what are the "must have" CD's

For years, I've invested in quality sound equipment and have a small collection of CD's of different types.....but I realize that there are problaby some "must have" CD's that really show just how good (or bad) a system really is. This isn't a quest for who your favorite female singer is...or what orchestra you like the best....I'm really after sonic quality and sonic range (gotta show off the sub and boomy rock probably isn't the best way to do it).

I'm open to suggestions in most any musical category...the only qualification is that the CD has to be readily available and not some collector's item.

If there is already a list somewhere..please point me to it....or post your suggestions.
Me; I think it's more about the music.---but; hey--I'm old and maybe 2/3's of my hearing is gone,huh? So my favs are of stuffs of my youth. Carpenters XRCD has excellent sq. Then on to my most recent purchase: Beatles Remasters. The tone qualities of Paul's bass guitar is what grabbed me first off. It just isn't there on the early recordings, like it is on the remasters.((My nurse tells me it's time for my pablum.))
I like the music and her wit, but her dics are also very well recorded and can thrill from an audiophile standpoint.

Patricia Barber - Cafe Blue, Modern Cool, and Companion.

Willy Porter is an under the radar guitar whiz and his Live album has me looking at the sacd switch on my player. One of the best redbook recordings I own.

Have Fun!
It's a bit hard to suggest things without knowing something about the music you enjoy.

There's a raft of female singer/songwriters with excellent recordings - Janis Ian, Melody Gardot, Rickie Lee Jones and so on.

If you like a well recorded R&B sound, a lot of the Taj Mahal records are excellent - check out "Blue Light Boogie" for starters. Etta James also has some recordings that'll knock your socks off. Try "Seven Year Itch" or "Mystery Lady" for starters. Another artist that is a lot of fun is Jimmy Smith, known for the amazing sound he gets from a Hammond B-3 organ. He's been around a long time, but two releases within the past 10 years or so are "Dot Com Blues" and "Angel Eyes".

There's a ton of excellently recorded jazz. I discovered one recently that is a lot of fun to listen to - "Cachaito" by Orland Cachaito Lopez, the legendary Cuban double bass player. (He was also a member of the Buena Vista Social Club group.)

Same with classical - you can run all the way from a beautiful and intimately recorded single instrument (such as Norbert Kraft's classical guitar) to full-tilt orchestral recordings of Mahler.

In short, a little additional detail about the type of music you like will help people get you where you want to go.
Bela Fleck's Flight of the Cosmic Hippo, that'll test your subwoofer.....
I second the Hippo. The Dutoit Planets is also a good one for the sub as well as the Telarc Firebird.
Get "Amused to Death" (R. Waters) for that funky QSound imaging. Get the dog barking outside the window, and the sleigh coming right across the complete width of the room. Although the imaging effects are artificial in some respects, the better systems make the whole thing cinemascopic.

"Spyboy" (E. Harris) for the huge drum solo on "The Maker" - this will test your low frequency transient response. Great album too.

The one cd I use for demos is, Thom Rotella Band, also the name of the cd. Track 3, "Naima" is awesome-if your system can play this loud, you'll be blown away. I just checked, it's available on Amazon. This is on the DMP label, CD-460.
the rolling stones-england's newest hitmakers....kicks you in the balls anytime you begin to think that 'spending on equipment' can make a primitive recording sound not so primitive.
Surely the best way to show off your system is with the lesser quality engineered cd's, no?
ZZ top's Greatest Hits Cd has a lot of tracks with very low bass that can really rattle a room. Also Via Las Vegas has some nifty sonics contained within it.

Big bandfs come to mind as well, and the one's I like to play for people are:
Illinois Jacquette "Jacquetes Got It"
Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band "Swingin' for the Fences" & "XXL"
Johnny Nocturne Band "Million Dollar Secret"

Larry Carlton's "Sapphire Blue" is a killer front to back.

Milt Jackson's "burning in the Woodshed" is super and his vibraphone never sounded better amidst his bands covers of some pop & jazz standards.

Santana also puts out some great low end noise on both "Supernatrual" & "Shaman".

Fourplay's "heartfelt" will show off your rig top to bottom with Bob James' & Larry Carlton renditions of jazz on acid.

Quincy Jones' "Q's Jook Joint" runs the gamut of RB soul and is a lot of fun cover to cover containing and exhibiting all those audiophile traits one wants to have on tap... imaging, pace, extension, noise floor, etc., as do most of those named above.
For classical, the RCA Living Stereo hybrid SACDs are good to collect. Vibrant recordings from the Golden Age of Stereo and good to great performances.

I cannot believe you mentioned that Thom Rhotella CD and that cut. Twenty years ago when I got back into high-end audio, I went to a dealer in Phoenix and they were playing that cut on that CD through their best system. I bought the CD immediately and used it back then when auditioning equipment and testing bass and dynamics and it always brings back fond memories.

Every few years I pull it out and play that track (and track #7) thinking it will have lost its magic and I'll realize I am glorifying an old fond memory and every time I am wrong - IT STILL ROCKS!!!!!

