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.

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3 thoughts on “15 Albums

  1. Great list – I equally admire most for the same reasons. One other “underground” album that STILL sounds good to me is the first Captain Beyond – with members of Iron Butterfly, etc. – a non-stop start-to-finish rock fest propelled by dynamo drummer Bobby Caldwell (not the R&B singer). I spoke to bassist Lee Dorman a few years ago about it (he records at the studio in FL where I did my comedy CD), and he told me he hears about their influence daily. GREAT live video of them doing virtually the whole thing live is on YouTube.

  2. Hey Carey, thanks! My metalhead friend put that album on his list. Both it and Sufficiently Breathless were great. The 3-D LP cover was one for the ages too, and speaking of singing, the lead vocalist is the same guy who sang “Hush” with Deep Purple. Feel free to post your own list!

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