Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Favorite 10 - Music Albums

As the title suggests, this is the start of a new series called 'My Favorite 10' where in I shall be picking up 10 favorites from the various fields of art. The idea is to share my tastes with my readers and perhaps learn about their tastes. In this process, I may discover things that I have been missing so far.

Limiting it to a 10 isn’t easy by any standards, and this is where the task becomes challenging and exciting.

The first topic has to be about Music, more specifically Music Albums. And my parameters are quite simple:

a) The Effect it had on me: From shaping my musical tastes to the number of days the tape/CD was stuck inside my music system.
b) Longevity: Do I see myself enjoying them, 15 years from now?

*The list is in the chronological order of appearance in my life.
**This list might change in 10 years time.

1. Hum Dono – Jaidev, 1961
This one was a part of my growing up process in the form of a good old magnetic tape, played regularly by my music loving father on our mono National Panasonic cassette player. The classic duet, ‘Abhi Na Jaao Chod Kar’ (Don’t Leave Me Now) still remains an all time favorite and so does the best Bhajan (A Devotional Song) ever made in a Hindi movie, ‘Allah Tero Naam, Ishwar tero Naam’ (You are Allah & You are Jesus Too). This Jaidev masterpiece is an evergreen gem.

Give it to me anytime and it will spread a smile over my face.

2. Famous Waltzes - Johann Strauss, Jr., Composed between 1845 and 1899, Performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
This one too, was in the form of a magnetic tape in my house and would always make me happy whenever it was played by my father. Even in that Mono player, its rhythmic nature and multiple small little melodies in one composition would bowl me over. Compositions like ‘The Blue Danube’ and ‘Tales from the Vienna Woods’ have become legendary now, used (and abused) for many narrative purposes, from Movie Soundtracks to TV Commercials.

Today I have the same album in the form of a CD which often gives me a good company on the car journeys.

3. Raga Yaman Kalyan (Ae Ri Aaj Piya Bin) / Raga Darbari (Jhanak Jhanak) – Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Recorded in early 1980s
One takes you into an evening of pleasure; the other takes you into the depths of night. I am referring to the two Ragas mentioned above.

If I discount my father’s violin sessions, this was perhaps one of the first piece of Indian Classical music that fell into my young ears. Instantly, I became a fan of the man’s voice and singing. I still am.

4. The Dark Side Of The Moon – Pink Floyd, 1973
My first exposure to both psychedelic rock and Pink Floyd (no it wasn’t ‘The Wall’). Right from the beginning sounds of heartbeat, the album gripped me completely. I had never heard anything like that before. I still feel that nothing can begin in a grander fashion than this album With the sounds of the many alarm clocks going off at one time to the almost orgasmic singing of ‘The Great Gig In the Sky’, to the cash registers ringing, everything about was disruptive to my young ears. I must’ve been 14 or 15, then.

Later, when I got down to the lyrics, I was once again enraptured in the similar manner by this great work of art. Definitely worth many visits.
*Much later, I was lucky enough to watch the entire album being performed by Mr. Roger Waters himself.

5. The White Album – The Beatles, 1968
It covers all possible genres. It taps the potential of the three songwriters in the band to the highest extent. And one Disc wasn’t enough to fit in the amount of creativity they produced.

From the whispering ‘Julia’ to the screaming ‘Helter Skelter’ to the wailing ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, it has everything in it. The Beatles were breaking up but their music had reached newer heights at the foothills of Himalayas, where they were composed most of the tracks.

And, it can always make me that Himalayan high.

6. Blood On The Tracks – Bob Dylan, 1975
This came to me at a phase when I was going through a personal crisis of the ‘heart’ type. The most personal album of Dylan had my sentiments in it. It was as if, the man was singing my songs. It had me captivated for months
*This blog gets its name from one of the tracks in the album.

7. Sticky Fingers – The Rolling Stones, 1971
Well, this is a drug-laden album and I was into it then. It has country, it has blues, it has yearning, it has overdose and it has the essential Stones punch. The sad, drugged, stringy and extremely melodious ‘Moonlight Mile’ is the perfect way to end.

The fact that the Andy Warhol designed cover was one of the most controversial one just adds to the entire charm.

8. Rumors – Fleetwood Mac, 1977
This everlasting magic came to me through a windfall from someone who wanted to get rid of all his magnetic tapes as he had moved into the digital zone. (And, I’m glad he did so)

I had heard a few of the popular FM track before, but this album was a revelation, a sort of magic. The sophisticated compositions, the depth of the lyrics, the mix of the vocals, drums & the guitar, everything is perfect. Not a single track can be forwarded.

This essential 70s album will always work for me.

9. Astral Weeks – Van Morrison, 1968
I’ve been meaning to write about this one for a long time now, but I’ve always been successful. I am at loss of words when it comes to appreciating this surreal, seamless confluence of poetry, music and singing woven together. And Mr. Morrison was all of 23 when he created it! I will die peacefully if this is playing on my death-bed.

For a beautiful write-up on the album by Mr. Lester Bangs, the music journalist you can go

On a personal note, I found a precious friend while absorbing this album along with whiskey.

10. Kind of Blue – Miles Davis, 1959
Its slow, its gentle, its luxurious, it’s a lazy afternoon, it’s Kind of Blue. The finest Jazz album ever, by the genius who shaped the genre. And, the band helping him had stalwarts like Coltrane, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb and Cannonball Adderley. Out of this world!

One can just keep on listening to this one, day after day, year after year, life after life.

That sums up the first edition My Favorite 10. It’s rather long and I had a very tough time selecting them (leaving out one to include another). But I also enjoyed doing it and I hope you will enjoy reading it. And, do mention your favorite Albums.