Counting Down the 50 Best Debut Albums
The debut album: for every act it’s a sacred piece of work, no matter how it’s received by the public. For some acts, it ends up being a definitive piece of art; for others, it’s just a step in the process. Below are 50 of the best, 50 albums that span across different genres, 50 albums that have transcended through time.
While ranking the greatest albums is never easy — especially when it comes to different genres — below is the best attempt at ranking fifty albums that have become iconic, immortal, and a joy to listen to — no matter their release date.
50. Boogie Down Productions – Criminal Minded
Why Boogie Down Productions Criminal Minded is a Top Debut Album of All Time
Before N.W.A. struck gold with their 1988 album Straight Outta Compton, New York’s Boogie Down Productions released one of rap’s first playbooks: 1987’s Criminal Minded. Hailing from the Bronx, Boogie Down Productions consisted of emcee KRS-One and producer DJ Scott La Rock, who was sadly murdered five months after the album’s release. Still, his legend lives forever, as his production samples ranged from classic rock artists to James Brown to reggae.
On Criminal Minded, Scott La Rock integrates AC/DC’s “Back in Black” on “Dope Beat,” and The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” on the title track. Meanwhile, KRS-One became a sensation on the microphone. The MC would influence generations of rappers from the Big Apple to Los Angeles. His lyrics not only gave insight into the streets of late eighties New York, but they were also politically invigorating. KRS was the perfect mix between gangster rap and conscious rap — which explains his ubiquitous influence.
Following the death of Scott La Rock, KRS-One distanced himself from violent themes; focusing on political, social, and historical content. Over the years, Boogie Down Productions continued to put out hit records and KRS-One has put out over a dozen solo records, making sure his words continues to have a massive impact.
Must Hear Tracks: “Dope Beat,” “South Bronx,” “The Bridge is Over”
49. Boards of Canada – Music Has A Right to the Children
Why Boards of Canada Music Has A Right to the Children is one of the Best Debut Albums of All Time
Boards of Canada — not actually from Canada — originated in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1986. The duo made up of brothers Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin, would go on to be one of electronic music’s most iconic acts. Even though it took them 12 years to put out their first LP, it all paid off as their debut Music Has A Right To The Children has become one of the genre’s most beloved albums.
The duo’s sound consisted of vintage tones and equipment, which they then paired with hip-hop beats to create a signature sound. The duo claims the LP was influenced by nostalgia, childhood memory, and nature; all of those themes are apparent on the track “ROYGBIV.” The song starts with a heavy synth riff but eventually bleeds into drumbeats and higher-pitched tones, creating a memorable anthem. Another standout is “Turquoise Hexagon Sun,” a hypnotic track that can entrance the listener like a lullaby.
Today, Boards of Canada remain active and appreciated and while they’ve released four well-received LPs, Music Has A Right to the Children stands out among the rest. It’s an album that’s hard to put down every time you give it a spin and has stood the test of time 20+ years later.
Must Hear Tracks: “ROYGBIV,” “Turquoise Hexagon Sun,” “Sixtyten”
48. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
Why Black Sabbath’s Black Sabbath is one of the Greatest Debut Albums of All Time
Black Sabbath hailed from industrial-heavy Birmingham; a town known for its dreariness. Luckily, the band would find a way to turn their town’s dread into beauty, thanks to Ozzy Osbourne’s iconic vocals, Tony Iommi’s heavy riffs, and a rhythm section of Geezer Butler on bass and Bill Ward on drums. Black Sabbath helped the heavy metal genre blossom: they took blues-rock and psychedelic influences and gave them dark overtones and heavy distortion — which some would simply describe as “evil.”
Still, there’s nothing wretched about Sabbath’s debut album, as it is five tracks of pure rock n’ roll. On “The Wizard,” the band’s blues influence instantly hooks the listener; the track starts with a harmonica solo before transitioning into Iommi’s maniacal guitar work. The band follows that same recipe for songs such as “N.I.B.” and “Wicked World,” two songs that have gone on to be Sabbath classics.
The band would put out seven more albums with Osbourne at the helm before he left and went solo. After his departure, the band continued to please audiences with different lineups and eventually reunited in 1997. The band eventually called it a day in 2017 — on good terms — still, their influence continues to inspire a plethora of metal acts.
Must Hear Tracks: “The Wizard,” “N.I.B.,” “Wicked World”
47. Arctic Monkeys – What Ever People Say That I Am, That’s What I’m Not
Why Arctic Monkeys What Ever People Say That I Am, That’s What I’m Not is a Top Debut Album of All Time
The Arctic Monkeys were one of the first bands to get big off the internet. Thanks to Myspace, Americans were able to get early exposure to their music; meanwhile, in the U.K., the band had already gained steam — without ever releasing an LP. The Arctic Monkeys were not only a revival of early English punk bands, but when they mixed in lead singer Alex Turner’s idiosyncratic lyrics, the band was able speak to a new generation of rock n’ roll fans.
Unlike other acts of the era, their buzz band status didn’t just give them 15 minutes of fame. Instead, the album propelled them to new heights and they’ve been able to keep the momentum going for 15+ years. Today, the Arctic Monkeys are seen as one of the biggest rock bands in the world; they’re an act that’s rarely done the same thing twice.
On Whatever People Say…, the band offers listeners a variety of songs: there are radio-friendly tracks like “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and “Fake Tales of San Francisco,” as well as slower serenades like “Mardy Bum.” The album ends on a nostalgic tone with “Certain Romance,” a song which some consider Whatever People Say…’s masterpiece.
Fast forward to 2022: Turner and the band have continued to evolve; after four great records that drew from punk/post-punk influence, the band reached a new level of popularity with their 2013 album A.M. A stoner-rock inspired LP, which has made them a festival headliner over the past ten years.
Must Hear Tracks: “A Certain Romance,” “Fake Tales of San Francisco,” “Mardy Bum”
46. Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine
Why Rage Against the Machine’s Rage Against the Machine is one of the Best Debut Albums of All Time
Artists have repeatedly tried (and failed) to successfully make two genres intersect. But sometimes, there are silver linings — Rage Against the Machine is a glimmering example. The Southern California band formed in 1991, supported by the politically charged lyrics of Zack De La Rocha; the otherworldly guitar talent of Tom Morello; plus a rhythm section that could bring an entire building down.
They brought a rap-rock/rap-metal sound to the mainstream, with De La Rocha’s vocals channeling a hip-hop style speech. Meanwhile, Morello’s guitar work emulated the likes of Kirk Hammett and Randy Rhoades, as he became a generational axeman. RATM’s tour-de-force sound had listeners invigorated: their revolutionary lyrics impacted audiences by avoiding being gimmick.
