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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.

338

Big Brother and the Holding Company, ‘Cheap Thrills’

CBS, 1968

These San Francisco acid rockers were the most simpatico band Janis Joplin ever had, especially when its rough racket backs her up on "Piece of My Heart," perhaps her greatest recording.

337

Jethro Tull, ‘Aqualung’

Chrysalis, 1971

Tull were hairy prog-rock philosophers who decried organized religion ("Hymn 43") and modern hypocrisy ("Aqualung") while incorporating flute solos. With several FM-radio hits, this record made Tull into a major arena band. The cover painting gave Seventies kids nightmares.

336

Radiohead, ‘In Rainbows’

Self-released, 2007

After the pay-what-you-like release hoopla died down, what were fans left with? How 'bout the most intense love songs Thom Yorke has ever sung, and a warm live-percussion feel that gives the whole album the vibe of a hippie jam session. One that's taking place at the end of the world, of course. 

335

Soundgarden, ‘Superunknown’

A&M, 1994

They were the Seattle punk scene's headbanging answer to Led Zeppelin II. But they became real songwriters on Superunknown, shaping their angst into grunge anthems like "Black Hole Sun." "[We] realized the importance of melody," said Chris Cornell. "Maybe we've been listening to Bryan Ferry."

334

Graham Parker, ‘Squeezing Out Sparks’

Arista, 1979

An angry young crank in the mode of Elvis Costello, this former gas-station attendant rode the wave of U.K. punk. His fifth album combines bar-band rock with New Wave hooks, and his bitter paranoia shines through on every track. 

333

X, ‘Wild Gift’

Slash, 1981

John Doe and Exene Cervenka harmonize about doomed love over L.A. garage-rock thrash, changing the emotional language of punk. They were the White Stripes of their day, a young couple messing with country and blues in gems such as "Adult Books," "Beyond and Back" and "We're Desperate."

332

Richard and Linda Thompson, ‘Shoot Out the Lights’

Hannibal, 1982

The British folk-rock duo's last album together is a harrowing portrait of a marriage gone bad, made as their marriage collapsed. The catchiest song: "Wall of Death." The scariest: "Walking on a Wire." 

331

The Beatles, ‘Help!’

Capitol, 1965

The moptops' second movie was a Swinging London goof, but the soundtrack included the classics "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" and "Ticket to Ride," as well as the lovely "I've Just Seen a Face." Help! didn't break new ground, but it paved the way for the Beatles' next stop: Rubber Soul.

330

Neil Young, ‘Tonight’s the Night’

Reprise, 1975

Young made his darkest, most emotionally frayed album as a tribute to two friends who died from drugs, Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry. Young sounds like he's on the edge of a breakdown in the mournful ballads "Tired Eyes" and "Speakin' Out," recorded with a world-weary looseness.

329

James Brown, ‘In the Jungle Groove’

Polydor, 1986

A compilation of Mr. Dynamite's singles from '69 to '70, including the endlessly sampled "Funky Drummer" and "Give It Up or Turnit a Loose," where Brown drops the heaviest funk of his – or anyone's – life.

328

Sonic Youth, ‘Daydream Nation’

Enigma, 1988

Sonic Youth have had a long, brilliant career making trippy art punk, and this is their triumph. Thurston Moore's and Lee Ranaldo's guitars are like antennae picking up otherworldly signals and channeling them into the scuzzy urban haze of "Teen Age Riot" and "Eric's Trip."

327

Liz Phair, ‘Exile in Guyville’

Matador, 1993

A studio expansion of Phair's homemade Girlysound cassettes, Exile's frank sex talk caused a stir. But it's the lacerating honesty of tracks such as "Divorce Song" that sticks, and "Fuck and Run" is one of the saddest songs ever written about dreaming of romance and settling for less.

326

The Cure, ‘Disintegration’

Elektra, 1989

According to the kids on South Park, this is the best album ever made. According to many depressive Eighties-minded kids, it's the only album ever made – gloppy eyeliner at its grandest. On "Fascination Street," Robert Smith's voice shakes like milk as he makes adolescent angst sound so wonderfully, wonderfully pretty.