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From Prince to Coltrane to Joni, here’s a raft of desert island discs

Prince
PrinceCHRIS O'MEARA/Associated Press

Since we’re all stranded on a metaphorical desert island these days, we asked some Globe writers and contributors — as well as some prominent locals — to imagine an actual one. Here, there’s only you and a favorite album, the one you could play for the rest of your days and never grow tired of it. (Fortunately, this island comes with a really excellent solar-powered sound system.) These are the albums our marooned music lovers chose.

“69 Love Songs,” The Magnetic Fields

Living in my desert island of an apartment over the past months, I’ve learned that my vibe can change quickly, without warning. What I need from music changes right along. I’m going to need an album that can reflect every emotional state I might experience — manic, cynical, pining, despondent, poignant. Am I cheating by choosing the Magnetic Fields’ three-disc magnum opus revue “69 Love Songs”? Possibly. But a grander tour of love in all its colorful guises you’ll never find, even if a few of the novelty tracks (*cough,* “Love Is Like Jazz”) may have aged like a loaf of bread. Perhaps the better question is: When am I not in the mood to sing along to “Papa Was a Rodeo”? Never.

ZOË MADONNA

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“Kind of Blue,” Miles Davis

A choice so obvious it’s clichéd. But there are good reasons this is the best-selling jazz album of all time: stirring musical content that’s eminently accessible, an improvised trumpet solo (on “So What”) so eloquent that at least a couple of composers have arranged it for big band, and a peerless lineup playing at the height of their powers. That would be Miles with tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Jimmy Cobb, and Davis’s essential collaborator on this project, pianist Bill Evans (the great Wynton Kelly plays on one of the five tracks). You can read about how this disc marked the ascent of “modal jazz” into the mainstream. Maybe on the desert island. In the meantime, listen. The definition of “swing,” of “cool,” of jazz. An obvious choice? Maybe. So what.

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JON GARELICK

“Ev’rything’s Coming Up Dusty,” Dusty Springfield

There’s no arguing that “Dusty in Memphis” has become the most revered album in Springfield’s oeuvre. But long before she packed her wigs and false eyelashes for Memphis, Springfield was promoting American soul music in England, both through her own catalog and by introducing Motown artists in her homeland. When a Tamla-Motown tour came to the UK (with everyone from the Supremes to the Temptations on the bill), Springfield hosted a now legendary 1965 episode of the television show “Ready Steady Go!” For many in England, it was their first glance at Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and Stevie Wonder. The show was euphoric, and that energy spilled over into the recording of “Ev’rything’s Coming Up Dusty.” “Won’t Be Long” and “If It Don’t Work Out” are the musical love children of the Detroit and London scenes of the 1960s. Springfield offers “I’ve Been Wrong Before” as a tantalizing amuse-bouche to “Memphis.” In the States, the bombastic “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” was tacked on and the album was retitled. But the original “Ev’rything’s Coming Up Dusty” shows the pure stylistic range of Springfield’s honeyed voice.

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CHRISTOPHER MUTHER

Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald Herman Leonard/Eagle Rock Films

“Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook,” Ella Fitzgerald

To maintain my sanity while marooned on a desert island, with my beard presumably grown to Mike Napoli proportions and no one to talk to except Wilson the volleyball (hey, it must have drifted somewhere), I would crave a connection to the best of the now-vanished world. I would need an album that would remind me of the elegance, the style, the wit, the artistry, the downright glorious things of which my fellow humans have proven capable. I would need, in short, “Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook.” This 1956 two-disc set was released, fittingly enough, on the Verve Records label. Verve was one thing Fitzgerald never lacked, and she brought every ounce of it to her interpretations of the peerless Porter. To his martini-sipping narrative pose she added her emotional vibrancy, vocal dexterity, and unerring sense of mood. Fitzgerald always knew what note to hit, literally and figuratively. So she brings a playful, jauntily swinging quality to “Anything Goes,” “Too Darn Hot,” “You’re the Top,” “Always True to You in My Fashion,” “Just One of Those Things,” and “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love).” But she’ll quietly devastate you when she conjures the desolation of “Love for Sale” and the wistfulness of “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” Fitzgerald strikes just the right balance with the more straightforwardly expressive songs as well, whether communicating the sweetly nostalgic ache of “I Love Paris” or the unironic commitment of “I Concentrate on You.” So: On that hypothetical desert island, I would concentrate on Ella and Cole.

