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Jeff Watkins
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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Five of The Most Influential Albums On My Life

I've been trying to write this post for a few years. Picking five albums wasn't an easy obstacle to go about. These discs not only be excellent musically, but they have to stand the test of time (my test, that is). This isn't in any order, except autobiographical chronology (when I first heard the album). Also, the list isn't definitive; it probably will change in the future. But, for now, enjoy:

Petra - More Power To Ya (Star Song: 1982)



This was the very first cassette tape I ever owned (I may have had a Stryper or Whitecross tape before this but who wants to admit that?). Basically, Petra was not only my first introduction to Christian music, but to music in general. It was a good start for me. While I loved this tape, later on in life, the musical elitism that inhabits me took over and kept me from enjoying this album. However, people always seem to come back to their first loves. This album does what every Petra album did. Bob Hartman wrote very sincere spiritual tunes that always had catchy hooks and ballad-esque melodies. The band used a lot of 70s influential sounds (Pink Floyd, Yes, etc) on this particular album to make what some consider an outdated effort. However, part of the greatness of this record is its ability to only use non-modern sounds as an exterior, and layer the tracks with very gritty, driving rock. I still enjoy most of the songs on this album.

Tears For Fears - Songs From The Big Chair (PolyGram: 1985)



It was August of 1985 and I had just entered kindergarten. This album was blowing up the charts during the summer months. England's finest duo with bouncy mullets were the American sensation. Tears For Fears, whom played Brit-pop before there was even such a classification, meddled in pop and new wave sounds. This album doesn't just contain a trio of the biggest hits during the 80s decade ("Shout," "Everybody Wants To Rule The World," & "Head Over Heels"), but it also ventures into the realm of rock and jazz. Lyrically, the universal message of failed relationships and the peace that can lie beyond bad fights is a great hard-to-find discovery on the radio. Twenty-one years later, this album is still very listenable.

Boyz II Men - II (Motown: 1994)



In junior high school, I moved away from just listening to what was on the radio to listening to what all my friends were digging at the moment; not much maturity there, no? While being very much into rap music and the hip hop culture, I discovered Boyz II Men on their debut album (which was actually my very first CD). When II came out, it blew me away. I still consider Boyz II Men one of the premier groups in popular and R&B music. Way before our current incarnation of boy bands, these four guys from Philadelphia made music in the way of The Temptations, except that they sang in four part harmony. Some of the most beautiful songs are on this disc ("On Bended Knee" & "Water Runs Dry"). The guys even cover The Beatles song "Yesterday" and do it in such a way that is not only complimentary, but also poses the question, which is the better version? Having an accomplished publisher like Babyface write songs isn't a bad way to go. But, some of the guys even contributed their input to a number of songs on this album. If you have never heard any songs on this CD, I only have one question for you: Have you never listened to the radio?

Further Seems Forever - The Moon Is Down (Tooth & Nail: 2001)



I have said many times that this record is my favorite album of all time. Pre-Dashboard Confessional for Chris Carrabba and initially all of the members of the amazing band Strongarm, this is a post-hardcore masterpiece. A fine line between emo and rock, the soaring vocals make this piece of art quite the moving message of hope. The album's title, taken form the John Steinbeck novel of same name, is also the introduction of the album as the first song. As the sound of an airplane taking off plays, the album does the same, busting out ten songs that sound like nothing before it. I really believe that this incarnation of the band could have been world conquering. Knowing what Carrabba wrote on the first two Dashboard records and hearing what the rest of FSF did on their other albums, this group could have been phenomenal. Yet, as fate would have it, this is the only piece of history defining music we would get from these five guys. The nearly forty minutes of music on this CD never wears thin. Of everything I have written about here today, everyone should listen to this album at least twice.

