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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”


    70. The Beatles – Rubber Soul (UK Version)

    rubber soul The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    beatlesrubbersoul The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    It’s difficult to make one of the greatest albums of all time (understatement of this and the previous century). The Beatles made several, and Rubber Soul is undoubtedly amongst them. That tremendous bass and guitar to open up “Drive My Car”, courtesy of legends (again, an understatement) Paul McCartney and George Harrison. The only Lennon/McCartney/Starkey credit in the band’s discography, “What Goes On” is one of Ringo’s finest moments. “I’m Looking Through You” is one of McCartney’s finest offerings, with the scream of “You’re not the same!” providing one of the highlights of an album chock-full of them. However, this is John Lennon’s album. Picture Rubber Soul without the sitar-infused “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”, the somber “Nowhere Man”, the sensual “Girl”, the dark “Run for Your Life”, and arguably the greatest love song of them all, “In My Life”. It’s hard to imagine that later Beatles records actually managed to top it. -Justin Gerber

    Essential Tracks: “Drive My Car”, “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”, and “In My Life”


    69. The Smiths – The Smiths

    The Smiths %E2%80%93 The Smiths The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    the smiths the smiths The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

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    “It’s time the tale were told/Of how you took a child/And you made him old.” From the initial lyrics of “Reel Around the Fountain”, we knew The Smiths’ self-titled debut was destined for classic status. Morrissey’s dour lyrics juxtaposed against Johnny Marr’s lifting guitar only made this more apparent. The theme of child abuse is prevalent throughout (“Reel Around the Fountain”, “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle”, “Suffer Little Children”) but somehow made bearable by that aforementioned guitar, soothing our fears while Morrissey recites nightmares both fact and fiction. The singer’s ambiguous persona is on display, as well, whether in the passenger seat of “This Charming Man” or arm-in-arm in “Hand in Glove”. Given the success of The Smiths, the multitude of fantastic singles, and a couple more classic albums, it’s hard to believe just three years later it would be over. Genius band, genius album. -Justin Gerber

    Essential Tracks: “Reel Around the Fountain”, “Hand in Glove”, and “What Difference Does it Make”


    68. Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

    lauryn hill the miseducation of lauryn hill The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    Looking back to ’98, Lauryn Hill seemed primed to have a huge solo career ahead of her, especially after her stint with The Fugees. Instead, there was nothing. Well, not nothing. There’s always The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which notched eight Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and Best New Artist, earning Hill all the praise from the industry and media she wanted. Instead of following up, she just, well, quit. Only recently has her name come up as she plans her follow-up. 12 years for a follow-up is one hell of a hiatus.

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    But what an album to follow. It could be considered one of the best solo female albums ever recorded. Full of soul and passion, you can hear and feel the messages she tries to get across about God, love, motherhood, and life. “To Zion”, one of the album’s finest songs, speaks of putting family first over the music business, which she eventually did. With a perfect blend of hip-hop, R&B, gospel, and soul, Hill brings this album to life, working from a vocal range that (arguably) still goes unmatched today. –Kevin Barber

    Essential Tracks: “Doo Wop (That Thing)”, “To Zion”, and “Everything is Everything”


    67. Leonard Cohen – Songs of Leonard Cohen

    Leonard Cohen Songs of Leonard Cohen The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    leonard cohen songs The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    Infinitely imitated and infinitely respected, Songs of Leonard Cohen sounds like an apocalypse when we listen to it today. His mellow, dejected folk mapped out a hollow blueprint for what Jack Black referred to as “sad bastard music” in High Fidelity. Ironically, it was Judy Collins who first cut and recorded the immortal “Suzanne”, the album’s memorable lead track. Spare and affected, Cohen’s delivery worked all the more because of the late 60s psychedelia his music eschewed.

    Recently crowned indie-rock royalty The National accidentally swapped instruments with Cohen before a show in Brooklyn this past summer and patently refused to use Cohen’s instruments out of respect for his songwriting. There’s a certain command that Cohen’s music respects at this point in his career, and that says just as much about Songs of Leonard Cohen as his unassuming guitar lines and his pensively personal lyrics. Like his contemporaries Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen’s debut clued us in that he was here to stay. -Eric Vilas-Boas

    Essential Tracks: “Suzanne”, “So Long, Marianne”, and “Sisters of Mercy”


    66. Devo – Duty Now For the Future

    Devo %E2%80%93 Duty Now For the Future The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    Duty Now For the Future doesn’t feature any songs about whipping, monkey men, or the illusion of a “beautiful world”, but the album is pure Devo. Duty Now is first and foremost a punk-rock album, flirting lasciviously with the mysterious force that would become new wave, and was among the first rock albums from a major label to heavily feature synthesizers. Guitars and electronic instruments have never purred so sweetly together before or since.

