Best Blues Albums of All Time – Ranked

I have collected over a dozen lists of ‘best blues albums’ that I found in books, magazines and websites and compiled them into a single meta-list.  This list is organized by rank, that is, with the albums on the most lists at the time.  Albums on the same number of lists are organized in chronological order, based on the earliest recording on the album. For the same list organized in chronological order, go here.

NOTE: Many older blues albums are compilations.  Much of the material from the artists is available on multiple compilation albums. For example, all the music on Robert Johnson’s King of the Delta Blues is also available on Robert Johnson’s The Complete Recordings.

On 10 lists
Junior WellsHoodoo Man Blues (1965)

On 9 lists
Magic Sam
West Side Soul (1967)

On 8 lists
Howlin’ WolfMoanin’ in the Moonlight (rec. 1951-1959)
Albert KingBorn Under a Bad Sign (rec. 1966-1967)

On 7 lists
Robert JohnsonKing of the Delta Blues (rec. 1936-1937)
Howlin’ WolfHowlin’ Wolf (rec. 1959-1962)
The Paul Butterfield Blues BandThe Paul Butterfield Blues Band (1965)
B.B. KingLive at the Regal (1965)

On 6 lists
Elmore JamesThe Sky Is Crying: The History of Elmore James (rec. 1951-1961)
Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ BrownThe Original Peacock Recordings (rec. 1952-1959)
T-Bone WalkerT-Bone Blues (rec. 1955-1957)
Muddy WatersAt Newport 1960 (rec. 1960)
Son HouseFather of the Delta Blues: The Complete 1965 Recordings (1965)
John MayallBluesbreakers with Eric Clapton (1966)
Albert CollinsIce Pickin’ (1978)
Stevie Ray VaughanTexas Flood (1982)

On 5 lists
Mississippi John HurtAvalon Blues: Complete 1928 Recordings (rec. 1928)
Skip JamesThe Complete Early Recordings of Skip James – 1930 (rec. 1931)
Little WalterHis Best: Chess 50th Anniversary Collection (rec. 1952-1963)
Guitar SlimSufferin’ Mind (rec. 1953-1955)
Albert KingKing of the Blues Guitar (rec. 1966-1968)
Charlie MusselwhiteStand Back! Here Comes Charlie Musselwhite’s South Side Blues Band (1967)
Hound Dog TaylorHound Dog Taylor & the Houserockers (1971)
Albert Collins, Robert Cray & Johnny CopelandShowdown (1985)
Robert CrayStrong Persuader (1986)

On 4 lists
Blind BlakeRagtime Guitar’s Foremost Fingerpicker (rec. 1926-1929)
Blind Willie JohnsonThe Complete Blind Willie Johnson (rec. 1927-1934)
Blind Willie McTellThe Definitive Blind Willie McTell (rec. 1929-1933)
Memphis MinnieBumble Bee: The Essential Recordings of Memphis Minnie (rec. 1929-1941)
Robert JohnsonThe Complete Recordings (rec. 1936-1937)
John Lee HookerThe Legendary Modern Recordings 1948-1954 (rec. 1948-1954)
T-Bone WalkerThe Complete Imperial Recordings: 1950-1954 (rec. 1950-1954)
B.B. KingSingin’ the Blues/The Blues (rec. 1951-1958)
Otis RushThe Classic Cobra Recordings: 1956-1958 (rec. 1956-1958)
Little MiltonGreatest Hits (MCA-Chess, rec. 1962-1983)
Skip JamesToday! (1966)
B.B. KingBlues Is King (1966)
Muddy WatersHard Again (1977)
R.L. BurnsideToo Bad Jim (1992)