“Bombtrack” is the perfect lead song, not only is the title indicative of RATM’s explosive sound, but it hits you like nuclear waves, hooking listeners from the crescendo about 25 seconds in. The second track “Killing in the Name,” remains a RATM classic; it still serves as an anthem against police brutality. RATM has cooled off on the studio albums since their nineties/early 2000s heydays, but they still tour stadiums worldwide, offering fans an outlet to, get their rage out.
Must Hear Tracks: “Bombtrack,” “Killing in the Name,” “Wake Up”
45. Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die
Why Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die is one of the Greatest Debut Albums of All Time
Notorious B.I.G. (Born Christopher Wallace), was truly Brooklyn’s finest. Born and raised in the Clinton Hill neighborhood, B.I.G. dabbled with crime at a young age; eventually ending up spending nine months in jail in 1991. After his release, Notorious made a demo tape that impressed local emcees and found its way into Source Magazine.
Things continued to take off, when Wallace was signed by Bad Boy Records, which led to 1994’s Ready to Die. The album became a foundation in the East Coast rap scene. B.I.G.’s storytelling was highlighted as he performed an autobiographical tale of growing up in Brooklyn and the experiences of a young criminal.
To this day the hits “Big Poppa” and “Juicy” continue to circulate the radio waves. The album also included other great Biggie hits including the D.J. Premier produced “Unbelievable.” The title of that track pretty much represents Wallace’s entire life, from his tough beginnings to his near-overnight stardom to his tragic death in 1997. What’s also unbelievable is how strong his influence has remained 25 years after his passing, as his songs, image, and name remain ubiquitous.
Must Hear Tracks: “Juicy,” “Unbelievable,” “Warning”
44. Fiona Apple – Tidal
Why Fiona Apple’s Tidal is a Top Debut Album of All Time
At age 19, most of us are still in school, figuring out a career, or living the ups and downs of still being a teenager. Fiona Apple put us all to shame in 1996, with her stunning debut Tidal. This album features songs that Apple had written before she was a legal adult, leading her to become America’s new star songwriter.
This masterpiece is detailed with vulnerable lyricism, raw vocals, and stunning piano work; while Apple’s biggest hit on the album is the gut-wrenching “Criminal,” this LP has so many exceptional songs. Right before “Criminal” is “Shadowboxer,” a track that’s equally empowering as it is melancholic. Tidal’s eighth track “The Child is Gone” is a slow-moving masterpiece, but the title states something the listener has long realized: despite being 19, Apple is far from her adolescent years.
This greatest debut album is powered by maturity and conscience; it inspires anyone in their late teens and early twenties to grow up fast. On Tidal, Apple proves that age is just a number, she’s had the same emotional experiences as someone twice her age. Since this debut LP, Apple has put out four more albums — a sporadic output. Still, it feels like a gift when we get a Fiona Apple release: it’s going to be thought out, self-realized, and battle-tested — so by the time it gets to our ears — it stays with us forever.
Must Hear Tracks: “Shadowboxer,” “The Child is Gone,” “Sleep to Dream”
43. Elvis Costello – My Aim is True
Why Elvis Costello’s My Aim is True is one of the Best Debut Albums of All Time
Around the time the U.K. and U.S. were being hit with punk rock explosion, Elvis Costello entered the scene with a similar sound that was founded on pub rock origins. Costello was not as brash as the Ramones or Sex Pistols and not as pretentious as the likes of Patti Smith and Television — instead, he represented those who fell in between delinquency and intellect.
Costello has over 40 years of work to his name, putting out an album as recent as this year (2022). He’s continued to be lauded for both his songwriting and production. Still, the one that kicked off this impressive run was My Aim is True.
On this stunning debut, the punk influence hits right off the bat, as “Welcome to the Working Week” clocks in at 1:23. Then the pub rock/power pop influence takes hold with great tracks like “Blame It On Cain” and “Sneaky Feelings.” Then there’s the album’s centerpiece, “Alison,” which continues to be one of Costello’s most popular songs to this day. Costello’s output continues to impress, and he continues to tour massive venues and put out acclaimed albums — even 45 years after Aim was released. Costello is truly a “Miracle Man” when it comes to the power-pop genre.
Must Hear Tracks: “Welcome to the Working Week,” “Miracle Man,” “Blame It On Cain”
42. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
Why Vampire Weekend’s Vampire Weekend is one of the Greatest Debut Albums of All Time
Vampire Weekend’s origins started on the campus of Columbia University, where the band would enter “Battle of the Bands” competitions. As they continued to hone their craft, they’d create a sound that channeled their Ivy League backgrounds. They composed an artsy, sophistic-pop sound, with lyrics that came across as intellectual, but were more deconstructions or satires around academia, high society, and life in Manhattan.
Lead singer Ezra Koenig’s fantastic storytelling and high-end vocals harmonized perfectly with the band’s jangly guitars and heavily-used keyboard effects. On those keys was instrumentalist/producer Rostam Batmanglij, who played a Brian Jones/Brian Eno role in the band. Rostam was a jack of all trades, who stood out through his production and memorable guitar/piano fills. Many of the tracks on the self-titled album are not only iconic in Vampire Weekend’s catalog, but have been considered standouts of 2000s indie rock.
Their 2008, self-titled album gave us “A-Punk,” a catchy tune that’s just over two minutes with an unforgettable guitar lick and the easy albeit effective hook of “ey-ey-ey.” “A-Punk” shows some of the band’s new wave/punk influence, along with “Walcott,” which remains a crowd favorite. Then there’s “Oxford Comma,” which if you read the title, comes across as pretentious. But with the first line being “Who gives a fuck about an oxford comma…” and references to rapper Lil Jon, it’s easy to see that despite Vampire Weekend being intelligent individuals, they should never be taken too seriously. Since their self-titled effort, the band has put out three more excellent records, engraving them indefinitely in indie rock excellence.
Must Hear Tracks: “Oxford Comma,” “Walcott,” “Campus”
41. Oasis – Definitely Maybe
Why Oasis Definitely Maybe is a Top Debut Album of All Time
As brit-pop took the U.K. by storm in the mid-’90s, Manchester’s Oasis became a “Supersonic” force in alternative music. Grunge was beginning to wear on listeners, so these bad boys from Britain took advantage of an opportunity to become a global success.
On their debut LP Definitely Maybe, Oasis never beat around the bush: their power-pop anthems detail the thrills of life as a “Rock N’ Roll Star”. As their popularity skyrocketed, the band continued to produce hit songs, but not without a cost: an ongoing rivalry between brothers/band leaders Noel and Liam Gallagher led to their destruction.
Even after a series of reunions the brothers still hold a barrage of disdain for each other, but they’ve also never officially ruled out another go.
