Our Top 10 Rolling Stone albums stand as a starting point for younger fans looking to explore the great catalog of the Rolling Stones. Everyone has their favorite Rolling Stones albums but for someone just starting out, it can be overwhelming to choose what to listen to from a band who’s been recording for over 50 years. This list attempts to choose the best albums but also covers as many time periods as possible, as long as they were good records.
We also will include a complete Rolling Stones studio album discography at the end of the article. Of course, almost every Rolling Stones record was a great one. However, like any band or artist, some were better than others. We have avoided any greatest hits albums like Made in the Shade or Hot Rocks. None of their band’s great live albums like ‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!’: The Rolling Stones in Concert will be included. Those will be listed in a separate article. We’re only focusing on the studio albums.
Early Rolling Stones albums were filled with many cover versions of blues songs and other rock and roll classics. None of the band’s first five albums including The Rolling Stones (UK version / England’s Newest Hit Makers (US version), 12 X 5 (US release) (1964)The Rolling Stones No. 2 (UK release) / The Rolling Stones, Now! (US release) (1965), Out of Our Heads (US version and ) Out of Our Heads (UK) (1965), December’s Children (And Everybody’s) (US release) (1965) were on this list. That was a tough decision because those are all such great records. Nonetheless, we wanted to focus on the albums that contained all original Rolling Stones songs.
The early 1960s albums were not just filled with cover songs, but there were also varying track listings between the US and UK releases that can be confusing to someone checking out the band for the first time. These are all great rock and roll records and an incredible part of the history of The Rolling Stones. We highly recommend all rock fans to acquire every single one of them. Nonetheless, if you are new to the Rolling Stones, our top 10 Rolling Stones albums list is the place to start collecting your knowledge of the legend of The Rolling Stones.
# 10 – Steel Wheels
We open up our top 10 Rolling Stones albums list with the great Rolling Stones album Steel Wheels. The album was released during the summer of 1989. It fueled one of the biggest Rolling Stones tours of their career. It was also Bill Wyman’s last Rolling Stones album before he left the band. The album’s lead-off single “Mixed Emotions,” was a big hit for the band. Other standout tracks included “Rock In A Hard Place,” “Sad Sad Sad” and “Almost Hear You Sigh.”
# 9 – Tattoo You
The Rolling Stones Tattoo You LP was originally billed as an album of outtakes, unfinished demos and other odd sorts. It became one of the band’s most successful commercial albums they ever released. The album was released in 1981. Two of the album’s singles entitled “Start Me Up,” and “Waiting On A Friend,” received heavy airplay on MTV helping fuel album sales.
# 8 – Black and Blue
Black and Blue is probably the most underrated Rolling Stones album ever released. We think it’s a real gem. It’s a short album containing only eight songs, but some of them were absolutely outstanding. Side two’s closing track “Memory Motel,” stands as one of our favorite Rolling Stones songs of all time. The album is part reggae with a heavy emphasis on groove. Contributions from legendary keyboard players Billy Preston and Nicky Hopkins were significant on the record. Standout tracks included the album’s first single “Fool To Cry,” the album opener “Hot Stuff,” the rocker “Hand Of Fate,” and of course “Memory Motel.”
# 7 – Beggars Banquet
The Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet album was released in December of 1968. The album was widely hailed by critics. However, at times Beggars Banquet is a bit more uneven than some of their other classic albums. The album contained two of the biggest Rolling Stones songs ever released “Street Fighting Man,” and “Sympathy For The Devil.” The album also contained one of our favorite Rolling Stones songs of all time in the album’s second track called “No Expectations.”
# 6 – Aftermath (UK Version)
The Rolling Stones Aftermath album is a key album in the Rolling Stones catalog. It is the first Rolling Stones album in which the band composed all of the songs recorded for the album. The record defines the coming of age for songwriters Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones. It defines what was soon to come from the Rolling Stones when their next series of albums would present fans with the best work of their career. Aftermath was released in two different versions between the U.S. and the U.K. releases. We prefer the UK Version. The album’s first four tracks “Mother’s Little Helper, Stupid Girl, Lady Jane, and Under My Thumb,” will have you gasping for air.
# 5 – Between the Buttons (US Version)
All these U.K. and U.S. versions of albums released by the Rolling Stones, The Beatles and many other British acts drove CD collectors crazy when they were trying to complete their music collections. They still do. With different track listings on each version, it has always been tough to decide which one to collect. Essentially, both versions were authentic because they were the original releases. Some had the hit singles released between the albums while their overseas counterparts did not. Have I confused you yet?
The Rolling Stones Between The Buttons US album is our choice between the UK and US versions. It’s a great Rolling Stones album that presented fans with such great Rolling Stones songs as “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” and “Ruby Tuesday.”
# 4 – Some Girls
The Rolling Stones’ Some Girls album was released during a time when punk and new wave were taking hold in a world in which disco was finally starting to fade away. Thank God for this album and thank God for The Rolling Stones in 1978. Some Girls was welcomed immediately by Rolling Stones fans and critics. The first single “Miss You,” was a huge hit. However, songs like “Beast Of Burden, Shattered, Some Girls,” and just about every other song on the album would become Rolling Stones classics.
# 3 – Let It Bleed
As we close in on the number one spot on our Top 10 Rolling Stones albums list we turn to the legendary Rolling Stones album Let It Bleed. The album was released in December of 1969. Some critics have called it one of the last great rock albums of the 1960s. We wouldn’t argue with that. Let It Bleed. is the album that introduced such soon-to-be legendary Rolling Stones songs such as “You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Midnight Rambler,” and “Gimme Shelter.” It’s a short record counting only nine songs, coming in at around 42 minutes, but every second of that is brilliant.
# 2 – Exile On Main Street
It was tough to place Exile On Main Street second because it is such a masterpiece. The Rolling Stones delivered big time with this amazing two-record set. It has long been hailed as The Rolling Stones’ greatest artistic achievement. The album was released in the spring of 1972. Exile On Main Street hit number one on both the United States and United Kingdom album charts. The two record set was filled with big hits singles and deep album tracks that would all become legendary Rolling Stones songs. Standout tracks included the hit singles Tumbling Dice and Happy. Some of our favorite album tracks were “Rip This Joint, Sweet Virginia, and Torn and Frayed.”
# 1 – Sticky Fingers
Our choice for the best Rolling Stones album ever released and the place for all young rock and roll fans to start is the Rolling Stones legendary Sticky Fingers album. This has always been our favorite Rolling Stones album. The record was released in 1971. The same year Led Zeppelin released their legendary fourth album Led Zeppelin IV, and The Who released Who’s Next. 1971 was an amazing year for classic rock. The Rolling Stones album was filled with big hits such as “Brown Sugar,” “Bitch,” and “Wild Horses.” It had an amazing extended jam song in “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.” It had a wonderful country rock tune in “Dead Flowers.”
The Rolling Stone album Sticky Fingers also had some great deep tracks like “Sway,” “Moonlight Mile,” and “Sister Morphine.” Every track on this one was great. It was an album filled with various styles of music all seemingly flowing from one track to another to make it the best Rolling Stones album ever released.
Top 10 Rolling Stones Albums article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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