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Simply a list of what's on my dinky little mp3 player (It only holds two CDs worth of songs). Please email comments to

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cover Rock and Roll Over by Kiss
It had been a long time since I last heard this album in its entirety. My favorite group from Jr. High days, Kiss helped put the spectacle in rock and roll music. I also happen to think they write some pretty good songs. This album was recorded during their peak in the 70s and it's nearly flawless. -Dan (3/10/06)

As the follow-up to their unusually experimental Destroyer (nonetheless one of Kiss's best albums ever), Rock and Roll Over, released the same year, contains more conventional three-chord material. That's not a bad thing, since Kiss at their peak arguably did three-chord arena-rock better than anyone else. "Calling Dr. Love" was a hit single, as was the surprisingly bittersweet (for Kiss) "Hard Luck Woman." "I Want You" is an unnerving mix of tenderness and tension, while "Take Me" is understandably urgent. Although this was material that would become conventional over the years--thanks to legions of copycat bands--it still sounds good today, probably because whether they're being sleazy or sweet, Kiss sound like they mean it.
cover Toto by Toto
I've liked this album since I first heard it in the 70s. The style is a blend of rock and funk with a pop music sensibility that results in great songs that are musically interesting. Toto has had a few hits but the critics have always hated them. I don't know why, the members are some of the best musicians in the music business. -Dan (2/25/06)

Toto was formed in Los Angeles in 1977 (see 1977 in music) by David Paich, Steve Lukather, Bobby Kimball, brothers Steve and Jeff Porcaro, and David Hungate, the son of former United States Congressman and United States District Court Judge William L. Hungate. The bandmembers had met in high school and at studio sessions in the 1970s, when they became some of the busiest session musicians in the music business. Composed entirely of seasoned studio musicians, Toto seemed to come out of nowhere. They did not get known first on the club circuit as nearly all bands do prior to being signed by a label. Their reputations in the studio were enough. For example, Paich, Hungate and Jeff Porcaro wrote songs for and performed on Boz Scaggs' critically-acclaimed hit album Silk Degrees. Toto released their self-titled debut album in October 1978, selling two million copies based on their top ten hit "Hold the Line".
cover This Land Is Your Land: The Asch Recordings, Vol. 1 by Woody Guthrie
It's good to hear the actual voice of the man who wrote the song we all know, a unique American voice. It's always good when a great man is prolific, something Guthrie shares with Bach, and I was surprised at how many of his songs I knew. This CD is a good soundtrack to Guthrie's autobiography, which I'm currently reading. -Dan (11/4/05)
The first in a series of four, this recording presents many of Woody Guthrie's best known songs taken from the original masters. Included here is the original version of Woody's anthem "This Land Is Your Land," which contains never-before issued lyrics. A major force in the urban folk song revival, Guthrie created an intimate portrait of America - its land and people. He has influenced many contemporary artists, among them Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Billy Bragg, and Bruce Springsteen. During the 1930s and 40s, Woody Guthrie wrote more than a thousand songs, recording hundreds of them for Folkways founder Moses Asch. The surviving masters now reside in the Folkways archive at the Smithsonian Institution. Running time: 72 minutes; 36-page booklet includes historical and biographical notes on Woody Guthrie.
cover Fush Yu Mang by Smash Mouth
This CD isn't for everyone. It's loud, brash even and fast. The only other contemporary group I can think of to compare them to is Barenaked Ladies. Going back further, they remind me of the English Beat but with a sense of humor. A lot of funny lyrics. The music blends many styles. Fun to listen to without much effort. -Dan (10/28/05)
cover Trilogy by Emerson, Lake & Palmer
I think this was my first ELP album and I think it's my favorite although just barely. That's a tough one. Classically-influenced music, virtuosic playing, distorted Hammond organ and lots of synthesizer solos and Minimoog bass. And on top of it all, they know how to have a good time. What fun! -Dan (12/13/04)
cover Appetite for Destruction by Guns N' Roses
Harsh is an understatement but I really like this album. These guys are one of only a few bands since the 1970s that actually rock. The chemistry in this band is unbelievable. I have a hard time understanding how a debut album can be so good. -Dan (11/26/04)
A glimpse of the future, and not because of its huge influence and umpteen million sales. The poor-little-rich-boy protest "Out ta Get Me" intimates that Axl Rose's egotism and martyr complex were soon to grow bigger than his head; still, Appetite's night-train wreck of punk and metal sounds and sensibilities make it more than just an emblem of its time. Whether GN'R are dancing with Mr. Brownstone, penning a callow kiss-off letter to some chick named Michelle, or passing out on somebody else's sofa, this was and remains a savage journey to the heart of the American--or at least the Hollywood--dream.
cover Tarkus by Emerson, Lake & Palmer
ELP is one of my all-time favorite bands. I started listening to them when I was a teenager but I didn't own this particular album until much later. It's fairly hard to describe some of the music on Tarkus but if you go over to Amazon, you can listen to samples. It's progressive rock with lots of Hammond organ and synthesizers. -Dan (11/12/04)
Emerson, Lake & Palmer's 1970 eponymous LP was only a rehearsal. It hit hard because of the novelty of the act (allegedly the first supergroup in rock history), but felt more like a collection of individual efforts and ideas than a collective work. All doubts were dissipated by the release of Tarkus in 1971. Side one of the original LP is occupied by the 21-minute title epic track, beating both Genesis' "Supper's Ready" and Yes' "Close to the Edge" by a year. Unlike the latter group's cut-and-paste technique to obtain long suites, "Tarkus" is a thoroughly written, focused piece of music. It remains among the Top Ten classic tracks in progressive rock history. Because of the strength of side one, the material on the album's second half has been quickly forgotten -- with one good reason: it doesn't match the strength of its counterpart -- but "Bitches Crystal" and "A Time and a Place" make two good prog rock tracks, the latter being particularly rocking. "Jeremy Bender" is the first in a series of honky tonk-spiced, Far-West-related songs. This one and the rock & roll closer "Are You Ready Eddy?" are the only two tracks worth throwing away. Otherwise Tarkus makes a very solid album, especially to the ears of prog rock fans -- no Greg Lake acoustic ballads, no lengthy jazz interludes. More accomplished than the trio's first album, but not quite as polished as Brain Salad Surgery, Tarkus is nevertheless a must-have.
cover 1984 by Van Halen
I can listen to this album over and over and I do. While it may not be as raw as some of the earlier VH albums, it shows them at the peak of their development, doing what they do best. All the songs are winners. -Dan (11/1/04)
1984 was a successful record not only because it contained solid, catchy hard rock, but also because it incorporated synthesizers into the mix, the first metal album to do so to any serious extent. Although the advances in electronic music make this material sound dated now, it's still a highlight of Van Halen's career. Songs like "Jump" contain a pop element that gave 1984 mainstream appeal, and David Lee Roth turned the frontman role into an art form on songs such as "Panama," "Hot for Teacher," "Drop Dead Legs," and "I'll Wait." To a large extent, it was 1984 that set the standard for '80s pop metal, and David Lee Roth who set the standard (or takes the blame, depending on your point of view) for the aggressively good-time attitude most pop-metal bands took for their own.
cover Johann Sebastian Bach by E. Power Biggs
I keep coming back to this CD. His registrations are perfect, the organ sounds perfect, his playing is perfect. What more could you want? Passacaglia sounds like a dance, Pastorale has so much character, the Prelude and Fugue in C Major is tasteful. -Dan (10/15/04)
This is a classic recording of Biggs playing the Flentrop organ in the Busch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard. The pieces were recorded during the span of years 1960-1971 and the variance in interpretation over that period is interesting. The more intimate registrations work better and are the most beautiful but they are also the earlier ones. Wish I had Biggs' accuracy and smoothness. -Dan (4/19/04)

