Cobalt, Slow Forever (Profound Lore, 2016)

I found this album off-putting at first. One appeal of extreme metal (one of many, I insist) is the density of ideas: a multitude of voices and instruments, manic but precise, each collaborative yet competing for attention, plus screaming and double bass drum. I love combing through such mayhem to uncover the order underneath. It’s what I want when I listen to metal.

Slow Forever is different: each song is a series of riffs, one after the other, supported by a rhythm section, with intermittent screaming on top. On first listen, not a lot to parse. If this is black metal, as I’ve read, I don’t hear it because description above. However, like with all great art I spend money on, I decided to meet this one halfway, and was rewarded once I could hear the music for what it is, rather than for what I wanted it to be–always the hardest step when listening to something unfamiliar.

So what is it exactly? It’s magnitude rather than mass. Wide open space. Riffs with nothing to hide. No desire to obfuscate. Beauty. Clarity. Power.

No, really, what is it exactly? I’ll start at the beginning:

Extreme metal is like chocolate. It can taste good or it can taste bad, but usually it still tastes like that one thing: it tastes like chocolate. But chocolate can also have an infinite variety of subtle flavors, and even though at some level it all tastes like chocolate, every sampling remains a unique aesthetic experience, and I never tire of it. There are similar analogies to make using pizza or sex, but I’ll stick with chocolate.

Further, I hear extreme metal as an outburst due to life that is stressed and in crisis. That stress can be environmental, or internal, or even self-imposed: for example, I’m from the East Coast, so for whatever reason I require a little pressure on me to feel balance in my life. So maybe some of us even crave the stress so we can have the outburst. Whatever the source, extreme metal provides music of stress and physical release. Imagine a man in crisis, seeking relief, walking into the wilderness, stripping off his shirt, smearing corpse paint around his eyes and breathing fire like a warrior. It’s a special kind of beauty. That’s metal to me.

And that’s how I hear it: as an endless variation on that single act. Sometimes, when listening to Motörhead or Gehennah, the act also includes beer. But the aesthetic experience is largely the same.

Musically, that tension and release is the product of texture and pacing. There is melody and there are hooks, but what I desperately want is the drama that is unique to extreme metal and particular to its best songs, albums and bands. My preferred formula simulates cacophony: some version of the aforementioned voices, collaborative yet competitive, plus screaming and double bass drum. I love riffs which pile on the half-steps to conjure that immortal devil’s interval; the resultant mass is like emotion simmering in your chest, incomprehensible, waiting for release.

In contrast, Slow Forever is wide open, yet provides similar feels. Erik Wunder’s most striking riffs borrow from the blues and suggest harmonic possibility instead of obsessive introspection. As a whole, where I expected a swirling mass, I got meticulousness and magnitude: riffs carved in stone, without obfuscation, like cracks of thunder. Perhaps the clarity of the thing surprised me because I expected some black metal morass. Morass it is not. I put these riffs in my bones and let them sit.

If I have a criticism, it’s that initially Charlie Fell’s performance sounded pasted on rather than intuitively set within the rest of the music. Once I learned the album in my guts, however, I let that go. I let it all go. It was worth it.

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Blender – 500 CDs You Must Own Before You Die! (April 2003)

In case it’s been lost to history, Blender was a music magazine published under the Maxim brand from 1994-2009. Among its specialties was A+ music writing (including many who wrote for Spin in the ’90s), risque covers, laffs and lists. So many lists. At its peak, in the early 21st century, it was my favorite music magazine. They also published my favorite of that most contentious thing, a list of the greatest albums ever made.

There is very little context provided for the list in the April 2003 issue; just album covers and blurbs, with no overarching theme or explanation. In his Editor’s Letter, Andy Pemberton jokes how he “decided to release the review dwarves from their cages and send them on a mission to find the 500 best CDs the world has ever heard.” That, plus a list of contributors, is about all we get.

And yet, Pemberton is careful to write “CDs” rather than “albums” in the above passage: while best-ofs are often included in lists such as this, there’s also Big Star and Beach Boys two-fers, and several multi-artist compilations and box sets. Purists scoff (you can Google it), but the ragtag character of the thing beautifully encapsulates the magazine’s larger aesthetic: great art can be from anywhere, even in the most unlikely places, and sometimes a wide net is preferable to a refined canon. I find this sense of inclusion refreshing when compared to the competition (Rolling Stone, cough).

That said, the concentration on CDs feels rather quaint after living through MP3s, Peer to Peer networks, iTunes, and now streaming services, each fundamentally changing the way we collect music. But I remain convinced that canon building and the listing of names remains essential business; even with nearly everything available at our fingertips, the paralysis of choice is real, and if you don’t know what you’re looking for, how will you ever find it?

A few notes: the list below is copied exactly as it was printed, no corrections. Yes, Wish You Were Here was released by Columbia in the U.S., not Capitol, and Tear the Roof Off is 1993, not ’83. But should Steely Dan be ABC or MCA? Blender lists both. Is it helpful or confusing to list reissue labels Rhino for Dusty in Memphis and Koch for Lucinda Williams? I’m not convinced. In the end, however, I prefer to provide the original, warts and all, because it’s a piece of history. For more accurate information, I recommend Allmusic, Discogs, or Wikipedia.

In the magazine, the list is broken into loose genre categories, and within some of the genres, side panels are included listing “the best of” specific bands or sub-genres. Really, though, these side panels seem necessitated by layout concerns more than anything, so I wouldn’t put too much stock in them as critical analysis. Regardless, both still act as organizational tools for a rather long and cumbersome list, so I’ve retained them and provided hyperlinks to each like chapter stops. Enjoy!

