the original recordings, but in 2003 the original tapes were found for a much improved version in time for its 40th anniversary. Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson also had a go at a remaster in 2010.

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04. The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (1967)

You might be surprised not to see this rocking the top spot in this week's chart. But that's not to say the Beatles aren't among the most important acts of the 1960s, let alone the entire 20th century. In fact, if we had room to post more than one album per artist in the top 10, they'd appear four times with "Abbey Road," "Revolver" and "The White Album." UG readers have voted "Sgt. Pepper's..." their favorite Beatles album from the '60s this time.

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03. The Doors "The Doors" (1967)

This stunning debut sounded like nothing before it, but has been emulated by wannabes a million times since. It was recorded at the legendary Sunset Studios by producer Paul Rothchild and engineer Bruce Botnick, who layered their music to a straightforward four-track recorder. Or rather, three-tracks, because the forth was saved for occasional overdubs. Then again, most albums on this list were recorded on relatively simple rigs - which puts our modern digital systems to shame, eh?

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02. The Jimi Hendrix Experience "Are You Experienced" (1967)

Jimi Hendrix didn't invent rock music, but he certainly showed the world how a real rockstar should play the guitar. As his debut, Hendrix was still a newcomer to the studio and spent relatively little time experimenting on this record compared to later years when he saw studios and their equipment as yet another instrument in his arsenal. In this case, the results were straight-up rock 'n' roll from a stunning lineup of musicians - and it became a classic.

The only YouTube copy of the album comes in two parts, played back from a vinyl copy of the album:

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01. Led Zeppelin "Led Zeppelin" (1969)

When Zeppelin fans look back at their entire discography, it's their forth album that earns most attention. But when you zoom in on their 60s repertoire, their debut record stands out as an earth-shattering moment in music history - and not just because of John prove themselves to be a force of nature which modern bands could never rival.

"Led Zeppelin II" would also have charted in the top 10 today, according to UG voters, but today it's their debut that wins as your favorite album of the 1960s. Great choice!

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That's the end of our roundup of top 10 rock records from the 1960s. What are your personal favorites, and how would you tweak the final results? Let us know in the comments.

