100 Favorite Albums of All-Time 10-1


Yikes! I’ve reached the top ten.  It should be noted that I actually considered 12 albums as being good enough to be number one, but only one could qualify.  Or you could look at as a 12-way tie.

Previously:

10. Hush by Yo Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin (1992)

A world famous concert cellist and an innovative a capella vocalist  (who has done a lot more than “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”) collaborate on a children’s album and its brilliant.  There are a number of interpretations of classical pieces but my favorites are McFerrin originals such as “Stars,” “Grace,” and “Coyote.”

9. Belafonte at Carnegie Hall by Harry Belafonte (1959)

I was born to late to see Belafonte perform at his prime, but this recording captures his amazing voice and showmanship.  The show has three parts featuring Black American music, the Caribbean,  and folk songs from around the world with such highlights as “Jamaica Farewell,” “Shenandoah,” and “Matilda.”

8. Doolittle by Pixies (1989)

This album has kept me up all night and probably damaged my ear drums as I listened to it repeatedly with my headphones on many occasions over the years. I think it was a hand-me-down from my sister who didn’t like it. Highlights include “Debaser,” “Wave of Mutilation,” “Hey,” and “Gouge Away.”

7. If I Should Fall From the Grace of God by The Pogues (1988)

This was always one of the first albums I’d upgrade to new formats, mainly because I’d worn out tape and CD copies from repeat listenings.  Shane and the gang do their punky Celtic best on songs like “Fairytale of New York,” “Turkish Song of the Damned,” “Thousands Are Sailing,” and “Medley.”

6. Flood by They Might Be Giants (1990)

I think I’ve tried to explain the genius, artistry and symbolism of songs by TMBG to people who think they’re just funny ditties.  See what you think when listening to tracks like “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” “Birdhouse in Your Soul,” “Road Movie To Berlin,” “Particle Man,” and “Your Racist Friend.”

5. Sacrebleu by Dimitri From Paris (1996)

A French house DJ mixes in all sorts of loungey music and soundtracks for a really cool effect.  Try out “Sacre Francais,” “Reveries,” “Une Very Stylish Fille,” and “Un World Mysteriouse” for starters.

4. BullsEye by The Kevin Hanson Trio (2001)

Saw Hanson solo at Club Passim and was impressed by his guitar virtuosity.  Got the album and was impressed by the imaginative lyrics and music of songs like “I Wish,” “Just Because,” and “Circus.”

3. Cry Cry Cry by Cry Cry Cry (1998)

Contemporary folk singer/performers Dar Williams, Richard Shindell, and Lucy Kaplansky collaborate on covers of songs by other contemporary artists such as”By Way of Sorrow,” “Cold Missouri Waters,” and “Shades of Gray.” Funny that none of their solo work made my list, but together they’re three times as good.

2. Rum, Sodomy and The Lash by  The Pogues (1985)

Pogues’ fans argue about which album is there best and I believe its this very raw, very powerful, and very good collection. It feature Cait O’Riordan’s only lead vocal performance on (ironically) “I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Everyday,” a beautifully haunting song. “Sally MacLennane,” and “A Pair of Brown Eyes” are a couple of other Pogues standards on this all around excellent album.

1.  Tanglewood Tree by Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer

The folk duo’s masterpiece includes  the brilliant lyrics and music of Dave Carter with Grammer on vocals and fiddle on songs such as “Tanglewood Tree,” “The Mountain,” and “Cowboy Singer.”  Ten years have gone by and I’m still wowed by this album.

Next week:  Some honorable mentions that did not crack the Top 100 although many were deserving.

100 Favorite Albums of All-Time 20-11


Previously:

20. Graceland by Paul Simon (1986)

Simon’s solo masterpiece is great for integrating “world music” and some of the most well-thought-out lyrics ever written.  Highlights include “Diamonds On The Soles of Her Shoes,” “Homeless,” “I Know What I Know,” and the title track.

19. Singalong by Pete Seeger (1980)

Pete Seeger and thousands of voices in Cambridge’s Sanders Theater sing the great folk songs of a generation.  Seeger is not really about recordings, but I find this recorded Pete at his best virtually bringing you the concert experience.  Favorites include “If I Had A Hammer,” “The Water is Wide,”  “Old Devil Time,” and many more.

18. London Calling by The Clash (1979)

This may be the first time that Pete Seeger and The Clash appear in a list next to one another, but they share a certain passion and do-it-yourself ethic, so why not.  I’m not the first one to extol the greatness of London Calling so I’ll just tell you my favorite songs are “Lost in the Supermarket,” “Rudie Can’t Fail,” “Guns of Brixton,” “The Right Profile,” the title song and the rest of the whole album.