The list and its blurbs were written by John Aizlewood, Matt Ashare, Michael Azerrad, Greg Beato, Johnny Black, Ben Brandt, J.D. Considine, John DeFore, Tom Doyle, Richard Gehr, Joe Gross, Gerald Hammill, John Harris, David Hiltbrand, Erik Himmelsbach, Hua Hsu, Howard Johnson, Daniel Krauss, Stuart Maconie, Craig Marks, Andy Pemberton, Tony Power, David Quantick, Richard Skanse, RJ Smith, David Smyth, Phil Sutcliffe, Rob Tannenbaum and Jonah Weiner. The feature was edited by John Aizlewood.

Classic Rock

Alternative Rock

Blues

Country

Pop

Rhythm & Blues

Hip-Hop

World

Jazz

13 CDs You Must Not Own Before You Die

Classic Rock

  • AC/DC, Highway to Hell (ATCO, 1979)
  • AC/DC, Back in Black (ATCO, 1980)
  • Ryan Adams, Heartbreaker (Bloodshot, 2000)
  • Aerosmith, Toys in the Attic (Columbia, 1975)
  • Aerosmith, Rocks (Columbia, 1976)
  • The Allman Brothers Band, Live at the Fillmore East (Polydor, 1971)
  • The Animals, The Best of the Animals (ABKCO, 1988)
  • The Band, Music From Big Pink (Capitol, 1968)
  • The Band, The Band (Capitol, 1969)
  • Beach Boys, Little Deuce Coupe/All Summer Long (Capitol, 1990)
  • Beach Boys, Today!/Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) (Capitol, 1990)
  • Beach Boys, Pet Sounds (Capitol, 1966)
  • Chuck Berry, The Great Twenty-Eight (Chess, 1982)
  • Black Sabbath, Symptom of the Universe: The Original Black Sabbath (1970-1978) (Rhino/Warner Bros., 2002)
  • Buffalo Springfield, Retrospective: The Best of Buffalo Springfield (ATCO, 1969)
  • The Byrds, Sweetheart of the Rodeo (Columbia/Legacy, 1968)
  • The Byrds, Greatest Hits (Expanded Edition) (Columbia/Legacy, 1999)
  • Tracy Chapman, Tracy Chapman (Elektra, 1988)
  • Cheap Trick, Live at Budokan (Epic, 1979)
  • Eric Clapton, The Cream of Clapton (Polydor/Chronicles, 1995)
  • Alice Cooper, The Best of Alice Cooper: Mascara & Monsters (Rhino, 2001)
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival, Chronicles (Fantasy, 1976)
  • The Doors, The Very Best of the Doors (Rhino, 2001)
  • Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home (Columbia, 1965)
  • Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia, 1965)
  • Bob Dylan, Live 1966: The Royal Albert Hall Concert (Columbia/Legacy, 1998)
  • Bob Dylan, Blonde On Blonde (Columbia, 1966)
  • Bob Dylan, John Wesley Harding (Columbia, 1967)
  • Bob Dylan & The Band, The Basement Tapes (Columbia, 1975)
  • Bob Dylan, Blood On the Tracks (Columbia, 1975)
  • Bob Dylan, Love and Theft (Columbia, 2001)
  • The Eagles, Hotel California (Asylum, 1976)
  • The Eagles, Their Greatest Hits (1971-1976) (Asylum, 1976)
  • Electric Light Orchestra, Strange Magic: The Best of Electric Light Orchestra (Epic, 1995)
  • Everly Brothers, All-Time Original Hits (Rhino, 1999)
  • Fleetwood Mac, Fleetwood Mac (Reprise, 1975)
  • Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (Warner Bros., 1977)
  • The Flying Burrito Brothers, Sin City: The Very Best of the Flying Burrito Brothers (Universal, 2002)
  • Peter Gabriel, Peter Gabriel (3) (Geffen, 1980)
  • Grateful Dead, Workingman’s Dead (Warner Bros., 1970)
  • Grateful Dead, American Beauty (Warner Bros., 1970)
  • Grateful Dead, Two From the Vault (Grateful Dead, 1992)
  • Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced? (MCA, 1967)
  • Jimi Hendrix Experience, Electric Ladyland (MCA, 1968)
  • Buddy Holly, The Buddy Holly Collection (MCA, 1993)
  • Joan Jett, Fit to Be Tied: Great Hits (Mercury/Blackheart, 1997)
  • Janis Joplin, The Essential Janis Joplin (Columbia, 2003)
  • The Kinks, Greatest Hits Vol. 1 (Rhino, 1989)
  • The Kinks, The Kink Kronikles (Reprise, 1972)
  • Kiss, Double Platinum (Casablanca, 1978)
  • Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin (Atlantic, 1969)
  • Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II (Atlantic, 1969)
  • Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin IV (Atlantic, 1971)
  • Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti (Atlantic, 1975)
  • John Lennon, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (Capitol, 1970)
  • John Lennon, Imagine (Capitol, 1971)
  • Jerry Lee Lewis, All Killer, No Filler: The Anthology (Rhino, 1993)
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd, Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd (MCA, 1973)
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd, Street Survivors (MCA, 1977)
  • Paul McCartney & Wings, Wingspan: Hits & History (Capitol, 2001)
  • Meat Loaf, Bat Out of Hell (Epic/Legacy, 1978)
  • Metallica, Master of Puppets (Elektra, 1986)
  • Metallica, Metallica (Elektra, 1991)
  • The Steve Miller Band, Greatest Hits 1974-78 (Capitol, 1978)
  • Joni Mitchell, Blue (Reprise, 1971)
  • Joni Mitchell, Court and Spark (Asylum, 1974)
  • Van Morrison, Astral Weeks (Warner Bros., 1968)
  • Van Morrison, Moondance (Warner Bros., 1970)
  • Motörhead, No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith (Sanctuary, 1980)
  • Mott the Hoople, The Ballad of Mott: A Retrospective (Columbia/Legacy, 1993)
  • Randy Newman, 12 Songs (Reprise, 1970)
  • Randy Newman, Good Old Boys (Reprise, 1974)
  • Roy Orbison, For the Lonely: 18 Greatest Hits (Rhino, 1988)
  • Gram Parsons, Sacred Hearts & Fallen Angels: The Gram Parsons Anthology (Rhino, 2001)
  • Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Greatest Hits (MCA, 1993)
  • Phish, Live Phish, Vol. 11: 11.17.97 (Elektra, 2002)
  • Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon (Capitol, 1973)
  • Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here (Capitol, 1975)
  • Pink Floyd, The Wall (Columbia, 1979)
  • Elvis Presley, Sunrise (RCA, 1999)
  • Elvis Presley, From Elvis in Memphis (RCA, 1969)
  • Elvis Presley, 30 #1 Hits (RCA, 2002)
  • The Raspberries, Capitol Collectors Series (Capitol, 1991)
  • Linda Ronstadt, The Very Best of Linda Ronstadt (Rhino, 2002)
  • Todd Rundgren, The Very Best of Todd Rundgren (Rhino, 1997)
  • Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, Greatest Hits (Capitol, 1994)
  • Paul Simon, The Paul Simon Collection: On My Way, Don’t Know Where I’m Goin’ (Warner Bros., 2002)
  • Simon & Garfunkel, The Best of Simon & Garfunkel (Columbia/Legacy, 1999)
  • Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run (Columbia, 1975)
  • Bruce Springsteen, Darkness On the Edge of Town (Columbia, 1978)
  • Bruce Springsteen, Born in the U.S.A. (Columbia, 1984)
  • Steely Dan, Can’t Buy a Thrill (MCA, 1972)
  • Steely Dan, Countdown to Ecstasy (ABC, 1973)
  • Steely Dan, Pretzel Logic (ABC, 1974)
  • Steely Dan, Katy Lied (ABC, 1975)
  • Steely Dan, Aja (MCA, 1977)
  • Cat Stevens, Remember: The Ultimate Collection (Island/Universal, 1999)
  • Rod Stewart, Storyteller (Box Set) (Warner Bros., 1989)
  • James Taylor, Greatest Hits (Warner Bros., 1976)
  • Richard & Linda Thompson, Shoot Out the Lights (Hannibal/Rykodisc, 1982)
  • T. Rex, 20th Century Boy: The Ultimate Collection (Hip-O, 2002)
  • The Troggs, Best of the Troggs (Fontana/Chronicles, 1994)
  • The Who, Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy (MCA, 1971)
  • The Who, Who’s Next (MCA, 1971)
  • The Who, Quadrophenia (MCA, 1973)
  • Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams (Koch, 1988)
  • Lucinda Williams, Car Wheels On a Gravel Road (Polygram, 1998)
  • The Yardbirds, Ultimate! (Rhino, 2001)
  • Neil Young, After the Gold Rush (Reprise, 1970)
  • Neil Young, Harvest (Reprise, 1972)
  • Neil Young, Tonight’s the Night (Reprise, 1975)
  • Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Rust Never Sleeps (Reprise, 1979)
  • Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Weld (Reprise, 1991)
  • Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention, We’re Only in It for the Money (Rykodisc, 1968)
  • Warren Zevon, Genius: The Best of Warren Zevon (Rhino, 2002)
  • ZZ Top, Greatest Hits (Warner Bros., 1992)

