The Album Challenge
So, as we all continue to wait out COVID-19, much of the country is looking to Facebook to provide needed escapism. Of course, if your Facebook feed is like mine, much of it is filled with political opinions regarding COVID-19 from a variety of sources who are just as clued in to epidemiology as you or I are. But hey, if they’re wearing scrubs and were ER physicians at one point in their lifetimes, they must know more than everyone else, right?
Anyway, I find that Facebook memes regarding COVID-19 are my personal favorite. The world is full of truly gifted comedians who just keep pumping these things out day after day by the dozens, and yet here I am still laughing. My personal favorite today is:
I’ve always wanted to wear a cravat. And if my religion didn’t forbid smoking, a pipe is probably the way I would choose to ingest my daily tobacco allowance, so I think this meme has merit. However, I also own some golf shirts that would give me street cred cover to call it The Rona from time to time as well, so…
Anyway, a current Facebook trend is the Album Cover Challenge. The Album Cover Challenge says that each day for 10 days you should post an album cover that influenced your musical preferences throughout your life. You aren’t supposed to make a comment, you’re just supposed post an album cover and then let everyone else comment on how crappy your musical taste is.
Well screw that!
I blog and therefore, I will post all of my album covers at one time and I will comment on each and every one of them. So there!
(Yes, I’m a talker and I am just as bored of this COVID-19 quarantine as the rest of you. Commenting far and above what is necessary is what’s keeping me sane. So indulge me a little. Plus, if I don’t explain some of these…well, I just feel better commenting here and there.)
So without further ado, I will now present the top 10 music albums that have been most influential on my music listening over the course of my life. I will not go in order of current favorite, but rather chronologically. And who knows, maybe it will be more than 10 or maybe less. I don’t know.
This is the first album I remember owning myself. The song was Elvira and I was eight-years-old. I played the living crap out of this album. I mean, to this day I worry that my brother Jerry might have recurring nightmares of being stuck in an Eastern European prison as the words, “Oom-papa, oom-papa, mow, mow” echo off the stone walls in time with the dripping water outside his cell. I loved this album and although I cringe a little when I hear that particular song today, I still have a great love of four-part harmony (not barbershop, so calm down Mike Bradley) that I believe began with Oak Ridge Boys. Harold Reid of the Statler Brothers died this week and it reminded me of this album and the Statler Brothers and Alabama and all the country groups I used to listen to religiously as a kid.
In high school, I went through my rap phase. Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as white as the next white guy and the rap music I loved was limited to the commercially successful rap that was packaged largely for the suburbs. But man, I loved Bust A Move. I still love Bust a Move. I have It Takes Two on my iPod, as well as the Run DMC/Aerosmith version of Walk This Way. I owned the 45 single of Parents Just Don’t Understand back before we learned that Will Smith had a real name and wasn’t actual royalty. But this album was my favorite and definitely got the most play during my high school days.
I still can’t explain what happened my junior and senior year when I became enamored with this album. I played it over, and over, and over. Not just to the point that I drove my family nuts. I played it so much that now if I hear songs from this album, I want to punch a hole in my wall. A Little Respect was the song, but the whole album was like a high school romance. Intense, powerful, and something I can’t explain to my children.
This marks the peak of my Garth phase that just about everyone my age went through at some point and time in the early ’90s. I think No Fences is a better album top to bottom, and I did purchase In Pieces after returning home from my mission, but this was the album that got the most play on my car stereo and was his current album when I liked Garth Brooks the most. Also, it should be mentioned that Papa Loved Mama is right up there with Goodbye Earl as one of the best upbeat songs about murder you’ll find.
I no longer care for Garth all that much. He’s as annoying as h**l to watch sing live. (I mean is there anyone who comes off more like a used car salesman when he tries to sing songs meant to tug at the heartstrings?) And I really got annoyed when he started releasing greatest hits collection after greatest hits collection and you had to buy each one in order to get the one new song he had produced. He was also one of the last holdouts with regard to iTunes. But if you go back to the early ’90s before all of that, he was pretty good. And I did play this album a lot as I drove around Eastern Arizona College in my father’s prized 1970 Chevy Nova in the years before I left on my mission.
