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The Stacks, From A to Z

It’s time I do something light and fun here! I've heard from some of you that you enjoy the music recommendations from my Vinyl Monday series, so I thought I'd give you some more.

There’s only so many albums I can cover on Vinyl Monday. There’s bound to be some stuff I really want to spotlight, but just can’t get to. I have over 400 albums and counting, and can only cover 52 a year! So for this post I went through my whole collection and picked one album title for each letter of the alphabet.

Take this as bite-size tasting of my record collection. Like a charcuterie board of my music taste. Let’s get started!

Pictured: My first 3 picks from my record collection alphabet.

A: Santana – Abraxas (1970):

Kicking off this list with some Santana! I used to go to my local record stores with my dad, and on one of those trips he picked Abraxas out of the stacks and told me I should get it. It is such an eclectic and beautiful record, and it sparked my love of Peter Green and Gabor Szabo’s stuff.

B: Bob Dylan – Blood On the Tracks (1975):

Dylan was my first love! And I’ll sing his praises forevermore. There’s endless reasons to love Blood On the Tracks, but mine are as follows: It’s arguably Dylan at his most sensitive. Hurt people make the best music for other hurt people (see “Idiot Wind.”) It’s the album that produced the Rolling Thunder Revue, the best tour EVER!

And, well, Buckets of motherfucking Rain.

C: Tommy James and the Shondells – Crimson and Clover (1968):

I love me some late ’60s bubblegum pop. There’s so much to love on Crimson and Clover besides the title track! I seriously get “I’m A Tangerine,” “Do Something To Me” and “Sugar On Sunday” stuck in my head once a week. “Over and over…”

D: St. Vincent – Daddy’s Home (2021):

Imagine if one of Warhol’s Factory superstars made a psychedelic-synth-funk record. That’s Daddy’s Home. I bought this one purely for the album art and wasn’t disappointed! If you think you don’t like Jack Antonoff’s production style, give this record a try. “Pay Your Way In Pain” and “Live In The Dream” might change your mind.

Pictured: I picked up my copy of Daddy's Home because I want to embody EVERYTHING St. Vincent does on this album cover!!

E: The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland (1968):

Critics have said Electric Ladyland was perhaps “the fullest realization” of Hendrix’s creative vision. I don’t often agree with big-wig critics, you all know that by now. For example, I think Robert Christgau was/is wrong about most things. But I completely agree with this view of Electric Ladyland. Note the production by Eddie Kramer and Gary Kellgren – it’s psych-rock perfection. This album will make you truly appreciate the wonders that audio engineers perform.

F: Robin Trower – For Earth Below (1975):

Robin Trower is seriously one of the most underrated guitarists of the ’70s! You might know him as the guitarist of Procol Harum, but I know him from For Earth Below. His guitar tone on this album is so delightfully Hendrix it’s stunning!

Pictured: The front cover of Electric Ladyland next to the back cover of From Earth Below. The Hendrix influence is very apparent!

G: Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto with Antonio Carlos Jobim – Getz/Gilberto (1964):

Imagine creating a whole genre of music based around being white noise: “nothing music.” That’s bossa nova. My taste in jazz lies with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Coltrane and Sun-Ra. But I love Getz/Gilberto because it’s the sweetest “nothing music” I’ve ever heard. I can play it while writing, lounging, and cooking. It’ll always bring me joy without fail. (Plus, the food tastes better when you cook listening to jazz.)

H: Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy (1973):

This is my favorite Zeppelin record! And I’m bummed it’s, like, no one else’s favorite Zeppelin record. Maybe it’s just that I’m a Reggae Zeppelin Enjoyer (make fun of me all you want) or that “The Ocean” is my underrated fave.

I: King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King (1969):

And here we have the best debut album by any band ever. What do you get when you put Giles, Fripp, and Gregg Lake together? A record that was wildly, bizzarely, perfectly ahead of its time. The album art by the late Barry Godber is the icing on the cake, and you’ve gotta hold this record in your hands to truly appreciate it. The little icon on Spotify just doesn’t do Godber’s painting justice.

