I had an interesting discussion with a music buddy about some of the least popular, best discs of the past few decades.

The challenge: Name 5 outstanding Rock and Roll albums that 90% of the music buying/downloading public are unfamiliar with.

3 rules:

1. Rock and Roll (including Pop)!  No jazz, classical or world music

2. Obscure: Not a big seller, relatively unknown, not a top 40 song or a top 100 Album;

3. Outstanding album: The disc must be great, listenable from start to finish, cohesive, with one good song after another and a handful of great ones.

Defining what obscure is was also a challenge — a popular UK album unknown in the US counts, but vice-versa didn’t.

We set an arbitrary cut off date of 25 years — there is simply too many great albums from the 1960s and 70s, and those unknowns are more a function of age than obscurity (UPDATE: The older mega-hits “discovered” in comments confirms this). Anything released after 1985 is fair game. And we went with Rock, because there are simply too many obscure Jazz recordings out there.

Cutting it down to just 5 was difficult, but gave the exercise some focus. I will publish my list next Friday.

What are your 5 favorite unknown CDs?

Category: Friday Night Jazz, Music

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

245 Responses to “5 Best Unknown Rock Albums ?”

  1. scottcolbury says:

    In alpha order…

    Brickfoot – All the Broken Pieces – Former local Baltimore band with great musical minds. BF’s early albums were more pop-rock but AtBP is more Radiohead-ish.

    Dream Theater – Octavarium – I’ll probably get laughed at here, and maybe prog-metal doesn’t count, but DT always writes albums that are cohesive (and amazing) from beginning to end. The song Octavarium ties all the songs in the albums together (see http://dt.spatang.com/octavarium.php) and also ends DT’s series of 4 albums that lead from one to the next. I’ve been a fan of DT since Images and Words, and actually IMHO any and all DT albums are great, but Octavarium represents the most cohesive… so far.

    The Excentrics – Perfect Nervous Breakdown – Former local DC/Baltimore band with catchy tunes and great production.

    Pearl Jam – No Code – I know what you’re saying… Pearl Jam on an unknown albums list? But how many of you have actually every listened to this entire album all the way through in one sitting? No Code debuted at #1 and did go platinum in the US, but I’m giving this one an exception as I believe those sales were most from consumers expecting another ‘Ten’ or ‘Vs.’ PJ took their listeners to places with this album that most were not ready to go to yet. Great cohesiveness, song writing, lyrics, and musicianship.

    Queensrÿche – Rage For Order – Just making it under the age limit (1986) from the group’s hair band days, songs like London & I Will Remember are classics.

    Sold plenty but not really known in the US in my mind
    Muse – Absolution – Gold in the US (Platinum everywhere else) but still a great album from start to finish.
    Hoobastank – Hoobastank & The Reason – Great listens all the way through.
    Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Highway Companion & Songs and Music From “She’s the One” – TP&tH sell plenty of albums, but these 2 are hidden gems.

    Not cohesive enough to make the list but still great albums
    Weezer – Pinkerton – Songs like El Scorcho still get me going.
    Filter – The Almagamut – Some good energy here.

  2. JAC_666 says:

    Blue Chandelier- CRASH AND BOOM

  3. Ny Stock Guy says:

    The Eels – Blinking Lights and Other Revelations

    The Muffs – Happy Birthday to Me

    The Avalanches – Since I Left You

    William Shatner – Has Been

    Ween – The Mollusk

  4. dougie says:

    1) Mofro- “Lochloosa”
    2) Gov’t Mule- “Dose”
    3) Richard Thompson- “Shoot Out The Lights”
    4) Drive-By-Truckers- “The Dirty South”
    5) Jeff Beck- “Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop”

  5. MayorQuimby says:

    Great thread everyone! Maybe BR should start a music blog.

  6. nucemgd says:

    All I can think of at the moment:

    Lo Fi Resistance – A Deep Breath

    Check it out…fills the 3 requirements quite well…

  7. jamesabney says:

    My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless is surely in the Top 5 in the last 25 years and almost no one has heard of it.

  8. eightnine2718281828mu5 says:

    (not all obscure, but ordered by obscurity)

    (re this first selection; low-fi would be overstating the production quality
    but the composition/musical structure is quite good
    takes a few listenings to get over the shock
    Not to everyone’s taste I’ll admit.)

    Destroyer – We’ll Build Them a Golden Bridge

    SS Cardiacs – Fear the Love
    Kelele Brothers – Has Beens and Wives
    Nathan Lawr – Secret Carpentry
    Patrick Watson – Close to Paradise
    Wooden Stars – Mardi Gras

  9. JeffErp says:

    Jayhawks – Hollywood Town Hall
    Dinosaur Jr. – Where You Been
    Spoon – Kill The Moonlight
    Uncle Tupelo – No Depression
    Steve Earle – El Corazon

  10. Don says:

    Agree with many picks so far. Disagree with many more. Not enough time to really go through it all to give a fair top 5 (fair to the bands). Replacements definitely should have one in the top 5. Loved the Waterboys as well (when did This is the Sea come out? Is A Pagan Place too old as well?). But, being as most of these have been mentioned, are they obscure enough?

    Off the top of my head an album I always love when I put it on: Fury and The Slaughterhouse – Mono.


  11. wildebeest says:

    Anything by Paul Kelly post 1985 but maybe this as a starter:

    Paul Kelly “Songs From The South”


    The Church “Starfish”
    Nick Cave “Let Love In”
    Hunters & Collectors “Ghost Nation”
    Seasick Steve “I Started out with Nothin’ and I Still Got Most Of It Left”

    Honorable mentions:

    The Cruel Sea “The Honeymoon is Over”
    Massive Attach “Blue Lines”
    Portishead “Dummy”
    The Verve “Urban Hymns”
    Dandy Warhols “Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia”
    Powderfinger “Odyssey Number 5″
    TISM “Hot Dogma”

  12. wildebeest says:

    @Ny Stock Guy

    “The Avalanches – Since I Left You”

    agree. just wasn’t sure it was the sort of music BR had in mind but it was definitely an underrated album.

