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Happy Birthday To Me: Essential Albums At Sixty

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I turned the big six zero yesterday and I have no idea how that happened. I am a quintessential baby boomer, a part of the Woodstock generation, flower power, and The Vietnam War. I saw Hendrix and the original Who live and bought Sgt. Peppers and the Pet Sounds album off the shelf at my local record store. My children and now my grandchildren find my record collecting obsession to be both odd and a little amusing but no one wants the collection after I’m gone. I find it a little depressing that musicians who have been a part of my life for decades are now passing away not from addictions or accidents but from natural causes.

I bought and paid for my first record album in 1964. I have been trying to think of which albums have spent the most time on my turntable or in my disc machine but that has proven to be an impossible task, so I have settled for the twelve that have received regular play during the past several years and are currently essential for me at sixty.

1) All Summer Long by The Beach Boys. This may actually be the album I have played the most during my lifetime. It was the sixth studio album by the Beach Boys and can be considered Brian Wilson’s first full sophisticated production epic. It is a concept album and a grand ode to summer. “I Get Around,” “All Summer Long,” “Little Honda,” “Girls On The Beach,” “Drive In” and “Don’t Back Down” are a part of the idyllic and endless summer of my youth and at sixty that’s not a bad place to visit every once in awhile.

2) Beatles 65 by The Beatles. I respect such Beatles releases as Sgt. Peppers, Rubber Soul, and Revolver but lately I have actually been listening to this album. Maybe simple is better. I am still enthralled every time I hear George Harrison’s guitar sound that opens “I Feel Fine.” The rest is smooth rock ‘n’ roll at its best. “I’m A Loser,” “I’ll Follow The Sun,” “Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby,” “Baby’s In Black,” and “Honey Don’t” may not be the most creative music The Beatles ever produced but it is among the most listenable.

3) Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan. Dylan had gone electric and the resulting sound, textures, depth, and lyrics of this album have fascinated me for years. “Like A Rolling Stone” alone makes it a keeper. Rolling Stone Magazine would rank it as the greatest song of all time. When you add “Desolation Row,” “Queen Jane Approximately,” “Ballad Of A Thin Man,” “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry,” and more it all adds up to years of thoughtful listening.

4) Scarecrow by John Cougar Mellencamp. Music from the American heartland. “R.O.C.K. In The USA” is catchy and was a huge hit but it is songs such as “Small Town,” “Rumbleseat,” and especially “Rain On The Scarecrow” which keep drawing me back. It is one of the few albums where I really think the artist is both passionate and sincere.

5) Greatest Hits by Pat Benatar. What can I say? I thought she was hot in my thirties, I thought she was hot in my forties, and well you get the idea. I also enjoy her brand of hard rock and while her studio albums may be a little uneven in places, when you gather her best material in one place it is excellent. “Hell Is For Children,” “Promises In The Dark,” “Love Is A Battlefield,” “Shadows Of The Night,” and a host of others all contain lyrics that walk on the dark side of life and that has an odd appeal as well.

6) Get It by Dave Edmunds. Just accessible pop at its very best. His version of “I Knew The Bride” makes the list of my favorite songs and “Get Out Of Denver” plus “Here Comes The Weekend” are not far behind. Why he has not been a bigger star in The United States is beyond me.

7) Party Doll And Other Favorites by Mary Chapin Carpenter. From the enthusiasm and joy of “Passionate Kisses” and “Down At The Twist and Shout “ to the thoughtfulness and challenge of “Stones In The Road” to just the good music of “Shut Up And Kiss Me” and “Quittin’ Time,” Mary Chapin Carpenter has put together a country/rock catalogue that is second to none.

8) Days Of Future Passed by The Moody Blues. Justin Hayward and John Lodge joined The Moody Blues and enabled them to fuse a rock and classical music sound. This album was and still is creative as it presented a day in a life. “Nights In White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon” are still a pleasant way to spend an hour of my time

9) Are You Experienced by Jimi Hendrix. I saw Hendrix live for the first time when I was in high school and how I convinced my parents to let me travel into New York City for the performance I have no idea. His debut album still knocks me out forty plus years later. “Purple Haze,” “Fire,” “Foxy Lady,” “The Wind Cries Mary,” and “Third Stone From The Sun” continue to amaze me on a regular basis.

10) Cricklewood Green by Ten Years After. I played this album to death when I was in college and continue to listen to it today. Ten Years After had terrible production on a number of their early albums but here they got it just right as “Sugar The Road,” “Love Like A Man,” and “Year 3000 Blues” are creative fusions of rock and blues.

11) Winter Carols by Blackmore’s Night. Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple and Rainbow fame met background singer Candice Night in the early nineties and by 1997 had formed a rock/renaissance group that has one of the most unique and joyful sounds I have heard. Their Christmas album receives a lot of play in my home during the holiday season. It is a combination of traditional carols and lesser known tracks. Their “Lord Of The Dance/Simple Gifts” medley is the holiday season at its best.

12) Gettysburg Soundtrack: Music by Randy Edelman. I am a Civil War buff which led me to the Gettysburg film which in turn led me to the soundtrack by Randy Edelman. The music is grand, poignant, and soaring and it lets my mind wander along with it. Not bad from an old folk/pop, singer/songwriter like Edelman. This album is a constant companion in my car and its amazing how many times I pop it into the CD player while on the road. Edelman has also been married to Jackie DeShannon for over thirty years but that is another story.

That’s my dozen essential albums at sixty. They may change in the next year or so but that’s the beauty of music, there are always new surprises to be enjoyed no matter what the age but dang I’m getting old.

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About David Bowling

  • http://etierphotography.blogspot.com/ fcetier

    The Beatles,Hendrix, Dylan, The Beach Boys, & Moody Blues I’m with you.
    Wasn’t familiar with some of the others. Heard of most of the artists but not those particular albums.
    I would add “Eat a Peach” by The Allman Bros. Used to listen to Steppenwolf a lot, too. Ray Charles & Johnny Cash.
    Good article, thanks for reminding me!

  • Chris Shields

    I considered my father’s gift of his old record collection to be one of the most meaningful and enjoyable gifts I’d ever received. I’d heard a lot of it throughout most of my life, and those records stir memories …

    Enjoyed the article. Congrats on the big 60.