wilderness, albums, and an ADHD world

Spending four days exploring the wilderness at Devil’s Postpile National Monument up in Mammoth was a very moving experience for me.  It’s been far too long since the last time I went camping or backpacking, and I’m still trying to process the experience.  By the third day my life back in the city began to melt away in the background, and my attention and concerns went from the internet, playing gigs, and paying bills to things like observing the present moment, listening for animals, finding and chopping wood, and keeping warm–things that felt more natural, more real for an animal such as a human to think about.  I’m still trying to figure out ways in which I can bring back that feeling and inform my normal life with it.  Actually though, I did bring back something tangible–I made some field recordings using my H4 recorder, and I think I’m going to figure out some interesting ways to use them.

On the car ride back, my lady, who rode in a separate car, noticed that our friend who was driving had the habit of listening only to the first few minutes of each song before getting bored and skipping to the next track.  That got me to thinking about how our listening habits have changed in these days of mp3 downloads and iPod shuffles.  I mean, I myself have to admit that it has been a very long time since I last sat down by myself, turned down the lights, and listened to an entire album from start to finish.  And if every song was a tightly constructed pop single that was meant to stand alone, that wouldn’t be a problem.  But when LPs became popular, artists began to see the possibility of an entire record as a flowing, over-arching statement or journey.  To me this began sometime in the late 60s, reached it’s peak in the 70s, and slowly declined until the point we’re at today.  There are some songs that really can’t be appreciated fully unless they’re listened to in their proper album context.

With that in mind, here are some of my favorite album moments that really reward your full, undivided attention.  I’m not including jazz albums because, well, that’s basically all jazz albums.

1) Stevie – Innervisions, side one
Only a genius could create this indescribable, intangible emotional journey.  Firstly, Stevie puts you off your balance with the swirling, disorienting funk of “Too High.” Now that you’ve been knocked out of your day-to-day world, he lulls you into his world of contemplation with “Visions.”  Then he fully emerges you into the reality of social injustice with “Living for the City,” which climaxes in the most incredible way, and then brings you gently back down with the beautiful, earthy “Golden Lady.”  Listening to this side gives me chills every single time.

2) Abbey Road, side two
I know, this one’s obvious, but I had to include it.  I mean, by the end of the medley you get this feeling like you know that an enormously important chapter in the history of recorded popular music has just come to a final close.

3) Blackalicious – Blazing Arrow, whole album
Whereas most hip hop “concept” albums implement their thematic development through mainly just lyrics, this album takes you on a journey with both lyrics and instrumentation.  I don’t know if any other hip hop album has done it this successfully.  Not only with it’s clever Harry Nilsson-sampled theme, but with the various moods and colors that are created from song-to-song.

4) Hendrix – Electric Ladyland, side three thru track one of side four
If you ever need to escape to a far off land through music, man, this is the album to do it with.  First Jimi transports you to a down-home jam session in some funky apartment as the rain begins to pour outside with  “Rainy Day, Dream Away.”  As  you stare out the window and daydream, he takes you to an underwater sci-fi fantasy with “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be).”  After he’s done with his story, he leaves you on your own to tumble through the ocean with “Moon, Turn the Tides…Gently Gently Away.”  And as you slowly regain consciousness you realize you’re back in that funky apartment jam session, “Still Raining, Still Dreaming.”

Well, of course there are tons of album moments I’ve missed but those are some of my favorites.  How about you, what are your favorites?  I’d love to hear some suggestions.

Published in: on September 17, 2008 at 3:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

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