When it comes to my social media age I am Facebook years old. I’m also comfortable and accepted around people that hang around with Twitter. I feel like the weird old guy when trying to cruise at Club Instagram or Chateaux Snapchat. Call the authorities if you see me on Tik Tok… I’m either a victim of elder abuse, or doing something illegal myself.
If you’re a regular on Facebook you’ve probably seen posts that are popular amongst music fans where they nominate each other to post the covers of ten albums over the course of ten days… albums that have influenced their lives. I like seeing what records made my friends the musicologists they’ve become.
As someone who worked on the radio and had my own show, and now works at a record store, I’ve been nominated a bunch of times. I usually start it but then bail after a few days. They always say “Just post the covers… no explanations”. I like explaining my choices. I also wind up forgetting about it and never going back to do all ten days. I decided I’d rather give my whole list of ten at one time. Below are the albums I choose as the ones that inspired me the most (plus a few honorable mentions). I’ve included the links to check them out (or an acceptable substitute) at the Record Archive Web Store. They are in no particular order… it’s just how they popped into my head. I’m sure the second I hit “send” a completely different list will materialize in my brain. My self imposed rule is “one album per artist” .
Adam Ezra Group- Better Than Bootleg II. We’ll start with the most recent release on my list. This one is from 2015. Ya know how everyone has that one CD given to you by a friend who wants to turn you on to his favorite band and when you eventually listen to it you really like it a lot… and then the leader of the band shows up to where you work to promote a concert, and you wind up talking to him and he’s a really nice guy with similar tastes in music… and then you go see the band a bunch of times and become friendly with the whole group and their faithful fans… and then your wife starts bringing the band fresh, homemade food for dinner (with plenty to take on the road with them when they go on to their next stop) anytime they travel to your area… and then the group’s leader calls to ask you to help record his solo acoustic shows when he comes to town… and then a worldwide pandemic brings the world to a halt so your musician friend does a sixty minute live show every night on Facebook so that he, his band, friends, fans, loved ones, and newbies looking for some entertainment can all gather together virtually to hangout, chat, commiserate, and singalong for 70 straight days and counting… ya know how all that happens to everyone? This is the album that started that chain of events for me and The Adam Ezra Group. Thanks to Rob Burch from the Fairport Music Festival for being that friend.
Beach Boys- Endless Summer. It seemed like everyone had this double album of pre- Pet Sounds hits when I was a kid in the mid to late 70s, and it was equally loved by the parents and their offspring. This collection made The Beach Boys cool again for people that liked them the first time around, and introduced them to a whole new generation. They were my first concert (Rochester War Memorial, 1978)… I went with my parents in the summer of 1978. These songs of surfing, sun, cars, and girls are still some of the greatest ever recorded.
Bruce Springsteen- Born To Run. I know Bruce played the War Memorial on the tour supporting The River in 80/81 and I wasn’t a fan then. I didn’t dislike him… I just wasn’t familiar with him. By the time Born In The USA came out in June of 1984 I was a rabid fan who couldn’t wait for that new record. What changed in those four years? Somewhere in that time I spent a dollar at a local library sale and took a chance on a used record I’d heard good things. From the opening harmonica and piano of Thunder Road to the closing notes of Jungleland I felt like I’d stuck a fork in the toaster, but the electricity felt good.
Weird Al Yankovic- In 3-D. Maybe someday I’ll do a list of people, shows, and things whose sense of humor seems to be aimed directly at me. Weird Al would be near the top of that list. This record from 1984 was his second album, but the first I bought. Almost 40 years later Al is still as funny and as popular as her was in the 80s, poking holes in pop culture.
Barenaked Ladies- Gordon. A friend turned me on to this album the day it came out in the summer of 1992… she was a fan of this Toronto based band even before their first major release… it sincerely changed my life. BNL’s debut contained classics like “Brian Wilson” and “If I Had A Million Dollars”, but I love every song on this disc. I’m a big fan of 90s alt/pop/rock… Counting Crows, Soul Asylum, Matthew Sweet, Fastball, Gin Blossoms,etc… the melodic hooks, musicianship, and clever lyrics of the era all feel influenced by the 60s music I love. Barenaked Ladies is at the top of that list for me, and “Gordon” will probably be my favorite album until the day I die… I consider every note of it perfect.