Must Hear Tracks: “Rock N’ Roll Star”, “Live Forever”, “Supersonic”
40. The Cars – The Cars
Why The Cars The Cars is one of the Best Debut Albums of All Time
The Cars emerged from Boston in the late seventies, merging new wave and power pop with pristine production and catchy hooks. Lead singer Ric Ocasek was the mastermind behind this project, with his monotonous singing tone; lyrics that emulated rock ‘n roll acts of the fifties; and fantastic guitar battles with lead axeman Elliott Easton (who was a major influence on Slash of Guns N’ Roses).
The Cars starts with three mega-hits, as “Good Times Roll,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” and “Just What I Needed,” have all continued to transcend time — constantly synced in trailers, films, and TV shows. But this album goes beyond its top-heavy A-side, with songs like “I’m In Touch With The World” and the album’s final three tracks, all of which are sung by bassist Benjamin Orr (who also leads on “Just What I Needed”).
The Cars continued to put out critically acclaimed albums after their self-titled debut; while none were able to have the commercial hits of the self-titled album, they continued to be one of the most sought-after bands of their era, up until Ocasek’s unfortunate passing in 2019.
Must Hear Tracks: “Best Friend’s Girl,” “Just What I Needed,” “I’m In Touch With Your World”
39. The Beatles – Please Please Me
Why The Beatles Please Please Me is one of the Greatest Debut Albums of All Time
For almost any other band in existence, Please Please Me would be a catalog standout. But this is The Beatles we’re talking about — a band that has put out some of the most historic albums that will ever be released. While Please Please Me might not match up with their most prolific work, that doesn’t mean it’s not exceptional. The Fab Four released Please Please Me on March 22nd, 1963, making it the foundation for the world’s most influential rock band.
Hits like “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Please Please Me,” and a cover of “Twist and Shout” became massive hits and songs that eventually made audiences erupt at live shows — to the point where The Beatles had to stop live performances just over three years after the album’s release.
After March 22nd hit, the rest became history: the iconic writing partnership of John Lennon and Paul McCartney skyrocketed to stardom, and George Martin’s production started the greatest album run in music’s history. In under eight years, the Beatles would produce 12 immortal studio albums; an influence that is omnipresent to this very day.
Must Hear Tracks: “Anna (Go to Him),” “Please Please Me,” “Do You Want To Know a Secret”
38. Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville
Why Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville is a Top Debut Album of All Time
In an early nineties rock scene that was dominated by men in flannels, Liz Phair showed the ladies can live a “f*ck and run” lifestyle as well. The talented lyricist from Chicago dropped her debut LP Exile in Guyville in 1993; on it, Phair approaches each song with her raw midwestern vocals that feels like a club show in “The Windy City.” Her lo-fi, garage rock approach inspired a whole new generation of indie artists and showed that sometimes the simplest production can go the farthest.
Must Hear Tracks: “F*ck and Run,” Divorce Song,” “Stratford-On-Guy”
37. Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy
Why Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy is one of the Best Debut Albums of All Time
Jesus and Mary Chain may best be known for their hit song “Just Like Candy”, which plays at the end of 2003’s Lost in Translation. But the band is so much more than just another ‘80s one-hit-wonder: their 1985 debut Psychocandy, became a landmark in noise rock.
Their lyrical approach is a bit of a throwback to early 60s rock music, but it’s layered by massive amounts of feedback, taking ‘80s rock to a new level. Jesus and Mary Chain inspired countless others with their distortion heavy approach, with popular outlet PopMatters declaring the album as “the only noise pop LP anyone ever really needs to own.”
Must Hear Tracks: “Just Like Candy,” “Hardest Walk,” “My Little Underground”
36. Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt
Why Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt is one of the Greatest Debut Albums of All Time
By the early ‘90s, Jay-Z had already established a strong following — mainly through his work with fellow MC Jaz-O. After their dissolution, Jay-Z would spend years working to get a major record deal. Despite supporting popular acts including Big Daddy Kane, Jay-Z had to hustle profusely to finally get the respect he deserved. It paid off: in 1996, the young MC released Reasonable Doubt, a 14-song LP that made him royalty in the New York hip-hop scene; the first of many moves that would lead him to a billionaire lifestyle.
Doubt is full of “Brooklyn’s Finest” as the legendary Notorious B.I.G. helps out on the track of the same name. But the features don’t stop there, as Jay-Z also collaborates with Mary J. Blige, Memphis Bleek, and more who helped make this album the masterpiece it is today.
Must Hear Tracks: “Brooklyn’s Finest,” “Dead Presidents II,” “Coming of Age”
35. Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine
Why Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine is a Top Debut Album of All Time
Years before he was an award-winning film composer, Trent Reznor was responsible for helping bring industrial rock to the mainstream. His first effort as Nine Inch Nails entitled Pretty Hate Machine, is a dancier, synth-pop-based LP than his darker subsequent efforts.
Nine Inch Nails might’ve drifted away from the Depeche Mode, New Order influence of their debut, but Pretty Hate still put Reznor and Co. on the map: within two years his project was already playing a much-heralded set at Lollapalooza.
Reznor’s angst-ridden compositions would continue to evolve, making him one of the most sought-after industrial/art-rock musicians to grace music. Pretty Hate Machine’s influence lives on, recently features in Rolling Stone’s 2020 edition of the “Top 500 Albums of All Time.”
Must Hear Tracks: “Head Like A Hole,” “Sin,” “That’s What I Get”
34. Interpol – Turn off The Bright Lights
Why Interpol’s Turn off The Bright Lights is one of the Best Debut Albums of All Time
Whereas The Strokes exuded a more playful, juvenile side of the early 2000s NYC music scene, Interpol was a more lugubrious counterpart. Their debut album Turn on the Bright Lights was released in 2002—about a year after The Strokes Is This It.
Interpol re-introduced audiences to an early post-punk sound, and from there they would sit atop many year-end, and eventually, decade-end “best of” lists. The album has its fair share of drive: tracks “Obstacle 1” and “Obstacle 2” are both borderline danceable, with lead singer Paul Banks’ bleak but confident vocals harmonizing so perfectly with the rest of the band. “NYC” is an anthem for the lonely; for those living in the five boroughs and beyond, it’s important to always know “New York Cares.”
Must Hear Tracks: “NYC,” “PDA,” “Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down”
33. Big Star – #1 Record
Why Big Star’s #1 Record is one of the Greatest Debut Albums of All Time
Big Star’s underrated, and often tumultuous, run started in 1971, with the Memphis-based band releasing their first album #1 Record the following year. #1 was in no way a commercial success (nor were the band’s following two LPs), but the album still made its way to the ears of up-and-coming rockers, resulting in Big Star achieving cult status.
