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Added by JxSxPx on 19 Dec 2008 09:03
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This started as something of a fluke, a mere lark to occupy my free time. Clearly, it ballooned from there. It was supposed to only be 100, but even numbers be damned!

As I was combing over the list and scouring for one final album to drop, I realized that I would just keep it at 101 then drop any more of them. There’s also the matter of a small tribute being paid to Rodney Bingenheimer of KROQ fame. He introduced much of this music to the southern California area, and I owe him tremendously for providing a soundtrack to my life at every turn.

I’m happy with it being 101. It’s more inclusive this way.

Any album from any artist was up for inclusion, but due to limited availability it would only be one album per artist. By no means definitive, and will probably change with time, this list is reflective of my tastes as they stand right now. The exclusions may surprise as much as the inclusions, and if you're looking for a 1-to-1 with my favorite artists? Don't press your luck, not all of them made the cut here.

I tried to keep the greatest hits, live albums, and compilations to a minimum, but some artists have their best moments in singles or live recordings instead of studio albums.

Every album has at least one song highlighted as a recommendation. If the album had over fourteen tracks there’s three, if it’s a double-album it gets four, and all of the Top 10 get at least two. Enjoy your reading!

Click here to see my 100 Favorite Music Artists.
Click here to see the albums that Almost Made It.
People who added this item 274 Average listal rating (185 ratings) 8.2 IMDB Rating 0
Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys
During the earliest writing sessions for Pet Sounds, Brian Wilson turned to his then-wife and said, “I’m gonna make the greatest album! The greatest rock album ever made!” Inspired by the Beatles’ Rubber Soul, a record which he believed to have no-filler, Wilson wanted to top it, to bring a new maturity and depth to pop song craft. I like to think he accomplished all of his goals, and that quote is true for me.

I firmly believe that Pet Sounds is the greatest album ever made, a work of exquisite artistry and beauty. The type of immaculate artwork that comes along once in a generation, if you’re lucky. Listening to this album is the closest I ever get to prayer it touches me that deeply. I distinctly remember for my first listening experience with this, having mostly known the Beach Boys as surf-pop enthusiasts with song after song about girls, cars, and surf and, being a casual fan at the time, I wanted to check out more of their work. I know this was frequently thrown around as their best album, and one of the all-time greats.

I listened to it on a loop. I finished my first listening experience, and thought to myself that this was something special. Then I listened to it again, and again, and again. I must have listened to it about five times that right, just on a loop, enchanted and thrilled by the found sounds, the symphonic textures, and the sheer beauty of it all. It was overwhelming, it was fulfilling, and I didn’t want to ever end.

Pet Sounds is a deep look into Brian Wilson’s fracturing psyche, and the sound of change between teenage despair and adult lamentations. Even the love songs have a twinge of sadness to them. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” fires out the gate with a sugar-rush of Beach Boys harmonies, bubblegum pop, and puppy love lyrics, but then you listen closer. That title is more of a question mark, the sound of someone trying to convince themselves it would be nice for all of these things to occur. This dichotomy is not focused on enough when we talk about Pet Sounds.

But I understand it. Those harmonies are densely layered, the orchestrations are new, the arrangements are luxurious, and the song craft is towering, there’s just so much available to discuss and discover on a purely aural level that it’s easy to forget about the other aspects of pop music. “God Only Knows” is one of the most beautiful pop songs ever written, not much else comes close. Clearly building upon the foundation of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, which Wilson has referenced as a major influence numerous times over the years, “God Only Knows” finds Wilson building a better, stronger, more ornate Wall of Sound. That heavy dose of lyrical melancholy clashes with the vocal euphoria, and no less than Paul McCartney will back me in saying “God Only Knows” is one of the greatest pop songs.

