Beat logo

My 20 Essential Albums

In my opinion, these are the best albums to listen to.

By Annie KapurPublished 5 years ago 14 min read
Like

I have a number of favourite albums, and admittedly, it took me a while to put this together, because I knew I had to have one thing my music taste sometimes lacks: variety. If you already know me, then you know I'm a big 40s, 50s, and 60s fan–but this isn't really about me personally. This is more about which albums I think have been put together with real precision, and real thought. If you want to check out my personal tastes then I suggest you take a look at my lists on my "Essential Songs" by various artists including: Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and many, many more.

I wanted to make a list that everyone could enjoy as well; not too much about just my own personal tastes–but leaving some in there to make it just a little bit more personal than just a "greatest albums" list. So although this isn't a personal list, you may see me giving you a taste of my own music as well as what I think deserves a place here.

Hopefully, you can understand that as well as giving my own personal opinion, I wanted to make a list all could enjoy, and I wanted to make a list that would reflect which albums were well-crafted, and well-designed. So, here we go with our list. This list will be counted backwards, from 20 to 1.

20. 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' by Pink Floyd

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

Released on August 4, 1967, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is undoubtedly one of the most iconic psychedelic, and experimental rock albums of all time. It is marked at number 347 on Rolling Stone Magazine's Top 500 Albums, and has been re-released to mark its anniversaries. In my opinion, this album doesn't get enough credit as being the brain-child of one of the greatest, and most misunderstood rockstars in history, Syd Barrett. An incredible song and music writer, we are left with this iconic album that inspired electronic, and psychedelic rock everywhere for the decades to come.

My favourite song from the album: "Lucifer Sam"

19. 'Purple Rain' by Prince and the Revolution

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

Released on June 25, 1984, Prince's milestone album was probably the greatest thing that Funk and Rock had heard for a very long time. Not only because of its mass of great songs, but also because of its incredible Rock and R&B sound, Prince managed to make one of the most iconic albums in all of music history. Many people still listen to this album today, and it still sounds like it is brand new. With Rolling Stone Magazine, The Guardian, Pitchfork, and AllMusic giving this album top reviews, there is no doubt as to why Prince's landmark album became one of the most worshipped albums of all time.

My favourite song on the album: "When Doves Cry"

18. 'Shot of Love' by Bob Dylan

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

Released in late 1981, this album would serve as the final record in Bob Dylan's "Born Again"/"Gospel" Era, before he returned to form with Infidels in 1983. This album may not have been received that well at its time, but people have really come to appreciate it as the stronger album of this era. This album, since the release of Trouble No More has gained serious traction as possibly one of the greatest Christian Rock albums ever recorded. Bob Dylan's songwriting skills never fail, and they go along with his incredible singing voice that has blessed the gospel era greatly.

My favourite song on the album: "Property of Jesus"

17. 'All Things Must Pass' by George Harrison

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

Released at the brink of the break-up of The Beatles, George Harrison put out his solo album All Things Must Pass in late 1970. Possibly the greatest solo album from any of the fab four, Harrison's skills at guitar work, songwriting, and atmosphere in music really come through in this work of genius. Placed at number 433 in Rolling Stone Magazine's Top 500 Albums may seem a bit low, but out of all of the rock albums ever, this one made it on to the list, and I appreciate that. The soft ballad sound of this album just makes it so good to listen to–Harrison really outdid himself with this one. It is also one of my personal favourite albums ever recorded.

My favourite song on the album: "Art of Dying"

16. 'At Folsom Prison' by Johnny Cash

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

Possibly one of the greatest live albums ever recorded, Johnny Cash's seminal At Folsom Prison is a brilliant go-to for any live rock fan. Released in May 1968, it includes some of Cash's most beloved songs, and of course, his incredible singing voice. Johnny Cash is possibly one of the greatest vocalists ever, and this album is only one of the reasons why. The album reinvigorated Johnny Cash's career, and has since been re-released after the initial date when it once went 3x platinum. It is one of my personal favourite live albums, and I'm sure you'll enjoy it just as much as I do.

My favourite song from the album: "Green, Green Grass of Home"

15. 'Aladdin Sane' by David Bowie

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

Released in the midst of 1973, Aladdin Sane has gone on to become one of David Bowie's most well-loved albums. With the iconic lightning bolt, Bowie experimented with a very artistic style of rock music, and his vocals are absolutely brilliant. Making it on to the Rolling Stone Magazine's Top 500 at number 277, and on Pitchfork Media's Top Albums of the 1970s at number77. There is no doubt about the importance of this album, and how absolutely good it sounds. The album has a brilliant art sound, and seals Bowie's name in rock history–even though he was already there by this time.

