A living and growing collection of records that profoundly impacted the way
I make and listen to music. I lifted the idea from a Facebook friend by the
name of Randolf Arriola who began posting his own version on his Facebook
page. I loved the idea and asked him if he'd mind me doing the same and he
seemed enthused that the idea was spreading.
The records shown below will be in no particular order.
Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks
This wasn't the first of Eno's ambient
records but it was the
first one I personally owned and it really knocked my socks off. This
record started my affair with ambient music and took me down roads I
had never even considered as a musician. I still hold this up as a
landmark record and it had a huge influence on much of my own works
from that same era.
During my college years, a group of us regularly visited a friend's
cabin nestled in 150 acres of northern Michigan woods and every night,
we'd kill the lights and spin this record in it's entirety while
drifting off to sleep. To this day, that is still the first place I
think of whenever I hear this record.
Fusion had already been around for years but in addition to marrying
jazz and rock, Ponty also married his music with electronics and the
drama of a modern score. Plus he surrounded himself with world class
musicians. All the things I love but didn't know it yet.
I frequently underrate the impact of this record on my own musical
life. Right after high school, I knew rock music pretty well and I
thought I had a pretty good jazz background but all the jazz I knew
was much older and more traditional. As a college freshman, my
roommate put this record on the turntable one day and it was like a
door opened. I'd never heard anything like it and within seconds I was
convinced that this was the kind of music I wanted to make. I can't
even count how many recordings I made back then that drew from this
The Moody Blues
Days of Future Passed
I heard this record the first time when my older sister bought it
around the time of its release. I was too young to really grasp the
significance of it at the time but I remember that I liked it
immediately. As I got older and (more importantly) became educated in
the ways of making music, the accomplishment began to sink in and I
still love every inch of it today.
The Moody Blues were part of a flurry of English art school bands that
attempted to bring some formal education into rock music. Mostly these
bands were met with some pretty harsh criticism as your average rock
writer tends to be hostile toward things they don't understand. But as
a young kid who regularly performed classical music and regularly
listened to rock, the combination of elements on this record really
seemed to hit home with me and my young musician friends. Of course the
Moodies went on to have an illustrious career after "Days"
nothing they ever did compared in my opinion.
The Pat Metheny Group
The combination of being a guitar player and also a fan of the Police
and King Crimson meant that I was introduced to the Roland GR-300 guitar
synthesizer very early in its lifetime. I soon learned that it was
almost impossible to do any research at all on this unit without the
name "Pat Metheny" popping up. I had heard of Metheny before but didn't
really know his stuff. So I went out shopping and simply grabbed his
most recent release which, at the time, was "Offramp"
The opening track "Barcarole"
really grabbed me right off the
bat as it was another one of those wonderful marriages of music and
electronics. That track was followed by what has since become one of his
signature tunes in "Are You Going With Me?"
which featured what
I consider to be one of the greatest extended guitar solos (played on
the GR-300) ever put down on tape. Today the collection of records by
Metheny is huge and I have just about all of them but this one will
always rank in my top 2. This record was also the final straw in the 80s
that pushed me into an extended period of dabbling in contemporary jazz
with my own music.
I know that the purists out there might scoff at the idea of not
choosing one of the Gabriel era releases but truth be told, this
record was my first introduction to the Gabriel era material. In
spite of what they became later in their career, the early version
of this band did some incredibly ambitious material. Like the Moodies,
Genesis were yet another of the English art school bands who didn't
just write and perform songs, they composed works and brought to the
table an incredible command of western theory and harmony.
I started getting into Genesis with the record "Duke"
. Then a
friend turned me onto "Seconds Out"
and I was introduced to
tunes like "The Carpet Crawlers"
, "The Musical Box"
the epic "Supper's Ready"
. Even though these tunes were
originally recorded on studio releases most of which featured Peter
Gabriel on vocals, Phil Collins did a very faithful reproduction of the
vocals in the live setting and the performances showcased just how good
of a live band Genesis really was. Especially the live performance of
which I consider to be one of the best
recordings of the 20+ minute epic to date.
The Beatles were one of my favorite bands as far back as I can remember.
There are very few rock or pop musicians who are my age that weren't
influenced in some way by their body of work. The Beatles had an
interesting combination of elements that resulted in a whole that was
greater than the sum of its parts. First, Lennon and McCartney were
simply that good a song writing duo. Second, they steered the world
into an era where new and experimental became fashionable. Lastly, they
met George Martin. Martin came from the classical world and brought a
knowledge and command of multiple instruments, arranging and composing
into the picture. The real spark, however, was that in the Beatles he
found willing and eager participants. They welcomed what he brought and
seemed to thirst to learn more.
In 1965 after an appearance in San Francisco, the group did something
that was unheard of for rock/pop bands and something that no popular
band today could ever get away with. They announced to the world that
they would no longer appear live and would instead concentrate only on
making records. This removed the restriction of recording music that the
group could reproduce live and the very next record that the Beatles
released was "Revolver"
Dark Side Of The Moon
This one almost goes without saying. It's hard to pinpoint what it is
about this record that made it so great or what it is that makes it so
timeless. It's hard to pinpoint the qualities that catapulted the record
immediately into the Billboard 200 chart and left it there for 741
straight weeks (an accomplishment never likely to be repeated) or what
makes it so revered by musicians and non-musicians alike.
