Eight albums that will make your world a better place
June 29, 2013
I’m in the process of selling my home and buying another to accommodate my lovely wife, spirited son and new daughter arriving in the month of November. Add potty training to this domestic tempest in a teapot and life becomes a very busy and rewarding place. Therefore, it’s been imperative to take time to unwind with an album after the ruckus dies down and the couch comes a-callin’. Nothing is accompanied by a musical link, but life is at its best when you have to work just a little harder to find that peaceful place where all is right with the world.
Yves Serge and Victor-Cabigi (Self-released 1975/re-released by Guerssen)
This one fulfills a lifelong mission to find three French dudes in 1975 that were dedicated to finding the creamy center of a confection inspired by Neil Young circa After the Gold Rush, New Riders of the Purple Sage, CSNY and the Laurel Canyon. Cabigi removes all of the epic sweep of its progenitors and twists it into to something intimate, homespun and utterly inviting to anyone with a lick of good taste.
The Go-Betweens-Before Hollywood (Rough Trade 1983)
I’ve been listening to this one lately for entirely different reasons than Cagibi. This is a highly wired and wary collection of songs. Moody might be the best descriptor, but plenty apply. Every song is a meditation on the same theme of goodbyes and tracing the steps that led to that tragic moment when things change. They all capture the bittersweet nature of change and revels in the peaks and valleys that ensue in its aftermath.
Jay Bolotin-s/t (Commonwealth United 1970/reissued by Locust a few years ago)
It’s like Leonard Cohen minus the immense weightiness mixed with a dash of Fred Neal and Donovan. A classic slow-burner of an album. Nothing is particularly catchy, but it’s entirely engrossing. It’s the kind of album where one of the best songs is about being one with the wind on a summer’s day and casting your lot with a rainbow princess full of promises. It’s a totally ridiculous concept, but he sells it so well that I want to join him in his quest.
JD Emmanuel-Wizards (North Star Productions 1982/reissued by Important a few years ago)
I haven’t attended a yoga class in three years, but I would sign up again in an instant if they promised to play this album on incessant repeat. No matter how hectic your day has been, Wizards will rearrange your chakras and encourage you to do reiki whenever your spirit feels defeated. It’s sublime and the most chill thing that may ever come into your life.
Scott Dunbar-From Lake Mary (Ahura Mazda 1970/reissured by Fat Possum a few years ago)
I love the blues, but rarely make it through an entire album. If I’m in that particular mood, I’ll jump from record to record, but From Lake Mary gets played from beginning to end every single time. I couldn’t recollect a single lyric from this one after dozens of listens, but it doesn’t matter because it’s the naggingly simple, yet hypnotic percussion and lazy strum of the guitar that steals the show. All stress floats off of your skin once you invite it over for the night.
Duke Ellington/Charles Mingus/Max Roach-Money Jungle (Blue Note 1963)
For some reason, I associate promising beginnings with this record. One of the most positive and vibrant jazz albums recorded. All three musicians simultaneously solo in a way that sings more richly than vocal chords could ever duplicate. It’s scattershot. It’s endlessly busy. It echoes the hustle and bustle of my days and perfectly captures the joy I feel every step of the way.
The Bridge: A Tribute to Neil Young (Caroline 1989)
Tribute albums usually suck. This is one of the few that doesn’t. This is the only place where Soul Asylum, Dinosaur Jr. Nikki Sudden, Loop. Nick Cave and Psychic TV congregate and it somehow makes perfect sense. It’s all over the place stylistically, but isn’t that one of the reasons Neil Young inspires such devotion? Plus, it somehow features a cover of “Barstool Blues” by Soul Asylum that made me double check to see if I was missing something since it’s so perfect. Nick Cave’s “Helpless” might be one of the best things he recorded and Psychic TV’s cover of “Only Love WIll Break Your Heart” makes me wish they devoted an entire album to the vibe created here.
Stonewall-s/t (Tiger Lily 1976)
Hard rock has been rendered impotent from overuse, but it is probably the perfect adjective to describe this album. It has two basic components: lonely wailing and riffs worthy of adulation. Just give into the idea of an alternate universe where these guys were famous and you can almost feel yourself lifting your lighter in the air.