My favourite song from the album: "Drive-In Saturday"

14. 'Pet Sounds' by The Beach Boys

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

This album is probably one of the most respected albums in Modern Classic Rock. Released in 1966, this album has many great songs, and shows The Beach Boys experimenting with a brand new sound, and new songwriting techniques. It has been put into the National Recording Registry as being of cultural importance, and was ranked on Rolling Stone Magazine's Top 500 Albums at Number two. The album also showcases all of your favourite Beach Boys tunes, and gives you a taste of their new psychedelia movement.

My favourite song from the album: "God Only Knows"

13. 'The Wall' by Pink Floyd

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

Possibly one of the greatest albums ever recorded, Pink Floyd's The Wall is more than just a cultural statement–it is something of legend. With a number of great songs, there isn't a single song on this album that can be considered "bad." It is a brilliantly formed story, and acts as the brain child of genius Roger Waters. Released in 1979, this seminal rock opera is possibly one of the most iconic albums of all time, as there are many, many people who have heard the intense tracks. It has since become the 30th greatest selling album of all time.

My favourite song from the album: "Mother"

12. 'Blood on the Tracks' by Bob Dylan

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

Blood on the Tracks is possibly one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded. Currently, it is at Number 16 on Rolling Stone Magazine's Top 500 Albums, and at Number five on Pitchfork Media's Top 100 Albums of the 1970s. It is known as Bob Dylan's return after his hiatus, but then again, it is also known as the controversial "divorce album." This has since been discouraged by Dylan himself who stated it was based on Chekhovian Stories; which is quite a solid claim since they can be seen woven into the lyrics. But there are certain aspects of the personal sounds to the album, which make us really wonder about Dylan's true message.

My favourite song from the album: "Idiot Wind"

11. 'The Essential Simon and Garfunkel' by Simon and Garfunkel

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

The Essential Simon and Garfunkel is a collection of the duo's best songs in the best possible way. Originally released in 2003, this album combines the sounds of the great rock beats with the sounds of silence. It is one of the seminal albums of ballads, rock, and folk, and Simon and Garfunkel themselves have become very well respected, because of these great songs included on this compilation. Personally, I believe that this album needs far more listeners than it gets. I hope you enjoy it.

My favourite song from the album: "Richard Cory"

10. 'Off the Wall' by Michael Jackson

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

Undoubtedly one of the greatest disco albums ever recorded, Off the Wall is an incredible coming-of-age album in the Michael Jackson Songbook. The album, since its release, has gone 8x platinum, making it one of the greatest selling albums in history. It has also been ranked at number 68 in Rolling Stone Magazine's Top 500 Albums list, was listed at number 80 on the National Association of Recording Merchandisers list of 200 Definitive Albums of all time, and finally in 2008, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Being released on the Epic Label also meant that this was Michael Jackson's breakaway from Motown. It is an essential album because of its incredible quality–the seminal song associated with this album, Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough, being written by the 21-year old Jackson himself.

My favourite song from the album: "Burn This Disco Out"

9. 'Portrait of a Legend' by Sam Cooke

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

I'm sure that everyone has either heard of, or heard Sam Cooke's amazing soulful singing voice once in their lifetime. If you haven't, then you clearly haven't been listening to the right music. This album, originally released in 2003, compiles all of Sam Cooke's greatest songs. In Rolling Stone Magazine's Top 500 Albums, this album stands at Number 107, and it was also featured in TIME Magazine's all-time greatest albums. One of the greatest soul compilations out there, Sam Cooke truly has earned the name of "legend." I seriously have a difficult time choosing my favourite song on this album, but I think I have the gist of it now. I hope you enjoy this album, because it is seriously underrated.

My favourite song from the album: "Chain Gang"

8. '20 Golden Greats (Buddy Holly Lives)' by Buddy Holly

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

First released in 1978, almost twenty years after the death of Buddy Holly, this album is yet another compilation of greatest hits. But, the thing that this album does differently is that it leaves out the more obscure songs, which I do not agree with, but it still makes for a good introduction to Buddy Holly if you're looking for one. The album, subtitled Buddy Holly Lives, was ranked on Rolling Stone Magazine's Top 500 Albums at Number 92. It may be a fantastic introduction to Buddy Holly for new fans, but for the ones who have been listening to him for a while like me, it's a reminder of how great the music really was. Unfortunately, I do believe it might be out of print, but is available on streaming, and for download.

