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500 Greatest Albums of All Time

Rolling Stone’s definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

The RS 500 was assembled by the editors of Rolling Stone, based on the results of two extensive polls. In 2003, Rolling Stone asked a panel of 271 artists, producers, industry executives and journalists to pick the greatest albums of all time. In 2009, we asked a similar group of 100 experts to pick the best albums of the 2000s. From those results, Rolling Stone created this new list of the greatest albums of all time.

491

Albert King, ‘Born Under a Bad Sign’

Stax, 1967

King’s first album for the Stax label combines his hard, unflashy guitar playing with the sleek sound of the label’s house band, Booker T. and the MG’s. Hits such as “Crosscut Saw” and “Laundromat Blues” earned King a new rock & roll audience. Listen here.

490

ZZ Top, ‘Tres Hombres’

London, 1973

A decade before the Texas blues trio became MTV stars, ZZ Top got their first taste of national fame with this disc, which features one of their biggest hits, the John Lee Hooker-style boogie “La Grange,” as well as the boozy rocker “Jesus Just Left Chicago” and the concert anthem “Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers.” Listen here.

489

Kiss, ‘Destroyer’

Casablanca, 1976

By their fifth album, Kiss were the most popular band in America, with sold-out stadium tours and eventually their own pinball machine, makeup line and a TV movie. Built around the proto power ballad “Beth,” this is a ridiculously over-the-top party-rock album that just gets better with age. Listen here.

488

Hüsker Dü, ‘New Day Rising’

SST, 1985

These three Minneapolis dudes played savagely emotional hardcore punk that became a big influence on Nirvana, among others. The Hüskers created a rorar like garbage trucks trying to sing Beach Boys songs, especially on the anthems “Celebrated Summer” and “Perfect Example.” Listen here.

487

Cyndi Lauper ,’She’s So Unusual’

Portrait, 1983

Lauper‘s first band had broken up and she was singing in a Japanese restaurant. Then this solo debut album of razor-sharp dance pop became the first by a female performer to score four Top Five hits, including “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Time After Time.” Listen here.

486

Earth, Wind and Fire, ‘That’s the Way of the World’

Columbia, 1975

Before he got into African thumb pianos and otherworldly philosophizing, EWF founder Maurice White was a session drummer at Chess Studios. EWF’s sixth album is make-out music of the gods. Listen here.

485

Pearl Jam, ‘Vitalogy’

Epic, 1994

Their previous album, Vs., made Pearl Jam the most successful band in the world. They celebrated by suing Ticketmaster and making Vitalogy, where their mastery of rock's past and future became complete. Soulful ballads like "Nothingman" are matched by hardcore-influenced rockers such as "Spin the Black Circle."

484

Mott the Hoople, ‘All the Young Dudes’

Columbia, 1972

Mott were a hard-rock band with a Dylan fixation until David Bowie got ahold of them. He penned the androgyne title track and had them cover Lou Reed's "Sweet Jane." Mott would sound more soulful but never more sexy or glittery.

483

Gang of Four, ‘Entertainment!’

Warner Bros., 1979

Formed in 1977, Gang of Four combined Marxist politics with punk rock. They played staccato guitar-driven funk, and the stiff, jerky aggression of songs such as "Damaged Goods" and "I Found That Essence Rare" invented a new style that influenced bands from the Minutemen to LCD Soundsystem.

482

Steve Earle, ‘Guitar Town’

MCA, 1986

"I got a two-pack habit and a motel tan," Earle sings on the title track. By the time he released his debut at 31, he had done two stints in Nashville as a songwriter and he wanted something else. Guitar Town is the rocker's version of country, packed with songs about hard living in the Reagan Eighties.

481

D’Angelo, ‘Voodoo’

Virgin, 2000

D'Angelo recorded his second album at Electric Lady, the Manhattan studio built by Jimi Hendrix. There he studied bootleg videos of Sixties and Seventies soul singers and cooked up an album heavy on bass and drenched in a post-coital haze. The single "Untitled (How Does It Feel?)" sounds like a great lost Prince song.

480

Raekwon, ‘Only Built 4 Cuban Linx

Loud, 1995

The best Wu-Tang solo joint is a study in understated cool and densely woven verses. Over RZA's hypnotically stark beats, Raekwon crafts breathtaking drug-rap narratives; it's a rap album that rivals the mob movies hip-hop celebrates.

479

Funkadelic, ‘Maggot Brain’

Westbound, 1971

"Play like your mama just died," George Clinton told guitarist Eddie Hazel. The result was "Maggot Brain," 10 minutes of Hendrix-style guitar anguish. This is the heaviest rock album the P-Funk ever created, but it also made room for the acoustic-guitar funk of "Can You Get to That."

478

Loretta Lynn, ‘All Time Greatest Hits’

MCA Nashville, 2002

Anyone who thinks a woman singing country music is cute should listen to "Fist City," where Lynn threatens to beat down a woman if she doesn't lay off her man. Seventies greats like "Rated 'X'" and "The Pill" brought feminism to the honky-tonks.

477

Merle Haggard, ‘Down Every Road’

Capitol, 1996

Haggard's tough country sound was born in Bakersfield, California, a.k.a. Nashville West. His songs are full of drifters, fugitives and rogues, and this four-disc set – culled from his seminal recordings for Capitol as well as MCA and Epic – is the ultimate collection from one of country's finest singers.

476

The Notorious B.I.G., ‘Life After Death’

Bad Boy, 1997

Released less than a month after Biggie's murder, the prophetic Life After Death is two CDs of humor and bravado, no filler at all, as he tops himself in "Mo Money Mo Problems" and"#!*@ You Tonight."

475

Elvis Costello and the Attractions, ‘Armed Forces’

Columbia, 1979

Costello's third album is all tightly wound paranoia. The concept is personal politics; the original title was Emotional Fascism, and one song is called "Two Little Hitlers." The keyboard-driven sound of "Accidents Will Happen" helped define New Wave.

474

Manu Chao, ‘Próxima Estación: Esperanza’

Virgin, 2001

Globally, Chao had long been a Marley-size figure. But this gem gave Americans a taste of his wild-ass greatness. Chao rocks an acoustic guitar over horns and beat­boxes while rambling multi­lingually about crucial topics from politics to pot.

473

The Smiths, ‘The Smiths’

Sire, 1984

"I recognize that mystical air/It means I'd like to seize your underwear," Morrissey moans, and rock music was never the same. The Smiths' debut is a showcase for Morrissey's morose wit and Johnny Marr's guitar chime, trudging through England's cheerless marshes in "Still Ill" and "This Charming Man."

472

George Michael, ‘Faith’

Columbia, 1987

When Michael left Wham!, he signified his new maturity by not shaving. Thankfully, his music was still tasty pop candy – six of these songs hit the Top Five on the singles charts. "I Want Your Sex" is one of the decade's finest Prince imitations, and the best ballad is the spooky, soulful "Father Figure."