Moments: Portugal and Spain in Six Tiny Vignettes

1. Lisbon: First day in Portugal, Marcia and I leave our hotel, heavily jet-lagged, for our first walk together in Iberia. Time to kill before we meet our new travel companions for dinner. Down the hill toward the historic central waterfront market, aimless, following gravity’s pull at each intersection. Turn a corner, and hear a sonic blast warm front of the most extraordinary pulsing rhythmic racket from somewhere unseen, ahead. Follow the noise: primal, pounding, pummeling rhythms of metal and hide, bestial, wild, attractive, audible id. Glimpse a parade line one block away, push through the crowd, turn another corner to confront a movable carnival feast of color and light and noise, winding its way to places unknown, primitive masks evoking ancient gods, rites, passions, dances, magic. We are suddenly part of something. We don’t know what. Mysteries make everything better.

17741862328_eec1b19283_k 2. Rural Andalucia (I): Long bus ride into the country from Seville ends with a 30-minute jumble along a bumpy, twisted, dusty dirt road, winding between prickly pear cacti and olive trees, signs telling us this a private hunting preserve for the region’s richest residents. Arrive at a ranch where prize toros are raised for their final moments of public pain and posthumous glory in Spain’s finest bull fighting arenas. Greeted by Matias, an impossibly handsome young matador in training, dressed in traditional chaps, hat, coat, boots, his rock star dreams of arena triumph balanced by his efforts as a law student; he will succeed, one way or another. Pile into a wagon pulled by a tractor, Matias riding alongside on a fine grey horse, carrying a long spear, into the fields where eight choice bulls await their final journey in blissful, aggressive ignorance. Matias runs the bulls. He shows us the field where the cows and calves live, food atop a hill, water miles away in the valley, the long daily trips between the points of comfort keeping the animals healthy and lean. Matias demonstrates the matador’s moves in the ranch’s central show arena, manipulating the cape, frozen in handsome snapshots of equipoise, muscles clinched, a beautiful dancer in all but name. As he poses, Marcia whispers: I can has matador?

17929333665_622e74e5c2_k 3. Ronda: Ancient Roman mountaintop city atop a vast gorge, overlooking fields, groves, green, lush, history palpable in layers. Whitewashed walls protected long-ago citizens from plague, modern police cars protect today’s residents from parking violations, creating traffic jams as they tow vehicular offenders. Heat as a layer of clothing, worn atop shirts, hung from hats, sun haze and sweat. Leave a euro in a tiny church’s till as we pay our respects to the Holy Mother, and are rewarded with a carry-out prayer in the language of our choosing. Enter the bullfight arena at city center, wind through the shadowy concrete paths that the enraged beasts themselves follow to their final conflicts, past paintings and scrims explaining the rich cultural history of this most savage form of communal entertainment. Emerge from the dark tunnel into the ring itself, the paint of the walls mirroring the sun-yellow color of the sand. At the center, a lone figure stands with the distinctive long instrument of his trade, mere meters from his eternal foe. This is the place! Centuries of heritage unfold before us, as the mighty Caterpillador faces down the terrible Bobcat in all of its fury. Shivers. Heat haze. Herculito’s Final Task.

17926144882_920181ae1e_k 4. Rural Andalucia (II): Another long bus ride into the country, Luis the driver navigating us safely through impossible straits and passes, no scrapes, no sweat: El Jefe del Autobus! Arrive at a beautiful family-owned vineyard overlooking a lush valley, ancient Ronda on the horizon’s hilltop. Greeted by Moises, one of the brothers who cares for the grapes and olives with which the family makes fine, organic wines and oils. Moises gestures down into the rows of grape vines, pointing out the fragrant lines of rosemary, thyme, tarragon nested within, designed to draw desirable bees and birds to combat the family’s greatest nemesis: the terrible tiny spiders. A palpable tremble as Moises utters that phrase. Shadows cross the sun. Dark birds take flight, croaking in horror. The Terrible Tiny Spiders! Terrible! Tiny! Spiders!!! We cannot see them, but we know they are there, waiting, patient, poised, eternal. Everywhere. Unseen. Always. This is the history of Spain: Ferdinand and Isabella unite their kingdoms to protect their people from Terrible Tiny Spiders; Franco died screaming amidst dreams of Terrible Tiny Spiders; the sultans of the Alhambra trembled within the embraces of their concubines as the Terrible Tiny Spiders swept through their gardens like poisonous smoke; there they are, there, there, crawling beneath the hooves of Guernica’s horses, battling the ants that infest Dali’s paintings, parachuting like Jesus from the spires of La Sagrada Familia, lurking in the corners of La Casa Del Bacalao. Terrible. Tiny. Spiders. We now understand Spain.

