Fan of progressive rock bands? Then you probably know a lot of them. That said, there’s still a chance there are some that haven’t got on your radar yet, so I thought I’d share my favorites today.
Let's explore the best progressive rock bands of all time!
Many prog-rock bands were from the UK. But what about the US?
Well, look no further than Kansas. No, not the state, the band!
Formed in 1973 in Topeka, Kansas, this band changed the world with chart-topping tracks like the classic rock anthem “Carry on Wayward Son” and the softer, somber “Dust in the Wind.”
This band became iconic for its orchestral influences and harmonic vocals, and many of their songs continue to find their way onto progressive rock party playlists.
The UK and US weren't the only countries producing amazing prog-rock bands during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Canada also had a hand in the game, thanks to Rush.
Formed in Toronto in 1968, Rush is one of the most beloved classic rock and prog-rock bands. Additionally, Neil Peart (the band's drummer) is lauded as one of the most talented drummers in the world!
“Tom Sawyer” from the 1981 album Moving Pictures might be one of the band's most iconic songs. It offers great insight into what made Rush an internationally-famous prog-rock sensation.
3. Pink Floyd
Anyone with even a passing interest in classic rock has heard of Pink Floyd.
This British prog-rock band, founded in 1965, popularized psychedelic and early progressive rock music to a wide audience. Their music continues to gain new fans thanks to its timeless quality and innovative style.
The Dark Side of the Moon might be the most instantly recognizable Pink Floyd album thanks to its rainbow-triangle image, but Another Brick in the Wall is a true prog-rock classic.
The band even helped produce a movie based on the album (Pink Floyd – The Wall), showcasing the tracks in a unique style that helped popularize the music video craze of the 1980s.
The late 1960s and early 1970s were fantastic times for progressive rock. Yes, formed in 1968, is one of the bands that helped make this genre what it is today!
Yes incorporated a dizzying array of musical styles and influences into powerful tracks, occasionally recording songs with a backing orchestra. Today they're best known for their 1983 hit “Owner of a Lonely Heart.”
5. The Moody Blues
There's no way we could talk about the best progressive rock bands without mentioning The Moody Blues, a UK-based band founded in 1964. This band might be the very first prog-rock group, earning them a special place in the hearts of all rockers.
Days of Future Passed, released in 1967, combines semi-traditional rock songs and classical-music-inspired tracks. Because of these songs' unconventional length, innovative channel changes, and orchestral touches, it's celebrated as the first progressive rock album.
6. Jethro Tull
British progressive rock band Jethro Tull is probably best known for their 1971 hit, “Aqualung,” from the album of the same name. This song's unique structure and pacing make it a hallmark of progressive rock.
While Aqualung (the album) is one of the most popular ever released by Jethro Tull, their 1972 release, Thick as a Brick, is also considered a classic example of prog-rock.
Founded in 1967 by Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull continued producing music until 2011. But in 2011, the two primary band members, Anderson and Martin Barre, decided to split and pursue other projects.
However, in 2017, Anderson decided to reform the band (without Barre). They're still releasing albums to this day!
7. Emerson, Lake & Palmer
If you're a fan of 1970s British rock music, there's a good chance you've heard of Emerson, Lake & Palmer (also called ELP).
This award-winning prog-rock band is one of the few to take on the classic British hymn “Jerusalem,” and their hits range from the folk-influenced “Lucky Man” released on their 1970 debut album to the more psychedelic “Still You Turn Me On” from Brain Salad Surgery (1973).
Sadly, two of the three band members (Keith Emerson and Greg Lake) passed away in 2016. But even if future albums are out of the question, you can still rock out to this band's progressive tunes by exploring their diverse discography.
In 1967, England gave us one of the most successful and well-known progressive rock bands of all time: Genesis. Fronted by Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel, this band exuded talent from the very beginning.
Several of their earliest albums, like Foxtrot and Selling England by the Pound, showcased the band's classical influences and avant-garde approach to rock music. The latter of these, 1973's Selling England by the Pound, would be Genesis's first platinum album, making it a must-listen for anyone interested in progressive rock.
Still, their 1991 album We Can't Dance remains the most popular of the band's releases thanks to its pop and soft rock numbers.
9. King Crimson
1968 was quite the year for progressive rock. Not only did Yes and Rush form in 1968, but so did King Crimson.
This British prog-rock sensation combined jazz, electronic, and heavy metal genres to create epic songs, many breaking the generally accepted three-minute, radio-friendly track time limit.
For example, the final track on their 1970 album Lizard (also called “Lizard”) is an astounding four-part masterpiece lasting more than 23 minutes! Still, prog-rock aficionados hail King Crimson's debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King, as their best.
10. The Mothers of Invention
While The Mothers of Invention (headed by legendary avant-garde artist Frank Zappa) are often considered an experimental group, several of the band's songs feature strong prog-rock elements that helped popularize the genre throughout the 1960s.
Formed in California in 1964, The Mothers of Invention went through multiple hiatuses and band member changes throughout their near-decade run (disbanding in 1975). But this constant change-up helped them create unique tracks with multiple genre influences.
With a constant through-line of jazz and orchestral backings, The Mothers of Invention helped define, break, and redefine the prog-rock genre. They also pushed social boundaries with their highly critical and often satirical lyrics.