50% of the list comprises the 80's - which shows the power of the 80's.
In compiling my list I looked at emerging music in recent times and music that was definitive of an era and was also influential for later music or which might have been considered groundbreaking to some extent (example "NWA's - Stratight Outta Compton" or "Public Enemy's" - It Takes A Nation....)
In the 90's alternative might have been the music of the day, with bands like Smashing Pumpkins breaking ground, but some of their predecessors were setting the base for the next generation and the next decade - like "The Pixies" who rank with two highly influential albums that were faves of the likes of Nirvanna and almost any alternative band in the 90's.
Of course, there is also the attribute of pure musical talent and listening bliss e.g. Tom Morello on Rage Against The Machine, Kirk Hammett on Master of Puppets, and Jimmy Chamberlain (drummer for the Smashing Pumpkins) on Siamese Dream.....two of my fave guitarists Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead) and Thurstn Moore/Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth.
Anyways peeps - I hope you enjoy!
30. Master of Puppets - Metallica (1988)
Heavy Metal, Thrash and Speed metal were huge in the 80's, and this album serves as the best blend of it all in a more contemporary medium. This album's stands as a modern day classic, and is a tribute to the band's own hybrid hard rock/metal days.
Influenced - modern metal/hard rock, thrash metal, new age rock, showcased the talent of Lars (drummer) and Kirk (lead guitarist).
29. Doolittle - The Pixies (1989)
Before there was Nirvana there were The Pixies. This Bostonian favorite were four musicians who knew very little about playing music but served as a pioneer to a new generation of hard rock/alternative rockers. This album was more subtle than their previous endeavours, producing a timeless sound on one of their biggest hits "Here Comes Your Man".
Influenced - Nirvana; brought to the forefront modern alternative, epiphany of post punk and pop (which are heard in bands like Greenday, Blink 182 and just about every alternative rock band around).
28. Siamese Dream - The Smashing Pumpkins (1993)
When The Pumpkins broke big on this album, they showed the world what a true blend of alternative and hard rock can be...the album starts with a full-on hard rock anthem "Cherub Rock", but by no way provides the entire mood for the album. They do soften up on tracks like "Disarm", "Today" and "Siva".
This album was a sign of the times in modern alternative music - part of a movement that is definitive of the shaping of the decade.
Influenced - modern, hard rock alternative; guita awesomeness of James Iha.
27. The Score - The Fugees (1996)
The album introduced us to three of the heaviest hitters in the last two decades (Pras/Lauren Hill/Wyclef). The album provided a soulful side to hip-hop, and provides an intensity that covers a number of genres.
Influenced - merge of hip/hop with classic sounding pop and smooth R&B. Made way for modern hip-hoppers and bands like the Black-Eyed Peas.
26. Substance - New Order (1987)
If there is an ephiphany of new wave music it would probably be this album. Released in 1987 as a double album, it ruled airways on modern rock radio, and some of it's timeless classics like "Perfect Kiss", and "Bizarre Love Triangle" continue to be heard in many movies up to this day.
Influenced - the new wave movement in the 90's, modern day dance/electronica.
25. Play - Moby (1999)
Moby might have experimented with all genres on this album....but before it broke ground it did little or nothing before he sold most of the work to America's advertising agencies, where his music was heard. This move was brilliant, as not only did the music raise eyebrows, but it meant we all got to take a listen to one of the best albums of that decade.
Influenced - sample of classic sounding blues/pop; showed the scope of being a one-man army in music; dance/electronica.
24. Downward Spiral - Nine Inch Nails (1994)
Industrial was a genre that defined bands like Ministry, Sick Pupppies and of course the band who brought it to mainstream...Trent Reznor and NIN. This album is everything Trent...dark, full of demons, intense and just plain different. This was hard rock in a new format, opened to a new generation.
It was a surprise that Time magazine, named him one of the artists to look out for and one of the most influential to be. That might have been some ten years plus, but looking back he has evolved into new media - movies having winning a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for the music on The Social Network (and nomintaed for a GG for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo").
23. Rush of Blood to the Head - Coldplay (2002)
This is truly a modern classic - every song on this album is good and plays from start to end like a movie. The band sets the benchmark for true BritPop and shows that a classic sound can still be mainstay amongst all the hip-hop/pop/ and hard rock that's out there today...it was a nice break that can bring some serenity.