17. I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One by Yo La Tengo (1997)

I resisted putting every single album by Yo La Tengo in this list, but if you don’t have any albums by this band please get this one.  You may also enjoy “Moby Octopad” (and its Mets’ references), “Sugarcube,” “Stockholm Syndrome,” “Shadows,” “Autumn Sweater,” and the rest.

16. So by Peter Gabriel (1986)

There are probably diehard Gabriel fans who roll their eyes at this pick but I say that any album with experimental sounds and clever lyrics that can still be a huge hit is worth remembering.  I like all the songs that got played all the time on the radio, and the one from that movie, and then there’s “This Is The Picture (Excellent Birds).”

15. Revolver by The Beatles (1966)

This is my favorite Beatles album and I’m never sure why.  Lots of studio experimentation pays off (not to mention drug experimentation), I guess.  Favorite songs include “I’m Only Sleeping,” “Got to Get You Into My Life,” and “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

14. Intersections by DJ Maus (2000)

DJ Maus is a drum & bass DJ we once danced to long ago in Montreal and this is one of her albums I picked up and have been entranced by ever since. Favorite tracks: “Plug,” “Phoneheads,” and “Amon Tobin.”

13. Ten Thousand Mornings by Peter Mulvey (2002)

This is the first and only album on this list that I was present for its recording, albeit briefly and accidentally.  Many musicians in Boston hone their skills by playing in the subways and Mulvey paid tribute to this by recording the entire album in Davis Sq station in Somerville.  It’s a great mix of cover songs, collaborations with other folkies, and roaring trains in the background.  Highlights include “Oliver’s Army,” “Comes Love” (with Erin McKeown), “Mama, You’ve Been On My Mind” (w/ Sean Staples), “The Ocean,” and “Two Janes.”

12. Lincoln by They Might Be Giants (1988)

The Brooklyn-based band pays tribute to their Massachusetts’ home town in the title.  More importantly upon hearing “Ana Ng” I was inspired to actually turn the radio dial and check out that modern rock station.  Other favorites from this album include “Kiss Me, Son of God,” “Cowtown,” and “Purple Toupee.”

11. Citizens Band by The Operators (2002)

Here’s yet another band of people I sort-of-know that broke up…wait a minute, they’ve reunited!  Anyhow, some great punk rock from Somerville.  Great tracks include “The Old Man Doesn’t Like It,” “Parasite Rex,” “Bottle,” and “Rock City.”

The top ten is next week.  I think my writing is getting crappier as the albums get better.

100 Favorite Albums of All-Time (30-21)


Previously:

30. Mermaid Avenue by Billy Bragg & Wilco (1998)

An English singer/songwriter/radical and a rock/alt-country band from Chicago join to record tunes for the lost songs of Woody Guthrie and produce a masterpiece.  Once again it proves the timelessness of great music.  Favorites include “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key,” “Walt Whitman’s Niece,” and “I Guess I Planted.”

29. This Are Two Tone (1983)

I was about a decade late discovering the UK’s Two Tone ska revival, but as soon as I heard The Specials “Ghost Town” on my radio I wanted to hear more.  I went to my local record store who of course did not have anything by The Specials, but I decided to check the compilations’ area where I found this gem and my life was changed.  Other highlights include “Gangsters” and “Rudi, A Message To You” by The Specials and “Rankin’ Full Stop” by The Beat.

28. Nothing’s Shocking by Jane’s Addiction (1988)

Nirvana gets the credit for bringing so-called alternative music to the masses but Jane’s Addiction lead the way with this terrific album of funky hard rock.  Favorites include: “Jane Says,” “Ocean Size,” and “Mountain Song.”

27. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back by Public Enemy (1988)

Hip hop at its best with a strong rhymes containing a serious social and political message over some densely-layered and funky samples.  Tracks that are still strong and relevant twenty years later include “Bring The Noise,” “Don’t Believe the Hype,” and “Rebel Without a Pause.”

26. Lifes Rich Pageant by R.E.M. (1986)

Another torch bearer carrying the underground music of the 1980’s to the mainstream of the 1990’s was R.E.M. who started out with very esoteric, experimental recordings early on and gradually became more radio friendly.  This album captures them striking a balance between the two extremes and includes some of the band’s best song such as “Fall On Me,” “The Flowers of Guatemala,” and “Swan Swan H.”

25. Shamrock Shake by Echolalia (1997)

This obscure album was recorded by a Williamsburg, VA -area Celtic folk/rock band who then vanished into the ether.  They are a band who follows the Celtic punk zeitgeist of the Pogues including a cover of “Boys from the County Hell,” but also their own material such as the topical “Serbian’s Wake,” but were best in their interpretations of timeless standards such as “The Ballad of St. Anne’s Reel.”

