- guardian.co.uk, Monday 19 November 2007 23.43 GMT
Your Majesty We Are Here (1996)
Though it was released at the height of Britpop, this debut from Earl Brutus had more in common with conceptual Britart. The music provided glam-rock thunder, the personnel provided glamour - two guys at the front, just drinking - and the lyrics gave the enterprise a surprising lightness of touch.
Just an American Boy (2003)
"It is never, ever unpatriotic or un-American to question any-fucking-thing in a democracy." The post-rehab Earle sings the post-9/11 blues at live shows across his homeland. The popular music equivalent of a Michael Moore film, but with more love songs and mandolins.
Earth, Wind & Fire
All 'N All (1977)
Maurice White began his career as a drummer, and his band can sound like one enormous kit, where every crash and beat has its funky place. Songs such as Serpentine Fire and Jupiter run on sheer adrenaline; I'll Write a Song for You is superior schmaltz; and the whole shebang is punctuated beautifully by Milton Nascimento's Brazilian Rhyme.
Echo and the Bunnymen
Ocean Rain (1984)
The Bunnymen never followed their contemporaries Simple Minds and U2 into full-blown stadium rock; this epic orchestral pop collection is as close as they ever wanted to get. The luscious strings, gently brushed drums and tremolo-laden guitars provide the perfect context for Ian McCullough's crooning baritone.
Beauty and the Beat (2005)
A rapper-producer of prodigious gifts, the Bostonian Edan Portnoy straddles the gap between bedroom genius and the slightly nerdy modes of white B-boy hip-hop creativity. His second LP is barely half an hour long, but it is packed with more and better ideas than most MCs can find to pad out three 74-minute plod-a-thons.
Named after a hopeless horse he persisted in betting on, Eek-A-Mouse helped reggae smile again following Bob Marley's death. With its nonsense scat rhymes and tales of romantic misadventure, Wa-Do-Dem is a stunning early example of the dancehall sing-jay's craft: malevolent rhythms leavened by Eek's cheeky "biddy-beng-beng" croon.
801 Live (1976)
Formed around the old Roxy Music buddies Brian Eno and Phil Manzanera, 801 promised to be one of the best groups of the 70s, but the original lineup survived for only a few months. Thankfully, their Queen Elizabeth Hall concert was recorded for posterity; it includes dazzling versions of Tomorrow Never Knows and Eno's Baby's On Fire.
Their 1989 single Pacific State had an enormous impact on the development of acid house, techno and ambient. But it was Ex:El, released at the height of Madchester, that was 808's electronic dance masterpiece, featuring vocal contributions from Björk and Bernard Sumner, and the hands-in-the-air Hacienda classics Cubik and In Yer Face.
The taut, knowing punk of Line Up and Connection, the giddy Vaseline, the harmonious clatter of Blue, the chugging new wave of Never Here: with their indelibly catchy debut, Elastica brought a tough, feminine edge to the smug lads' club that was Britpop.
At Newport 1956 (1956)
Ellington boldly mixed symphonic colours with the rhythmic punch of a Saturday-night dance band. By the mid-50s, though, this unique composer was out of fashion - until this thrilling live set. Saxophonist Paul Gonsalves' marathon 27-chorus blues solo on Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue is one of jazz music's legendary episodes.
Duke Ellington/Charles Mingus/Max Roach
Money Jungle (1962)
The "triumvirate" of Roach, Mingus and Ellington produced a nervy classic, whose lessons were heeded by Medeski, Martin & Wood three decades later. It's a one-off studio date in which everything came together like a dream: witness the energetic Wig Wise and the beautiful Fleurette Africaine.
Missy 'Misdemeanour' Elliott
Supa Dupa Fly (1997)
In collaboration with the producer Timbaland - whose signature sparse beats defined US urban music at the time - Missy Elliot made one of the most ambitious hip-hop records ever. Part Snoop, part Afrika Bambaataa, the album made Elliott the world's highest-selling female rapper.
