Category Archives: Desert Island Discs

Desert Island Discs with Danny Weinkauf

If you had to go away for awhile and you could only take five of your favorite albums with you, which ones would you choose? Yes, we know it isn’t a fair question, but that hasn’t stopped us from asking music fans who happen to be recording artists in their own right. This edition of Desert Island Discs comes courtesy of Danny Weinkauf, who released his frist solo record called No School TodayIn short, the album is awesome. How does one, not love this?

You may not think you’ve heard music from him before, but that’s probably not true. When he’s not playing bass for They Might Be Giants, Mr. Weinkauf has written a boatload of music for too many companies to even list: Just read the bio on his website.

Now we turn it over to Danny…..

???????????????????????????For someone who really loves music, the idea of having only 5 of your favorite albums to choose from seems a bit cruel. My guess is that there are certain albums that are just so beloved by most of us that they would probably show up repeatedly on these types of lists. For that reason I will not include All The Beatles albums, What’s going on?, Innervisions, Kind of Blue, Axis bold as love, Hunky Dory, Quadrophenia, Court and Spark, Nevermind, Blood on the Tracks, A Night at the Opera, Good old Boys, Rain dogs, or Exile on Main Street on my list. See what I mean? That’s about 20 albums right there and you want me to limit it to 5. That doesn’t even include all the alternative stuff I’m not gonna put on my list like Radiohead, David Byrne, David Byrne and St. Vincent, David Byrne and Brian Eno, Sufjan Stevens, Cake, Beck, XTC, The LAs, Fountains of Wayne, Mike Viola, They Might Be Giants, TMBG, and They Might be Giants. Did I mention They Might be Giants? Too good for a list like this! Pheew, man this is tougher than I thought. How about a list of 5 albums that I really love that some people might not know are great? Here goes:

1. RAM – by Paul McCartney – my favorite of his post Beatles albums (I know, I know Band on the Run is pretty great too). From the rockers like “Too many People” and “Monkberry Moon Delight” though the multi-harmony beauty of “Dear Boy” and “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”. It’s so melodic and natural sounding and his voice is at its best. As a bass player, Paul has always been one of my biggest influences.

2. Woodface – by Crowded House – I think it’s hands down the best of this band that is incredibly famous in England, Australia, and their home New Zealand. Neil Finn is a fantastic songwriter with an amazing voice and is joined by his brother Tim on this album. The harmonies between two brothers really shine though. Any time my friends and I pull out our acoustic guitars you can be sure that we’ll play “It’s only Natural”, “Fall at Your Feet”, and “Weather with You” — all from this album.

3. Rockin’ the Suburbs – by Ben Folds. A couple of years ago I decided that I wanted to significantly improve my piano playing skills. I spent many hours playing songs by The Beatles, Elton John, Randy Newman, and this Ben Folds album. When I first heard this album, I felt like Ben must have listened to a lot of the same music I did growing up. I could hear all kinds of influences that he managed to make his own and the piano playing was great and varied stylistically from track to track. I thought to myself, “If I can learn to play most of the songs on that album, I will be a much better piano player and will have a kind of vocabulary to pull from in my own writing.” When I was writing songs for my album No School Today I started playing a piano part that reminded me of something Ben might play so I developed it and wrote the song “The Ballad of Ben” as a sort of “thank you” to him.

4. Brutal Youth – by Elvis Costello – Elvis is one of my songwriting heroes. He is so prolific, so melodic, and lyrically genius. This is probably not one of his most popular records but it has so many moments of truely great songs that I keep going back to it. “This Is Hell”, “You Tripped at Every Step”, “13 Steps Lead Down”, and “Still Too Soon To Know” are the first that come to mind.

5. Best of the Four Tops – Ok, maybe it’s cheating (ed. – it is, but we’ll let it slide) to choose a best of collection but considering that these guys had their hits more than 50 years ago, when you go through their catalog many of the albums are “best of” collections. Here are the facts on this one: they had one of the greatest rhythm sections ever on their tracks. My favorite bassist James Jamerson and all the other Motown greats were their backing band. Levi Stubbs’ sings so powerfully and soulfully on songs like “Bernadette”, “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” “Walk Away Renee,” “Standing in the Shadows of Love,” and “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch).” I get excited just thinking about it.

