1999 Records To Die For

One of the benefits of being music editor of Stereophile---after, of course, unimaginable wealth, unquestioned power, and hot and cold running editorial groupies---is that every year in February I get to write about death. That, and the rather odd personality traits of the Stereophile writing staff.

For readers, our annual "Records To Die For" extravaganza, in which each writer chooses two discs for which he or she might or might not be bitten in half, is (hopefully) a fun feature that clues you in to forgotten masterworks or gives you something obscure to lust after in record stores.

The only catch is that R2D4s are personal choices, like burgers or boxer shorts, dependent entirely upon the taste of the individual. The only rule that our writers must observe is that the discs selected cannot have been out of print since before the death of, say, Louis Armstrong (1971). Otherwise, any genre, artist, or collection is fair game.

For me, this feature provides a window into the shadowy souls of our writers. I mean what, pray tell, could possess a grown man to choose the soundtrack to A Bug's Life as one of the discs he'd expire for? Or, better yet, ramble on for paragraph after paragraph about how alluring Stevie Nicks looks swathed in diaphanous veils?

Music writers are, of course, the most twisted of all. If you write about music long enough, you naturally, without fail, become a contrarian. If everybody else likes it, then it's gotta be crap. Conversely, if they pressed up 500 copies on dried rabbit dung and distributed them only in Cambodia, then you've gotta have it.

In addition, music writers all have their secret, guilty pleasures. Old KISS records are a big one. T. Rex figures prominently in certain music collections. Sweet is another behind-closed-doors kinda band. And let's not even talk about Lesley Gore, TV Tunes, and Falco (Rock Me Amadeus!!!).

All of this is meant as a warning. Before you dash off a letter informing me that any of the following writers are cretins for choosing these discs, remember: It's only their opinion. In some cases, they're more to be pitied than scorned. And yes, before you ask, that will be me turning slowly on a spit in the writers' lounge at HI-FI '99.---Robert Baird

Note: If a recording listed here has previously been reviewed in Stereophile, the volume and number of the pertinent issue appear in parentheses at the end of the review. For example, a listing of "XVIII-10" means that a review appeared in Vol.18 No.10 (October 1995). These citations include full reviews and the shorter R2D4 and "Quarter Notes" capsules.