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This page is all about my favorite CDs. It contains the following sections:
So why am I telling you all this? Well, you can either see it as another way to get to know me (if that sort of thing appeals to you) or just as a list of CDs you might want to check out (this is more what I was going after).
Note that this page doesn't contain very many classical, country or jazz recordings yet (among other styles), mainly because I haven't gotten around to exploring them very much.
Please e-mail me if you have a favorite CD in any style of music that you think I should hear.
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The Rolling Stone Record Guide rates almost all of America's stuff at the bottom of the barrel. Personally, I think this is one of the greatest debut albums of all time. Mostly folksy, acoustic guitar.
Surely one of the most underrated bands of the sixties! Great bluesy, mid-sixties rock and roll. (Although I'm not saying there aren't better compilations out there.)
I'm not sure what to say about this one except that it's just fun. White funk (as opposed to disco, which is the product of the devil =). I probably should expand on this in the future, but that's enough for now.
Do I even need to justify the Beatles albums in this list? Perhaps only why they're not all here! (I do have all their albums and think everyone else should, too.) This is their debut album, of course. Call me weird, but I like ``Boys'' and ``Do You Want to Know a Secret'' more than ``Please Please Me'' and ``Love Me Do''.
This is just a great album! The first one completely made up of Beatles compositions.
The beginning of the creative late-sixties period (for the Beatles and rock music in general). A wide variety of song styles and subjects.
The ``inventiveness'' of Sgt. Pepper's really started here. An incredible mix of musical styles: from ``Taxman'' to ``Yellow Submarine'' to ``Here There and Everywhere'' to ``Tomorrow Never Knows''. Amazing.
Their most popular album, but not my personal favorite. In a way, I feel that it's just too popular. Still, it hits the spot when I give it a listen. And the guitar break in ``Good Morning Good Morning'' is righteous!
I like this one more than Sgt. Pepper's. It's ``looser'' and more psychedelic. Contains the greatest Beatles track, in my opinion: ``I Am the Walrus''.
Very unusual mix of songs. From the sublime (``While My Guitar Gently Weeps'', ``Blackbird'') to the ridiculous (``Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill'', ``Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey'') and everything in between. Mostly just good fun.
Their last album and they were still able to come up with something new. And not just new, but great! All I can say is, people who don't know and don't care about the Beatles are missing out on a lot of great music!
All the great late-period Beatles singles not already on an album. Nuff said.
The Anthology series gets really interesting with this set, covering roughly the period from Help! through the Sgt. Pepper's sessions. Highlights include the original (or just alternate) versions of ``Yes It Is'' (John singing solo), ``I'm Looking Through You'' (less strident than the released version), ``Tomorrow Never Knows'' (sounding like it could have been recorded yesterday), ``Got To Get You Into My Life'' (sparse mix, sans horns), ``And Your Bird Can Sing'' (containing as much giggling as singing), ``Strawberry Fields Forever'' (demo, take 1, and take 7!), and ``A Day In The Life'' (a mix of various outtakes). Also contains the unreleased tracks ``That Means A Lot'' and ``12-Bar Original'', along with lots of other demos and live recordings.
This one covers the White Album, Let It Be, and Abbey Road sessions. Highlights include 4 minutes and 37 seconds of the 12-minute-plus 2nd take of ``Helter Skelter''; a soft, laid-back ``Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da''; a truly gentle ``While My Guitar Gently Weeps'' (mostly just solo acoustic guitar); ``Not Guilty'', later released by George on his self-titled deubt album; a very Syd-Barrett-like track of John's called ``What's The New Mary Jane''; the impromptu and improvised tracks (respectively) ``Step Inside Love'' and ``Los Paranoias''; a slow, bluesy ``She Came In Through The Bathroom Window''; demos of ``All Things Must Pass'' and ``Something'' recorded solo by George on his 26th birthday (along with ``Old Brown Shoe''); and the voice tracks only from ``Because'', revealing how truly remarkable the harmonies really are.
Finally, a classical recording!
:-)Also (probably more widely) available on the Sony Classical label, catalog number SX6K 48099. My favorites: Symphonies 4-7.
