September 20, 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. Buford Hollis says

    (1) Borodin, “On the Steppes of Central Asia” and “Prince Igor.”

    (2) Narges and the U.S. Baha’i Choir, “Allahuma” and “Ya Baha’ul’abha,” “Dastam Baghir Abdul-Baha”, and others. Best known for the 1992 New York centennial celebration, but they did a separate album some of the same material on it which was consistently genius. A lot of this is on You-Tube now.

    (3) Soundtrack from “Diva” (the Indian one).

    (4) Queen, “A Night at the Opera.”

    I’ll think of more later…

  2. My votes (after a long time of not commenting at all – sorry!):

    1) Melting Pot by Booker T. and the MG’s.
    2) Quadrophenia by the Who
    3) Live at Massey Hall, by Neil Young
    4) What’s Going On, by Marvin Gaye
    5) – I don’t have a number five that isn’t a compilation of some kind. If I need one to fill out the rules, I’ll finish it off with Leonard Bernstein’s recording of Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring (Suite)”. Aaron Copland always has a place with me.

    This is a good post – I really had to remember what albums I keep going back to time and again for some sort of sustenance or solace in the world, and those five are as good a place to start as any for me.

  3. I tend to get sick of songs really quickly (I had a friend tell me that I listen to songs like an alcoholic drinks alcohol; over and over obsesively until I want to vomit and never touch the stuff again) That said, there are a few albums that can (and amazingly enough, actually want to)I still listen to over and over again:

    1) Ray LaMontagne, Trouble – I cannot even begin to express how much I love this album. When I try, I just end up sounding creepy. But seriously, amazing. Ray has this ability to bring you into a rural American story and make you feel everything. Also, this may be cheating but I want to include his song Empy. It’s not on Trouble, but it should be, and it makes me want to weep (quietly of course) every time.

    2) Bright Eyes, I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning – the song At the Bottom of Everything brings out every emotion I’ve ever felt. Also, his eyes are pretty.

    3) Caedmon’s Call, 40 Acres – I hate CCM as a rule, but I think this album is amazing. Table for Two and Faith My Eyes make me feel at peace like few songs can.

    4) Fugees, The Score – the best hip hop album of all time

    5) Rage Against the Machine, Battle of Los Angeles – for when I feel like I’ve sold out to the man, this album is always on standby to wake me up 🙂

    and I’m going to cheat again and give an honerable mention to Joshua Radin’s We Were Here. Sometimes you just want some simple love songs that sound pretty. These never get old.

    • Ooh, I loved The Score. I don’t think I’d go with best hip hop album ever, but definitely a classic. Lauryn Hill before she got weird, Wyclef raw and passionate, Pras simply solid without having to carry it all himself (solo stuff didn’t do well).

      • Yes, Iike hyperbole. I really meant that it’s the best hip hop album I’ve ever owned 🙂 and before Lauryn Hill went Zionist crazy, she went awesome crazy. Her mtv unplugged session is incredible if you actually listen to what she’s saying. That girl rocks my world. I hopeshe comes back. No female can rap like LH.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      Trouble is an absolutely amazing album. Did you know that he had only been playing for maybe a year when that was made? As in, he had only picked up a guitar maybe a year prior.

      • Yeah, it’s crazy. I think that has a lot to do with why he understands The People so well. If you spend years hating life working at a shoe factory with no dream of oneday becoming famous and having girls like me swoon over your voice, you don’t have to imagine the feelings of the characters in your songs -you’ve lived it.

  4. “Not much good came from the 80’s?!” Uh, The Smiths and Joy Division, for starters.

  5. Lessee…..There are several that come to mind.

    Abbey Road, The Beatles. That was their last released, and I think their greatest. They went out at their height. I’m surprised none of their albums appeared on your list, though you mentioned Sgt. Pepper.

    The Roar of Love, Second Chapter of Acts. I’m surprised none of the songs from this extraordinary album came out in any of the Narnia movies. They just go together in a harmony much like Crosby, Stills and Nash. And I don’t like much of CCM either.

    Rocky Mountain High, John Denver. His songs just appeal to me, especially the last five songs on the album he called the Season Suite. Another album of his I like is called Windsong.

    Mud Slide Slim, James Taylor. These songs just put tears to my eyes.

    All Things Must Pass, George Harrison. A suppressed talent from the Beatles days, he just exploded on this album after the breakup. Despite some of the Eastern emphasis, he has some amazing songs on this big album.

    Dvorak, New World Symphony, Sir George Solti, Chicago Symphony. He is one of the few who get this symphony right.

    Two that go together, Loreena McKennitt, The Book of Secrets, and Enya, A day without rain. They are very upbeat, the first with a very Celtic tune. I put it on when I need to chill out after a hectic day.

    Spinfield, Steve McDonald. I really like this one, quite an unsung talent.

    These are just a few of the albums I like. I liked the early Jesus music before it became CCM, especially the early Maranatha albums.

    • The Beatles changed the face of the earth, not just musically, but culturally. I own many of their albums–the remastered versions are stunning to hear. But if I were reduced to five albums to listen to over and over again, I would not put any of their albums on that list. That’s just me. I agree with you about All Things Must Pass. In many ways, this album surpasses any of the Beatles albums. Of course, it never would have been if not for the Beatles, so…

  6. I believe the Daniel Amos album was re-released a few years back. I managed to find a copy at the local Christian bookstore, which was a nice surprise. Unfortunately it’s been a long time since the 77s have had a proper re-release, and that’s an awesome album as well. I’m okay with the 80s, but the current nostalgia and bands that simply rehash U2 (I’m looking at you, Arcade Fire) or other groups from the era are overkill. I lived through the 80s once already.

    Pet Sounds was stunning, and I recently listen to some of The Beach Boys’ “Sunflower” CD. It’s certainly one of the best post-Pet Sounds albums, even with Brain Wilson’s declining mental health.

    Let’s see…favorite albums:

    1) King’s X – Gretchen Goes To Nebraska. Early King’s X was part hippie, part prog, and part classic hard rock. The band is criminally unknown, which is amusing since much of 90s rock would take a page from the band.

    2) Innocence Mission – Birds of My Neighborhood. A bare-bones album allows some great melodies, beautiful lyrics, and Karin Peris’s mournful voice to fill one of the most peaceful and hopeful albums I’ve heard.

    3) Porcupine Tree – In Absentia. This is a rather dark album, but those who love prog and mid-era Pink Floyd should enjoy this. Some excellent songwriting and thick vocal harmonies fill this album

    4) Fernando Ortega – Breaking of the Dawn. I’ve always said that Fernando Ortega does worship right: Reverent lyrics, simple yet not simplistic music, and a sense that the world’s imperfectness still reflects God’s beauty.

    5) Iona – Open Sky. This is simply gorgeous Celtic music, with an good amount of jamming. I’m so happy Iona is still going 20+ years later, and is working on a new album.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      My parents went to high school with Fernando Ortega and sometimes keep in touch.. He leads worship at an Anglican church in their hometown. I’ve been considering moving back home and would probably end up attending that church. Not necessarily because of Fernando, but it’s a nice bonus.

    • Pleeeaaase let me be within range of Ortega’s voice in heaven (assuming I make it, the new calvinist’s thread has me wondering…….) yes, that man knows worship


      • I just love Fernando Ortega. The two I tend to listen to must are In A Welcome Field and The Shadow Of Your Wings. Love the Breaking Of The Dawn too.