This sounded like nothing else in 1966, and, in many ways, it still doesn’t sound like anything from our time either. “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)” finds a way for the beat to swoop down in a way that sounds like the entire track is sighing. Then there’s everything strange and wonderful going on in “Caroline, No,” the album’s closer. There’s not enough space here to get into it all, but Wilson finds tone colors and sounds that take it into space-age pop song. It’s strange, it’s beautiful, it’s vibrant and colorful, it’s sad and mournful, it’s everything that makes Pet Sounds a masterpiece. DOWNLOAD: “God Only Knows,” “I’m Waiting for the Day”
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People who added this item 122 Average listal rating (87 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 0
Music from the Motion Picture "Purple Rain" - Prince & the Revolution, Prince
Prince, the diminutive pansexual pagan sex god of rock, has led a long and varied musical career. But no one moment’s influence has lasted quite as long as this soundtrack to the vaguely autobiographical film (which is a unintentional camp delight as much as it is cringe-inducing). Purple Rain launched Prince from critical darling with a strong chart and cultural presence into a global superstar, an Icon, and proved that he is one of the greatest musical artists of all-time. But how did one album do all of that? Well, that one album contained such immortal songs as “The Beautiful Ones,” “Darling Nikki,” “I Would Die 4 U,” and “Baby, I’m a Star.” These songs mutated, expanded and redefined their genres and the expectations of them establishing their places in our pop culture lexicon not just in 1984, but for posterity. “When Doves Cry” is a funk song with no bass turning it into an eerie but beautiful classic, “Let’s Go Crazy” showcases Prince’s volcanic guitar skills by ending in a metallurgic solo, and “Purple Rain” turned the stadium rock ballad into a heartfelt soul and R&B blockbuster. It’s one of those rare albums that never feel long enough, and you just keep hoping that it will never end because every single moment is just too good to be true. The only thing that could have made an already stellar/A+/five-star album even better? The inclusion of b-sides from the era like “Erotic City,” my favorite Prince song of all-time. DOWNLOAD: “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry”
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People who added this item 130 Average listal rating (92 ratings) 8.1 IMDB Rating 0
Parallel Lines - Blondie
Debbie Harry, with one bored kick of her stilettos, kicked down the door marked “No Girls Allowed” in the world of rock & roll. Before her girls were allowed to sing pop, soul, R&B, country, blues, jazz and harmonize in groups, but they weren’t allowed to participate in the misogynistic world of rock. From the kitsch friendly debuts, in which Harry parodied, and paraded around as, a dumb blonde falling into tabloid headlines and b-movie storylines, a few things were abundantly clear: Harry was not a dumb blonde, no man’s bimbo and she was a real, grown-up woman. And no album better summarizes her newly created rock goddess persona than Parallel Lines, the album that broke them in the U.S. and could effectively act as a greatest hits. Parallel Lines hasn’t gained a pound since first debuting in 1978, and has set the template for any self-respecting female in rock with its ironic art-pop, the career maps of Madonna, No Doubt, Garbage, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and countless others attest to this. Let us discuss the songs for a moment: the icily remote disco-rock of “Heart of Glass” was the biggest hit, “Fade Away and Radiate” describes the romantic (?) relationship between Harry and a TV, “Just Go Away” proves that above all they really had garage-punk roots, “One Way or Another” is a punk-dressed-as-a-girl-group girl-stalks-boy romp. You want to be a million-selling pop group, follow this simple formula: get a ridiculously beautiful blonde singer who looks bored with it all, a bunch of mop-tops in mod outfits and revamp the sounds of girl group pop, Motown and Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. That sound you hear at the end of the album is the birth of the New Wave, of which Blondie was the most successful and influential group. Long may the Queen of the Manhattan demimonde reign! DOWNLOAD: “Heart of Glass,” “Sunday Girl”
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David Bowie undoubtedly laid a lot of the groundwork for punk, glam, art rock, New Wave, electronica, industrial rock and who knows what else by embracing his inner alien, feminine side or by actually being a gender ambiguous extraterrestrial. Anyway which way you want to look at it, he’s a genius and the music he makes attests to his immense talents and forward looking eye. Before Madonna was reinventing herself with every album and bringing underground genres to the mainstream, there was David Bowie rocking it out with his red mullet and half-ton of glittery makeup. He made it perfectly fine for mainstream artists to embrace their avant-garde art school leanings and explore new concepts, sights and sounds; he brought wit and sophistication to rock. Other characters he created include Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke, Major Tom, but they all pale in the moonage daydream glow of Ziggy Stardust and his Spiders from Mars. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars isn’t just, quite possibly, the greatest concept album, but his finest hour since it predated just about every sight and sound of the 70s/80s punk and New Wave scenes by about five to ten years. “Ziggy Stardust” rocks harder than anything else on the album, “Starman” embraces his peculiar persona, and “Suffragette City” takes infectiousness to a whole new level (all together now: “Wham! Bam! Thank you ma’am!”). Those are just the three well known singles. David Bowie is one of my biggest heroes, I idolize the man to the point of near derangement, so I firmly believe that everyone should own this. Actually, I believe that everyone should start with this album and then go exploring, and I would be willing to tell you where to go next. DOWNLOAD: “Suffragette City,” “Hang On to Yourself”
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People who added this item 204 Average listal rating (112 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 0
Rock Steady - No Doubt
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Specials - The Specials