Another selection I don't even need to justify. Chuck Berry is fifties rock and roll.
Long before I got this album, it was recommended to me by ``Ringo'', a program that collected people's ratings on albums and groups and then recommended stuff based on what ``people like you'' were into. (I don't know if Ringo is still around, but there are now many web-sites that do the same sort of thing.) Anyway, Ringo recommended this album very highly, but I put off getting it for about a year. Long story short: I got the album, it grew on me, I really like it. So there ya go.
This album is quite unusual. The songs are very pop-oriented, but extremely well-crafted with a distinct ``edge'' to them. The vocals sound sometimes like John Lennon, sometimes like David Bowie... and mostly like no one else. (Frank Black used to be Black Francis, lead singer of the Pixies.) The songs are relatively short, but there are many of them (22). My favorites: ``(I Want to Live on an) Abstract Plain'', ``Calistan'', ``Headache'', ``Freedom Rock'', ``Olé Mulholland'', and ``Pure Denizen of the Citizens Band''.
Great guitar-driven ``alternative'' rock album. (Hmm... is there any other kind of alternative rock album?) But I have to admit that I don't listen to it as much as I used to.
Simply stated, this is the greatest boxed set in existence. Should be owned by every single person on the planet. Very dangerous, though: makes dorky white guys feel like they're cool. Hit me!
Nice and laid back.
I know, this is a big cult album. That's why I originally got it. But the reason it's on this list is that it's a really good, very unusual, album! Few of the tracks are anything close to a ``normal'' song and it takes a little getting used to, but it definitely grows on you.
:-)Some of my favorite tracks: ``Frownland'', ``Moonlight on Vermont'', ``China Pig'', ``Ant Man Bee'', ``The Blimp'', ``Veteran's Day Poppy''.
I like it, okay? Sue me.
A wonderful debut album. This is one of those albums -- along with the America, James Taylor and Elton John selections -- that go against my usual dislike of what might be called ``soft rock''. This one has a little harder edge to it, particularly in the lyrics. Best known track: ``Fast Car''. Other favorites: ``For You'', ``Behind the Wall''.
Another excellent boxed set! And talk about covering a career... from Yardbirds demos to his remake of ``After Midnight'' for a beer company. In between, there's a lot of great music.
Okay, let me explain this one. See, I really, really like the show Clarissa Explains It All and its star Melissa Joan Hart. She sings on this album, which was co-produced and co-written by Rachel Sweet, who co-wrote and performed the CEIA theme song. The album contains some surprisingly good songs (especially ``P.E.A.C.E.''). Granted, Melissa is not a professional singer, but she has repeatedly admitted as much, so we can forgive her.
:-)Actually, I like the album even more for all the ``rough spots''. But that's me...
Along with the Sex Pistols, the Clash were pioneers of the late-seventies punk sound (and attitude) that would be recycled so successfully (and shamelessly) in the nineties by bands like Green Day. But the most important thing to realize is that this is simply great rock-n-roll music.
And now for something completely different! Okay, I'm not saying that Phil Collins is a rock god or anything, but this is a great album. Really. I know, it's only soft rock, but I like it!
I think this album and the one below are two of the best -- not to mention beautiful -- albums of the nineties, so far. The music is not really ``rock''; it's not really ``alternative''; it's not ``world music''... Or maybe it's all of these things. I don't know. But it sounds great to me!
Bookend album to the above -- and a little better one, in my opinion (but only a little). Dolores O'Riordan's vocals are beautiful, mesmerizing and haunting. Usually I don't like it when a band's second album sounds very similar to their first, but I got these two CDs at almost the same time, so for me they seem to belong together.
Another underrated band -- this time from the early-to-mid seventies. (Maybe ``underrated'' is the wrong word. Critics agree that they were a great band, and in their time they were about as successful as you can be without getting a number-one single, but not as many people know about them today as should, in my opinion.) This is an excellent collection. If you add Chronicle, Volume 2 you've got about two-thirds of their total studio output.
