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12 most influential albums [Oct. 20th, 2005|10:37 am]
Okrzyki, przyjaciel!
I'm older than all yall, so my list skews earlier in time than most of you. And it's not an 'all time favorite' list either, I tried to choose those records that changed the way I heard and felt about music when I first heard them. Most people nowadays know me for being into various sorts of electronic music, but this music is how I got there.

In no particular order:

1. "Monk/Trane" -- this was an early 70's reissue on Milestone I think, and the tracks on it are out on CD now. Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane, Art Blakey, and Coleman Hawkins playing together. I actually could live with it if this was the only Jazz record I owned. Monk's songwriting is unique -- it is as though he invented a new vocabulary and grammar of music in order to say what he wanted to say. And Coltrane was one of the very few saxaphonists to really 'get' Monk. Coleman Hawkins, as lovely as his playing is, actually sounds a little lost next to Coltrane.
Thelonius Monk With John Coltrane
Monk's Music

2. Beatles "Rubber Soul"
The first record I ever bought. I know this record so well I don't need to play it -- I can hear the whole album in my head, in sequence.

3. John McLaughlin "Devotion" John Mclaughlin played with Miles Davis during this same period, but Devotion sounds like nothing he did before or since. He plays with organist Larry Young, drummer Buddy Miles, and Billy Cox. This was right at the cusp of Jazz Rock Fusion, a style which quickly degenerated into cringe-worthy self importance and virtuoso solo wanking. But this is one of those "OH SHIT" records, that sound weird as hell when you first hear them, but become inevitable and totemic once you get to know it.

4. Tangerine Dream Rubicon
Tangerine Dream, like McLaughlin, fell off after their first 5 or 6 absolutely crucial recordings, but Rubicon stands out as a landmark in purely abstract electronic music. This was one we played in high school while watching TV with the sound down; the foreboding, echoey plonks turning even Petticoat Junction strange and sinister.

5. Weather Report Sweetnighter
This is straight up dance music from the early 70s -- the percussion grooves are completely mental, and the keyboards, sax and bass float in and out in seemingly offhanded ways, but mesh into screaming climaxes.

6. The Jam "This Is The Modern World"
There are a lot of punk records that came out in this same period -- 77,78, that are a lot better known, and who can argue with the first 3 or 4 Clash albums? But Paul Weller is a brilliant pop songwriter and riveting performer. He sounds tough, angry, and as though he could beat you and your three best mates if you gave him any stick. Urgent, exciting music -- the cassette that stayed in the cassette deck in my rusty yellow VW Rabbit until it melted onto the tape heads.

7. Dinosaur Jr "Dinosaur"
People talking about the Pixies being seminal, but this record really started something. Kevin Shields was a huge fan, which you can hear on the early My Bloody Valentine records. J Mascis was a completely odd duck -- at a time when indie rock didn't look any farther back than the Ramones, Dinosaur Jr borrows Neil Young's plaintive warbling voice and drops into a sonic maelstrom that seems to be part-punk, part heavy-metal. After the DIY back to basics of Punk, Dinosaur Jr made the guitar solo cool again.

8. Brian Eno "Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy"
9. Brian Eno "Before and After Science"
Eno didn't start out as an epigram-spouting art wonk, or inventor (ha) of ambient music. He first popped up as a member of Roxy Music, where he played simplistic keyboards and applying electronic effects. For a couple of years he toyed with being a rock star, but when he went to record these albums, his idiosyncratic take on writing pop songs mostly baffled people. The songs on "Tiger Mountain" are very Lewis Carroll, and the ones on "Science" have a certain Pink Floyd dreaminess to them. Eno plays with expectation and convention; his music is like looking into a familiar house through a window you didn't even know existed, and seeing the familiar rendered strange and new. The song "Spider and I" sounds like the theme music for entering Heaven.

9. My Bloody Valentine "Glider"
10. My Bloody Valentine "Tremelo"
in the early 90s, Creation Records had a brilliant way to introduce new music to the audience: a band would release a series of 4 track singles. This was partly due to the UK commercial music industry -- only singles could be considered for "Top of the Pops." But instead of releasing an album, which is a sort of definitive statement, the EP was provisional, of the moment, and one EP could raise expectation for the next. The very essence of 80s Shoegazer dream pop. Brian Eno was quoted as saying that tremelo was the vaguest music he'd ever heard, and he meant it as a complement. When they played "To Here Knows When" on Top of the Pops, they let the song play on into the weird ambient bit after the song, because they didn't know that the song had ended.

11. Seefeel "Quique"
Seefeel were sort of in the shoegazer category, but they took things in a whole different direction, using repetition and sound design in unexpected ways, combining the formalist looping of Philip Glass with guitar drones. Seefeel was responsible for my real interest in contemporary electronic music, because one of their EPs had an Aphex Twin remix.

