Seven Steps to Heaven Pt. 1: Seven Records that Matter to Me…


….Wherin the Blogger lists seven of something he thinks you should know about…Not always musical something, but always seven…

Seven Records that Matter to Me [and should to you too]:

First Album I Bought: The Best of Roy Orbison

I got my parents to order mail-order this from a TV ad I used to see after school. I hadn’t the faintest idea who Roy Orbison was, all I knew for sure was a] he was blind (same dark glasses as Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles) and b] he was deceased (the commercial had no live shots of him; only mock Olympian busts and faux-romantic portraits…Must be some kind of memorial album, right? I also knew that he sang these amazing, emotional, dramatic songs [often with a hint or rhumba or bolero to them] in a near-operatic tenor. To my 8 year old mind he was an amazing and brilliant alien who didn’t sound quite like anyone else I’d ever heard sing anything. It would be a few years before I learned that a] he was still alive [at the time] and, b] was from Wink Texas and c] he could see perfectly well and just wore those shade because they made him look amazing. To this day, the sound of Roy Orbison’s voice can make me stop whatever it is I’m doing and just listen.

First Album Handed Down to Me: Miles Davis, Round Midnight

My dad was as big a music fan as I was in his early teens, though [unlike me] he got over it to become a responsible adult. I think he’d been hiding his jazz albums for fear I wouldn’t value or take care of them; little did he know he had an even bigger record feind on his hands than he was. His copy of Round Midnight had been some places: The spine was held together by black electrical tape and the cover photo of Miles cooling with his horn was worn and fading. The record itself had been played a lot, but when I put it on my $60 turntable, it was still loaded with all the magic as the day it was pressed. The dark, rich melancholy of the Monk-penned titled tune had the power to turn day to night. To be honest, it was almost too much for my tweenaged ears. Philly Joe Jones whip-cracking solo on Ah-leu-cha showed me just how much this “old man music” could rock a house. It’s not even my favorite Miles album [Seven Steps to Heaven is for some reason], but it still gives me that kick when I hear it.

First Break-Up Album: Los Lobos, By The Light of the Moon

My first girlfriend was the most beautiful woman at my college. No, seriously, she really was.  She was also the most dysfunctional [which probably explains why she ended up going out with me]. Our relationship was equal parts passionate, illicit sex, budget gourmet dining, jealousy [hers] and fighting over the phone. When she dumped me for another guy with [much] cooler hair…well I really don’t remember much about the next year. All I do know is that Los Lobos came to town touring on this record and it was the first really good time I had since she dumped me. I bought By the Light of the Moon the next day and played it pretty much every day for the next six months. It’s got great rocking tunes side by side with darker, often violent dramas and moments of almost inappropriately pastoral beauty. At the time I would have sworn in court that they wrote “All I Wanted to Do Was Dance” about me and [REDACTED]’s relationship. The fact that they didn’t always made me feel better: Obviously I wasn’t the only guy in crazy stupid situation with a beautiful woman.

RUNNER UP: Elvis Costello & the Attractions, Get Happy, which would have been a great break up record too…if I’d actually had a girlfriend at the time.

Guilty Pleasure Album: Madonna, Bedtime Stories

To be honest, I’m so high on my own musical opinion that I feel no guilt about anything I happen to like. I would imagine Madge isn’t an artist most people would expect me to like but unpredictable is my business. Bedtime Stories is my favorite Madonna album because it’s so song-oriented and gimmick free. It’s got some soul, some funk, some electronica, a couple tunes for sexy times and a gorgeous Babyface ballad, not to mention the Bjork-fueled title track. And that Steven Meisel cover is my favorite photo of her.

RUNNER UP: Boston – s/t I love the duality of it: A Classic Rock album that can’t resist being romantic and melodic. years later all the MTV makeup metal bands would steal this idea, but Boston were out there with it first and first is forever.

Album You Once Loved: Joan Osbourne, Relish

I found Joan’s indie cd Soul Show at a used shop, so I already knew her when this came out. I expected a straight soul record, but [ex Hooters] Rob Hyman and Eric Bazillian put her through a crazy course of left turns and unexpected, inspired ideas, which all played to the strengths of her voice. The cover of Bob Dylan’s “Man in the Long Black Coat” came at a time when people didn’t really care about Bob Dylan anymore. For the next three years, people would steal one or two ideas from Relish and make entire albums that were still pretty good, which shows how deep and cool it was. Thanks to MTV, radio and mass media, I don’t think I ever want to hear this album again. Sad really.

RUNNER UP: Wallflowers, Bringing Down The Horse. There’s an insurance advert on TV right now that has about 30 seconds of “One Headlight” in it which is all the Wallflowers you ever need to hear.

Last Album I Bought: Kid Creole & The Coconus, I Wake Up Sreaming

To be honest, I hate buying physical music anymore. Between my macbook and 64gb iPhone, my life is one long playlist, which I’m not the least bit ashamed of. I only buy a physical CD when it’s more cost-effective to get it and rip it than to buy a download. I was doing some background research on Kid Creole for an upcoming post on Disco [you’ve been warned] when I stumbled onto this album, released in 2011. I feared the worst, but the Lifelong August Darnell Fan in me had to at least hear it. While the shock of the new obviously isn’t there, I’m happy to say it’s a quite good record, with the usual fabulous Darnell wordplay and a plate of pretty good tunes, even a great one in “Stony & Cory.” I may write more about this in a future “Unknown Pleasures” post.

The Album You Wish I’d Made: Garland Jeffreys, Ghost Writer

This is the first time I listened to an album where I honestly felt the singer wast speaking directly to, for and about me. Jeffreys has always been a songwriter obsessed with identity: Racial, social, musical, literary…Things the 15 year old me was learning to obsess over and the middle aged me is still can’t seem to let go of. The title track is like talking with a close friend about who we are, who we want to be, who we think we should be and who other people think/want/expect us to be. I finally got to meet him last year and when I told him all this, he hugged me like he knew exactly what I was talking about. I actually could have put any Garland Jeffery’s album in this slot, but Ghost Writer was just…the one, you know?

RUNNER UP: Garland Jeffreys – American Boy & Girl – I used to do a killer cover of “Bad Dream” in my accoustic set.

NEXT: This Broken Home…


2 thoughts on “Seven Steps to Heaven Pt. 1: Seven Records that Matter to Me…

  1. Actually, Roy Orbison’s shades were prescription Wayfarers. He lad left his glasses on a plane and then had to wear the shades. Of course, they are totally cool as well, just like Roy.

    Liked by 1 person

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