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The Fifth Course

My Ten Favorite All Time Albums

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This is a little rainy day blogging...

Whether I'm playing my iPod in the Chiropractor's office, using the CD player in the car, or listening at home, all of these albums (collections of songs) remain in heavy rotation.

Interestingly, to me at least, these are not at all mando-centric. In fact, only Butch B gets a nod as recording artist. Looks like I'll need to examine these albums against the context of my mandolin playing and see where that takes me. Maybe this is why I play so much electric mandolin.

In no particular order, they are...

Del Amitiri: Twisted
Great rock n roll album. Nothing this band has done before or since Twisted comes close. Every song on this album is good to great. Strat tones for days. Great drumming. Songs that address the emptiness of the search for stardom.

Marshall Crenshaw: Life's Too Short
Another great rock n roll album. Crenshaw never hit the heights that other guys hit doing material that has less personality than Crenshaw's. This album is about joy. And it's a joy to listen to.

Graham Nash: Songs for Beginners
I grew up on this album. I can play every song on guitar or mandolin. I know all the lyrics by heart. Nash was inspirational to me. He seemed to write to me as a kid. "Wounded Bird" especially settled in to my psyche and has not left.

Butch Baldassari and John Mock: Mando + Guitar --Cantabile
Simple and beautiful. Baldassari and Mock nailed it. This album is proof of a few things: 1) "Classical" music can be played by "Folk" musicians; 2) that Ellington was right, there are only 2 kinds of music, good and bad --and this is definitely in the former category; 3) that William Congreve was right when he wrote, "Musick has charms to soothe the savage breast."

Sitkovesky & the NES Chamber Orchestra: Bach: Goldberg Variations (Transcription for Strings)
Classical music critics have passed this album over calling it weak, too soft, or boring. I love it. The Goldberg Variations take on a dreamier quality than the more instructive intent of the original harpsichord manuscripts and the more intently modern versions done on piano.

Dan Fogelburg: Souvenirs
Another singer-songwriter. This album includes the Bluegrass friendly "Mornin' Sky," a great song for guitar and mandolin. Lots of Joe Walsh on this CD helping out a fellow Coloradan, but Fogelburg's acoustic guitar never gets lost in the mix and remains the center of the album.

Victoria Vox: Chameleon
A young lady graduate of Juliard and her baritone ukulele. Great songs. Lovely voice complimented by her uke. She makes me think that an album of songs sung with mandolin accompaniment is entirely possible.

Kim Richey (self-titled)
Country singer-songwriter when this came out. I think she's moved on to edgier styles of production. But more great songs sung by a lady with a lovely voice.

James Taylor: Sweet Baby James
His best album. Panoramic scope even on the very personal songs like "Fire and Rain." Visual language that drew me in as a kid and has never failed to warm and inspire me.

Radney Foster: Del Rio Texas, 1959
GREAT country music album. Telecaster tones all over the place. Songs that rip out your heart for the suffering. And Foster's voice. Would love to hear Frank Solivan II or the Del McCoury Band cover "Old Silver."


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  1. gregjones's Avatar
    I don't know of most on your list. I know that you hit the "nail on the head" with Sweet Baby James.

    That one and the first (acoustic) Hot Tuna album ruined my life. Just when I should have been studying and planning for a future in high school, I was slumped over a guitar. I might have survived that except that the dream lasted another 7 years while I earned a four year degree.

    A dozen years of fingerstyle guitar practice did not result in a marketable talent when Heavy Metal hit the scene.

    No regrets!!!