28. The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground (Verve, 1969)

The first album was a slap in the face, the second a full frontal assault, and the fourth full of sweet resignation without caving in. So where does that leave the quiet but difficult third album in this influential band's concise canon? Maybe "difficult" doesn't exactly fit--apart from "The Murder Mystery", you could imagine most of this ideally fitting in on AM radio at the time (like you should be hearing Stew and The Magnetic Fields on American Top 40 today). Supposedly acoustic because most of the band's instruments were stolen, "complex" is a better all-encompassing word to describe it. Equally vulnerable and cathartic, "Beginning To See The Light", "Pale Blue Eyes" and "I'm Set Free" offer brief, illuminating glimpses of Lou Reed behind the mask more than a decade before he removed it entirely on The Blue Mask. With the Moe Tucker-sung "Afterhours" signing off, this is a soulful song cycle for insomniacs and free thinkers, a vital, enduring document of how a generation really felt, much more so than Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.