The Best of The Beatles

  • The Beatles, Meet the Beatles (Capitol, 1964)
  • The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night (Capitol, 1964)
  • The Beatles, Beatles for Sale (Capitol, 1964)
  • The Beatles, Help! (Capitol, 1965)
  • The Beatles, Rubber Soul (Capitol, 1965)
  • The Beatles, Revolver (Capitol, 1966)
  • The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Capitol, 1967)
  • The Beatles, The Beatles (Capitol, 1968)

The Best of Pop-Metal

  • Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet (Mercury, 1986)
  • Boston, Boston (Epic, 1976)
  • Def Leppard, Pyromania (Mercury, 1983)
  • Foreigner, The Very Best… and Beyond (Capitol, 1992)
  • Guns N’ Roses, Appetite for Destruction (Geffen, 1987)
  • Mötley Crüe, Decade of Decadence ’81-’91 (Elektra, 1991)
  • Queen, Greatest Hits I & II (Hollywood, 1995)
  • Van Halen, Van Halen (Warner Bros., 1978)

The Best of The Rolling Stones

  • The Rolling Stones, The Rolling Stones, Now! (ABKCO, 1965)
  • The Rolling Stones, Aftermath (ABKCO, 1966)
  • The Rolling Stones, Between the Buttons (ABKCO, 1967)
  • The Rolling Stones, Beggars Banquet (ABKCO, 1968)
  • The Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed (ABKCO, 1969)
  • The Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers (Virgin, 1971)
  • The Rolling Stones, Exile On Main Street (Virgin, 1972)
  • The Rolling Stones, Some Girls (Virgin, 1978)

