Two columns ago, I asked readers to suggest albums that I could give to my daughter Laura, who is going off to college this week.
I asked for titles that were recorded before she was born in 1990, and I asked readers to exclude Beatles albums (because, as an American, she had them all memorized before the age of 2) and icky “classic rock” (this means you, Mr. David Lee Roth).
To my delight, more than 100 readers sent in lists of their favorite albums. To crunch this avalanche of info, I enlisted the help of the LEO Data Center of Theoretical and Applied Rock ’n’ Roll Statistics. Three Red Bulls and one Excel spreadsheet later, we had some impressive results.
But before we get to the numbers, a few points of clarification:
First, there is apparently an inverse relationship between people who love the Beastie Boys and those who can correctly spell “licensed.” Second, neither Bob Dylan nor Led Zeppelin recorded albums called Anything, so I had to disregard those messages that said, for example, “Anything by Zeppelin, man!” I also got a lot of recommendations for albums that were made after 1990 and — hardass that I am — I excluded those as well. As to my Beatles ban, a special touché-huzzah goes to reader Bill Bornschein, whose list was comprised entirely of solo albums by John, Paul, George and Ringo. Yes, I said Ringo.
So, who do y’all love? U2’s The Joshua Tree was the most frequently nominated album, followed by Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, Allman Brothers’ Live at Fillmore East and two Beastie Boys albums — Licensed to Ill and Paul’s Boutique — landed in the next tier.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the variety of albums nominated. I received 289 unique album titles, ranging from rock, punk and alt-rock to hip-hop, R&B, jazz, blues, funk, country, bluegrass, classical and whatever the hell genre ABBA is. Some of you wrote passionate arguments for why you chose an album or why it’s important to listen to certain songs at a certain age. These fervent responses ranged from touching and gripping to criminally insane.
After carefully considering all the nominations, I ignored them and picked the ones I wanted. Don’t get me wrong: Democracy is OK to a point, but this is my baby we’re talking about. Making a horrible choice for senator or president is one thing, but I can’t risk my daughter’s music appreciation on something as flimsy as the collective taste of people who are willing to read columns written by me.
Seriously, Laura and I sincerely appreciate all the e-mails and Facebook posts and leoweekly.com comments and phone calls and texts and mildly disturbing pre-restraining-order messages. And every album I picked did get at least one nomination by someone else. So, without further ado, here are the five albums now in Laura’s collection: Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark, Patti Smith’s Horses, Talking Heads’ Little Creatures, and Tom Waits’s Rain Dogs.
I could go on for days about why I chose those five albums. I could say how Highway 61 is my favorite album ever made. How, along with diet, exercise and a minimum daily requirement of Vonnegut and Voltaire and Woody Allen and George Carlin, Highway 61 Revisited can help a young person put down the Strunk & White, laugh maniacally and write whatever comes bleeding out of her fingertips. I could write about Joni Mitchell’s touching and hilarious poetry, and Patti Smith’s incomparable lesson on giving the establishment the ass-kicking it so richly deserves, and Tom Waits’s raspy, intoxicating street-genius, and Talking Heads’ unparalleled reassurance that, yes, America is a hopelessly desperate and goofy place, but we’re all going to be OK.
But of course my reasons for choosing the best albums are no more valid than anybody else’s. We like what we like because it connects with us on some magical, musical string-theory docking station in our hearts and minds and pants. And those albums are the Five Best. Unless you count the fact that I got weak and also bought Laura B. B. King’s Live in Cooke County Jail and Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue. And had to stab myself repeatedly with a credit card to keep from buying The Band’s Last Waltz, John Prine’s John Prine, Neil Young’s Harvest, Randy Newman’s Sail Away …
Music for Laura from the “Summary of My Discontent” Reader Poll
I polled readers to help me pick out five albums to send with my daughter Laura when she goes off to college. Below is a summary of the voting. Beneath the list is a sampling of some of the great messages from readers who sent comments along with their picks. Thanks to everybody who participated!
