BBC 15 ESSENTIAL ALBUMS for hard rock by Bruce Dickinson ... Take care
1970-1974 | 1975-1979 | 1980-1982
Deep Purple - In Rock released June 1970
Floundering around and looking for a direction, Deep Purple's guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and keyboard player Jon Lord made an agreement if Jon's project, an orchestral piece, was a huge success then that would be the direction the band would follow. If Ritchie's baby, a hard rock album, was a bigger success then that would dictate their future. That hard rock album, In Rock, was the bigger success... much to Ritchie's relief. And ours Speed King, Child In Time, Flight Of The Rat... Deep Purple had arrived.
Jimi Hendrix - Experience released 1971
Jimi exploded seemingly out of nowhere, and re-wrote the guitar rulebook. And not only did he turn guitar playing on its head, let's not forget those songs Purple Haze, Hey Joe, Fire, Foxey Lady, The Wind Cries Mary... one of the most incredible debut albums, and one which still sounds astonishingly vibrant today.
Jethro Tull - Aqualung released April 1971
Jethro Tull were a uniquely British band who, on paper, should never have existed let alone worked a bug-eyed flute player leading a motley gang through a rag-bag of folk, blues, hard rock and pastoral traditional English music. Then throw that terrifying phrase "concept album" into the equation, and alarm bells ought to start ringing. Instead, "Aqualung" is a musical tour-de-force and a genuine classic album, and one of progressive rock's more listenable classics.
Led Zeppelin - IV released November 1971
Fresh from his stint in the Yardbirds, Jimmy Page had an idea for a new band... an idea Keith Moon thought would be as successful as a lead zeppelin. However, not only were Led Zeppelin instantly successful, the band soon found they were the blueprint for any aspiring young rock band, whether it be in terms of image, attitude, myth or riffage. And so durable is that blueprint that it is just as relevant today as it was 35 years ago. Never ones to rest on their laurels, Led Zep followed their blistering first two records, and a gentler more folky third album, with a fourth album that perfected the mix of light and shade, quiet and loud from Rock'n Roll's straight ahead drive, to The Battle Of Evermore's mandolin driven otherworldliness, to the stomping blues of When The Levee Breaks. And on top of all that you get the hard rock national anthem, Stairway To Heaven.
Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath, IV released September 1974
With their debut Black Sabbath accidentally created heavy metal doomy minor key guitar riffs, creepy tempos, an air of dark claustraphobia and those pasty white faces pearing out from under long, lank hair. Whilst with time, Black Sabbath didn't exercise much sophistication, they did sharpen and diversify their sound, and this album is the zenith of the Ozzy Osbourne line-up... though whilst their paean to cocaine, Snowblind, was a fine Sabbath stomp, it was a clue as to where their imminent friction would stem from.
Rainbow - Rainbow Rising released 1976
A fantastic meeting of like minds, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and singer Ronnie James Dio were both inclined towards the gothic the grandiose and the mystical and this album was unlike Led Zep, or Ritchie's former band Deep Purple, or anyone else for that matter. Instead it pointed a new way forward for hard rock bands, as just one listen to Stargazer or A Light In The Black would prove.
Thin Lizzy - Live And Dangerous released 1978
Widely considered to be the greatest live rock album ever (and who cares if it was "sweetened" in the studio later). Thin Lizzy albums were often very good, certainly main man Phil Lynott was a great song-writer, but they never captured the full fire and drive of that band had when playing live. This certainly succeeds, and those songs... The Boys Are Back In Town, Jailbreak, Cowboy Song, Don't Believe A Word, Dancing In The Moonlight...
Van Halen - I released 1978
And talking of young gun-slingers, with this album, Eddie Van Halen turned the notion and rules of playing guitar on its head. One listen to Eruption would have been enough to cause many aspiring guitar players to hang up their axes... or head back to the bedroom for a lot more practice. Add into that equation some seriously great songs and the cheerleading whooping and hollering of irrepresible frontman David Lee Roth, and rock bands now had a brand new template to work from. As David Lee Roth would later say, the band inspired everyone who was to follow for the next decade bands were either desperate to be like Van Halen. Or desperate to be nothing like them.
Aerosmith - Live Bootleg released October 1978
The greatest American rock'n roll band and the perfect cross between Led Zeppelin and the Stones. It's amazing enough that Aerosmith survived the seventies (and that they did so with such a fantastic back catalogue, more so), but their resurgence in the nineties is one of rock's most incredible comeback stories. This, though, captures caught the band at the peak of the first part of their career in the late 70s.
UFO - Strangers In The Night released 1979
Another classic live album from the same era as the Thin Lizzy record (and Aerosmith's Live Bootleg. And Cheap Trick's At The Budokan... there must have been something in the air). And again it captures the often under-rated band at their peak, particularly the mercurial talent of their young gun-slinger guitarist Michael Schenker. And as good as they were, UFO were never the same without Schenker who left shortly after to team up with his brother, briefly, in the Scorpions before enjoying some success as a solo artist.
Judas Priest - British Steel released 1980
Although Judas Priest were pretty much peers of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, their breakthrough didn't come until the turn of the 80s. However, Priest had been building a loyal and fanatical audience over the ten years and seven albums before British Steel exploded, spearheading the British heavy metal invasion of the United States. With piercing, operatic vocals, twin guitar leads and a leather clad image, Priest not only defined the sound of heavy metal but also its look.
Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard Of Ozz released 1980
And here was another amazing comeback. Having been kicked out of Black Sabbath for excessive behaviour (actually no worse than anyone elses, but Ozzy was the obvious fall-guy being being just the singer), it looked Ozzy would sink without trace (probably into a mire of cocaine and booze). But with the help of his manager's daughter, Sharon Arden (later to b Sharon Osbourne), Ozzy put totgether a crack band led by amazing young guitarist Randy Rhoads and knocked everyone for six. From the first few bars of opener Crazy Train it was obvious Ozzy's new project was something very special indeed.
AC/DC - Back In Black released August 1980
Having finally made their breakthrough with the million selling Highway To Hell, AC/DC lost their charismatic singer Bon Scott when he choked to death after a drinking binge. But the band decided to press on, found an ideal new singer in Brian Johnson, and in doingn so far out-stripped anything and everything they had recorded before. That new album was Back In Black, a turbo-charged monster that spat fearlessly in the face of death and adversity, as nearly all of the album's songs were about death and drinking. Bon Scott would undoubtedly approved.
Whitesnake - Come An' Get It released 1981
Following the messy demise of Deep Purple, singer David Coverdale wasted no time in assembling a new band, Whitesnake, which in time would feature two of his mates from Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice and keyboard virtuoso Jon Lord. Whitesnake were not a heavy metal band by any stretch of the imagination, but chose to follow the direction that the later incarnation of Purple had started in on soulful hard funk and r'n b. Come An' Get It is the pinnacle of this era of Whitesnake, before Coverdale discovered expensive hair products... and MTV discovered him.
Iron Maiden - The Number Of The Beast released 1982
Having made two well recieved and vital records, and poised on the edge of greatness, Iron Maiden lost their singer Paul Di'anno. Their next move was vitally important, and in their recruitment of Bruce Dickinson Maiden had found the final key element to their evolution. Not only were Bruce's vocals stronger and more rounded than his predecessors, so too was the songwriting from the hit singles Run To The Hills and the title track, to the more epic Hallowed Be Thy Name and Children Of The Damned there wasn't a weak cut on the album - simply put, one of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time.