"Burrowing into the studio with the Dust Brothers, Beck came back with a Technicolor version of his Woody Guthrie-meets-Grandmaster Flash vision, demonstrating to all his rock peers on "Devil's Haircut" and "Where It's At" that turntables had a brighter future than refried grunge."
"Here is an album that means to deny the rock & roll that was then changing America - and succeeds. The songs were standards, most ten or twenty years old, and Sinatra and arranger Nelson Riddle were bent on jazzy, hip sophistication. "I've Got You Under My Skin" still stands as a Sinatra high point."
"Peter Sinfield, producer of Roxy Music's angular and wild 1972 debut, said that on Avalon they "ran out of naivete." Their sound was now woozy and lush, horny yet mature. And also unabashedly romantic. A synth-soul landmark, Avalon was their biggest hit, their swan song and the pinnacle of rock elegance."
"Blues without polish, country without corn and rockabilly played with brainless abandon: this collection of Fifties Sun releases has acknowledged greats (Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis) and lesser-known gems (Bill Justis' spiky "Raunchy"). Lewis' take: "It took all of us to screw up the world."'
"They thought Led Zeppelin were a funk band, and when they learned this was not true, they carried on anyway. Initially released wrapped in ribbed rubber, Jane's major-label debut rewrites pre-Nirvana rock history, reconciling punk and metal with shredding riffs on oceanic songs."
"The Peppers spent a decade trying to recapture this high point, best known as the album where they went touchy-feely (and multiplatinum) with the ballad "Under the Bridge." The story behind the story was guitarist John Frusciante's energizing, soulful riffs and huge assist from producer Rick Rubin."
"Nirvana shine brightly on this live set because the volume is just low enough to let Kurt Cobain's tortured tenderness glow. The powerful, reverent covers of Lead Belly, Bowie and Meat Puppets songs sum up Nirvana as a haunted, theatrical and, ultimately, truly raw band."
"Hill took Seventies soul and made it boom and signify to the hip-hop generation on her solo debut. The production was subtle and glorious on heartbreakers such as "Ex-Factor" (reportedly about Wyclef Jean) and the swinging sermon "Doo Wop (That Thing."'
"With his hair like Jagger's and a voice like Dylan's in tune, Tom Petty and his bar band de-frilled classic rock: in 1979, he filed for bankruptcy; then, Torpedoes took off, mostly because "Here Comes My Girl" seemed to keep the promises those Jagger et al. forgot they'd made."
"The album that turned folk music inside out. The Velvet Underground began as the black-booted antidote to the flower-power sound of the Sixties. Their disillusion, exhaustion and ache on VU is explosive, and the churning rhythm guitar on "What Goes On" could shame most lead guitarists."
"Smack in between hardcore punk and alternative, it was impossible to deconstruct the Pixies' ferocious howl. Their secret weapon was leaping from sweet to screamin' (which Kurt Cobain admitted to boosting). On "Gigantic," Kim Deal sings like Peppermint Patty as the band drive a spike into Eighties rock."
"In which No Doubt do dancehall and techno but reveal themselves to be a great New Wave band. On "Don't Let Me Down" (produced by Rick Ocasek), they sound more like the Cars than the Cars. Bassist Tony Kanal compared Steady to Return of the Jedi: "It's, like, full of Ewoks. You know, just happy."'
"Eminem's bittersweet victory lap: that stomping "Square Dance," the almost cuddly "Without Me," the cracks showing in "Hallie's Song" when he says he's insecure. Just add tension from legal woes: "I thought I was goin' to jail. But the scariest thought was, "How am I going to tell Hallie?"'
"After Vietnam, Watergate and the Watts riots, soul music slipped into darkness in the early Seventies. The title track of this Philly-soul album, made by a group named after a beloved Cleveland DJ, was the writing on the wall: symphonically funky and irretrievably paranoid, much like the times themselves."
"Righteous and seriously in the pocket, this is the last Wailers album with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. Bob Marley's soulful cry is almost rivaled bu the sticky organ riffs and fat-bottom beats, and their original version of "I Shot the Sheriff" is far creepier and more desperate than Eric Clapton's hit cover."
"Drake recorded his last album in a couple of nights, mailed the tapes to Island Records and checked himself into a psychiatric ward. If the music were as dark as the lyrics, it might be unlistenable. But Drake's soothing vocals and unadorned acoustic picking made Moon unfolded with supernatural tenderness."
