My daughter’s fiance Jack is a cool kid, as well as a very talented musician and singer. So when he challenged me to blog my Top 10 most influential albums, I had to answer the call.
Some records have influenced the world, and some of influenced me as an individual. The latter is what this post is about — the ten most personally influential albums. So, without further ado, not ranked by rating but rather in the order in which I heard them, are My Top 10 Most Influential Albums…
- Led Zeppelin — Led Zeppelin IV (1971). It was summertime, probably 1974, and the next-door neighbor was working on his ’65 Galaxie 500 with the radio on. I was taking out the trash when Black Dog came on. It was the first hard rock song I ever heard and the cat was out of the bag forever. Eventually I got the album and listened to it about a million times.
- The Beatles — Abbey Road (1969). I was sitting on the floor with my two uncles, Jim and Tom, listening to the Beatles for the first time, and I knew my head would never be the same. By the end of the day I had heard several hours of their stuff. It was too much for one brain to hold.
- Jerry Lee Lewis — The Session (1973). Dad liked country and Mom liked a little bit of everything — but her favorite artist was Jerry Lee. This record changed me. Jerry Lee infuses tunes of every genre with his unique redneck flair. Guests include include Albert Lee, Alvin Lee, Mick Jones, and Peter Frampton.
- Blue Öyster Cult — Some Enchanted Evening (1978). The Öyster Boys are my favorite band, and this was the record that opened Pandora’s box. Listen with caution lest you get pulled into the orbit of this Saturnian ensemble — sucked into a swirling kaleidoscope of biker rock, occult musings, and stun guitar. On the other hand, maybe you shouldn’t fear the reaper after all…
- Cashmere Jungle Lords — Oodjie-Boodjie Night-Night (1987). How do describe the Lords? Southern Fried Surfabilly? Western Surf Jungle Rock? Neo-primitive Twang-a-Dang? I don’t know, but it’s great fun. This record didn’t come out until ’87 but I was hearing the songs in the early 80s because the lead singer, Dominic Carpin, was a college roommate of mine, and he taught me a lot about music — about how hard and painful it is to make, and what’s good, and what’s bad. They’re still going strong. Go see e’m. Tell Dominic, Mitch sent you. And yes, like the Beatles, their name is misspelled on purpose.
- The Police — Synchronicity (1983). I was basically still a kid, but I was married with a kid when this record hit the radio and sliced it in half like a batarang. I was trying to figure out what what being an adult meant and how to do it. This record is forever tangled up in my tangled-up 80’s head and it’ll never come out.
- Ratt — Out of the Cellar (1984). Go ahead, be a hater. I don’t care what you say, Ratt is the best of the 80s hair metal bands, and this record bangs from cut to cut. There’s a reason why they got a Geico commercial. Kiss, eat your heart out.
- Kyuss — Blues for the Red Sun (1992). This was part of the rotation when I got my 5 hour chest tattoo done by a wall-eyed Pall Mall smoking maniac with an IQ of 160 named Maxx. These songs are slow even when fast, are brutal even when soft. I know that makes no sense. You just have to listen to it. And by the way, Josh Homme should’ve kept doing this instead of moving on to Queens of the Stone Age (there, I said it).
- The Sword — Age of Winters (2006). Another record from the Maxx rotation. Long before GOT became an HBO phenomenon, these heavy metal rock geeks gave GRRM a nod with this album title. In an alternate reality time warp, Age of Winters was a groundbreaking 1974 album that went platinum. Somehow it manages to sound old and new at the same time. Best played on 11 while driving to work like I did for about a year after I bought it.
- Steve Earle – I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive (2011). I was really disappointed when I heard that Steve was going to put out a book and record combo. I thought he was selling out, that it was some kind of creepy media deal. But I bought them both anyway, and soon realized that Steve Earle is one of the most talented people in the history of the planet. The book I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive is one of the best novels I have ever read — pure hayseed Dostoevsky — and the record is devastating. Yes, Steve Earle is that good.
