It’s something of a retro concept, isn’t it?
In our track obsessed culture, we often forget the allure and magic, and unmatched storytelling capabilities, of the album.
An album is a tale, an intentional still-frame of a band’s musical bandwidth, thematic preoccupations and stylistic musings at any given time.
It crystallizes both cultural influences and sociohistorical touchstones, creating not only a coherent musical tapestry but also a testament to its temporal moment.
Albums bear witness; to trends, tendencies, possibilities, and desires. They are artifacts of our collective obsessions.
I offer you here my take on the 50 best albums of all time.
1. Rumors – Fleetwood Mac (1977)
How do you begin to describe Rumors – one of the most enduring albums of the seventies and one of the best selling albums of all time?
It spawned hit after hit after hit and catapulted Fleetwood Mac to enduring, iconic stardom.
When it comes to the sheer number of time-honored songs, this album did not hold back: “Dreams”, “The Chain”, “Go Your Own Way”, “Secondhand News”, “I Don’t Want to Know”…the folk-pop magic grabbed you and kept your senses piqued the whole way through.
Rumors established Fleetwood Mac as the reigning crooners of easy listening, evocatively melodic, and emotionally resonant poetic rock.
2. Nevermind – Nirvana (1991)
When it comes to sheer impact, Nevermind is up there with the heavyweights of every cultural paradigm shift of the 20th century – it was Nirvana’s magnum opus, and is considered the defining album of Gen X, grunge counterculture.
It has angst in droves, yes, but it also has a restless audacity, a brazen experimentality, and a defiant insouciance in the face of established musical norms.
Nevermind was Nirvana’s War and Peace – an epic of daring emotional breadth, expansive rhythmic risk-taking, and jarring, discordant vitality – it’s no wonder it is one of the most influential albums of all time.
It’s all there: the voracious, hostile “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Lithium”, and “In Bloom” ; the tender majesty of “Come As You Are” and “Something in the Way” and the whimsical, untethered “Drain You”, “On a Plain”, “Breed”, and “Lounge Act”.
“I love myself better than you,” “Let’s start this off without any words, I got so high I scratched till I bled,” “I’m so ugly that’s okay cuz so are you, we broke our mirrors” – sheer adolescent poetry.
3. The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers (1971)
If the sixties were fertile ground for experimentation and creative growth for the Stones, the seventies were their decade, and they ran the show with a bravado and self-assured charisma that comes around once in a lifetime.
The raunchy, and so not politically correct “Brown Sugar” is still a rock gem and “Wild Horses” remains one of my personal favorite anthemic love songs.
This was their first release to hit number one on both sides of the Atlantic, and has since gone triple platinum – I’m certainly not the only music critic who considers this one of their most raw, back-to-basics best albums.
4. The Wall – Pink Floyd (1979)
As far as culture-shaping, tectonic shock impact goes, The Wall is arguably one of the best concept albums of all time, indeed one of the best albums ever made.
It is a disjointed, courageous, surreal, idiosyncratic journey through the self-imposed isolation of a wearied rock star, an isolation that leads to social ennui and alienation, reflected in the metaphor of the wall.
“Another Brick in the Wall”, in all its parts, is a veritable milestone of progressive rock, but experimental, curious rock-driven gems like “Mother” and “Young Lust” are also the best of the best when it comes to Pink Floyd’s vast, diverse canon.
The cosmic, spacey trips that are “Hey You” and “Comfortably Numb” encapsulate the sensation of dissonance and mortality with a technique rarely seen since.
5. Led Zeppelin IV – Led Zeppelin (1971)
Does a rock album get any more purist than Led Zeppelin IV? I encourage you to ponder this question, but I would warrant that the answer is a resounding no. Greatest album of all time? You decide.
The album encapsulates all of the dizzying energy, soaring vocal range, and intricate guitar riffs that solidified Led Zeppelin as leaders in the classic rock genre.
I doubt if there has been more powerful, dynamic sheer rock since the release of songs like “Black Dog”, “Rock and Roll”, “When the Levees Break”, and the whimsical “Battle of Evermore”. They’re all here.
The album is worth listening to alone for their poetic mythological rock anthem “Stairway to Heaven”, considered by some to be one of the best songs ever written.
