These days in the shops every sundae is served with a conversation-starting Convo Cookie. Each one has a different question inside, and one in particular seems to be a contender for the most-popular of the lot: What 5 albums would you bring to a desert island?
How you approach the answer is up to you, of course. Personally, I’ve always tried to answer the desert island album question literally. Short of spoken-word albums that don’t exist (How to Live Off the Sand, etc.), I’ve always opted for albums I’d not want to try to crush up and eat after a day or so.
Any five albums I’m packing for my desert island exile are going to be transcendent. Any voices on the albums will shape-shift; they’ll sound different to me depending on which way the wind blows, transporting me (I hope) way off the island. With these parameters set, here’s my desert island album quintet:
Blonde on Blonde, Bob Dylan: If I had to pick just one musician’s catalog to ride out my desert island stay, it’s be the guy whose mom named him Robert Allen Zimmerman. And if I had to pick just one of his albums it’d be this one. If I’m alone on an island, I can’t think of better companionship than songs such as Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again, Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, Absolutely Sweet Marie, I Want You, Just Like a Woman, et al. Every time I hear these great melodic songs it’s like hearing them anew, thanks to the vivid, non-linear lyrics sung with absolute conviction.
Tell Mama-The Complete Muscle Shoals Sessions, Etta James: The punchy horns, the rock-solid rhythm section, the not-a-note-wasted arrangements, the voice. If I’m alone on an island I’m guessing I’m going to be crying a little, so if that’s the case I’d rather be crying tears of joy. Don’t Lose Your Good Thing, I’d Rather Go Blind–this album is going to help me crank open the tear ducts all the way.
Siren, Roxy Music: I do my best dancing when no one is looking, which is great for me because I see a lot of solo dancing in my future there on the island. First thing I’d do upon arrival is craft a disco ball out of whatever detritus I scrounge up, hang that sucker from a coconut tree branch, and proceed to party down when I crank up Siren‘s walloping first track, Love is the Drug.
Women & Children First, Van Halen: After a few days of island life, I’m probably going to think a lot about getting off the stupid island, so I’m going to want to hear something that reminds me of the sound of the engines of the airplane that one day will rescue me. I’ll need to keep hope alive, and Eddie Van Halen’s machine shop guitar noise will be my eternal fire in the sky. Plus, the sheer power of And the Cradle Will Rock at full blast in my base camp likely will keep any predators at bay.
Studio One Lovers, various artists: If I’m laying down the rules of the pick-5 desert island album collection, I’m making one exception: I have to be able to select one compilation/greatest hits album. This is it. Appropriately enough, all these tracks were generated by an island recording studio, the most famous island-bound studio, Studio One, in Kingston, Jamaica. Love songs, soul, jazz, and reggae mashed up in every track here, all courtesy of John Holt, Jackie Mittoo, Myrna Hague, Horace Andy, Alton Ellis, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Delroy Wilson, and others whose voices and harmonies will be comforting and inspiring every single day.