- [The 50's] Louis Prima – The Wildest!
I've never been a Jazz fan until hearing this record. Prima brings a joy, a sense of fun and humor to this disc that is simply infectious. It's no wonder that every generation seems to discover it anew. Did you know David Lee Roth's Just a Gigalo is a cover of a tune penned by Louis Prima? Every track on this album is a gem. My personal faves are the aforementioned Gigolo, Buona Sera and Banana Split for My Baby.
- [The 60's] The Monkees – Headquarters
You know what? I like 'em better than the Beatles. Yeah, I said it. It's not a stance a lot of people take, but I take it, and with some force. The Monkees are, to this day, underrated and overlooked by most – if you're one of those people, listen to this album and see if you don't change your mind just a little bit. The band started writing their own music after their first two records, and proved that they were more than the sum of their manufactured parts. Check out You Told Me, You Just May Be the One and the excellent Randy Scouse Git.
- [The 70's] Rush – 2112
I've been to seven Rush concerts – three times on the Roll the Bones tour, and once on each tour for Test For Echo, Vapor Trails, R30 and Snakes and Arrows. I own every album on cassette and CD, and shelled out for the digital remasters. I've got tour posters framed on my walls. You could say I'm a fan. 2112 is an amazing piece of work, and okay, granted, I'm a little biased – but it really is. There's a reason this album is widely considered to be a touchstone in the progressive rock genre, and if you have any affinity at all for prog rock, you simply must hear it. Standout tracks are 2112, Something For Nothing and A Passage to Bangkok.
- [The 80's] The Cure – Pornography
Fans of The Cure have no doubt spun this disc to death, but it wasn't the band's highest charting album – far from it. It's dark, moody and perfectly Goth – everything you've ever heard about early work by The Cure. The opening lyric is “It doesn't matter if we all die” – it doesn't get much bleaker than that. Don't miss The Hanging Garden and The Figurehead. They're great; One Hundred Years is masterful.
- [The 90's] Sugar – Copper Blue
Former Hüsker Dü frontman Bob Mould formed Sugar in the early 90's and put out this stellar album in 1992. I bought it on CD back then, and I give it a spin pretty regularly. There's definitely a 90's feel to it, but it holds up quite well to the test of time. More than 15 years later, it's still a great listen. Stand outs are If I Can't Change Your Mind and The Act We Act.
- [The 00's] The Streets – A Grand Don't Come For Free
British rap… not something I have a ton of experience with, but The Streets' A Grand Don't Come For Free was thoroughly enjoyable. The album is a concept piece, telling the story of a bloke who loses a thousand pounds and tries to get it back. The story is compelling and the delivery fantastic. The music ain't bad, either. Check out Fit But You Know It and Such a Twat.
My list is a subset of the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die list, with my own commentary about each album. The complete list is available online, and the book is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders and other booksellers. Expand your musical horizons!