Ask the Editor, 12/12/2004

What was your first album purchase, and what 5 albums would you take with you to a desert island to keep you company for the rest of your days?

Today’s questions come from one of my favorite judges and some barn, so obviously I’ll address the important one first.

Good man, brewmeister, musical expert, and person who needs to write more Seamus Campbell writes:

Mr. Knutson,

What was your first album purchase, and what 5 albums would you take with you to a desert island to keep you company for the rest of your days?

Mr. Campbell

I received this question way back on 10/21 and I’ve been ruminating about it ever since, rolling it around in my brain, crossing off various albums while adding new possibilities to the list. Even so, I’m sure I’m going to screw the pooch and choose something I’ll want to change in a day or so. Such is the life of the fickle, perfectionist music fan I suppose.

Let me start by addressing the infancy of my musical interest. The first actual music album that was purchased for me (not counting Disney long-playing record storybooks, which I had oodles of) was either The Chipmunks Greatest Hits on cassette or the 45rpm of Pac-Man Fever. And thus a gamer was born.

The first albums I ever purchased on my own were Michael Jackson’s Thriller (an obvious classic that still has awesome dance tracks twenty years, a race change, and a hundred alleged molestations after the fact), and the embarrassment that is Air Supply’s Greatest Hits. I blame that particular disaster on my dad’s fetish for easy listening, though in my deepest, darkest heart… I admit that I still kinda like the album. Sigh. I still know every word of every song on that one, and far, far too many lyrics to Hall and Oates songs for my own personal taste. It’s a wonder that the list below isn’t comprised only of Billy Joel, Elton John, Johnny Mathis, and Smokie Robinson cuts. Yes, I know you don’t know who most of those people are… that’s kind of the point.

Random FYI: Add Barry Manilow to that list and you get the majority of Pete Hoefling CD collection.

From those humble (and some might say tragic) beginnings, we end up here… My Top 5 Desert Island albums. My music collection is probably 500 CDs at this point and I’m sure I have more than 15GB of mp3s lying around, so asking me to boil this down to some sort of coherency is basically impossible. Seamus bothered to take the time and ask though, so I owe him the attempt. There are rules to this sort of thing, and I’m not going to run the cheats here. That means no Greatest Hits albums, BS compilations (Monster Rock and NOW! Vol 2^64 need not apply), or boxed sets allowed, but live albums are legal (though a bit dodgy), and soundtracks with original music are too.

Note: This is not my vote for the Top 5 albums of all time, it’s just what I would take with me if I could only listen to these five albums for the rest of my life.

1) Pearl Jam – Ten

While most of this damned list was really hard to pick, this and number two were simple. There are two albums that I’ve listened to more than any others, and this one is number one. Teenage angst, unrequited love, kids shooting their classmates, kickass guitars, and Eddie Vedder’s voice before he went about destroying it by touring for ten years and blowing out every f***ing show. (I’m just glad I got to see him in ’95 with Bad Religion. That show was ricockulous.) This was my favorite album from my high school years, and even though my tastes have changed drastically since then, it might be my favorite album now. If you are buying it for the first time, pick up the import with the three extra tracks, and then download “Crazy Mary” and “Yellow Leadbetter” to complete the PJ experience of my early years. “Black” is still my favorite depressed song ever and “Porch” is pretty much everything I want in an angry rock song.

2) Bodeans – Joe Dirt Car

This is the transition album between Ten and where I am now. I view it as the cheats, because it’s a double live album that encompasses nearly every great song from the majority of their career, but it’s sooo good and I’ve listened to it sooo much that I’d be remiss if I didn’t list it. I started listening to this the summer after my freshman year in college, when I was working on a pipeline in Chicago and listening to the awesome WXRT and the slightly less awesome but more initially formative Q101.1. Anyway, I picked this up along with Jagged Little Pill by Alannis, Liz Phair’s Whip-Smart, and Tomorrow the Green Grass by The Jayhawks (who not only still kick ass live, but who are still churning out exception music like Rainy Day Music) and never looked back. There are 24 tracks on the set, 20 of which I listen to without fast-forwarding, which almost never happens. If you like acoustic, jangly guitar rock with great voices and harmonies, give it a try. They’re like the Indigo Girls for guys who want to look more macho.

