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500 Greatest Albums

Here’s our list of seminal international albums including The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones among others

Rolling Stone India May 19, 2011
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190. From Elvis in Memphis – Elvis Presley

“I had to leave town for a little while,” Presley sings in the first track. Along with his 1968 TV special, this record announced he was back. Cut at Chips Moman’s American Studios, it is little short of astounding. With help from a crack crew of Memphis musicians, Presley masterfully tackles quality material from country (“I’m Movin’ On”), gospel (“Long Black Limousine”), soul (“Only the Strong Survive”) and pop (“Any Day Now”) as well as message songs (“In the Ghetto”). The same sessions also yielded one of Presley’s greatest singles, the towering pop-soul masterpiece “Suspicious Minds.”

189. Happy Trails – Quicksilver Messenger Service

If you weren’t there, this is the next best thing: the definitive live recording of the mid-Sixties San Francisco psychedelic-ballroom experience. Mostly taped at the two Fillmores, in San Francisco and New York, Quicksilver Messenger Service’s second album captures twin guitarists, John Cipollina and Gary Duncan, in high, bright flight, making rare magic from a couple of old Bo Diddley numbers (“Mona,” “Who Do You Love?”), while the gorgeous, composed intricacies of “Maiden of the Cancer Moon” and the acid-flamenco studio epic “Calvary” prove that psychedelia was not just about tripping out.

188. Buffalo Springfield Again – Buffalo Springfield

Buffalo Springfield boasted three major songwriters: Stephen Stills, Neil Young and Richie Furay. That’s one reason they were already splitting apart when they made their second record (another was Young’s distaste for “groupies, drugs, shit”). Again has masterful L.A. folk rock (Stills’ “Bluebird”), pioneering country rock (Furay’s “Child’s Claim to Fame”) and raw R&B rock (Young’s “Mr. Soul”). It ends with Young’s suitelike “Broken Arrow,” a hint of how brilliant and odd his solo career would be. He called the song “the end of something ”” and the beginning.” Less than a year later, the band called it quits.

187. So – Peter Gabriel

Gabriel got funky on the 1982 single “Shock the Monkey,” and it took him four years to follow up the hit. The similarly visceral “Sledgehammer” slammed So into the mainstream, and its hold on radio and MTV deepened with the upbeat “Big Time,” the gothic love ballad “In Your Eyes” (beautifully employed by filmmaker Cameron Crowe in Say Anything) and the inspirational “Don’t Give Up,” a duet with Brit art thrush Kate Bush, who was shown locked in a five-minute embrace with Gabriel in the video. Said his wife, Jill, of a marriage that had barely survived a series of dual affairs, “I managed to punish him. He managed to punish me better.”

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186. Fresh – Sly and the Family Stone

As the Seventies unfurled, Sly Stone became progressively flakier, frequently disappointing fans at his concerts by keeping them waiting . . . all night. “Sometimes you don’t feel your soul at 7:30,” he explained. Happily, the increasingly dissolute soul pioneer had one more ace up his sleeve: the intoxicating “If You Want Me to Stay,” in which he holed up in the basement of his vocal range while a fidgety bass line kept running up and down the stairs. This burst of residual genius was surrounded by various idiosyncratic gestures, the oddest of which was Stone’s ragged take on Doris Day’s 1956 hit “Que Sera, Sera.” Fresh would be his last Top Ten album.

185. The Stooges – The Stooges

Fueled by “a little marijuana and a lotta alienation,” Michigan’s Stooges gave the lie to hippie idealism, playing with a savagery that unsettled even the most blase clubgoers. The band was signed to Elektra, despite label head Jac Holzman’s misgivings that “the Stooges could barely play their instruments. How were we going to get this on record?” Ex-Velvet Underground member John Cale produced a primitive debut wherein, amid Ron Asheton’s wah-wah blurts, Iggy Stooge (ne James Osterberg) snarled seminal punk classics such as “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” “No Fun” and “1969.” The record stiffed, but it undeniably gave birth to punk rock.

184. Red Headed Stranger – Willie Nelson

Newly signed to columbia, Nelson was feeling ambitious. “It was the first time I had ‘artistic control,’ ” he recalled. “So I thought I would just start writing.” Nelson had penned the song “Red Headed Stranger” years before; on a drive back to Austin after a Colorado ski trip, he fleshed out the yarn ”” his wife, Connie, writing down the lyrics as they came out of his mouth. He kept the arrangements extremely spare, in sharp contrast to the gussied-up music coming out of Nashville at the time. The songs locked together to tell a tale of murder and infidelity, and the concept album became one of Nelson’s biggest hits.

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183. Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac

Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and his missus, Christine, had been through myriad lineups before finding California couple Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. Surmounting “cultural differences” (Buckingham’s description), the group clicked, generating big radio songs such as “Say You Love Me” and “Rhiannon,” and Buckingham contributed solid guitar work, arrangements and vocals that bridged the wildly divergent styles of McVie and Nicks. “We would get to know one another as friends only to a certain point,” Buckingham remarked. But that didn’t prevent them from going on to record 1977’s Rumours [see No. 25], one of the biggest records ever.

182. Natty Dread – Bob Marley and the Wailers

Natty Dread was the first Wailers album to give Marley top billing, and Marley’s first without original Wailers Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston. This was rebel music ”” from the opening “Lively Up Yourself” (a call to dance to the reggae beat or take to the streets, depending on how you looked at it) to “Them Belly Full (But We Hungry),” which warned that “a hungry mob is an angry mob.” “No Woman, No Cry” was a compassionate gospel-flavored song about not giving up hope. Marley co-credited it to Vincent Ford ”” who ran a backyard soup kitchen ”” to help keep Ford’s operation running.

181. The Rolling Stones, Now! – The Rolling Stones

As the stones were taking London by storm with their insouciant refraction of R&B, the Daily Mail noted their “doorstep mouths, pallid cheeks and unkempt hair” ”” what would later become the most copied image in rock. A charming exuberance pervades Now!, the Stones’ third U.S. release, with its hot-rod takes on Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters, plus ”” at the urging of manager-producer Andrew Loog Oldham ”” four attempts at re-creating the stateside flava on their own compositions, the best of which, “Heart of Stone,” introduces the crucial element of menace into the mix.

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