        His music always make me long to go out to New Mexico to visit my sister.

        • been awhile since I saw/heard him in concert, but his storytelling between songs is phenomenal….you wish he were your uncle at a 8 day hike or something, sitting by the campfire, listening to the insects, the animals, and Fernando’s narrative….

    • Iona, the best band on earth! Yes!

    • Re King’s X being criminally unknown. Agree completely! I’ve seen them twice in small clubs, and they are simply amazing live.

      Re Porcupine Tree, tough call for me, but I’d put Deadwing at the top of my list.

  7. Okay,

    (1) – Boston’s debut album
    (2) – Led Zeppelin III
    (3) – Led Zeppelin IV
    (4) – George Strait – Blue Clear Sky
    (5) – JS Bach’s Goldberg Variations on harpsichord – by Ton Koopman

    And nothing good came from the 80’s? Glam metal rocked, dude!

    • Hair bands are exhibit #1 why I say nothing much good came from the 80s…

      • VolAlongTheWatchTower says

        “Hair bands are exhibit #1 why I say nothing much good came from the 80s…”


        Viva, Dylan, Young. However, as long as there’s a Drive By Truckers, there are still real Rock N Roll albums being made, rest assured!

        • LOL….even the sports stars (John McEnroe….Andre Agassi had the hair and the head band back then….it was THE BOMB…..)

      • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

        Dude, I started playing guitar so I could shred like those guys! Never quite did, though. I’ve become more of a bluesman in adulthood.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Hair bands are exhibit #1 why I say nothing much good came from the 80s…

        I take it you also got cable & MTV in the mid-Eighties?

        Six Twisted Sister videos an hour on heavy rotation does that to you.

        Two days of MTV and I was getting my music videos from USA’s Night Flight.

        • Night Flight – used to stay up all night to watch that show…. Love it! Another Night Flight fan!

          I also loved the weekday lead in show Radio 1990 with Kathryn Kinley designed to get you to watch Night Flight – used to watch that one on USA at 7 PM followed by Dragnet at 7:30

          That was when USA network was cool.

      • Two words for you, Jeff.

        New Romance.

        Oh yeah, I was an 80s girl 🙂

        • Not looking for a new romance, Martha.

          Oh, you mean the group?

          • Tsk, Jeff! Tsk, I say!

            I mean of course New Romance the movment that came after Punk. I mean the New Romantics such as Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, Visage, Culture Club, Ultravox, Japan, Adam and the Ants, A Flock of Seagulls, Dead or Alive, The Damned, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Tears for Fears and many more.

            Men in skirts and make up and frilly pirate shirts. Surely you remember? 🙂

          • See what rock n’ roll leads to?

    • Zeppelin III is one of the most underrated of all time.

      • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

        I’d put Zeppelin I and II on my top five list, but my favorite Zep song is on III, “Since I been Lovin’ You.” Best slow blues ever.

        • Where’s The Battle of Evermore? That’s maybe my favorite.

          • Right up there under the others.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Led Zep’s “Battle of Evermore”, King Crimson’s “In the Court of the Crimson King”, and everything on Al Stewart’s “Past, Present, and Future” were THE background music for early D&D back in the mid-Seventies. Perfect accompaniment to two-liter Dr Peppers, miniature monsters, and 20-sided dice.

          • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

            lol HUG. One of the guys that I occasionally game with has a reputation for putting together soundtracks for the night. Sometimes he brings that stuff in, but usually it’s the soundtrack for LOTR or the music from the Neverwinter Nights games.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            “Battle of Evermore” for the Tolkien references, “Court of the Crimson King” for the just plain WEIRD imagery in the lyrics, and the Al Stewart for…

            Lets just say my old DM of the period kept hearing the balalaika solo in “Roads to Moscow” in his head for years afterwards, and I’ve always wanted to do a retro music video for Stewart’s “Nostradamus”.

        • “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and “Hats Off To Roy Harper” are my faves. Yes, awesome slow blues. Followed by “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Boogie With Stu.”

      • The 77s do a very passable version of Nobody’s Fault But Mine…

        • You Zep fans need to look up “Dread Zeppelin Heartbreaker” on YouTube.
          Dread Zeppelin was an L.A. band that reworked Led Zeppelin songs reggae style, with an Elvis impersonator singing lead. Very po-mo.
          Robert Plant was so impressed with how they reworked the classics that he used their music to open his concerts, and ultimately it got Plant and Paige back together to rework the songs with North African musicians on an MTV special.

  8. Blood on the Tracks AND Infidels, definitely.
    Lament by Resurrection Band.
    Aargh — now it gets hard. Taj Mahal, The Natural Blues? Anything by Stan Rogers? Bob Marley?
    Tom Chapin’s Family Tree — a kids’ album that we all still love.

    I agree about Stevie Wonder. And as far as music in the vast wasteland of the 80s, there was The Police’s Ghost in the Machine. It was certainly their best album as an album.

    • “Lament” was a good swan song. “Colours” will always be my all-time favorite Rez Band album. “Awaiting Your Reply” and “Rainbow’s End” were two of the first Christian albums that I ever heard. Glenn’s solo works and his two blues collaborations with Darrell Mansfield were really good.

  9. The first album that ever reached me on some deeper level was one by the Weatherford Quartet… the 1956 to 1964 line-up which included Glen Payne as lead singer; Lily Weatherford as alto; Earl Weatherford singing baritone; Armond Morales, bass; and, Henry Slaughter on piano. “Rock a My Soul” was a personal favorite. The tight blend of harmonies and general level of musicianship made even old songs sound new.

    If God grants our selfish wishes in heaven I am going to be able to sing that tenor part on “Rock a My Soul” someday.

    I met Earl Weatherford by the side of the road early one morning in East Texas. At that point in my life I drove a Volkswagen and had hair almost to my shoulders. When I told him how much I enjoyed his music and how much it meant to me, he wondered if I was pulling his leg. Looking back I can understand why he was a bit surprised.

    Many of you will be surprised by the next album I chose. In representing the genre of rock ‘n roll which obviously has a place in my heart, I could have chosen Revolver, Pet Sounds or Machine Head. Abby Road meant a lot to me at a certain point in time. However, the album that came to mind most intuitively was Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

    Honestly, I believe I may be cheating on this one. I think the album may simply represent a place in time to me. However, I also think it represents any album which has excellent acoustic guitar combined with a social consciousness. I have always been a sucker for that mix of magic. Cat Stevens, Woody Guthrie, CSN&Y… it doesn’t matter. I enjoy it.

    Déjà Vu combines sweet idealism, militant blues and excellent vocal harmonies. Sadly, it turned out to be one of only two real albums these guys did together. Apparently, it is hard to co-exist with that much ego packed into one recording studio. Besides the “60’s idealism” was always easier to talk about (or sing about) than it was to live out in the reality of everyday life.

    My third album should not be surprising. Only Visiting This Planet by Larry Norman was released by Verve in 1972 and on the MGM label in 1973. Side one included, “Why Don’t You Look Into Jesus?” “The Outlaw;” “Without Love You Are Nothing;” and, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” among others. The amount of time I have spent performing those songs over the years probably merits the inclusion of this album on my “high impact” list.

