Ranking all of Pink Floyd’s albums in order of greatness
It’s difficult to imagine a world without Pink Floyd. The band have been such an integral part of what made the sixties and beyond so powerfully creative that it feels as though they are an ever-present in our musical worlds.
Despite this, many fans have only just scraped the surface of Pink Floyd’s back catalogue and can often get lost in the prog-rock noodling or conceptual construction of their work. So, to make things a little easier, we’ve ranked all of their albums in order of greatness so that you know where to begin and what the essence of the Floyd truly was.
The band changed names several times before settling on Pink Floyd and it was a propensity for evolution that permeated their music too. Arriving on the psyche-rock scene in the mid-sixties, Pink Floyd, at the time, comprised of Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright, quickly became the talk of the town as their wholly encompassing sound provided a fresh new take on rock ‘n’ roll.
Of course, Barrett’s time with the band would come to an abrupt end as he struggled with mental health and after being supported by the inclusion of David Gilmour was eventually replaced by him. That line-up would oversee some of the group’s best work, much of which resides near the top of this list.
While it is wholly impossible to nail down everybody’s definitive ranking of their albums. Below, we’ve got our ranking of all of Pink Floyd’s albums in order of greatness.
Pink Floyd albums ranked:
15. More (1969)
The album sees a significant moment for the group. As the band began to experience life without their frontman Syd Barrett but also their trusted producer Norman Smith, More was the album which showed there was light at the end of the tunnel.
The record is by no means a vintage piece of their back catalogue, but More is a reminder of the difficulties the band both faced and overcame to produce some of the finest albums of all time. Waters is at the helm of songwriting and Gilmour takes on all the vocals—clearly, the band were finding their feet.
14. A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)
Another record which saw the band deal with the loss of a member was 1987 effort A Momentary Lapse of Reason, which was the first post-Roger Waters album the group had produced.
A lot of fans have pointed to the record as being one of the more commercially driven albums of their career. After being called a “spent force creatively” by the departing Waters, the band went a long way to prove it with songs like ‘Dogs of War’, ‘Learning to Fly’ and ‘Sorrow’ not offering their usual spark of creativity.
13. Ummagumma (1969)
After Syd Barrett was forced out of the group following his battles with substance abuse and growing mental health issues, Pink Floyd struggled to harmonise with one another in their new structure.
It’s something that can be easily heard in the album which sees the now-four members of the group allowing their own experimentation to supersede the pursuit of the band’s success.
12. The Endless River (2014)
As the flipside to A Momentary Lapse of Reason, this album, comprised of the final recordings keyboardist and jazz enthusiast Rick Wright ever completed with the band, was intently anti-commercial.
Instead, written for the Pink Floyd fans, the album is a deep dive into the creative interplay that made the band such a success. A landscape filled with the sonic strums of Gilmour, The Endless River is another largely instrumental record worth revisiting.
11. Obscured by Clouds (1972)
This record was originally written for the soundtrack to the French feature film La Vallée and offers up a welcoming series of vignettes and stunning imagery as a series of short and sharp tracks. While the record may fall down as a complete album, its ability to transport your imagination into a new realm is undeniable.
The record saw Waters and Gilmour move towards a more personal style of songwriting. Roger Waters explored the death of his father in ‘Free Four’ while Gilmour placed himself in the lyric hot seat for the first time on ‘Childhood’s End’. The record struggles against the rest of the catalogue but is a worthy album nonetheless.
10. The Final Cut (1983)
The Final Cut may well be one fo the band’s better efforts but it does hold a certain resignation which will not please avid Pink Floyd fans. The album represents a moment where David Gilmour gives up the ghost and lets Roger Waters run wild.
The record was originally written to be the soundtrack to The Wall film but was given its own release after Waters realised the album’s potential. A lot fo that spark came from Britain’s involvement in the Falklands War and therefore acted as a moment of global protest—something Waters would become very astute at. While Waters hasn’t quite hit his peak on the record, The Final Cut still breaks our top 10.
9. Atom Heart Mother (1970)
This record may well be one of the most overlooked albums on the list. As well as the transportation title track, a song which takes over the entire side one of the album, is enough to assert its place in the top 10 but the rest of the album is brightly polished too. Another curious moment from the song was that Waters and Mason were forced to play the bass and drums on the track for the entire 23 minutes.
On Atom Heart Mother, the path of Pink Floyd was beginning to be laid out in front of them. They had moved away from the band’s incendiary moments and were now beginning to construct songs to deliberately engage with the intellect of rock. As well as the title track the record also features two classic songs in ‘If’ and ‘Fat Old Sun’.
8. Saucerful of Secrets (1968)
The band’s second record would see them once again assert themselves as the new kids on the block. While Britain had been positively swelling with the R&B bands desperate to capture the essence of the Delta blues, Pink Floyd’s sound was brilliantly weird and wonderful.