"Producer Lenny Waronker called him the King of the Suburban Blues Singers. This is Newman's quiet masterpiece, less rock than a fuck-you cabaret. Even now, "Political Science" ("Let's drop the big one/And see what happens") is relevant; either Newman is brilliant or we haven't come a long way, baby."
"Recording on the island of Montserrat, the previously punkish trio hit the big time by adding strings and sociopolitical commentary to their sound. "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" is a pop smart bomb, and "Invisible Sun," about the violence in Northern Ireland, is genuinely moving."
"The title track is where Bowie proclaims himself the Thin White Duke. Thin he was: Station to Station was recorded in a blizzard of cocaine in Los Angeles. "TVC15" is New Orleans R&B as robotic funk; "Golden Years" is James Brown from outer space, with Bowie's amazing falsetto."
"So very So-Cal (her band became the Eagles), Ronstadt was more empathetic interpreter than songwriter. But could she ever knock out a pop single. Among the guilty pleasures is "Long Long Time," where she sounds like a girl next door with a voice that can peel chrome."
"Slowhand was the nickname given to Clapton by the Yardbirds. On this quintessential Seventies album, he mixes candlelit love songs and guitar-hero riffs; "Cocaine" and "Wonderful Tonight" are the hits, but don't overlook "Next Time You See Her," a tender melody loaded with a death threat to a lover's suitor."
"According to the kids on South Park, this is the best album ever made. According to many depressive Eighties-minded kids, it's the only album ever made. On "Fascination Street," Robert Smith's voice shakes the milk as he makes adolescent angst sound so wonderfully, wonderfully pretty."
"The album where a Canadian teen-pop dolly remade herself as fire-breathing rock priestess. She rails against treacherous men ("You Oughta Know"), conformity ("Hand in My Pocket") and the preponderance of spoons when all you need is a knife ("Ironic"). A Nineties rock classic."
"A studio expansion of Phair's homemade Girlysound cassettes. Exile's frank sex talk caused a stir. But it's the lacerating honesty of tracks such as "Divorce Song" that sticks, and "Fuck and Run" is one of the saddest songs ever written about dreaming of romance and settling for less."
"Sonic Youth have had a long, brilliant career making trippy art punk, and this is their ultimate triumph. Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo's guitars are like antennae picking up otherworldly signals and channeling them into the scuzzy urban haze of "Teen Age Riot" and "Eric's Trip."'
"A compilation of Mr. Dynamite's singles from the Seventies, including the earliest recordings with is band the J.B.'s. The "Funky Drummer" break may be the most sampled drum loop ever, and on "Give It Up or Turn It a Loose," Brown drops the heaviest funk of his - or anyone's - life."
"Young made this album as a tribute to two friends who died from drugs, Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry. Young sounds like he's on the edge of a breakdown in the mournful ballads "Tired Eyes" and "Speakin' Out," recorded with a loose, heavily emotional sound."
"The moptops' second movie was a Swinging London goof, but the soundtrack included the classics "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" and "Ticket to Ride," as well as the lovely "I've Just Seen a Face." Help! didn't break new ground, but paved the way for the Beatles' next stop: Rubber Soul."
"The British folk-rock duo's last album together is a harrowing portrait of a marriage gone bad, made as their own marriage collapsed. The catchiest song is called "Wall of Death"; the scariest is "Walking on a Wire." They agreed to tour, and audiences got to see Linda attack Richard onstage."
"John Doe and Exene Cervenka harmonize about doomed love over L.A. garage-rock thrash, changing the emotional baggage of punk. They were the White Stripes of their day, a young couple messing with country and blues in gems such as "Adult Books," "Beyond and Back" and "We're Desperate."'
"An angry young crank in the mode of Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson, Parker, a former gas-station attendant, rode the wave of U.K. punk. His fifth album combines bar-band rock with New Wave hooks, but his bitter paranoia also shines through on "Protection" and "Nobody Hurts You."'
"They were the Seattle punk scene's headbanging answer to Led Zeppelin II. But they became real songwriters on Superunknown, shaping their angst into grunge anthems like "Black Hole Sun." "We realized the importance of melody," said Chris Cornell. "Maybe we've been listening to Bryan Ferry."'
"Tull were hairy prog-rock philosophers who decried organized religion ("Hymm 43") and modern hypocrisy ("Aqualung") while managing to incorporate flute solos. With several FM-radio hits, this was the record that made Tull into a major arena band. The cover painting gave Seventies kids nightmares."
