You’ve probably heard the saying, “Life’s a journey, not a destination”, and no where is this more true than when it comes to driving. Getting there is half the fun, and nothing makes a trip more fun than good music.
In movies, there’s something so perfect about the right song coming on at the right time — it can make or break a scene — and when you’re on a road trip, each new mile and new sight deserves to be set to just the right song, too.
In no particular order, here are my top ten choices for best albums for roadtrips — music for driving and songs to help you find your way. It was hard to limit my list; I love all kinds of music and have more albums and CDs than I can count. Perhaps on my list of music for road trips you’ll find driving songs you’ve forgotten about, something you can reconnect to, or maybe even something new and inspiring to help you along the road.
1. Richard Pryor — And It’s Deep Too! The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings (1968-1992)
I could have started out with any one of my music album choices, but I wanted to go with this one first, because listening to comedy while driving is often overlooked. Laughing is a good way to set the mood and tone of your road trip, and who better than the late, great Richard Pryor to make us belly laugh at the most inappropriate topics possible.
He was the first winner of Mark Twain Prize For American Humor, and is one of the most important comics ever. He captured uncomfortable yet critical topics and somehow made us chuckle at society’s ills. His finest is all here on this compilation. It includes all his best known material and some previously unreleased laughs, too.
2. The Big Chill , Major Motion Picture Soundtrack
Not just the soundtrack to one of the most talked about movies of the 80’s (did you love it or hate it?) , “The Big Chill”, but also the soundtrack to the lives of many baby-boomers, this collection of songs is more than just music to drive to –it’s Motown magic and one of the most fitting soundtracks ever compiled.
These 60’s classics will bring back memories or be the soundtrack to new ones you create on your trip.
3. Metallica – Master of Puppets
Master of Puppets is considered Metallica’s best, before they (supposedly) sold out with “Black” (ahem, I actually liked Black,, and it introduced Metallica to those who may never had otherwise listened to them ). While “Black” may be more accessible, “Master Of Puppets” is harder, more powerful, and contains plenty of raw energy and thrash to pick you up during those long, tiring stretches of open road.
4. Dr. Dre, The Chronic
Original g-funk and forever fresh, The Chronic is Dr. Dre’s freshman solo attempt, and also introduces us to another famous rapper — Snoop Dogg.
This is pure hip-hop, straight rap and lyrical mastery that even the most suburban of us can follow. Sensational, funky, and a hip hop masterpiece that’s not only one of the best rap albums of all time, but one of the best ever of any genre. This is a must have for soothing the inner “G” on your road trip. (contains explicit lyrics)
5. Tom Waits , Rain Dogs
Maybe you consider yourself a hipster, or maybe you’ll be falsely accused of being one, but do you really care? Fall into Tom Waits “tobacco dipped in whiskey” voice, and don’t worry about what the squares say. You’re cool and eclectic and have nothing to prove.
Tom Waits has many sounds. The man loves to experiment, and that’s why he’s kind of a love him or hate him type of musician –or entertainer I should say. Did I mention he’s a damn fine actor, too? In film and in his music, Tom Waits pulls us in to characters and situations — he’s a storytelling master who uses voice and music to give us funny, cool, conceptual, painful, dark, light, and just plain good.
Rain Dogs is one of Tom’s finest. More than music for road trips, this is storytelling for vagabond travelers, music for the melancholy or the lighthearted bum; “Rain Dogs” is road music for hardcore fans and the uninitiated trying to get a hold on Tom Waits.
6. The Buzzcocks — Singles Going Steady
The Buzzcocks are absolute singable punk, with melodious tunes that the unfamiliar may not associate with punk. But not only is this a punk album, it’s a compilation of songs from one of the first and one of the finest bands from the founders of pop punk.
Even hardcore D.I.Y. punks can’t help but sing these catchy punk anthems. Punks rocking out to catchy tunes while espousing DIY themes to pop riffs — does it even make sense? It does. Give it a listen. Singles Going Steady is a great selection of singles from one of the most influential and perhaps under-acclaimed bands.
7. The White Stripes, Icky Thump
From blues to rock, punk to bagpipes, and backwoods to mariachi trumpets, The White Stripes manage to cover it all on Icky Thump. From the literally thumping title track to the playful “Rag and Bone”, Meg and Jack mix it up, and again prove why they work so well together.
Meg shines and gives us a bit more, and Jack White once again reminds us of why he has been called “genius”. Stripped down rock-blues-eclectic- has never sounded so good.
8. Boston, self-titled
This classic rock staple is a mix of eight road friendly songs that you can’t help but sing. You’ll relate and get lost in the polished vocals and clean instruments.
Boston’s self-titled debut LP was the best-selling debut album of all time, and though I am not sure if it still hold the record, I’d rather just wink and say it still holds the honor. It’s just that good.
9. Led Zeppelin 2
Led Zeppelin’s second studio album is one of the best rock albums of all time, featuring hooks, riffs, and of course urgent and raw lyrics to be belted over the engine’s roar in your best Robert Plant impression.
A must for road trip song music, Led Zeppelin II is a mainstay of rock, and a challenge for those who play air guitar while driving.
10. Hole, Live Through This
Proof that chicks can rock, this album was a bit overshadowed by the death of lead singer Courtney Love’s husband, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. The album was written before his death and released shortly after.
The lyrics –screaming, wanting, languishing, powerful — give us a Courney Love before Courtney was crazy — or before she let us know she was crazy. Painful, dark, tragic, and totally singable, it reminds us that something intelligible used to come from Courtney’s mouth. Riot Grrrl was good before “The Spice Girls” prettied it up into Girl Power, and our– and Hole’s — womanly grunge and grudge lives through this album.
It wasn’t easy choosing my top ten albums for driving music, but I hope you enjoyed my choices, and if there’s something on the list you’ve never heard, give it a listen.
Crank up the volume and put the pedal to the medal, but don’t go too fast! You don’t want to get there before the music runs out!
Have a safe journey!