The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time

according to Rolling Stone Magazine

In September 2020, Rolling Stone magazine released a new version of its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

The first version was released in 2003, with a minor revision in 2012. These lists have been widely criticised for having an over-representation of dated, Anglo-American, male, rock music.

Like it or loathe it, the list gets people discussing and debating popular music. It might encourage you to listen to an album or artist you haven’t heard before, or to dust off a forgotten favourite that you haven’t played for ages. It’s all good fun because no one can prove they are right or wrong no matter how passionately their convictions are held. The greatness of an album is all in the mind, the heart, and the feet of the listener.

The table below shows the 2020 list with the 2012 and 2003 lists alongside. A total of 692 albums have been on the list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time across its three iterations to date. There was little change between 2003 and 2012, so most of the inclusions and exclusions have been between 2012 and 2020. I feel some healthy debate coming on…

Marvin GayeWhat's Going On1971166
The Beach BoysPet Sounds1966222
Joni MitchellBlue197133030
Stevie WonderSongs in the Key of Life197645756
The BeatlesAbbey Road196951414
Fleetwood MacRumours197772625
PrincePurple Rain198487672
Bob DylanBlood on the Tracks197591616
Lauryn HillThe Miseducation of Lauryn Hill199810314312
The BeatlesRevolver19661133
Michael JacksonThriller1982122020
Aretha FranklinI Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You1967138483
The Rolling StonesExile on Main Street19721477
Public EnemyIt Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back1988154848
The ClashLondon Calling19791688
Kanye WestMy Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy201017353
Bob DylanHighway 61 Revisited19651844
Kendrick LamarTo Pimp a Butterfly201519
RadioheadKid A20002067428
Bruce SpringsteenBorn to Run1975211818
The Notorious B.I.G.Ready to Die199422134133
The Velvet UndergroundThe Velvet Underground and Nico1967231313
The BeatlesSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band19672411
Carole KingTapestry1971253636
Patti SmithHorses1975264444
Wu-Tang ClanEnter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)199327387386
The BeatlesWhite Album1968291010
Jimi HendrixAre You Experienced1967301515
Miles DavisKind of Blue1959311212
Amy WinehouseBack to Black200633451
Stevie WonderInnervisions1973342423
The BeatlesRubber Soul19653555
Michael JacksonOff the Wall1979366868
Dr. DreThe Chronic199237138137
Bob DylanBlonde on Blonde19663899
Talking HeadsRemain in Light198039129126
David BowieThe Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars1972403535
The Rolling StonesLet It Bleed1969413232
RadioheadOK Computer199742162162
A Tribe Called QuestThe Low End Theory199143153154
PrinceSign O' the Times1987459393
Paul SimonGraceland1986467181
Bob Marley and the WailersLegend1984484646
Jay-ZThe Blueprint200150252464
Chuck BerryThe Great Twenty-Eight1982512121
David BowieStation to Station197652324323
Jimi HendrixElectric Ladyland1968535554
James BrownStar Time1991547579
Pink FloydThe Dark Side of the Moon1973554343
Liz PhairExile in Guyville199356327328
The BandThe Band1969574545
Led ZeppelinLed Zeppelin IV1971586966
Stevie WonderTalking Book1972599090
Van MorrisonAstral Weeks1968601919
Eric B. and RakimPaid in Full198761228227
Guns N’ RosesAppetite for Destruction1987626261
Steely DanAja197763145145
James BrownLive at the Apollo1963652524
John ColtraneA Love Supreme1965664747
Jay-ZReasonable Doubt199667250248
Kate BushHounds of Love198568
Alanis MorissetteJagged Little Pill199569327
N.W.AStraight Outta Compton198870144144
Bob Marley and the WailersExodus197771169169
Neil YoungHarvest1972728278
My Bloody ValentineLoveless199173221219
Kanye WestThe College Dropout200474298
Aretha FranklinLady Soul1968758584
Curtis MayfieldSuperfly1972767269
The WhoWho's Next1971772828
Elvis PresleyThe Sun Sessions1976781111
Frank OceanBlond201679
The Sex PistolsNever Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols1977804141
Sly and the Family StoneThere’s a Riot Goin’ On1971829999
Dusty SpringfieldDusty in Memphis1969838989
AC/DCBack in Black1980847773
John LennonPlastic Ono Band1970852322
The DoorsThe Doors1967864242
Miles DavisBitches Brew1970879594
David BowieHunky Dory197188108107
Erykah BaduBaduizm199789
Neil YoungAfter the Gold Rush1970907471
Bruce SpringsteenDarkness on the Edge of Town197891150151
The Jimi Hendrix ExperienceAxis: Bold as Love1967928382
Missy “Misdemeanor” ElliottSupa Dupa Fly199793
The StoogesFun House197094191191
DrakeTake Care201195
R.E.M.Automatic for the People199296249247
MetallicaMaster of Puppets198697167167
Lucinda WilliamsCar Wheels on a Gravel Road199898305304
Taylor SwiftRed201299
The BandMusic From Big Pink19681003434
Led ZeppelinLed Zeppelin19691012929
The ClashThe Clash19791028177
De La Soul3 Feet High and Rising1989103346346
The Rolling StonesSticky Fingers19711046463
The Allman Brothers BandAt Fillmore East19711054949
HoleLive Through This1994106460466
TelevisionMarquee Moon1977107130128
Fiona AppleWhen The Pawn…1999108
Lou ReedTransformer1972109194194
Joni MitchellCourt and Spark1974110113111
Janet JacksonControl1986111
Elton JohnGoodbye Yellow Brick Road19731129191
The SmithsThe Queen Is Dead1986113218216
The StrokesIs This It2001114199367
Kendrick Lamargood kid, m.A.A.d city2012115
The CureDisintegration1989116326326
Kanye WestLate Registration2005117118
The EaglesHotel California19761183737
Sly and the Family StoneStand!1969119121118
Van MorrisonMoondance19701206665
Elvis CostelloThis Year's Model19781219898
Nine Inch NailsThe Downward Spiral1994122201200
Led ZeppelinLed Zeppelin II19691237975
U2Achtung Baby19911246362
Beastie BoysPaul’s Boutique1989125156156
Mary J. BligeMy Life1994126281279
Ray CharlesModern Sounds in Country and Western Music1962127105104
QueenA Night at the Opera1975128231230
Pink FloydThe Wall19791298787
Hank Williams40 Greatest Hits197813294129
Joni MitchellHejira1976133
The CureBoys Don’t Cry1980134438442
U2Joshua Tree19871352726
FunkadelicMaggot Brain1971136479486
MadonnaThe Immaculate Collection1990138184278
Black SabbathParanoid1970139131130
Bob Marley and the WailersCatch A Fire1973140
Bruce SpringsteenBorn in the USA19841428685
The Velvet UndergroundThe Velvet Underground1969143316314
Led ZeppelinPhysical Graffiti19751447370
EminemThe Marshall Mathers LP2000145244302
BlondieParallel Lines1978146140140
Jeff BuckleyGrace1994147304303
Frank OceanOrange2012148
John PrineJohn Prine1971149452458
Bruce SpringsteenNebraska1982150226224
George MichaelFaith1987151472480
PJ HarveyRid of Me1993153406405
Aretha FranklinAmazing Grace1972154
Jay-ZThe Black Album2003155349
The ReplacementsLet It Be1984156241239
