August 21, 2015

10 Albums That Have Stood The Test of Time

10 Albums That Have Stood The Test Of Time.
(In no particular order..except for #1)

By Sean Claes

I've been listening to music most of my life. I have been a CD reviewer for about the last 20 years. In that time I've listened to thousands of CDs by just as many artists. So, while I'm not an "authority" on all things music, I do have a leg up on a lot of folks when talking tunes.

There are very few discs that I have listened to for more than a year. Most I listen to, review (or not), and file. And now that I'm in my 40s and have kids of my own, I'm finding myself reaching back into the catalog of my music and pulling out certain CDs, tapes and records that I want to share with my kids. These are typically the CDs I tend to grab when wanting to listen to something in my collection.

This is a list of 10 musical offerings that seem as relevant and fantastic today as the first time I listened... and ones I actually pull out and still give a listen. Some I'm sharing with my kids... some  they are not old enough quite yet... you'll know those when you see the list.

So... without further discussion, here they are:

1. Los Lobos 
Just Another Band From East LA: A Collection
Release date: August 3, 1993

Producers: Los Lobos

Label: Warner Bros. Records
This one is actually my favorite album of all time. It's my desert island music. You know "If you were stranded on a desert island and only had one album to listen to..." This would be it. It's a 2 disc compilation and represents several genres of music. You've got the bluesy "Kiko and the Lavender Moon," the conjunto of "Sabor A Mi" and "Volver Volver,"  cumbia of "El Cuchipe," rock of "Shakin Shakin Shakes" and "Don't Worry Baby," and even a little movie music with "I Wanna Be Like You" (Jungle Book) and "La Bamba" (La Bamba). There's not a bad track on the 41 track offering.

Here's my favorite cut off Just Another Band From East LA: A Collection: "One Time One Night." It reminds me of growing up in Laredo, Texas... and a good friend that I hung out with a lot in my 20s.

2. Tracy Chapman
Tracy Chapman
Release date: April 15, 1988

Producer:  David Kershenbaum
Label:  Elektra

From "Across the Lines" to "Talkin' Bout A Revolution" to "If Not Now" this album captures a moment in time. A moment Chapman lived in and opened up an entire different world to me as a middle class Anglo kid.

Listening to it in 2015 and in the wake of all of the recent goings on in the world, it is as relevant as it was 27 years ago. I recommend this album to anyone who wants to get a honest and raw perspective.

Of course, the mega hit off this release is "Fast Car" and it still holds up today. I still sing it loud every time I hear it on the radio.

Here's a live shot of her performing "Across The Lines" at Nelson Mandela's 70th Birthday Tribute Concert... about a month before this album released.

3. Metallica
Kill 'Em All
Release date: July 25, 1983
Producer:  Paul Curcio

Label:  Megaforce
The slow build at the beginning of the first track, "Hit The Lights," was like nothing I'd ever heard before. I was 15 when I first heard this album.... they'd just released ...And Justice For All and I was hanging around with the "headbanger" crowd in high school. I remember the moment I heard this. A car full of kids cruising in Kim N.'s crusty old Camero when she flipped the tape into the player. And that day a love affair with metal/thrash/hardcore music was born.

This album is STILL better than about 75% of the metal that comes out today and is required listening for anyone who wants to play music. The genius of Cliff Burton on the bass solo "(Anesthesia) - Pulling Teeth," the lyrics mostly penned by vocalis James Hetfield (and some by Dave Mustaine) are a mixture of punishingly brutal and epic, albeit simplistic, storytelling... and the guitarwork of Kirk Hammett and drums of Lars Ulrich are both inspiring. If anyone ever wonders what Thrash Metal is... hand them this album.

"Jump In the Fire," "Whiplash," "Seek & Destroy," and "Metal Militia" were all like anthems to a generation of young kids who weren't hearing themselves in the likes of New Order, Talking Heads and Duran Duran... who preferred ripped jeans and a black t-shirt to polo shirts and shiny shoes. And even though the album title was changed so to be less vulgar to the eye... the original title Metal Up Your Ass does nicely state what this album brought to the table.

Here's the Hetfield/Ulrich penned "No Remorse."

4. Darrell Scott
Aloha From Nashville
Release date: April 22, 1997

Label:  Sugar Hill
You may have never heard of Darrell Scott, but you have heard his music as recorded by other folks. Like.. if you've ever heard the Dixie Chicks sing "Long Time Gone," Darryl Worley do "Family Tree," or Travis Tritt  perform "Great Day To Be Alive" you've heard Darrell Scott's genius.

