Influences: Albums/Artists that really matter

Last week on the show, I took up listener Oly’s challenge to make a list of the 15 albums that matter most to me. I found out quickly how impossible it really is. After much deliberation (and a week or so of forgetting all about it…), I’ve decided to post this list. By no means definitive, but a fun peek into how I ended up this way, I hope. These are the albums/artists that sent me off on the journey that led me to hosting this show, and continuing it every week. Some may surprise you, but that’s the beauty of being a music nerd; you can like all kinds of weird things.

1. Van Halen – pick one. This is how it all began.

2. Derek & The DominoesLayla & Other Assorted Love Songs (why? I was young & into guitar gods – check and double check, loved melodic, rockin tunes, check, wanted something a little deeper & more meaningful than most of the crap on the radio, definite check, felt lonely & miserable, GOLD STAR)

3. Van MorrisonMoondance (one of the greatest albums of all time, no doubt)

4. Bob MarleyExodus/Rastaman Vibration (if Oly can cheat and pick twofers, so can I)

5. Elvis Costello & The AttractionsThis Year’s Model (if this doesn’t rock your world, your world is broken)

6. The Pursuit of HappinessLove Junk

7. The WatchmenMcLaren Furnace Room/ Duck Shot HunterOrange tape/Yum / The Blue/New MeaniesExperience Is Lost / Three Seeds (I grew up hearing about the Guess Who, but they were rock stars before I was born. These bands showed me that real people from my home town could make amazing music. The Watchmen were able to make a great name for themselves across the country, and I got to watch and cheer along. The Blue/New Meanies worked like no band I’ve ever seen, and managed impressive success, before landing back on earth and becoming just a bunch of local guys who still make amazing music, from time to time. They went to my school, and they were boys from the ‘hood, so I had to be proud, and was glad to say that I saw them “way back when…” Duck Shot Hunter is the greatest band that never was. Friends and role models, I was their biggest (only?) fan. I felt like part of a really special, really cool club. All of these bands still bring back great memories of a really important time.)

8. Lowest of the LowShakespeare My Butt (changed me FOREVER. Melodic, rockin’, interesting, powerful – the first time songs really spoke to ME directly. Wow. Everything they did was amazing, but this was where it all began for me. Still a big fan of whatever these dudes do.)

9. Rheostatics Melville/Whale Music (landmarks in my evolution. The first time I realized that much of the greatest music is challenging on first listen. Becoming a Rheostatics nerd gave my life meaning and direction. Seriously. I travelled far and wide to see this band, lived and breathed their music, and said and did a lot of silly things out of passion and reverence. A big part of my growing up, in many ways.)

10. Rage Against the MachineRage Against the Machine (perfect for those Angry Young Man moments. We all have ’em, even if you’re not a man)

11. Skydiggers Restless (the first time I saw Skydiggers, I said that they were good, but they’d never become my favourite band. Soon after, I was wrong. They were my favourite band. Still one of the tops.)

12. Stephen FearingBlue Line (my first real “wow” moment at Winnipeg Folk Festival was seeing/hearing Stephen Fearing for the very first time. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this album. Love it still.)

13. Martin SextonBlack Sheep (I wasn’t even sure that he was human, doing such things with his voice. And those personal, heartfelt, emotional songs!?)

14. Blackie & The Rodeo KingsHigh or Hurtin’

tied w/ Willie P. BennettCollectibles (thank you Stephen Fearing for introducing the songs of Willie P Bennett to me. WIthout a doubt the most powerful songs ever written by a Canadian.)

15. Townes Van ZandtLegend (I do love Willie, but Townes will always be the king. Picking greatest hits collections by both is kind of cheating, but no matter what album I chose, I’d be missing out on too much, so these will have to do)

16. David Francey Torn Screen Door (If anyone can carry Willie’s torch, it’s David Francey. Such a beautiful, simple songwriter. You don’t need a PHD to understand and feel a David Francey song, and all you need is your ears to love them. He’s also a super great guy, which earns him points as well.)

17. The WeakerthansLeft & Leaving (another album that changed me and has stayed among my most-played for years. Again, when I first heard it, I didn’t get it at all, but something kept bringing me back until I was totally obsessed.)

18. Jim BrysonThe North Side Benches (where the music and the mood are as important as the lyrics. The mood will move you as much as anything. One of the greatest guitar players and lyricists anywhere, and a voice that perfectly suits the song. This is one of those “perfect” albums. He’s made more of them, but this was without a doubt a real masterpiece in his catalogue.)

19. The DamnwellsBastard of the Beat/Air Stereo (it appeals to my youthful pop/rock sensibilities, but it has meaning and power. Best unknown band in the world. Thank you Allison Green for the tip. I can only hope to turn a few people on to this band, as she has.)

20. Christina MartinTwo Hearts (songs that reach right into her soul and melodies that keep you singing them. This album introduced me to an artist that I have no doubt people will be talking about for years to come.)

Ack! What about:

Kathleen EdwardsFailer

Lucinda WilliamsCar Wheels on a Gravel Road

Rodney CrowellFate’s Right Hand

Radney FosterSee What You Want to See

The definitive list of artists needs to have Neil Young, BB King, The Smithereens, Steve Earle, Fred Eaglesmith, Lynn Miles, Bob Snider, and on and on and on.

The “in all honesty” list of albums that really mattered to me would need to contain Loverboy, Glass Tiger, Huey Lewis & The News, INXS, John Cougar Mellencamp, Barenaked Ladies, Nirvana, The New Meanies, Odds, etc. etc.

These lists are hard, but fun.

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