Off Topic Messages

Rolling Stone Publishes '500 Greatest Albums' List

Mon Jan 02, 2006 12:27 am

Rolling Stone magazine recently released their “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time” feature, an online-exclusive article (that requires MacroMedia Flash). Presumably it’s a distillation rather than a copy of their book of the same name, and unfortunately it does not list the criteria used to determine this ranking. The top fifteen looks as follows:

1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The Beatles
2. Pet Sounds (1966), The Beach Boys
3. Revolver (1966), The Beatles
4. Highway 61 Revisited (1965), Bob Dylan
5. Rubber Soul (1965), The Beatles
6. What’s Going On (1971), Marvin Gaye
7. Exile on Main Street (1972), The Rolling Stones
8. London Calling (1979), The Clash
9. Blonde on Blonde (1966), Bob Dylan
10. The Beatles (1968), The Beatles
11. The Sun Sessions (1976), Elvis Presley
12. Kind of Blue (1959), Miles Davis
13. The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967), The Velvet Underground
14. Abbey Road (1969), The Beatles
15. Are You Experienced? (1967), The Jimi Hendrix Experience

[Elvis made the list three times, with The Sun Sessions (1976) at #11, Elvis Presley (1956) at #55, and From Elvis in Memphis (1969) at #190.]

Reading the list, scrupulous readers will no doubt ask the same inevitable question: Does Sgt. Pepper’s still deserve the top slot after all this time?

Amidst describing “Penny Lane,” recorded during the album’s sessions, Ian MacDonald, author of Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties, writes: “Anyone unlucky enough not to have been aged between 14 and 30 during 1966-7 will never know the excitement of those years in popular culture.” Unfortunately, I am one of the unlucky, and as such, I find it difficult to answer the question posed. Still, while it is The Beatles’ most notable achievement from a technical standpoint (and this is one of those rare cases where you have to read about – rather than listen to – the music to truly appreciate the effort that went into making the album), clearly its predecessor Revolver is superior aesthetically. It covers similar ground as Pepper’s albeit perhaps not to the same revolutionary extent, but it does so far more pleasingly, and as result the album has aged far more gracefully.

It is for this reason that one has to question how and why these albums were selected and ranked. One must suspect that those who compiled the list relied largely on previous accounts and reviews, rather than starting with a clean slate and exploring artists’ catalogues as a whole. This is clearly the case with Elvis. From Elvis in Memphis is generally regarded as one of his (and Rock’s) best, and yet it ranks only at #190. Clearly something is amiss when one of the best albums by one of the best artists not only doesn’t make it into the top twenty, but barely makes it into the top two hundred. Another classic, Elvis Is Back!, isn’t even on the list, and the one album that does rank near the top, The Sun Sessions, isn’t even an original. Elvis Presley makes a decent showing (#55) and it probably ranks as high as it does because it’s his first, but its sequel Elvis and the first two Gold(en) Records volumes are superior collections of music, with Elvis (1956) in particular having been recorded for such a purpose almost in its entirety over three days (and thus better fitting the traditional album-mold).

It also seems as if the authors relied on individual songs placed on an album rather than the album as a whole to make their selections. This can be seen in the fifty-six point difference between Help! (1965), ranked at #332, and A Hard Day’s Night (1964), at #388. While the former may have had a selection of songs that was more forward-looking (“Ticket to Ride”) and lyric-heavy (“Help!”) than the latter, the album as a whole doesn’t hold together nearly as well. The 1964 album is a far greater achievement for the band, being the first (and ultimately only) to consist of only Lennon-McCartney compositions, and its individual songs hold together far better sonically. And while it doesn’t have a hit as great as “Yesterday,” it does have a famous hit in “Can’t Buy Me Love,” without having to resort to filler like “Act Naturally.” [As a side note, the “humbling” footnote in the album’s description that it was recorded in one day is inaccurate.] The Beatles (1968) ranks at #10, despite being a mess of an album. It goes from brilliant (“Blackbird,” “Julia,” etc.) to terrible (“Wild Honey Pie”) in the span of two sides, and most listeners agree that the contents should have been reduced from four sides to two. As such, while it may have had a number of great songs, it’s not a great album, and should not have placed as high on the list as it did. [I suspect someone here will reply that the list is compiled by “the Beatles-generation” and is thus Beatle-biased, but then I ask you, where was the Elvis-generation in the Eighties?]

