The other day, while taking part in a 'discussion' of sorts with a bunch of friends on Facebook about favorite albums and such, I started to think, I mean REALLY think, about music, and how it's changed and shaped my life over the years. This led me to think about how interesting it would be to take a look at my life since music became a big part of it, and focus on those albums that really made an impact on me, at various times in my life.
Of course, it would be pretty pointless to try and figure out which ones were more important than others, or to try and rank them, so instead, I'll just list these chronologically from the earlier part of my life up to the most recent. In many instances (and I'll go into this more during the actual albums in question) these albums that really made an impact on me at that time in my life might not even be my favorite release by that band or artist, but it just happened to be the one that really 'grabbed' me first and knocked me on my ass.
So please, take this little 'walk down memory lane' with me, as I travel back in time and look at what albums rocked my world and changed the way I looked at the various forms of music I have come to love. To put things in perspective, I'm now soon to be 45, so most of these 'discoveries' began in the 1976/1977 range, and there was no stopping them after that.
One quick note; you might notice that many selections here happen to be 'live' albums. In the 70's, the live album was pretty popular, and while today many folks like to take their first plunge with a band by picking up a 'greatest hits' set, back then we were all gobbling up live albums. In fact, I still love a good live album today, but let's face it, in the 70's and early 80's, there were a ton of great ones.
KISS: Alive-yep, that's right, I was a crazed KISS fan at a very early age. While most youngsters were busy getting off on music introduced by their parents, I tended to not like much of what Mom and Dad listened to. Dad liked The Beatles, 50's rock & roll, Spanish music, and the crooners like Sinatra and the like. I wasn't having any of that. Mom was into Barry Manilow (who I couldn't stand back in the day, but have grown a taste for now), Barbara Streisand, and various other pop crooners. So, imagine their look of shock when I brought home this 2 LP live set from the kings of shock rock! Yeah, it proved to be a difficult few years, as their young son (and my baby brother as well) fell victim to the KISS ARMY, bought every record, and taped up posters and pin-ups of Gene, Paul, Ace, and Peter all over our rooms. KISS Alive is still an album I listen to a lot today, as it's just a great example of what a hard rock album should be. Though I also wore out the grooves to Alive 2, Destroyer, Love Gun, and all the others, it was Alive that started this whole mess.
Paul McCartney & Wings: Over America-I know it sounds strange that I basically shunned The Beatles for McCartney's next band, but that's exactly what I did. This 3 LP set was and is killer, containing all of the Wings hits and some Beatles classics, and came in a wonderful fold out gatefold sleeve complete with photos and a cool poster. I knew every line to every song, and Paul McCartney quickly became my idol. Shortly after I even took up an interest in playing bass just like my idol (though that didn't last too long, as the sexy guitar became my instrument of choice), but the coolest thing about being a Wings fan was that Dad liked them too and approved of them way more than KISS.
The Eagles: Hotel California-yep, the melodic country rock sounds of The Eagles also grabbed me early on. Actually, it's probably a toss- up between this album, One of These Nights, and The Long Run, but I give the edge to Hotel simply because of the title track and "Life in the Fast Lane", two songs that just floored me and I played over and over. Though I enjoyed the more rocking tracks the best, The Eagles, Wings, and the next band really tought me how important melody was in music.
ELO: Out of the Blue-yeah, I was a massive Electric Light Orchestra fan. Out of the Blue for me was this cool, space age (LOVED the awesome LP sleeve and artwork!) bit of pop, rock, and something new for me, prog rock. After this 2 LP set knocked me on my ass, I quickly scooped up Face the Music, On the Third Day, Eldorado, Discovery, and A New World Record. Again, another band I still listen to today.
Meat Loaf: Bat Out of Hell-well, who wasn't bowled over by this bombastic slice of pop and hard rock? This is still timeless and classic to this day.
The Who: The Kids Are Alright-this soundtrack to the film was my first introduction to the band, and it opened up a whole world to me. Though I regularly cite Live at Leeds, Who's Next, Tommy, Live at Isle of Wight, Quadrophenia, and just about all of their discography as favorites of mine, it's this soundtrack (which has a great selection of songs) that got me started on being a lifelong Who fan.
Kansas: Point of Know Return-this was one of my first 'true' prog albums, and introduced me to the exciting sounds of Kansas. Though today I like Song for America and Leftoverture better, it was this one that paved the way.
