Sunday, March 29, 2009

Albums that Changed your life

A colleague posted this Facebook quiz on the internet and filled in his five albums that changed his life. I've been thinking about this for the better part of a week, and I can't do it in five albums. I can do it within areas of my life, but given the importance music has had in my life, five is too few to explain. So let's start. These are the albums that have deepened and enriched my life and at times, helped me get on with my life:

Grade school. 1963

Meet the Beatles. My very first record purchase, and the one that propelled me into puberty. We girls would gather in a separate line from the boys after 6th grade recess, and waiting outside Mrs. Stratton's room to return to class would sing lustily: "We love you Beatles, oh yes we do. We love you Beatles. And we'll be true. When you're not with us, we're blue. Oh, Beatles we love you." As the oldest kid in my family, and a bookworm at that, I lacked the guidance of older siblings into the mysteries and rituals of adolescence. This record helped with that.

High School. 1965-70

The Kingsmen in Person featuring Louie, Louie. Now, although this album was first published in 1963, I did not buy it until high school. The opening bars of Louie, Louie created an anticipation so great that it was hard to explain. It's still there even though the 'dirty lyrics' that got the album banned in Indiana have now been explained as due to poor vocalizing. Good thing my parents never listened to it. But we used to pull this and Rubber Soul out at slumber parties and play them late at night. I listened to it plenty in junior high, but it was not until high school that I purchased my own copy.

Waiting for the Sun. The Doors. On Palm Sunday, 1968, my family's house burned partway down. The garage, where the fire started, which contained my dad's car and his medical bag, and the kid's playroom were destroyed. In that playroom was our record player. As part of the insurance proceeds we upgraded the record player to one that you could stack albums on, and I got some money to purchase new records. I went down to G.C. Murphy's and found this album. I already liked "Light My Fire" by the Doors and thought this would be more of the same. Well yes and no. I was introduced to some of the most subversive lyrics and music of that time through this album. Little did my mother know that while I was ironing the family's laundry in the restored playroom, I was absorbing "The Lizard King" along with it.

Are You Experienced? The Jimi Hendrix Experience. This is the other album that I purchased with my insurance proceeds money. The guys in my class at DHS were definitely into Jimi Hendrix, as were the music writers in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, to which my father subscribed. I was intrigued enough to spring for this album, which, was in rotation while I ironed out in the playroom. Again, it was a good thing that my mother did not listen closely.

The White Album. The Beatles. I asked my grandmother for this as a Christmas present in December, 1968. My neighbor across the street, Barry Schatz, was in a rock band and he recommended this to me. I can remember singing 'Obladi Oblada' at the top of my lungs while bicycling to gymnasium in Germany in the summer of 1969.

Disraeli Gears. Cream. In the summer of 1969, I went to Germany as an exchange student for 3 months. I've written about my experience in a prior post, so will not go into it. But I remember being invited to a very wild party of my gymnasium class before I left Offenbach, and this album was being played during the party. I made a note of it and purchased the album as my present to myself. "Tales of Brave Ulysses" and SWALBR made the b side of the album as good as the first side with "Sunshine of Your Love." Again, an album that I did not play very much in hearing of my parents.

Crosby, Stills & Nash. Fall of senior year of high school. I can recall listening to this album while getting ready for school. It was the harmonies that got to me, the sweet progression of the Buffalo Springfield which I also adored but did not get the album until much later.

Three Centuries of the Guitar. Andres Segovia. I loved flamenco music in high school, after hearing it at a cast party after a community theater production of "A Light at the Top of the Stairs." I played Flirt in the play, my only thespian venture. At the cast party, I also distinguised myself by dumping a glass of wine into the host's grand piano. Not a good idea to give a junior in high school alcohol, I guess, but it was an artsy crowd that night.

College. 1970-73

Layla. Derek and the Dominos. January, 1971. I heard this for the first time, the first night I got stoned at a party off campus where the hosts arranged the table, to resemble, as much as possible, the montage from the Beggars Banquet album. I do not remember the food, but this music is and was indelible.

Marrying Maiden. Its a Beautiful Day. This album was in the college newspaper offices, where I toiled for several semesters as an assistant or associate editor, which meant I pulled all nighters every Thursday night to get the school newspaper out on Friday. This album kept me sane at times of stress in the editing of the Mac Weekly. Far the best of the 2 albums this group put out.

