One thing I’ve been asked about this blog is “Why don’t you cover more non-biographical stuff?” Well, I’d argue that I do, but it tends to be linked in some capacity to something ongoing in my life and therefore appears to be autobiographical when it actually isn’t. For instance, the entirety of my beer posts could be seen as topical, rather than about me, while at the same time beer is very much central to a lot of my activities.
Anyways, the point is, I don’t have too many posts that stand apart from my life narration, and while I don’t really intend to change that (I’ve always considered this blog a diary of sorts, see The Rules), I figure I might throw in a post from time to time that breaks this mold a little bit.
A few of things I’ve considered doing are video game reviews, movie reviews, or making a foray into the dreaded land of “Listicles.” I don’t care enough to do food reviews outside of brief descriptions of places I eat at. While I do enjoy eclectic food, I’m not a food blogger. Since none of these things have cropped up yet (at least not as a bonafide solo post), it’s obvious that it’s not something I’ve prioritized. However, I’ve recently found myself with the ever-so-slight itch to add in a different kind of post aside from my ongoing “Denver Check-in” series. More honestly, when running at 6:30am I get bored and think about things, and thus the concept for this post was born.
“Top 10” Albums
So a quick search of the internet will reveal thousands upon thousands of “Best of” music lists. For every typical “Best of” list you’ll find a wide variety of sub-lists, genre-specific lists, or “Worst of” lists. It goes on and on.
This is my take on the music list with 10 items. Except I’m not calling this a “Best of” list, or even “Taco’s Definitive Top 10 Albums” list. Because I think it’s kind of impossible to make such a list, in fact I’ve never understood how you can “rank” music in a static fashion. Sure, some people may have a hands down “favorite,” yet even that tends to change over time, let alone the more nuanced details between the other 20+ albums you listened to far more than you could ever recount. So, instead of making a ranked list, I’ve selected 10 albums that I think are especially good. None of them are necessarily my “favorite” and none supersede the others (nor does an album’s absence from this list necessarily imply anything). Each of these albums was very good at specific point in my life. Some of them haven’t retained the same level of influence, others have held steady and a few only increase with time. It doesn’t diminish the value of any of them, because they mattered in the moment, and regardless of when they were important to me, they all share the trait of being albums I can still listen to.
I’ll state that this is not a list of artists, nor is this a list of singles. This is a list of albums, as in, the entire album is being considered. As such, as a general rule, I’ve eliminated duplicate artists from contention. I’ll likely do an Artist and Single list at some point.
Also, this list isn’t here to convince you to listen to any of these albums, though I can assure you that you’ve heard some of them (knowingly or not, hated them or loved them), and that I’ll probably tell you to listen to them, but again, that isn’t the point of the list. I only seek to share some music that I greatly enjoy, or at the very least, greatly enjoyed at some moment in time.
My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade
1. “The End.” – 1:52
2. “Dead!” – 3:15
3. “This Is How I Disappear” – 3:59
4. “The Sharpest Lives” – 3:20
5. “Welcome to the Black Parade” – 5:11
6. “I Don’t Love You” – 3:58
7. “House of Wolves” – 3:04
8. “Cancer” – 2:22
9. “Mama” – 4:39
10. “Sleep” – 4:43
11. “Teenagers” – 2:41
12. “Disenchanted” – 4:55
13. “Famous Last Words” – 4:59
14. “Blood” – 2:53
Why it’s Good:
While I wouldn’t count My Chemical Romance as being among my favorite artists, The Black Parade is a powerhouse of an album that, in my opinion, is the best rock opera to come out in the “modern” era of rock. The Black Parade is hands down, the pinnacle of MCR for me; it trumps their earlier works as well as everything that followed until their breakup in 2013. While they have an array of strong singles such as “Helena,” “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” and “Sing,” none of their other albums in their entirety even come close to matching the strength of The Black Parade.
