The Best Albums by Women: Another Perspective

You may have seen the list published last week by NPR of the best 150 albums by women since 1964 (click here to see it).  Like all the best lists, it is fun to read and fun to argue with. To provide another perspective, I went through my lists of Best Albums of All Time, Best Jazz, Best Blues, Best World Music, Best Hip Hop, Best Country, Best Music – Year by Year and Best Songs to compile an alternative list.  This one has 164 albums, in chronological order by date of the earliest recording on the album – the recordings here begin in 1920 and go all the way to 2016. I have added an asterisk to any album on my list that is also on the NPR list. Enjoy!

NOTE: Unlike the NPR list, which focuses almost exclusively on female vocalists, I have also including albums from bands with female instrumentalists, like Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five, The Velvet Underground, Talking Heads and The Smashing Pumpkins.

  1. Umm Kulthum (Oum Kalsoum): The Legend: The Arab World’s Greatest Singer (1920-1949)
  2. Bessie Smith: The Essential Bessie Smith (alternative pick: The Collection) (1923-1933)
  3. Ma Rainey: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (1924-1928)
  4. Louis Armstrong: The Complete Hot Fives and Hot Sevens (1925-1930) (feat. Lil Armstrong)
  5. Memphis Minnie: Bumble Bee: Essential Recordings of Memphis Minnie (1929-1941)
  6. Billie Holiday: Lady Day (1933-1944)
  7. Big Maybelle: The Complete Okeh Sessions (1952-1955)
  8. Big Mama Thornton: Hound Dog – The Peacock Recordings (1952-1957)
  9. Amália Rodriques: The Art of Amália (1952-1970)
  10. Sarah Vaughan: Sarah Vaughan with Clifford Brown (1954)
  11. June Christy: Something Cool (1955)
  12. Ella Fitzgerald: The Complete Songbooks (1956-1964) (NPR lists Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Johnny Mercer Songbook (1964)*)
  13. Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong: Ella and Louis (1957)
  14. Billie Holiday: Songs for Distingué Lovers (1957)
  15. Patsy Cline: The Definitive Collection (1957-1963)
  16. Asha Bhosle: The Rough Guide to Bollywood Legends: Asha Bhosle (1957-1999)
  17. Billie Holiday: Lady in Satin (1958)
  18. Lambert, Hendricks & Ross: Everybody’s Boppin’ (1959-1961) (feat. Annie Ross)
  19. Koko Taylor: What It Takes – The Chess Years (1960-1971)
  20. Nancy Wilson & Cannonball Adderley: Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley (1961)
  21. Abbey Lincoln: Straight Ahead (1961)
  22. Dionne Warwick: Make Way for Dionne Warwick (1964)
  23. Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto: Getz/Gilberto (1964) (feat. Astrud Gilberto)
  24. Big Mama Thornton: Ball n’ Chain (1965-1968)
  25. The Mamas & the Papas: If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears (1966) (feat. Cass Elliott and Michelle Phillips)
  26. Aretha Franklin: I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (1967)*
  27. Bobbie Gentry: Ode to Billie Joe (1967)*
  28. The Velvet Underground: The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967) (feat. Nico and Maureen Tucker)
  29. Aretha Franklin: Lady Soul (1968)
  30. Tammy Wynette: D-I-V-O-R-C-E (1968)
  31. Carla Bley & Paul Haines: Escalator over the Hill (1968-1971)
  32. Dusty Springfield: Dusty in Memphis (1969)*
  33. Tammy Wynette: Stand By Your Man (1969)*
  34. Gal Costa: Gal Costa (1969)
  35. The Velvet Underground: The Velvet Underground (1969) (feat. Maureen Tucker)
  36. Fairport Convention: Liege & Leaf (1969) (feat. Sandy Denny)
  37. Loretta Lynn: Coal Miner’s Daughter (1970)*
  38. Essra Mohawk: Primordial Lovers (1970)
