Thursday, 21 April 2011

The Albums of My Life

pink wax
Recently, while discussing the specifications of my will (here), I recommended the readers of this blog to listen to my favourite music as a worthy experience with which to remember me after I die (an event I do not wish to see any time soon, but nonetheless an event that is guaranteed to come).
It then occurred to me that the question of what my favorite music is has never been thoroughly discussed in this forum. Given that I do not wish to leave my blog’s readers in doubt when it comes to matters as important and as serious as my musical preferences, I seek to start remedying the situation with this post.
I thought I would start approaching matters by specifying the music that had the most impact on my life. Trying to assemble a list in my head, it quickly became clear this list will not be a list of songs but rather a list of albums. There are some good reasons for that: For a start, as standalone creations songs are too fickle; my preferences change with mood and my moods change plenty of times across a day. Albums, on the other hand, are a bolder statement and are therefore more stable. Second, albums have the advantage of being able to provide more depth and development: some of the better albums have clear starts and endings, ups and downs, to a level much greater than what a mere song can offer. Indeed, it is one of the sadder facts of today’s music scene that the album is dying and that we tend to recognize the single as the only music delivery format.
Still, as this post proves, there was an age when albums mattered. Here are the albums that mattered to me the most in chronological order of impact:

Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon
If asked what album I would take with me to a remote island, even one with no electricity, this would be the one. The Dark Side of the Moon has been with me since I was three and is still dominant today, thanks for asking. If asked what I like about it in particular I would say that the way the songs connect with one another to create a seamless creation creates that synergy effect that renders this one to be my favorite album ever, and by a wide margin.
It has to be said that other Pink Floyd albums have had significant impact on my life, too, but in this forum I limited myself to one album per band. These “also” albums include Animals, The Wall and Wish You Were Here.

The Police: Reggatta de Blanc
Owned by my borther, this was one of the first albums I was able to listen to at will as a child. And listen to it I did; this is one rare album where each song is a gem: consider Message in a Bottle, Bed's Too Big Without You, and Walking on the Moon to begin with! Between them, The Police and Sting have had significant impact on my music listening.

David Bowie: Ziggy Stardust
As a young teen I was exposed to David Bowie quite a lot; for some odd reason he is really popular in Israel, more so than in other parts of the world. In fact, I suspect Let’s Dance has been the first album I bought with my own money (to answer that age old RockWiz question). Hunky Dory also played a part in my musical development while Ziggy Stardust was a relatively late arrival. However, it is clear to me that Ziggy Stardust is Bowie’s best album ever and one of the best albums ever in general; again, it comes down to it telling a story and creating synergy between songs.

Led Zeppelin: Remasters
Throughout my childhood I was forced to listen to Led Zeppelin by my older siblings, for whom Led Zep was by far their favorite band. At the time I didn’t like them much, probably because of that force feeding, but when the quadruple Remasters CD came out I gave it a chance and discovered that – surprise surprise – not only is Led Zeppelin a great band, but they also shaped the whole framework of music appreciation contained in my head. Specifically talking about why the band is so good and why it lasted through time longer than most if not all others, I would pin things down on the combination of great individual talents. When you combine the best voice, the best guitars and the best drums, there’s a good chance sparks would fly.

The The: Dusk
Dusk is probably the first and only album I ever bought on the basis of lyrics alone. I still hold Dusk to have the best lyrics ever; what else can you expect from an album that starts with “the only true freedom is freedom from the heart’s desires” and finishes off with “if you can’t change your world then change yourself and if you can’t change yourself then change your world” and “the world’s too big and life’s too short to be alone”?

Miles Davis: Kind of Blue
Through various stages of my life I tried to get myself acquainted with jazz music but repeatedly found I was unable to find the right link to the genre. That changed once I was exposed to Kind of Blue.

The Beatles: Abbey Road
I discovered The Beatles at a relatively late stage of my life. I blame my brother and sister, who did not listen to Beatles music much. Eventually I gave the Liverpool band a chance, bought all their CDs online, and fell in love. Of their albums I like Abbey Road the most: I see it as the most mature of their creations, mostly because George Harrison has become a proper creator by his own rights. I also really like side B’s medley. As was the case with Pink Floyd, there are several other albums from The Beatles that could have easily found their place here: Revolver, Sgt Pepper and the White Album.

Noticed something about the above? Yes: other than Miles Davis, they're all British. Maybe the bland food makes them seek refuge in music.
Having gone through the albums with the most impact, I would still like to recall other worthwhile albums that had significant impact on me or albums which I appreciate to a higher level. Again, I will go with the chronological order in which these albums impacted me:

Dire Straits: Alchemy
Dire Straits was probably my favorite band during the bulk of the eighties with Mark Knopfler being the subject of much admiration. They’re also the first proper band I ever got to see live. Of their albums I liked the live Alchemy best: it came at their peak and provided their best songs, the songs that came before the band changed gear and style with Brothers in Arms (an album most people would say is that band’s best but an album I consider to signal the band heading in the wrong direction). I still clearly remember how I couldn’t take Alchemy’s performance of Once Upon a Time in the West out of my head during a high school final exam where I ended up getting my school’s highest grade: proof Dire Straits’ music is good for you.

Midnight Oil: Diesel and Dust
It took me a while to get used to them, Peter Garrett's voice in particular, but Midnight Oil quickly became more than a band that plays music I like: they became a symbol for Australia, the promised land. Diesel and Dust also happened to be the disc playing in my car the first day I met my wife.

Guns N’ Roses: Use Your Illusion 1 & 2
Together with the film Terminator 2, to which a song was contributed, this album made me spend a whole lot of money I didn’t have at the time on buying my first hi-fi. It probably is also responsible, together with that previously quoted film, to the ongoing rings in my ears. By now I grew out of my Guns phase but I still hold them a favor.

The Red Hot Chilly Peppers: Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Shortly after this album was released, and for more than a year, not a day went by without me listening to this album at least once. When the cassette showed signs of aging I got the CD.

The White Stripes: Elephant
Rock 'n' roll isn't dead, it was just waiting to be resurrected.

Simon & Garfunkel: Old Friends
This live album and its accompanying DVD made me realize how much I like Paul Simon's work. He presence was felt throughout my life and his songs are still very fresh and relevant.

Image by Ms. Phoenix, Creative Commons license

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