Their power-pop-driven songs tackle a variety of themes such as adolescence, innocence, and a sense of naivety. These themes are all apparent on the band’s track “Thirteen,” which reflects on first love. The band’s American pastoral theme stretches into songs such as “My Life is Right” and “In the Street,” the latter would be rerecorded by Cheap Trick as the theme song for the hit television series That 70s Show. Lead singer/songwriter Alex Chilton would go on to be one of the most respected musicians of his era, and would be honored by American band The Replacements in their song simply titled “Alex Chilton.” Chilton wrote a majority of the debut album with Chris Bell, the band’s guitarist and vocalist.
Unfortunately, after #1 Record’s failed commercial success, Bell battled depression and was sadly killed in a 1978 car accident. Chilton, along with bassist Jody Stephens, would go on to put out the LPs Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers in the 70s, before waiting nearly thirty years to release their fourth and final album in 2005, titled In Space. Just a few years after In Space, Chilton passed away and while Stephens is the only original member still alive, he has helped continue the Big Star name.
Must Hear Tracks: “Thirteen,” “My Life is Right,” “Try Again”
32. Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill
Why Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill is a Top Debut Album of All Time
Born out of NYC, the Beastie Boys (MCA, AD-Rock, and Mike D), were originally lovers of hardcore punk; but that started to change after they gained some success with a comedy hip-hop song. The trio decided to ride the rap wave, hiring NYU student Rick Rubin to DJ and produce their early work. When Rubin and his classmate Russell Simmons decided to start a label called Def Jam Records, they wanted the Beasties aboard. It was an easy choice for Def Jam: the Beastie were already massive, using their local success to get on show bills with Madonna and Public Image Limited.
In 1986 they released Licensed to Ill, a sonic powerhouse that used famed guitar riff samples; the love of hardcore punk; and the trio’s ability to seamlessly string together lyrics that were both comedic and personal. The album is extravagant from beginning to end, but it starts to really pick up towards the middle. Track number seven is the legendary “Fight For Your Right,” which is followed by the anthemic “No Sleep Til Brooklyn,” and then the nursery rhyme influenced “Paul Revere.”
The Beastie Boys became iconic with Licensed, and they would continue to put out more genre-bending albums until MCA’s tragic passing in 2013. Still, while Ad-Rock and Mike D have stopped performing under the Beastie Boys name, they continue to embrace the band’s legacy.
Must Hear Tracks: “Fight For Your Right,” “Paul Revere,” “Girls”
31. Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction
Why Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction is one of the Best Debut Albums of All Time
In 1987, the classic rock juggernauts of the sixties and seventies had moved past their heydays, as the most popular hard rock bands had become frivolous hair metal acts. Due to hair metal’s polarizing efforts, college radio bands such as R.E.M., The Smiths, and more were starting to get a grasp on audiences.
GNR decided to crash the party, bringing back a stadium sound, thanks to the screeches of Axl Rose, the epic riffs of Slash, and the steady basslines of Duff McKagan. Sure, there were some hair metal elements to their sounds; they played many of the same Los Angeles clubs that Motley Crue, Poison, and more had run through. But GNR had a little more edge, a little more sincerity, and a little more talent.
Their 1987 debut Appetite For Destruction provided songs that still reign supreme on the radio waves today, as well as sporting events across the world. “Welcome to the Jungle” is heralded as one of the best album openers of all time, while tracks like “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Paradise City” also remain omnipresent to this day. But Appetite is far from top-heavy: the album has phenomenal B-sides — songs that dip into the darker side of Los Angeles’ nightlife. “Mr. Brownstone” and “Night Train” explore the substance-filled lifestyles that many rockstars live and, unfortunately, die by.
Appetite continues to be a big seller over 30 years later; while GNR’s following albums never matched the success or acclaim of their debut, they still put out plenty of hits. In the mid-nineties the band dissolved; while Rose kept the name alive, performing under an abundance of lineups, they often frustrated fans with their change in personnel and lack of output. Luckily, within the last couple of years, the original band put their differences aside and have toured extensively — offering generations both young and old a continuous taste of this ‘87 classic.
Must Hear Tracks: “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Welcome to the Jungle,” “You’re Crazy”
30. The Doors – The Doors
Why The Doors The Doors is one of the Greatest Debut Albums of All Time
The Doors broke into Southern California’s music scene in the mid-’60s, with all eyes on their rebellious poet, lead singer Jim Morrison. A charismatic figure in the counterculture world, Morrison started The Doors with keyboardist Ray Manzarek and soon added the multifaceted guitarist Robby Kreiger and the underrated kit man John Densmore.
On their debut self-titled album, The Doors infused multiple genres, including psychedelic rock, jazz, blues, and spoken word poetry to create one of the most definitive debut releases of all time. It includes iconic hit songs like “Break on Through (To the Other Side),” “Light My Fire,” and the ever-haunting “The End.” Even though Morrison tragically died at just 27, the band lives on as icons across many genres.
Must Hear Tracks: “Light My Fire,” Twentieth Century Fox,” “The End”
29. Van Halen – Van Halen
Why Van Halen’s Van Halen is a Top Debut Album of All Time
As punk music started to rage through the speakers across the U.S., Van Halen said “not so fast” to those who were ready to drop flashy guitar music. In 1978, the Pasadena-based band released their self-titled effort. This iconic group was led by the grandiose personality of David Lee Roth, whose high note shrills and acrobatic on-stage antics instantly placed him among music’s top frontmen. Albeit, Roth wasn’t alone as the band’s main attraction: guitarist Eddie Van Halen, captured audiences with his seductive, yet raunchy guitar playing that included his famous finger-tapping technique.
It was such exceptional work, that the album’s second track “Eruption” is purely a 92-second Eddie solo. On the self-titled LP, the band brings both their original tracks like “Running With the Devil” and “Jamie’s Cryin,” plus a fantastic cover of The Kinks‘ “You Really Got Me.” Van Halen continued to make sure hard rock and heavy metal stayed alive in a period where “guitar music” was deemed uncool.
Must Hear Tracks: “Jamie’s Cryin,” “Ain’t Talkin Bout Love,” “You Really Got Me”
28. Steely Dan – Can’t Buy a Thrill
Why Steely Dan’s Can’t Buy a Thrill is one of the Best Debut Albums of All Time
The first fellas to move to Brooklyn and start a band were two Bard College graduates by the names Walter Becker and Donald Fagen — aka Steely Dan. But it wasn’t until the duo moved cross-country to Los Angeles where things finally started to click.
Steely Dan’s jazzy “yacht-rock” vibes fit perfectly with the Southern California ethos, and in November 1972, Can’t Buy a Thrill hit shelves across the country. Loaded with hits from top to bottom, including “Reelin in the Years,” “Dirty Work,” and “Do it Again,” this LP made these East Coast boys the talk of “Tinseltown.”