Before I got this set, the only thing I knew about Bo Diddley was the rhythm that he's known for. I thought that was pretty much how all his music sounded. Wrong-ola. There's an incredible range of musical styles in this collection, from that typical ``Bo Diddley sound'' to doo-wop to blues to surf to rockabilly. It's amazing.
A nice live album featuring extended versions of some of the best songs from their first four albums. (A third of the tracks are longer than 10 minutes.) The only drawback is the ever-present crowd noises, which can be distracting during the softer moments.
The band's best-selling album, a ``full digital recording''. (A great album for late-night headphone listening.) Although the loud, rockin' songs got a lot of airplay (on radio and MTV), the best tracks, in my opinion, are the softer, slower ones: ``Why Worry'', ``Ride Across the River'' and ``Brothers in Arms''.
A 2-CD set collecting tracks from 3 live Doors albums, some edited into ``medleys'' -- a decision that, personally, I like. Also includes a previously unreleased version of ``The End''. The first disc is classic, in-your-face Doors. (At one point in ``When the Music's Over'', for example, Jim yells at some rowdy crowd members to shut up. This brings the obligatory response, ``Fuck you, Morrison!'') The second disc is more laid-back and even playful at times. (Jim jokingly alludes to his arrest for indecent exposure: ``Grown men were weeping... policemen were turning in their badges...''). Great fun.
From the Motown sound of ``Ain't That Peculiar'' to the cool soul of ``What's Going On?'' to the driving funk of ``Got To Give It Up'', this is a great single-disc overview of his career up to the late 70's. Includes wonderful tracks with Tami Terrel and Diana Ross. (Note: The two-disc Anthology may be a better compilation.)
Quite simply some of the best soul singing ever. Every track is a gem (as they say).
One of those albums I just couldn't get enough of when I first got it. Usually the more I like an album right off the bat, the less likely it will remain one of favorites in the long run, but this one has stood the test of time. My favorite song is probably the title track, which I hadn't heard before I bought the CD. And despite what the All Music Guide's entry says (follow the link above), I don't mind the ``ragged'' and ``hurried'' live versions of some of the hit singles (they're really not that bad, IMO).
I've read reviews of The Complete Recordings of Robert Johnson that mention his supposedly ``chilling'' lyrics and/or singing. Personally, I've never had that reaction to him. Now, Blind Willie Johnson, on the other hand... If chilling is what you're after, this is the Johnson for you. As you listen, his gutteral voice and (extremely) religious lyrics make you feel that you could very well go to Heaven or Hell right then and there. Scary!
I first heard this album as a ``classic disc'' on the radio station 107.5 FM in Houston. Favorite tracks include the 16-minute-plus ``Cryin' Won't Help You Now / You're Mean'' and, of course, ``The Thrill Is Gone''.
Testament to how much I like Led Zeppelin. I have all their (studio) albums and I still needed to get the box set. The sound quality is indeed a great improvement over the individual albums (especially on the Houses of the Holy tracks). But I think if I were starting from scratch, I'd go with the remastered albums. Contains a few tracks not released on CD before, including ``Hey Hey What Can I Do'' and ``Travelling Riverside Blues''.
Along with the four-disc box set, this gives you all of their studio tracks plus 5 previously unreleased tracks.
A fun Best Of. Favorites: ``Jingling Baby'', ``Mama Said Knock You Out'', ``Doin It'' and ``Loungin (Who Do Ya Luv)''.
A really nice retrospective. Not just the crossover hits like ``Will the Wolf Survive?'', this includes several live and unreleased tracks, and many tracks in Spanish.
This band produced a great string of singles in the sixties. For many years there weren't any good compilations out there, so this CD is just what I happened to find somewhere many years ago. Now there's a Rhino compilation called The Lovin' Spoonful Anthology (catalog no. R2AY 70944). I'm sure it probably sounds better -- and I know it has a lot more songs on it (26) -- but I keep putting off getting it because it's just too damned expensive.
One of the first albums I ever got (on LP), it's still good for a listen now and then.
