Did anyone have a chance to listen to the most recent Katy Kafé with John? This month’s edition was slightly different in structure, in that Katy didn’t really talk with John about the band at all. Instead, John spoke at length about what he believes to be his version of a “perfect album” – David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. Truthfully, I loved this diversion from what we’ve gotten used to being “the norm”. I mean, how many times can you really ask the band for a scoop on the album – especially when none of them really want to give up any precious information just yet? No, it was time to find something new to chat about, and I appreciated that John was more than willing to share his insight.
It is important to note that everyone has their own standards for what makes a perfect album – and John is very quick to emphasize that his choice of Ziggy is simply what does it for him. I would imagine that for many of us, our choices would likely be very different. This is likely very much the same as “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and no one is really wrong. There can be no wrong answer about what you think is a perfect album, which makes the topic that much more interesting. I think the proper point here is that regardless of the album(s) chosen or why, the spirit and emotion is very similar.
John believes that a perfect album will take him on a ride. There is a real sense of a beginning, middle and end. I very much got the feeling that listening to music is an escape of sorts for John, and I can appreciate the idea of being taken on a music journey. He mentioned how making albums today is very different. Back in the earlier days of vinyl, prior to the invent of CD – albums were shorter. 10 songs. 45 minutes, maybe 20-25 minutes a side. Certainly one could sit through an entire side of music. Then when CDs came along, the album length grew. No longer could you count on being able to set aside just 45 minutes to enjoy a full album. Many were an hour or longer, and who can really set aside that much time without leaving the room, only to return and realize you never did listen to the entire album? And now, with mp3’s, many people don’t even buy full albums any longer, so the effect of having that full journey or story told in an album appears to be a lost art to many in the industry. (Obviously….I might add.)
From there, John goes into a slight description of each song. I won’t dare to replicate the beautiful tales he weaves – I feel strongly that this is a Kafé worthy the cost of DDM membership. I found myself, rather, thinking about what my own perfect album might be and why.
Katy asked John if he had more than one answer for his perfect album, and John seemed to indicate that yes, there was more than one in his collection. She replied that her husband, Brian, had more than a few in his – and John seemed surprised by that. As I mentioned above, I don’t think there are really any right or wrong answers here. Each of us has our own sentiments for what makes an album truly “perfect” to our ears and hearts. So I began thinking of my own collection and what I would consider “perfect”.
I am very much right with John when I say that the album has got to take me on a ride. I need to feel something when I’m listening. There are a great many songs and albums that I very much enjoy and are likely among my most favorite, but for one reason or another that music can fade into the background – it doesn’t quite take me places or make me think the way that others might. I like to listen to music intelligently, considering the words, the music, etc. Then there are other days when I just want the music in the background. I don’t necessarily want to “work for it”. But for me, the music that I count as perfect is the music that I need to sit with, digest and actively experience.
So I have a few albums that I would count as “perfect” in my book. They aren’t even albums that I listen to all that often – in fact some of these I haven’t sat with in a year or more, but when I do, I know that I’m getting quality.
Tears for Fears – The Hurting This is not an “easy listening” album. I think that to get the full effect, you had better be present – and I don’t just mean physically, I mean mentally. The ride with this one isn’t necessarily beautiful. It’s dark, it’s moody, it’s even violent in parts, but there is something about this album that really says all of the things that I think music should say. I almost never listen to just a song or two from this album, in fact – I think the only way to really listen is to do it from start to finish and savor the whole way.
Styx – Paradise Theater An unlikely choice for this Duran Duran fan, huh? I can’t help it. I love this album. It is Art Rock, it is American in all of it’s glory, it’s got the tale end of that 70s rock thing going for it, but it’s a story and I simply love the journey. I never listen to a single song off of it unless I put the album on the turntable – which is rare, to be honest, but whenever I listen to it, I honestly think to myself that this is how every single album should feel.
The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band In all fairness, I could have picked a few other Beatles’ albums. They are the one band that I feel has made more than one perfect album (for me). I love this album to pieces – I’m singing or humming along happily with one, feeling moody with another, and that to this day I’m still trying to really understand what the lyrics mean. On the other hand, I think that Revolver (another album) is every bit as good as this one, and that maybe I think it fulfills the intellectual side of me just a teensy bit more….but then I think about the White Album, and realize that I might not really be able to choose properly here. I neglected to choose that one here simply because of it’s length. It’s tough to sit through the entire thing from start to finish. On any given day I might say one album over another and never really have my answer, but that’s why I love them all. The Beatles knew how to make an album, likely better than anyone else.
My list is not complete, mind you. These are merely the first few that came to mind…and given that we all know Duran Duran, I thought it might be time to expand from there. Give it a try, let me know what you come up with.