Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond

15 albums that changed my life…

February 26th, 2009 | No Comments | Categories: music reviews |

This post is taken from a current Facebook Meme, and the title is fairly self explanatory. Some people have done 25 albums. I’ll just write til I run out… 🙂 These won’t be in any particular order (just don’t categorise music like that) and will definitely be incomplete and open to change:

Joni Mitchell - Hejira album coverHejira – Joni Mitchell: I think I’ve written about this before on here. When I first heard this I was playing in a really trad New Orleans jazz band (OK, Trad up to the point where they had me on electric bass sitting in for the double bassist when he couldn’t make it), and the band leader was pretty fascistic about the music he thought was acceptable. So the trombone player, Sandy, used to slip me dubbed cassettes of things he thought I needed to hear, and one such tape had his own ‘best of Weather Report with Jaco’ compilation on one side, and Hejira on the other. And it blew my mind, on every level. I loved the bass playing, but more than that I loved the freewheeling harmony, the naked story-telling, the narrative threads that were weaved. Music would never be the same again.

Iona, beyond these shores album coverBeyond These Shores – Iona: I’d already been hugely influenced by the progressive epicness of their previous album, ‘Book Of Kells’, but Beyond These Shores was the Iona album that made me want to be in the band (I nearly auditioned for them in the mid 90s, but bottled out of pursuing my connection with the band to make it happen)… fast forward to last year, and I got to play with Dave Bainbridge on a tour, which was a lot of fun, and I got to hear close up just how many of Dave’s ideas – compositionally, sonically and guitaristically – I’d stolen over the years.

Bruce Cockburn, Nothing But A Burning Light album coverNothing But A Burning Light – Bruce Cockburn: I was already a Bruce fan, again, but this was the album that made him possibly the most important lyricist I’ve ever had the fortune to encounter.

The the, Dusk, album coverDusk – The The: The point at which I realised at had way more to learn from doubt than I did from certainty. A remarkable exploration of human searching, failure, hope and ultimately, grace.

Hypocrisy Is The Greatest Luxury – The Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy: My introduction to the shamanic magicalness that is Michael Franti. Incredible that he was in his mid-20s when he made a record as astute and prophetic as this one. It still sounds prescient 17 years later…

Michael Manring, Thonk CD cover

Thonk – Michael Manring: So that’s what the bass guitar is meant to sound like. OK, thanks Michael.

Jonatha Brooke, Plumb, album coverPlumb – Jonatha Brooke: Just by sheer virtue of it’s magnificence. It also features one of my favourite political songs ever – War, featuring a cameo by Bruce Cockburn. I listened to this and nothing else for about 2 months in 96.

Bill Frisell, Ghost Town, CD cover

Ghost Town – Bill Frisell:
The first Frisell record that really got me (all the others caught up soon after) – the point at which jazz and americana and folk music and country music and sountracks all melded into one as interesting music. The death of the pigeon-hole.

Yes, Fragile, cd sleeveFragile – Yes: in my mid-teens I wanted to be Chris Squire. The incredible sound of the record still amazes me today.

The Blue Nile, High, CD sleeveHigh -The Blue Nile: I actually owned two Blue Nile records before I ‘got’ them. But when I did, they changed everything. My next album will hopefully make me feel the way this album makes me feel.

talk talk, spirit of eden, cd sleeveSpirit Of Eden – Talk Talk: Ambient music suddenly became about ‘ambience’ not just nothingness. Deep soul-searching, heart wrenching music. Another one that shaped the feel I want from my records.

pat metheny, bright size life, cd sleeveBright Sized Life – Pat Metheny: Back in the days when every record was a treasured piece of 12″ plastic. I remember buying this, I remember the journey back to my dad’s flat in Dagenham, I remember looking at it leant against the wall. And I remember putting it on and not believing what hit my ears. I didn’t understand it at all, but I fell in love with it immediately.

king's x, dogman, cd sleeveKing’s X – Dogman: Important because it was the sound of a band growing up, getting darker, dealing with conflict, doubt, pain… I love every record they’ve ever done, but this is the life-changer…

The Cure, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me, cd sleeve

Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me – The Cure: Another band where about 8 of their albums soundtrack different parts of my life. Disintegration is my favourite of theirs, but Kiss Me.. is the one that dug deepest, made me want to be in the band. To this day they’re one of about 4 bands in the world I’d drop everthing to join…

Pixies, Doolittle, cd sleeveDoolittle – Pixies: ‘Sergeant Pepper’ for late 80s indie kids. Passion, anger, scariness, humour and some KILLER basslines.