As mentioned, The Black Parade is a rock opera. If you don’t know what a rock opera is, you should, because I can almost guarantee you’ve heard one. Essentially, a rock opera is an album that tells a story through thematic elements and with each song forming a “chain” that weaves a tale from beginning to end. To put it simply, a rock opera is a story, whereas a standard album is a series of disconnected songs. Famous examples of rock operas include Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime, and The Who’s Quadrophenia (but the list is far more extensive than this).
So, being a rock opera, The Black Parade tells a story, and it’s a story we can all relate to: death. The entire album is the story of a man who is dying, has died, and goes on to experience the afterlife (represented by The Black Parade itself). As such, there are some extraordinary emotions tucked both explicitly and implicitly through the album’s lyrics. The range of complexity is quite impressive, with songs such as “Dead!” being fairly self-explanatory, while “Teenagers” initially seems to have nothing to do with the story (but trust me, it does, you just need to think about it for a moment). Then, there are tracks such as “Cancer” and “I Don’t Love You” which highlight the perspective of the dying, rather than the living, which is something so many songs focusing on death seem to ignore. Sure, those left behind have a story to tell, but what of the dead? That is the crux of The Black Parade – to look into the mouth of death itself, and simultaneously reflect on one’s life while nervously looking forward into the unknown.
Of all the songs on the album, for me, the titular “The Black Parade” is the strongest link in the chain. In crafting this album, MCR used the (physical) Black Parade as a motif for death, but they did it in a very creative way that ultimately creates more questions than it provides answers. For instance, portions of the song (and album at large) seem to suggest that our protagonist has gone to Hell, and that the Black Parade is reserved for the damned. But it’s not as simple as that, we are all damned, damned to die. The Black Parade is neither good nor evil, neither Heaven nor Hell, and the bandleader alternates between God and Devil, saint and sinner.
In the end, the grand message of The Black Parade is that what exactly death is varies for us all, but regardless of our particular “death,” The Black Parade always marches onward. The best you can do is join the march having lived your life as best as you could have, which our protagonist fails to realize until he is already trudging towards damnation. What awaits you on the other side, at the end of the march, depends entirely on your own choices, but until then, the Black Parade awaits you.
Even if you can’t stand My Chemical Romance, The Black Parade is worth the listen for the masterfully written lyrics and profound themes of life, faith, living, loss, and death. And if you can’t muster up the desire to listen to the whole album, at the very least listen to “The Black Parade.” It’s worth it.
Disturbed – Ten Thousand Fists
1. “Ten Thousand Fists” – 3:32.
2. “Just Stop” – 3:44
3. “Guarded” – 3:20
4. “Deify” – 4:17
5. “Stricken” – 4:05
6. “I’m Alive” – 4:42
7. “Sons of Plunder” – 3:48
8. “Overburdened” – 5:57
9. “Decadence” – 3:25
10. “Forgiven” – 4:12
11. “Land of Confusion” (Genesis Cover) – 4:48
12. “Sacred Lie” – 3:06
13. “Pain Redefined” – 4:07
14. “Avarice” – 2:57
Why it’s Good:
Don’t let the name fool you, Disturbed is likely the most nuanced “nu-metal” band in existence. Well, formerly in existence, like all good bands they broke up (In late 2011). However, they have since announced their return in August of this year (2015), much to my own joy. But that is more about the artist and less about the album, Ten Thousand Fists. I am a true-to-life “Disturbed One” (fan) and enjoy all their work, but Ten Thousand Fists finds its way onto this list in place of their other albums largely because of its theme and when it came into my life. Ten Thousand Fists was released in 2005, though I wouldn’t discover it until 2006. This was not the best of times for me, for a variety of reasons that I won’t discuss here, but the important bit of information is that a lot of the themes of Ten Thousand Fists aligned with some of the problems I was dealing with at the time. In fact, Ten Thousand Fists was my first Disturbed album, despite it being their third album. So, you can say Ten Thousand Fists was the nexus from which my Disturbed fandom grew.
