From sultry Kate Bush to the gruff bellow of Tom Waits, Carpenter’s record collection is as dazzling as his wardrobe.

There isn’t a shred of classical music on Cameron Carpenter’s list of Desert Island Discs, but the virtuoso organist certainly doesn’t give much thought to genre divides. His selections range from upbeat 1980s pop to avant-jazz and go some way to explaining the glam inspiration behind his own striking fashion sense.

Cameron Carpenter is the Interview subject in the June issue of Limelight. During his Australian tour he plays the Poulenc Organ Concerto with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (June 22 and 25), and gives a recital at the Sydney Opera House (June 30).

Missing Persons
Spring Session M

Listen to: Tears
Why I love it: If listening casually, this might seem at first terribly dated. But in fact it’s a very intense cross-section of a lost time. More than “the 80’s”, this music captures an aesthetic that would probably be impossible for anyone to recreate convincingly. It’s one of those strange moments in music.

Hannaford Street Silver Band with Leo McKern
Bring on the Brass

Listen to: Leo McKern’s fabulous narration, especially of the closing story.

Why I love it: This is one of the best musical albums for children, but it opened my eyes not only to the music of Malcolm Arnold (the Little Suites for Brass are featured in particular). It shaped my concept of how to talk to children about music.

Tom Waits
Rain Dogs 

Listen to: 9th and Hennepin

Why I love it: This is Tom at his most intense, for my taste – when he’s right on the borders of tonality, recitation and harmony – like standing on a mountain ridge just outside of El Paso, TX, from where you can see Mexico and New Mexico… caught in the middle of so many things, and truly caught. The music under him is shocking.

Stan Rogers


From Fresh Water

Listen to: White Squall
Why I love it: One of the greatest uses of suspended cymbal at the song’s climax, and a study in the devastating emotionalism of true folk.


Chelsea Girl

Listen to: These Days
Why I love it: Unfettered delivery and simplicity without affectation.

Henry Mancini & Johnny Mathis
The Hollywood Musicals

Listen to: Whistling Away the Dark
Why I love it: The somewhat unfortunate title belies the deep sophistication of these arrangements and the great ability Mancini had to frame Mathis’s voice – its terrible consistency – in continually shifting contexts.


Kate Bush


The Sensual World

Listen to: The entire album… Often
Why I love it: Kate Bush remains one of our living oracles.


Laura Nyro


Eli and the Thirteenth Confession

Listen to:The entire album
Why I love it: Bush and Nyro: both oracles, both mothers of lyricism

John Coltrane
A Love Supreme

Listen to: The entire album
Why I love it: This is Coltrane’s symphony in four movements – or perhaps his Mass, or Requiem.


Roxy Music


Flesh + Blood 

Listen to: Flesh + Blood, My Only Love
Why I love it: If the sounds of Missing Persons’ Spring Session M is a glittering anachronism, Roxy is somehow the opposite: not timeless, but of a character that defies linking style to era. My Only Love is a great example of how Brian Ferry at his best manages to blend icy toughness with an effortless sensuality.