    Larry was an interesting fellow – a real pioneer in contemporary Christian music. He was also one of the most sarcastic individuals I have ever listened to. My guess is that he was not easy to get along with either. Still, his music had a big influence on my life.

    Besides, “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?” (found on side B) became a philosophical underpinning to my perspective on music. My own answer is that he shouldn’t, and that he doesn’t. However, some Sundays I do occasionally doubt my own wisdom on the subject.

    Back to those albums bound to surprise, I would have to add Antal Doráti’s stereophonic recording of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, or, Ouverture Solennelle, L’Année 1812, Op. 49. Dorati used an actual carillon called for in the score and the bells are rung about as close to a zvon (a uniquely Russian bell set) as you can get. The Dorati recording also uses an actual French period cannon manufactured around 1812, which belonged to the United States Military Academy at West Point.

    Mr. Johnson, my eighth grade music teacher, made us listen to that album again and again and again. Believe me, I could continue for some time with those “agains.” We wore that album out!

    The reason this album impacted me so much is that I believe that it led to my love of classical music. I love string quartets. Chamber orchestras relax me. Bach, Handel, Jean Sibelius and Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff are all favorites. I still enjoy Tchaikovsky. However, truth be told, I mention the album for its impact on me and not the fact that I enjoy listening to it anymore.

    Mr. Johnson may just have forced me to listen to it “one too many times” for my own good.

    One album that I can never listen to enough is Steve Goodman’s Somebody Else’s Troubles. This was Goodman’s sophomore effort which he described as a “buncha Jewish guys sitting around playing the blues…” Some of his friends added excellent guest turns. Bob Dylan actually played on the title song operating under the pseudonym of Robert Milkwood Thomas. He did that kind of thing in those days.

    The album included, “The Dutchman,” “Chicken Cordon Bleus,” “Somebody Else’s Troubles” and “The Vegetable Song.” My girls grew up with Susan and I singing the last one to them. If I was to get out a guitar right now (and they were here with me) they could sing all the words without even breaking a sweat.

    The emotional centerpiece of the album was a devastating solo acappella song entitled, “The Ballad of Penny Evans.” I have heard a lot of protest songs in my life. This one is the best.

    Even though it makes it six albums and not five, I have to add one more to my list.

    When I was dating Susan we used to sit in front of the fireplace in her parent’s family room and listen to a record called Windjammer. This was a 1958 concept album based on a German or Scandinavian group of young sailors making a long training trip together on a three-masted vessel. In the course of the trip they apparently sang a lot and had orchestras magically appear at crucial moments.

    You may think, “What a silly album to listen to in 1971!” You are probably right. There certainly was more important music to listen to back in those days.

    Still, I cannot tell you how many times Susan fell asleep with her head on my lap listening to that album. When she did, I often found myself praying about us, about life and about where I would travel to one day. I have to believe those prayers have been answered many times over.

    Besides, our daughter Kari is named for the song, “Kari Waits for Me.” You can’t beat that for high impact music.

    Now, some of you are probably noting that even though I gave myself six albums, I still didn’t mention Bob Dylan. Of course, you are correct. Bob Dylan was always an influence, but none of his albums, when I thought about it, really changed me in a significant way. Surprisingly, if I had to choose one, I would probably go for Modern Times.

    All of his life Dylan has tried to reflect the worn-down wisdom of some of his musical heroes like Woody Guthrie. At 66 he probably feels like he has rightfully earned the authenticity to go along with all his efforts. On Modern Times he struggles with faith, mortality and the relentless passage of time. I especially appreciate the line from the song “Nettie Moore.” “The world has gone black before my eyes; I’m beginning to believe what the Scriptures tell.” In another piece he sings, “I practice a faith that is long abandoned; ain’t no altars on this long and lonesome road.”

    Powerful words for an interesting time in life and history. However, if I am honest, my appreciation of the album probably has more to do with the fact that a guy Bob Dylan’s age can still be musically relevant. It gives me hope that my middle-aged voice and arthritic fingers can do the same.

  10. Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

    This is a totally incomplete list, but here it is off the top of my head.

    Zeppelin I
    Zeppelin II
    Bob Marley: Legend
    Mozart’s Requiem
    Counting Crows: August and Everything After

    Honorable mention to Townes Van Zandt’s Live at the Old Quarter and Johnny Cash’s American Recording I

    As far as Christian music goes, early Petra is great stuff, especially Beat the System and Not of this World. I’ve also always been a big fan of Jars of Clay, especially that live double album whose name I can’t remember. And while I don’t have anything by Daniel Amos, my parents had tons of their records, so my garage band in high school occasionally covered the song “Shotgun Angel”

  11. It’s hard to narrow it down to five albums. I don’t know that I’d consider these all to be most objectively the best, but there ones that have influenced me and people I’m close to.

    1) U2 – Achtung Baby – It was sort of a toss-up between a few other U2 albums, but to me this is the U2 album where they became more than just a political band and discovered the raucous nature of rock.

    2) Radiohead – OK Computer – They manage to capture the hopelessness and alienation of modern life and make intensely interesting music. This album is still being imitated today.

    3) The Prayer Chain – Mercury – This may be a little higher than it deserves, but to me, the Prayer Chain redefined the term “Christian music” in their short career.

    4) Sixpence None the Richer – This Beautiful Mess – Considering how young these guys were when they made this album, it still amazes me to listen to it. It may be one of the best albums ever made on a Christian label.

    5) REM – Automatic For the People – The band at their pinnacle. They manage to capture something on this album that few do. It’s catchy and jangly, but still deeply moving.

    I could add a lot more. I love Over the Rhine, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Sarah McLachlan, for instance. I think there’s still a lot of good music being made – it’s just a matter of finding it.

    • Toad and Sarah McLachlan… really good stuff…. Glen Phillips and his solo stuff is really good as well… Glen is/ was the lead singer for Toad. I say is/ was only because they still tour together occassionally but have not recorded in quite awhile…

      • Yeah, I have all of Glen’s solo albums. Also, he’s done some stuff with Nickel Creek under the title of Mutual Admiration Society. He’s also in a new group called Works Progress Administration. It’s more acoustic/bluegrass based than the Toad stuff, but it’s still great. I actually think Toad was one of the most underrated bands of the ’90s.

        • I concur…. as being an extremely underrated band…. they are/ were incredible… one of my favorites…

  12. LOVE Over the Rhine! Saw them in 1991 and about a dozen times since. Rich melodies and raw lyrics. Thanks for your list!

  13. 1. “Welcome to Paradise” – Randy Stonehill
    2. “To him who has ears to hear” – Keith Green
    3. “Sail on Sailor” – Mustard Seed Faith
    4. “Gentle Faith” – Gentle Faith
    5. “Fresh Surrender” – The Archers

    Honorable mention:

    “Flow River Flow” – Erik Nelson
    “Red Alert” – Malcolm and the Mirrors
    “NOT OF THIS WORLD” – Petra
    “Age to Age” – Amy Grant


    There’s a group that I’ve only heard a few times and I don’t think they plan on making an album soon. They would certainly bump someone from my “honorable mention” list. It’s the small Church of Christ down the street on any given Sunday.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      Oh, man, Randy Stonehill was ALWAY playing when I was growing up. And of course, when I turned 30, the first thing I did on my birthday is google up a video of his song “Turning Thirty”

  14. Good call on DA and Beach Boys.

  15. Great post, Jeff, these threads give me a ton of great shopping ideas.

    In no particular order (and my #’s 6 thru whatever are just as dear to me, but the Man said 5….

