Pity the always-overlooked No. 2. Second place is often simply thought of as the best-finishing loser. One of the key synonyms for this condition says it all: also ran. It's as if anything that doesn't end up first is somehow instantly relegated to a nameless rabble.

It's no different with rock stars. Mick Jagger may have never, ever sounded sadder than when he memorably admitted that the Rolling Stones had been outshone by the Beatles during their heyday. "That's us," he said. "We have to be better because we're only No. 2."

Meanwhile, the victors are ubiquitous. Read enough best-album lists, for instance, and the entries become almost standardized, this kind of rote rock. The Stones' Exile on Main St. will, of course, be there, and the Doors' debut album and the Allman Brothers Band's At Fillmore East and Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon too. But what about the albums that live in their ever-lengthening shadows – the projects that give some sense of perspective and proportion to these legendary careers?

An endless focus on career-defining albums overlooks the quality, effort and consistency of these next-best things. The truth is, the so-called runner-up efforts by many of music's most popular groups are simply spectacular. Maybe they'll never be No. 1. But, as you'll see in our list of Classic Rock's Second Best Albums, they're still pretty good.