193 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I'm sad the Beach Boys and Frank Zappa didn't make it, but overall a fairly good list.
    Why must Led Zeppelin always be number one? I'm just happy the Doors made it near the top and that the list overall is very solid.
    Because UG users vote for it and apparently they liked it the most...
    I wonder how many ug users know that some of there favorite zep tunes are actually
    For what it's worth, a lot of the ones people say they "stole" were pretty much unrelated to the original track except by lyrics. That said, there was an issue of failing to give proper credit.
    Giving credit to yourself for something someone else created is more than "failing to give proper credit." It's called plagiarism.
    That's an ages old story....the credit was finally given years ago and the songs covered sounded nothing like the originals....OLD NEWS....
    So? Crossroads by Cream sounds nothing like Robert Johnson's original.. but it's still a cover.
    Rex Inclitus
    I think anyone in the know are aware that LZ were the widely known as the biggest plagiarists in the music industry at that time, there are documentaries which explore this. I am old enough to have owned these albums at the time of their release and it wasn't until many years later that the credits were given on the subsequent prints.
    The Partridge Family Album gets my vote with a close second for Bobby Sherman "Hey Little Woman"....
    I'm probably more happy King Crimson made the list, and at number 5 as well Great list overall too!
    Glad to see KC up there as well. Also, A Saucerful of Secrets is 10 times better than Piper At the Gates of Dawn in my opinion. I'm a huge solo Syd fan, but Saucerful is genius and should have been on here instead.
    Because Led Zeppelin is ****ing awesome. Maybe they don't deserve number one for everything , but they're still ****ing awesome.
    I just don't understand how Zeppelin I is better than Zeppelin II.
    II just sounds like leftovers from the first album imo
    Yeah, Whole Lotta Love, Heartbreaker, Ramble On, Moby Dick and Bring it on Home sound like leftovers.... sure...
    Killers by Iron Maiden is leftovers from their first album, yet 9 times out of 10 when I just want to listen to one song, I listen to the the whole album
    the first Maiden album, Iron Maiden, is still the best!
    Minis3b has obviously never listened to any of Iron Maiden's Dickinson era albums.
    I agree with him, their first IS the best. Nothing against any of their later albums but they just don't compare.
    Because this site lives in an eternal circlejerk of bands. We all know that. If you make a list with the 10 best albums of the 00's, someone will find a way to put Led Zeppelin on it with a remastered version of a bootleg or something like that. It gets tiring...
    Dear UG, Given that Led Zeppelin won so many of your Wednesday Questions, the UG community is begging for a Best "Anything" from Led Zeppelin. Thank you.
    How about a "Best of anything that's not Zeppelin, the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, etc."?
    Well, then we wouldn't be finding the best, would we?
    Interesting to note that almost every song on Zep I is a uncredited rip off of another artist. But it is still groundbreaking for its style and sound.
    You just answered your own question... If they are consistently being named as such a good and successful band, just maybe it's because they are? This album in the 60's was like being in the 1960's with a Mclaren F1 hypercar passing by you.
    I know, especially considering they only wrote 2 original songs on the whole album >_>
    This is primarily a guitar website, and Jimmy Page will always be near the top for anyone who likes, plays, or listens to classic rock...he's supremely talented, very popular, and long-lived. The fact that the other band members also happened to be supremely talented and popular doesn't hurt either. Zeppelin ushered in a new era of rock'n'roll, so even if they weren't at No. 1, they'd be top 10 for sure and probably top 5 on any list of best albums from the 60s, that's just what happens when a great band makes a great album.
    Rex Inclitus
    Voted this up erroneously, influential yes but also one of the sloppiest guitar players of his era though their were many other notable ones. At the same time Robert Fripp was one of the few exploring higher levels other than the pentatonic's painfully prevalent at the time. Even Hendrix was elevating his level and playing with the likes of John McLaughlin and going in a more technical jazz oriented direction if he had of lived longer you would have seen his playing evolving.
    He's really not as sloppy as people make him out to be, sir. I mean, look at his record- you don't become the top session guitarist by being sloppy.
    oh cmooon the he cant play for shit hes just overall player i mean at the same time Ritchie Blackmore was making a helluva lot more with that piece of wood in the same musci scene and time
    I couldn't agree more..and I know im going to catch a lot of flack for this probably..but this is a guitar forum and any real student(of guitar)knows blackmore is hands down the better musician..any1 who disagrees is either a HUGE zep fan..or they really just don't know there shit....
    It's very subjective. I can clearly see that John Petricci is an insanely talented guitarist, but I cant stand Dream Theater. Just because someone has impeccable technique, doesn't mean that they are any more inspirational or iconic. Being technically skilled doesn't necessarily make you a 'better' guitarist
    Well JImmy always said he wasn't so much on the technical side of playing, he just picks it up and plays, running on emotion. So like Santana or BB King, they may not always be playing the greatest solos (jimmy's can be a bit sloppy, but hey, that's his style). I personally prefer that style, the fury and sort of windswept attack on the blues. Using the guitar to get out the deepest, darkest points of human emotion, it could be compared to yelling or punching something in anger.
