Monday, February 26, 2007

Ten Favorite Albums of All Time

I was listening to a great deal of music on the ride back from Baltimore this past week and realized how much music I truly loved. Then I began to wonder -- what were my favorite albums of all time. These aren't necessarily the best albums, the most earth shattering -- just my favorite pieces of music that I could listen to over and over again. I narrowed it down to 10 albums. Here they are in no particular order.
  • Beck - Mutations -- Mutations is an album very unlike any other album I have ever heard. It combines elements of electronic, folk, rock, alternative, country, and even classical music into this strange compilation that only Beck could create. I'll be honest, my copy of this CD has started to have frayed edges for how often I used to listen to this music. It may lack the major hits of some of his other albums, like Odelay or Midnight Vultures, but what it lacks in radio play it more than makes up for in amazing music. It's the type of music that could sit in the background as mood music, a soundtrack to your life in almost any mood your in. Mind you, I still don't think I understand any of the lyrics on any of the tracks for this album -- but I think that happens to me no matter which Beck album I'm discussing. It's a great album and it's worth listening to if you like any genre of music, period.
  • Smash Mouth - Fush Yu Mang -- Despite the fact that the title of the album is a slurred version of the F-you as said by Al Pacino in Scarface, this album still rocks my socks off this many years later. Written at a time before Smash Mouth had become happy-go-lucky in their lives with the success of this album and the insane success of the song All Star, these songs were real about their lives at the times and have elements that are both foreign and relatable to most people. It is upbeat with almost a Beach Boys' feel at times -- and other times somber and reflective, yet always containing these fun, ska and punk tunes making it accessible to anyone. Mind you, I wouldn't allow my children listen to this album with the language and content of the lyrics -- but for those mature enough to hear it, this album can be fun, introspective, and just a pleasure to the ears.
  • Jay-Z - The Black Album -- If Extreme Behavior is one of the most perfect rock albums I've heard in a long time, The Black Album is one of the epitome of what a rap album should be. Something most don't realize about Jay-Z is that instead of discussing gang-banging and how great it is today, Jay-Z discusses his life, how great its been since he raised himself up, and his family. This isn't gangsta rap, this is real rap about life and it's amazing. Jay-Z shows himself through in each and every track, with each track produced expertly with really great beats and powerful vocals. It's not often that you hear a rap album that's this good that really makes you say, "Wow, this is great music." This is one of those albums and deserves to be in the top list of any music connoisseur.
  • Toby Keith - Greatest Hits 2 -- Now, I didn't think that I would actually be willing to post a greatest hits album in my top list -- but let's be reasonable, this is the best that Toby Keith has to offer. It's got his fun songs like "How Do You Like Me Now" and a live version of "You Ain't Much Fun," while including some of his best slow tunes like "My List" and "You Shouldn't Kiss Me Like That." This album also includes some great original songs, despite what the likes of AllMusic has to say about it -- plus it includes the popular "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue" which, when you listen to the lyrics, has NOTHING to do with the Iraqi war and everything to do with September 11th and how each and every one of us as Americans felt after that tragic event happened, "You hurt us, and we will make sure that you pay for your crimes."
  • Jack's Mannequin - Everything in Transit -- This is the band and album that makes me wish beyond belief that Andrew McMahon never returns to the band Something Corporate. Jack's Mannequin is basically the Andrew McMahon show -- he wrote and produced this album. The entire album discusses a summer after he returns home from a great deal of touring with Something Corporate and was now on his own. He actually spent some $40,000 of his own money to put this album together before Maverick Records picked it up. This is the story of a man -- and the passion and personal feeling shines through in each and every single track of this album. If you go into it looking for the pop punk of Something Corporate, go away -- this is a piano based rock album more along the lines of Meat Loaf than Something Corporate. Basically, I'd say this is an amazing album and worth every single cent that I spent on it.
  • The Beatles - 1 -- Ok, apparently I'm a liar, I put two greatest hits albums on here already. The Beatles' 1 spans decades of number one hits from them to bring only the best and classic hits that you can sing along to even if you didn't know it was The Beatles who sang them to begin with. I don't really know what else to say about this album beyond just that.
  • Hinder - Extreme Behavior -- Fastly becoming one of my favorite albums is this, the first major album from Hinder. Ignore what the critics say about this album, as usual the critics are idiots. The album contains everything a rock album needs to be perfect -- hard rocking tunes, a few power ballads, and great music all around. Honestly, it is one of the first major pure rock albums I've heard in a long time, and it's perfectly fit into that genre. I would say this about the album -- it's the perfect breakup album. This band must have had a great many bad relationships, because it shows in some of the lyrics. And yet, the music is able to span the beautifully melodic to the harder rock that many on the radio want to hear. All in all, this is a great album -- if not friendly for the kids.
  • Meat Loaf - Bat Out of Hell -- This is the perfect Meat Loaf album. Written entirely by Jim Steinman, this album contains nothing but amazing music. "You Took The Words Right Out of My Mouth," "For Crying Out Loud," and "Heaven Can Wait" top this groundbreaking album that borderlines on the verge of being a rock opera. It's an amazing album that really should be everyone's musical collection. It's such a classic that I'm really not sure what else to say about this besides get this album and you will not be disappointed.
  • OutKast - Speakerboxx/The Love Below -- The second album in the hip-hop category on this list, Speakerboxx/The Love Below is amazing. The album is divided in two, we have the Big Boi half and the Andre 3000 half of the album which allowed each of them to take all manner of musical risks individually while still keeping that OutKast feel. Big Boi's half is perhaps some of the best rap music I've heard of all time; it has amazing beats, great lyrics that flow off the tongue, and varying messages from discussion of love to politics and it never goes stale. Andre 3000's half of the album is insane, ranging from funk rock to hip hop to classical pop hits in line with Michael Jackson, before he became creepy. It's a great album set that makes hip hop accessible to anyone.
  • Billy Joel - The Stranger -- If you want to hear some of the best music written by Bill Joel, look no further than The Stranger. It may not contain some of the hits like "Piano Man," but what it does have is amazing -- "The Stranger," "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," and "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant." This album can be fun, romantic, introspective, and basically everything you can ask for out of Billy Joel -- it's all here. It's another classic along the lines of Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell that I really don't know what else to say about it -- the album is great and well worth the price of admission.
On a side note, many of these albums contain lyrics which are not good for children so, before you go running out to pick up some of these great albums -- check them out for yourself or at least make certain there's no parental advisory label before playing them in front of your children. I'm sure you all have different opinions on songs, etc -- and feel free to post them here.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Sigdon Riley

