What Albums Changed Your Life?
Music was my saving grace. It fed me, took me around the world, and saved me when I had nothing. It was my best friend, my addiction, and my savior. From the time my brother spent playing records and old 8-tracks to rocking countries as far flung as Russia, music has been a driving force in my life. Over the years, I amassed a collection of well over 2,500 albums – everything from major label pop records to small indie bands that me and 3 other people know. A few years back, I went through and digitized most of my collection and although I still love liner notes and CD artwork, it was a godsend when trying to move to a new apartment. What follows is, in no particular order, 20 albums that changed my life.
Raw and in your face “metal up your ass.” While Metallica matured into a much more skilled band who have written some incredible songs, this album stills stands the test of time. This record stands at the entrance to my teenage rebellion. Without, I would have been just another nerd who enjoyed Led Zepplin and The Who.
Sexy, dirty, rock. That’s how I would define this album. Liz Phair was the first woman I had ever heard sing so openly about sex…and not just sex, but dirty, sweaty sex. Probably my first real woman-in-rock crush. Growing up, she was everything I wanted a woman to be. Sadly, I never got to see her play live or we’d be happily married by now, of course.
No one speaks rock ‘n roll quite like Van Halen. For the record, I believe there is only one Van Halen, and it doesn’t include Gary Cherone or Sammy Hagar. There is nothing I dislike about Van Halen. Amazing work on all levels and nothing makes me want to jump up and down more than their records. Van Halen is the epitome of what I seek in rock ‘n roll.
Being a white suburban kid in the 90s meant listening to rap at some point in your life, most of it coming from the West Coast. N.W.A. were like nothing I had ever heard before. The music and lyrics blew me away – they were talking about their lives, but they were lives I couldn’t even imagine in my cozy little world.
Although many will nod to its follow-up, Nevermind, this album was my first foray into a whole new world of musical exploration. Noisy and somewhat messy, this record took me away from the tight riffs of speed metal and into a world where a riff could be slow and yet still sound like a ton of bricks. I credit Nirvana for completely changing my style of guitar playing, something that benefited me greatly in later years.
It’s pretty obvious that this album changed my life. This record took me around the world countless times and allowed me to meet people from all walks of life in 42 different countries on 5 different continents. One little record that gave me years of life experience.
If you enjoy talented guitar players, you need to check this record out. Stanley Jordan’s creative way of playing the guitar is mind blowing. His version of “My Favorite Things” on this record is one of my all-time favorites to listen to at Christmas time. Truly an innovative guitar player.
The opening riff to “Raining Blood” still gives me chills. This is what metal was meant to be. A few years ago, I met Tom Araya in Las Vegas and sat with him playing blackjack talking about this record and how obsessed I was with it. He was really cool and down to earth and loved talking about what most metal fans would agree is the greatest metal record ever recorded.
I’ve never been able to wrap my head around how Sonic Youth could write songs like this. There’s something magic about it. One thing this record did was confirm my love for feedback. Their use of what some would consider “noise” is breath taking. Kim Gordon’s sexy, sultry voice atop all that noise just sounds so right.
What’s not to love about NOFX? Fat Mike may just be one of the most proficient lyric writers of all time. One of the coolest moments of my life came while sharing a stage with these legends when Fat Mike strolled into the dressing room, sat down, looked at me and said, “Hi, I’m Fat Mike from NOFX.” My response? “No shit. How are you?” Listening to this album always reminds me of the early days of the Bloodhound Gang – we wanted to be NOFX, but we were nowhere close.
When I fell in love with Mudhoney, I fell hard. This album defined the drunken-haze of my early twenties. Nothing sounds better when you’re amped up on beer and Ouzo. Nothing. The guitar tones on this record can’t be beat in my opinion. The whole album sounds like it was recorded in one take in someone’s basement. There’s a purity on this record you just can’t find all that often on albums.
Queens of the Stone Age are probably the only band I know of that have never disappointed me. Every song on every album they’ve done is a masterclass in rock ‘n roll. This record served as the soundtrack for many a tour (including the ones that I got to play with them at a couple of European festivals) and whenever I need a kick in the teeth, this is a go-to album.
Although they recently release a remixed/remastered version of this album for its 10th anniversary, I still prefer the original mix. Lamb of God are truly masters of their craft. Each musician is at the top of his game and consistently pushes the boundaries of what is physically possible to do with their instrument. This record is 100% adrenaline – no time to catch your breath.
A band from Philadelphia, I found them after they played a house party at a place I was living at in West Philly. Three people, all instrumental. Another one of my guitar-geek-out albums, this one will not disappoint if you truly love listening to an amazing guitar player. Seeing them live is a must.
I hated Depeche Mode when I first heard them. I thought keyboards were lame. Years later, Jimmy Pop would turn me onto them. Lucky for me my musical tastes had started to expand and open up and I was able to actually listen to them and recognize the beauty of the melodies they were creating. I’m glad I didn’t stay close-minded when it came to music. There’s just too much out there to not enjoy it in all its forms.
What album list would be complete without a Beatles mention? Although I love just about everything they ever did, this album stands apart as an amazing look at the band as writers. Every song on this record is a different flavor, yet somehow, it seems like a cohesive play from start to finish. I’ve always been amazed at The Beatles ability to be complete musical chameleons and this album is the best example of that ability.
Irreverent and fantastically crude, this album showed me two things; 1) that metal bands didn’t always have to be serious and could let their hair down (pardon the pun) once in awhile and 2) that provoking people can cause interesting effects. I once told Scott Ian that I thought S.O.D. and Bloodhound Gang would make an amazing co-headlining tour because of the “give a shit” attitude both bands possessed.
My brother would probably kill me if I didn’t include AC/DC somewhere on my list. This album makes the cut for one simple reason – “T.N.T.” While the rest of the songs are all brilliant and up there among some of my all-time favorites, “T.N.T.” has one of the simplest, yet powerful riff of all time. If it comes on the radio, you can guarantee I will turn the volume up.
To put it simply, this album is responsible for Bloodhound Gang’s “One Fierce Beer Coaster.” Every day and every night, we would listen to this album over and over again. Chugging eight-note power chords played at a mid-tempo defined this record and it defined the start of Bloodhound Gang. Too bad we couldn’t harmonize like Weezer could.
Riffs so simple and heavy combined with tribal drumming and chants? The metal world was often a closed-minded affair, but this album broke through barriers than no one had considered before. Recorded by Ross Robinson, who in his own right helped change the face of metal, this record still gets my blood pumping. I’ll never forget sitting on my balcony in Rio de Janeiro, rocking this full blast, staring up Corcovado with Christ the Redeemer opening his arms to the slums below and ending in one of the world’s most famous beaches. Perspective.
image courtesy of mariacasa