Shipwreck Music 2021

We’ve all read them, the shipwrecked albums lists. And although I’ve often wondered exactly how one would play records while stranded on a deserted island, I have come up with my own list. The only difficulty here is the fact that my favourite albums often change from one week to the next. 

With that in mind, and pretending there’s going to be a mysterious power portal of some sort on this deserted island, here’s what my list – in no particular order – would look like if I headed out today with plans on being shipwrecked (how else would I know to bring my top ten albums?).

Eagles – Their Greatest Hits (1971-75)

Being stranded would be bad enough, but being stranded without the Eagles’ first Hits disc would just plain suck. One of the best-selling albums of all-time, Hits captures the golden moments from the band’s peak years. Songs like “Take It Easy,” “Tequila Sunrise” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling” are timeless classics that never get old. It was a close choice between this one and the two CD The Very Best Of, but there are just too many throw away tracks on the latter.

ZZ Top – Rancho Texicano: The Very Best Of

No deserted island stay would be complete without some ZZ Top. Rancho Texicano contains all of the band’s best recordings, from early blues-heavy tracks like “Brown Sugar,” “La Grange” and “Blue Jean Blues,” to ‘80s mainstream material like “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Legs” and “Got Me Under Pressure,” the two disc set has it all (including about five songs that could have been left off). If there’s a cooler blues-rock trio on the planet, I haven’t come across them yet.

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

One of the best-selling albums of all-time, Rumours has spent long stretches in my car stereo, at first in cassette form and years later on CD. Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Christine and John McVie and Stevie Nicks crafted a true pop-rock masterpiece, one they’ve never come close to topping. No shipwrecked life would be complete without this album. “Songbird” has to be one of the most beautiful compositions ever written.

The Dirty Knobs– Wreckless Abandon

Tom Petty’s right hand man and best friend for more than 40 years, Mike Campbell returned to the music trenches with Wreckless Abandon. Campbell, whose guitar wizardry and songwriting were an integral part of Petty’s sound, picks up the rock and roll torch from his late mate. From the shimmering jangle pop of the title cut, Campbell and his band serve notice they’re not the Heartbreakers. There isn’t a weak song; stand out tracks include the chunky “Sugar” and the razor sharp “Fuck That Guy.”

Jackson Browne – Running On Empty

Jackson Browne has released so many great albums over the years, but Running On Empty stands as the singer-songwriter’s masterstroke. Made up of songs that were recorded in hotel rooms, backstage at various venues, on tour buses and in front of live audiences, Running On Empty is an inspired disc that can spin for hours straight without ever becoming boring. It was years before I clued in to what the song “Rosie” was really about.

AC/DC – Back In Black

I can slip this album into the stereo, close my eyes and be instantly transported back to the early ‘80s, a time when my love for hard rock bordered on obsession (my mother once told me the song “Problem Child” – off the band’s Dirty Deedsrecord– was written about me). Another album that sits on the best-selling discs of all-time list, Back In Black is a timeless collection and the perfect driving album. There will be no driving on the island, but there will be hard rock.

Steve Earle – Train A Comin’

Fresh out of prison and off hard drugs, Steve Earle recorded Train A Comin’. Perfect for those times when you want to listen to music that has been stripped down to the bare essentials, the acoustic set would be one of the first played after the shipwreck. Earle’s songwriting and vocals are as raw and real as they come on songs like the mournful “Goodbye,” the lovelorn “Nothin’ Without You,” the gritty “Ben McCullough” and the defiant “Tom Ames’ Prayer.” 

Hank Williams – 40 Greatest Hits

For those blue days on the island, I would need some Hank Sr. There hasn’t been another voice in country music as haunting or as sorrowful as Hank’s. 40 Greatest Hits contains pretty much every song from Hank’s catalog that a person would need to cry in their coconut cocktail. Hopefully I’ll be stranded with a few dozen cases of whiskey, cause Hank and whiskey go together like a needle and a vein. On second thought, I better let the whiskey go down with the ship.

Tom Petty – Wildflowers & All The Rest (Super Deluxe Edition)

Tom Petty’s 1994 stunning Wildflowers was originally intended to be a double album. Talked out of the massive release by the head of his record label, Petty settled for a single disc. All The Rest gives fans the 25 track version Petty envisioned plus extra discs containing demos, live and alternate takes. The disc of home recordings, including “Wildflowers” and “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” alone make this collection worth owning.

Bruce Springsteen – Greatest Hits

Like most of my choices, Bruce Springsteen’s Greatest Hits is one of those albums I can listen to over and over again, beginning to end, without skipping any of the tracks. From the opening rattle of the testosterone fuelled “Born To Run,” to the final notes of the jangly folk-rock blast “This Hard Land,” there isn’t one bad song on Greatest Hits. I’m sure Tom Hanks’ character in Castaway had some Springsteen on the island with him.

(January 2021)