The Best Albums of All Time (According to Rolling Stone)

Nevermind by Nirvana

Many albums have commented on a coming societal change, and others have marked the seachange as it’s happened. However, few albums have changed the course of music history as drastically or as suddenly as Nirvana’s Nevermind.

The grunge legends eviscerated hair metal, knocked Michael Jackson off the top of the charts and ushered in an era of plaid-clad sneering irony that masked terrifying sincerity.

Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys have hit both incandescent highs and unforgettable lows over the course of their decades-long career, but no one can deny that Pet Sounds deserves its place among the best musical creations of all time.

Not just anyone can craft an album so iconic that it inspires Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but that’s exactly what The Beach Boys managed.

Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder

Fans were clamoring for a new Stevie Wonder album almost as soon as 1974’s Fulfillingness’ First Finale had flown off the shelves, but they were rewarded for their patience by Wonder’s most mature and wide-reaching project ever.

Both playful and political, harrowing and giddy, hopeful and disillusioned, Songs in the Key of Life is a passionate record that’s still relevant today.

Kid A by Radiohead

Kid A saw Radiohead venture into the uncharted territories of electronic and experimental rock. Ambient yet intense, the album manages to feel both distant and deeply personal.

From the shadowy sounds of Everything In Its Right Place to the haunting beauty of How To Disappear Completely, Kid A is a testament to Radiohead’s ability to redefine music.

Purple Rain by Prince and the Revolution

For much of his career, Prince dreamed of creating a multi-genre record so perfectly and meticulously executed that funk, heavy metal, psychedelia and pop could finally coexist easily.

Purple Rain, a sprawling, highly ambitious and experimental record, didn’t just yield Prince’s first-ever number-one single, but also proved that that dream could be a reality.

Blue by Joni Mitchell

When Joni Mitchell wrote Blue, she was attempting to reconcile her own attitude and ideas with the mythic status she had achieved, thanks to Robert Plant and Led Zepplin deifying her as the platonic ideal of the West Coast woman.

The result was Blue: a heartbreakingly earnest and unguarded confessional that set a new standard for lyricism and vocals.

Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones

1969's Let It Bleed was released at a tumultuous time for British rock legends the Rolling Stones, in the wake of guitarist Mick Taylor replacing founder member Brian Jones, who died shortly before the album was released.

Despite this, the album (including such classics as Gimme Shelter and You Can't Always Get What You Want) made it clear that the band weren't going anywhere.

Remain in Light by Talking Heads

Talking Heads’ Remain in Light is an inspiring blend of rock and African rhythms.

Tracks like Once in a Lifetime and Born Under Punches exemplify the band’s innovative spirit, pulling listeners into a rhythmic trance, only to remind them of the emotional narratives beneath the beats.

Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan

According to Bob Dylan himself, Blood on the Tracks took a long time to live but a short time to write. Most of the songs were written across a scant two-year period and were recorded in just a week, both in New York and Minneapolis.

His most visceral, painful and spiralling work, the album is nevertheless a sublime listen containing vast beauty.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill by Lauryn Hill is a timeless record that does exactly what it set out to do. Deftly bouncing between hip-hop, reggae and soul influences, Hill similarly effortlessly juggles topics of sexism, motherhood, the music industry, love and loss.

Featuring icons like Mary J. Blige alongside just starting out future stars like John Legend, Miseducation is a deeply rich and human record.

The Velvet Underground and Nico by The Velvet Underground

In a world of musical norms, The Velvet Underground and Nico was a startling change. It introduced listeners to a realm where art and music intermingled.

Its tracks oscillate between ethereal and brutally honest, reminding listeners that music can be as unsettling as it is beautiful.

Rumours by Fleetwood Mac

Nowadays, the tumultuous story of scorned lovers that played out behind the scenes of Rumours is almost as famed and revered as the music itself.

However, while the lyrics cannot be extricated from the week-long benders and explosive arguments that created them, the timeless melodies and instrumentation are nothing more than a testament to four skilled musicians at the very top of their game.

I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You by Aretha Franklin

Aretha’s I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You is not just an album; it’s a statement. From the defiant tones of Respect to the heart-wrenching title track, Aretha pours emotion into every note.

Her incredible voice beautifully tells stories of love, loss, and liberation, securing her title as the Queen of Soul.

