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10 Recommended CD's 

 

The following music selections comprise some of the most treasured elements in my CD collection.

 

While no binding guarantee can be made as such, these records can cure whatever ails you!

 

To look at or buy any of these albums, please click on the album title or the banner below to be linked to
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1) Ben Folds Five
        Before this little band from Chapel Hill conquered modern and soft rock stations nationwide with the melancholy and radio friendly uber-hit "Brick," they put out their eponymous debut on smallish Passenger/Caroline records.  The result was pure brilliance, an amazing mixture of energy, creativity and pure fun.  The songs on this record range from the rollicking and offbeat "Underground," a modest hit, to the lush harmonies of "Alice Childress."  My 5-star selection on this record is "The Last Polka," an infectiously bouncy yet sad song touching on one of of Folds' favorite subjects, getting dumped (see Song for the Dumped, etc.)  This trio featuring Folds on piano and vocals, Robert Sledge on bass and Darren Jessee on drums also kicks serious tail live.  Their follow-up album, Whatever and Ever, Amen on Sony is also excellent, however more sedate.
 
 
 2)     Axis: Bold as Love: The Jimi Hendrix Experience

        Jimi Hendrix only released three solo albums before dying in 1970 at the age of 27.   Everybody always talks about his groundbreaking debut, Are you Experienced, featuring such seminal works as "Purple Haze," "Foxy Lady," and "Third Stone from the Sun."  Then, there was Electric Ladyland the experimental jammy double album featuring "All Along the Watchtower."   Sandwiched in between, there was this masterpiece showcasing Hendrix' unsung and perhaps greatest talent, his songwriting.  The simple and psychedelic "Little Wing" along with the thoughtful lyrics and mournful melody of "Castles Made of Sand" rank among the most beautiful and haunting songs of the era.  The final track, "Bold As Love" is one of the most fitting closers to an album that I've ever come across. The first time I heard the flanged drum solo leading into the ecstatic coda, I almost lost it.  Be warned, the first track, EXP is a bit freaky; from that point forward, sit back and enjoy an incredible ride with this 1997 reissue of one of the all-time classics.
 
3)      Ok Computer:  Radiohead

          I don't know what else you can say about this critically acclaimed and Grammy nominated masterpiece from neo-prog Brit-Rockers, Radiohead.  Now, when I first heard that this was a concept album about computers running amok, my mind conjured up visions of Styx's Kilroy was Here, (domo origato, mister roboto) , and "Video Killed the Radio Star" era Buggles.  Well, Dennis DeYoung and Trevor Horn fans, this album puts them to shame.  This was easily the best record of 1997.  Ok Computer is a rarity for the 90's, a bold, adventurous, and challenging work that offers more on every listen.  Thom Yorke's frighteningly powerful falsetto is unrivaled, complemented perfectly by richly textured guitars and a dynamic rhythm section.  This record is so original, it's almost scary.  As such, it's not for everybody, this ain't no Matchbox 20, this ain't no Jewel.  Ok Computer sounds a bit like Pink Floyd in its creative peak updated with 90s technology after a meeting of the minds with XTC and maybe George Martin.  In other words, this record has set the standard in intelligent, creative music that all British bands that follow will be hard pressed to equal.  Hear that Gallagher brothers?
 

4)    Songs in the Key of Life:  Stevie Wonder

        ""Good morn or evening friends, here's your friendly announcer.  I have serious news to pass to everybody.  What I'm about to say, could mean the world's disaster; could change your joy and laughter to tears and pain."  With this pronouncement, Songs in the Key of Life is underway.  This album, recorded for Motown in 1976 represents Stevie at his peak.  Songs is full of so many of the elements that make great music and great drama.  At its core, this album is a profound political statement, reflecting on the Black Power movement , urban blight and injustice.  Some of the lyrics are far from optimistic, in "Village Ghetto Land," Wonder sings, "Broken glass is everywhere, it's a bloody scene.  Killing plagues the citizens unless they own police."  "Pastime Paradise" sampled in Coolio's megahit, "Gangsta Paradise" indicts those who waste their time "Glorifying days long gone behind."
       That said, Songs in the Key of Life is also uplifting, joyous and spiritual.  There is a ton of love here.  I generally am not a connoisseur of 'chansons d'amour,'  but I tell you songs like "Knocks Me Off My Feet" just do it for me.  Some final thoughts, this is a double album;  the middle of the first CD features classic tunes, "I Wish" and "Sir Duke" back-to-back.  If you ever want to start a party, put those 2 tracks on repeat.  It's almost unfair that two such killer tracks should be on the same album much less back-to-back.  Finally, did you know that the lead guitarist on these sessions was Michael "She's a Maniac" Sembello?
 