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    The album set precedents for how raw art-house rock can be and how surrealist punk rock can get. Everything from the government to burger commercials are touched upon, and many songs are steeped in sexual tension and masculine fury. Duty Now harbors the manic sensibilities of every underground comic ever published, with the cartoon horniness of Tex Avery’s Big Bad Wolf – pop art and punk rock’s plastic-wrapped bastard baby, a perfect specimen of devolution. -Cap Blackard

    Essential Tracks: “Smart Patrol/ Mr. DNA”, “Clockout”, “Wiggly World”, and “The Day My Baby Gave Me a a Surprize”


    65. Arcade Fire – Funeral

    arcade fire funeral The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    At the beginning of my senior year in college, my new neighbor, future music guru, and inevitable lifelong friend invited me up to his apartment because there was something I had to hear. The song was “Rebellion (Lies)”, and it was like nothing I had heard at that point. The pulsing drumbeat, the slow build, the giant finish, the words “sleeping is giving in” that rang too true. The wild ride Arcade Fire had on the horizon sounds like PR hype, but it came from people we knew, straight from our friends’ mouths. The performances with motorcycle helmets and flashlights, the sunset Coachella set that every other music festival performance seems to stand in the shadow of, performing with David Bowie, and ultimately living up to the promise with two more impressive and career-building records.

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    But none will ever be Funeral, a record that really needed none of the mythology. It worked in a tiny bedroom with two dudes quietly listening and being taken aback. With showstopping moments including the aforementioned track, future NFL anthem “Wake Up”, and album opener “Tunnels (Neighborhood #1)”, it took no time to grow on listeners and never has gotten old. At six years old, it still sounds fresh and exciting, yet it’s also comfortable on a list with the rock and roll classics. Unlike them, however, the ripples of this one are still being felt. At the very least, this album was instrumental in me meeting my dear friend. Either way it’s a win. -Philip Cosores

    Essential Tracks: “Wake Up”, “Rebellion (Lies)”, and “Haiti”


    64. The Doors – The Doors

    the doors1 The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    The self-titled debut album from acid-rockers The Doors was released in 1967, climbing to No. 2 on the Billboard charts and achieving multi-platinum status. Featuring 11 tracks mostly penned by the poetic frontman Jim Morrison, the album has stood up to the test of time and is an essential component of any serious music collection. Featuring the hit single “Light My Fire” and covers of the scat-filled “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)” and “Back Door Man”, this album launched The Doors into their current status as classic rock icons. The fittingly titled “The End” closes out the album with nearly 12 minutes of singing, talking, storytelling, and guttural screaming over haunting guitar riffs. This album was just the beginning for the band that created music that has endured long after Morrison’s untimely death just four years after the release of this debut album. Its influence is rampant. Just look at old performances by Ian Curtis, or ask Iggy Pop. –Kelly Quintanilla

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    Essential Tracks: “Break on Through (To the Other Side)”, “Light My Fire”, and “The End”


    63. R.E.M. – Document

    Document The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    remdocument The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    If you were young in the 90’s, R.E.M. was a gigantic enigma that didn’t tour and seemed to continually increase in popularity without capitalizing on any of it. Like U2, they were larger than life, thus making it hard to believe that at one point they were shy southern boys who made jangly college rock that was indebted to The Velvet Underground. We live with indie bands rising to fame all around us, but in the early 80’s, it was weird to be a musician and be understated. Also, remember that this wasn’t the era of overnight sensations, and it wasn’t a swift shift from indie darlings to pop juggernaut, it was a metamorphosis over five albums, and Document would be their last as an “indie.”