For me, DSOM has that perfect combination of strong writing, excellent
musicianship from all of the performers, and exceedingly high production
values. Pink Floyd, along with engineer Alan Parsons, utilized some of
the most advanced studio techniques of the time to create what was
essentially the perfect record. The music itself was a single cohesive
work ... a single composition busted up into a series of movements. It
was a form that was the hallmark of the progressive rock era but yet
the material was so approachable that the band was not generally
categorized that way. Of course for the young guitarist, the icing on
the cake was the work of David Gilmour. Still one of my all time
favorite guitarists and a guy who had a major influence on my own
Back when Robert Fripp put together the 80s incarnation of easily one
of the most influencial progressive rock bands ever, a friend from
Boston called us here in Michigan with very strict instructions.
"King Crimson are playing in Ann Arbor tonight. Do whatever you have
to to get in and see them."
So we got in, we watched, and then we
drove home afterward with our mouths open. As musicians, we knew we
were inspired but what we'd just seen was so far off the beaten path
that we didn't really know where to go with the inspiration. I went out
the very next day to not only buy the latest record but also to back
fill my collection. I remember listening ad nauseam for days wondering
what planet these guys had come from.
marked the beginning of 80s era King Crimson and
is still considered a landmark record. The compositions were complex
and new. The band went off in directions where rock players generally
didn't go. Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew established themselves as
guitar giants and Bill Bruford simply re-affirmed his status as a drum
hero. This was also the moment that legendary bassist Tony Levin
introduced a much larger audience to the Chapman Stick. The instrument
was featured prominently in the first 30 seconds of "Elephant
(the record's opening track) and continued to take a huge
role right up through the closing track.
was incredibly strong and iventive from beginning
to end and left, guitarists, drummers, bassists and budding Stick
players both inspired and frustrated for years afterward.
Certainly there isn't anyone who would dispute this record being called
a classic. Right from the start of their career, Donald Fagen and Walter
Becker established a very high level of musicianship in everything they
did. With their early releases like "Can't Buy a Thrill"
, and "Katy Lied"
they showed that they
were much more than a rock band with sensibilities that were obviously
deeply rooted in contemporary jazz. This all came to a head with the
release of "Aja"
in 1977. The compositions were unlike anything
that had been released to that point and the performances were all
superb. The list of musicians on the record read like a who's who with
names like Joe Sample, Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour, Wayne Shorter, Steve
Gadd, Jim Keltner, Rick Marotta and Michael McDonald (just to name a
My friends and I were young music students when this came out and were
at an age where we could recognize and appreciate the musicianship that
went into the making of this record. The admiration I had for
only grew deeper though as I moved from High School into
the music program at the University I attended. I even had a regular get
together with a friend who was a classical guitar student where we'd
brew up a pot of coffee and spin what we considered to be a
record from front to back. This record was always in
regular rotation then and is still in the regular playlist of my iPod
In 1982 Ridley Scott released the movie Blade Runner
this day, is considered one of the all time great science fiction films.
In addition to acclaim the film drew for the film-noir retro-future
envisioned by the film maker, the Vangelis soundtrack drew acclaim for
being the perfect counterpart to that vision. Together they created
something never seen or heard before and now it's hard to imagine one
without the other.
By the time Blade Runner hit theaters, Vangelis had already drawn acclaim
for his soundtrack to Chariots of Fire
. At that time, Vangelis
didn't released recordings of his film work and the recordings you did
hear were not the same recordings from the films and were done by someone
else. In 1994 however, Vangelis did officially release a soundtrack record
to Blade Runner.
This soundtrack had a huge impact on me personally. I had already been
getting more into comtemporary jazz at the time but seeing this film and
hearing the music really knocked my socks off. To this day one of the most
common comments I get on my own music is "this music should be in a
. That connection is intentional on my part and a lot of that
inspiration is drawn from the Blade Runner soundtrack.
Script of the Bridge
The Chameleons formed in Manchester, England during the height of the
guitar-driven New Wave era that gave birth to such bands as U2, Echo and
the Bunnymen, and the Psychadelic Furs. They were unfortunately a little
bit late getting to the party and never really enjoyed the same success as
some of their peers. Still, the work they put out in their short career is
highly acclaimed by the music press to this day and they have influenced a
substantial number of bands who came after.
Dark, melodic and atmospheric are all words that I've commonly heard used
to describe the band's debut record Script of the Bridge
. I was
right in the middle of the Conditioned Response years when this record came
out. It was one of those pivotal moments where I stood there listening to
the lush guitar tapestry created by Reg Smithies and Dave Fielding
thinking that I had found kindred spirits who were doing exactly what I
was trying to do. Atmosphere, atmosphere and more atmosphere.
Unfortunately the band was short lived and neither of their two subsequent
releases came anywhere near this one. Plus the production of this record
wasn't the best and today sounds a bit dated. Still, Script of the
has never left my rotation and is still parked in my iPod.