The Ideal Qobuz Collection comprises original, uncompiled albums that have made a considerable mark on music history or which qualify as essential recordings within each musical genre. By downloading these albums, or streaming them with your subscription, you begin a journey that will shine a light on some of the finest moments in recorded music.

Albums

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Folk - Released March 3, 2008 | Names records ltd

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Country - Released May 18, 1987 | Universal Music

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Country - Released October 17, 1988 | Geffen

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Country - Released April 18, 2016 | Light In The Attic

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Reissued by HackTone after its original CD issue in 1995, Heartworn Highways is the sonic companion to the classic 1981 documentary of the same name. David Gorman goes out of his way to tell listeners/purchasers that this disc is not the soundtrack to the film because there never was one. HackTone "had to go back to the original film elements and Nagra tapes with the film's editor and producer to create one," according to Gorman. They "spent months working between them and an audio restoration engineer in New York to make a stand-alone album out of audio that works perfectly well while watching the film but would sound horribly disjointed otherwise. In fact, most of the performances in the film are edited down to about 1/4 their original length." This is key because it must have been a very painful process at time--especially during the 'round table' recordings on Christmas Eve at the end of the album. The microphone was literally in motion during the entire evening, trying to capture whoever was singing lead; but you'd never know it by listening to the CD. The breathtaking sound quality is a credit to restoration engineer Alan Silverman. A number of performances were left off in order to make this fit onto a single disc. What is here is a vintage treasure trove of the then-emerging singer/songwriter movement from the (mostly) American South. What is most important to note is that these performances were recorded for the documentary; they are not licensed recordings from a catalog. Some of the artists included here are no longer with us, but their performances (e.g., Townes Van Zandt's "Waitin' 'Round to Die" and "Pancho and Lefty," Gamble Rogers' "Charlie's Place" and "The Black Label Blues") are chilling and top-notch. Yet, they are in context because these infromal performances are stunning throughout. Some of the truly notable ones are by songwriters who are not well known even now among the general populus -- for example, the great Steve Young, who decided on deeply moving covers of Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" along with his own "Alabama Highway". Youngis the guy who wrote "Seven Bridges Road," "Lonesome, On'ry and Mean" (the anthem of Waylon's outlaw movement that didn't include him--though, who was an outlaw long before it became a marketing concept)--and his "Montgomery in the Rain." is also here. Larry Jon Wilson makes an appearance with his deep backwoods "Ohoopee River Bottomland," which is equal parts Tony Joe White and Lightnin' Hopkins, all of it wrapped in Young's swampy Georgia voice and guitar playing. Guy Clark is heard on five cuts, three of them well known, but "Ballad of Laverne and Captain Flint" makes it too. Other writers here include David Allan Coe and John Hiatt, both of whom originally hailed from the Midwest. Hearing Coe in this setting is especially rewarding, almost separated from his bullshit image, just playing and singing his utterly moving songs, especially "I Still Sing the Old Songs," done with only an acoustic guitar. The glimpses listeners get of Rodney Crowell and Steve Earle apart from the slick Nashville production on their own records is especially refreshing. This is a timeless collection that truly stands on its own whether or not you saw the film in 1981 (it is available on DVD thank goodness). It's a no-jive set of songwriters doing what they do best away from the hype, the myth-making, and the self-destructive impulses that have plagued many of them. ~ Thom Jurek
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Country - Released December 11, 2015 | RLG - Legacy

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Folk - Released June 24, 2011 | WM UK

