We’ve reached the top 100, and the albums that will be left off are becoming clearer with each group. I’ll probably make a whole list of albums that should be included or just go ahead and put out a whole list of the 500 greatest albums that feels a little more accurate. In the meantime, I’ll just rank the albums from 150-101 — a group that somehow has the same space for Eagles and Television.
- Hank Williams – 40 Greatest Hits
- Madonna – The Immaculate Collection
48. Eagles – Hotel California (1976) — The title track is overplayed but is one of their best. Other than that, this album is nowhere near good enough for inclusion.
47. Adele – 21 (2011) — Albums that sell millions of copies will almost always be overrated because they earn a level of gravitas that we feel have to honor. 21 is merely just a good album.
46. Queen – A Night at the Opera (1975) — Queen is a singles band and that extends to even their most revered album.
45. The Clash – The Clash (1977) — Their early punk wasn’t as infectious as Ramones, and London Calling makes this a distant 2nd-best in their discography.
44. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin (1969) — Their debut might be the worst of their classic-six-album run to start their career.
43. Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP (2000) — This is the only Eminem album I would consider including, but there are still some duds to sit through.
42. Mary J. Blige – My Life (1994) — Blige’s first two albums are about equal in my mind. Maybe more listens will separate one from the other. They’re both borderline top 500.
41. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II (1969) — It’s clear I don’t love Led Zeppelin like this list does. This one is fourth in their discography for me and would probably be left off if I was being more critical.
40. Van Morrison – Moondance (1970) — It’s nowhere near the classic that Astral Weeks is, as this list suggests, but it’s a pleasant folk classic that’s great all the way through.
39. Bruce Springsteen – Born in the U.S.A. (1984) — Springsteen’s other 3 albums in the top 150 are a major step above Born in the U.S.A.
38. The Allman Brothers Band – At Fillmore East (1971) — Some bands had to get their classic through the live setting; the Allman Brothers Band were that case.
37. Blondie – Parallel Lines (1978) — The cultural significance of Blondie and the two huge singles off this album have made Parallel Lines seem better and bigger than what it is. It’s still a great album but just not 146th all time.
36. Pink Floyd – The Wall (1979) — The pretentiousness of it all can distract many listeners from how great the music often is here.
35. U2 – The Joshua Tree (1987) — This album was 27th in 2012, so U2 has lost quite a bit of critical love since then. It should drop even lower if we’re being honest.
34. John Prine – John Prine (1971) — His recent passing has spurred a reevaluation of Prine’s work, resulting in this classic debut finally making the list all the way in the top 150.
33. Fugees – The Score (1996) — Classic albums always benefit by coming from acts that only offered one in their short time together. The Score came at a critical development of conscious hip-hop after the Native Tongues dominance.
32. Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral (1994) — Industrial rock experts may argue that other albums and acts are better, but there is certainly no bigger album for the genre.
31. Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973) — When you grow up only hearing Elton John through his overplayed singles on the radio, you can be blown away at how legitimately great this album is.
30. Ray Charles – Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (1962) — This album has the awkward place of representing Charles on the list, even though the sound of this album is a bit of an anomaly for him.
29. Elvis Costello & the Attractions – This Year’s Model (1978) — This is Costello’s best album by far, so it’s good to see that this list agrees.
28. U2 – Achtung Baby (1991) — Front-to-back, Achtung Baby has the best collection of U2 songs.
27. Jeff Buckley – Grace (1994) — “Hallelujah” hangs over the whole album, but Buckley had a particular brand of post-rock balladry that has never been replicated since.
26. Portishead – Dummy (1994) — The two Massive Attack classics might have split the votes to make Dummy the highest-ranking trip hop album, but it probably is the best anyway.
25. Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti (1975) — This one stands above nearly every other Zeppelin album because of its sheer scope and range of material.
24. Joni Mitchell – Hejira (1976) — Mitchell only had two albums on the 2012 list, and I forgot that this one should make it as well alongside The Hissing of Summer Lawns.
23. The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers (1971) — This is a classic wedged between the release of two bigger classics; it had to be great to stand on its own, and that’s what it does.
22. Bob Marley & the Wailers – Catch a Fire (1973) — I was wondering when Bob Marley would show up considering he had five inclusions in 2012. This might be his best album, and certainly the greatest representation of his early sound.
21. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city (2012) — To Pimp a Butterfly made some of Lamar’s work here sound a bit amateurish by comparison, but it’s still already a rap classic.
20. Fiona Apple – When the Pawn… (1999) — Seeing Extraordinary Machine make the list had me thinking Fiona Apple might get three or more albums on here; I didn’t expect to see this in the top 150 though.
19. Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska (1982) — The consensus is finally forming around this being the best ’80s Springsteen album.
18. Prince – 1999 (1982) — Everyone began to knew Prince through the maximalist pop vision on this album.
17. Lou Reed – Transformer (1972) — I’m surprised that this is the only Lou Reed album on the list, but at the same time, it’s far and away his most popular.
16. Hole – Live Through This (1994) — This one takes a massive leap from #460 to nearly the top 100, and I pretty much agree with it.
15. Kanye West – Late Registration (2005) — The only surprise here is that The College Dropout will end up in front of this superior sequel.
14. Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE (2012) — I expect Blonde to show up in the top 100 considering what else from the 2010s has made it; I have my doubts though.
13. Joni Mitchell – Court and Spark (1974) — This is the most accessible of Mitchell’s work and justifiably ranked second of her albums. Blue could be top 10.
12. Sly and the Family Stone – Stand! (1969) — 1969 for the Sly and the Family Stone was one of the most creative and important years for any act throughout pop history.
11. De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising (1989) — This one’s obvious — one of the greatest hip-hop debuts ever.
10. Black Sabbath – Paranoid (1970) — This album didn’t invent heavy metal, but it’s the greatest and most important one in the genre. I expect Master of Puppets to be in the top 100 as the highest ranked heavy metal album.
9. Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989) — The Beastie Boys downplay the significance of this album because it didn’t sell well, but the use of samples in this album changed the whole game.
8. The Cure – Disintegration (1989) — This will be the only Cure album on the list, but it’s a lot higher than where it was in 2012.
7. The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead (1986) — A theme with this list is a lot of alternative acts having fewer albums included than in 2012. The Smiths go from four in 2012 to just this one.
6. The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground (1969) — Going from #316 as the last Velvet Underground album to #143 is I guess worth celebrating, but this one’s top 100 easily.
5. Janet Jackson – Control (1986) — Going from unranked to this high is quite a change of pace in the critical love for Janet Jackson, and it’s absolutely deserved.
4. Pixies – Doolittle (1989) — There were a lot of ’80s classics stuffed into this group, and this one’s the best of them all; one of the greatest alt-rock albums ever and in my top 50.
3. The Strokes – Is This It (2001) — It feels like if they redid the list just a few years ago, this would’ve made the top 100. ’00s rock really took a tumble overall on this list.
2. Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (1971) — Quite possibly the greatest funk rock album of all time, Maggot Brain goes from barely in the top 500 to #136. It should be much higher.
1. Television – Marquee Moon (1977) — This album remains essentially unmoved from the 2012 list; it’s still a critical darling as the greatest bullshit-free rock album ever made — just eight perfect songs from a band that seemed only capable of these eight.