5)     Flood:  They Might Be Giants

        In a weird sort of way, this is a classic album to us Gen X types.  Success for albums and bands like this, just doesn't come around that often.  Brilliant songs like "Birdhouse in Your Soul," classic novelty tunes like "Particle Man" and "Istanbul," what can you say?  This is a great record, very creative and a whole lot of fun.  Many of you probably made this one of your first CD purchases, the rest of you probably borrowed your friends' CD boomboxes to record it onto tape to pop into your Sony Walkman while your stupid roommate blasted "Pour Some Sugar on Me" five times every freakin' hour!  Buy it again, for the first time.
 
 6)      Superfly:  Curtis Mayfield  
 
            Anybody who's been in my apartment has surely seen the large poster above my sofa proclaiming "Never a dude like this one, he's got a plan to stick it to the man!"  Indeedy, Superfly is one of my favorite movies, also, the poster does a pretty good job of carbon dating my sofa.  Anybody who's had the pleasure of seeing this film on a big screen would know, Superfly is almost a musical.  The classic funky/soul soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield directly responds to and foreshadows the onscreen events.  As such, original prints of the movie feature the soundtrack prominently in the audio mix.  Whether or not you've ever seen the movie, the album is still an undeniable classic featuring the oft-covered in jam format by college bands, "Freddy's Dead," "Pusherman" and the title track.  This entire album is perfect for a night of sweet love-making and or outrunning the fuzz on the interstate in a big-ass pimpmobile.  Note, for a long time this CD was out of print, it has since been reissued in honor of the 25th anniversary in a reasonably priced double album.  Check it out, or your lady will be walking the street tonight!

7)      Live at Leeds:  The Who
 
            Alas, few dinosaur acts know when to give up the road.  Death and deafness have been unable to stop the loudest and probably best live act of all time, causing them to suffer acute "Moody Blues-itis," constant touring without any new material to support.  HOWEVER---the Who was undeniably one of the  most important bands of the classic rock era.  Pete Townshend's frantic guitar and enlightened, if somewhat gay, songwriting, Keith Moon's even more frantic drumming, John Entwistle, as important to young bass players as Neil Pert of Rush is to drummers, and the long haired dude on vocals.  The Who would be, and have been the first to admit that their strength wasn't making records, it was their live show.  Never was this more apparent than on this 1970 recording.  The Who was in amazing form, playing with the kind of raw aggression that made them famous. The first time I heard "Young Man Blues" I was 12 years old; I don't care what the teacher said about hormones, that experience changed me.  This album is also significant for it's early versions of some songs from "Tommy," and the extended version of "Magic Bus" featured in the opening sequence of "Jerry Maguire."  If, like me, you were too young to see the Who in their prime, this seriously heavy, newly remastered and expanded edition of Live at Leeds is a must for your collection. 

8)    What Doesn't Kill Us:  fathead 
 
        On the local tip, here's the latest release from Philly hip-hoppy-funky-jazzy 8-piece juggernaut, fathead.  One of the premiere live acts on the scene, this live album is notable for its energy and complex orchestration.  fathead earned themselves a spot on the prestigious Horde festival where they were surely able to convert yet new legions to their family of fans.  fathead is young, talented, and poised for a charge at stardom, check them out while they're still around.

9)     Skylarking:  XTC
 
            The year was 1986, Bon Jovi releases Slippery When Wet which goes on to sell 12 million records in the US ushering in the regrettable era of cheese metal and hair bands.  And in this corner, a classic album, perhaps the swan song of New Wave and the birth of alternative music.  Skylarking is a remarkable collection of songs and moods from the most influential band you've never heard of.  Along with New Order, XTC virtually defined a sound that found mainstream acceptance in acts like Depeche Mode and the Pet Shop Boys.  No matter what you think of the other acts, this is a magnificent album, named as one of the top 50 of all time by radio station WXPN.  Like many great albums, Skylarking is best appreciated in its entirely; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  The chilling and heretical, "Dear God" is perhaps the most unforgettable track, but brilliant compositions appear throughout.

10)    The Very Best of Elvis Costello and the Attractions
 
            Finally, I'm not normally one to promote Greatest Hit albums.  I usually prefer to listen to albums put together in the way the artist intended.  However, this is just too strong to leave off.  Elvis Costello is a brilliant songwriter and musician and this record reflects his genius well as well as that of producer Nick Lowe.  Most all of the classics of the Rykodisk era are included here, "Allison," "What's so Funny About Peace Love and Understanding" "Oliver's Army," "Everyday I Write the Book" and many, many more.  My personal favorite is the funky and lyrically ambiguous, "Chelsea (I don't want to go)".  Not all of the albums on the above list are for everybody's taste, this one is pretty damn close. INDISPENSABLE

 

Comments or Suggestions for future picks?
 
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