Lists like these, and their poll-counterparts, are extremely common, and as such, the point of this thread was not necessarily to discuss the actual albums on the list and the place they achieved. (Although such a discussion is certainly welcome!) The point I wanted to make was that lists like these need to be approached with a fresh outlook. For Beatles or even Rock neophytes, Sgt. Pepper’s' achievement on lists like these is entirely unclear, and the description given on the site doesn’t enlighten. I’m always amused by items on the ElvisNews website reporting on polls on which Elvis placed. If he’s at the top, all the responses there cheer for our man, as the list was clearly an indication of irrefutable quality. As soon as he does not make #1, however, all the people (and occasionally, things) that scored above him are deemed rubbish and the makers of the list moronic. The same goes for lists that Elvis has yet to win in and threads are made on this board to rally up votes. Even when it’s not entirely clear why Elvis should win, everyone dutifully goes to the site and votes. This completely spoils the point of having a poll, since it’s no longer a clear representation of the item being polled, but rather a biased popularity contest.

The point then is not to vote with knee-jerk reactions, but re-think why those picks made the list in the first place. It’s entirely possible – even likely – that Sgt. Pepper’s deserves to be at #1, but editors and readers alike need to place it there because they feel it has irrefutable qualities that no other album does, and not because it may have placed near or at the top in the past.

We were talking about the space between us all
And people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion
Never glimpse the truth…

Mon Jan 02, 2006 1:34 am

The Number 1 album of all time, and 5 Albums in the top 15 of the "500 Greatest Albums Of All Time" :lol:

Not bad for a little 4 piece beat combo from Liverpool, England....who can't sing, can't play, and can't do anything else right according to a some of the idiot's on here.........lmao

Rock on "The Beatles"

Mon Jan 02, 2006 4:54 am

Sgt. Pepper is so f***ing overrated.

Imo, it's not the the band's best collection of original songs.

Rubber Soul and the Help! UK album (and what Paul did on Revolver) outclass the silly-for-the-most-part material Pepper has.

Harrison's stuff is...to quote Paul: "Indian music...boring."


but oh that magical maestro George Martin - without him,
Pepper would be nothing but a busy album cover to stare at.

Mon Jan 02, 2006 5:08 am

ur really going out on a limb making Pepper #1 ohhh mighty and powerful Rolling Stone! what a hell of a shock that is..


Revolver is clearly a superior album.

Mon Jan 02, 2006 9:12 am

I've always been partial to the early Beatles, and to this day, one of my all time fav discs, hands down, the UK PLEASE PLEASE ME...

Mon Jan 02, 2006 12:27 pm

As I sit here typing, I am listening to the superb vocal on Any Day Now with my new Sennheiser headphones, and have just enjoyed the brilliant Gentle on My Mind. I like a number of albums on that list, but none feature songs that come close to the stunning performances on From Elvis in Memphis. By comparison, they leave me cold. I really don't care how groundbreaking or different those albums were at the time. Elvis singing in Memphis 1969 is timeless and deserves a much higher place.

Mon Jan 02, 2006 2:45 pm

Kylan wrote
Revolver is clearly a superior album.

I agree to a certain degree- lol.........Rubber Soul is also a superior album........But i think they also mean in the context of how influential Sgt Pepper has been.

TJ wrote
Elvis singing in Memphis 1969 is timeless and deserves a much higher place.

Agreed

Mon Jan 02, 2006 6:39 pm

What a hippy list. 7 out of the top 10 are from the 60's???

Frank Sinatra-Only the Lonely (NOWHERE???)

Black Sabbath-Paranoid 130
Pink Floyd-Dark Side Of the Moon (NOWHERE??????)
Led Zeppelin-Led Zeppelin IV-66
Van Halen-Van Halen 415
KISS-Alive! 159(album sales are not @#$%^&&&& 500,000??????)
Sex Pistols-Never Mind the Bullocks 41
the Who-Who's Next 28
The Ramones-the Ramones 33

Michael Jackson-Thriller 20
RUN DMC-RUN DMC 240????????(how the F*CK can Jay Z be just 4 places lower!! and Eminem is even lower then him?????????????)
N.W.A.-Straight Outta Compton 144
Guns N Roses-Appetite For Destruction 61

Garth Brooks-No Fences (NADA???)

Thats just off the top of my head. The facts are that the list is skewed because of the non presence of less cohesive efforts by Hank Williams Sr. , Robert Johnson, Bing Crosby(didn't even make the list cause the Hippies have their head in the sand!).

And where the hell is Country?? Ok so Rolling Stone is a hippy magazine, so of course they are going to focus on the 60's alone. They just can't stand the fact that there have been many great acts before and after and it is useless lists like theirs that continue to brainwash kids today!

Who the hell is the Jesus and Mary Chain??? And how did they make the list over any of the aboves lowest efforts???

Tue Jan 03, 2006 3:19 am

What's surprising to me about this list is that Dylan seems to have dropped in stature somewhat. Back in the late 70's/early 80's the top 5 of these sorts of lists would usually be Sgt. Pepper; Highway 61 Revisited; Revolver; Blonde On Blonde; and a Stones lp. The list is now more Beatles-oriented than ever. I guess the Fabs have achieved the level of sainthood with the Rolling Stone influenced school of rock journalism.