  39. The Velvet Underground: Loaded (1970) (feat. Maureen Tucker)
  40. Joni Mitchell: Blue (1971)*
  41. Carole King: Tapestry (1971)*
  42. Janis Joplin: Pearl (1971)*
  43. Dolly Parton: Coat of Many Colors (1971)*
  44. Aretha Franklin: Young Gifted and Black (1972)*
  45. Roberta Flack: Killing Me Softly (1973)
  46. Joni Mitchell: Court and Spark (1974)
  47. Richard & Linda Thompson: I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight (1974)
  48. Elis Regina & Tom Jobin: Elis & Tom (1974)
  49. Celia Cruz & Johnny Pacheco: Celia & Johnny (1974)
  50. Patti Smith: Horses (1975)*
  51. Joni Mitchell: The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975)
  52. Koko Taylor: I Got What It Takes (1975)
  53. Kate & Anna McGarrigle: Kate & Anna McGarrigle (1975)
  54. Emmylou Harris: Elite Hotel (1975)
  55. Joni Mitchell: Hejira (1976)*
  56. ABBA: Arrival (1976) (feat. Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad)
  57. Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (1977) (feat. Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie)*
  58. Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris: Trio (1977)
  59. Blondie: Parallel Lines (1978) (feat. Deborah Harry)*
  60. The Slits: Cut (1979) (feat. Ari Up, Viv Albertine and Tessa Pollitt)*
  61. Talking Heads: Fear of Music (1979) (feat. Tina Weymouth)
  62. Gloria Gaynor: Love Tracks (1979)
  63. Pretenders: Pretenders (1980) (feat. Chrissie Hynde)*
  64. Talking Heads: Remain in Light (1980) (feat. Tina Weymouth)
  65. Rosanne Cash: Seven Year Ache (1981)
  66. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts: I Love Rock ‘n Roll (1981)
  67. Eurythmics: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (1983) (feat. Annie Lennox)
  68. Madonna: The Immaculate Collection (1983-1990)
  69. Prince & The Revolution: Purple Rain (1984) (feat. Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, Novi Novoq, Suzie Katayama and Apollonia)
  70. Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense (1984) (feat. Tina Weymouth)
  71. Tina Turner: Private Dancer (1984)*
  72. Kate Bush: Hounds of Love (1985)*
  73. Ofra Haza: Fifty Gates of Wisdom: Yemenite Songs (1985)*
  74. Salt-N-Pepa: Hot, Cool & Vicious (1986) (feat. Cheryl James and Sandra Denton)
  75. Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir: Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares (1987)*
  76. Sonic Youth: Sister (1987) (feat. Kim Gordon)*
  77. Sonic Youth: Daydream Nation (1988) (feat. Kim Gordon)
  78. Pixies: Surfer Rosa (1988) (feat. Kim Deal)
  79. Tracy Chapman: Tracy Chapman (1988)*
  80. Pixies: Doolittle (1989) (feat. Kim Deal)
  81. Madonna: Like a Prayer (1989)*
  82. Queen Latifah: All Hail the Queen (1989)*
  83. The B-52’s: Cosmic Thing (1989) (feat. Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson)
  84. Sinéad O’Connor: I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990)*
  85. My Bloody Valentine: Loveless (1991) (feat. Bilinda Butcher and Debbie Googe)
  86. Mary Black: Babes in the Wood (1991)
  87. Bikini Kill: Revolution Girl Style Now! (1991) (feat. Kathleen Hanna, Kathi Wilcox and Tobi Vail)
  88. Tori Amos: Little Earthquakes (1992)*
  89. Cesária Évora: Miss Perfumado (1992)
  90. Cherish the Ladies: The Back Door (1992) (feat. Mary Coogan, Siobhan Egan, Eileen Golden, Winifred Horan, Maureen Doherty Macken, Joanie Madden, Cathie Ryan, & Linnane Wick)
  91. Altan: Harvest Storm (1992) (feat. Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh)
  92. Cassandra Wilson: Blue Light ‘Til Dawn (1993)*
  93. Björk: Debut (1993)
  94. Liz Phair: Exile in Guyville (1993)*
  95. PJ Harvey: Rid of Me (1993)*