Steely Dan continued to make outstanding albums that shined in musicianship and set standards in production, continuing the “Thrill” for years to come.
Must Hear Tracks: “Dirty Work,” “Reelin’ in the Years,” “Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)”
27. Metallica – Kill Em All
Why Metallica’s Kill Em All is one of the Greatest Debut Albums of All Time
Before Metallica’s 1983 debut Kill Em All, the metal genre had taken major steps in a short period of time. From the early days of Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, to the new wave British scene of Iron Maiden and Motorhead, the heavy metal spirit spread to California.
“The Four Horsemen” known as Metallica, popularized a sub-genre called thrash metal which consisted of a more aggressive style than the genre had previously experienced. This was thanks to the violent power chords of lead singer/rhythm guitarist James Hetfield, whose work on both guitar and vocals were accompanied by shred master Kirk Hammet, and the vigorous drum work of Lars Ulrich.
“Whiplash” is the pinnacle of thrash, with the band is operating at full force. From their first LP, Metallica would “Ride The Lightning” and become the genre’s most popular and, arguably, most influential act.
Must Hear Tracks: “Whiplash,” “Phantom Lord,” “Metal Militia”
26. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever To Tell
Why Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever To Tell is a Top Debut Album of All Time
Following the releases of The Strokes Is This It and Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights, Yeah Yeah Yeahs kept New York’s rock revival scene steaming ahead with the 2003 release Fever to Tell. Led by charismatic frontwoman Karen O, the trio (which also includes guitarist Nick Zinner and drummer Brian Chase) were called everything from dance-punk to “Siouxsie and the Banshees jamming with Led Zeppelin.”
They received massive MTV airplay with the video for their single “Maps,” a downbeat song that would go on to feature in the video game Rock Band and become the band’s premier track. Their other singles “A Date with the Night” and “Y Control” have also had their fair share of commercial success, often heard in T.V. shows and films. Over the years, The YYYs have continued to make critically acclaimed albums and remain high up on festival bills across the world.
Must Hear Tracks: “Maps,” “Black Tongue,” “Modern Romance”
25. The Smiths – The Smiths
Why The Smiths The Smiths is one of the Best Debut Albums of All Time
Since their inception, The Smiths have become legends in the world of indie rock. From lead singer Morrissey’s witty lyricism to the jangling guitar work of Johnny Marr, the group would go on to inspire countless acts to this day.
The band’s eponymously named debut album may not be their most prolific, but it’s filled from start to finish with timeless tracks. From the wavering composition of album opener “Reel Around The Fountain;” to the legendary riff on “This Charming Man;” to their first single “Hand in Glove,” this album is a great beginner for anyone who is looking to get into The Smiths.
The band would release three more studio albums and various compilation albums before splitting up permanently. Morrissey would go on to have a prolific solo career, and Johnny Marr has continued to produce exceptional tunes as well. With the band’s beef still intact all these years later, we’ll unlikely ever see a reunion, making efforts like this debut all the more sacred.
Must Hear Tracks: “Reel Around The Fountain,” “Pretty Girls Make Graves,” “What Difference Does it Make”
24. Kanye West – College Dropout
Why Kanye West’s College Dropout is one of the Greatest Debut Albums of All Time
Since The College Dropout’s 2004 release, Kanye West has undeniably become the most prolific (and polarizing) artist of the 21st Century. His studio albums have continued to transcend, with production that was previously never explored in rap music. He has become a musical icon that many would emulate, imitate, and infatuate over.
His live shows are cinematic, bringing grandiose and dynamic performances every time a new album arrives. But before all this, Kanye just wanted to show he could be more than an award-winning producer. He had already achieved great success making beats for rap superstars such as Jay-Z, Talib Kweli, and Common, but Ye wanted to prove to the world he could spit as well.
On College Dropout, Kanye continues with the soul/R&B samples that made his production so distinguished in the past; evident in hit songs including “Through the Wire,” “Slow Jamz,” and “Family Business.” He also brings out the aforementioned collaborators on “Never Let Me Down” and “Get em High”— both songs serving as sneak previews of the theatrical compositions Kanye would become famous for. Kanye’s sound now is almost unrecognizable compared to his “backpack rap” beginnings, but whereas most would see dropping out of college as a disappointment, West wears it as a badge of honor.
Must Hear Tracks: “All Falls Down,” “Family Business,” “Jesus Walks”
23. Weezer – Blue Album
Why Weezer’s Blue Album is a Top Debut Album of All Time
Amid grunge’s international takeover, Weezer arose from the Southern California ashes with their self-titled album (Blue Album). This fantastic debut album entwined alternative rock, power pop, and emo genres. Initially, it failed to resonate with listeners, due to its release at the height of grunge, but over time the self-titled LP, became one of the decades sought-after classics.
It was propelled by radio hits like “Buddy Holly” (and its Happy Days inspired, Spike Jonze-directed, video), as well as the solemn anthem “Say it Ain’t So”— with an opening guitar riff that almost every beginning player tries to learn immediately. The Ric Ocasek produced LP continues to hold up today and was the first step in turning Weezer into a must-see act.
Must Hear Tracks: “Say it Ain’t So,” “Only in Dreams,” “My Name is Jonas”
22. New York Dolls – New York Dolls
Why New York Dolls – New York Dolls is one of the Greatest Debut Albums of All Time
Despite its lack of commercial success, New York Dolls’ self-titled debut would go down as a cult classic. A cornerstone in punk rock’s establishment, the album would become one of the most influential works of its time. The Dolls were known for their boisterous performances, particularly their twice-a-week gigs at the Mercer Arts Center in Manhattan. This band was the genesis of many genres including glam, proto-punk, and heavy metal.
Some might have seen it as a “Personality Crisis”—not to mention their loud outfits and lead singer David Johansen’s almost Mick Jagger-esque swagger—but the band combined so many different elements and were able to stay completely original and inspiring. All these years later, Johansen is the only original member still alive, but the Dolls music is still present; with a Martin Scorsese documentary in the works, their influence hopefully only grows stronger.
Must Hear Tracks: “Personality Crisis,” “Trash,” “Looking For A Kiss”
21. The Band – Music From Big Pink
Why The Band’s Music From Big Pink is one of the Best Debut Albums of All Time
Over the years, many Canadian artists have made a massive impact on the U.S. music scene. In the late 1960s, The Band opened the portal for other acts north of the border to succeed in the states with the now-classic Music From Big Pink.
