Wednesday, November 04, 2009
OK. Last week, I promised you a different take on the "15 Books" postings that Donatello and I did. Here it is.
Now, I suppose if you're of a bizarre twist of mind, it could be 15 recordings of wild birds, washing machines, and dogs barking. Or, if you're with the FBI, maybe your 15 favorite wire-tapped telephone conversations. What Donatello has in mind, however (and it is his brainchild) are 15 recordings that... well, I'll just shut up now and let his own words give you the gist of it.
I'll be back tomorrow with my 15 recordings, but right now... Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Donatello!
Don't neglect your musical roots. - Mick Goodrick
Hey Jim -
Along the lines of 15 Books, I present you with these 15 albums. Your mission, should you choose to accept it: complete your own list.
When I started making my list of 15 books, I found it surprisingly difficult. It's hard to get down to 15. Even so, I had to add a bunch of honorable mentions. It was a worthwhile exercise, though. I'm pretty sure I learned something, though I'm not entirely sure what the lesson is yet. Coming up with 15 albums was similarly revealing. I guess the lesson might have something to do with clarifying what is really important to me, but that's the best I can do right now.
Now these albums are emphatically not the 15 greatest albums of all time. While that's also an interesting question, that's not what I had in mind. These are more like the 15 albums I'd have to take to a desert island with me... the ones I don't think I could go without. Maybe, my 15 favorites of all my favorites.
Some things I learned compiling this list: 1978 seems to be a very important year in my musical development. Lots of my favorite albums were released right around then. Also, I think music is like smell, just hearing a certain song can conjure all sorts of unexpected memories: who I was with, what I was doing, how I felt about my life at a given time. You don't even realize the things you remember 'til something brings them back.
I guess I also learned that the sound of a distorted guitar is very close to the core of my being. It resonates in my soul. I like all kinds of music and my life would be diminished if I could never again hear John Coltrane, or Sonny Rollins, or Earl Scruggs, or Bach, or any number of musicians I love. Still, in getting down to 15... well, I don't know. Something's got to give.
The albums I chose are the ones that still make me smile as much today as when I first heard them. Ones that make me want to turn up the stereo to full volume and run around the house playing air guitar, despite all my years at NEC. I guess I still love the anti-intellectual experience of music. I just like how it makes me feel when I hear that noise. I'm sure you can relate. Well, anyway, THE LIST:
Abbey Road, The Beatles
Probably my favorite band. Also, not only is this my favorite Beatle album, I think it's arguably both their best and the greatest rock recording ever. It's like a diamond that still reveals new aspects of itself from different angles and under different conditions. While a lot can be said for Sgt. Pepper, or Revolver, I think this one album distills the essence of the Beatles into a thirty-five minute package. They have lots of great recordings, but I would say this is the only one you need.
KISS Alive! and KISS Alive II, KISS
These shouldn't surprise you. Again, I think these are the only KISS albums anyone needs. Everything you need to know about KISS is right here. While I think Alive! is the better album, Alive II will always have a special place in my heart. Some critics complain that these albums were heavily overdubbed in the studio, to which I reply: so what? Whoever said a live album must be a faithful record of a given concert? The idea is often to create the experience of a perfect concert. I've seen these guys several times and it was always a great show.
The first solo album from 1978. One of the first CDs I bought when I finally made the switch from vinyl. I still remember shoplifting my original copy, on 8-track for Lord's sake, when it came out. I still have it. Ace would be proud, I'm sure. Rip It Out is one of the hardest rocking songs ever.
Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols, The Sex Pistols
I can still remember the look on my parents' and grandparents' faces when the local news did a spot on these guys, again, in 1978. As their jaws hit the floor I thought: Yep, this sounds like something for me. Where can I get this? The album didn't disappoint. Critics say they were produced like The Monkees and that punk started before them. This may be somewhat true, but again: so? Punk started for me with The Sex Pistols. I love The Ramones, but there's something about the angry snarl of Johnny Rotten. Was it all a put-on? Who cares. It wasn't a put-on for us. The Pistols gave a generation of city punks music to go out and vandalize by, for which I'm grateful.