6. Darklands – Jesus and Mary Chain (1987)
This seminal release put dream pop, garage rock, shoegaze Glasgow icons Jesus and Mary Chain on the alternative map and is one of their best albums.
The album does not have a single bad track – they are lush, poignant, deeply affecting, and arrestingly melodic through and through.
Perfect for introspective rainy days or moody evenings sipping wine and staring out into the evocative darkness, Darklands will transport you to a place of dark and haunting beauty.
7. Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA (1984)
The voice, soul, and spirit of a generation, and a nation. That’s a tall order, but is easy work for Springsteen.
He captured the restless vigor, the untamed heart, and the intimate sadnesses of the American character, narrating the destiny of so many lives, urban, rural and suburban alike.
Does it get more legendary than “Born in the U.S.A”, “I’m on Fire”, “Glory Days”, “My Hometown”, and “Dancing in the Dark”?
This is one of those essential albums everyone needs to take for a spin in their lives.
8. Neil Young – After the Gold Rush (1970)
The undisputed philosopher-poet king of folk rock, Canadian maverick Neil Young combined his penetrative political commentary with enchanting, jarring melodies and acoustic sounds.
Young explores the full range of the emotional experience, from rage to hope to acceptance to defiance.
A quiet, humble wisdom is weaved throughout every note, every lyric, every haunting chord.
For a taste that will change your life (no lie) get started with the doleful “After the Gold Rush”, the incendiary “Southern Man” and the resonant “Don’t Let it Bring You Down”.
One of the greatest albums of all time, hands down.
9. Oasis – Definitely Maybe (1994)
When it comes to culture-defining moments that happen a few times a generation, I would argue that the release of Definitely Maybe more than qualifies as an example.
It spawned hit after earnest, heartfelt, thrilling hit and established Oasis as the gold standard for Brit pop for the decades that followed.
Oasis brought an uplifting, restlessly energetic candor to their beautiful, exuberant music.
How can you feel lethargic after treating yourself to “Supersonic”, “Live Forever”, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Star”, or “Cigarettes and Alcohol” – the answer is you can’t.
It’s not a pub night without them, nor is it a ‘50 best albums of all time’ list without them.
10. The Clash – London Calling (1979)
Not just an album, but a creative, visual, political moment extraordinaire, London Calling for many people is where British 70s punk begins and ends.
It is an astonishingly ambitious album, covering themes of suburban alienation, international political machinations, urban crime, and distinctly British social observations with a delicious wit and vision.
The album has a song for everyone: “Train in Vain”, for the spunky and optimistic hearts among us, “Lost in the Supermarket” for the baleful, lost souls, and “Death or Glory” for the hopeful cynics.
When it comes to punk, this is one of the best albums of all time and I won’t hear any arguments.
11. The Cure – Disintegration (1989)
Gloomy, painfully beautiful and evocatively gothic, Disintegration feels like the distant and dreamy vocals of an apparition.
The eighties were good to The Cure, and their top album Disintegration was their nostalgic ode but also their academic exploration of the intersection between sweet pop and maudlin gothic lullabies.
Their lush, harrowingly heartfelt “Pictures of You” and alluring, midnight mood “Lovesong” carry the album, but I love the offbeat, quirky AF anthem “Lullaby” best.
12. Ten – Pearl Jam (1991)
1991 was a major year in the Pacific Northwest, gloomy and reflective grunge and Pearl Jam took it to poignant heights with their masterpiece of folk-tinged alternative, Ten.
Featuring Eddie Vedder’s gruff, pained voice and melodies that incorporated undertones of whiskey and honey, the album transformed what rock was capable of doing to both the heart and mind.
It featured the earnest power anthems Pearl Jam became famous for: “Alive”, “Jeremy”, and “Even Flow”, and the tender, wistful electricity of ballads like “Black” and “Oceans”.
Where grunge is concerned, Ten was one of the best albums ever made.
13. A Space in Time – Ten Years After (1971)
The sixth, and best studio album from folk rock renegades Ten Years After, A Space in Time is for me one of the most underrated bohemian rock gems in musical history.
