By: News Desk

Best albums by The Rolling Stones

The transcendent sound of The Rolling Stones redefined multiple genres of music.

The band’s 26th studio album, called “Hackney Diamonds,” was released Oct. 20 and is the first collection of original material since 2005. The album is also the group’s first since the 2021 death of drummer Charlie Watts, who had played with the Stones since 1963. Stacker compiled data from Best Ever Albums on every studio album by The Rolling Stones, as of Nov. 1, 2023. Best Ever Albums ranks albums according to their appearance and performance on 40,000 editorial and data-based charts such as Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and Billboard—here is a more in-depth methodology. Live albums and compilation albums were not considered, accounting for some glaring omissions including “Get Yer Ya-Yas Out” and “Shine a Light.”

The Rolling Stones grew out of London’s rhythm and blues scene, peppering in an edge and grit that became integral to the rock band identities pop culture has grown accustomed to.

The Stones had a classic rivalry with The Beatles, taunting the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” with “Their Satanic Majesty’s Request” (or ripping off The Beatles, depending on whom you ask) and “Let It Be” with “Let It Bleed.” For every saccharine piano melody The Fab Four put out, the Stones countered with funk-infused twangy country, inextricably tied to raw lyrics that were outspoken about the plight of the working man. You’re either a Stones or Beatles person—as novelist Tom Wolfe once said, “The Beatles want to hold your hand, but the Stones want to burn your town.”

The bandmates overstepped, multiple times—with bawdy billboards and offensive lyrics—and stood largely unafraid and immune to the effects. Their vulgarity joined up with rifts among bandmates, widespread substance abuse, legal problems, and much, much more. But each time, The Rolling Stones regrouped and conquered.

The Stones oversaw an untouchable streak of otherworldly albums other acts can only dream of—starting in 1968 with “Beggars Banquet” as The Beatles began dissolving, and followed by “Let It Bleed” (1969), “Sticky Fingers” (1971), and “Exile on Main St.” (1972). The only other band with a run like that is, of course, The Beatles, with “Revolver,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Magical Mystery Tour,” and “The White Album.”

Keep reading to see where Rolling Stones albums fall, according to Best Ever Albums.


#29. Five by Five (1964)

– Best Ever Albums score: 11
– Rank all-time: #49,182
– Rank in decade: #2,859
– Rank in year: #244

The Rolling Stones put out this short record as a second studio effort and watched as it reached #1 in the U.K. EP chart. “Five by Five” features five tracks by the five-man band. The songs were recorded during the band’s first American tour in June 1964 at Chicago’s Chess Studios, the address of which—2120 S. Michigan Ave.—was used as the title of the third song.

Tunes are steeped in blues and feature originals along with R&B covers, including Chuck Berry’s “Around and Around” and the unreleased “Down the Road Apiece,” the recording of which Berry came to the studio to witness. The five tracks and namesake laid the groundwork for the Stones’ second American album, “12 X 5,” later the same year.

The charm of that early Stones sound and the clear influence of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s early founders on the group makes the placement of “Five by Five” surprising on this list; proving how even the most essential albums can get lost in time.

Rolling Stones Records

#28. Dirty Work (1986)

– Best Ever Albums score: 66
– Rank all-time: #16,440
– Rank in decade: #2,277
– Rank in year: #233

No rock ‘n’ roll band was immune from the ’80s; certainly the Stones were no exception. In addition to the quirk and synth of the era, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were barely speaking—the former was furious with the latter for releasing his first solo effort “She’s the Boss.” Pepper in Charlie Watt’s alcohol and drug addiction, and what fans were left with was a directionless, garbled mess of an album.

Rolling Stones Records

#27. Hackney Diamonds (2023)

– Best Ever Albums score: 102
– Rank all-time: #10,976
– Rank in decade: #440
– Rank in year: #35

The first album since 2005 to include original songs by The Stones, “Hackney Diamonds” features contributions from Lady Gaga, Elton John, Paul McCartney, and Stevie Wonder, along with former Stones bassist Bill Wyman. Drummer Charlie Watts, who died in 2021, also contributed tracks in 2019.

