Saturday 28 March 2009

50 Albums

I just got back from some time off, so I don't have much film-related content to post at the moment. That means I've missed the Underrated Blog-a-thon over at Chicago Ex-Patriate (sorry Jamie, I really wanted to contribute), but here's Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4 and the conclusion.

I feel I need to put something up after 2 weeks though, so here's something I posted on Facebook awhile ago just as a fun exercise. I figured I could dump it here as well...B-) It isn't necessarily a list of my favourite albums or even those that influenced me the most, but simply a random assortment of albums that grabbed me and haven't let go. It's not quite as varied as I'd hoped, but it was my first stab at making a list, so that's what I'm sticking with. It's missing so much though - no James Brown, no early Genesis, no Beatles, no 60s soul, Coltrane, Baroque-period - I think most of those came at me in gradual song-by-song chunks and not as complete albums, so that's why they aren't on the list.

This also gives me the opportunity to toss out a whole mess of YouTube-y goodness. Not all the videos relate directly with the albums in question, but I felt I needed things to be as complete as possible. I even cringed a bit watching some of the older ones, but no matter how bad the lip synching or painted faces or goofy stage patter the music is still there...

AC/DC - Let There Be Rock --> As great a hard rock album as "Back In Black" was, this is the one that captured that three chord riffage for the first time for me. The zombified green limbs of the audience members on the cover sealed the deal that this could've been the house band for the Devil - welcoming new arrivals and almost convincing them that Hell wasn't that bad a place to be.

Cannonball Adderly - Mercy Mercy Mercy, Live At The It Club --> The title track is the hit off the album (it actually made Top 40 I believe), but it's the other 5 tracks that just burn up the place and never let up.

Black Sabbath - We Sold Our Soul For Rock 'N Roll --> A Best Of compilation? Yeah, well this was my first Sabbath album and it led me to everything else they did. I remember cradling it in my hands several times before finally buying it - it took awhile to decide since it was a double album you see. Huge slabs of riffs fell out of this record ("N.I.B." alone was chock full).

Blondie - Parallel Lines --> Best power pop album possibly ever.

Circle - Prospekt --> Though beloved in several progressive rock circles, this Finnish instrumental band (particularly on this release) is closer to a heavy metal Steve Reich. Experimental, minimalist, weird and filled with grooves, I find the band fascinating.

Miles Davis - Agharta --> How can you not like an album when part 1 of the prelude to the first song is over 20 minutes long? It also helps when you have some of the deepest grooves ever and the waka-chuka waka-chuka wah-wah guitar of Pete Cosey.

Discipline - Unfolded Like Staircase --> One of the whack of 90s U.S. independent progressive rock bands that popped up on the scene, their second album melded some terrific aspects of King Crimson, Genesis and Van Der Graaf Generator into 4 sprawling epic songs. Overly serious for sure, but they had a great knack for weaving different melodies together.

Djam Karet - Burning The Hard City --> Instrumental prog from the West Coast, these guys fuse Floyd, Crimson and really superior guitar work with ambient sounds and improvisational composition. I bought this on my honeymoon in the SW U.S., so I guess I may attach a bit of personal significance to it, but since I've bought just about every other album they've ever done since then, I guess I liked it too...

Duke Ellington - At Newport --> Not to get all sensitive, but I welled up big time the first time I heard "Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue". Somewhere in the middle of Paul Gonzalves' long sax solo you can pretty much pinpoint the moment when the crowd rises from their seats, egg him further on and help to create one of my favourite pieces of music. It's just exhilarating.

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours --> Mammoth 70s blockbuster cornerstone of classic rock. There's a reason.

Galactic - Coolin' Off --> Hammond B-3 New Orleans swampy goodness. They've morphed in recent years and pulled in electronics, hip hop sounds and rappers, but the foundation still lies in Century City.

Rory Gallagher - Irish Tour '74 --> I regret not figuring out Rory's amazing blues guitar talent until after he passed away. Not only did he have the chops, but he had that deep down soulful voice.

Benny Goodman - Live At Carnegie Hall --> "Sing, Sing, Sing" done by Benny Goodman is one of the all-time-no-doubt-about-it-best-feel-good tunes ever. And the 12 minute version on this album reaches joyous heights and some beautiful subtle moments (during the clarinet and piano solos). The rest of the concert ain't so bad either.

Emmylou Harris - Wrecking Ball --> Daniel Lanois' production is glorious here and the songs are beautiful, but Emmylou's voice...Sigh...Again, a personal reference point is that I used to rock my son to sleep when he was a baby to "Where Will I Be".

Hawkwind - Hall Of The Mountain Grill --> From the sublime to the ridiculous? Well maybe...But from those first bubbling notes and the chugging guitar, this album had me hooked. And this was when Lemmy was still in the band. Lemmy! Before he formed Motorhead! Come on!