The sheer genius of the album is made manifest in lush, technically wondrous guitar chords, languid, self-possessed vocals, and a fearless commitment to the vision of sixties counterculture philosophers everywhere.
You best know them for their majestic song “I’d Love to Change the World” but why stop there? “Here They Come” is a sensual, alluring choice, “Let the Sky Fall” is a drawling, delta blues treasure, and “Once There Was a Time” is a traipsing rock hit.
14. The Smiths – Hatful of Hollow (1984)
Brooding, moody, cynical, deliciously sardonic, but still delightful and compulsive? How is it possible?
I always say that The Smiths are alone in their class when it comes to capitalizing on wry British bitterness and finding magic in the misery.
Unapologetically unhappy, and capable of finding the humor in the chaos, you have to hear it to believe it: “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”, “How Soon is Now”, and “William, it Was Really Nothing”.
Enchanting tunes for those days when you want to savor your own alienation and gloom – one of the unquestioned top albums of the eighties.
15. Pulp – A Different Class (1995)
One of the undisputed staples of the Brit rock canon, A Different Class encapsulates all of the most intellectual, most poignant, and most exploratory tendencies of the genre.
Their music is unapologetically earnest, in fact, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a more earnest, intimate band around.
From the wistful “Something Changed” to the downtempo “Underwear” to the fiery “Common People” to the masterpiece of the decade, “Disco 2000” – it is all here.
Pulp always deviated from the main current, incorporating art rock and soft, reflective, whimsical lyrics into their canon for an erudite listening experience.
The greatest album of all time, or at least the nineties? It’s honestly up there with Nevermind and Definitely, Maybe.
16. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
Easily one of the most iconic, outlandishly original, experimental albums to ever grace the shelves, The Dark Side of the Moon is its own cultural niche.
It introduced listeners the world over to the academic progressive heart of Pink Floyd’s sound, and it wowed critics with its spacious instrumentals, psychosomatic thematic density, and paranoid, psychedelic aura.
The hits it spawned are absolute mainstays of the prog-rock corpus: “Time”, “Money”,”Us and Them”, “Brain Damage” and “Any Colour You Like” – tune out and tune in to the voice within, man.
17. Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow (1967)
Surrealistic Pillow is the defining album of 1967 pre-summer of love San Francisco acid psychedelic folk rock. Sounds like this album ticks a lot of boxes, doesn’t it? It does.
It is masterful in its technical maturity, its brazen and self assured lyrics, and its thematic consistency.
Their luscious, evocative songs like “Today” and “Comin Back to Me” offer a hallucinatory romantic vision, while spunky and defiant songs like “Somebody to Love” have stood the test of time.
This sixties visionquest is one of my favorite albums of all time.
18. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground (1967)
Iconic album cover aside, this mature, sophisticated, daringly self-possessed album was a cultural moment then, and is a veritable sixties artifact now.
The album contained all of the disparate trends of that heady generation: downtown elegance, exuberant hopefulness, self-involved detachment, and vivacious ecstasy.
I adore the fast-moving, addictive track “There She Goes Again” and the confronting, delightful “I’ll Be Your Mirror” and the serene, reflective “Heroin”, the last of which gets my award for one of the best guitar melodies ever.
19. Gordon Lightfoot – Sundown (1974)
The other Canadian folk legend, Gordon Lightfoot is the reigning king of Maritime, sea-faring inspired down home folk rock.
Sundown is a masterwork, combining elements of optimistic prairie rock, delightful Nova Scotian cheek, and humble, insouciant Canadiana folk.
Nothing gets my mood soaring like an eagle like “Carefree Highway”, “High and Dry”, and “Sundown”.
Where folk is concerned, this is one of the best LP’s of all time – the sun ain’t setting on Lightfoot!
20. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd (1973)
A foundational album for the Southern Rock genre, the tongue-twister title shouldn’t scare you off and is in fact an essential album for anyone wanting to get into the classics.
When it comes to breezy, defiant, deliciously arrogant American swagger, this album has it in spades.
The motorcycle gang attitude oozes out of rock classics like “Simple Man” and free spirited anthems like “Free Bird”.