The album’s widely positive reviews celebrated “Hackney” as the band’s best album in decades, with a return to some signature Stones sound—from the rock anthem “Angry” to the twangy “Dreamy Skies.”

Rolling Stones Records

#26. Undercover (1983)

– Best Ever Albums score: 120
– Rank all-time: #9,784
– Rank in decade: #1,439
– Rank in year: #132

Critics widely agree that “Undercover” stands as one of the Stones’ last truly ambitious albums—even if that ambition largely falls outside the scope of any of the band members’ best work.

The Stones do what they’ve always done—transcend genres by mashing them together, pushing the boundaries of how it’s thought to categorize music. It’s risky business, and “Undercover” often fails to successfully push these boundaries—not the least of which because listeners can very clearly hear the effect of early ’80s music all over this album as synth-pop rules the day.


#25. Bridges To Babylon (1997)

– Best Ever Albums score: 139
– Rank all-time: #8,691
– Rank in decade: #1,487
– Rank in year: #159

After decades of standing as influential giants of rock ‘n’ roll, the members of The Rolling Stones hit a slump as indie-rock and hip-hop took their rightful places at the forefront of mid-’90s music. Attempts by the band to capture more relevant sounds fell flat, while the rest of the album felt more recycled than revolutionary. Particularly cringeworthy was the reggaefied “You Don’t Have to Mean It.”


#24. The Rolling Stones (England’s Newest Hit Makers) (1964)

– Best Ever Albums score: 164
– Rank all-time: #7,583
– Rank in decade: #576
– Rank in year: #39

The Rolling Stones’ debut album in the U.K. was followed up with this American version just a month later, in May 1964. The American LP serves more as a means of introduction than a showcase of the bandmates’ greatest abilities.

Tracks include just one original song with “Tell Me (You’re Coming Back),” while two tracks are credited in whole or in part to Nanker Phelge, a pseudonym used by the band from 1963 to 1965 for its collaborative compositions. The subtitle—”England’s Newest Hit Makers”—eventually became the official album title.

The group’s R&B and blues roots take center stage on the album that mostly covers old rock ‘n’ roll tunes. The EP was recorded over four days and features few overdubs, offering listeners an authentic experience standing as the next best thing to seeing the band live at the time.


#23. The Rolling Stones No. 2 (1965)

– Best Ever Albums score: 197
– Rank all-time: #6,571
– Rank in decade: #507
– Rank in year: #52

The straightforward title of the Stones’ sophomore effort belies a more ambitious album that feels very much like a superior sequel to the band’s first effort. Noteworthy tracks such as “What a Shame” show the promising signs of the up-and-coming powerhouse songwriting duo that is Mick Jagger/Keith Richards. The album also features one of the best-ever covers of Jerry Ragovoy’s “Time Is on My Side.”


#22. A Bigger Bang (2005)

– Best Ever Albums score: 200
– Rank all-time: #6,453
– Rank in decade: #1,165
– Rank in year: #123

Setting aside the fact that early Stones is simply incomparable, “A Bigger Bang” earned generally positive reviews for its original tunes. The band’s worldwide tour for “A Bigger Bang,” held between 2005 and 2007, grossed a record-setting $558 million surpassed by U2 with the 360° Tour between 2009 and 2011 that grossed $736.4 million.

London Records

#21. The Rolling Stones, Now! (1965)

– Best Ever Albums score: 228
– Rank all-time: #5,761
– Rank in decade: #449
– Rank in year: #47

“The Rolling Stones, Now!”—the band’s junior effort—features several songs that can be found on other releases and stands as a fully formed iteration of 100% British R&B.

The band is audibly heard experimenting with new sounds and earnest lyrics while otherwise covering big hits of bandmates’ idols, hinting at the momentum and unique sound still to come. One standout track from the album is Stones’ cover of Willie Dixon’s blues standard “Little Red Rooster.”

