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A Top Ten List Of Classic Rock's Greatest '4th' Albums

The Top Ten Greatest Classic Rock ‘Fourth’ Albums

Historic debut albums are usually done on a shoestring and they somehow grab our attention and alter our path. Sometimes they even stop us in our tracks. Great sophomore albums prove the first wasn’t a lucky accident and the third hints that this band may be hanging around for awhile. Iconic fourth albums reveal the confidence that the band members have in their own muse and their ability to stay focused on that even as the trappings and pitfalls of success beckon. 

Here's a list of the 10 Best Classic Rock ‘Fourth’ albums. Bet you already guessed #1. 

10. Foreigner 4 – Foreigner    This one came out in 1981 and sold on par with the band’s sophomore release Double Vision, which moved 7-million copies. Founder Mick Jones pared the lineup down (not without grumbling and outrage from the departed) to four members. The band focused on the songwriting and it resulted in five hit singles including “Urgent,” “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” and “Juke Box Hero.”

9.   Killer - Alice Cooper  Alice’s first two albums were purely underground efforts on Frank Zappa’s label. Then came the third album breakthrough of Love it to Death and the hit “18.” On 1971’s Killer, Cooper immersed himself and the band in a perfect marriage of the commercial and the macabre. The album introduced the guillotine via the title track, Little Betty ate that pound of aspirin in “Dead Babies,” and the suite of horror in “Halo of Flies” might have been the greatest music he/they ever came up with.

8. Darkness on the Edge of Town - Bruce Springsteen   Well before this album came out in 1978, Springsteen had been chomping at the bit to get new music out in the wake of the enormous success of Born to Run three years earlier. But a lingering lawsuit with his former manager forced things to go on hold, plus the music Bruce had recorded for a new release just didn’t seem relevant to the times. Hanging out in NYC hearing the raw energy of the exploding punk scene resulted in a much more aggressive and purposeful new album.

7. One by One - Foo Fighters   By 2000 Dave Grohl was five years into his (at first) solo mission and then at the head of his wildly successful band. Scrapped recordings littered the studio floor as burnout reared its head and personal matters distracted from the muse. But, committed as they were to a meaningful fourth statement, the band members put down the instruments and took a long break before starting again from scratch. The result would win a Grammy for “Best Rock Album” of the Year in 2004.

6. Out of Our Heads - Rolling Stones  This one goes back to 1965, ancient history really, but it stands as a testament to the power of the group’s 60’s output.  The album gathered the earliest big American breakthroughs: “Play With Fire,” “The Last Time,” and their first #1 U.S. hit “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

5. Hysteria – Def Leppard   There a reason this album has sold over 20-million copies around the world. During a difficult three-year recording process, during which drummer Rick Allen lost his arm in a car wreck, the band slowly pieced their fourth album together with ultra-demanding producer/taskmaster Mutt Lange.  Nobody thought that Leppard would even stay together, much less record one of the biggest-selling albums of the 80’s, but all of the challenges it faced actually made the band stronger and laser-focused. It was the world against the band, and Def Leppard won.

4. Tommy – The Who    If you count the American release of Magic Bus, an inconsequential collection of singles and random tracks, then this is album #5. But we’re not going to, because Magic Bus was purely a record company creation that caught even the band by surprise. Tommy, the first rock opera, written on acoustic guitar and expanded into a sprawling double album of powerful rock from the Who mixed with horns courtesy of bassist John Entwistle, opened up the future for The Who. The deaf, dumb, and blind boy’s story made Pete Townshend one of the world’s most respected songwriters and the Who one of the most musically-courageous bands to be found.

3. Rocks - Aerosmith  This was the last album before the fall. After this 1976 release, as Joe Perry put it, Aerosmith went from being musicians dabbling in drugs to drug addicts dabbling in music. Rocks said it all – astounding songwriting, heroic riffs, five musicians reading each other instinctively. Aerosmith went big and turned in a hard rock blueprint for the 80’s heavy metal and 90’s grunge movements to follow.    

2. A Night at the Opera – Queen   Queen’s fourth emerged in November 1975 as a dramatic leap forward from the previous year’s Sheer Heart Attack.  With all four members now writing songs of quality, Queen had much to choose from and managed to secure an ideal and comfortable recording situation to produce those works. “You’re My Best Friend” and the eternal “Bohemian Rhapsody” highlighted an album of many moods. It was the sound of a band comfortable in its own skin, using its considerable brainpower and musicianship, then flexing its might.

1.  (IV) - Led Zeppelin You must have known this would be #1. The album, which was never titled, but is known by the unofficial IV, says everything that Zeppelin was all about – classic hard rock riffs, mystical acoustic passages, gothic images of Middle Earth, times of magic, and dirty blues. They combined it all on this album which obviously includes the most-played song in Classic Rock radio as well as “Black Dog,” “Rock and Roll,” and “Misty Mountain Hop.” 23-million sold in the U.S. and 37-million around the world. Amazingly, the world’s Zeppelin-hating critics actually loved it.   

Foreigner 4 - #10 in our list of the best 'fourth' albums

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