Top 10 Prog-Rock Albums Of All Time

Dream Theater keyboardist Jordan Rudess has listed his top 10 prog-rock albums of all time - and he should know. Check them out here.

Top 10 Prog-Rock Albums Of All Time
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Prog rock is a divisive genre. At best, it promises some of the most advanced musicianship in the world. At worst, it appears self-indulgent and pompous. But if you're new to the genre and want to find the good stuff, where do you begin? Well, this weekend we have a storming roundup of prog recommendations from one of the most prominent prog musicians around. Jordan Rudess is the keyboardist in Dream Theater, and he recently listed his top 10 prog-rock albums of all time on Music Radar. Rudess first found prog as a teenager. "It electrified my thinking," he says. "Suddenly, I became super-aware of new sounds and possibilities. In fact, there were even parts on it where I went, Wow! I've got some pieces that are kind of similar, but they sure don't sound like that' because I was just playing them on piano. The record really changed my life." Now it's your turn, so kick back and check out some of the best prog in the world as recommended by one of the best prog musicians in the world, in his own words. They're listed in alphabetical order. Enjoy!

Emerson, Lake & Palmer "Tarkus" (1970)

"Here you have a band that introduced me to the whole harmonic world, which I'd heard a little bit in classical music but never in rock. It had all these kind of cool, suspended chords, based on fourths, that Keith Emerson was so fond of. It probably stemmed from Aaron Copeland, the classical composer. "I remember hearing this album and then going over to my piano so I could find every fourth chord and sus chord possible. I wanted to be able to land on them without any trouble... The combination of everything they did was pretty great."

Genesis "Trick Of The Tail" (1976)

"I love the harmonic sense that Tony Banks brought to this record. One of the things he really had down at this point was keeping the same root note, but the triads moved over that note. It's a real Genesis thing, and it really hit with this record. If you go back to earlier albums, it wasn't so established. "Phil Collins sounds so great, too. He's such a marvellous singer."

Gentle Giant "Free Hand" (1975)

"I always felt like Gentle Giant had something unique in the way that they used counterpoint and rhythm. Nobody else was doing that. It was special, and it had a tremendous influence on me. "I kind of saw it as the 'rock-Bach', where you have all these moving voices and interesting lines going on. I spent a lot of time studying it, not necessarily in learning how to play the exact music, but just to figure out what made it tick. I really wanted to know: 'What is that?'"

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

"One of the all-time classics. "There's some tremendous themes on here, and of course, 'The Court Of The Crimson King' is truly memorable. Greg Lake's voice is so innocent and pure he's a remarkable vocalist... I just love the scope of this record. It's tremendous."

Pink Floyd "Dark Side Of The Moon" (1973)

"One big thing I liked was that their music was slow. They managed to be progressive in the depth of their musical space. To me, that was fascinating, because I came from classical music, and everything was so focused on technique. To have something that moved at its own pace and yet be so effective, that's what captured my imagination."

Van Der Graaf Generator "Pawn Hearts" (1971)

"I saw the band live at the Beacon Theater in the 70s, and it was one of the coolest shows that I had seen. They didn't have a bass player; the keyboard player had bass pedals; they had a saxophonist who was playing two saxes at once, which was pretty cool. The drummer was fantastic."

Rick Wakeman "The Six Wives Of Henry VIII" (1973)

"There's a lot of simple elements, simple chords, but it has a super-classical approach. Another thing that struck me was the Mini Moog. The reason why I just had to have a Minimoog was because of the tone that Rick Wakeman used on his albums. "I remember going to see him live, and he had three Minimoogs on stage with them. They all had tape markers right next to the dials to show the correct positions. There were no patches in those days."

Steven Wilson "Grace For Drowning" (2011)

"I don't know if this is fair, but I played on the album! There's such depth on it. Steven's like a painter, crafting and coloring moods, mixing in progressive elements. There's some King Crimson-y things, and he finds the intervals that create a dark energy. He's very good at textures, but all in all, it's just wonderful music."

Yes "Close To The Edge" (1972)

"With Yes, it was about the positivity that came out of their music, not just the progressive nature of the songs and the unbelievable musicianship. It was the energy level. Jon Anderson and the rest of the band put out such a fantastic spirit - it screamed off of the vinyl."

