Our 10 Best Final Albums Released By Classic Rock Artists list is an attempt to highlight some of the best albums ever released as a band’s final album of their career. Of course, there are hundreds of great rock and roll records that we have all collected that have been released by our favorite artists as their final say. Nonetheless, this list will simply look at just ten. Ten really good ones!
We did set some rules and parameters for this one. We are not including reissues, live albums, compilations and so forth. Additionally, there should have been at least two members of the original band left in the group when they released their final studio album. We think that’s fair.
# 10 – Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
Leonard Cohen was a genius on a level that not many could ever approach, and I dearly loved this man’s music and especially his touching and ultra brilliant lyrics/poetry. As his life continued on into old age, he did a few albums that were almost song/speak, in that deep lilting voice of his. That period from Old Ideas to the end were and are for me the most touching and beautiful of all. On You Want It Darker, released in 2016, his health was poor enough he had to do his vocals on a laptop in his kitchen, with his son helping him, and taking the instrument work to the studio and creating utterly beautiful melodies to match his dad’s genius.
Unfortunately shortly after this album was released to massively appreciative reviews, he would tragically fall down the stairs of his home and perish. While it doesn’t count for this list, there were some songs, enough for another somewhat shorter album, Thanks For The Dance that Leonard had managed to get the vocals finished for, and it too is just jaw-dropping. There is apparently a movie in the works about the great man and his writing of his anthem “Hallelujah”.
# 9 – Motorhead – Bad Magic
Bassist/vocalist/leader Lemmy Kilmister knew he didn’t have much time left, stricken with cancer, probably from a lifetime of incredible drug intakes and booze as well. But nothing stopped him from rock and rolling, and the last Motorhead album was just as caustic and brutal as any other album in this band’s history. A man who hollers “Victory Or Die!” to start off a bruiser of an album is one in my book to be admired.
The most interesting single track here is the last cut, a cutting and pounding version of The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil”. It even made it to a few commercials on TV. But this belongs here as it was nothing really new, but still a hair-curling rock and roll album just the same. There have been some post-mortem releases, an album of covers, and a live album released not long after his death, Clean Your Clock. It’s not as furious as No Sleep ’til Hammersmith, being 35 years earlier, but it still rocks in fine live fashion.
# 8 – The Beatles – Abbey Road
Abbey Road is nearly unfathomable in its greatness, even more so as the individuals no doubt struggled with each other mightily putting this masterpiece together. Some like like to criticize “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and “Octopus’ Garden,” but for my money they were intended to be somewhat silly or in the case of “Octopus’ Garden,” like “Yellow Submarine” geared toward kids, and there is nothing there to criticize. Plenty of adult material soon follows, including Paul’s incredibly soulful “Oh Darling!” which was the heaviest Beatle song ever,
George gave the world two incredible songs and proved himself every bit the talent Paul and John had, with “Something” and “Here Comes The Sun,” which were not just two good Harrison tunes, but two of the best Beatle songs and rock songs in general in history. And the medley – McCartney supposedly orchestrated this masterwork, got Ringo a solo drum moment, and weaved together a tapestry of gold, with especially “Golden Slumbers” and “The End”, with its delightful jam so beautifully ending an album and a band no other band will ever match.
# 7 – The Police – Synchronicity
The Police were so unique, mixing reggae and punk in the early years, and stellar musicians with Sting on vocals and bass, guitarist extraordinaire Andy Summers, who created some of the greatest tones ever with his Telecaster, and Stewart Copeland, a drummer of such dexterity it was scary. But The Police would only last five studio albums, a short time for a wildly popular band, but they did not get along very well, either. What made the last album Synchronicity so good was how the band continued to explore new territories, actually with every album, and finally creating with this album one of pop rock’s most unique and genius-level albums.
The hits were and even today are still played heavily, with “King Of Pain” “Wrapped Around Your Finger” and the title track “Synchronicity I” still sound fresh and a delight to hear. The band has done its share of solo albums as well, and I particularly like Andy Summers’ albums, which are nothing like The Police but still very much Andy Summers.