Oasis(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?1995157378376
Erykah BaduMama's Gun2000158
The PoliceSynchronicity1983159448455
Pearl JamTen1991160209207
Crosby, Stills & NashCrosby, Stills & Nash1969161262259
PulpDifferent Class1995162
Bee GeesSaturday Night Fever (The Original Movie Sound Track)1977163132131
Johnny CashAt Folsom Prison19681648888
Buddy Holly20 Golden Greats19781669292
Depeche ModeViolator1990167342342
Steely DanCan’t Buy a Thrill1972168240238
Billy JoelThe Stranger19771697067
CreamDisraeli Gears1967170114112
Sonic YouthDaydream Nation1988171328329
Simon and GarfunkelBridge Over Troubled Water19701725151
NirvanaIn Utero1993173435439
Jimmy CliffThe Harder They Come1972174122119
Kendrick LamarDAMN.2017175
Public EnemyFear of a Black Planet1990176302300
Rod StewartEvery Picture Tells a Story1971177172172
Otis ReddingOtis Blue19651787874
The Notorious B.I.G.Life After Death1997179476483
LoveForever Changes19671804040
Bob DylanBringing It All Back Home19651813131
James TaylorSweet Baby James1970182104103
D’AngeloBrown Sugar1995183
Cyndi LauperShe’s So Unusual1983184487494
The Rolling StonesBeggars Banquet19681855857
Red Hot Chili PeppersBlood Sugar Sex Magik1991186310310
Ice CubeAmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted1990187
T. RexElectric Warrior1971188160160
Sleater‐KinneyDig Me Out1997189272
The WhoTommy19691909696
Etta JamesAt Last!1960191119116
Beastie BoysLicensed to Ill1986192219217
Creedence Clearwater RevivalWilly and the Poor Boys1969193309392
Michael JacksonBad1987194203202
Leonard CohenSongs of Leonard Cohen1967195
RobynBody Talk2010196
The BeatlesMeet The Beatles19641975359
The B‐52’sThe B‐52’s1979198152152
PavementSlanted and Enchanted1992199135134
SadeDiamond Life1984200
A Tribe Called QuestMidnight Marauders1993201
Nick DrakePink Moon1972203321320
Kanye WestGraduation2007204
Cat StevensTea for the Tillerman1970205208206
David BowieLow1977206251249
EaglesEagles (1st album)1972207368374
Lil WayneTha Carter III2008208437
Run‐D.M.C.Raising Hell1986209123120
Ray CharlesThe Birth of Soul: The Complete Atlantic Recordings19912105453
Joy DivisionUnknown Pleasures1980211
Nina SimoneWild is the Wind1966212
Fiona AppleThe Idler Wheel2012213
Tom PettyWildflowers1994214
Grateful DeadAmerican Beauty1970215261258
Elliott SmithEither/Or1997216
OasisDefinitely Maybe1994217
RaekwonOnly Built 4 Cuban Linx…1995219480
Crosby, Stills, Nash & YoungDéjà vu1970220147148
Rage Against the MachineRage Against the Machine1992221365368
MadonnaRay of Light1998222367363
John LennonImagine19712238076
Dixie ChicksFly1999224
WilcoYankee Hotel Foxtrot2002225493
Derek and the DominosLayla and Other Assorted Love Songs1970226117115
Little RichardHere's Little Richard19572275050
De La SoulDe La Soul is Dead1991228
Patsy ClineThe Ultimate Collection2000229235234
Tom Petty and the HeartbreakersDamn the Torpedoes1979231315313
John ColtraneGiant Steps1960232103102
Tori AmosLittle Earthquakes1992233
Black SabbathMaster of Reality1971234300298
MetallicaMetallica (“The Black Album”)1991235255252
Daft PunkDiscovery2001236
Willie NelsonRed Headed Stranger1975237183184
KraftwerkTrans Europa Express1977238256253
Boogie Down ProductionsCriminal Minded1987239444
Sam CookeLive at the Harlem Square Club, 19631985240439443
Massive AttackBlue Lines1991241397395
The Velvet UndergroundLoaded1970242110109
The ZombiesOdessey and Oracle196924310080
Kanye West808s & Heartbreak2008244
Cocteau TwinsHeaven or Las Vegas1990245
L.L. Cool JMama Said Knock You Out1991246
SadeLove Deluxe1992247
Green DayAmerican Idiot2004248225
Whitney HoustonWhitney Houston1985249257254
BuzzcocksSingles Going Steady1979250360358
Elton JohnHonky Château1972251359357
DEVOQ: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!1978252442447
Pink FloydThe Piper at the Gates of Dawn1967253347347
Herbie HancockHead Hunters1973254
Bob DylanThe Freewheelin' Bob Dylan19632559797
Tracy ChapmanTracy Chapman1988256263261
Dolly PartonCoat of Many Colors1971257301299
Joni MitchellThe Hissing of Summer Lawns1975258
Janis JoplinPearl1971259125122
The SlitsCut1979260
Beastie BoysCheck Your Head1992261
New OrderPower, Corruption & Lies1983262
The BeatlesA Hard Day’s Night1964263307388
Pink FloydWish You Were Here1975264211209
PavementWowee Zowee1995265
The BeatlesHelp!1965266331332
MinutemenDouble Nickels on the Dime1984267413411
Randy NewmanSail Away1972268322321
Kanye WestYeezus2013269
Kacey MusgravesGolden Hour2018270
Mary J. BligeWhat's the 411?1994271
The Velvet UndergroundWhite Light/White Heat1968272293292
Gang of FourEntertainment!1979273483490
The ByrdsSweetheart of the Rodeo1968274120117
Curtis MayfieldCurtis1970275
RadioheadThe Bends1995276111110
Alicia KeysThe Diary of Alicia Keys2003277
Led ZeppelinHouses of the Holy1973278148149
NirvanaMTV Unplugged in New York1994279313311
50 CentGet Rich or Die Tryin'2002280
Harry NilssonNilsson Schmilsson1971281
Frank SinatraIn the Wee Small Hours1955282101100
Donna SummerBad Girls1975283
Merle HaggardDown Every Road1996284477
Big StarThird/Sister Lovers1978285449456
Red Hot Chili PeppersCalifornication1999286401399
The ByrdsMr. Tambourine Man1965287233232
The Modern LoversThe Modern Lovers1976288382381
OutKastSpeakerboxx/The Love Below2003290
Destiny's ChildThe Writing’s on the Wall1999291
Van HalenVan Halen1978292415415
The BreedersLast Splash1993293
WeezerWeezer (Blue Album)1994294299297
Daft PunkRandom Access Memory2013295
Neil Young & Crazy HorseRust Never Sleeps1979296351350
Peter GabrielSo1986297187187
Tom PettyFull Moon Fever1989298
B.B. KingLive at the Regal1965299141141
Shania TwainCome On Over1997300
New York DollsNew York Dolls1973301215213
Neil YoungTonight’s the Night1975302330331
ABBAThe Definitive Collection2001303179180
Bill WithersJust As I Am1971304
Al GreenI’m Still in Love With You1972306286285
Sam CookePortrait of a Legend 1951–19642003307107106
Brian EnoHere Come the Warm Jets1973308432436
Joy DivisionCloser1980309157157
WirePink Flag1977310412410
Neil YoungOn The Beach1974311
SolangeA Seat at the Table2016312
PJ HarveyStories From the City, Stories From the Sea2000313431
AaliyahOne in a Million1996314
RosalíaEl Mal Querer2018315
The WhoThe Who Sell Out1967316115113
Billie HolidayLady In Satin1958317
Janet JacksonThe Velvet Rope1997318259256
The Stone RosesThe Stone Roses1989319498
XLos Angeles1980320287286
Lana Del RayNoman Fucking Rockwell!2019321
Elvis PresleyFrom Elvis in Memphis1969322190190
The ClashSandinista!1980323407404
ColdplayA Rush of Blood to the Head2002324466473
Jerry Lee LewisAll Killer No Filler! The Jerry Lee Lewis Anthology1993325245242
PrinceDirty Mind1980326206204
The WhoLive at Leeds1970327170170
Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City2013328
DJ ShadowEntroducing.....1996329
The Rolling StonesAftermath1966330109108
MadonnaLike a Prayer1989331239237
Elvis PresleyElvis Presley19563325655
