Ranking Pink Floyd Albums from worst to best is a bit like ranking chocolate brownies. They’re all wonderful but some brownies (and Pink Floyd albums for that matter), linger longer in the mind.
With over 250 million albums sold, Pink Floyd rank as one of the biggest rock bands in the world. With a recording career of 15 studio albums spanning from 1967 to 2014, the mark they left on modern music will exist forever.
While being entirely impossible to nail down everybody’s definitive ranking of their albums, below, are our Pink Floyd albums ranked in order of greatness.Pink Floyd is an integral part of what made the sixties and seventies music such a creative period in popular music. The directions and risks they took opened the doors for others and has influenced groups such as Radiohead, Queen and Bowie.
15. Ummagumma (1969) – ‘Ummagumma’ is the sound of a band trying to work out how to be a group again. The first album after Syd Barret’s sad departure due to deteriorating mental health consists of each band members solo experimentations.
Roger Waters played around with sound effects, and Richard Wright composed an avant-garde keyboard suite. Nick Mason produced nine minutes of percussion which many critics say shouldn’t have seen the light of day. David Gilmour later said he “just bullshitted” through his piece, which says a lot about the rest of the album as it’s his side that leaves the best mark. An album that’s early proof that Floyd were a band that were better together than apart.
14. More (1969) – ‘More’ represents a turning point for the band. Roger Waters took more control of the songwriting. Gilmour stepped into Barret’s role as the singer, taking the lead vocals for the entire album (something only ever done one other time for the album Momentary Lapse Of Reason in 1987). It’s the sound of a band gaining confidence and finding its sound.
13. The Final Cut (1983) – If ‘More’ was the sound of a band finding its feet, ‘The Final Cut’ is one of a band falling apart. The last album with Roger Waters was fraught with tension amongst the band members. Richard Wright had already gone before recording began, and Gilmour had clearly given up trying to be heard.
12. Obscured By Clouds (1972) – Originally conceived as a soundtrack for the French movie ‘La Vallee’, Obscured By Clouds album consists mainly of short, incidental pieces of music. The short vignettes give the album the feel of falling short of a fully-fledged album.
The band’s songwriting began to improve on this album, with Waters writing much more personal lyrics, such as ‘Free Four’ about his father’s death. The album is also notable for Gilmour’s first foray into lyrics with ‘Childhood’s End.
11. A Momentary Lapse Of Reason (1987) – The first album after Waters departure and a more commercially driven album led by Gilmour. While never reaching the heights of previous albums and their follow up ‘The Division Bell’, the album sold 10 million copies worldwide, helped by the single ‘Learning To Fly’ and a huge tour that set new box office records around the world.
10. The Endless River (2014) – If ‘A Momentary Lapse Of Reason’ was commercially driven, The Endless River, the group’s final album, was quite the opposite. Mainly comprising of Richard Wrights last recordings, the album sounds like a forgotten album from the early 70s pre-Dark Side period. Full of creative interplays between the three remaining band members, it’s a largely instrumental record that deserves its place in the Floyd catalogue.
9. Atom Heart Mother (1970) – ‘Atom Heart Mother’ is most notable for its 23-minute title track, with Mason and Waters playing their parts in one-take. An album often overlooked in Pink Floyd’s back catalogue, it gives clues to the coming tidal wave of ‘Meddle’, ‘Dark Side’ and ‘Wish You Were Here’ on the horizon.
‘Atom Heart Mother’ also holds the honour of being Pink Floyd’s first number one album as well as the first one not to feature the bands name on the cover, (a trend they have kept ever since). As well as the title track, the album also includes two other fan favourites, ‘Fat Old Sun’ and ‘If’, both of which became staple songs of Waters and Gilmour’s solo tours.
