Saturday, January 19, 2008

1001 albums to listen to before you die

I am reading 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die edited by Robert Dimery. It attempts the impossible task of selecting the best popular - mainly rock - albums since the mid-1950s – there is an equivalent effort for classical music. It has been criticised as a pointless attempt to ‘list’ modern musical culture but I must admit I found it interesting.

Much of the music I enjoyed in the late 1960s early 1970s is featured here (Cream, Donovan, Dylan, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, The Animals, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Santana, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Fish, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, Velvet Underground, Nico, Lou Reed, David Bowie, United States of America, Fairport Convention, Frank Zappa & the Mothers, Phoebe Snow*).

The very restricted character of my pop music tastes is revealed by my lack of experience of almost all popular music since then. In fact I have listened to little new contemporary music since 1975 – or more accurately I have heard it and then moved away from it or turned it off. My tastes became set in the earlier period and didn’t budge – partly because, after 1975, I mainly listened to classical music.

I suppose this is generally true – people develop tastes for a particular period and largely stick to that. Then they complain about the contemporary music of the next generation and praise the older music.

While I have not progressed forward it is easy for me to go backwards to the classic earlier music of the 1950s. As a result of this book I did a terribly bourgeois thing and bought a couple of Frank Sinatra performances recorded in the mid-1950s and now on CD – ‘In the Wee Small Hours’ (a pensive conceptual effort that followed the collapse of Sinatra’s marriage with Ava Gardner) and the gauchely-labelled but superb ‘Songs for Swinging Lovers’. Ah wonderful music – my brain might be turning to soup but these classic performances are sensationally easy listening as I continue the not-so-long march toward boot hill. Let's hear it for nostalgia!

*Dimery’s contributors forgot the extraordinarily talented (and still performing) guitarist Stanley Jordan!


davidp said...

Lists are fun! I had a quick look and it seems a fair effort (though you can always disagree with inclusions and exclusions - I like (Sonic Youth's) Bad Moon Rising more than Dirty but I can see why some others wouldn't). Given the strong connections between esp. the Velvet Underground and at least some of the post-punk groups it is surprising you didn't find some newer material that was enjoyable.

whyisitso said...

It's nearly ten years since Sinatra died. Unbelievable! To me the quintessential Sinatra track is "One for My Baby (and One for The Road)". You can feel the intensity of loneliness and bleakness. Only Sinatra could sing a song with that amount of feeling.

For a fun song I liked his "High Hopes".

Back in the 50s one of my favourites was "Three Coins in the Fountain". It took me another 50 years to get to actually throw three coins into the Trevi.

Some people have no time for Sinatra because of his quasi (or actual?) criminal persona. For me it's the music that counts. I've learnt in my time to separate performance from personality.

conrad said...

I have the same phenomena, although I think my CD collection ends at 1993 (of course, it doesn't start until much later than yours!).

davidp: I thought Daydream Nation was supposed to be the classic.

davidp said...

Hi Conrad,

A histogram of my collection by year would see a big drop after sometime in the mid 1990s too. Though there are a few stragglers (like the New Pornographers)

I think Daydream Nation was the album that made Sonic Youth (alternative) famous. I really like Daydream Nation (and am looking forward to seeing it again when they tour in a few weeks)

On the 1001 albums two-post DN albums were included. I wouldn't like to choose one of their albums as their best but do prefer the noisier Bad Moon Rising and even noisier Confusion is Sex over Goo and Dirty (though enjoy both of these smoother albums too!) It depends what you like.

J F Beck said...

HC, you and your readers might find interesting the linked Rolling Stone article. It explains why so much of today's music sounds like crap, other than talent-challenged musicians, of course.

hc said...

jfb, The fact that I want to get away from this sort of music often reflects the loudness thing mentioned in the article. I agree too the general sound quality in modern recordings is appalling. I think topo the poor sound quality is reflected in the design of modern stereo systems where the sound quality at the bass end is thick and muddy - a comment I made in an earlier post..

FXH said...

Harry welcome to the club -

Frank's In The Wee Small Hours is clearly one of the must have albums.

It is a masterpiece.

My offspring who a couple of years ago had a death metal type band was (secretly) singing Wee Small Hours songs at his singing lessons.(now he's matured back to sort of heavy ~metalish funk a la RATM etc in the band). He has a pic of Frankie in his room.

My apologies again - as well as being busy I may have subconsciously put off writing a guide to choosing a sound system due to a reaction to your reaction to the election and your continuing howardian nostalgia.

However on your purchasing of Wee Small Hours all is forgiven.

I've been guiding a 30 yo daughter of a friend on sound system on a budget. I've even made notes.

Maybe tomorra - after my 60k bike ride and possible swing dance lessons.

Right now I'm taking advantage of a cool change to cook a lamb roast greek style with roast root vegies for guests. Later I'll be watching that delightful film on Bob Geldof on SBS with a belly full of lamb and red.

Bring Back CL's blog said...

listen to East West by the Butterfields Blues band.

Wonderful stuff.

I agree no decent music after 1973.

Cranky Franky sorry if lounge music is your go then Tonee or Dino were much better

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