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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.

365

Rage Against the Machine, ‘Rage Against the Machine’

Epic Associated, 1992

Singer Zack de la Rocha's radical politics found sympathetic muscle in Tom Morello's howling one-guitar army, making a furor unheard since the MC5 and the Clash.

364

The Doors, ‘L.A. Woman’

Elektra, 1971

Jim Morrison said the Doors wanted to "get back to what we did originally: just be very primitive… very relaxed." Recorded in their rehearsal space with Morrison's mic set up in the bathroom, this was a bluesier, confident Doors. It was the last album Morrison recorded. He died soon after.

363

New Order, ‘Substance’

Qwest, 1987

This assemblage of 12-inch singles and remixes charts New Order's tranformation from gloom rockers to electro-disco pioneers. Club hits like "Blue Monday" and "Bizarre Love Triangle" are full of bass melodies that beat-loving guitar bands are still trying to figure out.

362

The Smashing Pumpkins, ‘Siamese Dream’

Virgin, 1993

On their second disc, the Pumpkins pushed further from alt-rock to a grander, orchestrated sound with multiple guitar parts, strings and Mellotron. Siamese Dream is packed with hits ("Cherup Rock," "Today") and alt-rock followed its lead.

361

OutKast, ‘Stankonia’

LaFace, 2000

"We call it slumadelic," said Big Boi of OutKast's far-reaching blend of hip-hop, funk, rock and otherworldly sounds. "Ms. Jackson" was something new for rap: an apology to the mother of an ex-girlfriend. And "B.O.B. (Bombs Over Baghdad)" twitches to techno beats and screeching guitar.

360

Buzzcocks, ‘Singles Going Steady’

I.R.S., 1979

Singles collects eight British 45s into a perfect punk album. This Manchester group took the sound of the Ramones and made it jittery and even faster. Songs such as "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" define a world of permanently frustrated desire.

359

Elton John, ‘Honky Chateau’

Uni, 1972

After a couple of weightier singer-songwriter outings, it was delightful to hear John revel in the simple pop pleasures of "Honky Cat." Written in five days, and using his signature touring band for the first time, Honky Château is a snapshot of an artist loosening up and coming into his full powers.

358

Miles Davis, ‘Sketches of Spain’

Columbia, 1960

This collaboration between Davis and ­arranger Gil Evans took 15 orchestral sessions to record and six months to assemble. It wasn't an attempt to play Spanish music but to suggest it; the album's muted beauty contains enormous passion. But is it jazz? Davis responded, "It's music, and I like it."

357

The Rolling Stones, ‘Between the Buttons’

London, 1967

Andrew Loog Oldham called it their "most English" album. Music-hall piano abuts the psych-soul of "Ruby Tuesday"; the lovely "She Smiled Sweetly" offsets the great Chuck Berry rip, "Miss Amanda Jones."

356

Randy Newman, ’12 Songs’

Reprise, 1970

Newman's second disc was his artistic breakout, with Ry Cooder and a few of the Byrds contributing to the loose, confident sound. It's prime caustic, funny Newman – especially the piano rockers "Mama Told Me (Not to Come)" and "Have You Seen My Baby?" and the tormented "Suzanne."

355

The Yardbirds, ‘Having a Rave Up With the Yardbirds’

Epic, 1965

Freed from Eric Clapton's blues purism and spurred by Jeff Beck's reckless exhibitionism, the Yardbirds launched a noisy rock & roll avant-garde. This is the bridge between beat groups and psychedelia.

354

Billy Joel, ’52nd Street’

Columbia, 1978

The heavy roadwork dictated by the success of The Stranger produced a leaner, rock-oriented follow-up. Like Elton John, Joel assimilated whatever styles (jazz, Latin rhythms) suited his purpose. "I don't want to limit my diet," he said, "sampling only one vegetable in the garden."

353

Kanye West, ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’

Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella, 2010

Epic hip-hop as messily inspired as Kanye's life, with Elton John pianos, vocoder freakouts, Bon Iver cameos and hilarious insights on Kanye's self-torpedoing genius. 

352

Dire Straits, ‘Brothers in Arms’

Warner Bros., 1985

Mark Knopfler started writing "Money for Nothing" when he overheard a New York appliance salesman's anti-rock-star, anti-MTV rant. The song, of course, became a huge MTV hit, and this album shows off Knopfler's incisive songwriting and lush guitar riffs on "Walk of Life" and "So Far Away."

351

Neil Young and Crazy Horse, ‘Rust Never Sleeps’

Reprise, 1979

This live Rust is essential Young, full of delicate acoustic songs and ragged Crazy Horse rampages. Highlights: "My My, Hey Hey" (a tribute to Johnny Rotten) and "Powderfinger," where Young's guitar hits the sky like never before.

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