I wondered why the radio stations never played any of those songs regularly -- only when such lists are played. I mean, if you ask your listeners what their favourite songs are, what better way to keep them happy than by playing some of those songs occasionally?
I also wondered about people's choices. I mean, "Hotel California" by the Eagles is a decent tune, but the best!? Maybe I know too little to appreciate the very precise techniques that were used (playing the guitar solo twice!), but come on -- when asked what the absolute best record of all time is, do you choose "Hotel California"? Apparently, lots of people do.
So, this morning (and I use the term in the loosest possible sense) over breakfast, we discussed this. babarage turned the question around, she asked me what my five favourite records are, and why?
This is what I came up with:
5. Frank Zappa - Camarillo Brillo
When I was still in highschool, B.P. introduced me to Frank Zappa's music. Zappa was a perfectionist: often, he's conduct his band like one would conduct an orchestra -- because of the intricateness of his music. He made lots of things that I find horrible to listen to: technically very, very impressive, but no discernable melody. But his earlier work with the Mothers of Invention has the best of both world: the perfect technical sense coupled with 'just a band'.
This song is from 'Apostrophe/Overnite Sensation', one of the first CDs I ever bought for myself. It doesn't have the humour and story-like lyrics that drew to me Zappa in the first place, but it has a great rythm and the execution is flawless.
4. Kraftwerk - The Model
Next to "Autobahn", this is Kraftwerk's best-known song. This is the English version, of the album "The Man Machine". It is, to me, the prototypical Kraftwerk song: a simple theme that gets repeated over and over, with a catchy beat. The vocals are kept simple: it's more speech than really singing, and there seems to be a lot of emotional distance between the singer and the subject of the song.
Kraftwerk are truly the pioneers of electronic music. Not too long ago, I saw a documentary on TV about them, and how their work influenced the Detroit House DJ's. Think of that: without these fresh-faced, clean-shaven German boys, there would be no house. Bands like Linkin Park would not exist. Kraftwerk changed the way we thought about music and about instruments.
3. Maaya Sakamoto - Inori
Maaya Sakamoto is a fairly recent musical discovery of mine. She is best known for her work as a voice actress -- mainly for voicing Hitomi from Escaflowne. At the time ('96), she was 16 years old -- she met Yoko Kanno when working with her on the opening theme of the series. Yoko Kanno (known for anime soundtracks from Escaflowne, Cowboy Bebop and Macross Plus) has become her producer and composer, and the two have built a career for Maaya outside of anime.
In the years since, Maaya's voice has matured. Her voice has a rich tone that I find very appealing. Coupled with her amazing range and the fact that she does all her backing vocals herself, she has quickly become my favourite singer. She is at her best when her voice is at the foreground: some of you will know "Gravity", the ending theme from Wolf's Rain -- that's exactly the sort of song I'm talking about. "Yubiwa", the ending theme from the Escaflowne movie gives me shivers.
This song is from the album "Easy Listening". It is precisely the opposite: the music is much more at the foreground of the song, and the vocals weave a rich tapestry of sound. Next to the bells and whistles, Maaya can keep up very, very well.
2. Philip Glass - Koyaanisqatsi
The first time I heard this composition was in '91, and it must have been a sunday evening. As always, I had come to Nijmegen after having spent the weekend at my parents'. And, as always, I went to rupertdaily's room to work on our Machines 1-homework. We always made short work of the homework, and afterwards we'd chat about all sorts of things. During one of those evenings/nights, I introduced him to RPGs, and he introduced me to the music of Philip Glass.
Philip Glass composes so-called "minimal music": a theme that gets repeated and repeated and repeated, every time with very small variations. It's hard to describe what that does with me: my sense of rythm is better developed than my sense of tone, and the repetitions give me time to appreciate the melody.
Koyaanisqatsi is a movie by Godfrey Reggio. A movie without a story or plot. "Koyaanisqatsi" is a word from the Hopi language, meaning something like "life out of balance" -- and Reggio wants to show us how our 'modern life' has turned away from 'nature'. I don't agree at all with Reggio's message, but the movie is completely beautiful. Lots of time-lapse, lots of shots from people living in a city and wide-open spaces.
And all this with the beautiful music by Philip Glass. The movie opens (and closes) with the theme from Koyaanisqatsi, this track. The low tones, the theme that slowly 'grows' and endlesses repeats, the voice... It's all there.
1. Cocteau Twins - Blue Bell Knoll
I love the Cocteau Twins. I was introduced to their work in '92, and it blew me away. It is music that does have vocals, but doesn't have lyrics as such. The heavily processed guitar-sounds weave an intricate web of sound, together with the computer-generated bell. And then Elizabeth Fraser starts singing...
Besides being very beautiful, their music also reminds me of a very special period in my life. Blue Bell Knoll is, as far as I'm concerned, their best. The best.
The MP3s will stay online for as long as I want to keep them online. No guarantees as to whether you'll be able to download them at any time in the future. Discretion advised.
So, what is your personal Top 5 of All Time? Comment, or post in your own Journal!