Published on April 9th, 2019 | by Gerry Galipault0
The 5 Vinyl Records I’d Bring to a Deserted Island
Taking in the Grammys recently, it struck me that it’s hard to differentiate a great album from one that will stand the test of time. Seeing Kacey Musgraves win Album of the Year and numerous others take the same award within specific genres, it’s hard to argue with any of the achievements that were celebrated. But will we still remember these albums as fondly in another five years? In 10? In 25 or 50? Maybe it’s impossible to say in the moment.
This did get me thinking, however, about which albums from the past have proven to be iconic and brilliant in a lasting fashion. Instead of just ranking them, I decided to think about it from the angle of what music I’d want with me if I were stranded on a desert island (and I’m opting for vinyl because it just seems like it might last me longer than an iPhone). So with that in mind, here are one writer’s pick for this ever-enjoyable hypothetical …
“The Beatles (White Album),” The Beatles (1968)
It’s just hard to argue with what many consider to be the greatest album of all time. “The Beatles (White Album),” or as most have come to call it, “The White Album,” is the best piece of work from the best band in history, at least by most estimations. There’s even a film coming up about a world in which The Beatles never existed save for in one man’s memory, and as that man looks to recreate an album of their music (presumably “The White Album”) a character played by Kate McKinnon muses that it’s going to be the greatest album of all time. It just seems that no matter how far removed we get from The Beatles’ heyday, this keeps being mentioned among music’s greatest achievements. It’s hard to argue with the pedigree, and on a more important note regarding the desert island scenario it’s still a ton of fun to listen to. I’m not sure I’d mark it as my personal best ever, but it’s good enough to make the cut, and I could spend hours trying to figure out what makes it the best.
“Axis: Bold As Love,” The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967)
Jimi Hendrix is a little more difficult to assess in terms of his greatest piece of work. But I’ve got “Axis: Bold As Love” by a slim margin over the two or three other albums that might be considered (really, it’s nuts how much work he produced in such a short time). Mostly, if I’m being honest, it’s “Little Wing.” It’s the one of Hendrix’s hits I can listen to the most without growing the least bit tired of it, and it makes me feel something different every time. Additionally, it’s not quite as hammered in as some other hits like “Purple Haze” or Hendrix’s take on “All Along The Watchtower,” both of which seem to pop up frequently in soundtracks and the like. “Little Wing” does’t have the same existing reach, save for Eric Clapton’s adaptation of it and its appearance on the soundtrack of a Hendrix slot reel that’s part of a growing selection of pop culture-themed games on Internet gaming sites. You just don’t hear the song as much, which to me only makes “Axis: Bold As Love” more special. (I should note, I wouldn’t exactly mind hearing “Bold As Love” or “Castles Made Of Sand” for the rest of my days either).
“The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spider From Mars,” David Bowie (1972)
I can’t get over the Wikipedia entry for this album. Under “Concepts and Themes,” it states that this album (full title: “The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars”) is about a bisexual alien rock superstar, called Ziggy Stardust. As fans are well aware, Ziggy Stardust essentially became David Bowie’s alter-ego, and while there was never really one cohesive narrative surrounding him, he produced countless thought-provoking and downright hypnotizing vignettes about extraterrestrials and profound observations. If “Starman” were the only song on this album, and I could only hear its hauntingly gorgeous refrain on repeat, it would be enough to want this record with me. That the rest of the album is pretty spectacular also certainly doesn’t hurt.
“Illmatic,” Nas (1994)
I’d want a hip-hop album with me, and while there are a few others I’d think about – Eminem’s “The Marshall Mathers LP,” Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” and possibly even Janelle Monae’s “Dirty Computer” from just last year (which isn’t exclusively hip-hop), it’s hard to argue with “Illmatic.” It’s still considered by many to be the best rap album ever produced, and the brilliance of Nas on this record is a lot more timeless than much of the rest of the music from his era. “The World Is Yours,” “N.Y. State Of Mind,” and “Memory Lane” in particular are still some of the best hip-hop tracks of all time. It’s not exactly a type of music that meshes well with an island setting, mind you, but I expect in this scenario I’d want something to take me out of the setting now and then.
“Hot Fuss,” The Killers (2004)
I suspect this will be least popular selection on the list, but I’ve always had a lingering feeling that we’ll look back on “Hot Fuss” one day as one of the best musical achievements of the early 21st century. The Killers arguably declined after this explosive debut (it was actually named the best debut album ever by at least one publication), and that took away some of the shine from what could have been. But this one album included the hits “Somebody Told Me,” “All These Things That I’ve Done,” and “Mr. Brightside.” And if you listened through without knowing what made it big as a single, you might say “Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine,” “Smile Like You Mean It,” and “On Top” are all better. It’s really a terrific album from start to finish, and would be my one pick for a more modern record to bring along.