1. Toccata and Fugue for organ in D minor, BWV 565
2. Passacaglia and Fugue for organ in C minor, BWV 582
3. Pastorale for organ in F major, BWV 590
4. Fantasia and Fugue for organ in G minor ("Great"), BWV 542
5. Prelude and Fugue for organ in A minor, BWV 543
6. Prelude and Fugue for organ in B minor, BWV 544
7. Prelude and Fugue for organ in C major, BWV 545
cover Genius Loves Company by Ray Charles
This is a very classy collection of duets. Most of the songs are good and almost all of the artists, too. I found Ray's duet with Elton John particularly poignant and his performance with B.B. King was the most fun. Ray Charles never disappoints. -Dan (10/13/04)
The fact that Genius Loves Company will be Ray Charles's final new album inspires an unavoidable blue feeling. But it's also a happy reminder that the man spent the last months of his life at work. The overall effect of these dozen duets is not only autumnal, but smooth; Brother Ray is on point and cruising here. Fine moments abound--you can hear his delight even in the rather stiff company of Diana Krall and Natalie Cole. His voice sounds a bit frayed by ill health at times, but it also allows for great performances (the slyness behind the ache in his version of the old soul hit "Hey Girl" with Michael McDonald; a grand "Crazy Love" with Van Morrison). Potently, he and Gladys Knight also remind us of the continued timeliness of Stevie Wonder's "Heaven Help Us All." Its best moments make Company one more essential purchase for Ray Charles fans.

