A bit of the obvious to start things off: Making a great album is hard. Writing compelling songs, gathering collaborators, crafting the right balance between great singles and album cuts, navigating the label labyrinth–the process of assembling an album itself is difficult enough to begin with, let alone making one of high quality and appeal. Now consider attempting to replicate that process three times. It's a difficult task that few artists–even some of finest talents of all time–can accomplish, even over nonconsecutive albums. Capturing magic on three straight albums, then, demands a combination of considerable vision, constant, evolving creativity, and sheer, Herculean will.
We've rounded up fourteen artists from roughly the last three decades (using the dawn of the MTV era as a loose marker) who defied the odds and put out three straight great albums. In some cases, the artists listed managed to overcome even longer odds and release four or five excellent albums in a row; when applicable, we'll explain why we've chosen the three albums listed.