Influential Album Meme

Here’s a brief list of some of the most influ­en­tial albums.

Well, Kot­tke did it first, and then Van Buren, so here’s my list of ten albums that have influ­enced my musi­cal tastes over the years, in no par­tic­u­lar order, and far from being exhaustive.

  • John Williams/Various — “Return of the Jedi Sound­track” Proof that I was born under a geek sign might be that the very first album (okay, cas­sette tape) I ever owned was a Star Wars sound­track. The next was a Bil­ly Joel album, but I nev­er claimed to be cool.
  • REM — “Green” While Doc­u­ment was the first REM album I had, my big broth­er Stephen took me with him to a REM con­cert in Knoxville, TN on the “Green” tour. Watch­ing the band per­form “Turn You Inside Out” made me a life-long envi­ron­men­tal­ist. The entire stage became the screen for lots of Green­peace-like footage. Any­way, a ter­rif­ic album that still means a lot to me.
  • Anthrax — “Per­sis­tence of Time” This might have been any num­ber of thrash-met­al or heavy met­al albums, but none of them real­ly start­ed the fire in me like Anthrax did. They weren’t into the­atrics and imagery, they just rocked real­ly fast and loud. The lyrics were nev­er Dylan or any­thing, but as a ide­al­is­tic kid, I found them agree­able. They weren’t singing about mur­der­ing peo­ple (well, most­ly not) or drugs. They were just rant­i­ng about soci­ety. Oh, and did I men­tioned it was fast and loud?
  • Pub­lic Ene­my — “Fear of a Black Plan­et” Although Apoc­a­lypse 91 and Nation of Mil­lions were also huge albums, it was Fear of Black Plan­et that was the most defin­ing album for this group. They had all the atti­tude of gans­ta rap, but with­out all the bull­shit. I got the impres­sion that they were rap­ping about try­ing to live in the inner city as a young black per­son, rather than just wast­ing away there. There was no short­age of wig­gers and red­neck raps fans (I can’t explain them, so I’m sor­ry if you just don’t know what that is) where I grew up, but Pub­lic Ene­my made me want to be nei­ther. I did­n’t want to be like these guys nor did I despise them. I just want­ed to hear their mes­sage and lis­ten the best rap that has ever been.
  • Lenny Kravitz — “Are You Gonna Go My Way” For my broth­er, Dave, our friend Hitch, and I; this re-defined how cool rock could be. We were all lis­ten­ing to lots of clas­sic rock and also look­ing for new bands. Most­ly at the time, that was ear­ly grunge. Then Kravitz puts out this retro-rock sound­ing album (okay, his third, but what­ev­er) that just blew us away. I remem­ber lis­ten­ing to the album and Dave kept say­ing “If I made an album, it would sound just like this.” Can a musi­cian give a high­er compliment?
  • Mar­ty Stu­art — “This One’s Gonna Hurt You” I should state that this one is on here because of my broth­er Dave, more than me. I came home from col­lege one week­end to Dave going on and on about how cool Mar­ty Stu­art, the coun­try(?!) gui­tar play­er was. I thought he was jok­ing. Then he made me sit down and actu­al­ly lis­ten to what this guy was play­ing, and I was amazed. This start­ed a career in coun­try music for Dave, and new found appre­ci­a­tion and love for the music for me. I still despise com­mer­cial coun­try, but that’s why Mar­ty’s here. He’s just about every­thing that is good about Nashville, with none of the crap.
  • Var­i­ous Artists — The “Matrix: Music From The Motion Pic­ture” Okay, so this is pos­si­bly cheat­ing, but we find music in odd ways. I did­n’t real­ly care for techno/electronic/industrial all that much until I saw the Wachows­ki broth­ers put it to such good use. When I got the asso­ci­a­tion with Prodi­gy and Cyber-punk, it just clicked. We all walked away from this film think­ing how cool the movie was. I was also think­ing, I got to get me some electronica.
  • Jay Far­rar — “Sebastopol ” This could have been any num­ber of Amer­i­cana albums, but hon­est­ly it was always Jay Far­rar’s voice, gui­tar, and lyrics that I liked about Uncle Tupe­lo and Son Volt. I still am crazy about those bands, as well as Wilco. I even like musi­cal­ly relat­ed bands like The Jay­hawks, but it was Far­rar that real­ly clicked with me.
  • Tie: Green Rode Shot­gun “Bang” & The Coal Men — ” Nowhere’s Too Far” This isn’t just shame­less pro­mo­tion of friends. We all have friends in bands or that are song­writ­ers to some extent. How­ev­er, when you get this pol­ished CD from them and you lis­ten to each track, you might find your­self won­der­ing about every­thing you ever said or did around them. Did you real­ize just how tal­ent­ed these peo­ple are? Don’t you feel a lit­tle fool­ish for ever even dis­cussing music around them? They were always artists, you just did­n’t real­ize until now. How could an album like that not affect how you lis­ten to all oth­er music?