On 3 lists
Bessie Smith
The Essential Bessie Smith (rec. 1923-1933)
Ma RaineyMa Rainey’s Black Bottom (rec. 1924-1928)
Blind Lemon JeffersonKing of the Country Blues (rec. 1926-1929)
Lead BellyKing of the 12-String Guitar (rec. 1935)
Bukka WhiteThe Complete Bukka White (rec. 1937, 1940)
Muddy WatersThe Best of Muddy Waters (Chess, rec. 1948-1954)
John Lee HookerThe Ultimate Collection 1948-1990 (rec. 1948-1990)
Jimmy RogersChicago Bound (rec. 1950-1959)
Sonny Boy Williamson (II) – King Biscuit Time (rec. 1951-1965)
Lightnin’ HopkinsThe Herald Recordings 1954 (rec. 1954)
Sonny Boy Williamson (II)Down and Out Blues (rec. 1955-1958)
Sonny Boy Williamson (II)His Best (Chess, rec. 1955-1964)
Big Joe TurnerThe Boss of the Blues (1956)
Sonny Boy Williamson (II)The Real Folk Blues/More Real Folk Blues (rec. 1957, 1960-1964)
Champion Jack DupreeBlues from the Gutter (1958)
Bobby “Blue” BlandThe Voice: Duke Recordings 1959-69 (rec. 1959-1969)
The Rolling StonesThe Rolling Stones (1964)
Big Mama ThorntonBall N’ Chain (Arhoolie, rec. 1965-1968)
Paul Butterfield Blues BandEast-West (1966)
Magic SamBlack Magic (1968)
Mississippi Fred McDowellI Do Not Play No Rock and Roll (1969)
Buddy GuyI Was Walking Through the Woods (1970)
Otis RushRight Place, Wrong Time (1971)
Buddy GuyStone Crazy (1981)
Various ArtistsDeep Blues: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1992)
Eric ClaptonFrom The Cradle (1994)