Here is the complete list of albums nominated (multiple votes in parentheses)
ABBA – Arrival
ABBA – The Visitors (2)
Alice Coltrane – Journey in Satchidananda
Alice Cooper – Killers
Allen Toussaint – Southern Nights
Allman Brothers – Live at Fillmore East (3)
Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved a Man the Way that I Love You
B.B. King -Live At Cooke County Jail (2)
Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill (3)
Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (3)
Beethoven’s Pastorale Symphony (Von Karajan 1963)
Big Brother & the Holding Company – Cheap Thrills
Billy Bragg- Workers Playtime
Billy Joel – Glass Houses
Black Sabbath – Paranoid
Black Sabbath – Volume 4
Blondie – Best of Blondie
Blondie – Parallel Lines
Blood Sweat & Tears (w/ Al Kooper) – Child is Father to the Man
Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde
Bob Dylan – Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited (4)
Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A-changin
Bob Dylan- Desire
Bob Dylan – Nashville Skyline
Bob Marley – Legend
Bob Marley – Natty Dread
Bob Marley & the Wailers – Exodus (2)
Bobby Fuller Four – I Fought the Law
Bonnie Raitt – Sweet Forgiveness
Bread – Greatest Hits
Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (2)
Can – Ege Bamyasi
Can – Tago Mago
Carly Simon – Anticipation
Carole King – Tapestry (2)
Cat Stevens – Tea for the Tillerman (3)
Cat Stevens – Teaser and the Firecat
Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um
Cheap Trick – Heaven Tonight
Chris Connor – Witchcraft
Cocteau Twins – Treasure
Cream – Wheels of Fire
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory
Crosby Stills Nash & Young – So Far
Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks – Striking it Rich
Dave Brubeck – Time Out
Dave Mason – Alone Together
David Bowie – Hunky Dory
David Bowie – Low
David Bowie – Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust (2)
David Bowie – Scary Monsters
David Bromberg – self titled
De La Soul – 3 feet high and Rising
Dick Gaughan – Handful of Earth
Dire Straits – Making Movies
Echo and the Bunnymen- Ocean Rain
ELO – Time
Elton John – Captain Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy
Elvis Presley – The Sun Sessions (2)
Emerson Lake and Palmer – Pictures at an Exhibition
Emmylou Harris – Luxury Liner
Emmylou Harris – Wrecking Ball
Eric Clapton – Pilgrim
Fairport Convention – Leige and Leaf
Fishbone – Truth and Soul
Fleetwood Mac – Future Games
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (4)
Frank Sinatra – Songs for Swingin’ Lovers!
Frank Sinatra – Watertown
Frank Zappa – Lumpy Gravy
Frank Zappa – One Size Fits All
Fugazi – 13 Songs
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (2)
Gang of Four – Entertainment (2)
George Harrison – All Things Must Pass
George Harrison – Concert for Bangladesh
Gram Parsons – Grievous Angel (2)
Grateful Dead – Europe 72
Grateful Dead- American Beauty
Guns N’ Roses-Appetite For Destruction (2)
Guy Clark – Best of Guy Clark
Hall and Oates – H2O
Harry Belafonte – Calypso
Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard – self titled
Indigo Girls – Indigo Girls
Indigo Girls – Strange Fire (2)
Iron Maiden – Number of the Beast
J Geils Band – Full House Live
J. D. Crowe – The Bluegrass Album
J.J. Cale – 5
Jackson 5 – Greatest Hits
Jackson Browne – For Everyman
Jackson Browne – Late for the Sky
James Taylor – Sweet Baby James
Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking
Janis Joplin – Pearl
Jez Lowe – Briefly On the Street
JJ Cale – Special Edition
Jethro Tull – Benefit
Joan Armatrading – To The Limit
Joan Baez – Diamonds and Rust
John Cale – Paris 1919
John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
John Cougar Mellencamp – The Best that I Can Do
John Hartford – Steam Powered Aero-plane
John Lennon – Double Fantasy
John Lennon – Imagine
John Prine – John Prine
John Prine – Sweet Revenge
Johnny Cash – Live at Folsom Prison
Johnny Winter – Still Alive and Well
Joni Mitchell – Blue (2)
Joni Mitchell – Court and Spark (2)
Joni Mitchell – For the Roses
Joni Mitchell – Hejira (2)
Joni Mitchell – Hissing of Summer Lawns (2)
Jorge Ben – Africa Brasil
Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures (2)
Kate Bush – Hounds of Love
King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King
King Crimson – Red
Kinks-Lola Versus Powerman and the Money-go-round
Kinks – One for the Road
Kinks – Something Else
Kris Kristofferson-The Silver Tongued Devil and I
Laura Nyro – New York Tendaberry
Led Zeppelin – IV
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin (2)
Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti
Led Zepplin – III
Led Zepplin – Physical Graffitti (2)
Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man
Little Feat – Waiting for Columbus
Little Richard – Here’s Little Richard
Little River Band – Greatest Hits
Lou Reed – Rock n Roll Animal
Lou Reed – Transformer
Lucinda Williams – Lucinda Williams
Lyle Lovett – Pontiac
Lyle Lovett – Pontiac
Mahavishnu Orchestra – Birds of Fire
Marshall Crenshaw – Marshall Crenshaw
Marvin Gaye – What’s Goin’ On (2)
Metallica – Master of Puppets
Michael Jackson – Bad
Michael Jackson – Off the Wall
Michael Jackson – Thriller
Michelle Shocked – Short Sharp Shocked
Miles Davis – Bitches Brew
