1997 Records To Die For

When I first heard about "Records To Die For," I had to laugh. "Desert Island Discs," maybe, but Records To Die For? Laying down your life for a record? World-class hyperbole. Throw yourself on a sword for a glob of petrochemicals? Not me. If your house was burning down, would you a) grab your child, b) grab your photos and other irreplaceable items (cats, loved ones, etc.), or c) grab your records?

Gee, now that one made me think. In fact, the more I pondered, the closer these once-amusing examples came to my own life and its lamprey-like obsessions. When I moved to Santa Fe, for example, I had to carry not one, but two boxes of CDs on the plane---because I didn't trust the movers. And then there's memories of obsessions past---me at age 13 trading half my collection for an original MC5 Kick Out the Jams album, or the object of my pubescent puppy love who drew a line in the sand: Turn off Goodbye Yellow Brick Road or else. Guess which one I chose.

Final proof that this was serious business came from perusing the Sunday New York Times and other paragons of fine writing and after-the-fact culture, where the expression "to die for" has become a favored form of so-mannered-it's-hip slang---as in, "Oh, their toasted polenta with gorgonzola sauce is to die for."

Sobered by the realization that while I wouldn't die for a disc, I might sustain a not-too-disfiguring wound for an original 78 of Robert Johnson's "Hellhound On My Trail," I now, in the proper spirit of obsessive music geekiness, welcome you to the 1997 edition of Stereophile's "Records To Die For." I want to thank all the writers who racked their brains to come up with two records they would wrestle the grim reaper for. Choosing just two can be difficult, so I urged everyone to shoot from the hip, write off the top of the head, and most of all, have fun. Hopefully, you'll feel the same way reading. ---Robert Baird