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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.

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.

418

Paul McCartney and Wings, ‘Band On The Run’

Apple, 1973

Wings trekked to Lagos, Nigeria, for seven stressful weeks to make Band, regarded by many as McCartney's finest post-Beatles hour. Opening with the one-two punch of "Band on the Run" and "Jet," it proved that McCartney still knew how to rock.

417

U2, ‘Boy’

Island, 1980

Too ingenuous for punk, too unironic for New Wave, U2 arrived on Boy as big-time dreamers with the ambition to back it up. The Dublin foursome boasted Bono's arena-ready voice and the Edge's echoey, effects-laden guitar, as well as anthemic songs such as the club favorite "I Will Follow."

416

Tom Waits, ‘Mule Variations’

Anti-/Epitaph, 1999

After five silent years, Variations was the victorious return of Waits' rawboned, bluesy art rock. Using found instruments for rhythm and Smokey Hormel's angular guitar for color, Waits careers from carnival baker to croaky balladeer. The highlights: the sad but sweet "Hold On" and "House Where Nobody Lives."

415

Van Halen, ‘Van Halen’

Warner Bros., 1978

This debut gave the world a new guitar hero (Eddie Van Halen) and charismatic frontman (David Lee Roth). Tunes such as "Runnin' With the Devil" and "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" put the swagger back in hard rock, and Eddie's jaw-dropping technique, particularly on "Eruption," raised the bar for rock guitar.

414

The Go- Go’s, ‘Beauty and The Beast’

I.R.S., 1981

The most popular girl group of the New Wave surfed to the top of the charts with "We Got the Beat" and "Our Lips Are Sealed." And its entire debut welded punkish spirit to party-minded pop.

413

Minuteman, ‘Doubles Nickels on The Dime’

SST, 1984

"Our band could be your life," sing the Minutemen, perfectly articulating punk's Everyman ideal. Guitarist D. Boon and bassist Mike Watt push each other to fast, funny and agitated heights on this 45-song opus.

412

Wire, ‘Pink Flag’

Harvest, 1977

This first-generation U.K. punk band made sparse tunes that erupted in combustible snippets on its 21-track debut album. The curt mania of "12XU" had a massive influence on hardcore punk, and bands like Sonic Youth and R.E.M. took to the arty blurt of songs like "Strange" and "Ex Lion Tamer."

410

Bob Dylan, ‘Time Out of Mind’

Columbia, 1997

The first of Dylan's three late-career triumphs. Producer Daniel Lanois' dark, atmospheric settings envelop Dylan in a sonic fog appropriate to the isolation and distance he sings of in a ravaged, weary voice. The songs – especially "Love Sick" and "Not Dark Yet" – are ghostly but forceful.

409

The Doors, ‘Strange Days’

Elektra, 1967

The Doors set out into darker territory on their second album. The catchy single "Love Me Two Times" is overshadowed by a mood of foreboding and alienation, especially on "People Are Strange" and "When the Music's Over," which demands, "We want the world, and we want it now!"

408

Sinead O’Connor, ‘I Do Not Want What I haven’t Got’

Chrysalis, 1990

O'Connor's second LP delivers true originality and range, from "Nothing Compares 2 U" to the maternal warmth of "Three Babies" to the fiddle and beatbox of "I Am Stretched on Your Grave."

407

The Clash, ‘Sandinista!’

Epic, 1980

The Clash's ballooning ambition peaked with this three-album set, named after the Nicaraguan revolutionary movement. Joe Strummer and Mick Jones reached beyond punk and reggae into dub, R&B, calypso, gospel and even a kids' chorus on "Career Opportunities."

406

PJ Harvey, ‘Rid of Me’

Island, 1993

Like Patti Smith, she wanted to be Bob Dylan. Unlike Patti Smith, she played guitar very, very loud. Polly Jean Harvey's second album, recorded with Steve Albini, is charged with aggressive eroticism and rock fury (check the scalding title track). Rid of Me slams from blues to goth to grunge, often in the space of a single song.

405

Big Star, ‘Radio City’

Ardent, 1974

As with the Velvet Underground, Big Star's influence far outstripped their commercial success. On this lean, guitar-driven LP, they come up with a new, upside-down pop sound, filtering their love of the Beatles through their Memphis-soul roots. Towering achievement: the blissful, sad "September Gurls."

404

Dr John, ‘Dr. John’s Gumbo’

ATCO, 1972

After a series of eerie, voodoo-stoked records, pianist Mac Rebennack – a.k.a. Dr. John – returned to his New Orleans roots with spirited covers of classics such as "Iko Iko" and "Junko Partner." With his rolling piano figures and gritty vocals, he rekindled interest in the Crescent City sound.

403

Lynyrd Skynyrd, ‘(Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd)’

MCA, 1973

From the git-go, these Southern rockers played hard, lived hard and shot from the hip (with three guitars!). Discovered and produced by Al Kooper, Skynyrd offered taut rockers including "Poison Whiskey" and the ultimate anthem, "Freebird."

402

Nas, ‘Illmatic’

Columbia, 1994

Other rappers were harder and better-armed, but nobody captured the creeping menace of life on the streets quite like this 20-year-old from New York's Queensbridge projects. With lines like "I never sleep, 'cause sleep is the cousin of death," Nas showed more poetic style than any MC since Rakim.

401

Red Hot Chili Peppers, ‘Californication’

Warner Bros., 1999

Turning their focus to songs instead of jams, the Chilis steered frontman Anthony Kiedis' voice into a radio-friendlier wail, and the reappearance of guitarist John Frusciante helped form beautifully composed songs such as "Scar Tissue."

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