Composed at a house dubbed “Big Pink” near Woodstock, New York, The Band had first reached fame backing Bob Dylan on his 1966 tour. From there they went on to record a variety of songs that touched on rock, folk, baroque and more, including “The Weight,” which was written by the group’s guitarist (and frequent Martin Scorsese collaborator) Robbie Robertson. It has gone down as one of rock music’s quintessential songs and was ranked as one of Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Songs of All Time.
Music From Big Pink ranges from soft rock hits like “Lonesome Suzie” to the psychedelic electricity on “Chest Fever.” Over 50 years later, The Band continues to inspire artists of all genres, as their debut has stood the test of time.
Must Hear Tracks: “The Weight,” “Chest Fever,” “To Kingdom Come”
20. Dr. Dre. – The Chronic
Why Dr. Dre. – The Chronic is a Top Debut Album of All Time
After a financial dispute which led to his N.W.A. departure, Dr. Dre went on a solo mission: become a single force as both an MC and producer. 1992’s
The Chronic established Dre as a one-man wrecking ball and a pioneer of the “G-Funk” sound. This album served as the groundwork that would accelerate him into becoming hip-hop’s most sought-after producer, and an entrepreneur that would make close to one billion dollars (and counting).
Whereas N.W.A. put Dre on the map, The Chronic showed he could both rule solo and find new ways to transcend the young hip-hop genre to new heights. Dre would inspire many musicians with his ability to become an icon in both the studio, and eventually, the boardroom.
Must Hear Tracks: “Let Me Ride,” “Nuthin’ But A G Thang,” “Little Ghetto Boy”
19. The Strokes – Is This It
Why The Strokes – Is This It is a Top Debut Album of All Time
In grunge’s later years, the genre was dominated by an array of more “progressive” sounds. This included the arrival of Nu-metal (which often infused heavy metal elements and hip hop); bands moving to a more electronic sound; and many of the early nineties favorites focusing on selling albums rather than connecting.
In 2001 The Strokes released the beloved Is This it, an album that lay homage to the garage rock bands of the 70s that helped establish NYC’s music scene. The Strokes brought lower Manhattan’s vibrant rock scene back to life, with tunes that were subversive in comparison to the guitar-driven rock music audiences had gotten cozy with.
The hazy lo-fi vocals of lead singer Julian Casablancas were effortlessly cool; the battling guitar work of Albert Hammond Jr. and Nick Valensi emulated Television’s Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd — fully in showcase on tracks like “Someday” and “The Modern Age.” Is This It took The Strokes from the clubs of NYC to headlining festival stages across the world. In 2022 the band still has a global fanbase over 20 years after this exceptional debut.
Must Hear Tracks: “Someday,” “Hard to Explain,” “Trying Your Luck”
18. Pixies – Surfer Rosa
Why Pixies Surfer Rosa is one of the Greatest Debut Albums of All Time
Boston-based Pixies first caught the ears of alternative rock fans with their 1987 “mini-LP” Come On Pilgrim — primarily in the U.K. press. That momentum carried over into 1988 when they released their first full-length album entitled Surfer Rosa.
On the debut album, Pixies would infuse alternative rock with Spanish lyrics; content that was influenced by Puerto Rico. Heralded for its unique recording techniques from acclaimed producer Steve Albini, the band’s sound would be declared proto-grunge and go on to be a major influence for Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and more.
The 13 tracks range from radio favorite “Where is My Mind” to sub-two-minute punk tunes like “Broken Face” and “Tony’s Theme,” culminating into a 34-minute LP that propelled the Pixies to “Gigantic” heights.
Must Hear Tracks: “Bone Machine,” “Broken Face,” “Gigantic”
17. Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Why Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) is one of the Best Debut Albums of All Time
The Wu-Tang Clan subverted what a hip-hop group could look like, as they brought a nine-member collective to the scene. Originating in Staten Island, the group was heavily influenced by kung fu and martial arts culture (hence the album title) and was lauded for their wildly creative lyricism that hit a broad range of topics, tones, and styles.
De facto leader/producer/MC RZA set the tone with his samples of Kung fu films and classic r&b hits. Meanwhile, the group’s other eight members laid down bars that varied in technique, as the group’s emcees all had their unique approach on the album that gelled perfectly. Whether it was the hard-hitting lyrics of Ghostface Killah or Raekwon; the outlandish display from Ol’ Dirty Bastard; or the laid-back style of GZA, there is something for everyone on the group’s debut, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).
The hook on the group’s widely popular “C.R.E.A.M.” goes, “…Cash Rules Everything Around Me…” and the cash would keep coming for both the group and most of its members’ solo careers. The Wu would continue to “Bring Da Ruckus” for many years, as they have excelled in both the rap game and on a cultural level.
Must Hear Tracks: “C.R.E.A.M.,” “Tearz,” “Da Mystery of Chessboxing”
16. John Lennon – Lennon/Plastic Ono Band
Why John Lennon’s Lennon/Plastic Ono Band is a Top Debut Album of All Time
After the heavily-publicized breakup of The Beatles, John Lennon had a chance to record a variety of cathartic songs that focused on everything from his childhood trauma, primal scream therapy, and strong political/social views. The result was the now-iconic Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.
Lennon enlisted infamous producer Phil Spector to produce songs that include the heartbreaking “Mother,” almost proto-punk “Remember,” and the political anthem “Working Class Hero.” Through these tracks, Lennon showed he could continue to distribute high-quality art, in life after The Beatles. Over the years, this top debut album has received constant acclaim and has been ranked by publications such as Rolling Stone, Time, and Pitchfork as one of the greatest albums of all time.
Must Hear Tracks: “Mother,” “Remember,” “Isolation”
15. Sex Pistols – “Nevermind the Bollocks…”
Why Sex Pistols – “Nevermind the Bollocks…” is one of the Greatest Debut Albums of All Time
As the U.S. began to have punk fever, the U.K. had its own answer. Born out of London, the Sex Pistols gave birth to “Anarchy in the U.K.” with their politically fueled songs and lyrics. They ravished audiences with the bark of lead singer Johnny Rotten and the bass-playing sneer of Sid Vicious.
They not only furthered England’s punk movement, but they also created an identity with their spikey hair, leather jackets, and mutinous attitude. Their cultural influence still exists years later in both the U.K. and across other continents. Nevermind the Bollocks… was the Sex Pistols’ lone album, due in large part to the death of Vicious right as the band was taking off. But sometimes one is enough, and Sex Pistols accomplished that with an iconic album that brought a whole new meaning to the word “punk.”
Must Hear Tracks: “Anarchy in the U.K.,” “God Save the Queen,” “Holiday in the Sun”
14. Arcade Fire – Funeral
Why Arcade Fire’s Funeral is one of the Best Debut Albums of All Time
In 2004, amid New York’s indie rock resurgence, Arcade Fire made a big statement north of the border with their debut album Funeral. The Montreal-based group entwined multiple genres including baroque, punk, and world music into an iconic album. This universally beloved LP would go on to rank only behind Radiohead’s Kid A for the most appearances on end-of-decade lists.
