500 Greatest Albums
Here’s our list of seminal international albums including The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones among others
200. The Downward Spiral – Nine Inch Nails
“When I rented the place, I didn’t realize it was that house,” claimed NIN’s Trent Reznor about recording Spiral in the one-time home of Manson-family victim Sharon Tate. Despite “a million electrical disturbances,” Reznor made the most successful album of his career. While Spiral has its share of Reznor’s trademark industrial corrosiveness, it is balanced by the tentatively hopeful “Hurt” and soundscapes inspired by David Bowie’s Low.
199. Highway to Hell – AC/DC
Upon being promoted from the band’s driver to its lead singer, Bon Scott immediately came up with his singular formula for recording vocals: He downed half a bottle of bourbon, chased it with some weed and a fat rail of blow, and proclaimed, “I’m ready.” Then he got the take. Scott was a force of nature, and by AC/DC’s fourth studio album, he and guitarist Angus Young had become an explosive one-two punch. “You’d need several volumes of Britannica,” Young noted, “just to chronicle what Bon got up to in one day.” Inevitably, Scott’s wicked ways caught up with him, and he was dead six months after Highway’s release.
198. The Best Of – Little Walter
While the other players in Muddy Waters’ band were electrifying the blues, Little Walter was doing something unprecedented. Holding his harmonica and a microphone in his cupped hands, Walter attacked the instrument with the authority of the bop sax players who’d influenced him, bringing a dynamic new sound to Chicago blues. In 1952, after Walter’s own “Juke” topped the R&B charts, he started his own group. Walter was a disciplined musician, but he had less control of his personal life. “He was hellacious when he drank,” said Lazy Lester Johnson. Walter died at thirty-seven after suffering head injuries in a street fight.
197. Murmur – R.E.M.
“We wanted to have this kind of timeless record,” guitarist Peter Buck said of R.E.M.’s debut, and this “technically limited” band (according to producer Don Dixon) did just that. Buck was a rock scholar who had worked in a record store; singer Michael Stipe unspooled his lyrics as if they constituted some new secret language. Murmur is full of ringing guitar and mystery. The lyrics and the melodies seem buried, almost subliminal, and even the hookiest songs, such as “Radio Free Europe,” resist clarity. Murmur was a founding document of alternative rock, released just as Gen X was starting to go to college.
196. Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 – Various Artists
This collection of sixties garage rock, compiled by rock critic and soon-to-be Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye, became a touchstone for Seventies punks. The twenty-seven-track, two-LP set was a radical idea in 1972 ”” while rock was getting bigger, Nuggets established a new canon out of forgotten AM-radio hits ”” brutally simple singles, such as the Standells’ “Dirty Water,” the Shadows of Knight’s “Oh Yeah!” and the Count Five’s “Psychotic Reaction.” Rhino expanded Nuggets into a sprawling four-CD box in 1998.
195. Blues Breakers – John Mayall With Eric Clapton
The blues breakers became one of London’s hottest acts as soon as ex-Yardbird Clapton arrived, but that wasn’t what he’d bargained for. “He just wanted to play his guitar,” Mayall remembered. Except Clapton’s solos with the Blues Breakers inspired his cult; this is when CLAPTON IS GOD graffiti first started to appear in London, and this record shows why. Along with the band’s expert renderings of Freddie King’s “Hideaway” and Robert Johnson’s “Ramblin’ on My Mind,” the LP contains a nutty take on Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say,” whose long drum solo gave Clapton a preview of what he’d soon experience in Cream.
194. Transformer – Lou Reed
David Bowie counted the former Velvet Underground leader as a major inspiration ”” and paid back the debt by producing Transformer. The album had glam flash courtesy of Ziggy Stardust guitarist Mick Ronson as well as Reed’s biggest hit, “Walk on the Wild Side” ”” which brought drag queens and hustlers into the Top Twenty ”” and the exquisite ballad “Perfect Day.” It was Reed’s first producer, VU impresario Andy Warhol, who inspired the lead cut when he suggested “Vicious” as a song title. “You know, like, ‘Vicious/You hit me with a flower,’ ” Warhol elaborated. Reed took him at his word, penning the song and cribbing the lines verbatim.
193. Dookie – Green Day
The album that jump-started the Nineties punk-pop revival. The California trio Green Day sold plenty of tickets and indie records on their own, but nothing they did before or since had the impact of their major-label debut. The skittish Dookie was recorded in little more than three weeks, and singer-guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong blazed through all the vocals in two days. “Right from getting the drum sound, everything seemed to click,” their A&R man Rob Cavallo marveled. Nowhere did it click better than on the infectious smash “Longview” (which Armstrong described as “cheap self-therapy from watching too much TV”).
192. The Gilded Palace of Sin – The Flying Burrito Brothers
“We’re a rock & roll band that sounds like a country band,” Gram Parsons said of the Burritos, whose first album was one of the most obscure masterpieces of Sixties rock. Parsons and Chris Hillman formed the Burritos after they both quit the Byrds; in many ways Gilded Palace picks up where the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo left off. Together, the mercurial Parsons and the levelheaded Hillman concocted a crazily coherent statement of irony-fueled hillbilly anthems, inventive covers and achingly beautiful two-part harmonies, underscored by Sneaky Pete Kleinow’s radical pedal steel.
191. Fun House – The Stooges
With garage-savvy ex-Kingsmen keyboardist Don Gallucci producing their second album, the Stooges made their most fully realized effort, despite their collective drug problems. “We had a certain purity of intention,” Iggy Pop asserted. “I don’t think we did ever get it from the drugs. I think they killed things.” They couldn’t kill what he has called the relentless “troglodyte groove” the band had on Fun House. “I stick it deep inside,” Iggy growls on “Loose,” one of the album’s typically confrontational tracks. Later, on “1970,” he insisted, ad infinitum, “I feel all right,” and there’s no question you wouldn’t want any of whatever he was on.