Local Rhythms – 15 Discs That Changed My Life

picture-9Though I’m pretty caught up in Facebook, their gimmicks don’t appeal to me.  A poke (or God forbid, a super poke) won’t get a response, my flirts are apparently hurting, and I’ve no pieces of flair adorning my corkboard.

Fort that matter, I don’t have a corkboard.

But Facebook lists are a different story.  I’m a sucker for surveys asking me to answer 20 questions with just one word, or list 25 random personal facts.

This recent Facebook meme really fished me in, along with a few thousand music fans:

“Think of 15 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it,” it asked, that, “no matter what they were thought of musically shaped your world.”

Making my own list was fun, but I was more interested in other responses.

I’m not one of those people with a thousand Facebook pals.  Rather than make new friends, I prefer to do a better job with the ones I’ve already got.

I learned plenty with this exercise.

My oldest friend in the world is a certified metalhead, but his picks surprisingly included Blind Faith and Herman’s Hermits.

A lot of women had Carole King’s “Tapestry” and Joni Mitchell’s “Blue,” but my sister, bless her heart, also put “Best of Bread” on hers.

Way to take that “no matter what they were thought of musically” caveat seriously, Sis.

The sixty-something friend who, in Facebook-speak, first “tagged” me with this “note” chose lots of classic rock (Clapton, Hendrix & Joplin), but also had the Kingston Trio.

He couldn’t limit his Beatles picks to just one album.

Plenty of folks needed more than 15 slots, including one friend whose list ran to 35 choices.  Excessive maybe, but it produced an eclectic mix including Tommy Clancy and Duran Duran.

I prowled the Internets to see if the rest of the world resembled my friend list, and found one wag who had Chris Whitley’s “Dirt Floor” keeping company with Boston’s first disc and a Nicola Conte acid jazz 12 inch – technically, not an album.

The whole experience reinforced my belief that music to some extent shapes everyone, especially my Facebook friends.

I’m going to start my own list called “songs that confuse me,” beginning with “A Horse With No Name” and “Take Me To the Pilot.”

Here are my picks for the week:

Thursday: Pete Merrigan, Brown’s Tavern – This may be the first time I’ve ever picked Pete in March.  He’s acquired a lot of new fans via the Yellow House Media web site, which recently added a lot of songs.  “Born Here” held the top spot on the most popular song stream list for several weeks.  He’s heading down to St. Pete (no relation) for a show later this month, along with a radio interview.  Lucky guy.

Friday: Talkin’ Smack Band, Imperial Lounge – Formerly known as Junk in the Trunk, it remains to be seen if this band has some new tricks to go with their new name.  Not that they need any, as they serve up a steady diet of the kind of selections that fit well on my 15 best list (multiple decades at that). Imperial is shaping into a great music room, with lots of room for dancing and good sound.

Saturday: Extra Stout, Killarney – My better half is named Patty and was born on St. Patrick’s Day, so we tend to celebrate the whole month of March.  That’s also true for this Okemo-area pub, which touts an authentic Irish vibe.  The music of this Vermont-based band is described as “drinking and rebel tunes, ballads, jigs and reels.”  All perfectly served with a pint of Guinness.

Sunday: San Jose Taiko Drums, Hopkins Center – Based in my former California home town, they specializes in kumidaiko – ensemble drumming on Japanese drums.  These colorful, propulsive and hypnotic performers also appear Saturday at the Colonial Theatre in Keene. The Japanese-American troupe draws from samba, rock and Afro-Cuban rhythms as well as their native roots.

Tuesday: Dublin City Ramblers, Lebanon Opera House – The Upper Valley’s official St. Patrick’s Day headquarters, Salt hill Pub, is sponsoring this traditional Celtic band’s appearance.  Better yet, they’ve agreed to visit the pub after their Opera House set to join weekly Irish session musicians Roger Burridge and Dave Loney for a tune or two.  Indeed, a big night on the Green.

Wednesday: OK Go, Pearl Street – A few years back this power pop combo won an MTV Video Award, even though their inventive treadmill dance clip was entirely a MySpace phenomenon hardly shown on the former music channel.  They’re featured in the upcoming film “I Love You Man,” playing a wedding band with the classic name Tastes Like Chicken.  Wait, I was going to use that!

15 Albums

records_1A Facebook meme that’s sweeping the Internets:

Think of 15 albums 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 15 others, including me. Make sure you copy and paste this part so they know the drill. Get the idea now? Good. Tag, you’re it!