Bill WithersStill Bill1972333
Bob Dylan & The BandThe Basement Tapes1975335292291
Roxy MusicAvalon1982336307
Bob DylanJohn Wesley Harding1967337303301
Brian EnoAnother Green World1975338429433
Janet JacksonRhythm Nation 18141989339277275
Snoop Doggy DoggDoggystyle1993340
Smashing PumpkinsSiamese Dream1993341362360
The BeatlesLet It Be197034239286
Sly and the Family StoneGreatest Hits19703436160
Toots & The MaytalsFunky Kingston1973344380378
Bruce SpringsteenThe Wild, the Innocent & The E Street Shuffle1973345133132
Arctic MonkeysAM2013346
GZALiquid Swords1995347
Gillian WelchTime (The Revelator)2001348
MC5Kick Out the Jams1969349294294
Stevie WonderMusic of My Mind1972350285284
Roxy MusicFor Your Pleasure1973351396394
EminemThe Slim Shady LP1999352275273
The CarsThe Cars1978353284282
X-Ray SpexGermfree Adolescents1978354
Black SabbathBlack Sabbath1970355243241
Dr. JohnGris-Gris1968356143143
Tom WaitsRain Dogs1985357399397
Sonic YouthGoo1990358
Big StarRadio City1974359405403
FunkadelicOne Nation Under a Groove1978360177177
My Chemical RomanceThe Black Parade2006361
Luther VandrossNever Too Much1981362
ParliamentMothership Connection1975363276274
Talking HeadsMore Songs About Buildings and Food1978364383382
DrakeIf You're Reading This It's Too Late2015367
George HarrisonAll Things Must Pass1970368433437
Mobb DeepThe Infamous1995369
Lil WayneTha Carter II2005370
The TemptationsAnthology: The Best of The Temptations1995371400398
Big Brother & the Holding CompanyCheap Thrills1968372338338
Isaac HayesHot Buttered Soul1969373
Robert JohnsonKing of the Delta Blues Singers196137427
Green DayDookie1994375193193
Neutral Milk HotelIn the Aeroplane Over the Sea1998376
Yeah Yeah YeahsFever to Tell2003377
RushMoving Pictures1981379
Charles MingusMingus Ah Um1959380
Lynyrd Skynyrd(pronounced ’lĕh‐’nérd ’skin‐’nérd)1973381403401
Tame ImpalaCurrents2015382
Massive AttackMezzanine1998383412
The KinksThe Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society1968384258255
RamonesRocket to Russia1977385106105
J DillaDonuts2006386
RadioheadIn Rainbows2007387336
Aretha FranklinYoung, Gifted and Black1972388
Mariah CareyThe Emancipation of Mimi2005389
PixiesSurfer Rosa1988390317315
Ike & Tina TurnerProud Mary: The Best of Ike and Tina Turner1991392214212
Taylor Swift19892014393
Diana RossDiana1980394
D’AngeloBlack Messiah2014395
Todd RundgrenSomething/Anything?1972396173173
Billie EilishWhen We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?2019397
The RaincoatsThe Raincoats1979398
Brian WilsonSmile2004399
The Go‐Go’sBeauty and the Beat1981400414413
Fela Kuti and Africa 70Expensive Shit1975402
Ghostface KillahSupreme Clientele2000403
Anita BakerRapture1986404
Various ArtistsNuggets: Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–19681972405196196
The Magnetic Fields69 Love Songs1999406465
Neil Young & Crazy HorseEverybody Knows This Is Nowhere1969407210208
MotörheadAce of Spades1980408
Grateful DeadWorkingman’s Dead1970409264262
The Beach BoysWild Honey1967410
Bob DylanLove and Theft2001411385467
Smokey Robinson & The MiraclesGoing to a Go-Go1965412273271
Creedence Clearwater RevivalCosmo's Factory1970413265
The MetersLook-Ka Py Py1970415220218
The RootsThings Fall Apart1999416
Ornette ColemanThe Shape of Jazz to Come1959417248246
Dire StraitsBrothers in Arms1985418352351
Eric ChurchChief2011419
Earth, Wind & FireThat’s the Way of the World1975420486493
Marvin GayeLet’s Get It On1973422165165
Yo La TengoI Can Hear the Heart Beating As One1997423
Paul SimonPaul Simon1972425268267
Lucinda WilliamsLucinda Williams1988426
Al GreenCall Me1973427290289
Hüsker DüNew Day Rising1985428488495
The Four TopsReach Out1967429
Elvis CostelloMy Aim Is True1977430168168
Los LobosHow Will the Wolf Survive?1984431455461
LCD SoundsystemSound of Silver2007433395
PavementCrooked Rain, Crooked Rain1994434212210
Pet Shop BoysActually1987435
2PacAll Eyez on Me1996436
Primal ScreamScreamadelica1991437
James BrownSex Machine1970439
Loretta LynnCoal Miner's Daughter1971440
Britney SpearsBlackout2007441
The WeekndBeauty Behind the Madness2015442
David BowieScary Monsters1980443
Fiona AppleExtraordinary Machine2005444
YesClose to the Edge1972445
Alice ColtraneJourney in Satchidanada1971446
Bad BunnyX 100pre2018447
Otis ReddingComplete & Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul1966448254251
The White StripesElephant2003449390390
Paul and Linda McCartneyRam1971450
Roberta FlackFirst Take1969451
Diana Ross & The SupremesAnthology2001452423431
Nine Inch NailsPretty Hate Machine1989453
CanEge Bamyasi1972454
Bo DiddleyBo Diddley / Go Bo Diddley1986455216214
Al GreenGreatest Hits19754565252
Sinéad O’ConnorI Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got1990457408406
Jason IsbellSoutheastern2013458
Kid CudiMan on the Moon: The End of the Day2009459
Bon IverFor Emma2008461
The Flying Burrito Bros.The Gilded Palace of Sin1969462192192
Laura NyroEli & the 13th Confession1968463
The Isley Brothers3 + 31973464
King Sunny AdéThe Best of the Classic Years2003465
The Beach BoysThe Beach Boys Today!1965466271270
The Rolling StonesSome Girls1978468270269
Manu ChaoClandestino1998469
Juvenile400 Degreez1998470
Jefferson AirplaneSurrealistic Pillow1967471146146
Daddy YankeeBarrio Fino2004473
Big Star#1 Record1972474434438
Sheryl CrowSheryl Crow1996475
SparksKimono My House1974476
Howlin’ WolfMoanin’ in the Moonlight1959477154153
The KinksSomething Else by The Kinks1967478289288
SelenaAmor Prohibido1994479
Miranda LambertThe Weight of These Wings2016480
Belle and SebastianIf You’re Feeling Sinister1996481
The PharcydeBizarre Ride II the Pharcyde1992482
Muddy WatersThe Anthology20014833838
Lady GagaBorn This Way2011484
Richard & Linda ThompsonI Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight1974485471479
John MayerContinuum2006486
Black FlagDamaged1981487340340
The StoogesThe Stooges1969488185185
Phil SpectorBack to Mono (1958-1969)19914896564
Linda RonstadtHeart Like A Wheel1974490164
Harry StylesFine Line2019491
Bonnie RaittNick of Time1989492230229
Marvin GayeHere, My Dear1978493456462
The RonettesPresenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica1963494422427
Boyz II MenII1991495
ShakiraDónde Están los Ladrones1998496
Various ArtistsThe Indestructible Beat of Soweto1985497388
Rufus, Chaka KhanAsk Rufus1977499
Arcade FireFuneral2004500151
Robert JohnsonThe Complete Recordings199022
The BeatlesPlease Please Me19633939
Creedence Clearwater RevivalChronicle Vol. 1197659
Captain Beefheart and His Magic BandTrout Mask Replica19696058
CreamFresh Cream1966102101
The Mama’s and the Papa’sIf You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears1966112127
The Rolling StonesOut of Our Heads1965116114
Moby GrapeMoby Grape1967124121
The WailersCatch a Fire1973126123
The ByrdsYounger Than Yesterday1967127124
Iggy and The StoogesRaw Power1973128125
Elton JohnGreatest Hits1974136135
The ReplacementsTim1985137136