Exile on Main Street by The Rolling Stones

Exile on Main Street is one of The Rolling Stones’ most ambitious works. Created amid chaos and personal turmoil, the album covers blues, rock, and country.

It’s raw, it’s gritty, and it captures The Stones at their most authentic. Every track feels like a journey down a road less traveled.

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

In a time full of musical experimentation, Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back stands out as a landmark in hip-hop, tackling themes of injustice and societal critique head-on.

With songs like Fight the Power, Public Enemy didn’t just rap about the world; they urged it to change.

Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited is raw, electric, and poignant.

With the biting lyrics of Like a Rolling Stone and the haunting tones of Ballad of a Thin Man, Dylan blurs the lines between folk, rock, and blues. It’s an album that speaks to a generation yet feels timeless.

To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly is more than just an album. Through jazz-infused beats and razor-sharp lyrics, Lamar tackles systemic oppression, personal demons, and the struggles of fame.

Tracks like Alright became anthems of hope amid turmoil, proving Lamar’s position as one of the most important voices of his generation.

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run delivers anthemic choruses and impassioned vocals and paints a vivid picture of suburban America’s hopes and desperations.

Whether it’s the rush of the title track or the reflections in Thunder Road, Springsteen captures the very essence of the American Dream.

Ready to Die by The Notorious B.I.G.

The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die is a masterclass in storytelling, and undoubtedly one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time.

Tracks like Juicy aren’t just songs; they are snapshots of a life, capturing the rise from rags to riches and the complexities of fame. In Ready to Die, Biggie solidified his legacy as one of rap’s greatest.

Aquemini by Outkast

Outkast delivered one of the most expansive, eclectic hip hop albums of the 1990s with their third album Aquemini.

The 1998 record (its title an amalgamation of Andre 3000 and Big Boi's respective zodiac signs) blends elements of 70s-style funk and psychedelic rock with contemporary rap to create something quite unlike anything else that was around at the time.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles

In their second appearance on this list, The Beatles yet again showcase their innovation with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Club Delving into new realms of sound.

From the upbeat Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds to the contemplative A Day in the Life, the album was an invitation to a technicolor world. It’s more than music; it’s an experience, a journey through the very fabric of creativity.

What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye

According to Rolling Stone, What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye is the best album of all time. Is it due to the darker, more unflinching lyrical content? The subtler, more intricate instrumentation?

The influence of the Vietnam War and the frenetic political energy of the era? Or does it just have the best title track of all time? That’s for you to decide.

Music from Big Pink by The Band

Starting out as The Hawks and rising to prominence as Bob Dylan's backing band after the folk singer-songwriter notoriously adopted electric music, The Band released their first album Music from Big Pink in 1968, and helped spark a shift in the American music scene towards a folksier style of rock.

While The Band where keen to break out on their own and escape Bob Dylan's shadow, the album still includes a number of Dylan compositions: Tears of Rage, I Shall Be Released and the widely covered This Wheel's On Fire.

Tapestry by Carole King

Carole King’s Tapestry weaves together strands of pop, folk, and soul into a musical masterpiece. Songs like It’s Too Late and You’ve Got a Friend are timeless stories of love, loss, and longing.

Tapestry resonates because of its universality, as King’s emotive voice and poignant lyrics touch the core of relatable human experiences.

Horses by Patti Smith

Patti Smith’s Horses gallops into the realms of poetry, punk, and raw passion.

The lyrics are intense, and the attitude is unapologetic, making it an album that challenges and captivates. Smith creates not just an album but an atmosphere.

Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) by Wu-Tang Clan

A pivotal turning point in hip-hop, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) was the Wu-Tang Clan’s revolutionary album.

Embracing raw beats and an unmistakable ferocity, it redefined what rap could be. It was less an album and more a cultural shift, proving that nine voices from Staten Island could reshape music’s landscape.

White Album by The Beatles

The Beatles’ White Album is a mosaic of sounds, styles, and stories. This double album spans the full spectrum of the Fab Four’s genius.

It’s a journey of discovery, where each track offers a new tale, a new sound, a new experience—showcasing The Beatles at their most diverse and innovative.

Are You Experienced by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Jimi Hendrix’s debut, Are You Experienced was an explosive introduction to his legendary artistry. Tracks like Purple Haze and Hey Joe blaze with Hendrix’s unparalleled guitar wizardry, bridging psychedelic vibes with rock energy.

