Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 400-391


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.

NOTE: Due to my participation in the Blogging A-to-Z Challenge, I will be moving RS 500 posts to Sundays during April, so the next post will be on April 4.

Previous Posts:


Artist: The Go-Go’s
AlbumBeauty and the Beat
Year: 1981
Label: I.R.S.
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Our Lips Are Sealed”
  • “How Much More”
  • “This Town”
  • “We Got The Beat”
  • “You Can’t Walk In Your Sleep (If You Can’t Sleep)”
  • “Skidmarks On My Heart”

Thoughts:  As a kid in the 1980s it was impressed upon me that The Go-Go’s were one of (if not the) first “all-girl” rock bands.  That may be an exageration, but according to Wikipedia “The band is the first all-female band that both wrote their own songs and played their own instruments to top the Billboard album charts.”  All that aside this album remains a collection of one of most exuberant pop/punk/new wave songs of the 1980s and a long-time favorite of mine.


Artist: Brian Wilson
AlbumSmile
Year: 2004
Label: Nonesuch
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:

  • “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow”

Thoughts: Music critics admire the work of The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson far more than I do.  I confess, “Good Vibrations” is a terrific song, and the possibility of an entire album done in that style is intriguing.  But after Wilson had a mental breakdown making the album it seems unfortunate that people pestered him for decades to complete it and it’s grimly ironic that the album that arises from these circumstances is called Smile.  I’m obviously not the audience for this album but it seems that Smile wasn’t worth the wait.


Artist: The Raincoats
Album: The Raincoats
Year: 1979
Label: Rough Trade
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:

  • “Fairytale in the Supermarket”
  • “No Side to Fall In”
  • “Black and White”
  • “Lola”
  • “No Looking”

Thoughts: Another pleasant surprise from a band I’d not heard of before.  The Raincoats was released in the UK in 1979 and in the United States in 1993 and seemingly encapsulates the musical sound of both of those years perfectly.  The all-woman band plays dissonant punk rock that nevertheless is melodic and creative.  I especially appreciate the violin in the instrumentation, a saxophone solo on “Black and White,” and a cover of The Kink’s “Lola.”


Artist: Billie Eilish
Album: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Year: 2019
Label: Interscope
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “bad guy”
  • “you should see me in a crown”
  • “bury a friend”
  • “ilomilo”

Thoughts: I like Billie Eilish and I like this album, but I wonder if it’s a bit hasty to list a 17-year-old’s debut album on a greatest albums of all-time list one year after its release. Eilish reminds me a bit of Kate Bush who also released a remarkable debut album at a young age and then went on to a long and artistically-creative career.  There is one album by Bush on the RS 500 and it is not her debut album.  I wonder if a decade from now a new RS 500 list will have a different Eilish album (or albums) on the list.  Anyhow, if we’re including very recent albums from solo women artists on this list I would’ve listed Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer (2018) and Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You,  (2019), but neither made the list.


Artist: Todd Rundgren
Album: Something/Anything?
Year: 1972
Label: Bearsville
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: I didn’t know that I was familiar with his work
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks:
Thoughts: Todd Rundgren is one of those names I’ve heard but never before associate the name with the music he’s produced.  I just assumed he made 70s guitar-heavy klassik rawk.  I immediately recognized the lead track “I Saw the Light,” and realized that Rundgren is softer and more down-tempo than I imagined. Actually, I find it really boring.


Artist: D’Angelo and the Vanguard
AlbumBlack Messiah
Year: 2014
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?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “1000 Deaths”
  • “The Charade”
  • “Back to the Future (Part 1)”
  • “Betray My Heart”

Thoughts: D’Angelo is another artist I wasn’t familiar with at all that I’m glad I came to through this project. The album is a collection of jazz-infused soul and funk that has a really great groove.  There’s a lot of variety on the album as well.  I think the a deep listen of this album would prove very rewarding.


