Your real favorite albums, these days.
When you think of your favorite albums, the likes of Exile On Main Street, Abbey Road, London Calling and Led Zeppelin IV come to mind. Maybe Born In The U.S.A. or The Joshua Tree, maybe Rust Never Sleeps or Horses. Possibly Nevermind or your older brother’s Highway 61 Revisited.
Now you’re married with three kids and “consult” out of your home office. You rarely if ever listen to those albums – if you still have them in your CD collection. No, given that your criteria are “Can I play it while working?” and “What would someone think who heard it in the background over the phone?” here are your real Top Ten albums:
· Paul Simon’s Graceland – along with Honorable Mentions Bridge Over Troubled Water and Crosby, Stills & Nash and anything by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Ella Fitzgerald. Nice, pleasant background music to burble away when you’re working, having neighbors in for an evening or the brother who visits once a year.
· Anybody’s Unplugged. Ideal for Sunday family get-togethers.
· The Allman Brothers’ Eat A Peach. You used to drink Jack Daniels and rip a fierce air guitar to Skynyrd’s “Free Bird,” now you set your wine glass down and wiggle your fingers when “Blue Sky” comes on and the kids aren’t watching. Connoisseurs prefer the expanded CD reissue of Live At The Fillmore East, but you find that boring.
· The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Time Out. This was the first time you realized jazz didn’t totally suck, and led to purchases of The Gold Collection’s cheap John Coltrane and Charlie Parker reissues, as well as a Wynton Marsalis CD or two.
· James Taylor’s Greatest Hits. What you put on when you ask your wife “Whaddya wanna hear?” and she says “Oh, something nice.” Sometimes you put on The Eagles’ Greatest Hits or Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors instead. Sometimes it’s Gordon Lightfoot’s Sundown or Van Morrison’s Moondance – she never really liked Astral Weeks. Maybe even Bruce Cockburn.
· Mozart, for when you’re really working. You generally prefer the value of buying in bulk when it comes to Mozart, such as the London Mozart Double Decker 1995 reissue of Symphonies 25, 29, 38 and 40 with Benjamin Britten and the English Chamber Orchestra. For the sonatas you have the Sony Classical Artist Laureate pressing of Sonatas For Piano & Violin, K. 296, 454. 526 featuring Isaac Stern and Yefim Bronfman. You rotate the three discs, occasionally tossing a Chopin, Shine: The Complete Classics or Pictures At An Exhibition (the Ravel orchestration, not the Emerson, Lake and Palmer one) in the mix.
· Kronos Quartet. You have either their Complete Landmark Sessions or the 1985 Nonesuch début with “Purple Haze.” You don’t have anything by Philip Glass, John Cage, Hindemith or Stockhausen, but you're pretty sure you have a Beethoven CD somewhere, maybe loaned out.
· Neil Young’s Harvest. You’ve never really liked it, but hey, you’ve never really hated it, and it makes a nice anchor for an “All Discs” rotation with Sgt. Pepper, What’s Going On, Time Passages and Pet Sounds. For your “answering e-mail and surfing the Web” CDs you like to rotate Traffic’s Welcome To The Canteen, Lou Reed’s Transformer and Johnny Cash’s American Recordings.
· The Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. You put it where people can see it but you never play it, too screechy. You figure it counterbalances your wife’s Christopher Cross and Prince CDs in the eyes of visitors, like your Garth Brooks and Dwight Yoakam outweigh her Linda Ronstadt and Nancy Griffith. The Dixie Chicks are okay, though.
· The Violent Femmes. There’s a… time about this one, nothing else conjures up your college friends so well as singing along with “Kiss Off” and “Add It Up.” Oh, and you’re pretty sure somebody’s still borrowing your More Fun In the New World.
· Career Moves, by Loudon Wainwright III. You liked his little spots on NPR, so you bought this to see what he’s like in real life. You’re still getting into it, but hey, you’re always up for something new.
· And for the car? When you're by yourself it's Elvis Costello or John Mellencamp, with the family it's Zevon’s Excitable Boy – you still know all the words and the kids like howling along on “Werewolves of London.”