Genesis: Seconds Out-that's right, prog album #2 in my collection, and ironically Phil Collins was the first guy I heard singing "Suppers Ready" and all those early classic Genesis tunes. Interestingly enough, I didn't start buying the Gabriel era albums till after I scooped up Duke, And Then There Were Three, and Trick of a Tail. Once I got Nursery Cryme and Foxtrot, well, that was the beginning of another whirlwind!
Black Sabbath: Paranoid-THIS was the album that cemented the fact that deep down inside, I was a hard rock and heavy metal guy first and foremost. Those evil riffs, Ozzy's demented vocals, those instantly memorable, dark tunes. I still remember the day I traded with a friend of mine and got a hold of this slab 'o heaviness. This led to Vol. 4, Black Sabbath, Masters of Reality, and all the rest of them.
Deep Purple: Made In Japan-the live album to end all live albums. I was (and still am) a HUGE Purple fan, and Ritchie Blackmore was my first guitar god. I still remember the nights I would swig a few sips of liquor from wherever I had heisted it from (yeah yeah, I know I was way too young! LOL!) and sit in front of my stereo speakers while Ian Gillan screamed during 'Child In Time" and Blackmore played that raging solo. It didn't get much better than this-Purple and Sabbath were it for me!
Yes: Drama-don't laugh, but Drama was my first introduction to Yes, and the reason why I still love this album today, though of course it doesn't hold a candle to Close to the Edge, Fragile, and all the rest of their classic albums.
Rush: Moving Pictures-I'd already been into Hemispheres, A Farewell to Kings, Permanent Waves, Fly By Night, Caress of Steel, and the excellent All The Worlds A Stage before Moving Pictures came out, but it was this album that REALLY got me severely hooked on Rush. It's not my favorite album by them today, but it's the one that got me saying "you know what, I really love these guys now".
Led Zeppelin: 4-call this album what you will, but there's no doubt I was a big fan. Though I was never as into Zeppelin as much as I was into Purple and Sabbath, they weren't too far behind. "Black Dog" was one of my favorites here, and of course, "Stairway to Heaven" was hard to ignore.
UFO: Lights Out-this was my first introduction to British rockers UFO, and I fell in love with the guitar work of Michael Schenker immediately. I quickly got Obsession, and shortly after the live set Strangers In the Night, which is perhaps my favorite of them today.
Rainbow: Rising-my first introduction to Ronnie James Dio, and of course, my man Blackmore was at the helm, so how could I not fall in love with this band? Still an album I can put on any day and it brings a smile to my face.
Black Sabbath: Heaven and Hell-I really didn't want to list 2 bands twice, but here it's mandatory. Ozzie's out, Dio is in, and Sabbath changed their sound and opened my eyes to a whole world of other metal bands. This and Mob Rules are timeless classics.
Iron Maiden: The Number of the Beast-it's either this or Killers, which I was into first, but something about Bruce Dickinson just clicked with me and everyone else. The first band I was in played three songs off this classic.
Judas Priest: Unleashed in the East-another landmark album and I played over and over again. Basically every tune on here is great, and though I loved all the early Priest albums, this one got the most play on my stereo.
Robin Trower: Live- Trower was another of my favorite guitar players early on, and still love him to this day. I played this live album TO DEATH, and even now 30+ years later I still get chills listening to Robin's bluesy, wah-wah drenched licks on this one.
Gary Moore: Corridors of Power-after hearing "End of the World" on my local FM rock station, I had to find out what this Irish guitarist was all about. This guy had some serious chops, and he greatly influenced my guitar playing for many years. Between he, Blackmore, Trower, Iommi, and this next guy, those were my main guitar influences growing up.
Alcatrazz: No Parole For Rock n Roll-that's right, Yngwie freakin' Malmsteen ladies and gentleman. I nearly crapped my pants the first time I heard this album and the wild guitar skills of the 19 year old Swede. He would not be in the band long, and after a slew of solo albums the next few years, managed to wow throughout my college days and beyond.
Ozzy Osbourne: Blizzard of Ozz-though I like Diary of a Madman better, Ozzy's debut really won me over. In fact, this tour was the first time I got to see a live concert, and yes, I was able to see Randy before he died.
