In these days of social isolation and staying home I spend a lot of time online, mainly on Facebook- I’m not that adventurous. A few days ago I read a post from an old friend I used to work with at ZED-99 in Red Deer, Kevin Clark, and I quote;
A fellow I work with was telling me that he and a group of his friends were exchanging top 25 favourite albums lists and asked me to share mine. Putting this together was so difficult as my tastes are far wide and my music collection is massive. But as I was compiling this, it became very enlightening.
I had a real a-ha moment. People that know me well, have heard me talk about my dislike for grunge music when it came out in the 90’s. I had no time for Nirvana or Soundgarden, didn’t like it, did not want to like it. It simply did not capture me. What was interesting though, was how important this time was to me. This forced me to start searching around to find music that I could connect with and I learned that there is a lot of other good music out there that needs to be hunted down. Instead of letting the music come to me (through radio etc..), I had to learn how to discover it on my own. It meant looking at indie artists and other styles of music.
It sounded like a fun way to spend a few days, so off I went. Kevin was right; it was difficult. I started by going through my music collection, nearly 6,000 titles, and drew up an initial list of 268. I whittled it down to 68 and from there, down to the list of 25 that you are about to see. I was surprised and occasionally shocked even at some of the records that didn’t make the final cut. One more quote from Kevin’s post;
I would love to see your list, take a few days and do it slowly, tell me a bit about each album and why it is on your list. (A tip, don’t try and rank them, you will drive yourself nuts, a random list is fine). This is a new opportunity to find out about acts that I may have missed or overlooked. These gems are what I am looking for.
I’d be very interested to see what you come up with, maybe we can compare. The thing you’ll find with favourite album lists is that they tend to be older records, music that we have a history and a connection to, stuff that comes with a lot of memories and emotional baggage attached- that was the case for me. In addition to Kevin’s guidelines, I had two principles of my own going into this;
The music must touch me emotionally in some large or small way
I would like the list to reflect who I am and, perhaps who I’d like to be. I’ll be 62 in a few days; nothing on the list is an attempt to be ‘hip with the kids’.
So, with all that in mind, this is my top 25 of all time album list, in no particular order…
HEAVEN & HELL Black Sabbath
When the idea of this list first came up, H&H was the first one that popped in my head. Sabbath is my favourite band and, after a couple of weak albums, I was pumped to hear that Ronnie James Dio had joined the band. I was not disappointed- I played this record 2-3 times a day for the first year it was out. I’m STILL not tired of it to this day.
STICKY FINGERS The Rolling Stones
Say what you want Stones fans, but for my money this is hands down their best, one of those records that plays like a greatest hits album because every song is so damn good.
COSMOS FACTORY Creedence Clearwater Revival
Memories associated with this for me include a cross-country drive from Ottawa to Castlegar, BC for a family move, and hearing Up Around The Bend on the radio as we drove through Medicine Hat. CCR became the first favourite rock band that I discovered for myself, instead of it being handed down from my siblings. I’ve worn out several copies listening to I Heard It Through The Grapevine alone.
JOSHUA JUDGES RUTH Lyle Lovett
I came across Lyle in the early 90’s. Though I consider myself a rock guy, my musical taste is rather schizophrenic- my friend Rosie calls me a “musical slut”, which suits me just fine. When I feel the need for sensitive singer/ songwriter stuff as I think about things, Lyle is my go-to guy and this is the album I need to put on.
SHEER HEART ATTACK Queen
After a lifetime of buying literally thousands of records and cd’s, it’s rare that a purchase sticks in your mind, but I can still see this day as if it happened last week. I’d gone to Kelly’s Stereo Mart in Nelson with some chums after school one day and came across this in the racks. I’d heard of Queen as having toured with Kiss (a band I still like) but wasn’t familiar with their music, so I took a chance. After supper that night I played this 4 or 5 times, until my parents told me to turn it off and go to bed.
MADE IN JAPAN Deep Purple
Without question the best live rock album ever made, EVER. Back then Purple were a dangerous band live, always on the verge of going off the rails but able to pull it back at the last second. I’ve worn out 3 or 4 vinyl copies, have the deluxe reissue CD, and bought the record yet again last fall- on purple vinyl, of course.
THE SLIDER T. Rex
Everyone seems to dig Electric Warrior (it has Bang A Gong) but this is the one that does it for me… partly, I’m sure, because it was one of my brother Mike`s favourite records too when we were teenagers. Quirky but very cool songs.
FAITH George Michael
Since first encountering this as a radio DJ in Quesnel, BC in 1987 I’ve said this is a perfect pop record- I still feel that way today. Listen to songs like the title track and Father Figure or I Want Your Sex then try to prove me wrong. Go ahead- I’ll wait.
BRITISH STEEL Judas Priest
I have all of Priest’s stuff but, for me, this is a perfect album- great metal sound, great songs, a true classic. When my friend Mike Exeter was working with the band on their Redeemer Of Souls and Firepower albums, I told him to keep British Steel in mind as the benchmark to challenge.
RED TAPE Atlanta Rhythm Section
I discovered this in my first year of radio, 1975, working part time at the local station while still in high school. This is the one before the band got famous with their semi-flaccid AOR hits like Imaginary Lover and it rocks with serious blues cred. It ends with a 10 minute cut called Another Man’s Woman that includes a bass solo that’s so great I just used it on my UDJ radio show last week… not for the first time either.
