This record hardly needs explanation. I’ve been listening to it pretty well my whole life on and off — and has since been absorbed into my skin. It marked the beginning of my investigation into music from an early age. It’s the sort of record that claims the attention of the listener through a more conceptual and progressive journey. Of course when I was a little kid it was cool because there’s a bunch of kids telling the teachers to stick it. But It certainly stretched into my investigative early teenage years, laying the tracks for not only the appreciation of the Pink Floyd back catalogue, but also opening my ears to other attention craving, prog-leaning bands such as: Jethro Tull; Yes; King Crimson; Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Genesis. This initial forêt into prog, paved the way for a future constantly searching for new feelings and emotions drawn from new and old music. In summary, this album made my world what it is today.
And then there’s the amazing accompanying film ‘The Wall’. But that’s a conversation for another time.
‘Old Favorites’ is where I show my appreciation for the records that have had the most impact on my life, or my musical investigation. And ‘The Wall’ sits somewhere at the top of the pile.
One of my all time favorite records — Sufjan Stevens’ “Illinois” – isn’t all that old really. Released in 2005, he initially claimed that it was part of a rather ambitious 50 albums for 50 states (of North America) project, which was disbanded and said to be a gag years later. Illinois is somewhat of a concept album with songs relating to different stories, places, and people from the US state of Illinois.
The record has an undercurrent of country folk, twanging banjo’s, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young style nostalgic americana; but on top of all this is a swarm of appropriately timed brass, woodwind, and delicate string accompaniment, which at times summons the musical theater/cabaret mood of the city of Chicago itself. There are also moments which are beautifully subtle and gentle; with Sufjan’s devastatingly soft melodic falsetto, he summons a mood so glistening yet heart wrenching that it becomes almost impossible not to feel deeply tangled in his beautiful lyricism and melodic timing.
Every track is amazing, but highlights for me include “Come on! Feel the Illinoise!”, “Chicago”, “The Seers Tower”, and “John Wayne Gacy Jr.”.
Of the entire David Bowie discography, the 1972 album “Ziggy Stardust” has always been my very favorite. While “Low” and “Hunky Dory” have never been far behind; the character driven concept album stands out as a back to back catalogue of song-writing perfection. From the beautifully building “Five Years”, then my all-time favorite Bowie track “Soul Love”, through to the swinging sing-a-longs of “Ziggy Stardust” and “Suffragette City”; this is without a doubt one of the greatest pop/rock records of all time. Brilliant. Recently re-issued for the albums 40th anniversary, I’m pretty keen to hear the 5.1 Stereo mixes included in the release.