    Purists may cite Murmur or Reckoning as the more influential album, and pop historians could point out Out of Time or Automatic for the People as greater crowd pleasers, but Document is about the only time you will ever please both camps. It was their first platinum release and contained their first top 10 hit with “The One I Love”, yet this R.E.M. still had the balls to throw a cover of Wire’s “Strange” on side one. And then there is a little song called “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”, R.E.M.’s signature song in a back catalog full of signature songs. It was the tune that took us from the 80’s straight through to Y2K. After the world didn’t end with the year 2000, you seemed to hear it a little less, but go see R.E.M. in concert and there is a good chance you’ll here it at the end. -Philip Cosores

    Essential Tracks:
    “Exhuming McCarthy”, “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”, and “The One I Love”


    62. Wu-Tang Clan – Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

    Enter the Wu Tang 36 Chambers The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

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    The definitive Bible of underground hip-hop. No album was rawer, grittier, or better-crafted than Wu-Tang Clan’s opus, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). They were a group to fear (after all, they knew karate) and made it known in the first 20 seconds of “Bring Da Ruckus”. On the opening track, Wu-Tang sounds like they’re begging you to bring on the heat, because they know as a collective crew, they could hold together through anything.

    This album showed the kind of ethic they would keep for the rest of their careers both on group and solo efforts. The way Raekwon and Ghostface trade off lines together on “Can It Be All so Simple” is some of the finest swapping in hip-hop. The flow and beat from Inspectah Deck and RZA on “C.R.E.A.M.” will forever stand as one of hip-hop’s finest lyrical and production achievements. Not to mention, the raw and fantastic verses spit by legends Ol’ Dirty Bastard on “Shame on a Nigga” and Method Man on his biographical track stand as some of the best rhymes in hip-hop to date. Wu-Tang created an empire, and this was the first and most essential brick within it. -Ted Maider

    Essential Tracks: “Protect Ya Neck”, the only track on the album to feature almost all members.


    61. Green Day – Dookie

    green day - dookie

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    Green Day broke into the mainstream with Dookie, perfectly timed to arrive hot on the Doc Martens heels of the grunge scene. The California-based band fronted by Billie Joe Armstrong and rounded out by bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool found success by fusing the anti-establishment nature of its punk rock roots with a grunge appearance, backed by catchy pop melodies and hooks. Exploring everything from panic attacks to masturbation to bisexuality, the lyrics struck a chord with fans of all ages and positioned Green Day as the modern punk band for the masses.

    Released in 1994, the band’s third and best-selling album found commercial success, reaching number two on the Billboard charts and scoring a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album. The band was accused of “selling out” by previous followers of the underground punk scene, but Dookie found a way to reinvigorate interest in the original punk legends by serving as an entry-level punk record and giving a voice to rebellious teens who didn’t actually have a lot to rebel against in the relatively placid mid-1990s. –Kelly Quintanilla

    Essential Tracks: “Basket Case”, “When I Come Around”, and “Longview”


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    60. The Band – Music From Big Pink

    Music From Big Pink The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    The Band never quite fit in with the 60s and 70s rock scene. They weren’t political, they constantly switched instruments, and they loved their families. Sure, there were drugs and women, but while other groups made songs out of such decadent behavior, The Band remained firmly rooted in tradition, filtering all of their lyrical subject matter (even the love songs) through a lens of mountainous, archaic Americana, spinning yarns about courageous settlers and the Civil War. What kept it from being corny was their sense of communal musicianship, their chestnut lyrics set ablaze by each member’s skills, and their debut album, Music From Big Pink, which captured them at the peak of their powers, before all the legal squabbles, back when they were just five fellas playing music in a cavernous house in the Catskills (the namesake of the album).

    Listen to Big Pink and you can feel each member in the room. There are no stage hogs and everyone stands out. You remember Garth Hudson’s Captain Nemo organ solo on “Chest Fever” just as well as you remember the stacked harmonies and traded leads of Levon Helm and Rick Danko on “The Weight”. And let’s not forget the back bayou thump of their rhythm chops either. Robbie Robertson really cooks on “Caledonia Mission”, and Richard Manuel’s aching pipes drench the entire album in earnest, alcoholic tears, especially on closer “I Shall Be Released”, inevitably performed by some of the surviving members at his funeral in 1986. Behind the tumble and prophecy of Big Pink‘s elaborate orchestration was a heart so wonderfully simple in times that were not. -Dan Caffrey

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    Essential Tracks: “Chest Fever”, “The Weight”, and “I Shall Be Released”