Miles Davis – Kind of Blue (2)
Moby Grape – Moby Grape
Moody Blues – Days of Future Past
Moody Blues – Seventh Sojourn
Muddy Waters – Electric Mud
Neil Young – After the Gold Rush
Neil Young – Comes a Time
Neil Young – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Neil Young – Harvest
Neil Young – On the Beach
New Order- Power, Corruption and Lies
Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left
Nick Drake – Pink Moon
Nilsson – Aerial Ballet
Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra–Solo Para Ti
Patti Smith – Easter
Patti Smith – Horses (2)
Paul McCartney – Band on The Run
Paul Simon – Graceland (2)
Peter Gabriel – So
Pink Floyd – Animals (2)
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon (2)
Pink Floyd – The Wall
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (2)
Pixies – Doolittle (2)
Pixies – Surfer Rosa (2)
Prefab Sprout – Two Wheels Good
Pretenders – Pretenders
Prince – Purple Rain (2)
Prince – Sign of the Times
Professor Long Hair – Anthology
Queen – A Night at the Opera
R.E.M – Lifes Rich Pageant
Ramones – Leave Home
Ramones – Ramones
Ramones – Rocket to Russia (2)
Randy Newman – Sail Away
Red Garland – Red Garland’s Piano
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Freaky Styley
REM – Eponymous (2)
REM – Reckoning
Ringo Starr – Ringo Starr
Rolling Stones – Some Girls
Roxy Music – Avalon (2)
Run DMC – self titled
Sade – Stronger than Pride
Santana – Sacred Fire
Shawn Phillips – Second Contribution
Shuggie Otis – Inspiration Information
Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge over Troubled Water (2)
Sly and the Family Stone – "Stand"
Steely Dan – Aja (2)
Steve Earle – Copperhead Road
Steve Earle – Guitar Town
Steve Miller Band – Sailor
Stevie Wonder – Innervisions
Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life
Stevie Wonder-Talking Book
Sublime – Sublime
Supertramp – Breakfast in America (2)
Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden
Talking Heads – Little Creatures
Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings and Food (2)
Talking Heads – Remain in Light (2)
Talking Heads – Self Titled
Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense (4)
Tears for Fears – The Hurting
Television – Marquee Moon
The Band – The Last Waltz (2)
The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
The Beach Boys – Today
The Blue Nile – A Walk Across the Rooftops
The Buzzcocks – Singles Going Steady
The Byrds – 5th Dimension
The Clash – London Calling
The Cramps – Songs the Lord Taught Us
The Cure – Disintegration (2)
The Faces-A Wink is as Good as a Nod…To a Blind Horse
The Fixx – Reach the Beach
The Isley Brothers 3+3
The Kingston Trio – The Kingston Trio
The Neville Brothers – Live on Planet Earth
The Police – Regatta de Blanc
The Police – Synchronicity
The Police – Zenyatta Mondatta
The Quintet (Charlie Parker as Charlie Chan)- Jazz at Massey Hall
The Replacements – Let It Be (2)
The Rolling Stones – Bridges to Babylon
The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street (2)
The Rolling Stones – Goat’s Head Soup
The Rolling Stones – Love You Live
The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
The Smiths – Hatful of Hollow
The Smiths- The Queen is Dead
The Sonics – Here are the Sonics!!!
The Specials – The Specials
The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
The Temptations – Greatest Hits
The Who – The Who By Numbers
The Who – Live at Leeds
The Who – Quadrophenia
The Who – Tommy
The Who – Who Are You
The Who – Who’s Next
The Zombies – Odyssey and Oracle (2)
They Might Be Giants – Flood
They Might Be Giants – self-titled
Til Tuesday – Everything’s Different Now
Tim Buckley – Hello/Goodbye
Todd Rundgren – The Hermit of Mink Hollow
Tom Petty – Full Moon Fever and Wildflowers
Tom Waits – Rain Dogs
Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones
Traffic – Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
U2 – Rattle and Hum
U2 – The Joshua Tree (6)
U2 – War (2)
Van Halen – 1984
Van Morrison – Astral Weeks (3)
Van Morrison – Moondance
Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes
War – All Day Music
Warren Zevon – self titled
Warren Zevon – Stand in the Fire
X – Los Angeles
XTC – Skylarking
Yes – Close to the Edge
Yes – Yesstory
Here are some of my favorite responses from readers:
The "best 5 before 1990" question is a killer. The top 20 or 50 are a lot
more doable naturally. In my mind a genuine "top fiver" has to exhibit
that rare "self-created" phenomenon, that makes the listener respond,
"Where in the HELL, from what unknown planet, did THIS come from?! It also
must, of course, sound as good at the 500th hearing as the first. Many
great albums don’t make either cut. "Darkness on the Edge of Town" is a
strong product; BUT, we know exactly where it’s roots lie. It also just
hasn’t kept its freshness.
Sooooo. I would suggest the following. I’m not entirely happy with all of
it, but you could spend a lifetime noodling this one.
1. Led Zeppelin, "Led Zeppelin" – just inexplicably accompliished AND raw
and 18 hours in the studio total??? That’s crazy.
2. Cream, "Wheels of Fire" – there HAS to be a Cream entry here, and I
think WOF is better than Disraeli Gears. No one has done it as well
since. Such a tiny output over a short time; what a profound
influence on all that followed.