Funeral was the first step for Arcade Fire to reach stadium status as they exude a wide range of energy on this LP, including the melancholic album opener “Neighborhood 1,” the eruptive “Neighborhood 3,” and the anthemic “Wake Up,” which has served as the band’s live closing track for years. They also pay homage to co-lead singer/multi-instrumentalist Regine Chassagne’s Haitian origin in the track simply named “Haiti.” Somehow all these twists and turns align perfectly to create an album that still holds up so well nearly 20 years later.
Must Hear Tracks: “Neighborhood 1,” “Neighborhood 3,” “Rebellion (Lies)”
13. R.E.M. – Murmur
Why R.E.M.’s Murmur is a Top Debut Album of All Time
Born out of Athens, Georgia, R.E.M. reinvented the wheel when it came to alternative rock in the ‘80s. As punk turned to post-punk and synth, R.E.M. brought together Michael Stipe’s unique vocals and ambiguous lyrics; Peter Buck’s jangly guitars; and bassist Mike Mills’ intricate compositions. These three, with Bill Berry on drums, made things happen right off the bat with their 1983 debut LP Murmur.
The opening track “Radio Free Europe” has consistently been placed among the greatest songs of all time, thanks to its ringing guitar tones that match Stipe’s vocals perfectly. It became anything but “radio-free,” as the song found success on college radio which eventually led to more mainstream success—a strategy many artists would follow. This was the first step in R.E.M’s nearly 30 years of dominance across alternative rock, as they would continue to put out beloved albums, while continuously reinventing their sound.
Must Hear Tracks: “Radio Free Europe,” “Pilgrimage,” “Catapult”
12. Pearl Jam – Ten
Why Pearl Jam’s Ten is one of the Greatest Debut Albums of All Time
Pearl Jam’s 1991 tour de force debut Ten would position them as one of music’s biggest acts. They’ve continued to hold that crown to this day, as they still sell out stadiums across the world. Ten’s success was built around anthems like “Even Flow,” “Alive,” and “Jeremy” (which won “Best Music Video” at the 1993 VMA’s).
This LP captivated audiences with its brash sound, which included lead singer Eddie Vedder’s empowering vocals and Mike McCready’s ferocious guitar work. This album was not only a staple in the grunge scene, but an iconic collection of songs that have inspired so many rock acts.
Must Hear Tracks: “Alive,” “Black,” “Garden”
11. Pavement – Slanted/Enchanted
Why Pavement’s Slanted/Enchanted is one of the Best Debut Albums of All Time
Stockton, California isn’t known as one of America’s premier art cities, but in the early ‘90s, it made its mark in the indie rock scene thanks to a local band named Pavement. Led by lead singer/guitrist Stephen Malkmus, the band’s debut LP Slanted/Enchanted became a critical darling. This album seemed to capture the early ‘90s indie sound perfectly: raw guitar work and Malkmus’ cynical, almost conversational lyrics. These are most evident on the album’s closest thing to a hit song in “Summer Babe,” which found its way onto Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Billboard would describe the LP as “A Slacker Masterpiece,” no band that had sounded so bored could produce so much fun. Bored, yes, but uninspired…questionable, as Malkmus repeatedly insists on the track “Conduit For Sale,” “I’m trying, I’m trying, I’m trying.” Now that the album has been enshrined among the greatest of all time, it’s hard to believe otherwise.
Must Hear Tracks: “Trigger Cut,” “Here,” “In The Mouth A Desert”
10. Television – Marquee Moon
Why Television’s Marquee Moon is a Top Debut Album of All Time
Television’s 1977 debut Marquee Moon is an art-punk essential that somehow has managed to stay underrated after all these years. Sure, music heads everywhere are very familiar with the eight-song LP, crafted in the heart of New York, but it somehow hasn’t reached the levels of the band’s contemporaries (Ramones, Patti Smith, Talking Heads).
Despite that, the band’s sound has inspired decades of acts, from East Coast peers like The Cars to more recent NYC acts like The Strokes. Lead singer/guitarist Tom Verlaine’s wallowing cries and screaming guitar duels with fellow player Richard Lloyd can be so infectious, it’s near impossible to put this album down at any point.
Must Hear Tracks: “Marquee Moon,” “Elevation,” “Guiding Light”
9. N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton
Why N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton is one of the Greatest Debut Albums of All Time
N.W.A. birthed west coast gangster rap; a group of future rap superstars (Dr. Dre, Ice Cube), who did not stray away from the explicit messages, ultimately shifting the genre to a more “hardcore” sound.
Along with the titular track, Straight Outta Compton produced hip-hop anthems including the (unsurprisingly) controversial “Fuck Tha Police,” as well as beloved tracks such as “Express Yourself”, “Gangsta, Gangsta,” and more.
In 2016, the album was the first rap album inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and continues to be a biblical piece of art for aspiring rappers from both coasts and beyond.
Must Hear Tracks: “Straight Outta Compton,” “Gangsta, Gangsta,” “Express Yourself”
8. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
Why Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures is one of the Best Debut Albums of All Time
Before Unknown Pleasures’ album cover became a fashion design found at Urban Outfitters, it was strictly the front of prolific post-punk band Joy Division’s debut LP. This immortal piece of work served as a defining piece in the post-punk genre.
Lead singer Ian Curtis’ gloomy monotone vocals capture the listener’s attention thanks to his cathartic, personal lyrics. Curtis was backed by guitarist Bernard Sumner, bassist Peter Hook, and drummer Stephen Morris (all of which would go on to form New Order after Curtis’ suicide).
The instrumentalists helped carry Curtis’s vocals and melancholy lyricism that at times, paradoxically, make the listener want to get up and dance. This is apparent on songs such as album opener “Disorder,” “She’s Lost Control” and “Shadowplay.” Joy Division’s run was short due to Ian Curtis’ tragic suicide, but they continue to live on today—beyond just a t-shirt at the mall.
Must Hear Tracks: “Disorder,” “She’s Lost Control,” “Shadowplay”
7. Stone Roses – Stone Roses
Why Stone Roses – Stone Roses is a Top Debut Album of All Time
Before the days when Blur and Oasis battled for Brit-pop royalty, the Stone Roses had taken the U.K. music scene by storm. Their 1989 self-titled effort laid down the template for Brit-pop to explode a few years later, as they became poster boys of the “Madchester” scene — a cultural scene that was heavily influenced by psychedelics, jangle pop, and dance music.
