We’re now over halfway, and I think the list is finally mostly predictable from here on out. This group of 50 was probably the most frustrating when you consider what classics couldn’t make the top 200 and which albums ended up right in front of them (Dixie Chicks one spot ahead of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot???) Rolling Stone’s biases against electronic music has not improved at all with possibly the two greatest albums of the entire genre appearing here.
Artists that I predict will have 4+ albums in the top 200:
- The Beatles — Could be 7 but will definitely be 5 in the top 40 or so.
- Bob Dylan — Freewheelin’ ended up much lower than expected, but he at least has four coming up and possibly five.
- The Rolling Stones — This band has four classics which will all be high.
- Led Zeppelin — If 2012 is a good indicator, there will be 4 from Zep.
- Bruce Springsteen — Two from the ’80s and two from the ’70s, Springsteen will have four.
- David Bowie — Bowie surely has improved his critical stance at Rolling Stone, even if Low hasn’t. There’s still five of his classics that haven’t shown up.
- Bob Marley — He has not shown up on the list at all, but I can’t imagine Bob Marley has lost that much critical attention since 2012 when he had four in the top 200.
Greatest Hit Compilations & Live Reissues
- Patsy Cline – The Ultimate Collection
- Ray Charles – The Birth of Soul
- Sam Cooke – Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963
47. Derek and the Dominoes – Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970) — Between Cream, Derek and the Dominoes, and his solo work, Eric Clapton has always been all over Rolling Stone’s list. This is his first inclusion, and at least a good sign Clapton is being knocked down a peg.
46. Green Day – American Idiot (2004) — If you remember, Green Day were supposedly done before this album came out — a ’90s fad supposed to fade out in the 21st century. This album was a commercial resurgence, but has way too many detractors to be this high on the list.
45. Dixie Chicks – Fly (1999) — I understand that Dixie Chicks are relatively punk for what they said about the Iraq War, but none of that spirit is reflected in their stale country music.
44. LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out (1991) — If LL has to be on the list, Radio makes much more sense. By ’91, he already sounded like a fossil working with mid-’80s tactics.
43. Oasis – Definitely Maybe (1994) — For a new inclusion, this one’s pretty inessential. Why not just listen to What’s the Story (Morning Glory)?
42. Metallica – Metallica (The Black Album) (1991) — This is Metallica’s most popular album by a wide margin, but that doesn’t make it better than their ’80s work.
41. Eagles – Eagles (1972) — Eagles are interesting in this list — on one hand, younger people don’t care all too much about them, but on the other hand, after Glenn Frey’s death, Eagles received a lot more critical attention. This album ended up a lot higher than in 2012.
40. John Lennon – Imagine (1970) — Despite Rolling Stone’s insistence, John Lennon did not make the best solo Beatles work.
39. Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young — Deja Vu (1970) — There was only one CSNY album when Neil Young was at his peak, so I understand its significance in that way, but the music just isn’t all that great.
38. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter III (2008) — This one is tough because it might only be Lil Wayne’s fifth best full-length within a classic five-year span. It was his commercial peak, so I understand its high placement.
37. Madonna – Ray of Light (1998) — This Madonna album is also on the edge for me along with Like a Prayer. She made a lot of really good albums, but there are other pop albums that were more exciting.
36. Kanye West – Graduation (2007) — I haven’t seen a critic place this one in front of Yeezus or even 808s in a while, but you have to remember that this is mostly a popularity contest. Every single off this album did well.
35. Whitney Houston – Whitney Houston (1985) — Houston is a beloved figure without many great albums, but this one comes closest.
34. Tom Petty – Wildflowers (1994) — This ended up Petty’s highest-ranking album, and it’s certainly his best post-’70s release.
33. Cat Stevens – Tea for the Tillerman (1970) — Honestly, I was completely in the dark on how popular some of Cat Stevens’ work is, particularly “Wild World” and “Father and Son” from this album.
32. Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine (1992) — The spirit of RATM is more influential than their music, and their debut would sneak into my 500, if at all.
31. Tori Amos – Little Earthquakes (1992) — It’s nice to see Amos on the list after not appearing in 2012, but top 250 is a stretch.
30. Grateful Dead – American Beauty (1970) — This is the best Grateful Dead studio album, but that was never their strength.
29. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Damn the Torpedoes (1979) — If you want classic Tom Petty front-to-back, this is certainly the one.
28. The Zombies – Odessey and Oracle (1968) — The best work here ranks up with the best of the ’60s, and the rest of the album holds up well enough.
27. Massive Attack – Blue Lines (1991) — It came before Mezzanine, so I understand it being treated as the more essential work, but it also carries some of the amateurish flaws that would not appear in their later work.
