Not Only But Also...
~ Political Song Writing an essay on Political song writing...
~ Favourite Things
Jim lists a few of his favourite things...
~ Singing the Blues all aspiring blues artists should read this...
~ Desert Island Disks if you could take only 10 disks to a desert island, what would they be?
~ Desert Island Films and which 10 movies would you take with you? 
~ Songs That Stopped Me In My Tracks
When was the last time a song stopped you in your tracks?

Desert Island Disks
If you had to spend a year on a desert island, and could only take 10 CDs with you, what would they be? Here, in alphabetical order, Jim chooses his favourite albums, and explains why. 


Let's get one thing straight, right from the start - this is an impossible task. I currently own around 500 CDs. Choosing just 10 to take on this mythical desert island should be classed as cruel and barbaric treatment! Having now got that off my chest, here are my selections.

Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited
An instant classic. It's either this or Blood on The Tracks, and I'd take this, because Dylan has finally found his rock groove after his early experiments on Bringing it all Back Home.
There are so many great tracks on this - but then there always were on Dylan's early albums: the seminal Like a Rolling Stone; It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry; Ballad of a Thin Man; Highway 61 Revisited; and finally, one of the all time great Dylan masterworks, Desolation Row.
Who cares if we don't understand what Desolation Row (and most of the other songs on the album), are about? Maybe even Dylan himself doesn't know - it doesn't matter. The songs roll forward, one after the other, crushing all before them. Resistance is futile. After this album, rock music would never be the same again.

Bernard Lallement: Missa Gallica
Missa Gallica is in the tradition of other popular folk Masses such as Missa Luba (which draws on African music), Missa Criolla (Latin American music), and Missa Flamenca (Flamenco music). You don't have to be Catholic or religious to enjoy this beautiful music. It is reverential, uplifting, and deeply moving - often all at the same time. 
If I was going to spend a year on a desert island, this would be the perfect album to play each morning, while sitting on the beach, watching the sun rise in the east.

Bjork: Debut
I love Bjork. This really is Bjork's debut as a solo artist, and what an introduction to the Icelandic star it is. Human Behaviour; Venus as a Boy; the disco laced There's More to Life Than This; the torch song, Like Someone in Love; the exhilarating Violently Happy. If only her song Bachelorette were on this album, it would have been even more perfect than it already is. Still, it ends with the wonderful Play Dead, and that will have to do.

Bruce Springsteen: The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle
Yes, I know he has released more 'popular' albums, but this, his first album (released in 1973), and Greetings From Asbury Park (1975), capture Springsteen at his poetic best. 
From the exuberant opening of The E Street Shuffle, and on through a selection amounting to just seven tracks, Springsteen paints a series of New York portraits, each of which could almost be short movies staring characters called, Kitty, Wild Billy, Sandy, Spanish Johnny, and Rosalita. 
The musical styles on the album range from funk (Kitty's Back), to acoustic (Wild Billy's Circus Story), to straight out rock and roll (Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).
As I listened to the album again, while writing this, I couldn't help thinking that it would be virtually impossible for an artist to get a major label like CBS (Springsteen's label), to release an album like this today, and we would all be the poorer for it.

STOP! This is not fair. I'm already four CDs in, and haven't even made it past the letter 'B'. Who's idea was this anyway?

The Clash: The Essential Clash (2 CDs)
Hey, it's not my fault it's a double album. At least I haven't chosen my four CD, Yes Songs, collection!
I rediscovered The Clash via a double album compilation of their songs (covered by other artists), released with the December 2003 issue of UNCUT magazine. 
I'd forgotten what a great body of work The Clash had produced during their heyday, and went out looking for a 'best of...' collection. As you might expect, The Essential Clash, containing 41 songs, has all of their best material and then some.
Songs like London Calling, Rock The Casbah, Ivan Meets G.I. Joe, Bankrobber and Somebody Got Murdered will remind me that my island idyll will one day come to an end, and that the 'real' world is still out there, waiting to welcome me back to reality.

 

David Sylvian: Dead Bees on a Cake
I was driving down Semaphore Road towards the ocean late one Saturday afternoon listening to Three D Radio, when they began playing a song I'd never heard, by a performer I had previously been unaware of. 
A golden sun was setting over the ocean as I reached the Esplanade. The combination of sunset, and this amazing piece of music was too much to resist. I pulled into a parking bay on the foreshore, and sat in the car and watched the sun dip below the horizon as the song played on and on. 
When the announcer came back on air and mentioned the performers name, I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote it down - David Sylvian. A week later I found a copy of this album and reacquainted myself with David's nine and a half minute opus, Surrender. I did - and ever since I have been hooked on this album. 

