The Greatest CDs: A through Z

There are people who prefer digital downloads and the thrill of carrying around a zillion songs in a device that’s the size of a Zippo over bulky old CDs. I understand this. But I’m a CD guy. I love to tear off the cellophane, leaf through the liner notes, and then push the disc into my stereo and hit play.

I arrange my CDs alphabetically, with the individual artists’ discs arranged by release date. The other evening, while perusing my collection, looking for the right disc to play while I wrote another edition of Bar Tab, I got to thinking: What if I could only choose one disc filed under each letter of the alphabet. This is some geeky shit, I know, but let me share my results with you over the next couple of days.

Lastly, I allowed for double-CDs but no box sets.

The Allman Brothers Band: Eat a Peach (deluxe edition)

Released last year, this double CD includes the entire 2-LP set that was released in 1972 plus a second disc featuring the final Fillmore East concert, June 27, 1971, which is every bit as good as At Fillmore East. By the way, kids, the Duane-era Allman Brothers Band is as the greatest American rock group of all time.

The Beatles: Abbey Road

It was either this or “The White Album.” I chose this because it’s one of the first CDs I bought with my own money. And because "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" is my favorite Beatles song (this week).

Coltrane, John: My Favorite Things

I love Johnny Cash’s music and have probably two dozen of his CDs, but the thought of not being able to hear Coltrane cover “My Favorite Things,” one of the most beautiful recordings in the history of recorded music, was not an option.

Dylan, Bob: Live 1966

My collection has way too much Dylan: every proper studio album plus the live stuff, reissues and more than 100 bootlegs, including the unreleased album he cut with Johnny Cash, but this official “bootleg” is the best of the bunch. It’s Dylan during his mid-60s peak, turning in a stunning acoustic solo set and then bringing The Band out to back him on a barn-burning electric set that prompted a sorry-ass folkie to holler “Judas.” Incidentally, it sucks this had to be chosen over Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.

Evans, Bill: Waltz for Debby

For my money, no one touches Evans on the piano. My initial jazz phase took place in college after I purchased Kind of Blue. Evans’ soothing but never smooth playing on that album prompted me to purchase his live disc Waltz for Debby and then its companion piece Sunday at the Village Vanguard. I recently procured The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, which is where anyone with an ear for jazz piano might as well just start.

Franklin, Aretha: I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You

A greatest hits collection maybe makes more sense here, but the CD I have in my collection was given to me by Jerry Wexler, the album’s legendary producer who I interviewed at his house on Siesta Key several years ago.

Green, Al: Al Green’s Greatest Hits

Call Me closes with “Jesus Is Waiting,” one of those gospel songs that gives me goosebumps. And I almost went with that disc, which also includes Green’s superb reading of Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Times Slips Away.” But then I got to thinking about songs like “Love and Happiness,” and I had to go with the hits collection.

Stay tuned for H through Z.