Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 390-381


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: Pixies
Album: Surfer Rosa
Year: 1988
Label: 1988
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: So many times
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Bone Machine”
  • “Broken Face”
  • “Gigantic”
  • “Where is My Mind?”
  • “Cactus”

Thoughts: Pixies weren’t on my radar in 1988, but when I discovered them in the 1990s, I went back to this album and it became one of my all-time favorites (#72 on my 2009 list). I could list every track on the album as a favorite, but “Gigantic” and “Where is My Mind?” are two of the greatest songs ever.


Artist: Mariah Carey
Album: The Emancipation of Mimi
Year: 2005
Label: Island
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: I remember Mariah Carey as ever present in the 1990s and not liking how squeaky her voice got on the high notes. But by the 2000s she was off my radar (except for a hilarious cameo in You Don’t Mess With the Zohan), so I didn’t expect to recognize any of these songs. It’s a straightforward R&B/dance pop album with hip hop guest artists and only a little squeakiness. I keep saying this, and I don’t mean it in a derogatory way, that this kind of music is not my thing, but I’m sure it’s perfectly fine.


Artist: Aretha Franklin
Album: Young, Gifted and Black
Year: 1972
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:

  • “Day Dreaming”
  • “Rock Steady”
  • “Young, Gifted, and Black”
  • “All the King’s Horses”
  • “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)”
  • “Border Song (Holy Moses)”

Thoughts: Aretha Franklin’s music is such a gift to the world and I should listen to it more. A lot of the songs on this album are covers (Nina Simone, Otis Redding, The Beatles, Elton John) but she redefines them and makes them her own as much as her original works.


Artist: Radiohead
Album: In Rainbows
Year: 2007
Label: XL
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:

  • “All I Need”
  • “Reckoner”
  • “House of Cards”

Thoughts: I remember when this album came out and it was for sale online on a pay-your-own price model. It felt like the wave of the future. It wasn’t. iTunes soon became dominant only to be shoved aside for streaming. I’ve always liked this album but didn’t think it was considered among Radiohead’s great albums so I’m pleasantly surprised. The band has only released two new albums in the intervening 14 years and they’re both ok, but not great, so it turns out that In Rainbows was the last Radiohead album to date worth getting really excited about. We’ll get to discuss Radiohead three more times as we work through the list.


Artist: J Dilla
Album: Donuts
Year: 2006
Label: Stones Throw
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?:
Favorite Tracks: All of them

Thoughts: If you’ve been reading my RS 500 posts for a while, you’ll probably not be surprised that I am not at all familiar with J Dilla. The album was recorded as Detroit producer J Dilla contended with a blood disease and lupus and was released on his 32nd birthday. Tragically, he died three days later. It’s a hip hop album with no rap, a collection of short and largely instrumental tracks that mix together samples in creative ways. It’s yet another treat of this project to be introduced to this influential album.


Artist: The Ramones
Album: Rocket to Russia
Year: 1977
Label: Sire
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:

  • “Cretin Hop”
  • “Rockaway Beach”
  • “Sheena is a Punk Rocker”
  • “We’re a Happy Family”
  • “Teenage Lobotomy”

Thoughts: Some time in the late 80s, probably inspired by reading Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, I checked the compilation album Ramones Mania out of the library. It was nothing like any music I’d ever liked before, and it redefined my understanding of what punk music actually was, and I loved it. I remember feeling the need to keep the fact that I liked the Ramones secret and the first time I told another kid “I kind of like The Ramones,” and he said “Oh yeah, The Ramones are awesome!” it was such a relief. Anyhow, a lot of the songs from this album were on Ramones Mania, including my all-time favorite Ramones song “Sheena is a Punk Rocker.” It’s a great record of 1977, the peak year for punk rock.


Artist: The Kinks
Album: The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society
Year: 1969
Label: Reprise
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 Village Green Preservation Society”
  • “Picture Book”
  • “Sitting by the Riverside”
  • “All of My Friends Were There”

Thoughts: This is the second of two albums by The Kinks and it is reaffirming that I should spend more time listening to The Kinks in the future. At the same time that rock & roll was embracing the counter-culture and change, The Kinks release a thematic album about the simplicity of old-fashioned English villages. This is not entirely contrary as the counter culture embraced a “back to the land” movement and Paul McCartney would soon move to a farm to create his first solo album. But the music on this album is both of its time, with touches of baroque pop and psychedelia, as well as entirely it’s own thing.


Artist: Massive Attack
Album: Mezzanine
Year: 1998
Label: Circa/Virgin
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:

  • “Angel”
  • “Teardrop”

Thoughts: I had a vague awareness that a 90s band named Massive Attack exists but just assumed that they were another grunge/hard rock band. I was wrong. They are a triphop and electronica band, more Portishead than Bush. I even recognize the song “Teardrop,” which I swear I heard in a movie soundtrack but can’t confirm that. The album starts strong but then peters out into repetitive blandness so I probably won’t be relistening to it anytime soon.


Artist: Tame Impala
Album: Currents
Year: 2015
Label: Interscope
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:

  • “Let It Happen”

Thoughts: Tame Impala (Australian producer Kevin Parker) is one of those artists I’ve heard about for years but never gave that much thought to. The lead track “Let It Happen” is definitely familiar to my ears. I appreciated the dense soundscapes of the songs but overall I find the music of Tame Impala to be fairly dull. Which is probably why I never paid much attention to it.


Artist: Lynyrd Skynyrd
Album: (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd)
Year: 1973
Label: MCA
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:

  • “Tuesday’s Gone”
  • “Mississipi Kid”

Thoughts: During my high school years I went through a 2-year classic rock phase where I listened to music from the 1960s and early 1970s exclusively. I dove into everything, including some fairly obscure bands, but I could not abide Southern Rock and would race to change the dial whenever it came on. Obviously, a lot of great rock music comes from the South (where the genre was born) but I specifically didn’t like bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers Band who announced their macho Southern heritage in their music and used Confederate symbols in their iconography. I am, however, listening to every album on this list with an open mind. I did find myself enjoying the bluesy soul of “Tuesday’s Gone” and “Mississippi Kid,” but the hits “Gimme Three Steps” and “Free Bird” just feel frozen in Klassik Rawk Self-parody, despite my efforts.


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
  • 390, Pixies, Surfer Rosa
  • 388, Aretha Franklin, Young, Gifted and Black
  • 387, Radiohead, In Rainbows
  • 386, J Dilla, Donuts
  • 385, Ramones, Rocket to Russia
  • 384, The Kinks, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society

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