Thursday, February 7, 2013

I'd Like You to Meet Some of My Friends: Meat, Micky, and Hootie

Everyone has different tastes and interests.  And most people, as they grow older, find that those interests evolve and change as much as our bodies do.  For as long as I can remember, or at least for as long as I was able to do it, writing has always been one of mine.  I kept a journal when I was 8 years old (which I still have, by the way) and I actually wrote pretty consistently.  Later on, I would dabble in keeping a journal from time to time, but, in most cases, my entries were so few and far between, they didn't carry much significance.  My 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Shelton, really encouraged me to write, and provided extensive guidance when I was completing my writing portfolio at that time.  I had a creative writing class in 6th grade that I absolutely loved, and still remember dozens of short stories I started but never completed.  I even enjoyed writing papers when I was in college.  There's no question that, in most cases, I BS'ed my way through them, but when I was truly interested in the topic, I dove in full bore.

That is what drove me to start this blog in the first place.  I never had any intention of keeping a pure focus with this except a love for writing.  Sometimes an idea for a post will hit me like a gale force wind blowing in front of a line of storms, and other times the mood to write will strike without any semblance of an idea whatsoever.  Those times can be frustrating.  Times like right now.

I was sitting here wanting to write something, but any glimmer of an idea I came up with sounded like total crap.  Even as I write this now, I'm thinking to myself, "Isn't this crap?  Who would want to read this rambling, nonsensical junk?"  But, by this point, you've already committed.  You've wasted at least a minute of your day, and obviously had the time to kill by clicking on this link in the first place.  You might as well read to the end.

So, I did a quick Google search for blog ideas, and came across a list of 101 Blog Post Ideas.  A couple dozen of the post ideas caught my eye, but many of them would require entirely too much thought and, quite frankly, I don't have the time or energy to put that much focus into it right now.  So I'll save those for other days.  For now, I decided on one that simply said, "If you were stranded on a desert island, name ten _____ you would take with you."

Now, I'm sure virtually all of you reading this have played that game at one time or another.  If you're on a long road trip, or stuck in a waiting room, or just bored and need something to kill time, you've played it.  It's always interesting to hear people's responses to it, too.  It provides you with some insight you might not have had, even with people you know very well.

For this, I decided I would identify the 10 music albums I would take with me, and explain each choice.  I did have a couple of ground rules, though: while greatest hits albums are okay, compilation albums with a variety of artists (like the Now! series) are off limits.  It makes it more difficult and more fun to keep those out of the equation.  So, without further ado, and in no particular order, my 10 stranded-on-a-desert-island albums are:

 1. Boston: Greatest Hits
Release Date: June 3, 1997
Favorite Cuts: "Foreplay/Long Time", "Cool the Engines", "Rock and Roll Band"
I have no shame in admitting that Boston is one of my all-time favorite bands.  While most of their material is easily type-cast (you know Boston as soon as you hear it), there is something about the similarity in all their songs that makes them irresistible to me.  While many artists will try to evolve and expand their sound, Boston never really did that.  They had a formula that worked, stuck with it, and I say God bless them for it.  Their distinct sound is due to Tom Scholz's hand-made Rockman amplifier, which revolutionized the capabilities of electric guitars and was emulated by rock royalty like Journey, ZZ Top, Queen, and others.  He (along with Queen's Brian May) were pioneers in harmonizing multiple-layered guitars in the studio, and it gives Boston their unique sound.  I'd expect nothing less from an MIT graduate.  I don't love every Boston song, but this compilation has all the necessities comprised, mostly, of their earlier stuff.

2. Yourself or Someone Like You - Matchbox 20
Release Date: October 1, 1996
Favorite Cuts: "Long Day", "Kody", "Hang" 
In my opinion, this is one of the best albums of the 1990s, although it is rarely mentioned or remembered by most people.  I don't like music for it's revolutionary style, or it's artistic integrity.  In all reality, you won't really find it here.  In the late 90s, Matchbox 20 (now Matchbox Twenty) was little more than a glorified garage band.  But, that doesn't take away from the fact this is one of the few albums I can play from start to finish without getting bored, even after listening to it from start to finish about a thousand times.  The grittiness of this album was lost to later, more extensively produced entries in the MB20 catalog, and therein lies much of it's attractiveness.  The lyrics are real and relatable, the hooks are catchy, and the album flows fantastically.

