Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"And I feel like I'm a rider on a downbound train"

#1 Born in the U.S.A., Bruce Springsteen, Columbia, 1984

I think this album makes clear the answer to Tony Danza's immortal question: "Who's the boss?" My Dad rocked this cassette in his '85 Mustang for years and I continued to listen to it at home and then my own car once he upgraded to a CD system. I've never really stopped listening to this album. For me, it's the consummate record of the working man, of the post-Vietnam depression and ennui of '80s America, of the economic downturn of the Reagonomics of my youth, and the fun, hope and despair found in human relationships. It's a bittersweet testament to my past and my country which, for good or ill, will always be with me. I hope this record stays with me too.

"I get slandered, libeled, I hear words I never heard in the Bible"

#2 Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon and Garfunkel, Columbia, 1970

Both intimate and wistful, playful and profound, the last true record from Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel is about as close to album perfection as I have ever come across. While my parents had this record and played it occasionally, I never really wore it out until I received it as a gift from Sarah my freshman year in college. Since then it has been a regular source of both emotional and musical inspiration which, though it sounds like a Hallmark card, is really how I feel about this record. The stories and the sentiments on this record resonate with me on a level that's much deeper than pop enjoyment - though there's plenty of that here too. I guess Bridge Over Troubled Water is the most personal album I own and, considering I own and listen to so many, that's a pretty incredible accomplishment.

"Sometimes, everybody cries"

#3 Automatic for the People, R.E.M., Warner Brothers, 1992

For many, many years I fought against letting this be my favorite R.E.M. album. While Murmer ranked higher than Automatic last time I listed, it has since fallen out of the Top 25 - not because it isn't an amazing record (it would make the Top 30), but because not only have my music tastes exploded since '01, but Automatic has slowly but surely risen to the top of my listening rotation. It has become more and more the go to R.E.M. record when I want to hear Stipe's soulful croon, Mills' bass licks, Buck's energetic hooks, or Berry's cogent percussion. I guess I've finally accepted the fact that everybody's favorite R.E.M album is also my favorite. Sometimes, everybody hurts. And Automatic hurts so good.