For some reason, there’s a viral post going around on social media about 10 albums which influenced you as a teen. Below are ten are albums (and I use that term intentionally as they were originally acquired on vinyl) that enriched my soul. Not in any particular order, these aren’t necessarily my favorite albums or what I would consider the best, but I positively wore out the grooves listening to them.
- Stevie Wonder, “Talking Book”. Though known for the hits “Superstition” and “You are the sunshine of my life”, this album opened my world to a sensitivity to inner-city life in the 1970s at a time when my schools were finding their way through integration. The track “Looking for another pure love”, with its Jeff Beck guitar solo and simple, beautiful background vocals may be the perfect song.
- Aaron Copland, “Aaron Copland’s Greatest Hits”. Growing up in a house of little musical sophistication, my friend Anna introduced me to “Appalachian Spring” and each time I sat still and listened to what was the score for a ballet, I saw how powerfully music can paint a visual picture.
- Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, “Déjà Vu”. What teen in the 70s, even one as straight-laced as me, didn’t have at least some moments when he felt like letting his freak flag fly? Of course, aged to the half-century as I am now, I can’t help but see as ironic the despondent, wizened tone of Stephen Stills’ “4 + 20″.
- Chicago, “Chicago II”. Later Chicago turned to churning out pop hits with exclusively Pete Cetera on vocals, but early on they were willing to take huge chances. Includes classics like “Make Me Smile” and “Colour My World”, both with rough-hewned voice of Terry Kath.
- Weather Report, “Heavy Weather”. Before my friend Mark introduced me to this, I didn’t think jazz fusion was accessible, nor did I realize that the electric bass could be the lead instrument. Wikipedia says, “It is on the short list of LP’s considered to be the greatest of all Jazz-Fusion recordings.”
- The Beatles, “Let it Be”. This list could easily consist of mostly Beatles ablums, but this album is the one that spoke most to me, not the least of which because “The Long and Winding Road” is my favorite song by the Fab Four. There’s a sadness to this, knowing that, while recording, the voices were in harmony but the band wasn’t.
- Maria Muldaur, “Maria Muldaur”. When I was letting my imaginary freak flag fly (see #3), my imaginary hippie girlfriend was Maria Muldaur. Tough to categorize, the album included swing, country, pop, and blues. She made eclecticism seem totally natural.
- Bob Dylan, “Blood on the Tracks”. Though I was fully appreciative of Dylan’s earlier work, “Blood on the Tracks” seemed like it was for my generation rather than the previous one. Includes one of the greatest story songs ever, “Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts”. Not a wasted note on this album.
- James Taylor, “JT”. Probably not one of his iconic albums but still my favorite. The Peter Asher empire was at its peak and James was married to Carly Simon and they were making good music together. I’ve always found it humorous that the photo on the back looks like he’s pensively writing a song. When you look inside, you can see that he’s keeping score in bowling.
- Cat Stevens, “Tea for the Tillerman”. This album seemed to have its origins about as far away from my Southern, redneck upbringing as possible, yet it spoke to me such that I wore it out. I rode my bike to Zayre to buy it one Saturday morning.
With young people acquiring mostly songs these days instead of albums, will such lists as this be non-existent before long?