Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My 25 All Time Favorite Albums
by David Gilfix

What are the albums that you have listened to most? Not the albums that you believe are the best artistically, but the ones that you have actually played over and over. I decided to determine my top 25 most listened to non-classical music albums as a fun exercise to see where my musical tastes gravitate most.

The first three choices are probably my three most listened to albums. The rest are in no particular order. Here’s the annotated list:

1 “Sergeant Pepper.” (Rolling Stone Magazine’s number 1 album of all time)

2 “Abbey Road.” The song cycle, which begins with You Never Give Me Your Money and ends with The End, is one of the true masterpieces of rock music.

3 All the Beatles Albums. Truth is, I’ve probably listened to every Beatle album more than any other album.

4 “Pete Seeger and Friends.” Includes Pete solo and with The Cathedral Singers, The Union Baptist Singers, Paul Winter, and more.

5 “Ray Charles Anthology.” I’d rather hear Ray sing almost anything than anyone else. My all-time favorite singer and an amazing keyboard player to boot.

6 “Introducing Reuven Gonzalez.” The great Cuban keyboard player who gained prominence in “The Buena Vista Club,” performing with other great Cuban musicians.

7 The Who, “Who’s Next.” Includes my choice for the greatest rock and roll song of all time: Baba O’Riley.

8 “Duke Ellington’s Greatest Hits.” I used to be anti greatest hit’s albums, until I discovered that sometimes the “greatest hits,” actually deserve their title.

9 “Woodstock.” As media plays up the significance of the 40th anniversary of this social musical milestone, I am reminded why I used to play this album over and over: Joe Cocker - Little Help from my Friends, Country Joe and The Fish - Feel Like I’m Fixen’ to Die Rag, Jimmi Hendrix – Star Spangled Banner, The Who – See Me, Feel Me, Richie Haven – Freedom, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young – Sweet Judy Blue Eye, and many more. Wow.

10 Miles Davis, “Kind of Blue.” The album that introduced many musicians, including me, to modal jazz. Incredible - like almost everything Miles did.

11 Tom Lehrer, “That was the year that Was.” Tom set the bar for funny, satirical songs, and nobody has ever taken it higher. Includes National Brotherhood Week, The Vatican Rag, Pollution, and New Math.

12 Dave Brubeck Quartet, “Time Out.” Brubeck’s exploration of complex meters includes Take Five, Blue Rondo a la Turk, and Kathy’s Waltz.

13 “Live Johnny Winter Band.” Recorded at the old Fillmore East, this is my favorite performance of raw, hard driving, gritty blues/rock guitar playing.

14 Herb Ellis, Joe Pass, Ray Brown, Jake Hannah, “Entering Concord.”
Great jazz guitar playing. I got this as a high school graduation present and didn’t appreciate it until years later. In gratitude, it has become my standard high school graduation present.

15 “Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Volume 1.” I don’t have the patience to sit through mediocre Bob Dylan songs, but his best songs are as good as they get.

16 “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.” An amazing debut album.

17 Billy Joel, “Turnstiles.” Includes James, NY State of Mind, and Angry Young Man.

18 Charlie Byrd, “My Inspiration; Music From Brazil.” Includes Chuck Redd on Vibes and Scott Hamilton, Sax. Incredible.

19 “Songs of Leonard Cohen.” His debut album includes Suzanne, Sister’s of Mercy, and Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye.

20 Simon and Garfunkel, “Live in Central Park.” Includes several of their masterpieces. I predict that many of the Simon and Garfunkel songs will still be standards years from now.

21 Paul Simon, “Graceland.” So many artists did their best work early. Paul Simon is an exception; he just keeps developing, trying out new things. Still hard to believe it was from the composer of The Boxer.

22 “The Best of John Prine.” If you’ve never listened to John Prine start with this album. His best songs are as good as Bob Dylan’s.

23 Flor de Cana, “Dancing on The Wall * Bailando en la Murailla.” The Boston based Flor de Cana, which later regrouped as Sol Y Canto, was the group through which I first discovered Latin music. Fabulous rhythms, vocals, harmonies, and guitar playing.

24 “An Evening With John Denver.” OK, this is by far the most uncool album on my list, but these are great songs, great lyrics, great melodies, great singing. Denver was an extraordinary talent, and few people were better at writing simple songs that celebrated life.

25 Hank Jones, Piano and Charlie Hayden, Bass; “Steal Away.” The great jazz pianist and bass player collaborate to perform spirituals. This is my latest favorite. I can’t stop listening to it.

