400. The Temptations, 'Anthology'
Indisputably the greatest black vocal group of the modern era, this quintet created masterpiece after masterpiece of chugging, gospel-tinged soul. Anthology captures a slice of the Temps' prime, including "My Girl," "I Can't Get Next to You" and "I Wish It Would Rain."
399. Tom Waits, 'Rain Dogs'
"I like that weird, ludicrous things," once said. That understatement plays out most clearly on , his finest portrait of the tragic kingdom of the streets. Waits abandons his grungy minimalism on the gorgeous "Downtown Train" and gets backing by on "Big Black Mariah."
ZZ Top, 'Eliminator'
Warner Bros., 1983
Pure Americana: This song cycle about burning rubber, high heels and adrenaline took fuzzed-out Texas blues guitar and lashed it around rollicking boogie. 's megaplatinum album also had a high-gloss Eighties sheen and singles like "Sharp Dressed Man" that would help it sell some 10 million copies.
Massive Attack, 'Blue Lines'
One of the most influential records of the Nineties, Lines was perhaps the first post-hip-hop classic: a combination of rap, dub and soul that gave birth to what used to be called trip-hop. "What's important to us is the pace," said the band's 3D, "the weight of the bass and the mood."
Roxy Music, 'For Your Pleasure'
Warner Bros., 1973
Keyboardist 's last album with is the pop equivalent of Ultra-suede: highly stylish, abstract-leaning art rock. The collision of Eno's experimentalism and singer Bryan Ferry's romanticism gives a wild, tense charm – especially on the driving "Editions of You" and "Do the Strand."
LCD Soundsystem, 'Sound of Silver'
New York electro-punk kingpin James Murphy makes his masterpiece: Every track sounds like a different band's greatest hit, from the political punk goof "North American Scum" to the elegiac synth-pop breakup lament "Someone Great."
Randy Newman, 'Good Old Boys'
draws on his roots in the blues and New Orleans boogie to uncorck this blistering portrait of the American South. He shows that he was pop's most cutting satirist on "Rednecks" – a song that doesn't spare Northern or Southern racism; Newman once said he still gets nervous playing it in some cities.
The London-via-Sri Lanka art-punk funkateer came on like she knew she was kind of a big deal, and backed up her bravado. M.I.A.'s second album restyled hip-hop as one big international block party, mixing up beatbox riddims, playground rhymes, left-field samples and gunshots. It's a dance-off in a combat zone.
The Beatles, 'Let It Be'
The sound of the world's greatest pop group at war with itself. is at his most acidic; 's "I Me Mine" is about the sin of pride, sung with plaintive exhaustion; 's title track is like a survival mantra. Phil Spector pieced it all into a sad swan song.
Jackson Browne, 'The Pretender'
Laid-back Southern California folk rock took on new weight with 's fourth album. His first wife committed suicide while he was writing these songs, and they became hard-bitten. "Say a prayer for the pretender," he sings, "who started out so young and strong, only to surrender."
The White Stripes, 'Elephant'
and Meg White proved their minimalist garage rock had more depth and power than anyone expected. On tracks like the slow-burning "Seven Nation Army" and "The Hardest Button to Button," Jack's songwriting finally matches his blues-fanboy, art-school shtick.
Don Henley, 'The End of the Innocence'
Returning to the theme of "Desperado," the former hitched some of his finest melodies (especially on the gentle title track) to sharply focused lyrical studies of men in troubled transition – from youth to adulthood, innocence to responsibility.
Various Artists, 'The Indestructible Beat of Soweto'
The best album ever tagged as "world music," this compilation of South African pop is still fresh – full of funky, loping beats and gruff vocals, with a sweet track by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who soon appeared on Graceland.
Wu-Tang Clan, 'Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers'
East Coast hip-hop came back in 1993, thanks to a nine-man troupe of Staten Island MCs with a fascination for Hong Kong martial-arts mythology and producer RZA's love of menacing atmospherics. Hip-hop had rarely been this dirty.
Steely Dan, 'Pretzel Logic'
Donald Fagen and Walter Becker make their love of jazz explicit, covering Duke Ellington and copping the intro of "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" from hard-bop pianist Horace Silver. The guitars on their third LP are dialed back for a sound that's slick and airtight without being cold. The lyrics? As twisted as ever.
Bob Dylan, 'Love and Theft'
Blood, desperation and wicked gallows humor are in the air as and his road band provide a raucous tour of 20th-century musical America via jump blues, slow blues, rockabilly, Tin Pan Alley ballads and country swing. "Summer Days" sounds like the exact moment when R&B morphed into rock & roll.
The Who, 'A Quick One (Happy Jack)'
were in the middle of an experimental phase, and the results were fascinatingly quirky. "Boris the Spider" is a basso-profundo jape, and the miniopera title track foreshadows 's songwriting ambition.
Talking Heads, 'More Songs About Buildings and Food'
The ' second album weaved funk and gospel (including a cover of 's "Take Me to the River") into their twitchy, Spartan sound, announcing themselves as the newest of the New Wave bands.
Modern Lovers, 'Modern Lovers'
Jonathan Richman moved from Boston to New York in the hopes of sleeping on 's couch. That influence shows on the two-chord anthem "Roadrunner." Recorded in 1972 but not released until 1976, Lovers hot-wired the ' tough sounds to odes of suburban romanticism.
The Beach Boys, 'Smile (2011 Version)'
The five-disc director's cut of the Greatest Pop Album Never Made is an unfinished symphony of exquisite ping-ponging harmonies and psychedelicized Cali-surf soul. The included demos and fragments show Brian Wilson painting his masterpiece.
Toots and the Maytals, 'Funky Kingston'
Loose, funky, exuberant, Kingston is the quintessential document of Jamaica's greatest act after Bob Marley. Showcasing some of the ' best songs ("Pressure Drop" and borrowing from soul, pop and gospel, the album introduced the world to the great Toots Hibbert.
Things were not well with TLC during the making of CrazySexyCool: Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes was lighting literal fires, and the trio would soon be filing for bankruptcy. But they emerged with the most effervescent and soulful girl-group R&B anyone had seen since the Supremes.
Oasis, '(What's the Story) Morning Glory?'
With their second album, the fighting Gallagher brothers embraced the and comparisons and established themselves as a force in their own right, especially on the majestic "Wonderwall."
John Lee Hooker, 'The Ultimate Collection 1948-1990'
"Boogie Chillen" was 's first hit and one of the last songs he ever played. In between that was a lifetime of pure mojo. Collection houses that historic song, plus "Boom Boom" and a voice Bonnie Raitt said could "tap into all the pain he'd ever felt."
"I have to recreate the universe every morning when I wake up," said, explaining her second solo album's utter lack of musical inhibition. Post bounces from big-band jazz ("It's Oh So Quiet") to trip-hop. Fun fact: For her vocals, Bjšrk extended her mic cord to a beach so she could sing to the sea.