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9. The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds (1966)
The Boys could have cruised forever on surfin' safaris and little deuce coupes; instead, they dove into the deep end of the Pacific (and into Brian Wilson's often untethered psyche) on this impeccably layered, gorgeously woebegone pop masterwork.
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7. Aretha Franklin, Lady Soul (1968)
''Lady'' is a too modest honorific: She's forever the Queen, whether suffering a ''Chain of Fools,'' making hotfooted horns follow in her wake on ''(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You've Been Gone,'' or feeling like a natural woman (woman!).
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6. Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks (1975)
Supposedly inspired by the collapse of his marriage, Dylan's 15th album is a mellow-dude detonation of anger, regret, and acceptance that features some of his most soulful singing and enduring melodies. ''It's hard for me to relate to?people enjoying that type of pain,'' he later said in an interview. But it's harder to imagine anyone not getting swept up in this masterpiece of deeply emotional songwriting.
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4. Michael Jackson, Thriller (1982)
If you grew up in the '80s, this isn't just an album; it's the soundtrack to the first half of your life. Your first dance, your first summer romance, your first (and, rest assured, not your last) heartbreak. Thank you, Michael. Signed, everyone.
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3. The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street (1972)
Given the legendarily louche circumstances in which Exile on Main Street was made (heroin! French villa! More heroin!), it's a miracle this double set of blues-, country-, and gospel-infused rock contains any great songs. In fact, they're all great songs — even the one called ''Turd on the Run.''
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2. Prince, Purple Rain (1984)
Sexiest album ever? The PMRC thought so. The watchdog group was literally formed in response to this paisley-funk heavy breather, which builds to one awesome climax after another. How fitting that the movie the album was made for charts the Kid's rise to fame: The moment Prince sang ''Baby I'm a Star,'' he was one.
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1. Beatles, Revolver (1966)
Not only did Revolver establish the enduring rules for long-players (hot stuff up front, difficult tunes in the back, swirly ones just before you flip it over), it also conveyed the full narrative of the Beatles over 14 songs, from the hands-up garage jam ''Taxman'' to the sunny beach romp ''Good Day Sunshine'' to the churning psychedelic space walk that is ''Tomorrow Never Knows.'' Most important, Revolver pioneered the idea of a rock album as a singular, complete entity, one that had made the transition from bursts of teenage sugar to a cohesive whole that could be analyzed, dissected, obsessed over, and indulged in — you know, art.
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