London Records

#20. December’s Children (And Everybody’s) (1965)

– Best Ever Albums score: 256
– Rank all-time: #5,224
– Rank in decade: #417
– Rank in year: #43

“December’s Children” is home to two Stones masterpieces, “As Tears Go By” and “Get Off of My Cloud.” The sixth studio album by the band is the last to be made up, in large part, of covers.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote just half of the tunes on the LP. Jagger considered the album more of a collection of songs than a cohesive product, as many of them were either unreleased tracks recorded for other albums or stand-alone singles that hadn’t yet found homes on any Stones albums.

Rolling Stones Records

#19. Emotional Rescue (1980)

– Best Ever Albums score: 306
– Rank all-time: #4,551
– Rank in decade: #676
– Rank in year: #80

Where “Steel Wheels” draws the ’80s to a decisive close and brings Mick Jagger and Keith Richards back together after many trying years for the bandmates, “Emotional Rescue” marks escalating differences between the two. Richards detested the disco influence the rest of the bandmates embraced squarely on this album.

The title song, among the best on the album, puts disco on full display with Jagger kicking things off in full falsetto and Bobby Keys, who performed and recorded with the Stones from 1969 until his death in 2014, sitting in on saxophone. Strong showings come from classics like “She’s So Cold,” written by Richards and Jagger, and Richards’ “All About You.”

Rolling Stones Records

#18. Steel Wheels (1989)

– Best Ever Albums score: 336
– Rank all-time: #4,220
– Rank in decade: #627
– Rank in year: #60

The anthem “Sad Sad Sad” kicks off “Steel Wheels” with tight chord progressions, a catchy melody, and a strong sense of all forthcoming Stones efforts. Tracks are laid out largely around the consistent, dependable hits of Charlie Watts’ snare drum.

The album represents a comeback for the Stones in the truest sense, as it came on the heels of a massive rift between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and serves as a bookend to the tumultuous ’80s era that beleaguered many classic rock bands.


#17. Voodoo Lounge (1994)

– Best Ever Albums score: 400
– Rank all-time: #3,632
– Rank in decade: #631
– Rank in year: #79

“Voodoo Lounge” stands firmly as one of the Stones’ best two albums since the ’70s along with “Blue and Lonesome,” which came out in 2016. Producer Don Was helmed the LP, which features the band paring down all the background ruckus and delivering a straightforward album that’s highly polished but avoids taking any real risks.

“Sparks Will Fly” has all the sound of early Stones, albeit without any of the feels, while “Thru and Thru,” a long ballad with Keith Richards on lead vocals, lives in relative infamy: It’s featured multiple times in the second season finale of “The Sopranos.”

Rolling Stones Records

#16. Black and Blue (1976)

– Best Ever Albums score: 432
– Rank all-time: #3,436
– Rank in decade: #613
– Rank in year: #61

Throughout this list, evidence of the Stones’ mistaken disco efforts is found, and more of it is seen with “Black and Blue.” Mick Taylor, whose tenure as a guitarist in the Stones included his work on albums “Let It Bleed,” “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! The Rolling Stones in Concert,” “Sticky Fingers,” “Exile on Main St.,” “Goats Head Soup,” and “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll,” left the band following “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

Many musicians auditioned, and they can be heard throughout “Black and Blue,” including Wayne Perkins from Muscle Shoals Sound Studio and Canned Heat’s Harvey Mandel. Ronnie Wood, who once said he spent his early career auditioning for The Rolling Stones, ended up joining as a permanent member.

A billboard was rented on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood to promote the album. On it, model Anita Russell stood bound over an image of the band members with the words, “I’m ‘Black and Blue’ from The Rolling Stones—and I love it!” Protests from Women Against Violence Against Women were swift and the billboard was taken down.

