Five years ago when Prog magazine (but certainly not progressive music) was in its infancy, we asked readers to vote for their 50 top prog albums of all time. Now, as we approach our 50th issue, we’ve gone back to see how the landscape has changed, asking readers and musicians to help us compile a list of the 100 greatest prog albums of all time. We were inundated with Top 10s from all over the world and we are proud to present the list for your perusal. Is it still the same, or have old favourites been ousted in place of young upstarts? And who is Number One?
The 100 Greatest Prog Albums Of All Time: 100-81
The first block of albums, as voted for by you!
YES (Atlantic, 1980)
We say: The first Yes album without Jon Anderson could have been a disaster. Instead, Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes entered the fold and it was brilliant business as usual.
You say: “It didn’t seem like it at the time, but what a pivotal album this would be for the band in terms of how their sound would develop. And my, how it’s stood the test of time.” - Alan Christopher
Focus II (Moving Waves)
FOCUS (Imperial, 1971)
We say: It starts with the untouchable Hocus Pocus and ends with one of prog’s greatest epics, Eruption. Forget the World Cup – this was a massive victory for the Dutch.
You say: “While the UK led the prog rock movement, this band from Holland snuck in from the left-field with a unique brand of jazz/rock fusion. And with yodelling thrown in for good measure.” - Chris Tucker
CAN (United Artists, 1971)
We say: Like music beamed down to Earth from some deeply peculiar planet, Can’s greatest masterpiece remains deliciously alien but never less than utterly hypnotic.
You say: “If we think about the real meaning of progressive rock, we should always remember what this band were all about.” - Andrea Van Cleef
Voyage Of The Acolyte
STEVE HACKETT (Charisma, 1975)
We say: Leaving Genesis as they hit a commercial peak was a brave move, but Steve Hackett made the decision count on his first, and perhaps finest, solo album.
You say: “If this was material that Genesis had rejected, it’s easy to imagine why a solo career made sense to Hackett.” - Francisco Roldan
KING CRIMSON (Island, 1970)
We say: An often underrated jewel in the Crimson crown, Lizard saw Robert Fripp heading further into his own unique sonic world. The title track alone is prog nirvana.
You say: “I’ve always strongly identified with this dark horse of an album. It’s wild, it’s crazy, and every bit as colourful as the jacket art. To me, that’s what makes it special. One of the things I love about this album is how, at just about any given moment, it sounds like the band might just fly off the rails. Wonderful!" - Ian Beabout
To Our Children’s Children’s Children
THE MOODY BLUES (Threshold, 1969)
We say: Space travel? Check. Woozy psychedelia? Check. Orchestral pomp? Check. The Moody Blues’ second classic album of 1969 added high-grade fuel to the pioneers’ blazing fire.
You say: “Building on their earlier albums, something just clicked with this stunning work. It plays seamlessly, almost like it was one epic piece. You could make an argument for Days Of Future Passed as one of the first prog albums, but ...Children... truly was and is prog.” - Bob Metcalf
Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version Of The War Of The Worlds
JEFF WAYNE (Columbia, 1978)
We say: If aliens ever do invade the Earth, it seems very unlikely that they will provide a soundtrack that is anywhere near as mesmerising and eccentric as Jeff Wayne’s magnum opus.
You say: “Superb songs. Incredible arrangements. And Forever Autumn!” - Simon Hughes
STORM CORROSION (Roadrunner, 2012)
We say: An overwhelming and inspired trip through rapture and discord conjured by Steven Wilson and Mikael Åkerfeldt, Storm Corrosion lived up to its potential and then some.
You say: “Ljudet Innan has become my planned funeral song – it’s both fresh and harsh. I love this album and wished both Mikael and Steven had decided to tour. Perhaps in the future?” - Rachel (dancinglemming)
The Six Wives Of Henry VIII
RICK WAKEMAN (A&M, 1973)
We say: Prog is often at its best when it embraces the preposterous. Rick’s instrumental paean to the fickle king was wonderfully barmy and full of glorious moments.
You say: “I spent hours as a teenager listening to this and staring at the overhead shot of all the keyboards on the inner sleeve. Incredible stuff.” - Pete ‘Pedro’ Waite
OPETH (Music For Nations, 2003)
We say: The first Opeth album to abandon metal entirely, Damnation trumped its heavier sibling Deliverance by bringing Mikael Åkerfeldt’s masterful songwriting to the fore.
