These lists are about as common as flatulence in a yoga class…and yet people can’t seem to stop doing either. So in my continued effort to avoid yoga, I decided to come up with my own Bakers Dozen Desert Island Albums list.
A top five album list seemed too few and a top ten list seemed hackneyed, so I figured I’d go for the bakers dozen.
Much has been written about the death, or at the very least comatose state, of rock and roll. And yet not enough has been said. Nonetheless, as I look over my top 13, I think it may be true, not because I consider myself some sort of bellwether or sage of rock and roll. I don’t and I’m not.
Sure, in my lifetime, I have heard some good rock albums, but sadly they almost always run too long on filler and short of quality, which was (is?) the industry norm. It goes without saying (but I will say it anyway) that I haven’t been exposed to every rock album out there and the odds of me missing a few are rather large so you’ll just have to accept that.
I sometimes think my musical tastes is frozen around 2002 and that bums me out. But being that I don’t like rap, despise most pop music and generally think the music business is so pathetically screwed up right now that it can’t get out of its own way; my exposure to knew rock music is pretty limited. It’s not that I don’t think rock music isn’t being made or rock bands aren’t being formed, it’s just that its not a genre on the industries radar any more.
Now, of course peoples tastes have changed over the years but have we as a culture simply given up on rock music? It once was the sound of youth. It was once the sound of rebellion. It once was a the music that called people to action. It once stood for something. (sigh)
For the sake of simplicity, I decided to forgo any sort of sub rock genre. To do that would be way too subjective and arcane.
As I put my list list together, I was surprised by some of the albums I left off. The main criteria I had was that the album had to listenable in its entirety. While there are a ton of albums I love, like The Clash London Calling, Guns-n-Roses Appetite For Destruction or The Stone Roses debut, there are one or two songs on those albums that I always seem to skip over so I couldn’t, in good conscience, include them here on my Bakers Dozen Desert Island list.
As I look over this list I notice two things about the type of music I seem to like. One, I like unadulterated rock music. Guitar, bass, drums and vocals will almost always win me over. I, apparently, don’t need layer upon layer of sound design and production or a bagillion samples to appeal to my senses. Two, I seem to really like artists who can write. Maybe that is what is missing in today’s music, regardless of genre…who among today’s rock artists are known for their lyrics? These days everything is done first by computer then by committee…and its a shitty committee.
I’d encourage anyone to make a list like this for themselves. Especially if you wanna avoid yoga (mental yoga is better for you anyway). It forces you to narrow what you like (sorry, you don’t like “everything“) and think about the things in music that really mean something to you.
While this list represents the now, I suspect if I did the same thing six months from now it would be different. But if, for whatever reason, I were only able to listen to 13 albums for the rest of my life, these would be the ones I would choose…today.
In No Particular Order:
Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks
Apparently, Dylan recorded the majority of the album in New York with Phil Ramone engineering but, for whatever reason, didn’t like it and went back to Minnesota to re-record. One of the most confessional, and heartbreaking, albums in rock and roll. It’s Dylan speaking to his ex and its his genius firing on all cylinders.
Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds
Everyone knows Izzy was the best songwriter in Guns-n-Roses. With his solo debut he proves that his heart and soul was always more blues rock than arena rock. This is the sound of a guy shedding his hard rock cocoon and flying away as a rock and roll monarch. All rock, no filler.
The Georgia Satellites – In the Land of Salvation and Sin
The band that couldn’t be saved from “Keep Your Hands To Yourself”. This is a blitzkrieg of barn burning rock and roll. This album has the totality of a live concert; a good old fashioned hell raising one.
Lone Justice – Lone Justice
A flawless debut by a bunch of young country rock punks as artistically possible. This album, more than any other, is the harbinger of the Alt Country movement that begat Uncle Tupelo, Ryan Adams, etc. Unfortunately, the band never found the success they deserved. The phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen” is probably what best describes their neutered follow up. But here? Start to finish, brilliant.
The Replacements – Please to Meet Me
Trimmed down to a three piece by this point, Paul Westerberg, Tommy Stinson and Chris Mars convened in Memphis with legendary producer Jim Dickinson to produce arguably the best album of their career. Yea, yea, Let It Be is awesome but PTMM is the one that captures everything that they promised to be. It’s in this album you can hear the next 25 years of rock and roll. Now THAT says something.
Syd Straw – Surprise
Unfortunately, at the time of this albums release, there was a cultural shift from actual musical talent to one based on pure aesthetics, especially with female artists. Sadly, this album got lost in the process. Syd Straw is brilliant and you should listen to this album. You’ll find that even so many years later, it’s appropriately named.
Pearl Jam – Vs.
Yea, this album is pretty much a structural copy of Ten, but for whatever reason, the songs here are better. You can hear the band digging beyond grunge, whatever grunge was, for something bigger and deeper. They explode with the first song and don’t relent. 20 years on and Vs. is as relevant now as ever. A timeless classic.
Whiskeytown – Strangers Almanac
This is the album that put Ryan Adams on the map. Deservedly so. Ryan Adams went on to much success but I might argue he was never as great as he was here. Strangers Almanac is the sum being greater than the parts.
Uncle Tupelo – No Depression
Owing as much to punk and to rock as to country and blues, Uncle Tupelo somehow put it all together and married the sounds with smart lyrics. A band that shinned brightly for a short time but gave so much and influenced so many. Thank God.
Concrete Blonde – Concrete Blonde
A band that just couldn’t find the traction they needed. The seasoned LA members who formed Concrete Blonde were able to achieve some degree of success later on. Johnette Napolitano was the anti-Stevie Nicks; she was sexy, dark, and brooding, the type of girl you knew would understand you. Perfect LA rock.
Jack White – Blunderbuss
I have to admit, I never got Jack White. Didn’t much care for the White Stripes (gimmicky) and didn’t much understand the guitar god genuflecting he seemed to garner. Became modestly more interested after The Raconteurs and then got this album on a whim. I get the Jack White thing now. This is an artist who continues to grow and challenge himself and his listeners, thankfully. Just as an aside, if this album were released in 1974, Jack White would be the biggest act on the planet.
REM – Life’s Rich Pageant
If the three previous REM albums were perfect for skipping school on a rainy autum day, Life’s Rich Pageant was perfect for going to class on a sunny autum day. Finally, the band was beginning to shed the college rock shackles.
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors
If we ever send music into space for aliens or future generations, this should be one of the albums included. Even if you have no idea about the turmoil surrounding this album, you’d pick up on it. I did when I first heard it…and I was 8. It’s brilliant.