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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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180. The Definitive Collection – ABBA

The Swedish pop stars ABBA may be the quintessence of kitsch, but on “Waterloo,” “Dancing Queen,” “Fernando” “Take a Chance on Me,” and “Mamma Mia,” Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson display an uncanny knack for choruses that become permanently hooked in the cranium. Their better halves, Agnetha Faltskog and Frida Lyngstad, provide the blankly ingenuous vocals that allow them to pull off head-scratching lyrics such as “Love Isn’t Easy (But It Sure Is Hard Enough)” and assessments such as Lyngstad’s: “Since our divorces, we are more mature, and our style progresses more quickly.”

179. The Anthology 1961-1977 – Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions

Mayfield was professor Soul, teaching sociocultural awareness while dispensing hard lessons and tough love. Starting with the gospel-rooted vocal group the Impressions, he crafted romantic ballads (“I’m So Proud”), inspirational anthems (“People Get Ready”), orchestrated funk workouts (“Move On Up”) and edgy street narratives (“Superfly”). When Mayfield died in 1999 ”” nine years after being paralyzed in a stage accident ”” his manager, Marv Heiman, offered this epitaph: “He wanted people to think about themselves and the world around them, making this a better place for everyone to live.” Amen.

178. Greatest Hits – The Byrds

On their first four albums, these golden California boys combined their roots in the coffeehouse folk scene with their love of the Beatles. Leader Roger McGuinn was an acoustic folkie who plugged in after his mind was blown by A Hard Day’s Night. McGuinn’s signature sound ”” the jangling twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar ”” and the group’s harmonies defined folk rock on a string of huge radio hits: the break-up ditty “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better,” the psychedelic rave-up “Eight Miles High” and the cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” which gave Dylan his first and only Number One single.

177. One Nation Under a Groove – Funkadelic

When One Nation came out, Parliament Funkadelic ringleader George Clinton compared his music with mainstream black pop: “James Brown, Jimi, Sly and ourselves took the whole other thing so far anyway that most of ’em ain’t nowhere near catching up yet.” But the public made One Nation Funkadelic’s first million-seller, fueled by the touching sentiments of “Maggot Brain” and “P.E. Squad/Doo Doo Chasers.” Clinton’s vast funk empire then numbered about fifty-five members; he constantly switched lineups and labels. “I have to play with it,” Clinton said. “It’s too intense otherwise.”

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176. Rocks – Aerosmoth

After Toys in the Attic proved that Aerosmith were more than a Stones caricature, the band flexed its muscles on the boastfully (and aptly) named Rocks, a buffalo stampede of rave-ups and boogies. During one typically madcap session, bassist Tom Hamilton and guitarist Joe Perry switched instruments on “Sick As a Dog”; when they came to the song’s instrumental outro, Perry flipped the bass to singer Steven Tyler, grabbed his guitar and joined Hamilton and rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford for the final salvo. “We could have done it a lot easier by overdubbing,” Perry admitted. “It wouldn’t have had the same feel, though.”

175. Close to You – The Carpenters

Karen Carpenter sang and drummed; her brother Richard arranged their lushly melodic music. Both contributed to their thoroughly wholesome image. “It’s like we’re Pat Boone, only a little cleaner,” Richard lamented to Rolling Stone in 1974. “As if all we do all day is drink milk, eat apple pie and take showers. I don’t even like milk.” Close to You, their second album, has two of their best ballads: “(They Long to Be) Close to You” and “We’ve Only Just Begun.” In the early Seventies, the Carpenters epitomized the mainstream, but now their influence is audible in cooler, slightly less-clean indie bands: the Cardigans, Stereolab and “chamber pop” acts such as Belle and Sebastian.

174. Desire – Bob Dylan

Soon after completing Blood on the Tracks [see No. 16], Dylan started work on Desire, with lyrical input from collaborator Jacques Levy. In typical Dylan style, the recording was mostly bashed out in one all-night New York session, fueled in part by tequila. Guest singer Emmylou Harris didn’t even get to rehearse her harmony vocals. The most intense moment came at the end, when Dylan struck up a new song he hadn’t sung for the band before. As his wife, Sara, sat listening in the studio, Dylan sang “Sara,” his heartbroken account of their crumbling marriage. It was the first time she heard the song ”” and that take ended up on the album.

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173. Something/Anything? – Todd Rundgren

“I’m probably the whitest singer in the world,” Rundgren told Rolling Stone in 1972. “I have no ‘soul’ in the usual sense ”” but I can do this great feminine falsetto.” On this tour-de-force double album, Rundgren employs that falsetto on two great singles in the vein of Carole King: “I Saw the Light” and “Hello It’s Me.” For the rest of the album, he demonstrates his complete command of the studio, playing almost all the instruments himself, experimenting with a kaleidoscope of rock genres and even delivering a monologue on what poorly made records sound like, complete with examples of hiss and hum.

172. Every Picture Tells a Story – Rod Stewart

“We had no preconceived ideas of what we were going to do,” Stewart said. “We would have a few drinks and strum away and play.” With a first-class band of drinking buddies (including guitarist Ron Wood and drummer Mickey Waller), Stewart made a loose, warm, compassionate album, rocking hard with mostly acoustic instruments. “Mandolin Wind” was his moving ballad of a country couple toughing out a long winter on the farm; the title tune was a hilarious goof. But Stewart scored his first Number One hit with “Maggie May,” his autobiographical tale of a young stud getting kicked in the head by an older lady.

171. The Notorious Byrd Brothers – The Byrds

While recording their fifth album, Byrds guitarist David Crosby was fired and drummer Michael Clarke quit. According to legend, for the album-cover photo, the band erased Crosby’s face ”” and replaced him with a horse. But despite the internal drama, the Byrds made Notorious a warm, gentle comedown for Sixties children facing up to the morning after the Summer of Love. The sound is melancholic but friendly, blending spacey studio effects and Moog synthesizers with guitars, strings and horns to build the elegiac mood of “Draft Morning” and “Goin’ Back” as well as the optimistic surge of “Dolphin’s Smile” and “Natural Harmony.”

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