17929377571_e8e261f06f_h 5. Figueres: On the bus again, en route to the Theater Museum that the great Salvador Dali built to preserve his own legacy, in his own way. The skies are grey, mountains on the horizon evoke deja vu, Dali’s landscapes embedded in brain matter, known but not, silent but sensed. A palpable sense of personal pull, approaching the home and tomb of one of the greatest figures in my personal creative landscape, a man, a force, a presence who shaped the way I understand and process the world, how I see beauty, how I admire the muse, how my dream life invades my waking world, how I ask how, and why. Headphones are over my ears as we exit the highway, my iPod set to random play mode. “The Wheel” by Coil begins to play as we approach the museum, another very important touch point for me. Coil, like Dali, have long shaped the way I hear beauty, how I admire the creator, how my waking world invades my dream world, why I ask why, and how. The song begins with a tape recording of a ghost’s voice, a faint vocalization from the great beyond whispers to us from deep within tape hiss, then the drums, then the haunted, haunting lost voice of beautiful John Balance explains the world and all the things in it, and Sleazy is there, too, also calling from the places and spaces we who live have yet to experience, except in dreams. As the bus stops, these words linger: Oh, I was dragged here by an angel. Thank you.

17902512466_9aef6e5ff7_k 6. Barcelona: Last night in Spain, rain falling in torrents. Two people, one umbrella, in search of arroz negro, the traditional paella made with squid ink and langustinos. On Gaudi’s Avenue, Sagrada Familia at one end, Hospital of Saint Paul at the other. Slip into a small restaurant, take a table in the corner, order anchovy-stuffed olives, albondigas, arroz negro. A baby at a nearby table cries and can’t be comforted by an attentive mother. Somewhere behind, above, beyond us a strange noise arises, a series of shuffling clicks, or clicking shuffles, disconcerting, like something from a Japanese horror film, or one of the Alien movies. The mother continues to soothe the baby, but it is disconsolate. A large woman with a nearly-shaved head leaves the table near us and goes to the restroom, and she does not return. The clicks shuffle, perhaps in the heating ducts, or maybe just around the corner, where we cannot see the source? Wait! Perhaps the shuffles click from within the restroom! The large woman still does not return. Another man enters the restroom. He, too, is gone for the evening. The arroz negro arrives. We scrape it from its pan, and crack the little arachnids atop it with our teeth, sucking the sweet meat from within the hard carapaces, leaving little piles of claws and legs and tails on a plate between us. The clicks shuffle. The shuffles click. Now near. Now far. The baby weeps as the mother rocks her gently, trying to eat her own paella with one hand. We finish our meal and request la cuenta, the check. The waiter nods knowingly and walks away. We wait. The clicks shuffle. The shuffles click. No one emerges from the restroom. The check never comes. We wait. We do not dare use the restroom. What happened to the people inside it? Something scuttles across the room at periphery, just out of sight. Click. Shuffle. Click. Marcia leans across the table and says: The alien should eat the baby first.

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Adventure Time in Iberia

Marcia and I returned late last night from an amazing Iberian adventure, featuring a 12-day tour of Portugal and Spain that carried us from the stark beauty of the westernmost point in continental Europe to the bustling cultural crossroads of Catalunya. We booked the trip through Gate One Travel, who we have happily worked with before — though this was the first time that we participated in one of their guided Discovery Tours, which are targeted to small, active groups, rather than the huge caravan or herd experiences one can often get with cruise ship-type tours.

