Top 20

I see a meme floating around that interests me. The Chaplain, the Exterminator, Ordinary Girl and a few others have listed their favorite 20 CDs (or I guess if you are as old as me, LPs). Again, I won’t tag anyone, especially since I have not been tagged, but I’m going to list my favorite 20 also. I’m going to limit myself, however, with a few ground rules.

  • No “Greatest Hits” compilations. It’s too easy to pick those, because they are the pre-selected best songs created by the artist. I’m more interested in listing and listening to those CDs that started as original releases, intended by the artist with songs to be heard together, and that for some reason continue to consistently work for me, either thematically, structurally or musically. In other word, albums that were successful from the point of view of the intention of the artist, that I still like.
  • While I certainly think that there are CDs that are masterpieces, and someone would look at my list and say “where’s Beethoven’s 9th” or “Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons”, they are not discs I listen to with regularity. So, I’m going to list those that have stood the test of time for me, but as a rule they will probably be discs that were released in my lifetime.
  • You’ll probably find that most of these represent a certain time period and genre. I think it takes a long time for a disc to infuse itself into my subconscious, so more recent music, while wonderful, probably won’t find itself on my list.

Ok. On with the list, in no order of preference, with comments.

  1. Who’s Next – The Who. Many people might pick Tommy. For me, the epitome of Rock, the absolute culmination of the transformation from Rock and Roll to Rock, is in this record.
  2. Blonde on Blonde – Bob Dylan. This is tough, because Highway 61 and Blood on the Tracks are, in my mind, just as good. All three are masterpieces. So I have to pick the one with twice as much material on it. “Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re trying to be so quiet.”
  3. Beggars Banquet – The Rolling Stones. Street Fighting Man, Sympathy for the Devil, Salt of the Earth. What is there not to like?
  4. El Corazón – Steve Earle. I love almost anything he’s done, but this one I keep coming back to. Not a bad song on it.
  5. Song for Juli – Jesse Colin Young. I lost my LP of this, and when they first invented CDs, I spent about 5 years looking for a replacement disc. A minor classic.
  6. American Beauty – Grateful Dead. This is the transitional disc between psychedelic and jam band. They spent a few years working on a country tinged, harmony centric sound. This and Workingman’s Dead, but this one edges out the other, with classics like Sugar Magnolia, Truckin’ and Box of Rain (the last song the Dead ever played together in concert before Garcia left us).
  7. Last of the True Believers – Nanci Griffith. Again, not a bad song on the entire disc.
  8. Moondance – Van Morrison. Another artist that I have a hard time picking my favorite of. Most people go for the obvious songs, like the title track, or Into the Mystic. My favorites are Glad Tidings, Come Running and Caravan. Van the man.
  9. Sail Away – Randy Newman. Before he sold his soul to Disney, Newman wrote some really caustic songs. Sail Away, Political Science (“Let’s drop the big one, now”) and God’s Song (“That’s why I love mankind”) made his reputation.
  10. Excitable Boy – Warren Zevon. I listen to this on the strength of one song – Lawyers, Guns and Money. The rest are gravy. Really good gravy.
  11. Fillmore East – The Allman Brothers. Best damn live album ever. No contest.
  12. Layla, and Other Love Songs – Derek and the Dominos. Love Eric Clapton? Duane Allman is on this one too. Both of them together are unbeatable.
  13. The Band – The Band. After Music from the Big Pink, they really hit their stride, and followed it with another great one, Stage Fright.
  14. The Pretender – Jackson Browne. Another toss up between this and Late for the Sky.
  15. Blind Man’s Zoo – 10,000 Maniacs. I really can’t figure out why I listen to this a lot, but I do. I don’t really care for their other ones, but this one seems to hit all the right notes.
  16. Making Movies – Dire Straits. I think it’s the guest piano of Roy Bittan, he of E Street fame, that makes this disc. He also shows up on Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell, and, of course, all the classic Springsteen records.
  17. After the Gold Rush – Neil Young. He always has been consistent in the quality of his output, but this somewhat laid back effort is still my favorite.
  18. Room for Squares – John Mayer. See! There is some recent stuff that has the capacity to drive a wedge into my brain.
  19. A1A – Jimmy Buffett. This one was done before his parrot-head reputation came about. The songs are more introspective and melodic.
  20. London Calling -The Clash. Imagine a record where one of the best songs on it is a hidden track.

I could do another 20 Honorable Mentions. I see in looking back that there is no jazz. Some will say “heresy!” but I just never could get into jazz. I like a lot of it, but there are no jazz discs I listen to regularly.

And don’t even ask me about rap.

9 thoughts on “Top 20

  1. Are my eyes going or is it snowing on your screen?

    Layla, and Other Love Songs – Derek and the Dominos
    Last of the True Believers – Nanci Griffith

    Those are two I should have probably had on my list.

  2. OH yeah. Randy Newman’s definitely stopped writing caustic songs. Have you heard his latest, A Few Words in Defense of Our Country? Rolling Stone Magazine listed it as the #2 song of the year, with the comment, “Bush: not as bad as Stalin. Don’t you feel better?”

    Randy even mentions the Spanish Inquisition in that song! (Sometimes he likes to think about it.)

  3. Susan

    Very good! More like an OP Ed piece than a song, but from the short description, that’s what it originally was. In fact, I found it.


    Yes, that is snow, and if I had a darker theme, it would be more noticeable. WordPress has some feature you can turn on, but only until Jan 2, that allows the snow. Anyone else with a WordPress theme can do it.

  4. Dude, great list freaking list. Although I honestly don’t know how you could make up your mind between those Dylan albums, I would probably have made the same choice. I think Visions of Johanna is absolutely haunting. Unbelievably beautiful.

    Great stuff… and thanks including A1A too!

  5. More like an OP Ed piece than a song, but from the short description, that’s what it originally was.
    I’m glad you liked it. Actually, he played a version of A Few Words during his 2006 tour. (I heard it first at his concert in Vienna. The Europeans laughed heartily.) He played it at Carnegie Hall in the Fall of 2006 (it’s mentioned in the reviews of that concert). A NY Times OpEd editor was in the audience, heard it, and begged Randy to write an editorial for them. He wasn’t interested in that, so they asked if they could just print the lyrics to the song, to which he agreed. It’s going to be on his next album (probably out next summer)– along with a couple of other caustic songs he’s been previewing in concert.

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