Alternative Rock

  • Tori Amos, Under the Pink (Atlantic, 1994)
  • The B-52’s, Nude On the Moon (Rhino, 2002)
  • Basement Jaxx, Remedy (XL/Astralwerks, 1999)
  • Beastie Boys, Licensed to Ill (Def Jam, 1986)
  • Beastie Boys, Paul’s Boutique (Capitol, 1989)
  • Beck, Mellow Gold (Geffen, 1993)
  • Beck, Odelay (Geffen, 1996)
  • Big Star, #1 Record/Radio City (Fantasy, 1992)
  • Big Star, Third/Sister Lovers (Rykodisc, 1978)
  • Björk, Greatest Hits (Elektra, 2002)
  • Black Flag, Damaged (SST, 1981)
  • Blink-182, Enema of the State (MCA, 1999)
  • David Bowie, Low (Virgin, 1977)
  • David Bowie, Best of Bowie (Virgin, 2002)
  • Billy Bragg & Wilco, Mermaid Avenue (Elektra, 1998)
  • Breeders, Last Splash (4AD/Elektra, 1993)
  • Buzzcocks, Singles Going Steady (I.R.S., 1980)
  • The Cars, The Cars (Elektra, 1978)
  • Chemical Brothers, Dig Your Own Hole (Astralwerks, 1997)
  • The Clash, The Clash (CBS, 1977)
  • The Clash, London Calling (Epic, 1979)
  • Coldplay, A Rush of Blood to the Head (Capitol, 2002)
  • Elvis Costello, This Year’s Model (Rhino, 1978)
  • Elvis Costello & the Attractions, Armed Forces (Rhino, 1979)
  • Marshall Crenshaw, This Is Easy!: The Best of Marshall Crenshaw (Rhino, 2000)
  • The Cure, Greatest Hits (Elektra, 2001)
  • Depeche Mode, The Singles ’86-’98 (Reprise, 1998)
  • Devo, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (Warner Bros., 1978)
  • DJ Shadow, Endtroducing… (Full Frequency, 1996)
  • Duran Duran, Greatest (Capitol, 1998)
  • English Beat, Beat This!: The Best of the English Beat (Sire, 2000)
  • Brian Eno, Here Come the Warm Jets (Island, 1974)
  • Brian Eno, Another Green World (EG, 1975)
  • Fatboy Slim, You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby (Astralwerks, 1998)
  • The Feelies, Crazy Rhythms (A&M, 1980)
  • Gang of Four, Entertainment! (Infinite Zero, 1979)
  • Go-Go’s, Beauty and the Beat (I.R.S., 1981)
  • Green Day, Dookie (Reprise, 1994)
  • PJ Harvey, Rid of Me (Island, 1993)
  • PJ Harvey, To Bring You My Love (Island, 1995)
  • Hüsker Dü, New Day Rising (SST, 1985)
  • Jane’s Addiction, Nothing’s Shocking (Warner Bros., 1988)
  • Freedy Johnston, Can You Fly (Bar/None, 1992)
  • Joy Division, Closer (Qwest, 1980)
  • Korn, Follow the Leader (Immortal/Epic, 1998)
  • Kraftwerk, Autobahn (Philips, 1974)
  • Kraftwerk, Trans-Europe Express (Capitol, 1977)
  • Los Lobos, How Will the Wolf Survive? (Slash/Warner Bros., 1984)
  • Love, Forever Changes (2001 Deluxe Edition) (Rhino, 2001)
  • Nick Lowe, Basher: The Best of Nick Lowe (Columbia, 1989)
  • Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs (Merge, 1999)
  • Massive Attack, Blue Lines (Virgin, 1991)
  • Meat Puppets, Meat Puppets II (SST, 1984)
  • Mekons, The Mekons Rock N’ Roll (Collector’s Choice, 1989)
  • Minor Threat, Complete Discography (Dischord, 1988)
  • Minutemen, Double Nickels On the Dime (SST, 1984)
  • Moby, Play (V2, 1999)
  • Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill (Maverick/Reprise, 1996)
  • My Bloody Valentine, Loveless (Sire, 1991)
  • New Order, (The Best of) New Order (Qwest/Warner Bros., 1995)
  • Nine Inch Nails, The Downward Spiral (Nothing/Interscope, 1994)
  • No Doubt, Rock Steady (Interscope, 2001)
  • Oasis, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (Epic, 1995)
  • Sinéad O’Connor, So Far… The Best of Sinéad O’Connor (Capitol, 1997)
  • Pavement, Slanted and Enchanted (Matador, 1992)
  • Pavement, Crooked Rain Crooked Rain (Matador, 1994)
  • Pet Shop Boys, Discography: The Complete Singles Collection (EMI America, 1991)
  • Pet Shop Boys, Very (Capitol, 1993)
  • Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville (Matador, 1993)
  • Pixies, Doolittle (4AD/Elektra, 1989)
  • Pixies, Bossanova (4AD/Elektra, 1990)
  • The Pogues, Rum, Sodomy & the Lash (Warner Bros., 1985)
  • The Police, Outlandos D’Amour (A&M, 1978)
  • The Police, Zenyatta Mondatta (A&M, 1980)
  • Pretenders, Pretenders (Sire, 1979)
  • Pretenders, Learning to Crawl (Sire, 1984)
  • The Psychedelic Furs, Talk Talk Talk (Columbia, 1981)
  • Pulp, Different Class (Island, 1995)
  • Queens of the Stone Age, Rated R (Interscope, 2000)
  • Radiohead, The Bends (Capitol, 1995)
  • Radiohead, OK Computer (Capitol, 1997)
  • Rage Against the Machine, Evil Empire (Epic, 1996)
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers, BloodSugarSexMagik (Warner Bros., 1991)
  • Lou Reed, Legendary (BMG International, 2002)
  • Steve Reich, Music for 18 Musicians (RCA, 1978)
  • R.E.M., Murmur (I.R.S., 1983)
  • R.E.M., Document (I.R.S., 1987)
  • R.E.M., Automatic for the People (Warner Bros., 1992)
  • The Replacements, Let It Be (Twin/Tone, 1984)
  • Terry Riley, In C (CBS, 1968)
  • Roxy Music, Avalon (Warner Bros., 1982)
  • Roxy Music, The Best of Roxy Music (Virgin, 2001)
  • Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols (Warner Bros., 1977)
  • Slayer, Reign in Blood (Def American, 1986)
  • Sleater-Kinney, Dig Me Out (Kill Rock Stars, 1997)
  • The Smashing Pumpkins, Greatest Hits (Virgin, 2001)
  • The Smiths, Singles (Reprise, 1995)
  • Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation (Geffen, 1988)
  • Sonic Youth, Dirty (Geffen, 1992)
  • The Specials, Singles (2-Tone/Chrysalis, 1991)
  • The Strokes, Is This It (RCA, 2001)
  • System of a Down, Toxicity (American, 2001)
  • Tricky, Maxinquaye (Polygram, 1995)
  • U2, Boy (Island, 1980)
  • U2, The Joshua Tree (Island, 1987)
  • U2, Achtung Baby (Island, 1991)
  • U2, All That You Can’t Leave Behind (Interscope, 2000)
  • Various Artists, 24 Hour Party People – Original Soundtrack (Rhino, 2002)
  • Various Artists, The Best Bootlegs in the World Ever (No Label, 2002)
  • Violent Femmes, Violent Femmes (Slash/Rhino, 1983)
  • Tom Waits, Beautiful Maladies: The Island Years (Island, 1998)
  • Weezer, Weezer (Geffen, 1994)
  • The White Stripes, White Blood Cells (Sympathy for the Record Industry/V2, 2001)
  • Wilco, Summerteeth (Reprise, 1999)
  • Wire, Pink Flag (Restless, 1977)
  • X, Wild Gift (Slash, 1981)
  • X-Ray Spex, Germ Free Adolescents (Sanctuary, 1979)
  • XTC, Fossil Fuel: The XTC Singles 1977-92 (Virgin/EMI, 1996)
  • Yo La Tengo, Electr-O-Pura (Matador, 1995)