"Janis Joplin said, "We're just a sloppy group of street freaks." But these San Francisco acid rockers were the most simpatico band she ever had, especially when its raw racket backs her up on "Piece of My Heart," perhaps her greatest recording."
"By the time Waits made his second album, he'd finally developed his talent for growling, jazzy beatnik gutter tales, and largely dispersed with the love songs. He does it best on "Diamonds on My Windshield" and "The Ghosts of Saturday Night."'
"MCA refused to release this, denouncing it as "immoral" and "anti-parent." High-praise, but Black Flag lived up to it, defining L.A. hardcore punk with violent guitar and the pissed-off scream of Henry Rollins, especially on "TV Party" and "Rise Above." Punks still listen to Damaged, and parents still hate it."
"Play was the techno album that proved a Mac could have a soul. Moby took ancient blues and gospel voices and layered them with dance grooves, creating songs such as "Porcelain" and "Natural Blues," which have a strange, haunting beauty - and enhanced countless TV commercials."
"For many Depeche Mode fans, Violator is the crowning glory of the boys' black-leather period. In "Sweetest Perfection," "Halo" and "World in My Eyes," they turn teen angst and sexual obsession into grand synth-pop melodrama, and their attempt at guitar rock resulted in a hit with "Personal Jesus."'
"Meat Loaf's megaselling, megabombastic breakthrough was written by pianist Jim Steinman, who'd intended the material for a new version of Peter Pan. This is one of rock's most theatrical, grandiose records, yet Loaf brings real emotion to "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" and "Paradise by the Dashboard Light."'
"Reed followed up his breakthrough album, Transformer, with Berlin, which he called "my version of Hamlet." A bleak song cycle about an abusive, drug-fueled relationship, it's hugely ambitious but also one of the gloomiest records ever made - slow, druggy and heavily orchestrated by producer Bob Ezrin."
"The soundtrack to Jonathon Demme's 1984 concert film functions as a greatest-hits and a band history. It begins with a spare version of "Psycho Killer" and builds to an expansive "Take Me to the River," where the Heads are joined by members of the P-Funk mob. Eighties art funk at its finest."
"At the end of the Eighties, De La Soul rolled out their new style of "D.A.I.S.Y. Age," which stood for "Da Inner Sound, Y'All." They led the Native Tongues posse - no gold chains, just samples, skits, jokes and beats, biting everyone from P-Funk to Hall and Oates and Johnny Cash."
'"I'm full of dust and guitars," Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett told Rolling Stone. Here's what that sounded like. The band's debut is all playful, psychedelic imagery and acid guitars. "Astronomy Domine" shows the group's pop side, "Interstellar Overdrive" shows its spacier freakouts."
"A stomping live document of the period when Waters started reaching a wider pop audience. Newport still works as a splendid intro to the Chicago blues: it's got his classics - "Hoochie Coochie Man," a torrid "Got My Mojo Working" - delivered by a tough, tight band, anchored by harp genius James Cotton."
"Jeff Beck played briefly in the Yardbirds, but his presence is heavily felt here, where he pushed the Brit blues rockers in a more adventurous, psychedelic direction. Case in point: his mind-bending riff on "Over Under Sideways Down."'
"The live Rust Never Sleeps is essential Young, full of impossibly delicate acoustic songs and ragged Crazy Horse rampages. Highlights: "My My Hey Hey" (a tribute to Johnny Rotten), a surreal political spiel called "Welfare Mothers" and "Powderfinger," where Young's guitar hits the sky like never before."
"Mark Knopfler started writing "Money for Nothing" when he overheard 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."'
"The intensive roadwork dictated by the success of The Stranger produced a leaner, rock-orientated follow-up, typified by "Big Shot." 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."'
"Freed from Eric Clapton's blues purism and spurred by Jeff Beck's reckless exhibitionism, the Yardbirds launched a noisy rock & roll avant-garde. Partially recorded at Chess in Chicago and Sun in Memphis, this is the bridge between beat groups and psychedelia."
"Newman's second disc remains one of his finest, with Ry Cooder and a few of the Byrds contributing to the loose, confident sound. The songs are prime caustic, funny Newman - especially the piano rockers "Mama Told Me (Not to Come)" and "Have You Seen My Baby?" and the tormented "Suzanne."'
Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time [book version]