24. Reconstruction Site by The Weakerthans (2003)

This album was a gift from my brother-in-law that introduced me to a great Canadian rock band performing intelligent and chipper rock songs about death, depression and hating Winnipeg.  Highlights include the title track, “Plea From A Cat Named Virtute,” “Our Retired Explorer (Dines with Michel Foucault in Paris, 1961)” and “The Reasons.”

23. OK Computer by Radiohead (1997)

I think enough ink has been spilled explaining the greatness of OK Computer that I need not add to it, but here are my favorite songs from the album: “No Surprises,” “Karma Police,” “Airbag,” “Lucky,” and “Paranoid Android.”  What are yours?

22. Distillation by Erin McKeown (2000)

I attended the new artists showcase at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in 2000 and after a series of waifs singing about their sad lonely lives, Erin McKeown took the stage and had people singing, dancing and cheering for her two songs.  Later this album was played between sets of some other bands on the main stage and people were singing along to that!  Find out why by listening to catchy and clever tracks like “Queen of Quiet,” “Blackbirds,” and “Fast As I Can.”

21. The Stone Roses by The Stone Roses (1989)

This album was another discovery in a library back when I was in high school.  I listened to it for years and loved it before realizing that other people liked it too.  In fact New Musical Express named it the best British album of all-time in 2000. Not too shabby.  Highlights include: “Shoot You Down,” “I Am the Ressurrection,” “She Bangs the Drums,” and “I Wanna Be Adored.”

100 Favorite Albums of All-Time (40-31)


Previously:

40. Rubber Soul by The Beatles (1966)

Picking Beatles’ albums for this list is challenging.  How do I leave any out?  Rubber Soul is among the Beatles’ most innovative and sophisticated works with a number of great songs, so I can’t leave it off the list. Favorite tracks include: “Norwegian Wood,” “The Word,” and “I’m Looking Through You.”

39. Escondida by  Jolie Holland (2004)

Got this CD as a gift (thanks Camille) and was bowled over by Holland’s timeless voice and the crazy percussion on “Mad Tom of Bedlam.”  Wow! Other highlights include “Sascha,” “Amen,” and “Damn Shame.”

38.  Live Noise by Moxy Fruvous (1998)

Moxy Früvous was  one of those bands were never quite the same on studio albums as they were in concert.  This live collection captures the band’s on-stage banter and improvised songs as well as their greatest hits. “The Drinking Song,” “Michigan Militia,” and “Johnny Saucep’n” are among the musical highlights.

37.  The Roches by The Roches (1979)

Another public library discovery, the debut album of the Roche sisters captures their beautiful harmonies and witty & insightful lyrics.  I never liked any of their later work, but it’s easy to love an album that begins with the autobiographical theme song “We.” Other standouts are “Hammond Song,” “Mr. Sellack,” and “The Troubles.”

36.  When I Go by  Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer (1998)

The first of three masterful albums for this folk duo.  Carter’s dream-inspired lyrics and Grammer’s haunting fiddle made for music both fresh and old-fashioned at the same time as in the title track. Some other memorable tunes include “The River, Where She Sleeps,” “Lancelot,” and “Kate and the Ghost of Lost Love.”

35.  3 Feet High and Rising by De La Soul (1989)

I’d probably listen to more rap music if De La Soul’s mix of clever wordplay, eclectic sampling, and inspired mixing were the standard. Hip tracks include “Say No Go,” “Plug Tunin’,” and “Jenifa Taught Me.”

34. Theorems and Compositions of the Last Action Rocker by Hum Machine (2003)

This Wisconsin rock band falls in the category of “bands with a guy I sort of know who seem to have vanished from the internet” (see Johnny Most).  Good thing I still have this rocking album. Favorites include “Twisted Niche,” “Bring it on Pepeon,” and “Mechanical Devices.”

33. Viva by The Velveteens (1998)

Speaking of obscure bands, The Velveteens are a ska punk band from the College of William & Mary that I saw play once at Homecoming and liked enough to pick up their album before they vanished from the face of the earth.  Memorable pieces include “Wasted With the Cooper,” “Port Authority,” and “Yak Farm.”

32. Live at Tir na nÓg by  Vinal Avenue String Band (1999)

This folk/bluegrass/old time band featured Kris Delmhorst, Sean Staples (later of The Resphonics and The Benders), and Ry Cavanaugh and played a weekly gig at the tiny Tir na nÓg pub in Somerville.  I was a regular patron on those nights and while the band and the pub are no more, this recording survives. The Gillian Welch cover “Tear My Stillhouse Down,” “Tir na nÓg,” and “Front Porch Song” lead off the highlights of this album.