I’m going in chronological order, and since this is my blog, providing commentary on my choices.

Oh, and please post your own lists in the comments section, with or without commentary.

1. Cast Your Fate to the Wind, Vince Guaraldi – My father’s greatest gift was instilling a love of creative expression, particularly music.  The moody piano figure that opens this piece is as haunting today as it was the first time I heard it nearly 50 years ago.  It provided the first hint of a world beyond “The Wheels on the Bus.”

2. The Beatles Second Album, The Beatles I heard about the Fab Four, watched them on Ed Sullivan, but this Capitol cannabilization hooked me, plus it exposed me to the music of Motown, Chuck Berry and Little Richard for the first time. Hey, I was 6 years old!

3. Monkees Headquarters, Monkees I loved that the Prefab Four demanded artistic control, and this, their third album, showed what that was all about. The Monkees also produced the first crack in my unwavering loyalty to one band only – the Beatles.

6. Bookends, Simon & GarfunkelSensing my musical mind becoming more open, my parents gave me “Sounds of Silence” for Christmas and “Bookends” for my birthday in July.  These introduced me to the poetry of singer-songwriters, still to this day my favorite genre of music.

5. Woodstock, Original Soundtrack In 1970, the top 40 station in town (on the AM dial, no less) switched to AOR.  Suddenly, you could spend the whole day listening and never hear the same song twice.  That’s where I heard about Woodstock – it passed me by completely when it happened in real time.  The corrupting force on my 13-year old brain of naked girls swimming in a creek while stage announcements warned of “brown acid” cannot be fully measured.

6. A Question of Balance, Moody Blues Though I would become a bigger fan of prog-rock bands like Genesis, Yes, Nektar, Caravan, Camel, Amon Duul and Focus, this album launched my love of swirling orchestral synth-rock.  Still sounds good too.

7. James Gang Rides Again, James GangI spent my paper route money at a record store called Sound Expression.  One day, I asked a clerk, who were like clerics in my church of music, for a recommendation.  I want hard rock, I said, not knowing what that meant.  He pointed me to this crunchy blues rock masterpiece, which I bought without question.

8. For Everyman, Jackson BrowneI purchased it for “Redneck Friend,” with Elton John’s frenetic (and frankly, poorly recorded) piano. But I love it for the title cut, “The Times You’ve Come” (my first exposure to Bonnie Raitt’s voice) and Sneaky Pete Kleinow’s gorgeous steel guitar on the bridge between “Take It Easy” and “Our Lady of the Well.”

9. Something/Anything, Todd RundgrenIt was either this or “A Wizard, A True Star” – I heard both around the same time, but being rooted in Beatles makes Todd’s double album magnum opus the one that sticks.

10. Warren Zevon, Warren Zevon A different side of singer-songwriter – darker, melancholy, sardonic.  Greg Copeland’s “Revenge Will Come” better typifies the style, but Zevon was the first, and he has a larger body of work (sorry, Greg).

11. Hejira, Joni Mitchell She fused jazz and lyricism at a time in my life when a line like “white flags of winter chimnies waving truce against the moon” spoke directly to the core of my being.  World weary, wondering whether it was all worth it, and a few thousand miles from home, I needed Joni’s travelers journal like a parched man needs water.

12. Graceland, Paul SimonI hadn’t thought about South Africa much until this record came out, let alone its culture.  The night I saw this performed live, with Hugh Masakela, Miriam Makeba and of course Ladysmith Black Mambazo, remains one of my top 5 concerts.

13. Steady On, Shawn Colvin This came out of nowhere, and as good as Colvin is as a songwriter (she is amazing), the years have shown that the mood, texture and strength of “Steady On” belongs to John Leventhal, the most talented and underrated producer in the world.

14. Blister Soul, Vigilantes of Love – Christian rock never sounded like this, and I guess the only reason this record wasn’t a giant success is that no one could figure out where to put it.  Fortunately, Tim Tobin recognized its’ genius and put it on The River, one of the last great music stations in the Upper Valley (all you Point lovers, don’t go hatin’ on me now).

15. Delivered, Mark Erelli – The greatest thing about music is that it continues to surprise me.  I never expected this – Erelli’s made some good records over his career, but this one captures a moment in time perhaps better than anything that’s come out of the Bush years.  It’s a combination of outrage, curated faith and love for the things that can’t be wrenched from our grasp.