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The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

A definitive ranking voted and debated by our editors, staff writers, and contributors

The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time, artwork by Cap Blackard
The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time, artwork by Cap Blackard
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    Oh boy. We’re in for trouble. The greatest albums…of all time? Are they nuts? Where do they get the nerve? Wait ’til they hear my piece of mind! All thoughts racing through your temples right now. (That is, if you’re even taking the time to read this.) But, think about it: You love these lists. We do, too. But more on that in a second.

    For now, try and imagine the culture we live in. The idea of learning about someone through conversation, or even something as rudimentary as spending time together, is so “old-fashioned” and so “passe.” Nope. Anything that takes longer than 30 seconds isn’t worth your time. It’s the runoff from our Facebook culture, where identity depends on how well your profile looks. Do you have an underrated band next to an acceptable mainstream group? Is your bio too long or too short? Are you quirky without trying too hard? Do you look chubby in your profile photo?

    Don’t shake your head. That’s how society works these days – at least our online culture here. We’re quick to pass judgment within seconds. That’s why we try to be on our toes at all times, ready for criticism and on the defensive. (Sometimes we try to just say, “Oh, fuck it” and ignore you. But that takes patience, which comes with time. Don’t ask.) Because of this difficult and remarkable situation, we turn to “the list.”

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    These days, lists have become synonymous with identity. Is that a surprise? It’s a collection of someone’s opinions on an easy-to-swallow topic. Whether it’s the Top 10 Solos by Ace Frehley or the Top 10 Feel Good Hits of the Summer, you’re leaving with an impression. This impression is incredibly valuable to you, the reader, and us, the publisher. It offers some clarity for you and some air for us. We may have to wash our shirts out from the rotten tomatoes, but hell, it feels good to know we tore down the proverbial curtains.

    So, what about this specific list? Is it a bit much for us to lay out what we feel are the greatest albums of all time? Sure, you could argue that. (We did. Several times. Until we finally just…decided it’d be fun to do.) However, you’d be missing the point. Despite all the forthcoming disagreements, this list summarizes where we stand with our views on music. It’s sort of a, uh, take it or leave it approach, really. Are we expecting you to agree? No. Of course not. In fact, given that this is a collective endeavor, we don’t necessarily agree with every decision made here on a personal level. But, we’d all agree that this is the best representation of how we, as a staff, rank all the albums in music history.

    -Michael Roffman
    President/Editor-in-Chief


    90. Refused – The Shape of Punk to Come: A Chimerical Bombination in 12 Bursts

    Refused %E2%80%93 The Shape of Punk to Come A Chimerical Bombination in 12 Bursts The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    In 1998, a hardcore band from Umea, Sweden, released one of the greatest, if not the greatest, hardcore/punk albums of all time. Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come remains to this day one of the most assaulting and unpredictable albums I’ve ever heard. The album’s theme is based on the idea that hardcore and punk bands who have a political message are completely counterproductive if they keep packaging their anti-establishment message in poppy punk songs for the masses.

    So Refused came along to fix that by having on-a-dime tempo changes, synth-jazz beats and breaks, and vintage recording interludes all combined with raw and angry vocals and guitar riffs and some of the best hardcore drumming of any record ever. “New Noise” encapsulates the album’s message, while “Liberation Frequency”, “Refused Party Program”, and “Protest Song ‘68” drive home Refused’s political ideologies into your brain like a Ginsu blade.

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    The band members put so much effort and anger into this album that it would be their last as a band. Shape of Punk to Come caused the band to famously explode during an American tour in support of the album—as seen in their documentary Refused are Fucking Dead. The epic disintegration of the band left behind a larger-than-life myth for Refused that still lives on in their final, and greatest, album. -Nick Freed

    Essential Tracks: “New Noise”, “Liberation Frequency”, and “The Deadly Rhythm”


    89. Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique

    Beastie Boys Pauls Boutique The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    Whenever the Beastie Boys were namedropped in teenage conversation, the pinnacle of my knowledge sat on any one of numerous singles from Licensed To Ill and a few scattered hits about the radio stream. I thought they were funny in the way that ICP is funny or Biz Markie is funny, so whatever, right? Wrong. A couple of years ago, I saw this used copy of Paul’s Boutique in CD Warehouse for about $10 after having heard the name come up before. I played this album in the van and started picking out familiar samples — Jaws theme, Pink Floyd, Average White Band, Afrika Bambaata, The Eagles, James Brown. Beastie Boys were juvenile rappers for most of their career, but look close at 1989’s Paul’s Boutique, the predecessor to mash-ups before samples were monitored like drug traffic and WMG-censored YouTube. Lyrically, Paul’s Boutique is goofy and unintentionally clever, but musically, it has more layers than a Grand’s biscuit. -David Buchanan

