The Summer Road Trip is a tradition as old as automobiles themselves. Traveling across vast landscapes, stopping for food, drink and a bit of a respite from the road are experiences that everyone can benefit from. In 30 years I’ve seen quite a bit of the world and of this country, but there’s still so much more to see. I dream of being able to pack my family into the car and taking a nice long road trip to somewhere we’ve never been before. I can’t imagine doing that though without some really great music in the CD player.
Music and road trips are two mutually inclusive elements of life on Earth. Sure, if you have a car with the ability to watch movies or TV shows, that’s fine and dandy, but the true road trip veteran knows that nothing makes the hours go by like some really great music. Below are ten albums I think every person considering a road trip should pack along for the ride.
“Elton John’s Greatest Hits 2003-2004” Elton John and Bernie Taupin write songs that grab you, and simply force you to listen. Most of the time you have to sing along, it’s required by some strange universal law. The scene in “Almost Famous” where the entire band sings “Tiny Dancer” together is proof positive of this very fact. Try and get through one chorus of “Bennie and the Jets” without singing out in unison with those you’re sharing the car with. If you bring along the greatest hits, you’ll be sure to have plenty of singable goodness to choose from.
“Prolonging the Magic” Anyone who doesn’t find Cake absolutely flawless for a road trip may just need to cancel their vacation plans. The rhythms with which this uniquely melodic and percussive band crafts their songs is a perfect foil for the long road ahead of you. “Satan is Motor” will make you wish that the Dark Lord himself really was powering your vehicle, and “Let Me Go” to this day is one of my favorite with maybe the most infectious guitar lick ever.
“Rubber Soul” The first of two Beatles albums on this list; “Rubber Soul” was the first step the band took in a less pop-centric direction. When you’re on a road trip you need songs that can just flow right into each other, and don’t require you to change out discs or skip tracks every other song. This album is great from top to bottom. Bonus points for including a track about cars, “Drive My Car,” which for any road-trip is a treat, right?
“Mellow Gold” Beck is in my mind the most diversely talented musician to break out into the mainstream in the last twenty years. He’s equal parts hip-hop, rock, jazz, disco, funk, and everything in between. No one album sounds the same, and they all have a depth that you just don’t hear from most other artists. His major label debut, “Mellow Gold,” contains some really road-trip friendly tracks such as “Loser” and “Beercan.”
“Wildflowers”One of Tom Petty’s “solo” records (but he still used The Heartbreakers as studio musicians), this is perhaps one my favorite collections of his material. There’s a really mature perspective that shines through in his lyrics, and the songs themselves have a fun, playful sound. The vibe of the songs lends itself nicely to a road trip because you can just press play, and listen to the guitars, bass, drums and keys backing Petty’s unique voice. Highlights include “You Don’t Know How It Feels,””It’s Good to be King,” and “Honey Bee.”
“Abbey Road”The second Beatles album on the list is another album that works perfectly for a road trip. Nearly every track is a certified classic, and you’ll never feel the urge to press the skip button. The last studio outing that the Fab Four embarked on, the record moves from the first track to the last with a sense of purpose and emotional weight, while wrapping up in a place of pure joy. It was by far the best “last album” of a band’s career ever. The entire B-Side medley of “Abbey Road” is an epic journey that touches several musical styles and crescendos into the goodbye message of the band, In End The Love You Take is Equal to the Love You Make.
“Rumours”Fleetwood Mac’s most famous album was a mega-sensation for a reason. The band worked this album so hard and for so long that they had to replace the drum tracks with back-up “safety” tracks from all the tape bounces they did. Its bombast and production value keep the listener’s rapt attention. By the time you get to “The Chain” you are fully invested in this journey that the band’s taking you on. Just put your foot down and drive with this album.
“Briefcase Full of Blues”Still one of the highest selling blues albums of all time, The Blues Brothers (John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd) proved that just because a band is formed “as a joke” that doesn’t mean you can’t produce amazing content. Taped at the Universal Amphitheater and featuring some of the greatest blues musicians ever, this record explodes with funk, blues and soul. “Soul Man” is a track that you just have to drive to, and “Rubber Biscuit” is a tune I dare you to listen to and not bob along in the car to.
“My Aim Is True”Short, sweet and to the point. Elvis Costello’s debut album is a tour de force of passion and energy. On a road trip it’s nice to have an album or two that aren’t super long, that you can just pop in and consume over a shorter stint. Featuring one of his most popular songs of all time, “Alison,” the album isn’t without it’s more subtle moments, but for the most part the tracks are stacked back-to-back with rock and roll. However, the highlight for me is the reggae-flavored “Watching the Detectives,” a tune that tells a classic detective story of murder and intrigue.
“Once (Music from the Motion Picture)” Glen Hassard and Marketa Irglova’s voices blend together as the amazing band The Swell Season, and in this charming film , they play the roles of an Irish singer song-writer and his immigrant friend was wrought with romantic tension and splattered with truly moving and beautiful music. The soundtrack for the film features the full-length studio cuts of all the songs in the film, and is perfect that for that moment of your road trip where you just want to hear some gorgeous music as you watch the countryside.