  96. Sheryl Crow: Tuesday Night Music Club (1993)*
  97. Jane Siberry: When I Was A Boy (1993)
  98. The Smashing Pumpkins: Siamese Dream (1993) (feat. D’arcy Wretzky-Brown)
  99. Portishead: Dummy (1994) (feat. Beth Gibbons)*
  100. Hole: Live Through This (1994) (feat. Courtney Love, Kristen Pfaff and Patty Schemel)*
  101. Annbjørg Lien: Felefeber (1994)
  102. Alanis Morissette: Jagged Little Pill (1995)*
  103. Cesária Évora: Cesária Évora (1995)
  104. Emmylou Harris: Wrecking Ball (1995)*
  105. Shania Twain: The Woman in Me (1995)
  106. Björk: Post (1995)*
  107. No Doubt: Tragic Kingdom (1995) (feat. Gwen Stefani)*
  108. Garbage: Garbage (1995) (feat. Shirley Manson)
  109. The Smashing Pumpkins: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995) (feat. D’arcy Wretzky-Brown)
  110. Fugees: The Score (1996) (feat. Lauryn Hill)*
  111. Diana Krall: All for You (1996)
  112. Solas: Solas (1996) (feat. Karan Casey and Winifred Horan)
  113. Leann Rimes: Blue (1996)
  114. Susana Baca: Susana Baca (1997)
  115. Mary Jane Lamond: Suas e! (1997)
  116. Shania Twain: Come On Over (1997)*
  117. Lauryn Hill: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)*
  118. Lucinda Williams: Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (1998)*
  119. Dixie Chicks: Wide Open Spaces (1998)*
  120. PJ Harvey: Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea (2000)
  121. Mariza: Fado em Mim (2000)
  122. Lo’Jo: Bohême de Cristal (2000) (feat. Yamina Nid el Mourid and Nadia Nid el Mourid)
  123. Sezen Aksu: Deliveren (2000)
  124. Diana Krall: Live in Paris (2001)
  125. Björk: Vespertine (2001)
  126. Gillian Welch: Time (The Revelator) (2001)*
  127. The White Stripes: White Blood Cells (2001) (feat. Meg White)
  128. Dixie Chicks: Home (2002)
  129. Missy Elliott: Under Construction (2002)
  130. Joyce (also known as Joyce Moreno): Just a Little Bit Crazy (2003)
  131. Sevara Narzarkhan: Yol Bolsin (2003)
  132. Madeleine Peyroux: Careless Love (2003)
  133. The White Stripes: Elephant (2003) (feat. Meg White)
  134. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Fever to Tell (2003) (feat. Karen O)
  135. Maria Schneider: Concert in the Garden (2004)
  136. Angélique Kidjo: Oyaya! (2004)
  137. Loretta Lynn: Van Lear Rose (2004)
  138. Arcade Fire: Funeral (2004) (feat. Régine Chassagne and Sarah Neufeld)
  139. Sleater-Kinney: The Woods (2005) (feat. Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss)
  140. Amadou & Mariam: Dimanche à Bamako (2005) (feat. Mariam Doumbia)
  141. Amy Winehouse: Back to Black (2006)*
  142. Cat Power: The Greatest (2006)
  143. Joanna Newsom: Ys (2006)*
  144. Miranda Lambert: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2007)
  145. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss: Raising Sand (2007)
  146. Santigold: Santigold (2008)
  147. Portishead: Third (2008) (feat. Beth Gibbons)
  148. The xx: xx (2009) (feat. Romy Madley Croft)
  149. Miranda Lambert: Revolution (2009)
  150. Janelle Monáe: The ArchAndroid (2010)
  151. Arcade Fire: The Suburbs (2010) (feat. Régine Chassagne and Sarah Neufeld)
  152. PJ Harvey: Let England Shake (2011)
  153. Adele: 21 (2011)*
  154. Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel… (2012)
  155. Sharon Van Etten: Tramp (2012)
  156. HAIM: Days Are Gone (2013) (feat. Este, Danielle & Alana Haim)
  157. Laura MarlingOnce I Was An Eagle (2013)
  158. LordePure Heroine (2013)
  159. FKA Twigs: LP1 (2014)
  160. Taylor Swift: 1989 (2014)
  161. Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (2015)
  162. Grimes: Art Angels (2015)
  163. Beyoncé: Lemonade (2016)*
  164. Solange: A Seat at the Table (2016)*

