This might be tougher than the albums list.
Ryan Adams--I've mentioned my affection for him here before; I'm not sure why he hasn't grown more popular with the recent rise in Americana/roots music. Breathtaking songwriter.
Bob Marley--I tend to get lost in his voice and music, even though I don't listen to it as much as most of the others on this list. He always comes across so sincere.
Stevie Wonder--One of the few artists that I can play no matter my mood, setting, etc. He comes on, I'm gonna dance.
Bob Seger--Not much needs to be said about Seger. Had one of the great 10-year runs in rock history and has been the soundtrack of many long car rides.
Garth Brooks--Country music's truest superstar. I know probably 30 of his songs word for word.
Danger Mouse--I was glad I could cheat with him. He's collaborated on so many phenomenal projects (if you haven't heard the Broken Bells record with the Shins frontman, stop reading and go listen to it now). Gnarls Barkley deserves more credit than it got, too.
Chris Thile--Has killed it solo, with Nickel Creek, and now with the Punch Brothers. He understands music like no one else playing right now, and his most recent work will leave you exhausted trying to understand how all the instruments are working together. He's as close to a prodigy as music has seen in the past 20 years.
D'Angelo--I'm really glad to see he's come back. I was afraid we'd only be left with two albums from him. He's known for the naked music video, but every song of his puts me into a groove coma.
Van Morrison--He's overshadowed by the Beatles, Dylan, and Rolling Stones, but for my money, he's the songwriter I most respect. Can make me smile or cry from track to track. Astral Weeks still feels fresh today, and that's amazing.
The Eagles--The first band I remember hearing, from probably 5 years old. They've been an on-and-off passion ever since. I like their country sound, but a couple of the 80s tracks can be pretty cool too. Their Long Road Out of Eden album was surprisingly good for the old timers.
Victor Wooten--I'm a bass player, and he puts me on my ass with some of the ways he comes up with to play that instrument. He's a music historian, and constantly drops little allusions to some of the funk greats.
Glen Hansard--He's quietly putting together an impressive resume, between his work with The Frames and Marketa Irglova. Once is a top 10 movie of all time for me, and the Broadway musical is number one, hands down. His voice is so honest, you believe every word he sings.
Kanye West--Couldn't dislike him more as a person, and I don't particularly enjoy him as a lyricist, but as a producer he's phenomenal. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy felt like something new in hip-hop.
Michael Jackson--The man. Anyone who thinks he just sang songs written for him and danced his way into stardom should watch This Is It and see what his artistry really was. He heard music differently than you and I do, and that's what made him special.
Dave Matthews--Say what you will about him, I love his music, particularly live. He surrounded himself with certifiable genuises and can keep a groove going for seemingly days. Another long car ride choice.
Mary J. Blige--My favorite neo-soul female artist. She's got one of the great voices in R&B and has put out one or two of my favorite R&B albums of the last 15 years.
Outkast--Constantly growing and evolving; I've loved every iteration of the Atlanta duo. Andre 3000 is brilliant, and Big Boi is a really underrated lyricist.
Peter Gabriel--I couldn't tell you if I like his Genesis or solo career better, but I know I'm interested in everything he's ever done. Even his soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ is a work of art. I've been listening to his 2010 record Scratch My Back quite a bit lately, and in his older years his voice has become just so hauntingly beautiful.
The Roots--?uestlove is great, the band is great, the music is always interesting, and they're genuinely funny guys! What else do you want?
Zac Brown--I struggled putting him on here, but man am I having fun listening to his stuff. And he can flat burn it up on that guitar.
Also in no particular order:
Artist-Meaningless Garble. Song I love.
1 Metallica-The soundtrack to my youth, and my life to date. For Whom the Bell Tolls
2 Pink Floyd-Beginning with Meddle and continuing to the present, I love everything Waters and/or Gilmour touch (with the notable exception of The Final Cut). Time.
3 Supafuzz-I have mentioned them before. They were a local band in Lexington that I saw many many nights in bars and clubs throughout Kentucky. King of Karma.
4 Black Sabbath- My introduction into heavy music started here. The first six Ozzy albums and the two Dio albums are all masterpieces. N.I.B.
5 Ozzy- I love almost everything on the first 7 solo albums, after that I hate it. Flying High Again.
6 Sinatra- Nobody quite like him. Luck Be A Lady.
7 Sting- He made this list on the strength of Ten Summoners Tales, I think it is the pinnacle of a fantastic career. Seven Days.
8 Jimmy Buffet- From time to time I need to change the scenery in my head. Volcano.
9 Danzig- Delightfully dark, and a little twisted. Dirty Black Summer.
10 Linkin Park- Great energy that fit their time exceptionally well. One Step Closer.
11 Led Zeppelin- There is nothing I can say here that hasn't been said before. Dazed and Confused.
12 Alabama- I blame Mom. I grew up hearing it over and over and over and... Dixieland Delight.
13 Pantera- Mind blowingly heavy and crisp with a groove. Drag the Water.
14 Louis Armstrong- Great nostalgia. A Kiss to Build a Dream On.
15 ZZ Top- Blues and rock with style. Jesus Just Left Chicago/Waiting for the Bus
16 Iron Maiden- Bruce Dickenson is who I want to be; that voice. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.
17 Neil Young- A sound I relate to. I blame Dad, I heard this over and over and... Old Man.
18 Stevie Ray Vaughan- A career cut way to short. Beautiful music to party or cry to. Pride and Joy.
19 P!nk- I don't care what anybody says, Alicia Moore is one talented woman. Her lyrics resonate truth and honesty and she rocks. Sober.
20 Bob Seger- I love Uncle Bob. I can't think of one Seger song I don't like. Some I like more than others, but none I don't like. Sunspot Baby.
Phil Collins/Genesis: Stop it. I know it's lightweight and the consensus is he wasn't as good as Peter Gabriel.
Phil Collins performed the Gabriel era Genesis tracks live without missing a figurative beat in concert.
IMHO, the loss of guitarist Steve Hackett was a much bigger blow to Genesis than the loss of Gabriel.
As for the original topic, there's no way I can narrow it down to five, much less twenty, so I'll bow out of this thread gracefully. But you can rest assured that Rush, is in my top 5, even though I may be in the minority here.
btw, add Peter Gabriel and Neil Young to those I forgot. Maybe when this is through I'll have a real list.
The ten I rotate into the player the most. Alphabetically:
James Maynard Keenan(A Perfect Circle, Puscifer, Tool)
Nine Inch Nails
Simon and Garfunkel
System of a Down
In no particular order:
The Bothy Band
Russ Taff-Under Their Influence and The Way Home were great albums.
I like some of what I hear from Adele, but she doesn't have enough material out yet to see if she cracks the list or not. I think 21 is better than 19.