10 Great Albums

CDsEven a consummate Broadway musician like my good friend Steven Silverstein sometimes feels like he needs to expand his listening repertoire, to keep fresh and inspired. In fact, Steven recently told me that he’s collecting playlists and recommendations from his many friends and colleagues. With this in mind, and in the interest of sharing some of my own favorites, I’ve assembled this list of my ‘desert-island’ selections. The list is drawn from a wide stylistic range, but they all have common elements, in that I feel they represent an individual artists’ unique musical vision and all the recordings have a very special feeling to them. These qualities are probably what makes me return to them over and over, throughout the years.

Here’s the list:

10 Great Albums:

1. Abdullah Ibrahim, “Water From An Ancient Well”
I love this recording by the South African pianist/bandleader Abdullah Ibrahim and his band Ekaya. The music has a jazz sensibility but with a relaxed South African feel that is catchy and melodic. This music makes me feel good!

2. Keith Jarrett, “Standards Live”
This was one of the first recordings that Jarrett made with his ‘Standards Trio.’ Sometime in the mid-80’s, I heard the first track, Stella By Starlight, on my car radio while driving late at night. The freedom of Jarrett’s phrasing completely floored me and showed me new possibilities of musical expression.

3. Stravinsky, “L’Histoire du soldat” (The Soldier’s Tale)
I have this on an old LP with narration by Sir John Gielgud. This is Stravinsky at his neo-classical best, giving his version of traditional dance forms and hymns.

4. Elton John, “Greatest Hits”
This was the first cassette tape I bought, when I was in junior high school. Not all of Elton’s great early work is here, but it reminds me how just how wonderful a pianist/singer/songwriter he can be.

5. David Hykes and The Harmonic Choir, “Earth To The Unknown Power”
The closing track, ‘Hallelujah,’ is the most transcendent choral music I’ve ever heard.

6. Stevie Wonder, “Journey Through The Secret Life of Plants”
This little-known recording is said to be one of Wonder’s personal favorites. It’s also the closest he’s ever come to orchestral writing, all played in his unique fashion on synths.

7. Wayne Shorter, “Etcetera”
My favorite of all Shorter’s 1960’s albums as a leader. It has a ‘live feel’ and features some amazing interplay between Wayne on tenor sax and Herbie Hancock on piano.

8. Beethoven, “String Quartet, Op. 132”
I’m partial to the recording of this by the Guarneri String Quartet. This is one of Beethoven’s most personal compositions, which is saying a lot. The slow movement conveys his “feeling of new strength and reawakened feeling” after an illness.

9. Chick Corea, “The Mad Hatter”
Corea’s mid-70’s mashup of jazz, fusion, acoustic, electronic, and Bartok-like string quartet writing.

10. Original Broadway Cast Recording, “Swinging On A Star”
Full disclosure: This is my one and only appearance on a Broadway cast recording (playing synth), but I’m listing it because of music director Barry Levitt’s masterful piano playing. Soon after I moved to New York City, Barry took me under his wing and taught me a great deal, both directly and through his musicianship. Listen to how he accompanies Kathy Fitzgerald on ‘Here’s That Rainy Day.’

Well, there’s my list. I couldn’t include all my favorites, like albums by Duke Ellington, The Beatles, or Bach, but these are the ‘desert island’ picks. I’d love to hear from anyone else about this. What are your favorite LP’s/CD’s/downloads? I’ll take a listen to them!

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5 thoughts on “10 Great Albums”

  1. I love lists like this! And I just have to share mine with you because it will make you laugh (and groan, probably!)

    1. ELO’s Out of the Blue – I never ever get tired of this album. It was my introduction to what has become one of my favorite groups and favorite musicians: Jeff Lynne. My favorite song of all time is on here: “Summer and Lightning”. There is a rain/thunder theme running through a lot of the music on this double-record set because Jeff wrote most of the music for it while staying in a chalet in the Swiss Alps, and I guess some phenomenal thunderstorms passed through regularly!

    2. Bay City Rollers’ Dedication – Yes. Believe it or not.

    3. Bert Kaempfert’s Christmas Wonderland – This is THE Christmas album. Love his version of “The Little Drummer Boy” with it’s strong bass. He was brilliant.

    4. ABBA’s Arrival – This was my introduction to ABBA: the writing, the vocals, the arrangements – all of it has made them another of my all-time favs.

    5. ABBA’s Box Set Disc 4 – there is a long string of bits and pieces of songs that never quite got finished or recorded, along with alternate starts to well-known hits, that I find absolutely fascinating.

    6. Dave Brubeck’s Take Five – Ummm… of course? ‘Nuff said.

    7. Beatles’ Help – Actually, I can’t choose between the American- and British-released versions. I love the Beatles, but this is my favorite of their albums.

    8. Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits – My introduction to S & G and their amazing sound.

    9. The Hollies’ Greatest Hits – My intro to the Hollies and the start of my discovery of what harmony was (and the start of my love affair with it!) This album was my sister’s but she ended up giving it to me because I played it all the time. Their sound was like a drug to me! Still is 🙂

    10. Marc Allen’s Solo Flight – All instrumental piano, very introverted. I see amazing blues, greens, and dark cloudy skies when I listen to this – which is every single day while I’m at work. It calms me down and helps me focus.

    So my list isn’t as cool and sophisticated as yours, but I hope there are some surprises in there! I really would need an Allan Sherman or a Weird Al Yankovic LP in this mix as well, so I would have to cheat on my desert island…

  2. Thanks for sharing your list, Kelly! What…no Monty Python? Leaving aside the Bay City Rollers, who I actually saw on Howard Cosell’s short-lived Saturday Night TV show, I look forward to listening to your favorites. Especially the Marc Allen album since it will be new to me!

    • I hope you get the chance to hear Marc Allen’s Solo Flight album. I would be interested to hear your take on it. I have 2 of his other albums but they don’t grab me like Solo Flight. Oh, yeah, I forgot Monty Python. And Roger Miller. And Herb Alpert and the TJB… My desert island is getting smaller 😉


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