|First posted 12/31/1999; updated 8/15/2020.|
100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century
In December of 1999, the urban-oriented American magazine Vibe published its list of the 100 essential albums of the 20th century, as determined by the Vibe staff. Surprisingly, a link to this list has proved elusive. However, you can find the original magazine issue from the link at the bottom of the page.
This list is more unusual than the average best-of list. For being a list of essentials, it is notable that only 61 of these albums rank in the top 1000 of all-time according to the DMDB. 20 of these albums don’t even show up on any of the other 160+ best-of lists accumulated by the DMDB. Commendably, there is more focus on jazz, R&B, and world music than most best-of lists. However, there are also some odd choices at times for an artist’s “best” work. James Brown’s In the Jungle Groove is more essential than Live at the Apollo? Johnny Cash’s I Walk the Line instead of his live At Folsom Prison? Rocket to Russia over the Ramones’ debut album? David Bowie’s Station to Station rather than Ziggy Stardust? Bob Marley’s African Herbsman as opposed to Exodus or the Legend compilation?
Speaking of compilations, there is more emphasis on those here (25 in all) than the average list. Again, that’s not all bad, but some of the choices are questionable. While the 24-disc Centennial Edition might be a treasure to Duke Ellington fans, it’s hard to consider it “essential” to the average listener. The 3-disc Blanton-Webster Band box set or the live At Newport (both DMDB top 1000 albums) would be more palatable.
Note: the original list was unranked, but the albums have been ranked here based on overall DMDB points.
Also, check out annual picks for album of the year.
1. Michael Jackson Thriller (1982)
11. Bruce Springsteen Born to Run (1975)
21. Massive Attack Blue Lines (1991)
31. Curtis Mayfield Superfly (soundtrack, 1972)
41. The Specials The Specials (1979)
51. Stan Getz and João Gilberto Getz/Gilberto (1963)
61. Tupac Shakur Greatest Hits (compilation: 1991-98, released 1998)
71. Charles Mingus Pithecantrophus Erectus (1956)
81. Charlie Parker Bird: The Complete Charlie Parker on Verve (box: 1945-54, released 1990)
91. Al Green The Supreme Al Green (compilation, released 1992)
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