It is nice to see Pet Sounds getting recognition. That album was a major influence on Pepper. I'm not big on the Beach Boys, but PS is a great record.

Can somebody please explain to me why Miles Davis is on this list. Wasn't he a jazz musician? I thought his induction into the rock & roll hall of fame was a reach, now this. Is jazz now a sub-genre of rock?

Tue Jan 03, 2006 3:59 am

Pete

I really don't think Miles' induction into the R&R hall of fame was a reach, given his enormous influence on rock music and his forays into that genre (think of Bitches Brew).

Of course Kind of Blue has to rank high on any 500 greatest albums list. The problem with this particular list is that it focuses heavily on rock music and even more so on a very small portion of that genre. More than half of the top 15 albums are from three consecutive years.

Kind of Blue seems out of place because of this company. I think, the same can be said to some extent of The Sun Sessions and What's Going On.

Tue Jan 03, 2006 4:12 am

Torben wrote:Pete

I really don't think Miles' induction into the R&R hall of fame was a reach, given his enormous influence on rock music and his forays into that genre (think of Bitches Brew).


Torben -
I confess to being completely ignorant of Miles Davis' music. I've heard of Bitches Brew, but thought it was an improvisational modern jazz record. I didn't realize he had an enormous influence on rock.

Thanks for the clarification.

Tue Jan 03, 2006 4:26 am

Is this a ROCK ALBUM list

or is this a GENERIC GREAT ALBUM (OF ANY GENRE) List?


As Genesim pointed out, where's Country?


Where is..........

Image


Image


Image

Image


and all those gritty cool country-blues-rock classics?




Surely those Dylan-worshipping hippies at RS can appreciate (and rank) the above-illustrated albums

Re: Rolling Stone Publishes '500 Greatest Albums' List

Tue Jan 03, 2006 4:51 am

Peter Franks wrote:Rolling Stone magazine recently released their “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time” feature, an online-exclusive article (that requires MacroMedia Flash). Presumably it’s a distillation rather than a copy of their book of the same name, and unfortunately it does not list the criteria used to determine this ranking. The top fifteen looks as follows:

1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The Beatles
2. Pet Sounds (1966), The Beach Boys
3. Revolver (1966), The Beatles
4. Highway 61 Revisited (1965), Bob Dylan
5. Rubber Soul (1965), The Beatles
6. What’s Going On (1971), Marvin Gaye
7. Exile on Main Street (1972), The Rolling Stones
8. London Calling (1979), The Clash
9. Blonde on Blonde (1966), Bob Dylan
10. The Beatles (1968), The Beatles
11. The Sun Sessions (1976), Elvis Presley
12. Kind of Blue (1959), Miles Davis
13. The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967), The Velvet Underground
14. Abbey Road (1969), The Beatles
15. Are You Experienced? (1967), The Jimi Hendrix Experience

[Elvis made the list three times, with The Sun Sessions (1976) at #11, Elvis Presley (1956) at #55, and From Elvis in Memphis (1969) at #190.]



The Canadian edition that I read actually listed the 2CD set "Sunrise" in place of "The Sun Sessions"

Tue Jan 03, 2006 4:56 am

Graceland Gardener wrote:but oh that magical maestro George Martin - without him, Pepper would be nothing but a busy album cover to stare at.

Yes, his score on "She's Leaving Home" is excellent, isn't it?

DJC

Tue Jan 03, 2006 4:58 am

For me personally Sgt Pepper has aged very badly.... I would have Revolver or Hard Days Night as the Beatles best albums. You can listen to From Elvis In Memphis and it still sounds very contemporary(to me at least), also if they are gonna have Sun Sessions at #11 where the hell is Golden Records Vol. 1? What a joke, no way is Sgt. Pepper the best album ever made. I also think they only have Pet Sounds as #2 because it is the album that inspired the Beatles to make Sgt. Pepper.

JEFF d
Elvis fan

Tue Jan 03, 2006 5:47 am

What a joke, no way is Sgt. Pepper the best album ever made. I also think they only have Pet Sounds as #2 because it is the album that inspired the Beatles to make Sgt. Pepper.


These lists are always pointless and flawed. Yet, one cannot overlook the brilliance and influence Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds continue to offer generation after generation. Is Sgt. Pepper the best ever? It is always debatable, but it a timeless creation, as is Pet Sounds.

Tue Jan 03, 2006 5:56 am

Sgt Pepper's cache of ballyhooed greatness is also based on having
Banned Tracks.

Oooh! - makes the music more cool.

