My small, small Desert Island Discs/Records to Die for list. There're a lot of albums I like, but these albums are really special, cos' after all these years, I still love them. There're lots of great CDs I like to, and if I'm still hypnotised by them a few years from now, they'll go into the list too :)


Suzanne Vega, Suzanne Vega (US press)
I was 16 and listening to top 20 music (as listed by Paul Bennett of the BBC's Multirack), then a friend of my offered to make a tape for me of nice songs from his record collections. It was mainly top 20 hits, but amongst them was Gypsy by Suzanne Vega (of course, is on Solitude Standing), but that got me all excited about this genre. This led me to discover Suzanne's first album, which is arguably, still her best work to date. Her voice is unique; some have called it smoky, to me, its just plain hypnotic.

Rebecca Pidgeon, The Raven (US gold press)
My first 'audiophile' CD. Back in the days when Sembawang Music Centre was a decent CD shop (its hopeless now), I asked the shopowner for recommendations on female vocals. He recommended this CD, however, because it was a gold disc, they were all shrinkwrapped and no testing was allowed. Fortunately, I could test the Chesky sampler disc which contained 'Kalerka'. I tested it, I liked it, and bought it for S$23 (yes, gold pressing). Sure, this is light yuppie folk, but the recording is so good, and her sweet voice is a sheer delight to listen to. Another album I can listen from beginning to end.

Shawn Colvin, Live in '88 (US Press)
I love Shawn, and this is my favourite Shawn Colvin album. Simply vocals & guitar, highlighting her silky, fragile voice that just oozes with emotions (sad ones, usually). The recording is so simple that they couldn't have made any mistakes, and they didn't; the recording sounds good, including the guitar, which on some recordings sounds excessively harsh and metallic. Bravo!

Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes
when I first heard her, I thought, well, nice, but just a Kate Bush imitator. However, as time went buy, I found myself liking this album more and more. The fact that its incredibly well recorded is also an asset. But note, because her voice is 'thin', many mini-compos and hi-fi systems (esp those with too much treble), make her voice rasp or thin and anaemic. But on great hi-fi, her wonderfully focused closed-mike voice and the complexities and nuances of the piano shine through. The piano is a complex instrument, and incredibly (for a pop recording), as the hi-fi gets better, you can hear 'more' of her piano playing. But that means nothing if not for the incredible songs on this albums. From one of my favourite Anthems 'Silent All these years', to the Julia Fordhamish crooning on 'China' and 'Winter', to the dark 'Crucify' and 'Little Earthquakes', this is one fine album.

Left: Silent All These Years 1997 RAINN benefit single

Mary Black, Various Albums (US and European pressings)
The first Mary Black albums I bought were No Frontiers & Babes in the Wood (US longbox pressing). This was when Sembawang was a great CD shop (US longbox pressings only $21!). But I can't really single out any particular Mary Black album as a 'desert island disc', its just that the totality of her work (quite a lot of it) has had a great impact. She's perhaps the only non-singer/songwriter that I really like [besides jazz singers]. Still, I remember playing over and over again the incredibly mushy 'Thorn Upon the Rose'. At that time I was not a true blue audio enthusiast, but I was so impressed by the incredible piano sound (today, it still sounds very good, though not the best), the elegant simplicity of the arrangement, and the dynamic contrasts as she goes from soft to loud.

Right: US longbox pressing of Babes in the Wood


U2, Pride
My brother has the 12" single for Pride, and thats the medium where I first heard this song. Totally brilliant; 'nuff said. U2 is the Edge and Bono. If you can't hear the Edge, its not U2.