3. I and Love and You - The Avett Brothers
Release Date: September 29, 2009
Favorite Cuts: "And It Spread", "Kick Drum Heart", "Laundry Room", "It Goes On and On" 
The newest album on the list, I discovered these guys through Adrienne and Liza a couple of years ago, right after Adrienne and I started dating.  When I first heard them, I wasn't really all that impressed.  I liked a couple of their more uptempo tunes, but found most of it to be too slow and boring for my taste...Until I saw the band live.  They put on one of the more energetic and entertaining live shows you will ever see, but do it without pyrotechnics or half-naked women dancing on stage.  They stand on stage, play their instruments, and let the music do the talking.  Whether you've ever heard them or not, it's impossible not to have fun when you watch them perform.  And after doing so, listening to the albums takes on a totally different meaning.  While I enjoy virtually their entire catalog, and while this particular album is really their first "sell-out" record, it's probably my favorite by the band.  It starts a bit slow (tempo-wise), crescendos in the middle, and closes perfectly.  Again, an album that can be listened to non-stop from start to finish where, like watching a movie a dozen times, you always seem to catch something you had missed previously.

 4. Take Off Your Pants and Jacket - Blink 182
Release Date: June 12, 2001
Favorite Cuts: "Online Songs", "Roller Coaster", "Everytime I Look for You", "Shut Up"

The sophomoric innuendo in the album's title aside, I'm not embarrassed to have this included in my list.  You will never find Blink-182 listed on a "greatest bands" list, and you really shouldn't under any circumstances.  They actually aren't that good.  But, in the summer of 2001, DJ and I absolutely wore this album out to the point where hardly a day went by without it getting at least one listen.  For me, though, the significance of this album doesn't come from the artistic merit it brings to the table.  In fact, it doesn't really bring any at all.  The significance lies in the memories it spurs each time I hear one of the songs.  It's a very catchy record, and good in it's own simple, immature way.  But, just like a family heirloom or favorite old t-shirt, it sticks with me for sentimental purposes only.

 5. Garth Brooks: The Ultimate Hits
Release Date: November 6, 2007
Favorite Cuts: "Shameless", "Callin' Baton Rouge", "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)"
One thing that makes my music collection enjoyable is how eclectic and mixed up it is.  There are songs from all different genres, eras, and artists and when I hit shuffle on my iTunes, I truly don't know what is going to be coming.  I knew if I were going to have any country (which I would have to), I had to have some Garth.  But trying to decide which studio album to choose would be practically impossible.  I understand compilations might be cheating to a degree, but I don't care.  Garth deserves a two-disc set, and by God, I'm taking it with me. He revolutionized country music forever, beginning in the early 1990s, and every male artist that has come after him has tried, and failed miserably, to emulate his voice and stage presence.  He was able to tackle song choices that were both interesting and controversial, but he did it with style and for a period from about 1990 to 1996, nobody could touch Garth Brooks.

6. Bat Out of Hell - Meat Loaf
Release Date: October 21, 1977
Favorite Cuts: "Bat Out of Hell", "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth", "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad"
I understand that Meat Loaf is extremely eccentric, and am fully aware that most of his music fails to strike a chord with mainstream music fans, but that doesn't mean I don't think his major-label debut isn't awesome.  The album almost plays as a rock-opera, with most of the tracks exceeding 5 minutes in length, a far cry from most popular music.  And, although I think he's a lyrical genius, I can easily see why some people would find Jim Steinman's songwriting a bit over the top.  But, despite it's inherent weirdness, and despite the fact that Meat Loaf himself fits absolutely none of the stereotypes attributable to a pop star, Bat Out of Hell has sold more than 43 million copies worldwide since it's release, and still moves about 200,000 units every year.  It is anything but normal, but when you couple one of the greatest rock singers of all time with an outstanding, and under-appreciated songwriter, the results are going to be good.  And Bat Out of Hell is damn good.

7. From Under the Cork Tree - Fall Out Boy
Release Date: May 3, 2005
Favorite Cuts: "Dance, Dance", "Sugar, We're Going Down", "I Slept With Someone in Fall Out Boy and All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written About Me" 
I'm sure many of you out there are thinking "Fall Out Boy?  What the hell?"  And I know...I get it.  I'm just as disappointed in me as you are.  But I can't help it.  Part of it is sentimental...Until the newest Avett Brothers album came out in September, this was the last CD I had bought at a store.  Going to FYE or Disc Jockey in the mall used to be one of my favorite things to do, and I guess this album was kind of my last connection to those bygone days.  But, despite the poppy, teenage-angst that permeates throughout, these guys are much more creative and clever than many of their contemporaries.  Patrick Stump has a very distinct voice that, while a tad annoying at times, I really like.  The songwriting is solid, the lyrics are smart without being pretentious, and the album has some of the catchiest hooks you will ever hear.

