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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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80. Odessey and Oracle – The Zombies

The Zombies broke up two weeks after they completed Odessey and Oracle, in December 1967, and the album wasn’t released in the U.S. until 1969, after Al Kooper had heard a British pressing and lobbied his label, CBS, to release it here. But its baroque psychedelic arrangements continue to exert a powerful influence ”” Beck and Fountains of Wayne each cover its songs live. Recorded in London at both Abbey Road and a Stones haunt, Olympic Studios, Odessey combined the adventure of Sgt. Pepper with the concision of British Invasion pop. “Time of the Season” went on to become a Number Three hit.

79. Star Time – James Brown

So great is Brown’s impact that even with seventy-one songs on four CDs, Star Time isn’t quite comprehensive ”” between 1956 and 1984, Brown placed an astounding 103 singles on the R&B charts. But every phase of his career is well represented here: the pleading, straight-up R&B of “Please, Please, Please”; his instantaneous reinvention of R&B with “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” where melody is subsumed within the groove; his spokesmanship for the civil-rights movement in “Say It Loud ”” I’m Black and I’m Proud (Pt. 1)”; his blueprint for Seventies funk, “Sex Machine”; and his blueprint for hip-hop in “Funky Drummer.”

78. Harvest – Neil Young

Harvest yielded Young’s only Number One hit, “Heart of Gold,” and helped set the stage for the Seventies soft-rock explosion ”” both James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt sing on the album. Along with Young, they were in Nashville to appear on Johnny Cash’s variety show the week that Harvest was cut with an odd group of accomplished session players that included bassist Tim Drummond, who had played with James Brown. The sound was Americana ”” steel guitar, slide guitar, banjo ”” stripped down and rebuilt with every jagged edge exposed. The standout tracks include “Old Man” and “The Needle and the Damage Done.”

77. The Clash – The Clash

“I haven’t got any illusions about anything,” Joe Strummer said. “Having said that, I still want to try to change things.” That youthful ambition bursts through the Clash’s debut, a machine-gun blast of songs about unemployment (“Career Opportunities”), race (“White Riot”) and the Clash themselves (“Clash City Rockers”). Most of the guitar was played by Mick Jones, because Strummer considered studio technique insufficiently punk. The American release was delayed two years and replaced some of the U.K. tracks with recent singles, including “Complete Control” ”” a complaint about exactly that sort of record-company shenanigans.

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76. Imagine – John Lennon

After the primal-scream therapy of Plastic Ono Band Lennon softened up on his second solo album. There is still the stinging “Gimme Some Truth” and Lennon’s evisceration of Paul McCartney, “How Do You Sleep?” ”” both featuring George Harrison on guitar. But there is also the aching soul of “Jealous Guy” and the irresistible “Oh Yoko!” Imagine is self-consciously luminescent, pointedly embraceable. Lennon said of the title track, “Anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic, but because it is sugar-coated it is accepted. . . . Now I understand what you have to do. Put your political message across with a little honey.”

75. Led Zeppelin II – Led Zeppelin

This album opens with one of the most exhilarating guitar riffs in rock & roll: Jimmy Page’s searing stutter in “Whole Lotta Love.” But, Page told Rolling Stone, “On the second LP, you can hear the real group identity coming together,” by which he meant the unified might of his own white-blues sorcery, John Bonham’s hands-of-God drumming, Robert Plant’s love-god howl and surprisingly tender lyrics (the gorgeous “Thank You”), and John Paul Jones’ firm bass and keyboard colors. Other great reasons to bang your head: “The Lemon Song,” “Heartbreaker” and “Ramble On.”

74. Otis Blue – Otis Redding

Redding’s third album includes covers of three songs by Sam Cooke, Redding’s idol, who died the previous December. Their styles couldn’t have been more different: Cooke smooth and sure, Redding raw and pleading. But Redding’s versions of “Shake” and “A Change Is Gonna Come” show how Cooke’s sound and message helped shape Redding’s Southern soul, heard here in his originals “Respect” and “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and in a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” which was itself inspired by the Stax/Volt sound. “I use a lot of words different than the Stones’ version,” Redding noted. “That’s because I made them up.”

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73. Back in Black – AC/DC

In the middle of album rehearsals, singer Bon Scott went on a drinking spree; he choked on his own vomit and was found dead in the back seat of a car. After two days of mourning, guitarist Malcolm Young thought, “Well, fuck this, I’m not gonna sit around mopin’ all fuckin’ year.” He called his brother, guitarist Angus Young, and they went back to work with replacement vocalist Brian Johnson. The resulting album has the relentless logic of a sledgehammer. Back in Black might be the purest distillation of hard rock ever: The title track, “Hells Bells” and “You Shook Me All Night Long” have all become enduring anthems of strutting blues-based guitar.

72. Purple Rain – Prince and the Revolution

The blockbuster soundtrack to Prince’s semi- autobiographical movie was raunchy enough to inspire Tipper Gore to form the Parents Music Resource Center. It also showcases Prince’s abilities as a guitarist, especially on “Let’s Go Crazy.” The breakthrough hit, “When Doves Cry,” has no bass track: Looking for a different sound, Prince removed it, making one more unforgettable single. The title track was inspired by Bob Seger, of all people ”” when Prince was touring behind 1999 Seger was playing many of the same markets. Prince didn’t understand his appeal but decided to try writing a crossover hit, a ballad in the Seger mode.

71. After the Gold Rush – Neil Young

For his third album, Young fired Crazy Horse (the first of many times he would do that), picked up an acoustic guitar and headed to his basement. He installed recording equipment in the cellar of his Topanga Canyon home in Los Angeles, leaving room for only three or four people. There, Young made an album of heartbreaking ballads such as “Tell Me Why” and “Don’t Let It Bring You Down.” The music is gentle, which didn’t mean Young wanted it smooth. Nils Lofgren, then an seventeen-year-old hotshot guitarist, squeezed into the sessions ”” only to have Young assign him to the piano, an instrument he had never played in his life.

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