The 10 best albums ever

Palm treeIf you had only ten albums to take with you to a desert island, what would offer you the greatest pleasure for the rest of your days? These would need to be albums that hold up to repeated listens, obviously—something that doesn’t easily bore you. My own choices are listed below in alphabetical order. Each of these albums is musically rich, covering a variety of styles from pop to jazz to neo-soul to rock to alternative.

Boys for Pele (1996)
Tori Amos
A quirky album that represents the range of Tori’s unique style. “The Doughnut Song” always evokes for me the gray advance of a winter storm, and “Caught A Lite Sneeze” is perhaps my all-time favorite Tori song.

Future 2 Future (DVD – 2001)
Herbie Hancock
Okay, this one is actually a DVD, but it offers more music than the CD version, showcasing Hancock’s interest in the intersection of jazz, popular music and hip hop. Amazing reinterpretations of Hancock favorites. This live recording blows the socks off any studio album.

Hejira (1976)
Joni Mitchell
Songs of beautiful insight and grace, with arrangements that never sound dated. Picture the desert, with ribbons of highway, endless vistas and freedom, but a freedom that exacts its own price.

Peace Beyond Passion (1996)
MeShell Ndegeocello
There’s something new to be discovered every time you listen to this album. Provocative lyrics that confront those great American obsessions of race, religion and sexuality.

The Royal Scam (1976)
Steely Dan
It was hard to choose between this and Steely Dan’s other masterpiece, Aja, but I like the unusual theme of crime that links most of the songs here. Interesting harmonic progressions and superb musicianship keep me coming back to this album.

Salt (2003)
Lizz Wright
Her knock-out debut album offers rich, expressive vocals and graceful arrangements that are perfect for an introspective mood.

Songs from the Tin (2000)
Da Lata
Three different female vocalists collaborate with Christian Franck and Patrick Forge on this dazzling album infused with Brazilian rhythms and the spirit of Brazil. A mixture of acoustic and electronic elements, every song is a masterpiece.

Thick as a Brick (1972)
Jethro Tull
One of the few examples in popular music of an authentic orchestral approach to songwriting, where thematic development and instrumentation define the shape of the music.

To Venus and Back (1999)
Tori Amos
Okay, it’s a double album (is that cheating?). But the live one includes versions of “Space Dog” and “Bells for Her” that are even better than the originals, and the studio album offers Tori at the apex of her more adventurous musical explorations.

The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams (2007)
MeShell Ndegeocello
A kaleidoscopic musical journey with unexpected twists and turns (although I prefer the version of “Elliptical” originally released on the EP). While at first it seems like a radical departure from her previous work, after several listens you can hear the DNA that links the versatile strands from all her music. The Japanese import contains a different bonus track from the American album. Support this musical genius and buy both.

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