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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.

436

Beck, ‘Sea Change’

DGC, 2002

Breakup records are rarely this lovely. Sea Change is the pristine sound of everything falling apart, a glossy take on a bummed-out Sixties folk sound. The music seems to be floating up from the bottom of the ocean; the words were straight from Beck's broken heart.

435

Nirvana, ‘In Utero’

Geffen, 1993

Nirvana hired hard-nosed Steve Albini to record the follow-up to Nevermind. Geffen asked them to clean up some of the results, and you can hear the tension in white-noise ruckus like "Serve the Servants." But the only thing that can explain the scalding "Rape Me" is inner pain.

434

Big Star, ‘#1 Record’

Ardent/Stax, 1972

Alex Chilton and Chris Bell were the Memphis whiz kids at the heart of Big Star. They mixed British-pop finesse with all-American hard rock, from the surging "Feel" to the acoustic "Thirteen." Big Star didn't sell many records, but the Eighties explosion of poppy garage bands would've been unimaginable without them.

433

George Harrison, ‘All Things Must Pass’

Apple, 1970

Harrison had almost enough songs stored up from his Beatles days for a triple LP – the gas starts to run out during the jams on Side Six. But spiritual guitar quests like "My Sweet Lord" and "What Is Life" became classics.

432

Brian Eno, ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’

Island, 1975

Eno's first solo album pioneered a new kind of glammy art rock: jagged, free-form and dreamy. "Baby's on Fire" and "Needles in the Camel's Eye" are vicious rockers with detached vocals, and Robert Fripp's warped guitars swarm and stutter.

431

PJ Harvey, ‘Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea’

Island, 2000

Polly Harvey, happy? It was a surprise: But album number five found her in New York and in love. The result was lusher than anything she had recorded but also vibrant and surprisingly catchy.

430

Vampire Weekend, ‘Vampire Weekend’

XL, 2009

Vampire Weekend came out of Columbia University displaying an affinity for boat shoes and African guitar music. Their debut was full of suavely seductive indie-pop songs about college campuses and trysts with Benetton-wearing ladies. Ezra Koenig's Paul Simon-esque melodies are as refined as his education.

429

Brian Eno, ‘Another Green World’

Island, 1975

After years as a rock eccentric, Eno said goodbye to pop-song form with this album of pure synthetic beauty, mixing lush electronics ("Becalmed") with acoustic intruments ("Everything Merges With the Night") to cast a truly hypnotic spell.

428

The Police, ‘Outlandos D’Amour’

A&M, 1978

The Police got bigger but they never sounded fresher, absorbing reggae into the spare, bouncy sound of their debut album. "Roxanne" and "Next to You" prove Sting was already a top-notch songwriter.

427

Peter Wolf, ‘Sleepless’

Artemis, 2002

Wolf accomplishes a rare feat on this modern blues album: He sings about adult roance without sounding jaded. The former J. Geils Band singer testifies about true love in his soulful growl, with help from friends like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

426

Cheap Trick, ‘At Budokan’

Epic, 1979

After three studio albums, Cheap Trick were bigger in Japan than in America. But this record of a live Tokyo gig became their first U.S. hit. The Japanese schoolgirls are practically the lead instrument here, screaming their lungs out to "Surrender" and "I Want You to Want Me."

424

Bruce Springsteen, ‘The Rising’

Columbia, 2002

Springsteen's response to 9/11 was an extraordinary 15-song requiem that searched for meaning in the inexplicable tragedy while saluting the grace and courage of the dead and those who mourn them. The first E Street Band album since the Eighties, it kicked off Springsteen's creative resurgence. 

423

Diana Ross and The Supremes, ‘Anthology’

Motown, 1973

In the heyday of Motown, the Supremes were their own hit factory, all glamour and heartbreak. Diana Ross high points like "You Keep Me Hangin' On" and "Where Did Our Love Go" are still spine-tingling.

422

The Ronettes, ‘Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes’

Philles, 1964

The Ronettes were pop goddesses dressed as Catholic schoolgirls gone to hell and back, with Ronnie Bennett belting out hits like "Be My Baby" over future husband Phil Spector's Wall of Sound.

421

Various Artists, ‘The Best of Girl Groups Volumes 1 and 2’

Rhino, 1990

In the lean years between Elvis and the Beatles, girl groups like the Shirelles and the Shangri-Las kept the spirit of rock & roll alive. This series has the classics.

420

Buddy Holly and the Crickets, ‘The “Chirping” Crickets’

Brunswick, 1957

Holly was only 21 when he cut these tracks, some on an Oklahoma Air Force base. "That'll Be the Day," "Oh Boy!" and "Not Fade Away" fused country, rockabilly and R&B into epochal rock & roll.

419

Portishead, ‘Dummy’

Go! Discs, 1994

Portishead uses some of the same building blocks as fellow Bristol, England trip-hoppers Massive Attack – woozy break beats, jazzy samples, live guitar, girl-singer/guy-programmer dynamic – but Beth Gibbons' brooding, pop-cabaret vocals showed to the world that you could feel real pain over a trip-hop groove.