The Best of Grunge

  • Hole, Live Through This (Geffen, 1994)
  • Nirvana, Nevermind (Geffen, 1991)
  • Nirvana, In Utero (Geffen, 1993)
  • Nirvana, Unplugged in New York (Geffen, 1994)
  • Pearl Jam, Ten (Epic, 1991)
  • Soundgarden, Superunknown (A&M, 1994)

The Best of Proto-Punk

  • The MC5, The Big Bang: The Best of the MC5 (Rhino, 2000)
  • The Modern Lovers, The Modern Lovers (Rhino, 1976)
  • New York Dolls, New York Dolls (Mercury, 1973)
  • The Stooges, Raw Power (Columbia/Legacy, 1973)
  • Various Artists, Nuggets From Nuggets: Choice Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 (Rhino, 1998)
  • The Velvet Underground, Peel Slowly & See (Box Set) (Polydor, 1995)

The Best of Downtown New York

  • Blondie, Parallel Lines (Chrysalis, 1978)
  • The Ramones, The Ramones (Sire, 1976)
  • The Ramones, Leave Home (Sire, 1977)
  • The Ramones, Rocket to Russia (Sire, 1977)
  • Patti Smith, Horses (Arista, 1975)
  • Talking Heads, More Songs About Buildings & Food (Sire, 1978)
  • Talking Heads, Remain in Light (Sire, 1980)
  • Television, Marquee Moon (Elektra, 1977)

Blues

  • Bobby “Blue” Bland, The Anthology (MCA, 2001)
  • Willie Dixon, The Chess Box (Box Set) (Chess/MCA, 1988)
  • John Lee Hooker, The Ultimate Collection (1948-1990) (Rhino, 1991)
  • Son House, Father of the Delta Blues: The Complete 1965 Sessions (Columbia/Legacy, 1965)
  • Howlin’ Wolf, His Best (The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection) (Chess/MCA, 1997)
  • Elmore James, The Sky Is Crying: The History of Elmore James (Rhino, 1993)
  • Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers (Columbia/Legacy, 1966)
  • B.B. King, Live at the Regal (MCA, 1965)
  • Lead Belly, Where Did You Sleep Last Night: Lead Belly Legacy, Vol. 1 (Smithsonian/Folkways, 1996)
  • Charlie Patton, King of the Delta Blues (Yazoo, 1991)
  • Bessie Smith, The Essential Bessie Smith (Columbia/Legacy, 1997)
  • Muddy Waters, The Anthology: 1947-1972 (Chess/MCA, 2001)

The Best of Folk

  • Leonard Cohen, The Essential Leonard Cohen (Columbia/Legacy, 2002)
  • Nick Drake, Pink Moon (Hannibal/Rykodisc, 1972)
  • Fairport Convention, Meet On the Ledge: The Classic Years (1967-1975) (A&M, 1999)
  • Woody Guthrie, Dustbowl Ballads (Rounder, 1964)
  • John Prine, Great Days: The John Prine Anthology (Rhino, 1993)
  • Various Artists, Anthology of American Folk Music (Box Set) (Smithsonian/Folkways, 1997)

