Top 100 Greatest Prog-Rock albums...ever

updated over 6 years ago

The top 100 progressive rock records as chosen by writer, DJ and prog-rock nut Stefan Turner.

  1. King Crimson - In The Court Of The Crimson King (An Observation By King Crimson)

    Arguably the first ever prog-rock record, King Crimson's mellotron-soaked debut still has the power to shock and surprise allmost half-a-century after it's release. Issued in 1969, 'In The Court Of The Crimson King' remains Crimson's finest LP.

  2. Yes - Close To The Edge

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    Before the overblown bombast of 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' came this, Yes' fifth studio album. One of their most ambitious and thrilling works, 'Close To The Edge' proved so good that drummer Bill Bruford immediately quit the group following the album's release, convinced that Yes would never be able to produce anything even half-as-good. He was almost right, too.....

  3. Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here

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    Floyd's highly-anticipated follow-up to the all-conquering 'Dark Side Of The Moon', this 1975 album proved a more than worthy successor and arguably their most accesible work before Roger Waters quit the group in 1985. Featuring the elegiac Syd Barrett tribute 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond', the brooding 'Welcome To The Machine' and the achingly-beatiful, tear-duct bothering title-track, 'Wish You Were Here' finds the Floyd operating at the very peak of their impressive powers.

  4. Jethro Tull - Thick As A Brick

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    Ian Anderson's endearing spoof of the early-seventies penchant for 'concept' albums, 1972's 'Thick As A Brick' features just one, forty-minute track split over two sides, showcasing both Anderson's witty lyrical skills and the group's blistering instrumental creativity. Blending Tull's background in blues and folk with a strong prog-rock streak, this really is the ultimate concept album.

  5. Soft Machine - Third

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    Heavily influened by Miles Davis' 'Bitches Brew', this third album from the Canterbury outfit saw the group eschew the playful psychedelic style found on their first two albums, instead producing a full-blown, double-sided jazz-fusion epic. Deeply-cosmic, and featuring a quartet of breathtaking technical displays from the increasingly-confident group, this 1970 album ranks as one of the finest fusion albums of any era.

  6. Gnidrolog - Lady Lake

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    The second of just two albums produced by this little known British outfit led by the talented Goldring brothers, 'Lady Lake' falls somewhere between the wild-eyed histrionics of Van Der Graaf Generator and the complex, mellotron-soaked melodies of King Crimson. Intricate, melodic and at times utterly breathtaking in it's execution, this is an album(and a group) that deserves so much more than the minor cult reputation that they have slowly-cultivated over the forty-odd years since the 1972 release of this stunning album.

  7. Caravan - In The Land Of Grey And Pink

    A wonderful example of the Canterbury sound, 'In The Land Of Grey & Pink' was Caravan's third album and arguably their most imaginative. Featuring sun-dappled ditties, organ-drenched epics and the group's trademark quirky humour, this is the perfect introduction for those who have yet to investigate Canterbury prog in all it's glory.

  8. Pink Floyd - Animals

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    Floyd's darkly-disturbing, almost nihilistic, reposte to the Punk furore that was sweeping post-1976 Britain, 'Animals' - which was loosely-based on Orwell's '1984' - is very much the black sheep of the Pink Floyd discography. Brooding with menace and with a decidedly bleak lyrical outlook, this is very much a late-night album for those who can take it. Simply put, 'Animals' is brilliant. But you have been warned...

  9. Return To Forever Featuring Chick Corea - Where Have I Known You Before

    Perfectly summed-up by both the mysterious cover art and song titles such as 'Vulcan Worlds' and 'Beyond The Seventh Galaxy', this 1974 album from Chick Corea's uber-talented fusion exponents hits an almost perfect balance betwen the cosmic jazz soundscapes of the album's longer pieces and off-the-cuff instrumental extravagance drummed up by the quartet of Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke, guitarist Al Di Meola and drummer Lenny White. Outrageously good.

  10. Genesis - Selling England By The Pound

    Genesis' fourth album, and the third featuring the classic line-up of Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett and Phil Collins, 'Selling England By The Pound' marks the maturing of the British group's symphonic sound, tempering the surreal fantasies offered by the group's previous albums with a dose of welcome humour. Featuring the (surprise) mini-hit single 'I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)', this marks the moment Genesis entered the prog-rock big league.