3) Patty Griffin – Living With Ghosts

98% of you have probably never heard of her, but you should have. Her songwriting is probably the strongest aspect of her many talents, but to focus on that aspect alone would be a grave injustice to one of the greatest female singers alive (yep, I honestly believe that). Country fans might know her because The Dixie Chicks have covered a few of her tunes (“Fly”, “Truth No. 2”) and took her on as an opening act during a couple of their tours to try and get her more exposure, but the fact of the matter is that she’s produced four albums and every single one of them is great. The album that I chose is her debut, a completely stripped acoustic album that’s about as raw and emotional as it gets. I could just as easily have chosen her second album Flaming Red (where she flips on the amps and the production), or this year’s Impossible Dream (a more middle-of-the-road album compared to the first two that mixes some folk, blues, and rock) to take with me, as each of them are fantastic. If you like female singers at all, do yourself a favor and discover Patty.

4) The Clash – London Calling

This could just as easily have been a Beatles album like Revolver or Sgt. Pepper, because I like both bands equally, but I think I like London Calling as a whole album better than any single Beatles release. That’s saying a ton, because there are nineteen songs on this album and they all kick ass. The styles on this album vary greatly – it’s just punk enough to make you feel and look cool, just pop enough to keep you dancing and humming the tunes all day, and just reggae enough to make you feel worldly while you are listening to it. I’m not sure they are “the only band that matters” anymore, but bits of their influence can be heard in practically every rock album over the last 25 years.

5) Sarah McLachlan – Fumbling Towards Ecstasy

This would be the spot where Achtung, Baby fell if I had six albums to choose instead of five, but when faced with the prospect of a life without Bono’s voice or Sarah’s voice. I chose the latter. I’m sure I’d regret this after a month or two on said desert island, but let’s be honest for a second, shall we? The real pisser about being stranded on this desert island isn’t going to be not having Bono around to listen to. No, the real pisser comes when the battery runs out on your f***ing iPod and you’re stuck without any music at all. Who bothers to carry CDs and a CD player these days?

Regarding this particular choice, let me start by saying “Witness” is her best song (this is probably the best seduction song ever – turn the lights down, amp up the bass a bit, and go to work… add Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” for the daily double), though “Angel,” “Possession,” and her cover of Tom Waits “Ol’ 55” are all completely ridiculous and are songs that I thank Allah for every time I hear them. That said, only “Possession” is on FTE so why would I choose to take that album? Because it’s a little bit deeper than Surfacing.

To me, the best five songs from Surfacing are nearly as good as the best five songs from any other album out there, but the rest of the album is pretty blah. On the other hand, I like eight or nine songs on FTE and I also appreciate the more moody production on it, so that’s why I’m taking it with me.

I’m very interested in hearing what the rest of you have to say about these choices and your own desert island albums in the forums. I’m always looking for more good music.

Dear Kanoot:

Do a lot of players on the tour have a “gaming personality” and a “real world one”? Some players just seem like such jerks and are miserable to play against, but I keep hearing that if you were to hang out with these same players, they’d be fun. Is their attitude when they play part of their strategy, or are they just that competitive?

Some Barn.

Dear Barnacle Bill,

Good question, but a tough one to answer with any brevity. From what I have encountered, there are some players out there who have different personas they bring to Magic duels than they use in every day life. For some this is an act designed to help them keep their opponent off guard, while for others it’s simply a mindset that they get in to protect their own game and focus on the task at hand.

For folks like PTR and Mike Long, their public persona is clearly an act, but there aren’t many people who ever get a peek behind the mask to see who they really are. PTR is rumored to be a great guy and a stone-cold genius, but you have to be really close to him in order to figure that out. I actually liked his antics, but there’s no doubt in my mind that having Peter around at Pro Tours and Grand Prix was bad for the game. On the other hand, if Mike Long weren’t such a savage cheater, his style of needling his opponents while playing the cards would be acceptable. That doesn’t mean he’s not a jerk, but in that particular respect, his conduct does not have a bad effect on the integrity of what Wizards wants “Magic” to be.

Another thing to consider is simply that people’s personas change when they are put in a competitive situation. I’m actually very laid back, but when I play sports like soccer competitively instead of casually, I become cutthroat, using intimidation to gain an advantage. I don’t cheat or directly threaten anyone, but I’m not above dropping a few hints here and there to protect myself and my teammates and gain some space for my guys to play the ball. Many Magic players do similar things, making them assholes to play against even if they are great guys away from the Magic tables. To me that’s what you expect when you toss a bunch of men together and make them compete for valuable prizes. It’s not something more casual players are particularly happy about, but it’s what we’re stuck with and probably will be until the end of time.

That’s it for today, folks. I’ll be here daily with the Q&A this week and may even include my Top 5 albums of the year later in the week before it’s off to cover the very nipply Grand Prix: Chicago.

Ted Knutson

Teddy Card Game

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