Whether you’re still in the throes of your intense love for music or the last time you really loved an album has long passed, there are albums we all remember that have managed to wield a significant influence over our lives and even change the way that we live. Concept records like Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness polarized angst-ridden teenagers everywhere while U2’s The Joshua Tree attempted to convey the wide-open spaces of the United States and all of the illusory contradictions therein. But beyond the albums that offered up numerous hits and garnered a multitude of loyal fans, there were also those that have had a lasting effect on the limitations of music. Sometimes it can seem like all of the good stuff happened a long time ago, but the following albums have proven that the ability to dramatically shift the musical landscape is timeless and a new frontier of creativity is always possible.
10) Blonde on Blonde – Bob Dylan (1966)
It’s commonly known that Bob Dylan is one of the most influential folk musicians of all time but it was actually his 7th studio album that garnered him the most critical success. Released as the final album in the music trilogy that consisted of Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde was not only one of the first double albums to be released, it explored brave new territory for Dylan. Combining the concept of traditional folk with a vision that extended well beyond the basics, Blonde on Blonde gave birth to songs like “Just Like a Woman” and “Visions of Johanna” that are among Dylan’s best and most well loved songs.
9) Appetite for Destruction – Guns N’ Roses (1987)
Arriving on the scene just before Nirvana to destroy the music monopoly that was being wrought by hair metal, Guns N’ Roses became an instant icon for hard rock musicians and fans everywhere in 1987. Appetite for Destruction not only managed to spawn crossover hits like “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and “Welcome To The Jungle”, it gave music fans a new vision of what constituted hard rock and for that it remains among the most popular and influential albums to slide beyond its genre.
8) Raw Power – The Stooges (1973)
The name Iggy Pop might be familiar enough to many but it was Pop’s work with The Stooges in the 1960’s that made him such an influential figure in punk music. Released as The Stooges 3rd studio album, Raw Power can be credited for giving birth to the garage rock sound that was re-popularized by bands like The Strokes and The White Stripes in the late 1990’s. Produced by David Bowie, the gritty, rough edged sound of Raw Power has endured and made The Stooges a seminal sixties band among so many.
7) London Calling – The Clash (1979)
London Calling was the 3rd studio album by the British-bred band The Clash who had already made a mark on the punk scene with their musical style and political fervour. Featuring tunes that were a mélange of punk, post-punk, reggae and ska, and lyrics by Joe Strummer that touched on serious subject matter like unemployment and war, this double album solidified The Clash’s place in music history. The album was also highly influential in lending legitimacy to a music scene that was seen as a passing trend.
6) The Smiths – The Smiths (1984)
Formed in Manchester in 1982, The Smiths quickly became one of the biggest bands to ever come out of Britain with the combined expert riffing of Johnny Marr and the deadpan vocal prowess of “Meat is Murder” Morrissey. While The Smiths were only around as a band until 1987, their striking fusion of many different musical styles in a guitar centered band led away from the synthesized tunes of the time, making their self-titled debut and its distinctive sound one of the most influential albums in the history of British music.
5) Exile on Main Street – Rolling Stones (1972)
One of the most influential and well-loved bands of all time, The Rolling Stones hit the pinnacle of their powers in the 1960’s like many bands, but one of their most influential releases actually came with the release of Exile on Main Street. It was definitely not a critical darling upon its release, but the semi-grungy, unpolished sound that had initially turned people off became revered over time as another souvenir from one of the world’s bluesiest rock n’ roll bands.
4) Are You Experienced? – Jimi Hendrix (1967)
Jimi Hendrix only lived to the young age of 27, but his musical influence and guitar playing have pushed him far beyond the stratosphere of legend. Hendrix is considered among the best guitarists to ever walk the earth, and his inventive mix of psychedelic blues and rock created a unique hybrid in music history with the release of Are You Experienced?. With classic tunes like “Purple Haze” and “The Wind Cries Mary”, it’s pretty easy to understand why it was named number 15 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
3) Nevermind – Nirvana (1991)
It’s hard to understand the climate that Nirvana’s debut album was released to in the midst of late 80’s hair rock and early 90’s bubble gum pop but the album has maintained as a significant achievement. Turning grunge into a household word, Nevermind changed the musical landscape overnight with “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “In Bloom” and “Come As You Are”, inspiring a teenage revolution and a host of much less talented bands to follow in their wake.
2) Horses – Patti Smith (1975)
Released before punk really broke, Horses became an icon not only for its tongue-in-cheek tunes but the iconic image of Patti Smith adorning the cover, all steely eyed and bedraggled hair without even a hint of archetypical girlishness. At the age of 28, Horses vaulted Smith into the forefront of punk rock music history. Inspired by the swagger of Keith Richards and the rebellion of French symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud, Smith sang, “Jesus died for someone’s sins, but not mine” like she alone was invoking the rise of a new kind of Messiah.
1) OK Computer – Radiohead (1997)
When thinking about the most influential albums of the last 20 years, one of the one’s that likely springs to almost everyone’s mind is OK Computer by the British band Radiohead. The band’s third album represented a departure from the band’s familiar guitar rock and journeyed into electronic music territory that explored the prescience of technology and the theme of modern alienation. Despite the fact that the album was deemed non-commercial by Radiohead’s record label, it remains one of the most influential albums of the 90’s and is considered on the top rungs of the best of all time.
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