There's More to Life Than Knitting!

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Top 25 Albums (actually 26)

Lee did this on his blog, so I will, too. It's a Facebook meme that our friend Austin tagged Lee on. I guess you're supposed to list your 25 favorite albums, the ones that really get you, and say why. In any case, that's what I am doing here. And the photo is my two favorite young musicians, pondering whether they will ever make an album as good as any of these.

Beatles: White Album (The Beatles)(1968)

Like most every American or English person who grew up in the 60s, I love the Beatles. I enjoyed all their projects a lot, but this is the one I go back to time and time again. It’s so much less “commercial” and so much more raw. Songs like “Revolution” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” are etched in my mind forever. I guess I like how this one goes from hard to soft, quiet to loud, serious to funny…John to Ringo. It’s got something for everyone!

Beethoven, Symphony #9

I actually have a lot of classical and baroque music that I am fond of, but nothing whacks me in the gut like this piece. Every single note is a treasure. I have spent many an afternoon or evening listening to this. In fact, one reason I am glad for CDs is that I don’t have to stop and turn the record over to listen to this all at once. A part of me wishes I could perform in the fourth movement, just once. But a part of me knows that there’s one part where I’d start crying (where all four soloists sing together), which would mean I’d be all stuffy for the triumphant ending section. Really, if you want to see me cry, play this. And if you have never heard it (not just pieces of it in a commercial) oh please do.

Carpenters: A Song for You (1972)

This was balm to the teenaged Suna’s soul. I just wanted to be Karen Carpenter (or who I thought she was—obviously I didn’t know about her issues at this time). I played their albums endlessly, and really loved this one a lot. My poor mother was lucky she sort of liked this stuff, because I sang these songs over and over and over. I sang these in school a lot, both in chorus and solos. If only I were coordinated, I was sure I could have sang, played drums and wore granny dresses just like Karen! Look, I was a teenage girl. She was my Miley Cyrus, only an adult. At least I eschewed Donny Osmond. I did sorta like the Partridge Family, but Danny was my favorite before he became a famous has-been. I digress.

Slaid Cleaves Broke Down (2000)

I need to include someone local, and there’s no one local and commercially successful who impresses me more than Slaid Cleaves. He’s like the John Denver of the millennium—so cuuuute. But, I’ve met his wife and mother, so I will just remain a fan. I love his voice, even his yodeling, but mostly I think he is an amazingly talented songwriter. This CD showcases his songwriting talents the best, which is why I picked it. And his band is always really good, no matter who’s in it. I like that he has people I actually know join him sometimes, which adds to the fun. And he hugged me once.

Elvis Costello: My Aim Is True (1977)

This is another album that knocked me over the first time I heard it. This was different! This was loud and relentless but at the same time had something to say. So many of the punk and “New Wave” songs we were listening to at the time had one message and just hit you over the head with it (I am thinking of the Clash and such). But this skinny little guy with glasses and funny pants had something to say. I’ve always admired how Costello has explored different genres but kept his song-writing quality so high. But this one, with the young and angry Elvis, is my favorite.

John Denver: Rocky Mountain High (1973)

Oh, shut up. This album meant a lot to me. It was the first time I really listened to a guitarist and was impressed. And he WAS a good song writer! I always wanted to have “For Baby, For Bobby” sung at my wedding, but it would have made Jeff throw up, so I didn’t ask. This album has some beautiful songs on it, and I will always remember it fondly. I had such a crush on John Denver. The glasses, the hair, the hat. Yummy.

Bob Dylan: Blonde on Blonde (1966)

Yes, he sings funny. But I love his cryptic lyrics and varied song structures. This album reminds me of high school, when my boyfriend spent a lot of time convincing me that Dylan was great (he succeeded here, but failed with Patti Smith). Sheer repetition of this album finally wore me down, and I grew to love it like an old but battered piece of furniture. It grew comfy and began to fit in all my curves. I’ve enjoyed following Dylan’s career, but do wish we could have seen him live any time OTHER than his hyper-Christian period. Oh well, at least I’ve seen him live.