cover At Folsom Prison [LIVE] by Johnny Cash
This is a dark and yet uplifting CD. It speaks to the resilience of the human spirit. The songs are all good, many humorous, some sad. Production-wise, it is a raw, unedited, un-redubbed, live recording. It's about as close as you want to come to being there, considering where the concert was recorded. -Dan (9/29/04)
Johnny Cash had been breaking new ground for a decade when At Folsom Prison suddenly made the world at large take notice. The interaction of a volatile prison population starved for entertainment and a desperately on-form Johnny Cash was electrifying. His somber machismo finally found a home. The songs, which included every prison song Cash knew ("I Got Stripes," "The Wall," "25 Minutes to Go," "Cocaine Blues," plus his own "Folsom Prison Blues") were tailored to galvanize the crowd. This set is all about atmosphere. Live at the Grand Ole Opry this ain't. The 1999 version drops the San Quentin portion of the original CD reissue, instead adding three cuts to complete the full and uncensored Folsom show.
cover I Robot by The Alan Parsons Project
This is a concept album warning of the dangers of dehumanization but that idea doesn't really come through. Some of the music was on the radio in the 70s but most of it is new to me. Soundwise, Steely Dan comes to mind because it's such a clean and intricately-produced album, but where Steely Dan is more jazz, this is more pop. You might get away with calling it progressive pop. Lots of synthesizer use for the early days of pop. -Dan (9/2/04)
The second of former Beatles/Pink Floyd engineer Parsons' long string of prog-rock concept albums was also his commercial breakthrough, spawning an unlikely but catchy hit in "I Wouldn't Want to Be Like You." In addition to that tune are other Project faves such as "Breakdown," "Don't Let It Show" and "Day After Day (The Show Must Go On)." The ambitiously elaborate 1977 album--according to the liner notes, a meditation on "the rise of the machine and the decline of man"--boasts the sonic wizardry and immaculate musicianship that would become the Project's trademark through the '80s, and features an array of guest vocalists, including Hollies frontman Allan Clarke and Cockney Rebel leader Steve Harley.
cover Anthology -- Ray Charles
I can't say enough about this CD. I really didn't expect to like it as much as I do. It has the hits plus a bunch of other songs that I'd never heard before that I now like more than the hits. I particularly liked the songs that were recorded live. In fact, I ended up checking out a DVD of one of his concerts. I can't see how anyone could be disappointed with this collection of music. -Dan (8/18/04)
Even for a relatively brief (20-song) overview of Ray Charles's '60s output during the peak of his recording stardom at ABC-Paramount, Anthology covers a hell of a lot of styles. It couldn't be any other way, not when examining the period in which he hit the charts with transformed versions of half-forgotten standards ("Georgia on My Mind"), hip jazz instrumental takes on Clovers tunes ("One Mint Julep"), rocking uptempo R&B ("Hit the Road Jack") and mournful proto-countrypolitan ("I Can't Stop Loving You"). If any of those four titles means a thing to you, this primer on America's greatest singer is probably a disc you should own.
1. Hit the Road Jack
2. Georgia on My Mind
3. Let's Go Get Stoned
4. I Don't Need No Doctor
5. Hallelujah, I Love Her So
6. One Mint Julep
7. That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day)
8. Unchain My Heart
9. Don't Set Me Free
10. I Can't Stop Loving You
11. Busted
12. Crying Time
13. Cry
14. What'd I Say
15. Here We Go Again
16. I Got a Woman
17. Eleanor Rigby
18. You Are My Sunshine
19. Born to Lose
20. America the Beautiful
cover Beverly Hills Cop: Music From The Motion Picture Soundtrack
I never really "got" soundtrack albums but this movie was on recently and I decided I wanted to hear what the full version of "Axel F." sounded like. "Axel F." is an all-synth instrumental that was a big hit back when the movie came out but I wasn't into it at the time--too commercial. In fact, the soundtrack as a whole is a time capsule of the synth-dance era with its drum machines and bouncing bass lines. There are a couple of other hit songs on there in addition to "Axel F." but most are of the songs are ho-hum--better to just watch the movie. -Dan (8/6/04)
cover Under My Skin by Avril Lavigne
The sophomore effort from this young artist isn't as catchy as her first, nor is the production as clever, but I still find myself humming some of the songs and wanting to hear them again. -Dan (7/2/04)
With her breakthrough 2002 debut, Let Go, Avril Lavigne tried to market herself as the bona fide alternative to tarty teen queens, Britney and Christina. Her guitar-pop hits were irresistibly bratty but the whole "Complicated" teen pose was a little hard to swallow, especially since two songwriters called the Matrix--who had at least twenty years on the Canadian singer--fed her most of the material. Having had the chance to live a little, Lavigne returns to make good on her angsty image with Under My Skin, an album rippling with delightfully dour melodies and heartfelt lyrics about loneliness ("How Does It Feel") and fractured relationships ("Don't Tell Me"). Is it clichéd? Sure. Will it scare off her necktie and t-shirt wearing fans? Possibly. But there's nothing quite as satisfying as watching a teen-pop icon actually reveal her soul.
cover Bach: Trio Sonatas, BWV 525-527; Prelude & Fugue, BWV 543 performed by Wolfgang Rubsam
This CD contains the first three of Bach's six Trio Sonatas for Organ. It's nice hearing them again after many years of focusing pretty much exclusively on the preludes and fugues. I've played some of them and really enjoyed doing so on the little Flentrop studio organs (trackers) back when I attended Oberlin; they were just the right size (eight stops) and sounded beautiful. -Dan (5/26/04)
1. Trio sonata for organ No. 1 in E flat major, BWV 525
2. Trio sonata for organ No. 2 in C minor, BWV 526
3. Trio sonata for organ No. 3 in D minor, BWV 527
4. Prelude and Fugue for organ in A minor, BWV 543
Here's a link to the CD containing the other three Trio Sonatas:
J.S. Bach: Trio Sonatas, BWV 528, 529 & 530
cover Switched-On Bach by Wendy Carlos
One of the pioneers on the Moog synthesizer, Walter (now Wendy) Carlos introduced classical audiences to a new instrument in 1968. At the time, most people didn't know what a synthesizer was and those musicians who did considered it little more than a doorbell on steroids. It's doesn't take much effort these days to punch up a harpsichord sound on an electronic keyboard and play through some Bach. When this ground-breaking recording was released, synthesizers with polyphonic keyboards were years away. Carlos had to play each voice separately, adding up the layers of voices on multi-track tape recorders, another emerging technology. I find myself much more interested in listening to this CD than I use to be, perhaps because this kind of thing has been often imitated but never duplicated. The quality of Carlos' work is unquestionable but whether it's Bach, or even music, is up to you. -Dan (5/23/04)
Wendy Carlos's Switched-On Bach is one of those rare novelty recordings that never gets boring. In the capable hands of Carlos, Bach's keyboard masterpieces sound like they were made for the otherworldly blurps, farts, and chimes of a Moog synthesizer. And, in a sense, they were. Bach's inventive music doesn't lose any of it's contrapuntal punch in these complicated arrangements and, novelties aside, the playing is great on this Grammy Award-winning classic. Whether performing Bach's "Two-Part Inventions," "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," or "Wachet Auf," Carlos offers one-of-a-kind interpretations, her synthesizers still sounding as otherworldly as they did in 1968. This is one of those weird and wonderful classical releases that anyone--classical scholar or pop enthusiast--can enjoy. A Switched-On box set exists, capturing most of Carlos's baroque-gone-berserk output, but this is the disc that started it all. In a word, fun.