 

5 thoughts on “The Best Albums by Women: Another Perspective

  1. Kevin Jardine

    Just listen to Frida Boccara (French) and Maria Farandouri (Greek with Theodorakis).
    Also worth looking at their lives.

    Reply
  2. dwight arms

    I Learned the Hard Way–Sharon Jones
    Court and Spark–Joni Mitchell
    Lady Soul–Aretha Franklin
    Volumes 1, 2 and 3–She and Him
    Genuine Negro Jig–Carolina Chocolate Drops
    I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight–Richard and Linda Thompson
    Tell Mama–Etta James
    If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears–The Mamas and the Papas
    19–Adele
    Middle Cyclone–Neko Case
    I Hear a Symphony–the Supremes
    Lenka–Lenka
    Don’t Do Anything–Sam Phillips
    Between the Lines–Janis Ian
    Esperanza–Esperanza Spaulding
    The Hissing of Summer Lawns–Joni Mitchell
    Drastic Fantastic–KT Tunstall
    100 Days, 100 Nights–Sharon Jones
    Under the Blacklight–Rilo Kiley
    Begin to Hope–Regina Spektor
    Bring It Back–Mates of State
    Rodrigo Y Gabriela–Rodrigo Y Gabriela
    The Lion’s Roar–First Aid Kit
    Young, Gifted and Black–Aretha Franklin
    Dusty in Memphis–Dusty Springfield
    Eye to the Telescope–KT Tunstall
    Twin Cinema–The New Pornographers
    Together We’re Heavy–The Polyphonic Spree
    Breakaway–Kelly Clarkson
    Mojo Box–Southern Culture on the Skids
    Lonely Runs Both Ways–Alison Krauss
    The Highway–Holly Williams
    Automechanic–Jenny O.
    Ohio–Over the Rhine
    Team Boo–Mates of State
    Brill Bruisers–The New Pornographers
    Hasten Down the Wind–Linda Ronstadt
    1000 Forms of Fear–Sia
    The Voyager–Jenny Lewis
    Give the People What They Want–Sharon Jones
    Come Away With Me–Norah Jones
    Become You–Indigo Girls
    Lost in Space–Aimee Mann
    C’mon, C’mon–Sheryl Crow
    Thompson Fields–Maria Schneider Orchestra
    Tomorrow is My Turn–Rhiannon Giddens
    Wallflower–Diana Krall
    Have You In my Wilderness–Julia Holter
    Down to Believing–Allison Moorer
    Pageant Material–Kacey Musgraves
    My Love is Cool–Wolf Alice
    Watkins Family Hour–Watkins Family Hour
    Perfect Animal–Becca Stevens Band
    Time (The Revelator)–Gillian Welch
    Little Sparrow–Dolly Parton
    Where Did Our Love Go–the Supremes
    Dori Freeman–Dori Freeman
    Case/Lang/Veirs–Case/Lang/Veirs
    Righteous Love–Joan Osborne
    Western Wall–Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris
    Bitter–MeShell N’Degeocello
    Gran Turismo–The Cardigans
    Rumours–Fleetwood Mac
    Car Wheels on a Gravel Road–Lucinda Williams
    Globe Sessions–Sheryl Crow
    Barton Hollow–The Civil Wars
    Leaving Eden-The Carolina Chocolate Drops
    Helioself–Papas Fritas
    A Few Small Repairs–Shawn Colvin
    Hunger–Janis Ian
    Nine Objects of Desire–Suzanna Vega
    Rickie Lee Jones–Rickie Lee Jones
    New Beginnings–Tracy Chapman
    Revival–Gillian Welch
    Medusa–Annie Lennox
    Martinis and Bikinis–Sam Phillips
    Swamp Ophelia–Indigo Girls
    Other Voices, Other Rooms–Nancy Griffith
    Unplugged–10,000 Maniacs
    Love Deluxe–Sade
    Me, Myself, I–Joan Armatrading
    Diva–Annie Lennox
    Fumbling Toward Ecstasy–Sarah McLachlan
    Luck of the Draw–Bonnie Raitt
    I Do Not Want What I Do Not Have–Sinead O’Connor
    Heaven or Las Vegas–Cocteau Twins
    Indigo Girls–Indigo Girls
    Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind–Linda Ronstadt
    Lead Me On–Amy Grant
    Trio–L. Ronstadt, Emmylou H. and Dolly P.
    Whitney–Whitney Houston
    Different Light–the Bangles
    Who’s Zoomin’ Who–Aretha Franklin
    Diamond Life–Sade
    Like a Virgin–Madonna
    Whitney Houston–Whitney Houston
    All Over the Place–the Bangles
    Learning to Crawl–The Pretenders
    Shoot Out the Lights–Richard and Linda Thompson
    Get Closer–Linda Ronstadt
    Walk Under Ladders–Joan Armatrading

    Reply

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