He's what is known as a "songwriter's songwriter" but he is an amazing performer and singer as well. in 2010 Robert Plant tapped him to be in his Bells Of Joy. He has written songs that have been recorded by Keb Mo, Cory Morrow, Faith Hill, Guy Clark and Johnsmith. He has written with the likes of Emmylou Harris, Sam Bush, John Cowan, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Steve Earle.

This 1997 release was his first full-length. I found this one in the box of things to review that came into the office when I was reviewing CDs in college at Southwest Texas State University for the official entertainment magazine at the school: Galaxy Magazine. Instantly fell in love with his smooth Americana style and fantastic storytelling...

Epic and sad; "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive" is an amazing  inclusion on this album. It's actually been covered by Brad Paisley recently (2010) in the TV show Justified. "Heartbreak Town" is equally tear jerking.

My favorite tracks on the album are "The Ballad of Martha White" that depicts a kid discovering the truth about his first love - the Martha White Flour girl and a track called "It's the Whiskey That Eases The Pain."

The quirky and funny "Spelling Bee Romance" and "Title of the Song" wrap the album up nicely with a chuckle... showing a comical side that balances things out.... and the later song is a fantastic blueprint for a boy-band song.

BUT.. the song I want to share with you off this ablum is "It's the Whiskey That Eases the Pain."

5. Terri Hendrix
Wilory Farm
Release date: June 1998
Producer: Lloyd Maines
Label:  Wilory Records
Terri Hendrix is a true treasure. I have been blessed to watch her rise up from open mic nights at San Marcos, Texas' Triple Crown in the mid 1990s to her joining forces with the legendary Lloyd Maines and launching forward to create her own DIY empire that has taken her through almost 30 years of her fantastic and heart-on-her-sleeve musical journey.

She is a member of the infamous Cheatham Street Warehouse Songwriter's Circle "Class of 1987" that also includes Todd Snider, Hal Ketcham, John Arthur Martinez, Bruce Robison and Tish Hinojosa.

Wilory Farm is her second album, created in 1998. It marks the first time working with Lloyd Maines as a producer and these songs are gems... and they show an astounding maturity from her quirky and fun first release (which I'm also a fan of) Two Dollar Shoes.

Now, not all of the quirkiness is thrown aside... her funny ditty "Albert, The Perfect Friend" about a not so nice guy is an entertaining inclusion and speaks to her ability to deal with the lighter side while also including some heavy matter ("Walk on Me" and "Gravity"). There's also the jam-friendly tracks like "Wind Me Up" and "Sister's Apartment."

The thing about Terri Hendrix is, her perspective is so entertaining and her actual live performance is inspiring every time. My wife and I make it a point to see her every so often in order to reset our life perspective. The fact is... you can't leave a Terri show in a bad mood. he simply won't allow it. It's a dancing, singing, jamming high-fiving good time with hundreds of strangers who become friends by the end of the night.

Her live show was captured in her 2001 album Live In San Marcos, but this album is the one that laid the foundation for who she is as a performer today.

The song that I find myself singing on a weekly basis from Wilory Farm is "Hole In My Pocket" which was also covered by Ruthie Foster (who didn't make this top 10 because her landmark album, Runaway Soul came out in 2002). Here's Terri & Lloyd performing it at at Piney Woods Performances (house concert) in Conroe, Texas, on March 26, 2011.

Rounding out the top 10 are the following:

6. Styx
Kilroy Was Here
Release date: February 22, 1983
Producer: Styx
Label:  A&M Records

7. N.W.A.
Straight Outta Compton
Release date: August 8, 1988
Producers: Dr. Dre, DJ Yella
Label:  Priority Records / Ruthless Records


8. KISS 
Creatures of the Night
Release date: October 13, 1982
Producers: Michael James Jackson, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons 
--> Label:  Casablanca


9. AC/DC
Back in Black
Release date: July 25, 1980
Producers: Robert John "Mutt" Lange 
Label:  Albert / Atlantic



10. John Prine
Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings
Release date: April 4, 1995
Producer: Howie Epstein
Label:  Oh Boy

 Bonus (because this one should go to eleven)
11. Kenny Rogers
20 Great Years
Release date: November 12, 1991
Label:  Reprise

These are the albums that formed me... and that I think are still relevant and amazing. The only caveat to this list is... every one of these albums was recorded before 2000. 15 years is about the right amount of "stand the test of time" time. I had to cut a few of my choices because they aren't old enough (like Living Colour's Vivid,  Johnny Cash American IV, Eminem The Marshall Mathers EP).