Tuesday, July 8, 2014

MY TOP 200 ALL-TIME FAVORITE ALBUMS (2014 REVISED EDITION)


     When I began blogging The Recordchanger in September of 2011, my seventh post was a list of my all-time favorite top 200 albums. I thought if I was going to write about music in a blog, readers should have some idea where my musical tastes lie. So I decided to revise a list I’d made twenty years prior, but had never revisited. I posted the list and almost nobody looked at it. It garnered one of the lowest “hit” totals for any piece I’ve ever posted here. But over the past three years, my tastes have continued to evolve. I’m able to listen to more music than I’ve been able to listen to since I was in my teens, but my collection and my frame of reference has expanded a thousand fold since then. Since this is not a list of the best or the most important or the most influential records of all-time, but rather just a list of personal favorites, it continues to evolve as my tastes and listening habits evolve. Nearly three years have passed since I posted that first list, and it seemed to beg for an update. Whether anyone bothers to look at it this time is open to speculation, but I’m posting it anyway because music is the primary business of this blog, and this list is representative of where my head is musically in 2014.
     The original list has been deleted, but to give you some context I’ll begin by giving you a list of the 36 records that fell off the list in the past three years, and try to provide a brief explanation as to why. I’ve also placed an asterisk behind each of the titles that are new to the list. Some records retained the same placing as last time, some went up the list, while others fell. The biggest change in this list from the 2011 list is that this one includes all genres of music. The 2001 list did not include any jazz or country music. This one does – although not as many titles made the list as you might’ve guessed since rock has always been, and remains my favorite music.
     The list still reflects a bias towards the music of the 1960’s and 1970’s, but there are more records than before from the late 70’s and 80’s than previously. A lot of artists I love and listen to all the time are not represented at all because I listen to tracks or collections by those artists rather than any specific individual album. Compilation albums are excluded because they are, by their nature, a different artistic concept than an album of original recordings conceived as a piece representative of a specific period in an artist’s career. (In fact, many compilations are issued with little or no input from the artist at all.)
     At some time in the future, I’ll probably revise the list again as necessary. But in the meantime, this list is representative of my tastes now.
__________

     Let’s begin with the list of records that fell out of my Top 200 since 2011 (the number before the title shows where the album placed in 2011). An explanation follows as to why these records dropped off the list.

     Deleted

     33. Northern Lights-Southern Cross – The Band (1975)
     39. The Yes Album – Yes (1971)
     69. Live At Leeds – The Who (1970)
     74. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1962)
     86. Fragile – Yes (1972)
     98. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere – Neil Young & Crazy Horse (1969)
   103. Every Picture Tells A Story – Rod Stewart (1971)
   107. Blue – Joni Mitchell (1971)
   112. Disraeli Gears – Cream (1967)
   113. Crown of Creation – Jefferson Airplane (1968)
   127. Raw Power – Iggy & the Stooges (1973)
   129. Time Fades Away – Neil Young (1973)
   130. John Wesley Harding – Bob Dylan (1968)
   133. Blind Faith (1969)
   150. 4 Way Street – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (1971)
   151. Synchronicity – The Police (1983)
   153. If I Could Only Remember My Name – David Crosby (1971)
   156. The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars – David Bowie
         (1972)
   158. Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969)
   160. Scarecrow – John Cougar Mellencamp (1985)
   161. Free (1969)
   162. Captain Beyond (1972)
   163. Gorilla – James Taylor (1975)
   164. Harvest Moon – Neil Young (1992)
   165. Déjà Vu – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (1970)
   166. Eric Clapton (1970)
   175. Volunteers – Jefferson Airplane (1969)
   178. Performance-Rockin’ The Fillmore – Humble Pie (1970)
   183. Spooky Two – Spooky Tooth (1969)
   186. Songs For A Tailor – Jack Bruce (1969)
   194. Country Life – Roxy Music (1974)
   195. Marquee Moon – Television (1977)
   196. Wind & Wuthering – Genesis (1976)
   198. Stranded – Roxy Music (1973)
   199. By The Light of the Moon – Los Lobos (1987)
          *Revolver (US) and Yesterday and Today (US) - The Beatles (see explanation below)

     These are all very fine records that failed to make the revised list, and that’s not necessarily a reflection of the quality of these records as much as it is a reflection of my own changing tastes and preferences. In the case of The Band’s Northern Lights-Southern Cross, for example, I found myself playing about half of it regularly, but not the rest of it. When I wanted to hear The Band, I reached for Music From Big Pink and The Basement Tapes (with Bob Dylan) far more often. The Yes titles that fell off were replaced by the live Yessongs album that contains every key title from each of those two records, and is the one I listen to most often. Collectively, and as individuals, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young dropped seven titles from the 2011 list. I’ve lived with all these records for a very long time, but the decline is a reflection of my weariness with the four of them as a group and as individual artists – especially Neil Young. Neil Young and Stephen Stills are still represented on this new list, but Crosby, Nash, and the band are not. I still listen to my favorite tracks by each, but the albums don’t give me the same buzz they once did. Maybe that will change again at some point, but the simplest explanation is that they’ve fallen out of favor with me at the moment. The Who have also fallen out of favor with me. They’re still represented, but Live At Leeds is not a record I’ve wanted to listen to much in recent years. Rod Stewart is another artist whose songs I listen to more than complete albums these days. Joni Mitchell’s Blue was bumped due to fatigue, but her Mingus made the list for the first time. The records by Cream, Jefferson Airplane, and Blind Faith were casualties of fatigue as well, but in Cream’s case, Disraeli Gears was trumped by Wheels of Fire – a record I still play, and the Airplane are represented by Surrealistic Pillow (Top 20). I love that one and listen to it complete, but tend to cherry pick favorite tracks from the rest of their catalog. The titles by Bowie, Free, Captain Beyond, Eric Clapton, Humble Pie, Spooky Tooth, and Jack Bruce lost out to newer favorites. Bowie, for example, is an artist I listen to as often as I always did, but I favor his Berlin period a bit more now than his glam-era work. The others were holdovers from my FM radio days, and while I still enjoy them and play them sometimes, there are other records I play more often that earned a spot on the list. At the end of the day, any list of this sort is all about making choices. I recently listened again to the entire Bob Dylan catalog, and that prompted a re-evaluation of his work that caused some changes in this list. There were several Dylan albums I considered this time that just missed (Infidels, for example). I’m moving more towards Dylan’s later music these days. Iggy & The Stooges Raw Power was a victim of the re-evaluation I gave their earlier Fun House record following Rhino’s boxed set of the Fun House sessions. I decided I like Fun House better and I ran out of list before I could get to Raw Power – still a record I love. Synchronicity by The Police was bumped in favor of their Ghost In The Machine. I revisited both records since the previous list, and I prefer ‘Ghost’. John Mellencamp fell victim to the individual tracks syndrome – though Scarecrow has more of them than any of his other records. And James Taylor’s Gorilla got nowhere near the playing time his Sweet Baby James or Very Best Of collection did – though I still think it’s a superb piece of work. Roxy Music is a band I listen to more often by songs rather than whole albums. The same is also true for Los Lobos. Television’s Marquee Moon album fell off for the same reason The Band’s ‘Northern Lights’ album did – I spin a few of the tracks all the time, and the others rarely. The Genesis record just missed the cut because of all the new titles from other genres.

