Remember the 2000 Tom Hanks movie, Cast Away, in which Hanks gave an Oscar-nominated performance as Chuck Noland, a FedEx employee whose plane crashes in the South Pacific and he winds up stranded on a deserted island for years, with only his companion – a volleyball he names Wilson – to keep him company?
Well imagine you’re a castaway on a deserted island, alone with no means of communication with the outside world, no foreseeable hope of being rescued and no form of entertainment other than watching the elements of nature flourish all around you as you ponder your next meal, your family back home and your life in general.
Now imagine you’re allowed to have with you only one album/CD (a full-length album and a means to play it) to keep you company, sort of like that companion Hanks’ character fashioned in the form of a volleyball. Except, in this case, at least your companion gives back to you – in the form of listening pleasure.
Now I’m aware that this is 2016, and we live in a world with all kinds of smart devices that contain seemingly limitless amounts of data that is always available to us…okay, maybe not limitless data – we’re all constrained somehow, but you get my drift.
However, in this scenario, you’ve lost yours – and the only thing you happen to have is a CD player with an (imaginary) endless battery supply and that one CD – the one full-length album you get to listen to over and over again.
Which CD would you want to have and why?
Think about it: you’re about to be forced to listen to this CD and no other form of entertainment for an indefinite amount of time, with no end in sight. You’ll have food and other sustenance to keep you alive, but this album will be it as far as your listening pleasure goes.
Maybe there are four or five (or more) albums that stand out for you, but I want to know that one album that stands above the rest and why you’d bring it.
It might be your favorite album of all time, or maybe it’s not your favorite album but one that you’ll find soothing as you ponder your state of isolation day after day.
Maybe it’s not a current favorite, but one that will inspire you as you plan your survival strategy for this new phase of life.
Actually, my good friend Adam presented me with this unlikely scenario and asked what CD I would want with me.
I’ve listened to many great albums over the years and have several candidates that come to mind were I to find myself in this situation.
Great ’70s pop/rock albums and childhood faves like Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, Boston’s first self-titled album, Gerry Rafferty’s City to City and Supertramp’s Breakfast In America regularly rank among my favorites.
Billy Joel’s The Stranger is another classic that I’d consider as well as the Beatles’ Abbey Road.
For dance/disco music, I’d consider quintessential album’s like Chic’s C’est Chic or Diana Ross’ 1980 Diana album. Those two LPs represent a huge part of my early teen years and I couldn’t imagine going long periods of time without them, although I cannot imagine being in a festive party mood while stranded on a deserted island.
On the hip-hop and R&B side, Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814, Luther Vandross’ Forever, For Always, For Love, Mary J. Blige’s My Life or Biggie’s Life After Death have regularly ranked at the top of my list. I would also throw Jill Scott’s first album (Who is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds, Vol. 1) or Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of… in the mix. Or for an even older fix, I could see Rufus featuring Chaka Khan’s 1977 album, Ask Rufus, being that one album with me on this island.
Or maybe it’s a jazz CD you’d favor…I could listen to Coltrane’s My Favorite Things, both the album and it’s 13-minute title track, over and over again without tiring of it – I think.
And you can’t have this conversation without considering any one of the major crossover blockbuster albums by legends like Michael Jackson or Prince.
But the artist whose album I’d make sure was packed in my bag would be the one and only Stevie Wonder. And while there are several classic Stevie albums I’d be torn between, including Fulfillingness’ First Finale, Talking Book and Innervisions among them, the one original album/CD I’d have with me on this desert island would have to be his Songs In The Key Of Life.
In my case, that nearly 40-year-old classic also happens to be my favorite collective work of all time and one I still find myself listening to in its entirety several times a year.
A testament to why I’d pick Wonder’s 1976 masterpiece is the fact that my favorite tunes on the album have changed many times over the years. At one point as a child it alternated between “Sir Duke” and “Isn’t She Lovely.” In my younger adult life, it shifted to “As” and then “Another Star.”
Lately I’ve been singing the praises of the more poignant and introspective “Joy Inside My Tears.”
In other words, there are so many good songs on that classic CD, that I can easily imagine myself playing it on repeat without being disappointed or annoyed. Forty years on, I’m sure I can discover some other new subtlety about the album’s rhythm tracks or Wonder’s amazing lyrics and wonder why I didn’t hear it during the hundreds of times I’ve played the album before.
Plus, the album holds a plethora of childhood and adulthood memories for me. I remember where I was when the songs were popular, and who my friends were. I remember debates with friends in my young adulthood about whether it was the greatest album of all time. And I remember just two years ago seeing Wonder perform the album live in its entirety – and in order – during his Songs In The Key Of Life tour…twice!
Yep, Songs In The Key Of Life by Stevie is definitely the album I’d want to have with me alone on this deserted island.
So I’ve explained mine, what would be yours?
Oh, by the way, NO compilation CDs or Greatest Hits releases please. I’m looking for original studio or live albums (although exceptions may be made for classic greatest hits albums like Bob Marley’s Legend or Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits, 1971 -1975).
You’ll be tempted to comment on my Facebook page, but I’d rather you post your comments right here, so that they’ll be forever linked to this article.
Now choose…while I work on a way to get you off this island.