BBC banned ADITL before the album came out. And Lucy was banned in many places, and the Hong Kong/Malaysia version of the album was totally jerry-rigged to cut tracks off and substitute with different '67 tracks. (Check out a copy of that LP - it's backcover is totally f*** up)


Pepper is...The Most Publicized Attention-Getting Album Ever.


But that doesn't warrant it being #1.



genesim wrote:Pink Floyd-Dark Side Of the Moon (NOWHERE??????)


Hmm, Possibly the glaring omission of DSOTM is Rolling Stone's way of punishing Pink Floyd for their refusal to do a post-Live8 reunion tour.

Re: Rolling Stone Publishes '500 Greatest Albums' List

Tue Jan 03, 2006 3:04 pm

Pete Dube wrote:Can somebody please explain to me why Miles Davis is on this list. Wasn't he a jazz musician?

In addition to Torben's explanation, it's perhaps worth pointing out that the site doesn't specifically mention Rock-albums, so presumably albums from any genre are admissable.

Graceland Gardener wrote:Hmm, Possibly the glaring omission of DSOTM is Rolling Stone's way of punishing Pink Floyd for their refusal to do a post-Live8 reunion tour.

Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon came in at #43, although oddly enough it's not listed with its artist nor under the alphabetized albums list. Scroll down the actual ranking, though, and you'll find it there. In addition, Johnny Cash's At Fulsom Prison came in at #88 and Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger at #184.

elvis-fan wrote:The Canadian edition that I read actually listed the 2CD set "Sunrise" in place of "The Sun Sessions"

How bizarre! Sunrise is an even worse pick for Elvis' best album! (In fact, I would hardly call it "an Elvis-album" at all, since Elvis had no input into the selection whatsoever.) Rolling Stone selected compilation albums for other artists as well, though, which further supports the point I made above about looking at songs rather than albums as a whole.
Last edited by Peter Franks on Wed Jan 04, 2006 12:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

Wed Jan 04, 2006 12:13 am

I thought that was odd.

Thanks for pointing that out.

As for the albums showing up at all..country or otherwise..it still doesn't change the skewed Hippie outlook on what is influential.

Pepper is a masterpiece, and I don't argue it greatness, but I still feel it is overblown compared to even their best works.

Still that is a small quibble when comparing it to my other examples. The 60's were not the be all end all of music.

Wed Jan 04, 2006 9:32 pm

Lennon hated SGT. Pepper and said it was overrated or words to that effect. But it was probably that Paul drove the album and forced him to get off his lazy ass and write. He did . Excellent!! Abbey Road is much more digestible today. IMO.

Wed Jan 04, 2006 11:14 pm

Pete: On-Topic!!!

Elvis at #11? The hell with these ROLLING STONE clowns.

By being unable to contain themselves in their pro-Beatle bias
(five albums in top 14? and four in the top ten?) and two for Bob Dylan?

It's all so subjective anyway.

Thu Jan 05, 2006 12:00 am

Is it that suprising about the lack of Elvis albums in this list ? How many general music fans could even list many Elvis, non greatest hits albums ? Elvis was never treated as a serious album artist by his record company, so why anyone else ?

How many other artists in that top ten list, were putting out three albums a year ?

Thu Jan 05, 2006 12:10 am

The "great album" is a bias unto itself.

I personally think "Elvis Presley" or "Elvis" or "Elvis Is Back" or "From Elvis In Memphis" or "I'm 10, 000 Years Old- Elvis Country" readily fits in there.

We're just conditioned to assume these '60s rock Lps are superior to, say, Frank Sinatra's classic '50s albums...or Elvis'.

These lists are short-hand in most case for meaning: best body of work.

Elvis' sessions (noted above) rank as high or higher, acclaimed or otherwise.
Last edited by Gregory Nolan Jr. on Mon Jan 09, 2006 10:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Thu Jan 05, 2006 12:53 am

Gregory Nolan Jr. wrote:Pete: On-Topic!!!

Elvis at #11? The hell with these ROLLING STONE clowns.

By being unable to contain themselves in their pro-Beatle bias
(five albums in top 14? and four in the top ten?) and two for Bob Dylan?

It's all so subjective anyway.


Sorry if I got off topic Greg. :oops:

Thu Jan 05, 2006 7:25 pm

Actually, Pete, I was referring to PETER's ("Pete") original choice to make this "off-topic." :oops: I forgot you were in the mix.

And back to the subject, such lists previlege rock acts over other genres. I can think of plenty of great albums by B.B. King, Muddy Waters, James Cotton and others that blow the doors off of the Beatles and arguably match the artistic value.

It is very subjective.

On one hand, while I respect the notion of "critical consensus", there's also a degree of group-think.
Last edited by Gregory Nolan Jr. on Mon Jan 09, 2006 10:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.