Monday, August 01, 2005




(well, at least ones that I can’t be without)

Caveat --- My music collection is a lot larger than this, and a lot more varied. My tastes change with my moods; one day I’ll need to blow out my ears with in-your-face rock, the next day I’ll want to zone out with some Gregorian Chant. So, this is certainly not a definitive list. And although I cover a wide enough range of years and styles, the bulk of CDs come within the mid-70s-to-mid-90s timeframe. You will recognize many of the artists, yet these are not quite your typical selections. Anyway, here’s the list. It’s subject to change at any moment. But (for the time being) this list (such as it is) is mine, so… whatever.

The 20 CDs you should not be without (in no particular order):

1. Jude Cole ~ A View From 3rd Street (A troubadour’s troubadour, he’s put out five CDs… this one being his second release. It’s his best because it’s so raw compared to his later works. I had this on cassette for years and worn the darn thing out. “Baby, It’s Tonight” was his one big hit, but it’s preceded by a better song entitled “Hallowed Ground,” and I still get chills when listening to “This Time It’s Us”.

2. Crowded House ~ Recurring Dream (Okay, I’m cheating a bit with this one. But I couldn’t choose from their four releases, nor from Neil Finn’s solo works. I’ve seen these guys in concert four times. These guys are tunesmiths. Period. So, get this “best of” collection. And make sure it has the extra “Live” CD. It has the best live performance of my favorite song, “When You Come”!!! Sad side note: In case you weren’t aware, a couple months ago the happy-go-lucky former drummer, Paul Hester, ended his long battle with severe depression by committing suicide.)

3. The Rembrandts ~ Untitled (Most people know these guys as the duo who wrote and sang the theme song to the TV show “Friends”. This second release of theirs has their hit “Johnny, Have You Seen Her” on it. These guys just write great little tunes. Nothing pretentious, just well-crafted material through and through.)

4. Sass Jordan ~ Rats (This tiny little Canadian femme just plain kicks ass on this CD! Stevie Salas on guitars. A George Clinton cameo. Her two best releases are “Racine” and this CD. “Rats” is the strongest of them all. It will knock you out just how good this really is. She puts Melissa Etheridge to shame.)

5. k.d. lang ~ Ingénue (A complete opposite to Ms. Jordan, k.d. lang has a voice like no other. This is probably her most popular CD with “Constant Craving” as the big hit. Forget her lifestyle and her politics, just listen to that wonderful voice.)

6. dada ~ Puzzle (Their debut CD – unfortunately - being their best, this power trio from Santa Monica are able to fill out a sound like few trios can. Clever lyrics are interlaced with rockin’ musicianship.)

7. Paul Carrack ~ Blue Views (The “Voice”. You know him as the lead singer from the classic 70s hit “How Long” by the band Ace. He also sang Squeeze’s biggest hit “Tempted” as well as Mike The Mechanics “Living Years” and “Silent Running”. This solo CD from the mid-90s is pure Carrack at his vocal best. It includes a remake of “How Long” as well as his rendition of the Eagles hit “Love Will Keep Us Alive” – which he wrote, by the way.)

8. Henry Lee Summer ~ Debut (I just like this guy. It’s his best CD, and it includes another of my favorite songs with haunting lyrics - “Just Another Day”.)

9. Farmdogs ~ Last Stand In Open Country (I’m a big Elton John fan… well, actually I was. His best years were from 1969 to 1976. His second best period was from 1980 to 1989. Unfortunately, his stuff after he went sober [post-1990] just plain sucks, in my opinion. I really couldn’t choose from his early period. And I’ve overdosed on listening to his stuff over the years. So I choose something from his close associate – his main writing partner, Bernie Taupin. The lyricist extraordinaire. Bernie is not only the co-songwriter of this band, he’s also the lead singer! The Farmdogs only released two CDs in the 90s; this being the first and the best. Songs like “Shameless”, “Color Bar”, “Barstool”, “Bone Of Contention”, “In Paradise” and of course the title track will keep you gripped to the fine story-telling in a folky/countryish style.)

10. The Doobie Brothers ~ Living On The Fault Line (Yeah, you know the Doobie Brothers. But this jazzy album is filled to the brim with great songs: “Little Darlin’”, “Nothing But A Heartache”, Echoes Of Love”, “You Belong To Me”, You’re Made That Way” and of course the title track. Just great, great stuff.)

11. Journey ~ Evolution (This band is both overrated and underrated. But I love ‘em. Steve Perry’s vocals are beyond compare. Add to it the incredible musicianship of Neal Schon, Steve Smith, Ross Valory and Greg Rolie. This being the last album with this lineup of band mates, it’s probably their best work. The soaring guitar work and piercing vocals in the opening track “Majestic/Too Late” sets the tone. I love it. You don’t? Tough!)