The MetersRejuvenation1974139138
Various ArtistsA Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector1963142142
Elton JohnCaptain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy1975158158
Otis ReddingThe Dock of the Bay1968161161
Linda RonstadtThe Very Best of Linda Ronstadt2002164324
Elvis Costello & The AttractionsImperial Bedroom1982166166
The ByrdsThe Notorious Byrd Brothers1968171171
Bob DylanDesire1976174174
CarpentersClose to You1970175175
Curtis Mayfield & The ImpressionsThe Anthology: 1961–19771992178179
The Rolling StonesThe Rolling Stones, Now!1965180181
Bob Marley and the WailersNatty Dread1974181182
Fleetwood MacFleetwood Mac1975182183
Sly and the Family StoneFresh1973186186
Buffalo SpringfieldBuffalo Springfield Again1967188188
Quicksilver Messenger ServiceHappy Trails1969189189
John Mayall & The BluesbreakersBlues Breakers With Eric Clapton (“The Beano Album”)1966195195
Little WalterThe Best of Little Walter1957198198
AC/DCHighway to Hell1979200199
Simon and GarfunkelParsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme1966202201
Bob DylanModern Times2006204
CreamWheels of Fire1968205203
The Rolling StonesTattoo You1981213211
Bobby BlandTwo Steps From the Blues1961217215
Professor LonghairNew Orleans Piano1972222220
Neil DiamondThe Neil Diamond Collection1999224222
AerosmithToys in the Attic1975229228
The KinksThe Kink Kronikles1972232231
Simon and GarfunkelBookends1968234233
Jackie WilsonMr. Excitement!1992236235
The WhoMy Generation1965237236
Howlin’ WolfHowlin’ Wolf1962238223
The Mothers of InventionFreak Out!1966246243
Grateful DeadLive/Dead1969247244
Bruce SpringsteenThe River1980253250
Willie NelsonStardust1978260257
Ray CharlesThe Genius of Ray Charles1959265263
Blood, Sweat & TearsChild Is Father to the Man1968266264
The WhoQuadrophenia1973267266
The Jesus and Mary ChainPsychocandy1985269268
Various ArtistsAnthology of American Folk Music1997278276
David BowieAladdin Sane1973279277
U2All That You Can’t Leave Behind2000280139
Muddy WatersFolk Singer1964282280
Barry WhiteCan’t Get Enough1974283281
Grateful DeadAnthem of the Sun1968288287
Talking HeadsTalking Heads: 771977291290
Leonard CohenSongs of Love and Hate1971295
The SmithsMeat Is Murder1985296295
The Mothers of InventionWe’re Only in It for the Money1968297296
Frank SinatraSongs for Swingin’ Lovers!1956308306
Various ArtistsThe Sun Records Collection1994311308
Jane’s AddictionNothing’s Shocking1988312309
The O’JaysBack Stabbers1972318318
The WailersBurnin’1973319319
The PoliceGhost in the Machine1981323322
Eric ClaptonSlowhand1977325325
James BrownIn the Jungle Groove1986329330
Richard & Linda ThompsonShoot Out the Lights1982332333
XWild Gift1981333334
Graham Parker & The RumourSqueezing Out Sparks1979334335
Jethro TullAqualung1971337337
Tom WaitsThe Heart of Saturday Night1974339339
Meat LoafBat out of Hell1977343343
Lou ReedBerlin1973344344
Talking HeadsStop Making Sense1984345345
Muddy WatersMuddy Waters at Newport 19601960348348
The YardbirdsYardbirds1966350349
Billy Joel52nd Street1978354352
The YardbirdsHaving a Rave Up1965355353
Randy Newman12 Songs1970356354
The Rolling StonesBetween the Buttons1967357355
Miles DavisSketches of Spain1960358356
New OrderSubstance 19871987363361
The DoorsL.A. Woman1971364362
Johnny CashAmerican Recordings1994366364
The SmithsLouder Than Bombs1987369365
Mott the HoopleMott1973370366
Arctic MonkeysWhatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not2006371
The PoliceReggatta de Blanc1979372369
Jefferson AirplaneVolunteers1969373370
Roxy MusicSiren1975374371
Jackson BrowneLate for the Sky1974375372
John Lee HookerThe Ultimate Collection: 1948–19901991377375
The Beach BoysThe Smile Sessions2011381
The WhoA Quick One1966384383
Steely DanPretzel Logic1974386385
Don HenleyThe End of the Innocence1989389389
Jackson BrowneThe Pretender1976391391
Randy NewmanGood Old Boys1974394393
ZZ TopEliminator1983398396
Dr. JohnDr. John’s Gumbo1972404402
The DoorsStrange Days1967409407
Bob DylanTime Out of Mind1997410408
Eric Clapton461 Ocean Boulevard1974411409
Tom WaitsMule Variations1999416416
Paul McCartney & WingsBand on the Run1973418418
The CricketsThe “Chirping” Crickets1957420421
Various ArtistsThe Best of the Girl Groups, Volume 1 and 21990421422
Bruce SpringsteenThe Rising2002424
Gram ParsonsGrievous Angel1974425429
Cheap TrickCheap Trick at Budokan1978426430
Peter WolfSleepless2002427432
The PoliceOutlandos d’Amour1978428434
Vampire WeekendVampire Weekend2007430
BeckSea Change2002436440
The PoguesRum Sodomy & the Lash1985440445
Cheap TrickIn Color1977443448
WarThe World Is a Ghetto1972444449
Steve Miller BandFly Like an Eagle1976445450
MC5Back in the USA1970446451
Stan Getz / João GilbertoGetz/Gilberto1964447454
Jackson BrowneFor Everyman1973450457
EPMDStrictly Business1988453459
Alice CooperLove It to Death1971454460
My Morning JacketZ2005457
Elton JohnTumbleweed Connection1970458463
The DriftersThe Drifters’ Golden Hits1968459465
Public Image Ltd.Metal Box1979461469
Echo and the BunnymenHeaven Up Here1981463471
Def LeppardHysteria1987464472
Bruce SpringsteenTunnel of Love1987467475
The Paul Butterfield Blues BandThe Paul Butterfield Blues Band1965468476
Fugees (Refugee Camp)The Score1996469477
L.L. Cool JRadio1985470478
The SmithsThe Smiths1984473481
Manu ChaoPróxima estación: Esperanza2001474
Elvis Costello & The AttractionsArmed Forces1979475482
Loretta LynnAll Time Greatest Hits2002478485
Steve EarleGuitar Town1986482489
Mott the HoopleAll the Young Dudes1972484491
Pearl JamVitalogy1994485492
ZZ TopTres hombres1973490498
Albert KingBorn Under a Bad Sign1967491499
MGMTOracular Spectacular2007494
Bonnie RaittGive It Up1972495
Boz ScaggsBoz Scaggs1969496
The White StripesWhite Blood Cells2001497
B.B. KingLive in Cook County Jail1971499
Creedence Clearwater RevivalGreen River196995
Otis ReddingDreams To Remember: The Otis Redding Anthology1998147
The ByrdsGreatest Hits1967178
Hank WilliamsThe Complete Hank Williams1998225
Nick DrakeBryter Layter1970245
Buena Vista Social ClubBuena Vista Social Club1997260
Nick DrakeFive Leaves Left1969283
Simon And GarfunkelGreatest Hits1972293
No DoubtRock Steady2001316
EminemThe Eminem Show2002317
Bruce SpringsteenGreetings From Asbury Park1973379
The Beach BoysSunflower1970380
Def LeppardPyromania1983384
Roxy MusicCountry Life1974387
James BrownGreatest Hits1991414
The BeatlesWith The Beatles1963420
The Mamas & The PapasGreatest Hits1998423
Robert JohnsonKing Of The Delta Blues Singers, Vol. 21970424
David BowieChangesone1976425
Rage Against The MachineThe Battle Of Los Angeles1999426
PJ HarveyTo Bring You My Love1995435
No DoubtTragic Kingdom1995441
Jane's AddictionRitual De Lo Habitual1990453
Elton JohnElton John1970468
Otis ReddingLive In Europe1967474
Merle HaggardBranded Man1967484
Smashing PumpkinsMellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness1995487
Public EnemyYo! Bum Rush The Show1987497