3. Steve Miller Band, "Sailor." NEVER gets mentioned in these lists, but I
don’t think people know this album. A genuinely unique sound, so much
creativity going on here, along with simply great TUNES. Every song is
memorable. And this was 1968 for crying out loud, years before SM even
thought about selling out. Also one of the best album covers ever.
And the opening number, "Song for our Ancestors" is, I think, just about
unique in the annals of mainstream rock: it’s totally
experimental and it totally works.
4. Joni Mitchell, "Blue." Not even my kind of music, but it’s perfect. As
5. Neil Young, "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" – because it emerged at
such a great time in his growth as an artist. Again, NOBODY was doing this
at the time or even capable of it.
I have also to cheat and throw in a "world" album that’s not even from the
time period you required. BUT, Les Negresses Vertes were for a long time
the best band in the world in the minds of a ton of people, and they’re
nearly completely unknown here. It was as if they emerged from a
spaceship. I mean, Who was doing Gypsy Punk?! Their "Zig Zague" is the
wildest display of musical genius I know of, and "le Poete" is one of the
greatest rock songs of all time. Unfortunately, it really helps to
understand slang French to fully appreciate them: they are always smart,
never formulaic, usually at the outer limits of bawdy.
Thanks for listening.
Purple Rain – Prince -84
What’s Going On- Marvin Gaye-72
Disintegration – The Cure-89
Inspiration Information – Shuggie Otis -74?
Red Garland’s Piano – 57
2 for date nite, 1 for breakups, one for winding down, one for studying…
1. Sign of the times- Prince
2. Joshua tree- U2
3. Purple rain- Prince
4. Appetite for destruction- Guns and roses
5. Synchronicity- Police
Had to keep it in the 80’s, my head was about to explode.
As you know whittling this list down to 5 albums is nearly impossible but here goes nothing. I tried focus on albums I thought would serve as introduction to other great artists.
Kinks – Something Else. If you need proof Ray Davies is a living genius start here. Waterloo Sunset, David Watts. Love how he doesn’t shy away from his English roots. From here your daughter can jump over to Ray’s ex wife Chrissie Hynde
Prefab Sprout – Two Wheels Good – Disregard the idiotic name of the band and embrace a treasure trove of amazing music. This eighties masterpiece showcases the incredible talent of Paddy McAloon and was ranked as one of the best records to come out that decade. Produced by eighties icon Thomas Dolby the album gets in your head and never leaves.
Roxy Music – Avalon – Clocking in at just over 30 minutes Roxy’s Avalon makes up for its brevity by being one of most gorgeous records ever recorded. The band’s most accessible record is also their best. Delving into the rest of their discography would lead her to Brian Eno. Producer of U2, Talking Heads, etc.
Joni Mitchell – For the Roses – For my money the best female singer/songwriter ever. Tough to just choose just one of her records but For the Roses is top to bottom a classic. Even back then you can tell Joni’s aspirations were far beyond making just folk/rock records. Joni’s love for jazz came through even back then. For confirmation of her incredible talent check out her performance in the movie Band’s The Last Waltz.
Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town – Springsteen’s pushes aside the glossy sheen of Born to Run and embraces his inner punk on this vastly underrated follow up. There is an undeniable ferocity to this record that is a pure shot of adrenalin. Adam Raised a Cain indeed!
Honorable mentions Lou Reed Transformer, Rolling Stones Some Girls, XTC Skylarking, Talking Heads – Self Titlted, Randy Newman – Sail Away and the best live recording ever The Who – Live at Leeds.
Hey! This may be a bit later than you wanted, and I’ve never done such a thing, but here’s the album….
Supertramp’s Breakfast in America!!!!
I know I’m old, 49, but it got me through my frosh/soph years at Pepperdine, and just recently, after listening to my 20 year old son talk about some of the issues he was facing, I gave him a CD that contained most of their songs. He found “The Logical Song,” “Casual Conversations,” and “Lord, Is It Mine?” to be especially powerful – and another 20-something also has found that last song to be especially good. Something in that album holds up well – and since a few of the songs have been so mangled in recent re-do’s, they’ve even found it interesting to hear the originals.
Good luck letting go!!!! Good music can help a lot.
These are five essential albums, a far more instructive list than any "best ever" could ever manage. They are in backwards chronological order (beginning with the most recent):
Paul’s Boutique, Beastie Boys (1989):
(If I could have bent the rules and substituted 1992’s Check Your Head, the better-articulated Beastie vision, I would have. But this will work, too.) The Beastie Boys are in some way responsible for a great multitude of albums that, in the last two decades, have not only kept the album alive but evolved it well beyond what their vinyl-pressed progenitors dreamed possible (and did so in spite of the pop mainstream’s embracing of a single-based musical economy and the laments of geezers about the format becoming obsolete or "anachronistic"). A direct relationship can be seen between the Beasties and the best work of Beck, Radiohead, DJ Shadow, The Avalanches, M.I.A., even Sufjan Stevens. Their innovation was fairly simple, take the established practice of sampling and ramp it up to create a rich, dense, and diverse hiphop sound, and a more original work of hiphop art than had ever been heard. And it should be noted that this was made when the Beasties were still just known for their party-boy singles and silly antics ala "Fight for Your Right." With this album they successfully escaped the success of the early hits to redefine themselves (and the genre) as a cultural force. When it comes to the music of your daughter’s lifetime I can’t think of anything more essential (except maybe Check Your Head).
