I'll be brief --Jim Kweskin Jug Band, 1968 -- in surburban Detroit the sound of good-time home-made jug band music ("It seems to make 'em feel just fine") was a blast of traditional and vaudeville music past. Unlike the hyper-polished Nashville or Motown sounds,or the doomsday folkies, these guys (and Maria Muldaur) seemed to be actually having fun.
I had no idea that I was hanging out with the same Village crowd that rubbed tie-dye shoulders with John Phillips, John Sebastian, etc. I was on the fringe of the fringe of the movement right there in my junior high bedroom with pink shag carpeting.
Equally influental, same era, different coast: Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention "Freak Out". Our group of sober, straight teenyboppers played this double lp at pajama parties. We understood that the Fifties doo-wop homage also demonstrated its plasticity -- and plastic people were not where it's at, Suzy Creamcheese.
What I learned from Frank Zappa was the rejecting the assumption of authority by mainstream music. The fact that Bobby Goldsboro sold more records than Frank that year does not mean he was the "better" artist. At 14 that was good to know and still comes in handy today as I look at the Billboard Country charts and laugh.
Jumping ahead a few decades: I've never been without the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" in vinyl then cassette then CD then uploaded to digital...How laughable now that it was radical then. Radney Foster's "Del Rio TX 1959" held the title as my favorite recordng, Country Male Singer, for at least a decade. His star deserves to be about six notches higher than it has been.
Finally, eveyrhing I thought I knew about bluegrass changed the day I heard the New Grass Revival, God bless 'em. "Can't Stop Now" stopped me in my tracks. John Cowan, Bela Flect, Sam Bush, my dream team When I die I want to come back as Bela Flect's banjo.
That'll do for now.
Okay, I'll play.
Ray Charles and Betty Carter. Nothing sexier than their version of "Baby, It's Cold Outside,'' as Brother Ray croons, " baby you'll freeeeeze out there,'' as Betty, ever the coy mistress, reluctantly submits to his entreaties ("Say, lend me your comb'') before the horns mount, and they join in the chorus together. Or more intimate than their duet on "Everytime We Say Goodbye.(I cry a little.)'' Me too..
The Amazing Nina Simone. The sometimes "difficult'' diva offers an astonishing re-interpretation of folk standards like "Black Is The Color of My True Love's Hair,'' the heartbreaking heartache of "The Other Woman,'' and a bravura, church-inspired rendition of "Children Go Where You Send Me,'' with the great Ms. Simone leading a call-and-response: "You ever been to a revival meeting - well, you in one now."
Someday My Prince Will Come. Too many great Miles Davis albums to mention, but let's just pick this one because of his lyrical playing on the title track, and the equally beautiful portrait of one of his (many) ex-wives on the cover. Miles had style.
James Brown, Live at the Apollo. Nuff said.
Aretha Franklin. I Never Loved A Man The Way I love. She don't mind company, company's all right with her, once in a while (yes it is.)
There are some pretty good white performers, too; these are just the ones who come to mind of a December evening.
I believe there's a pretty talented songwriter from Hibbing, some boyz who are currently back on the road from various spots in and around London, a Canadian fella (or two) and a girl singer (also from Canada) who I hear tell is pretty good. But I guess that's the problem with lists. You start with one, and the hits keep on coming...
My dad used to bring home 45's whenever they changed the jukebox at the place he worked at for my brother and I , Elvis to Bo Diddley, the Big Bopper and Buddy Holly. That started my ways into music, my brother and I continued to buy 45's into our jr high days the Beatles, Hermans Hermits, Dave Clark Five, and anything else being played on AM radio at the time. Then I finally bought my first album and that again changed my life forever, Beach Boys Little Duece Coupe. I was obsessed with buying albums 2 to 3 a week at $3 to $4 a pop, mostly again artist that were played on the radio. When I went away to college things changed again I heard Dylans Blood On the Tracks and it became and still is my favorite album ever. I went to college at WVU which also lead me to John Hartfords Aereo Plain not your typical radio friendly album but one I still listen to today. I later worked for almost 20 years in the music business and two things happened had kids and they in turn made me listen to other music which has greatly influenced what and how I listen t things today. Never would have admitted this before but Pearl Jams Ten and The Roots Illadelph Halflife made me far more open to music now then probably anything I listened to in the past.
Susie Q. by Credence Clearwater - took up both sides of a 45, extended psychedelic feedback jamming, opened a door to an older, darker, blacker Americana.
Beatles White Album - a whole world of raw rock and roll poetry with revolution #9.
Beggars Banquet - Pure Americana, country blues, political and social commentary and cinema verite from across the ocean.
Dylan's John Wesley Harding - pure poetry with sparse instrumentation. A whole album in the key of f, older and truer than the bible.