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Sélection Les Inrocks - Stereophile: Record To Die For
The title -- The Harrow & the Harvest, Gillian Welch's first album of new material in eight years -- reflects a creative drought: she and David Rawlings simply weren't writing songs they liked. The music is steeped in the early country, bluegrass, and Appalachian mountain traditions that are her trademark --though it engages rock and roll and blues motifs albeit acoustically--while the melodies and lyrics reflect the darkness and melancholy of Gothic Americana. Produced by Rawlings, this set returns to the sparse instrumentation of her earliest recordings: guitars, banjos, harmonica, and hand-and-knee slaps. The album illustrates a near-symbiotic guitar interplay; rhythms, melodies, and even countermelodies are exchanged organically, interlocked in the moment. The protagonists in these ten songs are desperate, broken, and hurt individuals; some stubbornly cling to shreds of hope while others resign themselves to tragedy even as they go on; still others, like the one in the opener "Scarlet Town," reflect anger and the wish for vengeance. What they hold in common is their need to tell their stories through Welch's plaintive contralto. "Dark Turn of Mind," a painful love song, embodies the truth in confessing the past as a warning even as its subject wills a new future. "The Way It Will Be," a fatalistic folk ballad, is the first of three songs with the words "The Way..." in their titles; its line "You've got me walking backwards/Into my home town..." sum up each of their sentiments, albeit in different ways. "Tennessee" is among the finest songs Welch has ever written. A sultry, darkly sexual ballad that has more in common with rock than country in its musical framework, its subject is conflicted between learned morality and an instinctive desire that expresses no need for redemption: "I kissed you cause I've never been an angel/I learned to say hosannas on my knees...I always try to be a good girl/It's only what I want that makes me weak....Of all the ways I've found to hurt myself, you may be my favorite one of all...." The knee slaps, banjo, vocal harmony, and harmonica in "Six White Horses" is startlingly, and paradoxically, mournful and defiant; its melody rooted in the Appalachian tradition, she transcends it with a particularly poignant lyric. Despite its gentle presentation, "Hard Times" is steely and determined, even as its languid presentation displays evidence to challenge the protagonist's spirit. "Silver Dagger" is not the Joan Baez song of the same name, but a midtempo murder ballad that proclaims "I can't remember when I felt so free"; so much so that the subject welcomes her killer. The set closes on "The Way the Whole Thing Ends," a shimmering blues, with Welch's protagonist leaning wryly into the lyric with an ironic shrugged-shoulders acceptance at the inevitable return of a faithless lover. The Harrow & the Harvest is stunning for its intimacy, its lack of studio artifice, its warmth and its timeless, if hard won, songcraft. Its only equal in her catalog is Time (The Revelator), making it well worth the long wait. (Note: the provocative cover art by Baroness guitarist and vocalist John Dyer Baizley is peerlessly brilliant.) ~ Thom Jurek
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Country - Released October 16, 2015 | Charly

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This is the second perfect album Van Zandt cut in 1972, a complement to High, Low and in Between. Together they contain the highest points of his brilliant but erratic career. The Late Great may be a bit stronger, with classics like "Pancho & Lefty," "No Lonesome Tune," and "If I Needed You," but there's not a weak track here. Van Zandt's voice is in top shape, the song selection is superb, and Jack Clement's understated production gives the tunes a timeless quality. He eschews the hokey touches that make parts of Our Mother the Mountain sound corny, opting for a subdued sound that uses light touches of folk, pop, and country music in their arrangements. The set opens with "No Lonesome Tune," one of Van Zandt's more hopeful songs, delivered with mandolin, quiet pedal steel, and piano complementing Van Zandt's poignant vocal. "Sad Cinderella" and the epic "Silver Ships of Andilar" are mysterious ballads with oblique lyrics, open to many interpretations. In the Van Zandt documentary Be Here to Love Me the singer says that his goal is to write songs so peculiar that "nobody knows what they mean, not even me." He succeeds with these two numbers. "Sad Cinderella" could be a song of recrimination to a woman at the end of an affair, or a disillusioned letter to an America caught in the contradictions of the Vietnam War, or perhaps just an exercise in poetic language. Whatever its meaning, Van Zandt's pained vocal and sparse piano fill it with longing and tenderness. "Andilar" is one of the most atypical tunes in Van Zandt's catalog, a five-minute epic of war and betrayal filled with images of sinking ships, icebergs, battle, and death. Acoustic guitar, a wailing female background chorus, and a sweeping orchestral arrangement give it a cinematic feel, and again it could be about Vietnam, some long forgotten European war, or his own inner turmoil. Whatever the meaning, its scope is cinematic and full of Van Zandt's singular poetry. "Pancho & Lefty," Van Zandt's greatest commercial success, has a folk/pop arrangement with mariachi horns coming in on the coda to give it a Mexican flavor. It's the best rendition of the tune Van Zandt ever cut. "If I Needed You" is purely romantic, one of Van Zandt's most understated love songs, simply sung over a bouncy country rhythm. The album's three covers get made over into Van Zandt's own image. Guy Clarke's "Don't Let the Sunshine Fool Ya" uses pedal steel, female backing vocals, and bluesy guitar to deliver a message that's full of ironic humor. Hank Williams' "Honky Tonkin'" is pure country, with Van Zandt's vocals siding up the scale to crack on the high notes just like Hank Sr used to do. "Fraulein" uses a fiddle to add poignancy to Van Zandt's vocals on this post-WWII tune about a GI's impossible love for a German girl. The album closes with the goofy spiritual "Heavenly Houseboat Blues," that sees Van Zandt sailing down the river Jordan in a slowly sinking silver houseboat. He gargles the last verse with a mouth full of water, ending the set on an odd, giddy note. ~ j. poet
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Country - Released June 15, 2015 | SMCMG

