500 Greatest Albums
Here’s our list of seminal international albums including The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones among others
320. Pink Moon ”“ Nick Drake
Drake recorded his last album in a couple of nights, mailed the tapes to Island Records and checked himself into a psychiatric ward. If the music were as dark as the lyrics, it might be unlistenable. But Drake’s soothing vocals and unadorned acoustic picking make this album unfold with supernatural tenderness.
319. Burnin’ – The Wailers
Righteous and seriously in the pocket, this is the last Wailers album with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. Bob Marley’s soulful cry is almost rivaled by the sticky organ riffs and fat-bottom beats, and their original version of “I Shot the Sheriff” is far creepier and more desperate than Eric Clapton’s hit cover.
318. Back Stabbers ”“ The O’Jays
After Vietnam, Watergate and the Watts riots, soul music slipped into darkness in the early Seventies. The title track of this Philly-soul album, made by a group named after a beloved Cleveland DJ, was the writing on the wall: symphonically funky and irretrievably paranoid, much like the times themselves.
317. The Eminem Show ”“ Eminem
Eminem’s bittersweet victory lap: the stomping “Square Dance,” the almost cuddly “Without Me,” the cracks showing in “Hailie’s Song” when he says he’s insecure. Just add tension from legal woes: “I thought I was goin’ to jail. But the scariest thought was, ‘How am I going to tell Hailie?'”
316. Rock Steady ”“ No Doubt
In which No Doubt do dancehall and techno but reveal themselves to be a great New Wave band: On “Don’t Let Me Down” (produced by Ric Ocasek), they sound more like the Cars than the Cars. Bassist Tony Kanal compared Steady to Return of the Jedi: “It’s, like, full of Ewoks. You know, just happy.”
315. Surfer Rosa ”“ The Pixies
Smack in between hardcore punk and alternative, it was impossible to deconstruct the Pixies’ ferocious howl. Their secret weapon was leaping from sweet to screamin’ (which Kurt Cobain admitted to boosting): On “Gigantic,” Kim Deal sings like Peppermint Patty as the band drives a spike into Eighties rock.
314. The Velvet Underground ”“ The Velvet Underground
The Velvets began as the black-booted antidote to the flower-power sound of the Sixties; this album turned folk music inside out. Their disillusion, exhaustion and ache is explosive, and the churning rhythm guitar in “What Goes On” could shame lead guitarists.
313. Damn The Torpedoes ”“ Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
With hair like Jagger, and a voice like Dylan in tune, Petty de-frilled classic rock and cranked up his bar band. In 1979, he filed for bankruptcy; then Torpedoes took off, mostly because “Here Comes My Girl” seemed to keep the promises those rock gods forgot they’d made.
312. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill ”“ Lauryn Hill
On her solo debut, Hill took classic Seventies soul and made it boom and signify to the hip-hop generation. The production was subtle and glorious on heartbreakers such as “Ex-Factor” (reportedly about Wyclef Jean) and the swinging sermon “Doo Wop (That Thing).”
311. MTV Unplugged in New York ”“ Nirvana
Nirvana shine brightly on this live set because the volume is just low enough to let Kurt Cobain’s tortured tenderness glow. The powerful, reverent covers of Lead Belly, Bowie and Meat Puppets songs sum Nirvana up as a haunted, theatrical and, ultimately, truly raw band.