In a recent blog post my friend Doc Hubbard listed 10 albums of music that had an influence on him. I made a comment or two and it was suggested that I create a list of my own. Okay, I did. Sorta.
I had to break my selections of All-Time-Favorite albums into smaller categories for fear of missing a few dozen favorites because I was trying to pare down the selection to something under 100. So, for this edition I'm going with Singer/Songwriters of the Troubadour style. Of course nearly every band nowadays writes their own music (thus technically they're all singer/songwriters) but my list headlines those who tended to be solo artists (at least for the album selected) and mostly known for their acoustic styling and in the tradition of the singer/songwriter.
You may notice (I have) that all but one of these are from the '70s. A nice decade to be alive and listening. It's not that I'm stuck in the '70s, I'm really not and I didn't purposely pick music from that era. But, it's my era and I'm quite fond of it and, for me, it's where the singer/songwriter genre really shined. These are in no particular order and yes, I'm missing your favorite album, heck, I'm missing some of mine too; so, before we begin, a brief shout out to Gordon Lightfoot, Van Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Emily Baker and all the other guitar toting troubadours.
Joni MItchell - Blue (1971)
Perhaps my favorite album over the last three years. On my last trip to the Colorado Plateau I had it looped for hundreds of miles. I was not a big fan of Joni in her "Big Yellow Taxi" days but over time and as my musical tastes matured and became more housebroken I've fallen for her beautifully staccato vocals.
Carol King - Tapestry (1971)
So, what else is there to say. I don't know the stats but I'd guess this is the top selling album of all time. It's the singer/songwriter equivalent of Davis' Kind of Blue in the jazz world. King's vocals and lyrics are still every bit as listenable as they were when new. It's been part of my life's soundtrack and I've owned it on scratched LP, hissy cassette, and finally CD; it's in my iTunes library now, burned from that CD. I read her autobiography a while back and it's worth a read if you're into the evolution of music since the late fifties.
Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks (1975)
Just another masterpiece from the author of so many masterpieces. I'm not educated in music enough to give an intelligent reading of this beautiful album. Isn't enough to say I like it above all his others? Oh, and Jack of Hearts is great music to make dinner by.
Leonard Cohen - Live in London (2009)
I wasn't even aware of Cohen until around 10 years ago. Of course I knew his music but never tied it to the man (a problem with no longer having liner notes!). Then some co-workers were excited to announce they had tickets to see Cohen at a local San Diego theater. Okay, so? Over the next 30 minutes they educated me and I went home that night and found Leonard. The real turning point for me was watching this performance on PBS(?) one night. Then, just as I'm invested as a fan, he dies! Really, Leonard? I know I came late to the party but I'm here now.
Neil Young - After the Gold Rush (1970)
Everyone goes for Harvest and I do love Harvest but Gold Rush does something special for me. Like Tapestry I've had multiple versions of Harvest but still it's Gold Rush that I go to over and over. A few months ago I had my iTunes set for Shuffle and I ended up listening to The Band's The Night They Drove Ol' DIxie Down and then immediately after, Southern Man. It was surreal and hearing Neil shred the romantic patina from The Band's ballad was like setting the world right again. Oddly, it's two Canadians debating the legacy of our civil war.
Cat Stevens - Tea for the Tillerman (1970)
One of my first Favorite albums. Cat Stevens has such a rich and lustrous voice, interesting lyrics, and agile fingers on the guitar. Father and Son has been a favorite of mine for... well forever.
Tom Waits - Closing Time (1973)
I found myself listening to this album at a friend's house and the next day went down to Tower Records and bought it. His song, I Hope That I Don't Fall in Love With You, just resonated with me. The lead track Ol' 55, makes me wish I had an Ol' 55. Waits has perhaps the most original, drunken, bluesy voice and it's perfect for his style and lyrics. I can listen to this album in the early morning, over lunch, or during whisky hour, especially during whisky hour. I have a few more albums by Waits but this is the one I return to. I'm listening to it now.
John Prine - Sweet Revenge (1973)
I have a friend who used to turn me on to new music. He had an older brother who showed him the way and I benefited from those nuggets. Leo Kottke and John Prine were the best of those nuggets. Especially this album, Sweet Revenge. It's funny, sad, challenging and above all a joy to hear. Prine, like Waits, has a unique voice that fits well with his lyrics and style. I was immediately enchanted and humored by Please Don't Bury Me and Dear Abby and then over time grew to like the more somber ballads like Christmas in Prison. This album still has legs.