Canon

In 20+ years as a critic, I’ve been asked more than a couple of times to supply a list of my top five, 10, 20, or even 100 albums. I have frequently obliged, but increasingly find myself thinking in terms of a personal canon as opposed to a straight list of “desert island discs.” To that end, I invite you to consider these selections as a kind of sampler—60 records that I cherish, some older albums that proved formative to my tastes, others more recent albums that embody ideals and aesthetics that I champion. It’s by no means an exhaustive list of all the music that I love, but taken together, I do think these albums add up to a reasonably complete representation of my values. One particular thread I will note: All or nearly all of these albums suggest, to me, the idea of being rooted in tradition but also looking toward the future. Oh, and one more thing: I wouldn’t sweat too much about the order of this list, which is largely thematic, not necessarily suggestive of any hierarchy or preference.

jlh
1-8-19

  1. Tiny Voices | Joe Henry
  2. Love & Theft | Bob Dylan
  3. In a Silent Way | Miles Davis
  4. A Love Supreme | John Coltrane
  5. Anatomy of a Murder | Duke Ellington
  6. Mama’s Gun | Erykah Badu
  7. Parade | Prince
  8. Black Messiah | D’Angelo
  9. The Birth of Soul | Ray Charles
  10. The Bright Mississippi | Allen Toussaint
  11. Every Picture Tells a Story | Rod Stewart
  12. Exile on Main Street | Rolling Stones
  13. Golden Hour | Kacey Musgraves
  14. Interstate Gospel | Pistol Annies
  15. The Long Surrender | Over the Rhine
  16. Saint Dominic’s Preview | Van Morrison
  17. undun | The Roots
  18. We Got it From Here… Thank you 4 Your Service | A Tribe Called Quest
  19. Paul’s Boutique | Beastie Boys
  20. Coloring Book | Chance the Rapper
  21. Aquemini | Outkast
  22. Far from Over | Vijay Iyer Sextet
  23. Thelonious Sphere Monk | MAST
  24. Mingus Ah Um | Charles Mingus
  25. Court and Spark | Joni Mitchell
  26. All This Useless Beauty | Elvis Costello
  27. Rain Dogs | Tom Waits
  28. Honky Tonk Heroes | Waylon Jennings
  29. A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World | Merle Haggard
  30. Old No. 1 | Guy Clark
  31. The Weight of These Wings | Miranda Lambert
  32. The Blade | Ashley Monroe
  33. The Band | The Band
  34. Ram | Paul McCartney
  35. There Goes Rhymin’ Simon | Paul Simon
  36. A Boot and a Shoe | Sam Phillips
  37. Birds of My Neighborhood | The Innocence Mission
  38. Real Midnight | Birds of Chicago
  39. So | Peter Gabriel
  40. Is This Desire? | PJ Harvey
  41. Honey | Robyn
  42. Moanin’ | Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
  43. Basie & Zoot | Count Basie & Zoot Sims
  44. TEN | Jason Moran
  45. Never Stop | The Bad Plus
  46. Undercurrent | Bill Evans & Jim Hall
  47. Change of the Century | Ornette Coleman
  48. Marquee Moon | Television
  49. Too Much Too Soon | New York Dolls
  50. Low | David Bowie
  51. The Great Twenty-Eight | Chuck Berry
  52. Seconds of Pleasure | Rockpile
  53. Parallel Lines | Blondie
  54. Sings the Blues | Nina Simone
  55. Otis Blue | Otis Redding
  56. Don’t Give Up on Me | Solomon Burke
  57. The Scene of the Crime | Bettye LaVette
  58. The Harder They Come | Jimmy Cliff
  59. Freedom Highway | Staples Singers
  60. Acabou Chorare | Novos Baianos