At its core, Ten Thousand Fists is an album of rebellion. Yeah, I know, not exactly wining points for originality, but the delivery is spot-on. The titular track “Ten Thousand Fists” sets the stage: We are many, we are mad, we are disturbed. From there you get into more the more atypical elements of a rebellion album, highlighting emotions aside from anger (“Ten Thousand Fists” & “Sons of Plunder”) such as loneliness (“Guarded”), hopelessness (“Overburdened”), hope (“I’m Alive”), to even a sense of spiritualism (“Sacred Lie”). The point being, while it might facially appear to be just another “angst-ridden metal” album, Ten Thousand Fists is a perfect example of not judging a book (er.. album) by its cover.
One hint that the album is more than it appears, is the inclusion of a cover of Genesis’ “Land of Confusion.” And if you are rolling your eyes at the thought, I have to say, Disturbed’s cover of this song undoubtedly goes down as one of the best covers I’ve ever heard and is one of those rare examples where the cover far surpasses the original song.
While all the songs on Ten Thousand Fists are independent, the running theme of rebellion is actually less of the point than you might imagine. The undercurrent to the album is that anger and hate are not the answer (this far in contrast to most rebellion albums and metal in general), and that only at a societal level can we make the necessary changes. Ten Thousand Fists is a perfect example of the Burly Biker Dude, covered in lude and violent tattoos, who is actually a pacifist and loves to say “You Collect More Flies with Honey than Vinegar.” Like any good album, the message of Ten Thousand Fists is not what it initially appears to be, don’t let the metal-head drones convince you otherwise.
Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction
1.”Welcome to the Jungle” – 4:31
2. “It’s So Easy” – 3:21
3. “Nightrain” – 4:26
4. “Out ta Get Me” – 4:20
5. “Mr. Brownstone” – 3:46
6. “Paradise City” – 6:46
7. “My Michelle” – 3:39
8. “Think About You” – 3:50
9. “Sweet Child o’ Mine” – 5:55
10. “You’re Crazy” – 3:25
11. “Anything Goes” – 3:25
12. “Rocket Queen” – 6:13
Why it’s Good:
So I would be hard-pressed to make any album list that didn’t have a spot for Appetite for Destruction. In fact, before I even began really conceptualizing this list, Appetite for Destruction was in by default. While Guns N’ Roses is, in my opinion, the best hard rock band of their era, Appetite for Destruction’s placement has less to do with Guns N’ Roses, or even the individual tracks on this album, but rather with its placement within my life.
Appetite for Destruction, somewhat comically, based on title alone, is the album I associate with the combination of being a piddles and being with Meem. If I was corrupted by drinking Budweiser at the ripe young age of 3 or 4, then Appetite for Destruction sealed the deal. But as I turned out (decently) alright, I don’t think either of those things caused any noticeable real damage.
It’s actually kind of interesting, the vast majority of the themes and elements of Appetite for Destruction were completely lost on me until I was much older. For instance, while I can vividly remember listening to, and enjoying songs such as “Mr. Brownstone,” I obviously had no idea what the song was about (Hint: Mr. Brownstone isn’t a person, but good luck convincing piddles me of that). Then, other songs, such as “Sweet Child o’ Mine” and “Paradise City” are so deeply ingrained into my psyche that I’ll arguably forget my own name before I forget the lyrics to them.
While Axl and Slash may hate each other, and the modern iteration of Guns N’ Roses may be a hollow shell, the memories of Appetite for Destruction are as pivotal a part of my childhood as Barney, Teletubbies, Bible School, or Sesame Street might be for many others. And, in some ways, that says more about me than most other things ever could, but it’s something I wouldn’t change for the world. So I’ll keep on listening to Appetite for Destruction, both for past memories, and for sheer level of musical skill and awesome that Guns N’ Roses was able to embody in the album, and I’d recommend you do the same. Just watch out for the Nightrain.
Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard – Gladiator (Soundtrack)
1. “Progeny” – 2:14
2. “The Wheat” – 1:03
3. “The Battle” – 10:24
4. “Earth” – 3:01
5. “Sorrow” – 1:26
6. “To Zucchabar” – 3:16
7. “Patricide”– 4:08
8. “The Emperor Is Dead” – 1:21
9. “The Might of Rome” – 5:18
10. “Strength and Honor” – 2:09
11. “Reunion” – 1:14
12. “Slaves to Rome” – 1:00
13. “Barbarian Horde” – 10:33
14. “Am I Not Merciful?” – 6:33
15. “Elysium” – 2:41
16. “Honor Him” – 1:19
17. “Now We Are Free” – 4:14
Why it’s Good:
Gladiator, Ridley Scott’s 2000 masterpiece (your opinion is utterly invalid), holds two special places in my heart. First, it’s one of the best movies ever made. Second, it’s (lesser known) soundtrack was both amazing and my introduction to modern orchestral music [Though the original honor for such music in general goes to none other than Mozart, thanks Meem. And Mozart’s exclusion from this list is based on little more than the fact that I consider my appreciation of Hans Zimmer’s music to be a spiritual successor to my behbeh Mozart years].
In order to truly appreciate this soundtrack, I think you need to experience the music in the context of the film itself. I’d go so far to say that Scott would have fallen flat without Zimmer, and that likewise, Zimmer would have failed to evoke the power that he did absent Scott’s film. If you’ve never seen Gladiator, then you’ve legitimately failed at modern cinema (which may or may not bother you in the least). That said, there is no substitution for Gladiator. In other words, don’t go watch Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, it freaking sucks compared to the glory that is Gladiator. Go watch Gladiator, and pay attention to how Zimmer’s score is utilized, it’s quite masterful.
The album itself weaves in and out of Maximus’ story. With songs such as “The Wheat,” “Barbarian Horde,” and “Elysium” being pretty much verbatim ties into their respective portions of the film. Other tracks, such as “The Might of Rome” and “Earth,” while still having scenes, are used more thematically. While I am particularly fond of “The Battle” and “Barbarian Horde” (which are the tracks that bilaterally spawned the iconic, “Gladiator Theme” most people associate with the movie), I’d have to say that “Now We Are Free” is probably the best the album has to offer. Aside from uniquely having vocals, the composition stands alone. And “Now We Are Free” truly hinges on having seen the film. While it is a somber and gorgeous song by itself, having seen the end of Gladiator makes the track all the more powerful.
Overall, despite having went on to listen to a vast number of orchestral tracks, ranging from more of Zimmer’s work, to Two Steps from Hell, to Immediate Music, to X-Ray Dog, I’ve never found an album quite as powerful as Gladiator. It is the perfect blend of action, harmony, melancholy, hope, despair, and ultimately redemption. As such, it can offer music for pretty much any mood and is an outstanding introduction to modern orchestral music.
Green Day – Warning
1. “Warning” – 3:42
2. “Blood, Sex and Booze” – 3:33
3. “Church on Sunday” – 3:18
4. “Fashion Victim” – 2:48
5. “Castaway” – 3:52
6. “Misery” – 5:05
7. “Deadbeat Holiday” – 3:35
8. “Hold On” – 2:56
9. “Jackass” – 2:43
10. “Waiting – “3:13
11. “Minority” – 2:49
12. “Macy’s Day Parade” – 3:34
Why it’s Good:
Ok, if you rolled your eyes at the mention of Green Day, then I can’t say I blame you. The vast majority of people seem to have discovered Green Day’s existence with their “American Idiot” album, which is a whiny-bitch fest in all the wrong ways. In fact, I haven’t listened to any of their albums post “American Idiot” precisely because I just stopped caring. Now, that said, I think that Green Day was an amazing band up until “American Idiot.” In fact, despite their “discovery” in 2004 with “American Idiot” Green Day’s largest successes game in their earlier days, with albums such as “Dookie” (RIAA Diamond) and its hit “Basket Case.” However, their full transition from a true 80s/90s punk band to a modern emo-punk band started with “Warning.” Now, this might seem odd for me to list “Warning,” after having complained about “American Idiot” onwards. The thing is, for me, “Warning” represents the best blend of styles that Green Day has offered.
