Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Brett's Alltime Favorite Albums

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Brett is our favorite blogebrity around these parts.  He just seems to randomly appear in the oddest locations and usually has a good story to go with it.  Brett is the guy who invites you to a torturously long game of RISK and you can't help but go, because he'll have a great beer selection, you both like cheese, his stories are insane and there's usually a good soundtrack to accompany the hours of nerdy high school board games ahead of you.  I'm fully responsible for any work he didn't do today as my email last night took all his attention this morning.  Here's Brett's alltime favorite albums:

Again, it is a conversation I have had many times in many topics… the most recent being movies with a buddy and a bartender in DC.  I love the question, but my answer would skew each time you ask me.  Of course, there are those albums that will never shake from this list…. But I think we all seek out new music and new albums with the half-hearted hope that the list will change.  It’s all kind of bitter sweet I suppose.

I have a few rules or guidelines by which I am going to walk upon:

1)      Must be a front-to-back listen nearly every time.  You know what I am talking about, those albums that without hesitation make you shut off “shuffle all” on your iPod and go back to the first song to hear it all the way through.  Great albums are like great songs, they need to be listened to in order so you can feel the up and downs.  This is the same with movies, you should not be able to skip through an all time favorite movie… if it is on tv, and you skim by it… there goes an hour and  a half of your time.

2)      I am going to make sure to include multiple genres.  I was not always into one type of music and I hope I never will be.  Sure, there are cycles when I latch onto a genre, but hopefully that is always short lived.

3)      I started to love music at a young age… and albums effected me, motivated me, shaped me, etc. my entire life.  So if I am trying to carve out my all-time favorite albums… that to me means “throughout my life” … all “my” time.]

4)      No particular order.  It is just too damned hard


Anyway here goes nothing, first up are my unchangeable Top 8, the last two can slide around the charts a bit.

     Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory (1991):  I always liked hip hop growing up; the Chronic was one of my first cd’s I ever purchased… and I loved it dearly.  When 36 Chambers came out, it shaped me.  Sure it made me kind of aggressive,  but it also got me into lyricism (and karate movies).  But Tribe… Tribe turned me onto more than hip hop.  Tribe turned me onto intellectual music, it turned me onto bee bop, soul, funk and most importantly opened the door for me into the world of Jazz.  In my humble opinion, Q-Top and Phife Dog rival ANY duo in music.  They complement each other SO well in SO many tracks it is almost scary; they pass off hit lines and switch in mid sentence, all the while having impeccable flow.  And that is the word one must use to describe these guys isn’t it?  Impeccable Flow.  While Q-tip was always the bigger personality, it is no surprise that the breakup of Tribe was the really last stop in his career.. they needed each other to be that good, they were the two parts to one whole.  While I love all of their albums… it was the early stuff that challenged me.  The first three albums seemed to build momentum off of each other, but it will forever be “A Low End Theory” that holds rank in my heart.  The first time I heard the album is one of those photographic moments in my life that I will never forget.  I was 15, at boarding school and heading towards Holderness for an away hockey game.  I had first heard a tribe song months before, but this was the first time I actually dug in…. I remember the first beat, I remember the first lyric, as each song progressed the album and the experience grew by leaps and bounds… it was a JOURNEY.  This album more than any other was an eye opening experience for me about what Music could do to a person’s soul.

2)      Beatles – Revolver (1966):  Not much needs to be said, I did have to think long and hard which album I would include… I love Help!, Abbey, White Album, Sgts, Rubber Soul, etc… I love them all.  In fact if I picked my top 5 favorite Beatles song, Revolver wouldn’t find a song in there.  But there is no album I listen to more front to back in their portfolio… I love the variety of instruments and styles of music (Find me a more different transition than I’m Only Sleeping into Love You To into Here, There and Everywhere… I dare you)  Yet while they differ in style, and inspiration… there is a underlying connection between each song that ties it all together.  Its innocent, playful, gentle, and high as hell… I mean, literally… they were taking some seriously strong LSD… one major trip leading to the creation of that Yellow Submarine.

3)      Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966):  I always loved the story about how Sgt Peppers and Pet Sounds came to be.  Apparently, Brian Wilson heard Rubber Soul and was so blown away by it all that it inspired him to write Pet Sounds.  Then the Beatles sat down, listened to “Pet Sounds” and it inspired them to write Sgt Peppers.  If there was ever an album that required you to listen to it in its entirety… it’s this one.   No other album on this list demands to be respected as a whole that Pet Sounds.