  11. Harmonium - Les Cinq Saisons

    A singularly beautiful and haunting album, 'Si On Avait Besoin D'une Cinquieme Saison'(to give it it's full, proper title) was the second album from this now-legendary Quebecois outfit. Originally a folk trio, this 1975 album marks a huge leap forward from the simple folk sound of their debut, featuring a lush, symphonic sound, Serge Fiori's glacial vocals and a pair of sumptuous epics in the form of the album's pair of closing tracks.

  12. Van Der Graaf Generator - The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other

    The group's first album proper after the strange and dissonant 'The Aerosol Grey Machine'(essentially a Peter Hammill solo album), this Charisma-issued debut-of-sorts introduced the world to the starkly-intense sounds of this peculiar outfit. A jagged, brooding yet undeniably powerful and poetic set topped off by the epic closer 'After The Flood', this is very much the dark side of British prog.

  13. Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Emerson, Lake & Palmer

    Much-maligned for their later works and major targets for the punk uprising, ELP may have eventually lost the plot yet for a few brief years at the beginning of the 1970's they were one of the most exciting and invigorating new groups around. Untouched by the bombast of later works, this carefully-crafted debut finds the trio blending their unique individual skills into such spellbinding works as 'Take A Pebble', one of the group's most enduring songs.

  14. Maxophone - Maxophone

    The only album this short-lived Italian group ever issued, 1975's 'Maxophone' simply needs to be heard to be fully understood. Blending elements of jazz, rock and Neapolitan folk, whilst also featuring a strong symphonic streak, this is one of the all-time great Italian prog-rock album's from the country's golden era.

  15. Yes - Fragile

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    The group's fourth album, 1971's 'Fragile' is arguably Yes' most important release, kick-starting their early-to-mid-seventies golden period and featuring a number of noteable firsts for the talented British group. This would be the first Yes album to feature a sleeve designed by Roger Dean, the first to feature star keyboardist Rick Wakeman, and, most importantly of all, the group's first major commercial success. As such, tracks such as the classic rock staple 'Roundabout' and the epic 'Heart Of The Sunrise' have become the stuff of prog legend, as 'Fragile' found Yes fully realising the lush and thrilling symphonic sound that would become their trademark.

  16. Nucleus (3) - We'll Talk About It Later

    Led by Scottish trumpeter Ian Carr, Nucleus issued a series of adventurous jazz-fusion albums from 1970 onwards, yet like many their finest moments came early. Issued on the Vertigo label, 'We'll Talk About It Later' followed the group's incendiary debut by a matter of mere months. Both album's are outstanding, yet this dazzling sequel just about edges it. Featuring a more muscular brand of jazz-rock than it's predecessor, this is Carr and his supporting sextet offering up a technically dazzling display from beginning-to-end.

  17. Camel - Mirage

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    Camel's strongest and most progressive record, 1974's 'Mirage' was a huge improvement on the group's mellow debut. Featuring a faster and edgier style, a series of virtuoso displayers from keyboardist Andy Latimer and guitarist Peter Bardens and the impressive 'Lady Fantasy Suite', this is prime British prog indeed.

  18. Genesis - A Trick Of The Tail

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    After Peter Gabriel exited Genesis following the group's 1975 tour the music papers immediately began writing Genesis' obituary, convinced that without their enigmatic frontman they were finished as a viable group. Of course we all know what happened next, as drummer Phil Collins was promoted to lead vocalist, the slimmed down quartet proving just about everyone wrong with this delightful 1976 'comeback' album, and Genesis went on to enjoy a hugely-successful career and develop into one of the biggest rock group's of the 20t century. Go figure.

  19. Premiata Forneria Marconi - Per Un Amico

    Known internationally as PFM, this legendary Italian outfit were one of the leading members of Italy's thriving mid-seventies prog scene, issuing a series of successful albums in their homeland before adopting to singing in English and developing an international fanbase after the release of the 1975 album 'The World Became The World'. However, their reputation largely rests with their first two Italian-language albums, both of which rank amongst the very best of Italian prog. The second of the two, 'Per Un Amico', is the true masterpiece, featuring a rich, warm and woozy mellotron-drenched sound that leaves the listener with a golden glow.

