"My Favorite Album" is a new weekly column, which will see us ask a musician exactly what the title suggests — to name their favorite album of all time. This week, it's pop songstress Fiona Grey.
This past holiday my dad and I sat across from each other in the kitchen and took turns playing our all-time favorite songs. We both scribbled down the names of the artists, songs and albums we hadn’t heard about as we shared our favorites with each other. It got me thinking about all the albums that have shaped my life and my music’s journey. There are many classic records that are undeniably good, and which have all touched me in their own ways. I think about The Cars' first record. That they used to joke while recording it should be titled The Cars Greatest Hits. In hindsight, they were right.
Eastside Story by Squeeze is another album that never gets old for me — I could listen to "Tempted" and "Cool for Cats" on repeat and still not get sick of them. I was recently introduced to Squeezing Out Sparks by Graham Parker, and I can’t stop listening to it — it’s a record that needs more acclaim than it has.
Another record that I’ve been listening to forever but that also deserves to be better known is Bad Is Beautiful by The Bad Examples, my dad’s '90s rock band. Of course, I must include The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars by David Bowie. I get lost in the songs every time I hear it.
All these amazing records are important in my life, some more recognizable than others but all iconic.
However, what makes a record your all-time favorite versus just a great record is the amount of emotional history that connects you with it. My favorite record of all time is Band on the Run by Wings. I wrote my college essays based around the title song, “Band on the Run.” I broke down the song in three parts and found a way to tie in the arrangement of the song to the prompt given. I used to cover “Let Me Roll It,” and you can find a video of it deep on YouTube (I was very young!).
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The record is full of moments sprinkled with Sir Paul’s songwriting but not in the traditional Beatles way. I think back to my dad telling me bedtime stories about McCartney’s journey recording the album in Nigeria, like how half his band quit because they didn’t want to go to Africa to record, and how Paul and Linda were robbed at knifepoint, losing all the lyrics and recorded demos of the record. The authenticity of this record is unlike traditional posh studio records. So many of our favorite records were made in safe, controlled environments, with studio assistants bringing tea, plush couches to sit on, while being spoiled by the best audio gear. Not to say that Paul, Linda and Denny didn’t have some moments of luxury, but there is an apparent grit and truth to this record that I’ve always been in awe of. I think that more modern-day artists should be inspired to take risks like he did.
This past fall I was on a North America tour for my new record, Cult Classic. One of my favorite shows of the tour was at Songbyrd Music House in D.C. My two best girlfriends opened for me, Heather Cole and Emma Cole; we had the room dancing and after the show went over to Emma’s brother’s house. There’s such a natural high you get from playing a show, something only a performer could understand. It was right out of an Almost Famous afterparty and we drank, smoked and danced around the room to our favorite records we had on vinyl. "Band on the Run” came on and I felt an unexplainable sense of comfort at home. The album makes sense in the way the songs are sequences, the journey it takes you on as a listener. Emma and I danced around like two girls straight out of Woodstock, jumping on the couch, singing out as loud as we could. There was a sublime sense of joy that was alive in the room.
I think that’s what makes a record your all-time favorite: You can be anywhere in the world and it feels like home when you put it on. As I continue on my own musical journey, I hope that I too can create albums and songs that inspire listeners to feel alive in the same way.
Fiona Grey plays with Girl Wilde, Uruguay and MXMS at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 22, at Madame Siam.