    59. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

    loveless 500c244e3ccd8 The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    Talk about turning the card on the sophomore slump. Today, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless stands as a testament to the beauty of sonic chaos. Originally believed by the band’s label, Creation, to be recorded in five days, the 48:36 seconds of absolute sonic bliss came to fruition after a series of catastrophic incidents. The laundry list includes dementia, bankruptcy, tinnitus, and isolation. One label head’s hair even turned gray. But like anything in art, perfection never surfaces without its share of consequences. Under a multitude of churning, whirly guitars and a bookshelf of harmonies, the diamond-like sequencing of Loveless sucks you into the madness, as well. But, it’s a beautiful trip that’s unique to the creative mind of Kevin Shields and one that nobody’s been able to replicate since. -Michael Roffman

    Essential Tracks: “Soon”, “To Here Knows When”, and “Only Shallow”


    58. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

    rumours The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

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    Many bands break up because of infighting, but Fleetwood Mac may have been the first to be threatened by insleeping. When recording for Rumours began, the band dynamic was heading straight to hell. One band couple (Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks) broke up. A second (John and Christine McVie) got divorced. Emotional/sexual bonds formed, broke, then reformed in new configurations. Everyone cheated on everyone else in a series of many-strings-attached encounters. By the time the band hit the studio, pretty much no one was speaking to anyone else.

    Unlike the more collaborative effort of previous albums, Buckingam, Nicks, and Christine McVie wrote most of the songs separately. In perhaps the most brutal moment, McVie wrote “You Make Loving Fun” about her affair with Fleetwood Mac’s lighting designer and made her cuckolded husband play bass on it. As devastating as the lyrics are to these songs, the pop production lifts them above dreary anguish. The tune of “Go Your Own Way” bounces along, seemingly oblivious to its heart-wrenching lyrics. “The Chain” turns bitter rejection into a series of sing-along hooks. This tension between pain and pleasure infuses the album with its conflicted character. Never has heartbreak been so much fun. –Ray Padgett

    Essential Tracks: “Second Hand News”, “The Chain”, and “Oh Daddy”


    57. Genesis – Genesis

    genesis The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

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    As both a prog-rock band and a pop-rock band, Genesis never produced anything short of incredible albums, but it was when they straddled both genres equally that the band showed its greatest strengths. Genesis’ cusp period is the very definition of art-pop, and no record evokes this more clearly than their 1983 self-titled album. Genesis is a tour de force of the Collins-era band at their most creative. Every facet of the band is represented:  dark pulpy narratives like “Mama” and “Home by the Sea”, goofy but brilliant tracks like “Illegal Alien” and “Silver Rainbow”, and masculine pop hits “That’s All” and “Just a Job to Do”.

    The production is crisp and inspired, from the opening sound collage of “Illegal Alien” to the mystical synth noises of “Silver Rainbow” and the funky breakdowns of “Just a Job to Do”; every track is simple, honest, brilliance. In this day and age when every new act gets hung up on who they’re taking inspiration from and who they hope to sound like, it’s albums like this that listeners can turn to to remind themselves what a truly original art-pop record sounds like. – Cap Blackard

    Essential Tracks: “Mama”, “Home by the Sea”, “Just a Job to Do”, and “That’s All”


    56. The Who – Quadrophenia

    Quadrophenia The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

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    Tommy may be their most well-known album, and Who’s Next is the record that propelled them to superstardom, but for many Who fans, Quadrophenia is the British quartet at their most ambitious. Released in 1973, Pete Townshend and company put together a brilliant coming-of-age story of a young mod in Britain during the band’s formative years. From the tenacity of “The Real Me” to the overwhelming power of “Love Reign O’er Me”, Quadrophenia truly encapsulates Townshend’s genius as a songwriter.

    Unlike Tommy, this album is a straightforward, no-frills rocker that gives Roger Daltrey the ability to show his incredible vocal range and elevates him to rock god, while John Entwistle’s rock-solid bass and Keith Moon’s manic drumming lay the perfect foundation that allows for their bandmates to shine. Townshend is one of the only musicians to have the ability to add a synthesizer without sounding out of place. His tactical use of synthesizers on songs like “5:15” and “The Sand and The Sea” adds depth and becomes an essential addition for each track.

    Though it doesn’t feature any songs on the CSI soundtrack, it’s fair to say that Quadrophenia is The Who at the top of its game, and that’s saying something. –Daniel Kohn

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    Essential Tracks: “The Punk and The Godfather”, “5:15”, and “Love Reign O’er Me”


    55. Prefab Sprout – Steve McQueen

     The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    Steve McQueen has been called both the Pet Sounds of the 80s and one of the most perfect pop albums ever made – serious praise that it rightly deserves. The album is an example of incredible songwriting given the gift of likewise incredible and intelligent production, a once-every-planetary-cycle happenstance. The tracks are written in a classical style, derived directly from the high-water mark set by George Gershwin and Brian Wilson but mimicking neither.