  13. tenaciousd says:

    I think I’m dancing on the limits of your rules in terms of being strictly rock, but here goes.

    1. Ernie Isley – High Wire
    2. Bill Palmer – Outlines
    3. Chris Whitley – Terra Incognita
    4. Duran Duran – Astronaut
    5. The John Popper Project

  14. globaleyes says:

    Lost Albums:

    band: Blue Rodeo album: OUTSKIRTS 1987

    artist: Robbie Robertson album: Storyville 1991

    artist: Graham Parker album: Songs of No Consequesnce 2005

    What about TODAY ?

    band: Truth & Salvage Co. asl;bum: Truth & Salvage Co.

  15. riverrat says:

    1. Morphine – Cure For Pain
    2. Uncle Tupelo – Anodyne
    3. Most any album by Spoon, I’ll pick – Transference
    4. John Prine – Bruised Orange
    5. Timbuk 3 – Eden Alley

  16. Harry Lime says:

    1. Pulp – Different Class
    2. Junior Kimbrough – Sad Days, Lonely Nights
    3. Adrian Belew – Side Four Live
    4. Bobby Previte – Coalition Of The Willing
    5. Snow Patrol – Songs For Polar Bears

  17. Default_JMP says:

    1. A Band of Bees- Octopus
    2. Vampire Weekend- Vampire Weekend
    3. Wood Brothers- Loaded
    4. Morphine- Good
    5. The Shins-Chutes to Narrow

    All great albums from front to back. Thanks everyone for the other great bands to check out.

  18. Space_Cowboy_NW says:

    ANYTHING by JJ Cale; truly America’s Troubadour


    Saw him (400 seat venue) last year as he made a 6 or 7 stop tour on the Left Coast.

  19. davidbachman says:

    Time for a few dark horse nominees deserving of mention and in no particular order…

    Hoodoo Gurus-Stoneage Romeos [1984; Aussie legends but pretty obscure here.]
    Compulsive Gamblers-Crystal Gazing Luck Amazing [2000; Memphis underground classic. Brilliant.]
    Camper Van Beethoven-Telephone Free Landslide Victory [1985; Witty, worldly, and wonderful.]
    Jason & The Scorchers-Lost & Found [1985; Hard-rocking Nashville twang for long Lost Highway drives.]
    Material Issue-International Pop Overthrow [1991; 45 minutes of what popular radio should have been.]

  20. Domagoj says:

    Gotan Project – La Revancha del Tango
    Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
    Thievery Corporation – The Mirror Conspiracy
    PJ Harvey – Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea

  21. A says:

    As I looked through my music collection, it confirmed what you said about quality. The late 60′ s and most of the 70′s provided the bulk of all durable rock classics. Unlike today, those bands featured real talent on the instruments. A couple come to mind…

    The Camel album was done in the 80′s as an anthology, but it does present a fairly good cross section of a relatively unknown British band. If you get a chance, pay attention specifically to the techniques of the lead guitar and drums. The Raitt album is one of the best live recordings I have witnessed. I highly recommend the DVD of this concert. “Burnin Down The House” just rocks.

    Camel: Lunar Sea – An Anthology
    Bonnie Raitt – Road Tested

  22. wristband says:

    1. Small Faces “Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake”
    2. Love “Forever Changes”
    3. Jethro Tull “Stand Up”
    4. Procul Harum “Shine On Brightly”
    5. Traffic “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys’

    Hon. Mention: Kinks “Arthur,” Van Morrison “Astral Weeks,” Spooky Tooth “Spooky Two,” Allman Bros. “Live @ Fillmore East,” Jeff Beck “Truth,” Bloodwyn Pig “A Head Rings Out,” Spirit “12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus,” Quicksilver Messenger Service “Happy Trails,” Traffic & Mott the Hoople self-titled lps.


    BR: Traffic “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys’ was a monster album — very well known

  23. Lariat1 says:

    I was having this discussion with a good friend of mine last night and agreed that the 60′s and 70′s is why I am old school. Never the less, he suggested anything by the Subdudes is kick ass.

  24. dougie says:

    >>>>>>As I looked through my music collection, it confirmed what you said about quality. The late 60′ s and most of the 70’s provided the bulk of all durable rock classics. Unlike today, those bands featured real talent on the instruments>>>>>>>

    I hear what you are saying, but having cut my musical teeth during the 60′s and 70′s, I find that I cannot turn on the “Classic Rock” format on the radio for 15 minutes without thinking that there was a LOT of bad to average music foisted upon us back then. Stuff that wouldn’t cut it today.

    I won’t argue that it’s harder to find great rock music, in these days of multi-million dollar recording contracts being handed out to 2nd runners up in television reality shows, but it’s out there if you look for it.

    I’d name names on both points, but it’s subjective, and I don’t want to venture off topic too far.

  25. Dervin says:

    Avoiding bands which have already been mentioned…
    O Positive – Only Breathing/Cloud Factory. They were Boston’s answer to REM, but with much less mumbling.
    The Dead Milkmen – EAT YOUR PAISLEY – the true carriers of the Punk Flame, snot-nosed and irresponsible.
    Marshall Crenshaw – Mary Jean & 9 Others – the pure rock/pop/country combo timeless.
    Luna – Bewitched – Good old mope rock.
    Sepultura – Chaos A.D. – Metal+Thrash+Industrial+Death+Hardcore+Punk = Awesome (you can still scare your children).

    I would also recomend some stuff by Marc Ribot, Arto Lindsey (and his various side projects), but they don’t really fit the requirements.

