Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 420-411


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: Earth, Wind and Fire
AlbumThat’s the Way of the World
Year: 1975
Label: Columbia
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:

  • “Shining Star”
  • “That’s the Way of the World”
  • “Africano”

Thoughts: There are some great tracks on this Earth, Wind, & Fire album, including the magnificent and funky “Shining Star.”  But it also has a few tracks that sound like hippie souljazz, for lack of a better term.  I like Earth, Wind, & Fire well enough but I think I will stick to their hits.


Artist: Eric Church
AlbumChief
Year: 2011
Label: EMI Nashville
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: I’ve never even heard of this artist before
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks: None
Thoughts: I’m not a big fan of rock & roll heavy contemporary country music and this album didn’t change my mind.


Artist: Dire Straits
AlbumBrothers in Arms
Year: 1985
Label: Warner Bros.
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:

  • “So Far Away”
  • “Money For Nothing”
  • “Walk of Life”

Thoughts: This album is front-loaded with the three big hit singles, “So Far Away,” “Money For Nothing,” and my personal favorite, “Walk of Life.”  The rest of the album is much more low-tempo and features a mix of bluesy rock, Dylan-esque folk rock, and jazzy art pop.  It’s all a bit bland, and sounds like it’s from a different band that the one that made the first three tracks.


Artist: Ornette Coleman
AlbumThe Shape of Jazz to Come
Year: 1959
Label: Atlantic
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: The whole album.
Thoughts: I don’t know much about jazz, but I know what I like, and this is it.  I’ve listened to Ornette Coleman before, but not this album, and enjoyed his wildly creative compositions and improvisations.  It’s hard to imagine how revolutionary this album sounded to people who heard it for the first time back in 1959.


Artist: The Roots
AlbumThings Fall Apart
Year: 1999
Label: MCA
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Kinda
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “The Next Movement”
  • “Dynamite”
  • “Without a Doubt”
  • “Ain’t Sayin’ Nothin’ New”
  • “Double Trouble”
  • “Adrenaline!”
  • “Don’t See Us”

Thoughts: My knowledge of The Roots is limited to the fact that they are the house band for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon (a show I’ve never watched).  So it was my surprise that they not only have a career predating their talk show antics, but it’s an excellent collection of 90s alternative rap.  The music incorporates several aspects of Black music including jazz, Afrobeat, and even old school rap from the 80s.  This is definitely something I would’ve pleased to know about in 1999, had I only been paying attention.


Artist: The Meters
Album: Looka Py Py
Year: 1969
Label: Josie
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Another band I’d never heard of before.
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Look-Ka Py Py”
  • They’re all great, actually.

Thoughts: The Meters are a super funky band from New Orleans.  They actually were among the originators of funk and served as a backing band for other New Orleans legends including Dr. John, and Allen Toussaint (the band’s lineup has also included a member of the Neville family).  And I’d never heard of them.  But I immediately loved this entire album of instrumental tracks and thoroughly believe it deserves it spot on the list.


Artist: Chic
Album: Risqué
Year: 1979
Label: Atlantic
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:

  • “Good Times”
  • “My Feet Keep Dancing”

Thoughts: Chic scored one of the last great hits of the disco era with “Good Times” in 1979 (although anyone who was around for 1979 knows it wasn’t a good time). The song and this album proved transitional as the music and production of Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards would form the bedrock of 80s dance music, hip hop, new wave, and beyond (as discussed in a recent episode of the podcast Hit Parade). But mostly this is just an album that’s still good to put on for dancing.


Artist: Creedence Clearwater Revival
AlbumCosmo’s Factory
Year: 1970
Label: Fantasy
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:

  • “Travelin’ Band”
  • “Lookin’ Out My Back Door”
  • “Who’ll Stop the Rain”
  • “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”
  • “Long As I Can See the Light”

Thoughts: I’ve long loved CCR, a band so swampy it’s hard to believe they’re from California for their roots rock and strong political stances in their music.  I listened to their greatest hits albums over and over growing up.  I’ve been critical of the RS 500 for relying on greatest hits compilations, so now the egg is on my face.  It is amazing, nonetheless, how many greatest hits are crammed into this one album. It is missing some of my favorites – “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” “Fortunate Son,” and “Lodi” – but it does have the trippy fantasy  “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” the anti-war anthem “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” and a scorching cover of Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.”


Artist: Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
Album: Going to a Go Go
Year: 1965
Label: Tamla/Motown
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:

  • “The Tracks of My Tears”
  • “Going To A Go-Go”
  • “Ooo Baby Baby”

Thoughts: Much like Cosmo’s Factory, Going to a Go Go feels like a greatest hits album.  It features 4 top 20 hits, frontloaded at the beginning of the album.  But the deep cuts are great too.  I can always listen to Smokey’s sweet falsetto singing songs both sad or joyful.


Artist: Bob Dylan
AlbumLove and Theft
Year: 2001
Label: Columbia
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: None
Thoughts: A confession here: I don’t like Bob Dylan’s music.  Well, actually I like quite a few of his songs but I don’t like him performing them.  This late-period Dylan album is ok, but there are better collections of original Americana music out there that I’d like to listen to. This being a Rolling Stone list, I expect it to be chockful of Dylan, because geeking out over Dylan is Rolling Stone‘s bread and butter.  Amazingly this is the first of only eight Dylan albums on the list, which feels restrained for Rolling Stone.


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
  • 469, Manu Chao, Clandestino
  • 465, King Sunny Adé, The Best of the Classic Years
  • 464, The Isley Brothers, 3 + 3
  • 462, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace of Sin
  • 459, Kid Cudi, Man on the Moon: The End of the Day
  • 457, Sinéad O’Connor, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
  • 456, Al Green, Greatest Hits
  • 455, Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley/Go Bo Diddley
  • 453, Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine
  • 452, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Anthology
  • 451, Roberta Flack, First Take
  • 448, Otis Redding, Dictionary of Soul
  • 446, Alice Coltrane, Journey in Satchidanada
  • 444, Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
  • 443, David Bowie, Scary Monsters
  • 440, Loretta Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter
  • 439, James Brown, Sex Machine
  • 438, Blur, Parklife
  • 437, Primal Scream, Screamadelica
  • 435, Pet Shop Boys, Actually
  • 433, LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver
  • 431, Los Lobos, How Will the Wolf Survive?
  • 430, Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True
  • 429, The Four Tops, Reach Out
  • 428, Hüsker Dü, New Day Rising
  • 427, Al Green, Call Me
  • 426, Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams
  • 425, Paul Simon, Paul Simon
  • 424, Beck, Odelay
  • 423, Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One
  • 422, Marvin Gaye, Let’s Get It On
  • 421, M.I.A., Arular
  • 417, Ornette Coleman, The Shape of Jazz to Come
  • 416, The Roots, Things Fall Apart
  • 415, The Meters, Looka Py Py
  • 414, Chic, Risqué
  • 413, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Cosmo’s Factory
  • 412, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Going to a Go Go

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