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Monday, February 02, 2009

My Ten Favorite Albums

I've been thinking for some time about what are my favorite records. I don't know why, maybe it is a little nostalgia thing, maybe a desire to know myself, I'm not sure. In some ways it may be a desire to step back and identify with and know my own generation and culture. Maybe it's the many great memories associated with each record. Seeing an artist perform the record live is also a big connector.

For some reason I would only allow one record per artist on the list - kind of arbitrary I know but I didn't want it to be dominated by the Beatles.

I am thinking here only of studio albums, too, otherwise Allman Brothers at Fillmore East would be number 2 or 3, and Jackson Brown's Solo Live Acoustic would have been in the list.

To get on the list 1) I had to own the record, 2) I had to be currently listening to the record, and 3) I had to take a kickback. These artists are all so interested in making my list :-).

Of the hundreds of records I love, how do I narrow it to a top ten? How do I choose between five different great Bob Dylan albums, five Beatles albums and so forth? I think in the end it has to with affection. I tend to have more affection for records that seem to hold together and have a sense of unity. It doesn't mean they have to be concept albums, but I tend to think of a record as a whole.

There may other albums with more great songs, but for some reason there isn't the connection for me with the whole. Obviously I have left out way more great albums than I have included.

The list does not reflect any idea of what albums I think are the greatest, the most important, or the most significant, but the records that seem to speak to me most now.

I bought Layla and Other assorted Love Songs when it was first released and have loved it ever sense. It got burned into my psyche I guess. It is a rough record, sounding more "live" than your average studio recording. It is 2-3 songs too long, those 2-3 being real lemons, but the rest of the record flows well. Thankfully the guys managed to get Duane Allman on board by the fourth song. The twin guitars on "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" send me to guitar heaven, and knowing the context makes the song interesting as well. This is the record that hooked me on the blues.

I was not ever that big a fan of Bruce Springsteen, well, except for his mellow music. I bought The rising right when it came out. It does not get the critical acclaim as other of his records. it holds together extremely well, and even songs he wrote before 9/11 work in this collection of songs written about and in honor of 9/11 and its impact on people. The Rising speaks to me very powerfully and intimately. I never tire of it. I like every song, and I saw the concert.

I more or less stopped listening to Led Zeppelin by the time I was 14 after a brief obsession with stairway to Heaven." But I have been listening to them a lot over the last 2-3 years, and I love talking Zep if you're ever interested. Zep fans love to debate which is their greatest album. I like all of them but their album I seem to listen to he most all the way through is their first. It's raw and muddled in parts, yet so full of energy. This is a great driving album and of all their records the one that seems to flow the best in my view.

Some of my choices would befuddle critics. I love so many Bob Dylan records, but I LOVE Modern Times, his most recent, a record on absolutely nobody's top twenty list of his greatest records. But it gives me joy; it makes me smile. I was tempted to put Slow Train Coming, The Times They are a Changing, or Highway 61 Revisited, but the smile won out :-)

Few people even know Iris Dement. What can I say, put on the record and pass the tissues. Tracy Chapman's debut record was close to making the list. "My Life" is her best flowing and most personal record, haunting in places. I have seen her now a couple of times which always adds to the experience of listening to a record.

I was pretty much a rocker-only when my oldest brother Mike gave me Jackson Browne's first record for my 17th birthday in August 1974. I think it is the gift I most treasure from my siblings and family over all these years.

I think the greatest bliss I know listening to modern music comes about 2/3's the way through Question 67 and 68. I think of early Chicago as the pinnacle of creative energy. if you ever see me walking down the road air conducting like a escape from the asylum, I'm probably listening to Chicago.

It is very hard to decide which Beatles record to include. For a very long time the Beatles record I would have called my favorite was the record almost universally considered the Beatles worst - Let it Be! It was the first Beatles album I bought. They broke up when I was 13 and I bought Let it Be when I was in eighth grade! I have a deep affection for it all the way through. But Abbey Road gets the nod now. it is from the first to the last note the one Beatles record I like the most and listen through the most.

I did not discover Astral Weeks until a couple of years ago. I'd have Moondance at #2 if not for Astral Weeks. Astral Weeks is so layered and brilliant, though put together in a hurry, and without great diversity within the album. I think of it as a symphony and the songs as movements. It pierces me.

There has really not been a competitor for number one for quite a long time. Not only do I have deep life long affection for Dark Side of the Moon (I bought it right when it came out in March 1973, about a month after the greatest snowstorm in the history of the universe (well, in the history of Columbia SC). I was in tenth grade. As a studio recording it is as close to perfect as I can imagine. Dark Side of the Moon is a record whose content speaks to me no matter how many times I listen to it, sort of like my favorite poems by GM Hopkins, or my favorite Psalms. Obviously the message of Dark Side of the Moon is ultimately darker and more forlorn, but in some way God uses it to point me to Himself as an answer to the questions raised. And I can't even put into words how Great Gig in the Sky connects with me. It's primordial. But over the primordial and confused bent world the Spirit broods....

Here’s the list…

10.Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs - Derek and the Dominos
9. The Rising - Bruce Springsteen
8. I - Led Zeppelin
7. Modern Times - Bob Dylan
6. My Life - Iris Dement
5. Jackson Browne --Jackson Browne
4. Chicago Transit Authority - Chicago Transit Authority
3. Abbey Road - The Beatles
2. Astral Weeks - Van Morrison
1. Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd

1 comment:

The Logistician said...

#4, Chicago Transit Authority was a monster.