# 6 – Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland
Now, when dealing with Hendrix’s history, we have some difficulty. First, most people think of The Experience, and rightly so, with that band having the most hits and doing the most touring. There are those who might argue that Jimi’s last album would be Band of Gypsies, but I finally settled on The Experience because I omitted live albums. This means excluding some great records but we’re talking about studio finales. Jimi had been blowing minds for several years and because he needed a break, he decided to build his own studio, the famous Electric Lady Studios in New York. The cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower,” just may be the greatest recorded version of a Bob Dylan song of all time.
# 5 – Rush – Clockwork Angels
They didn’t know this would be their last studio album, but as rich and touching as it is, following up to Clockwork Angels is probably unthinkable. The final song, “The Garden,” is one of hard rock’s most moving songs, and a perfect end to one of the world’s most adored bands. And this band still has tons of mourners online.
# 4 – Slayer – Repentless
That’s not even a word, but what makes this album important, is that after the death of original lead guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who wrote most of Slayer’s most infamous material, they felt it necessary to do a final album, get help from old buddy Gary Holt of Exodus, and do a world goodbye tour, unlike other bands actually calling it a day when the tour wound down instead of adding 100’s of dates. This meant Holt, who was still very busy with Exodus, would pull admirable double duty helping out his friends. The album itself is pure Slayer – brutal, ultra-fast, borderline death metal. The live shows were killers. So because Slayer actually did what they said they’d do, and make their last album a good heavy one with a huge show, they deserve mention here.
# 3 – The Minutemen 3-Way Tie (For Last)
Of all the fantastic hardcore bands out there that got the attention of punkers and metal fans too, which took both camps realizing the styles really weren’t that different, The Minutemen were probably the best musically. They were a three man band, with Dennis (D.) Boon on guitar and vocals, Mike Watt on bass and vocals, and drummer extraordinaire George Hurley.
They specialized, as the name implies, in very short songs, but the songs were actually quite good. It was late in their career that D. Boon decided to stretch out some of the songs to even three or four minutes, and while some fans weren’t happy, others thought he wrote great longer songs, and that The Minutemen could be knocking on fame’s door any time. It included great covers of Blue Oyster Cult, Creedence Clearwater, and The Meat Puppets as well.
Nonetheless, tragedy would hit this undeserving band hard – in Phoenix, Arizona after a gig, on returning back to LA, D. was ill with a bad fever and stretched out in the back of their van, when they were struck head-on, and Boon was killed instantly. The world does not know to this day outside the fans the degree of loss suffered with his passing.
#2 – Stevie Ray Vaughan – In Step
This was his clean-up album, that followed a live album that fell short to many because SRV was suffering a serious cocaine addiction. The new album brimmed with positivity, some of his best stinging playing, and a beautiful instrumental “Riviera Paradise” that closed down the album. This would be horrible as Stevie Ray, leaving a gig in Chicago in a helicopter, died when the pilot accidentally slammed the chopper into the side of a hill. This meant that aside from the live album, like Hendrix, he would only live long enough with his band Double Trouble for four studio albums. He did do an album with brother Jimmy called Family Style but it was Double Trouble that had the real magic.
# 1 – Led Zeppelin – In Through The Out Door
John Paul Jones taking musical charge for a decidedly different direction. No longer heavy blues ala the first two albums, the band had clearly matured, and with songs like “In The Evening”, and the hit “All My Love” they showed us they were about writing classy tunes as well.
“Hot Dog” was a favorite, with Jimmy’s enthusiastic but characteristically sloppy lead playing, as was “Carosuelambra”, an innovative tune that wouldn’t have been out of place on Physical Graffiti. It was a bit more layered, and had some actual dancing style hints of rhythm but still, it was Led Zeppelin. However, the death of drummer John Bonham hit everybody hard. The band wasted no time announcing its demise, and stuck to it. This meant not counting post-mortems, re-issuing, and other typical ways of keeping the money flowing, that the last song, a very slow but one of the most emotional blues songs the band ever recorded, “I’m Gonna Crawl” would be the official end to Led Zeppelin’s eight superb studio albums. We’re very fortunate to have Robert Plant delivering outstanding solo material today.
10 Best Final Albums Released By Classic Rock Artistsarticle published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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