To understand the number of country albums that appear in the early part of this list, you have to understand that growing up in the small town where I did, we had two radio station options and both of them were country. It was kind of inevitable. So when I returned home from my mission, where my music selections consisted of hymns, Michael McLean and…pretty much Michael McLean and hymns, it was inevitable that I would jump as far into the genre I had been deprived of as possible. Neither of these artists have a song on my iPod currently. However, with Joe Diffie passing away recently from COVID-19, I have thought about adding John Deere Green and Pickup Man to my playlists. I haven’t done it yet, but I’ve thought about it. Tracy Byrd, on the other hand, no longer holds any interest for me. His album is kind of like that girl/guy you semi-dated back in college that you smile about real quick when you initially think of her/him, but then immediately shudder and thank all that is good in this earth that the relationship didn’t last.
For the first ten years after I got married, I purchased every Alan Jackson CD that came down the pike. But the Greatest Hits Collection probably got the most play because it had most of his best songs as well as being the only album that the single Livin’ On Love appeared on. I don’t listen to much country today, but I still like his smooth voice and the easy melodies that he put out album after album. One of my favorite concert memories is going to see Alan and George Strait in Sun Devil Stadium when Abby was just a baby. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that all of those Alan Jackson CD’s are somewhere in my storage closet. I should go pull those out and…nah, it’d take way too much effort and I don’t even own a CD player anymore.
We’re gonna count these as one because I can’t decide which would be more representative. I listened to both of these, A LOT! Just ask my wife. Brad would be the last country artist I really consider myself a fan of and I think his lyrics are truly some of the most clever and effective out there. Plus, how many people can duet with B.B. King and hold their own on the guitar. Brad’s awesome and I still have a ton of his music on my playlists. Just ask my kids. (They are not fans, by the way.) The interesting thing about Brad Paisley is that he and I are roughly the same age. So as he was experiencing things in life that affected his music, they happened to line up with my life experiences, such as getting married, having kids, becoming more socially aware, etc. I’ll always feel connected to Brad even though he would probably consider that statement just a little bit stalkerish.
Speaking of being a stalker, I have been to Chris Isaak concerts five times and, thanks to my wonderful brother and his husband, Kirt, I have met him and sat front row with my wife and son at one of those concerts. I have a signed picture on my wall (not in my bedroom, just clarifying). I actually have video of his base player’s guitar stalk swinging out over my head.
I knew who Chris Isaak was, barely, when I was in college. But in my late thirties I rediscovered him and realized how much I loved his music. Amazing guitar and catchy tunes. Plus, best rock-a-billy falsetto singer, hands down! Bottom line, he was a better Dwight Yoakam than Dwight Yoakam ever was.
We’re going to count these three as one. I know it’s cheating, but…crap, I’m not even doing this on Facebook so…my blog, my rules. I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but I didn’t really listen to these artists, or anyone else in the big hair band genre until long after I was married. I knew who they were. I knew their songs, somewhat. But I just didn’t really have an interest. Now, I have all of these artists on my playlists while most of the music I listened to in high school and college has gone away. Go Figure! However, I still don’t like Guns & Roses, despite my wife’s affinity for Don’t Cry, November Rain, and Sweet Child o’ Mine. I just think Axl Rose’s voice is the musical equivalent of raking a cheese grader over a chalk board. But let ASU’s marching band play the first three notes of Highway to Hell, and I am ready to jam out to the three bands above all the way home (which is a three hour drive from Sun Devil Stadium.)
This album is symbolic of my growing love of Broadway musicals. It started back in my 20’s but has only grown with the passing of time. I love music from a lot of the biggies: Phantom, Wicked, Dear Evan Hansen, Hamilton, Mary Poppins, Joseph, The Producers, and so many more. But I also love the experience of going to the theater and being taken away to another place in a way only live theater can. Assuming COVID-19 allows, The Band’s Visit is supposed to come to Gammage this season and I desperately want to get tickets. But so far, all of them pale in comparison to my first experience seeing Les Mis. I know it has to do with the power of the actual story, but the music of Les Mis is, in my opinion, inspired. I first heard it 25 years ago and yet I could still put on the soundtrack tomorrow, sit in my comfortable chair, and drift away. As long as it’s the original London cast that is. No Russell Crowe as Javert for me, thank you very much.
This is my last album on the list and my current obsession. I love the songs. I love his voice. But add his voice to R&B classics from the 1960’s and you have something special. This album actually represents my love of R&B in general. I have never really cared for Jazz, but I can groove to R&B all night long.
So there you have it. My answer to the Album Cover Challenge. Some of those listed make me nostalgic. Some just make me a little embarrassed. But, whether I like it or not, the above is a pretty good representation of my historical taste in music. Feel free to let me know how sad it is or simply laugh in private. I’m good either way. But right now, I just feel like plugging in my headphones and letting all thoughts of COVID-19 melt away. Because there is nothing better than music to do just that.