Here is a special Music Observer review of the top 10 best selling studio albums of all time.  This excludes compilation albums, greatest hits albums, soundtracks, and live albums.  They are numbered from 10-1 in order of most estimated sales worldwide.  I gave each album a score based on my three musical categories (melodic intrigue, harmonic creativity, and timbral effectiveness) plus an overall score for intangible influence, which will obviously be very high for all of them.  Also included for each album is a graph showing every individual score I gave to each song.  I did this special review out of curiosity to see if my opinion on these albums match the hype they have gotten.  Enjoy!

10.  SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND

The Beatles

1967

Estimated Sales: 32 million

d03-sgt-peppers-lonely-hearts-club-band

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This album is one of the great pinnacles of musical innovation in the 20th century. The Beatles harness beauty in a very unique way, and it is perhaps the greatest large-scale output by the greatest rock band of all time. Its wonderful musical flow, neat storytelling elements, and brilliant features around every corner make this album one for the ages. Only a handful of others have reached this level of perfection.

Melodic Intrigue: 47/50

Harmonic Creativity: 48/50

Timbral Effectiveness: 47/50

Intangible Influence: 30/30

score-beatles

FINAL SCORE: 172/180

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9.  FALLING INTO YOU

Céline Dion

1996

Estimated Sales: 32 Million

falling-into-you

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A very thoughtful and well-paced album by Céline Dion. She captures some intense emotions through seemingly simple musical ideas. She gives a good amount of space to each musical line and allows each song to truly hit home. I’ve rated timbre the highest out of the three elements, which surprised me because timbre was never really a focus. Perhaps it’s nostalgia for the simplistic yet beautiful 1990’s songwriter sound.

Melodic Intrigue: 39/50

Harmonic Creativity: 40/50

Timbral Effectiveness: 41/50

Intangible Influence: 29/30

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FINAL SCORE: 149/180

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8.  JAGGED LITTLE PILL

Alanis Morissette

1995

Estimated Sales: 33 Million

jagged-little-pill-alanis-morissette

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Wonderful energy and incredibly entertaining melodies from Alanis Morissette in this album. Each song had a unique story to tell, and they were all presented with a maximal amount of intrigue and fun.  Morissette paved the way for the influx of female rockers in the early 2000’s who fully emphasized melody, yet to this day Jagged Little Pill still remains one of the best of its kind.

Melodic Intrigue: 46/50

Harmonic Creativity: 42/50

Timbral Effectiveness: 38/50

Intangible Influence: 29/30

score-alanis

FINAL SCORE: 155/180

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7.  LED ZEPPELIN IV

Led Zeppelin

1971

Estimated Sales: 37 Million

led-zep-iv

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The ever-magnificent Led Zeppelin combine their musical talents and mastery to create one breathtaking sound in Led Zeppelin IV.  From Page’s face-melting guitar licks to Plant’s gorgeous melismas, the entire album is a journey through pastoral beauty.  Right in the middle of this journey is perhaps the most beautiful song ever written, “Stairway To Heaven”.  This is a timeless work of Rock n’ Roll that many have aspired to but haven’t topped.

Melodic Intrigue: 45/50

Harmonic Creativity: 46/50

Timbral Effectiveness: 49/50

Intangible Influence: 30/30

score-led-zeppelin

FINAL SCORE: 170/180

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6.  COME ON OVER

Shania Twain

1997

Estimated Sales: 39 Million

shania_twain_-_come_on_over-front

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There’s nothing spectacular about the sounds or emotions presented on this album, but it is better than most of its type at finding good musical line and form in nearly every song.  The couple of stand-out songs such as “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!” and “I’m Holdin’ On To Love (To Save My Life)” give the album worth and the musical nuance that it otherwise missed.  While there isn’t much substance within the country genre as a whole, this album is paired well with pop-like melodies and enough strong harmonic deviations to result in a rather enjoyable experience.