With a brash and headstrong energy, political fervor and urge to dance, Specials kicked off the hugely influential Two-Tone era. The Specials were a biracial group of English punks with a deep love for reggae. The phrase “mutant reggae” was practically invented for this punk-ish take on Jamaican ska, itself an old genre that wasn’t quite as hedonistic. Tales of working class life (“Stupid Marriage”), racial strife (“Doesn’t Make It Alright”) and bad nights out partying (“Nite Klub”) fill out the originals, and the covers are taken from their laid-back origins and given a sped-up snarl. With production by Elvis Costello and a guest appearance from Chrissie Hynde, yes, as in the lead singer of the Pretenders, this is one of THE documents of the New Wave. Specials is one of those rare albums that is a greatest hits in everything but name. And when combined with the 1980 follow-up More Specials, it plays like two discs worth of some of the most inventive, politically aware and energetic music from the period. But how is this so influential? Without the success of the Specials, the rest of the Two-Tone bands (including Madness, the (English) Beat and the Selecter) wouldn’t have stood a chance at making a dent in the charts, the ska-crazy southern California music scene wouldn’t exist and generations of skater-punks wouldn’t have a band to idolize. DOWNLOAD: “Gangsters,” “Too Much Too Young”
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People who added this item 164 Average listal rating (111 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 0
Like a Prayer - Madonna
Madonna had used her three previous albums to become one of the biggest pop icons of the decade, and with Like a Prayer, she decided to take complete artistic control and thrust herself from an icon of a decade to an Icon, period. From the guitar shriek, sudden stop and emerging choir that rings in “Like a Prayer” to the humorous bit that sees Madonna confronting St. Peter about not being on the guest book for Heaven, this is our first glimpse into the real woman behind the cultural provocateur. However, since we are talking about the woman who made shocking the world an art form in and of itself, it didn’t come without some controversy. The Pepsi contract and music video scandal are well documented, but the cheeky reference she gave in a Rolling Stone interview about this record being a documentation of her growing up process, something she said she was still in the midst of, paints a clearer picture of her real intentions. Artistically speaking, she may have surpassed this collection with Ray of Light, but this one means more to me. This was the first time that Madonna revealed naked, vulnerable, contradictory emotions on a record, and that is an act of bravery for any artist to do. The death of her mother (“Promise to Try”), AIDS (“Spanish Eyes”), her divorce from Sean Penn (“Till Death Do Us Part”) and her relationship with her father (“Oh Father”) all get touched upon. And in the title track, which remains her greatest song, she crafted a beautiful song which works on multiple levels: the sacred, the heartfelt, the profane and the celebratory. DOWNLOAD: “Like a Prayer,” “Love Song”
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People who added this item 24 Average listal rating (17 ratings) 8.4 IMDB Rating 0
Los Angeles-based junkyard Beat poets John Doe and Exene Cervanka were like the White Stripes before Jack and Meg ever hooked up. They redefined how aggressive and hard-hitting country music could be by giving it a punk makeover. “The World’s a Mess; It’s in My Kiss” never quite makes clear what’s in Exene’s kiss, but it does make it clear that she wants you to go with her on a trip to hell and back. “Sugarlight” is either about a gay trick with drug issues, a drug deal, or some combination of the two. And “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene” describes a drug deal and rape in horrifically candid and simple terms. They recall the best of the Doors and, luckily for them, they’ve come armed with Ray Manzareck, the Doors keyboardist, as a producer and a rockabilly cover of “Soul Kitchen.” This remains the best West Coast punk album, and this is arguably the greatest album to ever be recorded about my hometown. DOWNLOAD: “Los Angeles,” “The World’s a Mess; It’s In My Kiss”
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London Calling - The Clash
London Calling is the moment when punk hit the mainstream and branched out. The Clash ran punk through reggae, dub, ska and every other genre that they could think of. None of it is anything less than totally amazing. I know that you’ve heard the Clash described as the only band that mattered during their heyday, this album is why people believed that. The first time I heard it I was exhausted and confused by the end – dizzy and high off the sheer amount of creative force and invention, the greatness that I couldn’t quite grasp on just one listen. I didn’t feel a musical rush like that again until I first heard Pet Sounds, which should tell you something about this album’s greatness. DOWNLOAD: “London Calling,” “Hateful,” “The Guns of Brixton”
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All the rest

People who added this item 184 Average listal rating (134 ratings) 8.6 IMDB Rating 0
21 - Adele
Everyone know that I’m a sucker for a tortured love song, for practically performing an autopsy on a failed romance and trying to explain to myself just where it all went wrong and why. Clearly, Adele is a kindred spirit if these ten original compositions and complete reworking of a beloved Cure staple is any indication. 21 is a collection of fiery, stubborn, heartbroken songs that build organic instrumentation around her voice, a big, emotive thing that blisters in fury before wavering in deep ache and melancholy.
DOWNLOAD: “Rumour Has It”
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25 All-Time Greatest Hits - The Shirelles
The architects of the girl-group sound that transitioned from schoolgirls doing doo-wop harmonies and into sophisticated pop goddess armed with songs by the likes of Goffin/King and Bacharach/David. Their sound, a mixture of naivety and girlish innocence, kept the rock and roll fires burning in the period between Elvis’ initial explosion and the eventual British Invasion. All of the colossal hits, several lesser-known greats, it’s an essential hour of vulnerable, tender, sweet, and emotionally rich pop music.
DOWNLOAD: “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Baby, It’s You,” “Tonight's the Night”
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40 Greatest Hits - Hank Williams
Hank Williams’ special brand of no bullshit Americana breathed with a folksy, meditative sound that was a blend of honky tonk, gospel, blues, and an early, primitive form of rock and roll that blazed the path for others to walk through. 40 Greatest Hits reveals the poetic simplicity of Williams as a writer, and demonstrates all of his thematic obsessions from heartache (“Why Don’t You Love Me”) to ramble rousing (“Move It on Over”) to a raw emotional state (“I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive”) that underscores the hint of danger throughout. He died before the advent of the full-length album, but this set collects all of the killer material for your enjoyment.
