Tuesday, August 01, 2006

20 good albums

So at my friend Sal's going away party she requested I post "a list."

I get this a lot actually. Teachers and friends after having a few conversations with me about music, film and other art mediums... after a while they just ask me to write it all down so they can check 'em off and not have to worry about remembering them. So, it being her going away party she asked for a 100 to 200 favorite songs list and a 20 favorite albums list.

The problem is... I've got pretty close to if not yet over 300 CDs...

So it's pretty hopeless. But what the heck! Here are twenty albums I love in no order. Not a top twenty greatest... maybe not even all my favorites... but twenty albums I love and that have stood the test of time for me for at least a couple years.

1. Tom Waits - Raindogs

The problem with trying to list a favorite Waits album is I love them almost equally for different reasons. I could probably be completely satisfied if stuck on an island where all I had was everything he ever recorded. This is one of his best as an experimentalist and more so as a songwriter.

2. Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs

Three CD's of bliss. Funny, disturbing, bubble gum with razorblades pop. From the people who brought us the soundtrack to the Adventures of Pete and Pete television series. LOVE IT!

3. Miles Davis - Bitches Brew

Everybody has or will hear Kind of Blue that takes even a passing interest in Miles and Jazz as a medium, so I don't feel I need to list it. Bitches Brew however... was my gateway drug to Mingus and Monk... 30 min songs... perhaps my favorite jazz album.

4. The Damned - Damned Damned Damned

One of my favorite punk albums from the sex pistols era. The Damned was one of those rare punk bands that could write songs... AND ACTUALLY PLAY THEIR GUITARS. "Neat, neat, neat!"

5. Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks

I love the maturity of this album. It's one of the greatest breakup albums ever recorded. Epic and yet incredibly personal. Dylan at his best and lyrically most beautiful. Great for a rainy day in your room with a teenage world on your shoulders, or a long ride home... for people that know what a long ride home is.

6. Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska

"The Boss" ain't for everyone, but you'll probably never know if he's not for you unless you hear this album. A lot of people think Bruce... they think "BORN IN THE USA! I WAS, BORN IN THE USA!!!" but really, (besides reading the actual lyrics to that song) naysayers should start with Nebraska. It's just Bruce, a guitar and harmonica. These are songs about death row, being dirt poor, family, and trying to find something to believe in when the whole world shits on you. The album is haunting, rough around the edges, and completely absorbing. Atlantic City is a classic.

7. The Beatles - White Album.

Favorite Beatles album. Great songwriting and a wide range of tunes. Good stuff all around.

8. Aphex Twin - Richard D. James

Aphex plays by his own rules. He gets pushed into the Trip-hop box but doesn't really fit there. Still as cracked-out an album as it ever was.

9. Simon and Garfunkel - Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

Simon and Garfunkel seemed to really establish a softy-pop reputation in their later years. This early outing is one to respect them for. Many songs that would later have a more radio friendly gloss are stripped down and accessible here with a more scruffy sincerity. Some of Simon's finest writing. Contains the only Simon and Garfunkel version of the song Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme worth listening to.

10. The Stooges - Fun House

It disturbs me to no end how many younger musicians, particularly of the punk persuasion, have not heard The Stooges. Forget liking or hating... I'm talking simply have listened to their songs. The Stooges were the godfathers of punk. Johnny Rotten could never hold a candle to the stage presence of Iggy Pop in his prime. The Stooges and MC5 started it all, and from the very start validated The Clash's genre experimentation with their own. Of the three albums the Stooges produced, Fun House is the finest. Raw Power has a few stronger songs but as a whole and as an album, Fun House is the better. It's a savage blend of punk and acid jazz aesthetics. Essential punk listening.

11. Patti Smith - Horses

Patti was the queen of the particular art punk wave of the 70s that aimed to pick up the gauntlet that the Velvet Underground passed on. It was a small circle of bands including Blue Oyster Cult and Television that often made guest appearances on one-another's albums. Patti sought to mix the worlds of poetry and rock and roll and did so in ways that would put Jim Morrison to shame. Horses was her first and finest record. It's epic, explicit, mesmerizing and otherworldly. Essential for fem rockers everywhere. This is the woman that made William S. Burroughs respect women.

12. Television - Marquee Moon

I've never really heard another band that sounded like Television. The Strokes and other art bands are clearly borrowing some chords... but still Television's first album is on a planet of its own. Like Patti they carried the gauntlet that VU laid down through the 70s and delivered it to the 80s alternative scene. The title song is one of the best pop songs over eight minutes long that has ever been recorded.

