15 Favourite LPs

VariousArtists Top 15 LPs 16 Covers16 covers?  You’ll have to read to find out why.

Originally published on OS on September 3, 2010 as part of an open call to writers on the site.

.

This post was part of an Open Call here on OS for people to list and discuss 15 albums they have their greatest emotional attachments to.  Since I create associations between albums/songs with, well, just about everything, trying to pick 15 LPs that are memorable owing to specific parts of my life or events would be an insurmountable task.  Therefore, I zoomed through my collection, made a (long) short list and picked my 15 favouritesor what passes as such at this momentbut will briefly discuss each more in terms of memories, time and place, etc than as a critique. (The full long list appears at the bottom.)

My Favourite Album

The Velvet Underground and Nico

The Velvet Underground  The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)

Reminds me of the summer of 1982 when this album finally got re-issued after being nearly impossible to buy for many years.  It seemed like everyone in my circle was playing this LP and reading the just released Edie: An American Biography by Jean Stein and George Plimpton during that season.  Perfect companion pieces.

I remember walking into Records on Wheels on Dundas St. in London, Ontario, and almost levitating when I saw it had been re-issued.  I never get tired of hearing Lou Reed & Co’s harsh and beautiful document from—and documentation of—the mid-60s Warhol/NYC demimonde.

Two-way tie for Second Place
The Beatles Rubber Soul Revolver

The Beatles  Rubber Soul (1965) and Revolver (1966)

Rubber Soul reminds me of Xmas 1969.  My just-turned 7-year-old self asked for it and got it.  I have memories of spending hours setting up and playing with my Hot Wheels set while listening to this on flip and repeat.

Revolver was the only Beatles album I wasn’t completely familiar with back in the day and so my memory of this is of getting it in the early 80s and being utterly blown away, not believing I hadn’t heard it before in its entirety.  I also think of the Beatles CDs being released in 1987 and getting familiar with the proper UK editions which are now the familiar versions to me, while the chopped-up and shuffled North American equivalents sound odd.

And isn’t it interesting that the bulk of my 3 favourite albums were recorded within a 10 month period.  And all 3 covers are eternally fascinating.

The Remaining Twelve (alphabetical by artist):
The Beatles White AlbumThe Beatles  The Beatles (1968)

Yes, it’s them again. Xmas 1968 is the first yuletide season that I have clear memories of, particularly of our family getting our first stereo record player: a portable one with a lid that lifted up, featuring a tall spindle on the turntable so that we could “stack” records.  In conjunction with the new family record player, I remember my brother getting this and Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland for Xmas (and the Stones’ Beggar’s Banquet shortly before, making those three albums intertwined in my mind).

I couldn’t get enough of this album and its diversity of styles and still can’t.  Listening to this from start to finish is like going on a journey.  I also remember “Revolution 9” both scaring and fascinating me: my introduction to the avant-garde and one of my favourite things on here.  At a later point in time, I also associate this LP with marijuana as its plain white surface was perfect for rolling joints on.  “Get out The White Album” became a code phrase for me and my friends.

David Bowie Low
David Bowie  Low (1977)

His masterpiece.  I bought this while in the UK in 1977.  I have a clear memory of sitting in my Aunt & Uncle’s living room up north in Cumbria with everyone else out for the evening, listening to it and trying to process it.  It was not only unlike anything he’d done before, it was unlike anything I had ever heard.  Wildly ahead of the curve at the time, it has sounded utterly contemporary for a good 20 years.

Miles Davis Kind of Blue

Miles Davis  Kind of Blue (1959)

I had started to explore jazz in the mid-80s and this was one of the first albums in the genre to absolutely blow me away upon my picking it up as one of my first CDs in 1986.  This disc probably did more to plunge me into jazz exploration than any other, not to mention turning me into a Miles freak, devouring big chunks of his catalogue from throughout his career, particularly the late 40s through mid 70s.  Timeless and ageless.

Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions Anthology 1961-1977
Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions  Anthology 1961-1977 (released 1992)

If I had to pick just one disc from this two-fer, it would be Disc 1, essentially a “Best of The Impressions.”  I knew and loved Superfly along with a number of other Curtis solo tunes such as “Move On Up,” and had heard maybe two or three Impressions songs.  Hearing this collection was a revelation.  Every track on Disc 1 was as exceptional as it was unique.

