This is part 61 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 and thousands of songs during that time. Because the question isn’t the best album of all time or the one that’s made them the most money in sales, or the most clicked-on review, 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.
Luis Cardenas, Director of Programming, LATV
The Clash, London Calling
I belive it was released in 1979 or 1980 it marks the evolution or rock, The Clash been a punk band released that it could be the record that change music on the 80’s 90’s and 2000’s. Is goes from Punk to Ska to rockabilly hard rock. Reflexing song about drugs racial issues on society, gangs and politics. If you put this record to spin now at day still as fresh as the 1980.
Lori Bosworth, Torontonicity.com
The Allman Brothers, Decade of Hits (1969-1979)
I love this album because it features Gregg Allman’s searing vocals and Duane Allman’s definitive slide guitar skills. Dickie Betts is amazing too. The group was overflowing with talent and definitely under-rated. I love the Allman Brothers because they are a hybrid of rock and blues, two of my favourite genres. I remember hearing “Whipping Post” on the radio for the first time and marvelling at Gregg Allman’s back phrasing of the lyric, “Tiiiiiied….to the whipping post,” and loved his interpretation. There was no doubt that he felt the lyrics in his soul.
Jonathan Soroff, Columnist, The Improper Bostonian
Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon
I listened to it incessantly throughout my teenage years. Everything from the iconic album cover of the prism to the incredibly clever lyrics of songs like “Money” just spoke to me. Then, in my 20s, I was renting a beach house on Martha’s Vineyard with a group of friends. We ate mushrooms, turned off the lights and watched this epic lightning storm travel up Vineyard Sound while listening to it, and the music and the storm seemed to synch perfectly.
Luke O’Neil, long time music journalist, currently a writer-at-large for Esquire
Elliott Smith, Either/Or
First off, this is a cruel trick to play on a music fan of any kind, never mind a music writer. There’s a reason why so many “Best __” lists proliferate, and that’s because settling on a clear cut winner when it comes to a favorite album or song or artist is a task that will never feel finalized. Were it a body of work as a whole, I’d have to go with The Smiths, and either the debut, or The Queen Is Dead, could certainly have been my single album choice here. But if you really, definitely, fine, ok I’ll do it, force me to choose my favorite album ever, the answer would be Either/Or by Elliott Smith. Ever since I first heard it, which must have been around 1997 or 98, shortly after it came out, while working at my college radio station — which was still a thing back then! — it’s an album I’ve gone back to time and again. The Either/Or here is of course a reference to Kierkegaard’s model of hedonism versus ethical responsibility, and that certainly accounts for much of the subject matter here: the grim nocturnal underbelly of the Pacific Northwest and Los Angeles that Smith haunted in his formative years, the allure of the bottle and the needle, the hopefulness and hopelessness of love. But for me that titular choice represents the context in which I’m capable of receiving the album on any given listen. My wife and I have a sort of joke at home, whenever we come across one of us listening to Elliott Smith, the reaction is: uh oh. What’s wrong? And while wallowing in the sadness, the beautiful, fragile sadness of Smith’s music here is the more likely motivation for putting it on, on the other hand, there’s a sort of triumphant defiance in many of the songs that can be inspiring. That dichotomy is particularly on display on the final two songs, arguably the most well known, 2:45 and Say Yes. In the first, Smith has been attacked, beaten down, and left on his own. By Say Yes, there’s a light breaking through the shadows. He’s not alone for the first time in a while, and he’s practically exuberant, at least as far as he can be, relatively speaking. It’s further impossible to pick a favorite song on the record, Rose Parade is exceptionally vivid in its description of the busy street — “people passing by that all seem to be going the other way” — and Between the Bars is absolutely devastating. Angeles, meanwhile, is some of the most visceral guitar work, and another stunning lyric — “And be forever with my poison arms around you”, but it’s Ballad of Big Nothing that I always come back to. I remember seeing Smith play in Providence at Lupo’s in 98 or so for the first time, and when he played that song, I did, what in retrospect, seems like a normal reaction, but wasn’t something I’d ever done before at a show: I cried. I still do when I hear it sometimes almost twenty years later.
Jessi Whitten, OpenAir Music Director/Assistant Program Director, Colorado Public Radio
The Postal Service, Give Up
This album makes my heart ache in that amazing way that forces you to remember that you have a heart. Give Up came out during those gloriously impressionable late teen years where music has the ability to fill every need. This record was my air, my food, and my friend for years and it still is when I’m feeling vulnerable or deserving enough to reach for it. It’s almost certainly my personal associations that make this disc so important. “Brand New Colony” gave me hope that I’d find or be my own great romance. I’ve never felt as free as the day I broke into my High School auditorium sound booth so I could blast “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” over the loud speakers and dance on the darkened stage. Ben Gibbard is basically ruined for me because every time he opens his mouth and these songs don’t come out, I can’t help but be a little disappointed.