Don’t ask me how I managed to avoid discovery of Russian composer Alexander Scriabin until just this week. This is amazing, mystical stuff.
Scriabin composed music that was based on Gnostic and Theosophical concepts, and it was written to be performed on equipment that had not yet been invented in his day. From what I’ve read, he used the best available at the time — color organs and such.
The colors and sounds of Prometheus: Poem of Fire are nothing short of mesmerizing. Video below. From the YouTube recap:
“In February 2010, Anna Gawboy, a doctoral candidate at the Yale School of Music and scholar of Russian composer Alexander Scriabin, attempted to realize the composer’s final work: a symphony of sound and light called “Prometheus: Poem of Fire”. To accomplish this, Anna worked closely with Toshiyuki Shimada, conductor of the Yale Symphony Orchestra, and Justin Townsend, an award-winning lighting designer.
Anna and Justin spent a year developing ideas and preparing for the performance, but a majority of the lighting work was done just days before the concert. This documentary covers the events of that week and the performance itself.”
Decided I wanted pizza for cheat day, so the wife and I decided to roll down to Bottoms Up.
On the left is the Bottoms Up Loaded, and on the right the Greek. Both were outstanding.
Everybody talks about how good Bottoms Up is, but this was my first time eating there.
That’s when you know you’re old. You say things like, “let’s go try that new restaurant” when it actually opened in 1990, or “you should check out this awesome new band” when they’ve been around since 2003 (last year I discovered a “new” band called The Sword and I actually said that).
I no longer laugh at the old folks in my mother’s retirement community who sit around playing Michael Buble and Harry Connick Jr. cassettes feeling the same way my 15-year-old might feel playing The Wytches (who are very cool if you like Lo-Fi Psychedelic Doom Surf). Give them a play because they don’t suck — here’s a video.
Crunchholdoh.net album cover — if you guys spot this and ask me to take this down I will. It’s really cool though, so I hope you don’t make me.
This weekend I was cleaning out my Sanctum Sanctorum (a.k.a. “The Shed” — my workout room and ritual space) and I came across some stuff from Zinefest (either 2010 or 2011, I can’t be sure). Among them was a zine called “Wunderkammer” by Whitney Rainey and this CD by Crunchholdoh.net. I’m pretty sure Whitney did the album cover — her style is pretty distinctive.
Whitney’s zine is thought provoking and well worth a read. Someday, maybe at a future Zinefest, I’ll be able to look her up and discuss the imagery. She seems to have a fascination for patriarchal, presidential figures like Teddy Roosevelt. Based on imagery alone, I suspect she has the same conflicting feelings toward Teddy that I do — admiration for a tough old bird who may have been forward-thinking for his time, but fearful and distrusting of what worship of these figures has become. Like all good art though, everyone who reads it will see something different.
On the way to work this morning I put the CD in the truck stereo and was treated to the existential earwig that is Crunchholdoh (Track 5, Addressing the Homeless is still stuck in my head). I’m not a music critic, and I’m not very hip, but I’ll try to write a review by suggesting titles for this apparently untitled record: Echoes of Atari Mindscapes, Scales of the Infinite City, Metronomes and Thought Museums, Mode: Life-Mirrors. Anyway, with the early morning sun coming in through the truck window, it was pretty magical.
It’s so amazing that people make art that enriches other people’s lives. I don’t even know these people, and yet they made my day.
The corporate music machine (I think I just threw up in my mouth) pushes some of the most horrible stuff I’ve ever destroyed my IQ with. So I set out on a quest for some music that doesn’t stink and that doesn’t put money into corporate pockets.
Obviously I’d prefer to go to shows — but that won’t help me when I’m making the morning slave-drive (a.k.a. “commute”). My search led me to Bandcamp. I found lots of free music, and some music I could buy for a few bucks. From what I understand, only about 15% of the money you spend goes to the website, which means 85% goes to the bands. Seems like a better deal all around.
You can search the site y tags and such, or you can do what I did — search blogs for indie bands and then see if they have anything up on Bandcamp.
If you have better ideas, please say so!
What am I listening to now?