31. Channel 1 – A Compilation Of Output Recordings (2000)

Twisted Village is a record store in Harvard Square that specializes in all manner of music with no commercial potential.  Not having much knowledge of what to pick up there I decided I couldn’t go wrong with a compilation and scored this beauty.  The album contains some great electronic music – some tracks are for dancing, some are for meditating.  “Calamine” by Four Tet, “High-On Tech” by Sonovac, and a cover of James Brown’s “Superbad” by LB are among the many strong tracks.

100 Favorite Albums of All-Time (50-41)


Part six of my top 100 albums of all time.

Previously:

50. The Trinity Session by The Cowboy Junkies (1988)

I’m sure that there are diehard Cowboy Junkies’ fans who scorn people like me who know the band only for this album, but it is an awesome album.  The slow, moody and bluesy tunes and the ethereal vocals of Margo Timmins carry me away.  Highlights include “Blue Moon Revisited,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and of course their cover of Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane.”

49. Vs. by  Mission of Burma (1982)

I first heard this album about 20 years after it was released and it really sounded like a brand-new recording.  Either Mission of Burma were 20 years ahead of themselves or bands today are just catching up to their sound.  This is a must-have for any fan of punk rock.  Favorite’s include “Einstein’s Day,” “Progress,”  and “Train.”

48. Trainspotting Motion Picture Soundtrack (1996)

The music from this film about heroin-users in Edinburgh makes for one of the best soundtracks ever with a good mix of electronic, punk, and Britpop.  Highlights include “For What You Dream Of” by Bedrock, “Born Slippy” by Underworld, and the lengthy instrumental “Trainspotting” by Primal Scream.

47. Emperor Tomato Ketchup by Stereolab (1996)

Another great album by the post-rock band from London.  Highlights include “Les Yper Sound,” “Metronomic Underground,” and “The Noise of Carpet.”

46. Songs For a Hurricane by Kris Delmhorst (2003)

Delmhorst is a singer-songwriter big on the Boston folk scene and one of our favorites to see in concert.  This album is her masterpiece (so far).  Highlights include “Juice & June,” “You’re No Train,” and “Hurricane.”

45. Blind Faith (1969)

This blues rock supergroup only released one, brilliant 6-track album and a tour before seperating, an almost Zen-like moment of perfection.  Favorite tracks include “Presence of the Lord,” “Can’t Find My Way Home,” and “Sea of Joy.”

44. And Then Nothing Turned Itself Out by Yo La Tengo (2000)

This band has it all – great tunes, Mets anecdote related name, and a blue-collar New Jersey work ethic.  I probably should’ve have put all of Yo La Tengo’s albums in this list since this band manages to maintain a distinctive sound while reinventing themselves with every album.  This album captures YLT in a slow, sprawling mood with highlights like “Last Days of Disco,” “Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House,” and “You Can Have It All.”

43. OOOH! (Out of Our Heads) by The Mekons (2002)

This album is a tribute to the public library as I discovered this album and band by randomly checking it out one day.  The Mekons also join Mission of Burma as proof that aging is no deterrent to producing brilliant – if bizarre – punk/post-punk.  This is the first album in this list in which every single song is starred in my iTunes library, but highlights include “Bob Hope & Charity,” “Thee Old Trip to Jerusalem,” and “Only You and Your Ghost Will Know.”

42. Let’s Get Out of this Country by Camera Obscura (2006)

I’m a sucker for ethereal vocalists and Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Cambell singing over a jangly wall of sound gets me every time.  Favorites include “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken,” “Razzle Dazzle Rose,” the title track and “I Need All the Friends I Can Get.”

41. Beggar’s Banquet by  The Rolling Stones (1968)

The Stones kicked off their five-year period of their best best work with a back-to-basics blues and roots music album which I consider their best ever.  Highlights include “No Expectations,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” and “Street Fighting Man.”  While this is the highest ranking Rolling Stones album in my list, these albums are also worth checking out – Aftermath, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street.

100 Favorite Albums of All-Time (60-51)


Part five of my top 100 albums of all time.

Previously:

60. The Remix Album…Diamonds Are Forever by Shirley Bassey (2000)

If this list of favorite albums confirms anything it’s that my musical interests are diverse.  I like electronic music.  I like loungey pop songs sung by a Welsh chanteuse.  And dang it, I like them mixed together.  The best thing about this album is how the remixes emphasize rather than overwhelm Bassey’s vocals.  Bassey’s famed for singing the theme songs to three James Bond films (Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, and Moonraker, all represented here) but I’m particularly fond of her take on “(Where Do I Begin) Love Story” and “Big Spender.”

