40 Years of Stereophile: The 40 Essential Albums

And I used to think our annual "Records To Die For" issue was difficult. Whew! When it came down to choosing the 40 most influential rock/pop, jazz, and classical records of the past 40 years, during which this magazine has been the most honest and enjoyable source of high-end audio journalism, my initial list contained more than 200 choices. A painful paring-down process ensued, with input from every member of the Stereophile staff.

The idea was not to name the records I most love, or to list undiscovered or underappreciated masterpieces I could rattle on about (not that I wasn't tempted), but the albums that I feel were the most influential, the most accomplished, and/or the fullest flowering of a band or artist's style or career. This is only my list and everyone's list will undoubtedly be different. Several factors also narrowed the choices. By 1962, when the first issue of Stereophile rolled off the presses, many classical, blues, and jazz artists were either dead or past their best work. This was the era when rock'n'roll in all its many forms took over, hence its heavier representation here. Also, many musicians, such as Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley, to name just two, were primarily singles artists whose albums tended to be a couple of already released hits surrounded by assorted filler. And "Best of" discs and other types of compilations were disqualified as not being coherent albums.

Special thanks go to former Stereophile music editor and current copy editor Richard Lehnert and classical writer Robert Levine, without whom this project would not have succeeded. Their contributions are indicated with bylines; all other entries were penned by yours truly. And thanks to editor John Atkinson, whose wide range of musical knowledge, tastes, and enthusiasms are a constant source of genuine aid and riotous amusement to me. Happy 40th, Stereophile!—Robert Baird