DOWNLOAD: “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Ramblin’ Man,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “I Saw the Light”
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People who added this item 68 Average listal rating (43 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 0
40 Oz to Freedom - Sublime
Sublime’s debut album was perfectly as a soundtrack to a day hanging out at the beach and the skate park. It’s the sound of days spent driving along the southern Californian coast, drinking too much, smoking even more, and hanging out with friends lazily making music in the living room or garage. But the true genius of the album is how Sublime merges together hardcore punk, ska, dub, reggae, and hip-hop to create something unique and it’s my choice for their greatest sonic document.
DOWNLOAD: “DJs,” “Waiting for My Ruca,” “Badfish”
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Anthology - Diana Ross & the Supremes
Three girls from Detroit took the baton from the Shirelles and became an assembly line of hit singles, rivaling the Beatles for chart dominance, and finessing the girl-group look and sound into a form that numerous others are still trying to emulate. When Diana Ross coos the word “baby” on these songs, and it is quite often, it’s one of the most sublime moments in pop music. 50 songs of glamour and heartbreak from the titans of the girl-group sound and the preeminent hit-makers at Motown, this is essential listening.
DOWNLOAD: “Baby Love,” “Where Did Our Love Go,” “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “Come See About Me”
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Arular - M.I.A.
The rumor goes that M.I.A. couldn’t get a visa to record her follow-up, Kala, in the United States based on the fiery polemics and provocations found on Arular. In-between world beats and sound effects that resemble a Super Nintendo going on the fritz, M.I.A. stands in the middle of it all chanting her slogans into a megaphone while a party thrashes all around her. The music is every bit as defiant as her lyrics, and the entire thing is a genre-defying experience that’ll turn your head inside out.
DOWNLOAD: “Sunshowers”
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People who added this item 223 Average listal rating (142 ratings) 8.5 IMDB Rating 0
At Folsom Prison - Johnny Cash
At Folsom Prison is the sound of country music’s one-man Mount Rushmore fully embodying his own personal mythology alternately playing defiant, mean, mischievous, spiritual, and deeply poignant, sometimes all within the same song. This wasn’t merely a career comeback, but the sonic document that launched Johnny Cash from musical great into a legend for all-time. What really lasts is the profound sense of empathy and connection he provides to his audience, as if this rabble-rousing troubadour was paying penance for his misdeeds and giving them a sense of hope in the process.
DOWNLOAD: “Cocaine Blues,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Greystone Chapel”
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People who added this item 47 Average listal rating (29 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 0
The B-52's - The B-52's
Cosmic surf rock for your intergalactic luau, served up with a healthy portion of kitsch asides, Pop Art colorfulness, and Dadaist-like inventive humor. New Wave has never been quite as eccentric as it was on the B-52’s debut, an album that is practically perfect in every way. The silliness culminates in “Rock Lobster,” a song that’s a microcosm of the vibrantly weird world of the B-52’s and remains just as bizarre today as it was back then.
DOWNLOAD: “Dance This Mess Around”
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People who added this item 318 Average listal rating (227 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 0
Back To Black - Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse looked like a tattooed Ronnie Spector and sang like Sarah Vaughan over a jukebox banging out retro-soul and pop ditties, but this is no pastiche album. Back to Black drips with Winehouse’s heartache and pain, style and sass, and her humor and attitude shine bright throughout, but it’s that combination of her unique voice and musical muscularity that’s at once forward-thinking and backwards-leaning that was so special. We really lost someone unique and gifted, yet this album remains burning brightly as a testament to her genius.
DOWNLOAD: “Back to Black”
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They started life as ska-revivalists (“Best Friend”) before experimenting with something approaching punk (“Twist and Crawl”) and later on moved towards a more New Wave sound (“I Confess”) but kept it all going with a certain bouncy, striking pop element. The English Beat are a band that’s both genre defying as they are genre defining, and Beat This! captures fifteen jewels of party-orientated ska/punk rhapsody. What you hear on this compilation is the wellspring of ska/punk ever flowing.
DOWNLOAD: “Mirror in the Bathroom,” “Save It for Later,” “The Tears of a Clown”
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People who added this item 88 Average listal rating (51 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 0
Beautiful Garbage - Garbage
Shirley Manson is a great front woman for a sound like this, somewhere between New Wave and electro-shoegazing. For years, she projected the image that was both threatening and vulnerable with buckets of eyeliner, ass kicker boots, and a smoking-in-the-girls-room persona. Beautiful Garbage reveals the complex human emotions inside of her android dominatrix leaving the listener moved (“Cup of Coffee”), enraged (“Silence is Golden”), or bouncing along to something that only sounds like frothy pop (“Breaking Up the Girl”). This is the album that’s the most divisive amongst the critics and the fans, but I have always loved it. What can I say other than I love how ambitious and messy it is. DOWNLOAD: “Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go)”
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People who added this item 24 Average listal rating (18 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 0
Beauty and The Beat - The Go-Go's
They could snarl with punk fervor and throw down some serious surf rock guitar licks, but they wrapped it all up in a girl-group power pop package that was just too good to ignore. Sure, “We Got the Beat” is magic in three minutes, but songs like “This Town” and “Lust to Love” are full of as much snarl as any of the riot grrrls. The Go-Go’s became New Wave icons and major pop players thanks to the strength of this album, and it hasn’t gained a pound since.
