8/8/13

25 Favorite Albums of All Time . . .

A truly underrated movie, an incredibly good book. High Fidelity . . . nice.
I was typing, via Facebook, with my friend Kate the other day about music we did and didn't like (net result - if you don't like Queen, you stink on ice) and it dawned on me that I have a "punt" blog post there waiting to be typed . . . my favorite albums of all time.

A few disclaimers (as per always) - while there is some overlap these albums are not necessarily chosen because they are from artists I really like nor do I really like artists because of these albums. You should also know I never bought in to rock, alternative, grunge, or country. Never actually listened to metal. Hate jazz. These albums are chosen because they - for me - are enjoyable from start to finish and, perhaps with some relevance, all 25 of them were in my ears during key times and periods in my life.

All that being said - here you go. Let's fight about it, as appropriate.

25) Rubber Soul, The Beatles - I am NOT being spiteful to pick one of their lesser-loved albums or to put them at the bottom of my best of list. It just so happens that this IS a favorite but not THE favorite. Love Norwegian Wood so, so much. (Sorry, The Beatles are not much for free streaming.)
24) Bulhoone Mindstate, De La Soul - 3 Feet High and Rising made me love hip hop. This album made me LOVE hip hop. De La Soul me tell the difference between rap and hip hop, too. De La Soul will always be a favorite and I love all their stuff but this one . . . special.
23) Telling Stories, Tracy Chapman - Lots of folks know "Fast Car" and "(Give Me) One Reason to Stay Here" and that is it. This woman is absurdly talented and this album, for my money is her best and is just solid start to stop. Less Than Strangers, if you have time for just one song.
22) Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend - It is premature to put a few-months-old album in my favorite albums ever list? Not when the album is this friggin' good. Fantastic musicality, smart lyrics, great energy.
21) Dusty in Memphis, Dusty Springfield - I found this album through a "greatest albums of all time" list in the late 1990s. I've been sold on it ever since. If you have ever woken up on a Saturday morning with a person you enjoy being with - physically or otherwise - and it was raining outside and you had nothing you had to do . . . this album feels like that.
20) Janet, Janet Jackson - This album came out as my senior year of high school loomed. There was something about her independence that made me want mine. Fantastic from start to end (it dates itself as early 90s, for the record) and "Again" made me wish I had been in love so I could be out of love. That's truth, yo.
19) Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys - I know, I know . . . the Wall of Sound leads to homicide and crazy hair dos but this album is just so amazing I can't help but defend it and the man behind it. I'm sorry. But not that much.
18) The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn Hill - This album felt so very, very personal and autobiographical on so many levels and the way she swept the Grammys and then dropped the eff out the next day (and has never really returned) makes it all the more powerful. Perhaps she shared too much. Lesson learned.
17) The Black Album, Jay-Z - You have probably picked up that Mr. Carter is my guy and I don't think I could criticize anything he's ever done (well . . . marrying "her" perhaps) but this album is my favorite. Remember this was supposed to be his "resignation letter" from the industry. It would have been a STRONG two week's notice.
16) Z, My Morning Jacket - This is the only "cool" music I've ever listened to and I discovered it through Esquire magazine (I went through a phase) and that might have made it all the more cool to me. I can't think of anything I don't love about this album.
15) Composed, Jherek Bishcoff - Ah. Someone you've probably NOT heard of - which is your loss because this album is amazing. Start to finish. 
14) 21, Adele - Here's an album we can all (literally - I think every person in the world bought it) agree on. Fantastic stuff from such a young woman. I'll be anxious to hear what her next album feels like - marriage and a child might just leave her happy. And that might not be the best for her music. 
13) The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, Ben Folds Five - There is a moment in Magic (the first round of "sha-la-las") where I always get choked up. I don't think I've ever actually cried but the whole album sits on my chest and pushes down. I don't know why but I really it.
12) The Hits/The B-Sides, Prince - It MIGHT seem like a cop out to put a greatest hits in the mix but there are lots of tracks on this three disc set that you can't really get elsewhere and there is such a broad scope of work here for a guy that, 20 years later, would STILL be making music. I love Prince . . . all 80 pounds of him.
11) Graceland, Paul Simon - On the nose? Sure. But there is a reason it is cliche to love this album . . . it is friggin' fantastic and EASY to love. There is an amazing short documentary on the making of this album on Netflix. I highly suggest checking it out.
10) Unplugged, Alanis Morissette - I am not kidding when I say that this album is truly special to me. There is just something about it that makes me quiet and still and I can honestly say that "Princes Familiar" is the ONLY piece of unsolicited parenting advice I have ever taken to heart . . . and it is better advice than most of the stuff I have solicited. 
9) Maybe You Should Drive, Barenaked Ladies - The hallway of my freshman dorm echoed with Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Steve Miller Band, Pink Floyd, Weezer, James Taylor, and whatever the hell that kid Alex was always listening to but - for me - this album was just about all that really mattered. If you've never been to Connecticut in October - this album is what it feels like.
8) Tapestry, Carole King - Ah. Beautiful stuff. No more needs to be said.
7) White Ladder, David Gray - I dare you to NOT like this album. I used to take Amtrak from DC to NYC all the time in the late 90s and early 00s. I can honestly say (once it was released) I never once took the trip without this CD in my discman.
6) Hideaway, The Weepies - I don't know why I love The Weepies and I don't know why this album is my favorite but I do and it is. Of course - I should also acknowledge "All Good Things" is not only the theme of my dynamic with my still-sorta-wife but it also SAVED MY LIFE the other night. 
5) Songs in the Key of Life, Stevie Wonder - Just an amazing body of music. A lot of this double album went on to be hit singles and/or popular for various reasons but if you've never heard "Have a Talk with God" you've never really had a spiritual wrestle or won the match.
4) Of the Heart, Of the Soul, and Of the Cross: The Utopian Experience, P.M. Dawn - Another one of those albums that only worked in the early 90s but that was just so spot on when it came out it seemed it would never break. Let's be very clear this album is about Jesus Christ and Christianity. It was inspiring to hear grown men so spiritual and so full of belief. I'll still get actually excited listening to "In the Presence of Mirrors" a few decades later. (Sorry about the samples - this one is not on Spotify.)
3) Listen Without Prejudice Volume 1, George Michael - There was once a man named George Michael who was focused and clear voiced and lauded for his talents and musical chops. This album, sadly, was the start of the end of that man (it was supposed to be a three volume set - we only ever got the first volume) but it was then and still is a great collection of political pop from a man who was, just a few years earlier, happy to simply shake his ass for his fans.
2) Soundtrack, The Big Chill - Forget Forrest Gump or Pulp Fiction - THIS is the greatest movie soundtrack of all time and it accompanies one of the greatest movies of all time. Motown and soul, soul and Motown. There is not a single song on here that is not perfect and that is not lovable.
1) The Hours (Score), Philip Glass - Lush, luxurious, rich, thick, full bosom-ed, intelligent, emotional and just a touch of sad. Like a good woman it is all but perfect.