At first when I was asked to make a list of my top 10 most essential albums I thought of mentioning songs off my new covers record What the Hell Is Goin On, to promote my new project, but they didn’t ask me to write about single songs. They were referring to complete albums, which is a whole different category, so here it goes in no particular order:
The Outfield, Play Deep
In high school I had a cassette tape by a group called the Outfield. It was called Play Deep. They were a three-piece pop/rock band from London. I would take my boom box to a local lake and jam that tape as loud as I could turn it up. To me that album rocked front to back. To this day when I listen to that record I can still see Rachel Callehan out at Davis Lake, strutting by me in a white two-piece bikini, uninterested in me or my loud music. I sat there alone on my Kool and the Gang beach towel feeling pitiful. That album really comforted me.
Elton John, Greatest Hits
The first album I ever purchased with my own money was Elton John’s Greatest Hits. I think I was about 12 when I purchased it at Woolco department store. To me the quality of songwriting between Elton John and Bernie Taupin is right up there with Paul McCartney and John Lennon. As a pre-teen I would lay on the floor beside our old school console record player slash TV set and listen to “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” over and over while I stared at Polly Anna Bradley’s picture in the Mooreville Junior High School annual. I wanted to take her to the state fair on the class field trip and ride the Tilt-a-Whirl with her and maybe even share a funnel cake, but she chose to go with someone else.
I love Boston’s first album. I don’t care what anybody says — that is a fantastic record. If you ever wanna play air guitar or pretend that your hair brush is really a microphone and pose in front of your bathroom mirror, then this is the album for you. Every time I hear “More Than a Feeling” on a classic rock station I turn it up and sing along. In my opinion the late Brad Delp was one of the greatest singers that has ever lived. I have never heard anyone cover a Boston song because I don’t think anyone could.
ZZ Hill, Down Home Blues
There is a rhythm and blues record label in Jackson, Mississippi, called Malaco Records. It is the home of many old-school chitlin’-circuit type artists. One of my favorite singers on their roster was Z.Z. Hill. He did a record called Down Home Blues. That whole project really captured the authentic Southern juke-joint vibe. I love everything about it. When I hear this great record it makes me want to drink some red Kool-Aid, eat some fried chicken wings, and dance while sweating with a thick-legged woman in big-mama panty hose.
Supertramp, Breakfast in America
A beautiful and melodic pop masterpiece. They were a real band who had mastered their craft. I never get tired of these songs. To me this group of tunes represents songwriting, musicianship and record-making at the highest level.
Rudy Ray Moore, This Pussy Belongs to Me
An old-school blaxploitation comedy party record. The album cover alone is worth the price of admission. It shows Rudy posing naked with a group of black females who are also naked on a tiger skin rug. There is a house cat in front of them to justify using the word “pussy.” Track five, “Forty Pounds of Chitterlings,” and track seven, “Mister Big Dick,” are my favorites. I once saw him perform live and got to meet him. I was in awe. I felt like I was meeting Elvis.
The Chipmunks, Christmas with the Chipmunks
I love Christmas With the Chipmunks. When I was a kid my mom bought me that record at the Woolco department store. I still have it and every Christmas I take it out and play it on my little table-top record player. My little girl likes it and maybe some day she can play it for her kids too.
AC/DC, Highway to Hell
This album is a seminar on less-is-more. The amount of restraint that these guys used when they played together on this one could teach any young up-and-coming band how to properly rock. They worked together like fire ants.
The Reverend Julius Cheeks, Somebody Left on That Morning Train
When I was about 15 my Uncle Merle gave me a record by the Reverend Julius Cheeks called Somebody Left on That Morning Train. I am a huge fan of old-school black gospel music and Brother Cheeks really nailed it on this one. My favorite track is “Please Search the Books of Life,” which is about a frightened man who died and his soul is standing at the gates of hell while he pleads with God to re-check the list because he thought he was going to heaven.
Porter Wagoner, The Bottom of the Bottle
Almost everything on this record is about drinking to drown your sorrow. He was a master showman who wasn’t the greatest singer in the world, but the sincerity of his delivery on this one makes it a country music classic.