Archive for July 15th, 2009

100 Favorite Albums of All-Time (80-71)

Part three of my top 100 albums of all time.

Previously:

80. Other Voices, Other Rooms by Nanci Griffith (1993)

Another good example of the artist-as-interpreter with Griffith covering folk classics and obscure nuggets will the help of an all-star cast of collaborating musicians. Highlights include “From Clare to Here,” This Old Town,” and “Are You Tired of Me Darling?”

79. Profound Sounds by Josh Wink (1999)

I have a number of electronica discs in my collection with a lot of good tracks but it’s rare to find one as cohesive as an album as Profound Sounds.  The liner notes also include a nice tribute to the mix tape. Highlights include “K-Mart Shopping (Hi-Fi Mix)” by Nerio’s Dubwork Meets Kathy Lee,  “Vol 1″ by Care Company, and “D2″ by Johannes Heil & Heiko Laux.

78. Odelay by Beck (1996)

There those who foolishly thought Beck was a one-hit wonder after “Loser” were informed of their mistake by the hit “Where It’s At.”  Odelay also proved that Beck could make a great album.  In fact while this is the highest ranking Beck album in the top 100, I strongly considered putting some of his other albums in the list including Sea Change, Guero, and The Information.  Really, they’re all good. Highlights of Odelay include “Jack-Ass,” “High 5 (Rock the Catskills,” and “Minus.”

77. Songs from the Big Chair by Tears For Fears (1985)

This may be my guilty pleasure, but I’ve had a copy of this album pretty much since it was released so it gets a longevity award if nothing else.  In addition to the three singles everyone knows (“Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” “Shout,” and “Head Over Heals”), I’ve long been fond of the more avante-garde piece “Listen.”

76. Anthology of American Folk Music (1952)

This collection puts together many folk, blues, and country recordings from the 1920′s-30′s, a time when those genres hadn’t even been defined.  Influential of the folk revival of the 50′s & 60′s this anthology is great for studying American music and just plain fun to listen to.  Check out the Smithsonian Folkways Collection podcast (episodes 4-6) for more of the story behind the Anthology and then get a copy of  your very own.

75. The Divine Comedy by Milla (1994)

One would expect that a model-actress who records an album of songs she wrote as a teenager would create something unlistenable and self-indulgent. Lucky Milla Jovovich wrote mature, dreamy pop songs inspired by folk and Slavic traditioons that are well worth a listen. Highlights include “It’s Your Life,” “Gentleman Who Fell,” and “Reaching From Nowhere.”

74. The Resophonics by The Resophonics (2001)

The Somerville Bluegrass Boys first collection of excellent modern bluegrass music.  Their other albums are pretty good too as is anything Sean Staples works on. Highlights include “Willow Tree,” “Anna Lee,” and “Young Love.”

73. The Rhythm of the Saints by  Paul Simon (1990)

This album never got the appreciation of Graceland, but it’s almost as good. Simon’s well-crafted, impressionistic lyrics are accompanied by Brazilian and West African music.  The batucada drumming on the opening track was ear-opening for me as a youngster.  Highlights include “The Obvious Child,” “The Coast,” and “Born at the Right Time.”

72. Surfer Rosa by Pixies (1988)

Long before the Pixies became one of the best oldies bands touring about the world non-stop, they recorded one of the most influential rock albums of all time.  Includes some of the Pixes best songs such as  “Gigantic,” “Where is My Mind?,” and “Bone Machine.”

71. Violent Femmes by Violent Femmes (1982)

If you didn’t have a copy of this album in college, then your roommate did.  Either way you don’t need me to tell you why it’s great or list of the highlights.  You can probably recite the track listing from memory.

Book Review: An African in Greenland by Tété-Michel Kpomassie

Around The World For a Good Book selection for: Togo

Author: Tété-Michel Kpomassie
Title: An African in Greenland
Publication Info: New York : New York Review Books, [2001] (Originally published in 1981)
ISBN: 9780940322882

Summary/Review:

Kpomassie, who grew up in a traditional society in Togo, writes a charming, insightful and very human account about his year living among the traditional societies of Greenland.  The story begins when Kpomassie is a boy and is injured in a fall from a tree.   In his convalescence he comes across a book about the Eskimos and finds himself obsessed with the idea of visiting Greenland.  After 10 years working his way across Africa and Europe, earning money and travel visas, Kpomassie finally arrives by ship on the shores of Greenland.

Kpomassie seeks out the most remote and traditional Inuit villages he can reach and enjoys the hospitality of many villages, forms friendships, and by the end of the book expresses the desire to live out his days in Greenland.  There are some great scenes of hunting for seal, fishing, community gatherings, and a ride across the ice by dogsled (and the embarrassment of falling off).  There’s also a dark side to Greenland as Kpomassie observes the loss of traditional culture to Danish colonialism, widespread underemployment and the ensuing poverty and alcoholism.  The sunless winter in the most remote village Kpomassie visits is especially depressing.

I broke my rule of focusing on fiction for my Around The World For a Good Book project because I could not resist the cross-cultural premise of a man from an African traditional society visiting the traditional cultures of Greenland.  Part travelogue, part memoir, and part anthropology, this is one of my favorite books I’ve read thus far this year.

Recommended books: The Silent Traveler series by Chiang Yee shares a similar warm, humanist style of observation and interaction of people from different cultures.
Rating: ****1/2

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