59. Songs In The Attic by  Billy Joel (1981)

Billy Joel is a divisive figure.  Many people pan him as schmaltzy and derivative.  Millions more  love him.  I was in the later category from the age of 7 until my college days.  Glass Houses was the first non-kiddy album I ever owned (co-owned with my sister) and remains a sentimental favorite.  While I’m not that into Joel these days, Songs in the  Attic remains on my iPod.  It’s a collection of songs Joel recorded early in his career with session musicians re-recorded with his band after he became famous.  The energy of such songs as “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out On Broadway)” capture Joel at his best.

58. Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night by Stereolab (1999)

Stereolab’s music is hard to describe.  Electronic – lounge – fuzz – experimental – free jazz  – and all tres Euro.  Kind of like Shirley Bassey remixed but planned that way from the start.  This album is probably an enabler to my ability to enjoy dissonance.  Standout tracks include “Fuses,” “Italian Shoes Continuum,” and “Infinity Girl.”

57. Truth and Soul by Fishbone (1988)

This ska/funk/hardcore/et al band performed at the first “real” concert I ever attended supporting their excellent album Reality of My Surroundings in 1991.  This earlier album though is the strongest and most cohesive album Fishbone ever released.  It mixes a strong social message with a fun party vibe.  Highlights include “Bonin’ in the Boneyard,” “Change,” and the Curtis Mayfield cover “Freddie’s Dead.”

56. Homegenic by Björk (1997)

This is the second and highest ranked Björk album in this list although I was sorely tempted to include them all, not to mention her work with the Sugarcubes Life’s Too Good.  But Homogenic is Björk at her best – lush and rhythmic, emotional and experimental.  Favorite tracks include “Jóga,” “Bachelorette,” and “All is Full of Love.”

55. The Beatles [White Album] by The Beatles (1968)

The first two Beatles cassettes I bought were their 1962-66 compilation and The White Album  They were both double albums so I thought I was getting a good deal.  I also didn’t know what I was getting into.  The music on The White Album was nothing like The Beatles music I’d heard on the radio growing up.  This album is The Beatles at their most experimental, venturing into country, folk, blues, vaudeville, heavy metal, and whatever “Revolution No. 9” is.  The sad side of this album is that it documents the band at a time of squabling and “artistic difference” with members of The Beatles playing with guest musicians more than with one another.  Still though, it’s all pretty good, intriguing stuff.  Favorites include “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” “Blackbird,” and “Long, Long, Long.”

54. Portable EFO Show by  Eddie From Ohio (1998)

Eddie from Ohio are always best in concert and this is the best of there many live albums capturing them at a time when I think they were at their peak.  I actually picked up this album at the concert when it was first released and the song banter on the album was still topical.  Highlights include “Cleo & Tony Medley,” “The Three Fine Daughters of Farmer Brown,” “This My Town,” and Eddie Hartness’ drum solo on “Very Short Fuse.”

53.  Last Splash by  The Breeders (1993)

The oscillating bass line of “Cannonball” provided the backing track to my Junior year of college.  Last Splash is 90’s indie rock as I want to remember it best.  Other highlights include “Divine Hammer,” “Drivin’ on 9,” and “Saints.”

52. Ágætis byrjun by Sigur Rós (1999)

Can music be both soothing and unsettling at the same time? Sigur Rós made it so.  I was late to the Sigur Rós bandwagon but after hearing this album I hopped on for the dreamy, ambient, and cinematic beauty of their music.  Highlights include “Svefn-g-englar,” “Starálfur,” and “Ný batterí,”

51. Crosby, Stills, & Nash by Crosby, Stills, & Nash (1969)

Like The Doors, Crosby, Stills & Nash are a band whose entire reputation relies on a brilliant debut album standing out like a diamond in the rough among their later smooth rock and hippie self-parody. Let’s ignore that though and enjoy the brilliant lyrics and beautiful harmonies of songs such as “You Don’t Have to Cry,” “Long Time Gone,” and “Wooden Ships.”


100 Favorite Albums of All-Time (90-81)


Part two of my top 100 albums of all time.

Previously: 100 Favorite Albums of All-Time 100-91.

90. An Droichead Beag — Mighty Session (1998)

I picked up this cassette on my travels to Dingle in 1998.  This is a great collection of Irish traditional and contemporary music from one of the nation’s top music pubs.  Tony Small’s “Don’t Forget To Write” knocks me out every time

89. Reverse The Curse by Johnny Most (2004)

This band doesn’t seem to exist, but I found out about them because I guy I used to work with was a member of the band.  Johnny Most plays a funk & jazz style of music with clever lyrics.  Highlights include “Uncle,” “Johnny’s Bender Sing-Along,” and “Baby, That’s Fine.”

