One thing that I have always found curious is our habit, upon meeting new people, to immediately ask them what they do for a living. Why is this? Does someone’s job or career define them or is it the most telling clue to knowing who they are, at their core? I doubt it, even in cases with people who work all the time, are “married” to their job, or are extremely passionate about what they do.
One thing that is very telling about a person is the music that they listen to. Are they stuck in the era of their high school years (we all are in part, I know); do they know about the latest and greatest pop sensation six months before everyone else; do they exclusively listen to classical music, or blare thrash metal from the mini van speakers as soon as they drop the kids off at band practice?
What is the sound track of your life and what story does it tell?
Not one for ITunes $.99 singles, I have always loved the full album: the sequencing of the songs, the printed lyrics, the cover art, the feel of it in my hands while I am listening to it. Here are my all time favorite albums:
Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon This is an album best listened to turned up loud, eyes closed, with the lights out. You decide if “enhancements” are needed for this experience but I doubt it! What an emotional, musical journey! This album has it all: harmonies to make the hair on your arms stand up, eerie and beautiful backup vocals suited for a haunted Medieval church, alarming, perfectly placed sound effects, apt lyrics that can change your life or at least get stuck in your consciousness for days or years. The song that really speaks to me on this alum is “Time.” It’s about wasting precious time: “kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town, waiting for someone or something to show you the way” that ultimately is wasting your life: “and then one day you find ten years have got behind you, no one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.” We can all learn a lesson here. Topics not often explored in rock n’ roll like mental illness, greed, the passage of time and our use of it, are all covered in this album and- let’s not forget that epic cover art:
Linda Rondstadt, Greatest Hits Volume 1 Disclaimer: this album is pure nostalgia to me. I remember my mom and my aunts playing it, singing to it, and holding me and dancing to it. But decades later, I still listen to it regularly. Maybe it is the wanna be singer in me, happily belting out “Love Has No Pride” or “Love is a Rose” or the old school rock lover inside of me delighted by “That’ll Be the Day” (written by Buddy Holly) or possibly I do love country music, or at least the song “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.” From country to Motown, this album has something for everyone, delivered by the powerful, emotional, and distinctive vocals of the stunningly beautiful Linda Rondstadt.
Metallica, And Justice For All This album was released before Metallica turned pop, cut their hair and became crusaders against free music. This album is pure metal, and it basically shaped my world outlook about everything. Every teenager has that aha moment when they realize that the world is more than their friends and the protective nest provided by their parents. It’s the moment when they realize politicians are not really protecting the best interests of the people, that war is perpetual, that there are more ways to live than as a self-centered consumer, and that while it is crisp and delicious, Coca Cola has been known to destroy small ecosystems, and McDonalds is basically death wrapped up in paper and served on a plastic tray. I was listening to this album when that moment occurred in my life. This album is also the first heavy metal album to have produced a hit single complete with a video. “One” went on to earn the band a Grammy and went on and on and on in my mind with its unforgettable lyrics about a man who has lost all of this limbs, his hearing, and his voice in war. The topics covered on the album range from war, to global warming, to the corruption of government, and the many problems of our justice system. This album is not for the faint of heart or for those who prefer to live in their own personal fantasy lands, not seeing or considering a world beyond their own field of vision. Not much of a feel good album, though a big emotional release as long as you crank it up.
Beach Boys, Pet Sounds I feel like I could say that this album inspired the Beatles and that would be enough. But also, it was completely ahead of its time and called everything from art rock to progressive rock to psychedelic rock and unlike other rock n’ roll of this era, you could not dance to this album. It was trippy and conceptual and it changed the rock n’ roll playing field. Often cited as the best album of all time, this album seems to age quite well, like a fine wine. I should also note that Brian Wilson, circa 1960’s, is the object of my famous person crush. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” if I would have been born twenty-five years earlier?
Greyboy, All Stars, Live! This album will forever define my college years. I went to college in San Francisco, this band was formed in San Francisco, the album was recorded in San Francisco, and the cover art is a San Francisco scene complete with the Golden Gate Bridge. Robert Walters plays the keyboards and he has been regarded as the best living jazz keyboardist. Karl Denson is on the sax and the flute and he is a force to be wrecking with when he is on stage. This album is pure funk and wholly danceable from beginning to end. If music is medicine, this album is a cure-all. I have been known to put it on, turn it up, and dance to it in my living room. If I am feeling stressed out in the car, I put this album on (autographed copy of course but whose bragging?) and magically, everything is ok again. The Greyboy All Stars still tour and there was a time when I planned my life around their tours. These days I still will go out of my way to catch one of their shows. Sometimes I get asked doesn’t traveling coast to coast get tiring and it does, unless I have a Greyboy All Stars ticket in my hand, which I often do.
And I’ve saved the best for last…
Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Greendale This is a lesser known Neil Young album that even hardcore Young fans sometimes miss. They are probably caught up in his other gazillion wonderful albums but this one is so worth checking out. You can also watch the Greendale movie or read the graphic novel, all by the insanely prolific, living legend, Neil Young. I love Greendale because it is a true album in the sense that the songs tell a story which can only be understood when listening to it from beginning to end. They don’t make ’em like that anymore! The album takes place in Mendocino County, CA and tells the story of one tragic event that affects three generations of a family. It contains characters like the free-spirited Sun Green and her uncle who is a big time marijuana seller, Grandma, Grandpa, a CA Highway Patrol cop, aggressive local newscasters, and a cat who gets killed by local police. It deals with heavy subject matter like police brutality, media consumption, corporate greed, legalization of marijuana (indirectly), and growing generation gaps. I won’t spoil the end. Ever the Flower Child, Young manages to break from these tough topics to remind us to “sing a song for freedom, sing a song for love” and to keep “a little love and affection in everything you do” in order to “make the world a better place” in the song Falling From Above. I’m working on it Neil! I miss Crazy Horse too!
What are your favorite albums? firstname.lastname@example.org