Newport Broadside - a whole album of folk protest songs from the greatest young minds of the day, Dylan, Baez, Ochs, Paxton, Garland, hosted by the great Pete Seeger and recorded live - bought it through a record club for a discount because of Dylan and Baez and it really did change my life at the great old age of 16. Still have it. It's out of print and worth a couple hundred bucks, but it's not fer sale....
The first time I heard a Bruce Springsteen record! And, coincidentally, this was his first record "Greetings From Asbury Park"...total joy and exuberance in the singing. How can anyone have that much fun playing his guitar?
BB King's "Live at the Regal"...the definition of blues and a record I spent 3 hours a day transcribing licks from for like 2 years.
Townes van Zandt "Live at the Old Quarter" a double album of just Townes and an acoustic guitar....just sublime songwriting....
Can I go with another Bruce album? Bruce is my boy so I am going to have to...."Born to Run", because....because it is the culmination of everything that I think is great.
Finally, pick your Beatles album......this is kind of like asking which is your favorite Shakespeare play, but in a pinch I am going with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band", which is...how shall I put this? not a bad record.....
true...Born to Run was life changing...I neglected that one on my earlier response...saw him the week of the release at Bottom Line in NYC....WOW
I have a few minutes tonight and I thought it would be fun to list a second batch of five albums that changed my life. I posted my top 5 albums earlier this month.
6. Patty Griffin - Impossible Dream
Picking just one Patty Griffin album is quite a challenge. I went back and forth between the albums Impossible Dream and 1000 Kisses which for me are Patty's two most powerful albums. For me, it came down to Impossible Dream which had a profound effect on me - from the epic "Mother of God" to the poetic "Florida" to the spine tingling "Kite Song" to the magical "Top of The World". This is a truly special album for me.
7. Jayhawks - Rainy Day Music
Picking a favorite Jayhawks album is also a challenge, but Rainy Day Music is the album that changed my life. On the surface, this album seems like a batch of simple folk rock songs by Gary Louris et al but there's so much depth and blood in these songs. It's an album I retun to time and time again for Americana comfort food.
8. Meat Loaf - Bat Out of Hell
I may take a lot of heat for this but Bat Out of Hell was at its core an Americana album before the term existed. This was one of my first favorite albums with epics "Heaven Can Wait" and "For Crying Out Loud" being roller coaster explorations of love and redemption. "Heaven Can Wait" was one of the most influential songs on my childhood.
9. Aimee Mann (Til Tuesday) - Everything's Different Now
Any fan of Aimee Mann who doesn't know every word and note from the the album "Everything's Different Now" has missed out on one of the great albums of all-time. This is one of those albums that gives me the chills when I simply think about it. "The Other End of The Telescope" and "Rip In Heaven" may be the two best songs of Aimee's career. Here is Elvis Costello version of "The Other End of The Telescope" from this magical album (Elvis co-wrote the song with Aimee).
10. Tori Amos - Little Earthquakes
This album is one that brings back so many memories. There's so much raw power and emotion in the lyrics and music of this album that it's almost overwhelming. When I have the courage to revisit the intense experience, I still listen to this wonderful album and remember how much of a profound impact this album has on my life 20 years ago. The song "Winter" had a particularly powerful impact on my life.
John Prine - "Sweet Revenge" my first Prine album given to me on Christmas '73. I can still hear my sister complaining "Why couldn't you have asked for a Paul Simon record? It took me forever to find this!"
Johnny Cash - "Live at San Quentin" my old man turned me on to the Man in Black with this late 60s gem.
Bob Dylan - "Highway 61 Revisited" After getting my first taste with his Greatest Hits I ventured into a world that I've never left.
Van Morrison - "Veedon Fleece" - This still sounds like nothing else and despite the fact I have no idea what the hell he is singing about I've never tired of this.
Tom Russell - "Poor Man's Dream" - I can still remember standing in Rose Records on Wabash Avenue in downtown Chicago looking this over having never heard of Russell. I had a hunch. Good call.
so many more than five- sorry
ten years after- a space in time
Dylan greatest hits volume 2
dead- blues for allah
clash- give em enough rope
dave Edmunds- get it
allman brothers- brothers and sisters
roy Buchanan- first album
nancy Griffith- lone star state of mind
Dylan- blood on the tracks
stray cats- first album
jeff beck - truth
supertramp- crisis what crisis
zappa- zoot allures
Bob Dylan - 'Blonde on Blonde', wow.
The Replacements - 'Don't Tell a Soul', made me realize I could write songs too.
Shannon Lyon - 'Wandered', hands down, best little known album ever.
Son Volt - 'Live from Austin, Texas', actually a DVD, but it's too good to be missed.
Kris Kristofferson - 'Kristofferson', my dad played it all the time on 8-track, unbeknownst to me it was shaping my musical future!
@William. I'd never heard of Shannon Lyon. Thanks to Spotify, I'm listening to 'Wandered' right now and liked it from the first chord. I'm hearing a big Townes influence. Thanks for the tip!