The album asks a question, and by its end, listeners know the answer: they’ve experienced a revolution.

Kind of Blue by Miles Davis

With Kind of Blue, Miles Davis painted a canvas of jazz that remains unmatched in its profundity. The improvisational genius of tracks like So What and Blue in Green showcase a group of musicians in sublime synchronicity.

It’s an exploration into the depths of jazz, where each notes resonates with pure emotion.

Thriller by Michael Jackson

There are few albums as universally recognizable as Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Beyond its immense commercial success, the album is a seamless blend of pop, rock, and funk.

Songs like Billie Jean aren’t just chart-toppers; they are cultural moments and set the standard for what pop music could achieve both audibly and visually.

Back to Black by Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black is a heartrending journey through love’s highs and lows. Her soulful voice, echoing with the pain, passion, and authenticity of tracks like Rehab and Love Is A Losing Game, brings listeners into her world of emotions.

Amy's death a few years later makes this an an album of intimate reflection of a talent gone too soon - but immortalized in her music.

Innervisions by Stevie Wonder

Innervisions captures Stevie Wonder at a pivotal moment in his career, marrying social commentary with audio brilliance. Songs like Living for the City and Higher Ground are not only musically impeccable but also powerful narratives of the times.

Through this album, Wonder paints a vivid portrait of society, urging introspection and action while delivering melodies that remain timeless.

Rubber Soul by The Beatles

Here they are again: The Beatles. With Rubber Soul, the quartet ventured deeper into studio experimentation and rich lyricism.

From the introspective In My Life to the harmoniously rich Norwegian Wood, Rubber Soul is a testament to The Beatles’ evolving artistry, capturing the essence of the band’s transition from pop pioneers to musical visionaries.

Off the Wall by Michael Jackson

Before the moonwalk, before the glove, there was Off the Wall. Michael Jackson’s breakout solo album is an electric fusion of pop and funk, where tracks like Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough and Rock With You pulsate with infectious energy.

It’s a dance-infused preview of the King of Pop’s unstoppable rise.

The Chronic by Dr. Dre

The Chronic transformed the hip-hop landscape. Dr. Dre masterfully portrayed the realities of West Coast life, with tracks like Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang echoing the streets and rhythms of Compton.

Additionally, the album introduced the world to a rising star: Snoop Dogg.

Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan

In Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan weaves intricate tales with a fusion of rock, blues, and folk.

Dylan’s double album showcases powerful lyricism and musical innovation, a kaleidoscope of sounds and stories that only he could deliver.

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars by David Bowie

With Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie introduced the music world to one of its most iconic alter egos.

An androgynous rock star from space, Ziggy’s journey from fame to self-destruction is captured in tracks like Starman and Suffragette City. It’s more than just an album; it’s a theatrical experience.

Lemonade by Beyoncé

Beyoncé’s Lemonade intertwines themes of love, betrayal, empowerment, and identity, presented as a visual album that's as cinematically stunning as it is musically.

Combining musical elements of rock, hip-hop, soul, pop and country, Lemonade is a testament to Beyoncé’s artistry, a narrative masterpiece that speaks volumes on personal and collective struggles, resilience, and celebration.

Revolver by The Beatles

Before they took the journey down Abbey Road, The Beatles were already revolutionizing music with Revolver. It’s a dizzying mix of world sounds and classical elements.

From the poignant introspection of Eleanor Rigby to the light playful tones of Tomorrow Never Knows, Revolver was a signal of the genre-blurring creativity to come.

OK Computer by Radiohead

Fans and critics had long predicted that British indie rockers Radiohead were destined for stadium band status, but few could have predicted the bold new direction they would take on their third album, 1997's OK Computer.

Helped by hit singles Paranoid Android, Karma Police and No Surprises, the album went multi-platinum worldwide, and was quickly hailed as a masterpiece.

Abbey Road by The Beatles

There’s little left to say about The Beatles’ Abbey Road that hasn’t already been said. It is a revolutionary album that set tastes for decades to come.

But it is also a testament to what even the most fractured group of musicians can do when determined to come together in the spirit of music and ambition. The result is a no-skips record for the ages.

The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest

Released in 1991, The Low End Theory was the second album from US hip hop act A Tribe Called Quest, and presented a radically different, jazz-infused style for a time when gangster rap tended to dominate.

The album frequently pops up on lists of the greatest hip hop records, and helped launch rapper Busta Rhymes thanks to his guest appearance on closing track Scenario.

Sign O' the Times by Prince

Considered by many devotees to be Prince's finest work, 1987's Sign O' the Times is a mighty double album which sees the virtuoso musician and singer-songwriter shoot back and forth between wildly diverging sounds and styles to create something truly distinctive.

It's best remembered for the edgy, socially conscious title track, plus the hit Sheena Easton collaboration U Got the Look.

Graceland by Paul Simon

While he'll always be synonymous with former collaborator Art Garfunkel, Paul Simon enjoyed his greatest solo success with 1986 album Graceland. The experimental album saw the folk singer-songwriter blend his style with traditional African music.

It sold over 16 million copies and won Album of the Year at the 1987 Grammys, although some condemned Simon for recording in South Africa under apartheid.

Ramones by Ramones

In the eyes of many, 1976's eponymous debut album of New York's Ramones is where punk rock really began.

Kicking off with the track that arguably remained their anthem, Blitzkrieg Bop, the lo-fi record blasts through 14 songs in 29 minutes, establishing the hard, fast and simple sound the band remains legendary for.

London Calling by The Clash

London Calling by The Clash is a testament to the transformative power of music. Fusing punk’s raw energy with reggae’s rhythm, it delves into issues of identity, politics, and even love.

Whether it’s the urgency of the title track or the catchy beats of Train in Vain, The Clash showcased a versatility that few could match.

Legend by Bob Marley and the Wailers

Some critically-minded music fans might take umbrage to Rolling Stone listing this among their all-time greatest albums, given that it's a greatest hits compilation.

Even so, no one can debate that 1984's Legend lives up to its name, filled with timeless reggae classics that perfectly represent the late Bob Marley's body of work. It's the biggest-selling reggae album ever, with over 25 million copies sold.

The Blueprint by Jay-Z

Given that it was released on September 11, 2001 and having been recorded in New York City, Jay-Z's sixth album The Blueprint was always going to have a historical resonance.

However, in the eyes of many including the staff of Rolling Stone, the record holds up musically as both Jay-Z's creative highlight and one of the best hip hop albums ever recorded.

The Great Twenty-Eight by Chuck Berry

The second greatest hits compilation to make Rolling Stone's list of the all-time greatest albums, this 1982 release contains - as the title suggests - 28 of the best songs recorded by influential rock'n'roll pioneer Chuck Berry between 1955 and 1965.

These iconic, much-covered tracks include Johnny B. Goode, Roll Over Beethoven, Rock and Roll Music and Back in the USA.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a reflection of Kanye West at his most avant-garde and personal. From the beats of Power to the vulnerable confessions in Runaway, this album is a journey through West’s psyche.

It’s audacious, controversial, and utterly captivating. Kanye doesn’t just create an album; he invites listeners into his most intimate thoughts and grandest fantasies.

Station to Station by David Bowie

Having put his folk and glam rock beginnings behind him, British singer-songwriter David Bowie moved into one of the most unique and distinctive phases of his chameleonic career with 1976's Station to Station.

Bowie wasn't in a great place physically or mentally at the time, but he produced a remarkable album adopting elements of krautrock and the burgeoning electronic music scene.

Electric Ladyland by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

The third and final album from The Jimi Hendrix Experience, 1968's Electric Ladyland is a sprawling, indulgent rock epic that could only have been produced at the peak of the psychedelic movement.

Near-15 minute tracks Voodoo Chile and 1983.... (A Merman I Should Turn To Be) may test the patience of some, but it's also got belters like All Along the Watchtower and Crosstown Traffic.

Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd

Moving beyond their psychedelic beginnings into more sophisticated progressive rock, Pink Floyd's 1973 concept album Dark Side of the Moon became one of the most iconic records ever, and - with sales of over 45 million - the fourth highest-selling album of all time.

An urban legend that the album is designed to sync up with The Wizard of Oz has been dismissed by the band.

Exile in Guyville by Liz Phair

1993's Exile in Guyville is the debut album of American rock singer-songwriter Liz Phair, which made an unexpectedly big splash in the indie scene.

