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Woody Guthrie, The Greatest Songs of Woody Guthrie (1972)

Emerging as a folk balladeer and protest singer during the Great Depression, Woody Guthrie was—and continues to be—a major influence on rock songwriters and performers who find inspiration in his bold, forthright poetry. All tracks on this album were written by Woody Guthrie, though most were recorded by other folk singers. It features some of Guthrie's most revered and influential compositions, including "This Land Is Your Land," "So Long, It's Been Good to Know Yuh" sung by the '50s pop group The Weavers, and "Pretty Boy Floyd" delivered by folk songstress Joan Baez.

Robert Johnson, The Complete Recordings (1990)

A major influence on rock greats such as The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Robert Johnson represents the essence of the Blues. This collection includes all known songs written and recorded in the 1930s by the Mississippi legend. His music is haunting, playful, and vulgar, sometimes all at once. Essential listening!!

Jerry Lee Lewis, 25 All-Time Greatest Sun Recordings (2000)

Jerry Lee Lewis loved how some people feared rock and roll, called it "the Devil's music." He agreed that rock was something irreverent, scandalous, and bad, or even baaaaaaad. Listen to his mean performances of his hits "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," "Breathless," and "Great Balls of Fire" as well as a slough of other exciting songs recorded for Sun Records.

Here's Little Richard (2006)

Although Elvis Presley has been crowned the "Father" of rock and roll, Little Richard has always been a contender for the title (and, some might say, was robbed of it). Hear why Little Richard is considered to be one of the most important artists to lay the foundation for rock and roll. This collection includes Richard's biggest hits, "Slippin' and Slidin' (Peepin' and Hidin'," "Tutti-Frutti." "Long Tall Sally," (covered by The Beatles), and the ferocious "Good Golly, Miss Molly."

Fats Domino, 20 Greatest Hits the Way You Originally Heard Them (2002)

Pianist, bluesman, and rock singer, Antoine "Fats" Domino was the best selling rock and roll artist of the 1950s, save Elvis Presley. Listen to some of the hits from this New Orleans rocker that topped the charts between 1950 and 1963.

Chuck Berry, Live at the Fillmore Auditorium (1968)

To truly appreciate just how much Chuck Berry has influenced the evolution of rock and roll, you have to listen to him performing live! In perhaps one of his most well-known stage performances, Berry blows the socks off everyone at this show at the Fillmore Auditorium. His backing band on this recording, by the way, happens to be the Steve Miller Band!

Ike & Tina Turner, Proud Mary: The Best of Ike & Tina Turner (1991)

Before Tina Turner became the rock star of "What's Love Got To Do With It" fame, she was the ferocious leading lady of the Ike & Tina Turner review. "Nutbush City Limits" and "Proud Mary" are just two of the many tracks on this collection that reveal the fire in Tina's soul (and perhaps the anger in her heart!).

James Brown, Live at the Apollo, 1962 ()

This is a powerful live recording and one that captures the interplay between Brown and his audience. Includes the tracks "I'll Go Crazy," "Try Me," "I Don't Mind," "Think," "Please, Please, Please," "Strange Things Happen," and "Night Train."

Elvis Presley, Elvis Presley (1956)

Elvis's self-titled debut record is perhaps his best, chock-full of his most memorable hits such as "Blue Suede Shoes," "Heartbreak Hotel," and "My Baby Left Me."

Elvis Presley, Memories: The '68 Comeback Special (1968)

Before MTV was around, and long before MTV's "Unplugged" series, NBC aired a television special featuring Elvis Presley in an intimate performance in front of a small studio audience. The show, later known as "The '68 Comeback Special," in light of later developments in his career, is presented in full on this collection.

The Beatles, Rubber Soul (1965)

Released one year after the arrival of Beatlemania in the United States, Rubber Soul was an instant classic—a superclassic, really. And it still is.

The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

It would be far too easy to pick up a "Best of The Beatles" compilation to introduce yourself to the group, plus it wouldn't be quite as fun as listening to an original studio album by the band, and one recorded just as the psychedelic era began to take shape. Imagine a Summer of Love concert poster, but on wax!

Bob Dylan, Essential Bob Dylan (2000)

Thirty moving tracks from this legend of American folk music, including "Like a Rolling Stone," "Lay, Lady, Lay," "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," and "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right." A must own for any fan of classic or modern rock!

The Rolling Stones, Jump Back: The Best of the Rolling Stones, 1971-1993 (2004)

Certainly not a definitive collection of the Rolling Stones' best work, this collection does capture a set of transformative periods in the group's career, and reflects the many political and social changes that marked the world in the last three decades of the twentieth century. Highlights include "Miss You," "Wild Horses," "Start Me Up," and "Undercover of the Night."

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced (1967)

You haven't really heard rock and roll music until you've listened to the Jimi Hendrix Experience! And this album is mind-blowing... especially when you realize that Hendrix played a right-handed guitar backwards (because he was left-handed) and that he was painfully shy. The whole album is one big highlight, but do pay particular attention to the title track's drums and guitar solos, which were recorded and then played back in reverse to create the song's unique sound.

Creedence Clearwater Revival, Chronicle, Vols. 1 & 2 ()

This group is a San Francisco Bay Area rock legend from the Vietnam era. The band's sound is a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll, but in the best way possible! These two Chronicle albums cover the bases; if you don't know much about CCR, these songs will teach you all you need to know; if you do know lots about CCR, then you probably already have these records and you've played them again and again and again, and then again some more.

