October 25, 2020

My Five Favorite Albums

Note: We really are planning a discussion of Robert Capon’s Between Noon And Three. No, really we are. Still waiting responses from a couple of writers. (You do know that none of these writers get paid, right? Which makes it kind of hard for me to crack the whip on them…) So stay tuned…it’s coming. In the meantime, enjoy this medley of delightful dinner tunes…

I am a writer, editor and publisher by trade. I deal in the written word—English, preferably. But written words are not my primary language. Neither is the spoken word. If you want to talk to me and be sure to get my attention, you’ll use music. I relate better to music than any other form of communication. Words seem to go to my head and often stop there. Music goes all the way to my soul—deep into my soul in the case of really good music.

“A person who…does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.”
— Martin Luther

When it comes to music, some may consider me a snob as I don’t listen to much that would be considered “popular.” That includes Contemporary Christian Music. I just don’t want to listen to anything created simply as a way to make money. I long for music that is in the artist’s heart and has to—just has to—come out or the artist will explode. If the musician could live just as well without recording this song, then I don’t need to hear it. There are precious few songwriters and musicians who are true artists today.

I have previously listed my five favorite fiction and non-fiction book titles. To conclude Jeff’s trifecta, here are my five favorite albums. Yes, I know I am ancient by referring to “albums.” Most music buyers today buy songs, not albums. I might be better off listing my five favorite artists and including some of their songs. But I am old, I grew up listening to albums, and I have been thinking about this list for fifteen years now, so I am sticking with albums. In your comments, you may just list artists if you like. As a deviation from my book lists, I am not going to put these five favorite albums in order. One may be my favorite today, another tomorrow, depending on my mood. So just figure they are all my number one at some point.

Note: There are no classical albums on this list. I love classical music, but I am not verse enough to talk about it above the level of an ignoramus. I could say that I love Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos (which I do), but then you would ask, “Well, do you prefer the Dusseldorf Philharmonic’s recording of 1963, or Spike Jones and His Merrymakers’ 1957 version?”  I would just have to hit you. And neither of us wants that, now, do we? So perhaps we can discuss classical music another time. For today, this is my list. Deal with it as it is.

(And if you don’t like my list, wait a bit. Later today, Chaplain Mike will share his list with you. I’ve peeked at his list, and it is, um, interesting. The good Chaplain includes some albums I certainly could have and probably should have in my list. Seems I started something here at the iMonastery by mentioning my favorite music. Rock on…)

One rule in commenting: No greatest hits albums allowed.

Let’s start off with some honorable mentions first.

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Neil Young.  Oh how I love Neil Young. And I really don’t even know why. His voice can be grating, his guitar style spastic. His lyrics are not mystical—they’re just weird. (“Down by the river, I shot my baby”? What is up with that?) But he is real, and I love real. He has been consistently great for so long now. This is one of his early works and deserves a spot on most any playlist.

Shotgun Angel: 25th Anniversary, Daniel Amos. This was made during the era when the Eagles were big with “country rock.” Only Daniel Amos did it better. Good luck finding this.

Songs in the Key of Life, Stevie Wonder. There are no good songs on this album. None. All are great—or better. Released in 1976, this album has stood the test of time. It does not feel dated or tired. It is as fresh today as when it first came out. If you can keep from dancing when the bass line kicks in at the beginning of I Wish, you need to see your doctor immediately.

Sticks and Stones, The 77s. I don’t like 80s music. I mean, other than U2, Genesis and one song by Level 42, not much good came from the 80s. Except for Michael Roe and the 77s. Incredible group, incredible sound. Oh, and they are Christians. Christian music from the 80s, and I like it? How rare is that? (Very.)

The Bells of Dublin, The Chieftains. Another reason I think Michael Spencer and I may have been separated at birth somehow is we shared a great love for The Bells Of Dublin. Not only the best Christmas album ever, but a Christmas album I enjoy listening to all year long. If all you get if for is Jackson Browne’s The Rebel Jesus it is worth the price. But the entire album is fantastic. Try to keep your eyes dry as Rickie Lee Jones sings O Holy Night.