Country

  • Garth Brooks, The Hits (Capitol, 1994)
  • The Carter Family, Wildwood Flower (ASV/Living Era, 2000)
  • Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison (Columbia/Legacy, 1968)
  • Johnny Cash, The Essential Johnny Cash (Columbia/Legacy, 1992)
  • Patsy Cline, The Ultimate Collection (UTV, 2000)
  • Steve Earle, Guitar Town (MCA, 1986)
  • Lefty Frizzell, The Best of Lefty Frizzell (Rhino, 1991)
  • Merle Haggard, The Lonesome Fugitive: The Merle Haggard Anthology (1963-1977) (Razor & Tie, 1995)
  • George Jones, The Essential George Jones: The Spirit of Country (Epic/Legacy, 1994)
  • Loretta Lynn, All Time Greatest Hits (MCA Nashville, 2002)
  • Willie Nelson, Revolutions of Time: The Journey (1975-1993) (Box Set) (Columbia/Legacy, 1995)
  • Dolly Parton, RCA Country Legends (RCA, 2002)
  • Jimmie Rodgers, The Essential Jimmie Rodgers (RCA, 1997)
  • Randy Travis, Trail of Memories: The Randy Travis Anthology (Rhino, 2002)
  • Shania Twain, Come On Over (Mercury, 1997)
  • Various Artists, O Brother, Where Art Thou? Original Soundtrack (Lost Highway, 2000)
  • Hank Williams, 40 Greatest Hits (Mercury, 1978)
  • Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Anthology: 1935-1973 (Rhino, 1991)
  • Tammy Wynette, Anniversary: 20 Years of Hits (Epic, 1987)

Pop

  • ABBA, The Definitive Collection (Polygram, 2001)
  • Backstreet Boys, The Hits – Chapter One (Jive, 2001)
  • Bee Gees, Their Greatest Hits: The Record (Uptown/Universal, 2001)
  • Bread, The Best of Bread (Rhino, 2001)
  • The Carpenters, Singles: 1969-1981 (A&M, 2000)
  • Neil Diamond, The Neil Diamond Collection (MCA, 1999)
  • Enya, Only Time: The Collection (Rhino/Reprise, 2003)
  • Whitney Houston, Whitney Houston (Arista, 1985)
  • Michael Jackson, Off the Wall (Epic, 1979)
  • Michael Jackson, Thriller (Epic, 1982)
  • Jackson 5, Anthology (Motown, 2000)
  • Billy Joel, The Stranger (Columbia, 1977)
  • Elton John, Greatest Hits (Polydor, 1974)
  • Elton John, Greatest Hits Volume II (Polydor, 1986)
  • KC & the Sunshine Band, VH1 Behind the Music: The KC & the Sunshine Band Collection (Rhino, 2001)
  • Carole King, Tapestry (Epic/Legacy, 1971)
  • The Lovin’ Spoonful, Greatest Hits (Buddha, 2002)
  • Madonna, The Immaculate Collection (Sire, 1990)
  • Madonna, GHV2 (Warner Bros., 2001)
  • The Mamas & the Papas, Greatest Hits (MCA, 1998)
  • George Michael, Faith (Columbia, 1987)
  • The Monkees, Then & Now… The Best of the Monkees (Arista, 1986)
  • Ennio Morricone, The Ennio Morricone Anthology: A Fistful of Film Music (Rhino, 1995)
  • Olivia Newton-John, Magic: The Best of Olivia Newton-John (UTV, 2001)
  • Pink, M!ssundaztood (Arista, 2002)
  • Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Ooo Baby Baby: Anthology (Motown, 2003)
  • Diana Ross, The Motown Anthology (Motown, 2001)
  • Diana Ross & the Supremes, Anthology (Motown, 2001)
  • The Shangri-Las, The Millennium Collection (MCA, 2002)
  • The Shirelles, The Very Best of the Shirelles (Rhino, 1994)
  • Spice Girls, Spice (Virgin, 1996)
  • Dusty Springfield, Dusty in Memphis (Rhino, 1969)
  • Various Artists, 25 All-Time Bubblegum Hits: The Ultimate Collection (Varèse Sarabande, 2000)
  • Various Artists, The Disco Box (Box Set) (Rhino, 1999)
  • Various Artists, Girl Group Greats (Rhino, 2001)
  • Various Artists, Jock Jams: The All Star Jock Jams (Tommy Boy, 2001)
  • Various Artists, The Perfect Beats Volume 2 (Tommy Boy, 1998)
  • Various Artists, Phil Spector: Back to Mono (1958-1969) (Box Set) (ABKCO, 1991)
  • Various Artists, Saturday Night Fever – Original Soundtrack (Polydor, 1977)
  • Various Artists, Ultra-Lounge, Vol. 1: Mondo Exotica (Capitol, 1996)
  • Village People, The Best of Village People (Casablanca, 1994)

The Best of Dad-Pop

  • Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, Whipped Cream and Other Delights (A&M, 1965)
  • John Barry, Themeology: The Best of John Barry (Columbia, 1997)
  • Bing Crosby, The Millennium Collection (MCA, 1999)
  • Frank Sinatra, Songs for Young Lovers/Swing Easy! (Capitol, 1955)
  • Frank Sinatra, In the Wee Small Hours (Capitol, 1955)
  • Frank Sinatra, Sinatra Reprise: The Very Good Years (Reprise, 1991)
  • Various Artists, The Doo Wop Box (Box Set) (Rhino, 1994)
  • Various Artists, The Look of Love: The Burt Bacharach Collection (Box Set) (Rhino, 1998)

