The 7 Best Albums of 1957 Ranked

Tristan Ettleman
8 min readFeb 15, 2024

Fittingly, I’ve felt like a broken record couching the introductions of these pieces in the coming of rock and roll, and now in the context of 1957, the full-fledged (at least pop culture consciousness) domination of it. If you watch any TV of this year, you will find acts like Elvis Presley on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW (1948–1971) and sitcoms referring to the growing teen sensation that was the genre. But in spite of rock’s apparent ubiquity, especially in hindsight, traditional pop was still holding on, especially in the view of conservative households (although rock was quickly eschewing its “Black music” label). It’s not like Frank Sinatra or Perry Como were suddenly irrelevant. But the makeup of the top five hits of the (American) year (according to Billboard), for example, shows an emerging dichotomy; that is, Elvis, Pat Boone, The Diamonds, Tab Hunter, and Jimmy Dorsey.

In the midst of this mainstream popular conversation, there were of course jazz and other offbeat realms associated with Black artists, and following them, the pre-hippie beatniks, another favored target of sitcoms and cartoons until the emergence of the even shaggier haired in the middle of the 1960s. Like rock and roll, jazz was being “legitimized” by some white artists (for other white people), but otherwise, great innovation was being put forward by performers of all types. I mean, Miles Davis and Moondog both put out multiple records within the calendar year of 1957, so great things were happening outside of the pop song space. At the risk of taking inventory of every genre in existence in 1957, I’d also like to point out country’s increasing embrace of the album format, even as it would focus on singles for a number of years more and those LPs were often compilations of previous hits. That topic will be revisited in short order. But another great representation of where music was in 1957 is that every record represented on this list, with one exception, is the debut album from an artist, even if they may have been performing and recording singles for some time before their release.


Favorite track: “Estudio en trompeta”

Another breakthrough of the late ’50s, after an uptick in popularity in the States earlier in the decade, was “world” music. But rather than being filtered through the exoticized view of an artist like Les Baxter, imported recordings were on the rise. CUBAN JAM SESSIONS IN MINIATURE by the double bassist Cachao is an example of this. Also titled DESCARGAS, after the improvisational Cuban form, this debut album from the bandleader fuses Latin sounds and jazz inclinations to great effect. Inducted into the Latin Grammys Hall of Fame and the National Recording Registry, this representation of Cachao’s leadership of electrifying jams is pure joy. Like the best improvised works of music, the tracks on CUBAN JAM SESSIONS feel like they’re just about to descend into complete anarchy, without ever doing so. Maybe it has to do with the fact that the band recorded the record extremely late (or early depending on how you look at it) after their regular nightclub gigs. CUBAN JAM SESSIONS is an essential record for understanding the exposure of Americans to music outside their country (although it didn’t come from too far away) and for simply satisfying the need to move your body.


Favorite track: “Folsom Prison Blues”

Johnny Cash’s debut album capped his earliest successes in working with Sun Records, a deal that was only made when he conceded to founder and producer Sam Phillips and went with a more “mainstream” country sound instead of his gospel act. Built on already successful singles like “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Cry! Cry! Cry!,” JOHNY CASH WITH HIS HOT AND BLUE GUITAR! sees the future icon belting out with that indelible voice, albeit one that would be refined in short order. Alternating between his own compositions and Cash-ified country, folk, and blues standards, the performer fits more neatly into the mold of these genres of the time than he would (that Phillips influence). But in “just” doing old-school country really well, he makes JOHNNY CASH WITH HIS HOT AND BLUE GUITAR! a tight, always engaging listen.

#5 — PATSY CLINE — Patsy Cline

Favorite track: “Walkin’ After Midnight”

Like Cash, Patsy Cline led with some early country music success based on the single “Walkin’ After Midnight.” This led to the production of PATSY CLINE, a mix of country inflections and more traditional pop production. Also like Cash, Cline had some down periods of commercial difficulty, although hers came much more quickly. She wouldn’t make another album after her first until 1961, a long hiatus in an era when artists would often put out multiple LPs in a single year. In any event, the release that preceded or maybe even precipitated this lull is ironically great. Mostly operating in a moody tone, PATSY CLINE showcases its title artist’s powerful voice wonderfully. Passing into legend when she died tragically young in a plane crash with other country artists, echoing the “Day the Music Died,” Cline is one of those musicians whose legacy feels more rooted in the tragedy than in the music. But listening to PATSY CLINE, one can hear why her sudden exit from this realm was so affecting to so many, as its and her crossover country magic is enrapturing.

