5 classic albums that redefined rock 'n' roll

It's a list article about 5 classic albums that redefined rock 'n' roll. Enjoy!

Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock
Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock / John Springer Collection/GettyImages

I feel obligated to begin with a disclaimer: Defining "classic" albums that redefined rock 'n' roll can be subjective, and this is really just one list. I can imagine someone complaining that there aren't any female rockers here (that may happen in a sequel list). Still, here are 10 albums that are often considered influential and groundbreaking in the genre.

1. Elvis Presley: Elvis Presley (1956)

Admittedly, I am not the hugest Elvis fan, partly because he rarely, if ever, wrote his own songs (I refuse to declare him "The King" for that reason alone). Nevertheless, his self-titled debut album marked the seismic arrival of the one many would indeed call the "King of Rock 'n' Roll." And you know what? I wouln't bother arguing about it too much.

While one may dispute that title, it's nevertheless impossible to deny that his version of "Blue Suede Shoes" helped shape rock music like few tracks before it (though, in my opinion, Bill Haley & His Comets's "Rock Around the Clock" is superior). Released by RCA Victor, Elvis's debut blends energetic rockabilly with soulful ballads, showcasing Presley's dynamic vocal range.

The album includes iconic tracks like Ray Charles'"I Got a Woman" and Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti," and songs that capture the essence of Elvis's revolutionary fusion of country and rhythm and blues with rock and roll. Its groundbreaking sound and charismatic performances not only catapulted Presley to stardom but also reshaped the landscape of popular music, setting the stage for a legendary career that would define the rock genre for decades to come.

John Lennon at least once said, "If there hadn’t been an Elvis, there wouldn’t have been the Beatles." Even if it wasn't quite the birth of rock 'n' roll, this self-titled album by Elvis Presley introduced it to much of the world to his unique way, which not even skilled impersonators can quite duplicate. After all, it's not really Elvis if it's not really Elvis. Lastly, I have to say it: If Mojo Nixon had some praise for Elvis, it has to account for something.

Chuck Berry duckwalks in with a classic

2. Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry Is on Top (1959)

Chuck Berry Is on Top epitomizes the brilliance of the rock and roll pioneer. Released by Chess Records, the album showcases Chuck Berry's virtuosity as a songwriter, guitarist, and charismatic performer. Filled with timeless hits like “Maybellene,” "Johnny B. Goode" and "Roll Over Beethoven," it embodies Berry's signature blend of infectious rhythm, clever lyrics, and innovative guitar riffs and string-bending prowess. The album not only solidified Berry's status as a rock icon but also influenced countless musicians across genres.

With its electrifying energy and groundbreaking compositions, Chuck Berry Is on Top remains a cornerstone in the foundation of rock and roll. Any musician “in the making” should want to give these tracks an occasional listen. Chuck Berry's guitar-driven sound and his innovative songwriting on this album had a profound impact on the development of rock music.

The Fab Four extended rock's possibilities

3. The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

As with my feelings about Elvis, I have never loved The Beatles as much as some do. Still, rather objectively speaking, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is The Beatles' genuinely groundbreaking album that transformed the landscape of popular music. Produced by George Martin (sometimes even called "the Fifth Beatle"), it features innovative studio techniques, diverse musical styles, and experimental arrangements that deserve recognition for any fair-minded music fan.

The album showcases the band's evolution from their earlier pop sound to a more sophisticated and eclectic approach. Iconic tracks like "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "A Day in the Life" exemplify the album's lyrical depth and musical innovation. The album essentially has the feel of a concept album.

Widely regarded as a masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper has left a lasting legacy, influencing generations of musicians and standing as a cultural touchstone in the history of rock music. It marked a shift in the approach to album production and storytelling in rock music. This album also influenced The Rolling Stones to release Their Satanic Majesties Request.

In retsrospect, after being accused of ripping off Sgt. Peppers, Keith Richards later stated: "It ended up as a bit of flim-flam. It was time for another Stones album, and Sgt. Pepper was coming out, so we thought basically we were doing a put-on." It was also a psychedelic album plainly. On that note: Oddly enough, I keep haring that "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is actually not about LSD, which seems like it would require someone to be on LSD to actually believe (I mean, it's right there in the title!).

Bob Dylan expands his poetic outreach

4. Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

Highway 61 Revisited is Bob Dylan's iconic 1965 album, marked by its revolutionary fusion of folk and rock. Dylan "went electric" before this album, but these songs further demonstrate why he was willing to expand his sound. The title track is a surreal journey down the symbolic Highway 61, exploring societal issues and cultural shifts. Dylan's enigmatic lyrics, delivered with his distinctive voice, challenge conventions and embrace a new era.

The album's sound, influenced by electric instrumentation, revolutionized folk music, sparking controversy among purists. It includes timeless classics like "Like a Rolling Stone," a groundbreaking song that not only redefined rock music but also inspired the name for the band The Rolling Stones, as well as Rolling Stone magazine, and no doubt made rolling rocks down a hill sound deep.

Highway 61 Revisited remains a landmark in Dylan's career, capturing the spirit of the mid-60s and influencing generations of musicians, including shis superfan, Jimi Hendrix. Woody Guthrie was once described by Dylan as "the true voice of the American spirit," but Dylan himself is no slouch when it comes to influence.

The Rolling Stones unleash a powerhouse of an album

5. The Rolling Stones: Let It Bleed (1969)

This 1969 masterpiece by The Rolling Stones, epitomizes the late '60s rock scene. The album seamlessly blends blues, rock, and country influences, showcasing the band's musical versatility. Opening with the iconic "Gimme Shelter," the album delves into gritty themes of love, loss, and societal turmoil. Tracks like "Midnight Rambler" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want" exemplify the band's raw energy and lyrical prowess.

Anchored by Mick Jagger's charismatic vocals and Keith Richards' distinctive guitar work, Let It Bleed is a timeless snapshot of a tumultuous era, capturing the essence of rebellion and musical innovation. The Stones' blend of blues, rock, and country on this album showcased their versatility and impact on the evolving sound of rock 'n' roll. If "Gimme Shelter" doesn't give you goosebumps, at least on that first listen, perhaps nothing will.