The Top 15 Pink Floyd Albums Ranked Worst to Best
Pink Floyd are one of the most influential bands in history. They consistently redefined and pushed the boundaries of rock music, becoming known as one of the titans of the psychedelic movement of the 1960’s and the progressive rock movement of the 1970’s. Join me on this journey as I take you through the best Pink Floyd albums that we’ll rank from worst ever to the top album in their catalog.
The Best Pink Floyd Albums Ranked
15. The Endless River (2014)
Released twenty years after what many assumed would be the band’s final effort, the remaining members of Pink Floyd dug through countless hours of unreleased session jams and compositions for The Endless River. It doesn’t really feel like a Pink Floyd album.
That being said, this mostly-instrumental collection of ambient soundscapes is a pleasing listen, although it often comes across as background music, especially in comparison to their epic classics released decades prior.
Favorite Song on The Endless River: “It’s What We Do” is an enchanting ambient piece that highlights the instrumental prowess of fallen keyboardist, Richard Wright. There is an air of melancholy in the music.
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14. The Division Bell (1994)
By 1994, Floyd fans were willing to take what they could get, as it was clear the band was no longer the active machine it was during the 1970’s. The Division Bell is a spotty album, with some dull tracks bogging down what could have been a great record. The material is dominated by David Gilmour, who displays his beautiful guitar skills throughout.
Favorite Song on The Division Bell: “High Hopes” is an epic closer and a fitting choice for what many fans thought was the end of the band’s legendary run. This mystical-sounding track remains a staple in Gilmour’s own live show today.
13. A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)
The first Floyd album to not feature any contributions from Roger Waters, and very few contributions from Richard Wright as well, this one isn’t exactly known as a fan favorite. It is often referred to as a David Gilmour solo album. Like its successors, there is some boredom and drudgery, but like all Floyd albums there are some diamonds here.
Favorite Song on A Momentary Lapse of Reason: “Sorrow” once again saves the best for last on this album. An extended, moody composition dictated entirely by David Gilmour, this is one of the tracks that holds up today.
12. The Final Cut (1983)
This is rightfully referred to as a Roger Waters solo album, as the band itself was on poor terms at the time of recording. This is a bleak meditation on the political and social issues Waters would later become more known for, and it also represents a complete move away from the band’s progressive rock style.
While a noble artistic effort, it can be a chore to get through, depending on how much you enjoy Waters’ own solo career. Some fans think this is one of their finest efforts. I disagree, but there are some enduring classics from this one.
Favorite Song on The Final Cut: “The Final Cut,” the title track of this release, is a somber and compelling tale of the narrator’s suicidal ideation. This track really gives a glimpse of the mindset of Roger Waters at the time, and perfectly encapsulates the brooding, moody isolation the album hoped to convey.
11. Ummagumma (1969)
While the live material that takes up half of Floyd’s first double album is essential listening for any fan of the band’s earlier psychedelic era, the studio cuts here don’t hold up quite as well. Each member was tasked with creating a solo composition, and the results are sometimes fractured and self-indulgent. There are still some moments of genius.
Favorite Song on Ummagumma: “The Narrow Way” and its accompanying suites represent the highlight of the studio material on Ummagumma for me. This piece is entirely composed by Gilmour, who plays all the instruments himself. Its psychedelic exploration and folky playfulness make it one of the more underrated tracks in the band’s repertoire.
10. More (1969)
The first of two soundtrack albums recorded by the band, this is one that’s more well-known than the film of the same name. All the hallmark psychedelia is present here, and despite being a soundtrack, it’s perfectly engaging music on its own. The band are in fine form here, and there’s a lot of diversity.
Favorite Song on More: “The Nile Song” is not your typical Pink Floyd track. This is precisely why it stands out so much amongst the ambient psychedelia of the surrounding instrumentals. This is a little slice of proto-punk rock, making it one of Floyd’s heaviest and most rocking numbers. If you’re a fan of heavier types of music and want proof that Floyd could rock when necessary, look no further.
9. Obscured by Clouds (1972)
Another soundtrack album, this one was released while Floyd were already in the midst of recording their 1973 classic, The Dark Side of the Moon. As such, it’s often overlooked in the band’s discography, but there are some gems to be found. As opposed to a lot of the ambience and psychedelia of More, Obscured by Clouds makes heavy use of Gilmour’s acoustic guitar abilities. This is a tranquil and relaxing album.
Favorite Song on Obscured by Clouds: “Childhood’s End” is a relaxing and soothing piece penned entirely by David Gilmour. This is the standout on the album, and one that would be played live by the band more than some of the other tracks here.
8. A Saucerful of Secrets (1968)
Noted for being the final album to feature original member Syd Barrett, who suffered a mental breakdown during the recording process, A Saucerful of Secrets is better than it has any right to be. For most groups, losing a flagship songwriter amidst one’s second album would end the band entirely.
Luckily, Pink Floyd were able to hire guitarist David Gilmour and forge a new chapter in their history. This album features contributions from all members of the band, and showcases a spacey, raw psychedelic sound.
Favorite Song on A Saucerful of Secrets: “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” is a space age classic written by Roger Waters. The sounds here would go on to influence the progressive rock movement and the space rock movement, with bands like Hawkwind taking note of this madness on tape.
7. The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967)
A landmark of psychedelic music released during the peak of the genre’s popularity, sharing space with classics like Sgt. Pepper and Are You Experienced, this album is unlike anything the band would later do.