Go find out more of what’s in Danny’s brain, right here:

Desert Island Discs with Hullabaloo

If you had to go away for awhile and you could only take five of your favorite albums with you, which ones would you choose? Yes, we know it isn’t a fair question, but that hasn’t stopped us from asking music fans who happen to be recording artists in their own right. This edition of Desert Island Discs comes courtesy of Steve Denyes & Brendan Kremer of Hullabaloo, whose latest LP, Raise A Ruckus, was released on September 4th. You can preview some of the new album on their website.

Steve Denyes

Steve Earle – Transcendental Blues: I love all of Steve Earle’s records so choosing just one for my extended desert island vacation was really tough. The song that tipped the scales for Transcendental Blues is “Galway Girl.” It may be the best Celtic-hillbilly rock anthem ever. It may be the only Celtic-hillbilly rock anthem ever. . . but it is really good.

Guy Clark – Dublin Blues: The album’s opening line: “I wish I was in Austin at the Chili Parlor Bar drinking Mad Dog margaritas and not caring where you are,” says more than my ten best songs put together.

Bob Marley – Kaya: Though you’d never really guess by listening, Bob Marley has probably influenced my music as much as Woody Guthrie or Johnny Cash. Kaya is a really nice blend of the socio-political and laid-back love songs.

Johnny Cash: American IV: Listening to this album is like being inside Johnny’s head as he wrestled with his legacy and his mortality in his final years. His version of Nine Inch Nail’s “Hurt” gets me choked up every time.

Bob Dylan: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan: “Blowin’ In the Wind,” “Girl From the North Country,” “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” would make for a pretty impressive catalogue after a lifetime of songwriting. Dylan did it all on his second album by the age of 22.

Brendan Kremer

Rolling Stones – Some Girls (Reissue):  For me, the best albums are a combination of great writing and greater performance.   I love listening to a band gelling together and putting out music that sounds like a group of musicians building off of each other.   No one does this better than the Stones and the 70’s was some of their best work.   I could have chosen Exile on Main Street or Sticky Fingers, but there is something about the sound on Some Girls that I love.   Must be Ronnie Woods.   And how can you pass up the Stone playing disco?   The reissue also gets my vote as it adds an extra hour worth of music which will come in handy until our batteries run out.

Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out:  Joe Morello is one of my all time favorite drummers as he made the drum set sound like a melodic instrument.  The solo on Take Five is genius, especially when you realize it is in 5/4 timing.  Throw in Blue Rondo a la Turk and you have drum beats that still seem amazing 60 years later.

Jimmy Cliff and others – Harder They Come Soundtrack:    Like everyone I grew up with, I have Bob Marley Legend on heavy rotation in my house.  But when I found Harder They Come and realized it was the original mainstream reggae album, I was hooked.   Every song on the album seems like a combination of the best of R&B, reggae, folk and rock.  It is amazing that one album can give the world Pressure Drop, You Can Get if You Really Want It, Rivers of Babylon and Many Rivers to Cross.

Bare Naked Ladies – Rock Spectacle:   If there is one thing Steve and I disagree on it is live albums. Steve hates them and I think they can be the best thing a band can put out.  One of my favorites is Rock Spectacle which shows that BNL was not just a group of really cleaver writers, but they were extremely talented musicians.   Recorded as they were first on their way to multi-stardom, it shows how a band can perfectly play off their audience and make for a great live performance.

Adele – 21:  Ok… so this is just to prove that someone is still trying to put out a quality album. As much as I love Pandora and I-Tunes, we are quickly moving away from the album as a complete package.  Other than 21, I cannot think of an album in the last two or three years that can be taken for more than a sum of its parts.  I will admit I bought it for my kids, but I have found that I chose to play it more often than they do.   I am also a sucker for the drum beat on He Won’t Go.

Desert Island Discs with Randy Kaplan

If you had to go away for awhile and you could only take five of your favorite albums with you, which ones would you choose? Yes, we know it isn’t a fair question, but that hasn’t stopped us from asking music fans who happen to be recording artists in their own right. This edition of Desert Island Discs comes courtesy of Randy Kaplan, whose latest LP, Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie, is out now.