    OMG guise that keys player from the doors JUST died, they haz to b #1! It's based on votes, a lot of people like Zeppelin more than The Doors.
    Because Zeppelin without a doubt was the most influential rock band. Ever.
    Hah. Hahahahah. No.
    Led Zeppelin changed the face of writing, recording, and playing music live. Their slip-ups in crediting original artists is not unheard of (Bob dylan, the beatles, the stones, jimi hendrix-all used other atrists work without giving credit), and their "covers" sound like monumentally different songs. Their writing expertise is still unmatched, their efforts in recording changed the way all engineers think about the process, and their live prowess need not be mentioned, but I may as well. No band, repeat NO band, had a more encapsulating live show. In closing, Led Zeppelin may not be the band influences everyone directly, but any band you like took an innumerable amount of cues from Led Zeppelin I. Even Zeppelin influenced KISS, Van Halen, GNR, so by extension they are the influence, albeit indirectly, for bands influenced by GNR, Van Halen, etc, in the same way that blues were the backbone of the 60s/70s.
    "Led Zeppelin changed the face of writing, recording, and playing music live." No... "Their writing expertise is still unmatched" No... "No band, repeat NO band, had a more encapsulating live show." ...and no.
    You just keep saying no, yet you have no evidence to back it up. So, since I have absolutely nothing better to do... 1.Writing: Led Zeppelin I alone shaped the entire writing schematic of the 70s. Blending electric guitar fury and acoustic sensitivity had never been done so well, much less done that well on a debut record. Recording: Jimmy Page alone changed the way engineers do their job. Ambient micing setups, particularly for the drums, had never really been done. And the fact that Led Zeppelin II was recorded in improper "studios" all across the US is astoudning. 2. Seriously, have you ever actually listened to their music? The rain song? Ten years gone? Hots on for nowhere? Everyone know Zeppelin can play the hell out of the blues and many credit them with really kicking in the aggressive persona rock n roll became associated with in the 70s. Their first four albums open with good times bad times (1) whole lotta love (2) immigrant song (3) and black dog (4): all of which define the genre of hard rock music. After that face was established, they tore through every genre man has created, from celebration day, d'yer mak'er, no quarter, stairway, kashmir, fool in the rain, achilles last stand, the list goes on. Brilliant songs that intertwine the whole collection of music man has thought up, and they put balls to it. They breathed rock n roll into the history of world music, and from there you get the 70s. Wispy mysticism and heavy guitar riffs, drummers with a gong and bassist hanging back in the shadows. 3. Their live shows. Dear God. If anyone ever knew anything about music it should be that Led Zeppelin put on some of the greatest musical performances in history. Some of the worst as well, but drugs and booze made everyone play strings of bad shows back then, so hey, if you want to hate for that, hate clapton, van halen, hendrix, joe perry, whoever, they've all played terribly live before. Zeppelin's heights in improvised pieces, culminating often in 40 min versions of 6 minute songs, are the stuff of legend, and they created entire environments of sound within their vicinity. They were sonic architects. If you saw them live, their energy was powerful enough to just draw all your focus and suddenly space and time are irrelevant, you're totally removed because of the music. Thats what its like playing music that way, and the connection between the band and the audience was so intense they would share that removed feeling from reality.
    PS-I dont think Led Zeppelin 1 was the best album of the 60s :O I just feel they are too much of a 70s band and didnt really influence the 60s much. I liked seeing Disraeli Gears and Sgt. Pepper, I think those are two records that definitely epitomize the psychedelia and odd pop that was floating around.
    I'm happy The Beatles made the list.
    I'm surprised they only appeared on the list once?!?
    I'm not really surprised it was SPLHCB. IMO, Revolver was their best. Song for song would have to go to Magical Mystery Tour though. Although I know that those three albums were made not really at the same time but in the same process. I.e. Strawberry Fields was recorded Revolver came out in 66 but was released in 68 on MMT. In short, Revolver is perfection.
    A good list overall, but definitely missing The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds. Why? Because this:
    Lovely song, I love it. I think there should be more Beatles' albums, and Sgt. Pepper and The Doors should be higher. Oh, and this list without "Strange Days" by The Doors is a little bit ridiculous.
    Since I've got plenty of free time today, here's some honorable mentions in my book: My Generation - The Who The Velvet Underground and Nico - The Velvet Underground Freak Out! - Frank Zappa Mr. Tambourine Man - The Byrds Crosby, Stills & Nash - Crosby, Stills & Nash The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion - The Incredible String Band Neil Young - Neil Young It's Five O'Clock - Aphrodite's Child The Allman Brothers Band - The Allman Brothers Band Living the Blues - Canned Heat In a Silent Way - Miles Davis Cheap Thrills - Big Brother and the Holding Company In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida - Iron Butterfly The Animals - The Animals Face to Face - The Kinks Bringing it All Back Home - Bob Dylan etc etc
    Everybody Knows this in Nowhere is loads better than Neil's debut.
