Updated: Apr 8, 2022
Going to Combat with The Clash
With its opening line "This is a public service announcement, WITH GUITAR!!" I remember adding Combat Rock as a long overdue part of my collection in college just as CD's were starting to phase out vinyl. While perhaps not the same octane as the double-platter London Calling (with my all-time Clash favorite "Train in Vain"), their creative genius crackles throughout on tracks like "Know Your Rights," "Car Jamming,""Straight To Hell," "Atom Tan," "Ghetto Defendant," "Inoculated City" and the dueling airwave anthems "Rock The Casbah" and "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" to make this one their top seller.
A Cat at the Tiller
Appropriately marked with Dad's initials, Cat Stevens' Tea for the Tillerman plays more like a greatest hits album with the numerous amazing songs from this favorite childhood troubadour who was such a familiar part of the soundtrack for growing up. Cat's best work here from 1970 on "Where Do The Children Play?," "Hard Headed Woman," "Wild World," "Sad Lisa," "Miles From Nowhere," "Longer Boats,""On the Road to Find Out," and the stirringly perfect "Father And Son" for Dad who was happiest when he was the tillerman.
Locomotive Breath with an Aqualung
Right around the time I was enlightened to the fact that Jethro Tull was actually a band and not a solo artist, I remember picking out 1971's Aqualung on a weekend trip to Montreal with my Dad in the late '70s (along with the Rolling Stones' Black And Blue). With their distinctive sound led by Ian Anderson's flute, Jethro Tull sounds like a band from King Arthur's Court that discovered keyboards and amps. Their best selling album, this one stands up well from start to finish, especially with "Aqualung," "Cross-Eyed Mary,""Mother Goose," "Hymn 43," "Wind Up," and the blood-pumping "Locomotive Breath." (Fun fact: The name Jethro Tull was inspired by the 18th century agriculturist who invented the automatic seeding machine.)
Discovering ELO's Strange Magic
Another one from Buch Spieler Records in Montpelier during my 8th grade tour of duty as Governor Snelling's Executive Page, ELO's Discovery from 1979 features some of the best of their orchestral rock sound with some notable disco infusion. The prolific genius of do-no-wrong frontman Jeff Lynne hits full stride with every track, especially "Shine A Little Love," "Confusion," "Need Her Love," "The Diary Of Horace Wimp," "Last Train To London," "Midnight Blue," "On The Run," and the charging rocker "Don't Bring Me Down," their biggest hit ever.
The Dream Police Want You to Want Them
The album that launched them into the stratosphere, "Cheap Trick at Budokan" is among the best for live records and the delirious screaming of the fans adds to the fun. From Bun E. Carlos' rousing drum play on the extended slow-burn intro for their cover of Fats Domino's "Ain't That A Shame," to their signature anthems "I Want You To Want Me," and "Surrender," this best seller is a blast.