While their earlier works such as those found on “39/Smooth” and “Kerplunk” were rough and a bit raw, and the newer “American Idiot” was just plastic, “Warning” pulled from both where the band had been, and where they were going, in order to offer up a solid music experience. While the band definitely highlighted their punk-rebellion roots with tracks such as “Minority” there was a more inquisitive and intellectual side of the album, with tracks such as “Macy’s Day Parade” requiring a bit more thought than usual for punk music. Additionally, the album was a bit darker in tone with “Misery” weaving a fairly dark tale of murder and mayhem, though in a more punk-esque manner than the subsequent emo-laden tracks of “American Idiot.” Still, even with these more serious themes, it was a punk album at its core, as showcased by “Deadbeat Holiday” and the titular “Warning,” and there is even a bit of more light-hearted fun to be had in the track “Castaway.” While I am far from a punk purist, and those who are generally consider “Warning” to be Green Day’s downfall, this is an incredibly fun album that rides the line between garage-band and superstar. In my opinion, for what it’s worth, Green Day is best listened to starting with “Warning” and working your way backwards to at least “Kerplunk.” “American Idiot” onwards can be ignored without much issue.
Eifel 65 – Europop
1. “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” (Radio Edit) – 3:30
2. “Too Much of Heaven” – 5:17
3. “Dub in Life” – 3:57
4. “Living in a Bubble” – 5:03
5. “Move Your Body” – 4:28
6. “My Console” – 4:13
7. “Your Clown” – 4:09
8. “Another Race” – 4:34
9. “The Edge” – 4:20
10. “Now Is Forever” – 5:44
11. “Silicon World” – 4:31
12. “Europop” – 5:28
13. “Hyperlink (Deep Down)” – 4:57
14. “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” (extended mix) – 4:46
Why it’s Good:
Ok, so this is one where if you are alive circa 1998/1999 then I am almost willing to guarantee you heard this band playing somewhere. You probably have no idea who they are, or what the song was, but I am fairly certain you heard it. The song was of course “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” which garnered so much airtime by the end of it that even the people who initially loved the track wanted to puke when they heard its iconic opening. Yes, “Blue (Da Be Dee)” was a song that people loved, hated, or loved to hate, but everyone recognized it. Now, most people look back at it in a rather comical fashion, wondering why in the hell it was so popular when it’s really not that great of a song. But it came, it saw, and it conquered.
However, “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” was only one track on Europop, and Italian group Eifel 65 offered up far better tunes on their debut album (which was Europop) than “Blue (Da Ba Dee),” though sadly pretty much no one ever heard them. In fact, most people didn’t even know what Europop was, as at the time the primary way of consuming “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” was either via the radio or via a dance/party/etc. compilation album. Actually, looking back, all of my peers owned “Blue (Da Ba Dee),” but I was the only I know who actually owned Europop, as opposed to a dance compilation including “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” and various other hits (or not hits) of the time. I remember going to purchase “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” and being very concerned that Europop wasn’t the right album, or for that matter, that Eifel 65 wasn’t that right band. It was funny too, because the dance compilations were sold out EVERYWHERE, but there Europop set, all by its self, still stocked. Well, I was obviously correct, and it turns out Europop was stronger (for me) than the specter of “Blue (Da Ba Dee).”