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DON AUCOIN

“Before and After Science,” Brian Eno

Not only would this be a fine album to bring to a desert island, it feels like half the songs are about being on a desert island: “Backwater,” with its tongue-twisting “Alice in Wonderland” wordplay, or the pristine slow-motion beauty of “Julie With . . .,” the closest pop music has come to the experience of being gently washed out to sea. It’s the variety of the songs on “Science” that would make it useful over long months and years of abandonment. All of Eno’s sides come together here: rocking and ambient, silly and spooky, anarchic and achingly pastoral.

TY BURR

John Lewis, “The Bridge Game, Vol. 2”

Best known as leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet, Lewis plays piano on these several preludes and fugues from the first book of Bach’s “The Well-Tempered Clavier.” Usually, though not always, he recasts them with a jazz feel and adds five string instruments: bass, violin, violas, guitar (Howard Collins channels Freddie Green to wondrous effect). The way Lewis bends notes and the interplay of textures and instrumental voices are a marvel: delicate, urgent, restrained, inward, propulsive, darkly radiant. The final four minutes attain a subtlety of swing that’s almost otherworldly in elegance and intensity. Great as Bach’s genius is, John Lewis here adds just that much more to it.

MARK FEENEY

Walter Becker (left) and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan.
Walter Becker (left) and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan.Nick Ut

“Gaucho,” Steely Dan

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A crystalline, synth-smooth time capsule of Los Angeles at the glittering dawn of the 1980s — you can almost hear the cocaine being chopped on glass countertops. Steely Dan’s albums, layered with arcane references and Delphic lyrics, could always be interpreted as novels, and their final one before a decades-long hiatus slickly predicts the hedonistic era of Bret Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney. It begins with the deceptively simple line, “Drive west on Sunset to the sea,” and so you do, meeting lechers, vipers, dealers, and hermits on an audibly plastic ride from the freeways to Mr. Chow. It’s tightly packaged and stylishly soulless, an airtight, atmospheric foretelling of the gilded emptiness to come.

KARA BASKIN

“Beethoven: The Late String Quartets,” Tokyo String Quartet

When stranded on that proverbial desert island — or, say, at home in a pandemic — what you really have to live with, at the end of the day, are your own memories. And for me, no disc conjures as many as my original recording of Beethoven’s Late String Quartets — purchased as a teenage string player first glimpsing the jaggedly sublime world of chamber music. To experience the majesty of these works at any age is rewarding, but to encounter their joys and consolations while still becoming who you are is a revelation. We take in such recordings, carry them with us, and inscribe them with our own life histories. Is the Tokyo Quartet’s version the best out there? I’ve lost all objectivity. But I can tell you that it’s mine.

JEREMY EICHLER

“Aquemini,” OutKast

When OutKast won the Grammy for “Speakerboxx/The Love Below” in 2004, Andre 3000 was honored but still defiant. He thanked the fans for “staying down, most definitely, when people thought our first album was ‘Stankonia.‘ ‘Stankonia’ is not OutKast’s first album. Do the history.” To OutKast, winning the award wasn’t necessarily a mountain-summit moment. If anything, it was just an example of an industry acknowledging an artist without fully understanding the culture that created them. “Aquemini” is as much a living document as it is an album. It has the wit, fun, charm, weight, and depth that transcend any particular moment in time. With an uncanny perspective, OutKast used “Aquemini” to bridge regions and sounds, show society’s issues without smothering you in them, and space out before coming back down to earth. It’s in a class of albums that proved rap has no bounds.

JULIAN BENBOW

“Remain in Light,” Talking Heads

The right answer, of course, is Prince’s “Sign o’ the Times,” a double LP that has everything: dance grooves, pop, and bedroom jams. But I’m worried that someone else will show up on the island, and they’ll have it, too. So I’m taking Talking Heads’ “Remain in Light,” whose looping polyrhythms, astonishing guitar sounds, and profound paranoia (deftly layered into the mix by Brian Eno) conjure feelings of euphoria and alienation, often in the same song. (Hear “Crosseyed and Painless.”) Yes, it’s clear from drummer Chris Frantz’s new book, “Remain in Love,” that Talking Heads frontman David Byrne is kind of a jerk and a control freak, but I’ll never tire of this masterpiece.