     *One other note: when I compiled the 2011 list, I was listening to the U.S. editions of The Beatles catalog, and used those the majority of the time with the exception of Help and A Hard Day’s Night whose UK editions are all Beatles programs without the scores from those films. This time, however, I elected to simply choose the best title available, and that led me to include the UK edition of Revolver instead of the US version. It also allowed me to delete the US only Yesterday & Today album as its tracks are included on both the UK Revolver and UK Help albums.

__________

     Here, then, is the revised edition of my favorites list. The most important factor in where each album ranked is in its playability. If it’s a record I go back to again and again and play from start to finish, then it’s stood the test of time and deserves its place. I hope you see some things that make you want to further investigate some music you might have neglected or overlooked. ~ The Recordchanger

    
MY TOP 200 FAVORITE ALBUMS OF ALL-TIME

    1. All Things Must Pass – George Harrison (1970)
    2. Close To The Edge – Yes (1972)
    3. Help (UK) – The Beatles (1965)
    4. The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle – Bruce Springsteen (1973)
    5. Blood On The Tracks – Bob Dylan (1975)
    6. Sticky Fingers – Rolling Stones (1971)
    7. Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd (1973)
    8. L.A. Woman – The Doors (1971)
    9. Aftermath (US) – Rolling Stones (1966)
  10. That’s Why God Made The Radio (Vinyl Version) – The Beach Boys (2012)*
  11. Revolver (UK) – The Beatles (1966)*
  12. A Tribute To Jack Johnson – Miles Davis (1971)*
  13. The Who By Numbers – The Who (1975)
  14. Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys (1966)
  15. Kind of Blue – Miles Davis (1959)*
  16. Surrealistic Pillow – Jefferson Airplane (1967)
  17. A Hard Day’s Night (UK) – The Beatles (1964)
  18. Bitches Brew – Miles Davis (1970)*
  19. The Division Bell – Pink Floyd (1994)
  20. III – Led Zeppelin (1970)
  21. Heavy Weather – Weather Report (1977)*
  22. Pat Metheny Group (1978)*
  23. Layla – Derek & The Dominos (1970)
  24. Exile On Main St. – Rolling Stones (1972)
  25. Live at Fillmore East – The Allman Brothers Band (1971)
  26. Born To Run – Bruce Springsteen (1975)
  27. The Rolling Stones Now! – Rolling Stones (1965)
  28. The Doors (1967)
  29. Abbey Road – The Beatles (1969)
  30. The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)
  31. A1A – Jimmy Buffett (1974)
  32. Surf’s Up – Beach Boys (1971)
  33. Astral Weeks – Van Morrison (1969)
  34. Out of Our Heads (US) – Rolling Stones (1965)
  35. Rust Never Sleeps – Neil Young & Crazy Horse (1979)
  36. Africa/Brass – John Coltrane (1961)*
  37. Highway 61 Revisited – Bob Dylan (1965)
  38. Teaser & the Firecat – Cat Stevens (1971)
  39. Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, Jones, Ltd. – The Monkees (1967)
  40. Beggar’s Banquet – Rolling Stones (1968)
  41. Aja – Steely Dan (1977)
  42. Forever Changes – Love (1968)
  43. Seventh Sojourn – Moody Blues (1972)
  44. (Untitled) (4th) – Led Zeppelin (1971)
  45. My Favorite Things – John Coltrane (1961)*
  46. The Hissing of Summer Lawns – Joni Mitchell (1975)
  47. Sweet Baby James – James Taylor (1970)
  48. Tea For The Tillerman – Cat Stevens (1970)
  49. Desperado – The Eagles (1973)
  50. Let It Bleed – Rolling Stones (1969)
  51. On The Road To Freedom – Alvin Lee & Mylon LeFevre (1973)
  52. Heartbreaker – Free (1972)
  53. Willy & the Poor Boys – Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969)
  54. Days of Future Passed – Moody Blues (1967)
  55. Meet The Beatles – The Beatles (1964)
  56. One Fair Summer Evening – Nanci Griffith (1988)*
  57. Selling England By The Pound – Genesis (1973)
  58. Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel (1970)
  59. Holland – Beach Boys (1973)
  60. Setting Sons – The Jam (1979)
  61. The Basement Tapes – Bob Dylan & The Band (1975)
  62. Can’t Buy A Thrill – Steely Dan (1972)
  63. The Captain & Me – Doobie Brothers (1973)
  64. Making Movies – Dire Straits (1980)
  65. Beautiful Vision – Van Morrison (1982)
  66. The Dream of the Blue Turtles – Sting (1985)
  67. Who’s Next – The Who (1971)
  68. Idlewild South – Allman Brothers Band (1970)
  69. Moondance – Van Morrison (1970)
  70. The Beatles’ Second Album (1964)
  71. The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys – Traffic (1971)
  72. Allman Brothers Band (1969)
  73. Tupelo Honey – Van Morrison (1971)
  74. Beatles ’65 – The Beatles (1964)
  75. …Presenting The Fabulous Ronettes featuring Veronica (1964)*
  76. Peter Gabriel (3rd) (1980)
  77. Wheels of Fire – Cream (1968)
  78. In The Court of the Crimson King – King Crimson (1969)
  79. Something/Anything? – Todd Rundgren (1972)
  80. The Royal Scam – Steely Dan (1976)
  81. Chuck Berry Is On Top (1959)
  82. Young Americans – David Bowie (1974)
  83. The Way It Is – Bruce Hornsby & The Range (1986)
  84. First Circle – Pat Metheny Group (1984)*
  85. Electric Ladyland – Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968)
  86. Heroes – David Bowie (1977)*
  87. Pretzel Logic – Steely Dan (1974)
  88. Visions of the Emerald Beyond – Mahavishnu Orchestra (1975)*
  89. Made In Japan – Deep Purple (1973)
  90. Will O’ The Wisp – Leon Russell (1975)
  91. 461 Ocean Boulevard – Eric Clapton (1974)
  92. Band On The Run – Paul McCartney & Wings (1973)
  93. Green River - Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969)
  94. Yessongs – Yes (1973)*
  95. Where Have I Known You Before – Return To Forever (1974)*
  96. Dusty In Memphis – Dusty Springfield (1969)
  97. Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory – Traffic (1973)
  98. Strange Days – The Doors (1967)
  99. In The Wake of Poseidon – King Crimson (1970)*
100. Rock ‘N’ Roll Animal – Lou Reed (1974)
101. Manassas – Stephen Stills & Manassas (1972)
102. Fifth Dimension – The Byrds (1966)
103. Buffalo Springfield Again (1967)
104. Blow By Blow – Jeff Beck (1975)
105. Music From Big Pink – The Band (1968)
106. The Early Beatles (1964)
107. It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll – Rolling Stones (1974)
108. Odessey & Oracle – The Zombies (1969)
109. What’s Goin’ On – Marvin Gaye (1971)
110. On The Border – The Eagles (1974)
111. Blow Your Cool – Hoodoo Gurus (1987)
112. Orange Crate Art – Brian Wilson & Van Dyke Parks (1995)
113. Liars – Todd Rundgren (2004)
114. Desire – Bob Dylan (1976)
115. On The Beach – Neil Young (1974)
116. Some Girls – Rolling Stones (1978)
117. Tim – The Replacements (1985)
118. Sound Affects – The Jam (1980)
119. Howlin’ Wind – Graham Parker & The Rumour (1976)
120. I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You – Aretha Franklin (1967)
121. Mysterious Traveler – Weather Report (1974)*
122. Voice of America – Little Steven (1984)
123. Brain Salad Surgery – Emerson, Lake & Palmer (1973)
124. Harvest – Neil Young (1972)
125. Bayou Country – Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969)
126. Dreaming My Dreams – Waylon Jennings (1975)*
127. Afro Blue Impressions – John Coltrane (1977)*
128. One Live Badger – Badger (1972)
129. Heart Like A Wheel – Linda Ronstadt (1974)
130. 80/81 – Pat Metheny (1980)*
131. Valley Hi – Ian Matthews (1973)
132. 12X5 – Rolling Stones (1964)
133. In Concert: Live At Philharmonic Hall – Miles Davis (1973)*
134. Robbie Robertson (1987)
135. Bridge of Sighs – Robin Trower (1974)
136. Black Market – Weather Report (1976)*
137. Bad Co. – Bad Company (1974)
138. Tattoo – Rory Gallagher (1973)
139. Darkness On The Edge of Town – Bruce Springsteen (1978)
140. Ram – Paul & Linda McCartney (1971)
141. Stand Up – Jethro Tull (1969)
142. Vol. 4 – Black Sabbath (1972)
143. Cosmos’ Factory – Creedence Clearwater Revival (1970)
144. Other Voices, Other Rooms – Nanci Griffith (1993)*
145. He’s A Rebel – The Crystals (1963)*
146. Quadrophenia – The Who (1973)
147. Bare Trees – Fleetwood Mac (1972)
148. Joe Cocker! (1969)
149. McCartney – Paul McCartney (1970)
150. After The Gold Rush – Neil Young (1970)
151. Master of Reality – Black Sabbath (1971)
152. Red – King Crimson (1974)*
153. Superfly – Curtis Mayfield (1972)*
154. Sunflower – The Beach Boys (1970)
155. Eat A Peach – Allman Brothers Band (1972)
156. Physical Graffiti – Led Zeppelin (1975)
157. Rock ‘N’ Roll – John Lennon (1975)
158. Pirates – Rickie Lee Jones (1981)
159. Paranoid – Black Sabbath (1971)
160. Santana (1969)
161. Are You Experienced – Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967)
162. Younger Than Yesterday – The Byrds (1967)
163. Benefit – Jethro Tull (1970)
164. Trilogy – Emerson, Lake & Palmer (1972)
165. The Pretender – Jackson Browne (1976)
166. Blonde On Blonde – Bob Dylan (1966)
167. Rickie Lee Jones (1979)
168. Discipline – King Crimson (1981)*
169. You Broke My Heart So I Busted Your Jaw – Spooky Tooth (1972)
170. Madman Across The Water – Elton John (1971)
171. Aqualung – Jethro Tull (1971)
172. Moving Pictures – Rush (1981)
173. Aladdin Sane – David Bowie (1973)
174. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John (1973)
175. Led Zeppelin (1st) (1969)
176. Bringing It All Back Home – Bob Dylan (1965)
177. Muswell Hillbillies – The Kinks (1971)*
178. Hard Again – Muddy Waters (1977)
179. Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols – The Sex Pistols (1977)
180. Learning To Crawl – Pretenders (1984)
181. Go For Your Guns – The Isley Brothers (1977)*
182. Live – Bob Marley & The Wailers (1975)
183. Hard Promises – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (1981)
184. We’re An American Band – Grand Funk Railroad (1973)
185. Ghost In The Machine – The Police (1981)*
186. A New World Record – Electric Light Orchestra (1976)
187. Mingus – Joni Mitchell (1979)*
188. Don’t Cry Now – Linda Ronstadt (1973)
189. FM/Live – Climax Blues Band (1973)
190. Fun House – The Stooges (1970)*
191. Sign Of The Times – Prince (1987)*
192. Feats Don’t Fail Me Now – Little Feat (1974)
193. Wired – Jeff Beck (1976)
194. All Mod Cons – The Jam (1978)
195. Prisoner In Disguise – Linda Ronstadt (1975)
196. The Joshua Tree – U2 (1987)
197. Hearts of Stone – Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes (1978)
198. This Is The Modern World – The Jam (1977)
199. Houses of the Holy – Led Zeppelin (1973)*
200. Low – David Bowie (1977)*


