11 brilliant albums that aren’t on Spotify

Album covers of Zodiac Mindwarp’s Tattooed Beat Messiah, Black Sabbath’s Headless Cross, Neil Young’s Harvest and Judas Priests Jugulator
(Image credit: Veritgo Records/I.R.S/Reprise/Steamhammer)

There are roughly 80 million songs on Spotify at any one time, which would take approximately *checks notes* a very long time to listen to back to back. But while virtually all of the all-time classics are available to stream at the tap of a phone or click of a mouse, there are a handful of great albums that aren’t on there, whether it’s due to record label politics, being withdrawn in anger or just slipping down the back of the sofa of history and getting forgotten about. In a perverse take on public service journalism, here are the best albums you can’t listen to on Spotify right now

Metal Hammer line break

Black Sabbath - Headless Cross (1989)

Black Sabbath were a diminished force in the late 80s, though the albums they made with singer Tony Martin have their staunch defenders. Headless Cross is held up as one of their finest non-Ozzy/Dio records - When Death Calls and Kill In The Spirit World are packed with classic Tony Iommi riffs, while the presence of Cozy Powell on drums (and co-production duties) gives the whole thing extra firepower. But the album failed to re-establish the band, their label I.R.S collapsed a few years later, and Headless Cross and follow-up Tyr currently languish in streaming limbo – though rumoured reissues my rectify that situation.

AC/DC – High Voltage (Australian version) (1975)

The international edition of High Voltage that launched AC/DC on the world in 1976 readily available on Spotify, but there’s no sign of the previous year’s Australian version. There’s little overlap between the two aside from the title and the songs Little Lover and She’s Got Balls. The other tracks were released on the ’74 Jailbreak EP and 2009’s Backtracks box set, but this version of High Voltage still isn’t on Spotify in its original form.

Neil Young – Harvest (1972)

Neil Young is Spotify’s most famous refusenik. Vocally unhappy with the quality of digital music, he launched his own short-lived download service and player, Pono, in 2014 as a high-resolution alternative to other platforms, but most of his albums remained on Spotify. That changed in January 2022, when he yanked his music from the service in response to Spotify‘s decision to continue hosting the The Joe Rogan Experience podcast after Rogan was accused of spreading Covid disinformation. None of them, including 1972’s landmark Harvest, has gone back up.

Badlands – Badlands (1989)

One of the great forgotten supergroups of the late 80s, blues rockers Badlands featured former Ozzy guitarist Jake E Lee, onetime Black Sabbath/future Kiss drummer Eric Singer and singer Ray Gillen, who had done a blink-and-you-missed it stint with Sabbath. Their classy self-titled debut album was acclaimed at the time, but Gillen and Lee fell out and Badlands were dropped by their label, Atlantic, soon after their second album, before Gillen died in 1993. Badlands was reissued in 2010 but remains MIA on Spotify.

Budgie – In For The Kill (1974)

The Welsh power trio are one of the definitive examples of a band whose influence outweighs their commercial success. Iron Maiden, Metallica and Soundgarden all covered Budgie’s songs, but precious little of the group’s material is available on Spotify. The 2013 remasters of their eponymous 1971 debut and 1972’s follow-up Squawk are on there, but despite being the group’s highest charting release in the UK, their fourth album 1974’s In For The Kill is notably absent. It still sounds ahead of it time: Crash Course In Brain Surgery was later covered by Metallica and Zoom Club is an expansive prog metal jam.  

Joni Mitchell – Court And Spark (1974)

Joni Mitchell removed her own albums from Spotify in support of her friend Neil Young’s protest against The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. Like Young, Mitchell is at the point where her legacy is so firmly established that she doesn’t actually need Spotify – though it’s still a shame that anyone who doesn’t own Court And Spark on vinyl, CD or eight-track can’t listen to it legally any more.

Judas Priest – Jugulator (1997)

It’s tempting to wonder if there’s some concerted plot to erase the Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens era from Judas Priest’s illustrious history, given that neither of the studio albums he cut with the band, Jugulator and 2001’s Demolition, are on Spotify. A more innocent explanation may be that those were the only albums that Priest recorded for the Steamhammer label, so it could simply be a licensing issue. Whatever the cause, it’s a shame. Jugulator flew in the face of grunge and alternative rock, delivering an album that’s unapologetically metal from first note to last.

Tesla - The Great Radio Controversy (1989)

Okay, a handful of the 13 tracks from the Sacramento rockers’ second album are on Spotify, but only the ones that appeared on subsequent compilations. As for the rest? Nada. Which is a shame, because Tesla were one of the great hard rock bands of the era, and The Great Radio Controversy is their finest 59 minutes and 18 seconds.

Wolfsbane – Live Fast, Die Fast (1989)

These days, Blaze Bayley is best known as the bloke who replaced Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden in the 1990s, but he made his name as member of Tamworth Terrors Wolfsbane, a band whose lunatic following dubbed themselves The Howling Mad Shitheads. Such was the buzz around Wolfsbane that Rick Rubin signed them to his label Def Jam and flew them to the US to produce this, their debut album, only to strangle the life out of the band when they got in the studio. A case of great songs, rubbish production - as you’d know if the thing was actually on Spotify.

Zodiac Mindwarp And The Love Reaction - Tattooed Beat Messiah (1988)

Zodiac Mindwarp was the fevered rock star alter ego of former illustrator-turned-rock god Mark Manning, and their debut album Tattooed Beat Messiah (co-produced by Bill Drummond of techno provocateurs The KLF, no less) is a masterpiece of subversive biker rock, T-Rex-esque-gone-bad wordplay and comic book references. Was it a homage to hard rock excess or a parody of it? Maybe it was a little bit of both. The world is certainly a poorer place for being denied access to it on Spotify.

XTC – Apple Venus Volume 1 (1999) & Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) (2000)

After a long legal battle with their old label Virgin for control of their music, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding’s art-pop mavericks XTC bowed out with a pair of albums on the Cooking Vinyl label.  Anyone hoping for another Nonsuch would have been disappointed, but Apple Venus Volume 1 is a marvel of invention, with its sparse acoustic arrangements and ingenious use of strings. The guitar-led Wasp Star is more typical of XTC’s classic sound, rich in off-kilter, delightful pop songs. While the Virgin-era material is on Spotify, XTC have held onto their swansong double bill.

David West

After starting his writing career covering the unforgiving world of MMA, David moved into music journalism at Rhythm magazine, interviewing legends of the drum kit including Ginger Baker and Neil Peart. A regular contributor to Prog, he’s written for Metal Hammer, The Blues, Country Music Magazine and more. The author of Chasing Dragons: An Introduction To The Martial Arts Film, David shares his thoughts on kung fu movies in essays and videos for 88 Films, Arrow Films, and Eureka Entertainment. He firmly believes Steely Dan’s Reelin’ In The Years is the tuniest tune ever tuned.