1 - 25 (1955 - 1960) of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

This is OwlEmpire's picks of the first 25 albums out of the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die book in chronological order. The list of the 25 albums is at the bottom of this article and the full list and explanation of the book can be found here.
The journey kicks off in 1955.

Frank Sinatra - In the Wee Small Hours (1955)

This album is so good it is already featured as one of the best albums of all time. To read the full review click here


Elvis - Presley - Elvis Presley (1956)

Standout Tracks
Blue Suede Shoes
Tutti Frutti

The King presents his best work on his debut album. It is essential listening. Try to rid the mental picture of listening to this in your grandma’s retirement home right now. Why? This music is good. He was one of the first white Americans to take African American blues and mash it together with country and of course Rock ‘N’ Roll. When you first pick up this album there is a very good chance you would have heard half the songs on the record. Those songs are the standout tracks.


Fats Domino - This is Fats (1957)

Standout Tracks:

No denying it when you first pick up this album you will either laugh or think WTF is this? This album is a time warp back to different times. Not simpler, different. This is one to kick the shoes off, put the feet up and let the rug rats go crazy. It conveys that kind of emotion. Toe tapping piano with

Fats had the first Rock ‘n’ Roll album to sell over 1 million copies.

Miles Davis - Birth of The Cool (1957)

Standout Tracks:

Some would consider this the bible of cool Jazz. Birth of the cool indeed. Even the cover speaks of Miles coolness on this album. Miles took Bebop, stripped it down and created more sophisticated, mellow tunes. This mellowness in the years to come would become known as a new sub genre of jazz, Cool Jazz. If you consider yourself into music at all you should listen to this album at least once. Fantastic late night listening. Truly a masterpiece.

Little Richard - Here’s Little Richard (1957)

Standout Tracks:
Tutti Frutti
Long Tall Sally
Rip It Up

Here’s Little Richard is Little Richard at his greatest. Elements of soul music and gospel mashed together with the beginnings of Rock ‘n’ Roll. This album is Rock n Roll, roaring vocals, bashing on instruments (in this case the piano). Little Richard influenced everyone from The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. He drew crowds of both white and African American. He was a true pioneer and this album is Richard at his greatest. It’s different if you haven’t time warped back this far before but persist because the rewards are fantastic. Yes Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti is the original, even the king ‘borrowed’ sometimes.




Ray Charles - The Genius of Ray Charles (1959)

Standout Tracks:
Let The Good Times Roll
Two Years Of Torture
Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Cryin’

A pioneer of soul and Rock ‘n’ Roll, Ray Charles was uniquely original and a visionary. But that doesn’t matter if the music sucks. That isn’t the case here. This is mostly happy, swinging music. It is an album you can imagine playing in the background at a fair, or in a second hand shop. It is easy and mostly fun. Some blues tracks on here, but with Quincy Jones doing the arrangements on six of the songs it has that characteristic zing of Quincy and the soulful voice of Ray.


Miles Davis - Kind of Blue (1959)

Another album that is so good it is already featured as one of the best albums of all time. To read the full review click here


Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out (1959)

Standout Tracks:
Take Five 
Kathy’s Waltz

One of the highest selling Jazz albums of all time. Good reason to. It has everything a Jazz should have, weird time signatures, coolness and  . Yes some of this might be what you hear in an elevator or down the local RSL but their is a good reasons you will hear it. it is smooth and lush. What does that mean? Fancy dinner to impress the partner. Brubeck created this as an experiment and it paid off. The critics hated it. The fans loved it.


Joan Baez - Joan Baez (1960)

Standout Tracks:
Silver Dagger 
Fare Thee Well 
House Of The Rising Sun 

At the ripe old age of 20 years old Joan Baez created the most popular female folk record of all time. Most songs are traditional folk ballads. Baez’s unique and beautiful voice combined with a singular guitar would seem to make for an odd combination, but it really refreshing to hear an album so stripped back, nearly naked with just that voice and her guitar. You can appreciate this album in it’s social context, womens rights and great social change. Baez speaks about these on a personal level.
If you like amazing female vocals, be sure to check this one out.

Full List 

  1. Sinatra, Frank – In the Wee Small Hours
  2. Presley, Elvis – Elvis Presley (1956)
  3. Louvin Brothers – Tragic Songs of Life
  4. Prima, Louis – Wildest
  5. Domino, Fats – This is Fats
  6. Ellington, Duke – At Newport (1956)
  7. Sinatra, Frank – Songs for Swingin’ Lovers!
  8. Crickets – Chirping…
  9. Basie, Count – Atomic Mr Basie
  10. Monk, Thelonious – Brilliant Corners
  11. Sabú [Martínez] – Palo Congo
  12. Davis, Miles – Birth of the Cool
  13. Machito – Kenya
  14. Little Richard – Here’s Here’s Little Richard
  15. Puente, Tito & His Orchestra – Dance Mania (1958)
  16. Holiday, Billie – Lady in Satin
  17. Elliott, Jack – Jack Takes the Floor
  18. Vaughan, Sarah – At Mister Kelly’s
  19. Fitzgerald, Ella – Sings the Gershwin Song Book
  20. Charles, Ray – Genius of… (1959)
  21. Davis, Miles – Kind of Blue
  22. Robbins, Marty – Gunfighter Ballads & Trail Songs
  23. Brubeck, Dave – Time Out
  24. Baez, Joan – Joan Baez (1960)
  25. Presley, Elvis – Elvis is Back!

References (click to view)


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