Kate Bush — "The Dreaming/Hounds of Love" Trip-Hop guru Tricky has said Bush's work has been a significant influence on him and that she should be treasured more than the Beatles. Before Tori Amos and Sinead O'Connor, there was the surreal enigma Earth goddess of Kate Bush. She toured only once, in 1979, and has worked with Pink Floyd and Peter Gabriel. Her intense and literate world music introduced her listeners to Gurdjieff, Wilhelm Reich, Gaia, Knights Templar and a host of esoteria. — Herman Snell
Sleater-Kinney — "Dig Me Out" Sleater-Kinney revolutioned riot grrl tunes with this 1997 release. Catchier, tighter and more dynamic than any of their other albums, "Dig Me Out" is an essential punk, woman or pop album (your choice). The three women from Olympia each master their instruments to produce something more riveting than a banshee wail and more catchy than an NSYNC album. — Casey Parks
Joni Mitchell — "Court and Spark" People may try to tell you that "Blue" is her best work, but Mitchell is most perfect on this album. The flow is smooth—from the dramatic opener through the hilarious, catchy end. The whole CD is terribly romantic and liberating, and quite frankly, no women's list is complete without it. — C.P.
Lucinda Williams — "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" With references-a-plenty to cities in Mississippi, this is an essential Southern album. Williams has a voice unlike any other—an original, seductive sensuality that truly shines on this collection of lost loves and lost cities. Part rock, part country, part rap (sort of): all genius. — C.P.
Laurie Anderson — "United States" The multi-media performance artist/musician, and long-time girlfriend of Lou Reed, has worked with William S. Burroughs, Andy Kaufman, David Sylvian, Spalding Gray and Peter Gabriel. Her best work is live spoken-word stories as she sets them in motion (alone) with film, music and lights. She is the avant-garde for furturists. It can only be experienced. —H.S.
Patsy Cline — "Walkin' After Midnight: The Original Sessions, Vol.1" This record samples Cline's early output—No "Crazy" and no "I Fall to Pieces" here, but you do get a helping of the unadulterated country cuts that she built her name on. As with much honky-tonk, the theme is largely heartbreak and its attendant woes, but listen to Cline's unabashed delivery in "I Don't Wanta" and see why the subject never gets old, and why Cline gave it a charge and honesty that doesn't fade. And yes, she was one of the first girls to do it. —Walker Sampson
Blondie — "Parallel Lines" In 1978, this album meant a new look for punk. Fronted by the ever-sexy Deborah Harry, Blondie raked in the hits on this album with songs like "Sunday Girl," "One Way or Another," "Hanging on the Telephone" and "Heart of Glass." Though you're missing out on rap-pop gems like "Rapture," you're sure to leave this disc with the sweetest taste in your mouth that can only mean one thing—Deborah Harry, in all of her versatility, is a goddess. — C.P.
Erykah Badu — "Mama's Gun" I love this album because Erykah isn't afraid to tell it like it is. This is an album you can listen to straight through. Each song blends into the other like one continuous track. My personal favorite is the duet with Stephen Marley, son of the late Bob Marley.
— Adrienne Hearn
Liz Phair — "Exile from Guyville" I wasn't even cognizant of this record when it was creating the critical storm of praise and controversy in '93. What strikes me today is an amazingly eclectic record that manages to come together through Phair's lack of concession, both lyrically and musically, as a moving singer/songwriter debut. The lyrics are really only shocking in the context "girl singing indie in '93," and thank goodness Phair didn't let that expectation get to her. — W.S.
Aretha Frankin — "The Very Best of Aretha Franklin" (2 volumes: '60s and '70s) To hell with the power women of the 21st century. If you can have only one CD (OK, two), grab Aretha's best and head to the desert island. We're moody bitches, and there's one for every single mood, and then some: "Don't Play That Song," "All the King's Horses," "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You), "I Say A Little Prayer" and of course the perennials: "Natural Woman," "Think" and "Respect." There are some levels of PMS that only Aretha can cure. — Donna Ladd
Billie Holliday — "Lady Sings" (box set) Some days, no music will do other than Billie Holliday. You know the days. This set is a great way to introduce yourself to the lady who understood the blues: four disks of her wonderful early music, recorded from 1935-49. There are 99 tracks here, and if that can't cure your blues, nothing can. — D.L.
Siouxsie & the Banshees — "Once Upon a Time: The Singles" The Gothic Punk Queen Diva Siouxsie Sioux held Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols) and Robert Smith (The Cure) in bondage as Banshee bandmates before anyone knew who they were. She helped introduce the Pistols on London T.V. in 1976 and posed in fetish magazines. Susan Janet Ballion has been influencing and paving the way for trippy gothic, punk and alternative music for 30 years, and continues to reign a living legend. — H.S.
Tweet — "Southern Hummingbird" This album is cool and sexy. It has a very easy groove. It doesn't matter whether she's singing about being in love or telling a man to "go to hell" — Tweet's voice is calming in every song. — A.H.
Ani DiFranco — "Out of Range" Pretty much any angry woman with a guitar is compared to DiFranco these days, and there's good reason for that. She redefined folk in the early '90s. DiFranco fans will generally fight to the death defending one of her 20+ albums as the best, but this album finds DiFranco at her best with a masterful dominance over her intruments (guitar, yes, but this woman uses her voice like the instrument it is, too) and a haunting collection of lyrics. — C.P.