Syd Barrett is in peak songwriting form here, and at this stage he was the undisputed leader of the band. Nearly all of these tracks are from his mad hatter mind. Barrett had a sense of humor his bandmates seemed to lack, showcased on tracks like “Bike.”
Favorite Song on The Piper at the Gates of Dawn: “Interstellar Overdrive” is a must-listen for any fan of exploratory, improvisational rock music. This is off-the-cuff, jazz-style jamming. This is nearly ten minutes of sonic insanity, held together by Nick Mason’s undeniable knack for groove.
6. The Wall (1979)
The Wall is one of Floyd’s biggest sellers, and considered a classic even by those who aren’t big fans of the group. It’s best listened to as a conceptual piece from beginning to end. This album foreshadows the further stylistic shift of The Final Cut, moving away from the side-long epics that Floyd were known for up to this point.
There are a number of melodically concise and direct classic tracks here. As far as 1970’s conceptual rock operas go, I might prefer The Who’s Quadrophenia or The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis, but this is still an essential piece of rock listening.
Favorite Song on The Wall: “Comfortably Numb” might be a radio hit most of us Floyd diehards are a bit sick of, but it reached its classic status for a reason. Here we have an emotional and moving number, with a guitar solo that still gives me goosebumps to this day.
5. Atom Heart Mother (1970)
Despite being rather despised in retrospect even by members of the band, I’ve always been a huge fan of this one, right down to its goofy album cover which depicts a cow in a field. Maybe it’s my love of the lengthy orchestral compositions that take up all of side one and most of side two, no doubt influenced by my personal affection for progressive rock bands like Yes, Genesis, and King Crimson.
This is not a great beginning point for new Floyd fans, as it’s definitely a grower that reveals more of its magic with repeated listens. Still, I find the refined instrumentals here do away with the chaos of the band’s psychedelic 60’s era, bringing in a compositional maturity that would become fully actualized on later releases.
Favorite Song on Atom Heart Mother: “Atom Heart Mother,” the title composition which takes up all of side one, is trippy music at its finest. Some of these passages might come off as nonsensical to fans of the band’s more melodic, song-oriented releases, but for me this is engaging experimental, classical-inspired rock on the level of what Frank Zappa was cooking up around this time.
4. The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
This is the album that broke Floyd in the mainstream, remaining on the Billboard charts for 741 weeks. This concept album propelled the band to stadium-sized performance venues, and for good reason. The music takes the listener on a journey as each track segues seamlessly into the next.
Engineer Alan Parsons helped the band fully utilize the studio to its advantage, making this album one of the cornerstones of the album era.
Favorite Song on The Dark Side of the Moon: “Us and Them” is the standout composition here for me. While the album is really one extended piece divided into ten tracks, this is its most beautiful and moving segment. The saxophone really shines through on this one, and Richard Wright’s glittery keyboards envelope the listener. It’s impossible to not get lost within these sounds.
3. Meddle (1971)
This is probably the last hurrah of Floyd’s psychedelic era, as later releases would not be quite as playful and whimsical as what’s heard in songs like “Seamus” and “A Pillow of Winds.” Still, there’s not a note out of place here. While side one is its own showcase of songwriting excellence, what truly makes the album is side two’s epic “Echoes.” The beginnings of what would lead to later releases like Dark Side of the Moon are heard here.
Favorite Song on Meddle: “Echoes” is the only sane choice, as it is also my all-time favorite Pink Floyd song. It’s so good that many listeners seem to forget there’s even a side one. Beginning with a heartbeat and taking the listener on a mind-expanding journey, this is a must-hear for any rock fan and especially for fans of progressive rock, in the vein of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Genesis.
2. Wish You Were Here (1975)
A soulful and meditative reflection on Syd Barrett’s time with the band, Roger Waters explicitly wrote this album as a tribute to his bandmate’s better days and Barrett’s subsequent descent into madness. This led to what was clearly a conscious effort to revive some of the stripped down and bluesy soulfulness from Syd’s time with the band.
Obviously, there’s the title track, which is a gorgeous acoustic ballad. There’s also scathing lyrical critiques towards the music industry, found in the funky and bluesy “Have a Cigar” and the epic space-rock piece “Welcome to the Machine.”
Favorite Song on Wish You Were Here: “Shine on You Crazy Diamond Parts I-V,” one half of the epic piece that opens and closes the album, gives me chills to this day. The opening sequence of notes sets the mood for the entire album, as the track unfolds and takes it time setting up an atmosphere that transports the listener.
1. Animals (1977)
Another concept album in the Floyd repertoire, this is the band at their very best. This album was released when punk rock and disco were the dominant cultural trends at the time, but Pink Floyd forged their own path independent of what was hip or fashionable.
Based on George Orwell’s famous story, Animal Farm, Roger Waters’ scathing lyrics depict a dystopian setting which he felt reflected the present day. This is melodic, transcendent, exploratory music that has gone down in history as a classic of not just progressive rock, but rock in general.
Favorite Song on Animals: “Dogs” is the seventeen-minute centerpiece of the album. Richard Wright’s keyboard and synthesizer work is top notch here, providing the atmospheric backdrop for the soulful guitar of David Gilmour. This is an absolute classic track, and unfortunately has not been performed live by the band since the original Animals tour in 1977.
Now that our journey has come to a close, I hope you enjoyed my ranking of the best Pink Floyd albums. For a band as varied and adventurous as Pink Floyd, it can be hard to find a starting point, because they simply covered so much musical ground during their long career. I hope this list will provide some guidance as for where to dive in based on your own taste.
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