:: Sunday, August 20, 2006 ::
100 albums that changed my life: Nos. 50-41
And so we pass the halfway point on my countdown of 100 albums that have changed my life (with accompanying podcast). For those of you just joining in, here's what you've missed so far:

  • 100-91
  • 90-81
  • 80-71
  • 70-61
  • 60-51

    50. Outlandos D'Amour, the Police (1978)
    My introduction into the fabulous sound of anything ska came by way of these three white boys from England. The Police came on the scene at the same time punk and new wave were coming to the fore, and I immersed myself in all three styles. With Outlandos D'Amour and their successful follow-up record, Reggatta De Blanc, the Police blended the halting, staccato reggae beats with power pop stylings to make the Jamaican sound more accessible to mainstream America. Tunes like "Next to You," "So Lonely," "Bring on the Night" and of course "Roxanne" are among the most memorable of my junior college years. This album is one of the best debuts ever, and "Next to You" still makes me want to grab my air guitar (with slide) and rock out.

    49. IV, Led Zeppelin (1971)
    I blame Led Zeppelin for making me want to play guitar. Specifically, I blame "Stairway to Heaven." This beautiful acoustic arrangement stuck in my pubescent head and led me to purchase my first guitar for $10 at a garage sale. "Stairway" also introduced me to the magical brilliance of Led Zeppelin, which became an audio staple throughout my heady high school days. This album was a portal to their earlier stuff, as well as their later works. The driving, sensuous, get-it-on rock'n'roll of "Black Dog," the lazy Delta-blues influence of "When the Levee Breaks," Jimmy Page's string-bending stylings echoing Robert Plant's chant vocals on "Misty Mountain Hop," and of course the mystical, otherworldly aura of "Stairway" have all helped to influence my musical tastes over the years. This album seemed to me to be the complete Led Zeppelin package.

    48. The Beatles (The White Album), The Beatles (1968)
    Number nine...number nine...number nine... Echoes of this eerie, spacey chant emanating from other brother's room, circa 1969, is one of the earliest memories I have of this album. There was that time he played "Revolution No. 9" for our mother, just to make her crazy. (It worked.) The White Album resurfaced again in college, via a roommate who was a freak for this record, and especially "Rocky Raccoon." Not as thematic or complete as Sgt. Pepper's or Revolver, this album remains a showcase of the Beatles great individual talents. It was a messy album, more a collection of works by four different artists, with a little help from their friends (Billy Preston, Eric Clapton).

    47. Let's Dance, David Bowie (1983)
    The year I graduated college, this album was hot. "Let's Dance" and "Modern Love" were both big at the dance clubs, just as new wave was fading and funk- and disco-inspired feel-good dance music was making a comeback. Bowie had again reinvented himself. No more Ziggy, no more Man Who Fell to Earth, no more Alladin Sane. Bowie was clean, hair neatly trimmed, in white suits, singing tunes for the dance floor. He offered proof that the most inventive artists can break free of their past personas and recast themselves successfully. Plus, listen closely to "Let's Dance" and you'll hear the now-familiar wail of a then-little-known blues-rock guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaugh, in the background.

    46. Parallel Lines, Blondie (1978)
    Ahhh, my very first punk album. Don't try to tell me that Blondie wasn't punk. What are you talking about, man! Blondie was a bona fide graduate of the CBGB's school of punk rawk. The only difference between Blondie and bands like the Ramones, the Heartbreakers, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, et. al., is that Blondie was poppish. Nothing wrong with that. Pop can be punk, too. Parallel Lines was Blondie's breakout moment. Firmly grounded in a solid rhythm section and Debbie Harry's sultry vocals, this album spun punk, pop and techno sounds into some solid gold hits: "One Way or Another," "Heart of Glass," "Hanging on the Telephone," "Sunday Girl" and more. Oh, I was so in love with Debbie Harry and her come-hither voice. Until I discovered Crissy Hynde, that is. And then, everything changed.

    45. Armed Forces, Elvis Costello and the Attractions (1979)
    This is that other Elvis, the one from the UK, and this is his other great album -- though not as great as My Aim Is True. This album bridged the chasm between the anger of early UK punk (and My Aim Is True) with the more accessible, funkified new wave. Elvis had the punk street cred and the new wave sensibilities to pull it off, and he does so with Armed Forces.

    44. The Clash, The Clash (1977)
    The great debut from the Only Band That Matters, The Clash is a bundle of energy bursting forth. Whether it's the UK or the US version, this is one of the most kick-ass albums you'll ever hear. I discovered this album only after hearing London Calling in 1980. Listening to London Calling in a college friend's apartment was such a mind-altering experience that I had to find out more about this band. I found the debut album in a campus record store the next day, and my whole life changed. Radical politics from the street mixed with solid, driving punk rock.

    43. Wish You Were Here, Pink Floyd (1975)
    I don't even have to be stoned to listen to this album. When I first heard it, I was. My buddy and I passed the joint back and forth and studied the amazing cover art. But I was lucid enough to take note of this album's amazing sound qualities. I never owned this album (until a few weeks ago, when I purchased the CD for a song) but it was part of the soundtrack of my high school and college years. I had no idea that this was a concept album, that it was Pink Floyd's tribute to founder Syd Barrett. All I knew is that I could groove to the trippy muffled guitars of "Have a Cigar" or bliss out to "Wish You Were Here."

    42. Who's Next, the Who (1971)
    Another album I never owned until a few years ago, Who's Next came out on the heels of the band's classic rock opera, Tommy. A tough act to follow, but the Who did it. "Baba O'Reilly," every wasted teenager's theme song in the '70s. Need I say more? It's got "Bargain," "Going Mobile," "Behind Blue Eyes," "Love Ain't For Keeping," "Won't Get Fooled Again" -- great rockers and ballads from one of the world's truly great rock bands. This was the Who at their best -- tight, in synch, and in tune, right in tune.

    41. Fear of Music, Talking Heads (1979)
    Fear of Music, Talking Heads' third album, was a stark departure from the band's earlier works. The influence of Brian Eno was evident in oddities like "Drugs," "Air" and "Animals," but the Heads didn't depart from their quirky stylings. The writing was still artsy reportage in songs like "Life During Wartime" and "Paper." In many ways, this is my favorite Talking Heads album.


    The Police, "Next to You" (from Outlandos D'Amour)

    Led Zeppelin, "When the Levee Breaks" (from IV)

    The Beatles, "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey" (from The White Album)

    David Bowie, "Let's Dance" (from Let's Dance)

    Blondie, "Hanging on the Telephone" (from Parallel Lines)

    Elvis Costello, "Moods for Moderns" (from Armed Forces)

    The Clash, "Career Opportunities" (from The Clash)

    Pink Floyd, "Have a Cigar" (from Wish You Were Here)

    The Who, "Bargain" (from Who's Next)

    Talking Heads, "Paper" (from Fear of Music)

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    :: Andrew 07:31 + ::
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