Europop is special because it was really my first foray into the techno/dance world, and it’s had a lasting impact, even if Eifel 65 has faded into obscurity. Particularly, “My Console,” “Your Clown,” and “Silicon World” highlight an especially good blend of techno, electronica, and dance music. “My Console” gets bonus points for being about video games, though the lyrics haven’t stood the test of time very well. Not to be labeled solely as a mindless dance mix, tracks such as “Too Much of Heaven” and “Living in a Bubble” are actually a bit more sophisticated than they might originally appear. Of course, tracks such as “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” and “The Edge” still offer up solid dance tunes, and if you want a blend of the more dance-oriented and vocal-driven, “Another Race” and “Hyperlink (Deep Down)” bridge that gap nicely. Overall, Europop isn’t an especially unique album, but it’s strong in a lot of ways. Sadly, Eifel 65 will likely always be remembered for “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” alone, and as such, most of the better tracks to be found on Europop will be largely lost to history. And although the album is now quite “dated” for the techno world, I still enjoy listening to it, even if it’s for equal parts nostalgia and musical enjoyment.
Loreena McKennitt – The Book of Secrets
1.”Prologue” – 4:22
2. “The Mummers’ Dance” – 6:07
3. “Skellig” – 6:07
4. “Marco Polo” – 5:15
5. “The Highwayman” – 10:19
6. “La Serenissima” – 5:09
7. “Night Ride across the Caucasus” – 8:30
8. “Dante’s Prayer” – 7:11
Why it’s Good:
My introduction to “The Book of Secrets” actually came through Meem, who I think was introduced to it by someone else, but I might have that chain of introductions broken. To be honest, outside of “The Book of Secrets” I haven’t explored a whole lot of Loreena McKennitt’s music, not because I dislike her (obviously) but because I’ve always been satisfied with this particular album. Loreena McKennitt performs what is known as “world music” with Celtic and Middle Eastern themes. I really don’t know what that means, though I personally consider this a Celtic album, broadly construed. Anyways, of all the albums on this list, “The Book of Secrets” is undoubtedly my “feels” album, in that I generally listen to it when I’m emotional. Not necessarily sad (though sadness and this album tend to crop up together a lot), but rather any real range of emotions/feeling, from being tired, to uncertain, etc. In other words, if I were to have a “Sit in a dark room and listen to music while drinking album” this would be it. It really is exceptionally good at invoking emotions.
What is great about the album is that it’s not entirely dreary. Sure, you want your “sad” music to be “sad,” but an entire album of downer tunes is well, just depressing. I also like that a lot of the songs tell stories, and while “The Highwayman” is the strongest example of this, other tracks such as “The Mummer’s Dance” also follow this trend. But not all of them are necessarily story driven, “Skellig” and “La Serenissima” are more about feeling the music itself rather than conveying any particular narrative. Then there are blends of both of these styles, such as the track “Dante’s Prayer,” which in my opinion is the strongest of the album and has brought an end to a long day on more than one occasion for yours truly.
“The Book of Secrets” also served to introduce me to Celtic music at large, and while I did go on to obtain a few other Celtic albums, none have really stuck with me in the way that “The Book of Secrets” has. In fact, for me at least, “The Book of Secrets” represents the pinnacle of this genre of music, even if I don’t fully understand just how to define what the genre itself is.
Charley Pride – The Best of Charley Pride 
1. Just Between You and Me – 2:13
2. Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger – 2:16
3. Kaw-Liga – 3:00
4. The Snakes Crawl At Night – 2:46
5. All I Have To Offer You (Is Me) – 3:00
6. The Easy Part’s Over – 2:20
7. The Day the World Stood Still – 2:30
8. I Know One – 2:23
9. Gone, On The Other Hand – 2:29
10. Before I Met You – 2:26
11. Too Hard to Say I’m Sorry – 2:32
12. Let The Chips Fall – 2:40
Why it’s Good:
If “Appetite for Destruction” was the quintessential “Meem” album, then Charley Pride’s “The Best of Charley Pride”  is the definitive “Dad” album, and if nothing else should showcase the variety of music that I was brought up on, then the inclusion of both these albums on this list should do it. I won’t beat around the bus, Charley Pride writ large, and more specifically this particular album, represent the best of country music. I could go on a whole tirade about modern country music being little more than southern rock, or country pop. But that isn’t the point of this list. What I will say, is that I’d challenge anyone to give me a better representation of true country music than Charley Pride. Yes, I will fully admit that like “Appetite for Destruction,” there is a heavy deluge of rose-colored glasses going on here (thanks John Conlee), but even removing the memories of listening to this album countless times while riding around with my Dad, this is still a perfect compilation.