Stefan Zauner "Prism And Views" (1978)

"Super melodic, really good keyboard work, the drumming is cool, and there's great guitar playing. But something about the songs really stayed with me. I turn everybody on to this record."
That's it! Thanks to Music Radar for sharing Jordan Rudess' top 10 prog albums in his own words. Which do you like, and what personal favorites would you add to the list? Share them in the comments.

154 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    Voodoochile711
    This is Jordan Rudess's favorite prog rock albums, guys, not UG's. It's not meant to be definitive, it's just his opinion.
    sturm
    great list... woulda thought there'd be a little Rush in there though...
    Elderer
    I've heard only few songs from all those records. And thats great-weekend full of new,unheard music. Thanks!
    KingEuphoric
    I always hate when they put out these "Best 10 xxxx of all time!" lists because 10 is such a small number and theres so much good music out there. I personally usually use these as a way to find some new music but most people just bitch and moan because their favorite band didn't make the cut
    Machineflame
    Rush is undeniably Prog-rock. If you wan't Prog-Metal listen to symphony X, Nevermore, Cynic, atheist, King's X, Mastodon, Queensrche, fate's warning, etc. Most off these bands are really a lot heavier than rush's most heavy material like Working man, Clockwork Angels or YYZ. Rush is one of my favorites band and it's true to say they are close from metal, but would you label led zeppelin, Boston, April Wine or even NICKELBACK as metal?
    L2112Lif
    The fact that 2112 isn't up there... but Rick Wakeman's Seven Wives is... Ugh, my face doesn't fit quite right inside my hands anymore.
    Joeseye
    Jibbiso wrote: sturm wrote: great list... woulda thought there'd be a little Rush in there though... I believe that would be prog metal, not rock
    ...Rush are quite clearly a progressive rock band.
    L2112Lif
    Oh, its the top 10 according to RUDESS? Well, no wonder Six Wives is on there, he plays KEYBOARDS. -_____-
    Root Beer
    Dragon Fly wrote: The best prog rock/metal albums of all time: 1. Dream Theater - Scenes From A Memory 2. Dream Theater - Octavarium 3. Dream Theater - Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence 4. Dream Theater - Train of Thought 5. Dream Theater - Black Clouds and Silver Linings 6. Dream Theater - Images and Words 7. Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn of Events 8. Dream Theater - Awake 9. Dream Theater - Systematic Choas 10. Dream Theater - Falling into Infinity
    Oh God... Kill me now...
    dennis.1960
    I'm a guitar/keyboardist who grew up on prog rock but always liked it's darker side. If I could recommend 10 prog rock albums for those who haven't explored the genre yet, I'd go... 1) King Crimson - Starless and Bible Black 2) ELP - Brain Salad Surgery 3) Yes - Relayer 4) Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick 5) Genesis - Nursery Cryme 6) Van Der Graaf Generator - Pawn Hearts 7) Pink Floyd - Meddle 8) Rush - A Farewell to Kings 9) Gentle Giant - Playing the Fool 10) IQ - The Wake And as international bonus picks 1) Ange - Le Cimetiere des Arlequins (France) 2) PFM - Photos of Ghosts (Italy) 3) Anekdoten - Nucleus (Sweden) 4) Nektar - Recycled (Germany) 5) Devil Doll - Eliogabalas (Italy) 6) Pulsar - Halloween (France) And as just super extra bonus picks: 1) Frank Zappa - You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Volume 2 - The Helsinki Concert 2) Camel - Mirage ...and finally, the very first prog rock album... 3) Beatles - Sgt Peppers
    SIEGE312
    Missin some Rush, Coheed & Tool though (I wouldn't mind seein Lateralus mixed in there somewhere)
    thebigredjj10