Elvis Presley- Roustabout. I don’t remember a time where I wasn’t familiar with the music of Elvis Presley. I was always a fan. I became obsessed with him and his songs on August 16, 1977. You might recognize that as the day he died. To me it’s also the day after my 12th birthday. I took some of my birthday money and got Elvis records. I read books about him, watched his movies whenever they were on TV (remember the days of 3 or 4 channels), listened to music (from both my collection and what I could borrow from the library), and basically became an annoying fount of information regarding everything having to do with The King… I even knew all 33 Elvis films in order by release date (and would practice that list the way people memorized all 50 states). For some reason the soundtrack for 1964’s “Roustabout” is one that I absolutely loved. I’m listening to it as I type this and it still sounds great to me… it includes a killer version of the Lieber/Stoller classic “Little Egypt” (made famous in the 50s by The Coasters). In 1992 RCA released a CD that had the soundtracks for “Roustabout” and “Viva Las Vegas” on one disc… get that one if you can find it.
The Doors (self titled). When I was in high school I was as obsessed with The Doors as I was with Elvis a few years earlier. This spot could’ve been taken by a greatest hits album, “Absolutely Live”, or “Morrison Hotel”, but I decided to go with the eponymous debut. It’s almost perfect.
The Band- The Last Waltz. Is it weird that four out of the five members of the greatest Americana group in rock history is Canadian? This album chronicles the final concert by those five original members (and a bunch of really famous friends) on Thanksgiving Day 1976. You can find it in the original three vinyl album version, or on two CDs, or the four disc box set with a bunch of previously unreleased songs, or digital mp3s. Take your pick. Whichever one you choose make sure you also see the Martin Scorsese film. The movie is absolutely essential so that you can also see the members of The Band tell some great stories about their years on the road (plus all the great performances by them, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Van Morrison, Dr. John, and many more). The Last Waltz is the greatest concert film of all time.
American Graffiti Soundtrack. Music from the 50’s had a huge resurgence in the mid 70’s. Happy Days was the biggest hit on TV, but before that was George Lucas’ 1973 film starring Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Cindy Williams, and a very young Harrison Ford in a small role. I didn’t see this 50s based movie until a bunch of years later, but one of my first pieces of recorded music was the soundtrack to American Graffiti… it was an 8 track tape given to me by my big brother. Is there a format more outdated and obscure than 8 track tapes? The music from American Graffiti may be old, but will never be out of style.
Meat Loaf- Dead Ringer. Yes, 1977’s “Bat Out Of Hell” is Mr. Loaf’s multi platinum selling classic and I love it, but I have a huge soft spot in my heart for the ’81 follow-up (throat issues kept the singer on the sideline for a lengthy period). This is the underdog that I wish had sold way more copies… there are some excellent songs on this one. I also loved the album cover so much that I had a really talented artist in my high school do a painting of the cover for me so that I could hang it in my room. You might be wondering why I didn’t just put the record sleeve itself on my wall… it’s because this one was on 8 track too.
Glen Campbell- Greatest Hits. The country legend was my first favorite musical artist. When I was a little kid (like 5-7) Campbell had a variety TV show that was my favorite. I really liked the way he sang, and Gentle On My Mind was my favorite song. My parents got me a greatest hits album that I loved (not the one I linked to… that one seems to have disappeared from existence). I became an even bigger fan when I grew old enough to really appreciate the lyrics written by people like Jimmy Webb and John Hartford. I was lucky enough to see him in concert just months before being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and am very grateful that my wife (girlfriend at the time) was willing to drive for hours to and from the venue.
The Beatles- Rubber Soul. I only know one person who doesn’t like The Beatles (and he really HATES them). It’s hard to pick a favorite Fab Four album, but I’m giving it a shot. Many consider “In My Life” their greatest song, and it’s on this one. I wonder what type of controversy would arise if the song “Run For Your Life” was released today… it’s as violent and misogynistic as any gangsta rap I can think of. Not John and Paul’s finest moment, but the rest of the record is amazing.
The Blues Brothers Soundtrack. Jake and Elwood Blues may have been played by a couple of comedic actors, but their performance of the music was faithful to the originals, and done with some of the best musicians in the business making up the backing band. John Belushi and Dan Aykrord brought classic soul and blues music to people that otherwise would have been completely unfamiliar with it. They took this to the next level in 1980 by (re)introducing folks to legends like Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Cab Calloway, and John Lee Hooker.
As you can see I still couldn’t follow the rules… my list of ten albums has thirteen albums on it. I still feel bad about the stuff I left off. Where is the Motown music? The Who’s “Tommy”? Frank Sinatra “Live At The Sands”? There are hundreds of essential albums… thousands…. but these are a few that started me as a music fan and record collector.