Stone Roses played into this thanks in large part to the grooves of guitarist John Squire and bassist Mani. The album has continued to be heralded by critics, fans, and musicians alike and has been ranked as one of the greatest albums of all time from publications including NME, Rolling Stone, and Pitchfork. In the album’s first track, lead singer Ian Brown talks of how “I Wanna Be Adored” — well, mission accomplished, my friend.
Must Hear Tracks: “I Wanna Be Adored,” “She Bangs the Drum,” “Like a Waterfall”
6. Patti Smith – Horses
Why Patti Smith’s Horses is one of the Greatest Debut Albums of All Time
Patti Smith first jumped on the scene in New York’s Lower East Side as a must-see poet, performing at venues across the neighborhood. As her readings grew more elaborate in performance, Smith decided to have a go at music.
Smith soon received the title as “punk poet laureate,” as she infused the two genres on her 1975 debut Horses. This is particularly evident on the progressive title track in which Smith goes from a gentle, spoken word poem, before erupting into chants of “horses…horses…horses.” Finally, the band kicks in and fury erupts upon the listeners ears.
In addition to the title track, Smith also does a rugged cover of THEM! hit “Gloria” to kick the album off. She proceeds by keeping the listener hooked, all the way to the eerie album closer “Elegie.” Over 45 years since Horses’ release, Smith continues to sell out shows, and continues to advocate for the importance of art in the community.
Must Hear Tracks: “Land: Horses,” “Kimberley,” “Break it Up”
5. Nas – Illmatic
Why Nas Illmatic is one of the Best Debut Albums of All Time
In the 2020s Nas continues to have a massive impact on rap music. His albums receive critical acclaim; he’s hailed by rappers old and new as one of the genre’s great wordsmiths. The genesis of Nas’ reign was 1994’s Illmatic, an album that not only became a foundation for East Coast rap, but is one of the quintessential “New York” albums.
Tracks such as “Memory Lane (Sittin in the Park),” give listeners a look into (at the time) the often neglected West Queens/Queensbridge neighborhood. Nas not only describes the dangerous environments that surround him, but he wears his NYC pride on his sleeves. This is evident on tracks including “N.Y. State of Mind,” where the rapper seamlessly rhymes words that no previous MC had attempted to tackle.
Nas even flirts with inspiration in “The World is Yours,” a track that gives hope to those even in the grimmest of conditions. Maybe it was even Nas convincing himself he can make it out. Almost thirty years later, it’s safe to say he succeeded.
Must Hear Tracks: “It Ain’t Hard To Tell,” “The World is Yours,” “Memory Lane (Sittin in the Park)”
4. Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced?
Why Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced? is a Top Debut Album of All Time
To this day, many consider Jimi Hendrix to be the greatest rock guitarist who ever lived. He broke the mold on what an “axeman” can do in the studio and on stage and took the instrument to new heights.
His first LP as The Jimi Hendrix Experience is Are You Experienced?, an electric showcase in both guitar technique and style. This LP is jam-packed with hits such as “Purple Haze,” “Fire,” and “Foxy Lady,” so it’s no wonder it instantly became a critical and commercial success.
Over 50 years since its release, it remains an “experience” — it holds up incredibly well and continues to serve as an inspiration for guitar players across the globe.
Must Hear Tracks: “The Wind Cries Mary,” “Hey Joe,” “Fire”
3. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin
Why Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin is one of the Greatest Debut Albums of All Time
The “Hammer of the Gods”, known more commonly as Led Zeppelin, exploded onto the U.K. rock scene within the first couple of weeks in 1969 with their debut self-titled LP. This album ended the turbulent ‘60s with a rock/blues-rock-infused masterpiece that instantly received acclaim in both the U.S. and U.K..
This powerhouse LP skyrocketed the quartet to stardom almost instantly. Between the sensual cries of lead singer Robert Plant; the jaw-dropping guitar work of Jimmy Page; the thunderous basslines of John Paul Jones; and the maniacal drumming of John Bonham, Led Zeppelin were truly something of another universe.
On their debut LP, the band has something that any rock n’ roll fan can get down with: from the short and sweet sensations of “Good Times, Bad Times” and “Communication Breakdown”, to the layered arrangements of “Dazed and Confused” and “How Many More Times,” Led Zeppelin made their mark, becoming one of rock music’s immortal icons.
Must Hear Tracks: “Communication Breakdown,” “How Many More Times,” Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”
2. Ramones – Ramones
Why Ramones Ramones is one of the Best Debut Albums of All Time
The Ramones were arguably the faces of the New York punk scene; they are often associated as the poster boys for both expressing the atmosphere of late ‘70s New York and bringing punk to the radio waves.
On their self-titled LP, lead track “Blitzkrieg Bop” continues to be an omnipresent recording; it still serves as the soundtrack for sports arenas, films, and attractions across the country. The band’s raw, uptempo tracks usually clock in at around two minutes and are fueled by the power-chord heavy guitar work of Johnny Ramone (born John Cummings); the East Queens vocal drawl of Joey Ramone (born Jeffrey Hyman); and the attitude-induced basslines of Dee Dee Ramones (born Douglas Covin).
The band formalized the punk genre and gave listeners an honest, albeit at times comedic look into NYC culture, while helping birth punk throughout America.
Must Hear Tracks: “Judy is a Punk,” “53rd and 3rd,” “Havana Affair”
1. Velvet Underground – Velvet Underground and Nico
Why Velvet Underground’s Velvet Underground and Nico is a Top Debut Album of All Time
While peace and love were flooding the streets from Haight Ashbury down to the hills of Los Angeles, New York City’s music scene had a more nihilistic sound that properly represented the tone of the town. The Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground and Nico served as the pillar, an album that would be labeled the foundation of alternative rock.
Lou Reed’s monotonic voice gives the listener a peek into ‘60s NYC: he details his escapades of “scoring” uptown, hip parties with friend (and album artist) Andy Warhol, and the characters you’d run into along the way. Even the track opener “Sunday Morning,” a morose track that should represent new beginnings, is almost sung with a tad of boredom and cynicism. Throughout the album, guest singer/chanteuse Nico helps ease the listener with songs like “Femme Fatale” and “I’ll Be Your Mirror” after the expeditious tracks that surround it. The album’s premier moment comes during the seventh track “Heroin” which remains one of music’s greatest contradictions: a song so delicate and stunning about something so destructive. As the “blood begins to flow,” the song begins to crescendo, giving the listener a sonic drug experience close to the sensation Reed describes.
The album is a masterpiece, and as the New York Times once said, “Velvet Underground did not sell many records, but everyone who bought one started a band.”
Must Hear Tracks: “Heroin,” “I’m Waiting For The Man,” “I’ll Be Your Mirro