  26. Edoc says:

    Vulgar Boatmen – You and Your Sister (or Please Panic [I can't believe someone mentioned this above])
    Dizzy Mizz Lizzy – Dizzy Mizz Lizzy (phenom hard rock from Denmark)
    James – Hey Ma
    Stan Ridgway – Anatomy (the song “Last Honest Man” from ‘Mosquitos’ might be your new theme for Wall St)
    Pluto – Pluto
    The Mommyheads – The Mommyheads
    The Wonder Stuff – Eight Legged Groove Machine
    David Kilgour – Frozen Orange
    Hem – Rabbit Songs
    Michael Hurley – Snockgrass

  27. srvbeach21 says:

    I posted Kiko last night since it’s so good, but to try to complet my list:

    1. Los Lobos – Kiko. One of my all time favorite bands and albums

    2. Robbie Robertson – Robbie Robertson. I think this may even be out of print now, but it’s very good. Released in 1987, it was produced by Daniel Lanois, who worked on two huge albums in that time frame – U2′s the Joshua Tree and Peter Gabriel’s So. Both U2 and Peter Gabriel guest on the record. The opening Track, “Fallen Angel” (written after Robertson’s former bandmate Richard Manual took his own life) is one of my favorite songs.

    3. Rickie Lee Jones – Flying Cowboys. A mellow record, but very, very good. Every year I listen to this the start to finish first day of spring to set the mood.

    4. Gov’t Mule – The Deep End Volume I. I could probably put anything by these guys, as they’re such a good band. The Deep End was a really cool project though – the band’s original bass player passed away and they did this record as a tribute to him, recording with a different guest bass player on every track (Jack Bruce, Bootsy Collins, Oteil Burbridge, etc.).

    And as a relatively new record….
    5. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals – This is Somewhere. Got this a year ago just before I saw them at the Troc in Philly. They’re great live. This a really good album start to finish and has some great songs on it.

    Some bonus records…
    I don’t know if the Black Crowes are too popular, but anything they’ve put out is good. The Black Crowes Live is awesome.

    Widespread Panic – Til the Medicine Takes.

  28. goatdog says:

    Los Angeles- X – I’m guessing on the album all their stuff is great, most repeatably listenable punk band
    Mule Variations – Tom Waits -probably on of his many unheralded
    Rockpile – Rockpile – Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds outfit
    JJ Cale – Really – the epitome of his sound, the one Dire Straits and Clapton must have borrowed the most bunch of 2 minute songs that end 10 minutes too soon
    Hendrix- Band of Gypsies The MAN on Soul

    Quit buying music 25 years ago, hardly listen to that NEW stuff

  29. raberjr says:

    my first post on the Big Pic…i couldn’t resist this one.

    first i agree with the Lone Justice, “Shelter” pick and someone else mention Sufjan Stevens, “Illinoise”. Here are mine. You really do want to check these out:

    Neal Morse – Testimony (double CD prog rock nirvana!)
    Sufjan Stevens – Illinoise (can an 70+ minute CD contain more ear candy?)
    Over The Rhine – Ohio (double CD, ‘smoky’ folk rock / singer songwriter stuff at its best)
    Vigilantes Of Love – Audible Sigh (come, delve deep into metaphor)
    Pat Metheny – Secret Story (I broke the rules here,…it’s jazz, world music, pop, all rolled into one of the best albums ever produced…and Pat Metheny is a fairly known artist)


  30. shocked monkey says:

    I just have one I’ll throw out- not quite sure how to classify the genre. Tom Waits was mentioned but not this album- his second from 1974

    Tom Waits – Heart of Saturday Night

    from the album- (live version)

    New Coat of Paint

  31. Investradamus says:

    Gotye – Like Drawing Blood
    Codeseven – Dancing Echoes, Dead Sounds
    Dredg – Catch without Arms
    Porcupine Tree – Deadwing

    I want to add Animals As Leaders or Explosions in the Sky, but not sure if those meet the genre criteria.

  32. bottyguy says:

    The Bottle Rockets – The Brooklyn Side
    – I think this album is a masterpiece, its front to back great.

    I also give my thumbs up to several aready mentioned, Los Lobos’ Kiko, pretty much any of the Replacement albums.

  33. pseudboy says:

    Smokie – The Best of Smokie

    British band that virtually no one in the US has heard of. A small number of people may be familiar with “Living next door to Alice” but not their other stuff. “Needles and Pins” is my favorite.

    About 90% pop, 10% rock n roll, I’d say. Easy listening!

  34. Mr. Reality says:

    Not sure how obscure the Album is, but here it goes…

    Live 801 -Phil Manzanera, Brian Eno and friends. Best live rendition of the Beatles “tomorrow never knows” ever!

  35. Blurtman says:

    Television – Marquee Moon

    The New York Dolls – The New York Dolls

    The New York Dolls – Too Much Too Soon

    Marquee Moon is incredible. Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd on guitars, fantastic!

    And if you want to hear where the Sex Pistols’ guitarist Steve Jones learned his chops, check out the Dolls.

  36. Lord says:

    If my experience on Pandora is any guide I would say none.

  37. markc612 says:

    Wow, some good picks out there. Like the shout out to Lone Justice (Maria McKee had some gorgeous solo albums too). In my alternative universe Marshall Crenshaw would be a god. The Jayhawks are another favorite band. And the Replacements never go the love they deserved, though you hear their influence in current bands like my new fave the Gaslight Anthem.

    Funny how age influences where someone thinks an album is obscure. For example:

    Alan Parson’s Project I Robot was actually one of the best selling albums of 1977 – so it fails the post 1985 criteria as well. Alan Parsons was the engineer on the Beatles Abbey Road as well, and lead singer Eric Woolfson recently passed away.

