Friday, 29 May 2009

Fifteen Albums That Changed Your Life

Then one fine morning she turned on a New York station
Couldn’t believe what she heard at all!
She started dancing to that fine, fine music
You know her life was saved by rock n’ roll . . .

- Lou Reed, from ‘Rock n’Roll’

After yesterday’s fiscal fraudulence (Tax cuts. Yeah right.) we’ve almost earned ourselves a frivolous Friday, don’t you think?  And what’s more life-saving than music, eh?

Anyway, a friend was talking last night about a Facebook thread she’s on where folk are discussing the Fifteen Albums That Changed Your Life – and since we started making a wee list over a few drinks I figured I’d offer up the benefit of my research.

So here they are in autobiographical order – each one of which at one time lifted back the scales from my ears and drew back a curtain from my soul. It’s not as if you won’t know most of them already, to be fair.

  1. Hello Sailor, by Hello Sailor
    Heard it, bought it, played it every night for two years.  Wore it out. This was my just what this particular thirteen-year-old ordered.
  2. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols
    As the poet said, Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven.  Or something like that anyway.
  3. 1969:Velvet Underground Live, by the Velvet Underground
    It seemed for a while there that the universe contained two kinds of people. Those who ‘got’ the VU, and those that didn’t.
  4. White Album, Beatles
    Friend’s older brother got sick of us playing air guitar to the Buzzcocks one afternoon, and dropped the needle on ‘Helter Skelter’ to show us who was boss. Turned out old hippies could rock out too!
  5. King of the Delta Blues Singers, Robert Johnson
    Strange what you uncover when you check out the influences of your influences.  Blues!  Who knew!!
  6. Ninth Symphony, Ludwig van Beethoven (LSO)
    Figuring there was more to this music gig than I’d heretofore discovered I started mining the second-hand classical record bins.  I stuck in my thumb and pulled out . . . this!  My God, I never knew music could do this.
  7. Second Piano Concerto, Sergei Rachmaninov (Moura Lympany)
    Then one fine morning I turned up this wee beauty, and I really and truly couldn’t believe what I heard at all.
  8. Jazz Classics in Digital Stereo.  Vol 3: New York
    It was that Jimmy Lunceford song ‘Stratosphere’ that did it.  What started out as a cheap tape full of tiddlywink music to play while studying suddenly told me that a whole world of jazz awaited my discovery. And the whole world got even bigger, and more exciting.
  9. Cotton Club soundtrack
    And then I discovered Duke Ellington, and I have John Barry and this soundtrack to thank for it.
  10. Tosca, Giacomo Puccini (Leontyne Price/Giuseppe de Stefano)
    Scratched to hell this old record was, even when I first got it, but it scratched an itch I hadn’t even known I had.
  11. Smoke & Strong Whiskey – Christy Moore
    He offers one hell of a rousing welcome to this particular cabaret.  Almost literally intoxicating, this was the drive-home-after-a session music for every Irishman I knew in London.
  12. The Essential Wagner – The Legendary Toscanini Recordings
    Another cheap cassette tape picked up in a Shepherd’s Bush bargain basement opened up a whole new world. I played it and played it as background music -- until one day something just happened.  I stopped it, rewound it, and just sat there and actually listened to it.  As friends will testify, I really haven’t been the same since. The thing is, after Wagner nothing else can ever sound the same again.
  13. Bossa Nova/Nevermind/Generation Terrorists
    While my back was turned, these buggers showed that the lost decade of music that was the eighties would finally result in something exciting.  Youngsters could still do it for themselves, and it could still be alright.
  14. Let Love In – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
    I’d lost track of old Nick over the years, never realising that he’d discovered melody in his middle ages.  I heard this, and I let Nick back in.
  15. Four Last Songs, Richard Strauss (Elizabeth Schwarzkopf)
    Balm.  Just balm. When the mood is right, these four songs can justify the whole world. I’ve since heard it sung better (thanks, Jesse Norman), but this album is still a well-played sentimental favourite.

So there’s my fifteen (and thanks Les, Francis, Graham, Tanja, Martin, Lindsay et al for some of the introductions).

What are yours?

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Anonymous Marcus said...