Go and ride off into the Western sunset with a fringe jacket on and soak in the brazen sounds of rock’s golden era.
21. Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)
No one does say boy alternative rock more convincingly than Billy Corgan – with his disconsolate, whining pitch and stroppy melodrama, what’s not to love?
The quirky, offbeat sounds of Smashing Pumpkins expanded the scope of what was considered possible with grunge, with a sound that was sometimes twee, sometimes angsty, there was a raw vitality that ran like a nerve through every song.
For a strange trip listen to “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”, “1979”, “Thru the Eyes of Ruby” – this album is their all time best.
22. The Ramones – Rocket to Russia (1977)
Joey Ramone summarized the humane, relatable, offbeat spirit that weaved through The Ramones career succinctly: “Our early songs came out of our real feelings of alienation, isolation, frustration.”
Plucky, lively, vivacious and always singing from the heart, The Ramones were one of the most authentic, unpretentious punk bands around, and their electric sound completely renovated the sound of the New York underground.
Proof that sugar and spice can mix to great effect, they blended garage guitars with surf-rock nostalgia with little gems like “Rockaway Beach” and “Sheena is a Punk Rocker”.
23. Tom Petty – Full Moon Fever (1989)
No one captures the dreamy, hopeful candor of youth better than the king of heartland rock, Tom Petty himself.
A generous spirit and restless compassion reverberate from every poetic, story-like lyric and every twangy, big-hearted guitar chord.
His debut solo album became a classic rock staple with soulful, mesmerizing tunes like “A Face in the Crowd” and the soaring, affable anthem “Free Fallin’.
“Won’t Back Down” is one of the best rebellious, wrong side of the tracks songs in the rock canon – perfect for climbing your own personal Everest.
24. The Rolling Stones – 12×5 (1964)
It comes as a surprise to many surface-level fans of the Stones that they had an outrageously expansive catalog of mature, tightly constructed tunes before they ever became worldwide icons.
Their earlier fare is potently rockabilly, with strong Americana roots references and purist rock n’ roll guitar arrangements.
The sophistication and dynamism of songs like “Congratulations” and “Time is On my Side” is quite literally arresting, and their covers of “Under the Boardwalk” and “Susie Q”, while eclipsed by the vitality of their original music, are as timeless as ever.
25. Cat Stevens – Matthew and Son (1967)
Talents like Cat Stevens come around only a few times in a lifetime, and the folk-rock icon transfixed the music world with the release of Matthew and Son, an absolute beauty of an album that explored the poetic and philosophic corpus that Stevens was so brilliantly capable of.
Cat Stevens was in a creative, literary niche of his own, and he never deviated from a strong guiding light of artistic integrity and purism.
Does listening get more enjoyable? Not with songs like “I’ve Found a Love”, “Bring Me Another Bottle” and “Matthew and Son” – exuberant and heartfelt magic through and through.
26. The Beatles – Please Please Me (1963)
Choosing the best Beatles album is truly like picking your own favorite food – it’s not something I’d ever want to have to defend in court.
But as far as groundbreaking, innovative, completely transformative records go, their debut is not a bad place to start, and I strongly believe it will be referenced in history books for centuries to come.
Although The Beatles charted riveting terrain during their careers, experimenting with Eastern mysticism, psychedelic, and sitar instrumentals, their debut was pure early sixties earnest, wide eyes boy band rock.
They had pep, spunk, charm, and were endearing beyond all measure – give this a listen to see where the origins of popular classic rock began.
27. U2 – The Joshua Tree (1987)
Bono gets a lot of stick in the media for his melodramatic persona, but I will be the first to defend him, not least because of his honeyed, evocative, pained voice.
Capable of soaring heights, and stirring, brutally intimate lows, U2 bears witness to the entirety of the human experience in a way that poets and political writers do.
The Joshua Tree is a dreamy, heartfelt listening experience: startlingly raw and completely devoid of pretension, it is a truthful exploration of the heart and spirit in its often curious journey through life.
This is a famous album from a legendary band that continues to capture ears and souls to this day.
28. Morrissey – Viva Hate (1988)
Morrisey, lead singer of The Smiths, went on to have a lauded solo career that contained all the sardonic insouciance, cheeky misery, and blithe intransigence of his tenure with the band.
