Last year a fellow blogger asked me to create a list of 10 albums that have changed my life. Not necessarily my all time favorites, but those that have had the biggest impact on me.
It was a great idea, and I took the bait.
But where to start? There have been hundreds of albums that have literally "changed my life", but I've sliced them down to a mere 10. Every one of these has increased my love of music by leaps and bounds, and opened my ears to whole new genres and possibilities. Most of them are adored by many, and I still stand by their quality today, but the impression they've left on me also has much to do with the time I first heard them. Everyone should do a list like this, the exercise forces you to look back on your life and revisit the music that's molded your taste.
As a side note, I left out two albums because they are not available. The Beatles - Rubber Soul and Husker Du - New Day Rising.
1. Rush - Moving Pictures
The first album on my list is probably the most critically divisive selection. However, I still stand by it's brilliance. But it makes my list not so much for the music it contains, but because this is the album that got me hooked on rock and roll. Before this time I had heard my parents Frankie Valli, Carpenters and Elvis records, and I enjoyed them, but when a friend gave me his Sony Walkman on a walk to school in 1981 with Rush's Moving Pictures inside, it was an epiphany. I was stunned by the music pouring into my brain. This record is the one that kicked off a lifelong obsession with music, and will always hold a special place in my heart, no matter how cheesy Neil Peart's lyrics sound to me now. From here I discovered Queen, Van Halen, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, other classic rock legends and heavy metal.
2. Pink Floyd - The Wall
Maybe it was the studio trickery, maybe it was the melodies, maybe it was the concept and story behind this double album, or more likely, it was the perfect combination of all these things that left me gape-mouthed for all of my puberty years. The film took it a step further and showed me that music could be so much more than a 3 minute song, it could be a work of art! I literally wore out 3 cassette copies of this record and had a tradition of listening to it in the summer every night when I went to bed. Every note and every sound on The Wall is burned deep into my memory more so than any other album I've ever loved.
3. U2 - War
Sure, U2 catches a lot of flack today, but this release from 1983 was the freshest thing to hit the airwaves (via college radio) in years, and it still holds up 23 years later. When I first heard "Sunday Bloody Sunday" I was instantly won over, and walked 3 miles to buy War at the town record shop. I still remember the first time I listened to the whole thing. Every single track completely surrounded me like nothing I had heard before. There's not one piece of filler here, and I remember being dumbfounded by the guitar sound of the Edge. How did he make those sounds? I have stayed with this band for decades, and have taken heat for it. I will continue to do so. U2 also led me to Echo and the Bunnymen, R.E.M., Talking Heads and many others that no music fan can ignore.
4. Neil Young - Live Rust
This is the first Neil Young record I ever heard. The whole thing is perfect, but it's the acoustic guitar that changed my life. It's responsible for inspiring me to learn how to play guitar and started an everlasting love affair with the acoustic variety of the instrument. It set off a buying spree that had me soaking in artists like Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Cat Stevens and other folk-based, singer-songwriters who still stand on one of the highest pedestals at the temple of my music preferences.
5. The Minutemen - Double Nickels On The Dime
Although I still do not consider this brilliant 43 track masterpiece a "punk" record. Double Nickels on the Dime, along with Husker Du's New Day Rising, were the albums that launched me into my punk years. I discovered the Sex Pistols, Black Flag, The Ramones and many others around this time, but this record holds up the best, and was the one that proved you didn't need major label production to get your point across, and that music could be witty. If you don't get it, just listen until you do. It WILL hit you eventually.
6. The Jesus & Mary Chain - Psychocandy
Like a dream. That's how I would describe Psychocandy. This spot could have just as easily gone to The Cure's Head on the Door, and probably should have because I have listened to the Cure more than J&MC. Or it could have went to any number of albums by the Smiths. But this album, is what the 80's were to me, and it led me to so many great "alternative" bands. All Music Guide nails it when they say about Psychocandy, "Arguably Psychocandy is an album with one trick and one trick alone — Beach Boys melodies meet Velvet Underground feedback and beats, all cranked up to ten and beyond, along with plenty of echo. However, what a trick it is. Following up on the promise of the earliest singles, the Jesus and Mary Chain with Psychocandy arguably created a movement without meaning to, one that itself caused echoes in everything from bliss-out shoegaze to snotty Britpop and back again."
7. Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique
I was instantly hooked on a new genre called "rap" back in the early eighties when I first heard groups like Run-D.M.C, The Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash and The Beastie Boys. Paul's Boutique was the album that convinced me that sampling was an art form, and not a form of theft, as many would have you believe at the time. We all know what happened. The Beastie Boys are more responsible than any other group, besides maybe Run-D.M.C, to open me up to a whole new genre of music that I was lucky enough to watch being born and evolve over the last two decades.
8. The Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed
I came late to the Rolling Stones party. Mostly due to my age. I had always liked the songs I had heard on the radio, but when I finally bought Let It Bleed I could not believe it was released in 1969! It had been around as long as I had been alive! Why was I not listening to this perfect set of songs until the late 80's? I have no idea, it's just one of those things, but as I mentioned, I was busy with The Wall through most of puberty. Anyway, when I started buying the band's back catalogue I was in heaven, and they led me to the blues, which is enough to gain a spot on this list. I still feel a bit sick to my stomach that I have not included a blues album in this list, but I am trying to be honest here.
9. Bob Marley - Legend
If I were sent to prison and could only bring one album with me, this would be it. This Bob Marley compilation is a perfect collection that captures Bob at his very best. Bob Marley records are hit or miss, but this one is absolutely unflawed. Not only is the music timeless, but it contains more positive vibes per groove than any record on the planet. If we could all live the way this album makes us feel, there would be no war or hatred in the world. Bob Marley was not just a musician, but a prophet and this is his holy book. No human being should be without this record.
10. Thelonious Monk - Brilliant Corners
The oldest record on my list is the one I discovered the latest in life. Maybe it is a natural progression, or maybe it takes a mature mind to understand Monk. Jazz hit me like a brick just a few years ago. I decided to make an effort to appreciate jazz as I had until recently, dedicated all my time to more "popular" music. I sat down with Monk, Coltrane and Miles, and although it did not hit me right away, when it did it was like acquiring a 6th sense. My love of Jazz has helped to take my love of music further than I thought it could go. There is no doubt in my mind now that music comes from somewhere beyond our paltry 3 dimensions. Monk could see it, and this is the record that opened my eyes.