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45 Albums for 45 Years: A Birthday Retrospective (1970s)

[New York Dolls - New York Dolls]

The album that started my collection was Extensions by Manhattan Transfer. The hit single from the album, “Twilight Tone”, took the iconic hook of The Twilight Zone theme song and turned it into a post-disco hit. My 7-year-old ear loved it to death, and I wouldn’t stop pestering my parents till I had the album in my possession.

That’s the earliest, cognizant memory I have of music. Before that, I just hummed along with whatever was playing on the radio, my vocabulary not developed enough to understand any of the lyrics, let alone remember song titles or artist names.

The majority of albums on this list were discovered many years after their original release. I didn’t want to exclude music from the first decade of my life just because I hadn’t yet developed listening habits.

Olivia Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra, Xanadu

My brother owned this album.

Gang of Four, Entertainment!

I checked this record out of the library back in high school, but I didn’t understand it at the time. I had to go through a schooling in punk and post-punk before I could seek this album again. I became so enamored of it, I snatched up tickets to the original line-up’s tour in 2005.

Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

I didn’t take the plunge with this album till it was available on eMusic, but I’ve known about it since high school.

Yvonne Elliman, Love Me

I heard Elliman’s singles all over radio, but I never learned who she was because DJs had that awful habit of never mentioning who was playing. It would take a few decades before I would seek out the album with her most memorable music.

Clannad, Clannad 2

No Clannad collection should exclude the six folk albums, but if I had to choose one, Clannad 2 would be it.

Emmylou Harris, Pieces of the Sky

No Emmylou Harris collection should exclude her first six albums, but if I had to choose one, Pieces of the Sky would be it.

New York Dolls, New York Dolls

My introduction to David Johannsen was not through the New York Dolls but through Buster Poindexter. Given the Dolls’ Velvet Underground-like influence, I’m sure I would have found my way to this album through some other means.

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The ones that nearly got away: Clannad, Lore

[Clannad - Lore]

I had to choose.

It was 2002, and I was working a minimum-wage job. I was moving to a smaller apartment, and I couldn’t house my collection in the reduced space. So I had to let go of anything to which I didn’t feel a strong attachment.

In the mid-’90s, I was a Clannad completist. I had the soundtrack albums. I had the critically-panned albums. I had the folk albums. And I had the albums with Enya on them.

But it was too much, and if I were pressed, I could admit I didn’t love all of it. Some decisions were easy: MacallaMagical Ring and the folk albums stayed. AnamSirius and Landmarks would go.

Lore was on the cusp.

At the time it was released, I gave it a favorable review in the student newspaper. That was in 1996. It was 7 years later. Did I absolutely love this album this album? The answer was … no. I liked it very much, but it didn’t occupy the same space of necessity as MacallaFuaim or Banba.

So it went.

Lore made its way back into my collection after I compiled a Google Play Music playlist of an old mix tape that included “Seanchas”. The track was the highlight of the album, and it made me crave to hear the rest of it.

Luckily, I found a copy of the album for $1 at the Lifelong AIDS Alliance Thrift Shop.

It’s nice to have this album back in the collection. Clannad can sometimes get a bit mired in adult contemporary smoothness, but when they craft a fine set of tunes, the tight choral harmonies and impeccable performances really shine.

Lore would occupy a higher rank in Clannad’s output if its predecessor, Banba, didn’t cast such a large shadow over it. A lot of Lore feels familiar — all the mysticism of “Harry’s Game” spread over an entire length of an album.

In a few instances, Lore stretches out. “Alasdair MacColla” feels more Scottish than Irish, and “From Your Heart” uses a drum loop more suitable for club music.

While it may seem I’m still ambivalent about Lore, I admit I made a mistake letting this one slip away. This one should have stayed.

 

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The ones that nearly got away: Máire Brennan, Misty Eyed Adventures

[Maire Brennan - Misty Eyed Adventures]

I’ll admit Máire Brennan’s second solo album, Misty Eyed Adventures, took a few weeks of constant play before I grew to like it. That meant, of course, it would go on the chopping block in one of many collection purges. I bought it when it was released in 1996, and I imagine it exited my collection some time in the early 2000s.

The opening track, “Days of the Dancing”, is one of those songs you don’t forget easily. Máire, of course, is the voice of Clannad, and it’s a voice tightly coupled with Celtic music. “Days of the Dancing”, however, was rooted entirely in Spain. The Moor-ish modes, the Latin rhythms — it’s probably the furthest she’s ventured outside of the Brennan clan’s foundational sound.

I recently had a craving to hear that song again, and I thought the streaming services would have it. And they do — in the United Kingdom, not the United States. So it was down to the music shop I went where I found a used copy.

Hearing the album again, I’m struck by how reflective the title is to the music. Máire really does make some adventurous choices on this album. “Heroes” consists entirely of Máire and her singing siblings backed only by percussion. A re-recording of “Éirigh Suas A Stóirín” replaces the folk band with a string quartet out of an Arvo Pärt piece. Even the straight-forward cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” feels new.

So it made me think — why did I let this album go but kept her self-titled album, which is also not available on any streaming service in the US?

I’ll blame the impatience of youth. Máire was an easily likable album that quickly went in regular rotation on my Walkman and Discman. I had hopes Misty Eyed Adventures would be the same, but that effort to appreciate it served as a penalty when it came time for a purge. But the work to build that appreciation wasn’t as easily forgotten, and rediscovering it ended up a lot easier.

Young people are so rash.

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