Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Top 50 Progressive Rock Albums

Progressive rock is one of the most beloved and ridiculed of rock music’s sub genres. As a hilarious piece at says, it is “categorized by a sacking of traditional song structure, complex rhythms, odd time signatures,” and insane song lengths betraying the creators’ lack of awareness of when to stop a song.

The players tend to be average singers and extremely skilled musicians, often working with wacky instruments. As the piece amusingly states, it is “the only rock genre in which the term ‘flute solo’ has any meaning.”

Also prevalent are a propensity toward concept albums built on half-baked themes and philosophy. There tends to be plenty of drug inspiration and “a sense of inherent superiority over other rock genres.”

All kidding aside, it is a difficult genre to absorb. The stereotypes detailed at lean toward the truth more often than not, but prog rock is largely defined by not being definable. It is an experimental form which doesn’t play by the rules. Even as I compiled the list below, that became apparent as some albums crept into the list which didn’t fit my idea of prog rock.

I was inspired to put this list together for two primary reasons. First, the kings of prog rock – Yes – are promoting Fly from Here, their first studio album in ten years. Second, I posted earlier this week about my favorite album (Marillion Misplaced Childhood Hits #1 in UK: June 29, 1985). It finds its way onto this list at #19.

Depending on where you fall on the spectrum of loving or hating prog rock, you can use this list either as a guide to what should be in your collection or what to avoid at all costs. Either way, here’s hoping you get something out of the list. Note: this list was created by compiling more than 25 prog-rock lists (see links at bottom of page) into one aggregate.

1. Yes Close to the Edge (1972)
2. King Crimson In the Court of the Crimson King (1969)
3. Jethro Tull Thick As a Brick (1972)
4. Genesis Selling England by the Pound (1973)
5. Rush 2112 (1976)

6. Genesis The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974)
7. Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
8. Yes Fragile (1971)
9. Jethro Tull Aqualung (1971)
10. Emerson, Lake & Palmer Brain Salad Surgery (1973)

11. Van Der Graaf Generator Pawn Hearts (1971)
12. Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here (1975)
13. Pink Floyd The Wall (1979)
14. Genesis Foxtrot (1972)
15. Yes The Yes Album (1971)

16. Kansas Leftoverture (1976)
17. King Crimson Red (1974)
18. King Crimson Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (1973)
19. Marillion Misplaced Childhood (1975)
20. Rush Moving Pictures (1981)

21. Mike Oldfield Tubular Bells (1973)
22. Yes Relayer (1974)
23. Rush A Farewell to Kings (1977)
24. Gentle Giant Octopus (1972)
25. Camel Mirage (1974)

26. Pink Floyd Animals (1977)
27. Frank Zappa We’re Only in It for the Money (1968)
28. Emerson, Lake & Palmer Emerson, Lake & Palmer (1970)
29. The Moody Blues Days of Future Passed (1967)
30. Caravan In the Land of Gray and Pink (1971)

31. Rush Permanent Waves (1980)
32. Rush Hemispheres (1978)
33. Gentle Giant In a Glass House (1973)
34. Queensrÿche Operation: Mindcrime (1988)
35. Dream Theater Scenes from a Memory (Metropolis Part 2) (1999)

36. Pink Floyd Meddle (1971)
37. Tangerine Dream Phaedra (1974)
38. Porcupine Tree In Abstentia (2002)
39. Kraftwerk Autobahn (1974)
40. Dream Theater Images and Words (1992)

41. Marillion Script for a Jester’s Tear (1983)
42. Gong You (Radio Gnome Invisible Pt. 3) (1974)
43. Tool Aenima (1996)
44. Supertramp Crime of the Century (1974)
45. Peter Gabriel So (1986)

46. Radiohead OK Computer (1997)
47. Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel 3 (aka “Melt”) (1980)
48. Frank Zappa Hot Rats (1969)
49. Queensrÿche Empire (1990)
50. Camel The Snow Goose (1973)

  • 9ftneil’s The Best Prog Rock Albums.

    As posted on List only of 25 albums.

  • Ian Alterman, The Absolutely Essential Progressive Rock Listening Guide (6/4/07).

    Focus on a dozen albums with a paragraph about each.

  •’s Essential CDs by Style.

    Dead link; had recommended essentials in multiple genres, including 25 for progressive rock.

  • Azlanovic, Galaxie’s The Best Progressive Rock Albums.

    As posted on List with links to more info.

  • Barnes & Noble Fundamentals.

    Dead link; did have fundamental albums listed for multiple genres, including 12 for prog rock.

  • Ronald Couture, “20 Best Progressive Rock Albums” from book Progressive Rock 1966-2006.

    As posted by Internaut at (2010). List only.

  • Progressive Rock.

    Hilarious piece about understanding prog rock.

  • Spence D., Top 25 Prog Rock Albums, as posted at (2/23/07).

    Paragraphs about each album.

  • 100 Greatest Progressive Albums, edited by Drew (2/26/05).

    List only.

  • Prog Rock Timeline.

    Focus on 30+ albums with paragraphs on each.

  • 50 Greatest Progressive Rock Albums.

    List with links to more information about albums and acts.

  • Dw. Dunphy, 50Prog50: The Best Prog Albums, as posted at (8/16/10).

    Five-part piece with detailed reviews of the top 50 albums.

  • Film-Guy, Best prog rock albums?, as posted at (5/12/09).

    Top-ten list only.

  • James Nolan Graham “Civil Critic” The Best Progressive Rock Albums (IMHO).

    List of 23 albums posted on

  • Russell Hall, 10 Classic Vintage Prog-Rock Albums, as posted at (8/20/08).

    Paragraph about each album.

  • Ian’s Guide to Essential Progressive Rock.

    Bios of several groups followed by a top ten prog-rock album list.

  • jjaysmoker, 10 Best Progressive Rock Albums.

    As posted at Unranked list with commentary.

  • Richard G. Johnstone The Best Progressive Rock Albums.

    List of 17 albums posted at

  • Maidenone, Greatest ‘70s Prog Rock Albums as posted at

    List of 46 albums with links to details about albums.

  • Mindcrimewithin, Greatest progressive rock albums of all time, as posted at

    List of 46 albums with links to details about albums.

  • Moltenlava, Top Twenty Best and Biggest Prog-Rock Albums (7/13/08).

    As posted on Ranked list with links to reviews.

  • Overkill’s Top 20 Best Prog/Art Rock Albums (7/9/07).

    List as posted on

  • Top Studios of All-Time (2011)

    Ranked list based on user ratings as of 3/13/2011. List of 100 albums with links to detailed information and reviews about each.

  • Record Collector Classic Albums from 21 Genres for the 21st Century (issue 245: January 2000).

    As posted on Sections on prog and avant-garde each have 10 entries in an unranked list.

  • Piero Scaruffi, Best progressive-rock albums of all times.

    List only of 23 ranked-albums followed by an unranked list of another 90+ albums.

  • “Speed King” The Best Prog-Rock Albums of All Time.

    List of 14 albums posted at

  • Top 10 Greatest Progressive Rock Albums.

    Voter-based list with 30 ranked albums. No commentary.

  • Awen Woods, Classic Era Progressive Rock Top 10 (3/20/11).

    Unranked list with commentary.

  • Zepfloyes Greatest progressive rock albums of all times, as posted on

    Top 25 with sentences about each album.

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