I thought about starting off smaller, like I did with Elvis. Or sub-dividing into "pop" and "rock" and other categories, but then I thought, Why not just go for the gusto. Why not just ride my own melt and name the best of all time.*
And maybe there can be some debate about this, but I don't think so. I've heard The White Album. I've heard Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I've heard Abbey Road (and once wrote a novel based on that album in a weird way.) I've listened to Dark Side of the Moon. I never thought much of The Joshua Tree, and in fact thought Rattle & Hum was better (I know, heresy, except that Rattle had a more visceral feel to it and took more chances. It holds up better to repeated listenings.) And that seems to be the list of the albums people would put up here if they ever bothered to nominate something. (You hear that, people? Nominate something! Between Saturday and today, 8 people looked at this but didn't comment or nominate or anything. Don't be shy.)
So I've considered alternatives, and I always come back to this:
I got this album as a gift from my uncle for my birthday back in what must have been 1987 since it came out in 1986 but my birthday is in January. I kind of liked Paul Simon a little, and I liked the song "You Can Call Me Al" off this album, and my uncle (who was living with us) must have been at a loss for what to get me because this was an unusual choice. But I loved it the minute I heard it, on cassette (this was the 80s) and I loved it every single time I listened to it since then. I've got all the songs memorized. I know them in the order they appear.
This is one of the few albums, there's maybe three, that I've liked every single song on and kept liking them. The weakest song ("Under African Skies") is still better than the best on most other songs. It manages to be unique and new 20 years later, and the African and zydeco beats and influences don't come off as just gimmickry. Plus, it has "Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes" which is both romantic and sweet and bouncy and should, by rights, have been a great hit but never was for some reason. And it has "Graceland," which should be the first song on any drive mixtape (or mix CD or mix playlist) because it not only has a good beat for driving but it's about driving and it fits any drive anywhere because Graceland is a metaphor. Or not, because once when I was bored and stressed and depressed all at the same time and listening to this album, I decided I would go to Graceland, and did that.
Graceland. By Paul Simon. Go buy it now. It might not synch up to The Wizard of Oz, and it didn't spark any rumors that (this) Paul was dead, but you'll never get tired of listening to it.
If you want to listen to parts of it, and haven't yet heard any of it (and how could that happen?), you can check out snippets here. I have no idea (yet) how to stream an album or even if that's legal, so if Paul Simon reads this and wants to give me permission to do that, let me know. And if anyone who's not Paul Simon knows how to do that, let me know that, too.
* From the movie "Reality Bites." Those of you who read my Myspace blog know (now) that I have a personal bias against Ethan Hawke that stems entirely from this movie and the fact that he was supposed to be some kind of hero in it, so I'm co-opting his stupid catchphrases for my own. The actual whole quote is: There's no point to any of this. It's all just a... a random lottery of meaningless tragedy and a series of near escapes. So I take pleasure in the details. You know... a quarter-pounder with cheese, those are good, the sky about ten minutes before it starts to rain, the moment where your laughter becomes a cackle... and I sit back and I smoke my Camel Straights and I ride my own melt. Got that? "... ride my own melt." Like that means something.