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Top 10 Legendary Albums That Were Panned At Release

VO: Raphael Daigneault
Script by Craig Butler Sometimes even the best critics get things wrong – really, really wrong. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we're counting down the Top 10 Legendary Albums That Were Panned at Release. For this list, we’re looking at albums that today are considered classic but were subject to some less than stellar reviews when they first came out. Special thanks to our user liam_schell for suggesting this idea, check out the voting page at WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Legendary+Albums+That+Were+Panned+At+Release
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Top 10 Legendary Albums That Were Panned at Release


Sometimes even the best critics get things wrong – really, really wrong. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we're counting down the Top 10 Legendary Albums That Were Panned at Release 

For this list, we’re looking at albums that today are considered classic but were subject to some less than stellar reviews when they first came out.

#10: “Low” (1977)


David Bowie

The legendary David Bowie was a true musical chameleon, adopting and discarding personas and styles with incredible ease. Unfortunately, his refusal to be pigeonholed meant that some of his more adventurous experiments incurred the wrath of critics. Low is a case in point. Delving into both electronic and ambient music, it’s filled with fascinating yet not always accessible music that went over the heads of many critics. Rolling Stone magazine, for example, stated that Bowie “lacks the self-assured humor to pull off his avant-garde aspirations” and the Los Angeles Times derided its “spacy art rock style.” Nowadays, “Low” is considered an important part of Bowie’s catalog as Pitchfork declared it the best album of the 1970s.
 

#9: “Berlin” (1973)
Lou Reed

Few rock artists have been as uncompromising as Lou Reed, with the result that some of his best work has been viewed as ahead of its time. Still, it’s hard to believe so many dismissed Reed’s brilliant and tragic song cycle on Berlin. Perhaps it was the inclusion of orchestral strings and horns, or the revamping of some older songs that threw them. Or maybe they just couldn’t get into Reed’s headspace as the album traffics in a lot of pain, after all. Whatever the reason, in the year of its release Rolling Stone declared “so patently offensive that one wishes to take some kind of physical vengeance” on Reed. Ouch! But by 2003, Rolling Stone included it on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
  

#8: “Straight Outta Compton” (1988)
N.W.A.

One critic felt that experiencing Straight Outta Compton was comparable to “listening to an endless fight next door.” Another felt it was “lightweight” and dismissed its “all-mouth-and-trousers content” as nothing but “regressive nonsense.”  It also did receive its share of praise, fortunately, and became one of hip-hop music’s most influential albums ever. As the bellwether of the gangsta rap movement, it made profanity and violence acceptable for mainstream music. By 2012, Slant included it on its list of best albums of the 1980s, while the 2015 film about the album’s making was a huge critical and commercial hit proving the album’s legacy.
 

#7: “Black Sabbath” (1970)
Black Sabbath

Heavy metal bands often suffer at the hands of the critics, and Black Sabbath is no exception. Their 1971 Paranoid album wasn’t quite critically acclaimed, but critics gave their debut 1970 self-titled album no mercy. In the Village Voice, Robert Christgau declared it “the worst of the counterculture on a plastic platter.” Rolling Stone went Christgau one better (or worse), finding them knock-offs of the rock group Cream and bemoaning their “stiff recitations of Cream clichés that sound like the musicians learned them out of a book.” Nowadays, the album is considered by many to be the birth of heavy metal. Rolling Stone now lauds its “epic battle rhythms filled with a tension and release.” Rock on!
 

#6: “Pet Sounds” (1966)
The Beach Boys

The album that Paul McCartney cites as an inspiration for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is hailed as a masterpiece today. But the original response was so-so, finding some of the songs good but not really recognizing that the album was a huge step forward in terms of its production techniques. Perhaps the Beach Boys’ reputation as purveyors of surf music blinded them to what was really going on in the album. But by 1972, Rolling Stone was writing that its “trenchant cycle of love songs has the emotional impact of a shatteringly evocative novel." The landmark work has been put on more than 100 lists of the greatest or most important albums. God only knows what we’d do without it.
 

#5: “Pinkerton” (1996)
Weezer

Dark, personal and confessional, Pinkerton is an amazing album filled with disillusionment and pain. That may account for the fact that the album didn’t meets commercial expectations, but how to explain the shortsightedness of critics? Rolling Stone readers called it the third worst album of 1996, and Melody Maker convinced readers to ignore the record’s lyrics entirely. Front man Rivers Cuomo took the criticism to heart and disowned the album in the years following. However the album has since been considered a landmark emo release, and hardcore fans consider the record Weezer’s most important.
 

#4: “Abbey Road” (1969)
The Beatles

Really? Abbey Road? It’s not that this landmark album received horrible reviews, but it was clear that too many critics simply didn’t understand the record. Life magazine noted what it called the album’s “round-the-clock production of disposable music effects." Rolling Stone found it “complicated instead of complex.” Worse, the New York Times declared “the words are limp-wristed, pompous and fake” and that most of the album was “an unmitigated disaster.” Nowadays, Abbey Road is generally considered not only one of the Beatles’ finest albums but one of the most influential records ever made. Songs like “Come Together,” “Something,” and “Here Comes the Sun” are cherished part of our culture’s shared musical fabric.
 

#3: “Are You Experienced” (1967)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience

At this point in time, it’s hard to believe that anyone could have dissed this essential disc from one of rock’s most electrifying guitarists – but somehow someone did. As a matter of fact, the debut issue of Rolling Stone included this comment: “the poor quality of the songs and the inanity of the lyrics too often get in the way.” The reviewer went on to say that “either you dig it or you don't. Basically I don't.” Fortunately, most other critics were more perceptive, and audiences certainly were. The album was a commercial hit that continues to attract ardent new fans every year. “Foxey Lady,” “Purple Haze” and other cuts have made this a timeless classic.
  

#2: “Exile on Main Street” 1972)
The Rolling Stones

“Where are the Stones of yesteryear?” Playboy lamented upon the release of Exile on Main Street. Well, the previous year’s Sticky Fingers didn’t get the acclaim it deserved either. Still, should any album that includes “Tumbling Dice” and “Shine a Light” have received criticism including Circus Magazine who stated “the Stones weren't exiled on Main Street...they were deported”. Or Lester Bangs of Creem magazine’s assessment as “the worst studio album the Stones have ever made”?  Hey, lighten up, dudes. Your Jagger jealousy is showing. This double-album’s reputation has improved significantly through the years, fortunately. One source states that it’s in the top 10 of albums most often found on critics’ best-of-all-time lists.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
“Fun House” (1970)
The Stooges
 
“High Voltage” (1976)
AC/DC
 
“Alive!” (1975)
Kiss
                       

#1: “Led Zeppelin” (1969)
Led Zeppelin

For a magazine that is considered by many as the Bible of rock music, Rolling Stone frequently got things wrong big time. The first Led Zeppelin album, which includes radio staples like “Good Times, Bad Times” and “Dazed and Confused,” was mocked for not being up to the standards of the rival Jeff Beck Group. Jimmy Page is dissed as a “very limited producer and a writer of weak, unimaginative songs,” and “Good Times, Bad Times” is labeled “very dull in places… (and) very redundant.” Years later, the same magazine placed the album at #29 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and Q listed it as one of the 21 albums that changed music.
Do you agree with our choices? What legendary albums do you think critics got wrong?  For more legendary top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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