Monday, July 11, 2005

10 Desert Island Discs

This is a 2Peas meme that Neeka posted today, and I liked the topic. So, in no particular order, here are the ten CDs I'd want with me if I were stranded on a desert island:

1. The Wildlife Concert, John Denver. I was so sad when John Denver was killed back in 1997. His voice and face are part of my childhood, but I never owned any of his albums; in fact, I only knew a few of his songs. A couple of months after he died, I picked up this one, thinking it would be a good overview, but it's so much more than that. It is a fantastic concert album, recorded in 1995, and John is in the best voice of his life--so much fuller and more complex than his high-pitched 1970s voice. The musicians playing with him are also wonderful, and the whole album has a joyful feeling that really picks me up.

2. This Side, Nickel Creek. I've never gotten so much pleasure from an album as I have from this one. I used to go to Barnes and Noble every few months and have little listening sprees at the kiosks in their music section. This album was in their feature section a few years ago, and I grabbed it after just a few seconds of music. These three kids, one on mandolin, one on guitar, and one on violin, play some of the most melodious and gorgeous bluegrass music I've ever heard. This is their second album, and in it they move away from their bluegrass roots and branch out into other sounds. Fantastic.

3. Nickel Creek. After I fell in love with their second album, I picked up Nickel Creek's first album...another gem. More traditional, more bluegrassy, but just as wonderful--some people argue it's better than the second album, but I disagree. We saw them in concert at Norfolk's Harborfest two years ago, in a blinding rain, and they played their hearts out for all of us drenched fans. That's a memory that goes along to the desert island with me.

4. Graceland, Paul Simon. I bought this album on an LP in 1986, then upgraded to a CD a few years later. What can you say about it that hasn't been said a hundred times? There were several artists who experimented with African instruments and sounds in the mid-80s, but I think Paul Simon did it the best. I was in the grocery store the other day and "Graceland" came on the Musak, and it just pulled me out of my grocery-stupor and made me feel happy. "The Mississippi Delta was shining like a National guitar..." What a great opening line!

5. Endless Summer, the Beach Boys. I was appalled to discover, on a long road trip with my brother last summer, that he does not like the Beach Boys. This is especially upsetting because I thought I had completely shaped his music tastes in my big sisterly fashion, but nope, I messed up and failed to pass along my Beach Boys adoration. You push play on this CD and it's like adding water to powdered Kool-Aid--instant summer and sunshine. And you gotta sing along. That's essential.

6. Gordon, Barenaked Ladies. I love the Ladies and all they do, but this first album from 13 years ago is still their best. Clever, wistful, snarky, and fun. And exuberant!

7. Revolver, the Beatles. The Beatles pose a problem, because I could fill up my top ten slots just with their work. But that doesn't seem right. And I could put in a compilation album so as to have an overview of their music with me, but I don't really like Beatles compilation albums. It feels wrong to listen to tracks all mixed up from the way they should be. So I'll just pick this one. It's from the perfect moment in their careers, when it was still fun for them, when the drugs made them creative instead of just stupid, when George Martin began to help them see what kind of magic you could make in a studio.

8. The Man and His Music, Sam Cooke. This is another album I bought in an LP version; it was one of those great old double record albums that folded in the middle with a pocket on either side. I replaced it with a CD almost as soon as it was possible, and I'm so glad I did, because it's out of print and harder to find now. Sam Cooke's voice is angelic, there's no other word for it--pure, heartfelt, perfect.

9. Full Moon Fever, Tom Petty. This was the toughest spot to fill, because I knew what I wanted to put in slot #10, but what to put here? Patsy Cline? Fleetwood Mac? Foo Fighters? Emmylou Harris? Bonnie Raitt? Then Todd brought up Tom Petty as we were taking a walk and discussing this topic, and I knew he was right. This is Tom's best: quirky, humorous, laid-back. And some awesome guitar licks.

10. Sibling Rivalry: the Best of the Smothers Brothers. It's not too much of a stretch to say that Todd and I fell in love over the Smothers Brothers. Hey, I never claimed to be cool. I had picked up one of their record albums at a garage sale or somewhere, and we listened to it and laughed and laughed and laughed during the summer after we graduated from hgh school. It was then that I saw how appealing it is when a guy has the same sense of humor you do. It's a good basis for a marriage, too. Anyway, we tracked down a few more of their records at flea markets over the next few years, but since we've been without a record player for more than ten years, this is our only source of Smothers Brothers humor--none of their LPs have been released on CD, which is a travesty!

Looking at this list, I realize that I have one foot, and maybe part of the other, in the past, but these are some of the albums that have stood the test of time for me. If I had to listen to them for 20 years on a desert island, they'd still satisfy.