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10 Classic Albums Rolling Stone Originally Panned

From Led Zeppelin’s debut to Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind,’ look back at 10 times our critics’ takes didn’t quite line up with history

Being a music critic is not always easy. Sometimes you have a matter of hours to listen to a new record, digest it and produce a review that will live forever. But some albums take many, many listens to truly reveal themselves. Imagine hearing a group like AC/DC or the Ramones for the first time without any context: The music might seem ridiculous and childish, and even if you grow to revere the group in question, your first impression is the only thing anyone will remember. We’ve been running reviews in Rolling Stone since the very first issue in 1967. That’s thousands and thousands of reviews, and more than a few times, we have panned an album that went on to become a beloved classic. Here are 10 of the most infamous instances – along with our revised takes, by different writers, that appeared later.

Weezer - 'Pinkerton' (1996)

Weezer, ‘Pinkerton’ (1996)

The 1996 Rolling Stone Critics Poll labelled Pinkerton one of the worst albums of the year, though the original review by Rob O'Connor was significantly less vitriolic.

"Weezer over-rely on catchy tunes to heal all of Cuomo's wounds. In 'El Scorcho,' the song's infectious chorus proves to be slim reward. 'Tired of Sex,' a look at a brooding stud's empty sex life, is as aimless as the subject's nightly routine. But 'Butterfly' is a real treat, a gentle acoustic number that recalls the vintage, heartbreaking beauty of Big Star. Cuomo's voice cracks as he unintentionally bludgeons the fragile creature in the lyric, suggesting that underneath the geeky teenager pose is an artist well on his way to maturity." –Rob O'Connor

Second take: Five Stars (2004 Rolling Stone Hall of Fame)

"The self-produced album sounds as raw as Cuomo's lyrics, without any of the sheen that Ric Ocasek provided on the band's debut. But what makes Pinkerton more than a blog entry is Cuomo's unfailing gift for power pop. 'Across the Sea' – which quoted so much of that Japanese fan's letter that Cuomo gave her a slice of the songwriting money – is the masterpiece, building to ever-greater intensity as Cuomo wails about the most distant of all his unattainable girls. At the end, the chorus swells: 'I've got your letter/You've got my song.' Unrealized fantasy is enough happiness for anyone, Cuomo is saying – and he sings it with enough passion to make you believe it too." –Gavin Edwards

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