The Mahavishnu Orchestra: Inner Mounting Flame-what a shock it was for this 18 year old metalhead to be thrown into a college dorm situation in 1984 and be introduced to this strange music, from a Deadhead no less? Amazing what can happen when you are skipping class and hanging out with someone who likes trippy music (and other things we won't get into here), and this was certainly something new for me. My first real introcuction to classic jazz-fusion, and I was hooked.
Al Dimeola: Live-right about the same time, due to my initial infatuation with John McLaughlin, I was introduced to DiMeola as well. This live album had me in guitar bliss for months, and I quickly got my hands on any and all of his studio material.
The Steve Morse Band: The Introduction-my first 'introduction' to Morse, and it began a continual love for the man's talents that made him #1 in my eyes, a position he still sits at with me today. After hearing his other solo efforts and The Dixie Dregs albums, I was completely sold.
Metallica: Ride the Lightning-my introduction to thrash metal, a sub-genre that was perhaps my favorite throughout much of the mid-late 80's. For a few years, Metallica were my favorite band, and this started it all. Other acts like Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, Exodus, Heathen, Overkill, Voivod, and Celtic Frost all were favorites of mine around this time period.
Whitesnake: Whitesnake-this was my FAVORITE album for a bunch of years. I was always a fan of the band, and of course loved Coverdale when he was with Deep Purple, but this album just ROCKED, thanks in part to the herculean guitar work of John Sykes, who I had followed after the excellent work he did on Thin Lizzy's Thunder and Lightning album. "Still of the Night" is still a heavy metal anthem for me.
Miles Davis: Bitches Brew-At first, I didn't know what to think, but after a while, I found this and many of other Davis recordings totally intoxicating, especially Jack Johnson which is probably my favorite. Bitches Brew however was the first album I owned that I actually could put on while I had a girl around and not have her give me a strange look. Yep, this came on when Pete wanted to get romantic! There was just this oozing, sensual groove to these songs that I always loved.
The Allman Brothers Band: Live at the Fillmore-it wasn't till I got out of college that another Deadhead (yep, I knew lots of them) that I wound up working with shortly after I graduated, finally turned me on to the Allmans and this great live album. Sure, I'd been into a few Southern Rock styled bands for years (I loved Molly Hatchet and The Outlaws, and dabbled in a little Skynyrd), but this was totally different. I was completely hooked.
Return to Forever: Romantic Warrior-This album quite frankly blew me away, and completely turned me on to Chick Corea's work. Initially, I checked this out because of my love for DiMeola, but I soon also turned to Chick's Elektric Band stuff as well.
Dream Theater: Images and Words-Uh oh, the prog bug hits me. I remember the first time I heard "Pull Me Under" on a local metal station, I thought it might have been the latest from another favorite of mine, Fates Warning. Turned out is was the new song from Long Island band Dream Theater, who I had heard a little of their debut a few years before from a Long Island friend of mine. I LOVED this album, and played it and every one to follow as if my life depended on it. To this day, DT is the band I have seen the most live, as I regularly see them at least once or twice on every tour, and have since the Images and Words tour.
Anglagard: Hybris-well, in all honesty this and Epilogue both knocked me for a loop. I was just starting to get into prog heavy at this point, and these Swedes were doing this wild, complex King Crimson/Gentle Giant thing that just blew me away. Sad that they broke up.
Jethro Tull: Thick As A Brick-A band that I got into late, but was glad that I did. Love all their albums, but this one just contains everything I love about them.
Queen: A Night at the Opera-My infatuation in the early 90's with anything 70's brought me to Queen, and even though I had a few of their albums a decade earlier, it was till later that I completely feel in love with them, ironically shortly before Freddie passed away.
Chicago: Chicago Transit Authority-This album is still one hell of a mind-bender today, and I can thank my best buddy Steve for turning me on to this album and band.
Marillion: Clutching at Straws-This was one of those bands that I had heard about in the mid-80's, and even had some friends who were into them, but I just didn't want to hear about it. When I finally gave Fish & Co. a chance, I absolutely loved 'em. This is dark, modern prog at its best.
Echolyn: As the World-Trying to soak up any new or old prog band leads me to Echolyn, the proggers from PA who in my opinion, came up with a timeless classic here.
Gentle Giant: Three Friends-This was my first GG purchase, and I remember the first time I heard it, I wasn't sure I dug it much. After a bunch of spins however, I was hooked, and sought out the rest of the catalog. Octopus and In a Glass House, not to mention the live Playing the Fool are my favorites, but Three Friends was the one that grabbed me and made me a huge fan.