Interestingly enough, as a piddles I pretty much didn’t understand any of the songs. For instance, I have no clue how many years it took me to understand that “Kaw-Liga” was a wooden Indian, despite Pride stating that fact verbatim in the lyrics. Further, I literally thought he was talking about potato chips in “Let The Chips Fall,” which is of course referring to poker chips, uncertainty, and infidelity (though that particular issue is unresolved in the song, much to its merit). In fact, likely one of my favorite songs of all time, “The Snakes Crawl At Night” also deals with adultery and the subsequent murder of the wife and her lover. Pretty dark stuff, and I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about at the time (some consider “The Snakes Crawl At Night” a follow-up, narratively, to “Let The Chips Fall,” I believe this is probably the case, but the ambiguity makes the tracks even better).
Of course, in some ways, that growing experience only makes the album stronger. Because as I grew, so too did my understanding of the album. This doesn’t diminish how much I enjoyed the album when I was little, as even if I didn’t get the meaning behind “I Know One,” what it means is that in some ways I grew up with Charley Pride, and Charley Pride grew up with me. This is probably the only country album that I can claim to know every single word to, and while Pride has gone on to release other albums, other compilations, other “Greatest Hits,” I’ve never found one with as strong of a line-up, ordered with the same strength, as the 1969 “The Best of Charley Pride.” If you don’t like this album, then you don’t like real country music.
Fleetwood Mac – The Dance
1. “The Chain” – 5:11
2. “Dreams” – 4:39
3. “Everywhere” – 3:28
4. “Rhiannon” – 6:48
5. “I’m So Afraid” – 7:45
6. “Temporary One” – 4:00
7. “Bleed to Love Her” – 3:27
8. “Big Love” – 3:06
9. “Landslide” – 4:28
10. “Say You Love Me” – 5:00
11. “My Little Demon” – 3:33
12. “Silver Springs” – 5:41
13. “You Make Loving Fun” – 3:50
14. “Sweet Girl” – 3:19
15. “Go Your Own Way” – 5:00
16. “Tusk” – 4:22
17. “Don’t Stop” – 5:31
Why it’s Good:
While “Guns N’ Roses” remains the first group I think of when I think of my younger years and Meem, Fleetwood Mac slides in a very close second. This is especially bolstered by Meem and I going to see them during their reunion tour, and our particular tour date was also Mick Fleetwood’s birthday. However, of all their works, newer and older, none synchronized with me as well as the live compilation album “The Dance.” I’m not entirely sure why, but something about these particular songs always felt like the best of Fleetwood Mac to me. For starters, my favorite Fleetwood Mac song, “My Little Demon” is found here. Besides highlighting the musical talent of Lindsey Buckingham just as well, if not better, than any other Fleetwood Mac song, “My Little Demon” is probably the first of their tracks I really remember making my “own.” Sure, all the tracks are good, but there really is something special about personally identifying with a song from a group, when you were introduced to that group by someone else (in fairness Fleetwood Mac was both a Meem and Dad group, though Meem tended to play “The Dance” more and my Dad their titular [and first] album “Fleetwood Mac” more).
