Saturday, July 23, 2005

Notes Towards a Provisional List of Tentative DIDs

These are entirely in the sub-genre of Classic Rock (my definition, not yours); there will be no orchestral masterworks entered below, no swing, no samba, no chamber music, no cabaret tunes, no outright outrock, no sultry barrom ballads, no lieder, no bachelor pad music, no soundtracks, no creaky historical recordings, no electronica, no cocktail, no radio pleasantries, no piano etudes, no guitar heroics, no quaint novelties, no children's ditties, no eurojazz, and no trace of your favorites. These will have to wait for subsequent lists. Eventually, Lord willing, I will be able to moosh these lists together through a rigorous critical process to be determined -- before I am shipwrecked. On with it, then.

Classic Rock. These are rock recordings which have withstood the world-renowned Test of Time. I've lived with all of them for several decades, and keep returning to them (in some cases, God knows why) year in and year out, long after more nostalgic recordings, more fashionable recordings, and sometimes more impressive recordings have long since been packed away into the cellar (whence no man returneth with less gray hair than when he doth enter.) I've limited myself to ten, using a novel procedure I like to call self-discipline, and thus have omitted many strong contenders who kept coming in at 11. or 12., or simply did not have a single disc strong enough to shake the competition. Among those eliminated at the last minute, or even from the very first albeit reluctantly, were The Beach Boys, Big Star, The Beau Brummels, The Lodge, Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, Love, and so on and so fourteenth.
  1. Robert Wyatt, Rock Bottom. A pity some of his singles had to be excluded, such as "I'm a Believer," or some of his EP tracks, such as "Memories of You" and "Round Midnight," or some of his more interesting partnerships, such as that with Carla Bley in Dave Mason's Fictitious Sports. But it's a hard life. This gets bonus points for having Ivor Cutler on it.
  2. Jack Bruce, Harmony Row. The sole real talent behind the legendary, but often mediocre, Cream. These remain his best songs -- and they're real songs, mind you, and pretty, too.
  3. Soft Machine, Volume II. They were near-jazz by Third, and jazz by Four, and starting to sink by Six. A brilliant amalgam of odd little songs. It's now on a disc with their first album, which has some still-stunning moments, though some are marred by excessive psychedelicism -- but nothing one wouldn't expect on a 1968 album; so the first album gets a free ride.
  4. Van Dyke Parks, Jump! Not really rock, but not really anything else, either. Based on, believe it or not, the Br'er Rabbit stories. Southern banjo cakewalk Gothic? One of the best albums ever, ignored for decades.
  5. The Byrds, Sweetheart of the Rodeo. It was either this or The Notorious Byrd Brothers. Gene Clarke is sorely missed, but at least the dreadful David Crosby has left to do his Yosemite-Sam-on-coke bit elsewhere, to (incredibly? inevitably?) universal acclaim.
  6. Gentle Giant, Free Hand. More than a bit on the progressive side, but still the closest thing to a conventional album they ever did, at least before their truly bad period.
  7. The Zombies, Odessey and Oracle. It's spelled that way on the cover, and they claim it's intentional, but I never believed them. Very pretty early-psych britrock.
  8. Bonzo Dog Band, Cornology, Volume I. Encompassing "Gorilla" and "The Doughnut in Granny's Greenhouse." My strict moral code simply could not allow me to casually insert the entire Cornology box as though it were a single entry. Fortunately, these discs were for a time available individually.
  9. Bonzo Dog Band, Cornology, Volume II. Encompassing "Tadpoles" and "Keynsham." I've eliminated Volume III, which comprises much of their weakest material, but which also, unfortunately for me, includes the very first installment of "Rawlinson End" -- not enough to justify its inclusion on this highly exclusive listing.
  10. The Residents, Commercial. Thirty one-minute rock-pop ditties on each side of the LP. The only pop music album you'll ever need. Well, that I'll ever need.

Stephen has insisted that, per official BBC rules, I must also include one Desert Island Book here. He can insist all he likes. One book? I make the rules here.

UPDATE:

I am surprised that none of the thousands of sharp-eyed readers caught my error, but the group in which Robert Wyatt collaborated with Carla Bley was Nick Mason's Fictitious Sports -- not Dave Mason's.