DOWNLOAD: “Our Lips Are Sealed”
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People who added this item 15 Average listal rating (11 ratings) 8.8 IMDB Rating 0
Blank Generation - Richard Hell & the Voidoids
CBGB’s matinee idol, punk fashion’s founding father, and outside of Patti Smith, one of rock’s greatest poets, Richard Hell threw down this underappreciated album of urban malaise and post-modern romantic entanglements in the earliest days of punk’s golden years. The nihilism of Hell’s lyrical content is reflected in his vocal style as he does away with things like coherent timbre or sticking to a key, and he tweaks out over ever-shifting guitar grooves from Robert Quine and Ivan Julian. While fellow scene makes like Television and and progeny like the Sex Pistols have been heralded, Blank Generation unfairly doesn’t quite get as much attention or prominence within the canon, and that needs to change.
DOWNLOAD: “Blank Generation”
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People who added this item 158 Average listal rating (96 ratings) 8.2 IMDB Rating 0
Blue - Joni Mitchell
A song cycle, primarily written on a European vacation, reflecting on Joni Mitchell’s love labors lost and won (mostly lost) and still somehow even more intimate than that summary may suggest. The minimalist approach reflects the confessional nature of her lyrics, and the simplicity of the music hits you hardest when Mitchell is at her most tender, both lyrically and vocally. With nary a stray note or unnecessary syllable, Blue is a towering achievement and proof positive of the power of poetic economy, and it remains one of the most profoundly moving and personal listening experiences you’ll ever encounter.
DOWNLOAD: “All I Want”
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People who added this item 163 Average listal rating (104 ratings) 8.4 IMDB Rating 0
Most would insist that Highway 61 Revisited is the greatest thing that Dylan ever recorded, and I wouldn’t argue against that. But I’ve always had a fondness for Bringing It All Back Home, which is no slouch in Dylan’s repertoire. “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Maggie’s Farm,” “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” (the most beautiful kiss-off ever written) are just four of the tracks on here. This is also the sound of Dylan in transition, semi-electric in spots but still mostly acoustic. With this album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Highway 61 and Blonde on Blonde, Dylan’s 60s output is an embarrassment of riches, and each is someone’s favorite. There really is no wrong answer when it comes to which is the greatest of them, the question really is which is your favorite and this just happens to be mine. DOWNLOAD: “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”
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People who added this item 24 Average listal rating (19 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 0
Broken English - Marianne Faithfull
One of rock’s original good girls-gone-bad, Marianne Faithfull was known as a beautiful chanteuse before winding up a heroin addict, and Broken English was her triumphant, battle-scarred return to prominence. From the junkie confessionals (“Brain Drain”) to the sympathetic character portraits (“The Ballad of Lucy Jordan”), from the lacerations (“Broken English”) to a John Lennon cover (“Working Class Hero”), Faithfull presides over an album that’s clearly indebted to the modern sounds of punk and New Wave. Faithfull has described this as her “masterpiece,” and it’s a powerful document of one woman’s rock and roll resurrection.
DOWNLOAD: “Why D’ya Do It?”
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People who added this item 7 Average listal rating (6 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 0
In a recording career that lasted a little under two years, Buddy Holly released a collected body of work that placed him among the essentials, proving an indelible artist with a shadow that looms large to this day. From the country origins (“Down the Line”) to first big successes (“That’ll Be the Day”) to the steady stream of classics (“It’s So Easy”) and the earnest ballads (“Words of Love”), The Buddy Holly Collection is eclectic and invigorating highlighting Holly as one of rock’s first great singer/songwriters. Elvis might be the king, but these fifty songs, complete with his twangy hiccup, nerdy swagger, and heartfelt openness show that Holly was and remains the best.
DOWNLOAD: “Peggy Sue,” “Not Fade Away,” “Rave On,” “I’m Gonna Love You Too”
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People who added this item 936 Average listal rating (871 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 0
Californication - Red Hot Chili Peppers
The return of John Frusciante as guitarist was the secret ingredient needed to pull the Red Hot Chili Peppers out of the artistic doldrums and mixed critical and cultural reception that greeted every release post-Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Californication isn’t just a glorious return to form for the band, but an artistic triumph that finds equal space for funk-jams (“Get On Top”), solid songs (“Scar Tissue”), and ferocious rock anthems (“Around the World”). Sure, “Under the Bridge” and “Breaking the Girl” were hints at the deeper introspection that RHCP were capable of, but this album is still a surprise how emotionally visceral it goes all the while Frusciante cements that he’s the quintessential guitarist for the band.
