I attempted to clean out my garage, but I still could not bring myself to throw out all of my vinyl.
I stopped buying vinyl albums sometime in the late 1980s. The first time I ever heard a CD playing was in a Sears Department store in 1984. Honestly, I could not really tell the difference between digital and analog sound. The CD did sound great, but in those days, I was an audiophile. My music was essential to me, so I made sure I had the best speakers, tape deck, turntable and, receiver, all made by the top audio equipment makers of the day; TEAC, Sansui, and Kenwood.
I treated vinyl albums like valuable possessions. They were cleaned religiously and only handled at the edges. They sounded great with huge speakers, and that analog sound was warm and deed. I only played my albums once and promptly recorded them whole or as part of a mixed tape. That way, all of my albums stayed in pristine condition. I do not know the last vinyl album I purchased, but I know the first CD I ever bought. It was Alexander O’Neal’s Hearsay. Again, I was not overwhelmed with the quality at that time, but I knew it was the future.
Through the years, I have slowly but surely gave away my vinyl albums. My daughter is a D.J., and I let her take what albums she wanted, the others I gave away to secondhand stores. This summer, I committed to getting rid of a lot of stuff that I had been holding on to for years. The albums were on that list. I took the remaining albums and attempted to give them all away. But I could not do it that easily. There were some albums that I placed to the side to keep because of sentimental value. I forced myself to give away the rest to Goodwill.
The ten albums I kept are not my choices for the best albums of all time. Some of my favorite artists like Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire, and War, I never purchased their albums. It was all CDs.
Anita Baker — Rapture
I had a grown man-crush on Anita Baker. Once a reporter asked the question, who was more popular, Anita Baker or Janet Jackson. I thought that was an awful comparison. I considered Janet a little kid (even though she still talks like a little kid), and Anita was a full-grown woman. Anita has the perfect voice and delivery for Jazz. I believe she could have been a very popular jazz singer if she had chosen to go that way. You can hear the jazz influence on Caught Up in the Rapture and Been So Long. Rapture is a great album. But I believe she topped Rapture with her next album, Giving you the Best I Got. But this is still a great album and the one that put her on the map.
Branford Marsalis — Romances for Saxophone
This album did not introduce me to classical music, but it indeed made me sit up and pay attention. Branford here is working with the English Chamber Orchestra, directed by Andrew Litton. This music is melodious, dramatic, and one of the most beautiful pieces of music that I have ever heard. It introduced me to Debussy, Rachmaninoff, and Stravinsky, among others, and I have not let go of classical music since I listened to this album. Even if you do not like classical music, or you think you don’t, you must listen to this album.
Prince — Controversy and Purple Rain.
Ok, I cheated. This is two albums, not one. But I could not separate the two. I have a weird relationship with Prince’s music. I loved his daring, experimentation, and musicianship. However, he was never one of my favorites. He was indeed a genius. I rarely listen to his music at all. And what is more, I did not listen to him much when he was at his peak. But I still say he is one of the top artists of the last 40 years! Controversy may not have been as famous as Purple Rain, but in my view, it is a masterpiece. Politically and socially charged songs like Jack U Off, Annie Christian, and Ronnie Talk to Russia still packs a powerful punch, and he was at his best during this time when he was still climbing the ladder to fame. This was before Wendy and Lisa and Prince played all of the instruments on this one. Purple Rain is Prince’s Citizen Kane. What can you say? This album is an all-time classic. Take Me With You, Darling Nikki, and I Would Die For You are some of my favorites. And like all great music, it stands the test of time.
Earl Klugh — Heartstring
Before I was introduced to Coltrane, Myles, and Monk, the style of Jazz I listened to was what I labeled Pussy Cat jazz. In other words, musicians like Kenny G and Boney James. After listening to Coltrane and company, I could not listen to lightweight Jazz anymore. However, part of that pussy cat group was Earl Klugh. I love this album so much that I wanted to introduce all of my friends to it. After listening to this album, a couple of my friends told me that I must be depressed. After listening to it today, I can see why they would say that. It is a sweat album with sweat acoustic guitar rifts and a slightly Mexican video on many tracks. It is still a great album, and my love for it has not diminished, even after being made fun of. Fuck those people. LOL. Years later, my wife and I attended a concert by Earl Klugh. It was in Las Vagas at the now-closed, Blue Note Lounge. After the show, Earl’s manager invited us to sit with them at the Blue Note. We ate, drank, and talked about horror movies. (He’s afraid of them). I did take the opportunity to let them know how much this album means to me.