Rhythm & Blues

  • Mary J. Blige, What’s the 411? (MCA, 1992)
  • Booker T. & the MG’s, The Very Best of Booker T. & the MG’s (Rhino, 1994)
  • James Brown, Live at the Apollo (1962) (Polygram, 1963)
  • James Brown, Star Time (Box Set) (Polydor, 1991)
  • Ray Charles, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (Rhino/Atlantic, 1962)
  • Ray Charles, The Birth of Soul (Box Set) (Atlantic, 1991)
  • Chic, Dance, Dance, Dance: The Best of Chic (Atlantic, 1991)
  • The Coasters, 50 Coastin’ Classics (Rhino, 1992)
  • Sam Cooke, The Man and His Music (RCA, 1986)
  • D’Angelo, Brown Sugar (Capitol, 1995)
  • Bo Diddley, His Best (The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection (Chess/MCA, 1997)
  • Fats Domino, The Fats Domino Jukebox: 20 Greatest Hits the Way You Originally Heard Them (Capitol, 2002)
  • Lee Dorsey, Working in a Coal Mine: The Very Best of Lee Dorsey (Music Club, 2001)
  • The Drifters, All Time Greatest Hits & More: 1959-1965 (Atlantic, 1988)
  • Earth, Wind & Fire, The Essential Earth, Wind & Fire (Columbia/Legacy, 2002)
  • Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul: The Atlantic Recordings (Box Set) (Rhino, 1992)
  • Funkadelic, One Nation Under a Groove (Capitol, 1978)
  • Funkadelic, Music for Your Mother: Funkadelic 45s (Westbound, 1993)
  • Marvin Gaye, Anthology (Motown, 1995)
  • Al Green, Greatest Hits (Capitol, 1975)
  • Al Green, Al Green’s Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (Motown, 1977)
  • Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (Columbia, 1998)
  • The Isley Brothers, It’s Your Thing: The Story of the Isley Brothers (Epic/Legacy, 1998)
  • Janet Jackson, Design of a Decade 1986/1996: The Best of Janet Jackson (A&M, 1995)
  • Etta James, Her Best (The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection) (Chess/MCA, 1997)
  • Louis Jordan, Let the Good Times Roll: The Anthology 1938-1953 (MCA, 1999)
  • R. Kelly, 12 Play (Jive, 1993)
  • Little Richard, The Georgia Peach (Specialty, 1991)
  • Curtis Mayfield, The Anthology: 1961-1977 (MCA, 1992)
  • The Meters, The Very Best of the Meters (Rhino, 1997)
  • Ohio Players, Gold (Mercury, 1976)
  • Parliament, Tear the Roof Off, 1974-1980 (Casablanca, 1983)
  • Wilson Pickett, The Very Best of Wilson Pickett (Rhino, 1993)
  • Prince, Dirty Mind (Warner Bros., 1980)
  • Prince & the Revolution, Music From Purple Rain (Warner Bros., 1984)
  • Prince, Sign ‘O’ the Times (Paisley Park/Warner Bros., 1987)
  • Otis Redding, The Very Best of Otis Redding Vol. 1 (Rhino, 1993)
  • Jill Scott, Who Is Jill Scott? Words & Sounds Vol. 1 (Hidden Beach, 2000)
  • Sly and the Family Stone, Anthology (Epic, 1981)
  • The Spinners, The Very Best of the Spinners (Rhino, 1993)
  • Donna Summer, The Donna Summer Anthology (Casablanca/Chronicles, 1993)
  • The Temptations, The Ultimate Collection (Motown, 1997)
  • TLC, CrazySexyCool (LaFace/Arista, 1994)
  • Ike and Tina Turner, Proud Mary: The Best of Ike and Tina Turner (EMI, 1991)
  • Various Artists, The Best of Blaxploitation (Global TV, 1998)
  • Various Artists, Finger Poppin’ and Stompin’ Feet: 20 Classic Allen Toussaint Productions for Minit Records 1960-1962 (Capitol, 2002)
  • Various Artists, Larry Levan’s Paradise Garage (West End, 2000)
  • Various Artists, New Orleans Party Classics (Rhino, 1992)
  • Various Artists, The Philly Sound: Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff & the Story of Brotherly Love (1966-1976) (Box Set) (Epic/Legacy, 1997)
  • War, Anthology (1970-1994) (Rhino, 1994)
  • Barry White, All-Time Greatest Hits (Mercury, 1995)
  • Stevie Wonder, Talking Book (Motown, 1972)
  • Stevie Wonder, Innervisions (Motown, 1973)
  • Stevie Wonder, Fulfillingness’ First Finale (Motown, 1974)
  • Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life (Motown, 1976)

Hip-Hop

  • A Tribe Called Quest, The Anthology (Jive, 1999)
  • Afrika Bambaataa, Looking for the Perfect Beat 1980-1995 (Tommy Boy, 2001)
  • Big Daddy Kane, The Very Best of Big Daddy Kane (Rhino, 2001)
  • Boogie Down Productions, Criminal Minded (Sugar Hill, 1987)
  • Cypress Hill, Cypress Hill (Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1991)
  • De La Soul, 3 Feet High and Rising (Tommy Boy, 1989)
  • DMX, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot (Ruff Ryders/Def Jam, 1998)
  • Missy Elliott, Under Construction (Gold Mind/Elektra, 2002)
  • Eminem, The Slim Shady LP (Aftermath/Interscope, 1999)
  • Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP (Aftermath/Interscope, 2000)
  • EPMD, Strictly Business (Priority, 1988)
  • Eric B. & Rakim, Paid in Full (4th & B’way, 1987)
  • Fugees, The Score (Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1996)
  • Grandmaster Flash, Message From Beat Street: The Best of Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel & the Furious Five (Rhino, 1994)
  • Jay-Z, Reasonable Doubt (Roc-A-Fella/Priority, 1996)
  • Jay-Z, The Blueprint (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam, 2001)
  • LL Cool J, All World: Greatest Hits (Def Jam, 1996)
  • Biz Markie, The Best of Cold Chillin’ (Landspeed, 2000)
  • Nelly, Country Grammar (Fo’Reel/Universal, 2000)
  • The Notorious B.I.G., Ready to Die (Bad Boy/Arista, 1994)
  • Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Return to the 36 Chambers – The Dirty Version (Elektra, 1995)
  • OutKast, Aquemini (LaFace/Arista, 1998)
  • OutKast, Stankonia (LaFace/Arista, 2000)
  • Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (Def Jam, 1988)
  • Public Enemy, Fear of a Black Planet (Def Jam, 1990)
  • Busta Rhymes, Total Devastation: The Best of Busta Rhymes (Rhino, 2001)
  • Run-DMC, Greatest Hits (BMG Heritage, 2002)
  • Various Artists, Fat Beats and Bra Straps: Hip-Hop Classics (Rhino, 1998)
  • Various Artists, Old School Rap, Vols. 1-4 (Box Set) (Thump, 2000)
  • Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (Loud/RCA, 1993)