DOWNLOAD: “Otherside,” “Californication,” “Road Trippin’”
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People who added this item 57 Average listal rating (39 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 0
The Cars - The Cars
Arty, ironic, brainy, and radio-ready in equal doses, the Cars debut album could be relabeled as a greatest hits package and no one would know the difference. The singles are great (“Just What I Needed”), but some of the album tracks are even better (“You’re All I’ve Got Tonight”). Angular guitar riffs, overly-caffeinated synthesizers, arch vocal performances, and a muscular sense of pop and rock song craft make this one of the greatest albums of all-time.
DOWNLOAD: “Moving in Stereo”
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People who added this item 157 Average listal rating (98 ratings) 6.6 IMDB Rating 0
It doesn’t matter how much pop finish is plastered over these metal-leaning and punk-annex guitar riffs, there’s no repressing a hellion like Courtney Love from wailing in anger and anguish. The production gives her the chance to live out her Stevie Nicks fantasies on sunny pop songs like “Heaven Tonight” and “Awful,” while her trademark Dorothy Parker-like acidic wit and rage is evident in blistering songs like “Boys on the Radio” and “Celebrity Skin,” and she gets downright tender on “Northern Star.” This isn’t a sellout record by any stretch of the imagination, this is what it sounds like when Love’s wild child id successfully marries her Top 40 aspirations.
DOWNLOAD: “Malibu”
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People who added this item 280 Average listal rating (190 ratings) 8.4 IMDB Rating 0
Closer - Joy Division
Ian Curtis’ personal torment infuses every moment of Closer with the sense of encroaching doom, of suffocated, if not snuffed out, and spectral cries for help and connection from a swirling black vortex. It’s a front-to-back masterpiece with nary an excess pound or misplaced note, and never diverts away from their austere sound or emotional complexity. There’s something arachnid about the grooves, something claustrophobic about the whole thing, and a strange sort of grace and beauty emerge as follow Curtis into his heart of darkness.
DOWNLOAD: “Twenty Four Hours”
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People who added this item 15 Average listal rating (10 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 0
Coat Of Many Colors - Dolly Parton
If all you know about Dolly Parton is the outsized image of drag queen-like makeup and sequins, then you don’t really know the magic of Parton at all. As one of country music’s reigning geniuses, Parton’s homespun wit, buoyant sentimentality, and penchant for adapting the mountain folk music of her youth to a more modern pop style and sound is on full display on Coat of Many Colors, her first but by no means last essential album. Then there is her voice, an instrument so emotive and crystalline that it can strip steel in full throttle or crack elegantly in heartache.
DOWNLOAD: “Coat of Many Colors”
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People who added this item 47 Average listal rating (32 ratings) 7.7 IMDB Rating 0
Coral Fang - The Distillers,Tony Bradley,Brody Dalle,Andy Granelli,Ryan Sinn,Dan Druff,Mike Fazano
Brody Dalle was always the focal point of the Distillers, and the band’s penchant for violent imagery, typically against the female body, and feminist defiance, see “Seneca Falls” off of Sing Sing Death House, come to a dizzy head on Coral Fang, an album about divorce and finding new love. Dalle’s voice is a haunted, battered wail from a deep source of pain across several songs, and then surprising you with its tender whispers and vulnerability throughout “The Hunger.” The boys in the band thrash just as hard and blunt turning these songs into gristle with their blood lust.
DOWNLOAD: “Beat Your Heart Out”
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People who added this item 23 Average listal rating (15 ratings) 8.9 IMDB Rating 0
We begin with chirpy bubblegum (“Honey, Honey”), then we move into ebullient Euro-disco (“Dancing Queen”), find ourselves in more mature waters (“The Winner Takes It All”), and end with some genuinely bizarre songs (“The Visitors”) before fading out with a truly glorious moment (“Thank You For the Music”). These thirty-seven songs are some of the best produced, arranged, and surprisingly melancholic pop music ever committed to a record. The Definitive Collection lives up to its title by giving anyone all of the best ABBA had to offer (sure, the two remixes are entirely superfluous, but it just means there’s even more sparkly ABBA songs to enjoy).
DOWNLOAD: “Does Your Mother Know,” “Take a Chance on Me,” “Super Trouper,” “SOS”
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People who added this item 979 Average listal rating (722 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 0
Dookie - Green Day
Before they were writing rock operas and crafting Broadway shows, this trio of Berkeley punks was updating punk’s adolescent aggression for the 90s on this slacker classic. Dookie is loaded up with anthems of teenage ennui and alienation from the well-known singles (“Welcome to Paradise,” “Longview”) to the lesser-known album cuts (“Burnout,” “Sassafras Roots”) and all of it bops along at a radio-ready clip that recalls the likes of the Buzzcocks. It’s a landmark album not only for the 90s or what we vaguely refer to as alternative music, but for a band with ambitions of an artier, wilder variation than a song about masturbating in front of your TV would otherwise suggest.
