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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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120. Raising Hell – Run-DMC

Man, did this record start something. Working for the first time with producer Rick Rubin, the pioneering trio (rappers Run and DMC and DJ Jam Master Jay) took hip-hop into the upper reaches of the pop charts, introducing mainstream America to a new urban thunder: rap rock. The track that blew the nation’s mind was a rhythmic reduction of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way,” with contributions from that band’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. Just as superbad: “It’s Tricky,” which quotes the guitar riff from the Knack’s “My Sharona,” and “Hit It Run,” in which Run and DMC deflate their signature braggadocio with Bronx cheers.

119. The Harder They Come – Original Soundtrack

The movie was a spicy Jamaican stew of Robin Hood, High Sierra and Easy Rider ”” reggae singer turns outlaw hero, goes on the run with guns blazing, with patois dialogue so thick that U.S. audiences needed subtitles. But the magic in the soundtrack needed no translation. The four tracks by the film’s star, Jimmy Cliff, are paragons of Jamaican sunshine soul, his spiritual ballad “Many Rivers to Cross” is one of the finest songs to come from the island, while the rest of the LP introduced Babylon to the deep roots and mighty voices of the Melodians, the Slickers and the unstoppable Toots and the Maytals.

118. Stand – Sly and the Family Stone

A greatest-hits album in all but name, Stand! is party politics at its most inclusive and exciting ”” singer-leader Sly Stone at the top of his ecumenical-funk game. A DJ and producer in San Francisco during the Dawn of Hippie, Stone fortifies that utopian energy with the bonfire momentum of the civil-rights movement in motivational-soul sermons such as “Stand!” and “You Can Make It if You Try” without denying the divisions that threatened civil war (“Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey”). And let’s give due respect to the biracial, bi-gender Family Stone, whose rainbow thump here was a big influence on P-Funk and the electric Miles Davis.

117. Sweetheart of the Rodeo – The Byrds

On release, this bold experiment in Nashville classicism was shunned by rock fans and country purists alike. But rural American song had been central to the Byrds’ folk-rock sound; here, driven by junior Byrd Gram Parsons, the band highlighted that connection, dressing Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard songs in steel guitar and rock & roll drive, setting the stage for country rock. Legal hassles forced the removal of most of Parsons’ lead vocals from the ’68 LP (they’re restored on CD), and he quit before it came out. But he left signs of his short, glorious future in his originals “Hickory Wind” and “One Hundred Years From Now.”

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116. At Last! – Etta James

James was a self-described “juvenile delinquent” when R&B band boss Johnny Otis took her under his wing and made her a precociously sexual teenage star with 1954’s “Roll With Me, Henry.” Seven years later, James bloomed into a mature, fiery interpreter on this spellbinding LP for Argo, a Chess subsidiary. Against Riley Hampton’s meaty orchestrations, James wraps her husky voice around strange bedfellows such as “Stormy Weather” and Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” injecting them with rock & roll heart. She hit the pop and R&B charts with three of the songs here and created a new vocal model: the crossover diva.

115. Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs – Derek and the Dominos

The panoramic anguish of Eric Clapton’s singing and guitar-playing here ”” in songs such as “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad” and the searing title track ”” was the product of very private hurt: his romantic yearning for the then-wife of his best friend, George Harrison. “Layla” is also a two-LP feast of dueling guitars, as Clapton soared in tandem with session guest and slide virtuoso Duane Allman. They had not met prior to the sessions, but their interplay in “Key to The Highway” and “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” is both harmonious and fiercely competitive ”” electric, brotherly love.

114. Out of Our Heads – The Rolling Stones

Here’s where the Stones started to leave the R&B and blues covers behind. Their fourth album in America ”” where the Stones’ label happily disemboweled their U.K. releases to eke out more product ”” featured three defining Jagger-Richards originals, each a masterpiece of libidinal menace: “The Last Time,” the gently vicious “Play With Fire” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” a song that is the very definition of riff. Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding and Don Covay numbers helped to fill out the LP’s playing time, but for the first instance on album, the Stones were building an original songbook as hard and dark as they were.

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113. The Who Sell Out – The Who

The Who’s third record strung together recent singles with fake radio jingles and announcements. It was a sendup of consumer culture, and the band’s first stab at a concept album. Songs such as “Mary Anne With the Shaky Hand,” “Silas Stingy” and “Tattoo” have an almost psychedelic melodicism and hint at the kind of character studies Pete Townshend would explore more fully on Quadrophenia and Tommy. And “I Can See for Miles” is simply classic Who, driven by Townshend’s acoustic and electric power chords, John Entwistle’s contrapuntal bass figures and Keith Moon’s hydraulic drumming.

112. Disreali Gears – Cream

Disraeli Gears is the most pop-savvy of the British supertrio’s studio LPs. Producer Felix Pappalardi harnesses the blues-jazz prowess of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker to colorful, concise songs: “Strange Brew” (slinky funk), “Dance the Night Away” (trippy jangle), “Tales of Brave Ulysses” (a wah-wah freakout written by Clapton with Martin Sharp, who created the kaleidoscopic cover art). The hit single “Sunshine of Your Love” nearly didn’t make the record; the band had trouble nailing it until engineer Tom Dowd suggested that Baker try a Native American tribal beat, an adjustment that locked the song into place.

111. Cort and Spark – Joni Mitchell

Mitchell followed up Blue with the underrated For the Roses, a set of harmonically and lyrically complex songs. Court and Spark is, in comparison, smoother and more straight-ahead; it became the biggest record of her career, hitting Number Two. Working with saxophonist Tom Scott’s fusion group L.A. Express, Mitchell settles into a folk-pop-jazz groove that remains a landmark of breezy sophistication, particularly on the Top Ten single “Help Me.” Strange but true: A cover of “Twisted” by the scat ”” jazz vocal group Lambert, Hendricks and Ross closes the album ”” with stoner comics Cheech and Chong singing backup.

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