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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.

288

Grateful Dead, ‘Anthem of the Sun’

Warner Bros., 1968

The Dead's second album was built from multiple live performances and studio takes, which were faded in and out of each track to re-create the alchemy of the band's shows. Jerry Garcia said, "We really mixed [the album] for the hallucinations, you know?"

287

X, ‘Los Angeles’

Slash, 1980

The quintessential L.A. punk band made the first great West Coast punk album with its debut. Los Angeles is best known for its city-defining anthem and the torrid "Johnny Hit and Run Paulene." Produced by Ray Manzarek of the Doors, it also proved that punk and classic rock could hang out together.

286

Al Green, ‘I’m Still in Love With You’

Hi, 1972

After topping the charts with Let's Stay Together, Green released his second LP of 1972 – an even more sensual experience. "Love and Happiness" is a slow-building masterpiece: His band puts down a subtle groove, and Green adds a mountain of soul.

285

Stevie Wonder, ‘Music of My Mind’

Tamla, 1972

Recording after an onerous contract with Motown had expired, a newly empowered Wonder flexed his artistic control, making a relaxed, love-smitten warm-up for the blockbusters to come and playing nearly every funky note on classics such as "Love Having You Around."

284

The Cars, ‘The Cars’

Elektra, 1978

"We used to joke that the first album should be called The Cars' Greatest Hits," said guitarist Elliot Easton. Their debut was arty and punchy enough to be part of Boston's New Wave scene, yet so catchy that nearly every track ("Good Times Roll," "My Best Friend's Girl") landed on the radio.

283

Barry White, ‘Can’t Get Enough’

20th Century, 1974

In 1974, White had three albums on the charts simultaneously, all containing orchestrated hits that fanned the flames of disco fever. But the newly married maestro was also a master balladeer, and "I Can't Believe You Love Me" keeps the boudoir drama coming for 10-plus minutes.

282

Muddy Waters, ‘Folk Singer’

Chess, 1964

Worried that the folk-music fad was luring listeners away from the blues, Chess Records directed Waters to record with acoustic instruments. These sessions – by Waters, Willie Dixon and a young Buddy Guy – went astonishingly well, and this pioneering "unplugged" set is beloved by blues and folk fans alike.

281

Mary J. Blige, ‘My Life’

MCA, 1994

Graced by soulful samples and revisions of classic R&B, this Puff Daddy-helmed second album is Blige's most autobiographical. Upbeat jams like "Be Happy" were created during her struggle with substance abuse and a tumultuous relationship. "There's a real bad suicide spirit on there," she admitted.

280

U2, ‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’

Interscope, 2000

"Our best work has been in our thirties," Bono said in 2000. U2's 10th album brought things back to the essentials to grapple with mortality – particularly the gospel-soul ballad "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of."

279

David Bowie, ‘Aladdin Sane’

RCA, 1973

"I think Aladdin was much more in the area of 'Ziggy goes to America,'" Bowie remarked of the Ziggy sequel written largely during his first extensive U.S. tour. "Time" bridges the two albums, but "The Jean Genie" and a raunchy cover of "Let's Spend the Night Together" show a louder, harder, sexier Bowie.

277

Janet Jackson, ‘Rhythm Nation 1814’

A&M, 1989

Jackson bought a military suit and ruled the radio for two years with this album. Along with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, she fashions a grand pop statement with hip-hop funk, slow jams and even hair metal.

276

Parliament, ‘Mothership Connection’

Casablanca, 1975

George Clinton leads his Detroit crew of extraterrestrial brothers through a visionary album of science-fiction funk on jams such as "Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication" and "Give Up the Funk."

275

Eminem, ‘The Slim Shady LP’

Aftermath, 1999

Here's where Eminem introduced himself as a crazy white geek, the "class-clown freshman/Dressed like Les Nessman." Hip-hop had never heard anything like Em's brain-damaged rhymes on this Dr. Dre-produced album, which earned him respect, fortune, fame and a lawsuit from his mom.

274

Labelle, ‘Nightbirds’

Epic, 1974

"Lady Marmalade" has one of the funkiest chants in Seventies disco: "Hey, sister, go sister, soul sister, go sister!" Nobody did the disco girl-group thing quite like the ladies of Labelle: They were Funkadelic-meets-the-Supremes, complete with platform heels, silver-lamé spacesuits and songs about New Orleans prostitutes.

273

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, ‘Going to a Go-Go’

Tamla, 1965

Motown at its most debonair and sexy. Robinson works his sweeping soul falsetto over unbelievably sad ballads, including "The Tracks of My Tears" and "Ooh Baby Baby," as the Miracles sob along.

272

Sleater-Kinney, ‘Dig Me Out’

Kill Rock Stars, 1997

When drummer Janet Weiss joined singer-guitarists Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein on the group's third LP, a riot-grrrl force of nature became one of the world's most potent rock bands. Tucker's indelible vibrato takes off with avenging-angel feminine ferocity.

270

The Rolling Stones, ‘Some Girls’

Rolling Stones, 1978

"Keith fuckin' gets busted every year," Mick Jagger fumed. Keith Richards was in drug hell, and the Stones were verging on destruction, but they bounced back with "Miss You," the sleazy "Shattered" and "When the Whip Comes Down." Richards does his best song, "Before They Make Me Run."

269

The Jesus and Mary Chain, ‘Psychocandy’

Reprise, 1985

Pretty Scottish boys surfing a wave of doom and gloom and enjoying every moment of it. The Jesus and Mary Chain's debut is a decadent alt-rock masterpiece of bubblegum pop – with "Just Like Honey," "My Little Underground" and "Never Understand" – drowned in feedback.