Hoven Droven - Groove --> If you've had the chance to talk about music with me for more than 5 seconds in the last decade or so, you've probably heard me oh-so-casually mention this band. And when I say casually, I mean in the overly obsessive preaching kind of way. They have become my favourite band...Ever. Who knew that electrified modern takes on Swedish folk music would top my list? I can't help it though - the melodies are gorgeous and everything is played with such enthusiasm and a sense of joy. I've seen them live 3 times and even had all 5 band members sign a CD.

Iron Maiden - Killers --> Pretty much wore the grooves out on this sucker in high school.

The Jam - Setting Sons --> Speaking of high school...My friend Jean-Paul gave me a tape back then that contained this album on one side and Stiff Little Fingers' "Go For It" on the other. To this day they both remain favourites and I can never listen to either one of them without hearing the clicking of my old tape deck.

King Crimson - Larks Tongues In Aspic --> I came to the Crims after I had already developed the taste for progressive rock, but they just kicked it into high gear.

Korai Orum - 1997 --> If Ozric Tentacles were Hungarian and had a didgeridoo, they might sound a bit like this. You're curious now, aren't ya?

Sonny Landreth - Outward Bound --> One of the premiere slide guitar players around was only a name recommended to me when we caught a free outdoor show of his at the Montreal Jazz Fest a number of years ago (promoting this album). His Cajun blues hooked both my wife and I and we made sure we played a couple of songs from this album at our wedding - even though no one else in the entire room knew who he was.

Thomas Mapfumo - Spirits To Bite Our Ears The Singles Collection 1977-1986 --> Compulsively listenable. It bounces and percolates all the way through each track until you hit the end and press Play again.

Marillion - Misplaced Childhood --> Lead singer Fish sure could cram the pretentious lyrics into a song, but I loved him for it. This entire album flows like a single piece of music - well OK, two pieces of music since side 1 had a distinct end before you flipped over for side 2 (it's called vinyl ya damn kids!). I just loved the sound of everything on this album - the plucking guitars and the boombastic drums - and it remains one of my most played records.

Material - Hallucination Engine --> This may have been one of my first forays into the magical land of Bill Laswell. Rarely has an album been more perfectly titled.

Jimmy McGriff & Groove Holmes - Giants Of The Organ In Concert --> Duelling Hammond B-3 organs and a red hot band create some truly funky soul-jazz.

Midnight Oil - Red Sails In The Sunset --> Bought on the same day as Marillion's "Misplaced Childhood". Possibly my best ever one-two punch. Angry, raging and, yes dammit, incendiary (yes I know I sound like that kid in "Almost Famous") this was the Oils at the top of their game. It was followed by one of the most blistering concerts I've had the pleasure of seeing - the band plowing through an hour long set at the old Montreal Spectrum while lead singer Peter Garrett shot ping pong balls from his mouth into the air (only to catch them again) and flailed like a man on fire. I've often wished I could relive that concert over again. Here's a bit of that actual show:

Charles Mingus - Mingus Ah Um --> My reaction upon hearing "Better Get It In Yo' Soul" for the first time was "Jazz music can sound like THIS?!"

Mocean Worker - Mixed Emotional Features --> One of the albums that pulled me into "electronica". I could suddenly see how one guy with a lot of time and access to a studio could create new music from old.

Mogwai - Mr. Beast --> Music that I cannot help but create my own montages to inside my head.

NOMO - NOMO --> One of the numerous bands around currently that embrace Fela Kuti. However, they aren't slavish to his style as they incorporate electronics, thumb piano and some really catchy melodies.

Mike Oldfield - Five Miles Out --> The 25 minute long "Taurus II" contains enough riffs, melodies and ideas to keep other artists busy for entire careers. I used to have it on my answering machine...

The Orb - Live 93 --> Am I allowed to say throbbing? If so, it would apply quite well to these long mash-ups (see, these guys were ahead of their time) of rhythm, pretty melodies and various bits of dialog and found sounds. Perfect for headphones or for driving at night.

Duke Pearson - Wahoo! --> The title track lopes along with its 5/4 time signature and makes it swing like a sunavabitch. I need more music from this guy...

The Posies - Amazing Disgrace --> When you name a song after the drummer from Husker Du, you're OK in my book. Supreme power pop.

Rainbow - Rising --> One of the best heavy metal albums of all time.

Steve Reich - Four Organs/Phase Patterns --> I fully understand why people hate minimalism. I can see why they find it boring. But I find it fascinating as the pulse and textures of simple patterns subtly shift over the course of a composition. Too clinical for some people, but right up my alley.

Rush - A Farewell To Kings --> You didn't think I was going to leave out Geddy and the boys did you? I could easily put 4 or 5 Rush albums on this list. Yes, I'm one of those stupid male air guitar/drummer dudes at their shows. This was the album that did it for me - critically despised then (and likely still now), the 2 long tracks ("Cygnus X-1" and "Xanadu") are touchstones in my musical growth. I also used a quote from "Cinderella Man" from this album in my high school yearbook. OK, so that last one maybe wasn't my best idea ever...

Screaming Trees - Sweet Oblivion --> My favourite album from the Grunge era. Not the most influential, but easily the catchiest.