Pictured: My copy of Crimson King. You've gotta see this album in your hands to take in Barry Godber's art.

J: Jefferson Airplane – Jefferson Airplane Takes Off (1966):

Many know Jefferson Airplane from their mainstream breakthrough Surrealistic Pillow. But few know where the building blocks for their seminole record came from – or that there was ever a time in their history before Grace Slick! Original vocalist Signe Toly Anderson’s voice shines on this album, especially on her signature song "Chauffeur Blues." I wish we got at least one more Airplane LP with her.

K: MC5 – Kick Out The Jams (1969):

Is this the best live album ever recorded? I may be biased but YES! Kick Out The Jams was the explosive major-label debut of powerhouse Detroit group MC5. So explosive that it got them kicked off Elektra Records!! I’ve got an entire post just for the MC5 and the insane history of Kick Out The Jams, which you can read here.

L: Derek and the Dominoes – Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970):

...because duh, this one’s going to be on the Real Life Layla list!

Pictured: My original ATCO copy of Layla (left,) the RSO repress (upper right,) and 20th anniversary CD box set (lower right.) I love this album so much I have it 3 times! And I'll get it a fourth if I can find the 50th anniversary box set.

M: Nirvana – MTV Unplugged in New York (1994):

Okay, so Nirvana’s take on “The Man Who Sold The World” is good. But in my humble opinion their cover of Ledbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” is the crown jewel of this performance, and here’s why. Kurt Cobain’s vocals are tender and fragile while still having that grit he’s known for. It's really special to hear the dynamics of his vocal delivery. (If you watch the performance too, look how Dave Grohl is trying SO hard not to wail on those drums like he normally would. It’s priceless.)

N: Bob Dylan – New Morning (1970):

This middle period of Dylan’s career (after Blonde On Blonde but before Blood On the Tracks) is all too often overlooked. This one's got “If Not For You," which I knew from the George Harrison version first! If only I could have a record player downstairs so I could listen to New Morning as I start my days. I think I’d be a lot happier of a person.

O: Osibisa – Self-titled (1971):

I haven’t seen anywhere near enough praise about this record! Like, no one knows about this group! Osibisa is some of the coolest afro-jazz-fusion stuff you’ll ever hear. If you dig Santana, seek this one out – the winged elephants on the hot pink-and-orange cover are pretty hard to miss.

P: The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966):

Good grief, how does one summarize Pet Sounds? There is such an incredible breadth of emotion woven into this record. It starts with childlike optimism and joy, ends on disillusionment and crippling sadness, and covers just about everything in between on the journey. Brian Wilson knows just how to get me where it hurts! “Caroline, No” has been the soundtrack to many a late-night cry session. But Pet Sounds has also been the soundtrack to some of the happiest times in my life all the same. God bless Brian Wilson, man!

Pictured: If you've seen my Vinyl Monday episode on Pet Sounds or my YouTube video, you'll know about my weird pressing of this record! It's packaged with Carl and the Passions.

Q: Quicksilver Messenger Service – Self-titled (1968):

I wasn’t listening to much rock-and-roll yet in college. I was still thoroughly in the trappings of Arcade Fire and Arctic Monkeys! But somehow, somewhere in my freshman year I got ahold of “Gold and Silver” and “It’s Been Too Long” and loved them enough to make my Discogs username a play on Quicksilver.

R: The Beatles – Rubber Soul (1965):

Rubber Soul is the beginning of the glorious psychedelic Beatles we know and love. George Harrison got a sitar on “Norwegian Wood” and the world was never the same! (Listen to the Anthology 2 version if you haven’t, it’s even more psychedelic than the album cut.) This one has so many of my favorite Beatles tunes: “You Won’t See Me,” “Michelle,” “I’m Looking Through You,” and “Wait.” But it’s a real tragedy that my US pressing doesn’t have my very favorite Rubber Soul tracks, “Nowhere Man” and “If I Needed Someone”!

