Emile and The Albums
In the book Emile, Jean-Jacques Rousseau proposes an alternative system of education and raising a child. By exposing the child to all kinds of art from a very young age, the child becomes more aware and better equipped to exist in society as a functioning, thinking, questioning human being. A similar theme was taken up by the later book The Perks of Being a Wallflower. If I ever have a child, adopted or otherwise, I plan to educate him/her by introducing them to the best kind of music, books, art, everything. I want to make this child think. So while I was thinking of this, I realised that my tastes are too vast and varied. I want to make a list of things. So starting here, I plan to have a periodic, maybe yearly assessment of all my favourite things. Let’s see how they change over the years, or if they change at all. First, is music. As of 11 November 2009, top 5 favourite albums of all time, in random order:
1. Nick Drake – Pink Moon (1972)
I never tire of this album. I would go as far as to say this is my favourite album of all time. I listen to it a lot, probably my most played album. It always puts me in a good place. It might not always be the happiest place but its familiar and I like it. I settle into myself when I hear Pink Moon. Its like I’m comfortable with everything around me. Favourite tracks: Road, Place to Be, From the Morning, Pink Moon, etc etc.
2. Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963) / Blood on the Tracks (1975)
Two very different Bob Dylan albums. But I love Bob Dylan, the storyteller. Bob Dylan is the modern bard. Like the bards of old who travelled around telling stories and educating people, Dylan does the same. His stories are simple, spare and usually labyrinthine. He weaves characters, plots and events into a song, a rhythm and tells it to us so that we may understand. There’s rarely a moral. And even if there is, its not the important part. For Bob Dylan, its never the destination. He doesn’t seem to want to get anywhere, just simply enjoy the ride. His folky wisdom comes from that very fact, that this is life, with all its trials and tribulations and its that way with almost everybody. Its always a struggle but that’s precisely what makes life worth it. Its not enough to coast through life, you have to constantly challenge yourself, go in directions that you never thought you’d take, take leaps outside your comfort zone, maybe go electric, write confessional songs about your ex-wife, find Jesus and God and then renounce everything and go back to your folk acoustic atheistic roots. The place you end up is the place you left. Its all about the journey. Favourite tracks: Girl from the North Country, Masters of War, A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts, Idiot Wind, Shelter from the Storm.
3. Pink Floyd – The Wall (1979)
Pink Floyd is a band difficult to describe. From their psychedelic beginnings with Syd Barrett to the lyrical mastery of Roger Waters and Dave Gilmour, Pink Floyd manage to create a soundscape so large, so vivid, it would take a planet to fill. The Wall is their most famous album, a classic that has inspired countless musicians. Any serious contemporary rock musician usually has a copy of The Wall stashes somewhere. Its just that good. Pink Floyd leads you through narrow corridors of pain, despair and anguish. But there are moments of elation, of pure unadulterated joy in the celebration of music. Its amazing the highs and lows that this album can reach. But this album isolates me. According to Roger Waters, this album arose from his desire to erect a wall between himself and the audience. And maybe thats what he is doing here musically. The metaphorical wall becomes all too real if you listen to this album in its entirety. Favourite tracks: The Thin Ice, Goodbye Blue Sky, Young Lust, Hey You, Run Like Hell, The Trial.
4. Nas – Illmatic (1994)
Maybe the Notorious BIG was a better wordsmith but no one does it like Nas. With Illmatic, the 19-year old Nas from Queens, NY, took the rap world by storm. In my opinion, his wordplay, his raw, spare beats and the passion with which he delivers each line remains unrivaled to this day. I consider Illmatic to be one of the best rap albums of all time and my favorite rap album of all time. Maybe its because of my proximity to New York but I feel something everything I walk through Queens with Nas on my ‘phones. Unfortunately, nothing Nas has done since has compared to Illmatic. He’s made some pretty bad decision, like marrying that ho Kelis, the later albums that reek of over-produced beats, too many guest rappers and shitty wordplay. On Illmatic, his rhymes are smooth, effortless, full of clever little puns, internal rhymes that add another level to his rhythm and lack of any kind of flash and glamour. This was New York street, coming straight from the heart of the Queensbridge housing projects. His best is still Illmatic, and maybe after that, It Was Written and Stillmatic. Favourite tracks: Life’s a Bitch, NY State of Mind, Memory Lane (Sittin in da Park), The World is Yours.
5. The Velvet Underground – Loaded (1970)
It was a tough choice to pick one single Velvet Underground album. I almost picked the Velvet Underground and Nico, but in the end, decided to go with Loaded. I know most fans will disagree with me. Most believe that Loaded is the Velvet Underground at their most commercial with a lot of pressure on the band to produce “hits.” But commercial or not, Loaded remains one of my favourite albums. Lou Reed wrote all of the songs and composed most of them. Although Maureen Tucker’s amazing drumming is absent from this album, Reed seems to make up for it. Sweet Jane and Rock and Roll remain two of the most famous Underground songs but my ultimate favourite and one of the best guitar songs I’ve ever heard: Oh! Sweet Nuthin. Favourite songs: Oh! Sweet Nuthin, Sweet Jane, Rock & Roll, I Found a Reason.