Melodic Intrigue: 38/50

Harmonic Creativity: 37/50

Timbral Effectiveness: 33/50

Intangible Influence: 29/30

score-shania

FINAL SCORE: 137/180

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5.  RUMOURS

Fleetwood Mac

1977

Estimated Sales: 40 Million

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This is a beautifully consistent and balanced album with every musical element working like clockwork.  There’s hardly any faltering in the musical direction and never a dull spot.  Fleetwood Mac finds ample creativity and majesty in this work that anyone can enjoy.  There may only be a couple of incredibly timeless melodies, but everything works together in a cohesive way to create a smooth and pleasing atmosphere that is near perfection.

Melodic Intrigue: 46/50

Harmonic Creativity: 46/50

Timbral Effectiveness: 46/50

Intangible Influence: 30/30

score-fleetwood

FINAL SCORE: 168/180

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4.  BAT OUT OF HELL

Meat Loaf

1977

Estimated Sales: 43 Million

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Hard Rock at some of its finest.  While Meat Loaf may not have struck gold consistently in his output, he sure did here.  There are wonderful soaring melodies within a power-driven sound that is truly exciting from start to finish.  Surprisingly, there was a large amount of textural change and experimentation throughout that one normally doesn’t hear in Hard Rock, and it was done incredibly well.  Great form, great techniques, and great emotion.  It deserves every sale it gets.

Melodic Intrigue: 46/50

Harmonic Creativity: 47/50

Timbral Effectiveness: 44/50

Intangible Influence: 29/30

score-meatloaf

FINAL SCORE: 166/180

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3.  THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON

Pink Floyd

1973

Estimated Sales: 45 Million

pink-floyd-dark-side-of-the-moon

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This is in the conversation as one of the most sonically pleasing musical works of all time, up there with the great orchestrators of the Romantic/Post-Romantic era as well as other Pink Floyd albums.  There is a perfect command over sound in this album with beautiful builds and mesmerizing spacial features.  I find no flaws whatsoever in its technical production.  Melody and harmony sometimes give way as a result, but the fact that every musical element still gives a wonderful amount of energy and interest to each piece of music regardless of anything else going on makes this one of the greatest albums of all time.

Melodic Intrigue: 43/50 

Harmonic Creativity: 47/50

Timbral Effectiveness: 50/50

Intangible Influence: 30/30

score-pink-floyd

FINAL SCORE: 170/180

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2.  BACK IN BLACK

AC/DC

1980

Estimated Sales: 50 Million

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Back In Black is one of the greatest examples in Rock n’ Roll history of how to get the absolute most out of three simple chords.  The rhythmic variation, pattern shifts, and powerful timing lead to an exceptional work of simplicity and coolness.  As far as the sound itself, they did just about as best they could with the blandness that they had, thanks in part to Angus Young’s skill on electric guitar.  There were only a few songs on this album that involved a uniquely effective timbre, and AC/DC has done it better in other works.  Still, the overall simplistic yet emotive feel makes this a must-listen to all who wish to know the true power of Rock n’ Roll.

Melodic Intrigue: 44/50

Harmonic Creativity: 46/50

Timbral Effectiveness: 38/50

Intangible Influence: 30/30

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FINAL SCORE: 158/180

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 1.  THRILLER

Michael Jackson

1982

Estimated Sales: 65 Million

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The best selling album in history is not without its flaws, but it has enough consistency and groove to be thoroughly enjoyed.  Its one-of-a-kind melodic shapes and neat structures are enough to be revered by pop fans and appreciated by all.  Sometimes the sound got too static and the harmonies endured an unchanging loop, but ultimately this album shows a great balance of uniqueness and accessibility that is sure to be a winner in any crowd.

Melodic Intrigue: 44/50

Harmonic Creativity: 37/50

Timbral Effectiveness: 43/50

Intangible Influence: 30/30

score-mjFINAL SCORE: 154/180

great-tmo

 

Thank you for reading!  You can read some of my more in-depth album reviews here.  Feel free to comment or contact me with your thoughts!

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