Yes, yes I know. Everybody hates Rolling Stone and thinks their Top X lists are full of shit. However, give them this credit – at least they do a Top X list now and again. Back in 2003 – before the world went entirely went down the toilet – RS published their first Top 500 Albums list.
What caught my attention in reading about this is how they said the list is “less rock-oriented.” True, it is but there’s still a hell of a lot of rock. There’s more rap and such, still some jazz, maybe even more jazz. Not sure. I haven’t compared the lists side by side.
Their post says: “Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time was originally published in 2003, with a slight update in 2012. Over the years, it’s been the most widely read — and argued over — feature in the history of the magazine (last year, the RS 500 got over 63 million views on the site).
But no list is definitive — tastes change, new genres emerge, the history of music keeps being rewritten. So we decided to remake our greatest albums list from scratch. To do so, we received and tabulated Top 50 Albums lists from more than 300 artists, producers, critics, and music-industry figures (from radio programmers to label heads, like Atlantic Records CEO Craig Kallman).
The electorate includes Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Billie Eilish; rising artists like H.E.R., Tierra Whack, and Lindsey Jordan of Snail Mail; as well as veteran musicians, such as Adam Clayton and the Edge of U2, Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan, Gene Simmons, and Stevie Nicks.
Of course, it could still be argued that embarking on a project like this is increasingly difficult in an era of streaming and fragmented taste. But that was part of what made rebooting the RS 500 fascinating and fun; 86 of the albums on the list are from this century, and 154 are new additions that weren’t on the 2003 or 2012 versions. The classics are still the classics, but the canon keeps getting bigger and better.”
Back in 2003, The Top Ten looked like this;
10 – White Album – Beatles
9 – Blonde on Blonde – Bob Dylan
8 – London Calling – The Clash
7 – Exile on Main Street – Rolling Stones
6 – What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
5 – Rubber Soul – Beatles
4 – Highway 61 Revisited – Bob Dylan
3 – Revolver – Beatles
2 – Pet Sounds – Beach Boys
1 – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – Beatles.
Below is the new Top Ten. Pet Sounds and What’s Going On are the only two that stayed in the Top Ten. The Beatles went from four albums to one. Sgt. Pepper? Not only not number one, at #24, not even in the Top Twenty. Lo, how the mighty have fallen.
My beloved At Fillmore East by the Allmans? A drop from 49 to 105 probably signaling the lack of long-term influence of “Southern Rock” as anything else. If it drops any further I’ll have to recognize it for the piece of shit it must actually be and throw it in the garbage.
And I’m bummed out that Exile – simply the greatest rock album of all time – is now #14. Anyway, here’s the new list:
10 – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
9 – Blood on the Tracks – Bob Dylan**
8 – Purple Rain – Prince and the Revolution**
7 – Rumours – Fleetwood Mac**
6 – Nevermind – Nirvana**
5- Abbey Road – Beatles**
4 – Songs in the Key of Life – Stevie Wonder**
3 – Blue – Joni Mitchell
2 – Pet Sounds – Beach Boys
1 – What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye**
Just going by those two lists what do I think? Well, it’s not the list I would have come up with for a Top Ten. But I put a couple of **’s next to the ones I really like.
And I’m sure the 500 have quite a few albums that just don’t interest me. But all that said, yes, times and tastes change. And I’m well aware that rock is not and has not been for some time now the force that it used to be.
It does not make those albums any less great – it just means that some great, celebrated albums have been released for a new generation and those should be recognized. “It’s every generation,” says Paul Simon on the Graceland album (#46) – “throws a hero up the pop charts.” Time for new heroes.
But I will also say this – those albums that I love whether Beatles or Allmans or Stones still sound great and I still get a lot of enjoyment out of them. But I also think I’m long overdue to give Ms. Lauryn Hill a spin. At least.