Musical crimes of the century…

I think what ultimately set me off was Kenny G.

But there he was, staring back at me from his position at 107. According to the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM), that’s where Kenny’s album Breathless sits on the list of 200 so-called ‘definitive albums of all time’.

The tagline is, “where would you be without them?” For some of the albums on this list, far better off, it seems…

In the news release issued this week to ‘celebrate’ the release of this list, in association with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, NARM President Jim Donio stated: “In compiling the list we asked retailers to think about the titles that fans keep coming back to, the titles that stand out for them. It’s not just about sales, although albums that have sold well are obviously represented here. It’s really about the passion that music buyers have shown for these particular titles and the albums’ potential for enduring popularity today with new audiences…. the Definitive 200 are the albums everyone should own.”

Even, it seems, Kenny G, even though I could go into my album vault and come up with about 600 other titles that are far more worthy of that 107 position.

But that’s the thing about these lists – they’re great starting points for debate and discussion, for those of us who have a dabbling appreciation for music (say, the same type of people who think High Fidelity is a documentary) and get to compare and contrast these ‘definitive’ lists with what’s in our own collections.

However, this particular list just seems to get my goat.

Let’s see… Sgt. Pepper’s at number one. Well that’s no surprise; when Rolling Stone Magazine compiled its top 500 a couple of years ago, the Fab Four’s masterwork sat in the top spot then as well.

No argument from me.

But as you delve further in, one really has to wonder just who comes up with these albums, and has the absolute nerve to put them ahead of other albums.

The first musical crime? Well, actually, there are several to choose from, but the one that had me screaming obscenities into my pillow was the Titanic soundtrack at 103. At 104, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Déjà vu.

Next exhibit: Celine Dion at 97, Neil Young’s Harvest album at 98.

There are albums by artists who have produced far better efforts. Santana’s Supernatural is on the list at 13 (a surprise in itself), yet his Abraxas album – while perhaps not as commercially successful – is artistically superior (and doesn’t make the list). Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life is number 23, though it could be considered inferior to his other work such as Innervisions or Talking Book (neither on the list, um, either).

Other bands are simply not there. The list has a wonderful search feature – that is, if the band you expect to be on the list is there. The Band? Nope. Eric Clapton? Not him either, whether it be in a solo capacity, or in any of the groups he’s graced – which means no Cream, no Yardbirds, no Derek & the Dominoes (even though Layla is considered one of the top songs of all time), no John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Genesis (Lamb Lies Down on Broadway), or Peter Gabriel? No and no, though Phil Collins and No Jacket Required – one of the most saccharine albums of all time – is sitting there at number 74.

NARM’s ‘definitive’ list also shows a definite American lean (even considering Celine). So you won’t find a mention of The Guess Who (much to the consternation of my good friend Dale West), or The Tragically Hip.

In the end, NARM’s ‘definitive’ list is not so much a starting point for debate, but a celebration of all that seems to be mediocre within the world of popular music.

As the Jack Black character in High Fidelity says to some poor sap who has dared venture into the record store looking for a copy of Stevie Wonder’s I Just Called to Say I Love You for his daughter; “is she in a coma?”

Based on the NARM list, I’d say we’ve all caught a case of middleoftheroaditis…

Surfing the Net Update: After I wrote this (it’s also going to be in place of my regular vinyl review in the Georgian Bay Shopping News), I came across Shay Quillen’s review in the Mercury News (oops, the link is now fixed)…

The Adulation is Deafening Update: Oh, wait, that should be condemnation; I haven’t come across a review that doesn’t think this list isn’t a complete piece of shite, here, here, here, and here. Which makes me wonder if NARM just doesn’t withdraw its list, and go sit in the corner for an hour or so to consider its actions…