OK, they might not have chinged my life as such, but these albums all set me on different paths with my music tastes, and that's always a good thing.

A Clockwork Orange Soundtrack
Motorvatin' - Chuck Berry
Best of - Elvis
Midnight Special - Sonny Terry & Brownee McGee
A Day at the Races - Queen
London Calling - The Clash (still my favourite album)
Bleach - Nirvana
Lady Day - Billie Holiday
Texas Flood - Stevie Ray Vaughan
Exit Planet Dust - The Chemical Brothers
Fat of the Land - The Prodigy
Berlin - Lou Reed

29 May 2009, 16:15:00  
Blogger bulb said...

I went to FB and pasted my list

Tallahassee, FL (1964-81)
1. The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club BandMy first album dating back to 1967. Yes, I so remember going to see Yellow Submarine downtown on Monroe Street across from the old library. Not their best album, but I loved it all … well except of course for George's "Within You Without You."

Cambridge (1981-5)
2. Miles Davis, A Tribute to Jack JohnsonA Harvard Coop purchase; I used to browse the general books downstairs and often thumb Christgau's 1970s record guide. I was intrigued that a rock critic was giving props to a Trumpeter. Miles proves here it's not how many notes you play as long as you play the right ones at the right time (see also Thelonious Monk's entire oeuvre).

3. The Smiths, Hatful of HollowThis is my first cheat as it's really a compilation between the first and second album with new (often BBC studio live) versions of previously released tracks, some singles, and the epochal "How Soon Is Now". But The Smiths always did follow their own mantra: "Re-issue Re-package Re-package Re-evaluate the songs."

4. Mission of Burma, Mission of BurmaThis compilation is kind of a cheat as it contains their first ep Signals, Calls, and Marches, the one studio album, Vs. some live tracks a few other rarities. But I got it soon after moving back to the States in the Bay Area and it was such a nostalgic object.

5. Sam Cooke, Live at the Harlem Square ClubI wrote the odd record review in The Harvard Independent. My first a slam on Dylan's Infidels. The turn to Christianity for Zimmerman was as bogus as that disc was bad. The best review I ever wrote was the summer after graduation. About a rediscovered concert of Sam Cooke's from the old "chitlin' circuit" of African American clubs, in this case one in Miami. Gone was the colorless crooner replaced by a libidinous back door man. Still one of the greatest live albums ever produced.

York (1985-6)
6. The Pogues, Rum Sodomy, & The LashThe 1985-6 academic year was a musical annus mirabilis for me. I had a Rotary Fellowship to study at the University of York; I began my career as a college radio DJ at Britian's oldest independent radio station; and I discovered a motherload of great records/bands.

7. Jesus & Mary Chain, Psychocandy8. The Wedding Present, George BestStanford (1986-96)
9. Hilliard Ensemble, Perotin
Western music (of the polyphonic kind at least) begins here, France in the 12th century. A fantastic British vocal ensemble produces a brilliant if controversial reading of Pérotin, the master of discant-style liturgical pieces and the first composer to write for four voices ("Viderunt omnes" and "Sederunt principes"). If you're a fan of Orf's Carmina Burana or Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, you'll enjoy this medieval post-modern artefact.

10. My Bloody Valentine, Loveless
11. Guided By Voices, Alien Lanes12 Marvin Gaye, Here, My DearStarkville (1996-present)
13 The Fieldstones, Memphis Blues Today!14. The Mountain Goats, Tallahassee15 Young Marble Giants, Colossal Youth

29 May 2009, 16:39:00  
Anonymous David S. said...

Radiohead - Kid A
Massive Attack - Blue Lines, Mezzanine, 100th Window
Skinny Puppy - The Greater Wrong of the Right
Faithless - Reverence/Irreverence
Bjork - Vespertine, Homogenic
Archive - Londinium
Frontline Assembly - Artificial Soldier
Jordan Reyne - Passenger
Pink Floyd - Echoes
The Orb - Cydonia
The Cure - Disintegration
Tool - Aenema

29 May 2009, 18:18:00  
Anonymous DenMT said...

Hmmm. In no particular order:

Sun Kil Moon - April

Dead Kennedys - Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables

Godflesh - Selfless

This Will Destroy You - S/T

JD Blackfoot - The Song Of Crazy Horse

Kristin Hersh - Hips And Makers

Tarwater - The Needle Was Travelling

UK Subs - Endangered Species

Roots Manuva - Run Come Save Me

Isis - The Red Sea

Bill Laswell/Tetsuo Inoue - Web

Painkiller - Execution Ground

Future Sound Of London - ISDN

The Hasselhoff Experiment - Always Outnumbered Always Outgunned

Juryman - The Hill


(PS - As proof of the worth of these kind of posts, Bulb's effort above has reminded me to pull out my My Bloody Valentine albums. I'm going to be seeing them live in August - suffer in your jocks.)

29 May 2009, 21:17:00  
Anonymous Sean Fitzpatrick said...

No particular order

Tarot Suite - Mike Batt

Sticky Fingers - Rolling Stones

Lateralis - Tool

Dogman - Kings X

All the Worlds a Stage - Rush

Who are You - The Who

Going for the One - Yes

Larks Tounges in Aspic - King Crimson

Minstrel in the Gallery - Jethro Tull

Making Movies - Dire Straits

Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd

Rum, Sodomy and the Lash - The Pouges

Flying in a Blue Dream - Joe Satriani

In the Heat of the Night - Pat Benetar

Live After Death - Iron Maiden

Honorable mention - Disraeli Gears by Cream

30 May 2009, 13:04:00  
Blogger Faversham said...

The Allman Brothers' "Eat A Peach."

The Music Machine "Talk, Talk."

Jethro Tull "Aqualung."

30 May 2009, 13:52:00  
Blogger Kristen said...

Not in any particular order
REM - Automatic for the people
Siouxsie & the Banshees - The looking glass
The Clash - Londons calling
Travis - The invisible band
Moby - Play
Coldplay - Parachutes
The smiths - Hateful of Hollow
The smiths - Strangeways here we come
REM - New Adventures in HiFi
New Order - substance 1987
Nivana - Nevermind
Split Enz - Enz of an Era
Violet Femmes - The Best of
Jesus and the Mary Chain - Psychocandy
Green Day - American Idiot

30 May 2009, 16:02:00  
Anonymous B Whitehead said...

(written in reverse chronological order.)
Tall Dwarfs -Hello cruel world
Simple minds -best of
Travis -The invisible band
Coldplay -A rush of blood to the head
Strawpeople -best of
Radiohead -OK computer
Bob Dylan -The times they are a changing
Echo & the bunnyman -Ocean rain
Joy Division -Substance
Bailter space -Tanker
Headless Chickens -Stunt lown
The Fixx -Phantoms
The Stranglers -Aural Sculture
Pink Floyd -Echoes
Alan Parsons Project -Turn of a friendly card

30 May 2009, 17:02:00  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

I'll put Michael Jackson's Thriller as my number #1 album of all time.

30 May 2009, 19:35:00  
Blogger Frankie Lee said...

These didn't change my life as such, but they all steered my musical taste in new directions. Some very recent..

Infected - The The
If I Left The Zoo - Jars Of Clay
Brazilian Romance - Sarah Vaughan
Squeezing Out Sparks - Gaham Parker
In The Wee Small Hours - Frank Sinatra
The Final Cut - Pink Floyd
Triage - David Baerwald
The Animal Years - Josh Ritter
The Last In Line - Dio
Infidels - Bob Dylan
(What's the Story) Morning Glory - Oasis
Dusty In Memphis - Dusty Springfield
Wrecking Ball - Emmylou Harris
Laughter And Lust - Joe Jackson
Good Old Boys - Randy Newman

31 May 2009, 14:53:00  
Anonymous Euan said...

The Velvet Underground - the Banana Album;
The Stooges - 1st Album;
Street Hassle - Lou Reed;
This Years Model - Elvis C & the Attractions;
Never Mind the Bollocks, Heres the Sex Pistols;
Berlin - Lou Reed;
Transformer - Lou Reed;
Lust for Life - Iggy Pop;
Raw Power - Iggy Pop;
Before and After Science - Brian Eno;
Secondhand Daylight - Magazine;
Unknown Pleasures - Joy Division
Substance - Joy Dvision
Heavenly Pop Hits - The Chills
Urban Hymns - The Verve

and lots more...