His vocals are gruff, gauzy, and somehow silken, creating a tapestry of emotionally convulsive, resonant sound.
I love the tantalizing sound of “Suedehead” and “Every Day is Like Sunday” – it truly feels like Morrisey is cutting his veins and baring his very inner world through the lyrics.
I don’t think you can listen to the album without being impacted by his confronting, humane ethos.
Viva Hate is one of the best albums ever, for its sheer consistency of vision.
29. Dido – No Angel (1999)
A downtempo, lo-fi masterpiece, Dido’s No Angel was a sleeper hit that soon gained cult status for its moody ambiance, incisive lyrics, and Dido’s mesmerizing vocal range.
Perfect for introspective rainy days, her songs are frank and unadorned, resulting in a purist vision, a space where voice and melody meet in all their organic wonder.
No one makes sorrow and loss and ennui sound more hypnotic and entrancing than Dido, exemplified by songs like “Here With Me”, “Don’t Think of Me”, “Hunter”, and “Take My Hand”.
If your only experience with Dido is her iconic “Thank You” then you owe yourself – it will be a treat for all of your senses.
30. The Eagles – Desperado (1973)
Word association time – Eagles edition: lonesome highways, desert sunsets, motorcycle gangs, wistful unrequited love, outlaws, the Wild West, historical saloons, pick up trucks and cold beers.
It’s all here, gang – America’s finest heartland rock band exploring themes happy and sad, hopeful and meditative.
There is a ruminative sincerity, and a meticulousness, that haunts all of the Eagles songs, from ballads like “Tequila Sunrise” to sensual delta folk gems like “Bitter Creek”.
The bluegrass twang, the unflappable harmonies, the clarity of stylistic vision – they are deserving of their consideration as being one of the best bands of all time.
31. Grateful Dead – American Beauty (1970)
Another losing proposition: trying to identify the best Dead album out of their intimidating corpus of trippy, folksy, radically original fare.
American Beauty is a rollicking time, with meticulous instrumentals, self-assured vocals, and lyrics tinged with exuberance, wisdom, and bliss.
It features some of my all-time favorite, meditative tracks: “Ripple”, “Box of Rain”, “Sugar Magnolia” and the compulsive “Friend of the Devil”. The Dead came into the seventies hot.
32. Alice in Chains – Dirt (1992)
The kings of acoustic rock and somber grunge, Dirt is one of the moodiest, most haunting, and heart wrenching offerings to come out of early nineties Seattle.
Layne Staley, Jerry Cantrell, and Sean Kinney pioneered a melancholic sound so arresting, so poignant, so unflinching, that it can be a shock to the system for first time listeners.
Sorrow and tension pervade every song, but so too does a taut, moving tenderness. Beauty and pain coalescing – does anything better describe Alice in Chains? Begin with Would, Rooster, Down in a Hole and Rain When I Die.
Prepare for an immersive, solemn sound bath of epic proportions.
33. New Order – Power, Corruption, and Lies (1983)
If you are an avid reader you’ll know I covered this album as one of the best album covers of all time, and let me tell you what’s on the inside doesn’t disappoint.
New Order’s synthesizer heavy, luscious vocal laden dark new wave defined a large swathe of eighties culture, and for that alone, they should be considered avant garde innovators.
They captured a certain moody wistfulness while also paying homage to late twentieth century futurism and invention.
“Age of Consent” remains, to my mind, one of the best songs of the decade.
34. Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
Choosing the best Bob Dylan album is, in truth, a fool’s errand: the icon has released 30+ killer records during his tenure.
But I love Highway 61 Revisited for its distinctly American folk sound, perfect for lonesome days on prairie highways or introspective moments in small town coffee counters.
Although it is not a concept album it certainly has a thematic consistency and a certain fidelity to the themes of adventure, wander, curiosity, and the listlessness of modern life.
While “Like a Rolling Stone” gets all the press, “From a Buick 6” and “Ballad of a Thin Man” encapsulate that same wide-open horizon sentiment and charismatic vigor.
35. Massive Attack – Mezzanine (1998)
This groundbreaking album helped bring trip hop, downtempo to the masses with its lush, immersive, atmospheric instrumentals and ambient, echoplex patina.