Pat Metheny Group — Still Life Talking
Deciding to keep this vinyl album was a no-brainer. Still Life was the album that introduced me to Pat Metheny, and I have been listening to him ever since. This album was when Metheny was still in his Brazilian music phase. I was just getting into Brazilian artists such as Ivan Lins, Astrid Gilberto, and Antonio Carlos Jobin. This album came into my life at the fight time. It is one of my favorite traveling albums to this day. I was lucky enough to meet Pat Metheny after a show he did in Hamburg, Germany. It was another opportunity to see and meet one of my music heroes.
Kenny Burrell — Midnight Blue
This album is like a time capsule in the early 60s. This album reminds me of beatniks, Greenwich Village, late-night jam sessions with weary musicians with cigarettes dangling from their mouths, smoke laying heavy over everything. It is a very physical feeling with solid associations to jazz motifs. Here we have some of the best musicians of their day, playing their ass off. Midnight Blue is late night, big city music. Late-night blues with guitar, sax, bass, drums, and conga. Kenny Burrell, to me, is an underrated jazz guitarist. I hear him in many of the people that came after him. This album makes me feel like I stumbled off the street and into a jam session by musicians who are only playing for themselves until the sun comes up.
Tears For Fears — Songs From the Big Chair
There was a time I went through my Brit-pop music phase. I am not ashamed. This is good music. Groups such as Culture Club, Thompson Twins, Swing Out Sister, Wang Chung, and I could go on, but you get the picture. Tears for Fears were the gold standard. They seamlessly mixed rock, pop, soul, and gospel into their music. There are big hits here, such as Shout and Everybody Wants to Rule the World, but I like other gems, such as The Working Hour and Head Over Heels.
Luther Vandross — Never Too Much
Like many people, I knew about Luther Vandross long before he came out with his debut album, Never Too Much. He sang with Greg Diamond and then Change and also for Quincy Jones. His voice was so great and distinctive, and he had a following that was just clamoring to purchase his first album. And Luther did not disappoint. I rode the wave of fat and skinning Luther for his entire career, and he proved in this album that there were so many good things to come. I love A House is not a Home and Don’t You Know That. When Sheena Easton was voted best new artist for 1980, I correctly stated that 10 years from now, nobody would know the name Sheena Easton, but everyone will know who Luther Vandross is.
Wynton Marsalis — Black Codes (From The Underground)
Along with his brother Brandford on sax, Trumpeter Wynton, drummer Jeff (Tain) Watts on drums, Charnett Moffett and Ron Carter on bass, and the late Kenny Kirkland on piano, created this jazz masterpiece for the ages. Some say they sound like Miles Davis’ group from the 60s, but there are few jazz hard bop albums that are this accomplished and powerful. They tear the house down with blues and hard-driving Jazz and a little bit of the mysticism with Aural Oasis. I love to hear great musicians at the top of their game. Black Codes, Delfeayo’s Dilemma, and Chambers of Tain, get my blood flowing.
Weather Report — Mr. Gone
For those who never heard of Weather Report, the first thing that I want to say is that they had the best bass player ever walked the earth, the late Jaco Pastorious. Look him up on YouTube when you get a chance. Yes, another jazz album. This album was perfect for me at the time. We called this kind of music Punk Jazz, named after one of the cuts on this album, which is actually my favorite. It is like George Gershwin meets Frank Zappa. It was perfect for listening to while smoking weed with its bass solos, out-of-this-world keyboards, and unconventional arrangements. Weather Report also had one of my favorite musicians, sax player Wayne Shorter. Admittedly, I am not sure if this album aged as well as the other albums I have, but nevertheless, this music is another touchstone in my life.
There you have it. Again, not necessarily my favorite albums of all time, but the best of what I have left in my depleted collection. Some have less to do with the music than with the memories and the roles the music has played in my life. I promised you only 10 albums but I have other albums at I will not get rid of, here is five more:
- The Style Council — The Style Council Live
- The Police — Zenyatta Mondatta
- The Bar-Kays — Light of Life
- The Brides of Funkenstein — Never Buy Texas From a Cowboy
- Sade — Diamond Life