MARK SHANAHAN

“Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.,” Dwight Yoakam

Dwight Yoakam’s 1985 debut might not be the best record that he’s put out (my vote would likely go to “This Time” or “Tomorrow’s Sounds Today”). But with Yoakam channeling the spirits of Buck Owens and Elvis Presley into an out-of-the-blue bolt of stone-cold hillbilly music combined with an electric, rock ‘n’ roll jump courtesy of the guitar work of his partner in crime, Pete Anderson, it was a tall glass of water in the desert of what dominated mainstream country of the day. For me, country music is divided into “before” and “after” by this record.

STUART MUNRO

Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar REUTERS

“To Pimp A Butterfly,” Kendrick Lamar

If you ask me tomorrow, my answer won’t be what it is today. Music, for me, is a place. And I have more than one home set to melody. But on this page of this chapter in the pandemic, I’m a caterpillar looking “To Pimp A Butterfly.” Wrap me in Kendrick Lamar’s words and let me find solace in the complexity of this hip-hop meditation. It’s reflection, depression, love, angst, rage, and hope. I wrestle with its layers the way I fight the ocean when I swim and the lyrics like waves wash comfort over me all the same. With all this alone time, this revolutionary time, this voting time, this is the soundtrack that blankets me in parts that are both hidden and familiar.

I keep my head up high

I cross my heart and hope to die

Lovin’ me is complicated

Too afraid of a lot of changes

I’m alright and you’re a favorite

Dark nights in my prayers

JENEÉ OSTERHELDT

“Workers Playtime,” Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg came into my life more than 30 years ago, on a lonely afternoon after school, when I got off the bus, grabbed a snack, and plunked my 13-year-old self down in front of the TV to watch a little VH1 before homework. And there he was, on a stage with his electric guitar, adorably crooked face, and a voice like no one else’s, singing “Levi Stubbs’ Tears,” about an abused woman finding comfort in her Four Tops tape, from his 1986 album, “Talking With the Taxman About Poetry.” I later begged for a ride to Newbury Comics to spend hard-earned baby-sitting dollars to immerse myself in all things Billy, which meant songs about unrequited love and social justice in equally heavy doses. Every Billy album over the years has been good, but I’m partial to his earlier ones. My desert island choice is easy: the flawless “Workers Playtime” from 1988. I could contentedly spend the rest of my days listening to “Must I Paint You a Picture?” and “The Price I Pay” in a shady spot. Billy’s music, like his politics, has aged well, and I remain as I was on that ‘80s late afternoon — completely smitten.

CHRIS MORRIS

“Big Little Lies” soundtrack (season 1), various artists

Only one soundtrack has dethroned the 21-year streak of my all-time favorite (“Cruel Intentions”): that’s the “Big Little Lies” soundtrack for season 1. If I can cheat, I’d say I want the full soundtrack from the season, as several musical moments are missing from the retail version, most notably Sade’s vibey “Cherish the Day” and relentless dance floor filler “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” by the Temptations. But still, the album has a song for every stage of grief one might go through when stranded, devoid of routine and human interaction, with nowhere to go, nowhere to be . . . oh wait. Denial (“Cold Little Heart” by Michael Kiwanuka), Anger (Martha Wainwright’s “Bloody Mother [Expletive Expletive]”), Bargaining (Alabama Shakes’ “This Feeling”), and Depression (Villagers’ “Nothing Arrived”), before drifting toward Acceptance with Agnes Obel’s achingly emotional instrumental “September Song” and Ituana’s bossa nova rendition of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