His self-titled release from 1979. In a way, the polar opposite of Bollocks, music to be happy and relax to, for when you want to feel that all's right with the world. Although, with a nod to punk, I stole my first copy of this as well. Hey, money was tight, you know? Of course, I later paid $40 for a CD copy when it was out of print. I like it that much.
We Want Miles, Miles Davis
There's no way I could live without the sound of Miles' horn. Nope. This is my personal favorite album. Not his best, mind, but my favorite. I remember riding my bike across town, with money this time, to buy a copy of this. Amazing ensemble work with a loose, funky, stripped-down sound. For me, this one is indispensable.
Joe's Garage, Frank Zappa
A classic. If you think it's cheating to pick a triple-record set, Act 1 would do. This one's got everything you expect from Frank: humor, satire, and amazing musicianship. I can't describe it. It has to be heard. Apostrophe is my runner-up.
Infidels, Bob Dylan
Again, not his best, but my favorite. Mark Knopfler on guitar, Sly and Robbie on drums and bass. Classic Bob with a great backing band. Sweetheart Like You alone is worth the price of admission. Runner-up, the much-maligned Slow Train Coming. Disagree? Too bad, this is my list.
Wired, Jeff Beck
OK, Blow By Blow is arguably the better album, but this one has, for me, the air-guitar-in-your-underwear factor going for it. My Jr. High music director used to keep hundreds of albums in his office and would let me come down and listen during study halls. I saw this one, and I asked him if it was good. His response: Take that one home. Keep it. You need that album. He was right.
Elegant Gypsy, Al DiMeola
I got this for Christmas, maybe around 1980. I had asked for, I think, George Benson's Take Five. Apparently someone had placed a copy of this in the George Benson bin, which my sweet, well-intentioned mother purchased, oblivious to the photo of the obviously white guy on the cover. I think she was distracted by a big sticker that said: Guitar Player Magazine Album Of The Year Award, 1977! She figured, he likes guitar, this must be it. So anyway, I was, um, surprised to open it Christmas morning. After my initial "what the hell?", I was distracted by the sticker too. She offered to exchange it but there was no way I could let this out of the house without a listen. 35 minutes later I was sitting with my mouth wide open and the realization that I needed to go practice immediately.
The first release. Still holds up after all these years. Eddie gets a lot of notice for the tapping-thing, but he's really an amazing player all around. Runner-up: Fair Warning. Still love that one too. This is home, this is Mean Street.
Get Yer Ya-Yas Out, The Rolling Stones
No better introduction to the Stones. Loud, crunchy, mistakes-and-all performance. No more of the imitation Sgt. Pepper psychedelia, just flat out rock. Forget that We Love You crap, here's a punch in the nose. Ahhh, that's better.
Three Of A Perfect Pair, King Crimson
My favorite inversion of the band: Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Tony Levin, and Bill Bruford. An 80s release that doesn't sound it, which says a lot. Discipline gets the better reviews, but I like this one best. The three releases by this group, Discipline, Beat, and Perfect Pair, make a nice trilogy.
Back In Black, AC/DC
Though I wish Bon Scott had lived to make this album, I still think it's their best. Not only that, it's really pretty amazing that they managed to both replace their front-man and come out kicking ass on this. Runners-up: Let There Be Rock and Highway To Hell.
20 Honorable Mentions:
A Night At The Opera, Queen
Moving Pictures, Rush
Lawn Boy, Phish
Toys In The Attic, Aerosmith
Dark Side Of The Moon, Pink Floyd
Agharta, Miles Davis
On The Corner, Miles Davis
The Bridge, Sonny Rollins
Deliverance, Eric Weissberg
Bach: Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, Itzhak Perlman
A Love Supreme, John Coltrane
Birds Of Fire, Mahavishnu Orchestra
Cats Under The Stars, Jerry Garcia
Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, Joni Mitchell
Live Rust, Neil Young
Layla, Derek And The Dominoes
Axis: Bold As Love, Jimi Hendrix
I could go on forever, so I'll just stop there. Obviously, I'm leaving out so much, but there it is. All right, gotta go. More later.
Your swell pal,
He is, indeed, my swell pal, and this idea is quite swell in and of itself. I'll give you my version tomorrow. See you then.