Batting in the Third Spot: My 100 All-Time Favorite Third Albums by an Artist

On several occasions I have heard or read an interview with Interscope Records head person and producer extraordinaire Jimmy Iovine state that he feels like an artist’s third album tends to be the most important album during an artist’s career. Generally, Iovine believes that if the artist had not yet established his/her/their vision on the first two albums, then the pressure was on them to produce a winner with their third album. In defense, he always uses three Rock & Roll Hall of Fame artists, all with whom he worked on their third albums, to make his case. Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers were all critically acclaimed musicians and songwriters but none had broken through to the masses on their first two albums. In each case, these artists broke through to the masses on their third albums, propelling their careers into legendary status.

In all honesty, most rock artists make their artistic and commercial marks on their first three albums. What separates the legends from the “good” artists is how well those first three albums are received, followed by some truly fantastic albums. Back in the Seventies and, to a certain extent, the Eighties, artists were generally given three or four albums to produce hit songs/albums before their company would pull the plug on their contracts and drop them. So, the pressure was there to perform while still given time to develop their talents. Today, it seems that an artist is given three songs to create a hit before they are dropped. Plus, generally speaking, albums are not important to Millennials and Gen Z-ers due to streaming and downloading. But, to the Boomers and Xers out there, the album remains the ultimate musical artform.

Now that I have my silly introduction out of the way, let’s take a look at my 100 favorite third albums of all-time.

100. Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet (1986)

99. Madonna – True Blue (1986)

98. KISS – Dressed to Kill (1975)

97. Missy Elliott – Miss E…So Addictive (2001)

96. The Offspring – Smash (1994)

95. Bruno Mars – 24K Gold (2016)

94. Halsey – Manic (2020)

93. Haim – Women in Music Pt. III (2020)

92. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City (2013)

91. Huey Lewis & the News – Sports (1983)

90. The Black Keys – Rubber Factory (2004)

89. Ice Cube – The Predator (1991)

88. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – Album (1983)

87. The Jayhawks – Hollywood Town Hall (1992)

86. Tool – Lateralus (2001)

85. The Verve – Urban Hymns (1997)

84. Supertramp – Crime of the Century (1974)

83. New Order – Low-Life (1985)

82. Tears for Fears – The Seeds of Love (1989)

81. Squeeze – Argybargy (1980)

80. Pat Benatar – Precious Time (1981)

79. Phil Collins – No Jacket Required (1985)

78. Pearl Jam – Vitalogy (1994)

77. X – Under the Big Black Sun (1982)

76. Patti Smith Group – Easter (1978)

75. The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

74. The Who – The Who Sell Out (1967)

73. The Psychedelic Furs – Forever Now (1982)

72. The White Stripes – White Blood Cells (2001)

71. Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet (1990)

70. The Human League – Dare (1981)

69. Primal Scream – Screamadelica (1991)

68. ZZ Top – Tres Hombres (1973)

67. Faith No More – The Real Thing (1989)

66. The Stooges – Raw Power (1973)

65. Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger (1991)

64. Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells a Story (1971)

63. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3 (2017)

62. The Jacksons – Destiny (1978)

61. Eurythmics – Touch (1983)

60. Weezer – Weezer (“The Green Album”) (2001)

59. The Replacements – Let It Be (1984)

58. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence (2014)

57. Dire Straits – Making Movies (1980)

56. No Doubt – Tragic Kingdom (1995)

55. Warren Zevon – Excitable Boy (1978)

54. 2pac – Me Against the World (1995)

53. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth (2016)

52. Chic – Risqué (1979)

51. Paul Weller – Stanley Road (1995)

50. Eminem – The Eminem Show (2002)

49. The Cult – Electric (1986)

48. Radiohead – O.K. Computer (1997)

47. A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders (1993)

46. Elton John – Tumbleweed Connection (1970)

45. Blink-182 – Enema of the State (1999)

44. Devo – Freedom of Choice (1980)

43. Slayer – Reign in Blood (1986)

42. The Pretenders – Learning to Crawl (1984)

41. Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!” (2016)

40. OutKast – Aquemini (1998)

39. Matthew Sweet – Girlfriend (1991)

38. Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast (1982)

37. Metallica – Master of Puppets (1986)

36. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III (1970)

35. R.E.M. – Fables of the Reconstruction (1985)

34. Black Sabbath – Master of Reality (1971)

33. The Police – Zenyatta Mondatta (1980)

32. Neil Young – After the Gold Rush (1970)

31. Nirvana – In Utero (1993)

30. The Jam – All Mods Con (1978)

29. Def Leppard – Pyromania (1983)

28. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)

27. D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Black Messiah (2014)

26. Queen – Sheer Heart Attack (1974)

25. Minutemen – Double Nickels on the Dime (1984)

24. The Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)

23. Aerosmith – Toys in the Attic (1975)

22. Beastie Boys – Check Your Head (1992)

21. Big Star – Third/Sister Lovers (1978)

20. Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland (1968)

19. Bob Marley & the Wailers – Catch a Fire (1973)

18. Talking Heads – Fear of Music (1979)

17. Paul Simon – Still Crazy After All These Years (1975)

16. Janet Jackson – Control (1986)

15. Hüsker Dü – New Day Rising (1985)

14. The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead (1986)

13. Run-DMC – Raising Hell (1986)

12. U2 – War (1983)

11. Ramones – Rocket to Russia (1978)

10. Todd Rundgren – Something/Anything? (1972)

9. Green Day – Dookie (1994)

8. Cheap Trick – Heaven Tonight (1978)

7. Prince – Dirty Mind (1980)

6. Blondie – Parallel Lines (1978)

5. Elvis Costello & the Attractions – Armed Forces (1979)

4. Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (III: “Melting”) (1980)

3. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Damn the Torpedoes (1979)

2. Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975)

1. The Clash – London Calling (1980)

And that wraps up my mini-series on the best of the first three albums of an artist. I hope it triggered some thoughts. If you have any, please let me know. Until next time, peace.

Author: ifmyalbumscouldtalk

I am just a long-time music fan who used to be a high school science teacher and a varsity coach of several high school athletic teams. Before that, I worked as a medical technologist at three hospitals in their labs, mainly as a microbiologist. I am retired/disabled (Failed Back Surgery Syndrome), and this is my attempt to remain a human. Additionally, I am a serious vinyl aficionado, with a CD addiction and a love of reading about rock history. Finally, I am a fan of Prince, Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, R.E.M., Hall & Oates, Springsteen, Paul Weller & his bands and Power Pop music.

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