I also took a day in between because I decided to watch the Grammys this year. You can find my take on that here.
Feel free to leave your own thoughts below, and you can check out any of these bands by clicking on the name.
5. Martin Sexton - Live Wide Open (2000)
If you haven't heard of Martin Sexton, you're missing out. The man has been through it all, and sings about it. He not only plays the guitar, but his voice is an instrument all its own. He's got a lot of soul, and wears his heartache in full view of all of us. The live album starts off with "In The Journey" which will always have a deep meaning to me. It is the most autobiographical song I have listened to and thought, that's me. "Beast In Me" really does, and having "Hallelujah" and "Things You Do To Me" back to back was great structure. The end of the first disc makes you want to dance to the "13 Step Boogie".
Disc 2 keeps it going with a long and soulful rendition of "Gypsy Woman". It is the highlight of the entire album. The 2nd disc is Martin at his best. He sings about heartbreak in "Can't Stop Thinking About You", and we get to revisit the teenage years with "Wasted". Another song I have always related to is "Black Sheep". I've used it numerous times in my life. I am always thinking of this song when I do. The "Amazing Grace" at the end thanks us properly for sitting in the church of Martin Sexton for a little while.
4. Jackopierce - Live From The Americas (1993)
This is the stuff right here. I love the acoustic guitar and Jack O'Neill and Cary Pierce play it well. A lot of the time this is down home good fun. I was introduced to these guys after my buddy Brad saw them in concert, through a window, with his brother Brian. He came back raving about the show and hanging out with his brother that Jackopierce became our band. They have studio albums, but the live stuff is so much better. "My Baby" gets it rockin right out of the gate. It slows down with a beautiful "Free" and then focuses on Jack's family in "Back Next Year" and "March".
All acoustic all the time with some harmonica mixed in as well during the bluesy "Train". We get a little heartbreak in "Along For The Ride", but the best is yet to come. Just listening to this rendition of "Vineyard" makes you want to take a vacation and fall in love. It is Jackopierce's finest moment. "Mexican Tune" is an ad libbed song that they made up. This one brings back such great memories of being a stoned 15 year old using ski poles as microphones while wailing this one out. Some of the greatest times were had to this song. They close it down nicely with "May The Road Rise To Meet You". This album is all about strumming guitars and wailing out some tunes. These guys will be my band forever.
3. Pearl Jam - Ten (1991)
This album was a game changer. Pearl Jam was the best of the bands coming out of Seattle and had a hometown connection with Eddie Vedder. In fact, Eddie's cousins used to live right down the street from me. Eddie Vedder is Chicago, so Pearl Jam seems to have more than one city it can call home. I was 12 when this came out. The perfect age to leave an impression. Pearl Jam seemed to speak for me, my buddies, every kid that was around my age. "Once" starts off slow, but fully kicks in and you lose yourself right away. "Even Flow" gives you a chance to ask questions already, and then "Alive" makes you wonder why you are. "Why Go" has a frantic pace that comes to a screeching halt with the chilling "Black". Through 5 songs it doesn't seem as if Ten can't get any better.
I watched MTV, we all did. Back then it actually had videos. "Jeremy" was a video and song on a whole other level. I am sure the video has influenced how everyone around my age reacts to this song. I was the age of the kids in the song. It was freaky, and always will be. I fuckin love this song. "Oceans" and "Porch" meld together and feel like one long journey. By the end of those 2 songs the angst is pretty much out. "Garden" and "Deep" seem to give a glimpse of what Pearl Jam is to become. The topper is ending this album with "Release". This song should be a drug all its own. Pitch black with headphones on is the way to truly experience this. Pearl Jam's Ten was the "it" album of my early teenage years, but I will never grow out of it.
2. Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds - Live At Luther College (1996)
You've read about my love of the acoustic guitar. You haven't read yet how I am a huge Dave Matthews Band fan. I know this isn't the full band, but just Dave and Tim is pure guitar poetry. Top to bottom I still have never listened to a better performance. Live At Red Rocks was the first introduction to DMB live, but this brought it to an orgasmic level. The pureness of "One Sweet World" to open and then my personal favorite DMB song of all time "#41". They start to have a little fun plucking and jamming on "Tripping Billies" and it carries nicely into "Jimi Thing". It hasn't taken long, but the guitars take over you as the show progresses. "Deed Is Done" starts to bring out that devilish side that i love about Dave. The height of the first part of this show is when "Minarets" gets going. There is depth to this song. It brings them together while dancing on the guitar strings. "Dancing Nancies" is always fun, you can be anywhere but where you are.
The 2nd part of the show starts out with a "Typical Situation" that is especially good, and then Tim does his own thing with "Stream". They stay in the jamming mood and run off a tight "Warehouse", but that song would be great underwater. The suspense of the show begins to build again with "Seek Up" leading into "Say Goodbye". Who doesn't love "Say Goodbye"? This version really puts you on a rug in front of a fire, naked, sharing wine. "Ants Marching" is the show stopper with Tim doing things on the guitar that I have never heard before. His fingers must have been shredded after this show. Dave decides to tell a story to some music in "Little Thing", and then they finish strong. "Halloween" and "Granny" further display the mastery of the guitar and it all ends with a "Two Step" that makes you feel as if you can go do anything. I love DMB. I have seen them many times. This show is still the best thing I have ever heard from them.
1. Grateful Dead - American Beauty (1970)
A curve ball right? There's no way you were expecting the Grateful Dead here. You're also wondering how I could choose a studio album over one of their live shows. It's easy. Wasn't even close. This album has too many personal connections for me. It is also a very well put together album that you don't realize is almost over before it's too late. There's some back story as to why I love this album. First of all, the night I fell in love with the Dead, this was playing. I was 17, and yes I had listened to the Dead, but I had never appreciated them. Then, one night while chewing on some fungi, I was taken away. The Grateful Dead were officially a band I could not live without. It continues today. I don't have a bunch of shows, but they will always be background music. Every moment listening to the Dead is just happy time.
"Box Of Rain" is a tidy little tune that gets you swaying. The imagery that comes from "Friend Of The Devil" is great. It always reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons when Homer trips his ass off because of a chili pepper. My all time favorite song is next with "Sugar Magnolia". Nothing tops it. It's my skipping through the tulips song. Makes me happy and I tune everything else out. "Operator" and "Candyman" really connect the dots of the middle of the album. I had a buddy growing up named Scott. His favorite song was "Ripple", and I will always think of him when I hear it. He was close to me for so long that it is pretty much my 2nd favorite Dead song now. Plus, let's be honest, it is so good it's spiritual. The Dead harmonize a bit on "Brokedown Palace" and "Attics Of My Life". The absolute best name for a song, "Till The Morning Comes", also gives you that feeling of waiting for daylight. The final song "Truckin" seems to thank you for listening, but its time to move on now. What a long strange trip it's been indeed.
A few things I learned writing this. The first song on my number 10 pick is the same as the last song on my number 1 pick. I don't know what that means, but it's a strange bookend. Obviously the acoustic guitar is may favorite. It dominates the top 5. I hope you enjoyed this. Check out the bands and albums. I love music, and this has been the music of my life. Feel free to add anything of your own. I welcome feedback and/or interaction. Thanks for reading!
Baseball season is almost here!