RACHEL RACZKA

Joni Mitchell
Joni MitchellNancy Siesel/New York Times/file

“Court and Spark,” Joni Mitchell

I’d want the very best company and conversation, and that would come with 1970s Joni, just as she began in earnest to blend her ever-more intricate lyrics with folk-rock and jazz. Her “Hejira” is a forever album, too, about solo flight, but “Court and Spark,” released in 1974, is warmer and more grounded in the interpersonal complications that I’d be missing so desperately. The middle section of “Court and Spark” — from the naive observing in “People’s Parties” through the masterful one-night-stand opus “Down to You” to the edgy romantic resignation of “Just Like This Train” — is a poignant, full arc of love and self-reflection. It’s a perfect stretch of songs. The title cut is one of Joni’s loveliest statements, with a breathy delivery that makes it dreamlike. And the hits, including “Help Me,” are models of production. I still revisit “Court and Spark” and find new facets in the lyrics, in Joni’s intentional phrasings, in the way the fine craftsmanship never compromises the intimacy, and, most of all, in the many truths it has to tell.

MATTHEW GILBERT

“Life of Contradiction,” Joe Higgs

“In the key of life,” they say, “all things must pass.” Other albums might have been The One for me in years gone by. They’ll “remain in light,” but our assignment here is to name just one. “Modern lovers” of music might choose something that could have been enjoyed “live at Yankee Stadium,” but at the moment I’m going to pledge myself to a “Life of Contradiction.” It’s a reggae album, ideally suited to island life. But it’s also so much more. Joe Higgs, the underappreciated “godfather” of reggae, recorded this rough diamond in 1972. It wasn’t released until 1975, by which time Higgs’s proteges — among them Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff — had made an international sensation of the music he pioneered. This record is spiritual, philosophical, at once sweet and sour, and deeply funky. It’s reggae, yes, but more than that, it’s abundantly soulful. Each time I listen, it strikes me as perfection.

JAMES SULLIVAN

“Drinking From a Salt Pond,” Run River North

Holding up Run River North’s lead vocalist, Alex Hwang, as he crowd-surfed at the Middle East is my final true pre-pandemic memory, so this may be a bit of a biased (and nostalgic) pick. I mean, who knows when I will stand shoulder-to-shoulder to shouting, unmasked strangers again? Still “Drinking From a Salt Pond” deserves my vote. It’s a laid-back album, interrupted by just enough edgier themes and lyrics (see “Pretender”) to make it well-rounded. I know I could listen to it over and over only because I have — while driving a little too fast at night (“29”), taking the occasional pensive walk (“Winter Wind”), or lounging on the roof of my apartment building (“Run or Hide”).

DITI KOHLI

“Purple Rain,” Prince

After all these years, Prince’s “Purple Rain” still offers the most perfect mix of nostalgia, excitement, and genius to these 44-year-old ears. Despite the album’s sexiness — and its terrifying backward message — it sounds exactly like my 1980s childhood. Don’t judge my parents too harshly. For a time, Prince was banned in our suburban Minneapolis household (thanks, Tipper Gore). That didn’t stop my big sister and me from papering our shared bedroom with posters of Prince with his purple motorcycle. We were still years from our first visits to First Avenue nightclub, yet we fancied ourselves fully connected to the Minneapolis sound via mixtapes and word of mouth. And “Purple Rain” felt like our first big discovery. I distinctly remember smuggling the LP into our room and crouching in the far corner to gape over “Darling Nikki.” More than 30 years later, when I learned Prince was dead, I cued up “The Beautiful Ones” and sobbed over the phone to my sister. For me, Prince — and especially the songs of “Purple Rain” — will always mean glamour, adventure, bonding over great music, and an early success at ducking authority.

CHRISTY DeSMITH

“Spilt Milk,” Jellyfish

Being on a desert island is pretty much the definition of “getting away from it all,” but if I were to bring a record for those moments when I wanted to escape the mundanity of solo life far away, I’d bring Jellyfish’s “Spilt Milk.” The power-pop scientists’ second and final album, which came out in 1993, is a masterpiece structured like a particularly REM-heavy bout of sleep, stuffed with hooks, brimming with wit, and resplendent with sonic detailing that still reveals itself to me, 27 years after I first started wearing out my CD copy. (I still own that, although I also scored a vinyl reissue a few years back.) “Joining a Fan Club” can turn even the most desolate space into a fantasia filled with gleaming harmonies and laser-beam guitars; “The Ghost at Number One” sneaks a grim parable about postmortem appreciation of genius into its thicket of synchronized oohs and chamber-room keyboards; and the finale, “Brighter Day,” is a circus parade gone rogue, clown makeup melting in the world’s harsh light while a kitchen-sink assortment of instruments provides the soundtrack, making me wonder if it was all a dream in the first place.

