Saturday, February 21, 2009

16 Albums

This has been going around Facebook and I wanted to post it here as well.

Think of 15 - 20 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. These are my picks. I tried to limit it to 15, but ended up with 16 so sue me. There are a few more who came close, but these are mine.

1. The Beatles (White Album) - The Beatles
My aunt was a cool hippie, but in her late 20s became born again. She gave me all of her old albums. Among them was the White Album. This was not the Beatles I was used to hearing and stylistically it opened up a whole new musical world for me.

2. Rock and Roll Music - The Beatles
This isn't a real release, but rather a compilation released by Capitol Records in the mid 70s. When the Beatles broke up, they still had a contractual obligation to Capitol which was fulfilled via the release of several of these compilation discs. My parents got this for me before it was actually available to the general public because they donated money to NPR here in D.C. This double album focused on the rock and roll side of the Beatles catalog. For me, it marked my first time hearing songs like Taxman and Hey Bulldog.

3. Live at Folsom Prison - Johnny Cash
My dad was into country music more than anything. For the most part, I hated it. Johnny Cash was the exception. His voice and his stories spoke to me in a way other other country artists never did. He seemed like part of our family.

4. Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy - Elton John
While Goodbye Yellow Brick Road gets most of the attention from his fans, Captain Fantastic is more or less a sequel. This is pretty much perfect pop music. Incredible melodies, brilliant lyrics. I can't here this without thinking of muggy summers in Virginia.

5. Destroyer - KISS
Destroyer was when KISS became bigger than life. Purists might say this is when they sold out and truth be told, it's not really a favorite anymore, but it was huge for me when I was 13. It was a perfect mix of music and comic books. What more would any boy want?

6. Never Mind the Bullocks, Here's the Sex Pistols - The Sex Pistols
Hearing the Sex Pistols for the first time felt like an audio assault. Everything about it seemed wrong, yet I couldn't turn it off.

7. The Clash - The Clash
The Clash, even on their first album, showed that there was more more to punk rock than anarchy and screaming. They took what the Sex Pistols did and went a step further.




8. Live at Budokan - Cheap Trick
I never heard Cheap Trick until I heard the live version of I Want You to Want Me on the radio. It was heavy like KISS, but melodic like The Beatles.

9. Get the Knack - The Knack
Sneer if you must, but this is a perfect album. The Knack took everything that made power pop fun and crammed it into every song. Forget the skinny ties and short hair and wanna-be Beatles vibe, The Knack were the real deal ... for exactly one album. Sadly, they put everything they had into the one album and never even came close again.

10. Armed Forces - Elvis Costello
Elvis Costello took the anger of punk rock, but added a more pop sensibility to it.

11. Are You Experienced? - The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Jimi blended the blues with rock, pop and folk. This album made me want to hear what influenced him.

12. East Side Story - Squeeze
I didn't want to give Squeeze a chance because everything I ever read about them included the notion that they were the "New Lennon and McCartney." I knew that couldn't be true so I blew them off. Fortunately for me, I accidentally heard them on MTV and was hooked. East Side Story is probably the best example of their particular blend of melody and storytelling. When I started writing songs, I spent years trying to write lyrics like these.

13. Spilt Milk - Jellyfish
Jellyfish was kind of overlooked amidst the 90s alt-rock explosion, but this is a perfect pop album in the absolute best sense of the term.

14. Nevermind - Nirvana
It's easy to take Nirvana for granted after all the hype and deification of Kurt Cobain. But this album was like the second coming of punk. Only this time, they took the best elements of punk, rock, metal and pop and mixed it into this amazing hybrid that sounded the death knell for 80s hair metal. I watched with amazement as overnight as BAM magazine stopped featuring ads for hair extensions and replaced them with ads for flannel shirts (as if the look alone gives a band credibility). Nirvana changed music formats and shattered conventions. The result was that bands no one ever would have given a chance made it onto the radio. What a lot of people miss about Nirvana is how poppy they were. Most don't get past the grinding guitar and primal scream of Cobain. Break down the songs and you'll hear real melodies there.

15. O.K. Computer - Radiohead
I think this may be one of the top five albums of all time. The last one before Radiohead descended into self-indulgence and pretension.

16. Welcome Interstate Managers - Fountains of Wayne
An amazing power pop album. Intelligent lyrics, great melodies and harmonies. You can tell they are influenced by all of the best bands.