What’s a gathering without great wine, amazing food, and some mood setting music? As you know, I’m not just your everyday watch-collecting, black suit wearing, crypto-loving, guitar-playing multimillionaire shark. I’m also a connoisseur and student of fine music especially where the guitar is involved. So I’ve put together an essential album playlist to cover you in any warm, hearty, friendly, familial wine-centric gathering. Ready? Let’s roll. And rock.
Prince, Prince (1979)
This is the Purple One’s manically energetic, sonically groovy, incredible second album. It’s infectious and exquisite like the raciest Pinot. First, we need to acknowledge that Prince was a musical genius. Period. He literally plays every instrument and does all the vocal tracks on this album. Mind-blowing. Even more mind-blowing when you realize he was barely 21 when this album came out.
Let’s talk about his guitar work. Ichi-wawa. People might get hung up on his unique vocals and killer beats, but he’s an ax-slinger par excellence. One of the best to strap on a six string. This album is full of toe-tapping, danceable jams as well as chillout tunes. All woven seamlessly into a sensational gift for your ears and your palate.
Dire Straits, Love Over Gold
There’s something about the magical British Invasion that gave us such icons as The Beatles and Rolling Stones. There’s also something equally quintessential about their sonic descendants like the one-and-only Mark Knopfler and his high-flying band Dire Straits. Love Over Gold is simply gorgeous beauty laid down on vinyl. And Mark Knopfler’s incredible, understated, oh-so-easy-looking guitar playing and singing is something to behold. Most of the tracks are long, deep jams where the musicianship is allowed full range. You’ll find yourself just blissing out, letting the aura wash over you as you’re taken on a true musical journey (while sipping your decadent vino of choice). The lightning on the cover speaks a thousand words about how vibrant this album is and how it will make you feel when the needle hits the end of the last track.
Steely Dan, Can’t Buy A Thrill
Steely Dan. Anytime, anywhere. As is the sub-theme here, all-around musicianship makes these albums and bands some of my favorites. No less so for this multi-talented singer-songwriter-producer-musician duo Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. They had so many hits that we all sing to but their debut album (this one!) announced the arrival of some new sheriffs in the town of tight hooks and cool riffs. It’s like watching the technicolor Batman TV show from the 1960’s – Bam! Pow! Zap!
This album proves that you can indeed buy a thrill – on vinyl, CD, download, or whatever your favorite way to listen is.
Wanda Jackson, There’s a Party Going On
Come on. Wanda Jackson. She’s a trailblazer. A maverick. An icon. And the undisputed guitar-swinging queen of rockabilly.
While she knocks the songs on this aptly Party-titled album out of the park with her bold gravelly voice, this collection of rockin’ tunes also features one lightning-fingered gent on guitar named Roy Clark, a pretty darn good ax-banjo-fiddle player – one of the best ever, actually.
Okay, go figure, most of these albums feature world-renowned guitarists, can I help it? On top of this, some of the songs were written by another famous gent by the name of Jerry Lee Lewis. If you can’t take your party to the next level with this one, then something’s really amiss.
Traffic, John Barleycorn Must Die
This offering from the brilliant superstar trio, Traffic, features the legendary Steve Winwood who I still don’t think gets the kudos he deserves for being such an all-around maestro. Singer, songwriter, piano, guitar. You name it, he can do it as well as anyone (as you can see, I’m in awe of multi-talented artists like Steve and Prince). The mercurial, dynamic Jim Capaldi holds down the beats on drums, percussion, and backing vocals. And a too-short-lived shooting star named Chris Wood rounds things out on percussion, sax, flute, and organ.
Lots of people love and appreciate Traffic’s other founding member Dave Mason (as do I very much so); and the albums he spearheaded are certainly classics. Deep, cerebral, ahead-of-their-time classics. But this one is just a great soundtrack to any wine-related occasion (the point of this list, of course).
Plus, regarding the title, it’s named in honor of a popular centuries-olde English folk song about a gentleman (John Barleycorn) who personifies barley and the alcoholic beverage made from it. So, I guess this one really does channel all the elements of drinking wine.
Miles Davis, Sketches of Spain
Not many albums truly exude the true terroir of and transport you to someplace specifically magical. But this masterwork from the master of jazz himself, Mr. Davis, simply exudes Spain. You feel like you’re at a Basque cafe or strolling the hills in Andalusia where you can smell and taste the rugged earth and the warm breeze.
Amazingly, the story is that his wife took him to a flamenco concert in New York and Mr. Davis was so enamored that he bought every flamenco record he could find, then simply went into the studio (with legendary musician/composer Gil Evans, no less) and put together this ode to the Old World. And, wow, did he nail it. It’s classic flamenco orchestral music transposed through Davis’ signature bop style, as only he could do it.
It’s moody. It’s uplifting. It’s subtle. And it’s as bold as a bullfight. You can obviously drink anything with this classic but it certainly pairs especially well with a lovely Garnacha or sherry from the country it pays such rich homage to.
Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense
Performance art meets rock ’n roll. The cerebral musical doctor of early punk-art-rock David Byrne. This guy just got it. He understood fully that life is theater and music is art and you can be serious while having fun and make big, grand points about life while being subtle and charming. If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the masterful art documentary film from which this album derives, grab a lovely bottle of rose and hold onto your seat (the rose is because you’ll need something cool and thirst-quenching yet lively and palate-pleasing for the sweat you’ll work up dancing).
The music is such that you can put it on in the background and let the infectious grooves and Byrne’s hypnotic guitar riffs buoy your festivities… or you can make it the centerpiece of your soiree and have a singalong because you probably know many of these unique, radio-friendly tunes.
Either way, it’s an eclectic, anytime masterpiece.