    Frontman and songwriter Paddy McAloon’s unique personality shines through in lyrics laced with clever cynicism (“I hear you’ve got a new girlfriend. How’s the wife taking it?”) and heartfelt irreverence (the spite shown towards Heaven in“When the Angels” for the murder of Marvin Gaye). Each song was handpicked from McAloon’s back catalog by producer and keyboardist Thomas Dolby, turning simple acoustic tracks into lavishly produced and timeless pop masterpieces. ­-Cap Blackard

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    Essential Tracks: “Faron Young”, “Goodbye Lucille #1”, “Bonny”, and “When the Angels”


    54. The Strokes – Is This It (UK Version)

    is this it by the strokes 1 The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    In the years that spanned the close of the ’90s and the beginning of the millennium, it seemed as though all music would be electronic in this brave new century we found ourselves in. Bands like The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers were burning up the dance charts, the rock charts, the pop charts—all of the charts, really—with their fledgling new genre, electronica. Guitars and amplifiers would most certainly be a thing of the past in 2001.

    Is This It? put that school of thought to rest with the first few new notes of its title track. It boasted fuzzy amps, an organically monotone voice, and catchy self-loathing lyrics for those who loved Lou Reed both ironically and sincerely. In just under an hour, Is This It? managed to make New York City music cool again and saved rock and roll at one of the most crucial points since the advent of disco. -Christine DiPaolo

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    Essential Tracks: “Soma”, “Hard to Explain”, and “NYC Cops”


    53. Bob Marley & the Wailers – Exodus

    exodus The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    I kid you not, the following events are 100% true. I was in a gas station near the University of Utah, waiting to hand the cashier my money, when on comes the Bob Marley song “Waiting In Vain”. No big deal, right? Happens all the time. Well, this particular afternoon was a different story. A very large, bearded African American man in the back of the store (who was most unmistakably inebriated) began to sing along with the song at the top of his lungs. After a few lines, he staggered up one of the aisles and began serenading myself and the cashier, who looked as though he was certainly part of some sort of biker gang. The cashier laughed in confusion and looked at me like I knew how to handle this sort of situation. I looked back at the drunk man to find that he’d changed his path to sing to a confused cyclist who had just stumbled into the store.

    When I looked back at the cashier, I found, much to my surprise, that he, too, had begun singing and swaying emphatically. And then the guy pointed at me to join in. I did so hesitantly, and much to my relief, so did the cyclist. It was seriously a real-life, feel-good moment straight out of Newsies, and one that I’ll remember forever. My point in telling you this is that Bob Marley spans every demographic. I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, or what you do, you know the words to all these songs, and they all make you feel good. Honestly, any BM album could have made this list, but Exodus plays more like a greatest hits collection than a standard LP. Bob Marley (along with help from Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, and others) put reggae on the map and legitimized the genre in world culture, simultaneously making it accessible to every demographic. Exodus is the most candid example of Marley’s timeless charisma and musicianship. -Winston Robbins

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    Essential Tracks: “Jammin'”, “Waiting In Vain”, and “One Love”


    52. The Replacements – Let It Be

    replacements let it be The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    Who would have thought four twenty-somethings from Minneapolis could produce something so timeless, so vital, and so vivid? Back in 1984, when The Replacements dished out their magnum opus, Let It Be, nobody did. While all eyes were on Prince at the time, Paul Westerberg, Tommy Stinson, Chris Mars, and Bob Stinson created pure, unadulterated rock and roll. With his heart on his sleeve, Westerberg poured his love, his loss, and his inhibitions into each and every lyric, note, chord, and yelp.