88. Folk ‘N Hell    (1996)

Another find of my 1998 travels, this one I picked up in Inverness.  This is a collection of fusion music based on traditional Scottish music, ready to rock but also looking to the past.  A sample of an elderly man saying “Gaelic is on the decline,” pretty much sums it up on the track “Passing Away” by Paul Mounsey.  Other highlights include “Flick Up And Catch It” by Jim Sutherland and “Bitter Honey” by Khartoum Heroes.

87. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips (2002)

This sort-of-concept album is full of lush, spacey, surreal and beautiful sounds and lyrics.  A real stand out of albums from the past decade.  Highlights include “Do You Realize?”, “Fight Test,” “Ego Tripping ant the Gates of Hell,” and the title tracks.

86. Blue Horse by The Be Good Tanyas (2001)

The Be Good Tanyas lovely harmonies and folk stylings put a new twist on old-time music.  Highlights include “The Littlest Birds,” “Only in the Past,” and perhaps the loveliest rendition ever of the “The Lakes of Pontchartain”.

85. Dance Craze – The Best of British Ska Live (1981)

This album is a collection of live performances (and a soundtrack to a documentary I’ve never seen) of bands from the UK’s 2 Tone ska-punk genre.  Highlights include “Mirror in the Bathroom” by The English Beat, “Three Minute Hero” by The Selecter, and “Skinhead Symphony” by the Special AKA.

84. Shaken By A Low Sound by Crooked Still (2006)

Another band that does new things with old time music especially with the ethereal vocals of Aoife O’Donovan and the cello performance of Rushad Eggleston (the latter no longer with the band).  I had the odd good fortune of seeing them in the first ever performance and they’ve just gotten better since them.  Highlights include “Wind and Rain” and a cover of Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen.”

83. Post by Björk (1995 )

Björk is one of my favorite performers and I restrained myself from including all of her albums on this list.  I love her eclecticism, whimsy, intelligent lyrics with a dance beat.  Standouts on this album include the industrial “Army of Me,” dreamy “Hyper-Ballad”, and the coquettish big band number “It’s Oh So Quiet.”

82. Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones (1969)

Over their long career The Rolling Stones have tried psychedelia, glam rock, disco, and hard rock in their music but they are at best a blues band, and this album captures them at their bluesy best.  This is most evident in their Robert Johnson cover “Love in Vain” but also in their dark originals “Gimme Shelter,” “Midnight Rambler,” and the title track.

81. Franks Wild Years by Tom Waits (1987)

My introduction to Tom Waits was a compiliation I checked out from the library with a version of “Innocent When You Dream,” a surreal barroom song sung through Waits’ vocal chords.  I’ve since learned of lots of other – even more melodic – Waits’ songs but this album remains a sentimental favorite.  Other highlights include “Hang On St. Christopher,” “Yesterday Is Here,” and “Way Down in the Hole.”

100 Favorite Albums of All-Time (100-91)


Following up on my 100 Favorite Books of All-Time project, I now embark on another 10-week project to countdown my 100 Favorite Albums of all-time.  By albums I mean collections of popular music (my eclectic tastes defy genres) regardless of format – vinyl LP’s, cassettes, CD’s, or digital formats, I’ve listened to them all.

Please note that I use the word “favorite” to describe these albums, this is in no way an attempt to make a definitive list of the best albums of all time, just my personal favorites.  If an album you love doesn’t make this list it’s because I didn’t like it enough, or more likely never listened to it or maybe never even heard of it.  So don’t razz me for the albums that don’t make the list, but if you’d like to suggest an album I should hear, post a comment.

I’ve excluded “best of” and “greatest hits” compilations by a single artists as I don’t really consider those to be an cohesive or intentional work.  I do include “live” albums which often include a retrospective collection of an artist’s songs but the recording of the concert is in itself a unique interpretation.  Albums by various artists follow the same rules.  “The Greatest Hits of 1965” won’t make the cut, but albums organized around a theme like charity, a soundtrack,  region or record label do.

With no further ado, here’s the first ten albums.

100. Dim The Lights, Chill the Ham by  Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet (1991)

It sounds like a gimmick – a band from Ontario that plays instrumental surf rock, but this is an album full of fun, upbeat tracks.  Try putting it on at a party.  This band is best known for the theme song and incidental music on the comedy show The Kids in the Hall.

99. Respond: A Compilation By Boston Women To Benefit Respond, Inc (1999)

An excellent collection of folk-rock songs written and performed by women artists from Boston (well, at least they were in 1999) to benefit Respond, Inc., an agency that works to support victims of domestic violence.  Introduced me to several great musicians including: Colleen Sexton, Jennifer Kimball, Catie Curtis, Mary Lou Lord, Jess Klein, Mary Gauthier, and Kris Delmhorst.