My favourite song on the album: "Brown Eyed Handsome Man"

7. 'White Album' by The Beatles

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

The self-titled album, better known as the White Album was released in the winter of 1968, and has since become one of the most confusing albums the Beatles have ever recorded, and, in my opinion, their very best attempt at moving rock forward. The album has been regarded as a massive contrast to the previous albums such as Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour, and has since become more and more popular through widespread acclaim and attention paid to how it changed music. It also includes the haunting Revolution 9, which has confused people for decades. It is a brilliantly formed album, and I'm sure you will enjoy it.

My favourite song from the album: "Happiness is a Warm Gun"

6. 'The Essential Elvis Presley' by Elvis Presley

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

Released in the early days of 2007, this album compiles all of the King's greatest hits, and makes for a brilliant addition to the collection for any fan. Seriously, I was going to choose the Sun Sessions, but I'd rather give you something more formed than that. The "Essential" album puts together some of the brilliant recordings from every part of Elvis Presley's career, from the earliest guitar-based songs, through to gospel, through the Jailhouse Rock period, all the way through to Memphis and Hawaii–it is the go-to album for any fan. But if you want another album, with even more songs–I'd go to BD Music Presents: Elvis Presley.

My favourite song from the album: "If I Can Dream"

5. 'The Essential Billie Holiday: The Columbia Years' by Billie Holiday

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

Released in 2010, this album brings together all of Billie Holiday's greatest recordings. An album which features songs from Billie Holiday's most thriving output, these songs are pretty much some of my favourites by any female artist ever. She is my favourite, and this is totally a personal addition to the list. I believe Holiday is the greatest female vocalist of all time, and doesn't get nearly enough appreciation for what she did for music. She was soulful, she was beautiful, and she was amazing, her songs live on through this incredible compilation album that you definitely need to listen to. Every song is an absolute gem.

My favourite song from the album: "Summertime"

4. 'John Wesley Harding' by Bob Dylan

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

Released in the late days of 1967, this album is known for its minimalist style, a quick and swift change from Bob Dylan's previous request for making Blonde on Blonde. This album includes the semi-acoustic sound which colours the storytelling in the songs. It currently stands at number 303 in Rolling Stone Magazine's Top 500 Albums of all time, and has been well-received by all critics throughout its history-though many were confused by the style. If you haven't listened to this album, then know that you are seriously missing out.

My favourite song from the album: "The Wicked Messenger"

3. 'Thriller' by Michael Jackson

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

Michael Jackson's Thriller is possibly the most iconic album ever recorded. Try, the greatest selling album of all time and one of the most mind-blowing albums in all of history. It was ranked by Rolling Stone Magazine at number 20 on their Top 500 Albums. Slant Magazine named Thriller the greatest album of the 1980s. The Library of Congress Record Registry entered Thriller for its cultural importance, and even the music video has been preserved by the National Film Registry. Thriller went on to win Michael Jackson many Grammy Awards, and currently stands as one of the most decorated albums in all of music history. The album has gone with the tradition of a quarter of a century edition with Thriller 25, and has been sampled, remixed, and covered by everyone. To this day, Thriller as an album, and a single, remains the greatest selling in music history.

My favourite song on the album: "Human Nature"

2. 'Infidels' by Bob Dylan

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

Infidels was released in the autumn of 1983, and has since become the "return to form" album after the gospel era. Still containing massive imagery of God, and the Devil, Dylan makes a brilliant classic rock album with some of his most defiant lyrics since the Freewheelin' days. Bob Dylan's vocals are at some of his best ever, and some have called this album his greatest melodic effort since Blood on the Tracks. I would personally call this album, in my opinion, the most well-made Bob Dylan album out there. There's a consistency of sound, a harmony, and a musical genius that colours this album. It's absolutely brilliant, and I'm sure you'll love it.

My favourite song from the album: "License to Kill"

1. 'Dangerous' by Michael Jackson

Listen to the album on Spotify here.

In my opinion, Michael Jackson's Dangerous is the greatest album ever recorded. The whole album fits together perfectly, and has a great New Jack Swing sound. Given top ratings by all the major music magazines, Michael Jackson created the greatest selling New Jack Swing album of all time, and gave us some incredible tracks to listen to. As a follow on from Bad and Thriller, the reputation must have been difficult to top–but he managed to do just that. The album art, the short films DVD, the world tour, and the songs have made this album what it is. It is pure brilliance.

My favourite song on the album: "Keep the Faith"

list
Like

About the Creator

Annie Kapur

200K+ Reads on Vocal.

English Lecturer

🎓Literature & Writing (B.A)

🎓Film & Writing (M.A)

🎓Secondary English Education (PgDipEd) (QTS)

📍Birmingham, UK

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights

Comments

There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.