500 Greatest Albums
Here’s our list of seminal international albums including The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones among others
140. Parallel Lines – Blondie
Here’s where punk and New Wave broke through to a mass U.S. audience, thanks to the Number One hit “Heart of Glass,” also known to Blondie fans as “The Disco Song.” “I was trying to get that groove that the drummer for the Bee Gees had,” said drummer Clem Burke, who credited Kraftwerk and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack as influences on “Heart of Glass.” Parallel Lines is a perfect synthesis of raw punk edge, Sixties-pop smarts and the cool New Wave glamour Blondie invented. Deborah Harry, of course, invented a new kind of rock & roll sex appeal that brought New York demimonde style to the mainstream. Madonna was surely watching.
139. All That You Can’t Leave Behind – U2
“Our best work has been in our thirties,” Bono told Rolling Stone in 2000. “We did some good work in our twenties, but it’s getting better.” U2’s tenth album proved him right. Their previous effort, 1997’s Pop, was under-realized; All That You Can’t Leave Behind brought things back to essentials. The songs grapple with mortality ”” particularly the gospel-soul ballad “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” ”” and take on new resonance after September 11th. U2 bravely embraced those resonances the following October with a U.S. tour full of ecstasy, mourning and release.
138. Rejuvenation – The Meters
In 1974, when long, grueling guitar workouts ruled the day, New Orleans producer Allen Toussaint was building hit records with a taut Morse-code style of rhythm guitar rooted in the marching-band and party beats of the Crescent City. That funky discipline defines this LP. The Meters were already respected Big Easy session players when they achieved a perfect balance of funk, rock and Dixie R& B on Rejuvenation gems such as “People Say” and “Hey Pocky A-Way.” Listen closely and you’ll hear Lowell George of Little Feat putting his slide guitar to work on “Just Kissed My Baby” ”” just enough to pan-sear this juicy cut.
137. The Chronic – Dr. Dre
When George Clinton first heard hip-hop artists blending old records with new beats, he thought, “Damn, that’s pretty tacky.” Then Dr. Dre turned samples of Clinton’s P-Funk sides into G-Funk, and Dr. Funkenstein approved, calling funk “the DNA of hip-hop and rap.” Dre had already taken gangsta rap to the main-stream with his earlier group, N.W.A, but on The Chronic, he funked up the rhymes with a smooth bass-heavy production style and the laid-back delivery of then-unknown rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg. When Dre and Snoop dropped “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang,” there was no getting out of the way.
136. Tim – The Replacements
Singer-guitarist Paul Westerberg once cited Tim’s stylistic bookends to describe both the longevity of the Replacements’ influence and their lack of mainstream success. “My style is ultimately both kinds of things,” he said. “Sometimes you just love the little acoustic songs, and other times you want to crank the goddamn amp up, and those two parts of me are forever entwined.” That cognitive dissonance ”” the Stonesesque swagger of “Bastards of Young,” the unpolished reflection in “Swingin’ Party” ”” became a crucial template for grunge, alternative country and, recently, the noisy introspection of emo.
135. Greatest Hits – Elton John
John has put out numerous greatest-hits packages over the years, but none as important as this single-disc collection released by MCA during the piano man’s creative and commercial peak. It includes every one of his Top Ten singles of the period, from “Your Song” (1970) to “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” (1974). A second, equally strong volume came out in 1977, filling in some blanks ”” “Levon,” “Tiny Dancer,” “Philadelphia Freedom” ”” just as John prematurely announced his retirement. But for one easy-to-digest disc, this set documents why Elton John was one of the biggest-selling pop stars of the Seventies.
134. Slanted and Enchanted – Pavement
Pavement were the quintessential American independent rock band, and this is the quintessential indie-rock album. The playing is loose-limbed, the production laid-back and primitive, the lyrics quirky and playful, the melodies sweet and seductive. But the sound is as intense as the white noise of the Velvet Underground. Slanted and Enchanted is one of the most influential rock albums of the 1990s; its fuzzy recording style can be heard in the music of Nirvana, Liz Phair, Beck, the Strokes and the White Stripes. To double your pleasure, get the recent two-CD reissue, which features period outtakes and live tracks.
133. Ready to Die – The Notorious B.I.G.
“At the time I was making the album,” B.I.G. told Rolling Stone in 1995, “I was just waking up every morning, hustling, cutting school, looking out for my moms, the police, stickup kids, just risking my life every day on the street selling drugs, you know what I’m saying?” B.I.G. (a.k.a. Biggie Smalls) took all that gritty life experience and crammed it into Ready to Die. Almost single-handedly, Biggie shifted the focus back to East Coast rap. “Big Poppa” is the hit sex jam; on “Things Done Changed” and “Everyday Struggle,” he relates gangsta tales in a voice as thick as his waistline. “I’m definitely a writer,” Biggie said. “I don’t even know how to freestyle.”
132. The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle – Bruce Springsteen
“Someday we’ll look back on this/And it will all seem funny,” Springsteen sings on “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).” Reeling from the commercial fizzle of his debut LP, Springsteen threw off the “new Dylan” baggage and applied his Jersey-bar-band skills to working-class stories and boardwalk love songs such as “Rosalita,” “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” and “Kitty’s Back,” creating the voice and lyric persona that would make him a superstar. His first chart buster, Born to Run, was a couple of years away. But E Street is where Springsteen gets ready for the last laugh.
131. Saturday Night Fever – Original Soundtrack
In the mid-seventies, the Bee Gees swept away the arch pop of their Sixties hits and applied their silvery-helium harmonies to the creamy syncopation of disco. They made great albums in their new incarnation (such as 1975’s Main Course) but none bigger or more influential than this soundtrack. In the past quarter-century, Saturday Night Fever has sold 30 million copies worldwide, and its musical worth justifies the numbers. The Bee Gees dominate (“Stayin’ Alive” is the pulse of the picture as well as the album), but the Trammps’ hot-funk assault “Disco Inferno” affirms disco’s black-R&B roots.