Enya: Watermark (1988)

I really love music that has a lot of layers. And Enya is the mistress of layers. This is my favorite of her projects, though there’s nothing she’s done that I didn’t enjoy. I like that most of the songs are in Latin or Irish, so you can concentrate on the pure sound. This also reminds me of Ireland the first time I went there, so lots of happy memories are associated with it.

Art Garfunkel: Breakaway (1975)

Yeah, you’d expect I’d put a Paul Simon solo album here, but no. I put this one on, because I listened to it for so many hours in high school. The selection of songs on this album was just wonderful. I especially love his version of “I Only Have Eyes for You.” It is some of the most beautiful singing I have ever heard. What a vocal talent.

Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton: Trio (1987)

These are three of my favorite voices, all singing together with lots and lots of three-part harmony. It’s practically heaven to me. There are so many wonderful old and new songs on this one! My favorite is “The Pain of Loving You.” I love songs about love and pain.

Indigo Girls Become You (2002)

You know I like harmonies, especially female voices singing harmony, so having an Indigo Girls album on here is no big surprise. These two women play guitar in a most kick-ass fashion, write amazingly powerful songs, and sing harmony so beautifully that those wonderful songs could be “la la la” and I’d still like them. I choose this album because so many of the songs had personal meaning for me when I was going through my divorce and my internal crisis. My friend Nancy Jo and I would sing along to this in the car and be, for at least a while, very happy, regardless of our dismal personal lives at the time. Glad we moved on!

Billy Joel: Turnstiles (1976)

Here’s another songwriter I love. I admit I am more fond of his early work. We saw him live not too long after this album came out, and he was an amazing pianist with the wit of a professional stand-up guy. Stuff happened to him, hurt hand, sucked in by the commercial music machine. But, I think he’s better now. I love all the songs on this, but particularly “Say Goodbye to Hollywood,” and my personal anthem, “Summer, Highland Falls” (“They say that these are not the best of times, but they’re the only times I’ve ever known. And I believe there is a time for meditation in cathedrals of our own.”)

Carole King: Tapestry (1971)

The first album ever given to me, it played in rotation with Mud Slide Slim until I could save up for another album! Luckily, I picked them well as a young teen, and this has certainly stood the test of time. Shoot, it’s on most anyone my age’s list of favorites, so I don’t need to go on. Carole King just hit the jackpot here with so many enduringly beautiful songs (and I adore that version of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”), sung so well. Plus, it also had “You’ve Got a Friend” on it. I had a hard time deciding which version I liked best.

Tom Petty: The Last DJ

Yes sir, another ugly singer with a weird voice. I can pick them, can’t I? But I love his songs and I love his band even more. This is another thickly layered band with lots of underlying keyboards and loud, yet clear guitars. Gee, I am glad I wrote this. I am figuring out what I like in rock and roll. I love Tom because he’s from my home town. And I love this album, not his most popular or anything, but a personal favorite because “Dreamville” is on it. I wrote a whole blog post on this song, because it describes Gainesville, Florida so well. Even the air smells good there. Thanks for that, Tom!

Prince: Purple Rain (1984)

He likes purple, I like purple. He’s 5’2”, I’m 5’2”. My dad’s name is Prince…so of course I liked this album. No really, honest, this thing got to me for the same reason so many others on this list do: densely layered sound with lots of pure guitars wafting over head. And the songs are superb. This is one fine album.

Rockpile: Seconds of Pleasure (1980)

This is some killer rockabilly by the great Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds. What cute exports from the British Isles they were. I got all the albums these two made around these years and treasure them all. It was loud (very loud in person—I lost my hearing for a while after seeing them and Blondie on the same bill), fast and fun. And those guitars…whee!

Linda Ronstadt: Heart Like a Wheel (1974)

I played this album so much that the tracks got faint. I probably know all the words to every song, too. “Faithless Love” is on here. I have sung that so many times when I was all alone and wanting to wallow in self pity. Linda’s voice is my absolute favorite, and I tried to learn from her, since I didn’t get voice lessons when I was a teen/young adult.

Linda Ronstadt: Prisoner in Disguise (1975)

This is my favorite Linda Ronstadt album has some of my favorite songs of all time on it, such as the title track. It was where I learned “I Will Always Love You,” too. Then I went out and bought a Dolly Parton album! She is just amazing at choosing songs that are perfect for her range and vocal qualities (wish I had that luxury).