I can’t speak highly enough about the job that Gate One/Discovery did, from both a planning and logistics standpoint (they’re organized with near-military precision, which I appreciate), and for the detailed, on the ground care and experience they offered us. Hats off to Paul Fernandes Summers, our expert guide, who kept us moving, fed, informed, entertained and awed with his rich knowledge and lovely, genial manner. He was a delight, and you can consider yourself fortunate indeed if you ever find yourself on a tour with him. Our experience was also deeply enriched by the 15 fellow travelers who broke bread, slept on buses, and bandaged blisters with us over our two-week excursion. So thank you Nancy, Y.K., Irene, Claire, Chris, Bob, Terese, Marlise, Lily, Joseph, Terry, Richard, Cecilia, Mary Ellen, Larry and Paul for being wonderful companions — and may our paths cross again!

I’m still too jet-lagged and road addled to really process the trip in my usual travelogue style, but I did post four galleries of photos at my Flickr account if you’d like to see a little bit of what we saw and where we saw it. The four blue links below will carry you to the complete photo sets, and I have shared a few low-resolution, snapshot-sized previews of some personal favorites below on this page as a teaser in lieu of more verbiage.

Now I must try to get my brain unscrambled, which is harder than it should be with this pathetic American coffee!!

Lisbon, Sintra, Cascais and Tavira: Portugal

Sevilla and Ronda: Spain

Granada, Ubeda and Madrid: Spain

Barcelona, Figueres and Girona: Spain

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Spanish Tide

Marcia and I are on a two week trip to Portugal and Spain, hence lack of blog updates this month. I will be checking in via Twitter (see links at right) every now and then, but otherwise, we are busy in the moment, and reportage and interpretation will wait until we return. As vacations should be experienced, yes? Yes.

Alhambra, si.

Alhambra, si.

Hondakinak

1. I am prone to feats of creative masochism, where I put myself into difficult physical situations just to see how well I respond to them, and then write about the results. Epic drives to nowhere, tedious creative projects followed by destruction of the results, extreme bike marathons, urban exploration, long-term public writing endeavors, cold turkey cessation of bad habits, you name it, I’ve probably tried it, and then written about it. One of my more intense physical feats was losing 30 pounds in about 30 days to mark my 30th birthday, through a really brutal gym regimen and Spartan diet. That was 20 years ago this month, and (since I’m warped) it begged this follow-on question for me: could I lose 50 pounds for my 50th birthday? It seemed to be an absurd premise at first, since even at my heaviest weight, I’ve never looked rotund, given my height and large frame. But I decided to give it a shot anyway, and this week I met the challenge: I weighed 231.7 pounds on February 1, 2014 — and I weighed 179.2 pounds on May 3, 2015. Total weight loss: 52.5 pounds, or 22.7% of my initial body weight. Note well, though, that I didn’t do this in a particularly masochistic fashion, since I took 15 months to shed the extra pounds, with doctor’s consultation, after my family’s proclivity for adult onset diabetes and cholesterol problems had manifested themselves during my 2014 physical. I feel good having hit the mark, and the results from the doctor’s office have been excellent, with both blood sugar and cholesterol returning to healthier ranges, and my body mass index being lower than it has been since high school. Of course, now that I am a lean, mean, masochistic, middle-aged fighting machine, the internet tells me that a squishier “Dad Bod” is officially more desirable in our ever-fickle culture. Can’t win for trying, I guess.

2. The “How Old” app has been dueling with “Dad Bod” reports recently for social media band-width, so I checked it out, figuring skinnier me would clearly look youthful to the Age-Calculating Helper Bots powering this engaging little online trifle. But I was wrong, and clearly not the member of my family who has been drinking from the Fountain of Youth for the past 25 years. Behold: Cradle Robber With No Dad Bod, and His Child Bride! (Click Marcia’s photo to visit her own blog, if you get tired of looking at and reading creepy old me):

