Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 500-491


Last September, Rolling Stone magazine released their most recent list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, which includes a greater variety of artists and genres than previous lists. Looking through the list, there were many albums I’d never listened to before and a few I’d never even heard of. In fact, counting it up, I found that I’d only listened to 140 of the albums, although I’d heard songs from many more. So I’ve decided my project for 2021 is to listen to 10 albums each week and write up some thoughts about each one.

Artist: Arcade Fire
AlbumFuneral
Year: 2004
Label: Merge
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:  Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”
  • “Crown of Love”
  • “Wake Up”

Thoughts: I can’t remember when I first became aware of Arcade Fire.  I definitely knew of them by the time they won the 2011 Grammy for Album of the Year and “Who is Arcade Fire?” became a social media meme, but I definitely was not aware of them when their first album was released in 2004.  Listening to this album for the first time was a revelation and I enjoyed the orchestrated melodies, harmonies, and atmosphere.  This is definitely good “dozing off to sleep music” as the sounds swell over you and become part of your dreams.


Artist: Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
AlbumAsk Rufus
Year: 1977
Label: ABC
Have I Listened to This Album Before?:  No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?:  A little bit
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:  Not really
Favorite Tracks:

  • “At Midnight (My Love Will Lift You Up)”

Thoughts: I know Chaka Khan primarily from her hit cover of Prince’s “I Feel For You” and her guest vocals on the songs of numerous other artists. I only knew of Rufus by reputation. This is definitely a solid 70s funk & soul album with a touch of disco.  But other than the opening track it didn’t really grab me. 


Artist: Suicide
Album: Suicide
Year: 1977
Label: Red Star
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:  Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Ghost Rider”
  • “Rocket USA”

Thoughts: I’m surprised that I haven’t heard this before because it’s right up my alley.  It’s got the punk aesthetic, with gloomy lyrics, over minimalist synth beats.  I can definitely hear this album’s influence in a lot of music that I like, especially Stereolab


Artist: Various Artists
Album: The Indestructible Beat of Soweto
Year: 1985
Label: Earthworks,
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Likely
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Kinda?
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes!
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Awungilobolele” (Can You Pay Lobola for Me) – Udokotela Shange Namajaha
  • “Holotelani” (Daughter-In-Law) – Nelcy Sedibe
  • “Qhwahilahle” (Leave Him Alone) – Moses Mchunu
  • “Nansi Imali” (Here Is the Money) – Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Thoughts: I have a vague memory of checking this album out from the library when I was a teenager obsessed with Paul Simon’s Graceland and the music of Johnny Clegg. For some reason I didn’t get a copy of my own, which is a pity, but it was great to become reacquainted with this South African guitar-based music.


Artist: Shakira
Album: Dónde Están los Ladrones?
Year: 1998
Label: Columbia
Have I Listened to This Album Before?:  No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?:  Artist yes/Songs no
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: It’s not bad
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Ciega, Sordomuda”
  • “Que Vuelvas”

Thoughts: While Latin pop is not the first style of music I’d gravitate to, I’ve long had a soft spot for Shakira. I first became acquainted with her when I heard her song “Whenever, Wherever” sung by young women on the streets of Dublin. Her World Cup anthem “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” is also kind of a theme song for my kids’ elementary school. This early album was Shakira’s attempt to break into the US Latin music market, but precedes her recording in English.  I was surprised that the music was much more of a guitar-based alternative music sound. I saw one reviewer refer to her as a Colombian Alanis Morrisette, which is a bit of an exaggeration, but a hint at how different Shakira’s sound was at this period compared with her later dance pop sounds.


Artist: Boyz II Men
Album: II
Year: 1991
Label: Motown
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?:  Boyz II Men were inescapable in the 90s
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Probably not.
Favorite Tracks:

  • “U Know”

Thoughts: Boyz II Men were the dominant R&B sound of the 1990s with harmonies that hearken back to the doo-wop era. I can definitely appreciate their music, although it is another style that’s not really my thing.


Artist: The Ronettes
Album: Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes
Year: 1964
Label: Philles
Have I Listened to This Album Before?:  No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:  Definitely
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Walking in the Rain”
  • “(The Best Part of) Breakin’ Up”
  • “Be My Baby”
  • “Baby, I Love You”

Thoughts: This was The Ronettes only official album release, and is technically a compilation since it collects a number of singles the group had already released.  But since all these singles were released over a course of about a year, it still reflects an incredible run of impressive music in a short period of time. I can imagine some teens in the 1964 could have a good party just putting on this album in the background. 


Artist: Marvin Gaye
Album: Here, My Dear
Year: 1978
Label: Tamla/Motown
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?:  I know Marvin Gaye well, but not this album.
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Not really
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Everybody Needs Love”

Thoughts: I was only familiar this album by its reputation of being a contractual obligation as part of Marvin Gaye’s divorce from his wife Anna Gordy Gaye. The album runs the gamut of emotions from divorce – bitterness, anger, grief, passion, and nostalgia – on a string of songs almost entirely in a soulful mid-tempo. The work of Marvin Gaye can never be dismissed but if I’m going to listen to Gaye, I would gravitate toward several of his other albums including some that will appear in this Top 500 list.


Artist: Bonnie Raitt
AlbumNick of Time
Year: 1989
Label: Capitol
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?:  Very
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Maybe
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Thing Called Love”
  • “Have a Heart”
  • “The Road’s My Middle Name”

Thoughts: Everyone loves an underdog story. Bonnie Raitt had been working for decades before bottoming out in the 1980s, both professionally and personally.  So it was an unexpected thing when this stripped-down blues rock album became a huge deal in 1989 and continued to be a hit album for some years afterward.  I don’t love the music of Bonnie Raitt, but I’m not going to run away if someone puts this album on, and I can definitely appreciate the effort and spirit she put into achieving this stunning moment of success.


Artist: Harry Styles
Album: Fine Line
Year: 2019
Label: Columbia
Have I Listened to This Album Before?:  No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?:  Not at all
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Not likely
Favorite Tracks:

  • ‘Adore You”

Thoughts: My knowledge of boy bands is extremely limited, and about all I knew about One Direction is that they existed and had a member with the same first name as me. I was surprised when I learned that they only debuted in 2010 and have already broken up and gone on to successful solo careers.  Which leads me to this Harry Styles album. I had no idea what to expect, but I was still surprised that the several songs have a folky style, sometimes akin to the Laurel Canyon sound of the 1970s. The album is eminently listenable and while I would also file it in my “not my thing” category, I’m glad I gave it a chance.


Running List of Albums I’d Listen to Again

  • 500. Arcade Fire, ‘Funeral’
  • 498. Suicide, ‘Suicide’
  • 497. Various Artists, ‘The Indestructible Beat of Soweto’
  • 494. The Ronettes, ‘Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes’

2 thoughts on “Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 500-491

  1. What a great project for 2021! I’ve gone through the Rolling Stone list and was humbled to find that I only knew some 60-odd at all well (although I did leave out quite a few albums in which I had heard the hit songs,or which I knew of, even owned, but didn’t really know.) I’m planning to follow along over the year and expand my musical knowledge. Have shared your link on my FB page so that other interested people can follow along too. Hope that’s okay by you.

    Liked by 1 person

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