MAURA JOHNSTON

Nina Simone
Nina SimoneRoxbury International Film Festival

“Black Gold,” Nina Simone

My first thought was Aretha Franklin’s “Amazing Grace,” but Nina Simone’s “Black Gold” won out — I think because of her unparalleled ability to tell a story and reach deeply into the heart of the listener, revealing her profound connection to humanity. She effortlessly defies genre, and on this album, with the caveat of being recorded live, she displays masterful musicianship, brilliant and spellbinding artistry, and an interesting and expansive world of possibilities in music that invite us to consider the same in our lives. She taught us that you don’t have to be young, gifted or Black to feel pride and dignity in Black youth, and the promise of what they can offer the world. Bravo!

TERRI LYNE CARRINGTON, drummer and bandleader, Downbeat Critics’ Poll jazz artist of 2020, founder of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice

“A Love Supreme,” John Coltrane

Not only was John Coltrane a master musician, but his life also served as a shining example to many musicians and non-musicians. He stumbled badly in his life as a very young man, but he had the willpower to lift himself up. Renewing his faith in God, he documented his journey in the four-part work entitled “A Love Supreme.” I personally am one who found strength in his example to lift myself up from a low point.

ERIC JACKSON, host of WGBH’s “Eric in the Evening”

“Rum Sodomy & the Lash,” The Pogues

Clifden, Ireland. Summer of 1986. I’m stuck in the basement of Walsh’s bakery cooking doughnuts for the town. The only outlet is the disco on Saturday night. Elaine Else from Derbyshire was visiting for a week. Stunning, super confident. And she asks me to slow dance with her to “Dirty Old Town” by the Pogues from the album “Rum Sodomy & the Lash.” The first kiss, the first heartbreak. I bought the album that week. The funereal opening of “The Sick Bed of Cúchulainn” shifting into a bloody minded, Celtic punk anarchy told me to forget what they taught me in the schools about good old traditional Ireland and the saints and the scholars. This is something new. Cait O’Riordan’s striking lullaby of “I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Everyday,” and Shane MacGowan’s rebel boozer in “Sally MacLennane.” I don’t know if there is a constant theme in the album, but, for me, it is death is coming so live it up, boy. And, maybe that’s why it ended with Eric Bogle’s brilliant antiwar song, “And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda.” The summer was over. Elaine left. And I had dropped over 6,000 doughnuts into a deep fryer while singing “A Pair of Brown Eyes.” It was magic.

RONÁN NOONE, playwright (”The Smuggler,” “The Atheist”)

“Our Endless Numbered Days,” Iron & Wine

I heard this record for the first time when I was 16 or 17 years old. I’d just gotten an acoustic guitar for my birthday, and I was diving into folk music for the first time in my life. And the very first time I sat down to listen to track one, “On Your Wings,” I was blown away. I was struck by the lullaby melody, the understated three-part harmonies, and the softness of Sam Beam’s voice. “Our Endless Numbered Days” is calming yet vibrant, ethereal yet grounding, and timeless in its sweetness and simplicity. I’ve been listening to this album for about 10 years now, and it still fills me with peace and restfulness. “Our Endless Numbered Days” is a sleepy, soulful masterpiece.

ANJIMILE, singer-songwriter (album “Giver Taker” out Sept. 18)

“Time Out,” The Dave Brubeck Quartet

The song “Blue Rondo à la Turk” is one of my go-tos. The bass licks by Eugene Wright hold this album together. Anyone who can keep a band together on “Take Five” with those time signatures is legend.

