If you had only 10 CDs to take with you as you flee an earth devastated by global warming, what would offer you the greatest pleasure for the rest of your days? My own choices are listed below in alphabetical order.
Boys for Pele (1996) Tori Amos -- A quirky CD that represents the range of Tori's unique style. "The Doughnut Song" always evokes for me the gray advance of a winter storm, and "Caught A Lite Sneeze" is perhaps my all-time favorite Tori song.
Future 2 Future (DVD, 2001) Herbie Hancock -- Okay, this one is actually a DVD, but it offers more music than the CD, showcasing Hancock's interest in the intersection of jazz, popular music and hip hop. Amazing reinterpretations of Hancock favorites. This live recording blows the socks off any studio CD.
Hejira (1976) Joni Mitchell -- Songs of beautiful insight and grace, with arrangements that never sound dated. Picture the desert, with ribbons of highway, endless vistas and freedom, but a freedom that exacts its own price.
Peace Beyond Passion (1996) MeShell Ndegeocello -- There's something new to be discovered every time you listen to this CD. Provocative lyrics that confront those great American obsessions of race, religion and sexuality.
The Royal Scam (1976) Steely Dan -- It was hard to choose between this and Steely Dan's other masterpiece, Aja, but I like the unusual theme of crime that links most of the songs here. Interesting harmonic progressions and superb musicianship keep me coming back to this CD.
Salt (2003) Lizz Wright -- Her knock-out debut CD offers rich, expressive vocals and graceful arrangements that are perfect for an introspective mood.
Songs from the Tin (2000) Da Lata -- Three different female vocalists collaborate with Christian Franck and Patrick Forge on this dazzling CD infused with Brazilian rhythms and the spirit of Brazil. A mixture of acoustic and electronic elements, every song is a masterpiece.
Thick as a Brick (1972) Jethro Tull -- One of the few examples in popular music of an authentic orchestral approach to songwriting, where thematic development and instrumentation define the shape of the music.
To Venus and Back (1999) Tori Amos -- Okay, it's a double CD (is that cheating?). But the live CD includes versions of "Space Dog" and "Bells for Her" that are even better than the originals, and the studio CD offers Tori at the apex of her more adventurous musical explorations.
The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams (2007) MeShell Ndegeocello -- A kaleidoscopic musical journey with unexpected twists and turns (although I prefer the version of "Elliptical" originally released on the EP). While at first it seems like a radical departure from her previous work, after several listens you can hear the DNA that links the versatile strands from all her music. The Japanese import contains a different bonus track from the American CD. Support this musical genius and buy both.