Academic, urban, and deliciously nonchalant, Mezzanine spawned some of the most iconic, enduring triphop songs in the genre: moody “Black Milk”, tender “Teardrops”, sultry lo-fi rap “Risingson” and industrial “Angel”.
If you want to be the trendiest, most aloof person at the party, throw on some Mezzanine and watch your hipster street cred rise exponentially.
36. The Doors – The Doors (1967)
Has anyone matched the seductive allure and compelling maturity of The Doors, wise prophets far beyond their years?
Their self-titled album charts the dynamism of their sound, from rollicking and atmosphere-heavy “Break on Through” to the atmospheric, hallucinatory “The End” to the jangly, mournful “Light My Fire”.
There is something delicate, and unapologetically strange, about the music of The Doors – it feels like it is grazing the boundary of two worlds, infused with a heady realism and a dizzying dreamscape sensibility.
37. The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream (2014)
A sumptuous wander through a distant reverie – that’s the only way I can describe the magical, elusive, mournful beauty that is The War on Drugs.
Lost in The Dream is an apt name for their mesmerizing acoustics, lead Adam Granduciel’s lush, poignant vocals, and the delicate, ghostly tenor of their music.
There is something ghostly about their work, apparitions of nostalgia and wistful hopes meandering through the intellectual majesty of their tightly constructed, surreal tracks.
When it comes to modern music, I think this will soon be considered one of the best albums of all time, and representative of an emergent, compelling, rare talent.
38. Patti Smith – Horses (1975)
Bohemian rock icon Patti Smith was a poet and an untamed, unbridled dreamer and wanderer above all things, and her songwriting was a testament to her passion for the deepest sentiments of the mind expressed through words.
Her debut Horses was just one stop on a long and storied academic-musical career, and showcases her smoke-tinged, frank vocals and moody, almost spooky, sensibility.
Patti was a renegade then and now, upending expectations of polite, girlish performers with a bohemian, unadulterated candor.
39. The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses (1989)
Madchester legends The Stone Roses are in a class of their own when it comes to Brit Pop: frank, incisive, intrepid, and daring in their musical range and expression.
Their melodies and lyrics are confronting in their raw beauty and emotional vitality. This is lyrical rock that is not for the weak of heart.
This album is one part stunning and one part unforgiving, and a strange tenderness imbues every note, lyric, and transition.
40. The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966)
Sugar-sweet nostalgic summer days and tiki-bar nights – that can only mean one thing, no? The Beach Boys.
The Beach Boys were a distinctly post-war musical experience, powered by bittersweet lyrics and strangely plaintive, rapturous melodies that concealed as much as they revealed.
They seemed to make a nod to the impermanence of the American Golden Age just at the moment of its passing, and that delicate, subtle ambivalence can be parsed in their pithy little numbers.
41. The Lumineers – Cleopatra (2016)
One of the newest records to appear on this list, The Lumineers are a modern band that defies all expectations, mixing wistful luscious folk with some of the most erudite, organic melodies I’ve heard.
Cleopatra works as a concept album, and the singles it spawned are harrowing in their beauty, generosity of spirit, and thoughtful composition.
“Ophelia”, “Angela”, and “Cleopatra” are gems of the modern indie-folk genre and The Lumineers remains one of my ‘bands to watch’ – I’ve heard they are just sumptuous live.
42. The Arctic Monkeys – AM (2013)
Another 21st century addition, I have long said that I think The Arctic Monkeys are one of the best British bands since the Britpop re-emergence in the early nineties.
They are charismatic, plucky, completely original and unperturbed by the conventions of lyrics or sound.
It is not often that a band comes around and you think ‘now, I’ve never heard something quite like this before’ but Arctic Monkeys is that band, and AM is a sturdy introduction to their mind-bendingly creative lyrics and pub-rock gold rock arrangements.
43. Stoned and Dethroned – Jesus and Mary Chain (1994)
Stoned and Dethroned is another iconic offering from my Scottish favorites, Jesus and Mary Chain, and it explored surf-rock, garage, and fizzy noise elements to create a compelling, and seductively original new sound.