JAMIE BISSONNETTE, James Beard award-winning chef (Coppa, Little Donkey, Toro)

Yo-Yo Ma
Yo-Yo MaLarry French/Getty Images

“Great Cello Concertos,” Yo-Yo Ma

My desert island record changes from day to day. Today, my past rises up to tell me it’s the recording from 1989 “Great Cello Concertos” (Sony) by Yo-Yo Ma. It was my first real classical recording when I was a teenager, the only CD of instrumental music I owned, and I listened to it incessantly, enough to be able to sing all the movements of Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 2 in D Major and the Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor that follows it. This was back in the day when I still pronounced Haydn “Hey-din” because I just wasn’t in the classical sphere. But there’s so much beauty and complexity and variety on that disc to keep me happy and blissful as I get slowly sunburned on that desert island.

RHIANNON GIDDENS, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, artistic director of Silkroad

“1999,” Prince

My uncle Billy made a cassette recording of this for my sister and me (with Culture Club’s “Colour by Numbers” on the other side) in 1983(?). Listening to it all the way through blew my very young mind. From the easy, fun, and completely original dance tracks at the top (”1999″ was the song my jazz dance class at Bill Fowler’s Dance Studio in Medford Square used for our end-of-year performance at John Hancock Hall. Ha!) and “Little Red Corvette.” To the more “exotic” and curiosity-piquing “D.M.S.R” and “Automatic.” Prince is the one for me, and this album is where it started.

JULIANNE NICHOLSON, actress (”Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “I, Tonya,” “Black Mass”)

“Powerage,” AC/DC

AC/DC’s “Powerage” has steered me through many real-life situations. The band is better known for its top-selling “Back in Black” album, but “Powerage” came out two years earlier in 1978 and had a more raw, unbridled edge with guitarist Angus Young on a mission and singer Bon Scott at his absolute peak. It’s their overall best hard-rock album and clearly the most personal to me, because that year I was hired as a staff pop critic for the Globe. From then on, I would often gear up for work by blasting “Powerage” on the freeway. It also got me through my first divorce when I drove up to Cambridge’s Middlesex courthouse and through an open window pumped up the volume and shook the foundations. Let’s just say it’s been in my road kit for decades and is still there now. So taking it to a desert island would only be natural.

STEVE MORSE, former Globe pop critic, teaches “Rock History” at Berklee College of Music

“Feel the Aura,” Red Shaydez

If I were stuck on a deserted island, I would need “Feel the Aura” by Red Shaydez. It’s pretty much a perfect album (I’m totally not saying that just because I’m on it). You get completely sucked in as soon as that bass hits on the very first track, “They Call Me Shaydez.” Hearing the bass on that track from my car speakers sets my soul aflame. From there, it takes you on a journey through the purest of hip-hop, R&B, pop, and Afrofuturism. Featuring incredible contributions from Cakeswagg, Bakari JB, Oompa, Rayel, Tayshawn Taylor, Chevé, Kasia Lavon, Eva Davenport, Pr3scott, and Troy Durden, this is one of the best hip-hop albums to ever come out of Boston. I think it’s one of the best hip-hop albums I’ve ever heard, period.

BRANDIE BLAZE, hip-hop artist, Live Arts Boston grantee

“Out of Range,” Ani DiFranco

“Out of Range” is the perfect driving, windows-down album. I don’t smoke, but I feel like it’s the perfect smoking-a-cigarette-out-your window album. And if you’re on a desert island, I’m guessing you don’t have a car, but it’s still the perfect sitting-by-the-campfire album. It has a whole emotional range — rage, optimism, female solidarity. You can listen the whole way through and there’s no song you’d want to skip. My favorite song, “If He Tries Anything,” is pretty dark, but it’s about a woman sending another woman out on a date and she’s saying, “If he tries anything, I’ve got you.” But the first two tracks, “Out of Range” and “Building and Bridges,” are complete anthems of hope and are incredible. I’m picturing being on a desert island with three other women and my dog, Rory. She can be there, right? And if she’s there, we should be listening to songs about female solidarity.

VANESSA ZOLTAN, cohost of the “Twilight in Quarantine” podcast

Stevie Wonder
Stevie WonderJohn Davisson

“Songs in the Key of Life,” Stevie Wonder

I’m going old school here. Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life” would be great company on a desert island. I was 6 years old when the album came out, so I don’t remember first hearing the songs, but sometimes it seems as if I was born with “Isn’t She Lovely” and “Sir Duke” already playing in my head. From the first harmonies of “Love’s in Need of Love Today” (a sad but evergreen message) to the groovy synthesizer that begins “Contusion” to the un-sit-still-able beat of “I Wish,” so many of these songs are instant mood boosters, and Stevie’s warm, instantly recognizable voice a balm for even the most bored, isolated, lonely desert island dweller (and, dare I say, the endurer of quarantine). Of course the upbeat mood of the album belies some mournful and poetic lyrics about racism, gentrification, and poverty, but also the power of faith, family, and, of course, love.

