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1976’s Best Rock Albums

Nineteen-seventy-six was a weird year for rock ‘n’ roll. Punk was right around the corner, already stirring up a revolution overseas, but you’d never know it by the old guard still holding sway over record buyers and radio listeners.

Some of those old bastions — like Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones — attempted to hold on to their influence by adopting sorta new guises. Up-and-comers inspired by those ’60s holdovers – like Aerosmith and Kiss – were spinning those influences in new-old directions.

But some of 1976’s best rock albums already had one foot in the future – from David Bowie (who was stepping into an art-rock phase that would become one of his most replicated, in a career that spawned dozens of imitators) and the Eagles (who turned the corner on country-rock toward a tougher, rock-only sound) to new kids in town like the Ramones and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, both of whom defied labels.

Still, old-time rock ‘n’ roll was kicking and screaming, whether it was Bob Seger slipping his career into high gear with a heavy dose of nostalgia or AC/DC twisting the ol’ blues-rock standby into riff-heavy new shapes. Even Boston, the year’s biggest debut, rocked a foundation that went back to the ’60s as it fine-tuned the future.

So, 1976’s best rock albums were a lot of things: backward-looking, forward-reaching, timeless, of their era. And sometimes they were all these things at once. And all these years later, the greatest of them still have the ability to shake up our world.

Next: 1981's Best Rock Albums

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