Glass Houses, Billy Joel (1980):
Billy Joel had already become famous a couple times in his career and had a bonafide masterpiece (and one of the best-selling albums ever) in 1977’s The Stranger. But immortality awaited him in the 80’s. Within that decade he would meet up with a supermodel and drama, cold war politics and audacity, and eventually Storm Front, fall from grace, and sudden irrelevance. But in that first year he was at the height of his powers. His songs were as astute and sentimental as McCartney’s and as wry and satiric as Costello’s. He was like the Voltron of songwriters, but with much better stage presence. Even on studio material his ability as a performer is a marvel to behold. Glass Houses is an artifact of those glorious years, and I can’t think of a more rewarding album. Like Michael Jackson’s work from the same period it’s fun, and can be listened to for days on end without getting tiresome. But he trumps the King of Pop in the subtext. A close listening to "Don’t Ask Me Why" or "It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me" will put a clever smile on the face of any inspired college student. Pay attention to "Sometimes a Fantasy" and you might be shocked by what is really going on in what, on the first listen, seems to be a sweet and simple love song.
Breakfast in America, Supertramp (1979):
The music of the seventies is full of obscured gems, and I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it’s because the music industry had matured into the monster we know it as today, producing more and more schlock for radio and neglecting the truly beautiful albums and songs in pursuit of the dollar sign. Maybe its just an issue of volume, as it was an era of big cars, big hair, and bright colors, perhaps the family tree of musical genres, sub-genres, and sub-sub-genres became as inflated as everything else. Either way we’ve ended up with a wide canon of "classics" from the decade that is superficially dominated by giant megahits that play well at bell-bottom-themed parties and not so well anywhere else, and quietly populated by bulletproof monsters like this one. Not to say that this didn’t receive its share of contemporary acclaim: 2 Grammys, a number 1 spot on the Pop Albums chart, 4 top 20 singles (though none made it to the top 5). Though those singles have lived on in light rotation on "Classic Rock" radio, the band and the album have been nearly forgotten. Side one has no weak spots and, even if she’s never heard of Supertramp, your daughter will be able to sing along to every song. By the time she reaches side two she’ll wonder why she never heard of Supertramp before.
Africa Brasil, Jorge Ben (1976):
Any good list of essentials should step outside both the mainstream and cultural milieus. When looking for new music it is easy to get caught in a rut of the same or similar artists. If your daughter does, somehow, discover the Beatles she can easily get lost in their wake: after spending a few months learning their canon, then the solo albums, then on to the obvious contemporaries, Beach Boys, Stones, Dylan. And once you get to Dylan you may never get out (another reason why I love your non-Beatles qualifier). The remedy? Brazil! Latin American music in general offers a world of exotic mysteries but to try to discern the fine differences between dance hall and reggae or between salsa and mambo is an exercise that requires more dedication than most casual listeners can muster. But Brazil’s music is fun, accessible, and (largely because of the subtle influence that it had on America) highly consumable. If you have an academic taste, maybe Heitor Villa-Lobos should be your starting point. If you like to dive right into the eccentric, try Os Mutantes. If you have some knowledge of jazz, Getz-Gilberto is a great place to start. But if you go straight to Jorge Ben you’ll eventually get to all of those. Ben is samba rock, which is samba enough to be distinctly foreign to an American ear but rock enough to sound familiar. If your daughter could wear out mp3 albums, she would have to re-download this one a few times. She’ll familiarize all her friends with it and just as it starts to get tired she’ll find out about Gilberto Gil, Sergio Mendes, GG, OM, Caetano Veloso, and may even trace it all the way back to Villa-Lobos. Before you know it she’ll be spending a semester in Rio seeking more.
