Lists on Lists on Lists

Ballots for the third "Rolling Stone" inventory of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time


As most of my little world is aware, Rolling Stone has just published its third 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. I wasn’t part of the first two. But in 2020 I was already relistening in my compulsively responsible way when the Stone solons threw in a sweetener by beefing up an electorate that can always use more women by adding the great lost rock critic Carola Dibbell to the rolls. Soon Carola’s requests were crowding my own checkouts and Consumer Guide work, a process that toward the end of this supremely enjoyable research climaxed one non-TV living room evening as we finally got to two marginal candidates from punk-era Britain: Wire’s Pink Flag and Eno’s Another Green World. Life has a way of cutting into our listening as concentration ebbs and flows. But this time we both sat spellbound with an occasional comment, loving every track as we realized that while Wire’s stripped, harsh art-punk intensity and Eno’s fond, quiet pastoral technophilia seem diametrical in principle, both respond to the punk moment with minimalist restraint, a spare lyricism of tunelets. So the two longshots meshed, with the Eno ending up in both of our Stone top 50s but the Wire in mine only, because loving more than 50 albums is a way of life around here. Moreover, both finished in Stone’s 500, Wire at 310 and Eno at 338.

I don’t know how the bizzers and artists Stone dragoons into its surveys compile their lists. It’s as hard to believe that any of them relisten systematically as that any of them can resist hyping their own personal and professional connections. Criticism has its limitations too, of course, and I’m sure plenty of my fellow pros rely too much on dim fond memories and ingrained ideological prejudices when they compile their best. I’m not about to analyze or hold forth at length about the list beyond three notes. 1) Only one of the collective top 10—What’s Going OnPet SoundsBlueSongs in the Key of LifeAbbey RoadNevermindRumoursPurple RainBlood on the TracksThe Miseducation of Lauryn Hill—made my top 50, with Blue the winner and the Beach Boys, Hill, and especially poll-topping Gaye picks not even sure A’s by me, though it’s time for me to relisten to Hill again and think about a grade for Pet Sounds, which I’ve never fallen for or written about. 2) I’m replaying the poll-topping What’s Going On as I write and as happens every fucking time I give it another chance am tuning out as the strings of the otherwise obscure David Van De Pitte swallow such mediocre songs as “Flyin’ High” and “Right On.” “What’s Going On,” “Mercy Mercy Me,” “Inner City Blues”? Stone masterpieces, all three—brilliant and even earth-shaking, I mean it. The rest? Well-meant filler. 3) I am pleased to see that the initially rather overhyped and now way underrated Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band finished at 24. Our lists shared 25 albums and eight additional artist duplications—not only does she prefer Rubber Soul to Sgt. Pepper, but we both listed different early U.S.-only Beatles albums that a scan of the Stone list suggests didn’t finish there, she the Meet the Beatles debut she and her Radcliffe pals danced in their rooms to, me The Beatles’ Second Album I bought at Korvettes.

But although aware that my readership would be delighted if I went on about this statistical artifact, I won’t. Life is too short; I have shoulder surgery scheduled for next week and plenty of fine if not all-time-great albums to sum up for the October Consumer Guide before I’m disabled in ways I can’t anticipate (although I’m assured that typing will come soon). So instead I will provide the one thing much of my readership craves more if not a lot more than my prose: LISTS.

First the obvious stuff: my top 50 with methodological prologue, Carola’s top 50 stark naked, and then—ta-dah!—a worklist of our listening adventures. Both top 50s, as my prologue explains, are now alphabetical by artist, although Carola’s ballot did list the first 10 in an order she prefers to keep private for reasons I don’t altogether understand. The third list catalogues the albums we checked out, although because it was conceived as a reminder not a record there are certainly omissions—sometimes we’d just think of something, pull it out, and decide it wasn’t a candidate for the cut without my writing it down. Note too that all three lists are bedecked with boldface Ls. L means we listened to the record so bedecked, but I can’t imagine I got every one—although I’m certain that we didn’t have time for such lifetime faves as Omona WapiFuneral Dress, our most-played of all time Have Moicy!, and M.I.A.’s still-brilliant-even-if-she’s-now-an-anti-vaxxer-nut Kala, which remains my favorite album of the current century. To avoid the tedious labor of formatting the text, in all three lists I’ve been inconsistent about the italics I’m generally punctilious about. These are worksheets, folks—enjoy or ignore as you prefer.


Although Sgt. Pepper comes first below, my list is not arranged in order of preference, an impossible task piled on the impossible task of picking 50 albums to begin with. Instead it’s arranged alphabetically by artist. So assuming you’re assigning numerical values to our selections, mine should all get the same number. Let me add that I assume you’re not so foolish as to go 50 down to 1; 100 down to 51 would make much more sense, because we obviously don’t like our favorite 50 times as much as the one that squeaked in last though we may like it twice as much. Let me also add that I've avoided best-ofs except when the artist was a “singles” rather than an “album” artist—a ‘50s artist, that usually means, with half an exception for James Brown and a full one for the multiple heroines of Rhino’s immortal Girl Group Greats comp. I also chose not to name any artist more than twice, with half an exception for John Lennon.

The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band L

The Beatles, The Beatles’ Second Album L

Chuck Berry, The Definitive Collection L

Blondie, Parallel Lines L

James Brown, Star Time L

The Clash, The Clash

Culture, Two Sevens Clash

DeBarge, In a Special Way L

DJ Shadow, Endtroducing DJ Shadow

Bob Dylan, “Love and Theft” L

Bob Dylan & the Band, The Basement Tapes L

Eminem, The Marshall Mathers Album

Eno, Another Green World L

The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace of Sin

Franco & Rochereau, Omona Wapi (Shanachie version)

Girl Group Greats L

Gogol Bordello, Super Taranta! L

Grateful Dead, Workingman’s Dead L

Al Green, I’m Still in Love With You L

Guitar Paradise of East Africa L

Michael Hurley/The Unholy Modal Rounders/Jeffrey Fredricks & the Clamtones, Have Moicy!

The Indestructible Beat of Soweto L

Latin Playboys, Latin Playboys

John Lennon, Plastic Ono Band L

Jerry Lee Lewis, “Live” at the Star Club, Hamburg L

Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III

Little Richard, The Very Best of . . . Little Richard L

M.I.A., Kala

Joni Mitchell, Blue L

Van Morrison, Moondance L

New York Dolls, New York Dolls

Orchestra Baobab, Specialist in All Styles L

Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back L

Ramones, Rocket to Russia L

Otis Redding, The Immortal Otis Redding L

The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street L

The Rolling Stones, The Rolling Stones, Now! L

The Roots, How I Got Over L

The Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols L

The Shirelles, The Very Best of the Shirelles (Rhino)

Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation L

Dusty Springfield, Dusty in Memphis L

Steely Dan, Pretzel Logic L

Television, Marquee Moon

The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground L

Kanye West, Late Registration L

Wire, Pink Flag L

Wussy, Funeral Dress

Neil Young, After the Gold Rush L

Tom Zé, Brazil Classics 4: The Best of Tom Zé L


The Beach Boys, Wild Honey L

The Beatles, Meet the Beatles  L

The Beatles, Rubber Soul L

Chuck Berry, St. Louis to Liverpool L

Blondie, Parallel Lines L

James Brown, Star Time L

The Clash, London Calling

Miles Davis, Kind of Blue L

DeBarge, In a Special Way L

Derek & the Dominoes, Layla L

Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks L

Bob Dylan, “Love and Theft” L

Brian Eno, Another Green World L

Aretha Franklin, Aretha Now L

Marvin Gaye, Here, My Dear L

Girl Group Greats (Rhino) L

Grateful Dead, Workingman’s Dead L

Al Green, Call Me L

Michael Hurley/Unholy Modal Rounders/Jeffrey Fredrick & the Clamtones,

Have Moicy

Latin Playboys, Latin Playboys L

Madonna, The Immaculate Collection L

M.I.A., Kala

Mekons, OOOH L

The Best of the Memphis Jug Band (Yazoo) L

Joni Mitchell, Blue L

Moldy Peaches, Moldy Peaches L

Van Morrison, Moondance L

Willie Nelson, Stardust

New York Dolls, New York Dolls

Randy Newman Twelve Songs L

Prince, Sign O the Times L

John Prine, John Prine L

Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back L

The Ramones, Ramones L

Otis Redding, The Immortal Otis Redding L

The Rolling Stones, Let it Bleed L

The Rolling Stones, Rolling Stones, Now! L

The Roots, How I Got Over

Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols L

Sonic Youth, Thousand Leaves L

Dusty Springfield, Dusty in Memphis

Steely Dan, Katy Lied L

Television, Marquee Moon

Velvet Underground, Velvet Underground L

Kanye West, Late Registration L

Lucinda Williams, Sweet Old World L

Wussy, Funeral Dress

Neil Young, After the Gold Rush L

Tom Ze, Brazil Classics 4: The Best of Tom Ze L


Al Green, Call Me L

Amy Rigby, Diary of a Mod Housewife L

Aretha Franklin, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You L

Aretha Franklin, Spirit in the Dark L

Beach Boys, Wild Honey L

Bille Eilish, When We Fall Asleep Where Do We Go? L

Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan L

Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited L

Bob Marley & the Wailers, Exodus L

Bob Marley & the Wailers, Legend L

Brian Wilson, SMiLe L

Bruce Springsteen, Born in the U.S.A. L

Buddy Holly, The Buddy Holly Collection L

Chuck Berry, St. Lous to Liverpool L

Congotronics 2 L

Cornershop  When I was Born for the 7th Time L

David Bowie, Station to Station L

Derek & the Dominoes, Layla L

Elvis Presley, The Sun Sessions L

Etoile de Dakar, Volume 1: Abba Gueye L

Funkadelic, One Nation Under a Groove L

Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, The Message L

Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced?

Jimi Hendrix Experience, Electric Ladyland L

Howard Tate: Get It While You Can: The Best of Howard Tate L

John Prine, In Spite of Ourselves L

John Prine, John Prine L

John Prine, Sweet Revenge L

Kanye West, The College Dropout L

Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Dancer With Bruised Knees

Laurie Anderson, Heart of a Dog L

Leonard Cohen, Live in London

Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville L

Lou Reed, The Blue Mask L

Lucinda Williams, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road L

Lucinda Williams, Sweet Old World L

Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Manfred Mann's Earth Band L

Marvin Gaye, Here My Dear L

Michael Jackson, Off the Wall L

Michael Jackson, Thriller L

Miles Davis, Jack Johnson L

Mott the Hoople, All the Young Dudes L

Neil Young, Tonight's the Night L

Ornette Coleman, Of Human Feelings

Otis & Carla, King and Queen L

Parliament, Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Suystem L

Prince, Dirty Mind L

Prince, Sign `O' the Times L

Public Enemy, Fear of a Black Planet L

Ramones, Ramones L

Randy Newman, Dark Matter L

Randy Nemwman, Good Old Boys L

Randy Newman, Harps and Angels L

Randy Newman, 12 Songs L

Steely Dan, Katy Lied L

Talking Heads, Remain in Light

The Beach Boys, Wild Honey L

The Beatles, Meet the Beatles L

The Go-Betweens, Tallulah L

The Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs

The Mekons, Fear and Whiskey L

The Mekons, OOOH! L

The Moldy Peaches, The Moldy Peaches L

The Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed L

The Rough Guide to the Music of the Sahara L

The Velvet Underground  Loaded

The Wailers, Burnin' L

Todd Snider, Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3 L

Tricky, Maxinquaye

Willie Nelson, Stardust

X, Wild Gift L

Youssou N'Dour, Rokku Mi Rakka L