Sunday, June 29, 2014

THE FREE THINKER NO. 16

In this edition: 
   Power Down
   My Writing Guru
   Detective Work
   The Paisley 
    Underground 
    Resurfaces

__________


Power Down

     Last night we had what, in the years ahead, I’ll be referring to as the thunderstorm of the century. Trees were uprooted or turned on their sides, buckets of rain fell from the sky, and winds were tornado, if not hurricane, force. It was all over in 15 minutes, and when it was, a peace descended upon the house, the sun came up one more time to escort the moon to its place for the fall of night and I settled in front of the television to quell the adrenalin that had flowed while the storm threatened. Fifty-five minutes passed, and I heard an explosion in the distance and we lost our power.
     Eighteen hours later, and running on maybe three hours sleep in the past thirty-four, I sit at my computer keyboard trying to pass the time while listening to the Beach Boys on the portable, battery-powered CD player I bought when we had the infamous power outage of ’09 when we were without for 8 full days. I went to work this morning, and did a six-hour shift before coming home to a warm, muggy house. I ventured out to buy some ice for the cooler that now held what was left of the food in the refrigerator my wife had just bought yesterday. The ice cream and popsicles in the freezer melted, and they’re out in the garbage awaiting pickup tomorrow. I suspect more food will follow.
     The pump in the basement runs on electricity, and when we lost power the water poured in. We were luckier than our neighbors, though, both of whom had standing water and lots of ruined stuff to sacrifice to the gods of refuse. I’m trying to cope. I did a bit of reading after I got home, changing locations several times to get close to any window where there might be a breeze coming in. But, in spite of the length of time, it was easier in ’09. That was a September and we happened to get eight of the most beautiful days of the year while our power was out. It was in the low 70’s during the day with a nice breeze, and little humidity. At night it cooled into the fifties rendering the house livable all night and into the next day. But I don’t like the heat and humidity. And if the storms predicted for tonight return with the force we saw last night, we’ll be forced to close the windows. The basement stays cool, but I can’t swim, and I don’t fancy drowning.
     Dayton, Power & Light is out cutting trees down again to free lines brought down in the storm, and they’ve enlisted help from Kentucky. We can’t get an ETA on our missing power, but they assured us they can do nothing until the trees are cut and the lines freed. So we could be in for a long ride, and storms are in the forecast every day this week.
     What makes me angry is our dependence on electricity. I can read by daylight because I still own actual books. And I can run a CD or cassette player on batteries for awhile, but not a turntable which I prefer.
_____

     (At this point, I got a message on my computer screen warning me that I’d better save my work because my computer was nearly out of battery power, and would be dead in the next minute if I did not hook it up to an energy source. I saved what I’d written and closed the top and went back downstairs to sweat. Three hours later our power was again up and running. And it’s been on ever since. So let me finish my thought.)
_____

     The first I’d heard of global warning was in the 1970’s during the Ford (or maybe it was the Carter) administration. I thought to myself that if we’d reacted then to the information we’d been given, I might be living in a solar powered house now, free of the dependence on artificial energy. And these “weather events” (as the media now refers to them) that appear to be the result of the damage we’ve done to our own environment could only threaten my life and not my comfort. It seems as if the message is finally beginning to sink in, and government appears to be taking its first baby steps towards dealing with global warming. But it’s too late now. We waited far too long. The damage is done, and the fallout is just beginning. We’re in for a helluva ride in the foreseeable future. Most of the predictions I’ve seen expect some sort of serious catastrophe or reckoning by the end of the century. If that’s accurate, it means a child born now could still be alive to see it unfold – and that’s assuming it doesn’t happen sooner which it certainly could (and probably will).
     So when my power goes out – for even a short time – it makes me angry for a variety of reasons, and not all of it has to do with the humidity.

