Record Crates

Whenever I make an appearance on a TV or radio show involving rock, soul or hip-hop, the final question is almost always a variation on the “Stranded” theme:  “If you were stranded on a desert island, what albums would you want to have with you?”  These lists represent an extended version of my collected answers, providing lists of my personal “Top Twenties” in a variety of genres, eras and styles.  I’ve made a bit of an effort to recognize historically important music I don’t particularly care for, but for the most part this is the music that speaks most clearly to my heart.

Sort By: Direction:
  • The Desert Island Dozen

    The CDs I’d take to the proverbial island. Keywords: variety and complexity. For a really amusing set of essays answ...
  • Blues

    “Laughing to keep from crying.” My intellectual career’s basically an extended set of riffs on Ralph Ellison’s defin...
  • Jazz

    Louis Armstrong once defined jazz as “music that’s never played the same way once.” I’ve always loved experimentatio...
  • Gospel

    I owe this list to the four years I spent living in Mississippi. Before that, my knowledge of gospel was pretty much...
  • Country

    Whenever I ask someone what kind of music they like and they respond “I like everything,” the follow-up question is ...
  • Folk

    I came to folk music via the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul & Mary, the pop end of a spectrum that you can hear i...
  • Reggae

    I remember the day I walked into a record shop in Champaign, Illinois, and stopped dead in my tracks at the sound co...
  • Highbrow: Classical

    My first encounter with classical music came in the company of hundreds of screaming kids when Miss Ridgeway took ou...
  • Highbrow: Experimental

    From the moment my eighth grade music teacher decided it would be a good idea to expose unsuspecting adolescent ears...
  • Fifties Rock and Soul

    The music that blew the lid off the America I grew up in. The big names are the right ways: Little Richard, Chuck Be...
  • Fifties Jazz

    The sound of a world in transition. As African Americans moved from Jim Crow to the ambiguous promise of the Civil R...
  • Early Sixties Rock and Soul

    Most of this shelf consists of the best compilations of the singles that made the first half of the Sixties an extra...
  • Sixties Rock

    One of the magic moments when the most popular music was also the best. The separation between this list and the Six...
  • Sixties Soul

    Cornel West once wrote that what we need to avoid despair is “audacious hope,” not to be confused with superficial A...
  • Sixties Jazz

    No music ever took freedom more seriously. This list tilts a bit towards the accessible side of a mix that could go ...
  • Seventies Soul

    The first half of Seventies soul grows directly out of the Sixties, but by the time America was hitting the disco fl...
  • Seventies Rock

    I spent the last half of the Seventies in grad school, so missed some minor developments like punk and new wave. By ...
  • Jazz Since The Seventies

    Most of what’s passed for jazz since the dawn of the Reagan age strikes me as uninspired pop music. Y’all can have K...
  • Old School Rap

    My introduction to hip-hop came at the Bar-Kays’ homecoming concert in Memphis. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Fi...
  • Nineties Hip Hop

    The hip hop conversation at its very best. The late Eighties and early Nineties were to hip hop what the Sixties wer...
  • Hip Hop Since 2000

    Hip hop goes bipolar, moving into the mainstream and the underground with equal determination. Trisha Rose’s The Hip...
  • Eighties Rock

    It’s hard not to see the Eighties as the Jurassic era of rock and roll, a time when behemoths—Michael, Bruce, Prince...
  • Eighties R&B

    Worst thing that ever happened in African American music was the mutual hostility that broke out between rap and R&a...
  • Nineties R&B

    One of the greatest moments for black women in mainstream music, the Nineties featured the success of a ton of neo “...
  • Nineties Rock

    The Nineties were the period when I became aware that most of the bands the younger people I talked to really loved ...
  • Rock Since 2000

    Wish I had a dime for every time someone said something to the effect of, “why aren’t they making good music anymore...
  • R&B Since 2000

    If there’s one keynote to this list, it’s Hurricane Katrina. A quarter of the list comes out of New Orle...
TOP