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    Essential Tracks: “Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun”, “High Plains Drifter”, and “B-Boy Bouillabaise”


    88. Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral

    Nine Inch Nails - The Downward Spiral

    Trent Reznor has come a long way since his one-man studio band Nine Inch Nails injected 1994’s The Downward Spiral into mainstream radio. Taking some pop aesthetic from 1989’s dance-oriented Pretty Hate Machine and grinding it up with the legendary middle finger known as the Broken EP, Reznor spat out a suicidal concept record with industrial metal roots (not to mention its ’95 remix companion). The Downward Spiral spearheaded a wave of industrial pop, nu-metal, mid-90s alternative, and the like, all alongside a leviathan called grunge rock. While the overall sound and motivation of Nine Inch Nails and its sole creator has taken dramatic shifts post-’99, despite a “fist fuck” here and a marriage there, Trent Reznor will go down in history as Mr. Self Destruct — the man who brought us “closer to God” in so many words. On that note, you know you’re awesome when Johnny Cash makes one of your songs his own personal, unplanned eulogy. -David Buchanan

    Essential Tracks: “March Of The Pigs”, “Heresy”, and “Hurt”


    87. N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton

    N.W.A. %E2%80%93 Straight Outta Compton The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

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    Although they probably owe Schoolly D and the Park Side Killas some credit for pioneering gangsta rap, N.W.A. can proudly say that they brought this style of über-catchy, ultra-violent hip-hop to the mainstream. Released in 1988, Straight Outta Compton featured what would eventually become some of the genre’s biggest names — Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, and MC Ren – spinning tales of life in one of Los Angeles’s roughest neighborhoods over minimalist beats and scratching provided by DJ Yella and Arabian Prince. Cuts like “Fuck Tha Police” and the title track came to epitomize the West Coast sound and paved a road that led to rap music infiltrating every household in America. Even if you were from the most tranquil corners of suburbia, you tensed up, clenched your fists, and pretended you were popping off rounds when you listened to Ice Cube open the record by declaring, “When I’m called off/I get a sawed off/squeeze the trigger/and bodies are hauled off.”  N.W.A. made you feel hard even though you still had to turn the volume down when your mom was home. -Ray Roa

    Essential Tracks: “Straight Outta Compton”, “Fuck Tha Police”, and “Dopeman (Remix)”


    86. Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

    elton john goodbye yellow brick road frontal The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    After already releasing six standout records, Elton John’s lucky number seven slapped us with piano glam rock at its finest, strutting a supersonic sound with prowess and ease. It opens with back-to-back blowouts “Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” that set in motion what is still John’s most prized record to date. John had successfully become the biggest hit-maker since The Beatles, and this double record was his magnum opus. “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” easily finds itself in the top echelon of fist-pumping rock songs that get your blood boiling and your head banging.

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    The grandiose rock is filled with an energy unlike any of his other works, giving us a new side to the piano man. Ballads “Candle in the Wind” and the title track, along with every other hit off this record, have since become staples in pop, turning the record into an early greatest hits collection. Beyond that, deep cuts like “Grey Seal” carry the same huge presence, showing just how stacked this record really is. All of this could only come from the man in the glittery glasses who knew no limits to where his piano could take him, and thank God for it. -E.N. May

    Essential Tracks: “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting”, “Grey Seal”, and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”


    85. Michael Jackson – Off the Wall

    Michael Jackson Off the Wall The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    I’ve never been one of those purists who claims that all “new” music is woefully shamed by all “old” music. For one, even prior to the Internet, the standard for “old” was nebulous at best, and two, the claim simply doesn’t hold up when you consider how inventive, or how life-altering, many records have been since we entered the modern era (whenever that was). But, if I’ve ever been tempted to cozy up to that idea, it’s been while listening, or rather, while being transfixed by a record like Off the Wall. Released in the fall of 1979, the record almost immediately affirmed the late Michael Jackson as the preeminent pop talent of his day, an instant classic that married the prevailing sounds of the funk, soul, and disco-inflected 70’s with an innovative zeal that, I’ll concede, has rarely been seen since.

