Thursday, February 26, 2009

25 Most Influential Albums

My friend Austin tagged me in this Facebook meme. (For those of you reading in Facebook, click View Original Post to see the blog entry.)

The rules for the meme are:

  • Think of 25 albums—which breaks my 10-item limit—that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it.
  • They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums that no matter what they were thought of musically shaped your world.

  • When you finish, tag 25 others, including me.

So here’s my list in alphabetical order by artist:

  • Bach, Six Brandenburg Concertos
  • This was my introduction to classical music. It was laying around the band hall, and we played it sometimes in the mornings. My favorite was #5, but I like them all. If not for this album, I would never have bought both of Wendy Carlos’s Switched on Bach releases.

  • Beatles, Hey, Jude
  • Hey, Jude was the next Beatles album I bought. I thought it was a real album at the time. Only later did I learn that it was pieced together out of “leftover” tracks from the British release. There were usually 12 or more songs on the British LPs but only 10 on the US releases of the same albums. Bean counters!

  • Beatles, Abbey Road
  • What can I say? Anyone who wasn’t inspired by Abbey Road didn’t listen to music.

  • George Benson, Breezin’
  • I loved the way GB sang his guitar solos. I later played in a band with a guy who played just as well as Benson and claimed to have arranged the Bobby Womac title track when he was Etta James’s music director.

  • Guy Clark, Old No. 1
  • Guy Clark’s first album was completely different than anything I had ever heard, which is strange considering the appropriateness of its name. Many of the songs had already been taken to the top of the country charts by other artists. Clark is an excellent guitarist, but he is a superlative poet first. And Emmylou Harris, a good friend of Guy and his wife Suzanna, sings harmony.

  • Dire Straits, Communiqué
  • While ’Sultans of Swing’ caught my ear, I didn’t buy the first album until much later. Instead, I started with the second one—the one that was so successful I’ve had to pull out my copy to prove it even exists—and fell in love with the band. Every track is good, but the most memorable is ‘Les Boys,”a cute little ditty about an S&M caberet.

  • Dire Straits, Love over Gold
  • “Two men say they’re Jesus; one of them must be wrong…How come Jesus gets Industrial Disease?” And let’s not forget “Telegraph Road.” Brothers in Arms was something of a let down after this, great as it was.

  • Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer
  • This was actually the second ELP album I bought, starting my tradition of buying the first album second. My most vivid memory of this album is listening to it while watching Halloween on HBO with the sound off. ELP was a better match to the timing and mood of the movie than the original soundtrack. But then, I never did like John Carpenter’s music. I always thought he was just to cheap to hire a real composer.

  • Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Brain Salad Surgery
  • Complete with a cover by H.R. Giger, this was the most awe-inspiring music I had ever heard. My first ELP album and my first concert. I remember cupping my hands over my friend’s left ear and screaming at the top of my lungs, ’This really doesn’t sound that loud!”—only to have him turn to me and move his lips in a pattern that looked like, “Wha?” There was a little tempo instability in the live performance, but the album was perfect.

  • Fanny, Fanny Hill
  • Fanny was the most underrated band in rock. I have two of their albums, but this is my favorite. To my knowledge, they were the first all-female hard rock band.

  • Merl Haggard, Greatest Hits
  • I was making a living playing country music, and I realized most of the songs I really liked were written by Merl. So I picked up this album and played it to death. Like the song says, “I’ll fix your flat tire, Merl.”

  • Emmylou Harris, Pieces of the Sky
  • “And I would walk all the way from Bolder to Birmingham if I thought I could see, I could see your face.” Emmylou has always downplayed her own songwriting, but the songs that moved me the most were her own. Anyone can cover a Beatles tune. I remember playing this album over and over.

  • Emmylou Harris, Evangeline
  • Evangeline is one of my favorite Emmylou albums. I thought it was the most startlingly original work she had done since Pieces of the Sky. It even had hints of the future Trio albums with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt singing harmony on “Mr. Sandman.” Her cover of James Taylor’s “Millwork” made me cry the first time I heard it. Imagine how shocked I was to learn that it was pieced together from the outtakes of several other albums.

  • Kris Kristofferson, Jesus Was a Capricorn
  • Kristofferson is my favorite American songwriter—slightly ahead of Jimmy Webb—and he’s on Colbert tonight. This was the first of his albums I bought, and soon bought everything else he had released. I loved the gravel of his voice, which seemed to mirror the acidity of his lyrics. He lost something when he took voice lessons and tried to sing. He should have left pitch to Rita Coolidge.

  • Kris Kristofferson, Border Lord
  • It was really hard to choose between Border Lord and Spooky Lady’s Sideshow. And while I dearly love both, I listed the earlier work here because of a gaff I made. Without presceening, I played “Rescue Mission” on the radio the day I bought the album. I’ll never forget hearing, “‘And here’s to my old friend,’ he said and kiss his ass goodbye.” Then came, “The captain’s wife was aging, and the first mate heard her scream when Tommy slipped tobasco in the captain’s Vaseline.”

  • Lobo, Introducing Lobo
  • My introduction to soft rock. I learned to play every song on it, but I doubt I could remember a single one today. Well, maybe “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo.” Let’s not find out.

  • Linda Ronstadt, Heart Like a Wheel
  • I fell in love with Linda Ronsadt when I heard her sing “Long, Long Time” on The Tonight Show in her bare feet. Hear Like a Wheel was the first time I knew who she was. What a wonderful album.

  • Linda Ronstadt, Prisoner in Disguise
  • With two songs by John David Souther, this is one of the best albums of all time.

  • Steeleye Span, Below the Salt
  • I bought this album because a good review by Bob Claypool. It became one of my favorites. Who else could have a top10 hit (in Brittain, not here) with “Gaudete.”

  • Steeleye Span, Parcel of Rogues
  • This one ranks up there with Prisoner in Disguise. The title track is done very darkly, seven voices and a bass drum, until the instruments kick in to end it. Not a bad song on it, but my favorite has to be “Cam Ye O’re Frae Fance.”

  • Al Stewart, Past, Present, and Future
  • I heard this album on one of those radio shows where they played the whole album, but missed the artist and title. It blew me away. Two years later, I walked in on one of my friends listening to it. I bought it the next day. It has never “left me here with the Post World War II Blues.”

  • Al Stewart, Year of the Cat
  • Not his best album, but definitely his most successful. My favorites from this one: “If It Doesn’t Come Naturally,” “On the Border,” and “Flying Sorcery.”

  • Rick Wakeman, Journey to the Center of the Earth
  • This tremendous album set the stage for Wakeman’s career writing the music for soft porn movies like China Blue. Davi almost ruined this on for me, tho. To this day, I can’t hear that large choir sing, “Praise God,” without hearing “Frisbee!”

  • Who, Odds and Sodds
  • “’Cause I’m a farmer…”

  • Triumvirat, Spartacus
  • Triumvirat is a German ELP knock-0ff, but Spartacus was an awesome album nonetheless.


Suna said...

That was fun! Not sure if I could do this or not, but I may try.

Dragonfly said...

That was a fun read. I'm not sure I could come up with 5 albums much less 25. (and some of the ones I come up with I might be embarrassed to admit)

Lee said...

I think five would be a much more reasonable number, and you don’t have to comment on them.

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