I only listened to this once. I’m pretty sure it’s the only CD in my collection that’s true of. I was so freaked out by it that I just couldn’t go back to it. (This is a concept album meant to evoke the feeling of undergoing surgery while awake, or some shit.) Now that I’m writing this I feel I should revisit it, if only to remember what I was so put off by.
Measure of gratitude: Greater than zero. Thank you.
The Cole Porter Songbook, Vol. 2
This is the only one of Ella’s iconic songbook recordings I had. (The past tense is still weird, I’ll likely be inconsistent with that.) I’ve heard all of them at some point, but this Cole Porter set is the one I know best, and therefore like best. But it is pretty nuts that there’s one singer who recorded such a huge chunk of the Great American Songbook and managed to get definitive takes of most of it.
Measure of gratitude: Substantial. Thank you.
I’ve arrived at a point where I like this better than any of the King Crimson albums. King Crimson is a band for people who like their music in cogent, internally logical helpings: albums full of songs that complement and build on each other. This is the opposite of that. It’s Fripp in Eno mode, gathering whatever musicians he thought might be interesting at a given time, making whatever music with them happens to come out, and shoving it all on one disc together. It’s magic. You get instrumental prog with virtuoso bass playing from Tony Levin. You get Peter Hammill shouting his throat out like the proto-punk he doesn’t get enough credit for being. You get Peter Gabriel at the piano, singing the definitive rendition of “Here Comes the Flood.” You get another Peter Gabriel song without Gabriel singing, but with Terre Roche and Brian Eno. And depending on which version of the album you listen to, you get a whole lot of Darryl Hall, the last person you’d expect. It’s one of the wildest albums ever made, and nobody else could have possibly wrangled it together so effectively.
Measure of gratitude: Immense. Thank you.
Fripp & Eno
This falls at an early moment in Eno’s ambient music career. I group it alongside the album “Discreet Music,” which also predates his creative breakthrough on “Music for Airports.” It’s fine, and my special edition also contains a bonus track that’s just a full side of it played backwards. Evidently John Peel played it on BBC Radio that way by mistake, which is a story I like better than the actual album.
Measure of gratitude: Middling. Thank you.
Peter Gabriel (1)
Peter Gabriel (2)
Peter Gabriel (3)
Scratch My Back
Big Blue Ball (with various artists)
Peter Gabriel is the only music I’ve ever lost in a breakup. There was a time when this body of work meant more to me than any other music. It is unique in my life for the extent to which it is tied up with my outer life and not just my inner one. As I’ve been going through all of these artists, it’s been interesting to note that I don’t associate many of them (trumpet-related music aside) with specific memories from my own life experience, but rather with abstract notions of how I was thinking at any given time. In general, music isn’t something I share with people: it’s a treasured private experience. It’s one of the ways I converse with myself. Peter Gabriel was, briefly, an exception to that. The events in question have long faded from consequence, and these days Peter Gabriel’s music is just another corridor from one bit of my brain to another, same as anybody else on this list. But there may always be something slightly different about my relationship with this music than with any other music, because for a moment it filled a different role.
Measure of gratitude: Incalculable. Thank you.
What’s Going On
I’ve never liked this as much as I wish I did. Obviously it’s full of incredible singing. But Marvin Gaye has never resonated with me the same way as other Motown artists like Stevie Wonder and even less gigantic figures like Smokey Robinson. I can only imagine how shattering it must have been in its day, though.
Measure of gratitude: Small. Thank you.
1970-1975 (13-disc box)
A couple years ago a friend and I decided to score every Genesis song out of 50 points, divided up into a hyper-specific rubric. It took us until a couple months ago to finish, and it is one of the nerdiest things I’ve ever done. It didn’t take long for me to realize that my brain is about 40 percent full of theories about Genesis. I’ve been thinking about this band for twenty years now, and this lavish box set is part of what set me on the trail. It is a daily miracle that I’m not constantly telling passersby about how “Domino” is a spiritual sequel to “Supper’s Ready” even though you’d never know it since one of them is a Peter Gabriel-fronted prog rock classic and the other is Phil Collins singing 80s electro-pop but you see they both are about couples living through the apocalypse and they both make significant reference to television in ways that I feel are really demonstrative of the difference between the band’s two eras and isn’t it unexpected that it’s Gabriel turning the television of and seeking an unmediated experience of the world thereby presenting as the sincere one in this context while Collins the surprising ironist remains blasé sitting in front of the news. *big breath* I’ll write that essay one day, but this isn’t the time.
Measure of gratitude: Staggering. Thank you.
In A Glass House
Playing the Fool
Gentle Giant deserves their reputation for being the most pointy headed of all the major British prog bands, but they don’t get enough credit for being super fun. It’s good-natured music made by people drunk on their own ability to write and play the really hard shit. Playing the Fool is maybe the best live album ever made. I get why people don’t like prog, but occasionally you meet somebody who’s actually angry about it and I feel like they should really just pay more attention to Gentle Giant.
Measure of gratitude: Huge. Thank you.
Heroes Symphony/The Light (Marin Alsop, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra)
I’ve played this on the radio so many goddamn times, mainly to give myself an opportunity to write about David Bowie on classical shows. But honestly it isn’t Glass’s best work. It renders Bowie’s music a little bit sterile.
Measure of gratitude: Small. Thank you.
The Young Maverick
The Radio Artist
Gould is mostly filed under other composers in my collection. These are two big sets from CBC Records, one of which has old scratchy CBC recordings of a young Gould playing a pretty massive range of music from Bach to Berg. The other contains his radio work, which is so bonkers you can hardly believe it happened in Canada.
Measure of gratitude: Large. Thank you.