Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Prog Rock Albums of the Seventies – Rolling Stone
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Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Prog Rock Albums of the Seventies

Picks include ‘Close to the Edge,’ ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and ‘Selling England By the Pound’

Peter Gabriel

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Prog rock wasn't born in the 1970s, but that's when the genre came of age and reached its commercial peak. Inspired by King Crimson's late Sixties work, a whole new generation of bands such as Yes and Genesis quickly grew from tiny art rock bands to enormous stadium rock acts. Some rock fans found the work pretentious, but huge cults formed around these bands that loved their every move. To the true believers, no song could be too long and no light show could be too elaborate. (Many rock fans turned off by Jethro Tull and Emerson, Lake and Palmer still loved Pink Floyd and Rush, though.) We asked our readers to vote for their favorite prog rock albums of the Seventies. Here are the results. 

By Andy Greene

Pink Floyd, 'The Dark Side of the Moon'

Courtesy of Harvest Records

2. Pink Floyd, ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’

Even people who absolutely hate progressive rock often love Dark Side of the Moon. It's a very hard album to hate, and songs like "Money" and "Time" are prog rock covered with enough sugar to make them go down very easy. This is the album that changed everything for Pink Floyd. They were a reasonably popular art-rock band prior to this, but every day since the release of Dark Side they've been immortal rock gods. No song on the album even goes over eight minutes, but they all flow together into a seamless whole. This is partially due to the fact that the band toured the album before they recorded it, slowly crafting each song until it was perfect. The group was pleased by the final result, but they had no idea it would become a worldwide sensation. They had incredible success over the next decade, but Dark Side of the Moon hovers above anything else in their catalog. Generation after generation of teenagers discover it, earning enough money to guarantee that David Gilmour's great-great-great grandchildren will be extremely wealthy. 

Rush 2112

Courtesy of Mercury Records

1. Rush, ‘2112’ 

It's the year 2112, and the world is in rough shape. The evil Priests of the Temples of Syrinx control everything, and they make Big Brother seem almost friendly by comparison. Everything is censored, and rock & roll is strictly forbidden. Things begin to change when a man discovers an old guitar. He dies before he can fulfill his musical dreams, but a new planetary war breaks out that seems to result in the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx going down. (It's a little ambiguous.) It's a fine story, but the brilliance of 2112 isn't found in the story. It's the music. Rush were in a tough spot when they started the album. They weren't scoring hits songs, and their label was on the verge of dropping them. Instead of making a commercial album, they quadrupled down on prog. It didn't lead to a hit, but the album found a huge cult audience. It's nearly 40 years later, and that audience hasn't let go at all. Rush remain the biggest cult band in the world, and every show on their last tour wrapped up with the title track from 2112. Nobody left disappointed. 

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