DOWNLOAD: “Basket Case”
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People who added this item 30 Average listal rating (19 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 0
Dusty in Memphis - Dusty Springfield
If you want to know why this is an essential album, it’s a simple equation made up of equal parts pop sophistication in its songwriting and production and slow-burning sensual desire in Dusty Springfield’s vocals. She sounds downright wistful about the memories of an erotic awakening in “Son of a Preacher Man” and like someone enamored with love on “Don’t Forget About Me.” Springfield’s blueprint for blue-eyed soul has clearly left a lasting impression with the likes of Adele and Amy Winehouse being obvious prodigal daughters.
DOWNLOAD: “Breakfast in Bed”
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People who added this item 70 Average listal rating (31 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 0
Elevator - Hot Hot Heat
Jittery, overly-caffeinated, and somewhere between punk and dance-rock, Hot Hot Heat strut their Neo-Wave bona fides on this elastic, witty major label debut. Singer/keyboardist Steve Bays delivers a never-ending series of witty rejoinders and put downs, from the song titles (“You Owe Me an IOU”) to the lyrics (“Running Out of Time” is a rapid-fire satire of Los Angeleno phoniness), and the rest of the band keep up with his frantic pace. Hot Hot Heat is an underrated band, and Elevator, a stinger of an album, is proof of just how solid they were.
DOWNLOAD: “Middle of Nowhere,” “Pickin’ It Up,” “Goodnight, Goodnight”
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People who added this item 12 Average listal rating (6 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 0
On her second album, Laura Nyro delivered the type of eclectic masterpiece that most artists spend an entire career trying to produce. Every song here is outstanding and comes complete with Nyro’s obtuse lyrical ruminations and oft-kilter melodic musical progressions. Not quite folk, nor is it exactly rock, doo-wop, soul, or pop, Eli and the Thirteenth Confession is as blazingly singular and idiosyncratic as Nyro, and our world is all the richer for it.
DOWNLOAD: “Eli’s Comin’”
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People who added this item 62 Average listal rating (39 ratings) 7.8 IMDB Rating 0
Entertainment! - Gang of Four
The jittery guitar attack on songs like “Damaged Goods” and “At Home He’s a Tourist” scream punk, the lyrics are polemics for the disenfranchised and skeptical, but that rhythm section is on the verge of danceable action leaving Entertainment! as one of the more eccentric and grooving powder keg albums of the era. It sounds like a riot, and the band members had the scars to prove their bona fides as they spent a great deal of time protesting in England’s streets. Gang of Four’s avant-garde primitivism is on its best display here, a musical style that combines aggression, political awareness, thundering drums, and funk-like rhythms into something vital and essential.
DOWNLOAD: “Ether”
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People who added this item 69 Average listal rating (38 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 0
Exile in Guyville - Liz Phair
Liz Phair’s ambitions outstripped the concept, but my god, what a lacerating, honest, funny, intelligent, and squirm-inducing examination of dating and fucking in your twenties this turns out to be. She’s never bettered this album, and maybe she said everything she had to say with it, but it’s one hell of a feminist manifesto of indie-rock and the unbridled female id. The disparate moods culminate in “Fuck and Run,” a deadpan, scarily candid, and touching song about daydreaming of romance and finding yourself settling for so much less.
DOWNLOAD: “Fuck and Run,” “Flower,” “Dance of the Seven Veils”
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People who added this item 201 Average listal rating (108 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 0
Extraordinary Machine - Fiona Apple
To declare that this album had a trouble birth would be a massive understatement as it looked like a very real possibility it would never see the light of day, but thank god for miracles because Extraordinary Machine is a glorious artistic achievement. Fiona Apple effortlessly blends her brainy singer-songwriter pedigree to a punk-like fury and throws in some jazz flourishes for this baroque art-pop masterpiece. This is the album as a full-course meal with each song adding a new layer to the complete story these confessionals and accusations tell.
DOWNLOAD: “Tymps (The Sick in the Head Song)”
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People who added this item 247 Average listal rating (152 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 0
Fever to Tell - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
It’s a bit like the sonic equivalent of standing in the eye of a blistering storm with Karen O’s unique vocal intonations providing the eye. She alternates between yelping (“Tick”), wailing like a cat in heat getting stuck with pins (“Date with the Night”), and trying out a tender Chrissie Hynde imitation (“Modern Romance”). The boys in the band provide stellar support as the keep up with such an animalistic art-punk diva, and manage to make a band that values aural sensation over clarity into a thing of grimy beauty.
DOWNLOAD: “Maps”
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People who added this item 40 Average listal rating (28 ratings) 7.7 IMDB Rating 0
For Your Pleasure - Roxy Music
This would prove to be Brian Eno’s final album with Roxy Music, and the tension between his abstract synth-heavy compositions and Bryan Ferry’s cynical romanticism produces some of their most atmospheric and decadent music. The first half is, by Roxy Music standards at least, down-the-line glam/art rock (“Editions of You,” “Beauty Queen”) and then things get really weird (“The Bogus Man”). An atmosphere of glamorous excess and arch humor pervades from the album cover’s ridiculous jet set model posing with a pet jaguar to a love song to a blow-up sex doll.
