1988’s Best Rock Albums

1988's Best Rock Albums

Photo: Kreepin Deth / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

1988’s Best Rock Albums list defined a headbanging year for the ages. It was a year in which Metal music dominated the top of the charts. Metal and hard rock’s superiority is clearly reflected in our 1988’s Top 10 rock albums list. It’s not all metal, but it’s close. Heavy rocking bands like Metallica, Queensrÿche, Iron Maiden, Pantera, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeath, Yngwie Malmsteen, Anthrax and The Scorpions, all released spectacular bang-your-head-against-the-wall albums. Bands that crossed the genres of rock and pop like Bon Jovi, Cheap Trick, Poison, David Lee Roth, Van Halen, and U2 all continued to release high-quality records keeping their loyal fans happy

1988 was also a year in which we witnessed some great debut albums. Perhaps our favorite of them all was the debut album of Soundgarden. Soundgarden would become one of our favorite new bands. Soundgarden’s soaring pitch perfect vocals by Chris Cornell were lifted away by an extraordinary band that in some ways always reminded us of the spirit of Led Zeppelin more than any other rock band since Led Zeppelin broke up. And speaking of Led Zeppelin. Our 1988’s Best Rock Albums list contained solo releases from both Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. That was the one and only time that ever happened.

There were more great debut albums released in 1988. The debut album of L.A.Guns was released as well as debuts by Winger, Lucinda Williams, and Living Colour. Perhaps the most surprising debut album was released by Keith Richards. The legendary Rolling Stones guitarist and songwriter released his first solo album entitled Talk Is Cheap. The album featured Keith Richard’s solo band he called the X-Pensive Winos. The band consisted of the brilliant drummer and producer Steve Jordan along with legendary guitarist Waddy Wachtel, the Neville Brothers’ Ivan Neville, and Charley Drayton.

After a few critically panned 1980s releases, Elton John returned with a decent album entitled Reg Strikes Back. Still, it did not compare to his iconic 1970s albums. Bruce Hornsby continued to release great music as well as R.E.M, Social Distortion, Pat Benatar, Toto, and a few others.

1988’s biggest surprise was the birth of one of the greatest supergroups of all time. A band called The Traveling Wilburys featured an ex Beatle in George Harrison, one of the most influential songwriters of all time in Bob Dylan, one of the most iconic voices of the 1950’s and 60s in Roy Orbison and of course the incredibly talented Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne. What a lineup! The group would release two albums, although the band never got in the way of their own solo careers.

Once again, as we did on 1987’s list, we only created a top 50 list since there were just not enough great albums released in 1988 to warrant the supplemental list. We probably missed a few. In fact we know we did, but choices had to be made. One more year to go and then we are heading to the decade of the 1960s which will be awesome. Thanks for looking at these lists.

# 50 – Open Up and Say… Ahh!Poison

Open Up and Say... Ahh! - Poison

# 49 –Reg Strikes BackElton John

Reg Strikes Back - Elton John

# 48 – Second SightingFrehley’s Comet

Second Sighting - Frehley's Comet

# 47 – Naked – Talking Heads

Naked - Talking Heads

# 46 –American DreamCrosby, Stills, Nash & Young

American Dream - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

# 45 – Green – R.E.M.

Green - R.E.M.

# 44 – L.A. GunsL.A. Guns

L.A. Guns - L.A. Guns

# 43 – Green ThoughtsThe Smithereens

Green Thoughts - The Smithereens

# 42 – Lita – Lita Ford

Lita - Lita Ford

# 41 – State of EuphoriaAnthrax

State of Euphoria - Anthrax

# 40 – Winger – Winger

Winger Debut Album

# 39 – Everything – The Bangles

Everything - The Bangles

# 38 – Scenes from the SouthsideBruce Hornsby

Scenes from the Southside - Bruce Hornsby

# 37 – In God We TrustStryper

In God We Trust - Stryper

# 36 –Prison BoundSocial Distortion

Prison Bound - Social Distortion

# 35 – OdysseyYngwie Malmsteen

Odyssey - Yngwie Malmsteen

# 34 – Out of OrderRod Stewart

Out of Order - Rod Stewart

# 33 – Ultramega OKSoundgarden

Ultramega OK - Soundgarden

# 32 – ImaginosBlue Öyster Cult

Imaginos - Blue Öyster Cult

# 31 – To the Power of Three – Emerson, Berry & Palmer

To the Power of Three - Emerson, Berry & Palmer

# 30 – Wide Awake in DreamlandPat Benatar

Wide Awake in Dreamland - Pat Benatar

# 29 – Brian WilsonBrian Wilson

Brian Wilson album

# 28 – Chalk Mark in a Rain StormJoni Mitchell

Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm - Joni Mitchell

# 27 – Power MetalPantera

Power Metal - Pantera

# 26 – Roll with ItSteve Winwood

Roll with It - Steve Winwood

# 25 – Lucinda Williams – Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams debut album

# 24 – Heavy NovaRobert Palmer

Heavy Nova - Robert Palmer

# 23 – G N’ R LiesGuns N’ Roses

G N' R Lies - Guns N' Roses

# 22 – Up Your AlleyJoan Jett

Up Your Alley - Joan Jett

# 21 – The Seventh OneToto

The Seventh One - Toto

# 20 – Ram It DownJudas Priest

Ram It Down - Judas Priest

# 19 – So Far, So Good… So What!Megadeth

So Far, So Good... So What! - Megadeth

# 18 – Now and ZenRobert Plant

Now and Zen - Robert Plant

# 17 – Vivid – Living Colour

Vivid - Living Colour

# 16 – Choba B CCCPPaul McCartney

Choba B CCCP - Paul McCartney

# 15 – Savage AmusementScorpions

Savage Amusement - Scorpions

# 14 – OutriderJimmy Page

Outrider - Jimmy Page

# 13 – Melissa EtheridgeMelissa Etheridge

Melissa Etheridge debut album

# 12 – Talk Is Cheap – Keith Richards

Talk Is Cheap - Keith Richards

# 11 – Guitar – Frank Zappa

Guitar - Frank Zappa

# 10 – Lap of LuxuryCheap Trick

Lap of Luxury - Cheap Trick

#  9 – Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1Traveling Wilburys

Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 - Traveling Wilburys

#  8 – New Jersey – Bon Jovi

New Jersey - Bon Jovi

#  7 – No Rest for the WickedOzzy Osbourne

No Rest for the Wicked - Ozzy Osbourne

#  6 – Rattle and HumU2

Rattle and Hum - U2

#  5 – SkyscraperDavid Lee Roth

Skyscraper - David Lee Roth

#  4 – Seventh Son of a Seventh SonIron Maiden

Seventh Son of a Seventh Son - Iron Maiden

#  3 – Operation: MindcrimeQueensrÿche

Operation: Mindcrime - Queensrÿche

#  2 – OU812 – Van Halen

OU812 - Van Halen

#  1 – …And Justice for AllMetallica

...And Justice for All - Metallica

1988’s Best Rock Albums article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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