One of these days I’ll do a ‘favorite 100 albums’ list. But not today. Instead, I have a list of ‘albums that changed my life’ – music I listened to in my formative years that meant a lot to me or affected my taste in music in some way.
1. The Partridge Family, The Partridge Family Album (1970)
Laugh if you must, but singing along to this album was one of the joys of my pre-teen years.
2. The Supremes, I Hear A Symphony (1966)
My first exposure to rhythm & blues. The bass line of “My World Is Empty Without You Babe” told me of whole new worlds.
3. The Beatles, Revolver (1966)
In elementary school, every time I had a crush on a girl, I ran home and played side two. Favorite song: “I Want to Tell You.”
4. Neil Young, Harvest (1972)
Side two was my favorite on this one too – favorite song, “Alabama.”
5. Harry Nilsson, Nilsson Schmilsson (1971)
“Without You” was the hit. This album became a big part of my elementary school soundtrack.
6. Elton John, Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player (1973)
7. Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)
More singalong material.
8. Joni Mitchell, Court and Spark (1974)
Later, in college, I taught myself “People’s Parties” from the record.
9. The Beatles, The White Album (1968)
This became my favorite Beatles album in high school. A musical variety pack. “Revolution 9” was a peek into the avant-garde.
10. Yes, Yessongs (1973)
11. Genesis, Seconds Out (1977)
12. Renaissance, Live at Carnegie Hall (1976)
I probably listened to these three prog rock live albums more than any other music during high school. During 1975-1979 I saw Genesis once, Renaissance twice, and Yes four times.
13. Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here (1975)
On the same theme, this album was frequently on the turntable during the high school years.
14. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Deja vu (1970)
While prog rock was my main focus in high school, I still loved acoustic music and vocal harmonies.
15. Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers, Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers (1976)
This was a revelation – a punk sensibility with a goofy undercurrent. Some of my friends thought I was crazy, but I loved this music.
16. Pretenders, Pretenders (1980)
17. Elvis Costello, Armed Forces (1979)
18. Graham Parker, Squeezing Out Sparks (1979)
19. Joe Jackson, Look Sharp! (1979)
New Wave sounds from the late 70s: all much-beloved music from late high school on.
20. Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Pictures at an Exhibition (1971)
Classical awakenings: My prog rock faves loved the classics, so it was a logical step to begin exploring on my own. As far as classical rock goes, my favorite album was Mussorgsky as orchestrated by Ravel as interpreted by Keith Emerson.
21. J.S. Bach, Mass in B Minor
22. J.S. Bach, Brandenburg Concertos
23. Mozart, Flute Concertos
24. Beethoven, Ninth Symphony
25. Rimsky-Korsakov, Scheherazade
Early classical pieces I owned and loved (don’t recall performers).
26. Big Band/Swing 78s (1940s)
27. Billie Holiday, Greatest Hits
Jazz awakenings: My first exposure to jazz was my father’s collection of big band 78s from the 1940s. In college I bought a Billie Holiday album, which reawakened my interest in jazz.
28. Buddy Holly, Greatest Hits
This was one of the key albums to influence my musical growth in college – I loved the raw simplicity of the music and the clever songwriting. We soon incorporated several of his songs into our repertoire.
29. The Roches, The Roches (1979)
This debut album was another college-era revelation – the harmonies, the clever lyrics, Robert Fripp’s bizarre noodlings made this more than just a straight folk album.
30. Patsy Cline, Greatest Hits
This was my first venture into country – just after college.
31. Jimmy Reed, Upside Your Head
My first straight blues album, just after college, and one of my all-time favorite titles.