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Blues - Released August 17, 2009 | Concord Records

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Country - Released April 3, 2015 | RLG - Legacy

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Blues - Released January 1, 1986 | Mercury

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
The set that made Cray a pop star, despite its enduring blues base. Cray's smoldering stance on "Smoking Gun" and "Right Next Door" rendered him the first sex symbol to emerge from the blues field in decades, but it was his innovative expansion of the genre itself that makes this album a genuine 1980s classic. "Nothing but a Woman" boasts an irresistible groove pushed by the Memphis Horns and some metaphorically inspired lyrics, while "I Wonder" and "Guess I Showed Her" sizzle with sensuality. ~ Bill Dahl
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Blues - Released February 24, 2015 | Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Reissue
Born in 1888, Huddie Ledbetter was the son of a sharecropper; he was born on a Louisiana plantation and learned to play guitar after long days working on his father's farm. After he struck out on his own at the age of 16, Ledbetter's life was full of adventures, both good and bad and including a murder conviction, but while in prison he picked up the nickname Lead Belly, and after writing a handful of great songs (and learning a hundred more) that he made his own with his passionate vocal style that melded blues and folk styles and his distinctive 12-string guitar work, he was freed and became one of the most influential folk artists in American music. Lead Belly recorded literally hundreds of songs over the course of his career (including a number of archival sessions recorded for the Library of Congress), and his music would influence a striking array of artists, from Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Odetta to Van Morrison, John Fogerty, and Kurt Cobain. The Smithsonian Folkways Collection is a five-disc box set that represents the first attempt to offer a career-spanning overview of the career of a giant of American music, including 108 tracks, 16 of which see their first release on this collection. ~ Mark Deming
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Blues - Released January 1, 1999 | Geffen*

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Country - Released January 1, 1978 | Universal Music

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Hank Williams' body of work is so large and has been repackaged so many times in so many forms that the notion of creating a definitive compilation almost seems like an impossible goal. However, as a one-stop shopping place for Hank's basic repertoire, 40 Greatest Hits is as good as it gets. While it doesn't include everything, practically every memorable hit is here, and thankfully every cut appears in its original form (that means in mono, with no string overdubs or artificial duets with his family members). The track sequence subtly reflects the arc of Williams' short but vitally important career, and there's enough good music and great songs here to make a fan of anyone with even a passing interest in American music. If you care about country music, you need some Hank Williams in your collection, and there isn't a better introduction to his rich body of work on the market than 40 Greatest Hits; begin here, then start exploring. ~ Mark Deming
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Blues - Released January 1, 1986 | Mercury