Requiem. Mozart. I was in the concert choir at college where we had the great good fortune to have as our director, Dale Warland. We sang this work my freshman year and as a result, I borrowed my father's album of this, the better to learn it. It became a very good friend as a result.

Give It Up. Bonnie Raitt. It was a revelation to listen to a woman who could be so earthy and so musical and care so much, all at the same time. She had several concerts at college, but I only saw her once then, as an opening act for John Prine in Minneapolis. She blew it away.

Live Dead. The Grateful Dead. I used to go to sleep listening to St. Stephen. Their studio albums sounded wooden and inconsequential in light of what they brought to a live experience.

Can't Buy a Thrill. Steely Dan. This album, defined my social life for my last year in college and those of my close friends. There is no way that I can listen to the title track without relaxing in the remembrances of shared evenings.

Runners up (there are so many): Tea for the Tillerman, Cat Stevens; Grieg Piano Concerto, Leon Fleischer; Elton John, Elton John; Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, Spirit; Eat a Peach, Allman Brothers; Get Your Yayas Out, Rolling Stones; What Were Once Vices are Now Habits, Doobie Brothers; Armadillo, Leo Kottke; John Barleycorn Must Die, Traffic; Aqualung, Jethro Tull.

Law School. 1973-1976

Blood on the Tracks. Bob Dylan. He could have been singing about my life in some of his songs here. For that I will be forever in his debt.

Marx and Lennon. Firesign Theater. Should have listened to this in college, but at least in law school it kept me sane.

Katy Lied. Steely Dan. All of their work is good. This one just meant a great deal more.

Country Life. Roxy Music. The 'pose' was new to me and more attractive than David Bowie.

Feats Don't Fail Me Now, Little Feat. What can I say? When you're living in the south, this meant time to paaarty!!

Naturally, JJ Cale. I was late to this one, but it has been a staple ever since law school.

Will the Circle be Unbroken. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. You cannot go to school in the south and not have it rub off on you.

Post law school. 1976-78

Heavy Weather. Weather Report. Great Jazz pop.

Southern Comfort. The Crusaders. Ok, I was late to this one too.

Vrije Universiteit Brussel. 1978-1979

Dire Straits. Dire Straits. I was in line at the cafeteria at the University (where I obtained an LLM in International law) when I heard "Sultans of Swing." There are very few songs that I can put a place with as to first time heard, but this is one and will forever be so.

Marriage and children. 1980-1999 The marriage ended in 1999. The children did not, luckily.

Visions and Miracles. Ensemble Alcatraz. These are songs from 13th century Spain which are a fusion of Moorish, Jewish and European themes, particularly from southern France, which was then in the midst of the Albigensian Crusades. Many French troubadors fled to the relatively open artistic culture found in Spain at this time and the music is both religious but sensual. I was home on maternity leave in late 1986 and heard part of it on NPR and called the station to find out what it was I was listening to.

Carmina Burana. Orff. I sang this at a Seattle Summer sings. It is the closest you can get to an orgasm while singing. Like basketball, it is more fun to do it than to watch (listen to) it.

Ein Deutsches Requiem. Brahms. I want the second movement played at my funeral. And the fourth.

Stop Making Sense. Talking Heads. It's not always classical during this time. In fact when my third kid was in utero, he bounced around to this album as we played it on the car tape deck, driving back from Vancouver, Canada in 1990.

On Every Street. Dire Straits. Once again, Mark Knopfler hit me in the solar plexus with "Calling on Elvis."

Luck of the Draw. Bonnie Raitt. This album came out when my marriage was first in serious trouble in 1991. I should have listened to her and gotten out then. As it was, it got me through some very bad times.

Achtung Baby. U2. "Even Better Than the Real Thing" is a great, sensual song of lust.

Post Divorce. 1999-present.

Decade. California Guitar Trio. Gets better with each listening.

Between the Showers. Grainne Hambly. Celtic harp music at its finest.

Live at the Wetlands. Robert Randolph and the Family Band. He helped me remember how vital and vibrant rock can be.

I suppose I could whittle this list down to five, but it would not truly provide what I think was the music that influenced me during most of my life.

What about you? Can you narrow your list down to five albums?