Scott Plummer

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Albums I think everyone should own, or at least listen to.

Posted by Scott Plummer on October 21, 2008

AKA. My essential albums.

Let me make this clear, this isn’t a mandate. I am not going to insist that you go out and listen to these, it is merely a suggestion. With that being said I hope that you do seek out at the very least some of the songs mentioned. Some of the descriptions/reasons are longer than other because I was trying to make them stream of conscious. When my thoughts on one album stopped, I moved on to the next. There is no particular order.

Without further delay, here we go.

Rush – Snakes And Arrows
If you know me then you know that I am a massive Rush fan so it should be no surprise that Rush album makes this list. What may be surprising is which album I chose. Snakes And Arrows is Rush’s most overtly political album. In my opinion, except for Moving Pictures, it is their most accessible album for the non-initiated. With wide open acoustic guitar behind nearly every track S & A moves effortlessly from the in your face opening track Far Cry, to the emotionally tinged acoustic solo Hope. The talents of the three members are evident throughout. Especially noted is the vocals of Geddy Lee, which while I like, are an acquired taste for most listeners. On Snakes And Arrows the shrieking of the 70’s is gone for the most part and the vocal melodies are some of the best Geddy has ever written. The band has stated that they believe it is some of the best work they have ever done, and backed it up by featuring 9 tracks from the album on the accompanying tour, something that is relatively unheard of.

Genesis – We Can’t Dance
Another no brainer for the list as Genesis is another favorite of mine. It is also may be surprising that I chose this album. I was introduced to Genesis during the Phil Collins lead era so I have a natural afinity for that lineup. I respect what Peter Gabriel did for the group, and enjoy the work he did for them, but my bias is toward the PC lead lineup. We Can’t Dance was the final Genesis album with Phil and is in my top 2 or 3 favorite Genesis albums. The album spans a canyon of emotions from the humorous I Can’t Dance, and Jesus He Knows Me, to the sad and tragic Since I Lost You. The latter written after the untimely death of Eric Clapton’s son Conor. The group is too often criticized for being too “poppy” during Phil’s tenure as front man, but you can’t argue with the numbers. They sold a massive amount of albums and introduced listeners, like me, to the old Genesis. There are many pop like tunes on this record like Way of the World and Tell Me Why. There are also homages to their prog-rock past with tracks like Driving the Last Spike, Dreaming While You Sleep, and Fading Lights. These tracks are the best on the album for my tastes, expansive instrumental moments, powerful lyrics and emotion by the truck load. One track was an enigma for me for awhile and that is Hold On My Heart, a track some say would fit better on a Collins solo album. It is probably my favorite ballad by any group, ever. It has a special meaning to me right now with my current relationship “situation”. For a long time I felt this song was out of place on this album, but as I have grown and matured I can see that We Can’t Dance would be a different record without this track.

Imogen Heap – Speak For Yourself
While I had heard of Imogen Heap before, I had never heard any of her music. This was changed when I was introduced to the track Hide and Seek by a friend. Thanks Angie, I owe you. She thought it would make a good arrangement for a drum corp, I agreed and have started the arrangement, but that is a story for another time. Imogen’s style is hard to pin down, so I won’t try. She has an amazing vocal range and singing style I can only describe as “beautifully vulnerable”. The aforementioned Hide and Seek is the stand out track on the album. It is a cappella, sort of. According to Wikipedia Hide and Seek is “…performed with the sole accompaniment being the sound produced by a harmonizer (DigiTech Vocalist Workstation), creating an altered a cappella sound”. The result is mesmerizing. I have probably listened to this track upwards of triple digits in the just over a week since I first heard it. There are rock moments, pop moments, and electronica moments on Speak For Yourself. Something for everyone. It may not immediately appeal to you on first listen but don’t give up, there are plenty of treasures and gems to be discovered on this record.