The Wikipedia entry for ‘Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time’ provides some basic statistics on number of albums from each decade, and artists with the most albums.

They show that the 2020 list is more contemporary. Albums from the 1950s and 60s have fallen from 31% (in 2003) to 17% (in 2020), albums from the 1970s and 80s have fallen from 54% to 45%, albums from the 1990s and 2000s have risen from 15% to 31%, and albums from the 2010s have risen from 0% to 7%. In summary, the 70s-80s core remains solid (roughly half) with the 50s-60s dropping off and being replaced by the 90s-00s, and a small number of albums (36) from the last decade.

They also show that the list is more diverse. In 2003 and 2012 there were 59 artists with between three and eleven albums on the list accounting for 48% of the entries, whereas in 2020 this has fallen to 41 artists accounting for 32%. In summary, the big names have gone from roughly a half to a third of the list.

Let’s take a look at 2020 list in a bit more detail.


What’s Changed?

There are 163 new entries on the 2020 list compared with 2012, a turnover of 33%.

Seven of these are albums that were on the 2003 list then culled in 2012. Presumably many people would agree with the re-inclusion of albums like Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette (which comes back in at #69), Avalon by Roxy Music, and Mezzanine by Massive Attack. There’s also the re-inclusion of studio albums by Creedence Clearwater Revival (Cosmo’s Factory) and Linda Ronstadt (Heart Like A Wheel) that were displaced by Greatest Hits albums in 2012. More on the issue of Greatest Hits a little later…

The new entries are mostly in the bottom half of the list, though not exclusively so. Thirty five (35) % are in the 400+, 26% in the 300+ and 12% in the 250+, totaling 73%. In the top half, 12% are in the 250-200+, 9% in the 100+, and 6% are in the top 100.

The 10 new entries on the list which made it into the top 100 are:





Kendrick Lamar

To Pimp a Butterfly







Kate Bush

Hounds of Love



Alanis Morissette

Jagged Little Pill



Frank Ocean








Erykah Badu




Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott

Supa Dupa Fly




Take Care



Taylor Swift




The 163 new entries are also weighted towards recent decades, though perhaps not as much as one might expect. Twenty-one (21) % are from the 2010s, the decade since the last list was produced. A further 16% are from the 2000s and 28% from the 1990s, with the other 34% coming from the 1950s-1980s.

The new entries therefore reflect not just new music produced since 2012, but also a re-evaluation of albums made by female artists, artists with non-Anglo-American backgrounds, and artists working in different genres. For example, the ten new entries in the top 100 shown above include four albums from the 80s and 90s, all by female artists, and six albums from the 2010s produced by male and female artists drawing on hip-hop, R&B, and country roots.


The new top 10:

  • Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On is the new #1, having been #6 in 2012 and 2003.
  • Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles was #1 in 2012 and 2003, and now comes in at #24, below Abbey Road (#5) and Revolver (#11).
  • Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys remains at #2.
  • The rest of the top 10 has been shaken up significantly.
  • Abbey Road by The Beatles, Nevermind by Nirvana, and Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan jump from top 20 to top 10.
  • Blue by Joni Mitchell and Rumours by Fleetwood Mac jump from top 30 to top 10.
  • Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life and Prince’s Purple Rain jump from top 100 to top 10.
  • The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill jumps ~300 places into #10.
  • The eight albums that ranked #3 to #10 in 2012 but not in 2020 all remain in the top 40 – four Beatles albums, two Bob Dylan albums, one by the Rolling Stones, and one by the Clash.