    REM’s Document was considered their “breakthrough” album at the time since it provided their first top 40 single
    Joe Jackson’s Look Sharp was a staple of 1980′s college radio as was anything by the Clash or Squeeze

    [BR: He was a junior engineer on the last 2 Beatles recordings, but on Dark Side, he was THE engineer]

    My list:

    Lloyd Cole – self titled “Lloyd Cole”
    Josh Joplin Group – The Future that Was
    Joe Jackson – Laughter and Lust
    Todd Thibaud – Little Mystery
    Ryan Adams – Cold Roses – maybe his most completely formed “thought” as an album and his most consistent

  38. MikeInSF says:

    Some great picks already mentioned. Here are my “Top 5′ish”…

    The Replacements – Let It Be
    The Del Fuegos – The Longest Day
    Camper Van Beethoven – Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart
    Jason and The Scorchers – Lost and Found
    Eels – Shootenanny!

    Bonus/Extra Credit:
    The Supersuckers – The Evil Powers of Rock and Roll
    Reverend Horton Heat – Liquor in Front
    The Wrens – The Meadowlands
    The Dandy Warhols – Come Down

  39. johnk says:

    Here’s five off top of my head:

    Hayden – Everything I Long For
    Sophie Marotis – Standing Still
    Zero 7 – Simple Things
    Jes – Into the Dawn
    edIT – Crying Over Pros for No Reason

    p.s. Big fan also of above listed Chris Whitley, Spoon, Calexico, Drive-By Truckers, SCOTS, Poe, Mountain Goats, Flunk, Dirtbombs, X(!), Wilco, The Hold Steady, Black Keys, Pavement, Portishead, Matthew Sweet, Eels, Uncle Tupelo…all good stuff you’ll never hear on the radio.

  40. Jeff L says:

    In semi-order:

    Crack the Sky – Dog City
    I’ll second Bottle Rockets – Brooklyn Side, I even turned my teenage daughter on to them.
    The Raisins – Everything and More (related to Adrian Belew and The Bears)
    Crack the Sky – From the Greenhouse
    Webb Wilder – Doo Dad

    There are a bunch of albums that don’t technically meet the criteria (usually something barely cracked the charts) such as from bands such as Veruca Salt, Lita Ford, Vixen, The Kings, Tony Carey/Planet P….and others that don’t meet the spirit (they dominated overseas charts) The Baby Animals, The Angels (both Australia)

  41. stevelaake says:

    Hoodoo Gurus – Blow Your Cool! – 1987 Obscure Australian band. The album reached No. 120 on the Billboard 200 album charts in 1987. I still listen to the full album today.

    Cowboy Mouth – Easy – 2000 Band is out of Louisiana; “Jenny Says” is their one big hit. Drummer & front man FredLeBlanc is an unbelievable entertainer.

  42. Jesse C says:

    Marah – 20,000 Streets Under the Sky. Simply the best album from a phenomenal east coast band that way too few people have heard of. These guys know how to rock and know how to put on a blistering live show. I rank them ahead of Jesse Malin (who was also an excellent suggestion earlier in the thread) as the best NYC bar band I’ve seen.

    BellX1 – Blue Lights On The Runway. The album made number 49 on the US Billboard Top Independent Albums, so I’m not sure if it qualifies (though barely being tin he top 50 of a chart which excludes anyone who actually sells a lot of albums is probably still pretty obscure). But they’re the current next hot thing from Ireland and have a fantastic poppy rock sound.

    Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha. Rock music with incredibly sophisticated orchestration. Bird is a fantastic violin player and his love of sampling and looping his strings and his own voice shine through on the album (though you do not realize how much of his music is procedurally generated until you see him live and he’s using a sampling board to record and playback 8 different harmony parts, which he is then singing and playing over top of).

    Murder by Death – Red Of Tooth And Claw. The lead singer sounds like Johnny Cash. They have an electric cello player. They sing songs about drinking and death. What is not to love? They’re also amazing live.

    The Thermals – Now We Can See. 34 minutes long. Less scratchy then their previous albums. Some of their fans were sad about this, but I thought the addition of a little more music and the subtraction of a little noise added up to a fantastic album.

    Bonus albums:
    Marseille Figs – The Dirty Canon
    Head Automatica – Popaganda
    Butch Walker – The Rise & Fall of Butch Walker and The Lets Go Out Tonites!

  43. bergsten says:

    Anything by Steve Hackett (the more recent, the better). He has to be one of the greatest underappreciated guitarist, ever. Endlessly creative.

    Randy Newman’s “Faust” — his unsuccessful attempt at geting a play on Broadway. Classic Newman, plus these are the songs he really cared about. Toy Story’s were the ones that weren’t good enough to make it into Faust.

    Triumvirat (see somewhere up above) was, indeed a band, albeit an ELP wanabee.

    Speaking of which, anything by Keith Emerson (to quote my wife, “he plays like he has 15 minutes left to live.”

  44. curmudgeon2000 says:

    Is Cibo Matto’s wonderful “Stereo Type A” (1999) considered Rock?
    Because otherwise I’m having trouble fitting within the time
    constraints. Part of that is because I’m becoming an old
    fuddy-duddy and not keeping up with the contemporary scene. The
    other part is, I’m afraid, that “Rock and Roll” — depending on
    where you stick your fence post — is almost sixty years old.
    There simply isn’t a lot of new stuff that’s truly innovative
    without going outside of the genre.

    As another poster noted, “excellence knows no constraints,” so in
    true Rock and Roll fashion I’m going to break all your rules. As
    a bonus, these are obscure albums from big name artists.

    5. Thrak (1995)
    4. Discipline (1981)
    King Crimson

    Do you want intelligent, literate, driving rock as well as lyrical
    ballads? King Crimson, in nearly all of their incarnations over
    almost thirty years, fits the bill neatly. Honorable mention:
    Beat (1982), Three of a Perfect Pair (1984), Larks’ Tongues in
    Aspic (1973).

    3. Baron von Tollboth & The Chrome Nun (1973)
    Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, David Freiberg

    Despite the billing, this is really the Jefferson Airplane, as
    everyone else in the band plays on the album. Also making
    appearances are David Crosby, Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Papa John
    Creach, and the Pointer Sisters. This work has the polish that
    their earlier efforts lack. It deserves greater recognition.

