Harrison explores favorite albums: Part Two

Cash, Kanye, Cat Stevens among titles making cut


Roman Harrison, Columnist

In producing the previous column I realized that there were way too many albums that are considered to be my “favorites.” That being said, I decided to write a second installation of my “favorite albums.” My favorites still change on an almost week-to-week basis but here are more of my favorite albums at this specific moment.

“Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.” One of the most recognizable introductions of all time delivered by an iconic artist, Johnny Cash. Cash’s 1968 live album, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison, is just as iconic. Recorded January 13, 1968 at Folsom State Prison in California, the album’s raw energy is difficult to match. Full of incredible songs such as, “Folsom Prison Blues,” a hybrid train and prison song written after Cash viewed the movie Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison, “Cocaine Blues,” a unique song about a man who shot his woman down and got arrested for it, and “25 Minutes to Go,” a very catchy tune about a man on death row preparing to be hanged, the entire album is a complex piece full of energy and power. A terrific album that fits a variety of moods with it’s satirical side, such as in “Boy Named Sue,” but also its serious and somewhat angry feel at particular moments, such as the aforementioned “Folsom Prison Blues.”

The next step in this sonic soul searching is a far cry from Johnny Cash. It comes in the form of Kanye West’s 2010 masterpiece, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Created in Oahu, Hawaii during West’s voluntary “exile” after his outburst at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards left him in a negative light in the public’s eye, the album features countless guest appearances from the likes of John Legend, Beyoncé, Elton John, Jay-Z and even Chris Rock as well as numerous others. What makes this album so unique is both the genuine nature, in terms of the pain and the triumphs, and the diverse moods of the songs. There are highs, such as the song “Hell of a Life,” a very upbeat and raunchy song shown in the opening line when it mentions an adult film actress, and lows, such as “Blame Game,” which features John Legend on vocals about a struggling relationship. The album has a wide array of musical themes that fit a plethora of moods for the listener, some being angry and some being happy, a great album for any situation. I would highly recommend anyone listen to My Beautiful Dark Fantasy, even those who are not fans of Hip-Hop. It is a truly beautiful and complex album.

Continuing the assortment of albums I call my favorites comes Cat Steven’s 1970 album Tea for the Tillerman. This is an album that I sought after for a very long time. I just had to have it. An album I can put on and listen to all the way through without requiring a skip, it is chock-full of genius songs. Opening up side A is “Where do the Children Play?” followed by “Hard Headed Woman,” a beautiful heartfelt song. Next comes one of Cat Stevens’s most recognizable songs, “Wild World.” Sung in the point of view of someone who has just lost a lover and is singing this song to her. “Oo, Baby, Baby, It’s a wild world, It’s hard to get by just upon a smile, girl.” “Wild World,” is followed by “Sad Lisa,” then Side A is closed with “Miles From Nowhere,” both terrific songs full of emotion and stellar songwriting. Opening up Side B is “But I Might Die Tonight,” a short but heart wrenching song, followed by “Longer Boats,” “Into White,” and “On the Road to Find Out,” all three showcasing Steven’s songwriting prowess and ability to directly speak to the listener. Finally closing out the album are “Father and Son,” and the title track “Tea for the Tillerman,” the former being one of, in my opinion, Cat’s greatest songs. It’s a beautiful composition that features tons of emotion through Steven’s use of different tones of singing to emulate the father and son in the song, while the latter is a short but deep and complex representational song. What makes Tea for the Tillerman so great is the personal nature of the songwriting and delivery. Cat Stevens is a legend in the singer-songwriter world and this is the crown jewel of his discography.

These are my favorite albums at this moment in time, but now that my current favorite albums are finished, they will most likely change within the next week. I have been listening to these three albums religiously recently, but now that I am finished, I will probably find a few other albums that will become my new “favorites.”