A BLOSSOM FELL Nat King Cole
This one might surprise you, but even though Black Sabbath is my favourite band, Nat King Cole is my favourite singer. He was my mom’s favourite too, and after she passed away in 1984 I began to appreciate Cole’s smooth magic even more.
GREATEST HITS The Little River Band
I almost didn’t include this because a hits album feels like a cheat, but screw it. In the early 80’s everyone had it and, to this day, I can’t just listen to one song… if the disc goes in, then I’m along for the whole ride. Cool Change is my unofficial theme song.
VOL.4 Black Sabbath
The only band with 2 entries on the list. I considered Master Of Reality as it was the first Sabbath I heard and it changed my life, but V-4 is my favourite by the original line up. Wheels of Confusion and Supernaut still make it onto road compilations today.
GOLD Neil Diamond
I’ve loved Neil since I was a little kid in the 60’s; still do. I remember having this first on 8-track, then vinyl, and now on CD. The hits are familiar, but it’s the power of Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show that still gets me; and I’m a non-believer.
ABBEY ROAD The Beatles
Picking just one Beatles record was tough, but their last record is where I landed. Though the band was only together for 10 years, their profound effect on pop and rock & roll is still felt today. I can’t imagine going out on a stronger album than this one.
ROCK & ROLL OVER Kiss
My 2nd favourite rock band behind the Sabs. I remember discovering them on TV by accident, watching In Concert for Foghat then these guys came on. This was the record after Destroyer and the band wanted to get back to a sound more in line with how they were live. The first of 2 studio records produced by the legendary Eddie Kramer, it captured the vibe they were after, though Paul Stanley has disagreed with me on that. It also contains some of Gene Simmons’ best bass playing.
TROUBLE AT THE HENHOUSE The Tragically Hip
As a writer I’ve always been enamoured of Gord Downie’s way with words, and this record is a great example of that. Ahead By A Century is one of my favourite songs by ANYBODY, and if I live to be a thousand I’ll never write lines as cool as this;
The beautiful lull, the dangerous tug/ we get to feel small from high up above/ and after a glimpse over the top/ the rest of the world becomes a gift shop/ the pendulum swings, for the horse like a man/ out over the rim, it is ice cream to him
KILLER Alice Cooper
A great album with no filler, another one I came across via my big brother. I even had the album insert, a calendar with a photo of the Coop hanging from a noose, on my bedroom wall. The hits, the album cuts, it’s stupendous front to back.
WHO’S NEXT The Who
For years I thought those were shadows on the concrete thingy on the cover, not pee stains. This contains some of The Who’s strongest material of all time; Behind Blue Eyes is one of my favourite songs ever, and Won’t Get Fooled Again is a great road song- don’t forget to turn it up for the scream at the end!
THE CHARITY OF NIGHT Bruce Cockburn
I haven’t gotten into everything Cockburn has done but this one owns me, filled to the nuts with great songs including another all-time fave, Night Train. When he and I talked about the song during a phone interview in 2010, he admitted that he got ripped to the tits on Absinth one night, like all the old great painters used to do, just to see if he could come up with something… and he came up with a brilliant song.
Didn’t care much for their last few albums, or that keyboard-y stuff in the 80’s, but this is a thick, muscle-bound yet articulate record. Moving Pictures, 2112, Roll The Bones and Permanent Waves were up for consideration here, but after playing a couple of songs from each this was the winner, thanks to things like Cold Fire, Between Sun & Moon and Nobody’s Hero. Might have something to do with Kevin Shirley’s production too.
DON’T SHOOT ME, I’M ONLY THE PIANO PLAYER Elton John
Like most artists, Elton did his best work early in his career. This one from 1973 certainly has its share of hits (Daniel, Crocodile Rock) but for me the album cuts were even more impressive, like Have Mercy On The Criminal or Blues For Baby & Me
THE LONESOME JUBILEE John Mellencamp
I’ve followed Mellencamp since the early 80’s. He’s made some truly great records over the years, but this one from 1987 represents the pinnacle for me. Like Elton’s record this one comes with hits, but album cuts like Empty Hands just lay me out.
DAD LOVES HIS WORK James Taylor
There are times when I need folk music to wind down. I’ve long been a James Taylor fan, and of this record in particular. It’s the songs, the crisp sound and, sometimes it feels like he’s talking just to me. I have 2 copies on vinyl and one on CD, so it’s never far away. Seeing James live a few years ago in Edmonton, one of the last big shows at Northlands, is one of the top 5 concerts of all time, and I’ve been to a few!
SKIN Melissa Etheridge
I’ve been a fan since Robin Creamore flipped me a cassette of her debut album in 1988- I remember exactly where I was and exactly what was going on when I heard her for the first time. The emotional content of her songs was hard to take at first, but I started to take some power and courage from it. She’s done some great albums and some so-so stuff, but I’d say Skin (2001) is her most fully realized artistic statement overall. No filler at all on this record, and she even got Laura Dern and Meg Ryan to sing back-up on the album closer Heal Me. This one is good medicine.