    2. Go (1976)
    Stomu Yamashta, Steve Winwood, Michael Shrieve, Al Dimeola, Klaus Schulze

    How to describe this collaboration? It sounds like a collection
    of “typical” Steve Winwood songs neatly woven together with
    synthesizer-driven space rock interludes. Currently available in
    a package with Go Live From Paris (1976) and Go Too (1977). The
    latter lacks Winwood and has a more R&B/funk flavor, and while it
    has its moments, it is not quite up to the original. The whole
    collection is still worth it.

    1. 801 Live (1976)
    801 (Phil Manzanera, Brian Eno, Francis Monkman)
    (Also Bill MacCormick, Simon Phillips, and Lloyd Watson)

    I cannot praise this work too highly — it is one of my favorite
    rock albums of all time, live or studio. It pioneered the now
    common recording technique of “direct injection,” where the
    outputs from instruments are fed directly to a mobile studio,
    instead of using microphones or PA signals. Eno’s quirkiness is
    kept to a tolerable level, and Manzanera’s guitar work is superb.
    Sadly, the other 801 albums (Listen Now, Live at Manchester
    University) are not in the same league. Instead, try Phil
    Manzanera’s solo albums: Diamond Head (1975) and K-Scope (1978).

    In closing I second the recommendation of the progressive rock
    band Gentle Giant. “In A Glass House” (1973) or “Octopus” (1972) are
    perhaps their best, but just about anything they’ve released is excellent.
    Or look for the concert DVD, “Giant on the Box.”

  45. Play On says:

    The Clarence Greenwood Recordings – Citizen Cope (2004)
    These Four Walls – We Were Promised Jetpacks (2009)
    Leaders of The Free World – Elbow (2005)
    Keep On Your Mean Side – The Kills (2003)

  46. Abe_NYC says:

    Porcupine Tree – In Absentia
    Porcupine Tree – Deadwing
    The Tea Party – Transmission
    Marillion – Anorak in the UK
    Mother Tongue – Ghost Note

    Porcupine Tree, of course, are the prog rock giants few people have heard of. I could easily add a couple more of their back catalog albums to the list, but their more recent albums have been more commercially successful, all in top 100 and Amazon’s top 20 or top 10. Their live DVD Anesthetize is currently #9 in Amazon’s Music Videos list. Tea Party were hugely popular in Canada but not US. Mother Tongue are a US band with a large following in Germany.

    Anyone who believes rock died in 1980s should listen to Porcupine Tree or Tool. They restored my faith in music.

  47. catman says:

    Kiko – Los Lobos greatest work. Get It While You Can – Howard Tate. $1.25 in the bin, great voice . Bill Evans – Affinity. Bobby Blue Bland – Dreamer. Hard Again – Muddy Waters, James Cotton, Pinetop, Johnny Winter.

  48. stevelaake says:

    I would also suggest another Aussie band, Midnight Oil. Take your pick on the album, these two are both great.

    Diesel and Dust (1987)
    Blue Sky Mining (1990)

    Points added for political activism and not just singing songs about sex & drugs… “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

  49. chicagosean says:

    Ambulance LTD: LP (2004-ish)

  50. rat89 says:

    So many great recs here, and many I’ve never heard of….lot’s to listen to….

    some of mine:

    Depeche Mode – Exciter
    Ben Harper – Burn To Shine
    Gorillaz – Gorillaz
    Jane Siberry – When I Was A Boy
    The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema
    Third Eye Blind – Out Of The Vein

  51. pmorrisonfl says:

    Closest I can think of, offhand…

    Two Wheels Good – Prefab Sprout
    The Trinity Sessions – Cowboy Junkies
    Lone Justice – Lone Justice


    BR: The Prefab Sprout disc is on my short list — so few people know them!

  52. Drewbie says:

    TISM’s album http://www.tism.wanker.com (album name, NOT a website URL!) deserves a look.


    It even has Ben Bernanke’s theme song – Whatareya?

    Bonus points for guessing which tune Richard Cheney sings in the shower.

    Available at an iTunes store near you!

  53. Wyneaux says:

    Well since no one has mentioned them yet, I guess it goes to show that they really are unknown here in the states, but the best all time unknown Rock band ever is New Model Army! And we are really talking Rock here, not pop, not heavy metal, not a synth band either…. and they have a few pretty mean ballads as well…. My picks:

    1) New Model Army – Impurity (1990)
    2) New Model Army – Love of Hopeless Causes (1993)
    3) New Model Army – Strange Brotherhood (1998)
    4) New Model Army – Thunder and Consolation (1989)
    5) New Model Army – The Ghost of Cain (1986)

    And check out their new CD – Today is a Good Day (2009)
    You’re bound to like this band if you love good old rockers!

    See: http://www.newmodelarmy.org/
    and…. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Model_Army_%28band%29

  54. cwest says:

    5 BEST UNDiscovered Rock ALBUMS OF THE LAST 25 YEARS?

    1. Anberlin – Never Take Friendship Personal

    Powerful guitars, propulsive drums, solid vocals, great workout music. Has to be one of the best rock bands of the last two decades, IMO.

    2. Relient K – Five Score and Seven Years Ago

    Clever lyrics, Beach Boy-esque vocal harmonies, memorable hooks. All of their albums are great.

    3. Imogen Heap – Speak for Yourself

    Subtle yet moving, inventive and unique. I find some new aspect every time i listen to it.

    4. Annie Lennox – Diva

    Okay, there was a charting single on here (‘walking on broken glass’) but the album seems otherwise overlooked. Every song is richly produced and well-crafted, and Lennox’s voice was at its best.

    5. Jens Gad – Le Spa Sonique

    Defies categories – chill, world, prog rock. Less over-the-top than Enigma, one of his prior projects.