    1. Coldplay “Sudden Rush of Blood to the Head”
    first heard this while housepainting about ten yrs ago: so I associate the tunes to the pain of trying to paint at 5,000 mph in order tomake better than $12 an hr (I think I failed)

    2. U2 “Joshua Tree” the whole album is just mega solid: no weak sisters/brothers on the disk

    3. Crosby Stills Nash a nd Young “Deja Vu” Oh my…….words fail me…..

    4. Creedence Clearwater Revival “Cosmos Factory” cajun boogie country rock at its best, but it will ruin your hearing

    5. EmmyLou Harris “Luxury Liner” Love her rendition of “Pancho and Lefty” (THANK YOU Townes..)

    Greg R
    PS: I remember singing Neil Young stuff late at night with the headphones on after a restaurant gig, and my Dad getting up , wandering downstairs and muttering…’Thought I heart a CAT , or somethin'” hehehehe…..

  16. I’m not going to give a top 5 list of albums, because that changes every couple weeks, but I can’t let a music post pass by without mentioning the Avett Brothers. Hard to describe the style of music: sort of bluegrass, sort of folk, but with lots of rock feel. But you will never hear lyrics as relentlessly honest, and music as joyful, as theirs.

  17. Top 5 – No particular order

    Bruce Cockburn – Stealing Fire (Edging out “Humans” by a nose)

    Steve Bell (No relation) – Symphony sessions (the best classical folk blend you will ever hear)

    John Michael Talbot / Terry Talbot – The Painter

    Randy Stonehill – Equator – (Quirky but pretty prophetic ahead of its time)

    Brian Doerksen/Andy Park – Changed by your glory (Their first album, and maybe the best worship album ever released. Consider this song list: How many have you sung in your church?

    * Awesome God
    * Good To Me (I cry out)
    * I Lift My Eyes Up (Psalm 121)
    * Faithful One
    * Psalm 63
    * Father I Want You To Hold Me
    * Refiners Fire
    * We Come To Humble Ourselves
    * Changed By Your Glory
    * I Saw Heaven
    * You Are Mighty
    * As I Abide In You
    * Isaiah 6 (Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty)
    * Unto The King
    * All Heaven Declares

  18. Favorite albums from 5 of my favorite artists:

    Phil Keaggy–Beyond Nature (The Master and the Musician is also excellent). No one works a guitar like Keaggy.

    Bruce Cockburn–The Charity of Night (good to see Bruce popping up in Michael Bell’s list as well, and I agree you can’t go wrong with “Stealing Fire”)

    Steely Dan–Aja (honorable mention for Pretzel Logic)

    Chris Whitley–Living with the Law (his collaborative album with Australian blues guitarist Jeff Lang, “Dislocation Blues”, is fantastic, too)

    Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays–As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls (weird title, but this album is packed with evocative, atmospheric, experimental jazz)

    • “Pacing the Cage” from “Charity of Night” is one of my favourite songs of all time:

      Sunset is an angel weeping
      Holding out a bloody sword
      No matter how I squint I cannot
      Make out what it’s pointing toward
      Sometimes you feel like you live too long
      Days drip slowly on the page
      You catch yourself
      Pacing the cage…

      Phil Keaggy just missed my list.

    • Aja? Well, it’s not bad . . . but Katie Lied takes the prize. Do you like Donald Fagan’s Nightfly? That’s an album that’s lasted with me.

  19. Jackson Browne “Late for the Sky” is full of rich, deeply depressing lyrics and music that always reaches out and grabs me.

    Tom Petty has a lot of songs I love, but no actual albums I love.

    The Traveling Wilburys Vol 1 is a fave. Even the so-so songs are sung with such obvious delight that it always makes me smile.

    Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising” is a haunting album that I just adore. It dealt in a non-political way with 9/11 and about the actual personal tragedies that resulted. I also like his “We Shall Overcome” album. Again, the songs are sung with such delight it’s hard not to enjoy it.

    The Wallflowers “Bringing Down the Horse” is another fave of mine. Complex lyrics. I like their later stuff too. Truly I hear more of Petty in Jakob Dylan than I do Bob.

    Melissa Etheridge “Yes I Am” is another fave of mine.

  20. Amen to the 77’s.

    The Smiths: Strangeways Here We Come

    10,000 Maniacs: Our Time in Eden


  21. Chris Moellering says

    I can think of four albums to take to the desert island–
    John Denver–Back Home Again
    Jim Croce–Photographs and Memories
    Rich Mullins–A Liturgy, A Legacy and a Ragamuffin Band
    Rich Mullins–“the Jesus Record”

    Other artists I’d consider for #5
    The Police, VanHalen (Yes, I grew up in the 80’s), U2, Glen Miller, Caedmon’s Call, Brad Paisley, Jeremy Camp……

  22. Jim Champion says

    Waiting for Colombus by Little Feat, and you can put anything on the turntable by Robrr Earl Kean and Stevie Ray Vaughn

    • Little Feat, the hardest working band in the business. Waiting For Columbus is one of the greatest live albums ever. Just to hear them walking out on stage all singing Join Together With The Band is great.

      And SRV makes me cry. Talent that could have only come from God.

  23. Kenny Johnson says

    I don’t know. This is difficult for me. I listen to a lot of stuff and have a lot of “moods” for music. I also will be really into a band, song, or album at the moment — but do I know if it will have a timeless impact on me? Does that mean, I can only pick older albums that I’ve listened to for years? Or can I pick recent finds that I think will stick with me?

    Also, I like different kinds of music from punk to metal to classic rock, reggae and bluegrass. It’s hard to represent all that in a top 5 albums of all time. . .

    I guess I’ll picks some that had an impact on me over the years:

    1) Operation Ivy – “Energy”. Besides “The Descendents – “Somery” which is a greatest hits album — This album is what got me into punk. Sure, I had heard the Ramones and Sex Pistols before this — but when I heard this, I fell in love. It’s still one of my favorite albums. They were mixing punk rock and two-tone ska before it was trendy.

    2) Pink Floyd – “Meddle”. I don’t know if this is my favorite album of theirs, but it’s what had the lasting impact on me. Echoes is an incredible song and it’s what got me into Floyd. I got to see them (- Waters) on their 1994 tour. Still one of the best concert experiences I’ve ever had.

    3) Suicidal Tendencies – “Suicidal Tendencies”. This is like the quintessential album for an angry teen. And I was as angry teen — at least on the inside. I actually hated this album when I first heard it, but it grew on me quickly. I rarely listen to it now, but it impacted my teenage years quite a bit.

    4) Sufjan Stevens – “Illinois”. I remember when I first heard “Casimir Pulaski Day.” I fell it love with that song instantly. This is still his best album in my opinion and got me back into music after a bit of a slump.

    5) The Avett Brothers – “I and Love and You”. Here’s where I cheat a bit. I was recently introduced to this band and I’m not sure this is even my favorite album by them, but this is another band that got me out of a music slump. I’m actually going to see them twice in October. Once in LA and once in San Francisco at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival.

    • I&L&Y is the Avett’s prettiest album, but I prefer Emotionalism and Four Thieves Gone. I think it’s a better representation of their sound–less piano, more banjo. And they’re AMAZING live! Enjoy the shows, they are an experience!