What are some of your all-time favorite albums? Please consider listing a few!


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Russ Mezikofsky said...

I have to agree on a lot of your choices as I own and listen to a lot of them. But I have to add my favorites with a little bit of a difference. So I would add.
1.The Best of Credence Clearwater Revival
2. Nirvana, Nevermind
3. Guns n' Roses, Appetite for Destruction
4. AC DC, Who Made Who
5. The Soundtrack to Forest Gump

I love the topic.
For a follow up, I would recommend top 25 greatest movies of all time. My favorite subject. :)

David Gilfix said...

Hi Russ, Great choices. No need to agree, though. The more diverse the better. Thanks, "anonymous" for catching the spelling error. Now, let's have some of your choices!

Anonymous said...

RDM's list No particular order -

1)Beatles - Hard Days Night
2)Rolling Stones - Exile On Main St
3)Dream Syndicate - Ghost Stories
4)Redd Kross - Neurotica, Third Eye
5)Bob Dylan - Nashville Skyline
6)The Muffs - Really Really Happy,
Happy Birthday To Me and Blonder And Blonder
7)Kathleen Edwards - Back To Me and Failer
8)Isley Brothers - The Heat Is On
9)Decemberists - Crane Wife
Nashville Pussy - High As Hell
10)Traffic - John Barleycorn Must Die
11)Kool And The Gang - Wild And Peaceful
12)Cameo - Word Up
13)The Who - Who Are You
14)The Godfathers - Birth School Work Death
15)Sly And The Family Stone - Stand
16)Steve Wynn - Tick Tick Tick, Sweetness And Light, Melting In The
Dark, My Midnight...
17)Byrds - Untitled
18)Grateful Dead - Europe 72
19)New Riders Of The Purple Sage -
Panama Red
20)Steely Dan - Everything up to and including Aja
21)AC DC - Back In Black
22)J Geils Band - self titled debut
23)Real Kids - Hit You Hard
24)Cars - Panorama
25)Heidi Saperstein - Zara

Anonymous said...

Diana Ross and The Supremes Greatest Hits

David Grey White Ladder

Neil Young Greatest Hits

Jimmi Hendrix Greatest Hits

The Beatles Help

The Black Cat said...

Revolver is clearly better than SPHCB. The latter gets all the critical acclaim, the former just kicks ass and takes names. Especially the /real/ British release.

agnosticcynic said...

Under great duress imposed by the blog owner, I am posting a list of top 20 (posted in two parts, due to 4096 character limit per posting), not having yet put together a full list of 25. As clearly shown by the release year for each album, the best of non-classical happened in the late 60s/early 70s, for the most part, in my opinion. In a subsequent post, I will add to the list, including several female artists, who are glaringly absent from the list I have assembled thus far.

1. The Beatles - The White Album (1968) - Most top music artists make a big first splash, figure out what their audience wants, and then cater to those wants from there on out. The Beatles kept reinventing themselves, pushing the envelope, and redefining the boundaries of creativity every step of the way. While all of their albums are treasures in their own right, The White Album brought the essence of their creativity to a new height. The diversity of tunes from Back in the U.S.S.R, to Helter Skelter, to Dear Prudence, is a broad spectrum matched by very few, particularly in a single work.

2. Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II (1969) - Whole Lotta Love and Ramble On. No one did metal like Zep.

3. Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy (1973) - Go ahead... laugh. You all listened to and loved Over the Hills and Far Away, Dancing Days, and D'yer Mak'er.

4. Bob Dylan - Desire (1976) - Dylan is a master storyteller, and I felt that his meandering away from folk finally came to terms with his destiny as a folk-rock musician, when he composed Desire. Hurricane tells a tale of life as few of us will ever know it, and Mozambique is Dylan's musical genious at its best, with an arrangement and instrumentation that brings it all home.

5. Johnny Cash - At Folsum Prison (1968) - The "Man in Black" sticks it to "the man". No one told it like Johnny.

6. Crosby, Stills, Nash,and Young - Deja Vu (1970) - Carry On, Teach Your Children, Woodstock (written by Joni Mitchell, who couldn't be there), and Our House... Tunes that defined a whole generation. It had to be all four of them together, and... ummmm... I think these guys had the harmony thing down pretty well.

7. Edgar Winter's White Trash - Roadwork (1972) - Rock 'n roll at its best. Superb backing musicians, and hellishly good, foot stompin' stuff. Jerry Lacroix and Rick Derringer complete the package.

