Which One’s Pink? The Absolute Best Pink Floyd Albums

Think you don’t need no education? Think again, laddy! We here at Top 5 have been thinking Pink since before Dark Side… and we’re talking late-60s Floyd here. So, clearly, we’re the best people to compile the top 5 Pink Floyd Albums of all Time! But you remember the name of the game, boy: five best by this band that made a career out of chronicling the sound of madness with some of the best musician ship this side of any Miles Davis quintet. So, you newcomers should just sit back, have a cigar, and try to figure out which one’s Pink.

5 Meddle, 1971

Best Tracks: “A Pillow of Winds,” “Fearless,” “Echoes” Like Piper, Meddle and all the other albums that presage Dark Side might not have the sound we’ve come to associate with the Pink Floyd we know and love. On Meddle, however, the material they were working with most closely matches the bands obvious talents. And, indeed, this is the best set of songs that the Roger Water’s lead incarnation would release until Dark Side. The disk also finds Floyd experimenting and expanding the boundaries of their sound, trying out acoustic blues and more delicate folk — something unthinkable on later Floyd albums, except maybe Wish You Were Here. Especially try “Fearless,” the most hopeful and elegiac song Floyd ever cut.

4 The Wall, 1979

Best Tracks: “Another Brick in the Wall (pt. 2),” “Comfortably Numb,” “Run Like Hell” Pink Floyd’s second most well known album might be a little rambling for anyone who’s not tripping acid. The album’s a little long on sound effect and dialogue driven interludes, that distract from its core of great hits and classic deep cuts. Don’t let the heavy-handed concept dissuade you, though. There are many classics here that you already love, and might enjoy even more in the flow of the album: “Young Lust” and “Run Like Hell” are the two most obvious examples. And everyone’s first listen to every part of “Another Brick in the Wall” (yes, there’s more than one), is a monumentous Floyd listening experience.

3 Piper at the Gates of Dawn, 1967

Best Tracks: “Astronomy Domine,” “Lucifer Sam,” “Interstellar Overdrive,” “Bike” Classifying Pink Floyd’s first disc in terms of their later albums is difficult to say the least. First, there’s no David Gilmour yet. So no perfectly timed melodic solos. For another thing, it’s the only album where original bandleader Syd Barrett is the dominant writing force for the songs. Yet, without his decent into schizophrenic delirium, the band wouldn’t have had much of its source material for later classics. If you listen to the album, it does sound like it was composed by someone a bit off — it rivals Captain Beefheart’s subversive records in its manipulation of rock traditions. You’ll also find the most fun Floyd song to sing along to herein: the innocent, whimsical “Bike.”

2 The Dark Side of the Moon, 1973

Best Tracks: “Time,” “The Great Gig in the Sky,” “Money,” “Us and Them” Here it is, you loonies: the album that gets everyone on the Pink Floyd bandwagon and, unfortunately, where most casual fans stop digging. Which is a pity, but we digress. The flowing, non-stop nature of the album’s composition definitely pulls you into the themes at play on this engrossing classic: insanity, alienation, mortality (fun stuff.) But it does have the most hits-per-song of any Floyd album: “Breathe,” “Time,” “Money,” “Us and Them,” “Brain Damage/Eclipse.” And you’ll love re-listening to all of those. But be sure to put your headphones on for “The Great Gig in the Sky,” and try not to wet your bed while listening to Clare Torry’s caterwauling and soulful vocals.

1 Wish You Were Here, 1975

Best Tracks: “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (pts. I-V)”, “Have a Cigar,” “Wish You Were Here” Yes, yes… you came here expecting to see Dark Side at the top of another list (sigh). Well, sorry to disappoint, but we’re in the business of being right — not predictable. And actually give this record a thorough listen. Every song’s an absolute gem, with Pink Floyd relying on the songwriting more than studio trickery for a rare instance in their career. Of course, the studio-as-an-instrument approach is still on full display, with phase and delay effects perfectly drenching each weeping note Gilmour wrenches out of his guitar. Listen to the indelible and haunting “Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Parts I-V;” every note perfectly placed. The band also revisits their softer acoustic side on the yearning title track.

There you have it: the gravy train of classic progrock, and hopefully it rekindled some very trippy instincts in you fine folks. We took lots of time making sure that this list was pure money, and hopefully you feel at least comfortably numb after reading it. But we also realize that some of you animals think we’re playing us and them, and you’re just itching to pick a fight. If so, run like hell to the message board and put up your personal favorite Floyd album. If you’re not brain damaged, your choice might just make our list. But first, we have to add another brick in the wall — in the form of an honorable mention.

Honorable Mentions

Animals — Underrated in Floyd’s oeuvre. Some great orchestration on “Dogs.”

Zack Hillman sold his soul for rock ’n’ roll, but at least he found a favorable market. Between hoop dreams and guitar orgasms, he managed to graduate from CSU Long Beach with a degree in Creative Writing. And he speaks of the pompitus of love.

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