26. Little Richard – Here’s Little Richard (1957) — This album’s an essential document of early rock and roll, but I’m also a bit glad to see it out of the top 50.
25. Black Sabbath – Master of Reality (1971) — For the second-best album put out by this band in 1971, it’s still astounding heavy metal that’s better than all of its contemporaries.
24. Willie Nelson – Red Headed Stranger (1975) — I thought that Nelson’s beloved stature was due more to his persona until I heard this classic, quite possibly the greatest country album.
23. Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak (2008) — Much is written about this album’s influence, but its main draw are the hidden classics in the back half of the album.
22. Buzzcocks – Singles Going Steady (1979) — This compilation counts for inclusion because its mostly non-album singles and was also the first North American release. Their power pop was some of the best of all time.
21. TLC – CrazySexyCool (1994) — If you can praise this list for anything, it’s the better treatment of ’90s/’00s pop & r&b. Though it’s not perfect, it’s a huge step in the right direction.
20. Rihanna – ANTI (2016) — At first, ANTI was treated like the stepping stone to something greater, but as time has passed, it has rightfully been praised as a classic.
19. De La Soul – De La Soul Is Dead (1991) — A De La Soul album appearing here that isn’t 3 Feet High and Rising was a long time coming. De La Soul has one of the most underrated discographies in rap and all of music.
18. A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders (1993) — There’s debate over which ATCQ album is second-best involving this one and People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. There’s a good chance the latter doesn’t make it at all, which would make it one of the most baffling exclusions.
17. Run-DMC – Raising Hell (1986) — This album’s so much better than the Aerosmith duet suggests.
16. Sade – Love Deluxe (1992) — Sade’s treatment on this list will be interesting. Love Deluxe being the highest-rated and only inclusion wouldn’t be shocking, but it would also be a massive disservice to their legacy.
15. Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… (1995) — This isn’t the best solo Wu-Tang album as Rolling Stone suggests (Supreme Clientele), but it ends up about where it needs to on this list.
14. John Coltrane – Giant Steps (1960) — This is another jazz album that has dropped over 100 spots since 2012, so jazz is not going to be properly represented in the top 200 — not even close.
13. Boogie Down Productions – Criminal Minded (1987) — Even for being just outside of he top 200 albums all time, there are still 13 albums that appear in this group way too low. For one of the greatest early hip-hop albums, the top 200 is a given.
12. Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas (1990) — Slowly but surely, this album gains more critical attention as it goes from not making it in 2012 to the top 250.
11. The Velvet Underground – Loaded (1970) — One VU album out of the top 200 is acceptable, but two is an outrage. This is especially true for Loaded, which dropped over 100 spots from 2012.
10. Nick Drake – Pink Moon (1972) — Despite the songs’ runtimes and minimalist arrangements, the album is anything but minor as one of the greatest folk albums of all time. Strong contender for the top 100.
9. Elliott Smith – Either/Or (1997) — Smith had shockingly never appeared on the Rolling Stone list until now, and his best work ends up way too low with XO and others left off entirely, presumably.
8. Nina Simone – Wild Is the Wind (1966) — The Philips Records run is one of the greatest album runs of any artist all-time. There should be a few albums from that era represented, but this might be it.
7. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel… (2012) — Apple’s treatment on this list is still up in the air — do they include anything from the ’90s? No matter all that, this should be much higher as her best work.
6. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures (1979) — Rolling Stone has decreed that Joy Division is a band that shouldn’t have any album in the top 200, despite both of their albums being top-100 worthy.
5. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) — ’00s rock has been shat on in this list. Disregarding everything that won’t make it, Funeral, In Rainbows, For Emma Forever Ago, and Sound of Silver are all incredibly low. YHF being this high I guess is a compliment.
4. Björk – Homogenic (1997) — If you’re reading this, you probably know how beloved Björk is among most music critics in 2020. Now think about what kind of crowd you have to ask to participate to keep this album out of the top 200.
3. Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express (1977) — I have little patience for Kraftwerk disrespect. How are you going to make an all-time list that only features one Kraftwerk album and it can’t make the top 200 unless you just really don’t care about electronic music?
2. David Bowie – Low (1977) — Yeah, expecting Low to finally be treated like one of the greatest albums of all time because Bowie’s critical attention has risen dramatically was probably a pipe dream.
1. Daft Punk – Discovery (2001) — This might be top 10 for me. There is quite simply no better collection of post-disco synth pop. I thought for sure Daft Punk is at a place to make some noise on this list, but alas, Rolling Stone has dramatically failed electronic music.