Thanks, as soon as I hit the "send" button, I am gonna go pull the CD out and see how it sounds through my Rockports!!!
Chick Corea Acoustic Band Live
Here is a short list of what seems to make my system shine :

Steely Dan - Aja (remastered),
Supertramp - Crime of the Century (remastered)
Widespread Panic - Another Joyous Occasion
Steve Earl - Train a Comin
Nora Jones - Come Away With Me
Eagles - The Long Run
George Benson - Anthology
Bob Dylan - Modern Times
U2 - The Joshua Tree (remasterd/expanded)
Pink Floyd - The Wall
this is an amazing recording with stunning detail, outstanding dynamics and a huge soundstage plus the music is terrific, involving and vibrant as well.

Miles Gurtu


Wanted to second Mlsstl's suggestion of Taj Mahal. After reading this thread yesterday, I put on the "Dancin the Blues," a disc which contains "Blue Light Boogie." I'd previously thought of it as fun party music, but I found it is unusually well recorded for the genre; the bass and vocals are especially well-handled. The performance highlight might be a duet of "Mockingbird" with Ms. Etta James. :) Even if you don't listen to the blues much (I don't), this would be a fine sample to round out your collection, IMHO. John
jennifer warnes. the hunter
Allen toussaint. bright Mississippi

fun music, real bass, great sq

just 2 to start


ps. jimmy smith was a good call too
In the 'contemporary' bluegrass category I recommend Alison Krause + Union Station "New Favorite". Also "Nickelback" by Nickelback.
With the caveat that the music must be good I would recommend:

Arturo O'Farrill "Live In Brooklyn"
Leonard Cohen "Live In London"
Maria Rita "Samba Meu"
Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band "The Phat Pack"
Marcy Playground "Eponymous"
Bebo Valdes & Cigala "Lagrima Negras"
Tudo Azul "Vehla Guarda da Portela"
Whoops, that would be Nickelcreek not Nickelback.
I often start off with Norah Jones. Her stuff generally sounds pretty good and people usually hear it sounding pretty bad.
New Order Substance....sonically, it's got everything and then some. decent recording that will test your gear well when things get loud. good music to boot imho.
These discs are sure to put smiles on the faces of your guests and all of the music can be enjoyed and understood by many.

Mannheim Steamroller "Fresh Aire Seven"
Diana Krall "Loves Scenes"
Sade "The Best of Sade"
Nils Lofgren "Acoustic Live"
The Rippingtons "Curves Ahead"
Natalie Merchant "Tiger Lilly"
k.d. Lang "Drag"
Shawn Colvin "Fat City"
I like the music from mercedes soza, one cd that is a must have in any collection, is "Live in Argentina".
Nice recommendations provided by all. I would add the following to your short list of must have recordings:

Diana Krall - All For You (Tribute to Nat King Cole)
Donald Fagen - Morph The Cat
Seal - Greatest Hits 1991-2004(Acoustic Version)
Mary Stallings-Live at The Village Vanguard

The last two are hard to find but worth it:
Johnny Adams - One Foot in the Blues (INCREDIBLE, great dynamics, the best for testing your equipment)
Prince-Just One Night (box set, live)
Since there's some interest in "Americana" here, let me recommend "Heartworn Highways," a collection of informal recordings of some of the great Texas bards (Clarke, Earle, van Zandt), back in the day (mid 70s).

Great songs, and though the recordings seem to vary a bit across tracks, the sound is wonderfully natural. According to Stereophile, who named it a "recording to die for" the recordings are somewhat low tech; anyway, it really works. Highly recommended, if you like male singer songwriters.

Willie Nelson's "Moonlight Becomes You". Excellent great sounding renditions of several very classic standards. Simple, basic, accoustic, and very live sounding. A first rare recording.
First RATE that is. oops!
Someone did mention ZZ Top's greatest hits,which is a very interesting recording. It does contain some very deep LF that most systems will %100 miss. I think it is more a test of room response than system quality. I could reproduce the LFs in a small apartment on an el cheapo system, but could not hear or feel them at my home with a "much better" system - what is up with that ? There is some very interesting stuff on this recording - see if you can find it.
the blue nile walk across the rooftop and hats
Midnight Oil, Earth Sun and Moon
The Beatles, Abbey Road, 2009 Remaster
Paul Kelly, May 1992
Neil Young, Eldorado
REM: Automatic Box (contains 11/19/1992 live concert from the 40 Watt Club in Anthens, GA)(absolutely one of the best live recordings)
Ry Cooder, Chavez Ravine
Cat Power, The Greatest
Booker T, Potato Hole
Any of the below will give you the "you are there" goosebumps on a system revealing enough to show it to you.

Benny Goodman: 'Benny Goodman and Friends'
The Benny Green Trio: 'Testifyin'
Bill Berry: 'For Duke'
Carmen McRae: 'The Great American Songbook'
Chesky Records: 'The Ultimate Demonstation Disc'
Clifford Jordan: 'Live at Ethell's'
Eric Clapton: 'Unplugged'
Fred Hersch Trio: The Fred Hersch Trio Plays...'
Harry Belafonte: 'Live at Carnegie Hall'
Hope Waits: 'Hope Waits'
Joshua Redman Quartet: 'Spirit of the Moment'
Kate McGarry: 'Mercy Streets'
Kendra Shank: 'Afterglow'
Lyle Lovett: 'Joshua Judges Ruth'
Various: 'A Tribute To Stevie Ray Vaughn'
Wynton Marsalis Septet" 'Live at the Village Vanguard'
My favorites to check any system upgrades are; Pat Metheny - Secret Story, Dick Hyman - From the age of swing, Dick Dale - Spacial Disorientation.