3+3, The Isley Brothers (1973):
For the last selection I was thinking I should go a little farther back in time, but what is a college freshman going to do with Fats Domino? Lets stick to the relatively familiar. I go back to the word "essential," which denotes an influence that has left traces of the album’s sounds all over the musical landscape. For a kid growing up in the last two decades, the Isley Brothers certainly fit that description. They have had such an influence on hiphop and radio R&B that the still-partially active funk soul brothers can still be heard in mainstream hits. They have appeared on tracks as huge as Tupac’s "California Love" and are prominent on more than a few R. Kelly classics. So why don’t all the young dudes have 3+3 in their music collections? Dunno. The obscurity into which the album has fallen (along with the rest of funk music, which has unfortunately become something a hipster and connoisseur niche) is especially disturbing when you listen to it. You’ll realize just how many songs you know, and just how good you never knew they were. "That Lady" will make the girls swoon. The cover of Seals’ & Croft’s (Seals & Croft!?) "Summer Breeze" is quintessential summer break theme music. "Sunshine (Go Away Today)" will bring you to your knees, it’s so good. The funk genius of "Listen to the Music" will give you brand new appreciation for the Doobies. And just to round out the troika of easy-listening influence, the cover of James Taylor’s "Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" is a brilliant alternative to Barry White for any romantic occasion (not that your daughter would ever be interested in the fine art of seduction). 3+3 is essential because it remains the essence of a comprehensive, compelling, and timeless funk record.
Erin Regneri Osborne
So hard to narrow down, but i’ve got to go with: *bob dylan "the times they are a-changin"
*pink floyd "dark side of the moon," "the wall," or "wish you were here" *cat stevens "tea for the tillerman" *crosby stills nash & young "so far" *joan baez "diamonds and rust" these are a few of my favorites. good luck with the college thing! i’ve got a daughter about to start middle school and that’s hard enough. erin o. in germantown
Beastie Boys – Licensed to ill (1986)
– Paul Revere, No Sleep Til Brooklyn, Fight For Your Right
– – – Or De La Soul’s 3 feet high and rising There should be a hiphop album in the mix bc before 90 all hiphop was about the lyrics not so much now a days- – –
(2)The Pixies – Dolittle (1989)
– Wave of Mutilation, Hey, Debaser
(3)Muddy Waters – Electric Mud (1968)
– (I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man, Mannish Boy
– – – there should also be an old blues album if it’s not this one – – –
(4)Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin (1969)
– Good Times Bad Times, Dazed and Confused
(5)Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited
– The Entire album – Best Dylan Album of all time
indigo girls ~ indigo girls 1987
lucinda williams ~ lucinda williams 1988
the best of the talking heads (the may be disqualified as the compilation is dated 2004. however, all songs pre-date 1990)
pontiac ~ lyle lovett 1988
lifes rich pageant ~ r.e.m. 1986 (not a typo, there is no apostrophe)
without doubt, you must be the hippest dad ever.
I grew up in the Knobs and was down home this weekend and grabbed a Leo and saw your column. Taking into consideration her sex and age, I would think these are five essential classics for the new college student. I picked based on intelligent lyrics, musicianship, and dancability, maybe turning her onto something she hasn’t heard yet.
1. Ani DiFranco – Living in Clip
2. Rusted Root – When I Awoke
3. Santana – Sacred Fire
4. Sublime – Sublime
5. JJ Grey – Blackwater
First off, I looked at all the artists you listed in your article and decided to try and give you new ones. And while I have trouble with your Beatles ban, (I mean, seriously, no White album or Revolver?), they’re your rules Hoss.
So, while these aren’t in any real "order," the first album that jumped to mind was Springsteen’s "Born to Run." While us jaded old farts may have grown tired of hearing the title track umpteen million times thanks to our dinosaur FM stations, try to remember when you really first got the essence of "Jungleland," and "Thunder Road," and shook your high-belted butt to "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out."
A no- doubter duder.
Next, "Physical Graffiti" from Zeppelin. I was pleased you didn’t include them on your "shitty classic rock" list. Some hipsters lump them into clod rock (or another variant on "clod" that’s even worse) which is surely short-sighted. Physical Graffiti is their apex in my mind with it’s mix of flat out rockers (The Rover," "Night Flight"), acoustic dreaminess ("Ten Years Gone"), the obligatory Jimmy Page mysticism ("In the Light," and "Kashmir") and just plain silliness ("Boogie with Stu.".) Plus, it’s a double LP with all those waycool sliding pictures on the cover. Vinyl would be best if that’s an option.
Next, an album that intrigued me when it came out. I couldn’t decide whether I loved it or hated it. Really. That’s Steely Dan’s "Aja." The fact that I even had the debate meant that on some level I knew I liked it. As I went off to college myself ("the glory of old IU") and got away from the tutelage of older brothers and their expectations of my musical knowledge, I became free to love this masterpiece. The title track (no one uses that phrase anymore by the way) literally swept you away to exotic environs, "Deacon Blues" is a seminal classic that I picked to be the first song played on a college radio station I helped kick off, but mostly, the funk man, the funk! "Black Cow," "Peg," and "Josie" produce the "white man overbite" to a nasty degree.
Alright bear with me here. Hear me out! I have to include "Close to the Edge" from Yes. Compare it to rap. Go ahead. I know I sound defensive, but the other day on XM radio I toggled back and forth between "And You and I" and a song by ‘Diddy’ (is that his current iteration?) about the "Benjamins."
The difference in musicianship between the two is staggering, a chasm so wide that….words fail me. Anyway, this is a headphone listening opus. Only three songs, but all masterpieces. I think even Mozart would approve.
