Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Some of My Favorite Recordings

A while ago, my friend Suldog posted a pair of lists of 15 Recordings (analogous to the book lists that were going around a year or two ago), both his own and his swell pal Cricket's. Worthy lists, both of 'em, and of course, it got me to thinking what a similar list of my own might look like (I did post this, once-upon-a-time, but that was single songs, rather than complete albums). I left a long comment at Suldog's, but it probably should've been a post in its own right, and so I'm here to set that particular little wrinkle in the space-time continuum to right (and because I'm just lazy enough to copy my own comments on someone else's post into a post of my own, knowing that some of you never go to Suldog's, and would never know the difference).

I'm sure that my music collection is nowhere near as large or as varied as either Suldog's or Cricket's. Both of them complained of the rigors of trimming their list down to only 15 entries. I would have the opposite problem - putting together a list as LONG as 15 that isn't just 'Everything the Beatles Ever Did' (and that doesn't get you to 15 by itself, anyway). But then, I'm the guy whose list of 15 Books expanded to include a few dozen, distributed over three posts; counting (or maybe just social co-operativeness) has never ranked high on my list (HAH! 'list' - get it?)

So I'll do what I always do, and just give a kind of impressionistic hodge-podge of some of my favorite stuff (however many of them there may be), and see how it slides down the wall. . . (in no particular order)

Abbey Road is, of course, a given. As Cricket mentioned, there is a worthy discussion to be had as to the relative merits of Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper and Revolver (and there are those who would include the White Album in that discussion; but seriously - "Number Nine, Number Nine, Number Nine. . ."?; there are a few wasted track there. . .) But AR is the greatest band of all time at the pinnacle of their craft.

Band On the Run; is it OK for me to put a McCartney album on the same list as The Beatles? Honestly, though, I think this is a great album - not a single weak track on it. (I'd like to give a mention to Sir Paul's Ram, as well; I think it's a much better album than it generally gets credit for. . .)

Best of Dark Horse, George Harrison; are you picking up a trend here? I'd generally resist including a 'best-of' compilation in a list like this, but I found this one in a used-CD shop, and just found it irresistible. And, since I had basically stopped listening to George after Living In the Material World, this came to me as utterly fresh (and it was good to know that he actually had some good stuff left after 1975. . .)

I also love John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band; it's so simple and raw (though I don't particularly endorse his theology, here or on Imagine).

OK, I won't try your patience with any more Beatle or ex-Beatle stuff (unless you need me to mention Ringo, just for the sake of ex-Beatle completeness; which was a nice album, don't get me wrong. . .) (And I haven't even mentioned any of the live albums, like McCartney's Tripping the Live Fantastic, or the Concert for George. . .)

A few of my favorites of what might be called 'classic rock' (at least those are the stations that would play 'em anymore. . .)

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, Simon & Garfunkel; 'The Poet and the One-Man Band'. Love their urban-folky style, and Artie's sublime voice and harmonies. I might rather include one or another of their many 'greatest hits' collections, but for just one original album, this is probably my favorite. . .

Cosmo's Factory, Creedence Clearwater Revival; Creedence is just plain fun (which, come to think of it, is also why I fell in love with the Beatles in the beginning). And what I said about S&G is true here, as well; I could probably just include a 'greatest hits', but this is my favorite of their original albums. . .

Tommy, The Who; the original rock opera. I can't tell you how many hours I spent in my teens, listening to this record. "I climb the mountain, I get excited. . ." Classic rock at its finest. . .

Brain Salad Surgery, Emerson, Lake and Palmer; I love ELP's rock/classical synthesis, and Keith Emerson's keyboard virtuosity most especially (in my college days, I was more of a piano/keyboard player). A story - one day, when I was in grad school, I was in an electronics lab, and they had us doing stuff with a frequency generator. When the lab was over, I had a little extra time to fiddle around with the equipment, and I saw a pair of headphones in the equipment box, so I plugged 'em into the freq-generator, just to see what the different-shaped waves sounded like. They were mostly pretty unremarkable, until I got to the square wave, which had a unique, buzzy sound that I could swear I'd heard before. Suddenly, it hit me - 'Lucky Man'! Emerson's keyboard solo in 'Lucky Man' was a square wave! So I spent the next 20 minutes twiddling the dials on the freq-generator, trying to play the 'Lucky Man' solo. Man, I was such a wild man in college. . .