An excellent Best Of. From straightforward reggae to funk to folk. Just great music. My favorite track: probably ``Exodus''.
IMO, just as good as Greatest Hits 1974-1978, although not nearly as well-known.
One of the best-selling Greatest Hits albums of all time, this collects the thirteen best tracks from his (their) two most popular albums, Fly Like an Eagle and Book of Dreams, along with the title track from Joker. Essential seventies rock. (And how often do you hear that phrase?)
This is a really great collection (the group's only full-length album, Apple, plus 6 more tracks). Imagine Pearl Jam fronted by a funny, charming, outrageous Axl Rose and you'll kind of have an idea of what they sound like. Two of the band members, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament, did go on to form Pearl Jam, but the lead singer is actually Andrew Wood, who died of a heroine overdose before Apple was released. Yet another example of drugs robbing the world of a great talent. The lyrics are often ridiculously macho (not to say sexist). I mean, how can you take seriously lines like: ``I'm the instigator of the Me Generation / The official inseminator of the female population'' (from ``Captain Hi-Top'')? But there are some really moving songs, too (``Man of Golden Words'', ``Crown of Thorns''). All in all, a wonderful album. Too bad they couldn't make more.
Yes, it's made up mostly of individual movements instead of complete works, but the selection makes up for that, IMO. Contains movements of symphonies, piano and violin concertos, scenes from operas... A nice introduction to his works.
Definitely on the short side (under 32 minutes of music), but still a powerful album. (The uninitiated may want to start with the more accessible [IMO] Downward Spiral.) I have to admit, part of the reason I like it so much is probably because somehow I can just see Melissa Joan Hart rockin' out to it.
As with the James Brown boxed set, this set is dangerous! Even a Nose like me can't help but succumb to the funk. Great fun.
Although my musical tastes have gotten ``heavier'' and more ``alternative'' in the last few years, this album is still good for a listen now and then.
This is definitely one of the 5 or so best rock albums of the past 25 years. I rank it right up there with Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Every time I try to listen to just one or two tracks, I end up listening to the whole thing. Favorite track: ``Black''. (See also the entry for Mother Love Bone.)
My first Phish album. Kinda reminds me of Alchemy -- Dire Straits Live with the extended, laid-back sort of feel to many of the tracks (although musically they owe more to the Grateful Dead, of course).
The beginning of the ``middle period'' Floyd. This is one of those from-the-sublime-to-the-ridiculous albums that I love so much. Highlights include the hard-driving ``One of These Days'' (a 3:00 a.m. favorite of my next-door neighbor, unfortunately) and the 23-minute dreamscape ``Echoes''.
Another one of those albums I don't even need to justify. Over 25 million copies sold -- one of the biggest-selling albums of all time. Spent a total of 14 years in the Billboard Top 200... and for once, popularity is reflective of quality!
First time I heard this band was during the Second Annual Big Help-A-Thon (1995) on Nickelodeon -- appropriate given their generally goofy nature. (Although note that while performing ``Lump'' and ``Kitty'' they had to alter some of the lyrics to better suit the largely preteen audience.)
Many of the songs are uptempo with simple, playful lyrics populated by monkeys, chickens, frogs, worms and other animals familiar to young children. Sometimes, as in ``Boll Weevil'', the animal references apparently refer to human beings (``He's stuck on his big couch, stuck in his big shell / He looks at the TV and he's all right / ...And I wonder: / Boll Weevil, why don't you get out of your home?''), but sometimes not (``Billions of birdies squawkin' outloud / Talkin' in code to clams in the clouds / They send a secret message, they send it by worm / So vibratin' spiders will receive the word'', from ``Feather Pluckn''). On the other hand, the song ``Peaches'' is simply a paean to peaches (``And if I had my little way, I'd eat peaches everyday'').
But all is not sweetness and light. The central figures of the slower, brooding ``Body'' are the dead carcasses of small animals. ``Stranger'' celebrates the rush of instant physical attraction, although the object of desire might not be the most promising (``You seem cool for a naked chick in a booth''). ``Lump'', although fast and driving musically, tells the story of a sad, lost young woman (``Lump was limp and lonely and needed a shove / Lump slipped on a kiss and tumbled into love / Spent her twenties between the sheets / Life limped along at subsonic speeds'').