    This is by no means an official list for me, but a quick of some of my favorites. It's not even necessarily the best prog rock albums, just my 10 favorite at this time. Top 10 (In random order) 1. Genesis - Trespass (Underrated album, I really liked the folksy thing they had on this. Most people rate others higher, and they are probably are right, but at the moment this one speaks to me the most) 2. Gentle Giant - Three Friends 3. Porcupine Tree - Fear of a Blank Planet 4. Phideaux Xavier - Number 7 5. Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here 6. The Deer Hunter - Acts I, II, and III 7. ELP - Tarkus 8. Rush - 2112 9. Spock's Beard - V 10.Ritual - The Hemulic Voluntary Band Now that list is subject to change daily as it solely based on taste and probably nobody will agree with it. It is no order either. My prog metal list is... 1. Dream Theater - Metropolis Part 2: Scenes from a Memory 2. Symphony X - V: The New Mythology Suite 3. Queensryche - Operation Mindcrime 4. Ayreon - Into the Electric Castle 5. Opeth - Ghost Reveries 6. The Human Abstract - Midheaven 7. Devin Townsend - Accelerated Evolution 8. Epica - Requiem for the Indifferent 9. Mastodon - Blood and Thunder 10.Protest the Hero - Kezia Again, no order, just random selections of some of my current favorites at this moment.
    BurningStarlV
    1. Pink Floyd- Animals 2. Dredg- El Cielo 3. Yes- Close to the Edge 4. Pink Floyd- Dark Side of the Moon 5. Coheed and Cambria- Good Apollo I'm Burning Star IV Vol. 1 - From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness 6. The Mars Volta- Frances the Mute 7. The Dear Hunter- Act II: The Meaning of, and All Things Regarding Ms. Leading 8. Genesis- Foxtrot 9. The Mars Volta- Amputechture 10. Emerson, Lake & Palmer- Trilogy ..or something like that.
    Root Beer
    1.Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd 2.Fragile - Yes 3.In the Court of the Crimson King - King Crimson 4.Moving Pictures - Rush 5.Thick as a Brick - Jethro Tull 6.Lateralus - Tool 7.Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd 8.10,000 Days - Tool 9.Selling England by the Pound - Genesis 10.Signify - Porcupine Tree The order is interchangeable, but I think especially the top 5 all need to be somewhere in the list.
    Unbroken9
    Steven Wilson's solo albums aren't as good as Porcupine's... In Absentia... Stupid Dream... Lightbulb Sun...
    Campion95
    also I should say that the title of this is false, it isn't the "Top 10 Prog-Rock Albums of All Time" It's Jordan Rudess' Favourite Prog Rock Albums. I really don't even know why its up here, while it is a good list, Jordan gave this interview months ago.
    captainsnazz
    mullet1337 wrote: Modern prog > 60s/70s prog.
    This is Jordan Rudess' list, and he grew up in that era so obviously that's where his influences lie. And although I do prefer modern prog like Oceansize, Karnivool etc, some of Jordan's choices are great. Very happy to see The Six Wives of Henry VIII on there
    Campion95
    I think Rush should of made the list as well but we have to remember Jordan is a keyboardist so of course he's going to choose the prog albums where the keyboards are the bigger focus.
    Root Beer
    Jacobk4n3 wrote: UG should start doing polls. I dont give a peanut decorated shit what Rudess thinks.
    I'm in favor of this poll idea.
    HowSoonisNow
    iscreamicecream wrote: Best Prog Album of all time: Lulu
    Definitely. Not even prog album, but man's greatest accomplishment overall.
    Root Beer
    jrcsgtpeppers wrote: Brain Salad Surgery is emerson lake and palmers best album Atom Heart Mother>DSOTM No king crimson? No porcupine tree? No Mars Volta?
    Atom Heart Morher over Dark Side? What the hell are you on???
    KBI2113
    Not fair. Jordan is too nice to list any of his own albums. Personally, "Metropolis Pt. 2", favorite album of all time. The Dance of Eternity? Blows my mind everytime
    spiff-corgi
    Abacus11 wrote: Not a bad list but Genesis "Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" beats all of these. Also, its cool to see Steven Wilson's new solo record on here but he's done better stuff with Porcupine Tree.
    I wouldn't have called that as Prog Rock as some of their later stuff though. It was certainly Prog Rock but not as definitive of the genre. Regardless I'm just glad at least one Genesis album made the cut. They always get overshadowed by bands such as Pink Floyd.
    vppark2
    Machineflame wrote: Rush is undeniably Prog-rock. If you wan't Prog-Metal listen to symphony X, Nevermore, Cynic, atheist, King's X, Mastodon, Queensrche, fate's warning, etc. Most off these bands are really a lot heavier than rush's most heavy material like Working man, Clockwork Angels or YYZ. Rush is one of my favorites band and it's true to say they are close from metal, but would you label led zeppelin, Boston, April Wine or even NICKELBACK as metal?
    other good prog-metal bands: Tool, and Protest The Hero.