Sigdon Riley is a new character I may be playing in a Dungeon's and Dragons game with BM2, JB. It's set in the world of Greyhawk, of which you can learn more about here. Here's the biography of the character that I've put together --
Sigdon Riley was born of noble parents. Money was his life and it was a good life indeed. He was trained to be a noble fighter by his wealthy father, learning all the niceties of high society. He had it all and at 21, he married the beautiful, 17 year old Mary Ann Crone. Riley loved his rich and fulfilling life, but all that changed in an instant.

On Sigdon's 25th birthday, his father passed away in the middle of the night of unknown causes. Unbeknown to Sigdon, his father carried a great deal of debt which had brought him to his current station in life -- primarily to two notorious underworld bosses, a half Drow named Jarl and a hot-tempered human by the name of Hunter Davis. Upon his father's death, Sigdon's mother disappeared with Jarl -- the two had been holding a secret romantic affair for the past ten years. Along with her went half of Sigdon's family fortune -- all to Jarl and all not enough to finish repaying his father's debt.

Sigdon fled town with his pregnant wife, hoping to find refuge with what little money he could carry a town or so away. Upon reaching the nearby village of Blackstone, Mary Ann gave birth to her first child -- a half-elf. Neither Mary Ann nor Sigdon were elven. Upset, confused, and angry, Sigdon decided he was going to leave his cheating wife and the offspring of that unholy union when suddenly, his father's debt caught up to him. Hunter Davis and his men had caught Sigdon, beat him, and enslaved him. Mary Ann was taken as Davis' own, a new member of his ever growing menagerie of concubines. Sigdon never saw Mary again.

After four years of brutal enslavement in the Underdark, Riley could take no more. He exploded on two slavers one day in an insane, berserk rage slaughtering the two men. Using his chains as a makeshift weapon, Riley fought his way to Davis, freeing any slave he found along the way. Riley and his small band of hungry slaves overpowered Davis, savagely killing him.

Riley could never go back to civilized life after that. He lived on his own in the wilderness, traveling from town to town attacking slavers as he found them. He tracked a certain slaver band to the Shackled City, which is currently where his full story will begin...

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Poetry from Class

I wrote this while sitting in Molecular Biology I today. It is an interesting take on my feelings and is barely following a particular rhyming scheme.
Tell me how to feel
Tell me how to heal
How am I to know just what to do
I'm looking for direction
A greater plan for my selection
By the world to get a job like all of you

I want a job
Don't want a career
I need something that keeps me near
To my love
Gives family time
I need a plan that will provide for me and mine.

I sit here in class
Hoping just to pass
And leave all of this behind
I think of my life
Of my family and strife
Of my future and my wife
And so I find

That I want a job
Don't want a career
I need some way to keep me near
To those that I love
Gives that family time
I need a plan for me and mine

I need a plan to let me know
What I need to do so
I can graduate in May...
What to do so I will find
A job that will ease my mind
And help melt my cares away

In the future I will be
A grown man with a family
That for I will need to provide
Yes monetarily
But also lovingly
And the only way to abide

Is to find a job
Not a career
Something which will keep me near
To those I love
Give me family time
I need a plan for me and mine
To find a job
That's all I say
Not a career which takes me away
From my family fun
My beloved ones
With a career I'd be married more than once
Wedding both my wife and job is nuts
I can't imaging loving a job with a larger part
Than the one for othse who occupy my heart.