4)      Wilco – Being There (1996): I always get engulfed with anger when someone says they like “everything but country”.  What the hell did country do to deserve that overused and deeply moronic phrase? Some of our best and most famous musicians were born from the belly of country.  Johnny Cash, Elvis, Lucinda Williams, Hank Williams, Jerry lee, CCR, The Band, etc.  It is part of American culture, it encapsulates rock, blues, bluegrass and so on.  More importantly it gave birth to Alternative Country or Country-Rock… whatever you may call it.  It paved the way for bands like Son Volt, Old 97’s, The Blood Oranges and of course, Wilco.  “Being There” was Wilco’s eclectic jump from country rock to another hemisphere.  It opens with Misunderstood and after those 6 minutes are up I knew something special was happening.  To this day Wilco is my favorite current band, they have shifted and transformed several times.  Their current formation, may very well be their best.  All that said, this is the album that separated them from the field.  Amazing album, I still listen to it weekly.

5)      Nirvana - Nevermind (1991): This was hard… it was nearly a coin flip between Ten and Nevermind.  In fact, when I started to write this paragraph, Pearl Jam TEN was the one I chose… but as I got to the end I had talked myself out of it.  Both released in 1991 and at that time, Nevermind was just the more important, more significant album to my generation.  I grew my hair, I bought a Fender Strat and (kinda) learned to play, I ripped all my jeans, wore flannel… heck I even burnt poppy seeds over a stove because someone told me that Kurt used to do the same (years later that actually scares the hell out of me).  Nirvana and Nevermind was the first band/album to change me.  It didn’t open my eyes to music the way that the Low End Theory did, but it changed the way I acted and that is a pretty damned powerful thing.  Over the course of my life, music never would influence me again to change the way I dressed and ate and behaved.  I have probably listened to Ten more times than Nevermind, but every time I decide to go back to it, it brings me back and evokes the same sort of feelings that it gave me 15 years ago.  Seeing how much Grohl did in the aftermath, you can’t help but wonder.

6)      Miles Davis –  Kind of Blue (1959):  The hipster choice here would probably be Sketches in Spain… it just seems that the anti-establishment trend that is now becoming a norm would think of KoB to be too obvious.  The amazing thing that people don’t seem to realize is that both of these albums came out in the same year… two of the most legendary, innovative and inspirational jazz albums were put out within 12 months in 1959.  What is even more amazing is he put out a third album that year, “Workin” and during these prime years was churning out at least 3 albums a year (6 in ‘55).  When I really started to get into Jazz… it was this album, on vinyl, that kept me up till 3am on weekend nights.  5 songs, that is all it took to pull me under and suffocate you with bass and tone.   If Nevermind lit a chaotic and energetic fireball into my body, Miles and Kind of Blue was able to extinguish the flame a bit.  This album balanced me.

7)      Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde (1966):  I grew up with Dylan and the Stones… it was a nice thing, but as I got older I always wondered why my father was not listening to much of the other great stuff.  He wasn’t big Beatles guy.  While he was at the perfect age for Bruce… my brother was the one in our family who wrapped his arms around Springsteen.  For one reason or another he had his bands and that is what I ended up hearing driving around New England to hockey games growing up.  Years later, even more so than the Stones, the one album I constantly find myself coming back to is Blonde on Blonde.  The truth is my dad was more of a Highway 61 guy… but through the years this album just got me.  In a weird way my love for Hip Hop aided my love for this album, the word play is fantastic… witty, beautiful, sensitive, romantic, fast, spiritual, if Dylan was African-American and grew up off of Queens Boulevard in the 70’s, he may have been IN A Tribe Called Quest.  Lots of great twists and turns as you make your way through this album… never gets tired or boring, even with 14 songs totaling over 70 minutes.

8)      Tom Waits – Nighthawks at the Diner (1975): Man, that voice can really pull you in.  I stumbled across Waits a few times throughout my life, always liked him and never really took the time to get to know him.  Then in 2003 I found a copy of a Nighthawks Vinyl on eBay and figured why not.  I had really fallen for Jazz and thought that this was as good of a time as any to become more accustomed with what had created a cult following for nearly a quarter century.  Needless to say the album floored me.  Not only is it packed with its wit and humor, it has a underlying sense of serious soul.  Its interesting really, because the lyrics are more Flight of the Conchords than Leonard Cohen, but it is within the music, within the piano riffs and background band where the soul of this album hibernates.  It was such a different dynamic for me when I first heard it and still is to this day.  Plus, the way he made the album is my dream concert… he invited 70 guests into a nightclub and just cut the album … all new songs.  You can feel the energy in that room and it played homage to the guys life on the road in so many respects.  He paints a picture of his life in LA during the mid-70’s as he works his way through the set.

9)      Radiohead – Kid A (2000)

10)   Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989)

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