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3. I don’t mind Tax Day on April 15, since it reminds me every year that I am a contributing investor in the social contracts that bind us together as a nation. We e-filed our Federal, New York and Iowa State returns this year, and our Federal payment and New York refund processed quickly. But after three weeks, we’d not seen our fairly sizable Iowa return deposited in our bank account, so I checked the State’s “Where’s My Refund” website, and was shocked to discover that our return was being held, because the City of Des Moines had informed the State of Iowa that we owed it money, which would be docked from our State income tax return if we did not settle with the City. We had no clue what this might be, and had never received word from the City of Des Moines that we were in arrears on anything. Until yesterday, that is, when I received a letter telling me that we owed $130 to the City for speeding citations recorded by robot speed traps somewhere in Central Iowa. I have no idea what car, what driver, when, where, or why these citations were issued, since I have never received notice, nor been charged in writing, nor had the chance to address and pay these violations on my own. Which I would have done, had I known about them, obviously. This strikes me as an egregious collusion between State and City governments, and also as a completely inappropriate use of the State’s powers to apply levies to refunds due to its citizens. I get it, maybe, for things like child support payments or long overdue property taxes, but for a Robo-Cop speeding ticket in a city where I rarely drive more than 40 mph while going about my business? Come on . . . that’s a Mickey Mouse shakedown tactic, and it’s wrong. Fortunately, we’re financially solvent enough to roll with having our four-figure return delayed for a month or more, but there must be lower income families who suffer as a result of such strong arm tactics when piddly infractions result in the forced retention of refunds, which might have been ear-marked for food, housing, or healthcare expenses. So shame on you, Iowa, and shame on you, Des Moines. I’ll accept and pay my speeding tickets like a man if I deserve them, thank you, but you have to tell me that I was actually speeding before I can do that, rather than skulking around in the shadows, zapping me with hidden radar, and sniffing at the money that I already pay you both for the privilege of working and living here. That’s just bad governance.

Five by Five Books #7: “The Mabinogion Tetralogy” (1936 to 1974) by Evangeline Walton

(Note: This is one of an occasional and ongoing series of reviews of my favorite novels, structured by covering five facets of my reading experiences, each in five sentences).

What’s it about? The Mabinogion Tetralogy is a modern re-telling of a twelfth century collection of complex Welsh heroic tales called Pedair Cainc y Mabinogi (“The Four Branches of the Mabinogi”), which are often considered to be the earliest known prose literature of Britain. Each of Evangeline Walton’s four books correlates with one of the Branches of the Mabinogi, telling the inter-connected stories of Prince Pwyll of Dyfed (Prince of Annwn), Llŷr’s daughter Branwen (Children of Llyr), Llŷr’s son Manawyddan (The Song of Rhiannon) and Math, son of Mathonwy (The Island of the Mighty). Pryderi, son of Pwyll and Rhiannon is the sole character to appear in all four books, which are primarily set in the Kingdoms of Dyfed and Gwynedd, post-Roman states established in early Fifth Century Wales. The stories include fantastic and mythological elements, though they are deeply rooted in a specific historical time and place, feature exceptionally well-realized, very human (read: flawed) characters, and address a sophisticated series of issues related to gender roles and relations, science vs magic, modernity vs tradition, and inter-cultural conflict between antagonistic belief systems. The complex web of dynastic loyalties and betrayals is evocative of the more widely known Arthurian legend, especially in the ways that seemingly simple romantic entanglements can have profound ramifications well beyond the intimate spaces in which they occur.

Who wrote it? Evangeline Walton was the pen name of Evangeline Wilna Ensley, born in 1907 in Indiana and raised by highly-educated, liberal Quaker parents, whose progressive views infuse Walton’s works, especially with regard to her portrayals of female characters. The vast majority of her work was written between the 1920s and the 1950s, though little of it saw publication at the time of its conception. Walton’s first novel was the unfortunately-titled (by her publisher) The Virgin and the Swine, which disappeared without a commercial trace upon its release — only to be rediscovered three decades later, retitled The Island of the Mighty, and issued in 1970 as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series. The other three long-languishing volumes of what ultimately became The Mabinogion Tetralogy finally made it to market between 1971 and 1974 under the Ballantine imprint, and then the collection was re-published in 2002 as a single volume in its proper narrative order. As her work gained popularity late in her life, another intriguing facet of Walton’s youth emerged into public view: she had been treated for bronchial infections as a child with large doses of silver nitrate, which caused her skin to turn blue — making her quite the magical figure at science fiction and fantasy conventions. 

