You have MSC to blame for this one. He did this list on Facebook and (sort of) challenged me to do it. So I have, but on WordPress. Pure self-indulgence……
These are not necessarily my favourite albums…. Although some are! They are the albums which I think have most influenced my musical taste. They are roughly in order of how they occurred to me. So……
Swing ’35- ’39 by the Quintet of the Hot Club of France
There are probably more representative albums by the quintet. There are probably albums with better sound quality. All their work was originally recorded on 78 rpm shellac discs; I only have this on vinyl.
It starts with ‘Limehouse Blues’. They play the main tune sedately, twice. Then they’re off, ripping into some of the most brilliant solos ever, played by Belgian guitarist Django Reinhardt and French violinist Stephane Grapelli. I won’t go on; look them up, but listen to them. Jim Hodgson, our music teacher, played this to us one Christmas. I’m eternally grateful.
Master of Reality by Black Sabbath
Sorry, I can’t find a copyright free image.
I bought this purely on spec; I think I must have seen it advertised. It starts with the guitarist coughing on a huge spliff (so I have read); then there are two LP sides of definitive heavy metal riffs. It was the first time I had really heard music which was out of the ordinary; a rebellion if you like. It was my entry into what was then modern music. However, I never, ever played it loud, which probably resulted in a very different experience to most heavy metal kids. Then I sold it. I still don’t know why.
Live ’92 by The Orb
Again, I bought this purely on speculation, along with ‘Trance Europe Express Vol 2’. It totally changed my perception of music. It introduced me to samples, drum machines, sequencers and, I suppose, ambient music.
Angel’s Egg by Gong
There’s a theme emerging here. I bought this without hearing it after reading an article about Gong in a music magazine, on the same day as I bought ‘Swing ’35-39’. It totally changed my ears, changed the way I heard things. I suppose I first loved the fantastic musicianship: the Steve Hillage guitar solos, the Pierre Moerlen drumming, the Didier Malherbe sax playing (the first time I’d ever really got a saxophonist); then the incredible mythology and indefatigable positivity of Planet Gong; not forgetting Tim Blake’s futuristic synthesiser sounds. It started a love affair with Gong that has lasted more than 40 years.
Pick a Dub by Keith Hudson
I just picked this up at a record shop in exchange for some old albums, including ‘Master of Reality’ (exclamation mark!). Again it was utterly revolutionary for my ears, introducing me to a genre (Dub Reggae) which I had never before heard. It has to be heard on a decent sound system to appreciate the bass/ drum foundation, on top of which and around which the producer (Keith Hudson) makes his magic, dropping instruments in and out, applying deep echo, generally creating a sound world like no other. My original vinyl copy (for some strange reason attributed to the 2nd Street Dubs) was nicked but I now have it on CD.
Water Music/ Music for the Royal Fireworks by Handel, played by the London Symphony Orchestra
This was the very first. They played it in assembly at my junior school and it has stuck with me ever since. The original LP was two suites, one on each side. I now have the complete Water Music on a CD, played by The Academy of St Martin in the Fields. It’s music that makes me feel I can deal with anything; I may go down, but I will go down to glorious sounds.
Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan
I had heard quite a bit of Bob Dylan before this, mostly from two ‘Greatest Hits’ collections. This made me realise how creative he can be; here he produces a coherent two LP set of songs with that “wild, thin, mercury sound” and evocative lyrics. Besides, it’s got ‘Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ on it, which totally changed how I saw love songs.
A Rainbow in Curved Air by Terry Riley
This is again a different way of listening. It’s one of the first big minimalist pieces. It’s very melodic; the melody is repetitive, soothing and uplifting. You could meditate to it, listen to it while chilling, or just have it as a beautiful background.
The Essential John Renbourn by John Renbourn
Magic. Lovely, skilled guitar playing; he is incapable of producing anything that is not pretty. Still underrated in my very humble opinion. This made me realise how great guitar playing does not have to involve pyrotechnics. (I just listened to this again and confirmed my opinion.) I saw him play three times and count myself very privileged.
Bird’s Nest by Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker, children, was a jazz alto saxophonist. I bought this in a spirit of adventure. I’ve read that Charlie Parker was a “towering personality”; a totally distinctive voice; a genius. I’m sorry to say that I JUST DON’T GET IT. I’ve tried and tried and given up. It has the same effect as opera: I can admire the skill and genius, but don’t enjoy it. I put this one in to point out that influential albums can be a negative influence as well as positive. No more bebop for me. (So why do I love the Quintet of the Hot Club of France and not this? I suppose I find it easier to follow the tune with the quintet.)
I enjoyed doing this, even if you didn’t enjoy reading it. It’s interesting that I bought most without having heard the artists first.
Thanks, MSC, who said he was sure most of the list would be albums I’d heard when I was young. That’s true, apart from The Orb and John Renbourn. How sad that more than half of the main makers of these albums are dead.
There are some omissions that might seem strange; but this is, as I have said, a list of influences rather than favourites. The Beatles? They were always there. Steve Hillage and System 7? They crept into my consciousness through Gong. What about God’s house band- The Penguin Café Orchestra? God’s composer- Bach? Hawkwind? Richard Thompson? The Moody Blues? I love them, but they perhaps did not rearrange my ideas in the same way. (The Desperate Bicycles did, but that was through a single.)
I’m looking forward to reading your list…..