Recommended Music

I got a lot out of all of this stuff. 

Maybe you will too.

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Anthony Braxton - Willisau (Quartet) 1991

A four disc (two live, two studio) set of Anthony Braxton's legendary quartet (Braxton, Marilyn Crispell, Gerry Hemingway, and Mark Dresser) at the height of their powers.  I bought this without really knowing what I was getting in to at the Ann Arbor Tower Records during the summer of 1995.  I haven't been the same since.  All time favorite band.  All time favorite album.  This one means a lot to me.

Astor Piazzolla - Suite Troileana

Man, could this guy write a melody.  Just beautiful stuff, wonderfully arranged and performed.

Miles Davis - Pangaea

Electric Miles recorded live in early 1975, pushing the concept of a polyrhythmic acid funk psychedelic noise band as far as it ever got pushed.  This was an early 'out there' album for me, I bought it on cassette after reading an interview with guitarist Peter Cosey in Guitar Player.  Totally blew my teenage mind.

James Brown - Star Time

Four disc box set of the tightest, meanest, most bad ass music ever made.  James Brown didn't fuck around.  I spend most of my time with disc 3, but it's all great.

Glenn Gould - Bach: The Goldberg Variations

I believe the Goldberg Variations to be one of the most structurally, intellectually, and spiritually beautiful pieces of music of the Western canon.  Not 'pretty', beautiful.  Transcendent.  Glenn Gould was a unique thinker and outstanding player, his interpretations are deeply considered and wonderfully performed.

Fela Kuti - He Miss Road

Fela Kuti is a guy I learned about by way of Miles Davis' autobiography.  Initially I picked up a copy of Beasts of No Nation and it just didn't click for me.  In retrospect that wasn't one of his stronger albums.  Years later I tried again and found some of the good stuff, of which there is a lot, and I was hooked.  Fela is a whole world unto himself, you can really get lost in the huge discography.  If you are new to him this is a great place to start.

Boredoms - Super Ae

This is from the later, less totally batshit insane, period of the band.  Lots of driving percussion/rhythm section stuff with waves of electronic sounds on top combined with sometimes jarring tape manipulations.    A bit like the old Krautrock bands, but with it's own distinct aesthetic.  One of my favorite bands.

Karlheinze Stockhausen - Michael's Reise

A chamber ensemble arrangement of the second act of Stockhausen's opera Thursday From Light.  I only knew the name Stockhausen from his being mentioned in both Frank Zappa and Miles Davis' books when I bought a copy of this (from Schoolkids Records Classical, on Liberty in Ann Arbor) in the summer of '93. Having little idea what to expect. I found it completely baffling at first, but I persevered and Stockhausen has become one of my most important influences.  This is a completely alien yet beautifully conceived piece of melodic writing.  I don't know of anywhere else that you hear lines like this.

The Ramones - It's Alive

All the best songs from the first three albums, live at the Rainbow Theater in London on New Years Eve 1977.  The Ramones were a nearly perfect band that went on to make a lot of shitty, badly overproduced records.  This is a great document of how right they got it the first time.  How much more stripped down and ferocious and awesome can a bubblegum pop band be?  The answer is none.  None more stripped down and ferocious and awesome.

Black Sabbath - Vol. 4

You can't really go wrong with any of the first six Black Sabbath albums, although I personally rate Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and the first one a notch below the rest.  Vol. 4 is everything a heavy rock / proto-metal album should be.  Tony Iommi wrote all the best riffs, and the groove these guys had:  punishingly heavy and they swung.

Frank Zappa - We're Only In It For The Money

A completely bonkers assemblage of avant garde chamber music, warped pop songs, art rock, doo wop harmonies, and musique concrete.  Just on a musical level it's quite a ride but the lyrics are also genuinely pretty great and uncharacteristically sincere:

"All your children are poor unfortunate victims of systems beyond their control.

A plague upon your ignorance and the gray despair of your ugly life.

All your children are poor unfortunate victims of lies you believe. 

A Plague upon your ignorance that keeps the young from the truth they deserve."

You tell 'em Frank. 


v/a - The Indestructible Beat of Soweto, vol.4

I spent the summer of '92 mostly by myself.  My family had just moved back to Michigan and I didn't know anybody.  Fortunately, Ann Arbor had one of the best Tower Records Stores anywhere, so I immersed myself in new music.  Bought this compilation of 80's South African pop on a whim and it is great, great, great.  Holy shit do these bands groove.  Absolutely infectious.  I still put this on all the time, 25 years later.

John Coltrane - A Love Supreme

Some of my favorite melodic improvising ever committed to tape.  

Iron Maiden - Live After Death

A rented VHS copy of the concert film is why I play bass.  Killer live band, great rhythm section, twin axe attack, songs about Greek mythology or whatever movie Steve Harris just saw. 

Iron Maiden rule, anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong.

"SCREAM FOR ME LONG BEACH ARENA!!!"

Naked City -Grand Guignol

Naked City remains a favorite of mine amongst John Zorn's twelve billion projects.  This is the most varied of the Naked City albums, consisting of three distinct parts: an 18 minute block form composition alternating moods violent and ominous, a series of beautiful arrangements of pieces by people like Debussy and Scriabin and Messiaen, and the 33 miniature cut up tunes from Torture Garden that are not also on the first album. 

Charles Mingus - Mingus Mingus Mingus...

A great example of real deal, hard swinging, harmonically sophisticated jazz.  Fantastic writing and arranging and playing.

John Oswald - Plexure

I don't even know how to explain this one.  Completely bonkers.  You just need to hear it for yourself.

Miles Davis - Nefertiti

The great 60's quintet of Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams.  At this point the chords were starting to get a little more modern, the rhythm section concepts a little more flexible, and the melodies a little more angular. 

Tortoise - Millions Now Living Will Never Die

This one made a huge impact when it hit my circle of friends in '96. 

An updated, groovy, and understated take on the Krautrock bands (especially Neu!, to my ears) that retains the midwest noise rock sensibilities underneath it all.  The high water mark of 'post rock', whatever that has come to mean.