:: Thursday, August 03, 2006 ::
100 albums that changed my life: Nos. 80-71
Part three in our installment. With accompanying podcast.

80. Billion Dollar Babies, Alice Cooper (1973)
Oh, how I loved Alice Cooper and his operatic freak shows, brought to me every weekend by Don Kirshner. Alice paved the way for glam, which paved the way for punk and new wave. Billion Dollar Babies was one of my first album purchases. For some reason, the guitar-piano opening for "Hello Hurray" still chills my blood. Great music can do that. This album is a classic from my junior high years.

79. Piano Man, Billy Joel (1977)
From the first time I heard "Piano Man" the single, with its circus-rhythm arrangement, I fell in love with Billy Joel's writing style. I wasn't even of drinking age yet, and I don't think I'd built up enough tolerance to even drink a single beer without getting a headache, but still the song about lonely losers at their local gathering hole resonated with me. On this album, 42nd Street and The Stranger, Joel combined the power of the lyric with wonderful piano and pop arrangements. I didn't get into this album until a couple of years down the road, after hearing "Captain Jack" for the first time on late-night radio. Man, that song slammed me in the gut.

78. History: Greatest Hits, America (1975)
WEll I tried to fake it, I don't mind saying, History is part of my musical history. Everybody has a guilty musical pleasure or two. Courtney has her Abba, the Radish his Rush. For me, back in the '70s, it was America. From the first time I heard "Horse With No Name" in sixth grade throughout high school, America songs were woven into the soundtrack of my life. It's mellow hippie rock, sickening sweet at times ("Muskrat Love," anyone?), but it also is one of those albums that taught me how to play guitar.

77. John Prine, John Prine (1971)
In my freshman year of high school, I used to hang out with my friend Dennis on Friday nights at his sister's boyfriend's trailer while the sister and boyfriend were out partying. We'd dig through the boyfriend's record collection -- mainly folksy hippie stuff -- and one night we discovered John Prine. I was stunned by the simple beauty of the songs, and the truth of them. These were stories set to music, vivid and real. "Hello in There" tells the story of an elderly couple, abandoned by family and society; "Sam Stone" about a war vet junkie; "Illegal Smile" about trying to have us some fun. The words have never left me, and I still listen to some John Prine tunes every once in a while.

76. Abraxas, Santana (1970)
Don't put your spell on me, Carlos baby. Too late. It's already happened. It happened a long time ago, with Abraxas, thanks to a neighbor's older brother. Best known for Carlos Santana's searing guitar, Abraxas mixes other instrumentation, especially organ and percussion, into a magical sound.

75. Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, Lucinda Williams (1998)
Some kind of savior singing the blues/a derelict in your duct tape shoes/your orphan clothes and your long dark hair/looking like you didn't care/druken angel. Damn, but this woman can write! And sing. And play guitar. This is the album that introduced me to the wonder that is Lucinda Williams.

74. Back in Black, AC/DC (1980)
What can you say about AC/DC? Hard-rockin', primal AC/DC. Air-guitar inducing stuff. I love it.

73. October, U2 (1981)
What would I have done without cool college roommates? I would probably never have discovered early U2 on my own. But one of my roommates in my final year of college had both this one and Boy. The Edge's chiming chords, that minimalistic style born of punk but transcendent, filled my ears in 82-83. I was hooked. When War came out, I made my first U2 purchase.

72. Dire Straits, Dire Straits (1978)
There's something so cool about this album. Is it Mark Knopfler's mumbling, Dylanesque vocals? The skillful strum-pick of the guitar? The steady, chilled rhythms? The rockabilly undertones? Whatever it is, it's stuck with me through the years. Dire Straits' finest hour was with this self-titled debut.

71. Specials, Specials (1979)
Props, once again, to that cool roommate. He turned a narrow-minded punk on to the greatest, skankinest bunch of rude boys to ever blow a horn. Isn't that special?


Alice Cooper, "Hello Hurray" (from Billion Dollar Babies)
Billy Joel, "The Ballad of Billy the Kid" (from Piano Man)
America, "Sister Golden Hair" (from History: Greatest Hits)
John Prine, "Illegal Smile" (from John Prine)
Santana, "Singing Winds, Crying Beasts" (from Abraxas)
Lucinda Williams, "Drunken Angel" (from Car Wheels on a Gravel Road)
AC/DC, "Back in Black" (from Back in Black)
U2, "Stranger in a Strange Land" (from Gloria -- I mean October)
Dire Straits, "Six Blade Knife" (from Dire Straits)
Specials, "Do the Dog," (from Specials)

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:: Andrew 13:15 + ::

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