    • One of these days I’m going to cut you into little pieces because all I wanted was a Pepsi.

    • Meddle is definitely on my top 5. Maybe not as polished as others, but Echos can still send shivers down my spine and the soccer hooligans on Fearless make me shout out.

  24. My favorites? I suppose that would be the albums I absolutely must keep on my MP3 player?

    My complete collection of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas

    In contemporary Christian

    Michael Card: ‘Poiema’ is my favorite, but everything he does is good. Love ‘Starkindler – A Celtic Conversation’ and ‘Present Reality’.

    Fernando Ortega: ‘The Shadow Of Your Wings’ and ‘A Welcome Field’

    Rich Mullins ‘Winds of heaven Stuff of Earth’

    Currently, Derek Webb’s ‘Mockingbird’ seems to be the soundtrack of my life.

  25. You’ve all got to be kidding …there was no music after 1972. Except for, perhaps …

    1) My Dinner with Bruce – Steve Bell (songs by Bruce Cockburn)
    2) Shalom Jerusalem – Paul Wilbur
    3) Home – Fernando Ortega
    4) Pops Roundup – Arthur Fiedler & The Boston Pops (only vinyl I ever wore out), vintage 1967 or so
    5) Walk Don’t Run, Vol II – The Ventures …OK, this one’s pre-’72, too …see what I mean?

    Honorable mention: One Spirit by singer and songwriter Mary-Kathryn ( a true psalmist)

    • “Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974. It’s a scientific fact.” – Homer Simpson 🙂

    • “My Dinner with Bruce” should have been on my list too. I didn’t include it because it was a cover, but it is an amazing album.

    • Jim Park is, no doubt, referring to one of my top five picks, Exile On Main Street, released in 1972. This was the last true rock and roll album released. And it is a scientific fact. Homer Simpson just ws off by two years…

    • FO”s “Home” is pure gold….NEVER get tired of that one.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      I remember driving home (14 hours) from a UMJC conference looping the Shalom Jerusalem album. I think Paul Wilbur played that year. With the exception of some of the wonderfully 70’s-rock-sounding Lamb tracks, I think Shalom Jerusalem was probably the best of Messianic music. It was definitely its climax.

    • I think people need to go look at Jack Black’s blackboard in “School of Rock” to get a really comprehensive history of rock and roll.

  26. I tend to go in phases. This week, I’m in a Sting phase. I don’t know why I never noticed before, but many of his songs are very spiritual….My world gets a little bigger every day :).

  27. “Note: We really are planning a discussion of Robert Capon’s Between Noon And Three. No, really we are.”

    Since I’ll be out of town until the middle of next week, hope it’s not too soon.

  28. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Actually, I only have three albums off the top of my head. It’s a rare album/CD that I can listen to all the way through, mostly there’s one good song and the rest is “rubbish” (as translated from St Paul).

    * Al Stewart, “Past, Present, and Future”
    * Aquabats, “Fury of the Aquabats”
    * Springsteen, “Born to Run”

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      I hear ya, HUG. I consider a good album one where 50% of the songs I like. A GREAT album only has a one or two songs that I hate.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        And so many albums today have only ONE good song on them. $15-20 a pop for three minutes of what you really wanted to listen to in over an hour of crap covers.

        Thank you, RIAA. Let’s see you in 10-20 years when the re-re-re-releasesof Stones and Beatles and “Dope is Groovy” and “Get out of Vietnam” for the Thin Grey Ponytails in Depends at the Nursing Home market really starts to dry up.

  29. All this talk of music might seem like “fluff” to someone who is SERIOUSLY THEOLOGICAL….but increasingly I’m thinking some of us gloomy types (that would be ME, BTW) need to pull out of the theology wars…er….discussion…. and just kick it for an hr or two. maybe garden, or cook, or clean and just rock the house and let the discernment blogs run the net for a day or three….. just a thot


    • Seconded. I’ve been letting the discernment-o-philes run for about four years now — one of the best decisions I’ve ever made …

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Wasn’t there an IMonk classic in the archives about “Too Much Theology”?

      I’m reminded of the flamewars here in the IMonk comment threads, type examples of “When All You Have is a Hammer…” and “If at first you don’t succeed, USE A BIGGER HAMMER.” Whether that hammer is called “Verbal Plenary Inspiration”, “Penal Substitutionary Atonement”, “TULIP”, or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. (Fortunately “nedbrek”, one of the main wielders of the “Young Earth Creationism” hammer, has moved to Biologos where he trolls their threads along with someone named “Conrad”.)

  30. Jeff, “Down by the river I [killed] my baby” is one of the stock story lines of American, and, as we and Canadians inherited it, English/Irish/Scottish folk ballads. It ain’t so weird if you listen to folk music.

    Michael Bell, I liked Brian & Andy- and David Ruis’ lyrics hit something deep in me. But I think the very best Vineyard worship album was “Receive Our Praise”, with the Butler brothers.

    Well, as others have said, this is hard. I have to think about what I “default” to in my various media players (there’s nothing like a well engineered vinyl recording).

    Wish I knew more of : Cockburn. McLachlan. Marley. Radiohead.

    Honorables: “Wildflowers”, Judy Collins; “Tapestry”, Carole King; “Heart Like a Wheel”, Linda Ronstadt. (Can you tell when I came of age???) U2’s later issues; “Songs in the Key of Life”. Anything Rachmaninoff. Beatles, “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Abbey Road”, which bracket the dawning of my awareness about music and other issues of life during my youth- like someone said above, a time period; but I also think those two are both masterful examples of the sub-genres of ’60s rock music.

    So my list:

    5. Chopin, “Nocturnes”, Anton Rubinstein. (Actually, anything played by Rubinstein.)

    4. Any folk/indigenous music from the rectangle delineated by the Slavic lands on the west, southern Russia on the north, Pakistan on the east and northern Africa on the south. Something deep stirs in me when I hear it, and I have to move my body somehow. I have no known ethnic ties to the area, except for the European side of the rectangle. I just love all of it.

    3. Any well played harp music, especially the French masters from the turn of the last century and just about anything Celtic.

    2. SIbelius, Symphony No. 2 in D major; favorite rendition is by the London Philharmonic with Paavo Berglund, but the NY Phil with Berstein is a close second.

    1. Iona, “Journey Into the Morn”. I love all of Iona’s albums, but this is my favorite. I want the whole album playing when I’m on my deathbed, and “Heaven’s Bright Sun” as I am passing to the other side of the curtain. Seriously. ( I think Dave Bainbridge could give Stevie Ray a run for his money.)


    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Yeah. Irish ballads can get real morbid. (i.e. “What they did before splatter movies.”)

      As witnessed in this little ditty by Tom Lehrer. A Classic Momento from Doctor Demento

      • Or like Nick Cave’s 1990s album “Murder Ballads” where he did songs influenced by the English/Scottish/Irish folk genre where men murder their lovers. Or one that was covered by Clannad, about the two sisters where one sister kills another out of jealousy.

        And of course, there’s an Irish-language song about a woman who kills her rival in order to marry the (future) widower; the two women go walking down by the seashore, one falls asleep, the other weaves her hair into the seaweed and leaves her to be drowned by the risiing tide. it’s “A Bhean Udaí Thall” covered by the group Altan.

        There’s also American folk songs in that genre, obviously from the settlers from the British Isles.