And finally, to prove that I’m not just an old fuddy-duddy (and you already had Neil Young covered), I think I’ll toss "Zenyatta Mondatta" into the mix. This "new wave" bomb that fell out of the sky in the early 80’s makes you dance ("When the World is Runnin’ Down") and think ("When the World is Runnin’ Down") at the same time. So give tantric boy his due, even though no one in music history has their own smug mug slash brooding puss on the cover of their albums than Mr.Sumner. We’ll forgive him that.
So there you have it. Not necessarily the five BEST albums of the pre 1990 era, but certainly five essentials.
Neat column. I always have trouble with tasks like this because it’s almost like deciding which part of your body you should cut off! But here goes…
Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel
The Joshua Tree – U2
The Sun Sessions – Elvis Presley
Graceland – Paul Simon
Teaser and the Firecat – Cat Stevens.
Really tough… Nick Drake, Neil Young, Beach Boys = didn’t make the cut.
I personally think you’re being a little over the top with the Beatles’ ban – yeah, a lot of the songs are overplayed, but they’re just so damn good! And there are a ton of them that are great that don’t get played on radio at all, or at least not on a station where your average high schooler would be exposed to them. I doubt very few Louisville teenagers have been exposed to "It’s All Too Much" unless they listen to Duke Meyer on WFPK Saturday afternoons.
Knowing that I was a Beatles fan, last year my daughter’s college roommate sent me a copy of the "Across the Universe" soundtrack. I responded by sending her back a home-made compilation going song-by-song and recreating the soundtrack using the original Beatle versions. My daughter says her friend plays it all the time.
Thanks for letting us contribute,
Jim, if you’re compiling votes for the top five my picks will probably not be among them but rather than pick Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the Boss, I would rather send your daughter off with some things that her friends are not likely to turn her on to:
1-Elvis Presley "The Sun Sessions" is 26 cuts of rock-n-roll in its infancy by one of the truly incredible voices and influences in rock history.
2-Stevie Wonder "Songs in the Key of Life-Vol 1 & 2" is Stevie in his prime. Although any number of his albums could have been on a must have list this is a double album with some very deep lyrics and some of the most incredible jamming you’ll hear anywhere .
3-JJ Cale-"Special Edition" is basically a greatest hits compilation of a rather unknown artist with a huge cult following including Eric Clapton who had hits with two of the songs on this album which also includes the original version of "Call me the Breeze," a hit by Lynrd Skynrd and features Cale’s great songwriting and a distinctive guitar sound.
4-Talking Heads "Stop Making Sense" is a wonderful, wacky album by a truly one of a kind artist who blends rock, jazz and blues with african and latin rhythms into a sound unlike anybody else and would also highly recommend the video along with The Band’s "The Last Waltz" as must haves.
5-Hall and Oates "H2O" is the best album by the greatest white soul band in history at their rock-n-roll best, with great songs and one of the best bands in rock history. G.E. Smith is simply one of the best guitar players on the planet and kills on this record.
I’m now thinking she’ll get a lot of Stevie Wonder suggestions so let me recommend instead of "Songs in the Key of Life" Dave Mason’s "Alone Together." This is what I consider the best "first solo" album by somebody leaving a major band. The album was Mason’s first after leaving the great band Traffic, and I think is the best of his many solo records. It features some great love songs written by Dave and showcases his great guitar accompanied by some of the best musicians in the business including eric clapton, leon russell and jim gordon among others.
I’m nearly 60 and I still get a kick out of discovering new artists. Wish your daughter the best for me and tell her to always give a second listening. How many times I’ve bought something, listened and put it away somewhat disappointed only to come back months later for a revisit to find I missed some incredible music first time around.
Note: These 5 are albums that I figured would most likely get overlooked by many people, but have great things to offer someone who has a deep appreciation for music.
1) Remain In Light by Talking Heads – A fantastic album that has layer upon layer of rhythm and texture. I can’t get enough of this album.
2) Rain Dogs by Tom Waits – Unconventional instrumentation and Waits’s grizzled vocals create a unique insanity that can really get you out of a musical rut. A great listen when you feel like you’ve heard everything in your collection a million times.
3) So by Peter Gabriel – An all around beautiful piece of work, sonically and lyrically.
4) Maggot Brain by Funkadelic – One word: Funk.
5) Exodus by Bob Marley and the Wailers – You can’t go wrong with Marley. Even if you aren’t a spliff smoking Rastaman, you can enjoy this album and its sincerity and heart.
Have fun with your choices!
Attack of the Pacifists
PS Love your column!
Love these types of Columnist/Reader interactions Jim. Got 5 solid choices for ya.