1. Cantata No. 29, "Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir," BWV 29 Sinfonia
2. Suite for orchestra No 3 in D major, BWV 1068 Air
3. Two part invention for keyboard No. 8 in F major, BWV779
4. Two part invention for keyboard No. 14 in B flat major, BWV 785
5. Two part invention for keyboard No. 4 in D minor, BWV775
6. Cantata No. 147, "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben," BWV 147 Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
7. Well tempered clavier book 1, No. 7 in E flat major, BWV 852
8. Well tempered clavier book 1, No. 2 in C minor, BWV 847
9. Cantata No. 140, "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme," BWV 140 Wachet Auf
10. Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, BWV 1048
11. Initial Experiments

Background on the Moog synthesizer
Background on the recording of Switched on Bach
Switched-On" Boxed Set
cover Bach: Great Organ Works by Helmut Walcha
I came across a Walcha recording in my CD collection when I was looking for something else. Walcha's interpretations are solid although they may not be to the taste of some of today's listeners. Having recently listened to E. Power Biggs, my ears required an adjustment period but soon settled in for some enjoyable listening. Walcha recorded the complete works of Bach twice for Deutsche Grammophon, once in mono and once in stereo. The CD I found appears to be a sampler of the stereo recordings but it no longer seems to be available, at least on Amazon. They now offer the one I am listing here. (2 CDs) -Dan (5/3/04)