The big names:

  • The Beatles now have most albums on the list, with nine (down from 10). Bob Dylan has eight albumns on the list (down from 11).
  • Neil Young is the one ‘Anglo-American male rock musician’ whose star continues to rise with seven albums, up from six.
  • Kanye West is biggest of the new big names with six albums on the list, up from three. He’s now level with the Rolling Stones, and one above Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, and David Bowie (five each).
  • The Who (from seven to four), Elton John (from six to two), and U2 (from five to two) all had several albums drop off. Radiohead retained four albums on the list (down from five).
  • Kendrick LamarFiona Apple, and Beyonce are the others moving into big name territory, going from zero to three albums on the list.
  • The Police and The Smiths both dropped from four albums to one. Jackson Browne dropped from three to zero.

The big movers:

  • There were 23 albums that moved up by more than 250 places – see below.
  • This list reflects a re-evaluation of some artists (Lauryn Hill, Wu-Tang Clan, D’Angelo, Amy Winehouse, Nas, OutKast, Liz Phair etc.), as well as a re-evaluation of the relative greatness of albums by some big names (David Bowie, The Police, and Nirvana).






Lauryn Hill

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill




Kanye West

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy




Wu-Tang Clan

Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)









Amy Winehouse

Back to Black














David Bowie

Station to Station




Liz Phair

Exile in Guyville










Live Through This









The Cure

Boys Don’t Cry





Maggot Brain




John Prine

John Prine




George Michael





PJ Harvey

Rid of Me




The Police






In Utero




The Notorious B.I.G.

Life After Death




Cyndi Lauper

She’s So Unusual





Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…





Yankee Hotel Foxtrot




Flaws in the Rolling Stone approach

There’s no formula for doing this, but the Rolling Stone approach has some obvious flaws.

 1. Greatest Hits (Artists versus Albums)

From the beginning in 2003, Rolling Stone has allowed inclusion of Greatest Hits and Compilation albums. Many people have pointed out that this is a significant flaw in assessing Greatest Albums. It means that the quality of single studio albums can be rated against the highlights from multiple studio albums. Rolling Stone’s justification for this is weak, and it shouldn’t be allowed.

The potential bias this introduces to the list is less in 2020 than it was in 2003 and 2012. There are (by my reckoning) 26 great hits or compilation albums on the 2020 list, whereas another 30 have been delisted. What’s even more frustrating however is that ten of the artists with Greatest Hits albums listed in 2020 also have studio/live albums listed. This makes no sense at all and gives those artists ‘two bites of the cherry’. It’s unforgiveable to include Greatest Hits albums by contemporary artists like Bob Marley (Legend #48), Madonna (The Immaculate Collection #138) and ABBA (The Definitive Collection #303).

The Greatest Hits albums listed in 2020 are largely big names from bygone eras. This isn’t however a list of Greatest Artists of All Time. The Rolling Stone Greatest Albums list gets a bit confused about this, feeling the need to include certain artists without going through the discipline of assessing the quality of their albums relative to the quality of albums by other, perhaps less famous artists. It damages the credibility of their process.

2. Greatest songs

Related to the above, there are some albums included on the 2020 list that have one or two monster songs but, in the opinion of many, would not rate as monster albums. This is a list of Greatest Albums of All Time, not Greatest Songs of All Time, and again it feels like there’s some confusion on this front.

Lorde’s album Melodrama (#460) is an example. Royals was a monster single, but as an album, Melodrama displaces other much more worthy albums that could be on this list. There are other examples.

 3. Genres

Rolling Stone doesn’t define what genres are and are not in scope for the list, but most of it is obvious. You wouldn’t expect classical albums to show up. There is however some fuzziness around the edges that makes the selection process seem further confused.

The 2020 list includes eight jazz albums, by Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman, and Alice Coltrane. Many would argue that these are great albums, but they’re outliers in this context. Many would argue that there are other great jazz albums not on the list. Personally, I rate Sketches of Spain by Miles Davis higher than the two albums he has on the list, but I’d never expect that album to show up in a Rolling Stone context.

There’s perhaps some of this in the country and Americana genres as well. Crossover artists like Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Taylor Swift, Shania Twain, and Lucinda Williams are clearly ‘in scope’ for a Rolling Stone list. It’s less clear how albums by the likes of Eric Church, Jason Isbell, and Miranda Lambert have made it onto a list with albums by the likes of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Kanye West and Beyonce. It feels a bit tokenistic.


Criteria for assessing greatness

Rolling Stone says it received and tabulated Top 50 Albums lists from more than 300 artists, producers, critics, and music-industry figures (from radio programmers to label heads) as input to the 2020 list. Critical acclaim, influence on other artists, and album sales are all valid criteria that would emerge from such a process.

It’s unclear how Rolling Stone went from a 300 by 50 matrix to a single list of 500, noting that they already had lists from 2012 and 2003. The risk of a ‘self-fulfilling prophesy’ would appear to be quite high…

Anyway, the subjectivity is part of the fun and nobody needs to get hurt in the process.

The criterion I’d add for assessing ‘greatest’ is listenability. Can you imagine putting that album on at home alone, when having a drink with a few friends, or at a party you’re hosting? Can you imagine playing it end to end, and enjoying the experience? To me this is a key differentiator for a great album. There are quite a few albums on the list that I thought were great when released, but that haven’t stood the test of time. I can’t listen to them today.


Some personal thoughts about what’s on the list, and what’s not

The 2020 Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time is a somewhat different beast to the earlier versions. It does feel less rusted on, more dynamic, and more inclusive. For better and for worse.

1. Too much of a good thing

To me, these lists have always seemed fundamentally conflicted on the issue of Greatest Albums versus Greatest Artists. The fact that half of the list in 2003 and 2012 was filled by just 59 artists with between three and eleven albums each says a lot. The 2020 list is more diverse, but just 41 artists still account for one third of the list with between three and nine albums each. Adding more and more albums by great artists is just lazy.

To make space for great albums that aren’t on the list, my starting point would be one album per artist, their greatest. There can be more than one album per artist, but artists with multiple albums must be those that have continued to push boundaries, adding more to the popular music canon over time. I’d argue that some great artists have made pretty much the same ‘great’ album multiple times. Choose one, don’t add them all.

There are eight artists with between five and nine albums on the 2020 list. How many should they have?


