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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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50. Here’s Little Richard – Little Richard

“I came from a family where my people didn’t like rhythm and blues,” Little Richard told Rolling Stone in 1970. “Bing Crosby, ‘Pennies From Heaven,’ Ella Fitzgerald was all I heard. And I knew there was something that could be louder than that, but I didn’t know where to find it. And I found it was me.” Richard’s raucous debut collected singles such as “Good Golly, Miss Molly,” in which his boogie-woogie piano and falsetto scream ignited the unfettered possibilities of rock & roll. “Tutti Frutti” still has the most inspired rock lyric on record: “A wop bop alu bop, a wop bam boom!”

49. At Fillmore East – The Allman Brothers Band

Although this double album is unbeatable testimony to the Allman Brothers’ improvisational skills, it is also evidence of how they connected with the crowds at New York’s Fillmore East, and how the reciprocal energy gave birth to rock’s greatest live double LP. “The audience would kind of play along with us,” singer-organist Gregg Allman said of those March 1971 shows. “They were right on top of every single vibration coming from the stage.” The guitar team of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts was at its hair-raising peak, fusing blues and jazz with emphatic force in “Whipping Post” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” But their telepathy was cut short just three months after the album’s release, when Duane died in a motorcycle accident.

48. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back – Public Enemy

Loud, obnoxious, funky, avant- garde, political, uncompromising, hilarious ”” Public Enemy’s brilliant second album is all of these things and, on nearly every track, all at once. Chuck D booms intricate rhymes with a delivery inspired by sportscaster Marv Albert; sidekick Flavor Flav raps comic relief; and production team the Bomb Squad build mesmerizing, multilayered jams, pierced with shrieking sirens. The title and roiling force of “Bring the Noise” is truth in advertising. “If they’re calling my music ‘noise,’ ” said Chuck D, “if they’re saying that I’m really getting out of character being a black person in America, then fine ”” I’m bringing more noise.”

47. A Love Supreme – John Coltrane

Two important things happened to Coltrane in 1957: The saxophonist left Miles Davis’ employ to join Thelonious Monk’s band and hit new heights in extended, ecstatic soloing. Coltrane also kicked heroin addiction, a vital step in a religious awakening that climaxed with this legendary album-long hymn of praise. The indelible four-note theme of the first movement, “Acknowledgment,” is the humble foundation of the suite. But Coltrane’s majestic, often violent blowing (famously described as “sheets of sound”) is never self-aggrandizing. Aloft with his classic quartet (pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, drummer Elvin Jones), Coltrane soars with nothing but gratitude and joy. You can’t help but go with him.

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46. Legend – Bob Marley and the Wailers

Marley said, “reggae music too simple for [American musicians]. You must be inside of it, know what’s happening, and why you want to play this music. You don’t just run go play this music because you think you can make a million off it.” Ironically, this set of the late reggae idol’s greatest hits has sold in the millions. It is also a comprehensive, single-disc example of the universal soul he brought to Jamaican rhythm and Rastafarian spirituality, in the gunfighter ballad “I Shot the Sheriff,” the comforting swing of “No Woman, No Cry” and the holy promise of “Redemption Song.” Since its release, Legend has been, for many people, their first exposure to Marley, and to reggae in general. It is a superlative beginning ”” but only the tip of his genius.

45. The Band – The Band

The Band was four-fifths Canadian ”” drummer Levon Helm was from Arkansas ”” but its second album was all American. Guitarist Robbie Robertson’s songs vividly evoke the country’s pioneer age ”” “Across the Great Divide,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” ”” while pointedly reflecting the state of the nation in the 1960s. The Band’s long life on the road resonates in the brawn of Garth Hudson’s keyboards and Helm’s juke-joint attack. But Robertson’s stories truly come to life in Helm’s man-of-the-soil growl, Rick Danko’s high tenor and Richard Manuel’s spectral croon. “Somebody once said he had a tear in his voice,” Helm said of Manuel. “Richard had one of the richest, textured voices I’d ever heard.”

44. Horses – Patti Smith

From its first defiant line, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine,” the opening shot in a bold reinvention of Van Morrison’s garage-rock classic “Gloria,” Smith’s debut album was a declaration of committed mutiny, a statement of faith in the transfigurative powers of rock & roll. Horses made her the queen of punk. But she cared more for the poetry in rock. In “Free Money,” “Redondo Beach” and the incantatory rave-up “Land Medley,” she sought the visions and passions that connected Keith Richards and Arthur Rimbaud *#8212; and found them, with the intuitive assistance of a killing band (pianist Richard Sohl, guitarist Lenny Kaye, bassist Ivan Kral and drummer Jay Dee Daugherty) and her best friend, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who shot the unforgettable cover portrait.

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43. The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd

“I think every album was a step towards Dark Side of the Moon,” keyboardist Rick Wright said. “We were learning all the time, the techniques of the recording and our writing was getting better.” As a culmination of their inner-space explorations of the early 1970s, the Floyd toured the bulk of Dark Side in Britain for months prior to recording. But in the studio, the band articulated bassist Roger Waters’ lyric reveries on the madness of everyday life with melodic precision (“Breathe,” “Us and Them”) and cinematic lustre (Clare Torry’s guest vocal aria “The Great Gig in the Sky”). Dark Side is one of the best-produced rock albums ever, and “Money” may be rock’s only Top Twenty hit in 7/8 time.

42. The Doors – The Doors

After blowing minds as the house band at the Whisky-a-Go-Go, where they were fired for playing the Oedipal drama “The End” (which was too explicit for even the Sunset Strip), the Doors were ready to unleash their organ-driven rock and Jim Morrison’s poetic aspirations on the world. “On each song we had tried every possible arrangement,” drummer John Densmore said, “so we felt the whole album was tight.” “Break On Through (to the Other Side),” “Twentieth-Century Fox” and “Crystal Ship” are pop-art lighting for Top Forty attention spans. But the Doors hit pay dirt by editing one of their jamming vehicles for airplay: “Light My Fire,” written by guitarist Robbie Krieger when Morrison told everybody in the band to write a song with universal imagery.

41. Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols – The Sex Pistols

If the sessions had gone the way I wanted, it would have been unlistenable for most people,” Johnny Rotten said. “I guess it’s the very nature of music; if you want people to listen, you’re going to have to compromise.” But few heard it that way at the time. Packed with disgust, nihilism and raw guitar, the Pistols’ only studio album sounds like a rejection of everything rock & roll, and the world itself, had to offer. True, the music was less shocking than Rotten himself, who sang about abortions, anarchy and hatred in general on “Bodies” and “Anarchy in the U.K.” But Never Mind . . . is the Sermon on the Mount of English punk ”” and the echoes are everywhere.

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