Ladies of the Canyon was released in 1970.
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For me, that means consistent interest over the course of a long career, because hearing the music evolve is part of the pleasure. On that basis, There are probably 4 that fit that bill above all others:
E/The Eels would have been the fifth, but their (his?) recent work has left me kind of cold.
Bob Dylan, especially now since Mobile Fidelity is remastering nearly the entire catalogue. I'm buying the SACD Hybrids whenever I can. 'Blood on the Tracks' leaves me transfixed in a variety of ways.
I've seen him only twice in concert, once in the late 70's and once in the mid to late 80's with Tom Petty. He's one of the only rock type musicians who can pull me from the classical realm and keep me engaged for over an hour. Not so much for his musical interest or inventiveness (though he's an underrated guitarist) but for the musical support of his lyrics.
Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Dvorak, Mozart, Prokofiev, Schubert.
Speaking of Joni Mitchell, though, among popular recordings one of my all-time favorites is Judy Collins' original 1967/68 recording of "Both Sides Now," written by Joni, which was a breakthrough for the careers of both women.
I don't particularly care for Judy's later re-recording of "Both Sides Now" that is sometimes heard, though, which was much inferior IMO, or for the recording of it that was subsequently made by Joni herself.
My fav is the one that happens to be on at the moment. Pretty well all those mentioned so far except the classical ones. Tchaikovsky, Bach, and Mozart are my favorites but I rarely listen.
I do agree with Al's assessment of Judy Collins/Joni Mitchell. That original rendition by Collins was the best. OTOH, I would say Gordon Lightfoot's later(mid) renditions of earlier stuff is far superior than either original or latest(before he got old) versions. Supertramp is another that comes to mind. For the most part, I think it's a matter of maturity and then decline.
Tie - Frank Zappa & Steely Dan / Don Fagen. A lot of FZs later pressings were actually on virgin vinyl as standard (not sure if it was JVC Super Vinyl, but it is translucent). Always entertaining, humorous and educational, regardless.
Steely Dan / Don Fagen never put a note wrong. Supremely listenable, and the audiophile pressings even more so.
Both bear repeated listenings, repeatedly!
Really so many great ones already mentioned. I can ad CSN, especially their s/t and CSNY De Ja Vu. Neil Young, Led Zep and lately loving Nick Drake: Pink Moon. Agree on Joni,love Ladies..., Blue, Court/Spark, and also For The Roses. Honestly didn't like Wild Things run Fast. For Eva, love a few of her records, but mostly listen to Songbird because that's what I have on vinyl. On my radar now is earlier Nick Drake. Joni Mitchel's first two albums have been tough to find in nice condition.
Well, it's more than one if that's OK (even if not, I suppose)...
Dylan, Steely Dan (+ any solo Becker or Fagen), Crowded House (+ solo Neil and/or Tim), & Wilco. These are musicians/bands whose next releasees I generally buy without audition.
Like Mapman's list of favs for repeat play a LOT. Similar Prog rock taste here; add ELP & YES to that.
To the regular play list also add The Band, SRV & Rory Gallagher.
Seems we share tastes in music, always great to fund a like-minded soul. After I read your post I immediately ran and put on Heartbeats, then sat in wonder, asking how two french canadian sisters could create such beauty and joy for so very long. Had the opportunity only a single time to see them, in NYC, at the long-gone Bottom Line. Kate is truly missed by many she did not know. I am one of those.