Below is a list of the top 1000 albums of all time, according to Dave’s Music Database. To see more details about the creation and goals of this list, click on the appropriate link below or just head straight to the list.
How This List Was Created:
When I set out to create this list as the 20th century was drawing to a close, my aim was to compile a “best of the best” list; that is, combine all the other “best-of” lists out there into one. The goal in averaging multiple lists together was to weed out the idiocyncrisies of individual lists and create a more objective, definitive best-of list. Here are links to the lists, chart information, and sales data that went into the creation of the DMDB 1000:
Representing Multiple Genres:
One of the huge bonuses in compiling lots of lists is the better representation of multiple genres of music. Most lists are very skewered toward post-‘50s rock and roll. By pooling lists from multiple sources, the DMDB 1000 represents classical, show tunes, jazz, folk, country, R&B, rock and roll, adult contemporary, pop, rap, and more.
Multiple Versions of the Same Album or Work:
Representing multiple genres poses a challenge, however. There are cases where there are multiple versions of the same work. When that occurred, all versions are compiled into one entry. This possibility most likely occurred in one of three situations:
What Constitutes an Album:
In addition to the aforementioned re-definings of what makes an album an album, the DMDB also wanted to be as inclusive as possible in different formats of albums. Some best-of lists, for example, disregard compilations or live recordings and focus only on studio efforts. As such, the DMDB 1000 list contains standard studio albums alongside “specialty albums,” noted by the following codes: compilations (G), box sets (box), live recordings (live), soundtracks (ST), cast albums (cast), various artists collections (VA), classical works (classical), operas (opera), and Christmas recordings (X).
Why Chronological and Not Ranked:
The more inclusive approaches described above diminished the merits of presenting this as a ranked list. Any list generates enough heat about what makes the cut and what doesn’t without a debate over why an album is ranked at #999 instead #998. However, a debate over whether Beethoven’s 5th Symphony is a more important work than Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is most likely to keep people firmly entrenched in their genre camps. By not focusing on where an album is on the list, the focus becomes, more appropriately, why it makes the list. Since all the albums link to individual DMDB pages, you can check out those justifications for yourself and see if you think the album is list worthy.
Another benefit of presenting this list chronologically is how it shows the emergence of new public tastes and the development of the album over the years. Combined with the no-genres-excluded approach, this makes for a fascinating observation of how entire musical genres dominated at different times. In a nutshell, one can see the following trends:
Compilations and live albums are listed by the date of recording (rec.) instead of release. For example, The Beatles 1967-1970 is a greatest hits collection that was released in 1973, but recorded from 1967-1970. Its date notation is (rec. 1967-70, released 4/2/73), meaning the album is listed under ‘1970.’
These are albums formerly in the DMDB 1000 which have since been bumped, but are still acknowledged with an honorable mention.