When and where did I read it? I first read The Mabinogion Tetralogy in 1978 to 1979 while living at Mitchel Field on New York’s Long Island. I loved the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series (even though I wasn’t an adult yet), having already read Lord of the Rings and The Gormenghast Trilogy on that influential literary imprint, which played a direct role in the successful commercialization of post-Tolkien swords and sorcery literature. (It’s hard to imagine Game of Thrones existing today without a generation of creative types having been awed by those Ballantine Books and their successors). The physical copies of the books I read were borrowed from my friend Jim Pitt, and I suspect that he pilfered them from his parents, since they did contain some frank sexual content that likely would have kept them off of the junior high school library where we usually found our books. I’ve re-read The Mabinogion Tetralogy twice since then (most recently during my early years living back in New York, circa 1993), and I was pleased to discover recently that the full set is now available on Kindle — so I can more readily pester other people into reading it and talking about it with me.

Why do I like it? One of my favorite books in elementary school was Norse Gods and Giants by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire, a beautifully written and illustrated re-telling of 30 Scandinavian myths that somehow made its fantastic characters seem very real and grounded in ways that resonated deeply with me. I jumped from that beautiful book to C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings in fairly short order, and loved them both — but it was not until I read The Mabinogion Tetralogy (in the original four-book Ballantine editions) that I experienced the same sense of real-world earthiness that Norse Gods and Giants evoked, where characters engaged in fantastic battles or dramatic love affairs or behind-the-scenes skullduggery in ways that I imagined real people would, even if the settings for their adventures were other-worldly. (I would cite T.H. White’s The Once and Future King and Mervyn Peake’s The Gormenghast Trilogy — both of which I read for the first time soon after The Mabinogion Tetralogy — as equally resonant on that plane with me). I also liked (and still like) the fact that there were lots of strong women in The Mabinogion Tetralogy, and that the book addresses the nature of male-female relationships at some very granular levels, especially with regard to the biological and sociological rights and responsibilities associated with paternity, and proof thereof, in a pre-scientific culture. Of course, the sexy bits that came with all of those strong and assertive women were certainly more agreeable (and understandable) to a teenage boy than were, say, Aragorn pining away for the insipid and largely absent Arwen in The Lord of the Rings, but even without that adolescent hyper-hormonal response, the depictions of (again) those very real, earthy, grounded power dynamics between men and women during times of social and cultural flux remain profound.

A five sentence sample text (From Book One, Prince of Annwn): The Welsh say “She is casting rain,” not “it is raining,” and in Pwyll’s day men still knew why. Rain and sun, crops and the wombs of beasts and women, all were ruled by the old mysterious Goddess from whose own womb all things had come in the beginning. The wild places were Hers, and the wild things were Her children. Men of the New Tribes, Pwyll’s proud golden warrior-kind, left Her worship to women, and made offerings only to their Man-Gods, who brought them battle and loot. But now Pwyll began to wonder if those hunters were right who said that all who went into the woods to slay Her horned and furry children should first make offerings to Her, and promise not to kill too many.

ALL FIVE BY FIVE BOOK REVIEWS:

#1: Engine Summer by John Crowley (1979)

#2: Skin by Kathe Koja (1993)

#3: Nova by Samuel R. Delany (1968)

#4: Titus Groan/Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake (1946/1950)

#5: The Islanders by Christopher Priest (2011)

#6: The Flounder by Günter Grass (1977)

#7: The Mabinogion Tetralogy by Evangeline Walton (1936 to 1974)

Click on the cover of the original Ballantine edition of

Click on the cover image from the original Ballantine edition of “Prince of Annwn” to order your own copy of the complete Tetralogy.

Twittering Killed the Blogosphere Star

(With apologies to The Buggles).

When compact discs first appeared on the market, I resisted them for many years, despite their advocates’ claims regarding their superior sonic quality and durability. My reluctance to adopt this new technology was not based on lack on interest in its purported benefits, but rather because I was the proud owner of some 2,000 vinyl albums — and I knew that once I made the leap to a more effortless platform for music listening, I would never return to the collection of clumsier, fragile, two-sided platters in which I’d invested so much time and money.

Of course, I finally succumbed to the allure of CDs and eventually sold off most of my vinyl, long before hipsters made pops and scratches cool again. And then iPods came along, and I also resisted their allure for a couple of years, while anxiously staring at the now massive piles of compact discs I’d accumulated over the prior two decades — many of them containing music that I’d already purchased in now unplayable (by me) vinyl or cassette editions.

