500 Greatest Albums
Here’s our list of seminal international albums including The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones among others
250. The River ”“ Bruce Springsteen
Springsteen said it took him five albums to begin writing about real relationships, about “people tryin’ to find some sort of consolation, some sort of comfort in each other.” “Hungry Heart” tells just that story, and it became Springsteen’s first Top Five single, propelling this double album to Number One. To balance the resignation of ballads such as “Point Blank” and the title track, Springsteen and the E Street Band tear up bar-band R&B, rockabilly, country and their own brand of epic rock.
249. Low ”“ David Bowie
Moving to Berlin to kick cocaine, Bowie hooked up with producer Brian Eno. Low was the first of the trilogy of albums they made in Berlin, full of electronic instrumentals and quirky funk such as “Sound and Vision.” The same year, Bowie also produced Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life and The Idiot, both recorded in Berlin.
248. Reasonable Doubt – Jay-Z
“The studio was like a psychiatrist’s couch for me,” Jay-Z told Rolling Stone, and his debut is full of a hustler’s dreams and laments. It established Jay as the premier freestyle rapper of his generation and includes a filthy sixteen-year-old Foxy Brown on “Ain’t No Nigga.”
247. Automatic for the People ”“ R.E.M
“It doesn’t sound a whole lot like us,” warned Peter Buck, but that was the point of R.E.M.’s ninth album. Largely acoustic, and with string parts arranged by Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, this musical left turn finds a haunted beauty in songs such as “Everybody Hurts” and “Drive.”
246. The Shape of Jazz to Come ”“ Ornette Coleman
Coleman’s sound was so out-there, one audience threw his tenor sax over a cliff. He switched to alto and pioneered free jazz: no chords, no harmony, any player can take the lead. Here, his music can be just as lyrical as it is demanding, particularly on the haunting “Lonely Woman.”
245. Bryter Layter – Nick Drake
Compared to the British Folkie’s other records, Nick Drake’s second album could almost be called upbeat. Almost. With John Cale, Richard Thompson and other members of Fairport Convention assisting him, Drake jazzes up the arrangements on songs such as “Poor Boy” but leaves his voice stark and fragile.
244. Live Dead ”“ Grateful Dead
After two expensive studio albums put the Dead $100,000 in debt, this live set was more than just cheap, it was pivotal. For the Dead, the magic happened onstage, as demonstrated by the glorious twenty-three-minute jam-outs on “Dark Star” and the band’s cover of “(Turn On Your) Lovelight.”
243. Freak Out! ”“ The Mother of Invention
A master guitarist and provocateur, Frank Zappa made more than sixty albums, but the first was perhaps the most groundbreaking. The double-disc Freak Out! declares the arrival of a visionary weirdo who dabbles in doo-wop, pop-song parody, protest tunes, art rock and avant-garde classical.
242. All Killer, No Filler! ”“ Jerry Lee Lewis
Lewis is best known for his frenzied, piano-pumping Sun sides cut in the late Fifties, yet his career as a country hitmaker lasted decades. Listen to “What Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me)” and you might agree with the Killer that “Elvis was the greatest, but I’m the best.”
241. Black Sabbath ”“ Black Sabbath
Recorded in a single twelve-hour blurt by a hippie-leaning former blues band, this lumbering debut conjures up a new, sludgy sound: the birth pains of heavy metal. The slide guitar on “Wizard” and the grungy boogie of “Wicked World” would influence not only future metal spawn but even the sound of Nirvana.