DOWNLOAD: “In Every Dream Home a Heartache”
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People who added this item 4 Average listal rating (3 ratings) 9.3 IMDB Rating 0
Funky Kingston/In the Dark - Toots & the Maytals
Funky Kingston’s 1975 US release was actually a combination of these two albums, but this collection restores them to their full-lengths and adds in the group's most famous single (“Pressure Drop”) for good measure. Toots Hibbert’s voice is steeped in bluesy runs and gospel belts, raspy and exuberant in equal measure as he presides over some seriously funky grooves. 80 minutes has never breezed by as loosely and quickly as it does with this rock steady collection where practically every song is a classic from reggae music’s other great genius.
DOWNLOAD: “Pressure Drop,” “54-46 Was My Number,” “Funky Kingston,” “Take Me Home, Country Roads”
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People who added this item 324 Average listal rating (181 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 0
Give Up - The Postal Service
Ben Gibbard, with his soft, sensitive voice, sounds right at home on this album of retro synthpop that swirls, pulsates, and sounds like it was beamed in directly from 1985. The romantic yearning of “Clark Gable” recalls a more literal-minded Roxy Music, while “Nothing Better” is a forlorn Human League tribute, and “Natural Anthem” sounds like something Talk Talk would have cooked up in their more experimental years, but it’s not all 80s appropriation and reverie. It’s for the best that the Postal Service only managed to produce one perfect album as its alchemical magic of Gibbard’s warble, whimsy, and retro synth burbles walks such a tightrope that performing the trick twice would only dim this ensemble of bright, shiny pop masterpieces.
DOWNLOAD: “We Will Become Silhouettes”
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People who added this item 2 Average listal rating (2 ratings) 10 IMDB Rating 0
Going to a Go-Go - Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
Smokey Robinson isn’t playing around on this set of achingly romantic and debonair soul-pop as he and the Miracles come roaring out the gate with a first side that is just one massive hit after another (“Ooo Baby Baby”), and the second doesn’t let its foot off the gas for a moment (“My Baby Changes Like the Weather”). His silky falsetto makes his lovelorn lyrics vibrate with an intensity that makes the stakes feel like life or death. Twelve songs of hopeless romanticism and not a dud among them.
DOWNLOAD: “The Tracks of My Tears”
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People who added this item 154 Average listal rating (95 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 0
Horses - Patti Smith
Patti Smith brought real poetic fury and prowess into rock and roll, and her rock and roll is the type that borders on the religious in its power and conviction to transform and redeem the soul. If I described Horses as romantic it would give you an incorrect impression, but Smith is enamored with the focal point between punk fury, rock and roll’s rebellious spirit, and finding the common ground between the likes of Arthur Rimbaud, Allen Ginsburg, and the Velvet Underground like the singers of girl group pop were with their soldier boys. She’s rock poet laureate, and on the cover, an androgynous figure of feminine mystique and masculine power.
DOWNLOAD: “Land: Horses/Land of a Thousand Dances/Le Mer (De)”
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People who added this item 31 Average listal rating (19 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 0
Juju - Siouxsie and the Banshees
The prior year’s Kaleidoscope was as close to straight-up pop as Siouxsie and the Banshees had gotten so far, and Juju splits the difference between alternative pop and oppressive art rock. There’s not a weak link among these nine songs, and its intensity and drive mark it as their most gothic and baroque release. Listen closer to the hooks on songs like “Arabian Knights” and you’ll find some serious melodies underneath the full-frontal aural assault.
DOWNLOAD: “Spellbound”
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People who added this item 8 Average listal rating (4 ratings) 9.3 IMDB Rating 0
The Kink Kronikles - The Kinks
The psychedelic and pastoral years from punk’s stepdads, The Kink Kronikles is a vibrantly rich and warm collection of impossibly beautiful songs about an England that perhaps never existed outside of Ray Davies’ melancholic imagination. The band had no input on this compilation, leaving that to their record company and rock critic John Mendelsohn, a potential recipe for disaster that’s not only skirted here but completely squashed as this proves to be an incomparable set. Two-discs worth of lesser-known but fantastic songs filled with humor, heartache, and Davies’ expanding skill-set as an exquisite writer of miniature scale.
DOWNLOAD: “Waterloo Sunset,” “Lola,” “She’s Got Everything, “Shangri-La”
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People who added this item 211 Average listal rating (132 ratings) 8.6 IMDB Rating 0
The best and purest distillation of Bob Marley’s polyrhythmic genius is found on this posthumous compilation album, Legend, a worthy moniker if ever there was one. Every nuance of Marley’s genius is on display here from the spiritual (“One Love-People Get Ready”) to the righteous political anger (“Get Up Stand Up”) to the melodic grooves (“Three Little Birds”) with all of it underscored by the Wailers, a tight, soulful outfit that played their Caribbean rhythms with all of the fury and conviction of the Stones. A vital and essential piece of listening from the most distinguished artist and ambassador of an entire genre of music.
DOWNLOAD: “No Woman, No Cry (Live),” “Is This Love,” “Redemption Song”
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