Every Red Hot Chili Peppers Album from best to worst

January 9, 2017

Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea | USA TODAY Sports

With 11 LPs under there belt and a show at Key Arena in March, it feels like the right time to dive into Red Hot Chili Peppers’ catalogue to determine the band’s best all-time albums.

That’s no small task. RHCP’s career spans nearly four decades and includes 11 full-length albums, equivalent to one metric buttload of music to sift through and rank. 

Fortunately, my friend Chris is not only the biggest RHCP fan I know, but lives and breathes analytics and spreadsheets, so he sat down and put together his all-time best of list, the definitive ranking of each Red Hot Chili Peppers album, from best to worst.

Be prepared. When he agreed, he said, “I’m down to write this, but I’ll probably ruffle some feathers,” so let us know what you think. I'll make sure to pass on all your compaints.

1. Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991)

This is the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Slinky guitars, loud aggressive drums, in-your-face funky bass, and lyrics that project bold arrogance with slight sorrow. If you can listen to this album without waving your freak-flag, you may indeed be lost.

Recommended Tracks: Funky Monks, Breaking the Girl, Righteous and the Wicked

2. Stadium Arcadium (2006)

As the last album recorded with guitarist John Frusciante, it is clearly his magnum opus. Mature and energetic, this is the Chili Pepper’s greatest showing of musicianship. The double album achieves range with its 28 tracks while maintaining overall coherence.

Recommended Tracks: Wet Sand, Especially in Michigan, Hard to Concentrate

3. One Hot Minute (1995)

This will ruffle quite a few feathers. As the band’s only album with guitarist Dave Navarro, this album puts a darker spin on the Chili Pepper’s signature funk-rock sound. Recorded in one of the band’s darkest times, One Hot Minute achieves a sound so absolutely raw that it’s impossible to not take a journey into the band’s existential crisis.

Recommended Tracks: Aeroplane, Transcending, My Friends, Stretch You Out (deluxe version bonus track).

4. By The Way (2002)

2002’s By the Way is the Chili Peppers most subtle and melancholy album. The album features more subdued bass and guitar while favoring vocal harmonies and layered synthesizers. For Radiohead fans out there, this the equivalent of In Rainbows for the Chili Peppers.

Recommended Tracks: Can’t Stop, Dosed, Warm Tape

5. Californication (1999)

With the return of a now-sober John Frusciante on guitar, Californication represents a rebirth for the band. With contemplative tracks such as “Scar Tissue” and “Otherside,” Californication showcases Anthony Kiedis’ strongest songwriting.  

Recommended Tracks: Parallel Universe, Scar Tissue, Right On Time

6. The Uplift Mofo Party Plan (1987)

This is the only RHCP album to feature all four founding members. The album’s abrasive blend of punk and funk beckons you to channel you inner-teenager and rebel against the man (until you realize you grew up and became the man).

Recommended Tracks: Fight Like a Brave, Subterranean Homesick Blues, Funky Crime

7. The Getaway  (2016)

The band’s second and best album with its current lineup. RHCP risked alienating some fans by exploring a more alt-rock sound this time around. The risk pays off about 80% of the time with the album representing a cohesive showing of what sophomore guitarist Josh Klinghoffer is capable of.

Recommended Tracks: The Longest Wave, Encore, Dreams of a Samurai

8. Mother’s Milk  (1989)

Mother’s Milk is the first showing of the band’s classic lineup of Anthony Kiedis, Flea, John Frusciante, and Chad Smith. At times the album feels forced but there are many indications of creative potential throughout.

Recommended Tracks: Higher Ground, Taste the Pain, Knock Me Down

9. Red Hot Chili Peppers  (1984)

This self-titled debut is a collection of explosive songs that combine rap, funk, punk, and rock. This is RHCP’s attempt at just having fun which it accomplishes without any overarching artistic direction. If you need to get pumped up, this album may be what you are looking for.

Recommended Tracks: Out in LA, Get up and Jump, True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes

10. I’m With You (2011)

2011’s I’m with you is the band’s first record after the departure of guitarist John Frusciante (for the second time). The album has its strong points but lacks an overall cohesive sound. At times, it’s hard to figure out what the band is going for.

Recommended Tracks: Brendon’s Death Song, Police Stations, Meet Me At The Corner

11. Freaky Styley (1985)

Produced by Parliament/Funkadelic’s George Clinton, this is the band’s most pure funk record. The album succeeds in its goal of pure funk but you can’t help feeling like this is the Chili Peppers trying to be something they’re not.

Recommended Tracks: Jungle Man, If You Want Me to Stay, The Brother’s Cup

What do you think? Feathers ruffled?

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