22. Rage Against the Machine - Rage Against the Machine (1992)
The 90's showed us many different forms of rock...and the nu-metal movement was one of them. Rage was one of those bands, that broke unto the scene with such an intensity that it was inevitable that they would self-destruct. Zach as front man on this band's debut sang about political figures, and the fight of the working class man for a stake in society - it was social anarchy. And Tom Morello....my gosh...this was the most innovative guitarist in the last 30 years (see my list of the Top Guitarists of the Modern Rock Era).
21. The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses (1989)
The Stone Roses were a band out of the Madchester scene and the vibrant, psychedelic rock that was emerging from this place of inertia at that time....it brings us to a time and place in music history where the place and sound became synonomous - maybe it all started here with The Smiths.
But in the case of the Stone Roses, the sang about the death of the beloved Queen (on Elizabeth My Dear). They managed to produce some killer music and fusions and I voted John Squire as one of My Favourite Guitarists of the Modern Rock Era.
20. Paul's Boutique - Beastie Boys (1989)
Before Puff Daddy brought sampling to us in the pop medium, the Beastie Boys had already done and passed this stage 10 years earlier. The Dust Brothers produced this album along with The Beastie Boys which was one of the best albums of the 80's that can still serve as a blueprint for it's genre today.
19. Nothing's Shocking - Jane's Addiction (1988)
Alternative took it's own direction in the 80'/90s with bands like Live, Hole, Nirvana, etc...but one of the definitive pioneers were this band. Nothing Shocking brought us "The Mountain Song" - a hard rock, full out energetic anthem that shows us the likings of Dave Navarro and Perry Farell...there's also some killer bass lines and drumming on this song, showing that this is truly a band not to be reckoned with.
"Jane Say's" shows the flip side of the band - more vunerable and capable of delivering emotion.
18. Raising Hell - Run DMC (1986)
Was this the beginning of the nu-metal movement? Most likely - Run DMC fused the two most opposing genres (rock and rap) into mainstream which would mesh together white sub-urban class with black urbanism. The album always made classic hip-hop into pop and is a blue-print for "old school rap".
17. The Bends - Radiohead (1995)
Radiohead has probably produced one of the best pop albums ever in the UK with this masterpiece which introduced us to an evolving Radiohead. This was the follow-up to the band's debut Hello Pablo, which showed that in the space of about two years the maturity of the best band to emerge from the 90's!
The album shows the start of the band's experimentation of electronics and the synergy of the band members into a sound that is definitive Radiohead!
16. Meloncollie and the Infinite Sadness - The Smashing Pumpkins (1995)
Two years following Siamese Dream (#28 on the list), came this album which was nominated for 7 Grammys in 1996. According to Billy Corgan (leadman for the band) he felt the band was running it course musically and wanted to approach this album as if it were it's last....the band changed producers which included Flood, whom also produced Achtung Baby for U2.
Corgan's words may have left the band's legacy on this double album, and sadly it was the last good album they made.
15. Elephant - The White Stripes (2003)
This album was recorded on 8 track and with just two instruments - drums and guitars. The album provides it's own brand of hard rock..... you would not get bored with this album.....despite two instruments and just two people, the variations within the music adds lustre and texture and shows an intricacy that not much people can show with drums and guitar.
14. Rid Of Me - PJ Harvey (1993)
If there is a dark demon trying to speak poetry and justice is a woman scorned - it's PJ Harvey...full stop. PJ paints us a dark canvas of love and raw emotion, and the violence of pain in the soul. Her songwriting and delivery is both feminism and introverted androgyny!
13. Surfer Rosa - The Pixies (1988)
The Bostonians 1988 debut was released on a small indie UK label before being re-released in 1993 in the US. This album was characterised by lo-fi recording at the time, and a blend of ruckus noise and pop, which Kurt Cobain cited as the basis for his songwriting in Nevermind. The album is a major influence for Nirvana, PJ Harvey and Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins.
In a time when 80's hair metal was ruling, and even becoming corporate, the Pixies were quietly producing which might have been the most influential album on modern rock.
12. Slanted & Enchanted - Pavement (1992)
The underground had come full circe with 1992's release of Slanted. This album sets us in a time that is part of 90's culture and history - Clinton being President, America being rich, Generation X coming of age - it's regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time and one of the best of the 90's.
Personally it reminds me of the struggle of the youth to find a place - to be heard in the 90's - and to be relevant. Pavement managed to succeed on all fronts with this classic.