Aqualung, Jethro Tull; you might think I include this purely for the lyric, "Snot is running down his nose. . ." and I admit, that's a powerful attraction, but mainly, I love Ian Anderson's rocked-out take on the Bach Bouree. . .

I love fingerstyle acoustic guitar music; three of my favorites -

LJ, Laurence Juber
Only, Tommy Emmanuel
Beyond Nature, Phil Keaggy

Each of these guys is simply a wizard on six strings (and having seen each of them in concert, I can testify that most of the stuff that sounds like three guys are playing, is being played by one guy, all by himself, at the same time. . .)

And some smooth jazz -

One on One, Bob James and Earl Klugh; a shout-out to Jim and Dick, a pair of college buddies of mine, who put me onto smooth jazz, and Earl Klugh most especially. His Late Night Guitar, Naked Guitar, or Solo Guitar could also be included on this list.

Since I keep mentioning my favorite rock/classical syntheses, maybe I should mention my favorite classical pieces. Which would start with Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-sharp Minor (his Prelude in G Minor is also a favorite of mine), and continue with Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata (which is actually called Sonata Quasi Una Fantasia, or something like that). Neither of those are album-length pieces, though (I do have a recording of Beethoven's three great piano sonatas - the Moonlight, the Pathetique, and the Apassionata; so you can count that if you really require only full-album recordings). Anyway, as you can see, I like my classical music on the dark and brooding side . .

So - what do you think?


  1. Just came upon this, Craig. As it's 5:00 or so, I'm just headed out the door to go home. But this will be my first read in the morning, and thank you! I'll be back with cogent commentary then (which means there might not be any, of course.)

  2. We've been playing the re-mastered release of 'Band on The Run' at the bookstore, and I'm a little bit delighted every time I hear those familiar notes start over the sound system because, sweet heaven, I love me some of that song, and I really like that album. Sometimes I just have to stop what I'm doing and lip sync through the entirety of 'Band on The Run'.

  3. simon & garfunkel has been one of my favorites since i was a teenager. their harmonies are jsut so beautiful. and i do love me a lot of the post s&g paul simon.

    moonlight sonata..sigh....

    soft spot for fur elise too because calyspo taught herself how to play that before he first lesson. it makes me smile to think of her sitting at the piano plunking it out by ear.

  4. Dark and brooding, but no mention of Tchaikovsky? Or, for that matter, Prokofiev (my fave)? I know, space is limited. I went on and on at my place but could have gone on and on a lot longer.

    I think you may have "Bouree" on the wrong album. That's from the album "Stand Up", and there's also a different take on it - quite nice - on the Jethro Tull Christmas Album. I love "Aqualung", though. Great themed album (the best of which, as with this one, are coherent but can be separated into the component parts without destroying it.)

  5. Suldog - We'll keep the light on for you. . .

    faDKoG - (*wiping a tear*) You like 'Band on the Run'? I. . . I think I love you. . . ;)

    And I always develop a soft spot in my heart for songs I've heard played live. . . ;)

    Lime - Yeah, I like a lot of Paul Simon's solo stuff, too. Probably Graceland most especially (which was also my introduction to Ladysmith Black Mombazo).

    My 'first mother' (the one who adopted me) got me into piano lessons when I was five years old, and she used to tell me, "If you practice real hard, someday you'll be able to play the 'Moonlight Sonata'." And after she left the family, I pretty much forgot about it. Then, when I was in college, I picked up the sheet music and taught myself to play it. I nearly wept, it is such a beautiful piece of music. . .

    And 'Fur Elise'. . . I think I was in 5th grade or so when I learned that; it was the piece my aunts always asked me to play for them (which should have made me loathe it, bit it didn't. . .)

    Suldog - You came back!

