Ya know, if I didn’t have the need to ANNOTATE these, I could have been done with this list DAYS ago.
Joni Mitchell-Court & Spark (1974). I saw Joni in August of 1974 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Someday, you’ll read about the discussion of that day. (Note: it wasn’t pleasant.) “Help me, I thinking I’m falling in love again.”
Van Morrison-His Band and the Street Choir (1970). Played in my dorm incessantly, and not just for the hits “Domino” and “Blue Money”.
Pointer Sisters-That’s a Plenty(1974). Jazz, soul, country, funk- no wonder no one knew where to put this album in the racks. Have only on vinyl.
Pretenders-Learning to Crawl (1984). I was very fond of the first two Pretenders albums. then two members died and figured that was that. But Chrissie Hynde and Martin Chambers found some guys to record “Back on the Chain Gang” and my favorite Pretenders song, “My City Was Gone”. And about a year later, with still other folks, the album came out.
Prince-Purple Rain (1984). O.K., so the film wasn’t great cinema. I listened to this album incessantly, fueled by MTV videos. I even got a 12″ of “Let’s Go Crazy,” and I did.
Bonnie Raitt-Give It Up (1972). I heard about this singer in 1971 from my HS buddy Steve. He was right. The use of the tuba as bass never fails to get me rolling.
Rascals-Groovin’ (1967). Features “A Girl Like You”, “How Can I Be Sure”, the it-should-have-been-on-the-previous-album “You Better Run” and the title track. But the best song is the last: “It’s Love”, featuring the flute of Hubert Laws. Sonically, a foretelling of the band when it left Atlantic for Columbia in 1971.
R.E.M.-Green (1988). O.K., what album by the group did you EXPECT me to pick. But why is the cover ORANGE?
The Rolling Stones-Let It Bleed (1969). From Merry Clayton on “Gimme Shelter” to “Country Honk” to one of my life themes, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, I love the songs on this album. When I saw the movie The Big Chill, I started laughing during the funeral scene, much to the puzzlement of most. I had already picked up on the joke that the keyboardist was playing the last song on this album.
Linda Ronstadt-Hasten Down the Wind (1976). Karla Bonoff and other great songwriters on a bunch of mostly depressing songs.
Santana-Abraxas (1972). Just can’t listen to the single version of “Black Magic Woman” or much else on this album. It requires the designed flow.
Simon & Garfunkel-Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970). Like the Pretenders album, a big gap between the single (“The Boxer”/”Baby Driver”) and the album, this time due to personality clashes. Also, one song reminds me of an old girlfriend.
Paul Simon-Still Crazy After All These Years (1975). A breakup album, and I’m not talking “50 Ways”. Speaking of that song, though, someone had once suggested that
“Slip out the back, Jack” referred to Jack Kirby
“Make a new plan, Stan” referred to Stan Lee
“Don’t need to be coy, Roy” refereed to Roy Thomas, and
“Drop off the key, Lee” also referred to the former Stanley Leiber
Don’t know who Gus was on “hop on the bus, Gus”
Bruce Springsteen-Born to Run (1975): Mr. Cover-of-Time-AND-Newsweek-in-the-same-week. I never got tired of this album, which I can’t say about the Born in the U.S.A., for instance.
Ringo Starr-Ringo (1973). With participation by John, Paul, and especially George. The same held true for the follow-up, Goodnight Vienna, which I read described as an “ersatz Beatles album.”
Steely Dan-Royal Scam (1976). Always liked the way they sing “ro-YAL scam”.
Steppenwolf-Steppenwolf (1968). Mr. Hembeck only likes the first two hits by the group, and Lefty doesn’t seem to be a fan, either. I contend the first Steppenwolf album was great. It included the Hoyt Axton “the Pusher” and the still-relevant “The Ostrich”.
Rod Stewart-Every Picture Tells A Story (1971). Rod used to be SO good. A dorm staple.