Too slick to be blues, too adult in its themes and perspectives to be teenybopper chart pop, too earthy to be standard adult pop, too elegant for rock or r&b—in a recurring theme on this list, it was unlike anything I had ever heard.  Then there is the pull of Curtis’ beautiful, economical guitar playing.

I have a distinct memory of dropping off a friend at the Metro Detroit Airport in the summer of ’93 and driving back to London with this on tape in my car, singing along with every song, zooming down the highway on a hot summer night.

Joni Mitchell Blue

Joni Mitchell  Blue (1971)

Joni’s always been a presence in my musical life.  I particularly recall “Carey” being all over radio in the fall of ’71 and my favourite song at that time.  I returned to Blue in the ‘80s, but this time with a whole other more adult perspective.  The definitive singer-songwriter album.

Laura Nyro Eli and The 13th Confession

Laura Nyro  Eli & the Thirteenth Confession (1968)

For the moment, I’m going with Nyro’s second album but I could just as well have picked More Than A New Discovery/The First Songs or Stoned Soul Picnic: The Best of (or more precisely, my own much better double CD compilation that I made a decade ago).  I’d certainly known many of the Nyro songs that others had had huge hits with but hadn’t heard many of her originals until the mid-80s, starting with this album.  I picked this up as a cassette re-issue in 1985, and that was it.  An instant “Wow.”  I doubt a month in my life has gone by since wherein I don’t hear at least one Nyro song.  Again, that her work is so unclassifiable is what makes it so unique (and such a tough sell back in the day, despite others sailing to the top of the charts with her material).

It’s a mélange of tin pan alley pop, r&b, gospel, show tunes, avant-garde, jazz, blues, doo-wop, and rock melded with often oblique, poetic, sometimes harrowing lyrics with arrangements that start and slam shut, speed up and deaccelerate.  It’s a musical world alternating between near silence and epic orchestral climax, jubilation and desolation.  This is very personal, affecting music for me and a riddle I’m still trying to solve.

I spent the remainder of the 80s tracking down the rest of her catalogue and becoming particularly transfixed with that peerless run of albums from 67-71.  There’s no else quite like her.

 

Never Mind the Bollocks Here's The Sex Pistols

The Sex Pistols  Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols (1977)

If there is an album that encapsulates my teenagehood, this is it.  This album’s release and punk rock in general hit me like a sledgehammer, creating an almost Year Zero effect in 1977.  What can I say, it changed my life.  And good crivens, it’s catchy.

Sonic Youth Daydream Nation

Sonic Youth  Daydream Nation (1988)

This is the album where I went from fan to fanatic.  I first heard it when I saw them perform it live in its entirety in November 1988 at the Diamond in Toronto shortly after its release.  I’d been heavily into the Amer-indie scene and loved both Sister and EVOL, but this really pushed both the band and indie rock in a whole new majestic direction.  Experimental yet catchy, structured and improvisational, ambitious and playful, noisy and serene, it was and is their masterwork.

Back in the day it was far too harsh for many and now it sounds prescient.

I probably played this a few hundred times in 1989, defining that period of my life.  And like most on this list, I’ve never really ever stopped playing it and being fascinated by it. My pick for the Best Album of the Past 25 Years.

Tom Waits Swordfishtrombones

Tom Waits  Swordfishtrombones (1983)

If I had to pick one album that most influenced and changed the entire direction of how I listened to music, this is it.  I was familiar with Waits to a small degree and had certainly listened to plenty of experimental and challenging music prior to this, but Swordfishtrombones was something else altogether.  While most of the outré stuff I’d heard was more in a noisy, angular avant-rock vein, this drew more from an older avant-garde of the Beats, jazz, Salvation Army bands, Beefheart, unusual sounds, and deconstructed blues.

It’s rife with rich storytelling, character sketches, and moods and tones evoked in words, music, and instrumentation, delivered with a rawness that didn’t rely on volume or distortion in the sense familiar to me.  I remember spending one snowy, winter day in January 1984 playing it five times in row, mesmerized.  I couldn’t believe how good, how singular it was.  It triggered a recalibration in how and what I listened to and for.

