While I enjoy writing about topics on spirituality, from time-to-time I like to add some different stuff as well. Some of that comes in the form of book reviews – more of which will be coming soon, now that I am dedicating particular periods of time during every day to just reading and relaxing. But a bigger part of my life is music, which I want to talk about now.
Music is always on in the background. At work, I shuffle between online streaming services that I pull from my phone, and mp3s from my home collection that I put on my phone specifically for the week. Every Sunday, in the late afternoon, I will spend time adding specific musicians/artists/bands to my iPhone. Sometimes, I pay attention to what I am wanting to accomplish at work. Other times, I pick music based on what I am looking for in my mood.
My musical tastes runs the range of insanity. I have Jazz, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, R&B, New Age, Folk, Pagan-Folk, Pagan-Rock, Country, Alternative Country, Classical, Swing, Pop/Rock, Progressive Rock, and a lot more. Sometimes, I put all of that on shuffle, just to see what happens. And yes, I certainly do have a lot of music. And yes, I am adding to it all of the time. Typically, I will get the question on which are my favorites.
This is typically when I pause. Not because I am thinking on how to answer the question. Because I am frozen in fear of having to pick. Asking me which of these are my favorites, is liking asking a parent to pick which of their children they love the most. However, in the fairness of the moment — I will attempt to pick my favorite ten ALBUMS of right now, and say a little about each.
10. Diary of a Madman by Ozzy Osbourne. This album was a seminal moment in my youth. The playing of Randy Rhoads is absolutely inspiring. His death shook me more than any other musician, with the sole exception of Cliff Burton. For me, the two “slowest” tracks on the album are the primary definers. “You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll” is lyrically a stuff it up your ass moment, though it is musically the weakest track on the album, in my opinion. However, its the title track that really makes this album for me. Lyrically, its a standout. Musically, its an amazing song, as it rises from a single guitar into the full tempo of the band, adding to the anguish of the tortured soul in the lyrics, as he puzzles out where he is in his state of mental being. For me, an absolute stunner of a track.
9. Long Road Out of Eden by The Eagles. The album is definitely the about the band coming back to their roots. Playing the musical stylings that made their first two albums such wonderful works of art. But I pick this album over both of those, simply because of the politically charged title track. Super hard, biting lyrics about the involvement of the United States in both Iraq and Afghanistan played against a backdrop of over-consumerism, and capitalistic greed, while showcasing the difference in what most soldiers were thinking about (being able to go home). Lyrically, this particular song comes closest to how I feel about the political world around me – politicians clamoring for my vote by making promises they know they won’t fulfill – and that I am well aware that they will not either. There are other wonderful tracks on this album, but this particular song is one that always makes me stop, and remember….
8. Soaring Through A Dream by Al Di Meola. Technically an Extended Play with only six songs on it, it is a masterpiece of musicianship. In a manner of speaking, it is a big step away from Di Meola’s known playing on such albums as “Land of the Midnight Sun”, and “Electric Gypsy” – it certainly showcases his ability with an acoustic guitar. The title track is a track that I have utilized for meditation backdrops before.
7. All Jacked Up by Gretchen Wilson. I know, most people are going to raise an eyebrow here. But I actually love the energy of the whiskey-soaked songs that Gretchen brings about. To be honest, I probably couldn’t dance worth a smeg to any of her songs, but it certainly is some good toe-tapping stuff. And I am certainly glad that she ain’t a California Girl…
6. Master of Puppets by Metallica. Cliff Burton was the bass player I wanted to be. He was incredibly proficient with his instrument. In fact, there are some songs that I thought a guitar was being played, and found out later that it was Cliff Burton playing on his bass. The album is gritty, nasty, and very under-produced. A very raw sound. This makes for good workout music for me, since it gets the blood flowing. The standout track for me, however, is the instrumental “Orion” with Cliff’s incredible bass leading the way through the entire track.
5. I Sing the Body Electric by Weather Report. A Jazz “supergroup”, I could easily place six of their albums into my top ten. But I will cut that down to this one album. The musicianship in this band is not only incredible, it is downright unbelievable. Each player is a master at their particular instrument, and the manner in which they all coalesce together to produce such wonderful works of fusion is just jaw-dropping at times. No soaring solos here, just a melding of musical instruments to convey a feeling or emotion. The standout track here, for me, is “Second Sunday in August”.
4. Opium by Ottmar Liebert. Ottmar is perhaps one of the most incredible musical talents I have ever seen with a guitar. His style changes from album to album, but his perfectionist stylings certainly do not. This particular album has two aspects to it – “Dreaming” and “Wide-Eyed”. Both are absolutely stunning. I have used this for long distance driving (sound to fill out the quiet), and it has proven to be a super incredible soundtrack to the movie passing in my windscreen. Its hard to pull a single track as a standout, but I do have a heavy preference for “Montana Walking”.
3. Live at the Castle on the Hill by Wendy Rule. Anyone who has known me for any length of time, knows how much I adore Wendy and her music. And while her studio albums are absolutely wonderful works, its her live album that absolutely captivates me. Two particular songs, back-to-back on this album, just tend to fill my soul with energy and love. “Radiate” and “Artemis” are both standout studio tracks for me, but on this particular album, both of these songs just come alive. I have yet to see Wendy live, but I am certainly hoping to get that particular chance in the near future, In the meantime, I have this album to hold me until that time.
2. The Cauldron Born by Damh the Bard. Believe me, its a fairly close run between Rush in first place, and this album. My favorite album of Damh’s – though all of his albums are just amazing pieces of work in their own rights – its standing is due to four particular songs. “Land, Sky, and Sea”, “Imramma (A Soul Quest)”, “Green and Grey”, and my favorite song of his “Pagan Ways”. Each one of those songs draws me in, not only lyrically, but also musically. I will catch myself tapping my foot on the ground or floor in time with each. I was lucky enough to listen to Damh sing around a camp fire at this year’s East Coast Gathering. It was an experience I will not forget. That man is not only a charmer, but he is also friendly – and gives wonderful hugs.
1. Power Windows by Rush. The reason that Rush gets the top spot, is that this album was a huge part of my first years in the military. Its a reminder of a wonderful time in my life, as well as a reminder of a time where I had to compromise who I was to stay alive. The standout track for me now, is “Mystic Rhythms” which has some of the most incredible lyrics contained within it. However, when I had first heard this album, it was “Middletown Dreams” that was the primary track. But to be incredibly honest, it really does not matter. I still play this album to death – particularly when I am coding or working with SQL. It is certainly an album that narrows my focus that well.
Well, there ya go. Its certainly not a complete list of anything. I left off a lot of bands and musicians that I love – The Grateful Dead, Fleetwood Mac, Bran Cerddorion, Paul Newman (the awesome musician from the UK, not the actor turned salad dressing king), and many, many others. Doesn’t mean that I love their music any less. Just means that at this moment, their music is pulling at my earbuds. One thing I know for sure…what’s pulling at yours will likely be something different….