There are three typical responses I get from people when I tweet out the countdown of my 100 all-time favorite albums: 1. This should be higher; 2. You've lost me on this one; 3. No one cares!
Actually, I care, which is all that really matters. About four months ago, I decided to put together the list as a fun way to revisit my favorite music and recall moments and periods in my life. That's the great thing about music, the way it connects us to certain places, times and people.
Tom Waits is my favorite artist. I have been listening to his records since my first girlfriend sent me a copy of his first album for Christmas in 1976. I remember falling asleep on the floor of my parents' living room during the holidays that year, listening to Closing Time on headphones after a night of moderate drinking. I've stayed loyal to Waits during his brilliant and twisted musical evolution. I sometimes call his records the soundtrack of my life.
I remember listening to Aqualung in my room in high school. I played a couple of the songs low -- Hymn 43 comes to mind -- because they seemed disrespectful to religion and I didn't want my mother to think I was listening to devil rock. I remember listening to Paul Simon's "Graceland" 25 years ago. I would dance my baby daughter around the room in my apartment in Brooklyn. I like to think that's one reason she became a music student who traveled to South Africa to study the musical traditions there.
My old friend, Randy, a sports writer in Denver, used to send me cassette tapes. He was always on the cutting edge, while I was listening to Waits and Neil Diamond. He turned me on to Cracker and Dada. I introduced him to the Tragically Hip. He sent me my first copy of "Henhouse" and "Day for Night." He flew all the way from Colorado to go to the Another Roadside Attraction show at Darien Lake in 1997. I still have the t-shirt. Yes, I'm the guy who wore it to the show this past summer on the waterfront.
My first memory of music is lip synching (remember that term?) to Meet the Beatles in front of the mirror when I was 8. My buddy Charlie and I listened incessantly to the Allman Brothers' "Live at Fillmore East" while playing Strat-o-Matic baseball in high school. I remember playing "Zenyatta Mondatta" while driving back to Missouri on a summer vacation with Jeff Jacobs in 1981. I was listening to "Car Wheels On A Gravel Road" when I began dating my wife, Melinda.
The late Jay Bonfatti gave me a copy of "London Calling" when we were practicing guitar one night. I was a little late to a lot of music, I must admit. When I listen to Ryan Adams, I remember that Chris Parker used to burn old Whiskeytown records for me. Listening to the Drive-By Truckers takes me back to a concert at the Town Ballroom, where John Wawrow and I bought flimsy tee shirts.
My kids used to love listening to Elvis Costello's "Tear off Your Own Head" in the car when they were young. I can still see my friends driving around in the car in high school, trying to hit the high notes on Elton John's "Rocket Man" off Honky Chateau. Gary Pufpaff and I belted out "Funeral For a Friend" on the dance floor at his wedding. Bruce DeHaven, the long-time Bills special teams coach, told me about Wilco, Son Volt and Uncle Tupelo back in the 1990s.
When I listen to John and Mary's underrated "Victory Gardens," I'm reminded of the night I had to drive John Lombardo home to North Buffalo from The Big Tree late on a Sunday after a Bills game. He had forgotten where he parked his car.
I could go on and on, of course. Music is about memory and place and friendship and love and marking the passage of time. It brings joy to our mundane daily existence. Imagine how quiet it would be if we had to go through life without it.
Yes, I care. There have been times when I said to myself, "This should have been higher," or "How could I have left this off the list?" or "Why did it take me so long to discover The Replacements"? It's not a scientific exercise, but it's sure been fun.
I'm down to my top 30. Here's a review of Nos. 31-100, working backwards:
100. Son Volt, "Trace"
99. R.E.M, "Automatic For the People."
98. Paul Simon, "Graceland"
97. Aimee Mann, "I'm With Stupid"
96. Radiohead, "The Bends"
95: John and Mary, "Victory Gardens"
94: Lou Reed, "New York"
93: Drive-By Truckers: "Blessing and a Curse"
92. The Police, "Zenyatta Mondatta"
91. The Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1
90. Jethro Tull, "Aqualung"
89. Mike Oldfield, "Tubular Bells"
88. Allman Brothers, "Live at Fillmore East"
87. Tom Waits, "Bone Machine"
86. Elvis Costello, "When I Was Cruel"
85. The Doors, "Morrison Hotel"
84. Tragically Hip, "Trouble at the Henhouse"
83. Boz Scaggs, "Silk Degrees"
82. Ryan Adams, "Cold Roses"
81. Santana, "Abraxas"
80. Elton John, "Honky Chateau"
79. Leonard Cohen, "Live in London"
78. Neil Diamond, "Tap Root Manuscript"
77. Lucinda Williams, "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road"
76. The Spinners, "Spinners"
75. Richard Thompson "Rumor and Sigh"
74. Lowest of the Low, "Shakespeare My Butt"
73. Traffic, "Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys"
72. Eels, "Shootenanny"
71. Cat Stevens, "Tea for the Tillerman"
70. INXS, "Kick"
69. Tom Waits, "Frank's Wild Years"
68. Dire Straits, "Brothers in Arms"
67. Meet the Beatles
66. Leo Kottke, "Dreams and all That Stuff"
65. Uncle Tuepelo, "Anodyne"
64. Randy Newman, "Land of Dreams"
63. Jason Isbell, "Here We Rest"
62. Bob Dylan, "Bringing It All Back Home"
61. Wilco, "Being There"
60. Joni Mitchell, "For the Roses"
59. Neil Young, "Harvest Moon"
58. Jackson 5: "ABC"
57. Sheryl Crow, "Tuesday Night Music Club"
56. Tom Petty, "Wildflowers"
55. Steve Earle, "El Corazon"
54. Counting Crows, "August And Everything After"
53: Michael Jackson, "Thriller"
52. Cracker, "Kerosene Hat"
51. Cowboy Junkies, "Blackeyed Man"
50. Dada, "American Highway Flower"
49. Fleetwood Mac, "Fleetwood Mac"
48. Tragically Hip, "We Are the Same"
47. Bonnie Raitt, "Nick of Time"
46. Strokes, "Is This It"
45. Tom Waits, "Mule Variations"
44. Grateful Dead, "Workingman's Dead"
43. Steely Dan, "Aja"
42. R.E.M., "Document"
41. Miles Davis, "Kind of Blue"
40. Ryan Adams, "Heartbreaker"
39. Billy Joel, "The Stranger"
38. The Replacements, "Tim"
37. Steve Earle, "Transcendental Blues"
36. 10,000 Maniacs, "In My Tribe"
35. Wilco, "Summer Teeth"
34. The Clash, "London Calling"
33. New Riders, "Home Home On The Road"
32. The Eagles, "On The Border"
31. Hootie & The Blowfish, "Cracked Rear View"