Skip to main content

The 50 Greatest AOR Albums Of All Time

20. Richard Marx - Richard Marx  (opens in new tab)

In the summer of 1987, who could resist Richard Marx? Chiseled, mulletted and in possession of a collection of instant AOR classics, Marx was everyone’s favourite boy-crush, cheeky one moment, heartbroken the next. 

From Should’ve Known Better to those Endless Summer Nights, we remember every moment. He also had a former cast member of The Waltons on guitar. 

Must hear: Should’ve Known Better

19. Diving For Pearls - Diving For Pearls (opens in new tab)

At the end of the 80s, this New York band sounded like the future of AOR, their flawless debut album delivering ultramelodic songs with a modern dynamic, as illustrated by the anthem Gimme Your Good Lovin’. 

They also had a unique voice in Danny Malone. Even though the album sold 250,000, Epic Records dropped the band. It remains a lost classic. 

Must hear: Gimme Your Good Lovin’

18. Eye Of The Tiger - Survivor (opens in new tab) 

The song that made Survivor famous was written for the smash-hit boxing movie Rocky III at the request of its star, Sylvester Stallone. 

Eye Of The Tiger punched its way to No.1 all over the world, and the parent album, which included another era-defining anthem in American Heartbeat, was the band’s best with original vocalist Dave Bickler. 

Must hear: Eye Of The Tiger

17. Michael Bolton - Michael Bolton (opens in new tab) 

Everybody’s Crazy is Michael Bolton’s masterpiece, but the album he made before it is a classic in its own right, loaded with great songs such as Fool’s Game, Hometown Hero and Can’t Hold On, Can’t Let Go, all sung as only Bolton can. 

A masterful version of The Supremes hit Back In My Arms Again was a signpost to his future. 

Must hear: Fool’s Game

16. Indiscreet - FM  (opens in new tab)

Thirty-two years after its release, Indiscreet is still the greatest UK AOR album ever made, filled with perfectly crafted songs including That Girl, Frozen Heart and I Belong To The Night, and Steve Overland’s heroic performance on the record reminds us why he’s nicknamed The Voice. 

FM’s follow-up, Tough It Out, featuring the Desmond Child-assisted Bad Luck, is another masterpiece

Must hear: That Girl

15. Street Talk - Steve Perry  (opens in new tab)

On this, his first solo album, released when he was still Journey’s singer, Steve Perry (opens in new tab) mixed soft rock and soul to brilliant effect, scoring a huge US hit with Oh Sherrie, a shout-out to his then girlfriend. 

His second solo record, 1994’s For The Love Of Strange Medicine, is as overwrought as its title suggests, but on Street Talk simplicity is genius. 

Must hear: Oh Sherrie

14. New England - New England (opens in new tab)

Unsurprisingly, they were from New England (Boston, actually, but someone had already nicked that as a band name), and this debut album, co-produced by Paul Stanley (opens in new tab) of Kiss (opens in new tab), is a masterclass in what frontman John Fannon called “power-melodic song-oriented rock”. 

Hello, Hello, Hello has shades of Jeff Lynne, and Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya, a glorious pomp-rock anthem, was a minor US hit that should have made them bigger than Jesus.  

Must hear: Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya

13. Toto - Toto (opens in new tab) 

Toto is the sound of a genre beginning to crystallise, Hold The Line an early example of what American radio rock would become. 

It was trampled by the press when it was released, but the divide between the critics and the public was already apparent as musicians and radio programmers tried to find an audience not served elsewhere. A milestone. 

Must hear: Hold The Line

12. Foreigner - Foreigner (opens in new tab)

1977 wasn’t all about punk rock. It was also a defining year for the less fashionable exponents of AOR, with Foreigner’s debut a multimillion-seller. 

Feels Like The First Time and Cold As Ice were US Top 10 hits, and for the next 10 years the hits kept coming. 

Must hear: Cold As Ice

11. Welcome To The Real World - Mr. Mister (opens in new tab)

Singer Richard Page almost joined Toto, but instead found fame, albeit fleetingly, with Mr. Mister. 

This, their second album, a perfect hybrid of melodic rock and new wave, yielded two US No.1s in Broken Wings, a ballad as immaculate as The Cars’ Drive, and Kyrie, a ringing, quasi-spiritual anthem. 

Must hear: Kyrie

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!”