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. Continue reading →

Songs about music

Considering the great number of popular songs that have been written, there are surprisingly few about music or musicians. I’ve compiled a list below, omitting those in which the song is really about something else or music is not the main point of the song (an example would be Led Zeppellin’s “Rock and Roll”). Undoubtedly, I’ve left something off, so I’ll update the list periodically. Continue reading →

When music was great

There were two periods of great musical creativity during the twentieth century: 1930-1945 and 1967-78. Other periods, although not devoid of great music, have tended not to be as rich, producing more “routine” music that is more interesting sociologically than musically. It may be that the best music is produced in more abundance during times of stress and unrest than in times of prosperity. Continue reading →

Concept album masterpieces

Isolated examples of concept albums appear from the 1950s on, including efforts by Frank Sinatra and Ray Charles, but the idea really took off with the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles in 1967 — not surprising given how it was a time of great cultural and creative experimentation. Paralleling the rise of the singer-songwriter in the 1960s, the term “concept album” became imbued with the notion of artistic purpose.

Today, that notion of artistic purpose has become so pervasive that, whether consciously or unconsciously, artists routinely infuse concepts into their albums, or feel compelled to come up with a snappy response when a reviewer asks “so what is the CD about?” I want to share four examples of especially interesting, artistically successful concept albums that stand out from the crowd. Continue reading →