The Best of Gangsta Rap

  • 2Pac, Me Against the World (Interscope, 1995)
  • Ice Cube, Greatest Hits (Priority, 2001)
  • Dr. Dre, The Chronic (Death Row/Interscope, 1992)
  • Geto Boys, Greatest Hits (Rap-A-Lot, 2002)
  • Mobb Deep, The Infamous (Loud/RCA, 1995)
  • Nas, Illmatic (Columbia, 1994)
  • N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton (Ruthless/Priority, 1988)
  • Snoop Doggy Dogg, Doggystyle (Death Row/Interscope, 1993)

World

  • Buena Vista Social Club, Buena Vista Social Club (World Circuit/Nonesuch, 1997)
  • Fela Kuti, The Best Best of Fela Kuti (MCA, 1999)
  • Bob Marley & the Wailers, Catch a Fire (Island/Tuff Gong, 1973)
  • Bob Marley & the Wailers, Natty Dread (Island/Tuff Gong, 1974)
  • Bob Marley & the Wailers, Legend (Polygram, 1984)
  • Youssou N’Dour & Etoile De Dakar, The Rough Guide to Youssou N’Dour & Etoile De Dakar (World Music Network, 2002)
  • Lee “Scratch” Perry, Arkology (Island Jamaica, 1997)
  • Various Artists, The Harder They Come – Original Soundtrack (Island, 1973)
  • Various Artists, The Kings and Queens of Township Jive: The Indestructible Beat of Soweto, Vol. 1 (Earthworks, 1991)
  • Various Artists, The Music in My Head: Indispensable Classics & Unknown Gems From the Golden Age of Africa Pop (Stern’s Africa, 1998)
  • Various Artists, Tougher Than Tough: The Story of Jamaican Music (Box Set) (Mango/Island, 1993)
  • Various Artists, Tropicália 30 Años (Box Set) (Polygram International, 1998)
  • The Wailers, Burnin’ (Island/Tuff Gong, 1973)
  • Tom Zé, Brazil Classics 4: The Best of Tom Zé (Luaka Bop/Warner Bros., 1990)

Jazz

  • Louis Armstrong, The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings (Columbia/Legacy, 2000)
  • Chet Baker, Chet Baker Sings (Pacific Jazz, 1956)
  • Count Basie, The Complete Decca Recordings (1937-1939) (GRP, 1992)
  • Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, A Night in Tunisia (Blue Note, 1960)
  • The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Time Out (Columbia/Legacy, 1959)
  • Ornette Coleman, The Shape of Jazz to Come (Atlantic, 1959)
  • John Coltrane, A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1964)
  • Chick Corea, Return to Forever (Polygram, 1972)
  • Miles Davis, Kind of Blue (Columbia/Legacy, 1959)
  • Miles Davis, Sketches of Spain (Columbia/Legacy, 1960)
  • Miles Davis, Bitches Brew (Columbia/Legacy, 1969)
  • Duke Ellington, Early Ellington: The Complete Brunswick Recordings (1926-1931) (GRP, 1994)
  • Duke Ellington, Ellington at Newport (Columbia, 1956)
  • Ella Fitzgerald, Sings the Cole Porter Songbook (Verve, 1956)
  • Herbie Hancock, Head Hunters (Columbia/Legacy, 1973)
  • Billie Holiday, Lady Day Swings! (Columbia/Legacy, 2002)
  • Keith Jarrett, The Köln Concert (ECM, 1975)
  • Charles Mingus, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (Impulse!, 1963)
  • Thelonious Monk, Genius of Modern Music Vol. 1 (Blue Note, 2001)
  • Jelly Roll Morton, Jazz King of New Orleans (RCA, 2002)
  • Charlie Parker, Best of the Complete Savoy and Dial Studio Recordings (Savoy Jazz, 2002)
  • Django Reinhardt, Quintette du Hot Club de France: 25 Classics 1934-1940 (ASV/Living Era, 1998)
  • Sonny Rollins, Ken Burns Jazz Collection: Sonny Rollins (Verve, 2000)
  • Sun Ra and His Arkestra, Greatest Hits: Easy Listening for Intergalactic Travel (Evidence, 2000)
  • Various Artists, Roots of Jazz Funk Volume One (MVP, 1997)
  • Weather Report, Heavy Weather (Columbia/Legacy, 1977)
  • John Zorn, Naked City (Elektra/Nonesuch, 1990)

And the 13 Albums You Shouldn’t Touch With a 10-Foot Pole…

  • Aerosmith, Rock in a Hard Place (Columbia, 1982)
  • The Beach Boys, Keepin’ the Summer Alive (Caribou, 1980)
  • The Doors, An American Prayer (Elektra, 1978)
  • Duran Duran, Thank You (Capitol, 1995)
  • Bob Dylan, Dylan (Columbia, 1973)
  • Elton John, Victim of Love (MCA, 1979)
  • Joni Mitchell, Travelogue (Nonesuch, 2002)
  • Elvis Presley, Having Fun With Elvis On Stage (RCA Victor, 1974)
  • Lou Reed, Metal Machine Music (Buddha, 1975)
  • Frank Sinatra, Duets (Capitol, 1993)
  • Snoop Dogg, Da Game Is to Be Sold, Not to Be Told (No Limit/Priority, 1998)
  • Tin Machine, Tin Machine (Virgin, 1989)
  • Pete Townshend, Psychoderelict (Atlantic, 1993)