Don't know what to do with those Amazon or iTunes gift cards you received over the holidays. Rather than begin the New Year with a list of resolutions, I've made a list of suggested albums to add to your collection. I have provided music for most tests.
The first list of ten draws from a variety of popular styles. I have tried to stay a couple of steps off the beaten path. All ten are winners!
The Byrds -- Younger than Yesterday
Just as they were breaking up they hit perfection
Jorma Kaukonen -- The Land of Heroes
Absolute terrific folk/blues
Deep Purple -- Machine Head
My favorite work-out music by far
Del Amitri -- Some Other Sucker's Parade
Not a bad track on the album
Bob Dylan -- Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue
Wow! Dylan exploded back onto the scene with this tour. Outstanding performances
Grizzly Bear -- Veckatimest
The best indie band around. Highly intelligent and inventively musical.
Widespread Panic -- 'Til the Medicine Takes
Awesome Southern rock-- I rank 'em ahead of the Allman Brothers.
Aimee Mann -- I'm with Stupid
Terrific song-writing tinged with punk, pop, folk.
Blind Boys of Alabama -- Spirit of the Century
Mesmerizing gospel sound.
Sufjan Stevens -- Illinois
So multi-layered you'll hear something new each time you listen.
Since jazz is already off the beaten path for many listeners, I've been less concerned about avoiding "popular" artists. Just about anything by Bill Evans, John Coltrane and Miles Davis (especially 50's, 60's) is worth acquiring, so I left them off. I tried to add suggestions that would work for either discerning jazz collectors or someone who would like to take a spin with the genre.
Bill Mays -- Mays in Manhattan
I play this when I'm happy because it always makes me happy to hear those opening bars.
David Holland Big Band -- What Goes Around
To quote from one reviewer, "Highlights? The whole album is a highlight. . . . richly creative"
Kenny Burrell -- Lotus Blossom
This native Detroiter produces a lovely, understated sound on his guitar
Chick Corea & Gary Burton -- Native Sense
A duet which has produced my very favorite jazz album
Stan Getz & Kenny Barron -- People Time
This one came to me through jazz aficionado, Tome Schusterbauer. Highly melodious and emotional.
Pat Metheny & Brad Mehldau -- Metheny/Mehldau
One more pairing made in jazz heaven.
Wynton Marsalis-- Mr.Jelly Roll
An impeccable tribute to Jelly Roll Morton
Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra -- Big Train
Tracie, Tom, you like trains? Put this album on and take a glorious ride through your imagination.
Wayne Shorter -- Footprints live!
Tremendous writer with an incredible quartet.
McCoy Tyner -- Soliloquy
The best jazz solo piano album in the universe.
I did not avoid major artists or composers with my classical recommendations. You will also note that I am partial to Baroque and Classical keyboard and chamber music.
Mozart Sonatas for Piano and Violin-- Mitsuko Uchida & Mark Steinberg
Bartok Concerto for Orchestra-- Fritz Reiner, Chicago symphony
The clarity of this Living Stereo recording is remarkable.
Bach Brandenburg Contertos-- Martin Perlman, Boston Baroque
My favorite performances of my favorite pieces of music.
"Kronos Released (1985-1995)"-- Kronos Quartet
A terrifically interesting program of music
Chopin 4 Ballades-- Murray Perahia
A perfect pianist plays perfect pieces.
Bach: Partita No. 4 Ballades-- Maria Joa Pires
My Bach keyboard collection mainly consists of performances by Perahia nad Hewitt, but this one is my very favorite
Ravel Gaspard de la nuit-- Boris Berezovsky
The best piano cd I have ever heard.
Schubert & Schumann Symphonies No. 4-- Nicholas Harnoncourt, Berlin Philharmonic.
Henryk Gorecki Symphony No. 3-- Dawn Upshaw & London Sinfonietta
The second movement is utterly sublime.
Tchaikovsky Quartets 1-3 -- Borodin Quartet.
A perfectly blended sound for these under.
I also am recommending some performance dvds. The first seven feature surround sound. I have deliberately not included documentaries (Woodstock, Moterrey Pop, Festival Express, etc).
Cream-- Royal Albert Hall '05
Finally a chance to hear this power trio in great digital sound.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse-- Rust Never Sleeps
Lousy picture, but ragged, bone-shaking garage band sound. Wake your neighbors!
From the Basement
Several artists play a song or two. The Radiohead and White Stripes sets are worth the cost alone.
An All Star Tribute to Brian Wilson
Uneven tributes, but I listen to the Aimee Mann/Michael Penn, David Crosby, Vince gill sets again and again. Transcendent.
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band Live in NYC
Disc one is among my favorite rock music recorded any time, anywhere.
Concert for George -- Royal Albert Hall 2002
George Harrison's music performed by his highly accomplished friends like Clapton, Petty, McCarthy.
Alison Krauss & Union Station: Live
I've seen her live and this is the next best thing. Sweet 5.1 dts sound.
John Fogerty-- The Long Road Home
Not much showmanship but all the Fogerty classics are here and he is backed by terrific musicians.
Tremendous blues music by one Hall of Fame performer after another. Tune for tune your best purchase of my top ten.
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble: Live from Austin, Texas (1995)
Two short sets from Austin City Limits, but both are terrific. Rock, jazz (and of course) blues influences are on display. What a great talent Vaughan was!
"John Paul Jones & Uncle Earl" Flickr Creative Commons Photo by RussellReno
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