15 Albums In 15 Minutes

This was a note posted by me tonite on Facebook. Decided to repost here in case you are not already my FB friend.

The rules: Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen albums you’ve heard that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag fifteen friends, including me, because I’m interested in seeing what albums my friends choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page. )

About my list: My boss tagged me in this note going around. This is being written late at night [or early in the morning, take your pick] so, that might color my choices. Songs/Albums are memories for me, so these choices are more about where I was when these albums found me than where they may rank on a ‘Best of’ list in a music publication. My own rule: An artist can only appear once.

1) KISS – Rock And Roll Over. The first LP I ever owned. Given as a birthday gift September 15, 1977. I turned four. I play this album in its entirity at least once a week. The cowbell in the intro of ‘Calling Dr. Love’ MADE me want to be a drummer. Maybe not their most known studio record [that’s probably Destroyer] but it’s the record that changed my life, literally forever. Plus…it ROCKS! I could write pages and pages about this album’s influence on my life, but I’ll spare you. My mom thought my KISS fandom would be a brief phase, like my temporary fascination with Legos. Thankfully, it wasn’t. Ten songs that I can’t imagine my life without; yes, even Peter Criss’ ‘Baby Driver’ even though I still don’t know what that song means. It doesn’t matter.

2) The Cure – Pornography. The album arrived in 1982, but I didn’t know it existed until 1991. The wailing guitars of ‘One Hundred Years’ with the opening lyical proclamation ‘Doesn’t matter if we all die!’ hit me square in the eyes. The rising tide of chaos and noise that concludes the title track had me wondering what the hell was going on…and it made me hit the repeat button to listen to the whole wonderful, dark project again and again. If you want one record that defines ‘Goth’ with no apologies, this is the one.

3) Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key Of Life. Heard this record as a young kid and wondered who ‘Sir Duke’ was. Some of the songs may go on a bit too long, and ‘Contusion’ sounds painfully dated, but this record rejuvenates me whenever I hear it.

4) Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water. This was always being played in my house when I was very young. In fact, I learned how to read around the age of two by reading the lyrics printed on the back jacket. I love every song on this record, and this record always reminds me of my dad.

5) The Beatles – Rubber Soul. Pick just ONE Beatles record? Impossible really, but…if I had to pick one it would be this one. In My Life is lyrical perfection and You Won’t See Me is probably McCartney’s best bass track ever. Seriously, go back and listen to that song and listen to the bass, it’s unreal. And it’s not like the other songs [Nowhere Man, Girl and Michelle to name but three] are throwaways either.

6) Nat King Cole Live at The Sands. This was released by Capitol soon after Cole’s death. My mom bought a copy on vinyl because her father liked Nat King Cole. Somehow the record remained in the back of her collection for me to find one night in 1983. At the age of ten, this record was a revelation. A crooner wowing a Vegas crowd, back when ‘Vegas’ was VEGAS. No real hits on this record, but it’s an incredible intimate performance. The record was on CD for a minute in the mid-80s but was out of print for decades. I saw an auction for a sealed CD [in the now defunct longbox that CDs used to be packaged in] on eBay in 2000 and figured I would get it cheap. Well, I apparently was not the only one who wanted this out of print disc. I won the auction…paying $62 for it. Worth every penny. [The CD is now back in print, so you can get it much cheaper!] Highlights: ‘I Wish You Love’ and ‘Funny [Not Much]’

7) Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Armed Forces. Front to back, this album still sounds great. ‘Radio, Radio’, ‘Oliver’s Army’, ‘(What’s So Funny Bout) Peace Love and Understanding’…and those are just the songs you hear on the radio. Other songs like ‘Two Little Hitlers’, ‘Chemistry Class’ and ‘Goon Squad’ show Costello proving the pen is indeed mightier than the sword. Pick whatever label you like: Post punk, new wave…whatever, the songs are classic.