You say: “Some have criticised this album for being ‘samey’ but I think the way the songs cohere together is one of its biggest strengths. It’s one of the best prog albums to have on in the background because if you dip into it, you’re rewarded with rich, complex and emotional music, but it’s not invasive if you’re busy doing something else.” - Chavez Hyndman
Afraid Of Sunlight
MARILLION (EMI, 1995)
We say: Thrumming with subtle beauty and delicate urgency, Marillion’s eighth studio album contains some of their greatest songs and most bewitching sonic detours.
YOU SAY: “Song for song, the best album of the 90s. Every track is a monster, and the soundscape has to be heard to be believed.” - Nicholas Caluda
DREAM THEATER (EastWest, 1994)
We say: Following up an album as lauded as Images And Words was, apparently, no problem at all for the progressive virtuosos. Awake was heavier, certainly, but no less extraordinary.
You say: “Not their most lauded effort, but a full listen through the album reveals a lot of themes and variations in later songs that throw you back to another track. Wonderfully composed and, as always, perfectly executed.” - Caleb Roman
SPOCK’S BEARD (InsideOut, 2002)
We say: A gargantuan feast of melodic euphoria, Snow was the last Spock’s album to feature Neal Morse. As swansongs go, it was a monumental and gorgeous success.
You say: “They always had such a terrific way with melody and such great instrument playing. And it was Neal’s farewell album too.” - Eric Roper
RADIOHEAD (Parlophone, 1997)
We say: Eschewing the indie bluster of their earlier work, Thom Yorke and co embraced experimentation and a bleak sense of unease on their third, universally lauded opus.
You say: “Often labelled the Pink Floyd of the 90s, and it’s a title that absolutely fits. Radiohead take the listener through a soundscape of songs, noises, melodies and lyrics
that are practically all perfect. It established the band as prog, although many will argue against that.” - Emil Colosimo
MANSUN (Parlophone, 1998)
We say: Falsely decried as an indie band, Mansun were deeply entrenched in prog territory. Their ingenious second album thrilled with its technicolour art-rock flair.
You say: “Imagine a parallel universe where Marillion have been reared on Wire and Magazine instead of Genesis and Pink Floyd. Put Bowie on vocals and you have all the ingredients for this criminally underrated album.” - Chris Barlow
UK (E.G., 1978)
We say: Supreme prog with a jazz heart, UK’s debut was every bit as stunning as a collaboration between John Wetton, Allan Holdsworth and Bill Bruford deserved to be.
You say: “A supergroup at the time, with great songs and playing by all four players. Too bad they weren’t around longer. I did enjoy the reunion a couple of years ago though.” - Dave Kapp
PAIN OF SALVATION (InsideOut, 2002)
We say: A conceptual tale of self-discovery, Pain Of Salvation’s Remedy Lane took the Swedish crew to new heights of imaginative splendour. It proved to be their well-deserved breakthrough.
You say: “Sweden is the country of the absolute prog metal gods. Daniel Gildenlöw is honestly the best vocalist I’ve ever heard, and if you add true emotions, great songwriting and genius lyrics, you get an album so painfully full of emotions, yet it’s just fantastic.” - Michal Bojan
OPETH (Peaceville, 1999)
We say: Still regarded by many fans as a career high point, Still Life’s deft blend of beauty and brutality was lauded by metal and prog fans. Opeth’s first true classic.
You say: “A monster of an album that never lets up and never lets you get too comfortable. A masterful combination of brute force and tempered grace, where it feels like heaven and hell are colliding.” - Jordan Griffin
IQ (GEP, 1997)
We say: Double concept albums are prog’s preening lifeblood and few have nailed the idea with such effervescent vigour as IQ. Prog was alive and well in the 90s, you know.
You say: “One of my favourite prog bands had to be in here. And this is a classic concept album.” - Phil Richards
KANSAS (Epic, 1976)
We say: It may have been overshadowed by its radio-conquering opening track, Carry On Wayward Son, but Leftoverture was proof that Kansas were prog and proud.
You say: “Forever associated with the radio staples Dust In The Wind and Carry On Wayward Son, the breadth of Kansas’ creative output was so much more than that, ably demonstrated throughout this album.” - Phil Derby