  20. Caravan - If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You

    Quintessentially British and key purveyors of the Canterbury sound, the trademark Caravan mixture of light, jazzy breaks, witty lyrics, epic organ solos and intricate instrumental flourishes truly came into being on this delightfully inventive second album from 1970. Dave Sinclair's virtuoso displays on the organ, as found on the twelve-minute suite 'Can't Be Long Now', are simply astonishing.

  21. Miles Davis - Bitches Brew

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    Not prog as such but just as 'progressive' - if not more so - than any other album on this list, Miles Davis rocked both the jazz and, er, rock worlds with this daring reinvention of the musical wheel, utilising a then-radical editing style to blend dissonant sound collages, freaked-out fusion breaks and cooly-detatched jazz soundscapes into something daringly original. Issued in 1969, 'Bitches Brew' began Davis' far-reaching and highly-experimental 'electric' phase and was hugely influential in the development of the early-seventies fusion boom. Groups such as Return To Forever and the Mahavishnu Orchestra would soon follow, whilst 'Third', the seminal album from British Canterbury quartet Soft Machine, was a direct homage to Davis' creation.

  22. King Crimson - Red

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    A stark and brooding landscape of jagged guitars and muscualr riffs, and one of the first heavy metal records, King Crimson's 'Red' was the group's final album before their surprise split in 1974. A critical-and-commercial success, and undoubtedly the strongest release since 1969's genre-defining debut, 'Red' utterly eschews the intricate, mellotron-daubed prog of Crimson's first five albums, prefiguring the seventies rise of hard rock in the process and showcasing a moody power-trio format made up of three of the most iconic prog-rock performers.
    A bruising, metallic, bass-heavy beast of an album, 'Red' is progressive rock at it's darkest and heaviest. Again, you have been warned...

  23. Pink Floyd - Meddle

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    After the mystical psychedelia of their 1960's output, 'Meddle' seemed to mark the moment Pink Floyd truly found their musical feet. Issued in 1971 and their first studio album since the poor-selling 'Atom Heart Mother', this is the first true Floyd masterpiece, blending a disparate array of styles that run the gamut from full on space-rock to febrile ethnic folk, lazy sunday blues and lazily-strummed acoustica.
    But that's just side 1.
    Sprawling over the entire second side, the twenty minute cosmic rock marathon 'Echoes' was the first Floyd epic, a dazzling cosmic rock marathon that peaks in a moment of almost celestial glory after a pulsating twenty-four minute build-up.

  24. Gentle Giant - In A Glass House

    One of prog-rock's purest exponents, this outrageously-talented British group was led by the brothers Shulman, three multi-instrumentalist brothers who had previously enjoyed minor chart single success with their late-sixties pop-psych outfit Simon Dupree & The Big Sound. Wanting to put their skills to the test, the trio hired guitarist Gary Green, drummer John Weathers and fellow multi-instrumentalist Kerry Minnear, forming Gentle Giant in 1970. By the time of this 1974 album the eldest Shulman had departed, but the group's sound was going from strength-to-strength, becoming harder and more intricate than their early works(if that was possible).
    Ultimately, 'In A Glass House' would begin Gentle Giant's strongest run of albums, and lay down a marker for sheer prog excellence. A simply stunning evocation of musical ambition, Gentle Giant made the step up to the big league with this astonishing display of instrumental excellence.

  25. Catapilla - Catapilla

    Highly-obscure before the rise of the internet and not exactly well-known circa 2014, British jazz-rock outfit Catapilla issued two albums before disappearing into the murky realms of rock 'n' roll myth. With original copies now fetching ridiculous sums, this 1970 debut has become one of the most sought-after Vertigo albums, and for good reason. Featuring a hazy, edgy sound and some thrilling instrumental sojourns, Catapilla blend daring jazz-rock dynamics with ethereal psychedelia and a sometimes frenzied ambience summed up by vocalist Ann Meek's extraordinary display of high-pitched howling, hooting, screaming and hollering.