8. Saucer Full Of Secrets (1968) – Barrett’s last album and Gilmour’s first and, therefore, the only album where the band appears as a five-piece who all played their parts in the recording of one of Floyd’s most popular early tracks, “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.” ‘Saucer Full Of Secrets’ is a clear signpost to the direction and expansive sound the band is taking. While much of the album fails to really deliver, “Set Controls” and Barret’s last recording with Pink Floyd, “Jugband Blues”, it’s an album that hints at greatness.
7. The Division Bell (1994) – Pink Floyd’s most apparent group effort since “Wish You Were Here”, The Division Bell is an album consisting of Gilmour, Mason and Wright, all making equal and significant contributions. While many would say that the album lacks the bite of Waters lyrics, the music on this album outweighs any loss of lyrical story.
6. Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (1967) – Pink Floyd’s debut album and released as acid-rock began to permeate the streets of London. The album solidified their position as the sound of a new movement and laid the foundations of prog-rock. In its own way, an album as influential as Dark Side.
5. Animals (1977) – An album full of confidence of a band at the top of their game and based on George Orwell’s Animal Farm, ‘Animals’ is a bonafide classic. The album focused on the social-political conditions of 1970s Britain, which gave it a slightly harder edge than the band’s previous work.
In Mason’s autobiography ‘Inside Out’, he suggests that the albums heavier sound, when compared to previous Floyd albums, could well have been a subconscious reaction to the rise of punk and the accusation that bands such as Pink Floyd represented ‘Dinosaur rock.’
4. Meddle (1971) – Without ‘Meddle’, there would be no Dark Side, it’s as simple as that. While not selling anywhere in the same region as some of their more commercially successful albums, Meddle remains an album of inventiveness and experimentation. Using everyday objects and new techniques in the studio, it’s the sound of a band on the steps to greatness.
The albums signature track, ‘Echoes’, is a 23-minute lesson in brilliance and fans favourite. If you’re new to Pink Floyd and you only listen to one song in order to gain an insight into their music, ‘Echoes’ is the one.
3. The Wall (1979) – Correctly described as a ‘rock opera’, Waters and the rest of Floyd were again carving out their path away from the psychedelia that had set them up as a colossal act and toward success on a commercial level. ‘The Wall’ saw Waters open himself up to his audience and reflect on the pursuit and final loneliness of fame and fortune.
It has sold a staggering 30 million copies worldwide, spent 15 weeks on top of the US Billboard album charts and consists of one of their most loved songs, Comfortably Numb. But with the departure of Wright, the increasing tension between Waters and the others, The Wall was very much the end of Floyd as a band with Roger as a member.
2. Wish You Were Here (1975) – Noted both by Waters and Gilmour as their favourite Pink Floyd album, ‘Wish You Were Here’ is the distillation of what made Pink Floyd so brilliant. Number one on both sides of the Atlantic and consisting of Shine On You Crazy Diamond, a 30-minute tribute to former member Syd, the album rightly sits so high on anyone Floyd fans list.
Despite Gilmour and Waters being at loggerheads during recording, the tensions didn’t reflect in the music giving us the most conceptually concise album of the band’s lifespan.
1. Dark Side Of The Moon (1973) – Let’s be honest, any Pink Floyd albums ranked article will finish with this. A choice that is always inevitable in any list of Pink Floyd albums, and for a good reason. Each new listen reveals new layers, as every piece of the Floyd legend is crystallized in one place – the outsized experimentation of ‘Meddle,’ the social commentary of ‘Animals,’ the instrumental flourishes of ‘Wish You Were Here.’
Not only was the album a conceptual masterpiece it also provided the band with some of their greatest songs. Money, Time, Breath, and The Great Gig In The Sky are all undeniable classics of the highest order. Wright said of the album, “It felt like the whole band were working together. It was a creative time. We were all very open.”
Whether it’s Pink Floyd’s best or not isn’t the point, ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’ remains definitive. Click on any of the albums pictured to hear them on Spotify or check out our top 20 below.
Click on any of the albums pictured to hear them on Spotify or check out our top 20 below.