Core Curriculum: My All-Time Favorite Records

rodThis is old news to those who follow me on Twitter or on Facebook, but perhaps worth parking here: I recently took advantage of the new user listmaking feature at All Music Guide to develop a list of my 100 favorite albums of all time. I’ve dubbed it the Core Curriculum, because in truth, this is where I’ve learned most everything worth knowing in my life. You can see the full 100 here; I may even draft a full, annotated list– here at the blog– some day, but no promises.

A few notes about the list:

  • I have tried very hard to limit my selections to just one per artist– an odd thing to say, perhaps, given that a full tenth of this list is given to Bob Dylan, and has five selections apiece from Costello and Ellington, four apiece from M. Davis and J. Henry, etc. Where multiple albums appear for the same artist, it is either because there isn’t any one album that summarizes everything I love about the artist in question (e.g., I love Trust and Painted from Memory for totally different reasons, and neither can quite be said to encapsulate everything great about Elvis Costello; same with Purple Rain and Sign O’ the Times for Prince), or because I simply cannot decide which album I really prefer (as in the two Elton John selections, the three electric Dylans, etc.) Meanwhile, I could have quite easily put half a dozen or more Over the Rhine albums on this list, but ultimately chose just one because it (The Long Surrender) hits on everything that’s great about that particular band.
  • I have generally tried to avoid box sets, except in a few scenarios where the box set is more definitive than the proper LPs (The Birth of Soul), the box set contains material that you just can’t find on proper LPs (the Faces box), or it’s a box set compiled from material that was recorded before proper LPs were really even a thing (Hot Fives and Hot Sevens).
  • If anyone is curious, the oldest music on this list is the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens stuff, circa 1927-ish; the newest, Joe Henry’s Invisible Hour, released just this year.
  • I am not even going to try to break any of this down by genre, because that’s just not something I see much value in; I will note that, insofar as all of these albums include variations on traditional forms, and are deeply rooted in American culture and tradition, I consider this to be basically a list of 100 folk albums.
  • Finally: Roger Ebert always said, of his Favorite Films list, that he never included anything on his list just because it was popular, but he also never excluded anything because it was popular. I am frankly proud that my list encompasses many of the “usual” desert island suspects, but also a few entries that I suspect are on nobody’s list but my own.
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