20. Elliott Smith: Elliott Smith
The one time I saw Elliott Smith play live, he played "The Biggest Lie." I had never cared much for the song before, but it quickly became one of my favorites. Now, nearly every time I pick up a guitar, I play the solo from that song.
19. The Beatles: Help! (UK Version)
Did you know that "Yesterday" has been played on the radio more times than any other Beatles song in history? (Of non-Beatles songs, it is only beaten out by the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'.") And did you know that Paul McCartney is the only Beatle to have participated in the writing and recording of that song? It's no wonder that Paul and John had a falling out.
18. Bob Marley and the Wailers: Exodus
When I was an undergrad, I took a race and ethnicity class. The teacher pointed out that whenever a white person is hanging out with a black person, they, without exception, turn on Bob Marley. And, inevitably, the only album they own is Legend. In general, that was a really good class, but talk about hypocritical racial stereotyping! Also, haven't white people basically appropriated Bob Marley? To me, Legend is a sub-par compilation. It includes only the most pop-oriented songs, ignores every major political and social statement Marley made, and completely ignores the Tosh/Wailer days. Because five of the fourteen songs on Legend are drawn from Exodus, sometimes I unfairly judge this album. But when it really comes down to it, it's an incredible collection of songs, and I can't disrespect Exodus by placing it any lower than this.
17. Bob Marley and the Wailers: Uprising
There are so many good songs on this album. Generally, I consider posthumous releases to be inferior, but how can you argue with "Coming in from the Cold," "Real Situation," and "Forever Loving Jah"?
16. Nick Drake: Pink Moon
Pink Moon is made up entirely of good songs, but it's so short! Honestly, at less than 30 minutes, I had to give it a deduction for brevity. Still, the sparse instrumentation is a fantastic change of pace from his first two albums.
15. Bob Marley and the Wailers: Natty Dread
Every single Bob Marley album is fantastic, and I think that's what makes him so lasting and important. This is another collection of great songs, with possibly a greater emphasis on the political side of his music.
14. Elliott Smith: Roman Candle
Something about basement-recorded four-track records is really, really appealing to me. When they're at the quality of Roman Candle, they easily earn a spot among my favorite albums of all time. The title track is incredible, but to me the highlight is "Condor Avenue." It may be my favorite chord progression of all time.
13. Less Than Jake: Losing Streak
This album is incredible. Less Than Jake may not be my favorite punk band, but this is definitely my favorite punk album. There is literally no song on this disc that is worth skipping. It is the very definition of awesome.
12. Elliott Smith: Either/Or
If Kurt Cobain was my beginning guitar teacher, Elliott Smith was my intermediate guitar teacher. It was through his music that I learned most chords and to be quick with my hands. "Angeles" is one of my favorite songs of all time, but I've never been to get my mind wrapped around that rapid finger picking pattern. I can only hope that someday I will be able.
11. Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin IV
This will always be Led Zeppelin IV to me—I don’t buy into that "Zoso" nonsense. Say what you will about "Stairway to Heaven." Overplayed it may be, but it is the perfect rock song. "Black Dog" and "Rock and Roll" may be less well known as Zeppelin tunes, but may be even more recognizable to the public at large. Overall, this is Zeppelin's strongest work.