Artist: Diana Ross
AlbumDiana
Year: 1980
Label: 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?: Just the hits
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Upside Down”
  • “I’m Coming Out”

Thoughts: As a young child I remember “Upside Down” in constant radio rotation, and I liked it because I liked doing somersaults which I called “upside downs.”  The album also contains the great anthem “I’m Coming Out,” a song about self-actualization that was naturally adopted by LGBTQ people.  Diana Ross in 1980 sounds nothing like her work with The Supremes a decade early.  And while the music is clearly disco, it doesn’t sound like stereotypical disco (if that makes thing), which is a good thing since this album hit at the same time as the disco backlash and pointed the way to the dance music of the 1980s.


Artist: Taylor Swift
Album1989
Year: 2014
Label: Big Machine
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?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Welcome to New York”
  • “Blank Space”
  • “Shake It Off”

Thoughts:  I remember when this album came out and many people I know declared that despite Taylor Swift not being an artist they previously liked, that this album totally ruled.  I never listened to the whole album before myself, but I did enjoy the radio hits, especially since 2014 was the peak year for my kids liking the local pop radio station (before they decided they didn’t like listening to music at all).  Taylor Swift is undeniably a terrific artist even if her music generally isn’t my thing.


Artist: Ike and Tina Turner
AlbumProud Mary: The Best of Ike and Tina Turner
Year: 1991
Label: 1991
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:

  • “A Fool In Love”
  • “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine”
  • “Workin’ Together”
  • “Proud Mary”
  • “Funkier Than A Mosquita’s Tweeter”
  • “Up in the Heah”
  • “River Deep, Mountain High”
  • “Baby – Get It On”

Thoughts: The RS 500 was doing so well! We’d gone 60 spaces in the chart without a greatest hits compilation album standing in for the work of artists who deserved much better.  The upside is getting to hear lots of songs from one of the greatest voices of her generation, Tina Turner.  The collections includes interpretations of songs by The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Sly & the Family Stone, The Who, and of course Creedence Clearwater Revival as well as numerous originals written by both Ike & Tina (but never both).


Artist: Kelis
AlbumKaleidoscope
Year: 1999
Label: Virgin
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Barely
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Caught Out There”
  • “Ghetto Children”
  • “Roller Rink”

Thoughts: My previous knowledge of Kelis is the song “Milkshake,” which is not on this album. This album has more of a pure R&B feel with hints of jazz than the dance/electronica of “Milkshake.” It’s good, but not something I expect to listen to again.


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
  • 409, Grateful Dead, Workingman’s Dead
  • 408, Motörhead, Ace of Spades
  • 406, Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs
  • 405, Various, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era
  • 403, Ghostface Killah, Supreme Clientele
  • 402, Fela Kuti and Africa 70, Expensive Shit
  • 401, Blondie, Blondie
  • 400, The Go-Go’s, Beauty and the Beat
  • 398, The Raincoats, The Raincoats
  • 397, Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
  • 395, D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah
  • 392, Ike and Tina Turner, Proud Mary: The Best of Ike and Tina Turner

Favorite Songs of 1981


The project continues with my favorite songs of 1981.  Read the first post for the detail on this project.

The Classical – The Fall

City of God – Dan Schutte

Genius of Love – Tom Tom Club

Ghost Town  –  The Specials Featuring Rico

I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) – Hall & Oates

Just the Two of Us –  Grover Washington & Bill Withers

Our Lips Are Sealed – The Go-Go’s

Pocket Calculator – Kraftwerk

Under Pressure – David Bowie w/ Queen

Theme from “Chariots of Fire” – Vangelis

 

Looking at songs that charted in 1981, there is about a dozen or so that my 7-year-old self inexplicably loved, but it seems appropriate to confess my youthful fondness for Air Supply, especially this song of shame:

The One That You Love – Air Supply

What is your favorite song from 1981?  Let me know in the comments