    6. Zero 7 – Simple Things

    In case Annie’s album is too mainstream, this is my substitute that others have already mentioned. Great chill music.

    Albums older than the 25-year window:

    John Martyn – Grace and Danger

    An exquisite album: smokey vocals, emotive guitar solos. Written after the end of his marriage, every song drips with feeling.

    Little Feat – Waiting for Columbus

    I saw someone else mention it and thought i would second it. Never tire of this album.

    Bruce Cockburn – Stealing Fire


    BR: Annie Lennox Diva was another monster hit — huge airplay, big singles in “Why” and “Walking on Broken Glass”. Iy won Best British Album at the 1993 Brit Awards.

    I really like Zero 7 — found them via the song “In the Waiting Line” that was on the “Garden State” soundtrack — a great album if you don’t know it

  55. perra says:

    Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings

  56. Fred Flintstone says:

    Does J-Pop violate the world music disclaimer?

    UA / Fine Feathers Make Fine Birds

    Princess Princess / Bee-Beep

    Yuki / Five Star

    Every Little Thing / Time To Destination

    Dreams Come True / Love Unlimited

  57. perra says:

    Sonny Boy Williamson – Nine below zero

  58. Tim says:

    My goodness–I quit seriously listening to music awhile back (I’m not longer an observational astronomer–
    long nights in the dome are freakin’ great for music), but I can send a few your way that *might* fit.

    “Brave”, by Marillion

    “Haunted”, by Poe was pretty good

    And “October Project” was good, although not sure it fits the rock category. I have a thing for sexy female voices…

    I’ll eventually register to post on your blog. Happy flying
    under the radar for awhile, though.

    have a good weekend

  59. Ed Sanders says:

    I have to run out so I will finish later,


    1: Ted Hawkins — The Next 100 years
    2: Kathy McCarty — Dead Dogs Eyeball (covers of songs by Daniel Johnston, weird, beautiful, and heartbreaking)

    several other faves already named, so I won’t repeat, but I will try and complete later.

    thanks BR

  60. Ed Sanders says:

    OK, a delay, so real quick

    3. John Doe Meet John Doe ( I actually consider it country, but his role in X makes it rock and it has a real rockn roll feel)
    4. Billy Bragg — Talking with the Taxman about poetry (best title ever)
    5. Hoodoo Gurus — Mars Needs Guitars

    There are others I might have selected w/ more time but that’s a good group

  61. perra says:

    Marillion!!! Thanks Tim! Had totally forgotten about this awesome band. Must have been 15 years since I last heard them.

  62. perra says:

    Marillion – Misplaced Childhood

  63. crawlars says:

    The Shaming of the True by Kevin Gilbert
    Thud by Kevin Gilbert’
    Toy Matinee by Toy Matinee

    Stunningly entertaining music by Kevin Gilbert if you can find it. The only albums I have that I don’t get tired of.

  64. tcolemanuf says:

    Top 5 are:
    O.A.R. – Any Time Now
    Galactic – Coolin Off
    Dispatch – Bang Bang
    Ray LaMontagne – Trouble
    The Black Keys – Rubber Thickness

    Honorable mention:
    The Doves – Lost Souls
    The Libertines- The Libertines
    G Love and Special Suace – Yeah, It’s that Easy
    Robert Randolph and the Family Band – Live at the Wetlands
    The Magic Numbers – The Magic Numbers
    Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot


    BR: I just got invited to a Ray LaMontagne show in August — his first disc was pretty big, and made my Best of list for 2006.

    The Black Keys made the 2004 Best of list for Thichfreakness. (Are you thinking of Rubber Factory?)

    The Magic Numbers was my favorite disc of 2006 — it made the Best of list and got its own Friday Nite Jazz post for their debut album selling only 44,000 copies.

  65. pmorrisonfl says:

    (Almost anything by) Richard Thompson – Rumor and Sigh

  66. Ed Sanders says:

    OK, I can live w/ my 5, here is the pre:1985 bonus:

    Robert Palmer — Looking for Clues. The closest thing to a “hit” on it is Johnny and Mary, but Sulky Girl is a great rock n roll song.

  67. Foz says:

    1. Brilliant Brit Pop: Martin Newell, The Greatest Living Englishman

    2. Brilliant quasi-comic psychedelia: The Dukes of Stratosphear (XTC)

    3. More intelligent pop: World Party, Goodbye Jumbo

    4. Just great rock: Replacements, Pleased to Meet Me

    5. Will challenge some, but brilliant and influential band/album: The Pixies, Doolittle

  68. davefromcarolina says:

    The Yayhoos!

  69. rennej1 says:

    Chris Whitley – Living with the Law
    Big Head Todd & the Monsters – Midnite Radio
    Drive By Truckers – Southern Rock Opera
    Steve Earle – Copperhead Road
    Explosions in the Sky – The Earth is not a cold dead place

    in no particular order.

  70. MinnItMan says:

    1) You gotta sin to get saved – Maria McKee
    2) XO- Elliot Smith
    3) Breach – The Wallflowers
    4) Speak of the Devil – Chris Isaak
    5) Fashion Nugget – Cake

    Bonus Sublime – Sublime

  71. Foz says:

    Actually, I feel that it wasn’t right to leave out two Flaming Lips albums: The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Some truly beautiful music in both.

    Clearly this was a good question

  72. Foz says:

    MinnItMan: Good call on Elliot Smith’s XO. I had better go elsewhere cuz I could spend too much time thinking about it…

  73. Ed Sanders says:

    Oh yeah, one more thing, — Sonic Youth, the heirs to VU in the influence department.

  74. MinnItMan says:

    I meant my bonus to be:

    Welcome to the Freak Show – the Red Elvises

    Sublime and Fashion Nugget were both pretty huge – I left in the middle of my post and forgot to give obscurity (but not too obscure) its due. I would mention any wilco, Jayhawks, Golden Smog.