“The Dance” is also unique in that it is probably one of the most technically sophisticated live albums I have ever heard. While many albums that are live feel a bit too rough for my enjoyment, it’s entirely possible to listen to all of “The Dance” without getting that distorted sound or weak vocals. I don’t know if it was simply good production values, or the strength of the group themselves, but “The Dance” is a shining example of how well done a live album can be. Of course, there is no better representation of this than “Tusk,” when the USC Trojan Marching Band joins Fleetwood Mac in their performance, taking the album from really good, to “one of the greatest of all time” good. While “Tusk” marks their powerful intro, “Don’t Stop” could hands down carry this album, but thankfully it doesn’t need to given the strength of the individual tracks ranging from “Rhiannon” (one of my favorite Stevie Nicks pieces) to “Landslide,” to “Silver Springs,” and of course “My Little Demon.”
Really, this album is just jam-packed with music that both makes you think and makes you want to move, and really the combination of those two things is an unfortunate rarity. Coupled with the (properly done) live elements of the album, in my opinion, there is no better Fleetwood Mac than “The Dance.”
Various Artists – A Very Special Christmas 
1. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” The Pointer Sisters – 3:22
2. “Winter Wonderland” Eurythmics – 3:36
3. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Whitney Houston – 3:33
4. “Merry Christmas Baby” Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – 4:53
5. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” The Pretenders – 4:42
6. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” John Cougar Mellencamp – 2:39
7. “Gabriel’s Message” Sting – 2:14
8. “Christmas in Hollis” Run-D.M.C. – 3:00
9. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” U2 – 2:21
10. “Santa Baby” Madonna – 2:35
11. “The Little Drummer Boy” Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – 3:32
12. “Run Rudolph Run” Bryan Adams – 2:43
13. “I Wish Everyday Could Be Like Christmas” Bon Jovi – 3:54
14. “The Coventry Carol” Alison Moyet – 3:25
15. “Silent Night” Stevie Nicks – 4:37
Why it’s Good:
So here is yet another album whose “discovery” I owe to Meem, though this one I have taken and made my own. I’ll just come out and say it, this is one of those rare “best” exceptions in which I can definitively say that, for me, this is the best Christmas album that has ever been made and that ever will be made. Yep.
“A Very Special Christmas” is an ongoing series of Christmas albums with recordings by various artists from various genres, with the proceeds going to the Special Olympics (they have raised over 100 million dollars to date). While there have been 11 follow-ups, each coming out every few years since 1987 (the most recent being 2013), the original is the best. Have I listened to any of the other ones? Nope. But the original is still the best. Never before and never since has such a well put together string of artists been gathered together to sing Christmas music. While each of these songs is special in its own way, those of particular enjoyment to me are “Gabriel’s Message,” “Christmas in Hollis,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” and “Silent Night.” Of course there is no song on the album I dislike, but those are definitely the high-points for me, though “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” has a special place in my heart, because when you hear the first few seconds of that track, the first of the album, then you know that Christmas time has indeed arrived.
Since leaving Meem’s nest, I’ve largely appropriated this album for SB, Tristen, Valentino, Rig, Clifford, Little Friend, Bonsai Buddy Jr., the Three Amigos, and all the other family members. This was largely facilitated by Meem buying me the album one year, for Christmas no less. It is now one of the extremely few physical CDs I own, having sold 95% of my collection prior to moving to Boston. It is not Christmas until I’ve listened to this album, and since I am a rather adamant Scrooge in that Christmas cannot begin until the 12 Days of Christmas has started, my first listen to this album normally falls right about 12 days out from Christmas each year. Although other albums such as Trans Siberian Orchestra’s “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” have also joined SB and I’s holiday rotation, there will always be a special place in my holiday-heart for a “A Very Special Christmas.” And, if the fact that one of the greatest Christmas songs of all time is by Run-D.M.C. bothers you, then you can eat a bag of wee-wees.
And so there you have it, a full-bodied list of 10 albums that are particularly meaningful to me and to which everyone will have listen to once I Tristen rules the world.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this musical adventure. Look for lists about my favorite Songs and Artists to come out at some point between now and eternity.
Until next time,