On 2 lists
Bessie SmithThe Complete Recordings, Vol. 1 (rec. 1923-1924)
Bessie SmithThe Collection (rec. 1923-1933)
Various ArtistsThe Roots of Robert Johnson (rec. 1926-1936)
Various ArtistsMasters of the Delta Blues: The Friends of Charlie Patton (rec. 1926-1936)
Cannon’s Jug StompersThe Best of Cannon’s Jug Stompers (rec. 1927-1930)
Lonnie JohnsonSteppin’ on the Blues (rec. 1927-1932)
Blind Willie JohnsonPraise God I’m Satisfied (rec. 1927-1934)
Tommy JohnsonComplete Recorded Works in Chronological Order (1928-1929)
Tampa RedThe Guitar Wizard (rec. 1928-1934)
Scrapper BlackwellThe Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell (rec. 1928-1935)
Charley PattonFounder of the Delta Blues (rec. 1929-1934)
Charley PattonComplete Recordings 1929-1934 (rec. 1929-1934)
Kokomo ArnoldComplete Recorded Works Vol. 1 (1930-1935) (rec. 1930-1935)
John Lee “Sonny Boy” WilliamsonSonny Boy Williamson: The Bluebird Recordings (rec. 1937-1938)
Son HouseDelta Blues (The Original Library of Congress Sessions from Field Recordings 1941-1942) (rec. 1941-1942)
Lead BellyWhere Did You Sleep Last Night: Lead Belly Legacy, Vol. 1 (rec. 1941-1947)
Big Maceo MerriweatherThe Best of Big Maceo: The King of Chicago Blues Piano (rec. 1941-1947)
Lightnin’ HopkinsThe Gold Star Sessions (rec. 1946-1949)
Lightnin’ HopkinsMojo Hand: The Lightnin’ Hopkins Anthology (rec. 1946-1974)
Muddy Waters The Chess Box (rec. 1947-1972)
John Lee HookerAlternative Boogie: Early Studio Recordings 1948–1952 (rec. 1948-1952)
Professor LonghairFess: The Professor Longhair Anthology (rec. 1949-1980)
Percy MayfieldMemory Pain (rec. 1950-1955)
Willie DixonThe Chess Box (rec. 1950-1970)
Howlin’ WolfThe Chess Box (rec. 1951-1953)
J.B. LenoirHis J.O.B. Recordings (rec. 1951-1954)
Howlin’ WolfHis Best: Chess 50th Anniversary Collection (rec. 1951-1964)
Big MaybelleThe Complete Okeh Sessions, 1952-1955 (rec. 1952-1955)
Big Mama ThorntonHound Dog/The Peacock Recordings (rec. 1952-1957)
Little WalterThe Essential Little Walter (rec. 1952-1963)
Elmore JamesLet’s Cut It: The Very Best of Elmore James (rec. 1952-1956)
Bobby “Blue” BlandI Pity the Fool: The Duke Recordings, Vol. 1 (rec. 1952-1960)
Guitar SlimThe Things That I Used To Do (rec. 1953-1956)
Jimmy ReedBig Boss Man: The Best of Jimmy Reed (rec. 1953-1963)
Jimmy ReedJimmy Reed at Carnegie Hall (rec. 1954-1961)
Albert KingThe Ultimate Collection (rec. 1954-1984)
Lightnin’ SlimRooster Blues (rec. 1955-1960)
Sonny Boy Williamson (II)The Essential Sonny Boy Williamson (rec. 1955-1963)
Bo DiddleyHis Best (Chess/MCA, rec. 1955-1966)
Big Bill BroonzyTrouble In Mind (rec. 1956-1957)
Bobby “Blue” BlandTwo Steps from the Blues (rec. 1956-1960)
Freddie KingHide Away: The Best of Freddie King (rec. 1956-1970)
The Reverend Gary DavisPure Religion & Bad Company (1957)
Billie HolidaySongs For Distingué Lovers (1957)
Buddy GuyThe Very Best of Buddy Guy (Rhino, rec. 1957-1981)
Memphis SlimAt the Gate of Horn (1959)
Lightnin’ HopkinsLightnin’ Hopkins (1959)
Elmore JamesBlues After Hours (1960)
Otis SpannOtis Spann is the Blues (1960)
Etta James At Last! (rec. 1960)
Koko TaylorWhat It Takes/The Chess Years (rec. 1960-1971)
Scrapper BlackwellMr. Scrapper’s Blues (1961)
Freddie KingJust Pickin’ (rec. 1961, 1965)
Robert NighthawkLive on Maxwell Street (1964)
Robert Nighthawk & Houston StackhouseMasters of Modern Blues (rec. 1964, 1967)
Koko TaylorKoko Taylor (rec. 1965-1969)
Various ArtistsChicago/The Blues Today/Vol. 1-3 (1966)
Johnny WinterProgressive Blues Experiment (1967)
John MayallCrusade (1967)
Canned HeatBoogie With Canned Heat (1968)
Taj MahalTaj Mahal (1968)
Skip JamesDevil Got My Woman (1968)
Albert KingLive Wire/Blues Power (1968)
B.B. KingHis Definitive Greatest Hits (Universal TV, rec. c. 1968-1989)
Eddie “Cleanhead” VinsonOld Kidney Stew Is Fine (1969)
Junior WellsSouthside Blues Jam (rec. 1969-1970)
Willie DixonI Am the Blues (1970)
B.B. KingIndianola Mississippi Seeds (1970)
B.B. KingLive at Cook County Jail (rec. 1970)
John Lee Hooker & Canned HeatHooker & Heat (1970)
James Cotton100% Cotton (1974)
Hound Dog TaylorBeware of the Dog (1974)
Rory GallagherIrish Tour ’74 (1974)
Koko TaylorI Got What It Takes (1975)
Professor LonghairCrawfish Fiesta (1979)
Johnny CopelandBringing It All Back Home (1985)
Albert CollinsCold Snap (1986)
Johnny Winter3rd Degree (1986)
John Lee HookerThe Healer (1989)
Gary MooreStill Got The Blues (1990)
Junior KimbroughAll Night Long (1992)
Junior Kimbrough Sad Days, Lonely Nights (1993)
Alvin Youngblood HartTerritory (1998)
Corey HarrisGreens from the Garden (1999)
R.L. BurnsideWish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down (2000)

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