I'm reading this great, great book right now called 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (edited by Robert Dimery). Though I normally don't dwell on death (I'd call the book 1001 Albums That Make Life Great), this book is a great read. It's more in depth than Rolling Stone's Top 500 albums, and it's ordered chronologically to give a less subjective feel. The descriptions give, I think, a good idea about why the particular album is on the list, as well as what other albums are linked to it and thus should also be listened to. I've only reached 1973 (Stephen Stills and The Byrds appear a lot, surprisingly, along with the usual suspects), and I started at 1961, so I've got a bit to go. I have tried to put on the albums that I own after reading its review: Music From Big Pink, Moondance, Led Zeppelin III, All Things Must Pass, The Velvet Underground and Nico, Who's Next, Bridge Over Troubled Water; so far the best listen, and review, belongs to Revolver:
"Once The Beatles were fab and gear; now they oozed self-assurance. It is there in the mysterious black-and-white cover, a line drawing-cum-collage created by Klaus Voorman, whom The Beatles knew from their Hamburg days. It is there in the ambiguous title - so much cooler than the mooted Abracadabra, Magic Circles, and Beatles on Safari.
And it is there in 14 unimpeachable tracks. Or 11 if you were American in 1966, since Capitol put "I'm Only Sleeping," "And Your Bird Can Sing," and "Doctor Robert" on Yesterday and Today, a hodgepodge of album and single cuts that Revolver actually knocked off the top of the Billboard chart (again, very cool).
Revolutionary at the time - 'I am sick,' declared McCartney, 'of doing sounds that people can claim to have heard before' - Revolver resounds down the decades. Earth Wind and Fire brought the brassy strut of "Got To Get You Into My Life" into the disco era. The Jam carbon-copied the rifftastic "Taxman" for their UK chart-topping "Start!" And The Chemical Brothers based a career on "Tomorrow Never Knows."
Revolver is cited as the point when The Beatles broke up: they played their last paying gig weeks after its release, Lennon and McCartney were no longer writing together, and Harrison was rumbling with resentment.
The payoff was astonishing, and summed up by its sole single, "Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby": one side a children's song that will outlive us all, the other a string-driven lament that even today sounds nothing at all like pop music - yet is still, like its parent album, simply brilliant." (Bruno MacDonald)
I hadn't listened to this album in a while and was blown away all over again: "She Said She Said," "For No One," "I'm Only Sleeping," "And Your Bird Can Sing," "Eleanor Rigby" - the rest of the songs are great, too. Give it a listen next chance you get. Then read 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.