The Beatles - Abbey Road
Any music enthusiast should be able to recognize the contributions of this band, but for me The Beatles defined the boundaries of what popular music encompassed. Growing up in the 80s, to parents from the 60s, I was fed a steady diet of Fab Four from a young age. Early stuff, later stuff, solo stuff. When you're a kid, the reasons don't matter much. You're simply taking it all in, notes and harmonies, the look and feel of the albums themselves.
As I got older, Abbey Road began to stand out just a bit from the others. It wasn't because of the famous shot that graces the cover, four weary bandmates strolling in profile across the street outside of the iconic studio where they recorded some of their greatest works. Rather, it was the simple joy found in the composition and balance of the record as a whole. Opening with the cool vibe of "Come Together" and flowing right into George Harrison's pristine "Something," Abbey Road showcased the best of all four members, ironically as they were about to fall apart. Paul McCartney's "Oh! Darling" and Ringo Starr's typically light-hearted turn on "Octopus's Garden" both depict a band at the height of their full creative powers.
Lastly, Abbey Road would be a monster of an album without the medley at the end, but the fact that John Lennon and McCartney were able to weave so many different song ideas- from "Sun King" to "The End"-together so seamlessly is a testament to their unrivaled chemistry as songwriting partners. It almost doesn't make sense how good they were. The Beatles' catalog is a thing of beauty, but to me Abbey Road takes the cake.