:: Tuesday, August 15, 2006 ::
100 albums that changed my life: Nos. 60-51
Update, 7:21 a.m. DCT, Aug. 16, 2006: Updated and corrected podcast loaded. Thanks for your patience.

Update, 7:39 p.m. CDT, Aug. 15, 2006: Oops! I just discovered that I omitted two whole songs from the podcast. I'm going to work on fixing that right now, but as slow as my connection is this evening, the pod may not be uploaded till tomorrow morning.

Welcome to part five of the countdown of the 100 albums that changed my life. Today, we're counting down Nos. 60-51. (Oh, yeah, there's also an accompanying podcast that features one song from each of these albums.)

60. Alive!, Kiss (1975)
One of the best live albums ever, this party album captured the wretched excess that was KISS -- and the excesses of '70s stadium rock. "Rock and Roll All Night" was all over our car radios in '75 and '76. It made us all want to party every day.

59. Inner City Front, Bruce Cockburn (1981)
Bruce Cockburn was one of the few musical discoveries I made entirely on my own, without the benefit of guidance from peers, family or the radio. It happened one afternoon after class. I found myself thumbing through an album rack at my local record store, and for some reason this record seemed "right." I didn't know a thing about this Canadian folk artist whose songs touched on spiritual and religious themes, but I ended up hooked on Cockburn's wordsmithing, arrangements and smooth guitar wizardry of songs like "The Strong One," "Inner City Front," "You Pay Your Money and You Take Your Chance" and the reggae-styled "Justice." This was one of those serendipitous finds that, in retrospect, seems almost predestined.

58. Empty Glass, Pete Townsend (1980)
Another spiritual album that rocked my soul before I realized the transcendent nature of the tunes. Empty Glass was one of two post-Who solo albums by Pete Townsend that touched on matters of faith and spiritual longing. (The other was the awkwardly named All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, released a year or two later.) Empty Glass' title track is a retelling of Ecclesiastes through the filter of a hard-living rocker. "Let My Love Open the Door" was ambiguous enough to be either a love song or a sermonette and, in fact, was covered years later by the Christian pop band Audio Adrenaline. Townsend was working through some spiritual tumult in his own life, wrestling with various demons, his conflicted feelings about punk rock ("Rough Boys" was about the Sex Pistols -- "I want to bite and kiss you") and the death of Keith Moon ("Jools and Jim" was aimed at two journalists who "don't give a shit Keith Moon is dead"). In the end, Townsend produced a fine album that seemed to capture a strange moment in time. Listening to it today conjures up images of a time in my life in which I was wrestling with a few demons of my own.

57. Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Ozark Mountain Daredevils (1973)
It was that subversive little tune about getting to heaven by raising a little hell. That's what stirred my pimply, pubescent soul into trading some long forgotten REO Speedwagon record for this, the Ozark Mountain Daredevils' debut album. Plus, they were from Missouri -- from the Ozarks, no less. These were hayseed rockers we could call our own. There's some damn fine acoustic rock on this here album, Reuben, and some funny stuff, too.

56. More Songs About Buildings and Food, Talking Heads (1978)
How can I explain what David Byrne's weird lyrics and halting delivery did to me? He and the rest of the Heads only made me question my entire perspective on pop music. The way he sounded so excited over the commonest observations -- "Oh, baby, you can walk, you can talk just like me!" -- or brought to light the paranoia of creative types everywhere ("I don't have to prove/that I am creative") or took a gospel tune ("Take Me to the River") and turned it inside out, sucking the soul right out of it, creating something completely new and oozy. All with jangly guitar rhythms, solid bassline and just a hint of the experimentation that would become more pronounced in later albums.

55. On the Border, The Eagles (1974)
Just in case the inclusion of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils in this countdown wasn't a tip-off, country rock has influenced my rock and roll DNA pretty heavily. What can I say? I lived most of my formative years in a little turd of a town in Missouri, where we listened to Charlie Daniels, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Outlaws and the Eagles as well as the Stones, Beatles and the Who. This album was on the turntables of my older friends, and I grew to like the bluegrassy hoot of "Midnight Flyer," the country guitar licks of "Already Gone" and "James Dean," and, yes, even the radio love ballad "Best of My Love."

54. Excitable Boy, Warren Zevon (1978)
When I first heard the perverse title track of this album -- this upbeat, piano-heavy ditty about a guy who rubs pot roast all over his chest, takes little Susie to the prom, then rapes and kills her on the way home, etc. -- it was as though a portal was opened into a new realm of dark humor. "Werewolves of London" was the radio hit, but "Excitable Boy," "Johnny Strikes Up the Band," "Lawyers, Guns and Money" and "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" are all classic tracks I could listen to over and over again. Excitable Boy is proof a macabre sense of humor can be put to a catchy beat.

53. Tres Hombres, ZZ Top (1973)
Before I'd ever heard of John Lee Hooker, I had developed my own rudimentary version of the opening riff to ZZ Top's "La Grange." Having heard this album over and over, the riff had taken hold in my mind by the time I had my first real guitar. The little old band from Texas' third album is still, in my opinion, their best ever -- in terms of writing, arrangement, production and overall boogie value. "Waitin' for the Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago" is an all-time favorite. Have mercy!

52. Murmur, REM (1983)
Just a few months after this album came out, I saw these guys live -- at my house in Columbia, Missouri! (See No. 74 on this list.) Unfortunately, I don't remember a lot about the concert, so I had to go buy this album.

51. Rubber Soul, the Beatles (1965)
Thank my older siblings for infecting me early with the Beatles bug. This one was big around our big old house in Wakefield, Massachusetts, and some of my earliest musical memories are of trying to sing along with some of the songs on this record.


Kiss, "Rock Bottom" (from Alive!)

Bruce Cockburn, "You Pay Your Money and You Take Your Chance (Live)" (from You Pay Your Money and You Take Your Chance - Live, because I no longer have Inner City Front)

Pete Townsend, "Empty Glass" (from Empty Glass)

Ozark Mountain Daredevils, "Chicken Train" (from Ozark Mountain Daredevils)

Talking Heads, "Artists Only" (from More Songs About Buildings and Food)

The Eagles, "James Dean" (from On the Border)

Warren Zevon, "Excitable Boy" (from Excitable Boy)

ZZ Top, "Waitin' for the Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago" (from Tres Hombres)

REM, "Radio Free Europe" (from Murmur)

The Beatles, "I'm Looking Through You" (from Rubber Soul)

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:: Andrew 07:26 + ::

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