Eclipsed by the popularity of Seattle grunge upon its release, it became a cult classic for alternative and Brit rock lovers everywhere, and it established the enduring, quiet power of shoegaze as a genre.
I still consider this multi-track wonder one of the best albums of all time.
44. Bruce Springsteen – The River (1980)
The sultry reigning king of Americana, Springsteen is preternaturally breezy, affable, and awe-inducingly plaintive – his songs contain the sincerity of a gospel through and through.
He weaves tales from the heart, from a place where nostalgia, wistful recollections, unrequited love mingle and coalesce.
A confronting candor imprints itself upon every lyric, every alluring tone, every ruminative chorus: give “The River” and “Hungry Heart” a back to back listen to access the majesty of his thematic range.
45. Rush – Chronicles (1990)
Okay, this might be cheating as Chronicles is something of a compilation of Rush’s most enduring, enchanting, novel-worthy narrative songs since their inception to that point.
But with a band like Rush, whose brilliant scope and creative dynamism boggle the mind, I think it is warranted.
Rush are the sci-fi, comic book, mythological, medieval romanticism geek antiheroes and their cult standing is the stuff of legend in itself.
Chronicles charts the Everest-height peaks that Rush explored in the seventies and eighties, from ten minute high fantasy epics to wistful, poignant melodies to soaring, zingy hits reminiscent of a poprocks high.
46. AC/DC – Back in Black (1980)
No band is more audacious, delightfully macho, and unapologetically crass than Aussie rock king AC/DC.
AC/DC personify the electrical currents that gave the band their name: loud, electric, vital, and dizzying.
Back in Black is a one stop shot of dynamic, pub anthems: “You Shook Me All Night Long”, “Hells Bells” and “Shoot to Thrill” – some of the least pretentious, most vigorous songs to come out of the stadium rock years.
47. Van Halen – Van Halen (1978)
Van Halen’s debut album came like a bolt from the blue and introduced the world to one of the most feisty and feverishly cool rock bands to come out of the 20th century.
Ask the fans – the album sold more than 10 million copies and its zesty, sizzling guitar riffs and sharp pitched vocals stunned listeners then and now.
Eddie Van Halen always ranks up there as one of the best guitar players of all time, demonstrated in the glam, high voltage “Jamie’s Cryin”, “Aint Talkin Bout Love”, and “Runnin’ With the Devil”.
48. The Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks (1977)
Intransigent, cheeky, and audacious, The Sex Pistols came onto the scene with a holler, a middle finger, and an impertinence that shocked polite society.
Their whip-fast riffs, spunky silhouette, and politically rambunctious fare ingratiated them to some, and made them the enemies of many. They didn’t care.
Take away the youthful defiant posturing and you’re left with songs that are plain fun and riveting: “Pretty Vacant”, “God Save the Queen”, and “My Way” – my guilty pleasures, 100% of the time.
49. David Bowie – Let’s Dance (1983)
I love the brazen, fearless sensuality of Bowie – his every song is laced with a chameleon-like mischievousness and sensual delight.
His honeyed voice hypnotizes no matter the occasion, and it is certainly hard to find one album from his canon that shines a little brighter than the rest.
I love his eighties work, it is charming, cheeky, and completely self-possessed all the while losing none of the precocious originality that defines his creative career.
“Let’s Dance” is possibly the best dance song of all time, and “Modern Love” and “China Girl” perfectly reflect his zany, serene, spacious musical formulations.
50. Van Morrison – Moondance (1970)
Northern Irish folk hero Van Morrison is a vocalist with more soul, heart, and spirit packed into his honeyed voice than just about any other artist I know.
His songs were redolent of innocent lazy afternoons, bohemian romantic longing, and the aspirations of a starry-eyed dreamer.
I still consider “Into the Mystic” one of the most languid, beautiful songs of all time, and this album belongs on any top 50 albums list for that reason alone (although there are, I promise, 9 other amazing tracks to pick from).
Best Albums of All Time – Final Thoughts
There you have it, 50 of the most creative, most groundbreaking, very best records of all time.
There’s no excuse for getting into a musical rut – so go forth into the sun and get those records spinning.