13. Elvis Costello - This Years Model

This, his second album out and first with The Attractions, might be my favorite Costello album. It single handedly Pete Thomas one of my all time favorite drummers. It's always saddened me that Elvis decided to avoid the clever word-play style on this album. Though it was still somewhat present on the follow up, Armed Forces, He was afraid shortly after that it would get cheesy. Though I admit he might have been right in the long run, frankly, I would have been perfectly happy if he had made a dozen albums like this one. The lyrics whip you like snapped cables from a suspension bridge, and the band probably never sounded this intense again for the rest of their career. Hell of an album.

14. R.E.M. - Monster

R.E.M. is sort of like David Bowie, in that they've both been around for a long time and reinvented themselves so many times that it's more common to find fans fall into certain periods and phases of their careers. For me, it was Automatic for the People, Monster, and New Adventures in Hi-Fi. Automatic is largely considered their masterpiece, Monster was probably their most commercially successful, and in my opinion New Adventures is their most underrated and wrongfully scorned by fans and critics a like. My love of R.E.M. began largely with Monster. I saw them on its tour. Great album that showed they could be a mainstream hit while staying true to fans and selves alike.

15. The Rolling Stones - Exile On Main St.

I used to hate The Rolling Stones. I mean they had a few songs I liked, but over all I never got the craze. They seemed overrated and bland. Then I heard this album, and it gave me a swift kick in the ass. Shortly after I started running out to give their other stuff another listen... and I get it now. In the realm of rock and roll... they are amazing. Great songwriting that was at times as edgy as any punk band to shortly follow. Like Nebraska for Springsteen... this is the album to judge The Stones by.

16. Brian Eno - Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)

I don't trust any "indie band" that hasn't heard the first three solo albums by Brian Eno. This is the second and song for song the best (though Another Green World is bloody fantastic as a complete work) Nuff said.

17. Pixies - Come On Pilgrim

Pixies are my second favorite band, following The Velvet Underground. I love all five Pixies albums pretty close to equally. Doolittle is the best album, but in many ways I like starting here and working my way through them (going back and visiting "The Purple Album" somewhere along the way). Acoustic Spanish punk ballads about incest that sound like they came out of a still birthed nightmare after reading a ton of short stories by Julio Cortázar... what's not to love? It's one of the best EPs I've ever heard in my life.

18. Leonard Cohen - Songs by Leonard Cohen

Leonard's first album is his best in a lot of respects but above all it's poetic strength. People know it for Suzanne, but there is so much more it has to offer. Though later albums have more of my favorite songs by him, this is his most consistent. Best place to start as well.

19. David Bowie - Aladdin Sane

There are a lot of good Bowie Albums, but from his Ziggy Stardust, period this is his best. Strong songwriting matched by superior musicianship than anything from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. I admit that its predecessor is fully deserving of the praise that it has received over the years and it used to be one of my top ten favorites of all time, but it is this album that makes me want to know more about those Spiders... especially the arachnid behind the piano solo in the title song.

20. The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed, Live in 67 Vol. 1

Brian Eno once said that everyone who ever heard the Velvet Underground ran out and started a band. It was true for me. For many years this was my favorite album... period. It probably still is. In fact I'm pretty sure it still is. Far better than any studio album they produced, this shows how great the band were as musicians. It takes all those great songs and in many ways makes them better. It took me a long time to re-appreciate their first album after hearing many of its songs on here.

I could write essays about each album the band recorded because I love them so much, but this is simply one of the most beautiful expressions of melancholy that rock and roll has ever expressed. Everybody has at least one album that they love on a very deep and personal level. This is mine.

OK Sal... I gave you a list. It ain't perfect and I'm bummed that I forgot about The Cure, The Clash and Wilco... but there it is! I'm working on a 100 or 200 good songs list for ya, but expect that to take time.

Hope you're reading this and your trip to Pakistan was ok.

Take care.


Anonymous Anna said...

well, I'm obviously reading it . . .;)
Oddly enough, I don't think I've ever heard any of these -- except for 69 Love Songs, and that was partially and three months ago.:p
take care.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Cory Capron said...

Yeah, oddly this seems more a list of CDs I like than I list of CD I'd recommend Sal listen to.

2:48 PM  

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