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October 4, 2022

UT professors recommend their favorite albums

Isabella Palacios

Every year, UT professors recommend their summer reading picks to incoming freshman through the University’s Reading Round-up. In a similar spirit, The Daily Texan compiled a list of UT professors’ listening recommendations — from albums that inspired them in college to more modern tracks.

Billy Wood —  Senior Lecturer of Mechanical Engineering

Artist: The Moody Blues

Album: Days of Future Passed

English rock band, The Moody Blues’ released its second album, Days of Future Passed, in 1967. The band’s first concept album featured spoken word poetry, orchestral arrangements and the mellotron, giving the band its progressive rock sound.

“[The album] was ahead of its time, featuring orchestral work in a progressive-rock album,” Wood said. “The orchestration was soothing for stressed out college students, yet it rocked out at times. The song “Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)" caught you up in it and beautifully stressed how it was early in the week, but deadlines were approaching. It seemed to inspire creativity.”

Natasha Tinsley — Associate Professor of African American Diaspora Studies

Artist: Beyoncé

Album: Beyoncé

Recorded secretly and released without any announcement, Beyonce’s self-titled fifth album became iTunes’ fastest selling album in 2013. Accompanied by short films, the album’s songs address feminist issues and cover a wide variety of styles, such as R&B, pop and soul.

“This album marks an important moment when the term "feminist" became widely accessible to young women in new ways,” Tinsley said. “‘Flawless’ samples a speech by Nigerian writer Chimananda Ngozi Adichie which includes her definition of a feminist: ‘a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.’ Beyoncé literally inserts her music into African Diaspora conversations about what black feminism is, means, and does.”

Stephen Slawek — Professor of Ethnomusicology

Artist: Ravi Shankar

Album: In New York

A global sensation, Ravi Shankar popularized Indian music in the 1960s United States. The sitarist was an instrumental influence in the careers of musicians such as The Beatles’ George Harrison, saxophonist John Coltrane and David Crosby.  

“Ravi Shankar, and his sitar, was such a powerful force in the music world in the 1960s,” Slawek said. “It is commonly known that George Harrison spoke of Shankar as the ‘Godfather of World Music.’ This particular album represents the very traditional side of Shankar’s music and is as relevant today as it was in the mid 1960s."

C.J. Alvarez — Assistant Professor of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies

Artist: Tom Waits

Album: Mule Variations

After a six-year hiatus, Tom Waits released his 12th album, Mule Variations, in 1999. The album combines rock, blues and folk influences and features Waits’ trademark growling vocals. Critically acclaimed upon its release, the album won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.  

“The most important album for me in college was Tom Waits' Mule Variations,” Alvarez said. “I had listened to his early work since I was a kid, but this album was a gigantic departure from his earlier style, sonically and lyrically. It taught me how an artist's work can evolve in different directions over time. Just recently, I went back to revisit it and it still seems as fresh as it did over 15 years ago — the hallmark of a great album."

Brian Doherty — Senior Lecturer of English

Artist: The Kinks

Album: Muswell Hillbillies

Named after the band's former stomping grounds, Muswell Hillbillies was The Kinks’ ninth album. Much of the album, released in 1971, centers around themes of poverty and frontman Ray Davies’ own frustrations with the world around him.

“Early in my college career, a guy on my dorm floor introduced me to [the album] that was a revelation,” Doherty said. “It's a concept album about 20th century man, with madness, depression, alcoholism, imprisonment, bad motorway food, fad dieting and other ailments — but also offers an antidote, ‘Have a Cuppa Tea.’ The title song is one of those great country songs that British Bands do so well. This album by under appreciated genius Ray Davies remains great and still holds the potential to improve the listener’s thinking.”

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UT professors recommend their favorite albums