A much less coveted (yet still important) list than greatest debut albums, these third albums dropped at pivotal moments in these band’s careers.
No one ever talks about the third album with so much hype usually surrounding a band’s debut work. Even the second release in a band’s catalogue is notable because the pitfalls of writing a new record while touring relentlessly split up more groups then anything.
But researching this list I realized that many of these entries were the mainstream’s first look at these groups. A kind of ten-year-overnight-success story. Many third albums dropped at huge crossroads in artist’s careers, a masterpiece before a massive hiatus, like Refused’s Shape of Punk to Come or a gigantic comeback record like Jane’s Addiction’s, Strays the magic number three always seems to have some sort of backstory to it either launching its group into superstardom or acting as the final nail in the coffin.
Here are a hundred or so fantastic third albums that I hope you like. Maybe even some will fill you with nostalgia. Again, I am not a musical expert or journalist by any stretch of the imagination and I’ve used a list randomizer as to assure no biased or ranking has been applied to these records.
Supertramp – Crime of the Century
Release: September 13th 1974
US BILLBOARD 200: #38
Singles: “Dreamer” “School”
Why it rocked: Supertramp’s ability to combine Pop and Progressive music finally came to fruition with their third album, fan favorite and masterpiece, Crime of the Century. The album would be a critical and commercial success despite the budding rivalry between chief songwriters, Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson which would dog the band for the rest of their career.
Afterwards: After the commercial success and mainstream breakthrough that Crime of the Century provided, the band would release a set of critically successful albums culminating with their sixth and most successful album of their careers, Breakfast in America. Shortly after Hodgson would leave the group and the band would continue making albums until 2002 – which to me, is crazy to consider that there was a year where GlassJaw and Supertramp put out albums together.
Big Wreck – Albatross
Release: February 13th 2012
Label: Anthem / Warner Bros Music Canada
US BILLBOARD 200: N/A
Singles: “Albatross” “Wolves” “A Million Days”
Why it rocked: After an eleven year hiatus Big Wreck came back stronger than ever with a list of hits and a wry self reflection only earned with age. The albums warm mood intertwines with occasional full on face melting shredding from guitarists, Ian Thornley, Brian Doherty and Paulo Neta.
Afterwards: Big Wreck continued on their comeback trail and released several more albums including the fantastic, Ghosts. During production of their sixth album, …But For the Sun lead guitarist Brian Doherty lost his battle with cancer. The group has since regrouped and is working on their seventh album aptly titled, 7.
Nirvana – In Utero
Release: September 21st 1993
US BILLBOARD 200: 1
Singles: “Heart-Shaped Box” “All Apologies” “Rape Me” “Pennyroyal Tea” (originally cancelled)
Awards: 1 Nomination
~ “Best Alternative Music Album”
Why it rocked: Time magazine’s Christopher John Farley said of the album, “Despite the fears of some alternative-music fans, Nirvana hasn’t gone mainstream, though this potent new album may once again force the mainstream to go Nirvana.” Rumored to have almost been shelved by label, DGC due to Producer Steve Albini’s raw and abrasive mix, tragically In Utero would act as the perfect swan song for a songwriter who had lost all patience for a culture in which he had a hand in shaping.
Afterwards: Lead singer, songwriter and guitarists Kurt Cobain would be found dead in his garage attic from an apparent suicide effectively ending the band’s tenure immediately and morbidly securing his legacy as the frustrated and misunderstood poet of a generation.
Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way
Release: March 9th 1993
Label: Virgin Records
US BILLBOARD 200: 12
Singles: “Are You Gonna Go My Way” “Believe” “Heaven Help” “Is There Any Love in Your Heart” uh
Why it rocked: Are You Gonna Go My Way would become Lenny’s first Top 20 Billboard entry in the United States and would secure his popularity as a performer internationally. Leaning heavily into his guitar heavy influences, Jimi Hendrix and Prince, Kravitz blasts through over 45 minutes of attitude soaked rock n’ roll.
Afterwards: Lenny would continue to churn out albums throughout the nineties, mixing his eclectic tastes of pop, rock, funk and soul with his own twist. By the early 2000’s he had been around long enough to release a Greatest Hits. All through the 00’s and teens he would continue to work on music around his now budding acting career (The Hunger Games). In 2014 he would release his most critically acclaimed album in decades titled, Strut.
Massive Attack – Mezzanine
Release: April 20th 1998
Label: Circa/Virgin Records
US BILLBOARD 200: #60
Singles: “Risingson” “Teardrop” “Angel” “Inertia Creeps”
Why it rocked: In 1998, British trip-hoppers were aiming for change. Not only did they want to tread into deeper, darker waters but they also opted for a complete aesthetic change. This Mezzanine was born. Amid massive personnel conflicts, producer Neil Davidge remembers, “Mezzanine was a pretty sketchy album in terms of the way we worked, because the band, as reported a lot at that time, were not getting on. So I’d be in the studio working with one of the members and someone else would come in, then the person I had been working with would leave and I’d have to change the track I was working on because they didn’t want to work on that track, they wanted to work on something different. Sometimes I’d be working on perhaps four different tracks in one day, which was a pretty messy way to work.”
Afterwards: Despite massive conflict the band enjoyed their largest commercial and critical success upon the release of Mezzanine. The group would stick around and release 100th Window in 2003 and a follow up in 2010.