No surprise, then, that the same cycle repeated itself again, and I now find myself with a catalog of some 12,000 songs stored on my computer (with external backup, of course), while my compact discs gather dust and take up shelf space. Once again, I find myself purchasing certain songs and albums for the third, fourth, or maybe fifth time, doing my fair share to support the artists I admire. (I should note that I never bought into the whole Napster-spawned “music should be free” paradigm; that always felt like theft to me, even if “everyone” else was doing it). I guess that’s progress, sort of, though each step forward comes with a wistful, lingering sense of loss for that which came before.

In contrast to my reluctance to embrace new musical technology for fear of devaluing my prior investments or losing access to my catalogs, for most of the past quarter century, I’ve been been very quick to homestead or adopt the new communications platforms offered by the world wide web. I’ve not generally felt any sense of loss or regret as I moved from ASCII bulletin boards to Compuserve’s Rocknet Forum to the Xnet2 Liste to my own website (you are here) to a blog (you are also here) to any number of social media platforms and virtual communities, some of them passing fancies, some of them long-standing online homes. Each step forward was generally a better one, or at least a lateral move, and if I lost something in transition, it was usually something I was glad to leave behind.

Until now, that is, thanks to Twitter. I resisted the ubiquitous micro-blogging application when it first came along, not because I worried about it impacting my other online platforms, but because I frankly didn’t see the use or benefit to typing in 140-character blocks of text on a phone. I can barely say “hello” that briefly — because I am a writer, sir, not a sparrow! Still, philosophical grumpiness aside, I eventually established a Twitter account, largely for work purposes, and occasionally tweeted the odd bon mot to the small cadre of folks who followed me, while continuing to chug away on my blog and other online outlets. It seemed but a mild diversion.

But then last year I finally grew tired of the soul-sapping force of social media communities like Facebook and dropped all of those platforms, and I found myself foraging Twitter more often for the sorts of political and cultural piffle and tripe that I used to harvest in Zuckerland and environs. And then I started responding to the things I found there, forcing my natural verbosity into the tiny chunks of text that the Twitter Gods allowed me to share, even embracing such terrible writing habits as substituting “&” for “and,” or not spelling out numbers lower than twelve (12), or compressing ellipses from the proper “. . .” to the less-space consuming (but incorrect) “…”.

It didn’t seem to be a problem at first for me, since I still kept a long list of “things to blog about” on my office white board, and generally wrote regular long-form articles, followed by tweets to promote them. Useful synergies, as it were. Until the fateful day when I posted a tweet about something — I don’t remember exactly what it was — and I decided that my one little block of text was all I needed to say about that topic, and I erased a line from my blog white board. And then another intended blog post was boiled down to 140 characters and erased. And then another. And then another.

And all of a sudden, I find that I’m not really much a blogger anymore, am I? While I used to launch three or four long and thoughtful posts a week into the blogosphere for my readers’ bemusement, I now just toss a dozen or so tweets into the air up there, where they spin briefly, and then vanish, never to be seen again — unlike the vast archive of blog posts here dating back to the earliest days of the internet, all of them easily searched, accessed and referenced when needed, by myself and others.

I have a sense that this is not a good thing, though I know that I am just as unlikely to go back to regular long form blogging now as I am to go back to listening to vinyl albums, hipsters be damned. And safe in that knowledge, for now, I am content to tweet regularly, write here on the blog occasionally, and listen to songs with no sleeves, stored on a computer, carried about on a pod — until such time as the Gods of Technology move their hands across the waters again, and I have to buy King Crimson’s Larks Tongue In Aspic for the eighth time, and learn to compose 30-character Queeflets by blinking my eyes rapidly in front of my KinphablaPad Nanodroid.

Oh, brave new world, that has such sparrows in it!

Tweet! Tweet tweet, I say! Tweet!

