Having listened to every album on the Rolling Stone list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, I’m making my own list. This list will be only 250 albums, although I had to make some tough cuts. The list includes a mix of works of musical genius with the pure nostalgia of some albums I’ve loved throughout my life. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these albums and what your favorite albums are. I will continue the countdown every other Wednesday throughout 2022.
Artist: The Kinks
Title: Something Else by The Kinks
- Death of a Clown
- Harry Rag
- Love Me Till the Sun Shines
- Waterloo Sunset
The First Time I Heard This Album …: The Rolling Stone 500 was the first time I listened to these songs in entirety.
Thoughts: 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.
Bonus Sounds: “Waterloo Sunset” is a nice song, isn’t it? Here are some covers by David Bowie and Cathy Dennis.
Artist: Aretha Franklin
Title: Lady Soul
- Chain of Fools
- People Get Ready
- (You Make Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman
- (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone
- Good to Me As I Am To You
- Ain’t No Way
The First Time I Heard This Album …: Sometime in the early Oughts, I borrowed this album from the library
Thoughts: It’s hard to believe this is not a greatest hits compilation because it has so many of Aretha’s classic bangers. But that’s what makes it a GREAT album.
Bonus Sounds: I somehow talked my way down to only one Aretha Franklin album on this list but Young, Gifted, and Black, Amazing Grace, and I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (and many more) are all worth a listen.
Artist: Elvis Costello
Title: My Aim Is True
- No Dancing
- (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
- Less Than Zero
- Mystery Dance
- Watching the Detectives
The First Time I Heard This Album …: Early Oughts when I was exploring old punk and new wave recordings.
Thoughts: This debut album features Elvis Costello at his rawest, channeling an early Rock & Roll sound into the new punk rock/new wave paradigm. So many of the tracks from this album remain in rotation almost fifty years, to the point that Costello’s earliest work almost overshadows the rest of his oeuvre.
Bonus Sounds: There are several other recordings by Costello worth listening to. I also read his memoir Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink several years ago and found out he is better at writing songs than books, but it had some interesting moments.
- Qué Onda Guero
- Hell Yes
- Go It Alone
- Rental Car
- Emergency Exit
The First Time I Heard This Album …: When it first came out in 2005.
Thoughts: This album came at the end of a great decade of peak Beck music from the mid-90s to the mid-00s, but it remains one of his best.
Bonus Sounds: One of Beck’s most creative albums was Song Reader, a collection of sheet music. In 2013, I was part of Beck’s Song Reader Performed Live, were over 150 musicians, performance artists, and dancers (including burlesque dancers) brought the song to life. I was part of a 50-voice chorus who sang on several songs, most notably “The Wolf Is On the Hill” (Note: this link is NSFW, because, burlesque dancers).
Artist: Modest Mouse
Title: Moon And Antarctica
- 3rd Planet
- Gravity Rides Everything
- Tiny Cities Made of Ashes
- A Different City
- Wild Pack of Family Dogs
- I Came As a Rat
The First Time I Heard This Album …: Around 2005, I was looking for new music and got this album on the recommendation of … someone.
Thoughts: This is a great example of where indie/alternative rock was going in new directions in the early to mid Oughts. This albums got weird sounds and creative lyrics, but Modest Mouse never forgets to make an enjoyable tune.
Bonus Sounds: This album surprisingly didn’t include any singles, but the next album released in 2004 included the bands most memorable track, “Float On.”
Artist: Fountains of Wayne
Title: Welcome Interstate Managers
- Mexican Wine
- Stacy’s Mom
- No Better Place
- Valley Winter Song
- All Kinds of Time
- Hung Up On You
The First Time I Heard This Album …: Sometime around 2003.
Thoughts: When I first learned of Fountains of Wayne, I was surprised that there was a band that appealed to both young hipsters as well as old dudes who usually only listen to 70s rock. I guess the band’s power pop sounds has a timeless appeal. And I find their anthems of New York City Tri-State Area ennui to be relatable.
Bonus Sounds: There are only so many slot in my favorite 250, so I could only choose one Fountains of Wayne album, a great slight to Utopia Parkway. But do check out the collection that includes “Red Dragon Tattoo” among many other greats.
The First Time I Heard This Album …: When it was released in 2014 simultaneously with the Prince album Art Official Age.
Thoughts: “Girl with a guitar is twelve times better than another crazy band of boys/Trying to be a star/When you’re just another brick in a misogynistic wall of noise.” 3RDEYEGIRL is the trio of Hannah Welton, Donna Grantis, and Ida Kristine Nielsen who served as Prince’s backing band from 2014 until his death. Their one album with Prince rocks hard! And it features a cameo from Lizzo.
Bonus Sounds: “FUNKNROLL” is a song so good that Prince also recorded a version for his own album.
Artist: The Who
Title: Who’s Next
- Baba O’Riley
- The Song is Over
- Behind Blue Eyes
- Won’t Get Fooled Again
The First Time I Heard This Album …: High school, sometime in the late 80s.
Thoughts: I’m surprised to end up including an album from The Who on the list since they’re not a band that has ever interested me much. But the Rolling Stone 500 project made me realize that a lot of the songs by The Who that I really do like happen to be on this album.
Bonus Sounds: I think The Who is a band who were probably far more electrifying in live concert performance than on their albums. Do I’ll recommend listening to Live at Leeds for the closet experience to enjoying the band in concert during their prime.
Artist: The Velvet Underground
Title: The Velvet Underground
- What Goes On
- Pale Blue Eyes
- Beginning To See The Light
- The Murder Mystery
- After Hours
The First Time I Heard This Album …: Last year, Rolling Stone 500
Thoughts: After all these years I’m still kind of surprised that The Velvet Underground can do melodic ballads. There’s a lot of great music on this album that sounds different from the great music on their other albums. There’s also “The Murder Mystery” an esoteric track with different songs being sung and poems recited simultaneously in a harmonic way. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of anything like that before! I kind of wish Moe Tucker sang lead on more songs.
Bonus Sounds: Another band for whom it’s hard to pick just one album, especially with classics like White Light/White Heat and Loaded in contention.
Artist: The Ramones
Title: Rocket to Russia
- Cretin Hop
- Rockaway Beach
- Sheena Is A Punk Rocker
- We’re A Happy Family
- Teenage Lobotomy
The First Time I Heard This Album …: Last year, Rolling Stone 500
Thoughts: The title Rocket to Russia, seems all to topical now. The Ramones third album contains some of their most memorable tunes, including my all-time favorite “Sheena is a Punk Rocker.” It’ll always remind me of when I first discovered The Ramones in the late 80s and realized that I, too, could be a punk rocker.
Bonus Sounds: The title of this album sounds more political than The Ramones’ music typically is, but one of their most political songs ever, “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg” from 1986, is another of my all-time favorites.