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    Having met producer Quincy Jones while filming The Wiz, Jackson knew he’d met the man who would help him step out as a true solo artist, someone who could actualize his expansive vision in the wake of a young lifetime performing alongside his brothers. From the opening string-laced groove of “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”, which is perhaps the catchiest, most vibrant song I’ve ever heard, it was obvious that their creative union was nothing short of magical, a serendipitous collaboration that would subsequently yield the highest-selling album of all time, Thriller, in 1982. Contributions from Stevie Wonder on the smooth funk of “I Can’t Help It”, Paul McCartney on the tropical soul of “Girlfriend”, and Ron Temperton on the dance floor-igniting “Rock With You”, “Off the Wall”, and “Burn This Disco Out” further shaped Off the Wall into the Grammy Hall of Fame-inducted masterpiece that it is, a groundbreaking pop record for the masses that continues to be transformative even today. – Ryan Burleson

    Essential Tracks: “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”, “Rock With You”, and “Girlfriend”


    84. The Who – Tommy

    The Who - Tommy

    There have been many attempts at the rock opera, but none will come close to the epic that is Tommy. By 1969, The Who had already gained substantial recognition for being the loudest band, so with Tommy they decided to flex their creative muscle and write a story. In doing so they gave us some of the most recognizable riffs and themes in rock. From the anthemic strums of “Pinball Wizard” to the last notes of “Amazing Journey”, they raise the hair on the back of your neck like only The Who can do. Just how a “deaf dumb and blind” kid can actually play pinball is only one part of the story. They would try and save Tommywith Jesus and give him acid. Tommy would be ridiculed and tortured, all the while crying out, “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me”. There’s a strong and rare theatrical quality in the music when it comes to tracks like “Tommy Can You Hear Me”, “Go to The Mirror Boy”, and “Smash the Mirror”. That writing style combined with The Who’s lush instrumentals and imaginative story line have given us the gold standard for rock operas. Others have tried, but when it comes down to it, there will be only one Tommy. -E.N. May

    Essential Tracks: “The Acid Queen”, “Pinball Wizard”, and “I’m Free”


    83. John Lennon – Imagine

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    John Lennon Imagine the Ultimate Collection reissue box set

    John Lennon’s Imagine

    The second album by John Lennon, Imagine, stands as his best release. While the songs are less experimental and more commercial, at least in comparison to his debut, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, you can’t argue that “Imagine” might be one of the best songs ever written. No religion, no prejudice, and the world living as one was Lennon’s dream on this track. He would also claim that this song was as good as anything he had written with his former band The Beatles. He wouldn’t be alone in these sentiments.

    On later track “How Do You Sleep?”, which actually features George Harrison on the guitar, Lennon takes a jab at former collaborator Paul McCartney, as he sings, “The only thing you done was yesterday/And since you’ve gone you’re just another day,” letting the world know that there wasn’t peace between the former bandmates. While one can argue that’s hypocritical of his album’s title track, you have to look at it in a different light. This album represents a freedom for Lennon. After one listen, it’s rather apparent he still had a lot to say about his life and the world he lived in. History will always peg him as a Beatle, but on Imagine, he lets you know there was more to that. – Kevin Barber

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    Essential Tracks: “Imagine”, “Jealous Guy”, and “How Do You Sleep?”


    82. Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream

    Terrible afflictions such as pain, loneliness, and insecurity have produced some of the finest art in the world, and the Smashing Pumpkin’s 1993 album, Siamese Dream, is no exception. Frontman Billy Corgan, drummer Jimmy Chamberlain, guitarist James Iha, and bassist D’Arcy Wretzky were facing some of their darkest demons while making this album, including heroin addiction, heartache, and writer’s block, all paired with Corgan’s intensely perfectionist personality and unyielding management. But with the help of producer Butch Vig, who produced their first album, Gish, as well as Nirvana’s Nevermind, they somehow managed to stick together as a band and create an album that would shape and mold the landscape of 1990’s alternative rock. -Karina Halle

    Essential Tracks: “Cherub Rock”, “Hummer”, and “Soma”


    81. Neil Young – Harvest

    Neil Young %E2%80%93 Harvest The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