Stay With Me: The Best Of (1995)
This Philadelphia singer's tune Stay With Me Baby has been covered by countless artists. Ellison was a huge influence on Janis Joplin, and this 23-track retrospective shows why: big-lunged, soul-baring rhythm'n'blues the way it was meant to be sung.
The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)
One long rant against US hypocrisy, The Marshall Mathers LP saw Eminem taking shots at everyone from Bill Clinton to Britney Spears, while mocking those who held him responsible for corrupting a nation. On the album's masterpiece, Stan, the rapper revealed the tender, tormented side of America's Public Enemy No 1.
Funky Divas (1992)
Reinventing the Motown girl group format for the New Jill Swing era, En Vogue were an unstoppable force during the early 90s. Their weapons were a ton of attitude and some astonishing harmonies, and they wielded them with a flair that inspired a generation of R&B baby-divas.
Another Green World (1975)
On which Eno the prog-pop misfit passed the baton to Eno the avant-garde strategist. Here, his fragile vocals emerge sporadically out of the rippling, ambient haze. The album emerged two years after he left Roxy Music; it could have been a lifetime.
Brian Eno & David Byrne
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981)
Underloved at the time but hugely cherished since, this album sees Byrne and Eno travel into the heart of darkness, their art-rock fuelled and flavoured by African percussion, Egyptian pop singers and samples of crabby radio DJs and a real-life exorcism. An experiment, but utterly absorbing nonetheless.
Eric B & Rakim
Paid in Full (1987)
Paid in Full is one of hip-hop's most innovative, influential records. Eric B broke new ground with his R&B and soul samples, while Rakim's intricate, intelligent rhymes set standards to which many rappers still aspire. Few argued when in 2005 MTV crowned it the greatest hip-hop album of all time.
A South Bronx Story (2000)
A compilation that shows how three sisters from the Bronx in the early 80s tried to play slick funk but ended up sounding like a wonky African-American version of Joy Division. With congas. It nevertheless sounded hypnotically brilliant, and set the template for every subsequent strand of mutant disco and punk funk.
Timeless synth-pop from Stewart and Lennox before they became a hoary rock act. They switch effortlessly from the melodrama of Here Comes the Rain Again to the blissful reggae lope of Right By Your Side. Jealousy is defined on Who's That Girl?, where Lennox appears sweet when questioning her lover's fidelity until she threatens, "Tell me!"
Bill Evans Trio
The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings 1961 (2005)
The piano trio is the string quartet of jazz, but it took the pianist Bill Evans, the virtuoso bassist Scott LaFaro (who died in a car crash a fortnight after these New York club recordings) and the drummer Paul Motian to uncover its true potential. Their interplay remains the template.
The Individualism of Gil Evans (1964)
Jazz's great colourist makes time stand still in his swirling, drifting recasting of Kurt Weill's The Barbara Song, to which the young Wayne Shorter adds the most striking solo of his career, gliding wraith-like between the woodwind, French horns and harp. The rest, notably the Ravel-inspired Las Vegas Tango, is of the same order.
In Our Image (1966)
Southern hoodlums with the voices of kissing angels, the Everlys took on and embraced the British beat invasion that threatened to destroy their career. Among the highlights are the violent folk-rocker Leave My Girl Alone, the hard-drinking The Price of Love (a UK No 1), and the deeply bereft It's All Over.
Everything But the Girl
Walking Wounded (1996)
Dance snobs who dismissed EBtG overlooked how deeply the duo understood the capacity of deep house and drum'n'bass for melancholy and dislocation, and the devastating precision of Tracey Thorn's lovelorn lyrics. Music for clubbers wondering where to go when the dancefloor clears.
Cafe Atlantico (1999)
The greatest exponent of morna, the lyrical and exquisitely melancholic style from the Cape Verde islands, Cesaria Evora was already a grandmother by the time she became an international celebrity. Her third album showed off her gently soulful, languid but emotional voice on sad, haunting songs such as Desilusao Dum Amdjer.