The following article appeared in the Bangor Daily News on November 17, 2003. This article was written by Edna Gundersen.
To eveyone's complete lack of surprise, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band has been anointed the best album ever in a new Rolling Stone poll.
The Beatles' consecrated 1967 classic tops "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time," a collector's issue on stands Friday. Though typically the odds-on favorite for such rankings, Sgt. Pepper wasn't a slum dunk.
"There was a horse race," says Rolling Stone music editor Joe Levy. "Early on, any number of albums in the top 10 were in the lead. The final result is no shock, but there's a reason for that. The Beatles, after all, were the most important and innovative rock group in the world. And Sgt. Pepper arguably set the tone for what an album could be."
The Beatles have four albums in the top 10. Predictably the list is weighted toward testosterone-fueled vintage rock. The top solo female is Joni Mitchell, whose 1971 Blue is No. 30.
The newest entry is this year's Elephant by the White Stripes, landing at No. 390. THe most current disc in the top 20 is Nirvana's 1991 breakthrough, Nevermind. Recent albums by Coldplay and The Strokes also made the cut, as did all three Eminem releases and a wide range of hip-hop.
"A classic record proves itself over time," Levy says, "so it's gratifying and surprising to see so many newer records on the list, considering they're competing against such beloved and titanic records as Rubber Soul and Dusty in Memphis."
Rolling Stone asked musicians, critics, historians and key industry figures to rank their 50 favorites. The 273 participants included Beck, U2's The Edge, Jackson Brown, Art Garfunkel, Missy Elliott and members of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Linkin Park and The Doors. The Ernst & Young accounting firm devised a point system to weight votes for 1,600 submitted titles.
Voters were invited to identify favorites from any period or genre, allowing a smattering of country (Johnny Cash), jazz (Miles Davis) and seminal blues (Howlin' Wolf). The list also accommodates greatest hits collections and live recordings: four James Brown picks include two sets of hits and Live at the Apollo (1963). Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Hank Williams, The Drifters and Loretta Lynn, who flourished during the era of 45s, are represented only by hits compilations.
"Artists whose best works were singles are not going to be well represented," Levy notes. For example, he adds, "Disco is under-represented because it's a singles-driven genre."
Here are the top 20 in Rolling Stone's new "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" poll, as selected by musicians, critics and executives.
1. Beatles/Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
2. Beach Boys/Pet Sounds
4. Bob Dylan/Highway 61 Revisited
5. Beatles/Rubber Soul
6. Marvin Gaye/What's Going On
7. Rolling Stones/Exile on Main Street
8. Clash/London Calling
9. Bob Dylan/Blonde on Blonde
10. Beatles/"White Album"
11. Elvis Presley/The Sun Sessions
12. Miles Davis/Kind of Blue
13. The Velvet Underground & Nico
14. Beatles/Abbey Road
15. Jimi Hendrix Experience/Are You Experienced?
16. Bob Dylan/Blood on the Tracks
18. Bruce Springsteen/Born to Run
19. Van Morrison/Astral Weeks
20. Michael Jackson/Thriller