My Top 200 Albums of All Time

I’ve been keeping a list of my favorite albums since the early ’70s, when I was a grade school Steppenwolf fan. My tastes have evolved dramatically over the years (though I still like Steppenwolf), so I review and update the list periodically, dropping things that haven’t aged well, and adding new things that excite me. For many years, I kept a “Top 100 List,” but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve felt entitled to expand the roster beyond the century mark, since I’ve listened to a whole lot more music now than I had when I was a kid. I also used to exclude “Greatest Hits” and other compilation albums, but I’ve gotten less uptight about that, too, since for some artists, their best work may have appeared on singles that only saw long-form release in the form of “Best Of” collections. So as winter finally turns to spring in Iowa, it seems an opportune time to post the updated roster of my favorite albums of all time, in alphabetical order by artist. What do you think?

AC/DC: Back in Black
AC/DC: Black Ice
AC/DC: Rock or Bust
Alice Donut: 10 Glorious Animals
Allison, Mose: Swingin’ Machine
Anderson, Ian: Homo Erraticus

Bartos, Karl: Off the Record
Bauhaus: The Sky’s Gone Out
Beef: Stink, Stank, Stunk
Beef: Champagne of Bands
Beefheart, Captain and the Magic Band: Safe As Milk
Beefheart, Captain and the Magic Band: The Spotlight Kid
Beefheart, Captain and the Magic Band: Trout Mask Replica
Birthday Party: Junkyard
Black Flag: Damaged
Blackloud: Octave Drops
Bogmen: Life Begins at 40 Million
Bonzo Dog Band: Keynsham
Bonzo Dog Band: The Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse
Bowie, David: “Heroes”
Bowie, David: Low
Bowie, David: Lodger
Bowie, David: The Next Day
Burning Spear: Marcus Garvey
Butthole Surfers: Hairway to Steven
Butthole Surfers: Locust Abortion Technician

Cave, Nick and the Bad Seeds: Henry’s Dream
Cave, Nick and the Bad Seeds: Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!
Che Guevara T-Shirt: Everyone That’s Dead Was Obviously Wrong
Check Engine: Check Engine
Christian Death: Catastrophe Ballet
Clash: Combat Rock
Clay People: The Clay People
Clutch: Elephant Riders
Clutch: Robot Hive/Exodus
Coil: Love’s Secret Domain
Coil: The Ape of Naples
Coil: The Remote Viewer
Collider: WCYF
Cramps: Bad Music for Bad People
Culture: Two Sevens Clash
Cypress Hill: Cypress Hill

Dälek: Absence
Dälek: Abandoned Language
Dälek: Gutter Tactics
Davis, Jed: Small Sacrifices Must Be Made
Death Grips: Ex-Military
Death Grips: Government Plates
Devo: Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo
Devo: Something for Everybody
Dogbowl: Flan
Doyle: Abominator
Dunnery, Francis: Tall Blonde Helicopter

Eagles: Desperado
Earth, Wind and Fire: All n’ All
EDO: Wrinkles
Einsturzende Neubauten: Halber Mensch
Einsturzende Neubauten: Haus der Luge
Emerson, Lake and Palmer: Tarkus
Emerson, Lake and Palmer: Trilogy
Eno, Brian: Here Come the Warm Jets
Eno, Brian: Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)

Fall: The Real New Fall LP . . . Formerly Country on the Click
Fall: Hex Enduction Hour
Family: Bandstand
Family: Fearless
Fear: The Record
Fela: Original Sufferhead
First Aid Kit: Stay Gold
Fleetwood Mac: Rumours
Fleetwood Mac: Future Games
Fripp, Robert: Exposure
Funkadelic: Maggotbrain

Gabriel, Peter: Peter Gabriel (III/Melt)
Gang of Four: Entertainment!
Gay Tastee: Songs for the Sodomites
Genesis: Duke
Genesis: Abacab
Genesis: The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
Genesis: Wind and Wuthering
Goat: World Music
Good Rats: Birth Comes to Us All
Good Rats: Tasty
Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci: Introducing
Grand Mal: Binge/Purge
Grateful Dead: American Beauty

Hall, Daryl: Sacred Songs
Hanslick Rebellion: The Rebellion is Here
Harvey, P.J.: Dry
Hawkwind: Doremi Fasol Latido
Hedningarna: Karelia Visa
Hendrix, Jimi Experience: Are You Experienced?
Hitchcock, Robyn and the Egyptians: Element of Light
Human Sexual Response: Fig. 14
Human Sexual Response: In a Roman Mood
Husker Du: Zen Arcade