Janis Joplin, Greatest Hits (1999)

One of the few women that broke through to the rock and roll mainstream before the 1980s, Janis Joplin is a fascinating rock star. Her vocals are raspy and sultry, and her lyrics are mean and soft, all at once. This collection is a must-own not only for those interested in women rockers, but for any fan of rock and roll, as Joplin is one of the all-time greats.

Jefferson Airplane, Surrealistic Pillow (1967)

The album that epitomized the "Summer of Love," Surrealistic Pillow is rock at its most psychedelic. Grace Slick, one of the few women singers to rise to mainstream fame in the early years of rock, makes this album what it is. Highlights include "Somebody To Love" and "White Rabbit" in which Slick suggests with her hypnotic vocals, "Go ask Alice..."

Queen, Greatest Hits, Vols. 1 & 2 (1995)

This British rock group, formed in 1970, gained international success through their carefully crafted rock compositions such as "Killer Queen," "We Will Rock You," the Elvis-inspired "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," and the brilliant rock opera "Bohemian Rhapsody" written in its entirety by the band's front man Freddy Mercury.

David Bowie, Space Oddity (1969)

Singer-songwriter David Bowie struck many rock fans as odd, but, with each album, he was ahead of his time, experimenting with new types of production and unique lyrical imagery. Space Oddity offers just a taste of what makes Bowie such a stand-out sensation. Among its highlights, the album features "Space Oddity," the ballad of Major Tom a fictional character created by Bowie, perhaps a symbolic representation of himself, or of a drug-induced high.

Led Zeppelin, IV (1971)

This classic album from the group Led Zeppelin made them the legends they are today. Robert Plant's primal vocals and Jimmy Page's aggressive guitar playing bless fierce tracks such as "Black Dog," "Rock and Roll," and the notorious, and seemingly never-ending, rock composition "Stairway to Heaven."

Black Sabbath, Paranoid (1971)

One of Black Sabbath's best selling, most loved albums, Paranoid marks a shift in the development of rock and roll... the rise of "heavy metal." In 1971, Paranoid delivered more of the thunderous, demonic, and bass-heavy sound introduced by Black Sabbath on their 1969 debut album, and, perhaps, pushed the envelope even further with tracks like "Iron Man," "Paranoid," and "War Pigs," an anti-Vietnam song with references to bloody battlefields and corrupt politicians. Not for the faint of heart.

Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon (1973)

Besides The Wall, this album is perhaps the best window into the soul of the band Pink Floyd. It's one of their best known and, still, most recognizable albums... and not only because of its cover art.

Patti Smith, Horses (1975)

Punk-rocker Patti Smith's debut album Horses is like a feminist manifesto, a book of poetry, a soul hymn, and a rebel yell all at once.

Judas Priest, Stained Class (1978)

This is the notorious metal album cited in a 1990 court case in which the band Judas Priest was charged with inciting two suicide attempts. Prosecutors claimed that the victims heard a subliminal message when they played the track "Better By You, Better Than Me" backwards, which told them to "Do it!" The case was dropped, but people today (at least those who own record players) still try to hear the "subliminal messages" in the band's music. (There aren't any, by the way.)

Van Halen, Van Halen (1978)

Van Halen's debut album took the rock world by storm with Eddie Van Halen's groundbreaking hammer-on technique, David Lee Roth's over-the-top lead vocals and front-man antics, Michael Anthony's driving bass lines and vastly underrated background vocals, and Alex Van Halen's drumming tying everything together.

AC/DC, Back in Black (1980)

AC/DC's best-known and best-selling album in the United States is a must-own for any rock fan. It's AC/DC's first album after the death of Bon Scott, and the first featuring Brian Johnson on vocals. Johnson's voice is hair-raising, blood-curdling, and purely amazing. This album is a hard rock classic, one that has definitely stood the test of time.

Prince, The Hits / The B Sides (1993)

Rock, R&B, funk, and soul... no one does it quite like Prince. He is a master musician, a genius song-writer, a phenomenal singer, and a legendary performer. Plus he manages to be sexy, vulgar, sensitive, rude, romantic, and irreverent all at once—just like a true rock star! This is one of the best, most-comprehensive collections available.

Bruce Springsteen, The Essential Bruce Springsteen (2003)

A modern folk-rock singer influenced by the likes of Bob Dylan and Robert Johnson, Bruce Springsteen writes music from the perspective of a working-class man, often down on his luck, heart-broken, tired, frustrated with The Man, or all of the above.

U2, The Joshua Tree (1987)

Perhaps the single album that made the Irish band U2 an American rock phenomenon, Joshua Tree is solid from beginning to end. This record—their fifth—includes incredible ballads, such as "With or Without You" and "Where the Streets Have No Name."

Guns N' Roses, Appetite For Destruction (1987)

The ultimate Guns N' Roses album, Appetite For Destruction blew all other '80s rock groups out of the water!

Nirvana, Nevermind (1991)

Nevermind is the album that launched the band Nirvana into the rock mainstream, but also helped popularize an underground garage band scene bubbling for years in the American Northwest. Kurt Cobain's lyrics are dark, poetic, pained, and introspective, and the band compliments him so well. A classic.

Hole, Live Through This (1994)

Inspired by Joan Jett, Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, and her husband Kurt Cobain of the band Nirvana, Courtney Love and her band, Hole, deliver a beautifully raw album, full of tortured rock rants, primal screams, vicious drums, and infectious guitar hooks. A true '90s rock record.

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