Three classics every music fan worth their salt must own, but this is only my opinion...
1. Title: "What's Going On"
Artist: Marvin Gaye
Pressing info: Tamla TS-310 (1971)
Why I picked it: Every song just flows one to the next...I find it a deeply moving sequence and there is just so much pain in Marvin's voice when he talks about the devastation of Mother Earth in "Mercy Mercy Me"...You can feel him getting tired on "Inner City Blues"...He wants to throw up his hands ("Makes Me Wanna Holler"), but the same loping beat just keeps playing in the background almost like a continual loop of bad news...It's a lot like life sometimes...We are as John Mayer once said, "waiting on the world to change", but "panic keeps spreading" and "God knows where we're heading"! Still, it has it's inspirational moments as on "God Is Love", when he proclaims that "all He asks of us is that we give each other love"...A lot of truth on that album that continues to inspire millions!
2. Title: Innervisions
Artist: Stevie Wonder
Pressing info: Tamla T326L (1973)
Why I picked it: Another great song cycle and a companion to Marvin Gaye's album...The two go hand in hand...One of my favorites is "He's Misstra Know-It-All" that could describe a lot of people in the world right now, as well as then..."Too High" is an indictment of the drug culture and what happens to someone who goes too far..."Living For The City" describes the problems many face in the world...It's an uneasy truth, but a real one seen through Stevie's eyes...And though he's blind, I think he sees a lot more than most people do in a lifetime in this one song when he proclaims grittily "I hope you hear inside my voice of sorrow / And that it motivates you to make a better tomorrow / This place is cruel no where could be much colder / If we don't change the world will soon be over / Living just enough, just enough for the city!!!!"...And then, there's "Higher Ground"...You can't get much more truth than in that song's lyrics! Yes, folks, the world keeps on turning, but it won't be too long...
Finally, an album that brings peace to my mind every time I hear it!
3. Title: Poetic Champions Compose
Artist: Van Morrison
Pressing info: Mercury 422 832 585-1 Q-1 (1987)
Why I picked it: First off, it's a beautifully recorded album...Songs like "Celtic Excavation", "Give Me My Rapture" and "Did Ye Get Healed?" are actually quite healing and make me feel much better after hearing them, especially if I'm in a slump! Plus, it's the only album that I've seen unite people...When they played a promo of it in my favorite record store, there were young guys and old guys alike, as well as me in the middle, just digging it's groove! It was an unexplainable feeling to see all ages bobbing their heads in agreement, without saying a word! I can't describe what it was like to hear that album for the first time, but it's a go-to album for me when I need to wind down...I think for me it's one of Van's finest and clearest moments, although others may have their own favorites from Van the Man...It moves my soul and that's what counts!
As a side note, one more runner-up that a former co-worker turned me onto, and made me appreciate jazz even more...
4. Title: Expansions
Artist: Lonnie Liston Smith & The Cosmic Echoes
Pressing info: Flying Dutchman BDL1-0934
Why I picked it: This is just an album you want to listen to in the dark and let the vibes wash over you while imbibing a favorite beverage...Perfect for those hot, sultry summer nights when no electric fan can help you! There is just an enthralling sense of peace within the songs, and when he gets funky, he gets real funky, but in an accessible yet deep way...The etheral "Expansions" sets the mood and tempo, but you're drawn into it through songs like "Summer Days" and his cover of Horace Silver's "Peace"...I've actually given away copies of that one when I see it, and I even have a slightly warped copy as well as a great NM one...I keep the warped copy because...yes, it's THAT great, and I save every copy I can find! I like that the songs are long and you're forced to listen to the entire mysterious-sounding sequence...The sound just envelops you! Close your eyes and imagine a sunny beach full of love, good vibes and the warm sun on your back...That's what this album does for me! Just a fabulous set of compositions that work very well with each other...I will also give a nod to "Quiet Moments" from his "Exotic Mysteries" album...Another go-to song when I need to wind down...And did I mention beautifully recorded!
I'm sure there are many more, but those ones never leave me wanting anything...I get the messages the singers, writers and composers are trying to create and if you go into them with an open mind and heart, they can be life-changing and life-affirming!