Posted by: Mark Nielsen | April 17, 2009

My Top 25 “Personal” Albums

I know… it’s actually been months now since this particular p0ll/quiz was circulating heavily. So I’m behind, as usual.

Nevertheless, below are 25+ albums (some polls asked for just 15… but I can’t slim my list down that much… it’s like asking me to choose between my children… if I had more than one, that is). These are albums that most bring back memories of certain times in my life, or most closely represent my tastes and priorities throughout my life… in other words, the LPs, tapes and CDs that I’ve “played to death” over the years.

One thing I know going into making this list: in many cases I “caught onto” an artist or album years after that album actually came out. In some cases, that’s because I was discovering “the classics” and letting them sink in –maybe by going to the public library or college listening library and “reading them” like they were books, or poetry collections. In a few cases, what’s here is due to songs that were popular at the time, coming on the radio or being played while hanging with friends, dating, etc.

                                ‘Nuff said. Here goes:


Live from Budokan – Cheap Trick (local Chicago-area heroes, and my junior high school intro to the wonders of high-energy pop/rock… especially the song “Surrender”)

The Charity of Night – Bruce Cockburn (…God + politics, what’s not to like?…. plus, the first artist I started actively collecting, in the mid-Eighties, and seeking to imitate in my own writing)

Miles of Aisles – Joni Mitchell (like Cockburn, & Neil Young, the essential Canadian component…)

Deja Vu – CSNY

Homeboys – Adam Again (my first discovery that Christian music could actually be funky and thoughtful at the same time… thanks to my wife, for introducing me to the late Gene Eugene, AA’s leader… who also contributed to the great band Lost Dogs and produced records for dozens of other stellar artists)

Biograph – Bob Dylan (cheating here… it’s a three-CD compilation, but whatever)

Live 1975-1985    – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (again… a multi-year compliation)

Dream of the Blue Turtles – Sting (plus the song “Fragile” from Nothing Like the Sun, done even better on the live set from Italy, in Sept. 2001)

Abacab – Genesis

So – Peter Gabriel

Graceland – Paul Simon (hard to pick one PS album, but this would have to be it)

OK Computer – Radiohead

High Noon – Mark Heard

Back in Black – AC/DC

Sergeant Pepper – The Beatles (because I cannot pick their whole doggone catalog)

The Wall – Pink Floyd

Purple Rain – Prince

Songs in the Key of Life – Stevie Wonder (Sir Duke, I Wish, … what more can I say?)

What’s Going On? – Marvin Gaye (totally timeless, but rooted in the ideals of his day…)

Who’s Next – The Who (Townshend is the true poet of the British Invasion, here at his finest)

Led Zeppelin IV – LZ

More Songs About Buildings and Food – Talking Heads (college… when it suddenly became okay to be odd, for me at least…)

My Aim Is True – Elvis Costello (Punch the Clock and my EC Greatest Hits collection, close seconds)

Les Miserables – Original Broadway Cast

Moondance – Van Morrison (another guy for whom I’d prefer to pick the whole catalog)

Breakin’ Away (1981)- Al Jarreau  (First time I discovered jazz as accessible yet innovative [wiki sez : Jarreau is a ” seven-time Grammy Award winner, he is the only vocalist in history to win in three separate categories: jazz, pop, and R&B.] For my other jazz faves, I’d list: Kind of Blue -Miles Davis Quintet [featuring Coltrane & Bill Evans] , First Circle – Pat Metheny Group, Dexter Gordon -various, and Sarah Vaughan’s album adapting Pope John Paul II’s early poetry into songs)

Blues Brothers movie soundtrack

Chicago Transit Authority – Chicago (their first four or five albums were all stellar, in their own ways)

Minute By Minute – The Doobie Brothers (Michael McDonald… the white boy who introduced me to black soul music …)

Big Science – Laurie Anderson (when music became about more than music, for me…)

Let the Day Begin – The Call (college again… plus their song “I Still Believe”, suddenly I realized rock and rollers could artfully sing about Jesus without boring one to death)

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