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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Picking Favorites

          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.

20 comments:

  1. Being a classical trained pianist who went on to the modern music I love all types. Music apart from my family is and was my life now I include poetry. My favourites was quite a task in selecting as my collection is enormous. But I have chosen my 15 and have written what I have to say, so am just waiting to get ship wrecked on fantasy island,
    Take care Lee,
    Yvonne.

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  2. A very interesting post on how you determine your own list of favorites. Some great things to think about as I begin to put together my own list. I did decide to join in after all, I love music and this is too much fun to miss. I can't wait to see what everyone else comes up with!

    God bless your day Lee!

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  3. Anxious to read the lists and get caught up on the blog world happenings! Missed you all while on vacation!
    I am ready for some musical inspiration!

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  4. ok, forgive me for not commeting on your post exactly but how do you keep the current blog signup up front and showing when you post new things??? I need to do this and I have NO idea. Please help me.
    eatmywords40@yahoo.com

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  5. Yvonne -- I'd love to browse through your music collection. When I visit someone I always enjoy when they allow me to look through their music, video, and book collections. Especially if they give me the "guided" tour in which they tell me favorites or point out things that are unique.

    Trudy -- Glad you're finding some time to join us. I know you're pretty busy these days.

    Rae -- hope you got a good recharge being away, but it's good to have you back.

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  6. I can time travel with music. However, I never really had a collection of album except now, when I owned all the albums of one artist that I so adore.

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  7. rLEE-b ~

    Yeah-yeah-yeah!
    Yada-Blah
    Yada-Blah
    Yada-Yada, Blah-Blah.

    Sure, you can spend a whole lot of words trying to justify your selections, and you can expound on how you systematically arrived at the 15 choices you did. And you can tell us, “I think classical is the greatest category of music” and then explain to us why “no classical, no jazz, no country, no overtly Christian” music will be included on your list. But when all is said and done, you know what the bottom line is? The bottom line is that these 15 albums you select will be the ONLY music you will ever be hearing again for the rest of your life because NO ONE – NO ONE, I say – is going to get saved from Fantasy Island. “You Can’t Go Home Again” (to quote Thomas Wolfe) to get more albums.

    So, my dear Brother, you had better think this out thoroughly before committing to your list. If you truly think that Classical is the greatest category of music, you had maybe better find something to represent that category of music. Otherwise, you ain’t never a-gonna hear anything from “the greatest category of music” ever again. NONE OF US WILL BE RESCUED! ;o)

    Accordingly, my own list will most definitely include some Jazz, Country, and Christian (but no Classical, because I myself don’t think that’s “the greatest category of music”). Yo! rLEE-b, do you really want to go the rest of your life without hearing the great Dave Brubeck? That’s terrible!

    Ha! All the music you wanna hear from May 17th until the day you meet yer Maker is Rock ‘N’ Roll? Think, McBuddy, think! Yer diggin’ an awful hole for yourself!
    ;o)

    ~ “Lonesome Dogg” McMe

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  8. Ocean Girl-- Yes, music can be like a time machine that takes us to our own younger days and earlier memories or even to other eras where we have never been.

    StMc-- Hey! I'm trying to post everyday until at least September 21st. I'm going to be spending a lot more words as the next months wear on. I've got a lot of yakkin' to do.

    And you seem to be making the assumption that I'm just going to be listing a bunch of trivial rock and roll. My choices are going to be rooted in many of the genres which I will be omitting and will also have relationships to the same.

    15 albums are so limiting when covering all genres.

    Besides I can go home again in my mind through the music. The classical and jazz choices wouldn't have the same connections as the other style albums. Maybe later we can do our 15 Classical Favorites-- that should get a big response in participation! Yeah right. I'm probably going to be esoteric enough without getting all highbrow and everything.

    You wait and see my choices then you can really poke fun at me.

    Hey, if we're all on the island together we can listen to each other's albums and that would give us a lot more than 15. No, I guess not. Every one gets their own island I guess.

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  9. My fifteen favorites are all rock, but that is my genre of choice. A couple bands I'd like to include every album, but I've pared it down to just my personal favorites.

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  10. I wouldn't be able to live without classical. I look forward to seeing your list.

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  11. --> "15 albums are so limiting when covering all genres."