    I couldn't tell you why I latched onto Rachmaninoff and Beethoven, but not so much Tchaikovsky or Prokofiev (and really, it's not like I 'don't like' those composers; they just never grabbed me the way some others did. . .) When we get together, I'll bring the Beethoven and Rachmaninoff, you bring the Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev, and we'll hear 'em all, over a beer or two. . . ;)

    When I checked Aqualung on the Amazon site, just to be sure that I was remembering right (since I've long since lost track of my old vinyl album), it showed Bouree as one of the tracks. . .

  6. Not a bad list at all... anything with that much Beatles is cool with me.

    You are right that my collection is vast. Strangely, I was at my mother's recently, and found boxes of LPs in the basement, about half of which i had forgotten I ever owned.

    I too own everything the Beatles ever released, and most of the solo output. I left in comments at Sul's, but will pass along here, my favorite solo Beatles would be:

    Lennon: Walls & Bridges
    McCartney: Wings Over America
    Ringo: Ringo

    no GH as his self-titled was on my list, though All Things Must Pass is, I think, his best, and 33 1/3 is a tight #2 for my personal favorite.

    I'll have to check out that LJ.

    Since you like classical and solo acoustic, Paul Galbraith's version of the Bach Sonatas & Partitas is a thing of beauty. He plays a weird 8-string classical guitar, with an end-pin like a cello, and held like one, too.

    Thanks for playing along.

  7. Cricket - Thanks for coming by - I do appreciate it. . .

    I agree with you that All Things Must Pass is George's best post-beatle album; but, like you, I already had something else there. . . ;)

    Wings Over America is a great live album. I think I have a slight preference for Tripping, just because it has more Beatle stuff. But it's only a slight preference. . .

    Do check out LJ; I mean, he used to play with Wings. . . ;)

    And, for my part, I'll have to check out the Paul Galbraith (you're right - that is one unusual instrument he plays. . .)

  8. Thought of you last Friday while visiting Strawberry Fields in Central Park.

  9. Wow, I'm impressed. Somehow I had this picture of an all-bugs-all-the-time playlist for you. How'd I get that Idea? :-)

  10. Abbey Road is the best - even after all these years. Good list.

  11. Bijoux - I'm flattered that you thought of me. . .

    And that would just be a very sad place, for me. . .

    Xavier - I have no idea where you'd ever get an idea like that. . . ;)

    Nick - Thanks for stopping by!

    You know what I find oddly gratifying? That all my kids are really into The Beatles, too (I tell 'em, it's not like they made a bunch of bad music. . .)

  12. You know... sometimes I can't help but feel a little lowbrow -- a little bit bourgeois and working class -- next to my cerebral and discriminating friend and his awesome lists extolling really, really big books and classic music. :)

    But I will just smile and be happy that you're also placid and big-hearted enough to be friends with someone whose favorite album list would include Def Leppard and Bon Jovi.

    And if you ever have a need to shed a few literary IQ points, I would totally find some use for them.

  13. Flutter - Awww, now stop it. It's not like the Beatles and CCR are exactly highbrow. . .

    And you know, I could be just as happy that a hip youngster like yourself would befriend a nerd like me. . .


  14. I have to say, that inasmuch as Abbey Road is usually mentioned as the Beatles best album (with good cause), I think Revolver might be my favorite (how do you choose?????), mostly because of Here, There, and Everywhere which is just my all-time favorite Beatles song...well, ok, at least in my top 5. But it also has Good Day Sunshine, She Saind She Said, Got to Get You into My Life, I Want to tell You, the list goes on.
    Speaking of which, check this out and tell me what you think of it:


    PM turned me on to this. Totally LOVE it!

    And Jethro Tull...is that you "listen to with Mom?" *cringe*

    Anyway, good read for what I knew of it ;) Oh, and it was nice to see you tonight!

  15. Bex - Thanks for stopping by (and it WAS good to see you!)

    Of discussing the merits of the Beatles music, there is no end. . . (I'll check the link later. . .)

    And, uh, what's with the scare quotes around 'listen to with Mom'? Hmmmmmmm?? Just, you know, not sure what you mean by that. . .


  16. Add 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road', 'Who's Next' and Joni Mitchell's 'Court & Spark'.

  17. Trooper - Worthy picks, one and all. Thanks. . .