  75. Edoc says:

    Unusual representation here for Maria McKee/Lone Justice. Trivia: Maria was the half-sister of Bryan MacLean of the incredible 60′s band Love. Bryan wrote the song “Don’t Toss Us Away” on the Lone Justice debut. (Bryan also wrote one of Love’s most famous songs “Alone Again Or”, which I heard the other day at my local supermarket).

  76. Porsche87 says:

    Ah, a tough category. In the 90′s, any band with a hundred bucks could cut a CD, and in SD there were tons of bands that put out quality releases like Unwritten Law, Sprung Monkey, Royal Crown Revue, Rocket From the Crypt, Buck O’Nine, POD, Natasha’s Ghost and on and on. Few of these ever left town.

    For the more mainstream:
    Social Distortion – Live at the Roxy (basically greatest hits performed live)
    Scissor Sisters (self titled)
    Eels – Beautiful Freak (amazing number of Eels fans on this site)
    The Fabulous Rudies (self titled)
    Death Cab for Cutie – Transatlantacism

    Alternate selection, but recently released, so the jury is still out if it will be a hit or not -
    Silversun Pickups – Swoon

  77. silliussodos says:

    Thanks to everyone for listing many great albums that have sat dormant on my iTunes for way too long.

    1) My Blood Valentine – Loveless (Glorious feedback)

    2) Billy Bragg and Wilco – Mermaid Avenue (Woody Guthrie lyrics turned into a true collaboration)

    3) Chris Gaffney – Loser’s Paradise (terrific guitarist who passed away in 2008)

    4) The Baseball Project – Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails (side project by The Minus Five’s Scott McCaughey and REM’s Peter Buck, among others. Every song is about baseball. Tons of fun. They’re also doing a song a month during the baseball season this summer and releasing them for free.)

    5) eels – Daisies of the Galaxy (I could basically pick any eels album; figured I’d list one that hadn’t already appeared on the site)

    Bonus selection:

    The Blasters – The Blasters (this one is from 1982, so technically outside of the 25 year limit. That said, every song on side one of this album sounds like an all-time rock and roll classic that you’d swear was a cover. Only one of them is.)


    BR: The Eels song Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues is one of my favorites (mentioned in our 2004 Best of list) ; I also liked MC Honky, the bands alter ego

  78. mozzie says:

    how about

    Jesus & Mary Chain – Darklands
    Elvis Costello – King of America
    Associates – The Affectionate Punch

    Don’t quite make the cut

    Broken Homes – Broken Homes (1986)

    Agree with
    Cowboy Junkies – Trinity Sessions & Blackeyed Man
    Wilco – Summerteeth
    JRV – Texas Flood


    BR: Can any Elvis Costello album be considered unknown? My Aim Is True and This Year’s Model were the soundtrack to senior year in high school and Freshman college, until The Wall pushed everything else off the radio.

  79. mozzie says:

    OOOPS typo – SRV not JRV (Stevie, not Jimmy).

  80. srvbeach21 says:

    Been listening to “Drown” all day.

    Glad to see the love for “Kiko.” Los Lobos is so good and underappreciated.

    And finally, as a shameless plug, I can’t leave out a live record I both performed on and produced:

    Tar Beach – Live at the Logan
    (also available on iTunes and everything else)

  81. capitalist progger says:

    I am 51 and Porcupine Tree is this best thing going these days! I cannot wait until they come back to Cleveland later this month. Marillion is second, I may have tour to Montreal when they come around next year!
    Also, check out Stardust We Are by the Flower Kings!

  82. Christopher says:

    Captain Beefheart – Trout Mask Replica
    The Monks – Monk Time
    Butthole Surfers – Locust Abortion Technician
    The Pixies – Doolittle
    Adrian Belew – Lone Rhino

  83. Christopher says:

    PS….if you haven’t listened to Beefheart….well….you are missing out….
    Start slow with Safe as Milk
    Save Trout Mask for when you want to hear color and see music….

  84. ronin says:

    24/7 Spyz – Harder than You (better than Living Color in my opinion and on the scene earlier)

    Urban Dance Squad – Mental Floss for the Globe (the first rap group to play their instruments)

    Paw – Dragline (just another forgotten/great “grunge” group)

    The Cult – The Cult (yes, people know this band but this album was not popular although it was one of their best)

    Bad Brains – Any one of their albums (This band should be the most celebrated US rock band living. They smashed through genres and race in the 80′s way before it was popular to do so.)

  85. slot says:

    My contribution

    The Chameleons UK – Strange Times
    Flying Saucer Attack – Flying Saucer Attack
    Explosions In The Sky – The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place
    Out Hud – Let Us Never Speak of It Again
    Boo Radleys – Giant Steps
    Bad Brains – Bad Brains (1982)

    My Bloody Valentine – Gilder (EP)
    Pixies – Surfer Rosa/Come On Pilgrim
    ColourBox – ColourBox
    Moose – Sonny & Sam (EP)
    Ride – Nowhere
    Revolver – Baby’s Angry
    Pale Saints – The Comforts Of Madness
    Lush – Split

    yeah I like shoegaze :-)

  86. dcsos says:

    RY COODER was the Guitarist on Safe as Milk by the Captain……, Barry

  87. Steve Casburn says:

    “Meaningless” by Jon Brion (2000)
    “Lost in Space” by Aimee Mann (2002)
    “Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs” by Andrew Bird (2005)
    “White Bread, Black Beer” by Scritti Politti (2006)
    “Don’t Do Anything” by Sam Phillips (2008)

  88. Julia Chestnut says:

    Bram, you are right — Lila Downs “Una Sangre” is one of the great albums of all time. Start to finish, totally in love with that album. But it never occurred to me in the “Rock & Roll” genre. She is an enormous talent, but I’m not sure she’s BR’s kind of thing. That said, it’s impossible not to love “Viborita” if you have a blood pressure above the single digits.

