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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.

165

Marvin Gaye, ‘Let’s Get It On’

Motown, 1973

On this album, Gaye meditated on the gap between sex and love and how to reconcile them – an adult version of the Motown tunes he had built his career on. It’s some of the most gorgeous music he ever made, resplendent with sweet strings and his clear-throated crooning.

164

Linda Ronstadt, ‘The Very Best of Linda Ronstadt’

Rhino, 2002

So very SoCal (her band became the ­Eagles), Ronstadt was more empathetic interpreter than songwriter. But she could knock out a pop song – check "Long Long Time," where she sounds like a girl next door with a voice that can peel chrome.

163

Prince, ‘1999’

Warner Bros., 1982

"I didn't want to do a double album," Prince said, "but I just kept on writing. Of course, I'm not one for editing." The second half of 1999 is exceptional sex-obsessed dance music; the first half is the best fusion of rock and funk anyone had achieved to that date, and it lays out the blueprint for Prince's next decade.

162

Radiohead, ‘OK Computer’

Capitol, 1997

OK is where Radiohead began pulling at their sound like taffy, not worrying if it was still "rock." The result is a slow, haunting album with unforgettable tracks such as "Karma Police" and "Paranoid Android." Guitarist Jonny Greenwood arranged white-noise strings, and Thom Yorke made alienation feel alluring.

161

Otis Redding, ‘The Dock of the Bay’

Atlantic, 1968

Redding recorded his Monterey Pop-inspired "soul-folk" experiment "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay" four days before he died in a plane crash. The posthumous album guitarist Steve Cropper compiled out of unreleased sessions is essential soul.

160

T. Rex, ‘Electric Warrior’

Reprise, 1971

Marc Bolan cast a spell over all of England with this album, giving his Tolkienesque hippie music a glammed-out update. This was rock that thrusted, quivered and recklessly employed metaphors equating cars with sex ("You got a hubcap diamond star halo").

159

Kiss, ‘Alive!’

Casablanca, 1975

A double live LP, cut largely in Detroit (plus studio overdubs), Alive! was Kiss' breakthrough, with hot versions of "Strutter" and "Rock and Roll All Nite." "I really enjoy myself onstage: prancing around, shaking my ass," said singer Paul Stanley. "I am entertaining myself up there."

158

Elton John, ‘Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy’

MCA, 1975

This self-mythologizing spectacle about John and lyricist Bernie Taupin features "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" – from the time Taupin talked John out of suicide.

157

Joy Division, ‘Closer’

Factory, 1981

This is one of the most chilling albums ever made, with droning guitars, icy bass lines and stentorian vocals. And that's not even considering the lyrics, about singer Ian Curtis' epilepsy and failing marriage. When Curtis hanged himself at age 23 on May 18th, 1980, Closer officially became the stuff of rock legend.

156

The Beastie Boys, ‘Paul’s Boutique’

Capitol, 1989

For their second album, the Beasties hired the Dust Brothers, a production team that provided some of the best samples ever on wax – from the Ramones to the Funky 4+1. The title is a goof on Abbey Road, which was Paul McCartney's boutique; like that LP, it stitches together song fragments in a way rarely seen before or since.

155

The Pretenders, ‘Pretenders’

Sire, 1980

After years of writing record reviews and hanging with the Sex Pistols, Chrissie Hynde put together a band as tough as she was. Pretenders is filled with no-nonsense rock like "Brass in Pocket," a meditation on ambition and seduction that stands as one of New Wave's greatest radio moments.

154

Howlin’ Wolf, ‘Moanin’ in the Moonlight’

Chess, 1959

Wolf's sound – a fierce growl mixed with explosive playing by guitar geniuses Willie Johnson and Hubert Sumlin – was huge and eerie, and this compilation taught the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and the rest of England the ways of the blues.

153

A Tribe Called Quest, ‘The Low End Theory’

Jive, 1991

Many connected the dots between hip-hop and jazz, but this LP drew the whole picture. As legendary stand-up bassist Ron Carter gets dope, Tribe discourse on everything from music biz to sexual politics – and the groove keeps getting deeper.

152

The B-52’s, ‘The B-52’s’

Warner Bros., 1979

The B-52's sounds like high school friends cramming their in-jokes, wacky sounds and private nicknames into a New Wave LP. Nobody could resist the campy, arty funk. And with the toy instruments and bouffant hair, the B-52's' thrift-store image was as colorful as their music – which, given "Rock Lobster," was pretty colorful.

151

Arcade Fire, ‘Funeral’

Merge, 2004

Love, loss, forced coming-of-age and fragile hope: The debut from this seven-­member band touched on these themes as it defined indie music of the 2000s. It's surging orchestral rock that actually rocked – and found solace, and purpose, in communal celebration.

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