London Records

#15. 12 x 5 (1964)

– Best Ever Albums score: 437
– Rank all-time: #3,394
– Rank in decade: #295
– Rank in year: #25

“12 x 5” was made as an expanded version of “Five by Five,” with both albums released in 1964. Added tracks include the U.K.-only single “It’s All Over Now”—also the band’s first #1 hit in the U.K.—and three original tunes from Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

Rolling Stones Records

#14. Blue & Lonesome (2016)

– Best Ever Albums score: 439
– Rank all-time: #3,385
– Rank in decade: #590
– Rank in year: #49

Like “Voodoo Lounge,” “Blue & Lonesome” takes no risks and instead revisits bandmates’ favorite genre with an entire album of covers. The selected tracks represent a veritable who’s who of Stones influencers, from Little Walter to Jimmie Dixon. Mick Jagger’s harmonica playing is of particular consequence; Eric Clapton joins the band for “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby.”



#13. The Rolling Stones (1964)

– Best Ever Albums score: 615
– Rank all-time: #2,551
– Rank in decade: #234
– Rank in year: #19

The original U.K. version of the Stones’ first album was released by Decca Records on April 16, 1964. The track list has a few differences from the American version; namely, it’s missing the band’s rendition of “Not Fade Away” and includes “Mona (I Need You Baby).”

Rolling Stones Records

#12. It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (1974)

– Best Ever Albums score: 823
– Rank all-time: #2,023
– Rank in decade: #387
– Rank in year: #38

“It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll” marked the final Stones album with guitarist Mick Taylor. Standout on it is its title track, courtesy of Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood, who composed it while working on Wood’s solo album.

Rolling Stones Records

#11. Goats Head Soup (1973)

– Best Ever Albums score: 1,120
– Rank all-time: #1,545
– Rank in decade: #305
– Rank in year: #32

Following “Exile On Main St.” with anything close was an exercise in futility. Still, “Goats Head Soup” is riddled with classics ranging from “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” and “100 Years Ago” to the delightfully filthy “Star Star” and indomitable “Angie.”

The album was recorded in the U.K., Jamaica, and on American soil. For all its charm and solid hits, this collection—which would undoubtedly stand as the best in the catalogs of most other bands—is widely seen as a severe let-down after the Stones’ otherworldly string of studio albums. “Goats Head Soup” was re-released in 2020.


#10. Between the Buttons (1967)

– Best Ever Albums score: 1,355
– Rank all-time: #1,300
– Rank in decade: #137
– Rank in year: #26

“Between the Buttons” absolutely delights from the first to last track—in the U.S. version, from “Let’s Spend the Night Together” to “Something Happened to Me Yesterday”. The album also featured the fan favorite “Ruby Tuesday” composed by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

The photo shoot for the album cover, held at 5:30 a.m. in November 1966 on North London’s Primrose Hill, was held after the group recorded through the night at Olympic Studios.


#9. Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967)

– Best Ever Albums score: 1,372
– Rank all-time: #1,284
– Rank in decade: #134
– Rank in year: #25

“Their Satanic Majesties Request ” gets mixed reviews from Stones fans for its psych-rock eccentricities and awkward similarities to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” which came out earlier that same year. Were the Stones mocking The Beatles? Or were they emulating them?

Band members self-produced the album, which followed a circuitous and drawn-out recording process marred by a variety of jail terms and drugs, among other distractions.

The iconic album cover on the original LP is a lenticular image from famed British photographer Michael Cooper, who took photos of the group frequently between 1963 and 1973 and, coincidentally enough, also shot the cover for “Sgt. Pepper.” “2000 Light Years From Home” and “She’s a Rainbow” stand as among the band’s best.


#8. Out of Our Heads (1965)

– Best Ever Albums score: 1,514
– Rank all-time: #1,185
– Rank in decade: #123
– Rank in year: #13

“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” which only appeared on the U.S. version of “Out of Our Heads,” marks the first American smash hit by the Stones and is among rock ‘n’ roll’s best songs ever written. If it wasn’t already clear from the band’s first two albums in the U.K. and three in the U.S., the Stones showed on “Out of Our Heads” that its members could do covers as well as or better than the originals.

