I don't agree with Live at the Apollo in top 10. Really great album, but too high.
I've swung around on Live At The Apollo so much studying it by the criteria that I could actually make a damn good argument for it to be #1 overall. Commercial Impact has to take into account how in 1963 rock albums, especially on small independent labels, did not do well and this hit #2 on word of mouth alone. King Records did not even want to release it and only pressed five thousand copies at first, gave it no promotion, it had scant distribution as a lot of the stores that sold his singles weren't even in the habit of selling full length albums and in the larger market Brown was still a largely unknown artist to most rock audiences. So for it to go to #2 and staying on the charts 66 weeks at that time is comparable to a rock album 30 years later being #1 for a couple years almost. It defies belief.
Looking at things in the context of the times is the single most vital aspect of comparing eras. Look at the rock albums that went Top Three on the charts prior to that. Presley, obviously, did consistently, but otherwise you have just Ricky Nelson (a white teen TV star with a built-in audence), Brother Ray, who was appealing to multiple audiences with his C&W album, Chubby Checker with the twist phenomonon which reached across generational lines, and the same time that James broke through so did The Beach Boys, though they did so on a major label with the surf rock craze at its peak. That's it. The Album Charts was the domain of Broadway cast recordings, comedy records and easy listening adult music. Then suddenly you have James freakin Brown who doesn't fit in that world at all and it's an album that had absolutely NO singles possible on it to draw in some buyers who may have otherwise heard a new hit song they wanted and to top it off the whole album sounded alien to even other rock albums at the time! The people at Billboard must've thought the world was coming to an end when he broke through that glass ceiling. It's just incomprehensible that he was able to do so then, and it's arguable that there's been no greater surprise on the charts since then, because that's what totally shattered the mold of what the album chart stood for. There's really nothing to compare its success to because for its time no album ever overcame as much stacked against it to be as popular as it was.
Influence. This is where he really kills. Not only the most influential live album ever, the thing that made rock artists feel compelled to strut their stuff on live recordings to prove their mettle (and look how many live LP's immediately followed in the next two years - tons of them). But also maybe the most influential album AS an album ever made. Think of it this way. Prior to that an album was a collection of mostly unrelated songs, no thematic continutity, something you could pick out a single song from and listen just to that if it was your favorite. Nobody really understood the concept of an album as a creative exercise where artists crafted it over both sides to act as a singular statement - until this. It's not even like other live albums, where it's song, applause, song, spoken intro, song, banter, song, applause. This was something you HAD to listen to all the way through. Radio stations played the entire album straight through everyday at specificed times. People would call in and request it like it was one song - "PlayJamesBrownLiveAtTheApollo". If you look at the way we perceive albums ever since, it all stems from this point. It was ground zero for the album revolution in rock. After this artists made things like Pepper's or Pet Sounds or What's Goin' On as a unified whole and that's what audiences expected, but that didn't take hold until this. This started that trend, it showed that the album itself was not simply a larger package of material that could be sold for more money - it was now something that had far more creative possibilities for the artist. Its influence is miles above anything else.
No lower than fourth or fifth with Thriller the other contender, but there's a stronger argument to move it even higher. The more you study it the more revolutionary and impressive its achievements become.