As the title might imply, Phair conceived the record as a response to the famed Rolling Stones album Exile on Main Street, giving a blunt feminine response to that record's sexual politics.

The Band by The Band

Popularly referred to as the brown album thanks to the sleeve's cover, The Band's eponymous second album from 1969 has been credited as a key step in the burgeoning country rock style that would later be popularized by the Eagles.

While the record didn't enjoy huge mainstream success, it hugely influenced many major music stars of the time including George Harrison and Eric Clapton.

Led Zeppelin IV by Led Zeppelin

British supergroup Led Zeppelin had already made a significant impact on the rock scene before their officially untitled fourth album really blew the roof off.

While it's most famous for featuring the epic ballad Stairway to Heaven, it veers between high-octane hard rock (Black Dog, Rock and Roll) to gentle folk (The Battle of Evermore, Going to California). It's sold over 37 million copies.

Talking Book by Stevie Wonder

This 1972 album kicked off a winning streak that saw Stevie Wonder become one of the most acclaimed artists of the 70s.

A definite all-killer no-filler album, Wonder's progressive blend of soul, funk, jazz and rock still sounds just as fresh today, most famously on standout singles You Are the Sunshine of My Life and Superstition.

Astral Weeks by Van Morrison

After starting out in blues band Them, Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison enjoyed a solo pop hit with Brown-Eyed Girl before enjoying his greatest critical success on 1968's Astral Weeks, his second solo album.

The record's more introspective, eclectic sound didn't initially have the same mainstream appeal as his earlier work, but it was soon recognized as groundbreaking and helped establish Morrison as a major artist.

Paid in Full by Eric B. and Rakim

DJ Eric B and rapper Rakim have long been held up as arguably the greatest golden age hip hop duo, and their 1987 debut album Paid in Full captures them at the height of their powers.

Five of its ten songs were released as singles (including the title track and I Know You Got Soul), and the album was certified platinum in 1995.

Appetite for Destruction by Guns N' Roses

The 1987 debut album from Guns N' Roses ushered in a new era for hard rock. Though largely ignored on release, it built up a buzz that eventually saw the LA band become the biggest band on the planet for a time.

Tracks like Welcome to the Jungle, Paradise City and Sweet Child o' Mine remain beloved rock anthems.

Aja by Steely Dan

Steely Dan's blend of rock and jazz remains unconventional to this day, yet on their 1977 album Aja the band enjoyed a mainstream breakthrough, going double-platinum in the US and winning a Grammy award.

Album tracks Peg, Deacon Blues and Josie all became hit singles.

Stankonia by Outkast

Thanks in part to the hit single Ms. Jackson, Outkast's 2000 release Stankonia took the duo to another level of mainstream success.

The album saw the rappers adopt a more melodic approach, which won over listeners as well as impressing the judges at the Grammys: they took home awards for Best Rap Album and Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group for Ms. Jackson.

Live At The Apollo by James Brown

Rolling Stone's greatest albums list doesn't have much in the way of live recordings, but they found room for James Brown's Live At The Apollo, a recording of an October 1962 gig at the Apollo Theater in Harlem (where Brown would later record another three live albums).

To many admirers, Brown's live recordings capture the consummate showman's true essence better than his studio efforts.

A Love Supreme by John Coltrane

The biggest-selling and most influential recording by jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane, 1965's A Love Supreme helped bridge the gap between jazz and the mainstream.

An expression of Coltrane's spiritual beliefs, it resonated with the mystically-inclined peace and love movement that followed, and proved as influential on rock musicians (such as Carlos Santana) as it was on the jazz world.

Reasonable Doubt by Jay-Z

Rap legend Jay-Z made his debut with 1996 album Reasonable Doubt, which announced him as a force to be reckoned with in hip hop.

The deeply personal work is still considered some of Jay-Z's best work, and proved hugely influential on the rappers that have come since.

Voodoo by D’Angelo

Voodoo is D’Angelo’s sultry homage to the roots of soul, R&B, and funk. Its tracks echo with passion, and there’s a tangible atmosphere in every note.

It’s a record that doesn’t merely exist in its time but transcends it, it’s a mood, a vibe that resonates with anyone who’s felt the pull of love and the rhythms of life.

The Hounds of Love by Kate Bush

Always one of the most unique singer-songwriters of her generation, Kate Bush's fifth album The Hounds of Love proved to be her magnum opus.

