Our 10 Favorite Final Albums Released By Classic Rock Artists

10 Best Final Albums Released By Classic Rock Artists

Feature Photo: Imma Gambardella / Shutterstock.com

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 our favorite artists have released as their final say. Nonetheless, this list will look at just ten. Ten really good ones!

We did set some rules and parameters for this one. We do not include reissues, live albums, compilations, etc. 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.

We took it to 11 instead of 10

# 12 – L.A. Woman – The Doors

With songs like “Love Her Madly,” “Riders On The Storm,” and, of course, “L.A. Woman,” this was an album we have played hundreds of times since it was first released. Jim Morrison’s final studio album with the Doors received mixed reviews from many, but it’s one of our all-time favorites. We don’t count any of the post-humous Jim Morrison Doors albums that appeared later on after Morrison had passed away. This was there real final studio album

# 11 – 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, especially his touching and ultra-brilliant lyrics/poetry. As his life continued into old age, he did a few almost song/speak albums in his deep, lilting voice. That period from Old Ideas to the end was the most touching and beautiful of all for me. 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 tragically fell down the stairs of his home and perished. While it doesn’t count for this list, there were some songs, enough for another somewhat shorter album, Thanks For The Dance, for which Leonard had managed to finish the vocals, and it is jaw-dropping.

# 10 – 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 intake and booze as well. But nothing stopped him from rock and rolling, and the last Motorhead album was just as biting 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 last cut is the most attractive single track, 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 new, but it is still a hair-curling rock and roll album. There have been 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, 35 years earlier, but it still rocks in fine live fashion.

# 9 – Blackstar – David Bowie

Blackstar was David Bowie’s twenty-fifth and final studio album. It was released on January 8, 2016. The album’s release coincided with Bowie’s 69th birthday and, tragically, just two days before his death. When David Bowie died just two days after the album was released, it made it very difficult to listen to this album. It was an album that was both beautiful and incredibly haunting. David Bowie knew he was dying, and listening to him sing about it was, at times, difficult. Blackstar features a group of talented jazz musicians: saxophonist Donny McCaslin, pianist Jason Lindner, bassist Tim Lefebvre, drummer Mark Guiliana, and guitarist Ben Monder. This ensemble brought a unique and fresh approach to Bowie’s music, infusing it with a distinct jazz influence. Its a brilliant record.Songs like “Blackstar” and “Lazarus” would become some of the best work he ever released.

# 8 – 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 most fabulous 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 with every album and finally created one of pop rock’s most unique and genius-level albums with this album.

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 sounding fresh and a delight to hear. The band has also done its share of solo albums, and I particularly like Andy Summers’ albums, which are nothing like The Police but still very much Andy Summers.

# 7 – 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.

# 6 – Slayer – Repentless 

That’s not even a word, but what makes this album crucial 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. Still busy with Exodus, Holt would pull admirable double duty helping out his friends. The album is pure Slayer – brutal, ultra-fast, borderline death metal. The live shows were killers. So because Slayer did what they said they’d do.

# 5 –  Led Zeppelin – In Through The Out Door

While some Led Zeppelin fans were not happy initially with this release, time has proven that this was truly a great Led Zeppelin album. For many reasons, John Paul Jones was forced up front more than ever on a Led Zeppelin studio album. No longer heavy blues ala the first two albums, the band had 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, 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. The last song, a very slow one 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.

#4 – 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 from a severe cocaine addiction. The album was brimming with positivity and presented some of his best playing.  It contained a beautiful instrumental, “Riviera Paradise,” that closed down the album. It was such a tragedy to lose Stevie Ray Vaughan in a helicopter accident.  His career was so short, just like Hendrix. Stevie Ray Vaughan would only live long enough with his band Double Trouble to release four studio albums, and then one with his brother Jimmy called Family Style.

# 3 – 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. Some 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 outstanding 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.

# 2 – Street Survivors – The original lineup of Lynyrd Skynyrd

It is so sad that some of the band’s final albums on this list were never intended to be the artist’s final albums. Like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Lynyrd Skynyrd was shifting directions a bit in their music with the addition of guitarist Steve Gaines. That shift was displayed on Street Survivors in songs like “That Smell” and “I Never Dreamed.” Their old sound was still evident in songs like “What’s Your Name.”  Street Survivors was the band’s best studio album. They seemed destined to do some really special stuff. I was 15 when the plane went down. I think I can speak for many fans, saying it still hurts.

# 1 – The Beatles – Abbey Road

Abbey Road is nearly unfathomable in its greatness, even more so as the individuals no doubt struggled with each other while putting this masterpiece together. Some 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 Beatles 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 two good Harrison tunes and two of the best Beatles songs and rock songs in history. And the medley – McCartney supposedly orchestrated this masterwork, got Ringo a solo drum moment, and weaved together a tapestry of gold, especially “Golden Slumbers” and “The End,” with its delightful jam so beautifully ending an album and a band no other band will ever match.

10 Best Final Albums Released By Classic Rock Artists article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022

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