The Beatles - Revolver (Capital: 1966)



I came out of the womb listening to The Beatles. I enjoyed the band as a kid, which is a direct influence my Dad impressed upon me. However, my appreciation for the group was uninformed and quite misguided. I just lumped John, Paul, George, and Ringo into an "oldies" category and I did it for twenty years. This is an outlandish and horribly erroneous error. These guys did more for music than anyone in history (with the exception of classical music). Little things in recording, packaging, engineering, and production that the boys from Liverpool did is what culminated into a fitting and universally recognized tag line: 'the greatest band ever!' Revolver wasn't the first Beatles album I heard in completion, but it was the first that made me believe that these guys deserve more credit than I gave them. Their previous release in 1965 (Rubber Soul) was where they went from more of a pop sound to the rock side. Yet, this album is where it all started. The experimentation, changing stylistically and the ideas flowing rampant, The Beatles pushed the envelop forward for the first time. Then they would do it again and again and again. This is what changed rock. VH1 thinks this is the greatest rock record of all time. It's probably close. If it wasn't for this band, their innovations, and their craft, we might not have ever thought music could be art.

posted by Jeff Watkins at 10:39 PM

6 Comments:

Anonymous Michelle said...

You know what I thought of when I read this? You guessed it - High Fidelity, the movie. I don't know if I could ever come up with this kind of list... It's very in depth...

I like your list...although, I am sure I have never heard all the songs on these albums, if any on a couple of the albums. Perhaps I may one day try to hear all the songs or perhaps even purchase a few of them...

The very first cd I bought was The Beach Boys' Endless Summer from The Record Exchange. It was $11.99. I don't remember how old I was. I was probably 11 or 12.



I see you don't have any country albums up here. (lol) I wonder why? hmmm...

10:38 AM  
Blogger Chase said...

Jeff, I know that when you write a post like this it takes time, effort and energy and that you hope for some response. some comments. Well, I can't give you everything that you want but i can give a lengthy comment that appears to be significant when you first open this comment window. All i can offer is quantity of words, not necessarily quality.

I appreciate every list like this that you make. or that anyone makes but it's rare that anyone makes such a list in the real world. Be my DJ Rob???

I am required by my conscience to respond to such a post for two reasons. It is heartbreaking to expend your energy on writing something like this only for it to sit here like it would sit in your notebook. Also, more particularly, because I am always working on lists like this and someday will post that mythical top 250. I expect in depth and thorough comments when i write that. at least from you.

This post inspired me to actually finish up some lists that I've been working on. This is one of the better types of music related list, to gauge value by how it personally effects you. I am inspired as such that I will follow your model and compose a similar list in the upcoming days.

even if for your eyes only...

P.S. I think it's brave of you to list Tears for Fears...you've come a long way in your understanding and evaluation of music. Peace.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Chase said...

P.P.S:
you will hear more from me later.

and i miss having conversations like this in person with you.

when shall we schedule our tellytime this week?

run after me,
chase

1:15 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

CFJ, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who catches the Nick Hornby reference that is your life (read the book, much better than the movie...triple promise).

So, my list? (In no particular order) August and Everything After, Counting Crows; Jars of Clay, Jars of Clay (first cd I ever owned); Transatlanticism, Death Cab for Cutie; The Best of Simon and Garfunkel, Simon and Garfunkel; The I Know More Songs Than You Do Mix, Various Artist. Three of them have impacted my writing in major ways, and the other two affected life in general...

9:40 PM  
Blogger Freezer said...

i'm jealous because i'm no good at making lists like this. i'm totally with you on the boys II men album and the moon is down. the first cd i ever bought was jars of clay jars of clay as well. pre-cd though, my favorite band was degarmo & key. i wore my tape of the pledge out.

9:37 AM  
Anonymous ~*Mickie*~ said...

Wow, what a list. I definitely HAVE to listen to some more FSF now... and the inclusion of Boyz II Men II makes tears come to my eyes... oh the memories... I still have that album on cassette tape, actually, lol. I can listen to it over and over again... maybe I should give The Beatles' Revolver a listen too... my friend Katie would definitely approve. ;) Thanks, Jeff.

4:18 PM  

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