Sly and the Family Stone’s Greatest Hits (1971). The exception to the rule that banned greatest hits albums. After all this was the first appearance on album of “everybody is a Star”, “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”, and the religious experience that is “Hot Fun in the Summertime”. Probably on my top 12.
The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland (1967). A bit of a misnomer, since most of their songs and virtually all of their hits up to that point were written and produced by Brian, Lamont and Eddie. Features “Remove This Doubt”, later covered by Elvis Costello.
Talking Heads-Speaking in Tongues (1983). I liked the group when I first heard them, probably in 1978. But after seeing them live at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in 1983 in support of this album, I LOVED them. One oddity about this collection: some of the songs on the CD are longer than they are on the LP, a way to get you to buy both or a way to show the wonderfulness of this new-fangled compact disc.
James Taylor-Sweet Baby James (1970). Almost a cliché in its ubiquitousness. I knew no one my age who didn’t own it at the time.
Temptations-Puzzle People (1969). After Dennis Edwards replaced David Ruffin, Norman Whitfield became the primary producer of the group, and he and Barrett Strong (the singer of the first Motown hit, “Money”) wrote the songs. This is the second one of those, after Cloud Nine, excluding those concert and TV albums (Live at the Copa, e.g.). It features the Sly Stone-inspired vocal sharing on “I Can’t Get Next to You”, “Don’t Let the Joneses Get You Down”, “Message from a Black Man”, and a great cover of “It’s Your Thing”.
Traffic-John Barleycorn (1970). After the acrimonious breakup of Traffic, Steve Winwood fled to Blind Faith, but that wasn’t the solution either. So he ended up putting together a solo album. He needed some help from his former mates (save for Dave Mason), and suddenly it was a re-formed Traffic.
U2-Joshua Tree (1987). In 1988,, I told someone in 1988 that this was one of my island records. He said, “You can’t pick a one-year old album to be on your island list! They need time to develop in your heart.” NOW may I put it on the list?
The Who-Who’s Next (1971). This album only went to #4? The very definition of the soundtrack to my college life.
Stevie Wonder-Innervisions (1973). I could have picked any of four albums that came out between 1972 and 1976, 3 of which were Album of the Year, including this one. One recollection of this album was hearing it in the house of one of my professors, which elevated him greatly in my mind at the time.
Neil Young-After the Gold Rush (1970). “When You Dance, I Can Really Love” starts off at one pace and gets faster; it was a song that defined a particular relationship of that time.
Other albums could have easily been on the list, depending on how recently I happen to have given them a listen. American Idiot by Green Day may make it next time I compile this list. You’ll note (if you’re that way) that there are actually 53 albums. Well, I was born in ’53, so it seems to have some cosmic resonance.
And on the music theme, I recommend the Music Genome Project, which picks songs it thinks you’ll like.
I started (naturally) with the Beatles. It played “Girl”, then to Jim Croce’s “Operator”.
I started again with the Beatles, and this time, it played “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road”, followed by “Tower of Babel” by Elton John, “Badge” by Cream, “Set Me Free” by the Kinks, “Are You Happy Now” by Richard Shindell (an artist I did not know), “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens, “Cat Black” by T. Rex, “Morning Glory” by Tim Buckley, “Let It Be” by the Beatles, and “New Age” by the Velvet Underground. That list is neither here nor there. What was REALLY fun was reading WHY they picked the next song. They all share “mild rhythmic syncopation, a vocal-centric aesthetic, mixed acoustic and electric instruments, dynamic male vocals, and other similarities identified by the Music Genome Project.” Whatta hoot. And if you don’t like a song, you can choose to go in another direction. Knowing some of the people reading this, this could turn out to be a great time-waster.
And on a different front, someone I knew (and didn’t like) was indicted recently. Please help me if you can. What movie has dialogue that goes something like, “He’s guilty, I say. Guilty, guilty, guilty!” Not sure of the first part, but the repeated “guilty” is in it for sure.