98. Big Noise by Eddie From Ohio (1997)

EFO was probably my favorite band from about 1996-2002, and this album captures them at their creative apex.  Highlights include “Gravity,” “I Don’t Think I Know Me,” and “The Train Song,” all displaying a clever mix of humor and pathos.

97. Live in New York City by Black 47

The Irish-American Celtic Punk band Black 47 is one of those bands I find much better in concert than on their studio albums.  I picked up this album after seeing the band perform after a Mets game at Shea Stadium.  Highlights include “Funky Ceili,” “James Connolly,” and “The Reels.”

96. Whip Smart by Liz Phair (1994)

I know that everyone that’s cool thinks Exile in Guyville is the only great Liz Phair album, but I’m quite fond of Whip Smart.  Probably because it was one of those random albums I picked up without knowing anything about the artist and its full of humor, crudity, and just plain rocking out.  Highlights include the title track, “Nashville,” and “Cinco de Mayo”.

95. Emergency & I by The Dismemberment Plan (1999)

One of the many great D.C. punk bands with a bit of funk and a healthy serving of irony created this excellent album.  I probably would not be cool enough to know about the Plan if I hadn’t sort-of known one of the members while in college.  Highlights include “You Are Invited,” “What Do You Want Me To Say,” and “Spider in the Snow.”

94. Mutations by Beck (1998)

For the best decade and a half, Beck offers up a consistent record of excellence in music, lyrics, and creativity.  It’s hard to pick out which of his albums should make this list bu Mutations stands out because of its more somber, unique folk and blues sound.  Highlights include “Nobody’s Fault But My Own,” “Lazy Flies,” and “Bottle of Blues.”

93. Crossroads: Southern Routes (1996)

Smithsonian Folkways may be my favorite record label of all time as they carry on the tradition of making available an enormous catalog of the music and sound of people from around the world.  This compilation’s audacious task is to sum the music of the American South in 16 tracks which it does admirable with samples of folk, country, blues, cajun, zydeco, rock & roll, gospel, tejano and soul.  Hard to believe that so much great music originated in one region.

92. Don’t Get Smart by Jim’s Big Ego (1998)

Led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Jim Infantino, this local Boston band bills themselves as UnPop for the Unpopulous.  This album captures them at their creative best with witty lyrics and catchy tunes played on guitar, upright bass, and drums.  Highlights include “Ahead of the Curve,” “Cheat to Lose,” and the cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Feelin’ Groovy” as beat poetry incorporating Slick Rick’s “La Di Da Di.”

91. Voyage by Christy Moore (1989)

Ireland’s great singer-song writer Christy Moore’s album is unusual in that almost of all the songs are written by other artists (as well as being a bit too heavy on the synthesizers).  There are some beautiful, hard-working interpretations of songs like “The Deportees Club,” “Mystic Lipstick,” and the slightly cheesy but heart-warming title song.

I just noticed that all but one of these albums are from the 1990’s.  I promise that will not be true for the remaining 90 and several decades will be represented.  See you next week.

Beer Here!


As another new feature here on Panorama of the Mountains, I’ve gathered together all my beer reviews in one easy list drank and rated over the years.  The list is posted below and will also be a page at the top of this blog called Beer List.   I will update that list as I sample new beers. 

I’ve also added in some ratings for beers I tried 10-11 years ago including some beers I had on tap in pubs in Ireland and Scotland.  I have a book with even more beer ratings from my early to mid twenties that I’ll add to this list if & when I find the book.  These can be taken with a grain of salt as the opinions of an immature palate (or perhaps of younger, healthier taste buds!).  At any rate, I tend to be overly generous with my beer ratings so I think this list will at least give a good relative scale of goodness and badness.

I rate beers by awarding points for their appearance, aroma, taste, how they look after a few sips, and overall quality on a ten point scale. Any beer that earns 5 or more points is worth trying again and I rank these with one to five stars. Any beers below five points are on a descending spiral of badness. I tend to screen out bad beers ahead of time so I don’t get many no star beers.

If you want to look at it on a letter grade system then the point scale to letter grade equivalents would be something like this:

  • A = 8.1 – 10
  • B = 6.1 – 9.0
  • C = 4.1 – 6.0
  • D = 2.1 – 4.0
  • F = 0.1 – 2.0

Five Stars

Four Stars

Three Stars

Two Stars

One Star

No Stars

100 Favorite Books of All Time Wrapup


Over the last ten weeks I’ve counted down my favorite books of all time.  Now here’s the list in full.  With last minute additions, honorable mentions, and series of books counted as one, there are at least 125 books here, but I never claimed I could count.  This will also be added to my book list page for future reference.