1. Toccata and Fugue for organ in D minor, BWV 565
2. Toccata and Fugue for organ in F major, BWV 540
3. Toccata and Fugue for organ in D minor ("Dorian"), BWV 538
4. Fantasia and Fugue for organ in G minor ("Great"), BWV 542
5. Fantasia for organ in G major, BWV 572
6. Passacaglia and Fugue for organ in C minor, BWV 582
7. Prelude and Fugue for organ in D major ("Little"), BWV 532
8. Prelude and Fugue for organ in E flat major ("St Anne"), BWV 552
9. Trio sonata for organ No. 3 in D minor, BWV 527
10. Canonic Variations for organ on "Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her," BWV 769
11. Chorale prelude for organ ("Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme"), (Schübler No. 1), BWV 645
12. Chorale prelude for organ ("Wo soll ich fliehen hin"), (Schübler No. 2), BWV 646
13. Chorale prelude for organ ("Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten"), (Schübler No. 3), BWV 647
14. Chorale prelude for organ ("Meine Seele erhebet den Herren"), (Schübler No. 4), BWV 648
15. Chorale prelude for organ ("Ach bleib' bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ"), ("Schübler No. 5"), BWV 649
16. Chorale prelude for organ ("Kommst du nun, Jesu, vom Himmel herunter"), (Schübler No. 6), BWV 650
cover Johann Sebastian Bach by E. Power Biggs
This is a classic recording of Biggs playing the Flentrop organ in the Busch-Reisinger Museum at Harvard. The pieces were recorded during the span of years 1960-1971 and the variance in interpretation over that period is interesting. The more intimate registrations work better and are the most beautiful but they are also the earlier ones. Wish I had Biggs' accuracy and smoothness. -Dan (4/19/04)

1. Toccata and Fugue for organ in D minor, BWV 565
2. Passacaglia and Fugue for organ in C minor, BWV 582
3. Pastorale for organ in F major, BWV 590
4. Fantasia and Fugue for organ in G minor ("Great"), BWV 542
5. Prelude and Fugue for organ in A minor, BWV 543
6. Prelude and Fugue for organ in B minor, BWV 544
7. Prelude and Fugue for organ in C major, BWV 545
cover Let Go by Avril Lavigne
This is one of the best-produced pop albums I've heard in a long time. As far as I can tell, Avril is just another in a long line of manufactured acts but I like this CD because it's not dance-oriented; it's guitar-oriented music. Some of the songs really rock out. -Dan (3/24/04)

Self-professed skate punk Avril Lavigne sings that she'd "rather be anything but ordinary" on her debut. While the fact that she had a record deal by the age of 16 separates her from the pack, too often Let Go's lyrical shortcomings drag the teenager's musically impressive recording entrÈe into the realm of the typical. The catchy choruses of Go are substantial, though, thanks to Lavigne's riff-driven melodies and powerful vocals, which at times adopt the unorthodox intonation quirks of fellow Canadian Alanis Morrissette. The nuanced, dynamic "Losing Grip," "My World" (which perfectly captures the ennui of suburbia), and the buoyant power-pop blast "Sk8er Boi" are the collection's highlights. But Lavigne's honest yet awkward words weigh down the likes of "Mobile," "I'm with You," and "Naked." "Nobody's Fool," which displays her Pink-like take-me-as-I-am credo, hints that someday Lavigne's lyrics will match the strength of her music.
cover Head Hunters by Herbie Hancock
We played the second track, "Watermelon Man," in Jr. High Stage Band but as far as I can remember, it didn't remotely resemble the original. I next ran into this CD in college when it was required listening for the Intro to African-American Music class I took. It's funky jazz with a mix of electronic and acoustic instruments, including some African instruments. I'm not a big jazz fan but as pure music this CD is rhythmically incredible. The playing is fresh and alive and the jams command your attention. It would be hard not to move your body to this one. -Dan (3/19/04)

Keyboardist Herbie Hancock's remarkable career took a surprising turn with this funk album--one of the first jazz albums to be certified gold. Hancock's already-storied career had included an extended tenure with Miles Davis as a member of both the classic quintet of the '60s and the trumpeter's groundbreaking electric dates. Head Hunters, however, was something different: a stripped-down date featuring reedman Bennie Maupin as the only horn player, and a funk-oriented rhythm section made up of Paul Jackson, Harvey Mason, and Bill Summers. Hancock traded in his sophisticated piano performances and complex compositions for simple melodies, slow-burn funk grooves, and light electric keyboard splashes. The results, particularly on the tracks "Chameleon" and "Watermelon Man," had a profound impact on other musicians, although critics charged Hancock with playing to the galleries. But the album has stood the test of time--something neither the wealth of Hancock's imitators nor his own subsequent albums in this vein have been able to do.