Desert Island Songs

By J-Vo

A few years ago, there was a local radio station that had a very cool nightly feature called The Desert Island. The idea behind this segment of the show was this: If you were trapped on a desert island and you could only bring five songs with you, what songs would you bring? I always enjoyed this segment of the show and listened to it often. I even sent in my five songs, but unfortunately, my entry was never chosen. But I enjoyed listening to it nonetheless. With this thought in mind, I have proposed the following five desert island songs, in no particular order, as my choices of music to be marooned with on my own personal desert isle.

Kicking off our desert island list is Life by the Drop from Stevie Ray Vaughan. This song is from the album entitled ‘The Sky is Crying’. It is the last track on the album. It’s a very simple song, seemingly sung from the heart. It is just Stevie Ray and a twelve string acoustic guitar. I have to guess that it’s a song that reflects his struggle with substance abuse and how he finally overcame all the addictions and realized what was really important in life. Put this song on, turn it up, close your eyes and lean back and enjoy. I get goose bumps every time I hear this song…no lie.

Black Dog by Led Zeppelin. This song is from the album lovingly referred to as the Zoso album. You know the one where the dude on the front is carrying a big bundle of sticks on his back? I vividly remember the first time I heard this song. I was walking through a parking lot and I walked by a clunker of car that was cranking out this Zeppelin tune. The stereo system in this car was easily worth more than the car itself. Robert Plant wailing through those speakers, followed by Jimmy Page’s furious onslaught of guitar riffs was glorious. The song embodied everything rock and roll had to offer…at least to my impressionable young ears. When I finally scraped together enough money to buy the album, I listened to this song a hundred times in a row and I never got tired of listening to it.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Iron Maiden. This song is from Maiden’s fifth studio album entitled ‘Powerslave’. The whole album kicks serious ass and this track is no exception. Clocking in at a whopping 13 minutes and 45 seconds, it represents Maiden’s second longest continuous song. Written by bassist Steve Harris, the song is heavily influenced by the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem of the same name. It tells the story of an old mariner who kills an albatross, the bird of good omen, and is consequently cursed by the gods of the sea. The lyrics are so descriptive you can easily visualize the ship, captain and crew suffering through the curse of thirst and idleness. In fact, Harris even borrowed a few lines from the original poem: “Day after day, day after day, we stuck nor breath nor motion, as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean. Water, water everywhere and all the boards did shrink. Water, water everywhere nor any drop to drink.” This song is absolutely incredible in concert. If you can’t get out to see Iron Maiden live, check out this tune on the Flight 666 DVD. Turn it up to 11 and enjoy!

Nobody by Robert Randolph and the Family Band. This song is from the album called ‘Unclassified’ which was released in 2003. The entire album is outrageous and every song on it is a lesson in musical proficiency. Robert Randolph is a pedal steel guitarist who was classically trained in the church setting. He generally plays sitting down at his instrument. He may be sitting down, but I can guarantee you will be standing up and flailing like a freak! This song has an infectious groove that grabs you by the throat from the first note to the last. At about 2 minutes and ten seconds in, the songs changes tempo and hits a serious, unrelenting groove that will stick in your head like a good memory! Oh yeah, and the ear-piercing high voice you’re hearing at about three minutes in is the bass player! It’s an awesome give-and-take between Robert, Ray Ray and the rest of the band. Great music from an ultra-talented band led by an ultra-talented dude that will have your toes tapping.

Voodoo Chile by Jimi Hendrix. This song comes from Hendrix’s last studio album entitled ‘Electric Ladyland’. From the first few strikes of the guitar pick against the guitar strings, this song is amazing. It’s also probably one of the most recognizable riffs in guitar history. You don’t believe me? Here is a quote from Joe Satriani: “It’s just the greatest piece of electric guitar work ever recorded. In fact, the whole song could be considered the holy grail of guitar expression and technique”. Okay, so now that I have Joe Satriani on my side, how could you disagree? I challenge you to dig it out of your record collection and give it a fresh listen! That’s good stuff!

Okay, so there you have it; my desert island selections. Fortunately, you and I don’t have to be marooned on an island to enjoy listening to these kick-ass tunes. Considering the sheer number of great songs out there and the multitude of great artists, it is very hard to pick just five songs. I may have to revisit the desert island line-up and make some amendments in the future. But for now, forget writing a message in the bottle and tossing it out to sea; instead, think about your own favorites and line them up back-to-back and jam out!

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