Neil Young: Live Rust 
This is the album I'd play as I sharpened my spears before setting out for the day to hunt wild boar! You want to be pumped before hunting boar, and this album is about as primal as it gets. 
Actually, with 16 tracks on the album, I'd probably start sharpening my spears at track 11 with, Powderfinger, the next song, Cortez The Killer, would see me applying my camouflage paint (a mixture of boar's blood and charcoal). By the time Like a Hurricane ends two songs later, I'd be primed to kill! Spareribs, anyone?

Nicholas Lens: Flamma Flamma
If Missa Gallica (see above), is the album I'd play at the start of each day, this is the album I'd play at night, as I threw another piece of driftwood on the fire to create a bed of hot coals on which to roast my day's catch of wild boar!
I first heard Nicholas Lens' amazing work Flamma Flamma: The Fire Requiem, at its Australian premiere, when it was used as the theme for the opening ceremony of the 20th Adelaide Festival Of Arts in 1998. The opening ceremony is traditionally a free community event held at Elder Park, which sits between the Festival Centre and the River Torrens. As you might expect, fire was the main element or theme that featured throughout the Festival's opening event. 
I remember dozens of huge papier-mâché statutes, illuminated from within by candles, and these structures and the people who bore them aloft, wound their way in three long, slow processions through the 25000 people who had gathered in the park to experience and take part in this incredible event. I remember archers shooting flaming arrows onto barges floating on the water. Structures on the barges subsequently caught fire and burnt as they floated down river. All this and much more was taking place as Flamma Flamma was being performed live on stage.
I also remember being overwhelmed by the whole event. By the wonderful music, by the atmosphere present on the night, and by the sheer spectacle unfolding before me. I have been to opening events for the Adelaide Festival, before and since 1998, but none of them have left the impression on me that Flamma Flamma did on that perfect summer night in February, 1998.

Peter, Paul & Mary: Lifelines
I picked up this amazing album for a couple of dollars, and was blown away by the great collection of songs, and guest performers featured on it. I must confess, before buying this CD, I hadn't listened to Peter, Paul & Mary for almost 30 years. While I still have vinyl copies of some of their albums from the 1960's, I had no idea of what to expect from this 1995 release. 
To say I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement. Even without the help of Judy Collins, B.B. King, Emmylou Harris, Richie Havens, Holly Near and several other guest singers and musicians, I still think this album would be a classic and worthy of inclusion on this list. 
PP&M were always great interpreters of other people's songs, and this hasn't changed. The 15 songs on this collection range from the traditional, River of Jordan, House of The Rising Sun, to the contemporary, The Kid, Home is Where The Heart Is, For The Love of It All, and many others.
It reminded me why PP&M rose so quickly to the top of the folk tree in the early 60's: great songs, wonderful melodies, beautiful harmonies, and a trio of performers who clearly love and respect each other, even after more than forty years of singing and recording together.

Steve Forbert: Mission of The Crossroad Palms
The vastly underrated Mr. Forbert has released a string of consistently wonderful albums since his debut, Alive On Arrival in 1978. To relegate him to the pantheon of 'one hit wonders' (after his one hit, Romeo's Tune), is to do the man a great disservice.
I had a lot of trouble deciding between this 1995 recording, or his follow-up album, Rocking Horse Head, released in 1996, while putting this list together. Both of them offer a collection of outstanding songs, but I've finally gone with Mission... because of its sense of optimism and fun. Even when he is dealing with serious themes, Steve sounds like he is having an absolute ball recording this album, and his enthusiasm is quite infectious.


Other Contenders: There are so many other albums I could have chosen: Van Morrison's Inarticulate Speech of The Heart; Braver Newer World by Jimmie Dale Gilmore; Curtis Mayfield's New World Order; Joni Mitchell's Hejira, Nick Drake, Paul Kelly, Salif Keita, Talking Heads, Tom Russell, and on and on...

What 10 CDs would you take on your twelve month desert island stay?

 

JIM LESSES: Sometimes I Wake Up Naked

Go straight to CD Baby and order the CD...

 

JIM LESSES: American Dream

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