10 Desert Island Albums . . . for now

I have often been asked this proverbial ‘desert island’ question but never really bothered to answer it. . . until now.

With so many albums to choose from, I think the best way is just to shoot from the hip and list what comes to mind first.

Here goes:




 Two albums from two of the best enter the list. The friendship between Eric Clapton and Duane Allman, though brief in time, due to Duane’s untimely death, has left us a legacy to listen to for years on end.

Allman Bros. Band (Duane Allman era)– Live At Fillmore East

 Southern Rock at its finest and the album that established the genre in the books.

More than that, the Allman’s fusion of southern rock with jazz and blues is most evident here than in any other album I can recall. Take a listen to Stormy Monday and feel how that jazzy quick release on Greg Allman’s keyboards complements brother Duane’s raw blues riffs. In Elizabeth Reed, Duane admits that his kind of playing “comes from Miles and Coltrane, and particularly Kind of Blue.”

Critics state that Live At Fillmore  “remains the pinnacle of the Allmans and Southern rock at its most elastic, bluesy, and jazzy” and “the finest live rock performance ever committed to vinyl”.

Statesboro Blues is ranked #9 by Rolling Stone Magazine in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time.

Another interesting note is that, though this is a live album, some songs were edited from two different performances to produce a condensed track with shorter running time. I guess this was done due to the limitations of vinyl playtime back then. The Allman’s jams could stretch to more than 10 minutes!

Although Greg Allman was an able frontman for the band, I believe the loss of brother Duane in 1971 took away part of the essence of what the Allman Brothers Band was and does.

Live At Fillmore East is  a celebration and legacy that Duane Allman and the band leaves us.

Sadly, Duane was killed in a motorcycle accident, just few months after Live at Fillmore’s release.

In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed (uncut)

Stormy Monday



Derek and the Dominoes – Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs

 Layla is often regarded to be the greatest rock song of all time and Eric Clapton’s greatest musical achievement. Backed up by Duane Allman on slide guitar, Layla has always been and will always be tops in by books. Clapton has never sang and played so soulfully, – pleading for that unrequited love he may never attain. And Allman’s weeping slide guitar adds to the intensity of the emotion.
Oh, and that Jim Gordon piano coda. . . simply sweet!

(for more on Layla)


Clapton who called Duane the “musical brother I’d never had but wished I did.”, was so impressed with Allman that he invited him to be part of the Dominoes – but Duane still had his Allman Brothers band then.

Other notables such as Bell Bottom Blues, Key To The Highway, Tell The Truth, etc. complete the album any rock aficionado should have. As an added treat, the album manages to squeeze in Thorn Tree In The Garden, a poignant love song penned and sung by Bob Whitlock dedicated to – would you believe – his dog!. But that’s another story


Bell Bottom Blues



Latin-inspired rock by Santana and jazz-influenced rock by Chicago showcase
fusion during the classic rock era at its best.

Santana – Abraxas

 We were blown away by Santana’s debut album.
Abraxas steps it up a notch.

Carlos continues that Latin-inspired rock found in the first release that has been his signature ever since.
And after 40+ years of spinning this album, that guitar still sings to my soul.

Oh and by the way, that Mati Klarwein design on the jacket is one of the most endearing cover album designs of the rock era.

It was difficult deciding between Abraxas and Santana (debut album) mainly because of Greg Rollie’s keyboards in Treat. I had to toss a coin and Abraxas won over.

Incident At Neshabur

Samba Pa Ti



Chicago Transit Authority (Terry Kath era)


 Someone once wrote that Blood, Sweat, and Tears is a jazz band playing rock while Chicago is a rock group playing jazz.

The first time I heard CTA in 1970, I was immensely amazed! Where is that brass section coming from? I used to hear that exclusively in my dad’s Glenn Miller albums. And now saxes , trombones and trumpets are blaringly blended with some Hendrix-like guitar playing courtesy of Terry Kath. Definitely something new to the ears of a 12- year old then but something that would be appreciated and followed for years on after  . . . well up until the time Cetera started singing those silly love songs.

Sadly, the band’s hit songs of the 1980s and 1990s are a sharp contrast from the aggressive sound featured on its debut album Chicago Transit Authority.

Some younger ones think Chicago is just a pop ballad band? Check out this album.

Trivia on Terry Kath – After hearing the band in 1968 at the Whisky A Go-Go in Los Angeles, Jimi Hendrix told Chicago saxophone player Walter Parazaider “Your guitar player is better than me.” Hendrix was so shocked and amazed at Kath’s guitar abilities that he took him and the band on tour as the opening act on his and Janis Joplin’s European tour in 1968


South California Purples







James Taylor started it all. Neil Young pushed the envelope further.
Two artists of the singer/songwriter genre that always have regular rotation in my playlist is a must in my Top 10.

James Taylor – Sweet Baby James

 James Taylor set the pattern for the singer/song writer movement of the 70’s.

Sweet Baby James is the benchmark.

Music icons such as Carol King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, and Cat Stevens would follow in the tradition of this genre.

