My friend, Beth Gallaway, tagged me in a post yesterday to remark upon twelve albums that have made an impact on my life. I thought instead of just listing them I’d write a blog post about them and tell you what they mean to me. Here they are in no particular (or chronological order):
Don Quixote by Gordon Lightfoot
As a kid, my family always took a two-week camping trip in the summers. We would get the car ready the night before and Dad would be itching to get going at oh, 4 am or some ungodly hour. This being back in the 70’s and 80’s we had lots of cassette tapes we listened to. Mom had her favorites and Dad had his. But one thing they always agreed upon was Gordon Lightfoot. A Canadian folksinger, he seemed to have the right feel and fit to our road trips. When I was in college I rediscovered him and bought nearly all of his albums–they are that good. This particular album has a favorite of all of us: “Alberta Bound.” It was the perfect thing to hear while driving across the plains of the Midwest, anticipating that first hazy outline of a mountain range rising in the distance.
Favorite track: Christian Island
Appetite for Destruction by Guns N’ Roses
I know, I know. Axl Rose is a misogynist with tremendous Mommy issues. But this was a tremendous album when I was in high school and the anger and rebellion contained in this album greatly identified with my angsty, teenage self. Of course, I was a total introvert nerd who didn’t do drugs, or even drink. But we all find trouble if we go looking for it, right? Even so, I can’t attach any bad memories to these songs. This was the first album that made me feel like a badass. And a little badass never hurt anyone.
Favorite track: Paradise City
The Distance to Here by Live
This album saved me when I was going through a very painful breakup in 2000. I listened to this album over and over. It is full of aching, longing, but also love and hope. My anthem from this album is “Run to the Water” where the chorus goes: Run to the water and find me there / Burnt to the core but not broken.” It gave me the strength to be the phoenix and rise from the ashes. I got to see them in concert once. (Ha, I saw Live live.) However, it wasn’t the transcendent experience for which I’d been hoping. After a spring and summer of internalizing this album and making each song my own I was a little startled when I got to the venue and realized these songs weren’t mine. They didn’t belong to me anymore than any other fan in the audience. This is what happens when you live in your head too much. Still, a great album.
Favorite Track: Run to the Water
The Bends by Radiohead
Where Live is a band that raises great emotion in me, I feel Radiohead is their intellectual counterpart. True, the lyrics are often cryptic and dreamy, but there is something very cerebral about Radiohead to me. I also feel this is as near perfect an album as one can get. Fake Plastic Trees? High and Dry? Black Star? Planet Telex? I dare you to name one song on this album that isn’t amazing. I feel Thom Yorke went on from here to be too cryptic and experimental. This album has the perfect balance of accessibility and weirdness that combine to something truly great.
Favorite Track: Fake Plastic Trees
Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar
This piece of music is intertwined with a first date I had in my early thirties. I had invited him over for dinner and he played this for me on the stereo. I liked classical music but didn’t know much about it at the time. I listened to Mozart and Beethoven but had never heard of Elgar before. Of course, we all know one of his compositions, Pomp and Circumstance, which has been played at every graduation since its creation. This particular piece is a series of variations on a theme, but what that theme was no one knows until this day. The particular variation we heard that night was Nimrod, or The Hunter. It is such an achingly beautiful piece that I got a little teary listening to it. Perhaps knowing that guy had such a sensitive soul is what caused me to kiss him later that night. It was later the prelude at our wedding.
Favorite Track: Nimrod
Enema of the State by Blink-182
I was first introduced to Blink-182 by my cousin Paul at a family reunion in 2001. When I got home I bought Enema of the State and listened to it over and over again. I think it is clear by now that I like crunching guitars and raucous music. Blink-182 were kind of immature, but they were funny and had catchy tunes, and boy could they rock. Hard and fast, each song is like a punch in the gut, but in the best possible way. I used to listen to music a lot in the car, and this was one of my favorites for freeway driving. I love all of their music, and love to see the way they matured in their sound through subsequent albums.
Favorite Track: All the Small Things
Grave Dancers Union by Soul Asylum
I already told you about my love for this album in a previous post. It comes directly from my freshman year of college and it was my soundtrack to that year. It didn’t hurt that Soul Asylum was a band from Minneapolis, my hometown, where Dave Pirner was a god in the early 90’s. I still love this album from the first track to the last. There are some excellent deep cuts from this album: April Fool, New World, and 99%. It’s a wonderful gift to go back and discover new things about an old favorite that you haven’t heard in a while.
Favorite Track: Without a Trace
Rainy Day Music by The Jayhawks
Another band from Minneapolis, but I didn’t really get into them until I moved away to New Hampshire. I was homesick, didn’t know anyone and was looking for something to feel better. Enter Gary Louris and Mark Olson, the co-frontmen of the best harmonizing, poetical, folksy band since Simon and Garfunkel. This album got into my skin, brought me home, and made me remember home without feeling queasy. All of their albums are terrific, but this one holds a special place in my heart.
Favorite Track: Angelyne
Merry Christmas by Bing Crosby
Good Lord, this is the best Christmas album ever! Of course, it holds strong memories of childhood as this was in heavy rotation on first the record player then the tape player. The first side is serious and solemn, the flip side fun and jazzy. Of course throughout are the lovely rich pipes of Mr. Bing Crosby. My favorite Christmas movie of all time is Holiday Inn, the film that gave us White Christmas. My family and I watch it every year during the Christmas season and have many, many inside jokes and one-liners from it. Bing Crosby is in it, naturally, as is Fred Astaire. Sorry this got hijacked. I really do love the album. Especially how I can sing the harmony on “Silver Bells” because Carol Richards, who sings with him, is an alto.
Favorite Track: Mele Kalikimaka
Symphony #3 for Organ by Camille Saint-Saens
I was first introduced to this particular piece of music by the film in the French Pavilion at EPCOT. It has the big boom boom organ that you hear at the end while the film cuts through vista after vista of gorgeous scenery, ending with the Eiffel Tower. I had downloaded the compiled musical score of French composers from iTunes, but I didn’t know my Saint-Saens from my Debussy at the time. Fortunately my then-boyfriend (who became my husband) told me exactly from whence that organ music came. Then he had me listen to the symphony, which is incredible. We even got to see it performed live last year at a church with a huge pipe organ. I nearly burst into tears and burst through the ceiling I was so moved by the great finish. Only listen if you want to be inspired, blown away, and ready to enact your plan for world domination.
Favorite Track: All of it.
The Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel
Another influence of my parents. Of course I love the title track (and have you heard Disturbed’s cover? Amazing!), but I love this whole album, front to back. The poetry of Paul Simon, the haunting voice of Art Garfunkel, and the simple acoustic arrangements are sweet perfection. Of all their albums, this one is my favorite and I can listen to it again and again.
Favorite Track: April, Come She Will
There you have it: a small glimpse into my musical tastes. I find the longer I am alive the harder it is to find new music I enjoy. I suppose that happens to all of us, though I don’t like it one bit. It makes me feel old. If you actually read this far and want to share new music with me, I’m all ears. Drop me a comment.