I was recently thinking about my record collection when out of the blue a question popped into my head. I have a fairly sizable collection of both LP’s and CD’s accumulated over 50 odd years and the question was “Which of all these is my favorite album?” I had to think a bit, what did I mean by favorite etc? but it came down to which one had given me the most pleasure, which was the most played, which had affected me the most?
The answer came fairly quickly – “Graceland” of course, and I decided “Yep, that’s the one’.
But then suddenly another thought intruded, “What about Bob? Surely BMW has given me more pleasure and was more life changing than Graceland, That’s true, OK, then it must be “Catch a Fire”, and at exactly the same time in 1973 I also bought “The Harder they Come”,
the movie soundtrack, that one exposed me to many other reggae groups and both got major playing time and both started me off on a life changing path; the music of Jamaica.
And then there was another, Duke Ellington, what about Duke? Can’t have a favorites album without considering at least one by Duke. I have more albums by him than any other artist and “Ellington at Newport 1956” immediately sprang to mind,
I did a post on that album here some time back and moviegoers will recognize it as the key piece of music in the current film American Hustle. I heard it live on shortwave on Voice of America lying in bed in Suffolk in 1956 and dozens of times on vinyl since then.
Suddenly more albums started flooding in and at this point I decided that there’s no way I can pick a single favorite from all those, maybe it has to be a list, but how many?
So lets change the rules, I arbitrarily decided on a dozen and went back to remembering the pleasures of essential LP’s.
Dylan was huge in the 60’s but nothing was bigger than “Highway 61”, ditto The Beatles with “Sgt. Pepper”, I clearly remember the excitement when those two were released, everyone was waiting for the new Beatles album and ditto the new Dylan in ways that just don’t happen anymore.
Whoops! what about Mahler? I’ve got ’em all so how about where it all started for me in about 1964, “Mahler’s 1st with Lenny Bernstein and the NY Phil”, I bought that LP at a yard sale on impulse and it rapidly became an endlessly played favorite that led to another lifetime obsession of collecting and playing. Now I regularly start the day with Mahler dvd’s on youtube.
And then there was the “Lionel Hampton All Stars at Pasadena Civic in 1947”, the all time greatest recording of Stardust and I’ve often been tempted to do a post here at the Spill on just that one tune.
I must include Louis. he started me off in the right direction back in 1947, my favorite Louis album is “Louis plays W C Handy” from about 1954 which is about when I saw him twice in London with this band, the high point of my adolescence.
Right from the start Count Basie has been very significant in my collection, maybe second only to Duke numerically, it’s hard to pick only one but it would have to be “The Essential Count Basie vol 2 – 1939”. Goin’ to Chicago, the classic Basie blues with Jimmy Rushing.
We’re getting close, the last one could get tough, but it springs to mind quickly, it’s from 1955 “Sarah Vaughn – In the land of Hi Fi”, Sarah with a great jazz group with Cannonball Adderley soloing right behind her.
There you go, I can live with that list, they’re all memorable LP’s that have been played endlessly and have given enormous pleasure over the years. It would be very easy to play the RR guru and to continue with the B list, there’s so many deserving albums that didn’t make the A list, but that’s for another day.
But If I were to think about a B list there’s dozens of names that should be considered: Joni Mitchell, CSNY, Springfield, Astor Piazzolla, Dennis Brown, Toots, Christy Moore, Charlie Parker, Burning Spear. Dozens of African artists, Ella, Lester Young, Billie, Miles, Nina, Bechet, Ray Charles, Tommy! and many, many more.
So this could be the current version of the old EOTWQ, those rules look fairly simple and I know there’s many here who are as musically obsessive as I am, so have at it, your dozen all-time favorite albums with maybe a sentence with each and a favorite cut.
Here’s my list, in no particular order, if I had to choose one it could be any of these.
Graceland – Graceland.
Catch a Fire- No more trouble.
The Harder they come – Rivers of Babylon.
Ellington at Newport – Diminuendo & Crescendo in Blue.
Highway 61- Desolation Row.
Sgt. Pepper – A day in the life.
Mahler 1st – 3rd movement – the hunter’s funeral.
Hamp at Pasadena – Stardust.
Louis plays W C Handy – Yellow Dog Blues
Count Basie – Goin’ to Chicago.
Sarah Vaughn – How high the Moon.