Simon and Garfunkel: Sounds of Silence or Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (1966)

I can’t choose between these two, because each has songs I really like and a couple I could live without (and they came out the same year—let’s treat them like one double album). As you have probably guessed by now, I really like strong vocal harmonies and complex guitar parts. So, naturally you will find Simon and Garfunkel here. This is music I know I will love my whole life. Paul Simon is an amazing talent, and this was during some of his finest songwriting years. And I love Art Garfunkel’s voice. I’m glad I’ve been able to sing a few of these. It is so much fun.

Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run (1975)

I remember sort of feeling faint the first time I heard this album start. It’s a good thing I was lying down at the time. This one was love at first listen. And after dozens and dozens of times, many live performances, numerous videos and singing “Jungleland” in the car, it has not grown tiresome. I love the sound of this band. I just want to go hug every single member of the E Street Band and thank them.

Bruce Springsteen: The River (1980)

Granted, Bruce’s voice is not to everyone’s taste. So, you don’t need to comment that his singing is not your cup of tea. I like pure female voices and raspy, grumbly male voices, I guess (see the Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, Warren Zevon, and Bob Dylan listings). Anyway, I love this album almost as much as Born to Run. Iplayed side 2 to death, because I was so fond of “Drive All Night,” an obscure track but one that always made me cry.

James Taylor: Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon (1972)

This is actually the first album I ever paid money for and bought for myself. It’s pretty impressive that it is still one of my all-time favorites. But, it has one of my top five songs of all time, “You’ve Got a Friend,” on it, plus “You Can Close Your Eyes,” which is my favorite lullaby of all time. I really love to listen to Taylor sing and play. His songs are complex, yet smooth.

Pete Townshend: Empty Glass (1980)

I lived by myself for a year, my first year in grad school. I spent most of that time in a small attic, learning about linguistics and listening to this album, over and over. I just loved the song "Just a Little Is Enough" (whoa, it's deep, I thought, after listening to it a few hundred times), though three or four others on this one also make my top favorite song list. This is when I realized Pete didn't need Roger Daltrey to sing his songs. He is just fine on his own. This is just a beautiful piece of music, and if you find it, get it.

The Who: Quadrophenia (1973)

It kills me to only list two Who albums here. But I assure you I love Tommy and the Who by Numbers a lot, too. Quadrophenia, though, came into my life right when I needed it. It was perfect for the disaffected intellectual teen who just wanted to go sit on the beach and make life go away. And it was loud and it had naughty words in it. And my boyfriend kept writing me notes with lyrics on them. I thought he was so poetic. No wonder he became an English professor.

The Who: Who’s Next (1971)

This is my favorite album of all time. Every track’s a winner. I wish the Lifehouse project (another long Pete Townshend project, which was originally where a lot of the songs were going to be) had been completed, but then, these songs wouldn’t have been put on an album in this order, and my life would have been just a wee bit less fulfilled, somehow. Oh those sounds. Like Born to Run, the notes in this just made my synapses dance.

Warren Zevon: The Wind (2003)

Warren Zevon is one of my favorite songwriters. I like how he could write crazy things like “Werewolves of London” and “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” and love songs like “Accidentally Like a Martyr” and “Reconsider Me.” And he was such a funny, interesting guy. I really wish I’d been able to see him live in concert. His piano playing really gets to me, though the guitars on his albums also tear through my soul. This album is his last, and has so many wonderful contributors and so many incredible songs. Wow. I miss him so much.

Honorable Mention: O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, The Traveling Wilburys, Wings: Band on the Run, Sinead O’Connor: I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, Bach: Well Tempered Clavier, The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds, Green Cards: Weather and Water


Vicki said...

I'll stick my neck out here and proudly say that I like John Denver too. I grew up listening to him and begged my parents to take me to see him in concert when I was young. Thankfully, they agreed and I'll always have that memory.

Also, I have a very nice version of Beethoven's 9th on CD and agree that it's quite moving.

Lots of good choices in your list, Suna!

Vicki, who has been keeping you in her thoughts this week

Cheri said...

I am also here to say that I like John Denver, too.

Suna said...

I feel much better now. :-)