|12 most influential albums
||[Oct. 20th, 2005|10:37 am]
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
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 ...