      • HUG: and maybe we’ll do in a squirrel or two while we’re poisoning pigeons in the park…

  31. I also love Exile on Main Street, but I wonder about the description of it as “the last true rock and roll album ever recorded” — not so much because of the denial of any rock&roll to follow (though I also wonder about that!), but because I don’t think of Exile as primarily rock. It’s a terrific blend of a lot of American styles of music (by a bunch of Brits!). I take the main flavor of the album to be a kind of gritty R&B, but the other elements (mixed in to various degrees as you move from song to song) include gospel (which you mention), folk, and country (when asked what my favorite country song is, I say “Torn & Frayed”). & the great thing is how well it all hangs together. Well, that plus the amazing guitar work by Mick Taylor & Keith Richards.

    • which isn’t to deny that there isn’t a pronounced element of rock to the album. the first two songs on the album and its two hit songs, for instance, are rockers–that fit right into the mix

    • Ah, but Keith–what is rock but a delicious blend of R&B, country and western (let’s not forget the western), black gospel, southern gospel, pop and even classical. This indefinable mix is rock and roll…

  32. Warning: I still like a lot of contemporary Christian music. So there. 😀

    1. Rich Mullins – A Liturgy, A Legacy And A Ragamuffin Band.
    2. Caedmon’sCall – Long Line of Leavers (close one over Share The Well)
    3. Jars of Clay – The Eleventh Hour
    4. G.R.I.T.S. – Dichotomy (2 CD set). Had to have one rap album on the list.
    5. Bach – Brandenburg Concertos; the Penguin session with Benjamin Britten and the English Chamber Orchestra and liner notes by Douglas “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” Adams.

    HM to Charlie Peacock’s West Coast Diaries Volume 2.

  33. I agree, Brian Wilson is the greatest. At last count I have 194 Beach Boys songs on my iTunes. The depth of composition, harmonies, and instrumentation is mind blowing, especially for the time period. You forgot to mention that Pet Sounds, though, was inspired by the Beatles Rubber Soul.

    • And Smile was inspired by Sgt. Pepper. They just kept playing a game of “who can do it better.”

      • Slight correction: Sgt. Pepper didn’t inspire Smile. Smile was scheduled to be released BEFORE Sgt. Pepper, but got bogged down first by Brian’s relentless pursuit of perfection, then his drug-fueled breakdown. From a popularity standpoint, the Beach Boys never recovered.

        But you’re right about their “can you top this?” battle — McCartney himself has said that Pet Sounds was a major push for the Beatles in creating Revolver and SPLHCB.

  34. one more Mike says

    Ditto “Exile on Main Street”. When I was growing up, you were a Stones fan or a Beatles fan. The Beatles were the background music of my life, but the Stones made it worth living.

    “Southern Rock Opera” Drive By Truckers : The “Lynyrd Skynyrd thing in all its misunderstood glory”. Best concept album ever. Listen to this and you will understand the american south. I think they owe me royalties for “Zip City”.

    “Wish you were here” Pink Floyd: The thought of Sid Barrett sitting incognito in the control room while they recorded parts of this album weirds me out like nothing else can.

    Led Zeppelin IV: “Misty Mountain Hop” is the quentisential Led Zeppelin song. It’s their catalog in one song, and testimony to why the band didn’t survive Bonzo Bonhams death.

    Bob Marley “Exodus” and “Uprising”: I’m cheating here, but these albums combined are Handels “Messiah” for this age. Go ahead and laugh. Then listen and be convinced.

    Duane Allman: If Duane hadn’t died, Eric Clapton would have had to kill him. “Layla” showcased which of them was the better guitar player, and it wasn’t Eric. Chiseled in at number 3? Too low, Jeff. Sorry, but SRV has to take his rightful place below Mythic Jimi and Duane.

    • I could almost agree with you on where to rank Duane Allman. Listening to Les Brers In A Minor as I type this. What could that band not do?

  35. Virtually all Christian music now sounds to me like the the “Happy Worker’s Song” by Amy Adams ( ) in the movie Enchanted (oddly, which I watched in its entirety in a cheap hotel room in Kathmandu last year, when I was too tired from walking 150 KM to leave my room).

    But my five favorite (which I will simply take from my play list without commentary)
    Leonard Cohen – Live in London
    Ben Folds – Live
    John Denver – ;Live in Concert
    Jame Blunt – Back to Bedlam
    Plain White T’s – Every Second Counts

    Honorable Mention:
    The All-American – Rejects Move Along
    Bread – The Best of Bread

    • Back then, as a young teen girl, I listened to Bread so much I can barely stand it even all these decades later.

      • My problem with ’70s music is that it reminds me too much of the ’70s.

        • LOL! Same reaction I have to most music from the ’80s.

          True story: I’m at the local Food Beast a few years ago, and they’re playing hits of the ’80s over the PA (it felt like a bad high school flashback). And what comes on but Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” possibly the quintessential rebel song of my 1980s adolescence. And I couldn’t get over how TAME it now sounded — I even said aloud, “gosh, Jars of Clay can rock harder than THIS!”

          It was a moment.

          • I heard the same Twisted Sister song last week, and had exactly the same reaction!

          • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

            Every time I hear “We’re not Gonna Take It” I’m reminded of the time Twisted Sister was rolling through our town and ate at the same TGI Friday’s we were eating at (while we were there). None of us (even 80’s children) got up to get their autographs lol. I do love that song though.

        • For some reason, many of my 70’s memories are fuzzy. How ’bout you, Jeff?

  36. 1) Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen. I wore the vinyl out on my brother’s copy as an elementary schooler…knew all the lyrics before age ten…not having a clue what he meant by “wrap your legs round these velvet rims, and strap your hands ‘cross my engines”, of course, but singing it with all the growl and attitude a 9 year old could muster. Still sing “Thunder Road” out loud, with the radio off, as I drive sometimes.

    2) Life’s Rich Pageant – R.E.M. I was a college student in Athens, GA when it came out…listened to it constantly for two years…Begin the Begin, Fall on Me, Cuyahoga, Swan Swan Hummingbird, Superman…It doesn’t get much better. Michael Stipe is likely the best poet of my generation.

    3) She Must and Shall Go Free – Derek Webb. Does anybody really care if he cursed anymore? I was ready, as a pastor, to give up on organized religion the first time I heard “Wedding Dress”..wept like a baby. This album keeps me loving the church, even in those moments she attempts to be unloveable.

    4) Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys. Yes, inspired by Rubber Soul…and inspired Sgt. Pepper. There are so many layers to the music and vocals here…Brian Wilson established himself as a brilliant musical mind.

    5) Brand New Possibility/John Fahey; Behold the Lamb of God/Andrew Peterson – Christmas albums, yes…but also great music. Fahey is one of the most brilliant guitarists, ever. I was lucky enough to find this one on vinyl a few years back, and can listen to it any time of year. Andrew Peterson…if you’ve never seen BTLOG live, you should…absolutely amazing. The album carries you from the beginnnings of the OT to the birth of Christ, with all the longing and heartbreaks and waves of emotions of a nation, then narrowing down to the wonder and humanity of a young Mary, the humility of Christ, then the beginnings of the Kingdom Great, great stuff.

    I tried to leave greatest hits albums and compilations off my list, but my Otis Redding box set gets steady play, along with ELO’s greatest hits…you cannot listen to “Mr. Blue Sky” without singing along!