 8.  Careless - Micky and the Motorcars
Release Date: May 9, 2006
Favorite Cuts: "Desperation", "Rock Springs to Cheyenne", "Remember" 
I wouldn't necessarily say that this is one of my favorite albums of all time, but my mentality is I'm going to be on a desert island.  I better have some variety in my music selection, or I'm going to go crazy.  That's why I picked this album.  Micky and the Motorcars are a fairly unknown act outside of Texas, but are extremely popular in the alternative Texas-Country scene.  They're the perfect blend of southern rock...A little Lynyrd Skynyrd (not too much), a touch of Chris LeDoux, with just a pinch of Bad Company thrown in.  The songwriting is outstanding, and lead-singer Micky Braun has an extremely distinctive voice that you won't forget after hearing it the first time.  He sings with the perfect amount of twang, and mumbles just enough to remain coherent, while still keeping you guessing at times.  The band doesn't hesitate to write depressing material, but they do so in an extremely relatable way.  If you're ever in a bit of a sour mood, or just feel like sitting alone and drinking away a bad day, these guys are the perfect accompaniment.  They're not going to win any awards for putting a smile on your face, but during those times when you're miserable and want some music that speaks to that, you can't go wrong with Micky and the Motorcars.

9. Cracked Rear View - Hootie & the Blowfish
 Release Date: July 5, 1994
Favorite Cuts: "Hannah Jane", "Let Her Cry", "I'm Goin' Home"
If you were of age enough to remember listening to the radio in 1994 and 1995, then you know Hootie & the Blowfish.  And you know them well.  It was virtually impossible to turn on the radio, for really over a year, without hearing "Hold My Hand" or "I Only Wanna Be With You" within ten minutes.  Extensive radio play, coupled with an incredibly unique singer in Darius Rucker (who's proven that he can succeed across a wide range of musical genres) proved to be too much for the American public to handle.  Cracked Rear View is the 15th best-selling album of all time in the United States, and is highly regarded as one of the best albums of the 1990s.  And for good reason.  I got the cassette for Christmas in 1995, and never once had to fast-forward through a song.  It is great from start to finish, and touches on virtually every emotion at some point or another.  I liked the album so much, I got the CD for Christmas a few years later, and still have it to this day.  I might not listen to it as much anymore, but I know I could put it on now and not even begin to get tired of it.  Hootie's follow-ups were never as successful as their debut, but when you release a gem like Cracked Rear View right out of the gate, you're setting the bar pretty damn high.

10. Back in Black - AC/DC
Release Date: July 25, 1980
Favorite Cuts: "Back in Black", "Have a Drink on Me", "Shoot to Thrill"
As I was trying to finish up my list, I noticed two things: 1, I didn't have any music from the 1980s, which is arguably my favorite decade for music, and 2, I didn't have any music that could really get me amped up if I were going to kill some time doing pushups or crunches while bored to tears on a desert island.  So, I went with this classic by one of the all-time great rock bands, AC/DC.  I wouldn't really consider myself a huge AC/DC fan...I'd never pay money to see them live (unless I could travel back in time to the mid-80s).  But, like Boston, AC/DC has consistently delivered hit after hit over the years, and you know exactly what you are going to get any time you put on an AC/DC record.  While their earlier stuff with Bon Scott on vocals is often regarded as their finest material, Back in Black is the band's highest-selling album of all-time.  It hits hard from the outset and stays at a fever pitch throughout.  You won't find anything truly remarkable about it, but that's never really been AC/DC's modus operandi.  What you will find is hard-hitting riff after hard-hitting riff, instantly recognizable simplistic rhythms, and the gritty screech of Brian Johnson that has become a trademark of their work.  I know, at some point, I'd get the urge to rock out and do a poor impersonation of Angus Young's duck walk, and neither would be as enjoyable as they would without some AC/DC blaring in the background.

There are a ton of albums I thought deeply about including here, because there are so many to choose from.  I feel a little bad for not having any Led Zeppelin on the list, but it's mainly because Zeppelin is so hit or miss...While some of their songs are timeless classics, others are way too eccentric for my taste.  As Wayne Campbell put it in Wayne's World, "Led Zeppelin didn't write tunes that everybody liked...They left that to the Bee Gees."  They do have greatest hits compilations out there, but my favorite Zeppelin tune, "The Wanton Song" isn't on it.  And none of their studio albums are good enough, start to finish, to warrant taking along to a desert island, with the only close exception being Led Zeppelin IV.  They're still one of the best bands of all time, though, and I'd bet, if I were stranded on a desert island, I'd miss being unable to get the Led out every once in a while.  Collateral damage, I suppose.

So, that's my list of the 10 albums I'd take with me on a desert island.  My love of music made choosing only 10 a very difficult task, but if push came to shove, I'd feel pretty good about my selections.  There's a decent variety of genres and musical eras, so I don't think I'd get too bored.  And there's something for just about every mood one might find.  So, the question is...What 10 albums would you take?

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