A lyrical blend of timeless poetic themes and contemporary electronic sounds, the record is best known for opening track Running Up That Hill, which has earned a new generation of admirers thanks to its use in Netflix series Stranger Things.

Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morrissette

Having started out as a teen pop singer, Alanis Morrissette got bold and personal with her third album, 1995's Jagged Little Pill. Hit singles You Oughta Know, Hand In My Pocket and Ironic presented a mainstream-friendly take on alt-rock that proved massively popular.

Having shifted over 33 million copies, it remains one of the best-selling albums of all time.

Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A.

Always every bit as controversial as they were acclaimed and influential, LA rap group N.W.A. helped usher in a bold, confrontational new era for hip-hop.

1988's Straight Outta Compton was their first of only two studio albums, but it had an immeasurable impact on the music scene as well as launching the careers of Ice Cube and Dr Dre.

Exodus by Bob Marley and the Wailers

Rolling Stone already listed Bob Marley's greatest hits collection Legend among their all-time greatest albums. In some ways 1977's Exodus doesn't feel too far off being a greatest hits itself, given it includes several of his best-loved tracks: Waiting in Vain, Jamming, Three Little Birds and One Love.

Arguably no other Marley studio album features so many great songs, or encompasses his philosophy so well.

Harvest by Neil Young

While famed for his work with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Canadian folk rocker Neil Young has been most prolific as a solo artist.

1972's Harvest is among his gentlest, most heartfelt albums, heavy with old-fashioned steel guitar and banjo, including some of Young's most enduring hits including Heart of Gold, Old Man and The Needle and the Damage Done.

Loveless by My Bloody Valentine

Irish band My Bloody Valentine only released two albums in their heyday, but their impact on the indie rock scene was immeasurable: countless guitarists picked up Fender Jaguars and dozens of FX pedals in imitation of Kevin Shields.

Their 1991 sophomore effort Loveless is considered the band's definitive work, a wall of abstract, transcendental noise that alienates many casual listeners but enthrals fans.

The College Dropout by Kanye West

Long before he was derailed by fame, acclaim and mental health problems, Kanye West was among the most acclaimed, celebrated rappers of his generation, and his 2004 debut album The College Dropout demonstrates this.

Fans and critics hailed West for moving away from the violent materialism of gangster rap to instead embrace lyrics discussing more personal, emotional matters.

Illmatic by Nas

Often hailed as one of the greatest rap artists of all time, Nas made his debut with 1994 album Illmatic, a vivid, powerful exploration of his upbringing on the mean streets of New York.

As well as being ranked as the 44th best album ever by Rolling Stone, Illmatic has also been dubbed the best hip hop album ever by Billboard.

Lady Soul by Aretha Franklin

Very few would disagree that soul legend Aretha Franklin was one of the greatest singers of all time, and her 1967 album Lady Soul showcases Franklin at the height of her powers.

The long player's ten tracks include some of Franklin's most iconic recordings, including Chain of Fools, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, and her cover of Curtis Mayfield's People Get Ready.

Super Fly by Curtis Mayfield

Until now, film soundtracks have been entirely absent from Rolling Stone's list of the greatest albums ever. Curtis Mayfield's 1972 album Super Fly is both his own third album and the soundtrack to the film of the same year.

It's widely agreed that the record holds up much better than the film itself; like Marvin Gaye, Mayfield combined progressive soul music with socially conscious lyrics.

Who's Next by The Who

British rock legends The Who were among the loudest and most ambitious bands of their time. 1971's Who's Next was born from the ashes of an abandoned rock opera, but while it might not have been what the band originally envisioned, it's widely considered their greatest album.

It's also notable for its pioneering use of synthesizers on Baba O'Reilly and Won't Get Fooled Again.

Star Time by James Brown

The Godfather of Soul is another musical icon Rolling Stone feel is best represented by a best-of compilation. Still, as greatest hits albums go, 1991's Star Time is a beast: 71 tracks from three decades, over four CDs, totally almost five hours.

You could spend most of a day listening to James Brown's best - but there are clearly worse ways to use that time.

The Sun Sessions by Elvis Presley

Released less than 18 months before the legendary singer's untimely passing, 1976's The Sun Sessions is a compilation of Elvis Presley's earliest recordings for Sun Records dating back to 1954.