Waits’ name has also been used in various adjectival forms since, and it’s with this album that he nailed that brand and aesthetic.

The Dionne Warwick Collection: Her All Time Greatest Hits

Dionne Warwick The Dionne Warwick Collection: Her All-Time Greatest Hits 1962-1970 (released 1985)

As I moved into my 30s in the ‘90s, I increasingly began exploring and appreciating pop music that was either pre-rock or took its cues from non-rock sources and more interpretative based styles of singing.  Bacharach/David are one of the greatest songwriting teams in this vein (and Bacharach was no slouch as a producer either), yet it wasn’t until this point in life that I could really appreciate what they in conjunction with Warwick were doing.

By the time I purchased this in 1997, Sinatra, Peggy Lee, and Jo Stafford had become as interwoven with my musical vocabulary as any rock, soul or jazz artist.  Still, this had a huge effect on me, both in terms of the appreciation for the music, but also in terms of sentiments and memories.  I think these songs truly resonate only after one has done some living and had some heartbreaks.  Additionally for me, it was also that these songs were everywhere when I was growing up, and hearing them years later triggered all sorts of memories and associations from childhood that I hadn’t even realized were there.  And let’s not forget Warwick’s incredible phrasing and tone.

This also reminds me of the period when I bought it and someone I was seeing at that time.

Lucinda Williams Car Wheels On A Gravel Road

Lucinda Williams  Car Wheels On A Gravel Road (1998)

This CD soundtracked the summer of 1998, one of the crappiest of my life.  I’d been a fan of Williams for 10 years at this point and thought this album would never see the light of day after numerous delays and re-recordings.  And when it did, gee willickers was it worth the wait of its troubled gestation.  I thought and still think this is Lucinda’s apotheosis.

The dark, sombre subject matter aligned perfectly with my in-a-rut, Misery Loves Company headspace.  However, the top flight songwriting, the warm, sympathetic production and performances resulted in the album I had been wishing she’d make, and then some.  This triumph of excellence from an artist I had been relentlessly championing for a decade to anyone who would listen absolutely lifted my spirits every time I put it on, despite the dark tone. My choice for Second Best Album of the Past 25 Years.

  

Neil Young After The Goldrush On The Beach

Neil Young After The Goldrush (1970) or On The Beach (1974)—Take your pick!

As with Joni Mitchell’s Blue, I remember Goldrush from the 70s but have a greater association with it when I rediscovered it in the mid-80s, really launching my Neil-mania.  It’s a great balance of his acoustic and electric strengths.  However, if this exercise could be pared down to the best sides of albums, then Side Two of 1974’s On The Beach would be on this list as the finest sustained, 20-odd minutes of music in his career.  The ultimate in introspective, grey autumn day music, it also features my favourite Young track, “Ambulance Blues.”  Side One is great as well, but Side Two is a complete experience.

… And since I compiled it, I’ll throw in the titles that I jotted down as The Rest of The Short List (and it still feels like a drop in the bucket to me with many names missing such as The Byrds, Parliament, The Smiths, Ramones, REM, Who, T.Rex, etc … oh well):

Air Moon Safari (1998); The Beatles Abbey Road (1969); Big Star Third/Sister Lovers (1978); Kate Bush The Dreaming (1982); Buzzcocks Singles Going Steady (1979); The Beach Boys Pet Sounds (1966); The Clash The Clash (1977) and London Calling (1979); Beck Odelay (1996); Miles Davis In A Silent Way (1969); Blossom Dearie Blossom Dearie (1957); Bob Dylan Highway 61 Revisited (1965); Marianne Faithfull Broken English (1979); The Flaming Lips Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (2002); Fleetwood Mac Rumours (1977); Serge Gainsbourg De Gainsbourg à Gainsbarre (Best of 1958-91); The Gang of Four Entertainment! (1979); Judy Garland Judy At Carnegie Hall (1961); Elton John Tumbleweed Connection (1970) and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973); Grace Jones Nightclubbing (1981); Joy Division Closer (1980); The Kinks The Village Green Preservation Society (1968); John Lennon Plastic Ono Band (1970); Joni Mitchell Court & Spark (1974) and The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975); Laura Nyro More Than A New Discovery/The First Songs (1967) and Stoned Soul Picnic: The Best of Laura Nyro (released 1997); Oasis Definitely Maybe (1994); Gram Parsons Grievous Angel (1974); Iggy Pop/Stooges Fun House (1970), Raw Power (1973), and The Idiot (1977); Pretenders Pretenders (1980); Public Image Ltd. Metal Box (1979); The Rolling Stones Aftermath (UK) (1966), Between The Buttons (UK) (1967), Beggar’s Banquet (1968), Let It Bleed (1969), Sticky Fingers (1971), and Exile On Main Street (1972); Roxy Music For Your Pleasure (1973); Dusty Springfield Dusty In Memphis (1969); Steely Dan Aja (1977); Matthew Sweet Girlfriend (1991); Talking Heads Fear of Music (1979) and Remain In Light (1980); Television Marquee Moon (1977); Various Artists Girls! Girls! Girls! (Note: another cheat as it’s a 2-CD compilation I made of the best of the early 60s girl groups and singers); The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground (1969) and Loaded (1970); Amy Winehouse Back To Black (2006); and Neil Young Live At Massey Hall (recorded 1971; released 2007).