Midway through the album are the wonderfully self-deprecating ``We Are Not Going to Make It'' (``We're not gonna make it ... / 'Cuz there's a million better bands / With a million better songs / Drummers who can drum / And singers who can sing'') and a cover of MC5's ``Kick Out the Jams''.
[Lyrics courtesy of Scott's Home Page.]
The second Public Enemy album I bought. Just as good, IMO, as It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.
Hmm... so Public Enemy was controversial? I can't imagine why. Granted, I haven't studied the lyrics, but they don't seem to me to be very violent or profane, or even politically provocative. I suppose their militant attitude could be threatening to some sort of establishment somewhere, but I must not be a part of it 'cause it didn't bother me. I guess ya just shouldn't believe the hype, eh?
;-)The music, on the other hand, is rather distinctive and in a style that appeals to me but others may find grating (lots of layers and tape loops, sirens, jarring and repetitive sounds, and so forth). Personally, I like it.
In case you were wondering whether white guys could be funky without sounding stupid, I give you Exhibit A. (Actually, they're intentionally stupid in a lot of the tracks, but that just makes the album better.) This is another of those sublime-to-ridiculous affairs. The music ranges from straight funk to Beatlesque rock. The lyrics are often bawdy -- sometimes bordering on sexist -- but as with the Mother Love Bone album, the general good-natured spirit keeps it from being offensive, IMO. Some of my favorite tracks: ``Breaking the Girl'', ``Suck My Kiss'', ``Righteous & the Wicked'', ``Give It Away'', ``Blood Sugar Sex Magik'', ``Under the Bridge'' and ``Sir Psycho Sexy''.
The first disc is available as an import as London 820 141-2. It sounds much better, using clean stereo mixes for most tracks instead of the muddier-sounding mono mixes used on the 2-disc Abcko set. There is little difference between the U.S. and import versions of the second disc.
Subtitled ``Big Hits and Fazed Cookies''. In many ways more interesting than Hot Rocks, this contains some B-sides, a few tracks previously unreleased in the U.S., and some more obscure (but still great) album tracks.
Sex, sex, and more sex! (Even ends with an AIDS PSA.) The lyrics are funny, nasty, and full of attitude. Great fun!
His best album, in my opinion. Some have said that this is one of the three greatest albums of the seventies. I wouldn't put it quite that high, but it's definitely in the top ten.
Funky and fun. You can't help but sing along. I first heard the group many years ago in the movie Woodstock. And that's probably the best way to hear the seriously funky stuff like ``I Want to Take You Higher'' (live and with video, I mean). Still, this is a nice Greatest Hits, even if it's a little on the slim side at 40 minutes. (For this reason, Epic's Anthology is probably a better deal.)
Personally, I prefer this to any of his studio albums (although I must admit I haven't heard all of them). Great energy. Great -- as far as I can tell -- coverage of his music from this period. One of the best live albums and one of the best boxed sets around.
One of the most popular works in classical music, there are literally hundreds of recordings of it around. I grew up listening to a version by I Musici. It was very straightforward and unadorned, as I recall. As a result, I tend to prefer versions where the solo violin is somewhat restrained. This is my favorite at the moment. I'm still on the look out for better versions, though.
More funk, but this time with a Latin feel. Favorites: ``Spill the Wine'', ``Slippin' Into Darkness'', ``Cisco Kid'' and ``Low Rider''.
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(Oh, it hurts to narrow the list down so much!)
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Last updated Aug 1999.
An album you will not find at Walmart. Definitely original and at times totally hilarious, not to mention potentially majorly offensive (see ``Broken Hearts Are For Assholes'' and ``Jewish Princess''). Love it.
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These aren't listed above because they're too new to judge. Last updated Aug 2003.
Now it's your turn: e-mail me with some of your favorites!
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The full list
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My last 10 CD purchases
Section: Donald Lancon, Jr. / Music, TV & movies
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