As well as it being Gilmour’s first album with the band it would also be Syd Barrett’s last LP with the group. As well as the strange and yet entirely masterful Barrett composition ‘Jugband Blues’, the album’s best moment was Waters’. The track ‘Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun’, is easily the greatest moment on the album and was a signal to their upcoming domination. It was on this record that the band began to push through their expansive sound.
7. The Division Bell (1994)
Pink Floyd as a trio was never really likely to succeed, but on The Division Bell David Gilmour, Rick Wright and Nick Mason rallied together to create one of the band’s finest records. Lacking Roger Water’s narrative lyrics meant the LP felt dramatically different to the previous two albums.
Many people would suggest that the loss of Waters make this album a lowly contender for a spot near the top of this list and while that is certainly a valid argument, we think the music made on this record outweighs the loss of lyrical storylines. In fact, without Waters, the album is one of the band’s most focused albums—directly created as a group effort.
6. Meddle (1971)
This was when Pink Floyd moved out of the traditional rock sphere and towards forging a new genre in prog-rock. Originally the group had been expanding the psyche-rock sound but now jumped out of the realm of rock and towards a new and progressive musical style.
Using everyday objects and brand new techniques, the group were very much on the path towards greatness. In fact, it was the first steps towards their most beautiful records and without Meddle many of them would not have been made at all. This album is the foundation stone for all of that work and everybody else’s within the prog-rock arena.
5. Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967)
In 1967, as acid-rock began to hit the streets of London, there was one band who were seemingly soundtracking the new revolution. The band quickly became the sound of a new movement and started to construct the foundations of psychedelic prog-rock almost immediately.
One caveat we must add is that thanks to the unique way Pink Floyd constructed and texturised their songs, there is almost certainly always somebody who has found happiness in their more obscure songs. The band prided themselves on being mercurial and they certainly lived up to that ethos. Even from the very beginning. While some of the songs are on the sillier side, the youthful exuberance and enthusiasm that emanates from the album is beguiling.
4. Animals (1977)
The group were at the top of their game when they released Animals in 1977. Using the concept of George Orwell’s Animal Farm as the base inspiration for the songs on the album was a piece of genius in itself, but the delivery of the songs is what makes it a classic album.
As punk was swelling around London, the idea that Pink Floyd had become flabby pensioners overnight was soon put to bed when this progressive album was released. The album’s cover may have a ludicrous story behind it but the rest of the album was dead serious. The album reflects the first moment Waters took on the politics of the world so explicitly.
3. The Wall (1979)
One album which showed off Roger Waters as a musical powerhouse in his own right was The Wall. Not only did it show off Waters’ musicianship but the record was also his most personal album ever. It saw Waters open himself up to his audience and reflect on the pursuit and final loneliness of fame and fortune.
Rightly described as a ‘rock opera’, Waters and the rest of the band were once again carving out their own path as they moved away from the psychedelia which had set them up as a huge act and were now more pointed toward success on a commercial level. With the help of Waters’ lyrical narration, the story of Pink has become one of the most widely loved rock stories of all time and rightly deserves its kudos.
2. Wish You Were Here (1975)
Though Wish You Were Here is often thought of as the signal of Pink Floyd’s eventual demise, the album is also one of their finest creations. It’s a record that saw Gilmour and Waters at loggerheads but somehow the music didn’t suffer one single bit. It may have even propelled the LP into a new space and launch it creatively.
Noted by both Waters and Gilmour as their favourite Floyd album, the record is the distillation of what made Pink Floyd so brilliant. Wright and Gilmour are engines behind the music’s expansive sounds but the album will be remembered as the final moments of Roger Waters playing nicely with his bandmates. Of course, it was always going to struggle to match up to the band’s 1973 album.
1. The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
Of course, we couldn’t even begin to argue that The Dark Side of the Moondoesn’t deserve the top spot. While Pink Floyd fans have a propensity to indulge themselves in the rarer moments of the band’s career, this album is undoubtedly the group’s greatest.
The album isn’t only a conceptual masterpiece but also sees the band provide some of their best singular songs too. As well as ‘Money’, ‘Time’ and ‘Breathe’ the album holds perhaps one of their most beloved tracks of all time in ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’. They are individually brilliant but when the songs are sewn together the tapestry created is that of legend.
There’s a lot of iconography attached to The Dark Side of the Moon and it would seem all of the band members also agree on its validity as their greatest album. “I think that when it was finished, everyone thought it was the best thing we’d ever done to date, and everyone was very pleased with it,” remembered Nick Mason.
Wright said of the album, “It felt like the whole band were working together. It was a creative time. We were all very open.” It is this openness and reflective sound that turned Pink Floyd from prog-rock pioneers into bonafide rock icons—untouchable.