The 20 Best Tribute Albums Of All Time

This year alone has seen a multitude of tribute albums, from two Buddy Holly lovefests to the upcoming ZZ Top tribute set from a very motley crew of artists, including Nickelback, Daughtry, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals (yum), and Wyclef Jean.

Let that one sink in. We'll still listen to it, though, because it's ZZ Top and we were born in Texas. Duh.

That's not all either. Since January, we've also seen Muppets:The Green Album with My Morning Jacket and OK Go doing great Muppets hits, with middling results. Coming later this year in Europe is a tribute to pervo-crooner Serge Gainsbourg, From Lulu to Gainsbourg, with Iggy Pop, Rufus Wainwright, Marianne Faithfull, and Scarlett Johansson turning in their versions of the Frenchman's best songs. A release of Lulu on this side of the pond is still in the works.

Rave On, the first Buddy Holly tribute that came out in late June, was a great collection of his best, with a Who's Who of today's biggest names like the Black Keys, Florence + The Machine, Cee Lo Green, Modest Mouse, and The Strokes' Julian Casablancas doing their best renditions of the late rocker's seminal tracks. Paul McCartney, who owns the copyrights to Holly's works, chimed in with "It's So Easy."

Another Holly set, Listen To Me, came out just this past Tuesday and features a more subdued , but no less star-studded, stable of performers like Stevie Nicks, Eric Idle, Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, and Jeff Lynne taking a crack at the Lubbock native.

Back in July, in advance of this month's Nevermind anniverasry, SPIN released its own Nirvana tribute album as a free download, with youngsters and the band's '90s contemporaries helping out. Soul man Charles Bradley covered "Stay Away," and the Meat Puppets tackled "Smells Like Teen Spirit," returning the favor from when Nirvana covered the Puppets' "Lake Of Fire" for their MTV Unplugged In New York session in 1993.

Not to be outdone, Come As You Are: A 20th Anniversary Tribute To Nirvana's Nevermind, comes along on October 25, with Murder By Death, Story Of The Year, and Margot & the Nuclear So and So's.

Let's not forget Steve Earle's Townes, his 2009 LP of Townes Van Zandt covers, which dominated our ears for months. This July, the burly folks in Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band released Peyton On Patton, a super-enjoyable collection of their favorite Charley Patton standards. But albums featuring one artist alone covering another artists' work will be covered in a future blog, we assure you.

So you can see that tribute albums are a big business in 2011. Some of our favorite albums have been tribute discs. The cool thing about them is that it can rustle new fans over to the bands being lauded. People who may not have been familiar with the Carpenters probably heard Sonic Youth's "Superstar" and decided to dig into the work of the late Karen Carpenter and her brother Richard. Hell, maybe some Carpenters fans became newfound SY fanatics.

We wrangled up 20 of the best tribute albums since the beginning of time for you here, and of course left a few out for you to haggle over.

Encomium: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin, 1995

Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved, 1994

Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons, 1999

Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute to Roky Erickson, 1990

Timeless: Hank Williams Tribute, 2001

I'm Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen By..., 1991

Poet: A Tribute to Townes Van Zandt, 2001

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty