10 essential Gibson SG albums

Sister Rosetta Tharpe
(Image credit: Tony Evans/Getty Images)

Along with its cousin the Les Paul, as well as Fender's Stratocaster and Telecaster, the Gibson SG arguably rounds out the big four of classic electric guitars. It's lent power, brawn and sonic versatility to countless vital long-players in the six decades since its introduction. 

Narrowing things down to just the 10 best of these innumerable SG-powered albums is a near-impossible task, but it does help chart rock's dizzying evolution, particularly in the 60s and 70s.

From AC/DC's rabble-rousing debut to Sister Rosetta Tharpe's stunning Live In Paris 1964, the following albums all – with an SG leading the charge – made a tremendous impact on music in their own way.

1. AC/DC – High Voltage (1976)

AC/DC’s first proper release also featured Angus Young’s first SG, a 1970 model (‘probably’, says Angus himself) bought that same year. It was used exclusively throughout most of the 70s – and even on 2020’s Power Up. High Voltage was famously slammed by Rolling Stone magazine, but it’s hard to argue with its energy and the quality of material and performances.  

Standout track: T.N.T.

2. Cream – Disraeli Gears (1967)

Fair enough, Cream’s second effort isn’t considered the most consistent record, but when it got it right it absolutely shone – and Clapton’s spellbinding playing on his 1964 ‘Fool’ Gibson SG is all over it. Plus it also goes down in history for introducing Clapton’s coveted ‘woman’ tone; just check out the opening riff to Sunshine Of Your Love.  

Standout track: Sunshine Of Your Love 

3. Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970) 

Left-handed riff king Tony Iommi is responsible for many teens purchasing SG guitars (and rupturing their own eardrums). His band’s second album continued the band’s eponymous debut’s theme of a dark and heavy low sound, and is considered a benchmark in heavy metal music. The title track is key, but War Pigs is a standout, too.  

Standout track: War Pigs

4. The Allman Brothers Band – Hittin’ The Note (2003)

Duane Allman is a crucial player in the SG canon, as is Derek Trucks, whose clear and precise blues sound is revered the world over. Hittin’ The Note is especially notable here since it’s the final Allman Brothers Band album and the only one to feature Trucks. His mellow juicy lines work well with Warren Haynes’ guitar work on an enjoyable and solid record.  

Standout track: Instrumental Illness

5. The Beatles – Revolver (1966)

The hints of experimentalism heard on the previous year’s Rubber Soul went on to be further realized on 1966’s Revolver. For the studio sessions, George Harrison relied heavily on his 1964 Gibson SG Standard, which he later gave to Pete Ham of Badfinger. The tone achieved on the track She Said She Said is just stunning.  

Standout track: She Said She Said

6. The Doors – L.A. Woman (1971)

The last studio album to feature Jim Morrison at the helm, the Doors’ sixth studio release was also a return to a stripped-back, more bluesy sound for the California band – and what a resounding success it was too. Robby Krieger’s 1968 SG Standard features throughout, but really starts hitting its stride when the cracking Been Down So Long kicks in.   

Standout track: Been Down So Long

7. Frank Zappa & The Mothers – Roxy & Elsewhere (1974)

Zappa’s ‘Baby Snakes’ SG of the late 70s was actually an obscure custom copy, but the ‘Roxy’ model he used for this album was a Gibson, albeit modified with various switches and preamps. His son Dweezil has since stated that Frank’s tone is impossible to emulate; and even the briefest of listens to this rollercoaster album will back that claim.   

Standout track: Cheepnis

8. Haim – Days Are Gone (2013)

Danielle Haim has quickly become a modern icon for the SG, and this tightly performed, highly listenable, well-produced debut album from her LA band is chock-full of spikey, accomplished pop songs, with Danielle’s jagged picking on her 2005 Cherry Red Standard a key element. Check out live footage of the band for the full experience.   

Standout track: Falling

9. The Who – Live At Leeds (1970) 

Live At Leeds is well up there with the best ever live rock albums, and it’s also a cracking example of the power of the SG. Just hear Pete Townshend’s fretboard-surfing during My Generation for unquestionable proof of its muscle. And talking of strength, the modified SG in question is also famous for surviving being smashed to smithereens on stage.   

Standout track: My Generation

10. Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Live In Paris 1964 (1988)

This remarkable guitarist has been cited as a key influence for many a star player over the years, including Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. Later in her career, the good sister acquired her classic white early 60s SG model, which bore the ‘Les Paul Custom’ nameplate (which subsequently disappeared at the end of ’63) and was showcased well in this live set.  

Standout track: This Train

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Glenn Kimpton

Glenn Kimpton is a freelance writer based in the west of England. His interest in English folk music came through players like Chris Wood and Martin Carthy, who also steered him towards alternate guitar tunings. From there, the solo acoustic instrumental genre, sometimes called American Primitive, became more important, with guitarists like Jack Rose, Glenn Jones and Robbie Basho eventually giving way to more contemporary players like William Tyler and Nick Jonah Davis. Most recently, Glenn has focused on a more improvised and experimental side to solo acoustic playing, both through his writing and his own music, with players like Bill Orcutt and Tashi Dorji being particularly significant.