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    Neil Young’s 1972 solo release, Harvest, was his commercial breakthrough. Riding the wave of the number one song “Heart of Gold”, Harvest gave Young a success and credibility to his solo career that would solidify him as one of rock and folk music’s greatest artists. The album, though uneven at times, contains some of the best work of Young’s career. “Heart of Gold”, “Old Man”, and “The Needle and the Damage Done” are three of his strongest songs, and “Heart of Gold” remains Young’s only number one hit. Young instituted the help of former band mates David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash, as well as friends James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt for Harvest. The success of the album allowed Young to keep pursuing his solo work, and his output in the next few years would become the best work he’d ever done. -Nick Freed

    Essential Tracks: “Heart of Gold”, “Old Man”, and “The Needle and the Damage Done”


    80. Paul Simon – Graceland

    Paul Simon %E2%80%93 Graceland The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    When Simon and Garfunkel broke up in 1970, there was little doubt that Paul Simon would go on to have a successful solo career. His angelic-voiced partner Art Garfunkel had little part in writing the songs, and it was apparent from Simon’s own pleasing voice that he could do it all on his own. Simon’s first solo album, Paul Simon, was a critical success and showed that he could dabble in alternative cultural music styles such as reggae. This curiosity and willingness to explore other types of music eventually led Simon to create the greatest album of his career, the Grammy-winning Graceland. Instead of the Jamaican, Puerto Rican, and gospel-influenced beats from his previous albums,

    Graceland was conceived after Simon visited South Africa and soaked up the pulsing flavor of the pre-apartheid country. Influenced by the many different musical styles of the area, such as isicathamiya and mbaqanga, Simon took these newly discovered sounds and successfully matched them to his trademark songwriting. He recorded with African artists Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Okyerema Asante and US staple Linda Rondstadt, creating an explorative and unique album, unlike any the world had heard before, that went onto be highly influential in the pop-rock world; one look at Vampire Weekend and you can see where the connection lies. -Karina Halle

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    Essential Tracks: “Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes”,  “Graceland”, and “You Can Call Me Al”


    79. Björk – Post

    Bjo%CC%88rk post The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    Björk is one of few artists who could put out an album juxtaposing blistering electro-pop with big band, club-ready tribal dance with downtempo trip-hop and find both critical and commercial success. Her second album (of her adult career), Post, the title signifying a “letter” to her Iceland self after her move to England, is everything Debut was and more. She brought back Debut producer Nellee Hooper but also worked with Tricky, Howie B., and others and did plenty of production work herself. What resulted is an album where every song contributes its own voice to create a much larger sound. It’s tempting to call what Björk does on Post pop experimentation, but it never feels like she’s experimenting. The scattered, whispering minimalism on her tribute to music, “Headphones”, comes just as naturally to her as the pop hooks on angry industrial opener “Army of Me”. -Harry Painter

    Essential Tracks:
    “Hyperballad”, “It’s Oh So Quiet”, and “Headphones”


    78. Sly And The Family Stone – There’s a Riot Going On

    Sly And The Family Stone Theres a Riot Going On The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    You know all that hot fun you had in the summertime with Sly & The Family Stone? Well, watch out, ’cause summer turns cold. Taking a page out of Bitches Brew‘s book, Sly came into the ’70s with a new plan, albeit a drug-addled one. Emotions are running high, narcosis seeps and slithers throughout the album, and militant disaffection with the then state of affairs is all but pounded into ears. The lyrics “feel so good/don’t wanna move” speak to the continuum connecting the hubris of the late 60s and the stasis of Sly and his mind/society in the early 70s.

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    Outside of its timely relevance, the origins of hip-hop, funk, R&B, and fusion are present throughout the album. The ur-synth beat on the beginning of “Africa Talks To You ‘The Asphalt Jungle'” might just be the herald of 808s to come. Sadly, There’s A Riot Going On also heralds Sly’s descent into addiction. But the best album of Sly and his band’s career came in on a cloudy, groovy haze of sex, drugs, and, yeah, rock and roll, and few albums are as honest and heartbreaking and funky as this. -Nick Freed

    Essential Tracks: “Family Affair”, “(You Caught Me) Smiling”, and “Africa Talks To You ‘The Asphalt Jungle'”


