Top Ten All-Time Favorite Records

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I don't know what prompted my previous photo-blog.  Probably because I was cleaning out my records, boxing up doubles, figuring out what I don't have, etc. I made a trek to The Beat in Sacramento immediately to look for a few things I didn't have that I knew I should have.  In doing so, I inevitably spend more money than I should finding more stuff I like.  So, it goes.

I was thinking about how I would make my top-ten list.  I decided to place specific criteria on myself.  Consider it an exercise in self-discovery.  Here are my criteria:

1) The album cannot be a "Greatest Hits" or compilation of any sort.  That's cheating.

2) I have to have been listening to the album for a minimum of 10 years, and still love listening to it.  Looking for longevity, here.   Unfortunately, this immediately disqualifies more recent records (Wilco, Radiohead, Etc) that might have made it into the list.  For me, it also disqualifies any Grateful Dead music since I've only really enjoyed them for a few years.  Really, what I'm searching for is the records that define me. (Oh God, that sounds so freakin lame.)

3) The album cannot be a bootleg tape.  It must have been commercially released (at least somewhere).  "Live" Albums are okay.

The List

1.  Tom Waits "Small Change"

This record was the first Tom Waits record I'd ever heard.  An older friend played it for me when I was 17.  I didn't like his voice, at first.  It didn't take long to be consumed by it, though.  Before I knew it, I was wearing pork-pie hats and chain smoking and wanting to write songs like that.

2.  Freddie King "Gettin Ready"

This was one of the first electric blues records I ever purchased.  Everything about it is great.  It's like a pop-record for blues dorks.  Great songs, great production, great edits,  great playing and singing.  Shelter records had some amazing releases during that time.

3.   The Coup  "Genocide and Juice"

I believe this is out of print, but it's one of the few Hip Hop records that I love dearly.  (Yes, I like hippity hoppity). It's hilarious.  It's funky.  It's (kind of )socially and politically aware, at least for the time.   This was my weed smoking record when I was a kid.  I still know all the words and I can rap along to most of the songs, which I'm sure is an awkward scene.

4.  The Beatles "Revolver"

The meaning of the Beatles is much different to my age group than say -- my parents.  The Beatles never symbolized rebellion in any way to me.  How could they? I grew up with Nirvana.  MTV.  Etc.  The Beatles were already ancient history by the time I was potty trained.  I actually tried my best to NOT like the Beatles.  I really, really tried but I couldn't deny it.   Pretty much from 65' on, each album was a masterpiece, in my opinion.  With the exception of Let It Be (which I still LOVE) each record was very highly realized.  The word "impeccable" comes to mind.  Each sound seemed to be the best possible version of the sound...if that makes any sense.  The creativity seemed boundless.  As someone who now makes records, these facts are even more impressive now that I know how difficult it all actually is.

5.  Bob Dylan  "Bringing it all back home"

Which brings us to the polar opposite style of record making.  This record has all the symptoms of being a clunker.  It's recorded quickly, instruments are out of tune, etc.   None of that shit matters.  What matters is how the songs make you feel.  As with many Dylan records, this one feels very spontaneous and alive.  The songs, obviously, are fantastic.  Choosing a favorite Dylan record is probably just as difficult as choosing a favorite child.  Okay, maybe not quite that bad.  I have fond memories of this record because I recall that once in High School English class, we all had to learn and recite a speech for a public speaking unit...I brought a guitar and did "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream" for my speech.  I got an A+.

6.  Ray Charles "The Genius of Ray Charles"

The first time I'd ever heard a vinyl record, it was this album.  It was also my first taste of anything resembling true RnB, blues or soul music.  I was probably 14 years old when I discovered this record.  It's the record that started it all for me.  I played the first song "Let the good-times roll" over and over and over.  I still get off on it.  This record blows my mind, every time.

7.  Nirvana  "Nevermind"

I was 11 or 12 when this record came out.  I was too young to "get it", but I really felt the attitude.  By the time I was 13, I was wearing the same jeans for weeks at a time and insisting that dirty-ass flannel shirts were the only fashions statements worth making.  This record also coincided with me getting my first electric guitar....which was some knock off wannabe strat that the man at the music store was nice enough to hold for me until I could pay it off.  I went in every week with 5 bucks, 10 bucks, whatever I had.  Pretty soon, that bad boy was mine!

8.  Arlo Guthrie - "Alices Restaurant"

Believe it or not, there was a time when I could preform, in it's entirety, Alice's Restaurant Massacree.  I memorized all the words.  It's actually a lot harder than you would think to talk and tell a story while you are playing guitar.   I had a teacher in High School who showed me Arlo Guthrie.  He was really into David Bromberg too.  He gave me this tape with "Bullfrog Blues" on it, which is another lengthy talking number.  Actually, one of the first concerts I ever went to was Arlo Guthrie at Martime Hall in San Francisco.

9.  Led Zeppelin -- "Physical Graffiti"

By the time I was able to drive, I was also able to put a CD player in my car.  I didn't have a car until I was almost 18, so I did a lot of research as to what stereo I would be putting in.  Priorities, you understand.  My job at Taco Bell paid for my first car stereo and I can remember driving around for hours after I installed it -- just to see how loud I could get Zeppelin cranked.   This record was the first thing I played in my very first  car stereo.  Interestingly enough, it was also the record that destroyed my car's speakers for the first time.  Imagine that!

10.  Muddy Waters -- "Live at Newport 1960"

There's a TON of blues records that I love, but this is the one I've been listening to the longest.  I don't remember where I got it.  I'm fairly certain I just randomly bought it as my first Muddy Waters record.  I'm glad I did.  The best part is listening to the girls screaming at him from the crowd.  It's kind of frightening, actually.

So, that's my list.   In general, lists like this are pointless.  They don't really provide any perspective of anything other than musical taste...which in general...is an evolving thing.  There's no permanence in regards taste, nor should there be.    Having said that, these are the records that I've listened to for at least a decade and still love them as I did when I first heard them, if not more.   That's gotta account for something?

JG