Top 10 Most Influential Albums for Me

In previous posts I’ve mentioned a number of albums I like.  Taking a hint from various list memes making the rounds on the web, I decided I’d make a list of what I consider the most influential albums in my life so far.

0. Prehistory – My exposure to music early on consisted of random radio hits from bands like the Eagles, Journey, Boston, ABBA, Queen, Village People, etc.  I was even one of the unfortunate people whose parents dragged them to see “You Can’t Stop the Music” in 1980.  It was campy stuff like that which began to turn me away from mainstream pop at a tender age. 

1. Styx’s Mr Roboto and Quiet Riot – These two share a spot because they emphasize my two worlds of 1983.  Mr Roboto was released in early 1983 when I lived in Middlesex, NJ attending Saint John the Evangelist in Dunellen, NJ.  It would be the first and last pop album I ever bought, although I liked the idea of the concept album.  Soon after finishing the 8th grade, we moved to Coatesville, PA where I started at Bishop Shanahan High School.  The kids I hung with at the back of the bus liked blasting a new band, Quiet Riot and it turns out I did too.  Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil came out that fall as well, though their glam metal roots kind of put me off.   I was hooked on metal.

2. Iron Maiden’s Powerslave, Dio’s The Last in Line – Back in 1984 the record stores, then a great place to hang out at the mall, had big beautiful albums hung on the walls, like big advertising posters.  Iron Maiden’s Powerslave and Dio’s The Last in Line really caught my eye and thus my ear.  The kids in the back of the bus were listening to Van Halen’s 1984 which was receiving a lot of radio play at the time.  I moved on to my own tastes, although 1984 was an OK album.  A friend of my brother’s in the 6th grade already had a bunch of Iron Maiden albums and I used a dual cassette boom box to copy those tapes.  Twisted Sister came out this same year, popularizing metal with their frankenstein hooker look. 

3. Metallica’s Master of Puppets, Megadeth’s Peace Sells…, Led Zeppelin IV -  By 1986, I had picked up an electric guitar at a music store near my house and was listening to anything with powerful guitar work.  During my junior year, my good friend Dan Smith happened to have a copy of Metallica’s Master of Puppets.  I loved it and got copies of their previous two albums.  Megadeth’s Peace Sells… was in the record store and I picked it up, not knowing that the two bands had some history, and probably due to its neat cover art.   He also had Led Zeppelin IV on hand, which I played the heck out of, as a contrast to these other two bands.  By that time Zeppelin was a dead classic band, Megadeth was just starting to rise, and Puppets was what I consider Metallica at its peak.  Dan would later introduce me to Ozzy Osbourne’s Tribute to Randy Rhoads which was another great album.

4. Anthrax’s Among the Living, Guns N Roses’ Appetite for Destruction – This was another year emphasizing different worlds for me in 1987.  While on an end of year class trip to England a few classmates had a new album on hand with some blazingly fast tracks.  Like Metallica, Anthrax’s thrash metal style grabbed my attention.  I enjoyed a raft of bands like Overkill, Exodus, Testament, and Nuclear Assault in the years after that.  Once I went to college that fall, my roommate Dan Baker played some Guns N Roses, which I liked as a brighter alternative to the thrash bands.  I heard a whole album of hits that I still enjoy to this day.  That would later lead to bands like Dangerous Toys, Cinderella, Whitesnake, although very briefly.  Ozzy Osbourne’s No Rest for the Wicked with new guitarist Zakk Wylde was also a big favorite, with his impressive guitar playing really making an impact on me.

5. Tool ‘s Ænima – After the birth of our son in 1990, I didn’t have a lot of spare cash for music,even selling my guitar and equipment for rent money one month.  The grunge scene was not anything I really cared about.  It wasn’t until 1996 that I found Ænima while listening to WXRK on the way to work.  Their unique, experimental sound would lead me to expand my musical taste.  However, I eventually lost my interest in much of the pop syrupy stuff that was being released by the music labels.  My only peeve with this band is that they take years to release an album, often filling the interim time with side projects like “A Perfect Circle”.