You’re not kidding me, this IS hard. I am cyclically obsessed with many different types of music, from blues to opera to Broadway to folk to jazz to classical to calypso to microtonal to ’80s pop… you name it. And I can easily pick at least ten essential recordings in each of those categories! But I’ll acquiesce and stick to five discs for my desert island sabbatical. Alas, I’ll have to live without some of my favorite music. Can I at least bring my guitar?

Blind Boy Fuller – Complete Recorded Works (6 Volumes)

Is this cheating? Kind of like asking a genie if my first wish could be for ten more wishes? In any event, these are all the recordings Blind Boy Fuller ever made. They span the years 1935-1940. Fuller was a master of Piedmont blues. That’s a finger-pickin’ style I love and work in. Fuller is one of my favorite singers, lyricists, musicians, and performers. I based several songs on my new CD (Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie) on Blind Boy Fuller’s songs. It’s hard to pass up Blind Blake (the King of Ragtime Guitar) and Robert Johnson (the King of the Delta Blues) but since I’m limiting myself to one blues recording I’m gonna go with this one… well, these six!

Anthology of American Folk Music

This mystical collection (six CDs) was originally compiled by Harry Smith from his collection of rare 78s. If you’re a fan of the folk revivalists of the 1960s (Bob Dylan in particular) you will be amazed by many of these songs. This here is the earliest source material recorded for most of the folk songs we know! In addition to the ballads, blues, country, and folk songs there are Cajun and gospel numbers along with some very strange instrumentals. Some of the performers are blues masters (Furry Lewis, Charlie Patton, Mississippi John Hurt) and some are country giants (The Carter Family, Clarence Ashley, Charlie Poole) but the vast majority of them are quite obscure. The haunting collection comes with an extensive booklet of amazing liner notes along with a reproduction of Harry Smith’s own original liner notes booklet which is more of a postmodern work of art and stockpile of arcane esoterica. These discs are more than an anthology. They’re a mythology.


I’ll have to insist on the original cast album from 1943. I can listen to this recording of the first collaboration between Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II non-stop (I once did on a drive from Lawrence, Kansas to Los Angeles). Stephen Sondheim is my overall favorite Broadway composer/lyricist but he was mentored by Mr. Hammerstein and this is Oscar’s greatest achievement. I like the film version too, even though they changed some of the lyrics, judging them to be too edgy for mass consumption. Can you imagine that?! Alfred Drake, Joan Roberts, Lee Dixon, Howard da Silva, and the hilarious Celeste Holm are all part of this perfect cast. But, you say, why not listen to a later recording, one of much higher technical quality? Ha! I answer. Don’t you know by now that I prefer lo-fi and relatively ancient relics? Perhaps if any subsequent recording were half as good as this one… but none are. The original film cast comes closest.

Trojan Calypso Box Set

Another genie situation, this collection contains 50 songs on three CDs. Lord Kitchener is my absolute favorite calypsonian and a few of his gems are on offer here. Also making appearances are these great masters of the genre: Count Lasher, Lord Creator, Mighty Sparrow, Lord Invader, Ben Bowers, Baldhead Growler (can’t find this guy anywhere else), Mighty Dougla (or him for that matter), and many more. Talk about edgy lyrics; man, keep this with your push-down-and-turn medicine bottles. I hate to leave early masters like Lord Executor, Growling Tiger, and Lord Pretender at home but, overall, this box set will serve me well while I’m sequestered on that beach of sand. Most of the songs here are from my favorite calypso period, that kind of middle phase when that joyous sound evolved from the early more New Orleans jazzlike style and before the Soca trend made the lyrically intensive calypsos sound more like dance music. Man, this stuff is good.

Well, I haven’t chosen any concert music yet… or opera. Not to mention jazz or… the list goes on and on. I’m gonna have to go with something classy here, if not classical. What will it be? The symphonies of Brahms? The string quartets of Dvorak? Maybe an opera is in order. Yes. An opera. But what’ll it be? Don Giovanni? Don Carlos? La Fanciulla Del West? Ya know, I think I’ll leave Mozart, Verdi, and Puccini at home this time ’round and take The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini. Yes, this opera buffa will serve me well while suntanning against my will; cracking open coconuts and chomping on tropical leaves will surely be easier to take with this record in tow. I’ll risk the ire of purists and choose the English National Opera version. I’ll just have to have faith that I’ll eventually get off the island and be reunited with all the musicianers I’ve had to forsake.