Blood on the Tracks , Bob Dylan. C’mon, how can you not like Dylan?

Live at the New Earth, Waterdeep. This could easily be in my top five. Recorded live at The New Earth in Kansas City, this album has raw energy and heart-changing lyrics in abundance. Kind of hard to find, but easy to download from iTunes.  I have found it hard to drive and listen to the final song, Holy. Why? Try driving with your hands in the air and tears bursting from your eyes. (I think that is illegal in most states…)

Wow, I could keep going, but here are the five albums that, if I were reduced to only five, I would choose to listen to thru eternity. Remember, these are in no particular order.

“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.”
— Martin Luther

Drunkards Prayer, Over The Rhine.  I could have just as easily chosen Live From Nowhere, OtR’s 2006 live Christmas show, but I opted for Drunkard’s Prayer just because. This husband and wife team totally defies categorization. Pop? Country? Rock? Neo-classical? Yes and No to all. They just are. Let the lyrics on this album sink deep within. Just like with all great poetry, you will get something new from it with every encounter.

Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys. Ok, this says The Beach Boys on the cover, and yes all of the Boys sing on it, but don’t be mistaken: This is solely a Brian Wilson project. I love anything Brian Wilson puts his hands to. I consider him the greatest composer of our day. Listen to Pet Sounds. Then realize it was released in 1965. 45 years ago. It was so far ahead of its time, it scared most people. It certainly scared Sir Paul McCartney. After he heard it, he realized he had just experienced the greatest collection of music on one album ever, and knew the Beatles needed to respond. Their response? Sgt. Pepper.

Eat a Peach, The Allman Brothers. Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughan? Stevie Ray Vaughan or Jimi Hendrix? That’s a toughie. But no matter which guitarist you put at number one and which at number two, you can chisel Duane Allman in at number three. He learned to play slide guitar using a glass medicine bottle. Good thing he caught that cold, huh? Blue Sky from this album will be sung by the choir in Heaven. You want a perfect summer album? Put this on, grab a glass of sweet tea, and say ahhhhh…

The Misfit, Erick Nelson and Michele Pillar. What, a Christian album on the list? Yes. Absolutely. Simple music and deep lyrics make this an album I can listen to over and over. Michele Pillar singing the Nazareth hit, Love Hurts, is worth the whole thing. No, wait. That would be The Martyr Song. No, The Misfit. Ah, forget it. I can’t listen to just one or two songs on this album. I listen to the whole thing over and over again. And yes, I still cry most every time I hear The Martyr Song.

Exile on Main Street, The Rolling Stones.  This is the last true rock and roll album ever recorded. Everything else has either been a poor imitation or not true rock. This is raw and flawed and dirty. There are no masks worn by anyone on this album. This is as real as it gets. It starts with the lustful Rocks Off, and ends with the gospel-tinged Shine A Light. Not a fan of the Stones but still like rock and roll? You need to listen to this album. There are only two chart hits on this double album, so you may not recognize a lot of the songs at first. But give it a fair listen. Yes, that’s Mick Jagger singing about Jesus in I Only Want To See His Face, an impromptu gospel jam that may be the best number on the album. This is not for the faint of heart. This is not perfect music made by great musicians. No, this is something much bigger. This is art.

Ok, there is a look inside my world. You now know my favorite books and music. And to me, there is no better way to get to know another person than to learn what they love to read and listen to. Your thoughts?

“The devil, the originator of sorrowful anxieties and restless troubles, flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God….Music is a gift and grace of God, not an invention of men. Thus it drives out the devil and makes people cheerful. Then one forgets all wrath, impurity, and other devices.”
— Martin Luther


  1. Eclectic mix here…
    Bells of Dublin–Rebel Jesus by Jackson Browne
    Starkindler–Michael Card
    There is a Hope–Stuart Townend
    Jesus Record disc 2–Rich Mullins
    and for a dash of English punk…
    Poetry of the Deed and Love Ire & Song–Frank Turner

  2. Downloading Waterdeep now. Never heard of them but i’m a huge, over the top fan of Phish so i;m always in the market to hear a great jamband.