Sunday, February 15, 2009

My 20 Most Important Albums

Another one of those Facebook thingies...cross-posted from my Facebook page.

Think of 20 albums, CDs, LPs (if you're over 40) that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life. Dug into your soul. Music that brought you to life when you heard it. Royally affected you, kicked you in the wasu, literally socked you in the gut, is what I mean.

Saw this one on Steven Rubio’s page. I don’t know that I can say any album changed my life, in the sense of “Wow, I bought this new Bob Dylan album, “Saved,” and decided to become a Christian!,” but these definitely played a huge role in the development of my musical taste.

1. Yesterday and Today, The Beatles. My parents gave this one to me for my birthday when I was in the 4th grade. As everyone knows, this wasn’t really an “album” at all, just a collection of tunes that had been singles, or had been on the British versions of albums that Capitol had reduced to five or six songs a side. But this is what formed my notion of what the Beatles should sound like, and even now it sounds pretty damn good.

2. Willie and the Poor Boys, Creedence Clearwater Revival. Got this one for my birthday the following year, and it began my first obsession with a band. Nearly wore it out, but still have it today.

3. Honky Chateau, Elton John. The first album I bought with my own money. For a period of 4 years in the early 1970s, Elton was a veritable hit-making machine. What people forget is that his albums were pretty good, too. “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” holds up as well as any song he’s ever written.

4. Can’t Buy A Thrill, Steely Dan. The album that opened up the possibilities of FM radio for me – because you sure weren’t going to hear most of these songs on AM.

5. Siren, Roxy Music. When I heard this for the first time, I thought it was the most mysterious, exotic thing I’d ever heard.

6. Exile on Main Street, The Rolling Stones. Like four albums in one, all brilliant, all as exciting today as they were in 1972.

7. Greatest Hits Vol. 2, Dionne Warwick. The perfect combination of singer, composer (Bacharach), and lyricist (David). But what really set it apart was the brilliance of the production and the arrangements.

8. Darkness on the Edge of Town, Bruce Springsteen. For those who know me, there probably isn’t much more I need to say.

9. The B-52s. The first new wave album I fell in love with.

10. London Calling, The Clash. Punk? Yeah. New Wave? Sure. Reggae? Yep. Top 40 Hit? Yeah, that’s in there too. A remarkable tour de force.

11. Anthology, Marvin Gaye. When a singer creates great work with producers as different in their styles as Smokey Robinson and Norman Whitfield, after a while you begin to realize that it’s the singer.

12. Frank Sinatra Sings For Only the Lonely. “The majestic artistry of Frank Sinatra,” said Tom Carson. The same could be said for arranger Nelson Riddle.

13. Duke Ellington 1940. The greatest year of Ellington’s greatest band.

14. Unplugged – Live in New York, Nirvana. What might have been.

15. Time out of Mind, Bob Dylan. Greatness accentuated by the fact that it was so unexpected.

16. Play, Moby. An accident, perhaps, but a happy, brilliant one.

17. Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, P.J. Harvey. Robert Christgau: “It's a question of whether you use music to face your demons or to vault right over them. Either way the demons will be there, of course, and nobody's claiming they won't catch you by the ankle and bring you down sometime--or that facing them doesn't give you a shot at running them the f*ck over. Maybe that’s how Harvey got to where she could enjoy the fruits of her own genius and sexuality."

18. 30 #1 Hits, Elvis Presley. The once and future king.

19. Life’ll Kill Ya, Warren Zevon. And sometimes, it does.

20. American IV: The Man Comes Around, Johnny Cash. The greatest meditation on death that a musical artist has produced. Yet, hopeful and in the end uplifting.

Twenty is not enough.

No comments: