Monday, September 29, 2014

The Joy of Lists - Music Gems

Not too long ago I was sent a Facebook inquiry about my favorite books - a top ten - of all time. I jumped at the chance of delineating ten of my favorite reads. In the end I cheated and added books which essentially were multiple book collections - The Foundation Series by Asimov, The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien. I didn't consider this a problem since for me the list was the thing. 

Of course when discussing lists one is forced to reference the touchstone of all such lists The Book Of Lists. For years I purchased each new addition of The Book of Lists when it came out and pored over lists such as Highest Grossing Movies, Most Popular Cheeses, and Most Popular Baby Names. The fact that these were just a few of the hundreds of lists included in the book brought me back to the bookstore time and again to purchase each year's compendium of fascinating rosters.

Now as to the reason for this post. Don't get me wrong. I love reading other people's lists of favorites and collections. But the truth is I love creating them even more. Soooooo, here's my intention. I hope to gather like-minded individuals with my initial list and my eventual challenge. Because this is meaningful to me, and fun, I will give my justifications for inclusion, but be aware, I am a child of the Sixties and my lists will reflect this. BUT, I hope to hear from folks of all ages and be schooled in their selections. This first list then will be: (wait for it!)                                   

These are not necessarily well known albums (that will be the next couple of lists) but albums I would like to turn other folks on to. My hope is that other folks will then give me theirs and my world will be enriched. So here goes 

20. 461 Ocean Blvd - Eric Clapton

One of Clapton's lesser know albums, Ocean has songs that are more personal than say, 'Layla' (which will be featured on my next list). Of course, Clapton plays his ass off and at times makes you wonder how anyone could be that good. It's as if he is making love to his guitar.

19. Mickey Hart's Mystery Box - Mickey Hart. 
Mickey was the drummer for The Grateful Dead (who will be         featured on my next list). As a drummer he is the United States       official percussion expert for the Library of Congress. The songs     on this bad boy are wonderful--every one, I swear--but a few           are so good that I will play them over and over. One speaks of         the death of Jerry Garcia--but in a nice way.

18. Garden of Joy - Maria Muldaur

These are songs from a barrel-house era of saloon songs and Maria sings them with a boozy style that makes me wish I could sit in a small room and listen to her sing them all. The philosophy is that life is short; let's wag our tails more and bark less.

17. Winter - George Winston

Basically a Christmas album, In public, George plays barefoot and once my wife and I were asked to join him on stage (along with about twenty other people) and dance in the style of the Peanuts Christmas children. All the while he played that jazzy piece that Lucy, Charlie Brown, Pigpen, and Snoopy danced to. Does a wonderful rendition of The Canon.

16. The Last Waltz - The Band and others

The soundtrack from what--in my humble opinion--was the best concert movie of all time. The concert was to celebrate the retirement of The Band. To help them in the celebration were Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Bob Dylan,The Staple Singers, and a lot of other wonderful musicians. 

15. Crossing Muddy Waters - John Hiatt

This is one America's finest songwriters at his best. Every song is poetry done in a style reminiscent of music that might be done in the Mississippi Delta. Not necessarily the blues but bluesy, if that makes sense.

14. Bop Till You Drop - Ry Cooder

One of the great slide guitar players of all time. The album includes Blues, Gospel, down home Folk, and one of the saddest songs I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. A treasure.

13. The Little Willies - Nora Jones in disguise

Nora and a bunch of country musicians do music that would be more at home in a bar than on stage. Nora who up until this album had sung songs that showed off her articulate side now does songs that are by turn raunchy and fun.

12. Storyville - Robbie Robertson

Robbie the guitar player and song writer for The Band, sings songs that defy categorization. They are jazzy, bluesy, articulate, wise, and stirring. There have been times I've had to travel across country and this was the only CD I had. I did just fine.

11. Life'll Kill Ya and My Ride's Here - Warren Zevon

Here I included two albums from Zevon's (that's right the Werewolves of London guy) last few years of life. At least five of the songs have to do with impending death but not one is a bummer. I particularly like 'My Shit's Fucked Up'.

10. Little Village - Ry Cooder, John Hiatt, and Nick Lowe.

We get Hiatt's songwriting, Cooders slide guitar, tight harmony, and fun, fun songs - although as is Cooder's wont there is a sad song that just rips at your heart. Like most super groups these guys didn't stay together past this one album but I'm glad they made this one.

9. Sailing to Philadelphia - Mark Knopfler

I will air a personal bias. I am a huge fan of Knopfler, the guitar player and singer from Dire Straits. Every song is intelligent and well crafted. He even does the title song 'Sailing To Philadelphia' with James Taylor. 

8. Sense of Wonder - Van Morrison

Not as well known as 'Moondance' this album has, in my opinion, stronger songs that just make you smile. Van is one peculiar guy and this album showcases a unique mind. The title song alone is worth the price of admission.

7. Power of the Pontchartain - Tab Benoit

A tasty bit of Cajun Blues and Louisiana gumbo. This guy is fun. You feel as if you've traveled to Baton Rouge or Gulf Port and sipping some fine whiskey. I had the pleasure of listening to Tab a few years back and I think my face hurt for a couple of days from smiling.

6. Endless Sky - Chuck Pyle

Calls himself the Zen Cowboy. His songs are about the open range, the desert on a horse, rainstorms, failed love, and freedom. He wrote what has almost become Colorado's state song, 'Colorado'. Nice stuff.

5. Room to Breathe - Delbert McClinton

The man knows his way around the blues. Plays one mean harmonica. Has a voice like he'd buy you a drink but might also pick your pocket. This album contains one of my all time favorite bar tunes, 'The Jungle Room'. 

4.Earl Scruggs and Friends - Just what it says

Earl Scruggs (Yes the guy who almost invented the banjo, played the theme song from the Beverly Hillbillies) is joined by Sting, Elton John, Johnny Cash, Don Henley, Albert Lee, and John Fogerty. Hot instrumentals. Wonderful singing. A good time.

3. The Calling - Mary Chapin Carpenter

One of the truly great American songwriters. She crafts songs that demand you listen then make you wish you'd written them. The title song is about finding what you are destined to do then going out and doing it. 

2. American Cowboy - Chris LeDoux

A rodeo cowboy who for years wrote songs for other people like Garth Brooks, Chris died a few years back and this is a compendium of his songs which are about the cowboy life. I guess they're Country and Western but they're a whole lot more as well.

1. Stuff that Works - Hired Hands

Please; please, please get your hands on this album. The musicianship is fantastic. The songs are simple and wise. Every time I listen to it I wish I was sitting with a beer in front of me and Hired Hands was playing on some small stage. They are that good.   
Okay, there you have it. Try at least one of these albums on for size. Also, I invite you to send me your own list of music gems. Enjoy!!!

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