I love driving.
It doesn’t matter much where my wheels hit the road. I’ve done winding, graveled two-lanes through pine tree forests in the middle of Minnesota. Meandered along hilly stretches of I-94 through little tourist-trap Wisconsin towns like Mauston and Black River Falls. Mile after mile of I-70 between Indianapolis and Terre Haute, thick with cicadas and road kill. And I love skipping the toll road bypasses and bulleting clean through the skyscrapered hearts of big cities like Chicago or Minneapolis. Bumper-to-bumper at 80mph and I’m in heaven.
And I love music.
While books on CD are fun for those quiet times after the kids are asleep and my wife has kicked off her flip flops and tilted her seat back to catch a few well deserved Zs, there’s nothing quite like the joy to be had by popping in a favorite album and letting it play all the way through. You know the ones . . . the CDs that don’t have a track you usually skip past. Albums that just don’t work on your Ipod’s shuffle mode.
Here are my five favorite driving CDs:
This collection of live tunes was my first true introduction to DMB and remains a favorite for many reasons. There’s the spirited cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower.” The “lovely ladies” sauced-up stylings on “Angel.” The contemplative “If I Had It All.” And the pounding, foot-on-the-gas aggression of “Don’t Drink the Water.” I’ve got a lot of Dave that I listen to frequently, but nothing beats this one if you have a couple hours of concrete to traverse.
Maynard and the gang’s most passionate project. “Vicarious” has one of the best ending riffs ever recorded, and the lyrics get me singing along every time. The thunderclaps throughout the title track never fail to get my heart going, especially during the early morning stretch of a long, overnight drive. And the foolish, manic ramblings of “Roseta Stoned” always leave me laughing out loud. I usually wake up the dog, which inevitably leads to a piddle pit stop. Then there’s the surreal digital wheezing of “Viginti Tres.” If I play this one loud enough, the kids have nightmares. Squirm in their seatbelts and then beg for mercy. Dad’s crazy that way . . .
No road trip is complete without a concept album. My list has two. The first is from Seattle’s masters of cerebral rock. No album has been spun more times during the course of my life than this masterpiece from 1988. The story of Nikki, “a man becoming disillusioned with American society, and joining in a conspiratorial plot to assassinate its corrupt leaders,” draws me in and always entertains. On a two-day Greyhound trip from Bemidji, MN to Dallas during my college days, I listened to this cassette probably twenty times. In a row. “Why am I here / and for how long?” Indeed.
This one is a non-stop aural feast. It tells “the story of Nicholas and the discovery of his past life, which involves love, murder, and infidelity as Victoria Page.” The ending has a killer twist! And musically . . . well, long-time Tweakers know how I love this band. It’s the first album with Jordan on keyboards and his contributions are immediate and massive. DT hit their stride with this one, and at 70+ minutes it’s perfect for any long trip.
Yet another progressive rock album. This one’s a bit on the mellower side of life, however, and sets the perfect “settle down” tone, right about the time the sun goes down and we’ve stopped for supper at some roadside diner. Steve Wilson’s voice is hypnotically smooth, especially on tracks like “Arriving Somewhere But Not Here” and “The Start of Something Beautiful.” And the strangeness of “Glass Arm Shattering” wraps things up nicely.
So there you have ’em. I expect each and every one of you to go and get these and drive to NE Indiana. We’ll have a picnic . . .
No wait. Gas prices being what they are, maybe that’s not a plausible plan.
Instead, feel free to tweak The Cheek and share your favorite road trippin’ tunes. I’m always shopping for new CDs to spin. I look forward to hearing what keeps your eyes on the road and your hunk of steel between the lines . . .