1.) Stevie Wonder – Innervisions
2.) Black Sabbath – Paranoid
3.) Led Zeppelin – IV
4.) U2 – War (I know Joshua Tree is usually the typical go to here, but for me, War is all around a much greater album start to finish)
5.) Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense
Stop Making Sense was essential for my college experience. No other album in my collection got more play. Check out the DVD of the live show as a bonus. It was a great background music/visual combo for get togethers, studying, cooking, etc…
Pink Floyd "Animals"
– You gotta have something psychedelic. Of all the Pink Floyd albums,
this to me is the most fucked up and (relatively) pure, while still
Rolling Stones "Love You Live"
Might fit into your shitty classic rock category, but I thought I’d
try it anyway. Most of the live versions of the music on this album
are far better than the studio versions or even later live recordings.
It’s one you can play end-to-end and it always feels new.
Another live album that is just absolutely killer. It was before Yes
started producing drivel like "Waiting for the night to come" and
Kinks, "One for the Road"
I like live albums, what can I say? "Low Budget" is another good
choice for a Kinks album.
Talking Heads, "More Songs About Buildings and Food"
If for no other reason than the album cover.
I think it was a coincidence that the five albums you suggested for your son were all male artists. Not so coincidentally I propose you suggest five albums for your daughter that are by female artists. Albums that are about their coming-of-life experiences as rebels, pioneers and their sexual awakenings as seen through the eyes of a woman. I’m sure your daughter would appreciate it. Therefore my five suggestions in no particularly order are:
Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved a Man that Way that I Love You
Debut album from Aretha – Dr. Feelgood still gives me chills
Carly Simon – Anticipation
Tough coming up with one 1970’s songstress with so many to choose from. I picked Simon and Anticipation for it’s sweetness and nostalgia but it’s still relevant today.
Blondie – Parallel Lines
Blondie is Deborah Harry – this one is just for fun and good to dance to.
Big Brother & the Holding Company – Cheap Thrills
All Janis Joplin – Big Mama Thornton did Ball and Chain first but Janis made it hers.
Patti Smith – Horses
The Godmother of Punk spawned many imitators but few could match her intensity.
That’s my five cents worth. Good luck with your picks.
OK, you axed for it. Please remember that I am as old as the hills. These are the albums that imprinted on my subconscious.
At Fillmore East—Allman Brothers
Sweet Baby James—James Taylor
Live in Cook County Jail—B. B. King
Artists that didn’t make the list:
Neil Diamond, Yoko Ono, Weird Al Yankovich, William Shatner, Kenny G, Gene Autry, Bobby Vinton, Michael Bolton, John Tesh, Richard Marx, Milli Vanilli, Twisted Sister, Tammy Wynette, Yanni, Ray Parker Jr., Rick Astley, Celine Dion, Scott Stapp, The Archies
1) The Moody Blues, Days of Future Past
2) Dire Straits, Making Movies
3) REM, Eponymous
4) Queen, A Night at the Opera
5) Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense
Congratulations and best wishes to your family! Smart ladies rock! 🙂
B.B. King, Live At Cooke County Jail
Bonnie Raitt, Sweet Forgiveness
Stones, Goat’s Head Soup (totally qualifies in my mind as I still half expect track to change at certain points in songs as my 8 track tape did)
Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here
Johnny Winter, Still Alive and Well
Hope this helps
1. The Police- Regatta de Blanc 2. The Fixx- Reach the Beach 3. Gang of Four- Entertainment 4. Television- Marquee Moon 5. King Crimson- In the Court of the Crimson King That’s enough to open up anyone’s pineal gland! Heh.
she needs this in order to be complete: Beastie Boys–Liscence to Ill Indigo Girils–Strange Fire REM-Eponymous Fleetwood Mac-Rumors Michael Jackson–Off the Wall (and it ain’t cause he died either)
CAN – Ege Bamyasi Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures Joni Mitchell – Court & Spark (this album profoundly affected me when my mom gave it to me; I was a few years younger than Laura is now at the time, but I never outgrew it…) Os Mutantes – Os Mutantes Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings and Food
Iron Maiden-Number of the Beast , 1982. Metal done to perfection, nuff said.////// Stevie Wonder-Talking Book, 1972. Feel good music, I challenge anyone to listen to Superstition and not at least bob your head a little./////// Grateful Dead- American Beauty , 1970. Often passed over because of the whole drug culture thing, its actually a great album without the chemicals too.///// Cat Stevens- Tea for the Tillerman, 1970. Hear all the songs modern musicians are bastardizing in thier original glory.//// Beastie Boys- Pauls Boutique, 1988 Great album, helped paved the way for the success of Rap music in general.
Here are the five albums I gave Laura:
Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited
Joni Mitchell – Court and Spark
Patti Smith – Horses
Talking Heads – Little Creatures
Tom Waits – Rain Dogs
Here are two more I got weak and bought for her:
Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
B. B. King – Live in Cooke CountyJail
Here are four more I had to stab myself repeatedly with a credit card to keep from buying:
The Band – The Last Waltz
John Prine – John Prine
Neil Young – Harvest
Randy Newman – Sail Away