S: Joni Mitchell – Song To a Seagull (1968):

Clouds and Blue are two of the most acclaimed albums in the singer-songwriter canon. But Joni’s debut Song To a Seagull is just as good! It’s an understated first record, not much more than her guitar and vocals. That’s exactly how Mitchell and producer David Crosby wanted it to be. They fought hard with Reprise Records to let Mitchell’s delicate voice and unique open chords shine. I’m so glad they won the fight; “Sisotowbell Lane” and “Cactus Tree” are two of the prettiest songs in Joni’s whole catalog.

Pictured: Sometimes I'll just put Song To a Seagull on my record stand. The art – drawn by Joni herself! – is just so nice to look at.

T: The Rolling Stones – Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967):

This record is overhated! Change my mind, I dare you!! Sure, Mick Jagger writes this one off as psychedelic garbage, save for the hits “She’s A Rainbow” and “2000 Man.” But if you ask me, “Citadel” and both parts of “Sing This All Together” prove Their Satanic Majesties Request is much more than a Sgt. Pepper’s rip-off.

U: Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures (1979):

Guilty as charged: I made this record my whole personality in college. (A little bit in high school too.) Looking back on this one with my current knowledge of classic rock, I totally see Jim Morrison's influence on Ian Curtis’s lyrics and vocals. It’s kind of incredible to me that Curtis’s vocal delivery was this compelling, this magnetic, with this profound degree of just 22. I’m 22 now. When I was listening to Unknown Pleasures in high school I didn't realize how young 22 was.

V: Vanilla Fudge – Self-titled (1967):

Everyone knows this one for the cover of The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” It’s quite possibly better than the original! But the cover of The Zombies’ “She’s Not There” is a very similar case. It can hold a candle to the original, if not topping it.

W: Pink Floyd – The Wall (1979):

You gotta REALLY be in the mood for The Wall to listen to The Wall. I learned that the hard way. I was on such a big Floyd kick in college that I accidentally overplayed The Wall and made my roommate sick of Pink Floyd forever. (Sorry man!!) It reads like a stage show. As lengthy as it is, you really need to go on the full journey to best experience it.

X: The xx – XX (2009)

This one’s an oddball standing next to the rest of my picks. But as I’ve said time and time again, I don’t just collect rock-and-roll from the ’60s and ’70s! Once upon a time, I listened to exclusively mid-2000s/early 2010s indie rock. I still love it! I’m pretty sure “Islands” permanently re-wired my brain when I first heard it as a wee American Apparel tennis skirt-obsessed teen. That foundational experience is why XX was one of the first 10 albums I ever got.

Y: Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All (2014):

Another oddball of the list! But Modern Baseball’s stuff is so nostalgic for me. Songs about being a loser, running into your exes at house parties, drinking too much coffee, and skipping class to order food and sleep in...sigh. Makes me almost miss art school. This record is what college sounds like.

Pictured: I've got a color pressing of You're Gonna Miss It All on gray marble vinyl.

Z: Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Zuma (1975):

When the nights are cool enough, I’ll open my window, light incense (or my very favorite incense-scented candle from Shy Wolf,) and spin my Neil Young records. Summer and autumn nights were made for Neil Young; especially Zuma. There isn’t a track I don’t love. It’s pure bliss and I can’t wait for those open-window nights to return soon.

There we go, that's the whole alphabet with my record collection! If you enjoy long-form video content, this music taste charcuterie board wasn’t enough for you, and you’d like to see the whole thing? Never fear! You can watch my vinyl collection videos on my YouTube channel!

Thanks so much for being interested in my silly hobby. It's a great feeling knowing others love rock-and-roll the way I do.


- Layla


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1 Comment

Anthony Souza
Anthony Souza
Apr 07

Thanks for sharing. Got some really good stuff here. Owned most of them myself. The one I loved seeing in your collection was St. Vincent (Daddy's Home). Even though I'm old, I am constantly looking for new music/artists/bands to listen to and St. Vincent is one of them (your Black Midi EP was great. Thanks for pointing me in their direction). People complain there are no more rock stars but I think St. Vincent is one of them. Also check out "Nowhere Inn", the faux documentary she did with Carrie Brownstien. BTW - If you like St. Vincent you might want to check out PJ Harvey. She's an aquired taste, but you might find some of her stuff interesting.

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