7 Classic Country Rock Albums Every Fan Should Know
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It’s Pure Magic
Country rock gave us so many classic hits that stood the test of time. It’s rebellious and unapologetic and yet exquisite too for all that. On paper, it didn’t seem like country and rock was such a great mix but lo and behold, the songs and albums speak for themselves. It’s glorious and magical. Although most of the records we listed here came from the 1970s, we can trace this genre’s roots all the way to the ’40s and ’50s.
Check out these albums and let us know what you’d add to the list.
7. Poco – “Poco” (1970)
Formed from the ashes of Buffalo Springfield, Poco was at the forefront of the country rock movement. Their self-titled second album featured Timothy B. Schmit who joined the band after Randy Meisner’s departure. Poco may not be as popular as their contemporaries but they also churned out stellar country rock music including You Better Think Twice which was their signature song.
6. Gram Parsons – “Grievous Angel” (1974)
As a solo artist, Gram Parsons only had two albums and Grievous Angel is his second and final record released posthumously four months after his death at 26 years old. Even so, he was a country rock pioneer who worked with The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers. It was a commercial failure but it wasn’t long before it was recognized as a prime example of what country rock should sound like. He even invited Linda Ronstadt to provide harmony vocals on In My Hour of Darkness.
5. Neil Young – “Harvest” (1972)
It’s the quintessential Neil Young album since it spawned several of his most popular and enduring tracks like Heart of Gold and Old Man. It’s also the first LP he recorded in Nashville. Throughout the years, it managed to withstand repeated scrutiny and is widely considered as his most accessible album. Young has other impeccable records but this one stood out because his songwriting is on point. It’s Young at the top of his game.
4. The Eagles – “Desperado” (1973)
This Wild West-themed record gave us one of their signature songs – the title track which was covered by Clint Black and Johnny Cash. Most of the later songs in their catalog may have been more classic rock and AOR than anything but it’s hard to deny that they could hold their own in country rock territory.
3. The Byrds – “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” (1968)
The addition of Gram Parsons helped steer the band towards country rock but it resulted in power struggle among the members especially since their previous LP was more psychedelic. Nevertheless, this is often considered as the first country rock album even if it was their least commercially successful record. It also alienated some of their audience who weren’t too pleased with their musical direction.
2. The Flying Burrito Brothers – “The Gilded Palace of Sin” (1969)
After leaving The Byrds, Gram Parsons formed The Flying Burrito Brothers with Chris Hillman. Parsons was clearly a huge fan of country rock. The documentary Beyond Nashville described it best, “Gram Parsons was passionate about country music’s simple poetry. He was equally passionate about rock music. At a time when they were poles apart, he alone thought they belonged together.” The Gilded Palace of Sin has all the elements that made Sweetheart of the Rodeo an essential country rock record but the former is more confident and laid-back.
1. Bob Dylan – “Nashville Skyline” (1969)
There are plenty of musical gems to be found here like Lady Lay Lay which is clearly the highlight of the album and the opener Girl from the North Country which he recorded with Johnny Cash. Dylan also had Charlie Daniels on bass guitar. It’s Dylan’s most country album but it was his singing voice that truly surprised the listeners. The soft and buttery country croon came from his lifestyle change – he quit smoking. Unsurprisingly, Nashville Skyline was a commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic.