Over one thousand albums. Granted I don’t listen to all of those albums regularly and still less very often at all, if ever. But there are a few, a precious few, which I go to often. To call them favorites, would not do. They are more. They are the warmth of a couch and a cup of hot tea on a snowy winter’s day. They are the first warm rays of spring which tighten the skin on into cool night’s laughing with friends. They are the smiles of Christmas and the tears of Good Friday. They are far more than albums of music, they hold memories and heat and light and ideas and thoughts and concerns and moments which echo through the notes…they are not entertainment.
I am sure there are more. But below I have listed ten.
1. Billie Holiday, Jazz Masters 12 – Some realities defy the ability to be explained. Billie Holiday’s effect on me stretches back 10 years and feels like the grip of a warm embrace. My favorite voice, this album is the reason it is part of the furniture of my mind. It starts with “What A Little Moonlight Can Do” and then you’re taken into the depths of the American heart.
2. Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago – Some albums, you listen to, others you swim into the depths of. This album never gets old. Of all my albums, it sits in winter solitude. I cannot listen to it without feeling the whiteness of Wichita snow. There is no album like it.
3. Van Morrison, Hymns to the Silence – Many nights were spent driving through the hills and vales of Birmingham as a young single guy, listening to this album. Gas was cheap then and I would just drive around for hours, for solitude and release. Van was a regular companion. Emotions will get the better of me, if I’m not careful, when listening to ‘On Hyndford Street.” A friend of mine speculated that Van was after beauty like many were after fame and money. This album is full of what he was looking for.
4. Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A’Changin – The first time this album hit my ears, I was driving down highway 31 in Hoover…not far from where I now live. Usually you don’t want to turn up just a guy and a guitar and a harmonica. But he sings with such power, volume feels right. If this was the only album he ever recorded, he would still be a favorite. As it is, I named my son after him.
5. John Coltrane, A Love Supreme – While I was studying in St. Louis, Jazz got a hold of me. Previously it was interesting, but then I started to go deep and wanted to hear more and marinate in most of it. I remember calling a number of stores before I found one which carried this album. So we drove up 170 and when my wife saw the cover of the CD, she wondered why it cost so much for 3 songs. We drove straight from there to Kirk and Debbie’s and listened to it as we ate and drank and laughed. A wonderful album.
6. Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska – It’s an album of novels, full of americana grit and glory. Stories of what was, is and could never be told masterfully. You can feel the midwestern winds pelting your face on deep Winter nights among the words. When no other album suits, Nebraska more than does.
7. Diana Krall, The Look of Love – All my favorite albums involve a place. My wife gave me this album on my 30th birthday week. It was a rainy, cold, late October Sunday morning. When she sings these Bossa Nova inspired songs, I can close my eyes and see my wife sitting next to me in our Honda as we drive to Church listening. The title track is mesmerizing.
8. Patty Griffin, 1000 Kisses – Another album I bought with my wife in St. Louis. We listened to this till we knew the silence in between the songs by heart. Patty could sing the phonebook and I would buy it. Almost all of my papers in Seminary were written with her angelic voice coursing through my headphones. When she toured supporting this album, I headed up her street team when she came and played at The Pageant on Delmar. Lush, like a southern mountainside in the throes of Spring, no notes should be ignored. “Be Careful” is one of the most powerful songs I’ve ever heard.
9. Andrew Peterson, Love and Thunder – I’d have never bought this one if I had not seen him in concert supporting it. After at least one hundred listens, I can safely say, there are no albums by believers which move me like this one. When he sings, “You sent that telegraph to tell her that you missed her…” geez, there are no words. ‘The Silence of God’ and ‘After the Last Tear Falls’ may be the most appropriately juxtaposed songs I have.
10. Emmylou Harris, Spyboy – One hour for lunch spent at a used CD store on highway 31 in Hoover yielded a copy. When I returned to my work, I put it on and I remember as she began to sing, putting my head down on my desk because it was so wonderful. My wife knows I have a kind of crush on her and she is OK with that. OK enough to wait outside the Ryman in an alley hoping and then procuring an autograph. This is my favorite live album. Period.
OK, so what are some of your go to albums?