Text © 2010 VariousArtists

Comments From The Original opensalon.com Posting

 .
Damn! I forgot Marquee Moon – that should’ve been in my Top 10.
Lots of similarities to mine – have Lucinda and Revolver on mine, a different Miles, considered the VU, skipped Blue because everyone’s naming it, Low is Bowie’s best, Daydream Nation is when I finally “got” Sonic Youth after a couple of failed attempts. I have a single-disc Impressions collection that’s awesome, and I love Warwick, esp w/ Bacharach.
 
I considered my own memory of xmas/Rubber Soul, but stuck with Meet the…Just because, well, it was the first! Nice eclecticism here, and the same Laura Nyro just missed my list. Lucinda’s Car Wheels…is in my car at all times. And “Superfly”! I listen to that at least once a month! (r)
 
And this is why I always love your posts. ‘Nuff said.
 
Damn, I’m glad I came and looked at this, Various–of course you’d write the most informative post on this OC. Pandora’s been the best thing that happened to me the past few years–I got introduced to Moon Safari and LOVE IT. I’m a big fan of Beck and the Lips, too–and Fear of Music nearly made my list rather than Stop Making Sense. And thanks for bringing up someone I’ve not heard of before (Nyro) and she’s worth a look just on the basis of yr recommendation–I totally trust your taste.
 
If your record collection met my record collection they would be best friends.
 
Cranky — Just checked out your list and indeed, we have lots of crossover and you mentioned in the body of your piece a few I had forgotten and skimmed over, like Forever Changes. Some interesting memories attached to that one for me! And In A Silent Way could just as well have been here, it’s a very close second favourite Miles for me. Absolutely beautiful record. In terms of titles like Blue and Kind of Blue showing up often, I just decided to go with my heart when picking the list, come what may, and these are my results.As for Sonic Youth, I’m a massive fan, have seen them numerous times, and have interviewed Kim and met Lee via a mutual friend we have — and both couldn’t have been nicer people.dirndl skirt — You just made my day by mentioning that Nyro was almost on your list. She’s my favourite female artist of all time, more so even than Joni, kd lang, Patti Smith, or Blossom Dearie. It’s nice to know that others out there haven’t forgotten Laura. And I forgot to shortlist Superfly but it’s one I never get tired of listening to.lschmoopie — As always, so glad you enjoyed and your list is awesome. And boy am I impressed that you’re related to Vince Guaraldi and Cranky was related to Mingus. (worshipful fawning to you both)
 
This has to be the best written and best thought out top 15 on OS. Though I reckon that LuminousMuse could give you a run for your money should that come to pass.Great to see some Velvet Underground. Sounds like someone else’s life was changed by rock and roll. And the Beatles, I had Rubber Soul on my list and both Revolver and The White Album are fine picks.Don’t know Mayfield that well but Freddie’s Dead was always a fave song. I was more a Clash fan than Sex Pistols but I liked their two big singles and always had a fondness for the nihilism and sly humor of Pretty Vacant.Funny how one associates albums. After the Goldrush and harvest run toger for me as I got them about a month a part and a couple of my pals were major Neil Young fans so I heard them togetehr constantly. Great stuff.The rest of the list is commendable. It’s remarkable how many lists Blue and Kind of Blue are showing up on.
 