    Another that I loved at the time that is not great, but incredibly obscure here and was quite popular in Germany was “Die Toten Hosen” (the dead trousers). I think that their first album was eponymous. Not exactly great, but certainly fun at parties!

  89. troubled times says:

    as of this post there are 183 comments on this subject. ….powerful stuff, music , no ?

  90. HEHEHE says:

    1) Wussy – Funeral Dress (Cincinnati vet Chuck Cleaver’s new outfit, the dude can write songs)

    2) Hold Steady – Boys and Girls In America (I was surprised this never made the Billboard 100; guess the album sales came later)

    2) Old 97′s – Too Far Too Care (Timebomb is probably the best opening track on any album ever)

    3) Greg Dulli – Live at the Triple Door (Little surprise charity album that came out a couple years ago)

    4)Joseph Arthur – Redemption’s Son (Probably his most consistent and personal album)

    5)Drive By Truckers – The Dirty South (At their best with Jason Isbel in the band; too bad Yoko Isbel ruined it)

    6)Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker (Captures the feelings of getting your heart stomped)

    7) The National – Alligator (They just had a top 10 album; this one got the ball rolling)

    8)Guided By Voices – Bee Thousand (Came out of nowhere in the 90′s and still sounds fresh; they are touring again too)

    9)The Libertines – Up The Bracket (Raw and loose before Pete Doherty went off the deep end)

    10) Morphine – Yes (Another 90′s gem)


    Joseph Arthur – Our Shadows Will Remain

    Twilight Singers – Blackberry Belle

    Mark Lanegan – Bubblegum

    Ass Ponys – Some Stupid With A Flare Gun

    The Libertines – Up The Bracket

    The Gutter Twins – Saturnalia

    M Ward – Transistor Radio

    Del Amitri – Waking Hours

    The Replacements – Tim

    The Replacements – Let It Be

    Whiskeytown – Strangers Almanac

    Super Special Bonus

    Ryan Adams & The Cardinals “Elizabethtown/Darkbreaker Sessions” – Unreleased album that you can find on the internet recorded when he was getting sober. Don’t know what’s more stunning the music or the fact the idiots at the record company never released it but the idiots at his record company didn’t release a lot of quality stuff.

  91. jlj says:

    Fabulous Thunderbirds – tuff enough
    Los Lobos – By the Light of the Moon
    Marshall Crenshaw – downtown
    The Blasters – Hard Line
    most underrated- any genre – Gospel @ Colonus -

  92. Greetings from Timbuk 3 – Timbuk3

    comet52 listed that one, it breaks Rule #2, but, the rest of the Album remained woefully ‘obscure’, and way underloved..
    same with David & David -”Boomtown”

    also, way others, above, are really good picks~
    BR, looks like “ritholtz.com” should get Long a CD-press, or two..although, please, spare us from MP3 (;

  93. younghickory says:

    The Tears (one album side project for former members of Suede) – Here Come the Tears
    For Squirrels – Example (awesome debut album, super sad story – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_Squirrels)
    Jump, Little Children – Vertigo (though Between the Dim and the Dark could work just as well)
    The Smiths – The Queen is Dead (huge in the UK…barely a blip on the radar here in the US sales-wise)
    They Might Be Giants – Factory (unbelievably devoid of even 1 top 200 Modern Rock single)

    …someone else said it earlier, and I agree, been reading this blog in many iterations for 3 1/2 years…but it took this to get me to register…

  94. rozdelrio says:

    Lucero-1372 Overland Park. Or That Much Further West. The best band since the Stones.
    Two Cow Garage-Please turn the gas on.
    Gaslight Anthem-’59 sound. Or Sink or swim. They might be getting too big to be unknown.
    Izzys-The violent Bear it away.
    Warren Haynes-Bonneroo. Some of his Gov’t Mule stuff could be here, too.

    U2 is too big to count. I’m considering Counting Crows’ August and Wallflowers’ Horse as too well known. I also considered Gin Blossoms’ New miserable Experience and Marshall Tucker’s Stompin Room, which was probably recorded before ’85.

  95. wileycoyote says:

    Warsaw- BattleSka Gallactica
    Warsaw-Hor’s Galore

    Refreshments-Fizzy Fuzzy Big and Buzzy
    Pixies-Doolittle (probably doesn’t qualify)
    Veruca Salt- American thighs
    Cake-Fashion Nugget

  96. Brad Taylor says:

    What a list – I will only add one

    New York Fund – The Guns EP

    Lots of great music listed above. This is why I like my Rhapsody subscription. I spent a few hours checking out the music and add these albums to a playlist. I then let my PC download all 3900 songs overnight. Turns out to be about 20G of mostly new music for me. And there are some real gems here. ;)

    Thanks All

  97. Don says:

    Thought about it some more and IMO without a doubt a Tragically Hip album or 2 has to be on the top 5. They are an incredible rock band – quite unknown to mainstream USA.
    Up to Here and Fully completely are 2 earlier strong albums but they are still making great music.
    Yer Favorites – is a great compilation for those of you wanting to initiate yourselves. Early work is definitely Rolling Stone influenced but they moved on into their own in later works.
    Barry, you will LOVE this band.
    Listen to New Orleans is Sinking and World Container at this link (an old and a new). Then move on to the many others.

  98. ukarlewitz says:

    Great idea for a post. Some ideas:

    Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People
    My Morning Jacket – Z
    Gomez – Bring It On
    Flaming Lips – Soft Bulletin
    Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain

    Kings of Leon – Aha Shake Heartbreak
    XTC – Oranges and Lemons
    Hothouse Flowers – People
    Spoon – Gimme Fiction
    Hives – Veni Vidi Vicious
    Broken West – I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On
    Arctic Monkeys – Whatever You Say I am That’s What I’m Not
    Ryan Adams – Gold

  99. Choppy says:

    Terence Trent D’Arby’s – Symphony or Damn – 1993?

    Regular reader since 2005; first post.