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Essential Rock Albums

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Crank up the iPod, tune your air guitar and click the button to get the facts on 10 essential rock albums.

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Artist: The Beatles
Year released: 1969
Peak chart position: 1
Essential songs:"Here Comes the Sun," "Come Together"
Why it matters: The Beatles' last recorded album is polished and elaborately structured. It was recorded in two months in the summer of '69, in London's Abbey Road Studios. John Lennon's "Come Together" is one of the hardest rocking Beatles tunes.

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Artist: Bruce Springsteen
Year released: 1975
Peak chart position: 3
Essential songs:"Thunder Road," "Born to Run"
Why it matters: Springsteen's third album is a rocking tribute to working-class heroes. It speaks to the underdog in all of us. This timeless album crackles with the raw energy of "The Boss" and his tireless companions-- the E-Street Band. This album turned Springsteen into a genuine rock star.

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Artist: Pink Floyd
Year released: 1973
Peak chart position: 1
Essential songs:"Breathe," "Money"
Why it matters: This groundbreaking album combined sound effects, spoken word and music to form a multilayered sensory overload. It spent a record-setting 14 years on Billboard's albums chart.

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Artist: Elvis Presley
Year released: 1956
Peak chart position: 1
Essential songs:"Blue Suede Shoes," "I Got a Woman"
Why it matters: He's the King. Witness the birth of rock 'n' roll with Presley's first full-length album.

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Artist: U2
Year released: 1987
Peak chart position: 1
Essential songs:"Where the Streets Have No Name," "With or Without You"
Why it matters: The Irish lads from Dublin take on American mythology with their fifth album, which is chock full of instant classics. It was their first No. 1 album, and it won the 1987 Album of the Year Grammy award.

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Artist: Led Zeppelin
Year released: 1971
Peak chart position: 2
Essential songs:"Stairway to Heaven," "When the Levee Breaks"
Why it matters: This thundering blues-rock album contains the ultimate rock ballad, "Stairway to Heaven," which is the No. 1 most requested song in rock radio history.

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Artist: R.E.M.
Year released: 1983
Peak chart position: 36
Essential songs:"Radio Free Europe," "Talk About the Passion"
Why it matters: R.E.M's full-length debut album spawned the "college rock" genre, and it was a touch stone for indie rockers for the rest of the '80s. The dark and moody album combined folk-rock with Michael Stipe's earnest and occasionally unintelligible lyrics.

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Artist: Nirvana
Year released: 1991
Peak chart position: 1
Essential songs: "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "Come As You Are"
Why it matters: Nirvana's second album killed hair metal and thrust grunge into the limelight. It simultaneously assaulted your gut and illuminated your mind. "Here we are now, entertain us." With this album, Nirvana does just that.

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Artist: Queen
Year released: 1975
Peak chart position: 4
Essential songs:"Bohemian Rhapsody," "You're My Best Friend"
Why it matters: Yes, the album is over the top, operatic and theatrical, but it rocks. At the time of its release, it was one of the most expensive rock records ever made. "Bohemian Rhapsody" alone took nearly three weeks to record.

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Artist: Beach Boys
Year released: 1966
Peak chart position: 10
Essential songs:" Wouldn't It Be Nice," "God Only Knows"
Why it matters: It was a commercial bust when it was initially released, but now many critics consider it a masterpiece. Brian Wilson's genius lay in using complex overlapping vocals to produce a lush sound. Plus: It was considered an important influence on The Beatles' "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band."

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