11. It Takes A Nation of Million to Hold Us Back - Public Enemy (1988)
It's been hailed by many as the greatest hip hop album ever. When I first caught on to this album, hip-hop was just digging it's roots to become a musical explosion. But unlike it's contemporaries in the 90's and beyond, Public Enemy blended beats, political and social issues into a musical forum that expressed an inner sanctum for black America.
Black Steel is my personal fave - a black prisoner being drafted for a government's war - contemplating a plan on a cell floor, a self realisation that a white government had authority over the black man, and what ensued - ah yes - pure choas in the form of music!
10. Appetite for Destruction - Guns 'N Roses (1987)
Many hail this as the best metal album ever....but when GNR exploded in the late 80's with this album they turned heads with their unapologetic and immature ode to everything they hated. The album is sleaze metal at it's prime....it carved a niche into the 80's metal genre and this separated the band from the rest of 80's. Everything from the voice of Axel, to the unforgettable riff on Sweet Child O' Mine and Welcome to the Jungle, to the raw lyrics of Rocket Queen and My Michelle.....every song on this album is clearly a classic - something in rock not seen since the likes of Zepplin's IV.
9. Daydream Nation - Sonic Youth (1988)
The New York sound by bands like Interpol and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were well defined by the likes of The Velvet Underground, but Sonic Youth's "no wave" sound was beginning the next wave of the 90's-00's new wave of New York. This album showcases some of the best guitar works on an album by Lee Renaldo and Thurston Moore - RS ranked them as the 33 & 34 as the greatest guitarists of all time!
8. Straight Outta Compton - NWA (1988)
Urban life in America was in a violent undertone with gangs, hatred for the police, and members of the community fighting for dominance - what's left behind - a trail of youth's killed. NWA may have made one of the most important albums that showed the violence bubbling under America's black society.
The album's lyrics are raw, and unapologetic - showing the reality of mid-80's life in black-Urban America.
7. Ten - Pearl Jam (1991)
Something might have been bubbling under the music scene in the late 80's/early 90's - something that broke the back of the 80's - Grunge. Ten was part of that new wave of 90's rock that blasted on rock radio throughout America, and one of the most played bands was Pearl Jam.
This album took it's time to climb the Top 200 album charts but when it did it seemed to last forever. Every song on this album is classic - and Vedder and Jam were just touching the surface for the new phase of rock music.
6. Sign O The Times - Prince (1987)
This is probably one of Prince's most diverse musical projects and it marks his first effort without his band "The Revolution". The album blends rock, pop, soul, jazz and showcases the raw talent of Prince.
5. The Queen is Dead - The Smiths (1986)
This album is often quoted by most fans of the band as their best album. RS ranked it as the 216th greatest album of all time. The album continues to show the traditional melancholiness of Morrissey and the awesome guitar stylings of Johnny Marr
4. Nevermind - Nirvana (1991)
It is claimed that this album was the beginning of a new breed of rockers....their hardcore punk insensibility, vagabond-style look and lyrics which made sense to perhaps only Kurt Cobain,
somehow connected to generation X-ers coming of age. The days of glam-rock/pop took a back seat, and ushered in a new confidence in rock and it's followers.
3. Achtung Baby - U2 (1991
When U2 was tired of their exploration of American folk and blues that were their last two albums (Rattle & Hum and The Joshua Tree) they decided to see what Europe has to offer....the result was a brilliant piece of rock fused with a darker side of synth pop, dance, and psychedlia. Edge's guitars never sounded more alive on "The Fly" and Bono's poetry sounded isolated and emotional on "Until The End of The World" and "Love Is Blindness".
The band's experimentation on this album shyed away from the the safety of American rock, and they managed to produce a dreamy, upbeat diversion which left critics all saying that this is one of the most influential albums of the last three decades.
2. OK Computer - Radiohead (1997)
There's something dark, yet beautifully moving about this album. Radiohead experimented with electronics and rock to produce a sound definitive of the band - an eerie atmosphere that provides it's own suffocating microcosm.
1. The Joshua Tree - U2 (1987)
Poetry re-found itself in artitsic forum in U2's Joshua Tree. The band's lyrics provided a perfect backdrop to a political environmnet in Central America, whilst at the same time showing desparation in a mother's love for a son lost at war. U2 had an agenda with this album and it was simple - they wanted to be the best rock band in the world at the time - and they succeeded.