Jarre, Jean-Michel: Equinoxe
Jethro Tull: Songs From the Wood
Jethro Tull: The Broadsword and the Beast
Jethro Tull: Heavy Horses
Jethro Tull: Thick as a Brick
Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures
Joy Division: Closer

Kamikaze Hearts: Oneida Road
Kamikaze Hearts: Seven More Wonders of the World
Kaukonen, Jorma: Quah
Keineg, Katell: Jet
Killdozer: Twelve Point Buck
King Crimson: Starless and Bible Black
King Crimson: Discipline
Korn: Issues
Korn: The Paradigm Shift

Laurels: L

Melvins: (A) Senile Animal
Miam Monster Miam: Cum At the Liquid Fancy Fair
Michael Nyman: A Zed and Two Noughts (Original Soundtrack)
Mindless Self Indulgence: Tight
Minutemen: Double Nickels on the Dime
Miri: Okkar
Mos Def: The Ecstatic

Napalm Death: Time Waits For No Slave
Napalm Death: Utilitarian
Napalm Death: Apex Predator — Easy Meat
New Order: Movement
New Order: Power, Corruption and Lies

Pere Ubu: The Modern Dance
Phair, Liz: Exile in Guyville
Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon
Pink Floyd: The Wall
Planningtorock: W
Prieboy, Andy: The Questionable Profits of Pure Novelty
Prieboy, Andy: Upon My Wicked Son
Public Enemy: Fear of a Black Planet
Public Enemy: Apocalypse ’91: The Enemy Strikes Black

Red Hot Chili Peppers: The Uplift Mofo Party Plan
R.E.M.: Life’s Rich Pageant
Renaldo and the Loaf: Songs for Swinging Larvae
Replacements: Let It Be
Residents: Animal Lover
Residents: Demons Dance Alone
Robbins, Marty: Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs
Rolling Stones: Exile on Main St.
Rolling Stones: Hot Rocks 1964-1971
Roxy Music: For Your Pleasure
Roxy Music: Country Life
Rundgren, Todd: Healing
Rush: Signals

Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel: Nail
Sepultura: Roots
Sex Pistols: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols
Shriekback: Oil and Gold
Shriekback: Tench
Simon and Garfunkel: Sounds of Silence
Six Feet Under: Warpath
Small Axe: A Shot to the Body
Small Axe: A Blow to the Head
Smiths: Hatful of Hollow
Smiths: Louder Than Bombs
Snog: Last of the Great Romantics
Sonin, K.: The Definition of Stupidity is Doing the Same Thing 34 Times and Expecting Different Results
Special A.K.A.: In the Studio
Steely Dan: Aja
Steely Dan: The Royal Scam
Steppenwolf: Gold
Subduing Mara: Glossolalia
System of a Down: Toxicity
Swans: Filth

Talk Talk: Spirit of Eden
Talking Heads: Fear of Music
Television Personalities: Closer to God
This Heat: Deceit
Tragic Mulatto: Italians Fall Down and Look Up Your Dress
Tsukerman, Slava et. al.: Liquid Sky (Original Soundtrack)

Various Artists: If You Can’t Please Yourself, You Can’t Please Your Soul
Various Artists: Frank (Original Soundtrack)
Velvet Underground: The Velvet Underground and Nico

Wailer, Bunny: Blackheart Man
Wait: Dear Soul
Wall of Voodoo: Happy Planet
Wall of Voodoo: Seven Days in Sammystown
Wasted: We Are Already in Hell
Weasels: Uranus or Bust
Weasels: AARP Go the Weasels
Ween: Quebec
Ween: The Mollusk
Who: Who’s Next
Who: Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy
Wings: Band on the Run
Wings: Venus and Mars
Wire: The Ideal Copy
Wire: Change Becomes Us

XTC: Black Sea
XTC: English Settlement

Yes: Drama
Yes: Close to the Edge
Yes: Relayer
Young, Neil and Crazy Horse: re-ac-tor

Zappa, Frank and the Mothers of Invention: One Size Fits All
Zappa, Frank: Joe’s Garage, Parts I, II and III
Zevon, Warren: Life’ll Kill Ya

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