__________

My Writing Guru

     So that’s how the week began. Since then it’s been business as usual around here. I’ve been desperately trying to catch up on a stack of magazines I hadn’t read while I was trying to get some books read this year. I’ve got issues of Record Collector (which I read mostly cover-to-cover) with entire sections still untouched. The new Ugly Things arrived jammed with articles I couldn’t wait to read, too. But I felt the pull of my library again, and from there I emerged the other day with a collection of essays on jazz written by Ralph J. Gleason, Celebrating the Duke and Louie, Bessie, Billie, Bird, Carmen, Miles, Dizzy & Others (1975). It appeared the year Gleason died. I’ve had the book on my shelf for decades now. I was saving it for the right time because I knew there wouldn’t be another Gleason book. 

     I began reading Ralph J. Gleason’s work in the pages of the magazine he co-founded with Jann Wenner in 1967, Rolling Stone. Gleason had been a music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, and while jazz was his first love, he also wrote about folk and pop and was a supporter of the late 60’s rock scene in San Francisco that birthed bands like Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Big Brother & the Holding Co. Gleason also wrote liner notes, and was one of the founders of the Monterey Jazz Festival. He had a television show called Jazz Casual that ran on PBS for eight seasons. There’s a book award named for him, and I could probably write an entire piece about his work and accomplishments.
     The reason he matters to me is that he was the very first jazz critic I ever read. When I began reading Rolling Stone in 1973, I’d never seen a jazz magazine, and still didn’t own a jazz record. In the pages of Rolling Stone, Gleason wrote of the jazz greats he loved, but he also wrote about the Airplane, and Janis and the rest of the scene of which Rolling Stone was an integral part. He had an intimate, conversational writing style. He was never judgmental. He seemed to only write about the music and the people he loved, and in that way, he was atypical – especially as jazz critics go. Most of them are notorious snobs – as I later discovered when I began reading Down Beat magazine. But as Studs Terkel pointed out about his friend, Ralph, in the forward to this book, Gleason never forgot that he was a fan first. That comment resonated with me when I read it, and by the time I finished the book’s lengthy opening essay – not having read Gleason at all since he passed away in 1975 – I realized something I hadn’t realized before. More than any other writer I’ve read, he’s influenced my own writing style.
     When I began to write seriously, the biggest hurdle I encountered was discovering my writing voice. Who was I? How would I read on the page? Would people hear me or hear a variety of disconnected voices? It was very important to me to find my own voice and my own style very early on. So I asked myself what kind of writer I wanted to be, and what I wanted to accomplish. Keep in mind this all happened more than 30 years after I’d last read Ralph Gleason in the pages of Rolling Stone. My earliest attempts were somewhat awkward and unsuccessful. But working within the guiding principles of writing for the pleasure of writing, and trying to convey to readers my great passion for all types of music, I gradually got a little better, and the voice for which I was searching emerged, and it’s been with me ever since. It’s only in reading Ralph J. Gleason again that I realized that, subconsciously at least, I was trying to do what Gleason did – convey my love and passion for music with the sole purpose of spreading its gospel to anyone who would listen. When I read Gleason, I can see my own writing style in his. As a writer, on my best day, I could never hold a candle to Gleason. But his influence and his attitudes about music are all over my best work, and I didn’t even realize it until I began reading him again in the pages of this book. When I’d get each new issue of Rolling Stone, it was Gleason’s column to which I’d first turn. I read them and reread them. He taught me more about Miles Davis (who loved Gleason’s work, by the way) than any author I’ve ever read. And in two short years it was over. He died unexpectedly at the age of 58 – just a few months older than I am now.
     I wrote Rolling Stone a letter after he passed inquiring about a book of Gleason’s that was supposed to be published after his death. I’d assumed it was a collection of his Rolling Stone pieces to be published by Straight Arrow, the magazine’s book publishing concern at the time. I never received an answer, and I never saw any book until I stumbled upon this one in a used shop a few years later. I can only guess this was the book to which they were referring, but I think it’s tragic that the columns Gleason wrote for the magazine along with his pieces for The Chronicle, and the various liner notes he wrote for records through the years are now lost to the ages. Jann Wenner retained Gleason’s name on Rolling Stone’s masthead, but I think a greater tribute would’ve been to collect some of Gleason’s work and put it between covers where readers could always find it somewhere in the years to come. I don’t suppose we’ll ever see it now. Fortunately, though, I did find, about a year ago, a copy of Gleason’s book Jefferson Airplane and the San Francisco Sound published in 1969. That’s on my shelf waiting to be read, but I won’t wait so long this time. I can’t afford to. If anyone enjoys anything I write, I owe a debt to Ralph Gleason for making me a better writer. But his sudden passing at a relatively young age, reminds me that it isn’t a good idea to put off doing anything you really want to do. I feel lucky to have ever read him. If you haven’t, maybe you can find some of his work out there somewhere – even if it’s just on the back of a used record.