    I'm constantly under the impression that Everbody Knows This Is Nowhere was released in 1970. -10 points for my memory, man.
    I was expecting a Zappa to be in here, I was also suprised that Electric Ladyland didn't make the list, but Are You Experienced is a great album also.
    Manfred Mann - Manfred Mann Chapter III Volume 1. The Prodigy sampled one song from this album. White Noise - An Electric Strom Electronical album, one of the members of band was Julia Derbyshire - chick who produced original Doctor Who theme.
    Guys, seriously? Even The Beatles themselves admitted that Pet Sounds was the best record they ever heard, it can't be missing from here! Also where is Velvet Underground? Ok i understand that you love metal and led zeppelin defined the genre but I is not even their best album, how can it be number one here?
    On the other hand, the Beach Boys all say that the Beatles wrote all the best albums they'd ever heard. Pet Sounds should have been on there though, along with Revlover
    IMO, Sgt. Pepper should be #1, In the Court... should be #2, and Frank Zappa's Hot Rats and the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds should at least be somewhere on the list. Oh well, I'm just glad that King Crimson made the cut for once.
    I personally prefer Led Zeppelin II over Led Zeppelin but its a real solid list. Great to see Jefferson Airplane here too. You can't really go wrong with anything on this list. After all, it's the modern musical renaissance
    Agreed. Also, I'm pretty sure Zeppelin II also won the top comment in the poll, but I guess Zeppelin I ended up garnering more overall votes from multiple comments. Regardless, you really can't go wrong with either record!
    Would've liked to have seen The Velvet Underground on here, but a great list overall. All awesome albums, such a good decade for music.
    How did Sgt Pepper beat both Revolver and White album? This is most unusual. Of course Led Zep would be no 1, never mind what record was actually best, better rate these albums on how well you can play the songs to impress your girlfriend/dad. Atleast The Doors got no 3, this is good.
    How is Sgt. Pepper's inclusion unusual? That album was way more influential than either of those other albums.
    Agreed. Even though I like Rubber Soul and Revolver MORE... Sgt. Pepper is just too important.
    Needs some Stones. But, I guess when you have to pick 10 albums from such an incredible decade musically, then some just aren't going to make the cut. Great list!
    No Zappa? Oh well, great list anyway. I hope everyone here listens to Disraeli Gears in it's entirety. It really is so much more than Sunshine of Your Love. Not that that song isn't perfect on its own anyway.
    I'd chuck out Johnny Cash for The Moody Blues "Days of Future Passed". Absolutely brilliant and dare I say incomparable.
    Days of Future Passed is great but is totally eclipsed by several of their other first 7 albums (before they became the 80's moody blues)
    No matter the votes, Blonde on Blonde is a better album than Highway 61 Revisited, and I would never put King Crimson on the list where there is no Velvet Underground & Nico or Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys, not to mention some other Doors, Beatles, Who, Stones albums...
    Shame Tommy didn't make it. I'll probably give that record another listen to later today anyways though.
    UG's lists are actually damn good, sure everyone won't agree with them but that's a given. Happy to see KC on the list
    Led Zeppelin is the greatest debut album ever made IMHO, nice to see a list that backs me up! Can only imagine the reactions when this first came out...
    2 original tracks
    You mean "2 minutes of original music"
    I beg people to see the difference between being untalented, and neglecting a legal obligation. They still played everything, for pete's sake, the rolling stones first album was entirely covers, and no one cares. So the point seems to be the credits. If that's your reason for not liking the music, you are narrow-minded and not a true lover of music holistically. In classical eras it was an honor for another revered composer to use a piece from a movement of yours. It was seen as a nod of respect, from one musician to another.
    Led Zep were credited as the sole writers for every song at the time of release, however this is only true for the songs Good Times Bad Times and Your Time Is Gonna Come. Babe I'm Gonna Leave You was written by Anne Bredon, You Shook Me and I can't quit you baby were written by Willie Dixon, Dazed and Confused by Jake Holmes, Black Mountain Side by Bert Jansch, Communication Breakdown by Eddie Cochran and How Many More Times by Howlin' Wolf. They just changed the drum beat, added a few guitar licks and changed one word in the title/main lyric. They did this a lot in later albums also but they did it the most in their first.
    Something tells me they had a little "help" with this album, especially in the "writing" process...
    Sigh... No offense against Led Zep (They were, are still, and forever will be ****ing awesome), but I guess that I should had expected them to top the list judging I'm on a guitar site... Ah well, nevermind, never the less, both I and II are awesome, and this list is still very solid - Definatly the most diverse I've so far seen from UG!
    The Stones should be on this list! Either Aftermath,or Beggars Banquet,or Let It Bleed.
    40 decades later and Led Zeppelin I still sounds awesome. timeless.
    Why are the Stones not on here?
    Agreed... I'm a little surprised to see it took this long for someone to mention them. Let it Bleed or Beggar's Banquet are the more influential ones, but I'll even take Flowers over King Crimson. Don't get me wrong King Crimson is great but I just don't see how they can be on here and the Stones aren't...
    Face R1pper
    Because King Crimson knows how to write a song.