    • Agreed on the Derek Webb — given the state of the American church, I think he has every reason to drop an occasional S-bomb. (Besides, he was quoting Tony Campolo.)

      • I should rephrase…I was ready, as a pastor, to give up on organized religion, THEN I heard “Wedding Dress”…

  37. Jeff, from some of these comments, it looks like we might have to put up a favorite classical albums post.

  38. Jeff Livingston says

    I like a lot of classic rock, heck I grew up with it, but really liked the so-called “college rock” trom the 80s:

    REM’s first two albums

    Husker Du “Flip Your Wig”

    Smiths, “The Queen is Dead”

    Love Tractor “This Ain’t No Outer Space Ship”

    nearly anything by Midnight Oil

  39. LOL! I was just thinking “We’ve had the favourite books, next thing it’ll be favourite records” and here you go!

    Again, in no particular order and subject to change every day:

    (1) If I Should Fall From Grace With God/The Pogues. It’s a tie between this and Rum, Sodomy and the Lash, but this just gets the nod.

    (2) Salva Nos/The Mediaeval Baebes: first album, original lineup, and still the one I like the best.

    (3) *pouts* No greatest hits? All right, if I have to pick one album, then Alina/Arvo Pärt. Or, you know, any of his religious music that I’ve been plugging on here as long as I’ve been posting. 🙂

    (4) Mater/Vladimír Godár. Taster here:

    (5) MacMahon From Clare/Tony MacMahon. Okay, probably none of you have ever heard of this one but a retrospective (no, it’s not a greatest hits, honest!) of Tony MacMahon, very famous (in Ireland) traditional accordion/melodeon player who is concerned with both the artistic development and maintaining the purity of the tradition.

    Too many others to mention: Leonard Cohen, The Beatles, Neil Young, various Irish folk/trad bands, classical composers that I don’t know enough about, pretty much any music before the Baroque era.

    • Yes to the Pogues, yes to Arvo Part. And no, I also don’t see any inconsistency of taste in that! Medieval Babes, though, are a bit too babe-y and not very Medieval. Do you know Anonymous Four? They do a better job with early music, I think. I used to sing with the founder of the group when she and I were both studying the Middle Ages in grad school. She knew her stuff.

  40. Hey, thanks for pointing us to Waterdeep – a new discovery for me and I’m hooked already.
    I would add Eric Clapton, “Unplugged” to the list – can’t stop listening to it.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      Oh, snap! forgot about ECU one. I wonder what happened to mine..

  41. Tom Howard’s “View From the Bridge” needs to be re-released. I was a bit shocked that this didn’t happen after his death. It is one of the all-time classic 70’s CCM albums. A few copies occassionally show up on Amazon for big bucks.

  42. Man, this is hard. Just gonna have to go with my gut and feel like my list was insufficient later–

    The Shins: CANNOT pick a favorite album–all three are awesome
    Phoenix: Alphabetical
    Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend
    Lupe Fiasco: Food & Liquor
    Gnarls Barkley: St. Elsewhere

    Also love the following: Ben Folds (!!), Queen, Mr. Hudson & the Library, Kanye West, Aqualung, Jay Z, Nickel Creek, Keane (1st 2 albums only), The Killers, Broken Bells, Discovery, Fernando Ortega, Chanticleer (!!!), Sting, Leslie Feist, Jamiroquai, Madeleine Peyroux…

    Must stop now!!!!

    And still missing so many favorites. Sigh.

  43. Darkness on the Edge of Town – Springsteen
    Darn Floor Big Bite – Da, (Daniel Amos)
    Circle Slide – The Choir
    Dig – Adam Again
    Dry Bones Dance – Mark Heard

    • Darn Floor Big Bite: Yes. Very nice, Shawnuel.

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      In high school in the 90’s I listened to a LOT of the Choir. I was dating a girl that thought they were the greatest, so there ya go. I gotta say, “Something Wonderful About Love” was a great, well, love song. I’m ashamed to admit that I was more into monster ballads at the time. That girl’s musical taste was waaay ahead of mine. Actually, most of high school was about me dating girls whose musical tastes were amazing and it took me until late college to realize it.

  44. Oh, this is gonna be tough…I’m not going to include classical albums since I grew up listening to Abbey Road and it’s like reading the Bible, a classic and definitely an old standby, utterly important, frequently revisited, but far from a “discoverable favorite”…

    1 U2 – Achtung Baby/Pop/No Line on the Horizon. Easily my favorite band and theologians, I have a hard time determining which album is my favorite, probably just depends on my mood at the time. Looking forward to shouting for joy to the magnificent next summer.

    2 Audioslave – Audioslave. I like Rage Against the Machine, but I always though the vocals were the worse part of the band; now they had someone who can sing and write not so in your face political rock songs.

    3 Muse – Absolution. I consider this the most important album of the 2000s. It will save rock.

    4 Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf. I consider this one of the most artistic “hard rock” albums ever written. Whenever people talk about one of those superstar groups made up of musicians from multiple bands, I always turn QotSA first. The narrative of this album, of driving through southern suburban Christianity/Bible Belt and listening to the differing opinions, is sobering and unique. Plus the guitars just rock.

    5 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Garage blues hard alternative southern rock. I have no good way of describing them, but they are phenomenal. Every album has been either superb or contained a majority of great songs.

    Honorable mentions: Thrice – Beggars, Remy Zero – The Golden Hum, Kaiser Chiefs – Employment, Powerman 5000 – Transform, Arcade Fire – Neon Bible, Interpol – Antics, Moby – Play, Brand New – The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me.

    Ok, that’s enough for now.

  45. So far as artists go, I think there’s quite a bit of good music coming out. To wit…

    1) Sufjan Stevens (as cliche a top 5 to my generation as the Beatles would have been to the older folks)
    2) Neko Case (my Lord, she makes MUSIC)
    3) The National (new to me, but I literally can not stop listening to their latest album)
    4) Gnarls Barkley (awesome tunes, well-developed themes in poetic form. I debating listing this as by just saying Danger Mouse – check him out too)

  46. Bob Dylan, Desire. Or Blood on the Tracks. Or keep going until you run out…
    The Beatles, Sergeant Pepper. Or almost anything else…
    Simon and Garfunkel. Anything at all…
    Joan Baez… ditto
    Joni Mitchell… ”

    Tom Waits, Small Change.
    Leonard Cohen, The Future.
    Bob Marley, The Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers.
    Grateful Dead, American Beauty.
    Janis Joplin, Greatest Hits.

    NO Contemporary Christian Music. Obviously, I need to get myself right with God.

    • Ted, you can visit any time, although you may have to leave Jerry Garcia in the car. Otherwise, bring ’em on!

    • You’re not alone, Ted! I have no favourite CCM artists of any kind, because I don’t listen to that. My sister went through a mad John Michael Talbot phase where she bought everything he ever did, and I managed to successfully avoid listening to any of it.

      This either means we’re both Hell-bound, or just that I stick to the oul’ Gregorian chant in my Christian music tastes 🙂

      Or that I listen to stuff that’s not CCM but hits me as Christian, e.g. Nick Cave’s songs, such as “As I Sat Sadly By Her Side” and of course “Into My Arms”. All together now!