    77. Cat Stevens – Tea for the Tillerman

    Cat Stevens %E2%80%93 Tea for the Tillerman The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    1970’s Tea for the Tillerman continued Cat Stevens’ transition from mop-top teen idol to introspective singer-songwriter — a goal he began reaching for earlier that year with Mona Bone Jakon. However, Tillerman is more than an attempt at transformation. It’s a calling card to those entering adulthood — a warning and reminder pertaining to the thrills and challenges of leaving home. “Wild World” reminds that pretty girl from high school that “it’s hard to get by just upon a smile.” “Miles from Nowhere” and “On the Road to Find Out” provide spiritual signs along life’s highway. “Hard Headed Woman” is about finding those people who will tell you like it is and love you just as fully, while “Sad Lisa” is about the person you love who is too wrapped up in his or her own past to embrace that love. The jewel of Tillerman is “Father and Son”, which is the ultimate in awkward father-son chats, with Stevens’ stunning, alternating bass and tenor vocals painting the conversation. How is Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam) not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame again? – Justin Gerber

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    Essential Tracks: “Hard Headed Woman”, “Wild World”, and “Father and Son”


    76. Sigur Rós – Ágætis byrjun

    A%CC%81g%C3%A6tis byrjun The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    Densely layered with white noise, strings, choirs, the saw of a cello bow against a guitar, and sublimely indecipherable lyrics, Ágætis byrjun is both intense and ethereal and always unabashedly gorgeous. As Jónsi Birgisson howls in what is too uniquely otherworldly to be merely labeled as falsetto in both Icelandic and Vonlenska, a nonsensical language made and used by Birgisson on the title track and “Olsen Olsen”, the soundscapes that are divinely crafted by Sigur Rós on Ágætis byrjun are transformed into something completely alien. With so much feeling behind both languages, it doesn’t matter what the band is, or isn’t, saying. -Frank Mojica

    Essential Tracks: “Viðrar vel til loftárása”, “Starálfur”, and “Olsen Olsen”


    75. Jay-Z – The Blueprint

    Jay Z The Blueprint The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

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    Only eight percent of this list consists of hip-hop, so when we say Jay-Z’s The Blueprint belongs on this list, you better believe we mean it. What can be said about Jay-Z that hasn’t already been said about Pac and Biggie? No-holds-barred, the Jiggaman is widely considered the best rapper alive. Jay arrived on the scene in the early 90’s and has remained a solid presence in the rap game ever since. All 11 of his albums have debuted in the top 25, and all have achieved at least platinum status. But none was more notable than The Blueprint. Aptly named, The Blueprint laid the foundation for the future of all hip-hop. The album was a deviation from the power-hook radio hits Jay-Z and his contemporaries had been accustomed to cranking out, and it ended up being all for the best.

    Instead, the album utilizes rich, intelligently placed soul-sampling that boosted not only the beats of the songs but built an immovable foundation for Jigga to throw down on. The production on this album was pioneering to say the least, and it couldn’t have been done without the cunning skills of Jay-Z to accompany it. It also helped further establish the career of an up-and-coming producer, one Kanye West, who, as we all know, has now become one of the most prominent rappers in the game. Thanks to genius production and masterful rhyming by the best rapper alive, the rap game was permanently changed for the better with the release of The Blueprint. -Winston Robbins

    Essential Tracks:
    “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love)”, “Never Change”, “Song Cry”, and “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”


    74. Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks

    Bob Dylan's Blood On The Tracks

    bob dylan blood on the tracks The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    All things considered, the 70’s were not Bob Dylan’s best period. Sure, Desire was solid, and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid produced one of his most beloved tracks (“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”), but the decade also saw him release some relative clunkers like Self Portrait, Planet Waves, and Street Legal. Luckily, all the sub-par 70’s releases are overshadowed by one of Dylan’s masterpieces, 1975’s Blood on theTracks. Widely regarded as Dylan’s most personal record, even if he denies the claim, there’s no arguing the fact that the album is filled with pain. The recording sessions in 1974 came just off the heels of his messy divorce with then-wife Sara. The songs that came out of these sessions are timeless songs of heartache, loneliness, and anger that still resonate with listeners 35 years later. –Carson O’Shoney

    Essential Tracks: “Tangled Up In Blue”, “Simple Twist of Fate”, and “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts”


    73. Radiohead – Kid A

    radiohead kid a The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    radiohead kid a The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