    On “Androgynous”, the first hit of the piano strikes your nerves, tugging at your eyes, and by the time Westerberg sings, “Future outcasts, they don’t last”, you’re right there beside him – in the dusty bar, within the late hours of a week night, and with nobody to hold onto but the music. That’s everything The Replacements were meant to be…and here they do that in every note, over 11 tracks, and for 33 minutes and 31 seconds. It’s not an album, it’s a life preserver. -Michael Roffman

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    Essential Tracks: “Sixteen Blue”, “Unsatisfied”, and “Androgynous”


    51. Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation

    Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation

    The farther we get from the the 80’s, the harder it is to explain Sonic Youth, because to each generation the sound loses a bit of its edge while still remaining difficult and, at times, even abrasive. And most kids don’t want a history lesson telling them why Sonic Youth is good and important. They want to simply hear it and like it, as music tends to be one of the most self-explanatory likable things we have. But not Sonic Youth.  They had a lot to reconcile. How would you create meaningful music in their hardcore circles while remaining true to what often seemed like polarized leanings? Looking to The Velvet Underground for inspiration as much as Black Flag and Minor Threat, Sonic Youth were in the punk circle yet could dwell on finding beauty in noise rather than just in rebellion. It’s not easy to use these established musical platforms to create something that can make you uncomfortable, enthralled, excited, and heartbroken within the same improvised jam.

    And while no one will ever tell you that Sonic Youth is for everyone, no one will deny that maybe their goals for their art were a little loftier than their contemporaries, and appropriately, on Daydream Nation, when their sound became fully realized, their lofty goals yielded lofty results. But don’t let this scare you. If Sonic Youth was that hard to get, we wouldn’t be celebrating them. Daydream Nation was their most listenable record at that point, an album even casual music listeners could approach and enjoy. And with “Teen Age Riot”, they had themselves an honest-to-god anthem. One of the best of all time, perhaps. Could they have just made more tunes like this and pleased a hell of a lot of people? I imagine, but where would the fun be in that? Doing things their way, Sonic Youth have managed to stay relevant for nearly 30 years. And it’s because of Daydream Nation that the relationships, the public interest, and the continually adventurous sounds have held together. -Philip Cosores

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    Essential Tracks: “Teen Age Riot”, “Hey Joni”, and “The Sprawl”


    50. Prince and The Revolution – Purple Rain

    prince purple rain The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    In the summer of 1984, Purple Rain dropped as a soundtrack to the cult film of the same name and instantly cemented the status of one Prince Rogers Nelson as a superstar. Having already tasted crossover success with 1999, it is with Purple Rain that Prince made his full-fledged foray into the worlds of rock and pop by fusing them with funk, R&B, and even a touch of heavy metal. From the creepy organ solo at the beginning of “Let’s Go Crazy” to the bass-free dance floor hit “When Doves Cry”, Purple Rain is an album that defies convention. After all, the most lascivious song on this sensual album ends with a backwards coda containing the hidden message of the Lord’s imminent return. Ambition and genre-bending weirdness aside, Purple Rain is also memorable for its infectious hooks and riffs that represent pop music at its most delightful. 26 years later, Purple Rain still sounds fresh and gripping and remains the greatest soundtrack of all time. -Frank Mojica

    Essential Tracks: “Let’s Go Crazy”, “When Doves Cry”, and “Darling Nikki”


    49. Black Sabbath – Paranoid

    sabbath paranoid The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

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    This is the reason metal exists. While Black Sabbath’s debut was pretty good, it’s Paranoid that supplied the spark for everyone from Metallica to Slayer. This is a more immediate and rockier album than the scary, sometimes sluggish mood of their first LP. The one-two opening punch of “War Pigs” and “Paranoid” is one of the best in all of metal. But the eerie nature of their debut still had its place on songs like “Electric Funeral”.  Dealing with everything from drugs to apocalyptic warfare, it created the blueprint that all future thrashers followed. -Joe Marvilli

    Essential Tracks: “War Pigs”, “Paranoid”, “Iron Man”, and “Electric Funeral”
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    48. Iggy & the Stooges – Raw Power

    stooges raw power The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    Although credited as the unofficial birth of punk rock, The Stooges’ third (and last great) album was largely dismissed at the time of its release, and it’s easy to see why.  The original cut was tinny and poorly mixed, drenched in nothing but James Williamson’s shark tooth guitar and the Asheton brothers’ speedball rhythm section, which left Iggy Pop’s snarling vocals largely drowned out.

