Cigars have long been for me and countless others a means to reset, to relax, to meditate and engage in deep introspection. I found early on in my cigar smoking journey that great music and a great smoke can mutually compliment each other when enjoyed together. The rhythm and melodies of well-crafted musical works being mirrored in the harmony and layering of flavor and texture in a well-crafted cigar. The best albums in music history, in my humble opinion, will not only demonstrate originality, technical skill and balance, but also tell a story that resonates with the listener.
My ideas of the best cigars share the same list of characteristics. The idea then came to me that I should give a short list of my favorite albums to enjoy while unwinding with a fine smoke. Albums that have all the aforementioned traits, but also are not too raucous as to hinder the relaxation aspect of the intended experience. Every one of the following albums were created as a cohesive whole, with each intended to be enjoyed in their entirety, making them ideal selections for listening to with a cigar. So, get a comfy seat, pour yourself a strong one, light up your favorite stick and lose yourself in the music of these 3 classic rock albums.
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
Fleetwood Mac had long since established their relevance to the music world well before they debuted Rumours – their 11th studio album- in 1977. Yet, the timeless quality of this album’s sound firmly cemented the band in rock n’ roll immortality. The musical grace, vocal charisma, and lyrical immersion can take the listener to places of authentic vulnerability. We are treated to distinct vocal styles from Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, and of course the great Stevie Nicks. We are taken on an emotional and intimate ride with the classic tracks, “Dreams”, “You Make Lovin’ Fun”, “Go Your Own Way”, and “The Chain.”
Emotional and sexual tensions and frustrations are palpable throughout the album, and the fact that much of the tension was quite real for the band members is an intriguing revelation. As guitarist and vocalist Lindey Buckingham once stated, “It seemed as though our best music was created when we were in the worst shape.” This tension between band members seems to be a source of artistic inspiration, however painful the time must have been for the band. The album would be awarded the Grammy for Best Album in 1978 and is widely considered to be among the best rock albums ever created.
Santana – Abraxas
With clear musical influences ranging from Latin, blues, jazz, psychedelic and of course rock, Abraxas eases us in with the mesmerizing opening intrumental track, “Singing Winds, Crying Beasts”. We of course are treated with commercially successful and familiar pieces such as the bluesy and mellow “Black Magic Woman” and the energetic “Oye Como Va”, but a deeper dive into the album gets us to discover other truly masterful arrangements like “Mother’s Daughter” and “Incident of Neshabur”. Songs such as these are mystifying as they bring an edgy sort of energy that feels positively sweaty and rambunctious, but never in a raw or juvenile fashion.
One criminally overlooked track on the album – “Samba Pa Ti” – is particularly hypnotizing, sounding at times like a musical lamentation before transitioning to a brighter. more playful feel. Lead guitarist virtuoso, Carlos Santana once said that this song was the first recording where he felt that he authentically expressed himself musically. “When I recorded it I was thinking of nothing, it was just pure feeling.” The tempo, melodies and overall emotion of the album changes on a dime throughout, leaving the listener feeling as though a timeless story was just told, even in the numerous instrumental tracks.
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon
This is my personal FAVORITE of the list. The musical cohesiveness produced by Roger Waters, Richard Wright, Nick Mason and David Gilmour is arguably surpassed by none in popular music. In a time when rapid guitar solos, screaming vocals and frantic drum lines were common, Pink Floyd dared to go a different route, with more laconic guitar, a gentler percussion, innovative synthesizers, soulful backing vocals, and even some saxophone arrangements. This being the album that shot the band to its greatest commercial success up to that point further demonstrates their sense of creative wisdom.
Lyrically, Dark Side of the Moon is pointedly impressive, with themes of impending death, longing for home, insanity, the unseen, the unfathomable, and suffering all explored with unapologetic honesty. We get experimental musical ambition with the ever mischievous “Money” that effortlessly swings from the initial 7/8 time signature, to 4/4 time, and then back to 7/8 time so seamlessly that it leaves the mind spinning in wonder. Perhaps a metaphor for the fickle and inconsistent nature of money?
We are also taken on a cautionary ride with the ethereal “Time”, speaking to the unstoppable reality of the brevity of life and our fleeting time on Earth. “Us and Them” goes even further in its sublime poetry. The obvious message of the song is the cruelty and absurdity of war, but on a deeper level it speaks to human nature at its core, its brokenness, its susceptibility to error, and its fragility. When one hears the simultaneous emotions of wonder, dread, sorrow, and longing for the unknown throughout this masterpiece of an album, you are intuitively and utterly aware of the clear truth and beauty behind their message. So much to meditate on, and so much to enjoy!