      “I don’t believe in an interventionist God
      But I know, darling, that you do.”…


      • I do like JM Talbot, but I haven’t heard him in 20 years or more; and I remember liking Don Francisco, ‘way back; and some of Phil Keaggy’s stuff; and probably Keith Green. It’s all kinda faded by now. They don’t play any of that on Christian radio around here.

        I can’t imagine what Christian radio is like in Ireland, but in this neck of the Maine woods it’s bloody ugly.

        In translation: the word “bloody” is not such a dirty word over here, but even if I were in Ireland I might use it in reference to Christian radio.

        • I think both of you are evil and bound for hell…or maybe just very discerning in your arts. There is actually some good music made by Christians (notice I did not say “Christian music”). There was a group called Seawind in the early to mid 70s that was as good of an example of jazz/.rock as there was. Nick Cave is excellent. Over the Rhine can hold their own with anyone. When musicians make beautiful music, they glorify God.

          I feel an essay coming on…

        • “I can’t imagine what Christian radio is like in Ireland”

          Obscure 🙂

          We do, I think, have one but I can’t for the life of me remember what it is. Basically, there is no such animal, unless by “Christian radio” you count the Angelus being tolled on the national radio station, broadcasts of Mass/services/a talk by the Chief Rabbi of Ireland for the Jewish New Year on the national television station and local stations broadcasting Mass for people at home on Sundays who can’t otherwise get to church.

          Or programmes like “Gloria” on Lyric FM (the national classical station) which covers a range from about the 10th to the 20th century of religious music for two hours every Sunday morning. For you Bach lovers, they’re working their way through all 200 cantatas, one a week:

          But no preaching 🙂

          • You have no… idea… what you’re missing…

            Really bad preaching. Lots of dispensationalism.
            Really bad music. But it rhymes and it mentions Jesus.
            Really right-wing politics, which is, after all, the gospel to a lot of folks.

          • It would appear that we have three here in the Republic of Ireland – I don’t know about the North – two which are Protestant/non-denominational and one which appears to be Catholic:

            Life FM in Cork (this is practically next door and I never even knew!) First licensed Christian station in the country (according to the press account) and this was only in 2008. Am listening to them right now, mainly (I have to say) for the humour of hearing evangelisation done in a Cork accent:


            Solas FM – they say they’re the first licensed Christian station in Dublin, and this is the Catholic one.

            UCB Ireland – seems to have been established from a similar station in the Isle of Man, that expanded into two offices, one in Belfast and one in Dublin.

            There also seems to have been one, Spirit FM, back in 2004 but I don’t think it’s still operating. Seems to have been an offshoot of an American chain of stations?

            Well, there you go! I never even knew about these!

          • I hit the link for Life FM and I can assure you that you still have no idea what’s over here for Christian radio. The two songs I heard were pretty good, and not CCM; the first was a pretty competent song in disco genre (I hate disco, but the song wasn’t too bad) and the second is someone named Al Green, kinda soul, something like Marvin Gaye.

            A third song is on now; a lot like Van Morrison and not bad at all.

            Pray for us over here.

          • That’s because is WAS Van Morrison. On Christian radio? Impossible over here.

        • If you’d like to catch up with JM Talbot, give a listen to his 2007 album “Monk Rock”. Highly recommended (by me).

          • JMT’s “The Lord’s Supper” was amazing, and very controversial among the Jesus People who had no conception of genuine Christianity in the Roman Catholic church.

  47. Kelby Carlson says

    Seeming as I’m a prospective vocal performance major in college, i should probably post a list. I’m not going to confine myself to five, however.

    1. Runrig – Proterra. Stunning Celtic rock form an authenticly Celtic band. Refreshing after hearing a lot of American pseudo-Celtic pop music.

    2. Ranarim – Morning Star. Equally stunning Norwegian/Swedish folk music. Being a Scandinavian deeply interested in the ancient culture, this resonates with me quite a bit.

    3. Eric Whitacre, Polyphony – Cloudburst. Absolutely, hands down, my favorite choral music album ever. “When David Heard”, “Sleep”, “Hope Joy Life Love’, and all the others on this album are absolutely beautiful, even in their shattering dissonance.

    4. The Mars Volta – Frances the Mute. Incredible instrumentation, lyrics, vocalist, guitar–this is the best of progr rock and boy does it rock.

    5. Porcupine Tree – Deadwing. Blends prog and pop to astounding effect. This stuff should be on the radio, but it isn’t.
    6. Keith jarrett – The Koln Concert. Some of the most spiritual, transcendent music you’ll ever hear. Very unique piano sound.

    7. Stravinsky, the Rite of Spring. i have the Minnesota Orchestra interpretation, but this piece shattered the then-current conception of classical music and ushered in a wave of classical/folk fusion with the likes of Dvorak and Bartok.

    8. The Spirit of David, Fred Hammond. My favorite kind (and most of what I listen to) of Christian music: black gospel. THe soloist and choir are unparalleled on this album.

    I’m checking out Fernando Ortega–from the clips this is a man I want to listen to. THat’s just a basic list–I could rattle off others for hours. (I’m also a classical/jazz junkie, but I’m trying to list works that are accessible.)

    • Love Fred Hammond, but I can’t listen to his CDs in the car unless the cruise control is on — his music gets me so fired up that before I know it, I’m doing 85 in a 65 zone. Can they arrest you for Driving Under the Influence of Fred?

      • I got a warning for blowing through a school zone while my kids and I were harmonizing loudly to the “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack. I just turn on NPR now when I go through that town and creep sedately past the school.

  48. Very interesting to see so many different tastes in music. Here’s my list off the top of my head:

    The Beatles: Abby Road
    Not only great music from Lennon/McCartney, but George’s best two songs are on the album as well.

    Kansas: Leftoverture
    Kerry Livgren is a musical genius and this debut album from them was amazing.

    Phil Keaggy, 2nd Chapter of Acts and A Band Called David: How The West Was Won
    This live double album from the seventies is fantastic. Phil does a guitar solo in “Rejoice” that lasts well over 10 minutes. I even read Steve Morse referring to it as incredible in an interview.

    Cindy Morgan: Listen
    Cindy is one of the most underrated singer/songwriters in Christian music, and this album is one of the best ever recorded in the genre. The well-written songs interweave together with brilliant orchestral arrangements by genius producer Brent Bourgeois.

    Tears for Fears: Songs From the Big Chair
    I’m sure not many will agree, but I think this is one of the standout albums of the 80s. Great songwriting and production.

    Honorable mention:

    Rob Mathes and Friends: Christmas Is Coming
    This live album (from the PBS special) features a host of well-known talent (David Sanborn, Michael McDonald, Vanessa Williams), but the beauty of the holiday album is the original music from Rob, (you’ve got to hear “William The Angel”) and the fantastic arrangements of the traditional music. And it’s one of the best live bands I’ve ever heard.

  49. The only problem with your list, Mr. Dunn, is that you left Stevie’s Songs in the Key of Life in the HM category. I don’t know if I can forgive you for that…

    • I know, I know. And I left Leonard Cohen’s Live In London out entirely. I wish I could have a do-over…

      But if I moved Songs In The Key Of Life into my top five, what do I take out? See the problem there…?

      See why I have thought about this for fifteen years?

  50. “Nilsson Sings Newman” (1970, Harry Nilsson sings Randy Newman’s songs, with Newman accompanying) — If I loved this album any more, I’d have to marry it. 🙂