__________

Detective Work

     I’ve written a great deal in these pages about Norton Records, and since I last did, Miriam Linna, who runs the label with Billy Miller, has released her own record, Nobody’s Baby under the name ‘Miriam’. As of this writing, I’ve heard the first single, and sampled the rest of it, but I’ve been waiting to order it because the label just issued several other new titles, and there’s one which has been delayed that I was waiting for so I could do everything at once (and save the extra shipping costs – such is the state of my economy these days). In the meantime, however, my curiosity about Miriam’s record inspired me to do a bit of detective work. I knew the album was a collection of cover songs, but there wasn’t a single title on it that I could immediately recognize. That bugged me because my knowledge of the popular music of my lifetime is encyclopedic by any yardstick, and Miriam is roughly the same age as I am. As a label owner, I would assume she knows of and has heard countless things I’ve never come across. But to cut an entire album of songs I didn’t recognize? Well that was a bit much for my ego to take. So with nothing more than the titles in hand (no songwriting or publishing credits at all) I went to You Tube to try and search all dozen titles on Miriam’s album and figure out who’d done the originals and how Miriam knew of them when I didn’t.
     As it turned out, I did know a few of the tunes, and even owned a couple of them already. But they were obscure enough that the titles didn’t register when I first saw them. The problem I ran into was trying to sort through multiple different records with the same titles, and determine which of those Miriam had recorded for her album. After extensive searches, I tracked down 11 of the 12 songs on her new record in the original versions – versions I believe Miriam sourced for her album. I was able to verify my choices as correct when I sampled Miriam’s record on iTunes. I downloaded them, and sequenced them in the same order as Miriam had – omitting the one track I wasn’t able to find (perhaps it’s new and original, or previously unreleased?). And I listened to this various artists version of her album, and discovered something amazing. The album of songs, with nothing else to tie them together beyond some random period and stylistic similarities, and the fact that they were hand-picked by one person as favorites, actually works beautifully as a various artists collection of obscurities. The sequencing is perfect, and the collection I put together sounds like it belongs together. All of which is a roundabout way of saying Miriam did a brilliant job choosing material for her record, and presenting it in a way that reflects her own personal tastes. Not only did I gain some insight into who she is as an artist, I also gained some insight into why her record label is so good at doing what it does. It’s something I touched on in a previous piece in these pages, (Vinyl Obsessions posted earlier this month) that a collection, whether by a single artist or a variety of artists, can, when presented the right way, provide a unique and thrilling listening experience. There are some really great songs on Miriam’s record, and I’d not previously heard most of them. What a gift to come across 9 songs I’d never heard – most by artists of whom I was already a fan! I’ll have Miriam’s new record soon (available at nortonrecords.com on vinyl and CD and download from iTunes), and then I’ll have the opportunity to hear her work her own magic on these songs. In the meantime, I’m keeping my various artists collection of these songs as a companion piece. (By the way, this is a good example of the things I do when I’m in my music room. Sometimes I’m playing detective. Sometimes I’m just being a fan. But I’m always eager to listen.)

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The Paisley Underground Resurfaces

     My other music project recently was finding more music from the movement known as The Paisley Underground. The scene originated on the West Coast in the early eighties and was the name given to a group of bands with a penchant for 60’s influenced pop, garage and psychedelia, heavy on the guitar interplay and vocal harmonies. The scene included The Bangles, Dream Syndicate, The Long Ryders, Opal, Green On Red, Game Theory, The Three O’Clock, The Last, Rain Parade, The Plimsouls, True West, Wednesday Week and others. I knew of all of these bands during that period, and owned several of the records that came out of the scene. But it all passed far too soon, and I felt that it was a ripe subject for further research.
     It turns out there was a book written about the scene, Tell Me When It’s Over: The Paisley Underground Reconsidered by John L. Micek. But an extensive Internet search did not turn it up, so I searched some newspaper articles and blogs and put together a list of bands from the period I wanted to further explore. I was a fan during that time of several of those bands, but except for The Bangles, I had nothing on CD that I could add to my iTunes program and listen to on my iPod when I worked. It seems those original records have become scarce and collectible, and many of them are out-of-print. I was able to turn up a few reissues and compilations, and I’ve been adding them when I can afford to. I’ve managed to build a nice collection that’s representative at least of what the scene was all about. Here’s a short list of what I was able to turn up. If this sounds like your trip, I recommend further exploration. I’ve found it very satisfying, and a nice alternative to everything else I’ve been listening to lately. The compilations are representative and include a lot of rarities, while the live sets capture a bit of the atmosphere.

   The Best of The Long Ryders
   The Hidden World Revealed – The Three O’Clock
   Hollywood Holiday Revisited – True West
   Drifters – True West
   What We Had – Wednesday Week
   The Complete Live at Raji’s – Dream Syndicate
   The Day Before Wine and Roses – Dream Syndicate (This was just issued recently.
      It’s a live performance the band gave on radio the day before its debut LP, The
      Days of Wine and Roses was released, and has finally been properly released.)

   Be sure to track down Rain Parade, the early Bangles, Opal (if you can afford them), Green On Red, Mazzy Star and The Plimsouls. You should at least be able to hear some of these bands on YouTube.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

VINYL OBSESSIONS


     One of the earliest Recordchanger blog posts was a list of my all-time Top 200 favorite albums. But I did not include compilation albums or boxed sets in that list because they’re of a different nature. It’s taken me awhile, but I’ve finally gotten around to putting together a list of my favorite collections.
     Compilation albums go all the way back to the advent of the 12” long playing record. Many of the rock ‘n’ roll, and rhythm & blues albums of the 1950’s were collections of singles augmented in some cases with a couple of session recordings not issued on 45. Jazz labels that had issued 10” records began collecting those and reissuing them with other recordings on the longer 12” format. Decades later when the CD came along with it’s extended playing time, labels began issuing new compilations – including multi-disc boxed sets – to take advantage of the new digital technology, and seize the opportunity to increase profits by getting people to buy the same music on CD they’d already bought previously on vinyl.
     I think something valuable was lost in the evolution of all this technology. Compiling a collection of songs that accurately represent an artist’s body of work is an art. And these days it’s a lost art. There are collections issued by record labels on a weekly basis even today. The major labels, in many cases, retain the rights to reissue whatever material they originally secured the rights for, and now that we’ve entered the last chapter in the history of the record business as we knew it, the labels are trying to milk their back catalogs for as much cash as they can before the final collapse comes, and everyone is buying – or more likely – streaming music online only. In most cases, the collections you’re seeing now are the same collections you’ve been seeing for years, but with different cover art. In many instances, the labels don’t even bother to change the sequencing of the tracks. Sometimes they’ll add a lost track found in the vaults as bait for collectors and completists, or maybe ask the artists to record a new track to add to the collection, but most of the time they’re simply looking for a quick turnaround and some extra cash. And when it’s all down to streaming and downloading, the album as a conceptual piece will disappear altogether. People will buy and stream individual tracks rather than whole collections.
     It wasn’t always that way. When the business was thriving, record labels were very competitive. Getting a quality piece of product out into the marketplace was essential, and the labels had people in-house to design, and compile anthologies and greatest hits packages that would not only promote sales of an artist’s back catalog, but become best sellers in their own right, and in some cases, art. Those are the titles I want to spotlight in this piece.
     Many of the titles I chose from my own collection were never even reissued in the digital age. Many of them were deemed to be outdated, and irrelevant by then, so labels discarded the old collections and set about making new ones for the digital age. The few that were issued were mostly issued in the early days of the compact disc when labels were scrambling to get product into the marketplace as quickly as possible. But what was issued didn’t stay in print for long which is why those of us that retained our vinyl when many were converting to CD came to treasure some of those earlier compilations as important and valued additions to our collections.
     I use to play this game in my head where I was forced to choose 25 records from my collection that I could keep while having to forfeit the rest. It was a variation on the old desert island discs question. I would always choose compilation albums because they more accurately represented a favorite artist’s entire career rather than a single album that captured just a moment in that career.
     Below is a list of the 25 most indispensible compilation albums in my collection. With two exceptions, the list has not changed in more than 30 years. I’ve included some comments with each. And following the list of 25 is a list of three more compilation series done by various labels that have also become treasured additions to my record collection. And just to round this survey off to an even 30, I’ve included at the end, two CD’s I burned for my own listening pleasure that I think are worthy of the other titles listed here.