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Country - Released January 1, 1967 | Geffen

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
The title track was one of those defining songs for Loretta Lynn, not only one of the best but one of the most likeable country & western artists. She bats one home run after another in these vocals, singing her brains out and coming across as totally convincing in each role she takes on. The cynical "I Got Caught" is one of her finer originals, while she also has the knack of picking covers that suit her perfectly, such as "The Shoe Goes on the Other Foot Tonight" by the underrated Buddy Mize. No country fan will mind that she covers a number by her old sidekick, Ernest Tubb. Then there's the pickers who came along for the ride, totally tearing it up. The series of lead guitar/pedal steel interchanges that run through this album are certainly more attractive than the Nashville freeway system, and definitely contributed more to 20th century civilization. Lynn would later record the song "You're Lookin' at Country," and that pretty much sums up the view of this mighty lady. This here is stone-cold country, and it doesn't get much better. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
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Folk - Released November 24, 2014 | Columbia

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Country - Released October 24, 2014 | Legacy Recordings

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
On first listen, it's not unreasonable to think that writer/producer Dan Penn's 1973 solo debut, NOBODY'S FOOL, is a bit schlocky. The songs are there, but amidst all the studio bombast it's difficult to suss out the deft touch that Penn brought to soul classics like "I'm Your Puppet"and "The Dark End of the Street." To give up too soon, though, would be to neglect what is an ambitious, impassioned attempt to encompass the entire southern musical tradition into a single musical statement. Penn sounds not unlike "Suspicious Minds"-era Elvis on orchestrated R&B tracks like "Time" and "Ain't No Love," and while "Prayer for Peace" sounds like an interlude from a Southern-gothic rock opera, it's clear that Penn means every word of his plea. With the exception of a CCR cover, Penn wrote (or co-wrote) and produced the entire album, and is backed by a crew of Memphis's finest. As is often the case with albums by those who became famous working behind the scenes, NOBODY'S FOOL suffers a bit from excess, as if every idea in Penn's head had to be put to tape immediately. But the man's love of music (all of it: rock, pop, country, gospel, blues, soul, etc.) is so genuine and so blind to categories, one can't help being taken in by this quiet masterpiece.
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Blues - Released October 24, 2014 | Epic

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Country - Released October 3, 2014 | Sony Special Products

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Billy Joe Shaver slipped onto the recording scene very quietly in 1973. He was already heralded a fine songwriter by Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings, but even they'd recorded one or two songs of his up to that point. After the issue of this debut album, however, the floodgates opened for Shaver with the aforementioned trio and Johnny Cash himself recording Billy Joe's songs -- a trend that continued 30 years later. Old Five and Dimers Like Me reveals a songwriter at the height of his power, a songwriter who undersells his case via quiet melodic music steeped in Texas country, folk, and the blues. While the title track is best known and the most often recorded (Waylon based his entire Honky Tonk Heroes around that track as the basis for an album of Shaver's tunes), each of this CD's 14 songs are gems. "Fit to Kill and Going Out in Style" became an anthem of the outlaw movement, and "Black Rose" echoes the Band's "Cripple Creek" with its funky country shuffle. The old-time honky tonk blues of "Played the Game Too Long" features a Dixieland horn section in the middle, and "Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me" became David Allan Coe's theme after "Long Haired Redneck." And "Low Down Freedom" is the most poignantly written song about what it costs others when a man decides he needs to be free. Shaver was a study in contradictions on this album and proved to be so in life as well. He was a big man on the cover, a rough and tumble farmer who liked his music hot and simple and wrote words like a poet laureate. His performances of his own songs have been derided in the past because of the supposed limitations in his voice. But though he may not produce the performance drama that some of his peers can, his versions of these songs are far more poignant than any cover version of them. Shaver has always possessed an elegant and humble sense of dignity; it's on this recording, and on each one that followed. Old Five and Dimers Like Me is a masterpiece not only as a genesis for outlaw country, but of American songwriting at its very best. ~ Thom Jurek