Robert Hilburn's favorite rock albums by decade

The '50s

Elvis Presley's "Sunrise." The tracks Presley cut for Sun Records before his "Heartbreak Hotel" fame largely defined rock 'n' roll — from the instrumentation to the attitude. The moment of celebration and discovery remains magical after half a century.

The '60s

Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited." With his literary skill and acute social observation, Dylan turned rock from youthful exuberance into a mature art form in a series of brilliant '60s albums. This was the moment of supreme breakthrough.

The '70s

John Lennon's "Plastic Ono Band." Despite his landmark work with the Beatles, this solo debut ranks for me as Lennon's finest hour. He looked at his own doubts and fears with an unflinching honesty that set a new standard for rock 'n' roll introspection.

Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run." At a time when rock 'n' roll had lost much of its heroic lure, Springsteen gave us reason to believe again in the music and ourselves — a youthful self-affirmation that was absolutely thrilling.

The '80s

U2's "The Joshua Tree." This great Irish band combined the anthem power of rock with a restless spirituality that once again expanded the horizons and heart of the music.

The '90s and beyond

The White Stripes' "Get Behind Me Satan." After four albums that established the Stripes as the most essential American rock group since Nirvana, Jack White made music this time that was even richer and more personal than before — anxious, even desperate, looks at conflicts between innocence and morality on one side and compromise and betrayal on the other.