As I prepared for my current 12-hours-each-way trip to visit my parents in Florida (making sure to leave my hoodie at home and not anger the self-appointed watcher of their neighborhood pool; he tried to kick me out last time), I was tasked by my traveling companion to put together a small stack of my favorite CDs. (The car in which we traveled does not have an in-dash turntable, so LPs were out of the question). Rather than go with my current faves or a stack of albums in the queue for upcoming review, I selected a dozen or so of my “blue chip” albums, ones to which I turn again and again for enjoyment. I left out the really obvious ones (Beatles, Pink Floyd) and below is what I came up with. The ones with hyperlinks are reviewed or otherwise mentioned in some way elsewhere on my blog.
Big Star – #1 Record/Radio City – The best 70s albums nobody bought the first time ’round are now among the most influential of the era.
Dennis Coffey – Dennis Coffey – the master of guitar funk’s fairly recent album is both current and backward-looking in the best possible way.
Crowded House – Temple of Low Men – The “difficult second album” is much darker than their debut, but showed the depth of Neil Finn‘s songwriting ability. I’ll admit that this one often makes me cry, and I’m not generally a “lyrics guy.”
Dungen – 4 – Rarely has an album that includes vocals done so much to successfully convey thoughts and emotions without requiring the listener to understand what’s being sung (like all Dungen albums, it’s in Swedish).
The Flaming Lips — The Soft Bulletin – For me, one of the best albums of the 1990s, right up there with Olivia Tremor Control‘s Dusk at Cubist Castle and Radiohead‘s OK Computer (see below).
The Go! Team – Thunder, Lightning, Strike – Quite different from most else of what I listen to, this delightful album features loads of samples, loops and vocals that sound uncannily like inner city schoolgirls chanting doggerel while jumping rope. And it rocks.
Jellyfish – Spilt Milk – The group’s second and final album took the best qualities of the 70s and updated it, in the process creating muscular, joyous, transcendent progressive powerpop. Or something.
King Crimson – Red – The heaviest of the heavy, and the best of the best of prog. Red can be credited with (unintentionally) inventing progressive metal.
Love – Forever Changes – Along with Moby Grape‘s debut, it was for many years the most under-appreciated great album of the 1960s. That wrong has since pretty well been corrected.
Porcupine Tree — Deadwing – The most commercially appealing entry in the band’s deep catalog, it contains my favorite track of theirs, the long-form “Arriving Somewhere (But Not Here).”
Radiohead – OK Computer – A fairly obvious choice, but fifteen-plus years later this record continues to reveal new wonders to me on each successive listen.
The Rat Pack – The Very Best of the Rat Pack – a relatively recent compilation of Vegas-era hits from Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and of course Frank Sinatra. Designed to be played very loudly. And when we were riding around town running errands with my parents, this was one we could all enjoy.
The Who – Who’s Next – The best and most consistent album of The Who’s career; with all the modern-day commercial use, it’s easy to overlook just what a powerful (and yet gentle) record this truly is.