    edgeyyz
    Unbroken9 wrote: Steven Wilson's solo albums aren't as good as Porcupine's... In Absentia... Stupid Dream... Lightbulb Sun...
    I agree with Insurgentes, but Grace for Drowning was phenomenal. Not sure about top 10 prog albums, but I love it.
    ZeligtheAxMan
    Yeah this is like Prog-Rock for keyboardists. Interesting but on a site calle ultimate-GUITAR, I'd prefer a guitariss's top 10 list...
    ManInTheBox14
    Honestly, I prefer modern prog over classic prog, but I'm not going to say it's better. Prog from the 60s and 70s obviously had a huge influence on modern prog bands, so you can't say it's worse. My personal top 10 prog rock/metal albums (no particular order): 1. Between the Buried and Me - Colors 2. Mastodon - Crack The Skye 3. Protest the Hero - Scurrilous 4. Scale the Summit - The Collective 5. The Fall of Troy - Doppleganger 6. Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon 7. King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King 8. Opeth - Blackwater Park 9. Rush - Fly By Night 10. Between the Buried and Me - The Great Misdirect
    xTony111
    although prog metal and prog rock are a little bit different, i would like to have seen Moving Pictures by rush and Lateralus by Tool. but that's just me.
    Second Rate
    spencer6666 wrote: can't believe you can have a progressive rock list and not have rush or tool lets not nit pick at genres too its all rock and roll that's why we love it
    I'm sorry folks, but Tool is not as integral to Progressive Rock as you all seem to think. The genre would be just as well off without them. As for the lack of rush on this list. Jordan is a keyboard player, so it doesn't surprise me that a band more well known for their drummer is lacking from it.
    Robbertto
    Genesis's only album in here = TRICK OF THE TAIL? lol..... and no rush? boo
    Eclectic Lizard
    I'm not big on prog but I like King Crimson and stuff. Opeth's Heritage is pretty cool although I'm not sure if prog fans consider it prog enough...
    Charlie4
    If you really want to get into the world of prog rock then ProgArchives is the place to check it out. I also think their list on there is a bit more accurate. Steven Wilson is strongly keeping the flame alive but is he up there with the giants? (Some are on the list). Btw as usual , merely another misleading UG title. Jordan Rudess's Top 10 Prog Rock Albums of All Time
    The Coop
    How about Marillion anyone? Particularly 'Script For A Jester's Tear'. One of my all time favourite albums. Very good list though I should say.
    Holoogamooga
    Funny it's a top ten list without order. I do like some modern prog bands like Transatlantic, Big Big Train, Spock's Beard, Frost*, etc., but it never hurts to see where they came from. I'll be checking out all of these albums I haven't heard yet.
    Jacobk4n3
    UG should start doing polls. I dont give a peanut decorated shit what Rudess thinks.
    Emperor's Child
    This should've had Wish You Were Here in place of DSOTM and The Mars Volta's Frances The Mute or De-loused should be on the list too. I'd say Porcupine Tree's In Absentia or Fear of a Blank Planet would've been a better example of Steven Wilson's work too. Otherwise, I'm not familiar with Gentle Giant or Stefan Zauner but the list seems pretty decent.
    SmittyMan90
    Voodoochile711 wrote: This is Jordan Rudess's favorite prog rock albums, guys, not UG's. It's not meant to be definitive, it's just his opinion.
    I was wondering why there was a pic of him and no DT albums but it makes sense now.
    Slayton101
    I was extremely surprised to not see Lateralus by Tool up there. It's been acclaimed as one of the top progressive-rock albums of all time. I personally think it's a great show of modernizing influences without destroying the art.
    EpiExplorer
    Very thorough. Woulda thought some earlier Porcupine Tree instead of normal SW stuff would've been on there instead, but no matterz.
    Miyagi84
    Voodoochile711 wrote: This is Jordan Rudess's favorite prog rock albums, guys, not UG's. It's not meant to be definitive, it's just his opinion.
    I think that is a key element to this article... if people would have read just a little bit they would have realized this, which is obvious that they didn't. For me, I don't understand how anyone can stand genesis. Just a terrible band imho.