Gordon asked Lefty for his island albums, but no one asked me. (Sob.) That doesn’t stop me from posting them anyway, of course. These are albums I’d listen to a lot. They may not be the best album the artist ever did, but that isn’t the question.
I’ll start with 50 or so, and italicize my Top Ten (of the moment, subject to change or whim.)
The self-imposed rule is that I couldn’t pick greatest hits albums; unfortunate, because it leaves out artists that I like such as Aretha, George Harrison, and Blondie (to pick three off the top of my head.) There is one exception. Also, I can pick only one album per artist; otherwise, we’d have a lot of Beatles. Finally, I didn’t pick any compilation albums, such as “The Big Easy” soundtrack (a GREAT soundtrack of a movie I wasn’t so hot on).
The list is alphabetical by artist.
Joan Armatrading-Walk Under Ladders (1981)- I love her deep voice, and she really rocks on this album. One of my two favorite albums of that year.
The Band-the Band (1969). This is the second album (the “brown album”) with “Rag Mama Rag” and other pieces of Americana, pretty cool for a group with four of its five members from Canada. In our high school yearbook, there was a section for the HS band, but one of the pictures was of this group. Played this album OFTEN in college as well.
The Beach Boys-Pet Sounds (1966). I know this is the quintessential BB album, but I came thisclose to picking Surf’s Up (“Feel Flow”, “Until I Die”, “Long Promised Road”, and the title track.)
The Beatles-Revolver(1966). For me, it’s always between this album and Rubber Soul. Think of the songs individually. The same group did “Yellow Sub”, “Eleanor Rigby”, and “Taxman”? Astonishing. When my parents weren’t home, I used to crank up the volume during “Got to Get You Into My Life” during the later horn section (“I was alone, I took a ride”). Then “Tomorrow Never Knows” came on and that was SO incredible.
David Bowie-Ziggy Stardust (1972). I played a mean air bass guitar to “Star”. Heard in the dorms incessantly.
Johnny Cash-Unchained (1996). This is a tough choice, because there are songs I like from all four of those American recordings from the last decade of his life. This is the second one. With Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers as the backing band, I thought it would become a bigger pop hit; it got all the way up to #170.
Judy Collins-Who Knows Where The Time Goes (1968). I received this album for my 16th birthday from my friend Lois, who said, “I hope you like it. It’s kinda country.” Well, yes, there’s some pedal steel, but also lovely tunes, including the murder ballad “Pretty Polly”, with Steve Stills on guitar. I JUST bought it on CD this summer.
Elvis Costello-Spike (1989). An island album, for me, can show lots of sides of an artist. He plays with Macca and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. He has rockers and lilting ballads. It may not be his best album, but its diversity will wear better on the beach.
Cream-Disraeli Gears (1967). It has “Sunshine of Your Love”, but a whole lot more. Probably wore the grooves off.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young-Deja Vu (1970). Played a LOT in my college dorm. Always liked the democratic nature of the album: 2 Crosby tunes, 2 Stills, 2 Nash, 2 Young, 1 Stills/Young, and 1 Joni Mitchell.
Donovan-Open Road (1970). Another dorm album, now hard to find cheaply. Vastly unrated disc.
The Doors-Waiting for the Sun (1968). The third album, it DOESN’T have the song “Waiting for the Sun” on it (that’s on Morrison Hotel), but does have a lot of great songs, the least of which is the hit “Hello, I Love You”.
Bob Dylan-Blood on the Tracks (1975). I came to Dylan late as a performer. I appreciated his songs, of course, when sung by others. I bought my girlfriend at the time Self Portrait, and even she had a hard time with it. But by 1975, I learned to appreciate the guy, and subsequently started collecting Dylan in both directions, forward and back.
Eurhythmics-Be Yourself Tonight (1985). I loved the “Would I Lie To You” video on MTV. A lot. But this album has other great songs, including “Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves,” featuring QoS. (QoS means Queen of Soul.)
Roberta Flack-Chapter Two (1970). It has a song about a preacher and sex (“Rev. Lee”), THE breakup song (“Gone Away”), and a scathing indictment of war (“Business Goes On as Usual”). The rest are good jazz covers of popular songs.
Peter Gabriel -Peter Gabriel (1980). (This is the third album, sometimes referred to as “Melt”.) I think Q-104, the late, great radio station in the Albany area played almost every track. One cut appears on a Halloween CD I just mixed. This album contains “Games without Frontiers” and the important anti-apartheid song “Biko”. I have this album on vinyl, in German; anyone know where I can get it on CD for a reasonable price?
Joe Jackson-Night and Day (1982) This is another Q-104 album, featuring “Steppin’ Out.”
Michael Jackson-Off the Wall (1979). I will contend that this album is better than Thriller. This is Michael, just turning 21, before the strangeness really begins. Includes “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”.
Elton John-Tumbleweed Connection (1971). Truth is, I could have picked the eponymous album, Madman Across the Water or Honky Chateau. I could even have picked an album I picked up at McDonald’s in 1994 which contains: “Take Me To The Pilot”, “Burn Down the Mission”, “friends”, “Saturday Night’s Alright”, “Madman”, “Tiny Dancer”, “Honky Cat”, “Croc Rock”, “Mona Lisas”, and “Levon”. But no, I couldn’t pick an album I bought for $3 with the purchase of a fish fillet, could I? In any case, Tumbleweed won out because the 1995 CD features an early version of “Madman”.
Janis Joplin-Pearl (1971). The first posthumously-released album I ever bought. “Buried Alive in the Blues” is an instrumental because Janis didn’t live to record the vocals. In 1972, I was working in a factory singing “Mercedes Benz”, and someone asked me if that was a Temptations song. For some reason, I bit my lip rather than laughing aloud.
Carole King-Tapestry (1971). I bought this and Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones (my second choice among Stones’ albums) at the same time; why I remember that, I have NO idea. Her version of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” I always hear in my mind’s ear as an a cappella doo wop.
King Crimson-Discipline (1981). Another Q-104 album. “I repeat myself when under stress. I repeat myself when under stress. I repeat…”
Led Zeppelin-III (1970). The worst selling of the first six albums. “Immigrant Song” notwithstanding, I liked the softer side of Zep, including Leadbelly’s “Gallows Pole”; I have a Leadbelly version.
John Lennon-Imagine (1971). Plastic Ono Band is too angst ridden. This one’s bitter enough, with “How Do You Sleep”, the wicked evisceration of his former writing partner.
Curtis Mayfield-Superfly (1972). The 25th anniversary recording has alternative takes of several songs, a discussion of the music by Curtis, and ads by Curtis, telling us to stay away from the “Pusherman”. “Remember, ‘Freddy’s Dead’.” But it’s the solid tunes, and maybe it was just the right time, that captivated me. I’ve never seen the movie, BTW.
Paul McCartney-Band on the Run (1973). Sometimes, in addition to the music, I just love the backstory: Paul calls the band together to record, he’s abandoned by everyone except Denny Laine and the lovely Linda, they get mugged in Lagos, and they put out a great album, commercially and critically.
Well, will I still do this tomorrow?