Given what a grandiose showman Presley had become by his final years, this collection serves to remind of just how vital, energetic and groundbreaking his earliest rock and roll work was.

Blond by Frank Ocean

With his sophomore album Blond, American singer and rapper Frank Ocean produced one of the most acclaimed records of the 2010s, popping up in numerous critics' polls of albums of the decade as well as making Rolling Stone's all-time top 500.

It's an eclectic, emotional blend of contrasting musical styles ranging from hip hop to psychedelia.

Never Mind The B*****ks, Here's The Sex Pistols by The Sex Pistols

Infamously anarchic London quartet The Sex Pistols remain, in the eyes of some, the quintessential punk rock band, and their one and only studio album from 1977 is their definitive statement.

With its simple, high-volume sound and John Lydon's ferocious vocals and lyrics, it remains as powerful and confrontational a record all these years later, no matter how widely the band has been imitated since.

Beyoncé by Beyoncé

Beyoncé's self-titled fifth solo album was released in 2013, and was her most ambitious work up to that point, and was second only to the soundtrack of Disney's Frozen as the biggest-selling album of 2014.

Beyoncé caused a particular stir for the fact that it was released out of the blue with no prior publicity, but the music stands up too.

There's a Riot Goin' On by Sly and the Family Stone

As a mixed-race ensemble playing music that blended rock, soul and funk, Sly and the Family Stone broke new ground musically and socially in the late 60s and early 70s. 1971's There's a Riot Goin' On was their fifth album.

While less upbeat than their early work, it's a compelling reflection of the uneasy times in which it was recorded, most famously on hit Family Affair.

Dusty in Memphis by Dusty Springfield

Breaking through in her native Britain in the early 60s, Dusty Springfield was heavily inspired by American soul, and headed to Memphis, Tennessee to record her fifth album in order to capture that authentic soul vibe.

Best known for featuring Son of a Preacher Man, 1969's Dusty in Memphis proved to be the singer's greatest work and a major influence on many soul singers since.

Back in Black by AC/DC

One wouldn't expect a band to produce their definitive work within months of their previous frontman dying. However, AC/DC did this with 1980's Back in Black. Brian Johnson proved an excellent replacement for the late Bon Scott, and sonically the Australian rockers went louder and harder than ever.

And boy, it paid off: it's one of the biggest-selling albums ever, shifting over 50 million copies.

Plastic Ono Band by John Lennon

Recorded and released within months of The Beatles breaking up, John Lennon's first solo album is a stark, bleak and uncompromising album that's far removed from the old Beatles optimism.

The singer-songwriter was going through intensive primal scream therapy at the time, and this hugely influenced the confessional and often uncomfortably blunt lyrics and vocals on tracks like Mother and Working Class Hero.

The Doors by The Doors

Although they emerged at the height of flower power, LA rock band The Doors were never really part of the hippy scene, their ambitious music and Jim Morrison's poetic, confrontational lyrics paving the way for the progressive rock of the 70s.

Their self-titled 1967 debut album features many of the band's best-loved tracks including Light My Fire and Break On Through (To the Other Side).

B****** Brew by Miles Davis

By 1970, the psychedelic movement was making its influence felt not only in rock and roll, but also in jazz.

The esteemed trumpeter and bandleader Miles Davis took a significant step in this direction with B****** Brew, an ambitious, experimental record which laid the groundwork for the jazz fusion movement by incorporating electric instruments and elements of rock and funk music.

Hunky Dory by David Bowie

David Bowie didn't really break through commercially until he embraced glam rock, but his earlier, more folk-oriented efforts have long since been re-embraced and hailed as masterpieces.

His fourth album Hunky Dory helped pave the way for Bowie's later superstardom, and features many of his most iconic songs including Changes and Life on Mars.

Baduizm by Erykah Badu

US neo-soul singer Erykah Badu made a major splash with her 1997 debut album Baduizm. Blending contemporary R&B and hip hop with more old-fashioned musical vibes, many were soon comparing the singer to the legendary Billie Holiday.

It won Best R&B Album at the 1998 Grammy Awards and went multi-platinum.

After the Gold Rush by Neil Young

Released in September 1970 (just six months after Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's Déjà Vu), After the Gold Rush was Neil Young's third solo album.