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    It wasn’t until the various subsequent remasters that listeners realized just how nasty this thing really was, all spit and apocalyptic imagery with napalm classics like “Search And Destroy” and the rusted tambourine jangle of the title track.  The steady, acoustic pace of “Gimme Danger” may convince some that Detroit’s favorite bastard son was going soft, but listen to the lyrics. “There’s nothing alive but a pair of glassy eyes” is as romantic as this album gets. -Dan Caffrey

    Essential Tracks: “Search And Destroy”, “Gimme Danger”, and “Raw Power”


    47. Dr. Dre – The Chronic

    the chronic 4ea687eb81068 The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    Rap music was already shaking the ground in the early 90s, but Dr. Dre’s solo debut, The Chronic, brought the fucking house down. The warnings to play this album on home stereos, preferably in a residential area, were no joke. The Chronic bumped louder and harder than anything else in hip-hop up to that point (except for maybe Dre’s six-four). Nothing beats a sonic introduction of Calvin Broadus, aka Snoop Doggy Dogg, who at the time was unknown to most ears around the world.

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    But when “Fuck Wit Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’)” starts out, you know his voice was perfect, complimenting Dr. Dre’s low, slow flow on the entire album. That track is stellar, as Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg call out all those who have fucked with Dre in the past, showing that the new Dre is even harder. Not to mention several head-turning glimpses of hood-life like “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat”, “Lyrical Gangbang”, and “Lil’ Ghetto Boy”. On this album, Dr. Dre and Snoop showed the world how united their crew was in a place where everything else seemed divided, and that they were not the people to mess with. -Ted Maider

    Essential Tracks: “Nuthin’ But a G’ Thang”, “Lyrical Gangbang”, and “Lil’ Ghetto Boy”


    46. The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main St.

    exile on main street The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

    The Stones’ 10th album came during their most decadent and hedonistic period. With the band settling in France in 1971 to avoid tax troubles in England, the Stones set up shop near Nice where Keith Richards rented a villa and recorded songs that were written between 1968 and 1972. These legendary sessions defined the adage “sex, drugs and rock and roll” before it became cliché. From these drug-fueled sessions came some of the best work of the band’s career and the album that defined early ‘70s rock and roll. Exile takes the best elements of country, blues, and R&B and makes them the band’s own.

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    This, combined with the warm feeling of having been recorded in Richards’ basement, puts you in a manic frenzy that hits you so hard and fast that you have no choice but to listen. Mick Jagger’s charisma and frustration with the band’s legal situation are evident from the get-go when he sings, “I only get my rocks off while I’m sleeping” on the record’s opener. Songs like “Tumbling Dice” and “Happy” remain staples in the band’s live set, while others like “Shine A Light” and “Soul Survivor” sound as energetic and powerful as they did when recorded 38 years ago.

    The Rolling Stones’ angst and tension within their personal lives during this tumultuous period were channeled musically, and Exile is one of the most revered albums of the band’s illustrious career. –Daniel Kohn

    Essential Tracks: “Tumbling Dice”, “Rip This Joint”, and “Happy”


    45. Nick Drake – Pink Moon

    nick drake pink moon The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

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    Be it posthumous mythicism or…Volkswagen, Nick Drake finally became recognized in the 21st century, the least of which was that his songs wound up on everyone’s “Night Driving” mix, the most of which was his deserved recognition as a true father of folk. His third album, Pink Moon, strips away all the production of his previous efforts so much so that the piano tinkling on the title track almost sounds a little too much.

    Even with this album clocking in at under 30 minutes–undoubtedly the shortest album on this list–Drake’s songs conjure up the pith of melancholy, loneliness, and sparsity with just an acoustic guitar, his whispered British baritone, and his chilling lyrics. You put on this album at night, alone, and you can almost feel Drake at the end of his rope. Like Jeff Mangum after him, you feel anxious entering into his world, like his parasite could actually attach to you. It’s probably good this album is only 30 minutes. -Jeremy D. Larson

    Essential Tracks: “Pink Moon”, “Know”, and “Parasite”


    44. Miles Davis – Bitches Brew

    Miles Davis Bitches Brew The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

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    One of the geneses of fusion, this is an album of ideas. Cool ideas born from Miles’ years as a bebop jazz blower and flung into Columbia’s 30th St. recording studios and simmered for three days straight. What’s ironic is that the sonics on this album are anything but fused. Layers of Wayne Shorter’s sax, Chic Corea’s keys, and the amazing Jack DeJohnette on percussion cohere at points, but it’s the struggle of the band to absorb the musical ideas, the push and pull of the polyrhythms and modal soloing that make Bitches Brew so rewarding. Signifying a shift in jazz, the roots of fusion and funk, and displaying Davis’s range as a musician, this 1970 staple demands a lot from the listener whether they’re versed in jazz or not, but the fruits of the work taste so sweet. Also of note, it’s not the possessive Bitch’s Brew, so the directive of the album title makes the music all the more ferocious. -Jeremy Larson

    Essential Tracks: “Bitches Brew” and “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down”


    43. David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

    David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust

    David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust

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    Let’s just be honest here: This is the definitive glam-rock record. There are plenty more great ones from T. Rex’s Electric Warrior to Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes, but no one did it quite as well as David Bowie. By letting his alter-ego, Ziggy Stardust, take over, Bowie ascended to new heights. In doing so, he also just so happened to make one of the best concept records ever.