    Sorry but to me, King Crimson can write great "music". The stone's write great "songs"... But going of facts the Rolling Stones and the Beatles are pretty much the quintessential rock bands of the 60's and each band should have one album on the top 10.
    Face R1pper
    No the Beatles and Rolling Stones were poor songwriters. They came up with good melodies and like all pop stars they made their songs work by emphasizing the single melody. King Crimson had the skill to go much deeper into their music and were able to move beyond such simple ideas. I guess if you really want to be technical, its kind of hard to compare the two because their different approaches to music put them on opposite ends of the spectrum. The Beatles and Rolling Stones were pop artists and part of a fad, while King Crimson aspired to push artistic limits by using different melodies with more complex rhythms and more focus on instruments than vocals.
    The Beatles were excellent songwriters, and I'm a huge King Crimson fan. You don't have to write 7+ minute epics to be a great songwriter.
    Face R1pper
    There is a difference between writing a good melody and writing a good song, and more often than not, the Beatles were focused on writing good melodies rather than good songs.
    Face R1pper, you need to open your eyes a bit... There's beauty in simplicity. That's why about every band since the Beatles and Stones has looked up to them. They were great F***ing songwriters!
    Face R1pper
    They were not looked up to for their songwriting skills. They were looked up to for their image and their ability to appear as an outstanding product among the pop musicians of that era. They did nothing innovative as musicians, but they were excellent at branding an image and marketing their product.
    They weren't looked up to back then for their songwriting, I'll give you that, but there's a reason why a lot of people still give them credit, including me. It's a personal thing... I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.
    The list went TOTALLY WRONG when The Beatles DID NOT rank No 1. Revolver should be No.1 or Abbey Road
    I agree that the Beatles should be #1, but it should be for either Sgt. Pepper or the White Album.
    Yep. Alot of people rate Revolve really high. I like Revolver but It is not my fav. The best songs on Revolver are "I want to tell you" and "And Your bird can sing" and Im only sleeping. I personally prefer please please me and abbey road. Those are my fav
    No gripes from me for this list. Then again, I'm not really into music from the '60s. Still an interesting list.
    Yeah, but I don't think I'm down with working in those X-Rated webcam chatrooms. Tell that slut to get a real job.
    It's such a joke that Zeppelin got the number one spot. What a stupidly overrated band they are. Floyd were doing way more interesting stuff and were much more talented but everyone's up Zeppelin's asses.
    I'm real happy to see Johnny Cash in there, and extremely happy to see Led Zeppelin at the top
    The only thing wrong with this list is the fact it makes me realize once again that I was born at the wrong time...
    I'm glad that King Crimson is on the list. Although In the court is a great album, people should check out other Crimson albums. They've got a lot of seriously good music.
    i also want to say that led zep #2 was a better album than #1 IMO
    A radio station where I live also put this album as number one and I don't know why. Maybe in terms of sonic influence alone... Don't get me wrong, because the Zep is my favorite band ever. But still, this album was full of covers and rip-offs. I think Good Times Bad Times and Communication Breakdown are the only true originals on the album
    Face R1pper
    People have been borrowing melodies and modifying them for centuries. Nobody disrespects Mozart for doing it, so why disrespect Led Zeppelin for it?
    There was 0% disrespect there, just an acknowledgement of the facts. And obviously people lift melodies here and there. Hence one of my favorite youtube videos -
    I guess I can see how it wouldn't make it but I was hoping Traffic-Mr. Fantasy would be on here
    Agreed, a Traffic record would be nice (their self-titled is my favorite). Also, I'd push for a different Dylan album, maybe Freewheelin'? Folk and folk rock was huge in the 60's. CSN's first album would be sick too. Agree with people mentioning the Stones as well, Let it Bleed or Beggar's Banquet would fit well in the list. Music from Big Pink by the Band would work too, awesome album well received by a lot of big-time musicians in the 60's as well. An Isaac Hayes or James Brown record would probably be appropriate, funk and soul was big then. Not docking the list, though. All some ****ing stellar records. Mad props on the Cash and Jefferson Airplane.
    I agree, Pet Sounds, Velvet Underground and although Rubber Soul is my favourite Beatles album, I can see how Sgt. Peppers is always the one most highly regarded. Disraeli Gears was a bit of a curveball for me. Even Eric Clapton admits Cream was his way of trying to rip off the Jimi Hendrix experience and in his autobiography he admits it was never as good, in his own opinion. AND Sabbath's first album? I've always thought that was absolutely incredible riff wise. Personally more memorable than Zep 1, and I love Zep.
    Something by the Kinks should be on here. It's strange to think that such a great and well known band could be so underrated. Arthur or Village green preservation society would have fit well. Also, you people are telling me that Led Zeppelin's first album is better than anything that the beatles, Bob Dylan, the Kinks, the Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, etc. ever did? Jesus. There's more to great music than guitar riffs, even if this is a guitar site.
    Awesome list agree with all of it I just wish pet sounds made it though