It stands as a perfect example of Young's contrasting styles, gentle acoustic ballads like Only Love Can Break Your Heart standing shoulder-to-shoulder with rockier tracks like the controversial Southern Man (infamously referenced on Lynryd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama).

Darkness on the Edge of Town by Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen's third album, 1975's Born to Run, made him one of the best-loved rock stars of the era, but his follow-up album - 1978's Darkness on the Edge of Town - proved he was here to stay.

As the title suggests, it's a darker, more mature effort than his breakthrough album, and it doesn't command the same popularity as either Born to Run or Springsteen's later hit album Born in the USA, but it's a highly revered album among music lovers.

Axis: Bold as Love by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Released in December 1967 - only seven months after his similarly groundbreaking debut album Are You Experienced - Jimi Hendrix's second album Axis: Bold as Love clearly indicated that the flamboyant guitar hero had by no means exhausted his creativity on the first record.

Notable for featuring the beloved ballad Little Wing and the psychedelic anthem If 6 Was 9, the album packs in all manner of bizarre sounds which still seem revolutionary today, but through it all there's no mistaking the power of Hendrix's songwriting and the musicianship of himself, bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell.

Supa Dupa Fly by Missy 'Midemeanor' Elliott

After emerging in the mid-90s, Missy Elliot went on to become one of the most successful female rappers of all time. 1997's Supa Dupa Fly was her debut solo album, and it proved to be a powerful statement of intent.

Written and produced in collaboration with Timbaland, with guest appearances from Aaliyah, Busta Rhymes, Lil' Kim and Ginuwine, Supa Dupa Fly was a multi-platinum seller and a critical smash, paving the way for the huge success Elliot would continue to enjoy.

Fun House by The Stooges

The Stooges are one of those bands who made very little impact in their own lifetime, yet wound up having an immeasurable impact on rock music. Following on from their self-titled 1969 debut, 1970's Fun House saw the Detroit quartet get even wilder.

Iggy Pop's unhinged vocals and Ron Asheton's heavily distorted guitar laid the groundwork for scores of imitators in the punk and alt-rock movements that would follow years later. Alas, commercial failure and drug problems would see the band implode soon thereafter.

Take Care by Drake

One of the most popular and influential singer-songwriters of recent times thanks to his pioneering blend of hip-hop and R&B, Drake broke through with his 2010 album Thank Me Later, and hit the next level with 2011 sophomore effort Take Care.

Building on the distinctive sound established in his first album, Take Care proved an even bigger success, going platinum eight times and earning Drake his first Grammy award for Best Rap Album.

Automatic for the People by R.E.M.

After steadily building in popularity throughout the 80s, alt-rockers R.E.M. hit the big time with 1991 album Out of Time, and the extremely upbeat hit single Shiny Happy People. However, their 1992 follow-up Automatic for the People showed the band in a rather different mood.

Melancholic yet still with an optimistic undertone, this quiet, introspective collection of songs included two of their biggest hits, Everybody Hurts and Man on the Moon. It remains one of their best-loved albums.

Master of Puppets by Metallica

From their name alone, Metallica always set out to be the band by whom all heavy metal would be measured. The first two albums Kill 'Em All and Ride the Lightning stated their case, but third album Master of Puppets really solidified the argument.

Best known for its title track (immortalized in season four of Netflix's Stranger Things), the 1986 album hit new heights for thrash metal, and unlike a lot of the pompous hard rock of the era it still holds up today.

Car Wheels on a Gravel Road by Lucinda Williams

Country and blues singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams had been in the business for two decades, but it wasn't until she released her fifth album - 1998's Car Wheels on a Gravel Road - that she really broke through and found her voice.

Merging traditional folk aspects with elements of modern mainstream rock, the record became a big seller and wound up earning Williams a Grammy award for Best Contemporary Folk Record. It was certified gold in the US and remains Williams' most popular album.

Red by Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift had recorded three albums as a straight-up country artist before 2012's Red announced a bold new change of direction. Massively diversifying her sound in a considerably more mainstream direction, Swift remodelled herself as a new queen of pop.

Seven of the album's 16 tracks wound up being released as singles, most famously I Knew You Were Trouble and We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together. Interest in the singer-songwriter (and the tumultuous love life that informs her work) has not subsided since.