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    Everything was in its right place. But, clearly that wasn’t enough for Radiohead. No, these five lads had to rewrite their perfect formula. They had to take everything they knew about how to be a great rock band–which they most certainly were–and throw it down the garbage disposal, flipping the switch till it was growling and coughing up an almost entirely new entity. Few guitars, vocals filtered through ondes martenots, analog synthesizers, digital drums, clamoring traffic jam horns, and lush strings make up one the most jarring stylistic shifts of the past 20 years, and one of the finest records of the past 10. Somehow, whether by sheer, anxious determination or pure creative genius, by doing everything backwards, everything was in its right place again on Kid A, but the place just looked a hell of a lot different. -Drew Litowitz

    Essential Tracks: “Kid A”, “The National Anthem”, “How to Disappear Completely”, “Idioteque”, and “Motion Picture Soundtrack”


    72. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magic

    Red Hot Chili Peppers Blood Sugar Sex Magic The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    blood sugar sex magik The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    Today, the Red Hot Chili Peppers stand as royalty on the radio. But back in the ’80s, the only thing you knew about “red hot chili peppers” was that, depending on the Mexican stand, you either could or couldn’t stomach them. Hardy har har. But it’s true. Unless you were hip to the California music scene, or caught a George Clinton show, you’d never know who the hell they were. Well, that’s only half true. Mother’s Milk did chart at number 52 on the Billboard Top 200, but overall? No. That is, until Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

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    Everything just fell into place. It would be the band’s first release with Warner Bros. Records, producer Rick Rubin would take over the controls from Michael Beinhorn, and all members had finally become comfortable with one another. For recording, the band shacked up in what’s now called The Mansion, which at the time was an old Laurel Canyon estate that had once belonged to Errol Flynn. Both drummer Chad Smith and guitarist John Frusciante, to this day, claim they felt a ghostly presence while living there – so much so that Smith eventually left. (Look in the album artwork. There’s a “supernatural” surprise in one of the photos!) Over a month, they spent time writing and recording and consulting one another. This sort of bonding experience washed over into the album.

    For one, it’s a very cohesive experience – each song blends into the next – and what’s more, it’s all incredibly tight. Once “The Power of Equality” kicks off the funky fellowship, it’s clear that this isn’t the band who once sang about “…Coyotes” or “Magic Johnson”. (Technically it wasn’t.) Instead, this was a band ready to take itself seriously, while having fun doing it. Despite what detractors say, they didn’t go soft here. They took their ferocity and channeled it into something that could affect or change people…not just make ’em laugh and shake. This wouldn’t be more obvious than on “Under the Bridge”, the single that still has folks turning up the dial whenever rock radio decides to plug it, which hasn’t changed much in the past 20 years. And while Californication nearly rivals it, Blood Sugar Sex Magik remains the watermark that set the Chili Peppers’ flag high above the rock and roll scene.

    Modern day Rolling Stones? Pretty close. Pretty, pretty…pretty close. -Michael Roffman

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    Essential Tracks: “The Power of Equality”, “Suck My Kiss”, and “Under the Bridge”


    71. Tom Waits – Rain Dogs

    rain dogs tom waits The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    rain dogs 300x300 The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    While most albums in this list fit this criterion, in the grand scheme of things it’s pretty rare to have an entire album that does not contain a single bad track. It’s even more rare to have an album like that when it spans 19 tracks, but that’s exactly what Tom Waits did with Rain Dogs. Some of the songs may be a little too far out there for some listeners, but every song is just as effective as the next. After years of playing the club scene with just his voice and a piano, Waits shocked everyone when he came out with the jangled and insane Swordfishtrombones in 1983. This shift in his musical style would eventually define his career, even after he moved into new territory once again. While Swordfishtrombones saw him dive off the deep end, it wasn’t until his next album that he perfected his new brand of music that was all his own.

    To describe it is useless; it’s something that begs to be experienced. Waits has always had an obsession with the down-and-out deadbeats on the streets, but it was never as obvious as it is on Rain Dogs – the name itself being a reference to these same type of “urban dispossessed”, as Waits describes it. And while the lyrics often deal with the bizarre side of things (“The captain is a one-armed dwarf/he’s throwing dice along the wharf”), they’re often as universally affecting as his earlier work (“Tear the promise from my heart, tear my heart today/ You have found another, oh baby I must go away”). Waits’ songwriting ability is also put on display on tracks like “Downtown Train”, which eventually became a top-five hit when Rod Stewart covered it four years later. There are many essential records in Tom Waits’ long and storied career, but Rain Dogs might be the most essential of them all. –Carson O’Shoney

    Essential Tracks: “Singapore”, “Anywhere I Lay My Head”, and “Big Black Mariah”


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