12. Toto ~ Mindfields (These guys are consummate musicians. There resumes as individuals will boggle your mind. Severely underrated. Rather than choosing from their early work, I choose “Mindfields” because it’s recent [1999] and it has their original lead vocalist, Bobby Kimball, back at center stage. Almost all the tunes are well-crafted. Give it a listen and be surprised at what you’ve missed.)

13. The Manhattans ~ Greatest Hits (You’ve got to have some R&B, right? But not Motown, or Atlantic/Stax. Instead, I’ve chosen The Manhattans. They just have that sound, you know what I mean? That “it” sound. Songs like “Shining Star” and “Kiss, And Say Goodbye”. Classic stuff that never grows old.)

14. Tony Bennett ~ Jazz (It’s a CBS Records Double LP Collection. It’s filled with atypical fare as compared to the usual Tony Bennett material: “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”, “Solitude”, “Give Me The Simple Life”, and one of my favorites… his rendition of “Close Your Eyes”… awesome! You should compare his rendition of “Sweet Lorraine” to that of Nat King Cole. Two greats who deliver that song in different ways and they both sound great.)

15. David Sanborn & Bob James ~ Double Vision (This album is an extremely sensual piece of work. Al Jarreau sings incredibly on "Since I Fell For You", with the remaining CD being all instrumental. It's nearly 20 years old, and it still holds up pretty well. And Sanborn's sax has a warmer tone than on much of his other CDs. "Moontune" is very enticing.)

16. Grover Washington, Jr. ~ Winelight (This is classic GWJr! Very smooth and soulful contemporary jazz saxophone. And he's from my home town of Philadelphia. This one is definitely his best work. Just like the Sanborn selection, this CD is all instrumental except for the hit song "Just The Two Of Us" with Bill Withers on vocals. Released 25 years ago. It could've been released today.)

17. Big Tent Revival ~ Amplifier (From my Contemporary Christian Music [CCM] collection, these guys [with Steve Wiggins at the helm] are top-notch. It rocks! It’s got clever lyrics set to great music. “Lovely Mausoleum” is hauntingly effective. And there are several “hidden” tracks at the end of the CD. The best is a great rocker called “Rivalry”. I love this CD!)

18. Out Of The Grey ~ Remember This (Another selection from the CCM genre. Female vocalist with pop sensibilities. Well-crafted songs that don’t preach, yet still get the message across very effectively. I can listen to “All I Need” over and over again and again.)

19. Al Stewart ~ Modern Times (Early Stewart, here. This is the album right before his breakout hit “Year of the Cat”. I remember listening to my brother’s old LP when I was much younger. This guy is a storyteller like no other. I’ve always come back to this album. It’s always been my favorite of his. Not a bad song in the lot. It’s all great. The title track is just… just... wow.)

20. Jim Croce ~ The Definitive Collection (With this collection you get all but two songs from his three major label releases, before his untimely demise in ’73 from a plane crash. You also get a good selection of earlier material; both solo works and duets with his wife, Ingrid. He’s an Italian Philly troubadour who graduated from Villanova University [my alma mater]. And one of my high school teachers used to play keyboards with him back in the 60’s. This guy is much greater than the “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” song he’s known for. His songs will make you laugh and cry and nod your head and dream and smile.)

Honorable Mention: Sky ~ Sky2 (Double-LP) (Okay… I don’t have this on CD, only on vinyl, and my record player died quite a few years ago. So I only have a well-worn tape copy of my vinyl LP (their second release). Relatively unknown, these classically trained musicians are: classical guitarist John Williams, keyboardist Francis Monkman, drummer Tristan Fry, guitarist Kevin Peek, bassist Herbie Flowers. It merges classical, jazz and rock music unlike anything that you’ve ever quite heard before. If I ever found this on CD I’d buy it in a split second just to get the piece titled “Sahara”. I’ve never heard an instrumental piece become so vividly visual in my mind’s eye. That tune is a work of art.)

That’s it. For now. As of this moment. Stuff I’d highly recommend. Music I love, groove to, zone out, jam and jiggle to, mellow into, dance romantically, sing completely off key at full blare while driving down the highway with the windows wide open, with the steering wheel as my drum set, keyboard, guitar and bass. It makes yah feel good. That’s all that matters, right?!

So… GO! Now! Buy! Listen! Argue! Make up your own Top-20! Post your comments and suggestions below.


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Gill said...

I am so pleased you put Jude Cole at number one, I love that album :)