Here are numbers 31-40 in my countdown of greatest rock and roots records of all time.
40. Aja (Steely Dan )
No band, not even Chicago or Blood, Sweat & Tears, ever incorporated jazz into their rock music more seamlessly or without pretension than Steely Dan. By the time of this, their 6th album, the "group" in effect consisted of Donald Fagen, Walter Becker, and an impressive assortment of session musicians. Nonetheless, this represents their high water mark in songwriting, arrangements, and production values. The album contains two bona fide hits, "Peg" (with a wonderful guitar solo from Jay Graydon) and the classic "Deacon Blues." Indeed, rock is eclipsed in this song cycle by jazz, R&B, and pop, evidenced most spectacularly in the opener, "Black Cow," and the complex title track, graced with a great tenor solo by Wayne Shorter.
39. Hard Again (Muddy Waters )
Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield) was the greatest of all Mississippi-bred Chicago blues singers. His classic Chess records, recorded in the late 40s and 50s, remain the cornerstones of the genre. By 1976 the 64 year-old Waters was an elder statesman, and Johnny Winter got him a recording contract with Epic. The first fruits of this partnership was this album, which contains one Chicago blues classic after another, played brilliantly by Waters, the deferential Winter, and Waters's touring band. The pinnacle arrives at the outset, with a thrilling remake of Muddy's swaggering "Mannish Boy." HERE is the blues in all its glory.
38. Sticky Fingers (The Rolling Stones )
Though this album does not contain much of the up-tempo blues-rock for which the Stones are famous, one it does include is an all-time classic, the sleazy, tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek "Brown Sugar," based on an inimitable Keith Richards riff and containing a sneering Mick Jagger vocal. Mick Taylor provides some nice lead guitar work in the coda of "Can't You Here Me Knocking?" And the lads shine on the delta blues of "I Got the Blues," the country of "Dead Flowers," and the beautiful closer, "Moonlight Mile." But the surprise star is the beautiful, irony-free — rare for Jagger — and affecting country ballad, "Wild Horses."
37. Hotel California (The Eagles )
Before this album, the Eagles were a successful California-rock band with a string of deservedly-successful singles. For this album they toughened their sound up considerably with the addition of blues/rock guitarist Joe Walsh without losing any of their former strengths. The metaphorical and musically complex title cut (with a dueling, flamenco-inspired guitar solo in the coda by Walsh and Don Felder), the country ballad "New Kid in Town," and the tough rockers "Life in the Fast Lane" and "Victim of Love" shine, but the real star is the epic social commentary, "The Last Resort."