By Marc Weingarten
May 23, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

MUST Crosby, Stills & Nash Crosby, Stills & Nash (Atlantic, 1969) Emerging from bands that placed a premium on harmony, C, S, and N created the music of the spheres. Their debut is a touchstone of unplugged hippie bliss, with campfire perennials ”Helplessly Hoping” and ”Marrakesh Express.” A-

MUST The Beach Boys Surf’s Up (Reprise, 1971) The Thorns’ heartsick melodramas bear the distinctive mark of the Beach Boys’ greatest album of the ’70s, when Brian Wilson retreated to his four-poster bed and brother Carl stepped up big-time with sublimely forlorn pop like ”Feel Flows.” A-

MUST Big Star #1 Record (Ardent, 1972), Radio City (Ardent, 1974) Alex Chilton’s outfit went no-where despite their two masterworks of treble-drenched pop. Hipster approbation has revived the band’s rep; slacker anthem ”In the Street” was even nicked for the theme to That ’70s Show. #1: A- City: A

MUST Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Damn the Torpedoes (MCA, 1979) Petty’s nasal snarl added Dylanesque ferocity to his 12-string guitar rock. This multiplatinum bonanza broke Petty (and garage rock) into the mainstream. Still the best batch of songs he’s ever committed to one record. A-

MUST Badfinger The Very Best of Badfinger (Capitol, 2000) This Brit band recorded its best tunes for the Beatles’ Apple label in the ’70s. Badfinger’s string of pearls (”No Matter What,” ”Day After Day,” ”Baby Blue” ), with their minor chords and exultant choruses, still sound wonderful on your car radio. A-

BUST Ambrosia Anthology (Warner Bros., 1997) These L.A. lite rockers, led by David Pack and Joe Puerta, created monster hits during the Reagan era (”How Much I Feel,” ”Biggest Part of Me”) that went down all too smoothly. A classic example of what happens when mellow pop ripens, then rots. C-