Prefab Sprout, Steve Mcqueen, cd sleeve

Prefab Sprout – Steve McQueen: I’m an 80s pop fan. Not the Stock/Aitken/Waterman nonsense, but the songs from a time when pop was a way to say something, and along with Talk Talk, Nik Kershaw, The The, The Blue Nile, David Sylvian, Prefab Sprout made me LOVE the ‘art of pop’.

D'Angelo, Voodoo, cd sleeveD’Angelo – Voodoo: Purely for the rhythm section, and the vibe. Unlike anything before or since.

So there you go, that’s 17… I may add more later.. :

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  • Daryl Shawn

    Thanks for the great list, Steve! I’m unfamiliar with many of these, but the ones I do know are pretty important to me as well so I have a feeling I’d enjoy the new ones, too. “Spirit of Eden”…whew. That one especially is firmly lodged in my top ten.

  • Graham English

    I second Voodoo and I know why you love it. The bass and groove on that album kills! His first album changed my life. I thought about giving up music after hearing that! Finally, I got my confidence back and then he goes and releases Voodoo!!! Damn you, D’Angelo!

  • Wayne Jordan

    Happy to see Pixies and The Cure in here 😉

  • minifig

    Whenever I see a list like this, and I adore the albums I know (Disposable Heroes, The Cure, The Pixies, D’Angelo) it makes me really excited about checking out the rest.

    It also reminds me that I really need to dust off my copy of The Disposable Heroes, or whatever the digital equivalent of that is nowadays…

  • Andrew

    Hi Steve, yes great list and I’m definitely with you on Dusk, Dogman, Nothing but a Burning Light, Hiphoprisy, Ghost Town and pretty much anything by The Blue Nile. Thanks for introducing me to Dusk all those years ago……listening to it right now.

  • Mike Arthur

    Being a young ‘un the only one of these I own (or am aware of hearing) is Fragile by Yes. Will check out the other ones though!

  • steve

    Andrew – well, I definitely have you to thank for my Blue Nile fixation. Your cover of Automobile Noise was the gateway drug 🙂 And we probably discovered The Disposable Heroes at the same time… 🙂 There’s a lot of you in the story of many of these records for me 🙂

  • steve

    ….What’s odd coming back to this this morning is that there’s no Coltrane or Bill Evans – Crescent by Coltrane, and a Bill Evans record called ‘Autumn Leaves’ that was a bootleg copy of the best of the Village Vanguard stuff were both seminal albums in my jazz-life, that I clearly wasn’t thinking about last night.

    And, John Peel’s ‘Hardcore Holocaust’ compilation of UK Hardcore Peel Sessions really should’ve been in there. Discovering Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror was a pretty eye-opening experience for me! 🙂

  • Ben Poole

    What a cool list! And some music for me to check out, oh yes…

  • Greg Collins

    Great list and scope to widen my own horizons. Either I’m immature or an early adopter or you are wise beyond your years, 7 odd of my fav artists/bands but I’m nearly 10 years older than you….

  • paddy

    i fear if i made a list it would entirely consist of frank zappa albums.

    i haven’t heard any of your listed albums steve. i’ll have to go on a little adventre when i’ve got the money

  • steve

    Greg – in the 80s, most of my listening was music from the early 70s. Now, it’s pretty evenly spread across the last 60 years of music 🙂

    Paddy – lots of the links got to full ‘on demand’ streaming of the albums on Check ’em out!

    …how did I miss out James Taylor live, Paul Simon’s ‘Negotiations And Love Songs’ best of, and Tom Waits’ ‘Asylum Years?

    this list is going to grow and grow.

    Thinking next of doing “15 musicians who I’ve played with that changed my life” – that’ll be an interesting one 🙂

  • MikeF

    Metheny, Iona, and Spirit of Eden… we’re cooking on gas! Metheny, along with Terje Rypdal, Eberhard Weber and David Torn, is one of the people that changed everything for me… That’s where I’d start if I were going to list 15 musicians, I think. Oh, and Garbarek, of course 😉

  • steve

    Mike – Terje and Torn have both had a HUGE influence on me. With Torn, I’d be hard pushed to name one record (probably, Tripping Over God, if push came to shove) – of Terje’s stuff, Skywards is probably the one that most shaped my music…

    Cool taste, thanks for the reminders 🙂

  • liam barrington-bush

    Surprised, but glad t see D’Angelo on there…. never spotted you as a modern RnB kinda guy…. but I guess D’Angelo isnn’t either… good shit!