My Deserted Island Collection/ Albums

If I was stranded on a deserted island, what 10 essential albums would I want to keep me company?

BY EMIL TIEDEMANN

A COMMON question I tend to ask my friends, co-workers, or stand-offish strangers in the streets, is "What was the last CD you bought?" Almost every time I'll get the same response, as they claim that it's been so long since they've actually bought one that they can't even remember. Some admit they don't buy CDs anymore, but rather legally, but mostly illegally, download their music for either their iPods or to burn a CD. That's the current state of the music industry.

Who am I to judge, though? I download, too, but I also still like to go to the music stores, whether it be a Blackbyrd or an HMV, and have the actual music in my hands. I have 718 CDs (that's right, I counted!) and I don't plan on stopping there, because there's a simple little charm to having the real thing in your possession, instead of a digital copy. Call me old-fashioned, I guess.

Now, I don't listen to every single one of those 718 albums that are taking up a lot of space in my tiny livingroom, and, in fact, don't even know why I bought some of 'em (anything by Ja Rule, for example). To be honest there are really only about a few dozen that get steady rotation.

With that said, I wanted to know what my all-time favourites were, the ones that I would want with me if I was ever banished to some deserted island...with a discman, headphones and a life supply of batteries, of course. I'm not talking about particular songs or the best albums for a particular mood I'm in, but the ones that are exceptional from start to finish, that I don't get tired of, and that are blistered with scratches from overplay.

And I'm not gonna be Mr. fancy-pants and try to impress you with a list of indie darlings that I don't really even care for, or records I think most of you would like. No, these are my personal favourites. So, in alphabetical order, here is my "Deserted Island Collection."

AC/DC's Back In Black (1980/Atlantic)

Pièce de Rèsistance: "You Shook Me All Night Long"
Produced By: Robert John "Mutt" Lange
U.S. Certification: 22xPlatinum
Billboard Peak: #4
Grammies: None

FROM the nostalgic tolls of the bells in first track "Hell's Bells" to the strumming electrics in the finale "Rock 'N' Roll Ain't Noise Pollution," AC/DC's Back In Black defines the essence of rock 'n' roll. No gimmicks, no hidden meanings, no ballads. Frontman Brian Johnson premiered as part of AC/DC with this tribute to former vocalist Bon Scott, who died earlier in the year, just 33 years old. I doubt anybody in the band had any idea how much of an impact the 10-song minimalist set would have on the music scene, selling nearly 50 million copies around the world, and introducing classic rock anthems like "You Shook Me All Night Long," "Shoot to Thrill" and the title track. It also served as the next chapter in a tragedy-stricken rock band that had debated whether or not to go on Scott-free. Back In Black is undeniable proof that they made the right decision.

AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long"


Creedence Clearwater Revival's Chronicle, Vol. 1 (1976/Fantasy)

PdR: "Long As I Can See the Light"
Produced By: John Fogerty, Saul Zaentz
U.S. Certification: 8xPlatinum
Billboard Peak: #100
Grammies: N/A

I DON'T understand why Creedence Clearwater Revival aren't as popular as they deserve to be, somewhere in the vicinty of a Zeppelin or the Stones. I know, how dare I compare, right?! Well, one listen to CCR's anthology collection, Chronicle, and you might just agree with me. Every one of the 20 classic titles that were assembled for Chronicle are timeless, at home now or back in the late-'60s and early-'70s, when these songs were born. From "Proud Mary," "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" and "Travelin' Band" to "Bad Moon Rising," "Susie Q" and the 11-minute "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," Chronicle wraps up the too-short legacy of an underrated band in an essential little package. By the way, pass on Vol. 2.

Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Long As I Can See the Light"



John Mayer's
Continuum
(2006/Columbia)

PdR: "Stop This Train"
Produced By: John Mayer, Steve Jordan
U.S. Certification: 2xPlatinum
Billboard Peak: #2
Grammies: Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male ("Waiting on the World to Change"), Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance ("Gravity")

SADLY, many folks only know John Mayer in regards to his romantic ties to Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Simpson, or more recently as the guy who dropped the "N"-word in an interview with Playboy magazine. For me though, he'll always be the guy who gave us Continuum, a record that may easily pinnacle his career. Mayer opted for a bluesy, more soulful mood that was heavier on guitar, and which eased on the pop-like melodies of previous efforts Room for Squares (2001) and Heavier Things (2003). "I'm obsessed with time lately, constantly crunching the numbers to get some sense of where I stand in the continuum," Mayer said of what inspired his musical shift. Although most would recognize it as the album that harboured "Waiting on the World to Change," Continuum offers so much more in radio-ignored gems like "Gravity," "Vultures," "I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)," "Stop This Train"...I could go on and on.

John Mayer's "Stop This Train"



Eminem's
The Eminem Show
(2002/Aftermath)

PdR: "'Till I Collapse" (feat. Nate Dogg)
Produced By: Dr. Dre
U.S. Certification: 9xPlatinum
Billboard Peak: #1
Grammies: Best Rap Album, Best Short-Form Music Video ("Without Me")

19 MILLION people can't be wrong! That's how many Earthlings bought Eminem's third studio album The Eminem Show, which garnered the 2003 Grammy for Best Rap Album. Executive produced by Em's musical mentor Dr. Dre, The Eminem Show was riddled with the white rapper's crude sense of humour, but shed a light on Eminem's darker and more serious side. He sampled Aerosmith on "Sing for the Moment," related himself to a superhero in "Business," realized his pop culture influence in "Without Me," and invited daughter Hailie Jade to sing along on "My Dad's Gone Crazy." Em revisited common themes, stuck his finger up at the censors, and strutted all over the dexterous cluster of songs, all to the contagious beats of the master himself, Dr. Dre. You can't go wrong with those ingredients.

Eminem & Nate Dogg's "'Till I Collapse"



Jack Johnson's
In Between Dreams
(2005/Brushfire)

PdR: "Breakdown"
Produced By: Mario Caldato, Jr.
U.S. Certification: 2xPlatinum
Billboard Peak: #2
Grammies: None

LIKE an aged Scotch can be best enjoyed on the rocks and with a Honduran cigar, In Between Dreams is at its best on a rainy night in an empty house, barefoot and tipsy. Okay, that's probably just me, but to be honest, I can enjoy Jack Johnson's third record anywhere, anytime. Like the saying goes, less is more, and that couldn't be closer to the truth than with the 14 acoustic melodies that use simple instrumentation and Johnson's lyrical charm to provide a rare ocassion in the music industry. Album cuts like "Better Together," "If I Could," "Breakdown," and "Good People" brush off the remnants of a spoiled day and remind me to enjoy the simple things in life.

Jack Johnson's "Breakdown"



Bob Marley & the Wailers'
Legend
(1984/Island)

PdR: "No Woman, No Cry" (live)
Produced By: Bob Marley & the Wailers et al
U.S. Certification: 10xPlatinum
Billboard Peak: #55
Grammies: N/A

NEARLY three years to the day of Bob Marley's untimely death, Island Records gathered up the best of the best of the best advocate of reggae music. I remember when I first discovered Marley's Legend, and the impact some of the songs had on me ("Redemption Song," "No Woman, No Cry"), and I still recognize the stirring of emotions they evoked when I first heard them. Marley wasn't exactly a poet when it came to lyricism, nor was he a memorable musician, but there was something special about his songs, something that remains relevant nearly 30 years after his death.

