10 Awful Albums by 10 Amazing Bands

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PHOTO: Laurance Ratner | Getty Images

What do you do when the unthinkable happens and your very favorite band lays an egg? We’re talking the kind of disc that make you wanna scratch it and send it back from whence it came. Even you, a good candidate for fan club president, can’t find a reason to like it.

That’s been the case for us with a number of albums. So here, for your consideration, are our top—make that bottom 10 bad albums from otherwise great artists.

10. Led Zeppelin, The Song Remains the Same

You’d think Zep, one of rock’s truly great live bands, could have come up with a live document that at least hinted at their electric wallop. Instead we got a mind-bogglingly self-indulgent affair that makes Page, Plant and company look like bloated rock stars with bad hair and poor fashion sense.

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9. U2, Pop

Always on the verge of making a horrible album, U2 finally let their egos swallow them whole. It’s not so much that Pop was bad; it’s more that U2’s constant musical experimentation had gotten dreadfully tiring by this point, especially when fans merely wanted them to prove that The Joshua Tree wasn’t a fluke.

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8. Aerosmith, Rock in a Hard Place

It’s not hard to make an argument for this dog. It came at a time when Aerosmith were lucky to be alive, let alone recording. But the temporary departure of Brad Whitford and Joe Perry made the process of recording an exercise in futility. We’d rather be exposed to repeated spins of “Crazy.”

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7. Pink Floyd, A Momentary Lapse of Reason
Apparently, there is truth in advertising. For many real fans, Pink Floyd stopped being relevant after The Wall, but they continued churning out increasingly inferior products, all while eroding the band’s noble legacy. David Gilmour and Roger Waters had fallen out for good here, and Gilmour’s vapid ambiance induces a musical fate worse than death: genuine boredom.

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6. Muddy Waters, Electric Mud

Even blues kingpins step in shit once in a while. Electric Mud is the biggest blot on this guitarist’s storied career. In 1968, at the height of the psychedelic era, Chess forced Muddy to change with the times, resulting in this horrific, unintentionally funny disc. Some ideas should be left on the coasters at the bar.

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5. AC/DC, Flick of the Switch
In many cases, changing a formula isn’t a bad thing. So when AC/DC ditched smash-hit producer Mutt Lange and went it alone, optimism reigned. Until fans heard the result. Flick is a vacuous, one-dimensional work that looks like a pencil drawing in comparison to their previous technicolor efforts. In this case, it seemed Angus and the boys flicked their switch to “off.”

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4.Van Halen, Diver Down

Diving down, indeed, Eddie and the boys streamlined their sound, added melodies and synths, and subtracted lot of fans in the process. Dimebag Darrell once said, “There is no greater disappointment to a rock fan than to hear your favorite band add keyboard crap to their sound.” If only Eddie had been there to hear.

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3. ZZ Top, Recycler
Hearing proud Texans play trendy, electronic-based bunk is as disappointing as throwing back a shot of whiskey only to discover it’s creme de menthe. After giving us classics like “Tush” and “La Grange,” Billy Gibbons and company pasted together a string of synthesized facsimiles of real Texas blues. If you’re gonna be listening to Recycler while cruising the strip, you’d best be wearing your cheap sunglasses.

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2. Black Sabbath, Born Again

Crazy. Ozzy leaves and all hell breaks loose. Here, Ian Gilian, who had better pipes that Ozzy but not a trace of the mystery, takes over. More drunk than mythic, more literal than ironic, the change affected Tony Iommi’s riffs, which dropped quicker than Sabbath’s classic drop-D tuning.

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1. Guns N Roses, Chinese Democracy

It was the most anticipated album in history, but no record can live up to the expectations placed on an album some 10 years and reportedly $13 million in the making. Critics had mixed opinions on it, with some waxing poetic and others disdaining Axl Rose’s unhinged artistry. The New York Times took the middle ground by calling it “a transitional album.” You can say that. Some seven years after its release, Guns N’ Roses’ lineup is in question, and everyone is calling for the original band to reunite.

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