Rolling Stones Records

#7. Tattoo You (1981)

– Best Ever Albums score: 1,721
– Rank all-time: #1,051
– Rank in decade: #163
– Rank in year: #13

“Start Me Up” and “Waiting on a Friend” both stand tall on “Tattoo You,” an album largely composed of outtakes from most of the previous decade. Some of those tracks were lifted in whole or in part from their first recordings; others had to be completed during recording sessions held in 1980 and 1981. The revisiting of previously explored tracks lends a distinctly vintage Stones vibe to the entire effort.

Rolling Stones Records

#6. Some Girls (1978)

– Best Ever Albums score: 3,415
– Rank all-time: #535
– Rank in decade: #125
– Rank in year: #7

“Some Girls” is chock full of classic Stones, not the least of which being “Beast of Burden”—quite possibly the loveliest song ever recorded by the band. The effort also features “Miss You” and the swaggering Bakersfield-style country music track “Far Away Eyes.” This is the band reclaiming its peak after the few missteps that followed “Exile On Main St.” in 1972.


#5. Aftermath (1966)

– Best Ever Albums score: 4,370
– Rank all-time: #418
– Rank in decade: #55
– Rank in year: #5

“Aftermath” was recorded at RCA Studios in Los Angeles and is the first album by the band to feature tracks written entirely by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. The tracks are deeply rooted in R&B and the U.S. edition soars with “Paint It Black” and “Under My Thumb.”

Featured prominently on the album is Brian Jones experimenting with a variety of decidedly unrock instruments, including the sitar, marimbas, Appalachian dulcimer, and Japanese koto. Less charming is “Stupid Girl,” only made tolerable by the solid tracks surrounding it.

Inspired by George Harrison’s playing, Jones had added a slide to his electric 12-string to record “Mother’s Little Helper” for the U.K. version of “Aftermath,” only to follow up with an actual sitar on “Paint It Black,” recorded as a single and incorporated into the U.S. version of the album.


#4. Beggars Banquet (1968)

– Best Ever Albums score: 9,984
– Rank all-time: #162
– Rank in decade: #28
– Rank in year: #7

“Beggars Banquet,” an epic collection of Mick Jagger-Keith Richards originals, except “Prodigal Son” from Robert Wilkins, kicks off the unparalleled run of Stones albums right up through “Exile on Main St.”

That run functions as a box set of greatest hits; on “Beggars Banquet,” listeners are held to the edges of their seats with “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Dear Doctor,” “Jigsaw Puzzle,” “Factory Girl,” and “Salt of the Earth” carrying them through.


#3. Let It Bleed (1969)

– Best Ever Albums score: 19,238
– Rank all-time: #65
– Rank in decade: #15
– Rank in year: #5

While The Beatles dropped “Let It Be” months after the Stones’ “Let It Bleed” effort, the former was a well-known project and many of its songs were recorded before the Stones songs. It’s a wonder the Stones were able to crank out such a dazzling album on the heels of legal troubles for Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones—not to mention Jones’ substance abuse that got him canned.

Jones announced his departure from the band on June 9, 1969; he died less than a month later from drowning in his swimming pool. “Let It Bleed” came out in December of the same year.

Rolling Stones Records

#2. Sticky Fingers (1971)

– Best Ever Albums score: 19,491
– Rank all-time: #60
– Rank in decade: #19
– Rank in year: #5

Like many bands of the time, The Rolling Stones made sure to feature slick, immersive album covers. “Their Satanic Majesties Request” features a 3D cover, while “Sticky Fingers” features a close-up picture of the waist of a pair of jeans with a functioning zipper that could be pulled down.

Unforgettable, timeless Stones tracks abound on the album, ranging widely in mood and style from “Brown Sugar” to “Wild Horses” to “Dead Flowers.”

Rolling Stones Records

#1. Exile on Main St. (1972)

– Best Ever Albums score: 23,606
– Rank all-time: #43
– Rank in decade: #12
– Rank in year: #2

“Exile” functions as yet another greatest hits compilation for The Rolling Stones, with 18 soaring tracks that have survived and thrived against the test of time. “Sweet Virginia,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Loving Cup”—the songs parade effortlessly through musical genres with band members standing firmly at the tops of their games.

Data reporting by Luke Hicks. Copy editing by Lois Hince.

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