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Essential Road Trip Albums

Updated on August 22, 2012

I'm about to embark on a road trip that will take me from Florida to New York, hopefully a twenty-seven hour journey. At my side will be my beautiful fiancée, whom I love and adore, but who doesn't always love my music choices. So, in order to prepare my music choices for the journey, I want to list some of the best albums to play on a road trip. No playlists, no greatest hits; just original albums from the first to last song.

Time to start road trippin'!


Californication

Artist: Red Hot Chili Peppers
Released: June 8, 1999

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are by far my favorite band, so any music list I write is going to include them. Luckily, Californication is also a great road trip album. Things start off with the perfect opening song, "Around the World", that will have you excited for every stop along the way. This album is less serious than By the Way and almost every song is catchy and will have you singing along. Anthony Kiedis' lyrics have the perfect amount of funk for Flea's bass and John Frusciante is on his A-Game for this album. Song's like "Easily" and "Right On Time" bring out the rock, while "Californication" and "Scar Tissue" keep things calm. When the album ends on the perfect note, "Road Trippin'", you'll be all set for the long drive.


Full Moon Fever

Artist: Tom Petty
Released: April 24, 1989

While it doesn't include the perfect road trip song, "Mary Jane's Last Dance", Full Moon Fever has the right tunes to keep a cruise control journey entertaining. One of Tom Petty's best traits is his ability to craft songs that tell stories, often humorous ones, all around great music. The album begins with the overplayed but still great "Free Fallin'", but it's songs like "I Won't Back Down" and "Love Is a Long Road" that put this into a road trip list. "Yer So Bad", "Depending On You" and "The Apartment Song" will give you reason to travel for hours on end and things come together nicely with the ridiculous "Zombie Zoo". With this album, Tom Petty becomes a great road trip companion.


Magic

Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Released: October 2, 2007

Picking one album from the Boss' collection is a hard task, but for a road trip, you can't do better than Magic. From the opening, cross-country riff that is "Radio Nowhere", this album is one that has a view of America that you'll start to share on the road. When you've been traveling for too long, songs like "Gypsy Biker" and "Long Walk Home" will remind you that it's all worth it. Bruce may be aging, but he still knows how to make great music and this album combines his love of both rock and folk. "Devil's Arcade" would be the perfect closer, but "Terry's Song" brings a somber ending to the whole thing. For those of us that like to get melodramtic for no reason while driving, Magic is the way to go.


Plastic Beach

Artist: Gorillaz
Released: March 3, 2010

The Gorillaz are a great band that make themselves an acquired taste. I had a hard time deciding which album to put on this list, but as good as Demon Days and their first CD are, Plastic Beach is a road trip album made for those looking for something different. Things stay fresh with unique songs and plenty of featured artist. The first song that hits the right note is "Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach", but it's "Stylo" featuring Mos Def and Bobby Womack that gets you excited to hit the freeway. Crunchy beats and smooth lyrics make for great listening. "Empire Ants", "Glitter Freeze" and "Some Kind of Nature" have a funky attitude to help lonely trips and "On Melancholy Hill" has the right mood to keep you smiling as you pass other weary travelers. Mos Def really earns his keep with "Sweepstakes" and Bobby Womack ends the album in class with "Cloud of Unknowing". Not for those ready to fall asleep at the wheel, but perfect for driving through the dusk, just as the sun hits the horizon to bid you farewell until another day


Greatest Hits

Artist: Social Distortion
Released: June 25, 2007

Okay, I lied. I didn't want to include a greatest hits album because they tend to just become playlists in themselves. But when it came to Social Distortion, their Greatest Hits album is the best way to listen to them. You have "Prison Bound", "Story of My Life", "Ball and Chain" and "Far Behind" all on one CD. You also get their great cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire". For those of us who look to the road for answers, "I Was Wrong" and "Bad Luck" are our ballads as we drive an empty highway. These guys know how to rock while lamenting their mistakes and have a great southern-rock feel to all their songs. Morning, day or night, this album will do the job at any point of your trip.


Freewheelin'

There you have it, a very subjective list for an activity some people hate, but some of us love. Road trips are meant to have great music and whether you're using an iPod or CDs, albums are still one of the best ways to go. I know full well people will look at my list and scoff, especially with the lack of some great classic rock artist. Trust me, I have that playlist on my iPod too.

But, if I missed your absolute favorite road trip album, let me know! Did I leave out that Bob Dylan album you can't start the car without? Maybe Will Smith's Big Willie Style? Leave your choices in the comments below and enjoy your trip!

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    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      A.E. Williams 

      5 years ago from Hampton, GA

      Awesome premise, Eric. I definitely agree these are great artists for a road trip. :)

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