Top 5 Driving Albums

October 24th, 2003
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I’ve been traveling up and down the East Coast a great deal lately, often with my only companion being the car stereo. Sitting for hours behind the wheel, passing though industrial parks and strip malls, over hills and through the woods, all the while watching the sun and moon take turns illuminating my trip, it’s the soundtrack of the road that helps keep me sane. So here it is, my top 5 albums to listen to while driving. I’ve carefully researched all of these while gliding over the asphalt of highways and back roads, dodging the taillights of drivers from New Jersey, scrounging for change on the floor before I pass through that next toll, and they have all stood the test of time (and miles).5. Janes Addiction – Ritual de lo Habitual: This album is great because it’s like getting two albums in one. Side one of this alternative rock pioneering masterpiece is filled with funky bass lines, rocking guitar solos, and upbeat sing-a-long classics. When Perry Farrell chants “Gimme that – your automobile, turn off that smokestack and that goddamn radio” in the opening song “Stop,” its hard to resist stomping on the brakes in order to better “hum along.” And what better song to sing as you walk into the store at the rest stop than “Been Caught Stealing?” However, once you get to the second side (if you are as unfortunate as I am to only have a tape deck in your vehicle) these California natives completely change the tone of the album with three opuses in a row. Rock and funk break away into more complex and experimental compositions that take their time to unfold. At first the eerie opening of “3 Days” informs you that the party side of the album is over. After nearly eleven minutes of the most ambitious song Jane’s Addiction ever recorded, Ferrell and company keep up the intensity with the orchestral “Then She Did…” complete with the epic swells of a string section. “Of Course” mixes in some Middle Eastern flavor, making whatever trip you’re on feel that much more exotic for the next 7 minutes. Finally Ritual lets you back down with the quiet ballad “Classic Girl” which gracefully sets the stage for what’s next…

4. Neurosis – Through Silver In Blood: This ethereal hardcore outfit has been making some of the most challenging and artistic mood music on the heavier side of the spectrum. Each of their albums has a dark undercurrent to it that makes their releases feel more like maddening journeys than albums. Through Silver In Blood is a perfect example. While you physically travel across the open road, the soundsmiths in Neurosis take you on a much more chilling mental venture to the brink of sanity. That being said, I would not recommend this album as the cure for road rage or as something good to keep you awake when you’re alone in the middle of the night. The textured interplay between guitar, bass, drums, vocals and samples will assuredly take your mind to a whole new place, with subliminal messages breaking up the monotony of open road. The opening title track begins with ambient noise that slowly makes way for pounding drums to seep in and prepare you for the down-tuned assault of the bass and guitar coming next. Tracks like this and “Aeon” don’t so much play as unfold, constantly building to the epic ending of “Enclosure In Flame”. Every time you listen to this album, something new emerges from the soundscapes it creates, giving it crucial replay value while trapped behind the wheel.

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By Steve Mangione Posted in Features