6. Iron Maiden’s Brave New World – In 2000 I was surprised at the news that one of my favorite bands was reuniting.  After what I felt was a peak in 1984 with Powerslave, I saw Iron Maiden decline in quality with a rock bottom crash landing with the stinker Virtual XI.  Their new album, Brave New World, restored my faith in the band and in metal.

7. Korn’s Untouchables – For the first time in a long time, radio hit me with something heavy.  While Korn tended towards rap stylings in their earlier albums, by this point they had a unique and really heavy crunchy sound that I could get behind.  Their subsequent albums have gotten better and better.  I’m looking forward to their next album by the end of this year which they’ve said will be more like their original “nu Metal” work.  Shortly after, Metallica would betray their fans with the rock bottom terrible “St Anger”, turning me away from the metal scene for a while.

8. System of a Down’s Mesmerize/Hypnotize – One day in 2005 I was returning home from a work trip to NYC when I decided to stop in at the Virgin Megastore in Manhattan.  I ventured down the escalators to find a line forming to get autographs.  While I hung around the aisles, the store played some of the songs from the Mesmerize and a few from Toxicity, which I recognized from radio play.  I was later surprised to find out that the band was releasing another album six months later, Hypnotize, which I immediately scooped up.  Both albums, were a great unique sound experience.  It would later turn out that this would be their last album.  Serj Tankian has since continued touring with a solo band, which sounds exactly like System of a Down.

9. Megadeth’s The System has Failed – In 2004, two years after Dave Mustaine had publicly disbanded Megadeth due to a freak nerve injury, Megadeth was back.  While their albums since 1997 had been pretty subpar attempts at making the band a commercial hit, this new album was a true return to their heavy roots.  A new album is in the wings, although the revolving door of band members remains as a question mark over whether it will pass or fail and how soon it will happen.

10. NIN’s Year Zero – Nine Inch Nails is a band that I’ve listened to on and off quite a bit, but it wasn’t until 2007 that I really began to listen to them. Around this time, the movie 300 was being released and “Just Like You Imagined” was being used as background music in the trailers.  It turned out I already had The Fragile in my collection, having purchased it through one of those “10 albums for a penny” clubs.  Shortly after, my brother turned me on to Trent Rezner’s return album With Teeth from a few years before, which I thought was a fresh change.  However, once I heard Year Zero, I was amazed and went back into the NIN archives for more gems.  Year Zero works well as a concept album and seems great as a whole.  The subsequent releases of Ghosts and The Slip were not as exciting, however.  This is at the same time that Metallica announced Death Magnetic, which I felt has made up for their previous decline.

Lately I’ve found myself getting greatest hits albums for bands like the Eagles, Boston and Journey for keeping on my iPhone.  My music tastes have come full circle, while embracing many different styles.  I typically like to listen to albums as a whole, associating one song with the ones before and after, enjoying the fdlow from one to the other.  With bands like NIN releasing what seem like collections of random songs rather than full albums (Ghosts and Slip), and other bands stating they believe the idea of the album is dead, planning to release a couple of songs at a time, the album seems like a thing of the past, with the concept album on the endangered species list.  It will be interesting to see where music goes in the next few years as artists decouple themselves from music labels while new online avenues of revenue and distribution are developed.  Potentially, bands could post individual songs to their fans with links to purchase, similar to how we are utilizing blogs today.  Without the filter of how songs fit together into a group as we do today with albums, we could potentially see a lot more low quality songs in artists’ catalogues along with their great hits.  At the same time, there is no pressure to create terrible filler material to round out an album when the creative juices aren’t flowing.  This would seem more like a writer releasing a book a chapter at a time, which we do see today in some cases.  We’ll take the good with the bad.

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4 thoughts on “Top 10 Most Influential Albums for Me

    • Ride the Lightning is definitely very close, but I rate Puppets higher. Kill em All was attractive to me for that very reason. I’d been listening to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest previously.

  1. It would be a shame if bands ditched the concept of the album. I suppose that the advent of single track downloads is leading in this direction. But, what would the world be like without “Dark Side of the Moon” or the Beatles “White Album”. Maybe our attention spans are just getting shorter and shorter.

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