10 Most Influential Albums on My Life

 

I love music. I love listening to it, and I love making it.

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Because music is such a big part of my life, I’m often asked by friends what my “Top Ten” lists would be as far as songs, bands, artists, and albums. Songs, bands, and artists might take a little time to compile, but I’ve been doing some thinking about the whole album thing and I believe I can share a list that you might find interesting.

This is my Top Ten List, from #10 to #1, of the most influential albums on my life and my music. I do have some “honorable mentions” that will be shared in a later post… some that just missed the cut, but these are the top. Some of these choices are based on musical tastes. Some of them are based on being there during important points in my life. Still other choices are based on the inspiration they have had on me as a musician and an artist.

Those of you who think you know me well might be a little surprised by some of these choices, but here you go…

image#10 – Dream Theater – Scenes from a Memory

When people ask me what my favorite band is, they’re usually surprised when I tell them that it’s Dream Theater. I LOVE Progressive Rock music, and they are masters of it. Their Scenes from a Memory album from 1999 has all those “progressive rock” elements that make them great: odd time signatures, long epic songs, an album concept that tells a story, virtuoso musicianship, and soaring high vocals. I love every single note on this album!

image#9 – Say Anything – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

This is the only movie soundtrack in my top ten. I remember seeing this movie in 1989 and loving the music, so I went out the next day and bought the album. I wore the cassette out my senior year of high school to the point where I had to buy a CD. Featuring artists as diverse as Depeche Mode, Cheap Trick, The Replacements, Fishbone, and Peter Gabriel (singing “In Your Eyes”, one of my all-time favorite songs), this is a great album!

image#8 – The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds

This is the album that made me appreciate The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson in particular. Before I heard this album, I was never really a fan of their music. The whole “California” and “Surf Music” thing has never really been my cup of tea. But after reading an article about this album in the now defunct Musician magazine, I gave it a listen and discovered just how innovative Brian Wilson really is in terms of songwriting, vocal arrangement, and production. “God Only Knows” contains some of the most rich harmonies I’ve ever heard.

image#7 – Metallica – Metallica (a.k.a. The Black Album)

I told you there would be some surprises, didn’t I? This might be one of them for you. I do like heavy metal music, and I have a lot of it in my collection. Some metal albums, like this one, I like more than others. This album is proof that a band can make hard music, but with thought provoking lyrics and great melodies. Plus, “Enter Sandman” might contain one of the greatest guitar riffs of all time!

image#6 – U2 – Achtung Baby

This is another one of those albums that came along during an important time in my life. I had always liked U2, especially in terms of Bono‘s lyrics, but when this album came out it really spoke to some of the problems I was having at the time. It was also a musical departure from their previous albums, which impressed me very much and influenced my own songwriting at the time.

image#5 – Steve Vai – Passion and Warfare

When this album came out in 1990, I only knew of Steve Vai as David Lee Roth‘s “post-Van Halen” guitarist. I knew he was a really good guitarist, but once again, my eyes were opened to his incredible talent through another magazine article in Musician. I bought this album of far out guitar instrumentals out of curiosity and almost immediately became a lifelong fan. The song, “For The Love of God” is worth the price of the album, but the whole record is a trip!

image#4 – Steve Taylor – Squint

Some of you might be surprised that this is the one and only “Contemporary Christian” album that made my top ten list (Not to fear, Christian friends of mine… a couple made it into my “honorable mentions” to be revealed in a later post). I discovered Steve Taylor and this fantastic album by accident in 1993, and I immediately regretted not knowing his music from before then. Steve Taylor is, hands-down, my all-time favorite lyricist. On this album (as on all of his albums) he addresses so many issues that other Christian artists seem afraid to touch, all with a superior wit and his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. With no stereotypical CCM ideas or lyrical cliches, there is not a single weak moment on this album!

image#3 – The Beatles – Revolver

Revolver is my favorite Beatles album, primarily because I am a “recording studio” guy. It has all the great songwriting and performances that you find on all Beatles’ records, but this is the album where all the rules for recording changed. Thanks to the (at that time) unorthodox recording techniques of the album’s engineer, Geoff Emerick, Revolver presented a whole new creative side to The Beatles, ushering in their “studio years” with their most innovative album to date, paving the way for albums like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour.

image#2 – Prince – Sign “O” the Times

Anybody who knows me shouldn’t be surprised by this album being in my top ten. Prince is, by far, my biggest musical influence and my favorite artist. I first became aware of Prince in junior high school, when everybody was going nuts over his Purple Rain album and movie. I liked his music and was aware of his talent, but this is the album that pulled me in as a lifelong fan and collector of his music, and it remains my favorite Prince album. Now, nearly 30 years after its release and in the wake of Prince’s death, it still sounds as fresh and relevant as it did in 1987. I still hear new things that I haven’t heard before whenever I listen to it.

And finally…

Kind of Blue#1 – Miles Davis – Kind of Blue

You read that right… a classic jazz instrumental album from 1959 is my absolute favorite album of all time. In fact, in my opinion, it’s the greatest album ever recorded. I could probably write a book on why I love it so much, but here are the highlights: 1) A one-of-a-kind line-up in Miles Davis, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Julian Adderley, Jimmy Cobb, Paul Chambers, and Wynton Kelly, 2) Group improvisation and virtuosity at its finest, 3) It is the perfect “mood” album, and 4) This is REAL jazz, not any of that Kenny G. crap. I don’t remember the circumstances through which I became acquainted with Kind of Bluebut I was hooked on it from the first listen.

So… what about you? Do you have a Top Ten List? If so, did any of these make it to yours?

To those of you who know me well: Are there any surprises here? Any albums that you thought would be here that aren’t? If so, maybe they made my “honorable mentions”, coming soon!

Enjoy!

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