HEIDI PITLOR, novelist (“Impersonation,” “The Daylight Marriage”), series editor of “The Best American Short Stories”

“Dookie,” Green Day

I can’t work without ’70s rock. The other day I said, “I should have been born in the ’70s,” and someone said, “You were, you dummy!” But if you put a gun to my head, I’d have to say Green Day’s “Dookie.” It reminds me of college. They were the heart of punk, and everybody followed their lead. They were three weirdos from California. I love that they called themselves the best band in the world.

JEN ROYLE, chef-owner of Table, former sports reporter

“Live in London,” Mavis Staples

I thought about getting stuck on an island, and what that’d do to my soul. I would take Mavis Staples in MP3, CD, cassette, or LP form. Her voice soothes me from my fears, her lyrics remind me that no one is ever truly alone if you remain in the thoughts of friends. And I know I would be afraid to be alone on that island. I would worry I would lose my language and alphabet, the sound of someone’s laugh, the sound of a crowd together. Because of that, I would choose Mavis’s 2019 release “Live in London.” This record is solid from start to end, it’s got roots from Chicago, it keeps a pep in your step, it’s got wailing solos, and with tracks like “You Are Not Alone” and “We’re Gonna Make It,” you get a feeling of belonging, and friendship.

KATHLEEN PARKS, singer, fiddler, and songwriter, Twisted Pine

“American Standard,” James Taylor

It’s no secret that James Taylor is my all-time favorite artist in any genre. His voice, his poetry, and his musical decision-making are quite simply astonishing, and always — always — embrace my spirit.

THOMAS WILKINS, conductor, Boston Symphony Orchestra artistic adviser for education and community engagement

John Coltrane
John ColtraneThe New York Times

“Coltrane’s Sound,” John Coltrane

Choosing one desert island album is, of course, impossible for most of us, especially those of us who are musicians and have fallen in love with and been informed by so many recordings. However, for this purpose I chose “Coltrane’s Sound,” recorded during the sessions for the album “My Favorite Things” in 1960 and released by Atlantic Records in the summer of 1964. Thinking about being isolated with only one album to listen to, I wanted to choose something that would feed me in different ways depending on my state of mind. “Coltrane’s Sound” gives an all-encompassing range of emotion. For the 20 years I’ve been listening to it, it always provides me with a path to continuously connect to it, however I may be feeling at a given moment.

MATT STEVENS, guitarist, Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science

“Shaft,” Isaac Hayes

This was easy for me. I treated this album like I was on a desert island when I was young. I learned orchestral instrumentation, song arrangement, and the pentatonic scale from this album. It has tracks that soothe, tracks that groove, and moved me toward a life in music. No-brainer.

PRINCE CHARLES ALEXANDER, Grammy-winning record producer and engineer, Berklee College of Music professor

“Innervisions,” Stevie Wonder

While all of Stevie Wonder’s releases from 1970-76 are mind-blowing, the one I return to most is “Innervisions.” On the cutting edge as a thematically-unified, socially-conscious album, it features Wonder’s consummate expressiveness and impeccable performance on vocals, keyboards, drums, and of course harmonica. His extensive, innovative use of synthesizers allowed electronic music to become fun. The compositions are a flawless melding of exploration and infectious pop/funk accessibility. “Too High,” “Visions,” “Higher Ground,” and “Jesus Children of America” are glorious, haunting accounts of the nation’s disconnect with spirituality. “All in Love Is Fair” is a ballad of heartbreak that Sinatra would have killed for. The tales of systemic racism in “Living for the City” and of a huckster president in “He’s Misstra Know-It-All” remain as timely as ever. The tracks blend seamlessly into each other; once this record gets put on, I’m not turning it off.

JOSH KANTOR, Fenway Park organist