Fetlock — I’m glad you stopped by and am very flattered by your kind words. We do seem to like a number of the same things. These exercises are great but also so limited as well. I mean, do I really like “Moon Safari” comparatively less than anything I’ve listed in the 15? Beck’s “Odelay” IS the summer of ’96 for me, and as for the Lips, check out the piece I just wrote about their live show from last summer. If you’ve never seen them, do so if you ever get the chance. It’s an experience to say the least.And please do check out Laura Nyro. It’s probably best to go for a compilation, particularly one that favours the early stuff. You’ll be surprised at how many songs you recognize as several of her numbers became huge hits for other artists, albeit in much more conventional forms, most notably “Wedding Bell Blues,” “Sweet Blindness” and “Stoned Soul Picnic” by The 5th Dimension, “Stoney End” by Barbra Streisand, “Eli’s Comin'” by Three Dog Night, and “And When I Die” by Blood, Sweat and Tears — but be prepared, her versions are a whole lot stranger. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to see her live in 1989 and she was wonderful. Sadly, she died too young at 49 in 1997 of Ovarian cancer.lschmoopie — Perhaps we can send them out for drinks!Abra — Thanks for the compliment and I too have been waiting to read Luminous’ words and choices. In my universe, The Beatles and The Velvet Underground are equals: my two most favourite bands. And, yes, I’ve noticed how often “Blue” and “Kind of Blue” are showing up. It would be interetsing to aggregate everyone’s lists when done to see what the OS Top 15 would be.
 
A number that are on your list her VA, are on mine also.
Glad to see On The Beach there.
 
Absolutely LOVE your list! I too ran out to buy that Velvet Underground LP. That’s my absolute favorite Miles Davis record. And Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’ is one of my favorite songs. The only two I’ve never owned or heard of are Laura Nyro and Lucinda Williams – judging from your taste, I think I’d better check them out. 🙂
 
Scarlett — Cool, and I’m not surprised. that there would be crossover. I was hoping to see a list from you (hint hint). And, yes, On The Beach is one for the ages.Mark — Ah, another Nyro fan. So glad to see. Criminally underrated these days.Pavanne — Thanks, glad you liked, and hope you like Laura and Lucinda. With Laura, try and imagine a manic depressive Dionne Warwick on multiple hits of acid. There’s a few terrific vintage clips of her on YouTube, on a Kraft music special and also a clip from Monterey Pop where she thought she’d bombed. I’d disagree. Lucinda is a great melding of rock, country, blues and folk/roots music and has an exceptional catalogue although Car Wheels really is her crowning moment. And she’s fantastic live if you ever get the chance to see her.
 
So glad I stopped by! This list is fantastic, and informative and I love how you put it all together. Laura is so amazing. I fell in love when I hear the 5th Dimension singing her and then discovering her version of her own songs was another revelation. I really like the compilation, Time and Love which I believe she got to hear before she died. Lucinda is fabulous as well. So many great musicians here. Great post.
 
HEY! The soundtracks of my life! I didn’t have to do it Mark’s way–you did it for me! This is delightful! I’m going to go listen to all my favorite tracks from these albums (Oooo, I said “albums,” so now we definitely know how old I am!) THANK you for this! Gonna be a great three day weekend!
 
Delia — Thanks so much and glad you enjoyed. And it’s great to see another Nyro fan on here. There are a few as I’ve found out. I got so into the headspace writing about her, I’ve had her on this evening including some of my vinyl albums. She’s ripe for rediscovery.Keka — Also, thanks, and glad you relate to so many on my list. Yes I use that antiquated word “album.” I kept a big chunk of my vinyl and, after going without a turntable since the mid-90s, we recently bought a new one and I’ve been having a blast replaying tons of albums (and singles and 12″s) I didn’t have on CD. It’s been a wonderful experience. Mind you, what it’s also meant is that I’ve gone out and bought and ordered bundles of those discs for home and the iPod. Lots of retrospective listening lately.
 
Advertisements

2 Comments on “15 Favourite LPs”

  1. Reblogged this on William Chasterson and commented:
    Good taste in music.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s