  • Most people would agree that The Beatles deserve more than one entry. But nine, seriously? I’d give them three – Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Abbey Road.
  • Bob Dylan has eight albums on the list (down from 11). Highway 61 Revisited, Blood on the Tracks, and Blonde on Blonde would make it onto many lists. Personally, I was sorry to see Desire removed from the list. It’s the Dylan album I find the most ‘listenable’.
  • I’m a fan of Neil Young but I reckon even he would blush at the inclusion of seven albums. Perhaps three – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Harvest, and Rust Never Sleeps.
  • Every one of Kanye West’s first six albums, produced over a nine-year period, is on the 2020 list. This defies logic. One (probably My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) or maybe two?
  • The Rolling Stones have six albums on the list (down from 10). As much as I love the Stones they’ve tended to ‘crank the handle’ over the years rather than break new ground. I’d only give them three – Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Some Girls.
  • Likewise Led Zeppelin who have five on the list. I’d only include two – Led Zeppelin IV and Physical Graffiti.
  • Bruce Springsteen has five albums on the list. I can’t believe they excluded Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. so we have to start with six. I could stretch ‘the Boss’ to four great albums – Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., Born To Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town, and Nebraska.
  • David Bowie is the artist on this list who I think has made more great albums than anyone else. He reinvented himself several times across a career spanning almost 50 years, and each of these iterations produced something new and spectacular. Remarkably, all of his great albums remain ‘listenable’ to this day. I would include eight on my list. The five that are on the RS 2020 list i.e. Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, Station to Station, Low, and Scary Monsters. Plus Let’s Dance, The Next Day, and Blackstar. If you haven’t listened to those last two albums, do yourself a favour…

2. You missed some!

If the big names listed above were given fewer albums along the lines I’ve suggested, it would free up 23 spaces on the Rolling Stone 2020 list. I tried to limit myself to 23 suggestions for great albums that I think are missing but couldn’t keep it under 50 plus albums from 50 artists. Will just have to free up some more spaces when I make my own 500 list. Another day…

The albums I’m suggesting for inclusion mostly come from other than male-American-rock artists. In reverse chronological order (latest to earliest):



  • Boys and Girls (2012) by Alabama Shakes is a ripper and has a timeless feel to me.
  • Laura Marling sounds like she’s listened to Joni Mitchell’s back catalogue, but she’s definitely developed into a major artist with her own style. A Creature I Don’t Know (2011) makes my list.
  • Vecakimest (2009) by Grizzly Bear is a beautiful album. Think Beach Boys locked away in a mountain cabin at the end of the noughties.
  • The XX (2009) by the XX is a really distinctive debut album. I keep wondering if it will stand the test of time. Up to now I’d say, yes it does.
  • Primary Colours (2009) by The Horrors was an outstanding second album, and the quality and diversity of their subsequent output shows that it was no fluke.
  • Oracular Spectacular (2007) by MGMT made it onto the RS 2012 list at #494, then fell off in 2020. I’d keep it on. It’s another great debut album that I think is standing up well.
  • Goldfrapp have delivered albums of consistently high quality over many years. Felt Mountain (2003) gets my nod.
  • The RS lists are ‘light on’ in the techno/dance genre. Stereo MCs have made some fine albums in this genre, and Deep Down and Dirty (2001) is my pick for the list. I defy you to stand still while this album plays.
  • Prophesy (2001) by Nitin Sawney has a world music vibe. It draws on diverse influences but brings them together into a coherent, distinctive musical experience.
  • Spirit of the Century (2001) by the Blind Boys of Alabama is a wonderful album that will stir your soul.
  • John Cale gets a look in as a member of the Velvet Underground, but he’s also made some very interesting music as a solo artist. Hobsapiens (2001) is a great piece of work.
  • Sleepwalking (2001) by Rae & Christian is a gem. (Northern Sulphuric Soul [1998] is also very good.)
  • Ron Sexsmith is a super talented Canadian singer-songwriter. Blue Boy (2001) is the pick of his albums.
  • Since I Left You (2000) by The Avalanches is an amazing album (and not just because they’re from Melbourne).


  • Moby can sound like a bit of a dick, but Play (1999) is a big, influential album. It was on the previous lists and shouldn’t have been dropped.
  • Moon Safari (1998) by French duo Air is just a great album that stands up really well.
  • You’ve Come A Long Way Baby (1998) by Fatboy Slim was a monster album at the time and it continues to meet the ‘listenable’ criterion.
  • DJ Shadow’s Entroducing makes in onto the RS 2020 list at #329. I’d also find a spot for Psyence Fiction (1998) by UNKLE, his duo with James Lavelle.
  • Underworld continue to make excellent albums. Beaucoup Fish (1998) is my pick for the greatest list.
  • Cake made some fine albums filled with a combination of great original songs and inventive covers. Fashion Nugget (1996) is the best.
  • Tricky makes the list as a member of Massive Attack but deserves a spot in his own right for Maxinquaye (1995).
  • No Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds? You have to be kidding Rolling Stone! I’d include Henry’s Dream (1992), Let Love In (1994), and The Boatman’s Call (1997).
  • What about Michael Franti and Spearhead? They made some great albums, but if I have to pick one it’s Home (1994).
  • Nothing by Iggy Pop, other than with The Stooges? That’s outrageous! Look, I have to be careful here because I’ve argued that Rolling Stone confuse Greatest Artists with Greatest Albums. Iggy’s studio albums are notoriously uneven so I’m at risk of sounding hypocritical. That said I think I can justify the inclusion of two albums. Lust for Life (made with David Bowie in 1977) is a great album, with four genuine classic songs (Lust for Life, Some Weird Sin, The Passenger, Success) and no real duds. I also rate 1993’s American Caesar very highly, and Eric Schermerhorn’s guitar playing on this album is sensational. There’s a bit of unevenness but the highs are so high, and there’s many of them, that it makes my list. While we’re at it, 2016’s Post Pop Depression made with John Homme from Queens of the Stone Age is also very, very good, but I’ll leave it at two. The thing to understand about Iggy is that when he’s working with the right crew, he can produce a great album.
  • Paul Weller has made great music in the Jam, Style Council, and as a solo artist. None of this shows up in the Rolling Stone lists. At a minimum I’d include his solo album Wild Wood (1993).
  • Neneh Cherry is another artist who’s made great music in very different phases of her career, albeit sporadically. I’d include both Raw Like Sushi (1989) and Homebrew (1992).
  • It’s a bit of a surprise to me that Evan Dando’s charm didn’t get The Lemonheads onto the Rolling Stone list. I’d include It’s A Shame About Ray (1992).
  • Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (1990) by The Sundays is just a perfect pop album. Harriet Wheeler’s dreamy vocals will put more of a spring in your step than that 10th Bob Dylan album for the day.


