About Lists . . .

Originally posted January 25, 2008

I got to thinking this morning about making lists. Not grocery or task lists, although I do plenty of those. (And I need them to keep on track, too; the Texas Gal and I went grocery shopping last evening, before dinner and without a list. We did some damage.) What I was thinking about was the fun kind of list, the type of list that’s proliferated madly since about 1975, when Irving Wallace and his co-authors published The Book of Lists. (That first volume had on its first page a very nice portrait of Franz Liszt.)

In the more than thirty years since then, one can find a book of lists covering pretty much any activity or idea possible, I would guess. Music is no exception. On my shelves I have The Book of Rock Lists, which came out about twenty years ago. A few sample lists: “The 20 Best Debut Albums.” “Performers Discovered by Sam Phillips.” “10 Reasons Punk Had To Happen.” “10 Great New Orleans Pianists.” (Just this quick glance into the book makes me realize I need to browse through it carefully; you most likely will see a list or two showing up here in the near future.)

Another book that comes to mind is a list in itself: 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die was released in 2005 and it’s a fascinating, if sometimes frustrating, volume. Its editor, Robert Dimery, and a large number of its contributors are from Great Britain or Australia, creating what seems to me as I wander through the volume a massive bias toward British acts. I mean, four albums by the Kinks and one from Otis Redding? Seven albums by David Bowie? In rough comparison, that makes him an artist equal to the Beatles and Bob Dylan (also seven each) and far more important and/or influential than Joni Mitchell, who has four albums listed.

It’s a fascinating book, and if one approaches it as a discussion-starter rather than as a final arbiter, it’s extremely useful.

And thinking about lists got me to pondering music lists I’ve made, generally of albums I wanted to buy, which in the early days of my listening was everything I could find by the Beatles, and if I found something else along the way, well, fine. That did change. Somewhere, I have a loose-leaf notebook with a wish list of LPs, put together in the mid- to late 1990s. I’m sure a similar list assembled today would be fairly different.

Maybe the most interesting list I assembled was one I put together during my years in Minot. The band director on the Minot State faculty hosted a show on the university’s public radio station called Castaway’s Choice. The premise was a familiar one. He asked his guests: If you were a castaway on an island, what ten pieces of recorded music would you want with you? I think it was a fairly new program, for I was the first guest whose list was not taken from the ranks of classical music. Dan, the host, looked at my list and at the ten LPs I’d brought with me, and I think he wondered what he had done. But by the end of the ninety minutes it took to tape the show, I think he’d enjoyed himself.

(I saw my copy of the show in my files recently. I should listen to it and share the list here. I know my list of ten tracks would be far different today than it was twenty years ago.)

One list I do keep is not written down – it’s a mental list of performers I’d very much like to see, a list started early in college, I would guess, and added to and edited pretty much continually since then.

A subset of that list is a list of specific songs I’d like to see performed by specific artists, one song per artist. I should note that there are many other performers I’d like to see, many of them more current than those here on this list. Some that some immediately to mind are Joss Stone, Tift Merritt, Grace Potter & the Nocturals, David Gray, Colin Linden, Ollabelle and the Dixie Chicks. But I have no one song that immediately comes to mind for those acts. In no particular order, here are some of the song/performer pairings that have been on my list over the years:

“Honky-Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones (Oct. 4, 1973, Århus, Denmark)

“Like A Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan (July 1989, St. Paul, Minnesota)

“Yesterday” by Paul McCartney (September 2002, St. Paul, Minnesota)

“Layla” by Eric Clapton

“American Pie” by Don McLean (Early 1987, St. Cloud, Minnesota)

“Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen

“That’s The Way God Planned It” by Billy Preston (Spring 1973, St. Cloud, Minnesota)

“Imagine” by John Lennnon (No longer possible)

“Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison

“Angel of Harlem” by U2

“The Weight” by The Band (Summer 1994, Minneapolis, Minnesota)

“While You See A Chance” by Steve Winwood

“Love at the Five and Dime” by Nanci Griffith

“Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (Summer 1974, St. Paul, Minnesota)

“Delta Lady” by Joe Cocker (April 1972, Bloomington, Minnesota)

“She Was Waiting . . .” by Shawn Phillips (Early 1973, St. Cloud, Minnesota)

“Done Too Soon” by Neil Diamond (September 1971, State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota)

“The Thrill Is Gone” by B.B. King (August 1995, State Fair, St. Paul, Minnesota)

“Follow” by Richie Havens

(I’ve heard some of those twice: “Like A Rolling Stone,” “American Pie” and “The Weight.” I also heard Levon Helm and Rick Danko perform “The Weight” as part of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band in 1989).

And later tonight, I may be able to make another check mark on the list. The Texas Gal and I have tickets to see Richie Havens this evening at St. Cloud’s Paramount Theatre. He’s an artist I’ve wanted to see for many years, and I’m certain it will be a remarkable performance no matter what. But should he happen to perform “Follow,” which comes from his 1967 album Mixed Bag, I will be ecstatic.

I’ve never shared Mixed Bag here as it’s still in print, but I thought I’d share its follow-up, Mixed Bag II, released in 1974. It’s not quite as good an album, but that’s understandable, as its predecessor has long been considered by many critics and listeners to be Havens’ best work.

Highlights of the album are Havens’ take on “Ooh Child,” which had been a Top Ten hit for the Five Stairsteps in 1970; his somewhat meandering version of “Wandering Angus,” a poem by William Butler Yeats set to a folk melody; a sprightly version of McCartney’s “Band On The Run,” and the album’s moving finale, “The Indian Prayer,” written by Roland Vargas Mousaa and Tom Pacheco.*

But the album’s center, literally and figuratively, is Haven’s performance of the Bob Dylan epic “Sad Eyed Lady (Of The Lowlands).” Reflecting perfectly the organic feel of the entire album, the track pulls the album together. It may be called a mixed bag, but it holds together pretty well. It’s the kind of album Richie Havens specializes in to this day: Mostly acoustic, melodic, thoughtful and warm.

Track listing:
Ooh Child
Headkeeper
Wandering Angus
Sad Eyed Lady (Of The Lowlands)
Someone Suite
Band On The Run
The Loner
The Makings Of You
The Indian Prayer

Richie Havens – Mixed Bag II [1974]

Note: As it turned out, Havens did not perform “Follow” that evening at the Paramount, but the concert, as I reported, was one of the best I’ve ever seen. But since I assembled that list of songs, I have been able to put one more check mark on it: The Texas Gal and I saw Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band when they came through St. Paul in May 2009, and – unsurprisingly – “Born to Run” was on the set list. Additionally, in 2010, I became peripherally involved in the efforts to release Mixed Bag II on CD and was granted a mention in the liner notes. I wrote about it, of course, at Echoes In The Wind.

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2 Responses to “About Lists . . .”

  1. Saturday Singles Nos. 52 & 53 « Echoes In The Wind Archives Says:

    […] Echoes In The Wind Archives « About Lists . . . […]

  2. Bootlegs & Buckets « Echoes In The Wind Says:

    […] on the Echoes In The Wind Archives yesterday morning, reposting the piece that contained my music bucket list. (An aside: After I added Glen Campbell performing “Wichita Lineman” to my list last month, jb […]

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