Bob Marley & the Wailers' "No Woman, No Cry"



Kings of Leon's
Only By the Night
(2008/RCA)

PdR: "Sex on Fire"
Produced By: Angelo Petraglia, Jacquire King
U.S. Certification: Platinum
Billboard Peak: #4
Grammies: Best Rock Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocal ("Sex on Fire"), Record of the Year ("Use Somebody"), Best Rock Song ("Use Somebody"), Best Rock Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocal ("Use Somebody")

NOT surprisingly, I wore this CD out, scratched beyond repair. So, I did what any logical person would do. I bought it again. This time though, I tried vinyl, sold on its offering of a bonus track ("Frontier City"). That's what you do when every song seems to eclipse its predecessor, like Kings of Leon's Only By the Night does. "Sex on Fire" may be destined for rock 'n' roll immortality, a stirring anthem in the same sense that The Doors' "People Are Strange" and Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" is. But KOL scribble the whole record with these enslaving earshots, like "Crawl" or "Notion," "Revelry" or "Manhattan," or their chart-topping, Grammy-winning "Use Somebody." It took four albums for these Nashville natives to conquer their homeland, but their endurance and maturation finally caught on and delivered us an epic affair.

Kings of Leon's "Sex on Fire"



Robert Plant & Alison Krauss' Raising Sand (2007/Rounder)

PdR: "Killing the Blues"
Produced By: T-Bone Burnett
U.S. Certification: Platinum
Billboard Peak: #2
Grammies: Best Pop Vocal Collaboration ("Gone Gone Gone (Done Me Wrong)"), Best Country Vocal Collaboration ("Killing the Blues"), Record of the Year ("Please Read the Letter"), Album of the Year, Best Contemporary/Americana Album, Best Pop Vocal Collaboration ("Rich Woman")

WHAT do you get when you cross an iconic frontman of one of the world's greatest rock bands and a bluegrass virtuoso with 26 Grammies atop her mantel? Well, you get an ingenius alliance of musical groundbreakers who come together seemingly effortlessly. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss' Raising Sand blurred the borders of rock and country music, tossing out the manual to experiment with new ground, haunting visions of yearning ("Please Read the Letter"), lost love ("Killing the Blues"), and, uhm, sugar mama's ("Rich Woman"). There is nothing ordinary about these T-Bone Burnett-produced songs that led to a half-dozen Grammies for the duo, including Record and Album of the Year. In fact, Plant & Krauss' union is nothing short of extraordinary.

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss' "Killing the Blues"



Disturbed's The Sickness (2000/Giant)

PdR: "Down with the Sickness"
Produced By: Johnny K, Disturbed
U.S. Certification: 4xPlatinum
Billboard Peak: #29
Grammies: None

FAR too often a band will erupt on the scene with a debut record that has everyone buzzing, though are incapable of enhancing, or at least duplicating, that success with subsequent efforts. Such can be said of nu metal band Disturbed and their multi-platinum premiere The Sickness, a dark collection of fist-pumping, teeth-grinding metal blitz that hits its climax with the raucous (& disturbing) "Down with the Sickness." But there are plenty of other hardcore anthems that highlight the record, including "Voices," "Stupify," "Droppin' Plates," and their disgruntled cover of Tears for Fears' "Shout." It's just too bad that Disturbed weren't able to maintain the attitude, the anger, and the sheer madness of The Sickness in the coming years.

Disturbed's "Down with the Sickness"



Dr. Dre's 2001 (1999/Aftermath)

PdR: "Xxplosive" (Kurupt, Hittman, Nate Dogg)
Produced By: Dr. Dre, Mel-Man, Lord Finesse
U.S. Certification: 6xPlatinum
Billboard Peak: #2
Grammies: Best Rap Performance By a Duo or Group ("Forgot About Dre"), Producer of the Year (Non-Classical)

NOT only did it introduce the potent Eminem to the world, but Dr. Dre's 2001 gave the hip-hop scene a swift kick in the ass when it needed it most. 2Pac & Biggie were resting in peace (sorta), Puff Daddy & Mase were merging the genre with pop chords and R&B divas, and Will Smith was gettin' jiggy wit it...whatever that means. The gangsta-themed record invited countless known and little-known voices to contribute to its 17 tracks, including Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Xzibit, Kurupt, and Mary J. Blige. Dre himself refrained from spitting on every song, such as "Xxplosive," an irresistable funk surrounded by explicit ditties like "Still D.R.E.," "What's the Difference," "The Next Episode," and "Forgot About Dre." Slide this disc into your CD player and I dare you not to bob your head at some point.

Dr. Dre's "Xxplosive"

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