    Who else could make an album about an androgynous alien from Mars who becomes a huge rock star in the final years of Earth’s existence and make it one of the most loved and revered albums ever? The correct answer is no one. David Bowie is a singular personality (albeit, he’s gone through multiple personalities), and his Ziggy Stardust years remain one of his most popular stylistic periods. The album, with all its funk, glam, rock, pop, and soul, was unlike anything anyone had heard at that point, and it has never been replicated since.  –Carson O’Shoney

    Essential Tracks: “Suffragette City”, “Moonage Daydream”, and “Ziggy Stardust”


    42. Bruce Springsteen – Darkness On The Edge Of Town

    Darkness On The Edge Of Town The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

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    If you trace the lyrical arc of Bruce Springsteen’s career, each of his early albums got progressively more optimistic, culminating in the comet urgency of Born To Run. Even the more tragic characters of that record radiated some sense of hope. This all changed with Darkness On The Edge Of Town, kicking off a string of records that would examine the more dismal aspects of American working life, a haunted despair that would reach its apex on 1982’s Nebraska. While there are still some celebratory moments on Darkness (each side kicks off with a whiplash cry for escape – “Badlands” and “The Promised Land”), the majority of the songs introduce us to characters or situations devoid of all hope.

    We know that the protagonist of “Candy’s Room” will never get through to the drug-addled object of his affection. We know that the marriage in “Racing In The Streets” will eventually succumb to the narrator’s hazardous lifestyle and the banalities of domestic life. Even the E Street Band, so orchestral on Born To Run, are stark and stripped down here, with most songs driven by the rainfall echo of Roy Bittan’s piano. The guitar work is sparse as well, centering around Springsteen’s and Steven Van Zandt’s singular solos as opposed to the wall of guitars that trumpeted their last outing.  Sax titan Clarence Clemons has plenty to do on “Badlands” but mainly stays on handheld percussion elsewhere. Tonally, Darkness was the beginning of the end until Born In The U.S.A., a fascinating portrait of a musician beginning to lose hope in his own dream. -Dan Caffrey

    Essential Tracks: “Something in the Night”, “Candy’s Room”, and “Adam Raised a Cain”


    41. Patti Smith – Horses

     The 100 Greatest Albums of All Time

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    “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.” Those eight words, the first spoken on Horses, encapsulate the album’s major themes. Rebellion. Irreverence. A middle finger to society. If etiquette demands that girls wear dresses and shave their armpits, etiquette can suck it. The attitude on this debut earned Patti Smith the title “Godmother of Punk,” but the nickname is misleading. From the beginning, Smith was more poet than punk. Her hyper-literate lyrics referenced Rimbaud and Verlaine, imbuing each syllable with meaning. The album opens with a quasi-cover of Them’s frat-rock classic “Gloria”. In it, Smith becomes a woman on the prowl, her sexually predatory verses stalking boys, girls, and anyone else she takes a lusting to.

    Just listen to how she yowls “G-L-O-R-I-A”, spitting out the letters ahead of the beat as if ridding herself of a foul taste. Her ferocious delivery gives Horses its fire, but often overlooked in the equation is the backing band. Anchored by longtime associates Lenny Kaye and Jay Dee Daugherty on guitar and drums, the crack combo show an unusual diversity for a punk band. They slip effortlessly from the island reggae of “Redondo Beach” to the raucous thrash of “Free Money”. The band’s ebb and flow help Smith push two songs to the 10-minute mark: the stream of consciousness “Birdland” and the rape-rocker “Land”. The album celebrates life even as it condemns it, marveling at society’s hypocrisies. “Because the Night” made Smith famous, but Horses made her a legend. –Ray Padgett

    Essential Tracks: “Gloria”, “Free Money”, and “Land: Horses / Land of a Thousand Dances / La Mer (De)”


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