  • The non-appearance of Roy Orbison on the RS 2020 list is a surprise given others included. Mystery Girl (released in 1989, after his death in 1988) shows that ‘the Big O’ still had it right to the end.
  • The Go Betweens are one of the few Australian bands that have sufficient international cache to justify a place on the list. The album would have to be 16 Lovers Lane (1988).
  • Echo and the Bunnymen made some very classy pop music in the 1980s. Heaven Up Here was dropped in 2020 having been on the previous lists. I’d reinclude them with Ocean Rain (1987) which is their most complete album.
  • Cabaret Voltaire have made fifteen studio albums over 40 years. Code (1987) is my favourite.
  • David Sylvian started out in the band Japan, then went on to make some amazing music working with collaborators of high quality. Secrets of the Beehive (1987) is a great album.
  • Public Image Ltd had the album Metal Box on previous lists but it was dropped in 2020 and they disappear as well. Their 1986 album called ‘Album’ is a monster and makes it onto my list.
  • Rattlesnakes (1985) by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions is another pop gem.
  • Laurie Anderson is an avant-garde artist who works with multiple forms of media. As a musician, she made a series of stunning albums in the early 1980s. Big Science is probably the album most people would choose but I’m going with Mister Heartbreak (1984). Fight me!
  • The Blue Nile ride on Paul Buchanan’s voice, and what a ride it is. A Walk Across the Rooftops (1984) is my choice of their albums.
  • Matt Johnson is an enigmatic character and his band The The is a fluid concept. Some fabulous music has been made under this moniker. Soul Mining (1983) is my pick (with stiff competition from Infected [1986] and Naked Self [2000]).
  • I think Joe Jackson is underrated as an artist based on the quality and breadth of his musical output over 40 years. It would be a big call to put him up for more than one greatest album so I’ll settle for the inclusion of Night and Day (1982).
  • Grace Jones made some remarkable music in the 1980s and Nightclubbing (1981) is definitely on my list of greatest albums.
  • Pop music from the 1980s gets a bad rap and I’d agree that much of it hasn’t dated well. There are exceptions and Dare (1981) by Human League is one for me. I think it stands up very well.
  • Joan Armatrading has made some great music over a long career and Show Some Emotion (1977) is on my list. Armatrading continued to evolve as an artist and I’d make the case for including Walk Under Ladders (1981) as well.
  • Music by Australian and New Zealand artists has virtually no footprint on the Rolling Stone lists. Albums we might consider to be great ‘downunder’ are invisible in the northern hemisphere. Stuff it. True Colours (1980) by Split Enz is just a knockout pop album by all objective measures.


  • XTC have made heaps of great pop music and deserve a place on the list. Drums and Wires (1979) is probably the album I’d choose, especially if I’m allowed the version that includes the glorious single ‘Life Begins At The Hop’ as a bonus track.
  • Broken English (1979) by Marianne Faithful is a genuine classic.
  • New Boots and Panties (1979) by Ian Drury and the Blockheads makes it onto my list.
  • The songwriting talents of both Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook plus the keyboard chops of Jools Holland made Squeeze a force to be reckoned with. Cool for Cats (1979) is the place to start.
  • Looking at some of the stuff that’s on the RS lists I’m surprised Warren Zevon has never had a look in. Excitable Boy (1978) has a knockout set of songs on it.
  • Nick Lowe’s influence spreads widely through his songwriting, performance, and production. These talents were all channeled on his album, Jesus of Cool (1978).
  • No albums by Joe Cocker suggests that Rolling Stone has some cross-Atlantic bias happening. Joe Cocker! (1969) has enough quality to make it onto my list.

3. What were they thinking?

Some of the choices look to me like right artist, wrong album.

As noted earlier, including five albums by Bruce Springsteen but excluding Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. is a blooper. I feel the same way about listing eight albums by Bob Dylan but excluding Desire, though I accept that may be more a personal preference.

Here are the other choices that don’t seem right to me:

  • Aja (#63) is not the Greatest Album by Steely Dan. Can’t Buy a Thrill (#168) is better, and so is Pretzel Logic, which was delisted in 2020. And so is Countdown to Ecstasy (never listed). At a minimum, put Pretzel Logic back in for Aja.
  • It’s great to see Kate Bush finally on the list, with Hounds of Love at #68. It is a very good album, but her first album The Kick Inside was so different and so influential I think it deserves to be on the list. I’d give Kate two spots.
  • AC/DC have Back in Black at #84 but Highway To Hell was delisted in 2020. I agree with having less Anglo-American male rock music on the list but you have to include an album from the Bon Scott era so Highway to Hell goes back in.
  • The Doors by The Doors is a great album, coming in at #86. I think L.A. Woman which was delisted in 2020 stands up better over time and it would be my pick.
  • The Smiths are big losers on the RS 2020 list with just The Queen is Dead (#113), down from four albums in 2012 and 2003. They only released four studio albums but also released three excellent ‘compilation’ albums in Hatful of Hollow, The World Won’t Listen, and Louder Than Bombs. These ‘compilation albums’ included some album tracks as well as singles, B-sides, and BBC recordings i.e. they weren’t Greatest Hits albums. This makes it hard to rate The Smiths’ albums. Hatful of Hollow is fantastic with sixteen knockout tracks of which only five are on The Smiths, the first studio album. Yes, Morrissey has revealed himself to be a real dick but their albums stand up and both Hatful of Hollow and The Queen is Dead make my list.
  • U2’s stocks have also fallen, from five albums down to two. I basically agree with this readjustment as for me they’re in the category of great artists who made several albums that are pretty similar, and you need to choose one or two. Achtung Baby (#124) and Joshua Tree (#135) remain on the list, but it’s a mistake to exclude War which best meets my criteria for Greatest Album. I’d keep Achtung Baby as it was something of a reinvention for the band, and drop Joshua Tree.
  • PJ Harvey has two albums on the list, Rid of Me (#153) and Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea (#313). Is This Desire? is a much better album than Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea.
  • Synchronicity (#159) is the only album by The Police on RS 2020, down from four entries on previous lists. Four was definitely too many, but Outlandos d’Amour shouldn’t have been dropped. Its impact and influence as their first album makes it the greatest for me.
  • Nobody sounds quite like the Cocteau Twins and it’s great to see them on the list in 2020 with Heaven or Las Vegas (#245). Unfortunately it’s nowhere near their best album. It should be Treasure, if not Victorialand.
  • Gang of Four deserve a place with Entertainment! (#273), but how can you ignore their masterpiece Songs of the Free. I demand it be added!
  • Peter Gabriel has one entry on the list, So at #297, and there’s nothing from his days with Genesis. I don’t think Rolling Stone ‘get’ Peter Gabriel’s importance. Maybe he’s too English. His first four solo albums after leaving Genesis, all called Peter Gabriel but with very distinctive album covers, along with 1983’s Plays Live album, represent an amazing body of work. At a bare minimum, the third album (known as ‘Melt’ because of its cover) warrants inclusion of the list. The influence of world music on Gabriel was becoming strong by the fourth album (known as ‘Security’), and he went on to make two outstanding soundtrack albums in the late 1980s, for the films Birdy (1985) and Passion: The Last Temptation of Christ (1989). I would drop So and add Peter Gabriel (‘Melt’) and Passion to my list.
  • Vampire Weekend went from two entries in 2013 to one in 2020, but the wrong album was dropped. Vampire Weekend the album should be at #328, not Modern Vampires of the City.
  • Tom Waits is one of those artists who tends to divide the room. I’m squarely on the side of the fans. Rain Dogs (#357) deserves its place, but there has to be room for Swordfish Trombones as well. It’s a masterpiece. I’d add a third in Closing Time, his first album, to showcase his extraordinary development as an artist over almost 40 years.
  • I can’t believe they added Ram (#450) by Paul and Linda McCartney. I bought that record and retain a soft spot for the song ‘Smile Away’, but there’s no way it’s in 500 Greatest Albums of All Time territory.

Over to you

So there you have it, my ‘two cents worth’ on The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, according to Rolling Stone magazine. Let’s pour ourselves a glass of something nice and let the debate begin.


Moltmania, 10 October 2020