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The 50 Greatest AOR Albums Of All Time

40. Aviator - Aviator (opens in new tab)

One of those great ‘blink and you missed them’ bands, this US Coast-based quartet got just one bite at the cherry. 

That they ended up in the bargain bins while inferior rivals triumphed remains quite inexplicable, especially when one considers the super-slick production by the then red-hot Neil Kernon, who slotted Aviator into his schedule between Everybody’s Crazy by Michael Bolton and Queensrÿche (opens in new tab)’s Rage For Order

Must hear: Frontline

39. Midnight Madness - Night Ranger (opens in new tab)

From Night Ranger (opens in new tab)’s second album came their biggest hit, the power ballad Sister Christian, written and sung by drummer Kelly Keagy. It was a Top-Five smash in the US, and later appeared in a teeth-grinding drug-deal scene in the film Boogie Nights

But these guys never stopped kicking ass, as proved by the heroically daft (You Can Still) Rock In America.

Must hear: Sister Christian

38. Don’t Come Easy - Tyketto (opens in new tab)

Tyketto were a band out of time, signing with the major label that had broken Whitesnake (opens in new tab) and Guns N’ Roses (opens in new tab) just as another Geffen act, Nirvana, were washing the last of hairmetal down the plughole. 

Don’t Come Easy should be taken as a pair with the powerful follow-up Strength In Numbers as a ‘what might have been’ for the wonderfully talented frontman Danny Vaughn. Burning Down Inside and Forever Young remain a genre staples, too. 

Must hear: Burning Down Inside

37. Valentine - Valentine (opens in new tab)

Led by Hugo, a man who took the Steve Perry impersonation beyond mere vocal stylings and into the vaguely creepy approximations of the doppelganger, Valentine achieved a strange kind of AOR immortality with one song from this debut, the ballad Never Said It Was Gonna Be Easy

Into its seven minutes they packed every cliché, re-spun into a song of emotionally devastating heartbreak from which Hugo may never recover.

Must hear: Never Said It Was Gonna Be Easy

36. Bad English - Bad English  (opens in new tab)

In the late 1980s, excitement greeted news of a liaison between two key songwriters from Journey (Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain) and a pair of former members on The Babys (frontman-turned-solo hitmaker John Waite and future Styx (opens in new tab) member Ricky Phillips). 

And just for once, peerless performance would outstrip the promise of the personnel. No less than five singles were pulled from this debut as it rattled towards a million US sales. 

Must hear: When I See You Smile

35. Heart - Heart (opens in new tab) 

This is the 40 minutes that reinvented 70s folk rockers Heart (opens in new tab) as a slick MTV AOR band. For Heart the band jettisoned the acoustic guitars and mandolins in favour of dreamy keyboards, a massive production by Ron Nevison and an occasional searing guitar solo, but all the gloss and bolt-on songwriters couldn’t change the dynamic power of Ann Wilson’s voice. 

Heart shifted more than five million copies and yielded four Top 10 hits in the US alone (including their first No.1 with These Dreams, featuring sister Nancy on lead vocals). 

Must hear: These Dreams

34. So Fired Up - Leroux (opens in new tab)

Still active in their home base of Louisiana, LeRoux were joined by future Toto singer Dennis Frederiksen for this, their fifth album. 

Equally at home with the ballads Wait One Minute and Let Me In or more up-tempo moments such as Carrie’s Gone, Turning Point and Lifeline (later recorded by Uriah Heep), the performance from Frederiksen (who passed away in 2014) is superlative. 

Must hear: Turning Point

33. In For The Count - Balance (opens in new tab)

Prior to reuniting for the all-new Equilibrium in 2009, these New Yorkers crafted two excellent releases in the 80s, In For The Count being their second. 

Led by singer Peppy Castro, guitarist Bob Kulick and keyboard player Doug Katsaros, their sound was crisp, nimble and very stylish. It’s now possible to pick up the first pair of albums as a single CD, and they’re highly recommended. 

Must hear: In For The Count

32. Unruly Child - Unruly Child (opens in new tab)

Unruly Child teamed the ex-World Trade duo of keyboard player Guy Allison and guitarist Bruce Gowdy with a genuinely world class singer in ex-Signal/King Kobra man Mark Free. 

The results were an immaculate, chest-beating mix of AOR, hard rock and melodic metal, although a combination of grunge, record label bungling and Free’s gender confusion stopped the band in its tracks. 

Must hear: Who Cries Now

31. Freedom At Point Zero - Jefferson Starship (opens in new tab)

You will almost certainly know this album’s single, Jane, an all-time classic riffer. Freedom At Point Zero, its parent album, saw the introduction of an uncut diamond named Mickey Thomas on vocals, with Grace Slick (opens in new tab) and Marty Balin having headed out of the door. 

Slick would return two years, later but in the meantime guitarist Craig Chaquico tilted the rudder firmly towards arena-friendly acceptance with the track Rock Music

Must hear: Jane

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and the autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis. He has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss, and currently works as content editor for Total Guitar. He lives in Bath - of which David Coverdale recently said: “How very Roman of you!”