Joe Satriani – Professor Satchafunkilus and the Musterion of Rock
Odd title? Yes. Brilliant record? Check. Amazing musician? Check. Joe Satriani is to the guitar what Yo-Yo Ma is to the cello, the definitive musician on his instrument. He really has to be heard to be appreciated. Joe drew inspiration for tracks on this record from Asik Veysel who was a highly regard Turkish musician. While there are notes, notes and more notes on this album, like all of Joe’s, this album has what may be my favorite instrumental ballad. Come On Baby was written for his wife, and like Rubina, and Always With Me, Always With You before it, it is a beautifully lyric piece by an absolute master of his instrument.

Pink Floyd – The Division Bell
This album, while Roger Waters may not think much of The Division Bell, it deserves a place as one of the best The Floyd have ever produced. A constant theme of communication, or the lack thereof is present over the entire album. It is spacey and ethereal at times, and David Gilmour’s amazing guitar work is ever present. The track Keep Talking, featuring speech excerpts from Dr. Stephen Hawking is a must listen as is the closing track High Hopes with amazing acoustic and pedal steel guitar parts.

Sheryl Crow – The Globe Sessions
I will admit that I am not the biggest Sheryl Crow fan. There is something about The Globe Sessions though. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I can listen to this album straight through which, considering it isn’t Rush, Genesis, or Pink Floyd, is quite an accomplishment for me.

U2 – Pop
My brother will probably not like this, but Pop has been, and will always be one of my favorite U2 albums. Their daring to go in a completely new direction is admirable, and contrary to popular opinion I think they hit a home run. The electronica influence is blatant, but some of The Edge’s best guitar work can be found on this album, particularly on Staring at the Sun. There are some quirky tunes like Playboy Mansion, and Miami, and some darker songs like If You Wear That Velvet Dress, and Wake Up Dead Man. The latter two are probably my favorite tracks. U2 got bashed for this effort, but like Rush, they are constantly looking to explore new sounds, and that is something I wish more artists did.

Yes – Talk
One of the most underrated albums Yes has ever made. This particular one is from the Trevor Rabin era rather than the Steve Howe era. There are two tracks that really stand out to me. I Am Waiting, and Real Love. Jon Anderson’s vocals are magical on those tracks and Rabin’s guitar work is masterful. He has a different style than Steve Howe but both have contributed greatly to this Yes’ legacy.

Phil Collins – …But Seriously
This album is Phil Collins at his best. From the political, Colours and Another Day in Paradise, to his bread and butter, the love song with Find a Way to My Heart. Thrown in for good measure are tracks with blazing horn work like Hang in Long Enough, and Saturday Night And Sunday Morning. This album has everything, including the massive hits Something Happened on the Way to Heaven, and I Wish It Would Rain Down. Phil is the consummate showman and performer and this album gave him plenty of material to showcase his great stage shows.

Dave Matthews Band – Stand Up
There are two main reasons I chose the DMB album Stand Up. For one, it is the last studio effort for the group to feature the late Leroi Moore. Second is their choice for producer in Mark Baston. Most known as a hip hop and R&B producer he took the group in a different and exciting direction. The stand out tracks on this album for me are Hello Again, and Louisiana Bayou. Two great songs that I dare you to not bob your head, or tap your foot to. An interesting fact on this album was Baston bringing in each member individually to play for him and sometimes having them play a different instrument than the typically play. The best result of this is Hunger for the Great Light. The guitar part for this song was written by bassist Stefan Lessard. Stefan, after laying the track down said that he didn’t care what Dave’s lyrics were, but that it had to be about, as he put it, “dirty sex”. Classic stuff.

If you live near me, or I see you on a regular basis I would be happy to let you borrow any, or all of them. Even better, come on over and we can listen to them together. I also plan on doing one of these lists for classical music as well, but with that it will be individual pieces, not entire albums.



4 Responses to “Albums I think everyone should own, or at least listen to.”

  1. Angie said

    Nice! We need to listen to these sometime soon. Let’s have a listening party. 🙂

  2. Holy crap. I am almost always in the minority when singing the praises of Pop. It’s such a great and underappreciated effort.

  3. vanguy said

    Very interesting music read – good stuff!

    Found this site through WLTV comments.

    Best wishes,

  4. […] RS66LF Swing Bass 66 Stainless Steel Bass Guitar Strings (45 65 85 105)Scott PlummerScott […]

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