This year the library was the recipient of a generous donation from a patron with a passion for music. He donated over 2100 music CDs, almost doubling the library’s music collection. He has very eclectic music tastes so the Bridgeport public can enjoy a wide variety of music from heavy metal, jazz, country, bluegrass, r&b, classical and pop. Since he built this collection over years, there were many items that included older titles by such artists as Joni Mitchell, Ray Charles, the Rolling Stones, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood, etc.
And for all of you wondering why he would give away such a huge number of CDs, the reason is the advent of modern technology and the ability to save your favorite music to your hard-drive and download it to IPods and MP3 players.
In light of this huge donation of music CDs, I thought it might be a good idea to revisit a book from several years ago that will help listeners enjoy all these new (to us) selections.
Tom Moon is a contributor to National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” as well as many popular music publications. He was also music critic at the Philadelphia Inquirer for twenty years and a professional musician who worked in rock bands, cruise ship orchestras, and Maynard Ferguson’s big band. So he has the credentials to choose “1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die: A Listener’s Life List” published by Workman Books.
Now the book is advertised as “the musical adventure of a lifetime,” but I can’t imagine too many people intend to spend that much valuable time to track down all these recordings as a life goal. This is a handy book to learn more about different works of music and different genres, and besides it is also a nice book to browse through and wonder why your favorite work or musician is not included.
The selections are certainly diverse from essential operas, milestone rock albums, and dozens of unexpected gems, and surprising discoveries. The entries are arranged alphabetically to “break down genre bias and broaden every listener’s horizons” according to the back cover, but it is a little daunting to move from Bob Dylan through Miles Davis to Claude Debussy. Eclectic hardly begins to describe the choices.
In the case of Miles Davis, Tom Moon recommends “Kind of Blue” released in 1959 describing it as “crystalline perfection.” For Sinatra, he charts three choices from “Songs for Swingin’ Lovers” to “Sings for Only the Lonely” to “Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim.”
He includes movie soundtracks, original Broadway cast albums, blues greats, country classics, pop stars, and hosts of classical performances. Stars like Whitney Houston, Loreena McKennitt, Duke Ellington, Tammy Wynette, the Supremes, Hank Williams, The White Stripes, Jackie Wilson, Usher have recordings listed as do unique performances of works by Bach, Villa-Lobos, Wagner, Gilbert & Sullivan, Chopin, Debussy and Brahms.
His opinions are bound to stir controversy. Why is the original cast recording of “Funny Girl,” Barbra Streisand’s greatest performance? Why do the Beatles have six selections and the Rolling Stones only two? Why is “Toxic” the only Britney that matters? Why is “Graceland,” Paul Simon’s “excellent global adventures?”
The many selections of world music from Khaled from Algeria to Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited from Zimbabwe are a real discovery. And another asset of the book is the index with its section of music for occasions from “Get the Party Started” to “Play this for the Kids” to “Headphone Journey.”
Your goal may not be to listen to all of the 1,000 recordings in this book, but it is an excellent place to add new and old favorites to your playing lists.