Today’s the last day of Amazon’s $5 MP3 album sale and good riddance. It’s been forcing me to revisit two eras that I thought were well behind me:
1) My teen years, in the form of albums that were on, like, EV-ery 90-minute econotape I put together for my Walkman while I was in high school, and
2) The days when I’d chance across a used CD or used bookstore that had an exceptionally good assortment at exceptionally good prices, and think “Well, look, when will I have another chance to buy it at this price?” way, wayyy too many times.
#1 is bad because if you were to visit Young Ihnatko during that era, you would have met a dumpy-looking socially-inept idiot who stayed up waaaay too late every night messing around on a computer, had practically no luck with girls, and was constantly being berated and put down by his peers. Today, there’s all that, yes, but I have visited Industrial Light and Magic several times.
#2 is bad because it puts me in the poorhouse. But what can you do? Money is tight in today’s economy and if I have to spend $5 to save $8, then I need to go ahead and do the smart thing. I’m pretty sure that means I make $3 on the deal.
I’ve accidentally come across enough really great albums on sale that at some point, I decided to simply make my stately way through the entire list of 1500, looking for favorite albums that somehow I’d never gotten around to buying before, and ones that I’ve kind of always wanted, but could never pull the trigger on at full price.
At this point, I’ve been simply making my stately way through the whole list of 1500+ on-sale albums, looking for stuff and trying to pick every piece of ripe fruit off the tree. Why, I’m saving so much money that I might even be able to buy that powerboat I don’t need, but which will convince my neighbors I’m a big shot or something!
Some last-day picks:
Hunky Dory (David Bowie)
I think this was the first Bowie album I bought after a “Greatest Hits” collection. Smart lad. “Life On Mars” is firmly in the category of Best Bowies Ever and there’s plenty of good tracks beyond the obvious hits.
Greatest Hits (Devo)
Now here’s a Greatest Hits album. Devo has no interest in the Tranquil, Meditative Ballad business. It’s nerds throttling processors, all the way.
King Of America (Elvis Costello)
Elvis Costello has made it onto that short list of performers who will always be making albums and will always be doing worthwhile things. Most performers are lucky to just still be around without having to just tour with the same material that made them famous.
11:11 (Redrigo y Gabriela)
I’ve been a fan of this acoustic duo ever since I saw them perform on Letterman years ago. Your first response is “There’s no way in hell they’re getting all that music out of two acoustic guitars, played live” but after you get past that, it’s just great music.
Paul’s Boutique (Beastie Boys)
I have no story about my introduction to The Beastie Boys’ oeuvre that makes me sound cool. It’s the classic story of “Boy sees the video for ‘Fight For Your Right’, remembers to follow up on these ‘Beastie Boys’ fellows at the record emporium some day.” This is prolly my favorite of the three BB albums I own.
Chicago IX (Chicago)
Greatest Hits albums like this one are a particularly good pick. In one fell swoop, you get the band’s hits. Who hasn’t heard most of these Chicago songs? “Does Anybody Know What Time It Is” and its ilk are welcome surprise visitors when you’re listening to your iPhone on Shuffle Play mode.
Greatest Hits (The Band)
The other advantage of “Greatest Hits” albums? They can move a band from “Oh, right, they did that one song” to “I love these guys and I have all their ab-lums” with one purchase. You know “The Weight” but maybe you don’t know that this is a group of hella-talented musicians.
Insomniac (Green Day)
I gamely sat through a lot of awful, awful punk albums as a youth. A lot. Where a $40 yard-sale guitar plus unearned rage minus musical ability plus a 60-minute econotape equaled “**** you! I’m in a band!” Green Day makes up for all of those.
The Wind (Warren Zevon)
And I’ll tell you who had a right to be angry: Warren Zevon, who was diagnosed with “just go home and do whatever you want” cancer just when he was at a point where he could enjoy the fruits of an incredible songwriting career. “Whatever you want” included writing and recording one last album. I can’t pretend that it isn’t more powerful because of its position in his catalogue, nor that its context should factor into how you react to it. But it is, and it does.
Greatest Hits (Shirley Bassey)
The phrase “Dammit…this woman can sing” seems scarcely sufficient. Another $5 “Greatest Hits” album = another chance to slap yourself in the head for having lived life to this point only thinking of Shirley Bassey as “That one who does all the James Bond themes, right? (And yes: you get the James Bond themes.)
Innervisions (Stevie Wonder)
This album is a corrective action. I think you’re given until age…let’s say “35” to acquire the 100 albums that no sane music listener should do without. This is one of them.
Intermodulation (Bill Evans)
I’m not a fan of all kinds of jazz. But I cannot be an exception to the rule “Everybody digs Bill Evans.” This is a superb album of piano and guitar improvisations. Every sequence he plays underscores the wisdom of my giving up the piano after just three or four years’ worth of lessons. This is what most people think of when they think “Jazz” without suffering some sort of facial tic afterward.
Music Is Awesome! Vol. 2 (Yo Gabba Gabba)
Remember when Chuck Jones used to say that he and the other Warner Brothers animators were just trying to amuse each other? Same deal here. They’re not making music for a kiddie show. They’re making music to make each other happy. Buying this album is the reason why you’ll be staring at your car dock and thinking “Wait…what the hell was that awesome song and how did it get on my iPhone?” a few times a week for the rest of the year.
Oh, and yes indeed: each of those links is embedded with my Amazon Associates code. Anything you buy on Amazon after clicking will result in my receiving a small kickback, which I promise to spend on extremely silly things.