Desert Island Picks: Albums


I have been asked on several occasions by various people in my life what I would bring to a desert island if only given a certain amount of music, books, and movies. I have decided to take this and turn it into a series of posts, because that’s what I do – take memes and think about them incessantly until I give in and write about them.

Generally, I’m asked what ten albums, books, and dvds would I take.  I’m going to stick with those parameters. I started with books, since there was that blogger meme running around a few weeks back that made me contemplate it. Now, for the truly difficult one- albums. All those records, only ten to take.

1. The Kinks The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society

It may not contain their biggest hits, but as a collection of songs, it remains the band’s masterpiece. A concept album filled with British pastoral touches, it laments the passing of a lifestyle that seems quaint and ancient to modern people.

2. The Beatles The Beatles (The White Album)

Double albums always count as one. ALWAYS. And this one gets its selection on the inclusion of classic songs like “Blackbird”, “Helter Skelter”, “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”, “Back In The U.S.S.R.”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Sexy Sadie”… While probably there least cohesive album ( the band’s fracturing was becoming apparent), it probably remains my favorite simply because of its messiness.

3. The Clash London Calling

They were the only band that mattered, and probably one of three bands I would follow to the ends of the earth ( the other two being the Kinks and the Smiths). This explosive rant of an album takes on life in a declining Great Britain, at the time hobbled by a decade of unemployment and violence, and gives some much-needed perspective. And everything is okay with the bass line from “The Guns of Brixton”, truly one of the greatest songs ever written about paranoia.

4. The Ramones The Ramones

The one true punk rock band were these four guys with their three chords and juvenile lyrics about sniffing glue ( and being a rent boy). Fourteen tracks clocking in under thirty minutes, it is a joy to listen to even 34 years later.

5. R.E.M. Fables Of The Reconstruction

R.E.M. is easily in my top five bands of all time ( yes, the Kinks, the Smiths, the Beatles, and the Clash are the other four. Pay attention). But with a pretty substantial catalog to wade through, it made it difficult to pinpoint which album I would take. The cryptic Murmur? The breakthrough Document? The mega selling Out Of Time? The indisputable masterpiece Automatic For the People? The criminally underrated Up? No, I went for the deep Southern gothic sounds of Fables, which does in fact contain “Maps and Legends”, which is most likely my all time favorite R.E.M. song.

6. The Replacements Tim

The drunken antics of Minneapolis’s favorite sons didn’t make them any less important as an American band, with their mix of power pop a la Big Star and lyrical sharpness in the vein of Nick Lowe. I can listen to “Bastards Of Young” a million times and never tire of it ( believe me, I’m aiming for it).

7. Dave Brubeck Time Out

I have to take at least one jazz record. I could take ten jazz records, but that’s not what I’m going for. So I’m taking the best jazz piano record of the last sixty years. Brubeck is my piano playing hero. And I adore bizarre concept albums ( all songs on the album contain unusual jazz time signatures- mostly waltz time, though “Take Five” is in 5/4).

8. The Smiths The Queen Is Dead

If only because the second greatest love song of all time is on it. That would be “There is a Light that Never Goes Out”. The fact that it also has some of the bands best-loved songs is secondary to the fact that I love that one song ( “The Boy With A Thorn In His Side” makes for a great argument as well).

9. The Proclaimers Sunshine On Leith

The Proclaimers are never taken seriously in North America and are still see primarily as a Scottish version of They Might be Giants, with ridiculously catchy pop songs that seem to be enormously geeky. Which is ridiculous, because the two bands, aside from unerring pop sensibilities, have nothing in common. I guess when you are best known for a song like ” I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”, it’s inevitable. But that means you are missing some truly beautiful music, like the title track, which is both contemplative musings of life and God and a celebration of their hometown.

10. Elliott Smith X/O

I’m on a desert island. I will be depressed at some point. Might as well listen to Elliot Smith masterwork.

I know that this is such an incomplete list it’s actually hurting me. There is no Pet Sounds, nor my dream album called The Best Music Ever from John Hughes Movies ( I want Simple Minds and OMD!) But over all I think it’s a good and fair list.

Man, I wish I could take it to eleven so I could include Sam Cooke…

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