8. Mile Davis - Kind of Blue (1959) - Along with John Coltrane and Bill Evans, Davis produced a seminal work for the rest of us. Whenever I listen, I always wonder what the real jazzies think of it, and if it really is just for the rest of us?

9. Curtis Mayfield - Superfly (1972) - OK, OK... this was a soundtrack, but the work on this album made a lot of white kids think it would be cool to be black for a moment. But the real story being told by Mayfield was anything but cool. The rawness of life in the ghetto, dressed up in a beat that you can't resist.

10. Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon (1973) - Given the right lighting, temperature, and intoxicants, it was possible to trip while listening to this album, without having dropped any acid. Worked for me.

agnosticcynic said...


11. Bob Marley and the Wailers - Live! (1975) - Get Up, Stand Up, Lively Up Yourself, and Trenchtown Rock. Sunshine, ganja, and a driving back beat. Marley - often imitated... never duplicated.

12. Michael Jackson - Thriller (1983) - Anyone who says they don't dig this album is lying. I still don't own a copy. The decisions made in his personal life set aside, Jackson was a master of his craft, and delivered it in a way that no others could ever hope to even come close to.

13. Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run (1975) - I didn't realize there were real musicians in Jersey until Springsteen blew us all away with this album. This is hard driving balladry at its best, with Clarence Clemons ably riding shotgun for Springsteen.

14. Rolling Stones - Let it Bleed (1969) - Gimme Shelter (War, children, it's just a shot away), You Can't Always Get What You Want... ain't that the truth! I always try not to let the fact that the Stones hired Hell's Angels hoodlums for "security" at Altamont, not stand in the way of my memories of this album.

15. James Taylor - Sweet Baby James (1970) - Sweet Baby James, Sunny Skies, and Fire and Rain. I always felt like JT was accessible to all, and wouldn't have been surprised if he pulled up in a car, and hopped out, to then strum a few of these tunes on my front porch.

16. Simon and Garfunkel - Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (1966) - The Dangling Conversation, Cloudy, The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy). The name of the album seems very corny today, but the music is timeless. I lived such a culturally sheltered life growing up in central NH, that I didn't even realize they were two Jewish guys from NYC until I was in college... I thought they must be the offspring of beat people in California, with that music. I was devastated when I learned that Paul Simon detested singing The Dangling Conversation over and over at the time... it was my favorite tune on the album.

17. Jimi Hendrix - Electric Ladyland (1968) - Voodoo Chile, Crosstown Traffic, All Along the Watchtower. It always impressed me that Dylan said "That's Jimi's song now", after Hendrix recorded Watchtower, and that his own delivery changed to resemble Handrix's take. On his current concert tour, Paul McCartney does a few bars from Foxey Lady (not on this album) as a closer to Let Me Roll It, and then tells the crowd how Hendrix learned material from the Sgt. Pepper album the night it was released, and played some of it (in his own unique way, I am sure) at a gig the next night. I think many people can't see the genius that Hendrix was, and I often wonder "Where would he have taken things, if he had stayed alive?"

18. Pearl Jam - Ten (1991) - Eddie Vedder is Pearl Jam. Alive, Even Flow, and Jeremy brought grunge out of Seattle, to be dropped into the laps of the unsuspecting. It was a wake up call to the void that had occupied the landscape of music in America, for many years up until that point.

19. Cat Stevens - Teaser and the Firecat (1971) - Morning Has Broken, Moonshadow, and Peace Train. Forget all the controversy over Cat Stevens embracing Islam, and his work remains etched in the walls of the mind.

20. Frank Sinatra - In the Wee Small Hours (1954) - Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, and a host of other male vocalists had great voices, but let's face it, Ol' Blue Eyes had 'em all beat. Always feel like I should be in a smoke-filled, uptown bar when I hear his stuff.

Unknown said...

I find it difficult to come up a top X list. Here are ones that come to mind because I feel they are among the best work by some of my favorite artists and/or I listen to them often (in no particular order):

Hot Rats - Frank Zappa

After The Gold Rush - Neil Young

Song For My Father - Horace Silver

My Favorite Things - John Coltrane

Giant Steps - John Coltrane

Rubber Soul - [can't recall the band name at the moment - I think they're from France]

The Best Of Two Worlds - Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto

Captain Marvel - Stan Getz

Kind Of Blue - Miles Davis

Reachin' (A New Refutation Of Time
And Space) - Digable Planets [great jazzy hip-hop]

Everybody Digs Bill Evans - Bill Evans

Mingus Ah Um - Charles Mingus

Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits [I'd rather not put compilations in the list but I did anyway - Desire is excellent too]

Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. - Bruce Springsteen

The Best Of Cannonball Adderley - The Capital Years

Dog Years In The Fourth Ring - Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Money Jungle - Duke Ellington with Charles Mingus and Max Roach

Secret Story - Pat Metheny

Swiss Movement - Les McCann & Eddie Harris

... Hmmm - I feel like I've left out some super great rock albums. Perhaps I'll add some more later ...