Spock's Beard: The Light-Similar story to that of the Echolyn CD. Got this one around the same time, and was immediately addicted. The ones to follow were much better, but this one did it all for me at the time.
Grand Funk Railroad: Grand Funk-Their classic second album, and another band I discovered way late. They combined heavy rock with funk and soul like no other.
Humble Pie: Performance-Rocking the Fillmore-Another GREAT live album from a band I've just kept appreciating more and more over the years.
Symphony X: The Divine Wings of Tragedy-I can still recall the first time I heard about this band. They were a group from NJ that nobody had heard about, but the metal mags were calling them the next big thing. At the time you could only get their CDs as expensive imports, but I snagged this one and remember being as impressed as I was when I first heard Dream Theater's Images and Words, but in a different way. Today, my fave by them is Paradise Lost, but this one was such an eye opener for me that I have to list it here.
Opeth: Blackwater Park-Funny, I actually bought this CD and hated it, not sure what all the praise was about and HATING the growling vocals, and sold it. It wasn't until maybe a year later that I decided all these people couldn't be wrong for calling Opeth one of the greatest progressive extreme bands around. Well, I finally gave in, and ultimately this band opened me up to a whole world of extreme bands. While we are at it, let's throw Still Life, Watershed, Ghost Reveries, and Deliverance in there as Opeth albums that rock my world. Perhaps my favorite band of the last decade.
Immortal: At the Heart of Winter-Though I was listening to other black metal acts like Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, and Borknagar first, it was this album that really got me hooked on black metal. There's just something about Immortal that really clicks with me, and they are still to this day my favorite black metal band.
Death: The Sound of Perseverance-Holy Crap! I wasn't prepared for this! I had first bought Scream Bloody Gore back in the late 80's, and wasn't all that impressed. So, when I decide to try Death again over a decade later (and sadly, this was their last release), I was dumbfounded at how good they had gotten. This is what made me a death metal fan!
Mastodon: Leviathan-My love affair with technical metal probably took a turn for the ridiculous with this gargantuan release. I've loved this band ever since.
Meshuggah: Catch Thirty Three-The album that I really went bonkers for this Swedish juggernaut, although truth be told they have a bunch of great ones.
Arch Enemy: Doomsday Machine-See above. Another Swedish band that rocks my world, and the album that really made me a huge fan. I can recall being terrified of Angela's demonic vocals, but all of a sudden I was starting to really like it, and growls never bothered me again.
Free: Tons of Sobs-Always been a fan of Paul Rodgers in bands like Bad Company and The Firm, but for some odd reason never really embraced Free till recently, and when I did, completely fell in love with the guitar talents of the late great Paul Kossoff. This is essential heavy blues rock!
The Rolling Stones: Sticky Fingers-I'm going to end this long, drawn out essay with what is the last band, and album, that has recently changed the world of this 40-something year old. A little history; I've hated The Rolling Stones most of my life. That's right, hated them. Never could really point a finger on it, just never liked them, or wanted to like them. But a few years back, I started thinking how much I actually liked "Gimme Shelter", "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'", "Bitch", and countless other tunes by the band. So I bought Sticky Fingers, and the rest is history. I've since picked up every Stones CD, and though I love the Mick Taylor years the best, I enjoy both the Brian Jones era as well as the Ron Wood era quite well. I've become a true Rolling Stones fanatic, and maybe it's just that I am finally approaching middle age and it's the thing to do, but more likely it's the old stubborn metal head in me that's finally admitting that, you know what, the Stones are the greatest rock and roll band ever, period, end of story.
I'm sure I've missed plenty of bands that have been near and dear to me over the years, like Uriah Heep, Boston, Dio, Journey, Frank Zappa, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush, Scorpions, The Flower Kings, King Crimson, The Moody Blues, Primal Fear, The Marshall Tucker Band, Outlaws, Todd Rundgren, Utopia, Molly Hatchet, Mountain, Jeff Beck, Traffic, The Kinks, The Beatles (yep, I warmed up to them finally!), Aerosmith, Iced Earth, Saga, David Bowie, Weather Report, Sweet, Magnum, IQ, Fates Warning, Queensryche, Savatage, and countless, countless others, but I think the list above gives you a good idea of my musical discoveries from the last 35 years, especially the ones that moved me the most.