Shakti - Shakti with John McLaughlin --> If only for the 18 minute long song "Joy". Again with the aptly named pieces of music...

Simple Minds - Sons And Fascination --> Back in the day when you could actually distinguish each individual instrument on a Simple Minds album and before Jim Kerr started, well, doing whatever the hell he started doing sometime after this. Trance-like at times.

Nicky Skopelitis - Ekstasis --> Bill Laswell strikes again by producing Greek guitarist Skopelitis' album of swirling tunes.

Jimmy Smith - Live! Root Down --> Damn!

Stiff Little Fingers - Go For It! --> The title of the opening track kinda sums up the album: "Roots Radicals Rockers and Reggae".

The Stooges - Fun House --> Almost 40 years have gone by and bands are still trying to recreate the carnage of this album. No one's done it yet.

Styx - The Grand Illusion --> One of the very first albums I ever bought, it coincided with my exposure to FM radio and my introduction to a wealth of other music. I hated what they became (I used to try and rationalize "Cornerstone" until finally giving up on it), but I still love this album. Yes, even "Come Sail Away".

Tabla Beat Science - Live In San Francisco At Stern Grove --> Dub bass, tabla, drum kit, turntables, synths and sarangi all mix together and come out (in various guises) sounding like they were intended to be together in the first place.

Teenage Fanclub - Songs From Northern Britain --> I wish more pop music was like this.

Tool - Lateralus --> Now this is what prog-metal should sound like. Inventive, rhythmically complex and diverse, pummeling, ebbing and flowing, etc. I swear the drums at the end of "The Grudge" were recorded while the drummer and his kit were both falling down the stairs. I can't otherwise explain how you can get that sound...

Various - 25 Funny Funky Hits --> I started out with a whack of those old K-Tel albums from the mid-70s. "Fantastic". "Music Power". "Canadian Mint". "Dynamite". But this is the one that I played the most - it had "Dirty Water" by The Standells, "Surfin' Bird" by The Trashmen, "Gitarzan" by Ray Stevens, "Snoopy vs The Red Baron" by The Royal Guardsmen, "Alley Oop" by The Hollywood Argyles, "Bumble Boogie" by B. Bumble And The Stingers and 19 other songs that a 10 year old boy could play over and over.

Frank Zappa - Hot Rats --> Frank shuts up and plays his guitar.


Ed Howard said...

Interesting list. The Stooges are a must on any list -- seriously, how could you not love them? -- and I went through a big King Crimson fan back in college and still enjoy a lot of their stuff, especially the early-to-mid 70s stuff.

I've never really gotten into Circle too heavily, but I saw them live a few years ago, opening for Merzbow of all people, and they were really great and fun. Definitely a solid live band, even if their albums have never hit me the same way.

Bob Turnbull said...

Hi Ed...Thanks for the comment.

Mid-70s KC is my fave as well - I like spots of their stuff since then, but not all of it.

Yes, the albums I have by Circle can be hit and miss. I love "Prospekt" and really like "Pori", but things get jumbled after that. Some of the more recent ones I've tried are much less interesting. But they've got a ton, so I'm nowhere near a completist.

Paul Douglas said...

If you haven't visited this site:, it is an essential resource for progressive rock.

Greg said...

I haven't had time to look through the list but I just wanted to give high praise to anyone who can embed that many videos without going insane. Bob, you are a dedicated blogger.

Bob Turnbull said...

Thanks Paul. Yes, I'm pretty darn familiar with already...B-) Their Random Playlists are great ways to hear some interesting and new stuff (uh, not to mention some pretty wonky stuff too).

Thanks Greg (if that's is indeed your real name...). I wouldn't so much call it dedication as stubborn insistence to be complete in getting something for all 50. Thought I would grab a couple and then it just snowballed...Gotta say, it was kinda fun though...B-)

James Yates said...

It's okay, Bob. I was able to get over it after locking myself in a seedy motel with a bottle of Jack, rocking myself to sleep every night.

Ha! Please, I haven't contributed to half the stuff I'd like to, not to mention more consistent comments on your posts.

That Benny Goodman clip was phenomenal. I couldn't tell, but at around 45 seconds in, was that Harry James on the lead trumpet? It sure looked like him, but I couldn't tell. An interested side note on "Sing Sing Sing:" Listen to Louis Prima's version (he wrote the song). It's a much smaller, scaled back version of the song, and it's interesting to note how it's become almost completely associated with Goodman. Not that it's a bad thing.

Bob Turnbull said...

Hey jamie, I just realized I never responded to your comment...Shame on me!

Yes, I've heard the Louis Prima version and its pretty great as well. But you're right, like most people I heard Goodman's version first and associate with him. By the way, I'm not sure if that's Harry James or not...

There's a wonderful piece of film that I first saw as an extra that followed Disney's "The Jungle Book" on an old VHS tape. It showed Prima and his band playing "King Louie's Blues" for the film in the studio and they were marching and stomping around in imitation of the characters. I've kinda loved Prima since then.