Not every rock star gets to make a 10th album.
Led Zeppelin didn’t do it, the Doors didn’t do it and after well over three decades together, Guns N’ Roses are barely past halfway there – and only if you count a covers album and an acoustic EP paired with a previously released live set.
It’s a more significant accomplishment for a 10th album to be considered a high point, or even the pinnacle, of a band or artist’s discography. Obviously, only a handful of the 40 albums we’ve ranked below reach that highest standard, but a surprisingly large number of them marked an important career turning point for one of rock’s most famous artists, and almost every one of them has at least an interesting backstory.
In addition to legacy-defining masterpieces such as the Rolling Stones‘ 1972 double-album Exile on Main Street and Tom Petty‘s Wildflowers, you’ll find surprise comebacks, long-awaited commercial breakthroughs, bold artistic departures and bands on the verge of both breakthroughs and breakups.
For example, Van Halen‘s 10th album, 1995’s Balance, found their once-joyous collaboration with second singer Sammy Hagar suddenly falling apart amidst a backdrop of personal problems, shifting external musical tides and internal conflicts. Two years later, Hagar used his 10th solo album, 1997’s Marching to Mars, to publicly and forcibly tell his now-former bandmates exactly where to stick it.
1989’s Pump found Aerosmith delcaring that their miraculous ’80s comeback wasn’t going to be a short-lived phenomenon, Fleetwood Mac finally hit a multi-platinum payday with their 1975 self-titled album and Kiss proved that it wasn’t quite time to put the final nail on their coffin with 1982’s Creatures of the Night.
You’ll find all those stories and many more on our list of Rock’s 40 Best 10th Albums.