31 May 2009, 20:35:00  
Blogger Justin said...

For my $0.02 I would like to say that compilations, greatest hits and retrospective albums should be disallowed, because they are not really albums (in the sense that an album is a self-contained artistic piece of work). A live album might qualify, but only if it is genuinely 'live' - i.e. a recording on one show from start to finish with no (glaring) fixes. No putting together a collection of songs recorded live at various concerts and calling it a live album.

Having said that, I started making my own list before coming to the realisation that I have absolutley appalling taste in music.

1 Jun 2009, 13:07:00  
Anonymous gregster said...

Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures, Closer.
Television, Marquee Moon.
Kraftwerk, Trans Europe Express.
Echo & The Bunnymen, Heaven Up Here.
Wire, 154.
David Bowie, The Man Who Sold The World.
The Teardrop Explodes, Wilder, 2000 re-issue.
Wolfgang A Mozart, #33 in B-Flat Major, K 319, Dennis Davies, Bonn Orchestra.
Rachmanivov, 2nd Symphony, Andre Previn, LSO.
The Modern Dance, Pere Ubu.
Aphex Twin, Selected Ambient Works.
The Birthday Party, Junkyard.
Tackhead, Tackhead Tape Time.
Husker Du, Zen Arcade.
Linton Kwesi Johnson, Bass Culture.

1 Jun 2009, 16:38:00  
Blogger Shane Pleasance said...

Curse you Cresswell! I am compelled. And great taste, one and all.
Not going to limit it to fifteen. These are just hugely influential albums in my life for reasons expalined below.

Sergeant Peppers. First discovery of the Beatles. Unable to listen to anything else for almost a year.

Revolver. Made the year I was born but not discovered for some time. "For no one' is simply one of the greatest songs ever.

XTC - Skylarking and Oranges & Lemons. Able to condense all that has gone before in music and make it special.

Any album by Kevin Bloody Wilson. Made me move to New Zealand, not Australia.

Tchaikovsky Piano concerto No1. My mothers favorite music.
And violin concerto - I had just never heard - or imagined - such virtuosity.

Van Halen debut album. Deliciously over the top - music could be what it wanted, even LOUD, when only 14.

Pink Floyd the wall, bought the day it came out on vinyl, but I was on holiday in Cape Town and had to wait to get home to listen. Absorbed every word and picture (gatefold sleeves, remember?) - even though I did'nt know what it was actually about. Ditto Animals and WYWH.
DSOTM was the first album I heard on my dads friends fabulous stereo - my first listen to a Linn Sondek, and stated me on a life in pursuit of the ultimate fidelity. And poverty.

Nick Drake - Five Leaves left & Bryter Layter. So fragile at a time when I was.

Wilco - Sky Blue Sky. That a band could so easily produce three completely flawless pop songs on one album almost made me think anything else was futile.

The Waterboys - this is the sea. My first live concert - whole of the moon - in Wolverhampton. Big music.

U2 The Joshua Tree - First album I heard on my first weekend leave military conscription. Powerful.

Barber - ADAGIO FOR STRINGS discovered in the movie platoon - one of my favorite movies - the scene where sergeant kills sergeant.

The Smiths - Hatful of hollow. Impossible to get Smiths albums in South Africa - but I did.

Mary Black - No Frontiers. Saw her live first concert attended with my wife.

Radiohead - OK computer. The Pink floyd of my generation.

Porcupine Tree - Deadwing - just when I thought I had heard it all, the Pink Floyd of THIS generation.

Boston - Don't look back. Learned to play drums to this album - in 30 minutes at age 12. Have never improved.

The Police - Regatta de Blanc. My career of coveting albums started here.

Beck - Odelay - ruleless music. Sea Change - Beautiful ruleless music.

Mary Chapin Carpenter - State of the Heart - country music could be damn fine.

Bjork - debut. My first crush on a weird pop star

Blondie - Parralel Lines. My first crush on a pop star.

Van Morrison - Astral weeks. First love and first broken heart.

Sadly, the list goes on and on.

1 Jun 2009, 18:43:00  

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