450. Jackson Browne, 'For Everyman'
On his second album, emerged as the J.D. Salinger of the L.A. singer-songwriters; songs like "These Days" (first recorded by singer Nico) capture the shift from the idealistic Sixties to the disillusioned Seventies.
Big Star, 'Third/Sister Lovers'
recorded their third and final album in 1974, but it didn't get released until 1978, in part because singer Alex Chilton sounds like he's having a nervous breakdown. It's a record of gorgeous, disjointed heartbreak ballads.
The Police, 'Synchronicity'
"I do my best work when I'm in pain and turmoil," told Rolling Stone. And indeed, the dissolution of his first marriage produced some of his best work yet, including "King of Pain" and the stalker's anthem "Every Breath You Take." There was pain and turmoil in the band, too – it would be 's last album.
Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto, 'Getz/Gilberto'
Brazilian bossa nova met American jazz, as saxman Getz teamed up with guitarist-singer Gilberto and pianist-composer Antonio Carlos Jobim. Gilberto's wife, Astrud, became a star herself with a sensual guest vocal on "The Girl From Ipanema."
MC5, 'Back in the USA'
In the late Sixties, the were the house band for the White Panther Party, devoted to "dope, guns and fucking in the streets." But on their second album, they channel their ferocious sound and politics into the concise, Chuck Berry-like riffs of "The American Ruse," "Looking at You" and "Shaking Street."
Steve Miller Band, 'Fly Like an Eagle'
After a 1972 car accident sidelined him for nearly a year, Miller returned with a pop-rock sound that dominated Seventies radio: slick guitar boogie as catchy as and as danceable as disco. "Rock 'n Me" and "Take the Money and Run" kept Eagle on the charts for nearly two years.
War, 'The World Is A Ghetto'
United Artists, 1972
A badass Latin-funk band doing a song about a Latino TV show from the Fifities – that song was "The Cisco Kid," and the band was , L.A.'s answer to . But War were serious: The title song is a smoldering reflection on inner-city life.
Cheap Trick, 'In Color'
They were down-home Midwestern boys from Rockford, Illinois, but had a rock & roll approach as twisted as guitarist Rick Nielsen's bow ties. With blond pinup boy Robin Zander on vocals, the Trick rocked -style melodies such as "Oh Caroline," "Downed" and "Come On, Come On."
Devo, 'Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!'
Warner Bros., 1978
They came from Akron, Ohio, wore matching jumpsuits and had a sinister theory of devolution. Their debut album runs on rubber-punk guitars and even more sinister mechanized New Wave beats.
Red Star, 1977
These New York synth punks evoke everything from to rockabilly. Martin Rev's low-budget electronics are violent and hypnotic; Alan Vega screams as a rhythmic device. Late-night listening to "Frankie Teardrop," a 10-minute-plus tale of a multiple murder, is not recommended.
The Pogues, 'Rum Sodomy and The Lash'
With a voice like an ashtray, Shane MacGowan led this fabulous disaster of an Irish folk-punk band. Produced by (who married bassist Cait O'Riordan), Rum careens between the maudlin and the explosive.
Sam Cooke, 'Live At The Harlem Square Club, 1963'
was elegance personified, but he works this Florida club until it's hotter than hell, while sounding like he never breaks a sweat. He croons "For Sentimental Reasons" like a superlover, and when the crowd sings along with him, it's magic.
The Cure, 'Boys Don't Cry'
Before they became a goth-punk group, were a minimalist, inventive post-punk power trio. Boys is all hummable hooks, choppy guitars and mopey vocals. "10:15 Saturday Night" and "Jumping Someone Else's Train" are ingenious: You wait for a guitar solo and get a club-footed bass line instead.
Lil Wayne, 'Tha Carter III'
Cash Money/Universal Motown, 2008
"I am so far from the others," Wayne rapped. "I can eat them for supper/Get in my spaceship and hover." And the N'awlins-bred genius made good on that boast on a weird, luscious pop-rap odyssey.
Beck, 'Sea Change'
Breakup records are rarely this lovely. is the pristine sound of everything falling apart, a glossy take on a bummed-out Sixties folk sound. The music seems to be floating up from the bottom of the ocean; the words were straight from 's broken heart.
Nirvana, 'In Utero'
hired hard-nosed Steve Albini to record the follow-up to Nevermind. Geffen asked them to clean up some of the results, and you can hear the tension in white-noise ruckus like "Serve the Servants." But the only thing that can explain the scalding "Rape Me" is inner pain.
Big Star, '#1 Record'
Alex Chilton and Chris Bell were the Memphis whiz kids at the heart of . They mixed British-pop finesse with all-American hard rock, from the surging "Feel" to the acoustic "Thirteen." Big Star didn't sell many records, but the Eighties explosion of poppy garage bands would've been unimaginable without them.
George Harrison, 'All Things Must Pass'
Harrison had almost enough songs stored up from his days for a triple LP – the gas starts to run out during the jams on Side Six. But spiritual guitar quests like "My Sweet Lord" and "What Is Life" became classics.
Brian Eno, 'Here Come The Warm Jets'
's first solo album pioneered a new kind of glammy art rock: jagged, free-form and dreamy. "Baby's on Fire" and "Needles in the Camel's Eye" are vicious rockers with detached vocals, and Robert Fripp's warped guitars swarm and stutter.
PJ Harvey, 'Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea'
Polly Harvey, happy? It was a surprise: But album number five found her in New York and in love. The result was lusher than anything she had recorded but also vibrant and surprisingly catchy.
Vampire Weekend, 'Vampire Weekend'
Vampire Weekend came out of Columbia University displaying an affinity for boat shoes and African guitar music. Their debut was full of suavely seductive indie-pop songs about college campuses and trysts with Benetton-wearing ladies. Ezra Koenig's -esque melodies are as refined as his education.
Brian Eno, 'Another Green World'
After years as a rock eccentric, said goodbye to pop-song form with this album of pure synthetic beauty, mixing lush electronics ("Becalmed") with acoustic intruments ("Everything Merges With the Night") to cast a truly hypnotic spell.
The Police, 'Outlandos D'Amour'
got bigger but they never sounded fresher, absorbing reggae into the spare, bouncy sound of their debut album. "Roxanne" and "Next to You" prove was already a top-notch songwriter.
Peter Wolf, 'Sleepless'
Wolf accomplishes a rare feat on this modern blues album: He sings about adult roance without sounding jaded. The former J. Geils Band singer testifies about true love in his soulful growl, with help from friends like and .
Cheap Trick, 'At Budokan'
After three studio albums, were bigger in Japan than in America. But this record of a live Tokyo gig became their first U.S. hit. The Japanese schoolgirls are practically the lead instrument here, screaming their lungs out to "Surrender" and "I Want You to Want Me."