     25 Essential Collections

   1. A Rock ‘N’ Roll Collection – Buddy Holly (MCA) This two record set featured 24 of the greatest tracks by one of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest artists. The packaging was nothing special – gatefold sleeve with an artist’s rendering of Holly’s face done in miniatures of the same inside, and a track listing. It was also issued in what was known as “fake stereo” – mono recordings double tracked with echo added to simulate stereo. Capitol used it on the original U.S. Beatles catalog. At the time Decca issued this set, mono was looked down upon, so they used fake stereo. I remember rock critic Dave Marsh railing against that practice, and singling out this particular set as the worst example of it. But it was the first Buddy Holly record I owned. Every Buddy Holly record I’d ever heard was heard through a tinny sounding transistor radio, and the fake stereo used here sounded just like it. So for me, the fake stereo was a selling point. Of course these days I have a 50 track digital Holly set on CD in original mono, and it’s perfect in every way. But if I got to keep just one, I’ll take my 2 record set with the fake stereo.
   2. Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass) – The Rolling Stones (London) This standard 12 track greatest hits collection includes a photo booklet inside of the band in the RCA recording studios. There have been many countless Stones hits packages including the double Hot Rocks set that includes all of this set within its borders. But Big Hits is a snapshot of the band’s first success when they firmly established themselves as one of the greatest acts in the history of rock. It’s one masterpiece after another and it’s all over in 37 minutes. If we ever, god forbid, have a fire, once I’m certain my wife and dog are safe, I would be tempted to rush upstairs to my collection and save what I could from the flames. If that happened, this is the Stones record I’d reach for. (Now available with booklet on CD on the Abkco label.)
   3. The History of Eric Clapton – Eric Clapton (Atco) This collection remains, for me, the benchmark by which all other compilations should be judged. Issued in 1972 when labels were scrambling for Clapton product in the wake of his inactivity due to heroin addiction, the 2 record set is a brilliant overview of Clapton’s work over just an 8 year period beginning with The Yardbirds, and ending with Derek & The Dominos. Besides those bands, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, The Powerhouse (with Steve Winwood), Cream and Blind Faith are also represented. Clapton as a solo act is also here. And Clapton the sideman is represented by his work on stage with Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, and in the studio with King Curtis. There were even a couple of hard to find rarities and a previously unreleased track as well. It was the perfect introduction to Clapton, and had he died from his heroin addiction, it would’ve been a perfect eulogy for his career up to that point. The bonus in the packaging was the back cover that featured numerous photos of Clapton sporting a myriad of different hairstyles. The Crossroads box really just used this set as the template, and expanded it to four CD’s. But it’s this set I still regard as the one Clapton album to own if you can own only one. (It was issued briefly on CD, and can still be found, but I’d imagine the vinyl is still out there as well. Why buy a CD when you can buy vinyl?)
   4. Nuggets – Various (Sire) Originally issued on Elektra with a psychedelic cover, I stumbled upon Sire’s reissue in the late 1970’s – first on 8 track, and soon after on vinyl. Of course this is the first in what became an entire industry of various artist garage rock collections of obscure, and mostly forgotten 45’s from the post British Invasion era when teenagers all over the world were starting their own bands. Its influence and importance to collectors cannot be overstated. For my money, it’s the single greatest various artist collection of all-time. Rhino records, masters at the art of the reissue, expanded this 2 record set into a four CD boxed set that’s even more of a good thing. But it’s that 2 record set that changed my world. Had I never found it, my collection would, literally, have several hundred fewer titles in it. (The original set is also available as a 2 CD set on Rhino.)
   5. The Road Goes On Forever – The Allman Brothers Band (Capricorn) I bought my first Allman Brothers album, a double set titled Beginnings (their first 2 LP’s repackaged with a new cover and liner notes) when I was just 16. Duane Allman had already died in a motorcycle crash, and I was just discovering the band then. Over the next couple of years I bought the rest of the band’s catalog. After 1975’s Win, Lose or Draw, the band split for the first time, and their label issued this collection drawn from their first five albums. I first encountered it in the library of the radio station I worked at in Sidney, Ohio in 1976. It was one of the records I listened to on Sunday mornings (along with Lou Reed’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Animal) in the production studio while religious programming on reel-to-reel tape aired on the station from the broadcast studio until noon. I still didn’t have much money, and because I already had all the tracks on this set, I didn’t buy it at the time. Twenty-six years later the label issued it on CD for the first time with 13 additional tracks. There were now 30 tracks in all, and the collection covered the band’s history through 1979’s Enlightened Rogues LP. It sports a gorgeous painting of a winding road trailing into a sunset, and perfectly captures the spirit and feel of the music inside. This is an instance where a collection of tracks properly sequenced in a nice package transcends being just “product” and becomes art. It’s also that rare instance where the CD reissue of a vinyl LP is actually superior because of the expanded playing time. There’s no fat here whatsoever. The set contains nearly every essential recording from that first decade in the band’s history, and it has become, like The Stones’ Big Hits collection, my favorite album in the band’s catalog. It’s the one I can’t live without. It’s also my “road record”. Anytime I go on an extended road trip – even one of just a couple of hundred miles, I take it with me. This collection should be in every serious collection of rock records.
   6. Winwood – Steve Winwood (United Artists) Issued by United Artists in May of ’71 after the most recent release of Winwood’s band Traffic, this 2 record set does for Winwood what The History of Eric Clapton did for ol’ Slowhand. It begins with a generous helping of Winwood’s finest work with The Spencer Davis Group. A single track from Winwood’s one off band with Clapton, The Powerhouse (Robert Johnson’s Crossroads) is included, followed by 9 consecutive songs from Traffic drawn from their first period. Blind Faith is represented by Sea of Joy (which also appears on the Clapton set), and closes with three more songs from Traffic’s then most recent LP, John Barleycorn. It was my introduction to Steve Winwood’s very impressive first half decade on the rock scene, and ironically doesn’t include a single solo recording by Winwood. He wouldn’t do his first solo record until 1977. But the track selection and sequencing here are perfect. And for all the Winwood collections since, I don’t think it’s ever been topped. It’s long out of print, and was never, to my knowledge, issued on CD. You can find comparable titles, but none better than this one.
   7. The Free Story – Free (Island) After the band Free broke up following their Heartbreaker album in 1973, European markets issued this limited edition double LP anthology of the band’s short five-year history. Included alongside 18 of Free’s best songs were a pair of songs from side projects, Paul Rodgers’ Peace, and one by Kossoff, Kirke, Tetsu and Rabbit.  It was the definitive overview of one of rock’s greatest bands, but it disappeared from the marketplace quickly. It took me 15 years to find a copy after I first saw it, but couldn’t afford to buy it while shopping one evening. It was eclipsed only by Songs of Yesterday, a 5 CD Free boxed set that was also limited and went out of print fairly quickly. For economy, and conciseness, The Free Story is a perfect introduction to the band.
   8. Buffalo Springfield (Atco) Not to be confused with the group’s self-titled debut, this 2 record set was issued in November of ’73 to try and capitalize on the subsequent success of former members Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay. It contains 23 tracks in all, 22 of which were drawn from the band’s three official releases before their demise. So you got a generous helping of the band’s catalog in a gatefold 2 LP set that also included one unreleased track – a 9 minute-plus version of Stephen Stills’ superb Bluebird. This set, and that track have never been reissued. The only new Buffalo Springfield anthology to come out in the digital age was Neil Young’s misguided attempt at a boxed set (he owns the rights to the band’s catalog now). You can check Wikipedia for the list of things wrong with Young’s boxed set. In the meantime, seek this out on vinyl, and treasure it. It’s the single best overview of one of the most influential bands in rock history.
   9. Basic Miles – Miles Davis (Columbia) If you’ve been around for a few years, you’ll remember fondly that Columbia Records use to take titles from its voluminous back catalog and, after they’d peaked sales wise, assign them new catalog numbers and reissue them at bargain basement prices as part of its Nice Price series. One year for Christmas (I believe it was 1982) my wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I gave her a list of Miles Davis albums to choose from – all of which were part of the Nice Price series, and all of which were available for less than 5 dollars apiece, and if you happened upon a store promotion, often for less than 3 bucks each. I’d seen all of them in the rack at the newly opened National Record Mart store in the Lima Mall. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Christmas Eve that my wife had bought all 13 titles on my list. I couldn’t get enough Miles Davis. I still buy everything the labels release even today, 23 years after he passed away. Among the records I got that Christmas was a collection titled Basic Miles that featured a pastoral photo of a road winding through the mountains. The music, 9 tracks in all, was drawn from a variety of Miles’ recordings done from 1955-1958.  Here’s yet another example of a compilation album that succeeds on a grand scale as art. If I could only keep one Miles Davis collection from his pre-electric period, Basic Miles is the one. I never saw it on CD, although all the tracks on it have been issued digitally. But if you ever see it on vinyl, get it - even if you have to sell a limb.
 10. The Kink Kronikles – The Kinks (Reprise) The one thing I think every Kinks fan agrees with is that the definitive Kinks album is this 2-record set issued by Reprise in March of 1972. It was reissued on CD, and, thankfully, not tampered with in the digital age. It was perfect then and it remains perfect. It contains 28 masterpieces, and listening to it in one sitting is as intoxicating as downing four consecutive bottles of the finest wine. If anyone ever tells you The Kinks are not one of the greatest acts in the history of recorded music, play The Kink Kronikles for them. It’s guaranteed to shut them up.