#4 — THIS IS FATS — Fats Domino

Favorite track: “Baby Please”

The only non-debut record on this list, THIS IS FATS also represents the kind of LP that was quite common at the time. While considered a “studio album,” it may in today’s nomenclature be considered a “compilation,” a collection of older hits and new tracks. “Baby Please” is one of the former but its beautiful angst is just one end of the binary emotions and paces to be found on THIS IS FATS. While not as rocking or affecting as Domino’s first few records from the previous year, the album is essentially a follow up with the less stellar songs already in the pioneer’s repertoire (again, plus some newer stuff). THIS IS FATS, then, is almost even more impressive as a great album that is technically a “B release.” Domino’s early rock and roll sound is still movement-inspiring, and while quintessential for the era, not overly cheesy or lacking real bite. THIS IS FATS showcases the artist’s ability to sustain a superior quality standing out from the host of rock performers and fans and his sudden fame and success from hits like “Blueberry Hill.”

#3 — SINGIN’ THE BLUES — B.B. King

Favorite track: “You Know I Love You”

B.B. King is one of my favorite artists. His debut album SINGIN’ THE BLUES is another one of those compilation-ish records. Gathering singles recorded from 1951 to 1956, the record nevertheless feels cohesive in that it’s almost all killer no filler. Supporting my introduction caveat that a number of the “first albums” on this list belie the fact that their artists had been working for years, King already plays with an assuredness that would mark him as one of the greatest blues musicians to ever do it. Much attention has been paid to his innovative guitar skills with his lovely Lucille, but I’ve always found King’s voice to also be positively powerful. Perhaps fittingly, SINGIN’ THE BLUES is weighted in favor of his vocal talents, especially on a ballad like “You Know I Love You,” but electric energy is certainly present on the record.

#2 — HERE’S LITTLE RICHARD — Little Richard

Favorite track: “Rip It Up”

Speaking of electric energy: HERE’S LITTLE RICHARD is one of those near-perfect albums, especially in typifying a certain era or genre. Another debut from an artist who had already been making a name for himself for a minute, HERE’S LITTLE RICHARD is considered one of the formative albums of early rock and roll and even one of the greatest of all time in general. I essentially support those assessments, as Little Richard’s over-the-top presence and vocal delivery seems to carry the great legacy of someone like Cab Calloway and foreshadows the sweat and groove of someone like James Brown, or even punk music. “Rip It Up” is an undeniable mood lifter and essentially the whole track list of HERE’S LITTLE RICHARD falls into that mold. Swinging to and fro with a manic pace compressed into the incredibly short rock and pop song run time of the day, Little Richard creates an image of movement with pure sound that makes so much other rock music of the time (and even a lot since) feel sanitized and listless. Things like this may be said (by me and others) too often, but HERE’S LITTLE RICHARD is an essential album to listen to if you claim to love music…and sure, there are a lot of “essentials” if you make that claim.

#1 — THE “CHIRPING” CRICKETS — The Crickets

Favorite track: “Last Night”

For as much as I just praised Little Richard by comparison to the less electrifying rock music of the day, I made the difficult choice to put THE “CHIRPING” CRICKETS ahead of HERE’S LITTLE RICHARD at #1 on this list. Fronted by Buddy Holly, a legend like Cline made by youthful successes and an early grave, The Crickets’ first album showcases their Texas-inflected rock and roll, containing the shades of what would be called rockabilly. And by couching my assessment of THE “CHIRPING” CRICKETS as “less electrifying” than HERE’S LITTLE RICHARD, I mean to say the record weaves between various instincts, as with the slow yet heavenly ballad “Last Night” and the jumping hit “Oh, Boy!” Lyrically playing with a healthy dose of angst, the record also contains a certain songwriting structure that feels more modern, a claim I can’t exactly support with real music terms. But there’s a catchiness and emotion present throughout THE “CHIRPING” CRICKETS, channeled through Holly’s reedy voice and the honking and crooning chorus of his band, that make it the best album of 1957.