Now that I’ve listed my favorite books, I’m considering re-reading them all starting with the titles I read decades ago and working my way toward more recent reads.  Perhaps in ten years I can create a reevaluated “top 100” which naturally will includes some books I’ve read for the first time in the coming decade.

HM#1 The World Almanac & Book of Facts

HM#2 Rise up Singing by Peter Blood & Annie Patterson

100 Puff: A Novel by Bob Flaherty

99 The Grand Complication: A Novel by Allen Kurzweil

98 The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution by Alfred F. Young

97 Stalemate Icchokas Meras

96 King Lear by William Shakespeare

95 Vandals in the Stacks?: A Response to Nicholson Baker’s Assault on Libraries by  Richard J. Cox

94 Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

93 Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

92 The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

91 The Iowa Baseball Confederacy: A Novel by W.P. Kinsella

90    T. H. White:A Biography by Sylvia Townsend Warner

89   You Gotta Have Wa by Robert Whiting

88    Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback by George Plimpton

87    The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

86    Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

85    Lincoln’s Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Joshua Wolf Shenk

84    Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

83    Tales of the City Series by Armistead  Maupin

82    Snowshoeing Through Sewers: Adventures in New York City, New Jersey, and Philadelphia by Michael Aaron Rockland

81    Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird by Andrew D. Blechman

80    How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built by Stewart  Brand

79    The Guns of August by Barbara W.  Tuchman

78    The Road to Mobocracy: Popular Disorder in New York City, 1763-1834 by Paul A. Gilje

77    Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

76    Amphigorey & Amphigorey Too by Edward Gorey

75    Silent Traveller in San Francisco by  Chiang Yee

74    A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

73    Thumbs, Toes, and Tears: And Other Traits That Make Us Human by Chip Walter

72    Dreamland by Kevin Baker

71    Looking for America on the New Jersey Turnpike by Angus K. Gillespie

70 My Life With the Saints by James Martin, SJ

69 Through a Window by Jane Goodall

68 Dead Certainties: (Unwarranted Speculations) by Simon Schama

67 Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

66 The Princess Bride: S Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman

65 Five Points: The Nineteenth-Century New York City Neighborhood That Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections and Became the World’s Most Notorious Slum by Tyler Anbinder

64 Joshua: A Parable for Today by Joseph F. Girzone,

63 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

62 The Devil in the White City : Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson

61  To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

60    Irish America: Coming Into Clover by Maureen Dezell

59    Time and Again by Jack Finney

58    A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle

57    Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

56    The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

55    Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

54    The Portable Door by Tom Holt

53    The lost continent : travels in small-town America by Bill Bryson

52    The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

51    In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan

50.5   Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder

50    The Baroque Cycle by Neal  Stephenson

49    Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream by Jay  Stevens

48    Nickel and Dimed On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara  Ehrenreich

47    The Grapes of Wrath by John  Steinbeck

46    Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference by David Garrow

45    The Appalachian Trail Reader by David Emblidge

44    1939: Lost World of Fair by David  Gelernter

43    The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap by Stephanie Coontz

42    The End of Elsewhere: Travels Among the Tourists by Taras  Grescoe

41    Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland and Through the Looking-glass by  Lewis Carroll

40    The New History in an Old Museum: Creating the Past at Colonial Williamsburg by Richard  Handler

39    Seeing Things by Seamus  Heaney

38    Iron and Silk by Mark  Salzman

37    The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

36    Under the Net by Iris  Murdoch

35    The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael  Pollan

34    Life of Pi by Yann Martel

33    Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee  Brown

32    The Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon S.  Wood

31    The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

30 The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: The Pox Party & The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: The Kingdom of the Waves by M. T. Anderson

29 A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

28 Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz

27 The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving

26 Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood & Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi

25 The Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit by J.R.R, Tolkien

24 Ball Four by Jim Bouton

23 A Clearing In The Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the 19th Century by Witold Rybczynski

22 The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage by Paul Eliel

21 Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

20 Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh

19 Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City by Jonathan Mahler

18 Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks

17 Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella

16 Watership Down by Richard Adams

15 We Can’t Eat Prestige: The Women Who Organized Harvard by John Hoerr

14 Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

13 The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs

12 To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

11  The Color Purple by Alice Walker

10    The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

9    In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life by James Deetz

8    The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel by Jasper Fforde

7    Jazz by Toni  Morrison

6    Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

5    Song of Solomon by Toni  Morrison

4    The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger

3    The Once and Future King by T.H. White

2    Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

1    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

As an added bonus, here are my ten least favorite books of all time.  Consider them my anti-recommendations.  In no particular order, they all rank.

Happy reading!