Sweet Baby James is a collection of folk, blues, and country tunes. Provocative but never over bearing as Taylor’s singing is carefully unpretentious and reserved. James Taylor didn’t break your heart; he understood that it was already broken, as was his own, and he offered comfort.

“Sweet dreams and flying machines and pieces on the ground” – lyrical poetry I seldom hear in today’s music.

Fire and Rain





Neil Young – After the Goldrush

 Neil Young was the musical James Dean of the early 70’s – part rebel with that devil-may-care attitude.
And just like Dean, this rebellious streak caught the fancy of a cult of followers that still trail Young’s path up to the present.

After The Goldrush is generally a country-folk album. This theme draws influences from Young’s stint with Crosby, Stills, and Nash in that iconic album Déjà vu. Southern Man, a pre-grunge rock number, takes it roots from his career with Crazy Horse. The album spawned 2 top 100 hits (Only Love can Break Your Heart, When You Dance) but the title cut, After The Goldrush, truly the gem in the album. A cryptic, prophetic yet hauntingly beautiful mystical ballad, that featured some of Neil Young’s most imaginative lyrics, Goldrush held a dark yet hopeful tone that matched the tenor of the times in 1970 and became one of his most memorable songs.

One of the most influential albums of the rock era.

After The Goldrush

Southern Man




While one blankets us with lush arrangements, the other sets our foot tapping with its’
minimal acoustic harmonies.
Elton John and America provides this list with that desired diversity.

America – America

The acoustic guitar and vocal harmonies was a breath of fresh air that this debut album awarded us listeners. The trio of Don, Dewey, and Dan was never a critical success specially as the album’s release coincided with Neil Young’s phenomenal Harvest. There may have been some comparisons drawn as Sandman and Horse With No Name was a definite Young soundalike. Nonetheless, America pursued the singer-song writer genre with very singable songs that continue to grace my playlist

Horse With No Name

Three Roses




 Elton John – Elton John


 Before achieving that glitzy, pop superstar status in the late 70’s, Elton john was foremost a singer/songwriter of the highest caliber – match upped with the poetry of lyricist Bernie Taupin, and the majesty of Paul Buckmaster’s arrangement.

Elton John revolutionized the singer/songwriter genus with Buckmaster’s grandiose string arrangements though never overwhelming the vocalist. This self-titled album would set the blueprint for forthcoming concept albums such as Tumbleweed Connection, Madman Across The Water, Honky Chateau, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road which I consider the prime achievements in Elton John’s career.

This triumvirate of John-Taupin-Buckmaster made for ‘intelligent listening’ amidst the banging Zeps, Sabbaths and Purples.

Thank you Elton John for that respite.

Your Song

Take me To The Pilot






“Jazz rock, Blues rock, even if it’s Funk rock,
It’s still rock n roll to me . . .”

 Steely Dan – Aja


 Ok, is this rock? Or is it jazz? But I also hear a sprinkling of RnB. . .

The Dan has always had that distinctive sound – hard to pigeon hole. Yet when Becker and Fagen come up with something new, trust the fans (both rock and jazz) to follow. Aja is backed up by an army of session artists that reads like a who’s who of the era’s finest studio musicians (Steve Gadd, Wayne Shorter, Tom Scott, Joe Sample, Larry Carlton etc.) making this one of the most sophistically produced albums with its’ textured arrangements.

Aja features 6 different drummers on 7 tracks, unique even by today’s standards.

Becker and Fagen’s acerbic and lyrical cynicism still flows evident in the album.

“I’ll learn to work the saxophone
I’ll play just what I feel
Drink Scotch whisky all night long
And die behind the wheel
They got a name for the winners in the world
I want a name when I lose
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide
Call me Deacon Blues”

The commercial and critical success of Aja cannot be denied.

And to be deemed by the Library of Congress to be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important” says something for the album.

Still, . . . is this rock? Or is it jazz? But I also hear a sprinkling of RnB. . .

Deacon Blues

Home At Last



Led Zeppelin -Led Zeppelin II

 Ironically, it was my mom and dad who gave me a cassette of then newly released Led Zep 2 not knowing who Led Zep was. A twelve-year old wanna-be rocker and a Led Zep cassette tape isn’t exactly a recipe for a quiet household so after a few nights of  Whole Lotta Love blaring out of our home stereo, my parents realized what a big mistake they made in gifting me with that cassette.

Fusing blues and rock. Led Zep 2 set the draft for Heavy Metal where guitar-based riff (rather than vocal chorus) defines the song.

Whole Lotta Love, Heartbreaker, Livin’ Lovin’ Maid, – staples in my playlist.

I thank Led Zep for this . . .

. . . though my mom and dad would think otherwise. 🙂

Whole Lotta Love

Ramble On





2 Responses to “10 Desert Island Albums . . . for now”
  1. nonoy bonzon says:

    “Elton John revolutionized the singer/songwriter genus with Buckmaster’s grandiose string arrangements though never overwhelming the vocalist. This self-titled album would set the blueprint for forthcoming concept albums such as Tumbleweed Connection, Madman Across The Water, Honky Chateau which I consider the prime achievements in Elton John’s career.” -exactly!!!! I wish you also added Goodbye Yellow brick road.

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