 11. Music With 58 Musicians – Various (ECM) The ECM label is an independent jazz label that has, through the years, had deals with a variety of larger labels for worldwide distribution. At the time this label compilation of various artists was issued, Warners was distributing ECM in North America, and Warners use to do a series of promotional records they dubbed Loss Leaders. They advertised them on the inner paper sleeves of their releases that featured a cutout coupon with a mailing address. Each 2 record set sampled the label’s latest batch of releases, and cost – wait for it – 2 dollars. This ECM collection was not technically part of the Loss Leaders series, but it was advertised that way because that’s where I discovered it. It might even have cost 3 or 4 dollars if memory serves, but it looked amazing, so I clipped the coupon and put my money in an envelope and gave it to the postman. The album that arrived resulted in decades of chasing down and buying records on one of the greatest jazz labels of all-time. And all these years later, it remains one of my favorite records. It introduced me to many of the label’s other great artists (I was already familiar with Pat Metheny). I’d never heard music like this in 1980. Nearly 35 years later I’ve come to realize that there has never been any other music like this. Most of it, if not all, has been reissued digitally, but the original set is worth tracking down. It’s a listening experience not to be missed.
 12. Weird Scenes Inside The Goldmine – The Doors (Elektra) A year after lead singer Jim Morrison passed away, Elektra put together an anthology designed to capture the essence of this amazing band now consigned to the pages of music history. At the time, no one could have predicted that the group’s status would mushroom in the decades that followed and that they would come to be recognized as one of the finest, and most influential bands of the 20th century. This album takes you on a journey through the dark places of The Doors catalog. It’s expertly selected and sequenced with a gorgeous cover painting, and works beautifully as the perfect introduction to the band’s music. It had been out of print for years and commanded top dollar for mint condition vinyl copies. But last month, 42 years after it was first issued, Elektra finally made it available on CD, confirming its status as an essential piece of the band’s history and catalog. Again a case of art transcending mere product.
 13. Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy – The Who (Decca) I can’t tell you how many Who compilations have hit the marketplace since this extraordinary collection of singles first surfaced in 1971. I can’t count that high. But there has never been a better single distillation of the band’s essence, and their worth than this classic. Pete Townshend himself was so proud of it, he reviewed it for Rolling Stone magazine. The record’s cover art features a band of young urchins on a stoop in front of an old brick building. It reeks of post war Britain, and of rebellion, and street smarts. It captures, along with the singles it collects, The Who in all their glory. You can espouse the wonders of Tommy, and Quadrophenia, and Who’s Next, and even Live At Leeds all you want. But this is the one Who album everyone should own. It was issued digitally, but is out of print now. No matter, though. It’s one of those seminal albums you should only own on vinyl.
 14. Michigan Rocks – Various (Seeds & Stems) Here’s a collection of some of the very best rock ‘n’ roll from the state of Michigan. It features a pencil drawing of a rock band playing over the map of the state, so it almost resembles a bootleg. But its two sides feature 10 slabs of some of the loudest, most important rock of all time. The MC5, Detroit, Mitch Ryder, The Bob Seger System, The Stooges, Frost, SRC, Ted Nugent & The Amboy Dukes, Third Power, and The Rationals are here in all their rage and glory. I never saw it on CD, so I expanded it to a 4 CD-R set by burning more of my favorites and updating it to include bands from the present day. But this original piece of vinyl still holds its own.
 15. Best of Bee Gees (Atco) I was given this as an Easter basket extra on Easter Sunday of 1970. Issued in ’69 and featuring tracks recorded the previous two years, this is The Bee Gees at their early best. There is a two CD collection that goes well beyond this one, but misses a couple of this album’s best tracks as well as its focus on just one part of the group’s long career. Since it’s perfect, I’ll take this one.
 16. Purple Passages – Deep Purple (Warner Brothers) In 1972 Deep Purple was riding the wave of success from their Machine Head LP, so their label in the U.S., Warner Brothers wanted more product out there for people to buy. They elected to put together a 12-track compilation of songs from the group’s first three records featuring a different lead singer and bass player. The label did a superb job of selecting the tracks, and gave the record a very cool all purple cover with the group name written in what looked to be a kind of gel. The title, mysteriously was very small, in red, and written in lower case letters.  It’s a different group than the one that made Smoke On The Water, but it’s a great example of how to mine earlier catalog and get something essential.
 17. Time Peace – The Rascals (Atlantic) This collection of The Rascals hit singles featured a Roy Lichtenstein-style cover, and featured all their best hits – 14 of them in one stunning package. It was issued on CD, but the label missed a golden opportunity to add four additional hits that came after the original LP was issued. That set has since gone out of print, so I burned my own expanded edition of it to take on the go, but you can’t go wrong with the original. As singles bands go, The Rascals had few peers.
 18. The Columbia Singles ’65 – ’67 – The Byrds (Columbia) This is one of the albums, along with the Allman Brothers set on CD that managed to infiltrate this list over the past 30 years. (F.Y.I., the two records that got bumped were Hoy-Hoy! By Little Feat, and Chuck Berry’s Golden Decade Vol. 1. If this list was longer, they’d have been numbers 26 and 27 respectively.) Sundazed issued this 2-record 30-track set of The Byrds original singles for Columbia spanning 1965-1967 entirely in mono, and not available on CD. It’s the best way to hear The Byrds, and the best available Byrds collection on the market, eclipsing their boxed set, and all their previous hits collections.
 19. The Very Best of Bird – Charlie Parker (Warner Brothers) In the mid 1940’s, Charlie Parker traveled to the West Coast and recorded for Ross Russell’s Dial label. Of all the recordings Parker made in his career, I think the Dial recordings are the Mount Rushmore of his incredible catalog. Issued by Warner Brothers in 1977 as a two-record set, these 27 tunes were my introduction to the most influential jazz musician of all-time. I never saw it on CD, but the same tracks have surfaced on countless other compilations and boxed sets over the years. But these recordings were made when vinyl was the only format, so I’ll stick with this set.
 20. Golden Decade Vol. 2 – Chuck Berry (Chess) The second installment of a three volume series of two-record sets covering Chuck Berry’s notable recordings for Chess arrived six years after the first in 1973, and featured an iconic cover painting of Chuck’s face on a glass of Coca-Cola with the logo above him. That screams America, and so does this collection. Volume 1 had all of Berry’s biggest hits, but Volume 2 dug deeper and found 24 more lesser-known, but equally great tracks. In fact, many of these are among my favorite Berry songs. This hit the cutout bins not long after release along with Volume 3 because I found both volumes for $2.99 each at the Musicland store in the American Mall in 1975. I got Volume 1 last, and all three double sets have long been overshadowed in the digital era by The Chuck Berry Chess Box, The Chuck Berry Anthology and many more just like them. My attachment to these is sentimental because of when I first heard them, and because of the excellent artwork on all three volumes.
 21. What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been – The Grateful Dead (Warner Brothers) This two-record set does for The Dead what The Kink Kronikles did for The Kinks. There are 18 classics here, nicely sequenced. If you only wanted one Grateful Dead studio album, this is the one. You’d still need at least a half-dozen live records to round out the picture, but this is a great primer. And it hasn’t been bettered since its release in 1977.
 22. Gord’s Gold – Gordon Lightfoot (Reprise) Another double album, but this one is a little different. For my money, Gordon Lightfoot is truly a giant in the annals of folk music. He’s the real deal, but he also crossed over to the pop world with countless hit records in the 1970’s. In 1975, his label, Reprise, issued this career overview. Because Lightfoot’s early career had been spent recording for United Artists, and because Reprise did not own the rights to those recordings, Lightfoot agreed to re-record some of his best work from those early days for this collection. With almost any other artist, such a practice could’ve spelled disaster. But not with Lightfoot. The guy is one of the true masters, and he was just hitting his peak in 1975. So, many of these re-recordings equal or better the originals, and paired up with his best work for Reprise, you get a set that’s one of the most essential folk records ever made. The CD forfeited a couple of songs for space reasons, which is why the vinyl is superior. I’ve owned this record since it was released, and I still play it regularly.
 23. The Liberty Recordings – Fats Domino (United Artists) Fats Domino is, I think, the most underrated, and underappreciated of that group of 50’s rock ‘n’ rollers responsible for shaping the music in its early days. There are a lot of Fats collections on the market, and EMI issued a 100-track box in 1991, twenty years after this 28- track collection. It’s more comprehensive, but not better. The Liberty Recordings is all the best Fats in one place – wall-to-wall, front-to-back, coast-to-coast dynamite. And it features a great illustration of Fats on the cover suitable for framing.
 24. 40 Greatest Hits – Hank Williams (Polydor) If you want to start a collection of the greatest country music ever recorded, you buy this double LP by its greatest practitioner. You could fill a record shop with Hank Williams collections, but you’ll never find a better one. Released in 1978.
 25. The Patsy Cline Story – Patsy Cline (MCA) The version I have of this 24-track collection of the best recordings by Patsy Cline is the reissue from 1973. The original was released in 1963 not long after the plane crash that claimed her life. Mine doesn’t have the gatefold sleeve of the original, but the same track list is here. I believe I bought this right after I saw the film Coal Miner’s Daughter in 1980, the biopic of Loretta Lynn. Beverly D’Angelo portrayed Cline in the film, and I was so impressed by the songs, I picked up this original. I’ve listened to a lot of country music over the years, but I’ve never heard a better voice, or a more talented stylist than Cline. Available on CD with different cover art, also.

