I like lists. I think most of us like lists. However, I have always felt it rather pretentious for someone to compile a "best" or "greatest" list. Sometimes these types of lists are based on voting or the compilation of the data of the consensus of a group of so called experts or industry people. A list such one of these types has a bit more credibility, but it all still comes down to opinion. The list based on consensus still does not trump what I like. I would never even go so far to say that my list is "the greatest in my opinion". My list is only a list of my favorites, and even as such only a list of my favorites right now at this moment.
Making up a list for the FIFTEEN FANTASY ISLAND FAVORITES started off easily enough, but then I kept thinking of more and more indispensible favorites. With so many really fine albums on my favorites list how do I go about eliminating some? And how did I choose the albums I did as my favorites in the first place? What is the criteria one uses to designate albums as favorites?
The foremost thing that I consider in an album is how the album sounds to me and whether the consistency of quality holds up throughout the entire album. Then I consider if whether over repeated listenings the album holds up for my enjoyment over time. I don't think I could pick an album that I just heard last month or even last year and say it would be an all time favorite. I might say in the short term it is a favorite for now, but I would have to let the album have years to settle in to decide if it is one of my real favorites. I can think of many albums that at one time were favorites of mine, but now, though I may still enjoy them, they seem flawed and would no longer rank in my upper echelon of favorite albums.
Some albums have grown on me. They might have not sounded that good to me at first, but I recognized some quality that made me go back for repeated listenings that allowed me to get used to and appreciate the sound of what I was hearing. In the late sixties and seventies music became so eclectic and experimental that sometimes a first listening was an alien experience--I was hearing sounds that were unlike any of the music I had heard before. As my mind accepted these new sounds, I began to recognize a musical superiority to my aural senses to earlier, simpler music.
Other albums are for me a product of time and place. Those are the albums I hear and can recall where I was when I first heard them or I associate with particular events, situations, and people. There are albums that I heard played on the radio, or in a record store, or at a friend's house. There are the albums a dearly regarded friend loaned to me to listen to because they liked it so much, and then it became a favorite of mine. Hours spent cruising in a car listening to particular albums or the albums that were repeatedly played whenever friends would gather to hang out--these times can be recaptured in my memory when I hear certain favorite albums now. Just as we may have favorite songs that capture a few moments in time, I also have albums of collected songs that I feel compelled to listen to in the complete state in order to capture time spans of memory.
If I find an album that I like so well that it inspires me to seek out more albums by the same artist or artists related in some way to that artist, then that may also qualify as a favorite. Sometimes I will find an album that I really like and I will even go so far as to find any album by any musician who played on the album or a producer or even an engineer. If an album has inspired that much research into connections then that album may very well qualify as a favorite.
Finally, there are albums that are just genuinely good and I cannot deny that fact. They may have the professional musical connections, and they usually do. They may be attached to personal memories and they most certainly do to some extent. But the fact remains that no matter how the album relates to me personally, it is generally accepted as a truly fine album in regard to musicianship, songwriting, and production value, and I recognize that and concede to that and accept that album as a favorite because it is so damn good that I just can't deny it.
Here is the problem: There are too many albums that fit these criteria. It would not have been so much of a problem if we had broken it up into categories of say the 15 favorite jazz, pop, rock, heavy metal, country-folk, contemporary Christian, Rock in Espanol, and etc. I could easily come up with 15 favorites of many categories, but 15 favorites that are inclusive is a very difficult decision to make. One thing is certain. Classical albums will have to be excluded on my account because I think classical is the greatest category of music. And even there you would have to break that up into the subcategories of baroque, true classical, romantic, impressionistic, modern, and so on.
Likewise I will be excluding jazz. Take Five by Dave Brubeck was on my original list. Since I wasn't going to include any Frank Zappa I felt like Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk" was as close to Frank Zappa as I could think of in jazz. Or what about the great Don Ellis Orchestra's Autumn--it was an album that I loved so much and yet I could not connect it to much influence in my future taste in albums.
No-- no classical, no jazz, no country, no overtly Christian-- there will be many left off of my FIFTEEN FANTASY ISLAND FAVORITES. Yet it will be a superb list of the music that shaped my life. This will be the music that carried me on my journey to the present. It will not be the music that I mostly listen to now, but it will be music that I can listen to and sincerely enjoy. These will be albums that if you haven't yet heard you should give them a try. I feel like I have pretty impeccable taste in music being a musician and one who has extensive musical training. I will be proud of my FIFTEEN FAVORITES and there is no way I will back down from them.
Stay tuned for my list on Monday May 17th.
And let us not forget:
I found out it's Patricia Stoltey's birthday today. Happy Birthday to Patricia Stoltey. You might just want to hop on over to her site and wish her a Happy Birthday.