JB over at EyeEatMusic has written up her top five ‘road trip’ albums, and I just couldn’t resist chiming in with my own list on the subject. I’m not sure if there’s a better purpose for great music than providing the atmosphere for an escape to somewhere far, far away. Here are 12 albums that were made for a fast car, a worthwhile destination, and an open stretch of highway…
The Doors * L.A. Woman ~ The title track alone makes this a tremendous album for the road – it’s the rock and roll equivalent of riding in a convertible with the wind blowing in your hair as you speed towards the apocalypse.
X * Beyond & Back: The X Anthology ~ Another important Los Angeles band that made essential music for the open road. X fused the energy of early rock & roll with the sneer of punk, a driving back beat, and tales of love and death. What more could you ask for?
Alabama 3 * Exile On Coldharbour Lane ~ ‘Woke Up This Morning’ was featured in the opening credits for The Sopranos, and this album boasts many other fine songs as well. You just can’t help but feel as tough as Tony Soprano when your hand’s on the wheel and this one’s in the deck.
Red Meat * Meet Red Meat ~ Red Meat makes the right kind of music for keeping the mood light. It’s genuine country, played for laughs, and there are plenty of good punch lines here. Fantastic songs, too – ’14 Hours To Tulsa’ is one of the best driving songs ever laid down.
Gilles Peterson * Fania DJ Series ~ Noted British DJ Gilles Peterson selects two discs worth of his favorite tracks from the recent flurry of Fania re-issues. It’s an album of scorching latin salsa/funk/boogaloo that is ideally paced for a nice long drive.
My Morning Jacket * It Still Moves ~ This is one of my favorite albums for the journey over the Bay Bridge and into San Francisco. The first half dozen songs are just the right speed and mood for a night drive. Or, as Jim James puts it, “Dancefloors, headlights, in my blood there’s gasoline.”
Josh Ritter * Golden Age Of Radio ~ Josh Ritter is the great plains version of Nick Drake, and this album is a different kind of soundtrack for an outing in the automobile. It’s longing, wistful, and gorgeous – in other words, the proper music for your very own VW commercial.
Queens Of The Stone Age * Songs For The Deaf ~ Yep, every trip needs a little head-bangin’ and this album will do just fine (but feel free to insert your favorite AC/DC, Zeppelin, or Motorhead album here). QOTSA put it all together here – the addition of Mark Lanegan on some vocal tracks and Dave Grohl on drums were brilliant moves that paid off in an epic album.
Minutemen * Double Nickels On The Dime ~ This album is loosely dedicated to the concept of driving – it opens and closes with the sound of car engines revving. Loaded with excellent songs that are all over the stylistic map, Double Nickels On The Dime plays out like a carefully selected mix tape. If I had to narrow this list to just a single album, this would be it.
Groove Armada * Love Box ~ This Electronica/Hip-Hop hybrid is an instant jolt of adrenaline and features a non-stop mix of joyous party tunes that will have you traveling in beats per minute instead of miles per hour.
J.J. Cale * Anyway The Wind Blows: The Anthology ~ Cooler than cool. J.J. Cale plays down home country blues/folk/whathaveyou that sound like a shrug and a cloud of dust. ‘Call Me The Breeze’ is one of the all-time travel tunes, and it’s matched here by a number of tumbleweed classics.
Fela Kuti * The Best Best Of Fela Kuti ~ Afrobeat is the definition of propulsive, and Fela Kuti is the King of Afrobeat. Does that mean Fela Kuti is the King of Propulsion?? You better believe it does…
[To see my 13 runners-up, please check the comments section here.]