   The Best Reissue Series by Label

 The Very Best of Series (United Artists) I can’t provide much history on this series unfortunately. My web searches turned up individual titles, but not a comprehensive list or a history to go with it. So I’ll tell you what I do know. EMI had a number of labels under its corporate umbrella including Liberty, Capitol, and United Artists. When I was teenager in the 1970’s and began haunting record stores for back catalog, I kept seeing records with similar cover art and identical titles. The Very Best of (artist name) was the title that ran along the top before the artist’s name. There was a single photograph of the artist on the cover. The back listed the 10 tracks on the record (it was always exactly 10), and they were usually priced at $2.99 each. Occasional they were $1.99. I have no idea how many artists were included in the series. I don’t even know how many I own, but the number is in double digits. They were well within my budget at the time, and every one of them always seemed to have exactly the ten songs I wanted most by that particular artist. Years later I discovered that at least some of the series was curated by the late Greg Shaw who founded Bomp Records. These records were enormously important to me in building my record collection. The first LP’s I ever owned by Rick Nelson, Eddie Cochran, Jan & Dean, Gary Lewis & The Playboys, Jay & The Americans, and countless more were part of this series.

 Loss Leaders (Warner Brothers) I mentioned this series in entry #11. I can’t count how many artists I heard for the first time in this series. I own nearly the entire set, and it features everyone from Frank Zappa to Petula Clark to Captain Beefheart to Randy Newman to Jethro Tull to…well, you get the idea. Truly marketing genius.

 Back From The Grave (Crypt) This series of garage rock compilations wouldn’t exist if not for Nuggets, but of all the labels that have done garage rock series through the years, Crypt’s Back From The Grave is the best quality. Garish cartoon covers befitting the titles, but the best liner notes and photos you could hope for in a project like this.

  Two Burned Classics

That’s Why God Made The Radio (Special Edition) – The Beach Boys. I wrote an entire blog piece about this in 2012. I took The Beach Boys then current album, and reconfigured it, deleting a couple of tracks, and adding some others, then re-sequenced it into something different, and, I think, even better. Over the past two years, it’s been the most played title in my collection, and if it was an official release, I would name it my favorite album of all-time over George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. That’s how good it is.

Waiting For The Sun – Various Artists (2 CD-R’s) In 1996, rock writer Barney Hoskyns wrote what I consider to be one of the best books ever written about music. It was an overview of the history of popular music on the West Coast. I loved the book so much that I decided it merited its own soundtrack based on the music discussed in the book. So I put together a 90-minute cassette tape to listen to. It was the single best compilation tape I ever made. And years later when I got a CD burner, I decided to expand it to fill 2 CD-R’s. It’s the best original collection I’ve ever heard, and is, in my opinion, worthy of release to the general public. I’m truly proud of it, and when I want to immerse myself in the music of the golden state, it’s the title I reach for.