Submitted by Jeffrey Scott, Owner of Desco Audio & Video
There is a BBC Radio 4 program that started in 1942 called Desert Island Discs. The format is simple – a guest is invited to choose eight discs, a book, and a luxury to take with them as they’re castaway on a mythical desert island. They’re given the complete works of Shakespeare and the Bible. During the interview, they explain their choices and discuss key moments in their lives, people, and events that have influenced and inspired them and brought them to where they are today.
The radio show still plays to this day and has aired over 3000 episodes. I’ve been an audio/music junkie since about 1977. Here are some of my favorite albums and why they are special to me.
Steely Dan – Aja (new re-issued 180 gram vinyl)
This album started my obsession with Hi-Fi and great music. When my older brother was about 18, he got this awesome Sansui stereo system and threatened me with great bodily harm or death if I ever touched it. So, as soon as he left the house, I snuck into his room and fired up his turntable and discovered music like I had never heard before. The album he had on the platter was the new Steely Dan Aja. I was too young to understand all the lyrics and but the fusion of Jazz and Rock that came together makes this one of the greatest albums of all time. I just knew I loved it. I still listen to it, and we stock the new pressings in vinyl at our store.
Thelma Houston and Pressure Cooker – I’ve Got the Music In Me (Sheffield Lab Records direct-to-disc vinyl)
In the mid-70’s Doug Sax and Lincoln Mayorga created a music label called Sheffield Labs that perfected direct-to-disc recordings. Instead of making a master tape and editing it together, they cut the music straight to a lacquer lathe and made the master lacquer platter live! I didn’t discover these albums until the early 80’s. The music is Big Band, R&B, Jazz Fusion and is absolutely fantastic. These songs are all done in one take and captures a magical music moment. It is a very difficult album to find in good condition. There is an unopened copy on eBay for $133. If you buy it, give me a ring. I would love to listen to that first play! I could not live without my copy of this recording.
Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon (180 gram vinyl and CD)
Although The Dark Side of the Moon came out in 1973 and was an immediate success, I didn’t discover it until 1979 when it was re-mastered and released as a Mobile Fidelity half-speed master. This was the first theme based album with songs that blended into each other. It had sounds and effects that are unlike the albums of its day. I am sure most of you are familiar with the work as it is still one of the best-selling albums of all time. It has currently sold over 45 million copies worldwide. This record makes me miss the way records used to be made – as whole concepts. In this iTunes world we live in, concept albums seem a thing of the past. Perhaps that is the appeal of vinyl. With a record, the listener gets to enjoy the whole meal instead of an appetizer.
Eagles – Hotel California (vinyl or CD)
Released in 1976, Hotel California, was the Eagles fifth studio album. I liked the sarcasm and smart lyrics in this album as well as the great cohesion that this band has. Every artist in the group had significant contributions to the final product. The members of the Eagles are all such accomplished musicians. I always have an easy, peaceful feeling when listening (sorry, couldn’t help stealing their line).
Erich Kunzel & the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra – Tchaikovsky’s 1812, Capriccio Italien and Cossack Dances (CD or vinyl)
I was introduced to classical music in about 1981 when a girl I liked invited me to her All-State Concert in Seattle. The All-State Symphony performed Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien, and I was hooked. I had never heard full orchestral music live and could not believe how moving and powerful it was. The themed attacks of the music that built to this giant crescendo was both amazing and breathtaking.
I did not have to look far for the best recording. Telarc Digital had a vinyl record for sale of the Capriccio with the 1812 Overture as the headliner. There were warning labels on the album. Most record players could not play the album because they recorded real cannons for the 1812 Overture. It made such wide modulations on the record that most needles would jump out of the groove. Who doesn’t want a record with torture-your-system warnings? I bought the album and enjoyed finding a cartridge that could play it. If you ever find the vinyl album – be careful – it is a challenge for most phono cartridges. The recording was an early digital master and is wonderful fun.
Mikhail Pletnev – Scarlatti Keyboard Sonatas (CD)
I love listening to the piano, and this double CD recording is beautiful. Never have I heard such passionate interpretations of Scarlatti’s music. Mikhail Pletnev is a masterful pianist. He took Scarlatti’s Sonatas originally meant for the harpsichord and elevated them to lush involving romantic interpretations. Some harpsichord purists may not care for this piece, but I find that his playing combined with one of the best recordings of a piano to be captivating. Bonus info is that this CD has been re-issued and is available on Amazon for only $12.93!
Julian Lloyd Webber, Sir Yehudi Menuhin & Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Elgar Cello Concerto (CD or vinyl)
There are many great recordings of the Elgar Cello Concerto. This performance is not only well recorded, but the scale is large and the stereo image expansive. Recorded in 1985 it still passes the test of time. There are a few significant recordings of this piece, the most well known is the recording by Jacqueline Du Pré, who made the piece popular on the world stage. But, Yehudi Menuhin was a musician who had worked with Elgar and Julian Lloyd Webber is a fabulous player who is often looked over due to the fame of his brother, Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Elgar says that he wrote the Cello Concerto as an image of a man contemplating the meaning of life. It is a haunting and passionate piece of music. This is one of those pieces of music to be played late at night and savored.
Crosby Stills and Nash – CSN (vinyl and CD)
David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash released this studio album in the summer of 1977. CSN was the first studio album the three had created together since the Deja Vu album in 1970. The writing is creative, and the vocals are tight. One of my favorite tracks to use for demos is In My Dreams written by David Crosby. The stereo recording has beautiful imaging with the guitars and voices focused across the whole soundstage.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my favorite Desert Island Discs. I would love to hear your favorites. Post them in a comment below. I am always looking for new music to experience. If you ever want to hear my list, stop by the store and ask for a demo.