Classic Albums That Were Critically Reviled

By Sarah Norman | October 21, 2023

Abbey Road - The Beatles, 1969

From Pet Sounds and Abbey Road to Led Zeppelin and Jazz, the classic albums of 60s and 70s rock were not always appreciated the way they are today. Critics of the era were focused more on hard rock and blues, tending to dismiss genre-bending, musical fusion albums that didn't fall neatly into defined stylistic categories. Breaking onto the charts and winning overwhelming fan approval often wasn't enough to save an album from a devastating review. Entire bands were made or broken on the word of critics writing for industry heavyweights like Rolling Stone and Melody Maker.

Some of the most critically acclaimed albums in modern music history were eviscerated when they were first released. Even the most beloved acts of the day were subject to the hilariously blunt and brutally vicious reviews that marked the critical writing of the day. The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, even Aretha Franklin, all came in for harsh reviews over their careers, often for albums that were reassessed as classics years later. Whether they were too far ahead of their time or simply too strange for the era, here are 30 indisputable rock classics that the critics once tore apart.

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Apple Records

Universally hailed today as one of the greatest records of all time, Abbey Road was The Beatles' penultimate album, although it was recorded after Let It Be. By this time, the group was all but done, both personally and professionally, with creative differences between the members making Abbey Road as difficult to record as Let It Be was. Released in 1969, Abbey Road came out to tepid, unenthusiastic reviews. Music critic Albert Goldman summed up the general feeling, writing that Abbey Road "seems symbolic of the Beatles' latest phase, which might be described as the round-the-clock production of disposable music effects." 

Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys, 1966

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Elaborately produced and deeply innovative, Pet Sounds marked a key turning point in the art of music production, introducing the use of synthesizers and pioneering new methods of orchestration and harmonization. Globally acknowledged as one of the most influential records of the era, Pet Sounds is beloved today by fans and critics alike. But despite its current stature, the album was a critical and commercial disappointment when it was first released. Pete Townshend of The Who famously dismissed the album as being "too remote and way out", adding "It's written for a feminine audience."