Five Recommended Albums

As a musician, I make a point of listening to a wide variety of challenging music. Many albums, though excellent, get boring after awhile. Here are five albums that I never seem to get tired of:

Quadrophenia (1973) (The Who)

This is a rock album with lots of good string and synth orchestration. The album is actually a two-record set, with good coherence. Various themes or motifs, both lyrical and musical, appear and reappear throughout the work. Besides the orchestration mentioned above, there are good transitions between songs. This album works very well on either speakers or headphones. I once read an interview with Peter Townshend (the artist who wrote the music, plays guitar, and sings on the album) in which he said that he wished that the mix had been done better. Personally, I have no complaints at all about the mix.

Three Friends (Gentle Giant)

Three Friends is a concept album. Unlike a rock opera like Quadrophenia, which interweaves and reuses recurrent motifs, each song is musically distinct, but the topics dealt with lyrically are related to the same concept. There are a lot of things to like about this album, including the harmonic structure, wide variety of instruments and textures and instruments used (Vibes, Mellotron, Sax trio, String quartet, etc.), challenging rhythms, and words. My nomination for best song on the album is Working All Day.

Thick as a Brick (Jethro Tull)

Thick as a Brick could be viewed as a single song that spans two album sides. The tunes are very good, the playing is excellent, the lyrics are amazing, and the quality of the recording is unsurpassed. This is one of the best sounding CDs I know of.

Headhunters (Herbie Hancock)

Headhunters is a jazz album with four songs on it that span a range from Funk to Jazz. The band consists of keys, bass, drums, sax, and percussion. All of the playing on all four songs is excellent. One song, Chameleon, was even a pop hit in its day. (As an aside, Chameleon has the best Arp Odyssey solo on record, with lots and lots of pot moves and switch throws during the solo.) The drums on this album are a real pleasure to listen to.

Spectrum (Billy Cobham)

Spectrum is an energetic Jazz/Rock album. Besides the (always) great drumming of Cobham, it features Jan Hammer on keys, demonstrating his seminal and now-classic synth bending techniques.