Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 480-471


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.

Previous Posts:


Artist:  Miranda Lambert
Album: The Weight of These Wings
Year: 2016
Label: eRCA Nashville
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?: No
Favorite Tracks:

  • Runnin’ Just in Case
  • Highway Vagabond
  • Good Ol’ Days

Thoughts: I’m not a huge fan of contemporary country, but this album exceeded my expectations. While country underlies every track, the collection explores a great variety of genres. The songs and lyrics are well-crafted and tell the story of Lambert moving on from her recent divorce.  I think at 24 tracks the album goes on a bit long and would’ve been more effective if trimmed down to a single album.


Artist: Selena
Album: Amor Prohibido
Year: 1994
Label: EMA Latin
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Only by name
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Probably not
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Fotos Y Recuerdos”
  • “Bidi Bid Bom Bom”
  • “Tus Desprecios”

Thoughts: Texas Tejano musician Selena was already a legend before a murderer ended her life far to early at the age of 23. As much as I’ve heard about her success and tragedy, I never before heard any of her music, to my knowledge. I was surprised by the chintzy synths, although Selena’s voice transcends the production values. I have to admit that while Selena’s artistry is not something that engages me that nonetheless I can recognize her talent and understand why she is loved by so many.  The album also includes a cover of “Back on the Chain Gang” by the Pretenders, retitled as “Fotos Y Recuerdos,” which I like a lot better than the original.


Artist: The Kinks
AlbumSomething Else by the Kings
Year: 1968
Label: Oye
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes (“Waterloo Sunset” to be specific)
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:  Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Death of a Clown”
  • “Harry Rag”
  • “Love Me Till the Sun Shines”
  • “Waterloo Sunset”

Thoughts: The Kinks are one of those bands I’ve long felt I need to pay more attention to, and they’ve been on my short list for a Music Discovery for some time.  This album marks the transition of The Kinks from a British Invasion rock band to a band that writes wry, introspective, and observational songs about every day people. The Kinks aren’t folk rock but their music is informed by the folk tradition, and this album also reflects that odd music hall revival that coincided with psychedelic rock in England.


Artist: Howlin’ Wolf
Album: Moanin’ in the Moonlight
Year: 1959
Label: Chess
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:

  • “Smokestack’ Lightnin'”
  • “All Night Boogie (All Night Long)”
  • “Evil (Is Going On)”

Thoughts: I’ve been critical of the RS 500’s inclusion of compilation albums on this list, and expect I will continue to harp on this issue as I work my way through the list, but here’s an instance where I think that they got it right.  Much like fellow Chess blues artist Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf’s only appearance on the RS 500 is a collection of singles from the 1950s.  The difference here is that Moanin’ in the Moonlight was released in 1959 while Howlin’ Wolf was still at his artistic peak.  Howlin’ Wolf and his production crew likely had input on song selection and sequencing.  And as the LP was just becoming commercially viable at this time, it certainly brought Howlin’ Wolf’s music to the attention of new audiences, including the many blues and blues rock artists of the 60s and 70s who would draw on his influence.  So yes, this is how a compilation album can indeed be a greatest album of all time!


Artist: Sparks
AlbumKimono My House
Year: Island
Label: 1974
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Vaguely
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Talent is an Asset”

Thoughts: I only learned of Sparks last spring when a friend recommended their most recent album A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip. I liked the album, although not enough to review it on its own, and was surprised that a band that sounded so contemporary went back to the 1960s. This 1974 album was their breakout record and influenced artists from Morrisey to Björk. It doesn’t resonate with me though as it is very prog rock and sounds like Rush performing Rocky Horror.


Artist: Sheryl Crow
AlbumSheryl Crow
Year: 1996
Label: A&M
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Unfortunately
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks: None

Thoughts: When Sheryl Crow’s first few singles hit the airwaves I always went through a phase where first I would think, this is kinda good, but after repeated hearings would like the song less and less.  Eventually I grew to just dislike everything by Sheryl Crow.  I’m trying to listen to every album on this list with an open mind, but I’m not at all surprised that I still don’t like the music of Sheryl Crow.


Artist: Big Star
Album: #1 Record
Year: 1972
Label: Ardent
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: By reputation
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Maybe, one day
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Thirteen”

Thoughts: Big Star and its band leader Alex Chilton are revered among rock music enthusiasts but I’ve never been able to get the appeal.  It’s not that Big Star is bad, far from it, I just don’t hear it as so amazingly great. They feel to me more like a great bar band than the icons who inspired R.E.M. and The Replacements.


Artist: Daddy Yankee
Album: Barrio Fino
Year: 2004
Label: V.I. Music
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?: Maybe
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Like You”
  • “Salud y Vida”

Thoughts: I like the sound of reggaetón, which I typically experience as beats from a passing car or coming over the speakers at the corner store. This is the first time I’ve ever sat down and listened to a reggaetón album, and I liked it just fine.  Daddy Yankee, of course, practically invented the genre of reggaetón so naturally he deserves a spot on this list even if it isn’t something I’d listen to all the time.


Artist: SZA
AlbumCtrl
Year: 2017
Label: RCA
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?: Not likely
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Wavy (Interlude) (feat. James Fauntleroy)”
  • “Normal Girl”

Thoughts: SZA is another contemporary artist I’m not at all familiar with.  The downtempo style of hip-hop and R&B doesn’t really appeal to me, but nevertheless this album is not bad.


Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Album: Surrealistic Pillow
Year: 1967
Label: RCA
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?: No
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Somebody to Love”
  • “White Rabbit”

Thoughts: One can argue about what albums deserve inclusion on this current version Rolling Stone 500 and how they should be ranked, but the nice thing about it is that they’ve made a conscious effort to include a greater variety of genres, artists of different backgrounds, and across different eras.  The appearance of Jefferson Airplane here is a reminder of the old Rolling Stone which was fixated on promoting the late 60s San Francisco scene as the epitome of all that is good in rock music. The album includes the two songs that everyone knows Jefferson Airplane for, and a lot of mediocrity.  In fact, the rest of the album sounds more like a folk rock album than psychedelia so it definitely captures the band in transition.


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
  • 489. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector from Phil Spector and Various Artists, Back to Mono (1958-1969)
  • 487. Black Flag, Damaged
  • 485, Richard and Linda Thompson, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
  • 483, Muddy Waters, The Anthology
  • 482, The Pharcyde, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
  • 481, Belle and Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister
  • 478, The Kinks, Something Else by the Kinks
  • 477, Howlin’ Wolf, Moanin’ in the Moonlight

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