8) Green Day – American Idiot. I admit. I wrote Green Day off as relavent after that ‘Time Of Your Life’ song was featured in episodes of ER AND Seinfeld on the same night in 1999. In fact, my brother had to convince me to listen to American Idiot, and he played it while we were on a road trip. I was floored. I bought a copy for myself and I listened to it non stop for weeks. Huge in concept and scope but not without humor, this is one of my top five discs from the past decade.

9) Pink Floyd – The Wall. While we’re on the subject of concept albums, this remains, truthfully, the only Pink Floyd album I like and can listen to. Not as trippy as the Syd Barrett stuff, nor as jammy and drawn out as parts of Dark Side and Wish You Were Here, this album is almost required listening in high school. And that’s where it found me, my sophomore year, when I could identify with the isolation of the main character, even though I only wanted to identify with the Sex and Rock And Rol aspects of the album. I’d have to wait a while for that, but I go back to this album and, when I do, I’m fifteen and searching again.

10) Taylor Swift – Fearless. I’ve been listening to this one for over a year, almost on a daily basis. The pleading lyric of ‘You Belong With Me’ hit me when I first heard it. In fact, it hit so close to home that I felt compelled to find out what other songs Swift had written. Then, before I knew it, I was [and remain] an unabashed fan of her and her confessional-toned songs. I’m in my mid-30s, but when it comes to love, I sometimes still feel like a clumsy, gawky teenager. This CD is perfect for that mindset. Can’t wait to see what she does as she grows up, and I hope I’ll never become so jaded or cynical enough to not love this record and how it got me through a very dark time.

11) Barenaked Ladies – Maybe You Should Drive. This came out in the US on September 9, 1994. I remember because I was very ill in a hospital bed when I asked my dad to go to Plan 9 to buy it. Long story short, I was NPO in the hospital, which means I could not have anything by mouth. No food, water or even mouthwash. Music became my food and this CD was the one I played non-stop. ‘Jane’ is BNL’s best moment on record and my fave song by them. Hard to believe it’s been 16 years, but it still stands up very well today.

12) Wham! – Make It Big. I had this on cassette in 1984. When the cassette got destroyed by a tape deck in 1986 I was crushed. This was one of the first CDs I bought in 1987 and it’s been with me ever since. Careless Whisper is the masterpiece here, but songs like ‘Everything She Wants’ and ‘Like A Baby’ give you a preview of what George Michael’s solo career was going to be like…minus the car wrecks and men’s rooms busts. What exactly did Andrew Ridgely do in this band anyway?

13) Prince and The Revolution – Purple Rain. No filler on this one at all. I don’t care if it’s 1984, 2010 or 2525, the solo at the end of Let’s Go Crazy will always rock! Very radio friendly songs [title track and When Doves Cry] along side a ditty that led to the formation of the PMRC [Darling Nikki]. Prince was strange even at the height of his success, but this album’s greatness can’t be denied.

14) The Decemberists – Castaways and Cutouts. Released in 2002, this record became a mainstay in my CD player as I managed an indie rock band. Literate, intelligent lyrics with catchy pop melodies made this an instant favorite. It was their major label debut and the band has come a long way since then, but this is the disc I revisit the most. Highlights: Here I Dreamt I Was An Architecht’, ‘Grace Cathedral Hill’ and ‘July! July!’ Looking back, I think I’ve seen this band live more than any other…at least 20 times.

15) Monty Python’s Instant Record Collection. I found this ‘Best Of’ cassette at Peaches for $4.00 in 1987 soon after I moved to Richmond. Only knowing John Cleese from ‘Fawlty Towers’ I bought it because I saw his name. One listen through and I ran out to rent ‘Monty Python and The Holy Grail’ on VHS. This cassette led me to Monty Python and all of it’s wonderful absurdity. Through this four dollar tape, I discovered the movies and television show and, my life was never the same.

There’s my 15 albums. Tomorrow this list might be different.

Thanks for reading
Barry