I’m sure we’ve all been there at one time or another: We’ve voted on, formulated, tabulated, revised, sifted through, and/or cursed a Top Albums of All Time list. Over at my day gig, Sound & Vision, one of the ways we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the property in 2008 was by putting together our Top 50 Albums of All Time. (Brief history lesson: The mag started as HiFi & Music Review in February 1958, morphed into Stereo Review in the ’60s, then became S&V in 1999.)
If there’s one thing we all know about lists like these, it’s that everybody has an opinion about them. We got more mail on this particular feature than anything else in years, with comments ranging from “Congrats! This is what Rolling Stone has tried to do several times, with limited success” to “How old are you guys anyway?” to “That was the dumbest list of records I have ever seen.” No matter what anybody said, as long as the response reflected somebody’s passion about music (with sound quality discussion/reverence a welcome bonus), then it was all good by me. My hope was that the way I asked our contributors to write about our Top 50 helped make the content a bit beyond the usual rock-critese. (Sometimes it worked better than others, of course.)
I guess it’s no surprise that the list is heavily skewed toward the expected “classics” of the ’60s and ’70s, but given that we were taking the half-century long view, albums that have stood the test of time and made indelible marks on music, recording and production techniques, and the culture at large just had to be there. Many of our voters felt that a) latter-century releases (read: anything after the mid-’80s) just don’t measure up to the weight of the “classics” and b) anything from this century needs the proper distance of time and perspective in order to gauge true impact.
So what do you think? Did we leave anything truly important off the Top 50 table? Are lists like these just tired and boring, or do you still like reading ‘em/workin on ‘em?