Outstanding or classic rock albums without outstanding songs?

It’s easier for me to give an example. I love The Who’s Quadrophenia, but it didn’t really produce a hit song and I can’t easily identify my personal favorite on the two-disc album. In a sense, it’s so uniformly great through the whole album that I can’t say, “THIS song defines the album and their musical style.” At least “The Real Me” was released as a single, but it didn’t do that well in the charts. The album itself went gold in France, the UK, and the US.

Many people discuss a great album and mention that great popular song A and great popular song B come from the album…and that the other tracks are pretty good, too.

So what similar albums come to mind for you? Please avoid compilations and jazz, if possible. I have nothing against jazz albums, but somebody like Herbie Hancock can turn out a uniformly great record of jazz that has the same characteristics. It just doesn’t seem that unusual for jazz artists to do this.

Love, Reign o’er Me was released in the States and made it to an anemic #76. But it is the one I heard over and over on rock stations back in the 1980’s when I was an impressionable teen. As such it is in fact what I think of when I think of the album.

2112 by Rush is the first thing that came to my mind, though I won’t object if you don’t want to consider it because it’s more prog rock than classic rock. Old Rush songs often end up on classic rock radio stations though, so in my mind it counts.

2112 represented a big change in direction for the band, which they were forced into since Caress of Steel had kinda tanked and their label was about to drop them. The change in direction worked. There’s no real breakout song anywhere on the album, but 2112 ended up being a huge success and I think is still their #2 selling album of all time (IIRC Moving Pictures is still #1).

I hear what you’re saying, but “5:15” and “Love Reign O’er Me” are two standouts for me on that album.

2112 is a great example.

How about Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick? Or maybe that’s cheating? It does have distinct songs (despite what the label says) that happen to be connected. Several of them are memorable, but not really “outstanding” within the Tull oeuvre.

How about Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks?

I can see Astral Weeks fitting this. I’m not a huge fan, but it’s certainly considered a classic album. There are several fascinating songs, but the songs are secondary to mood and artistic vision.

Somewhat similar is Pirates from Rickie Lee Jones. Some reviewers think it’s a masterpiece and some are “meh?”. I see the naysayers as looking for tight strong songs — her debut album had about half a dozen — and not seeing them. (Although Woody and Dutch is pretty close). I liked all the tracks (except Skeletons, dammit), and loved the flow and arrangements.

When I was listening to vinyl, consistency was very important. An album with no weak cuts was special, since it was hard to skip songs. (For a long time, Stage Fright was my favorite Band album because I felt the Brown album had bigger lulls.)

I hear you, but I can also name several more tracks that are just as good (IMHO) and that I hum when I’m working. “Love Reign O’er Me” does make it to classic stations every so often.

Yes: Tales From Topographic Oceans didn’t have any singles, mainly because it was a double album with 4 tracks, one for each side. It reached gold status by surpassing 500K sales.

I’m going to go with Steely Dan’s Countdown To Ecstasy.

Eight songs, not a stinker in sight.

“My Old School” - which happens to be my favorite SD tune - was a minor hit that reached #63 on the charts.

If My Old School disqualifies the album, then I’ll go with The Royal Scam.


Passion Play counts fairly well as well. The only song as a whole that you can point to and say “this is a characteristic of Tull” better than other songs in their oeuvre is The Hare who Lost His Spectacles, and that is not even an excellent song. But doing that sort of thing twice, (when you count the similarly-nonsensical interlude in a similar place on Thick as a Brick,) means that it is a feature of Tull, not a bug.

Which isn’t to say snippets of the songs aren’t Tully, like its references to specific parts of British culture, sudden veerings into the obscene, and a hard rock sound, but these are better exemplified by many of the tracks on Aqualung, despite me liking a Passion Play nearly as much.

Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. No radio hits, but generally considered to be one of the most iconic and influential albums of the early 2000s.

Good one.

Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” almost qualifies. The song “Money” sticks out like a sore thumb on an album where all the other songs flow into each other seamlessly. It’s like the old Sesame Street “which of these things are not like the other?” game. It’s a good song, it just feels very shoehorned in to that album. I think I read somewhere that the record company execs were relieved that Money was going to be on the album so they’d have one song they could promote as a single. Hard to believe now they were worried about the selling potential of the album pre-release.

Interesting topic. I suspect there are many examples I could come up with if I thought about it long enough, but the one that springs to mind first is The Kinks are The Village Green Preservation Society. It is an outstanding album—some would say their best—full of very good songs, none of which really stand out above all the others.

Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus by Spirit is a desert island album for me. The album was initially unsuccessful on the Billboard charts but found long-term success. Two of the songs charted but not very well. From the Wikipedia article:

“Nature’s Way” became one of Spirit’s signature songs, but was not a big hit at the time, peaking at #111 on the Billboard pop charts in 1971. To capitalize on the album’s enduring appeal, “Mr. Skin” (the B-side of “Nature’s Way”) was released as an A-side in 1973 and also charted, peaking at #92.

Disqualified in that it produced 3 Top 100 singles, with “The Fez” making it to #17. (Besides, I personally think the album is almost entirely “outstanding songs.” :stuck_out_tongue:

I’ll cheat a bit and say Aja. The entire album is so excellent that no one song stands out as better than the rest.

Tarkus by ELP. Side one is the group at their peak.

Elvis Costello’s “Get Happy.” Great album, but no one song jumps out.

Agree with that.

Emitt Rhodes’s album is full of great songs, but for some inexplicable reason, had no hits.

Blind Faith had no hit singles, despite the fact that it was a number one album. Kasey Casem said it was the only album to do that.

Oh… ( grimaces )

I’d have to say 2112 is one of the top 3 or 4 Rush songs of all time. It’s my favorite Rush tune and to me it conveys their signature sound.

Full disclosure: I’m not into their post-1980 sound very much at all.

I thought I remembered reading that none of the songs from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band were released as singles.

IMHO a song doesn’t have to be a hit or a single to be considered “outstanding” for the purposes of this thread. But I would have considered nominating Sgt. Pepper’s if it weren’t for “A Day In the Life.”