    That's right, McBuddy. That's what makes this challenge so "challenging"; that's why not everyone has the guts and the mental toughness to play the game and make those really difficult cuts. And that's why I agonized - AGONIZED - over my 15th selection. I knew that this was my "last chance" - only 1 of my remaining (approximately) 146 albums would I be allowed to hear again FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.

    What made it worse is that when I narrowed my final #15 choice down to 3 contenders, one was a 3-disc box set, one was a single disc movie soundtrack of 70+ minutes of music, and one was a "Greatest Hits" album of just 11 songs totalling less than 23 minutes of music (the longest song on the record is a mere 2:26).

    But I'm so freakin' tough that in the end, I went with the sentimental choice: the twenty-two and a half minutes "Greatest Hits" album. Now THAT'S makin' some hard decisions, McBrother. And that's why this list idea is not for the weak-minded.

    Gotta be able to make those tough cuts because this is all the music you'll ever hear again until you get to that place where angels sing and play harps on clouds.
    :o)

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McD-Fens

    POSTSCRIPT: By the way, rLEE-b, my 2-disc compilation set 'CLASSIC JAZZ:Jazz Legends', which includes Brubeck's "Take Five" was actually in the running. Sadly, however, in the end, I had to pack my bags for Fantasy Island without it. "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy", this island ain't gonna be nothin' like "April In Paris".

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  12. Alex-- I decided to limit one album per group or artist, but yes there are some artists that I would like many of their albums.

    Marjorie -- Classical probably would be over my favorite type of music, but I want to stay with the more generally popular genres. I like that music as well.

    StMc --Box Sets? BOX SETS?! Maybe I'll rethink this. Does the 85 disc complete works of Beethoven or the 50 disc box of Schubert count? I'll take all box sets! No I'll stick with my original choices. I'm still at 19 and trying to decide which 4 to cut.

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  13. Favourites are always hard. So much depends on my mood at the time. It's the same for music as it is for books or for food. My favourites change often :)

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  14. rLEE-b ~
    Here’s something that my friend The Great L.C. posted on his Blog DiscConnected. (He probably owns about 9,000 compact discs – more than some record stores carry!)

    Be sure you read the stuffs at the bottom. I don’t agree with his bit about (2) “Greatest Hits” or “Best Ofs”, but he and I did come to an agreement about (1).

    "I'm still at 19 and trying to decide which 4 to cut."

    Cut the Barry Manilow!

    ~ “Lonesome Dogg” McD-Fens

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  15. Jemi -- you're right about that-- and there's always new good stuff coming along. That's why I established my criteria for choosing.

    StMc--Well I'd be tempted, but I'll still forego the box sets--heck I might be bringing 300 to 1000 discs if I went my box set route and that hardly seems right. I will include a couple of double albums though.

    I think Greatest Hits and Best of's are totally appropriate.

    Trying to decide between Barry, Abba, Tony Orlando, or Spice Girls. Hmmm- it's a tough choice.

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  16. Mmmmm... that's some criteria you got there. I've never understood things like that. I just base music on if I like it or not, if it means anything to me. Sometimes I like a song for its sound but I hate its lyrics. Sometimes its the opposite. Sometimes I get lucky and its both. But I can't actaully think of any good albums. I don't go by albums or artists. It wasn't until recently that I realized that. I don't like general things. I like doing each song individually. This may be harder than I thought. On Friday, this is going to need some attention.
    I know some albums names of the top of my head. I know who most of the artists are. But I usually only like one or two songs from each album. Maybe five if I'm lucky. No more than that. *Sigh.*
    Need to get back to my project.
    -Wolfie

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  17. Wolfie--Some of my criteria are definitely an age thing. When I was more your age I had much the same approach as you. Then I often didn't buy albums, but I got 45s (small records with just one song on each side) because I only wanted the song I liked.

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  18. As many CD's and records you have I definitely trust your taste in music. Although, I don't agree all the time you sure have a lot of music "experience".

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  19. I couldn't be marooned on an island without classical music! LOL! :-D

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  20. Emilee -- I've been listening to music for nearly 60 years. Wow, now I feel so old.

    Paula-- In reality, I think I would have to go with classical too, but I'm omitting the classical for this list to make it more commerically viable. Wonder how much participation I would get if I made it a classical and jazz only list?

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Lee