12. Aphex Twin :"Quoth"
This was what I bought as a result of hearing an Aphex Twin remix on a Seefeel CD. The pure brutality and minimalism of the title track was a revelation. This CD was really my Ramones moment -- you know, the story that when the Ramones first toured the UK, everyone that heard them started a band. I thought two things when I heard it -- this is fucking brilliant, and I could do this sort of thing.

The next lot on my list? Burning Spear "Marcus Garvey", Bailter Space "Tanker", Bevis Frond "New River Head", Kraftwerk "ComputerWelt", Sonic Youth "Daydream Nation", They Might Be Giants "Lincoln", John Coltrane "A Love Supreme", REM "Murmur", XTC "English Settlement", Husker Du "Zen Arcade", Robert Johnson "Complete Recordings", Bob Dylan "Blonde on Blonde" Swervedriver "Mustang Ford" B-52s first record, Elvis Costello "This Year's Model" etc etc etc ...

[User Picture]From: dica
2005-10-20 08:34 pm (UTC)
That's a great list!
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[User Picture]From: summonillusion
2005-10-20 10:42 pm (UTC)
actually, I think most of the young people know all of those artists as well (I certainly do...and I love the list).
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From: elkay
2005-10-21 08:29 am (UTC)
it's not really about knowing the albums or artists--i do as well and expect most of kent's friends of any age would...but i'm fascinated by how the difference in time/age affects one's experience with music. this is a list about influential music, which becomes that way because of moments and associations which, although different for everyone, and certainly capable of transcending time or age, is for most of us intimately bound up in relative age and contemporary events. there's a big difference in listening to something when you know (even dimly) it's been acclaimed as great, than there is to listening it when it's new and hot and relatively unknown...
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[User Picture]From: pipecock
2005-10-21 07:06 pm (UTC)
i ripped off kent's idea in my journal, its the most recent post. in addition to talking about how the albums influenced me, i noted whether or not i enjoy or even listen to them anymore. my 9 most influential albums are so different from my top 9 desert island albums that its ridiculous.
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[User Picture]From: chaircrusher
2005-10-21 07:44 pm (UTC)
It wouldn't probably be a desert island list, because I don't really pull these out and listen to them much, because I know them all so well. The bulk of what I listen to is either a recent release or music that's older that's new to me.

I still like them all, and I want to put together a mix of tracks from those records.

The interesting thing about 'influential' records is what LK talked a bit about. These records came into my awareness, each of them at a moment when they were in some way radical and disturbing to what I thought about music.

That being the case, someone listening to them now for the first time might not find them so jarring, because each in its own way is a part of what defines the current musical universe.

Just one example: If someone now listens for the first time to Weather Report's "125th Street Congress" they know intuitively, from listening to downtempo and hiphop records, what they're trying to do. In 1974 we didn't have Hip Hop, we were only beginning to have Disco, and the idea that music could be more about rhythm than melody wasn't a commonplace.
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[User Picture]From: pipecock
2005-10-21 08:23 pm (UTC)
"In 1974 we didn't have Hip Hop, we were only beginning to have Disco, and the idea that music could be more about rhythm than melody wasn't a commonplace."

at least in white mainstream music culture. the best thing about rhythmic music is that its a return to our less "cultured" roots! techno and house are both old and new at the same time. its so lovely.
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[User Picture]From: dica
2005-10-21 11:57 pm (UTC)
Well, Gil Scot-Heron put out his first album in 1970, and hit with "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" in 1974... but I don't know if he's really considered "hip hop" per se, as he's really more of a precursor.

Maybe you're referring to the existence of rhythm over melody in mainstream culture, I don't know... it was a little unclear.

Plus, you and I were both there, right?
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[User Picture]From: pipecock
2005-10-22 01:38 am (UTC)
yeah, i was pointing out the innaccuracy youre accusing me of in kent's initial post. obviously i dont need to have been there to see the documentation of many different styles of music from many cultures that were either primarily or completely drum/rhythm based. it certainly wasnt always present in mainstream white music, thats for sure. its always been in existance as long as people have made music.
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[User Picture]From: chaircrusher
2005-10-22 05:14 am (UTC)
OK, I don't know if people got what I was talking about, so I'll try again slower. The relationship between black music and white audiences was different in 1974, and in particular, the idea of a 12 minute track that was mainly a beat wasn't a commonplace. And I was being subjective -- _I_ wasn't down with James Brown, or Gil Scott Herron, or the Last Poets. When we're talking about influence I mean that "Sweetnighter" was a whole new way of enjoying music that I had not yet considered.
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From: nutts2020
2005-11-25 09:45 am (UTC)
dinosaur jr - i have "green mind" as their most complete album - if "complete" is a word you can ascribe to anything that mascis came out with!

and i still remember the very moment i first heard mbv's "soon" on the radio - even the exact spot on the road where my car was... it was sort of like "ooh- now THAT i like...."
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