Lovely Recordings Hosted by Thomas Becker

I’ve never considered my tastes eclectic but I dive deep into the genres I like. About 60% of my listening is orchestral music but I often play prog, shoegaze, punk, chillout, mid-century vocal (1935 - 1965), R&B and some acoustic jazz.

The recordings in this collection all activate strong emotions or ignited love for a genre that was new to me.

Marcus Roberts: Deep in the Shed (Novus Records, 1990)
Deep in the Shed was a turning point for my interest in the jazz genre. Before I heard this album (and Majesty of the Blues by Wynton Marsalis), I found hard-bop a little intimidating and repetitive. I heard so much history in this recording and found each track to be a story.

Available from Qobuz

Julie London: Nice Girls Don't Stay for Breakfast (Liberty, 1967)
I think this album is weird but I love it more every time I listen. With its nearly ridiculous stereo separation, overdone reverb and 1960’s fluff lyrics, I tend to daydream the LP was played on console stereos while people consumed Vodka Highballs.

Available from Qobuz

David Sylvian & Robert Fripp: Damage: Live (Virgin, 1994)
The first time I heard Damage it seemed like perfect music. It had atmosphere, emotion, drive and what I think is the ultimate rhythm section with Trey Gunn, Pat Mastaletto and Michael Brook.

To me, this is the ultimate prog album.

Available from Amazon (CD)

Verve: A Storm In Heaven (Vernon Yard, Hut, Virgin, 1993)
I think this album is a masterpiece due to the contrast between songs and how they combine to create a single atmospheric experience. Tremendous dynamics with mysterious quiet passages against loud curtains of sound. If this were released a few years later, I’m certain compression and brick-wall mastering would have ruined it start to finish.

Available from Qobuz

Ephraim Lewis: Skin (Elektra/Asylum, 2009)
Ephraim Lewis recorded only one album before a tragic and controversial death. Luckily, I don’t attach any posthumous over-celebration to this album because I was completely hooked long before the artist's death. I find Ephraim’s voice magical and this album remarkably good.

Available from Qobuz

Jerry Goldsmith: Basic Instinct: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Varese Sarabande, 1992)
Jerry Goldsmith’s soundtrack for Total Recall ignited my love for film music with his clever mixtures of electronics and orchestra but Basic Instinct is my favorite soundtrack bar none. The movie was controversial and not necessarily quality cinema but the soundtrack is pure film noire gold. I think Goldsmith’s chord structures and tempos make this more of a symphonic work than a supportive piece. Listen to it late on a rainy night with headphones and see if it pulls you in.

Available from Amazon (CD)

Vasily Petrenko/Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8 (Naxos, 2010)
I thought classical music was for old people until one night when I was 25 and heard Shostakovich’s eighth symphony broadcast on Chicago’s WFMT. The emotions and intrigue I felt that night activated a near obsession with orchestral music that’s been going strong for 20 years.

I don’t remember which artist/recording I heard on that life-changing night but, as of now, Petrenko’s is unbeatable because he and the RLPO offer all the tension and dread of Stalin’s world.

Available from Qobuz

Richard Hickox/London Symphony Orchestra: Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 2 ‘London” (original) (Chandos, 2001)
I’ve never intellectualized this recording because I get so immersed in it. Very emotional playing by the LSO with extreme dynamics.

Available from The Classical Shop

Charles Munch/Boston Symphony Orchestra: Debussy: La Mer (RCA Red Seal, 2010)
When I listen to Munch’s recording of Debussy’s "La Mer 'The Sea'" and Ibert’s Escales "Ports of Call" and other works on this album, I see images. I don’t know of a more visual recording.

Available from Qobuz

Mariss Jansons/Oslo Philharmonic: Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 1 ‘Winter Daydreams’ (Chandos Records, 1985)
In the early 2000’s I was somewhat unfamiliar with Tchaikovsky’s music but saw an intriguing box set of his symphonies at a used record store near my house. The cover art painting on the box was so Russian and the price so good that I made an impulse buy not knowing how deeply I would learn to love Tchaikovsky’s symphonies. Mariss Jansons’s recording of the first symphony "Winter Daydreams" with the Oslo Philharmonic is cold and beautiful with suffering and movement… it’s all there.

Available from Qobuz

Pierre Boulez/Wiener Philharmoniker: Mahler: Symphony No. 6 ‘Tragic’ (Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, 1995)
The first time I experienced the sixth symphony performed live is still a very powerful memory. It was a physical experience more than anything and included goosebumps. I wish I could relive moments from that night.

Available from Qobuz

Daniel Barenboim/Orchestre de Paris: Ravel: Daphnes et Chloe, La Valse, Pavane pour une infante défunte, etc (Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, 1982)
This album has what I consider to be some of the most beautiful music every composed. Although I tend to skip Bolero, the rest of the pieces are intoxicating.

If the world were ending in 10 minutes, I would want to hear "Pavane pour une infante défunte."

Available from Qobuz

I’m a technical project manager involved primarily with enterprise mobile applications. I’ve been active in animal welfare for the last 12 years so my weekends are spent volunteering. I live in the suburbs south of San Francisco where my mortgage prevents me from owning my dream Hi-Fi system.

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2_channel_ears's picture

Nice list with a lot of enthusiasm. Thanks for reminding me about The Classical Shop. And thumbs up on the animal volunteering.

I look forward to this column every Monday after putting the beginning of the workweek behind.

lestes's picture

Thank you for sharing. I'm "newish" to classical selections. Your list has some titles that have resonated with me all day today. Charles Munch in particular carried me through the afternoon! Cheers