Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fifteen albums.

Another Facebook wheeze, which I've reposted here for non-Facebookers. The instructions were to list fifteen record albums (LPs or CDs) "that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life. Dug into your soul. Music that brought you to life when you heard it. Royally affected you, kicked you in the wazzo[o], literally socked you in the gut, is what I mean."

Mine are in roughly chronological order, beginning at about age nine. Before that, most of the music I can remember was from my parents’ collection of 78 RPM singles, which included lots of Spike Jones, e.g. “Cocktails for Two”, “William Tell Overture”, “My Old Flame” (with a delicious faux-Peter Lorre voice), and “In Dreams I Kiss Your Hand, Madame” (done perfectly straight until the last line: “In dreams I kiss your hand, Madame, ‘cause I can’t STA-A-A-ND your breath!”); Guy Mitchell (“Christopher Columbus”, “Sparrow in the Tree Top”); and Rosie Clooney (“Shrimp Boats is a-Comin’”).

Here goes:

1. “Classical Music for People Who Hate Classical Music”, Boston Pops Orchestra, Arthur Fiedler conducting. My parents probably got this thinking it would inspire me. Boy, were they right. For years, all my most grandiose fantasies played out in my head to the accompaniment of Verdi’s “Grand March” from Aida.

2. “The King and I”, original Broadway cast, Gertrude Lawrence, Yul Brynner, et al. Lots of great Rogers & Hammerstein songs. The Gilbert and Sullivan-esque “Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?” was an inspiration in dealing with school bullies.

3. Enoch Light and the Light Brigade, “Persuasive Percussion”. When I was about fourteen, I had a brief but intense craze for Command Records’ “Percussion” series, of which this is the only one the title of which I recall with certainty. Basically, this was very bouncy, Latin-flavored jazz with lots of things that snapped, hissed, crackled, popped, and banged. About ten years ago, this stuff was resurrected as “ultra lounge music”.

4. The Limeliters, “Sing Out!” The Kingston Trio’s “Tom Dooley” and “MTA” were my introduction on radio to the folk music craze of the late ‘50s and ‘60s, but this was my first folk album.

5. Beethoven, “Archduke” Trio; Pablo Casals, Mieczyslaw Horszowski, and Sandor Vegh. Achingly lovely.

6. The Ventures, “Surfing”. This guitar-bass-drum instrumental group, originally from Tacoma, Washington, predated the surf craze with their 1960 hit “Walk, Don’t Run”. Having relocated to L.A., they cashed in on mid-sixties surf mania with this album, a mixture of very able covers of surf guitar classics like the Chan-Tays’ “Pipeline” and original material. This was the soundtrack for many late evenings in my dorm room during my first year of college.

7. Flatt & Scruggs, “Foggy Mountain Banjo”. My first bluegrass album; the beginning of a long affair.

8. Paul Butterfield Blues Band, “The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw”. This album was my first taste of Chicago style electric blues.

9. The Byrds, “Sweetheart of the Rodeo”. My introduction to Gram Parsons’ “Cosmic American Music”; unfortunately, this drove my second year law school roommate to distraction.

10. Neil Young and Crazy Horse, “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere”. I’ve fantasized about singing “Cowgirl in the Sand” to every woman who has ever spurned me.

11. Fairport Convention (see also here), “Unhalfbricking”. I first heard “Percy’s Song”, an obscure Dylan piece that Fairport did in the manner of Anglican chant, wafting from a friend’s dorm room during my third year of law school. Because I was captivated by the style and by Sandy Denny's voice, I got the album, and began my long romance with this group and with British folk rock.

12. “The Harder They Come” soundtrack, Jimmy Cliff et al. My go-to when I’m feeling down.

13. Marshall Chapman, “Marshall Chapman”. It’s a tough decision between this, her eponymous third album, and “Jaded Virgin”, her second (and my first to own). “Rock and Roll Clothes” and “Runnin’ Out in the Night” tip the scales, as it were.

14. The Bothy Band (see also here), “Bothy Band 1975”. I’d never heard of them when I picked this from the record bin in an Irish crafts store in Greenwich Village in 1977. Took it home, and was blown away by the virtuosity of the instrumentals and the voices of Triona Ni Dhomhnaill and her brother, now sadly deceased, Micheal O’Dhomhnaill.

15. John Coltrane, “Giant Steps”. Listening to this at a friend’s place brought me to a long overdue appreciation of modern jazz.