David Gilfix said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Gilfix said...

Whoops, accidentally deleted my own post! OK, let's try that again...

These are some great choices. Thanks Russ, "RDM," Steve, AgnosticCynic - by the way great annotated comments (definitely the work of a true writer/music aficionado).
Black Cat, I would agree with you (depending on the weather). Revolver has incredible songs like these: The masterpiece, Eleanor Rigby; the all time great children's hit - Yellow Submarine; Taxman; Good Day Sunshine - a song that shifts meters more easily than W. shifted the terror alerts; Got to Get You Into My Life; Here, There and Everywhere - a song so well composed that Pulitzer-Prize winning classical composer Ned Rorem discusses it in one of his book (Rorem loves the "subtle harmonic shifts" on the words, "wave of her hand." ... On the other hand, Sergeant Pepper has the following masterpieces: The title song, Little Help from my Friends, She's Leaving Home, Lovely Rita, For the Benefit of Mr. Kite, a Day in The Life. Comparing Beatles music to other music is usually a Beatle-winning shutout; comparing them to themselves tends to go into extra innings.

OK, I'm obsessed with this topic. Here's 5 More All time Favorites:

26. Joni Mitchel and the LA Express, "Miles of Aisle." So many of Joni's greatest songs, and they never sounded better than in this live album with the LA Express.

27. Stan Rogers, "Home in Halifax." The great Canadian songwriter performing some of his most beloved songs live. Includes Field Behind the Plow.

28. Sonny Rollins, "Global Warming."

29. Herbie Hancock, "Head Hunters." The great funk album includes Chameleon and Watermelon Man.

30. Dishonorable Mention: Cat Stevens, "Tea for the Tillerman." Includes many gems that I used to listen to and sing, like Father and Son, Wild World, Where Do the Children Play, and Miles from Nowhere. Sadly, the man who wrote Peace Train went a little nuts and supported the fatwa against Rushti (and made some outrageous political comments). I haven't listened to him since.

Rick said...

My favorite is Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane

Anonymous said...

How about the Doors debut album with such iconic songs as Light My Fire and The End.

ssancetta said...

in no particular order...

1. Crosby, Stills and Nash

2. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young - Deja Vu

3. John Denver - Greatest hits (Volume 1) - If an angel walked the earth and sang, it wold have been John Denver.

4. Jesus Christ Superstar - Original Broadway production - I know every word of every song

5. James Taylor - Gorilla, Sweet Baby James - Gorilla is on there mostly for the song "Lighthouse"

6. Linda Rondstadt - Don't Cry Now - I fell in love with her in the record store - she was the sample album as I walked in.

7. Randy Newman - Sail Away

8. Elton John - Madman Across the Water

9. Shawn Colvin - Steady On - I fell for her at "Passims" before she'd recorded anything - this album has the early songs I heard there.

10. Norah Jones - Come Away With Me - What man could resist that voice.

11. Madonna - Ray of Light

12. Tommy James & the Shondells - Best of - (I think We're alone now; Crimson & Clover; Hanky Panky!!!)

13. Grateful Dead - American Beauty

14. Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon & Wish You Were Here

15. Simon and Garfunkel - Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme - We had an 8-track of this and I listened to it over and over.

16. Joni Mitchell - Hissing of Summer Lawns, Miles of Aisles

17. Stan Rodgers - Between the Breaks Live - He can make me shout and cry: "And you, to whom adversity has dealt the final blow; With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go; Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again."

18. Todd Rundgren - Initiation - Perfect for a Teen seeking meaning.

19. Beatles - of course... any album... maybe Revolver.

20. Heart - Dreamboat Annie - When she hits that note in "Crazy on You" I vibrate all over!

21. Arlo Guthrie - Alice's Restaurant - I know every word of side A... Group W, Officer Obie...

22. Peter Gabriel - Passion - Soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ

23. Andy Stewart and Manus Lunny - Dublin Lady - An unknown gem.

24. Singh Kaur - Crimson Vol. 6, Ardas - We played this new age album on cassette to Ben over and over... in the womb, and when he was young. I am amazed the tape survived the number of playings it got.