Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Desert Island Discs

Many people blog about what would be on their desert island list of albums to take. Making a limited supply of music is a challenge in and of itself but to think of what you would listen to alone, stranded and with nothing ever else to bring along is even harder. So here it is, a top ten if you will of Desert Island Discs, Cropulis style. No particular order....

1. The Who Live at Leeds - Why would I bring a live record over the various rock opera's and perfect albums The Who has had? Maybe for variety or maybe because Live at Leeds is the premiere live recording of all time. To me it's a combination of the two. One thing is for sure, listening to a live recording while you are alone might help you day-dream your lonely existence into soaking yourself into that crowd that you'll hear roar after songs like "Young Man Blues" or the insanely epic jam version of "My Generation." I know one thing for sure: I don't ever want to live without the live version of "A Quick One, While He's Away." It may be the pinnacle of their career in a way. It's an extensively long song and on original recording, it lacks a certain power. But this live rendition is anything but lacking in power. It seems strange but a band whose actual albums, from Sell Out to Quadrophenia at least, are so prolifically brilliant, but sometimes they aren't as good as their live counterparts. The Who was deemed the greatest live rock and roll band of all time at one point and I would be remiss to leave this at home.

Key Track - "Young Man Blues"

2. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford OST - Another strange choice, but when it comes to contemplative recordings, there are two coming along for the ride. This being the first, the Jesse James soundtrack is one of the greatest recordings I have ever heard. It's a strange melange of folk sounds, with Ellis' fiddle taking center stage and Cave's broodingly sad piano behind it all. The album works as it's own piece of music outside of the film brilliantly and may be one of the only soundtrack albums that gets constant rotation. A song like "Rather Lovely Thing" is something I just can never do without. It helps ease a wounded mind or assists a contemplative moment and it stirs with beauty. As much as it's not straight classical music, it has the same effect on me and even more so than taking a classical piece with me on this desert island.

Key Track: "Rather Lovely Thing"

3. Stan Getz - Captain Marvel - As much as my list of Jazz albums is very limited, Stan Getz' ultra salsa-ey groove album Captain Marvel is a fantastic work of fun and challenging jazz. The album also will forever be associated with cooking. When I wanted to get amped up for working in the kitchen be it for myself or for friends or loved ones, Captain Marvel was my assistant keeping the groove upbeat allowing for me to be more in the zone. "La Fiesta" and "Times Lie" are two excellent tracks. It's an album that keeps you moving, keeps you motivated and is just intensely excellent music. Such an album would help mix things up a tad.

Key Track: "La Fiesta"

4. The Zombies - Odyessey and Oracle - With its baroque arrangements and pop music sensibility, The Zombies proper studio album is easily one of those can't live without listening experiences. The songs are all lush and flourish with life. No matter how sad a song like "A Rose For Emily" or "Brief Candles" might be, they are gorgeous. Whenever someone tries to tell me Pet Sounds is the lushest album of the late 60's, I much rather turn to Odyessey and Oracle. With everything from the Gothic World War I tale "Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914)" to the fantastically harmonized minimalism of "Changes," this is the most fantastical album I could think to bring along.

Key Track: "Changes"

5. Beck - Midnite Vultures - I guess one would say that you probably don't want to bring a record that reminds you of better days if you were stranded on a desert island. But then again, won't you want to try to remember those times through the music that assisted them? In this case, the Beck album I mulled over bringing would have to go to Midnite Vultures. The nostalgia and tradition factor behind the intensely awesome grooves found on this record would be an excellent companion piece so one does not lose it completely. I'll just have to sing "Debra" by myself. Anyway, you'll need to dance and party and for my dime, Midnite Vultures is my favorite dance/party album of all time. Chock full of sexual hilarity and honest to goodness great musicianship, Vultures kills it from start to finish. I don't know how I'd feel living without songs like "Broken Train" or "Hollywood Freaks."

Key Track: "Hollywood Freaks"

6. Goldfrapp - Felt Mountain - Maybe it's because her music is on my mind now a lot or because I will be in need of a female voice, but Goldfrapp's Felt Mountain is a special record. After fully soaking it in, it's easily much higher on my favorite albums of the Aughts list where I believe it came in at #100 at the time of making the list. Anyway, the record is a space opera of sorts with Alison Goldfrapp's lonely and beautiful voice floating high above sparse electronic arrangements. A song like "Paper Bag" is an upliftingly strange tune. The notes seem to swirl in the air. "Pilots" is easily one of my new favorites of any song with it's fantastic vocal range and sweeping cinemascapes. I was between this and Charlotte Gainsbourg's 5:55, but Felt Mountain has a little more diversity. "Utopia" is a dancey track and "Felt Mountain" is a contemplative instrumental. A perfect disc to tag along with the others.

Key Track: "Pilots"

7. Van Morrison - Astral Weeks - There is no denying the sheer amazing nature of Astral Weeks. Van Morrison's epic tale of existence is nothing but a beautiful and unique experience. Musically it doesn't fit the mold with much else in Morrison's catalog. Not quite the jazzy pop of Moondance or the garage rock of Them, it's somewhere else high above in the stratosphere. "Astral Weeks" is a gorgeous song and one that I can't seem to ever forget since first hearing it. "Slim Slow Slider" and "Madame George" are great relaxation music and the album as a whole works as a way to forget what worries you and rises above it all to ease the mind.

Key Track: "Astral Weeks"

8. Pink Floyd - Meddle - I may think Dark Side of the Moon is the perfect Pink Floyd album, but something about Meddle makes me default to it to take it if I were to be stranded forever. The case being that Side A is a perfect blend of Floyd's best moments. "One of These Days" is a perfect stoner rock anthem, "A Pillow of Winds" is a contemplative and beautiful acoustic ballad and "Fearless" is a song I just can't live without. "San Tropez" will be for the fun times on the shore lines of my lonesome home. And then there's "Seamus." But Side B is "Echoes" and there isn't a better single side of a record in Floyd's catalog like "Echoes." Say I find some crazy frog in the forest that I can lick for hallucinogenic fun? You better believe I shouldn't be without Meddle.

Key Track: "Fearless"

9. The Beatles - Abbey Road - I had proposed this question to my girlfriend: if stuck with only one Beatles album to listen to for the rest of your life, what would you pick? It's a next to impossible question to ask. Most people would easily default to The Beatles (White Album) which is the most eclectic and offers the best array of songs and easily some of the bands best. But something about that answer just doesn't jive with me. To act like I could live without ever hearing Abbey Road again would be to fool myself. It's funny that this will be the only top 10 album from my favs list to make the desert island cut. It's just as eclectic as the White Album, but it has zero filler. It's like choosing your last meal to be at a buffet where not everything is to your liking. Abbey Road is like choosing one absolutely satisfying dish that is sure to never fail you.

10. Warren Zevon - Zevon's lyrics are some of the best ever. His songs are beautiful and his self titled album is beyond magnificent. Whether you go to it to wallow in cynicism along with Warren to songs like "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" or "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" or sing along to the stories of " Mama Couldn't Be Persuaded" or "Frank and Jesse James", this album has many options. The beauty of "Desperadoes Under the Eaves" to the brooding of "Join Me In L.A." this album has lasted with me for many years. As much as Excitable Boy has some amazing songs that I would dearly miss, Warren Zevon is next to irreplaceable. It's truly a magnificent masterpiece.

Key Track: "Mohammed's Radio"

As I look at this list I realize it probably can change from year to year, but for the most part this is a pretty solid smattering of great song collections. What are your desert island must haves?

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