This is part 21 of an ongoing series where the kind folk of the music business reveal their favourite album of all time.
Ask people in the music industry the seemingly simple and straightforward question, “What is your favourite album of all time?” and you’ll find that it’s not always easy. After all, my industry peers listen to hundreds of albums a month – thousands of songs during that time. Because the question isn’t the best album of all time – the one that’s made them the most money in sales – but the one release they personally can’t live without, that one title they have two copies of in several formats, in case one breaks. It’s also about that album that for them has the best back stories and the one that has the most meaning in their lives.
Tim Riley’s latest book is Lennon: The Man, The Myth, The Music. He teaches digital journalism at Emerson College in Boston.
Moondog Matinee, The Band
I first fell in love with this record growing up in Boulder, Colorado, after I saw Dylan play with the Band at the Denver Coliseum in early 1974. I had Planet Waves in my ear, and knew the early Band albums, but this record hovered over them all with an aura of thankless bar gigs and spilt beer, where passion for music transcended terrible working conditions. Mainstream culture had just discovered the fifties catalog with American Graffiti, but the grandeur in these songs reframed George Lucas’s small-town fable. Although the Band’s lead singers (Levon Helm, Rick Danko, and Richard Maneul) took on singers as lofty as Bobby Blue Bland (“Share Your Love [With Me]”), Sam Cooke (“A Change Is Gonna Come”) and Allen Toussaint (“Holy Cow”), there was no pretense at competition. Helm, Danko and Manuel had too much humility, and no small courage, to compare themselves to their exemplars. In the best possible way, these models were too out of reach. Those earlier singers were so incomparable, imitation would have yielded mere flattery. The point was: Sam Cooke & Co. had set the Band’s singers free, and they pursued these songs like personal narratives, stories they had long since internalized as true musical north. These tracks also gave you a map to the Band’s subconscious, making weaker efforts worthwhile in ways they wouldn’t have otherwise been: if they could fail with this set list as looming subtext, who could possibly write them off? Why would anybody want to? Worth tracking down the exquisitely quiet Japanese limited edition remaster from 1998, and tricked out as a Spotify list with other covers, such as the Watkins Glen “Back to Memphis” (more Chuck Berry) or the Rock of Ages “(I Don’t Want To) Hang Up My Rock’n’Roll Shoes” (Chuck Willis), newly remastered on Live at the Academy of Music 1971. Way more fun than a box of chocolates, and sadder than any carnival.
Chris DeLine used to blog at Culture Bully, and now works in Nashville with Fairly Trill, providing creative brand support and strategy to all sorts of music-types.
Songs for the Deaf, Queens Of The Stone Age
I was in college when it was released and as word started spreading about the Grohl-soaked LP, I found a drum loop from “Song for the Dead” on a file-sharing site, and listened to that thing for (no joke here, either) hours at a time. Hours. At. A. Time. Of Dave Grohl’s minute-long swing-for-the-fences drum-intro. On repeat. It’s only in hindsight that I recognize the true nature of my insanity. The album still gets my juices flowing (see: various juices originating from numerous orifices), and 11 years be damned: It still sounds fresh as a daisy. Mark Lanegan pops up here and there, universal wildcard Nick Oliveri was still on board (I swear that man has cocaine for blood), and despite a few mellow dips and dives, the whole goddamn thing is still merciless in its delivery.
Pete Richards, Pete Hates Music blog
OK Computer, Radiohead
My favourite album of all-time is Radiohead’s OK Computer. When it came out in 1997, I was a teenager, still grasping to the fading alternative and grunge music scene. I was discovering more music, but didn’t really have a favourite album apart from pretty much anything by the Beatles. Then along came OK Computer, blowing me (and many critics) away. 16 years later, it’s still influential and has stood the test of time. My OK Computer album was almost lost, when I was pulled over and searched at the Canada-U.S. border on the way to a Radiohead concert in New York City back in 2003. When asked what I was doing in the United States, I foolishly said “rock concert”. I had no money on me, so the border guards assumed I was planning on selling drugs (?!). This led to a mini tear down of my car, drug sniffing dogs everywhere in my car, and an interrogation. However, as I was driving away, shaking my head at the experience, I realized that the guards failed to re-pack my bags, including my Radiohead tickets and my precious OK Computer album! I made search to do (an illegal) U-turn to retrieve those items. Because of OK Computer, I’ve become a lifelong Radiohead fan, seeing them twice on their OK Computer tour and over 10 more times in 5 countries across 3 continents to date.
Denis Howard, WERU-FM Community Radio 89.9 (Blue Hill) / 99.9 (Bangor)
Faith, George Michael
Though it certainly was a # 1 record for a long stretch (due to all of those hit singles and the placement on the year-end charts) that is not why I love it the most. Even Rolling Stone gave him a cover with the release of the album and raved about the quality of the recording. I was seventeen when it was released and even though I have listened to everything from classical to death metal since (and host an Americana morning drive program) there are still multiple cassette copies, videocassettes, and of course compact discs of the Faith album at my house. Every song on that album relates to some particular high school girl that I was either hoping to be involved with, recovering from a situation with, or just gazing on from a distance.
Jacob Mamor, Your EDM
Little Creatures, Talking Heads
Before I got into electronic music I was all about classic rock. My parents still hold a vast collection of vinyls from the hayday of Rock and Roll. The album that means the most to me is Little Creatures by Talking Heads. When I was a baby my dad would blast the sixth track on the album, Stay Up Late, while I was taking my afternoon naps. I obviously don’t remember this because I was still a small child but my mom reassures me that this happened on multiple occaisons, much to her dismay. As I continued to grow my love for music became evident and Little Creatures is one of the first albums I can remember listening to all the way through. The album holds a special spot in my heart and will always bring back memories.